Horses are notorious for their sensitive digestive systems, and horse owners and caretakers must be diligent when changing their feed, including grain, hay or pasture, to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal upset: Making changes gradually will reduce the chance of colic. Sometimes, however, the option to make a slow-and-steady switch isn't a possibility.
Weather-related conditions may impact the type of hay that is grown or the form in which it is available; health-related concerns may also necessitate a swift swap to a new hay. For example, a horse with ulcers will benefit from an alfalfa-based hay, and a horse that has dental issues or a jaw injury may require a different type of hay than he is used to, reports The Horse.
The concern with making a rapid change is the risk of an impaction or altering the microflora—each of which can lead to intestinal distress.
If hay must be changed quickly, it's best to blend the old and new hay as much as possible over the course of several days to transition the horse over. If the old hay has run completely out and only new hay can be fed, feeding smaller, more-frequent hay meals is advised. Also, avoiding other stressful situations like transportation or intense exercise is helpful, and paying attention to fecal output is essential. Offering horses that are old, growing or otherwise at risk for digestive upset the longest transition time from old to new hay can help make the hay transition as safe as possible.
Read more at The Horse.
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