Having a horse that refuses to eat its medication or supplements can be enough to make you pull out your hair. Here are some tips for getting those picky eaters to eat what they need to keep them happy and healthy:
There is nothing more maddening than trying to feed a critical supplement to your horse and having him not eat it. These picky eaters come in a variety of forms:
- The drama queen, who takes one sniff and runs to the opposite corner of the stall. “Oh my, you are trying to poison me!”
- The dumper, who simple turns the entire bucket over and then spreads it around the stall, picking out the best bits but wasting most of it.
- The sorter, who very carefully shifts through each morsel of feed, consuming everything but the supplement. The quiet protester, who plays with his feed for a while, eats some of it and then looks you as if to say, “Well, I tried.”
To you, that scoop of supplement looks small compared to several pounds of grain you feed your horse for breakfast, but horses are natural sorters. Something new is often held with suspicion and they are stars at identifying and avoiding unfamiliar tastes and smells.
What is a horse parent to do?
Fortunately, our friends at Kentucky Performance Products have some tips for you. Check out this video — “Tips on how to introduce a new horse supplement:”
If you have a picky eater, introducing a new supplement slowly will help short-circuit any possible protests. How slowly depends on the horse and just how suspicious he or she is.
Start with a small amount of supplement and do a trial run. Mix a small amount of the new supplement into a smaller portion of the regular feed. Mix it well. Offer it to your horse when he’s hungry and expecting to eat. If he eats the supplement up, then feed the rest of the normal feed and continue on.
Repeat the same strategy as above the next day with the same amounts.
The following day, add a little more supplement and a little more feed, and so on, until you reach the full dose of supplement. At that point you can go back to your normal feeding routine.
Super picky eater tip number one:
Start with a really tiny amount and slowly increase the level fed over five to seven days. With most horses, once they get used to a flavor, they willingly consume it during the introductory phase. Add the supplement to the feed and set it aside for 15 to 20 minutes. Some supplements can have a strong odor. Even if the odor is pleasant, it is still different and some horses will be wary.
Super picky eater tip number two:
Mix the feed several times during the waiting period so that even more of the odor has a chance to dissipate. Mix the new supplement in with something your horse can’t resist. Unsweetened applesauce can be the perfect carrier for mixing new supplements to make them taste more familiar. Most horses love it. If your horse isn’t an applesauce fan, other options include pancake syrup, molasses, or soaked beet pulp.
Feed the carrier to your horse a few times. First, use the same strategy as before, slowly increase the amount of supplement and decrease the amount of carrier over time. Add it directly to the main meal when your horse is readily consuming it.
Uneaten feed and supplements can quickly mold or go bad. Every couple of days, wash your feed tubs with dish soap.
Supplements are meant to maintain wellness and in some cases support healing, but they won’t help if your horse won’t consume them. Taking your time when introducing a new supplement may make the difference between your horse eating it or not.
About Kentucky Performance Products, LLC:
In this modern era, horses are living and performing well into their twenties and thirties. The maintenance of ample lubrication and durable articular surfaces within the joints is necessary to ensure long-term soundness and exceptional performance. Horses of all ages can benefit from the support of JointWise, a complete joint supplement.
- Maintains a balanced immune response within the joint, decreasing damaging inflammation and the development of osteoarthritis
- Preserves fluid motion and flexibility
- Supplies the building blocks necessary to support normal cartilage growth and the regeneration of damaged tissues
- Sustains ample high-quality synovial fluid, which lubricates and nourishes the joints