Since we have taken the horse out of his natural environment, and in most cases either limited his natural diet or have introduced grains in a quantity he would never find naturally, we are responsible for his nutritional well-being. Here are a few points to keep in mind when feeding your horse.
Hay and Grain
Always feed hay along with grain, but preferably before grain. Hay is roughage that helps a horse move grain through his digestive track and is important for digestion.
Some horses develop the bad habit of “bolting” their grain. This habit could cause a condition in horses called “choke,” or colic. Special feeding tubs are available to deter a horse that bolts his grain. For outside ground feeders, a large, smooth stone can be placed in the feed tub to slow the over-zealous eater.
Break Up Feedings
As a grazing herbivore with a relatively small stomach, a horse's digestive system has adapted to continual food processing. This doesn't mean we have to feed them all through the day and night, but small helpings of hay and grain should be split up into at least two, and preferably four, feedings throughout the day and night.
The processing of food is how a horse generates energy to stay warm. This is another reason to feed several times throughout the day and night, rather than just once. Unlike grain, a horse's digestive system can process great amounts of hay without danger of colic.
Horses might become nervous if their routine is upset. These stresses can manifest themselves in a change in acidity levels and digestion-aiding bacteria in the gut. So be consistent with the kind of food, the amount, and the time you feed. This will help prevent digestive disorders such as colic and laminitis.
Feeding Around Work
Never feed or let drink a horse that is “hot” from activity. Likewise, never work a horse directly after he has eaten a full ration of grain. The general rule is to wait one hour from work to feed and vice versa.