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Make gradual changes to your horse’s feed

Horses are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to their feed and management. As hindgut fermenters, it’s especially important to consider the health of horses’ intestinal flora when changing to a new type of feed or hay. Make the change gradually to minimize digestive upset.

While you might be excited to make the switch to a new type of feed or beautiful batch of hay, slow down and take your time for your horse’s sake.

When excessive amounts of highly digestible and fermentable sources of energy reach the hindgut  of the horse’s stomach, they can disrupt the normal balance of microbes. This disruption can lead to gaseous colic or, in the most serious instances, laminitis.

Any change to the type or amount of feed should be done gradually over a period of several days. Start by mixing a small portion of new feed into the old ration, gradually increasing the new feed and decreasing the old until the change is complete. This practice allows the horse’s sensitive gut to adapt to the new feed, minimizing the chance of colic or other digestive problems. As much as possible, feed on the same schedule every day.
When moving to new batch of hay, start by adding just a handful of the new supply, and gradually increase the amount of old hay you replace with the new.

Similarly, if a horse is being introduced to a new, significantly different grazing area, take your time and let him build up to full access. If your horse is in moderate body condition, begin turning him out for short periods of time (two hours or less) following a large hay meal. Gradually increase the amount of time you allow the horse to be on pasture by hour or two-hour increments. In addition to maintaining a regimented turnout schedule, a grazing muzzle can be used to limit the amount of grass ingested. The adaptation period may last 10 to 14 days, and the horse should be observed closely during this time for signs of colic and laminitis.

While you might be excited to make the switch to a new type of feed or beautiful batch of hay, slow down and take your time for your horse’s sake.

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