There are many schools of thought about feeding horses hay. Some say horses should have access to hay all day, every day to keep their digestive tract working consistently and properly. Others recommend feeding a few flakes of hay at meal time is sufficient for most horses. Clair Thunes, PhD, addressed the issue recently for The Horse, stating that a big part of the answer to how much hay a horse needs depends on factors such as age, gut health and current feed plan.
Thunes says that while meal-time feeding is most common and also easiest to implement in most barns, it actually goes against how a horse's digestive system is designed to work. When horses are left without access to forage for portions of they day, the gastrointestinal tract can become disrupted and can open the door for equine gastric ulcer syndrome.
Another consideration Thunes advises horse owners to keep in mind is whether or not the caloric needs of the horse are being met consistently throughout the year. While most horses turned out for part or all of the day will receive nutrients from grazing, plant growth slows and pasture quality drops as the temperatures do, which can lead to a reduction of calorie intake and ultimately a loss of condition. Therefore, Thunes says a horse's feed plan may need to be adjusted throughout the year based on available quality forage.
Read more at The Horse.
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