Some horses and ponies are greedy guzzlers — barely pausing for breath as they tuck into a bucket feed and polish off every little scrap. Unfortunately, eating too quickly isn’t good for them, and it can cause them problems.

The biggest concern when your horse bolts down his feed is that he will ingest too much at once and choke when the food causes a blockage in his oesophagus. This can be distressing and may require veterinary intervention, so it’s important to try to slow down his eating. Nutritionist Joanna Palmer shares her advice.

Easy ways to slow him down

First off, always make sure you dampen your horse’s bucket feed, as dry food is likely to swell up when it mixes with saliva, which can lead to blockage. Added to this, always make sure any feed that needs soaking is prepared according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Adding a chaff to your horse’s bucket feed will slow his eating by encouraging him to chew, as well as upping his fibre content. The longer a horse spends chewing, the more saliva he’ll produce. This not only aids the passage of food, but also helps to buffer stomach acid and maintain a healthy digestive system.

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Splitting your horse’s daily hard feed into several smaller meals will help to avoid a large amount of feed being available to him at any one time. Each meal can then be sub-divided into several buckets and placed around his stable.

Alternatively, putting an obstacle, such as a large, flat stone in your horse’s feed bucket (make sure it’s big enough that your horse definitely won’t put it in his or her mouth), or sprinkling the feed along a trough — rather than feeding from a deep bucket — will mean he can’t take large, greedy mouthfuls.

Meet the expert: Joanna Palmer BSc (Hons) is an equine nutritionist at Allen & Page Quality Horse Feeds

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