A horse’s appetite can be affected by numerous different factors, but a noticeable change in the way they eat can actually be a sign that something isn’t quite right. It could simply be that your horse is picky with what they like to eat, or they could be suffering from illness or discomfort of some sort. Making sure you provide them with the highest quality horse feed is one way to ensure they’re receiving the right nutrients to hopefully keep them as healthy as possible. If you’re struggling to get your horse to eat, or are noticing changes in their appetite, keep reading and find out why this might be and how you can tempt them to eat.
Changes In Feed
If you’ve recently changed the brand of feed that you use, your horse may turn their nose up at it or only eat relatively small amounts. This might have nothing to do with the taste, and more to do with their nature. There are studies to show that horses can be affected by something called neophobia. This means that they’re afraid of anything new and don’t like change. This is also why a solid routine is important for them. But it can translate over into feeding time and make them wary of trying a new feed. It’s thought to be an engrained survival method for plant eaters, as they could accidentally eat something poisonous. Although the feed you’ve put down won’t taste or smell bad to your horse, the newness of it will make them naturally proceed with caution.
Check The Palatability
A recent experiment has shown that horses tend to gravitate towards feed with sweeter flavours such as apple, berries, and vanilla. Feed that has more savoury ingredients such as fenugreek and garlic makes the feed less appealing to horses and they aren’t as likely to eat it. This could be the case if your horse is being particularly fussy with a certain type of feed. Your horse may have a preference for the types of flavours they like in their food, so it’s worth checking the ingredients to see if there’s anything in it that they don’t usually like.
Provide Other Options
If your horse isn’t eating much of the provided feed, then try offering them a little bit more choice. Giving them different options of feed can show you if they’re being fussy or if there’s something else going on. For instance, if they won’t eat one type of feed, try putting down one that you know they like too. If they eat the preferred feed normally, then you know it’s just their pickiness. If they still don’t eat any of the options, it’s probably best to contact the vet to make sure that they aren’t unwell.
The Stern Approach
If you’ve tried every way to get them to eat their feed and the vet has confirmed that they aren’t unwell, you might need to take a sterner approach. You could try only providing them with the food that you have available and nothing else. Once they get hungry enough, they’ll put their pickiness aside and eat. You shouldn’t resort to this approach in the first instance of them being off their food, as there could be an underlying cause for it.
If your horse’s appetite seems to have decreased and they aren’t wanting to eat what’s being put in front of them, you might want to consider turning them out onto the pasture. Most horses can’t resist grazing on luscious grass, so it might encourage them to eat a little more. Grass can also be higher in calories so if they’ve missed out on a few meals, this could help make up for it. One reason a horse’s appetite might decrease is if their overall well-being isn’t great. Allowing them to head outside into the great outdoors has the potential to enhance their happiness and therefore increase their appetite.
It’s not easy when your horse decides they don’t like their new feed and it can be frustrating if they won’t even try it. But, by providing them with options and working with their fussiness instead of against it, you can encourage them to eat more and hopefully improve their appetite.