Our feeding routine is a little different these days. With three horses, all of which have different nutritional needs, it’s not as simple as it was with one horse. Still, it’s not three times harder.
First, Moonshine gets her half-scoop of Purina Strategy. As alpha-horse, she gets her ration first. Next, Valentine gets his one and a quarter scoop of Strategy. He likes to hang out up on the hill until the feed hits his bucket. Then he bolts from the top of the hill next to the barn straight for the gate at full speed. He’s serious about supper time. Finally, with Moonshine and Valentine in their stalls, poor bottom-of-the-totem-pole Sinbad can eat freshly tossed hay without being run off. He doesn’t get any grain, just hay, by order of his owner, who is a vet. And don’t worry, we put the daily hay ration in three piles so Sinbad is getting plenty. Fifteen minutes later, when Moonshine is trying to eat her wooden stall (she cribs), I know to let her out. Valentine takes longer, though. Not only does he eat more but he has a bad habit of sloshing the feed out of the bucket and onto the stall floor where he would spend the next ten minutes vacuuming his stall if we didn’t stop him. Yup, he sucks the Strategy pellets off of the ground. This of course increases his chances of getting colic, since ingesting sand is apparently a factor.
Our horses have all kinds of bad habits and this is yet another one. So I guess we’ll be looking into one of those feed buckets that makes it hard to slosh feed onto the ground.
Of course we try and stop him from doing it but he won’t budge without some force. And since it’s hard to push a 1300 pound horse who doesn’t want to move, we often grab some old hay twine to make an impromptu halter and lead him back to the pasture. This works surprisingly well.
Valentine has a very strange habit. Back when we first got him, we noticed that he had a tendency to dump all his food on the ground. He dropped any treats you tried to feed him, he dropped his hay on the ground and he swished his oats out of the feeder onto the dirt. Now that we’ve had him a while, we understand some of these tendencies. He hardly ever drops treats on the ground now; we think it was because he was still getting to know us so he was a bit hesitant taking food from us. Not so now – watch the fingers, or they’ll get sucked in too! The hay ends up on the ground mostly because the flakes stick together. He tries to pull some out, he gets more than he expected and shakes it, so the excess falls onto the floor. (Sometimes it ends up on the wrong side of the stall door, because the hay feeder is right next to the door. We’ll come out in the morning to find a veritable haystack outside his door – poor thing!)
But the funniest thing is the oats. When he first came to us, every time we fed him, he would violently swish the oats sideways out of the feeder. The first time we fed him we put on-feed dewormer on the oats, so that was alarming – half the oats with the medication went swishing onto the floor (ahh, the good old days!). There were never any oats on the ground when we came up to the barn the next morning, though, so either he’s half anteater and sucked every last grain up, or the mice took care of it. I always hoped it was mice, because horses can colic if they ingest sand (or dirt, in our case) with their food.
As it turns out though, Valentine doesn’t really like to eat his oats off the ground. After a while, we finally figured out that he only swishes his food out if we are bothering him while he eats. Don’t pet him; don’t groom him; don’t stand near him; don’t even talk to him from outside the stall. So now we know – just leave him alone, and he’ll eat like a normal horse.
What did your horse do today? Mine ate a pine tree. Filling the pasture water bucket today I noticed something missing. There was a small pine tree growing near the water bucket and I’ve been watering it for months. It was a cute little feller with aspirations for being an equine belly scratcher some day. Its poor little life was cut short (nipped in the bud, you might say) by an apparently very hungry horse. Neither horse had a pine-fresh scent so I couldn’t figure out which one ate it. I’m not sure what I would have done if I did know. Can you Heimlich a horse? Sounds dangerous.