Fussy Feeders

A loss of appetite can be very frustrating for any horse owner. While some horses are naturally pickier with their feed, others seem to go off it for no reason. As fussiness can occur for a variety of reasons, including health problems, it is very important to explore what might be the cause.

Reasons for a loss of appetite:

  • Underlying health issues such as illness, dental problems, PPID and gut discomfort (e.g. gastric ulcers) may prevent eating and/or suppress appetite
  • Medication or supplements added to a feed may taint the taste
  • Feed hygiene including the feed itself if spoiled or the bowls it is fed from
  • An increase or change in work
  • A change of routine e.g. if moving yards, fields, stables etc.
  • A change of diet e.g. if moving from a molassed mix to a unmolassed, fibre feed
  • Being bullied/low down in the pecking order may prevent eating
  • Time of year – an abundance of grazing during the spring and summer months may mean they are less likely to finish their bucket feed

 

Top Tips

  • Ensure feed is kept fresh by keeping it in clean, vermin-proof bins and that oldest feed is used first, never tip new bags on top of feed that is already in the feed bin
  • Always use clean feed buckets and utensils
  • Provide regular dental health check-ups either with your vet or equine dental technician
  • Split the feed ration into several smaller meals – this will help to avoid over-facing your horse and may encourage him to clear up more readily and increase his appetite
  • Mix the feed with warm water – this can help to release more flavours
  • Add extra water to the feed – some horses prefer a wetter feed, particularly if they poor teeth and are struggling to chew
  • Add succulents such as carrots and apples to the feed – try grating them into the feed so they can’t be picked out
  • Try adding different flavours or herbs to the feed to enhance the feed and stimulate their appetite – such as unsweetened apple or blackcurrant juice, mint and fenugreek
  • Try giving medication separately so not to put them off their regular bucket feed
  • If they are fussy with their forage ration try different types e.g. hay, haylage, dried grass or alfalfa or place it in different locations to encourage their natural browsing behaviours