Best management routine for horses with varying hay needs

COTH solved a very similar problem for me.
Herd of 3:
21yo Hackney Pony
18yo TWH
7yo 34" mini

Mini near-foundered May of 2020.
Per vet I caught it very early (whew!)
Before that, he’d been on the same diet as the others for 4yrs:
Horses bring themselves in for hay & grain AM & PM, hay only ~10P.
Grain is whole oats & BOSS.
Mini got about 1 cup oats, maybe 1#.
Hay is 1st cutting orchard grass
Hay 3X daily, fed on the ground in their stalls.
Mini routinely hoovered his grain then went in with horse to “share” any grain left & hay.
Horse was okay with this :smirk:

My setup is a lot like yours.
3 stalls that are open to pastures 24/7/365.
When grain is finished they go back to my far-from-lush pastures.

After mini’s laminitis, he was prescribed Thyro-L & grain became Triple Crown Sr.
I now lock him in his stall until horse finishes his grain.< COTH solution

I got a Tough 1 muzzle/halter combo that has stayed on.
He gets it on after morning grain & then joins horse for hay-sharing.
Muzzle comes off at PM feeding.
They are out on pasture overnight, but it is effectively a drylot this time of year :roll_eyes:
So he’s muzzled ~9h daily
When grass is gone & snow falls I’ll try him w/o the muzzle.

This has worked great for me.
He slimmed down - now fits neatly between the shafts of my cart.
Pre-founder, he was admittedly overweight, shafts pressed on his sides.
And shoer asked me if I was planning on butchering him :persevere:
We just came back from The National Drive where we did daily 1-2h trail drives, a Cones Derby & 1h+ Driven Dressage lesson.
More driving in 2 days than he’s done in the last 2 months & he’s sound & fit.
After 3 muzzle-free days (no grazing @ the Drive) I put the muzzle on overnight last night. Afraid he’d gorge on pasture.
Muzzle went back on after AM grain today & came off before PM grain.
I’ll leave it off tonight. :crossed_fingers:
It’s a Balancing Act for sure!


I have a similar situation. Two equines that get unlimited hay/grass and a Cushings/IR pony that can’t have grass and needs soaked hay.

I keep my pony separated and they share a fence line. They accepted the new normal after a week or so.

He gets so frustrated with a muzzle and can’t eat hay with it. He really can’t eat grass with it either. So stands in the middle of the pasture pissed off at the world with his muzzle.


I would likely separate them for a couple hours each day and introduce a grazing muzzle.

An hour in her stall each end of the day would enable you to feed some alfalfa for extra calories for your other mares without the pony stealing any. (And I have no problem with an easy keeper going an hour without food as I view that as no different than us taking them for a ride.)
Then a grazing muzzle on the pony would slow her down without your other mares having to deal with slow feed hay nets. (I rotate between two styles to theoretically prevent rubs and other issues.)

If this still isn’t enough you could do 12 and 12. 12 hours of the pony with strictly rationed and soaked hay with the other mares getting higher calorie hay. Then 12 hours of them together with the pony wearing a muzzle and everyone just getting your regular grass hay.


Like this?
(6th from Shiteventers’ show “Too Shit to Ride” division)

He has now resigned himself to his Nose Prison.
Helped by the low-sugar treat he gets when I put it on.
And he grazes through it, as evidenced by the grass sludge I wash out of it nightly.
I’ve also seen him eat hay through it.


I agree that a muzzle sounds easiest. Just put it on for however many hours you need but not 24/7.

Another option is can you make a high hay feeder for the horses? The pony can get what they drop but not hay in the feeder. Then you wouldn’t need to muzzle.

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That face looks very familiar. Lol.

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Hahahahahahahaha…more drollery from 2DogsFarm…the macabre tinge appropriate to the season.


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This would be the solution. Is there enough height difference between the QH’s and the connemara?

This would get my vote.

FWIW, my food obsessed mare can eat loose hay just fine through her GreenGuard muzzle. I have even tried putting out hay in a hay net with the hope that my ribby senior will eat that and the chubby one can’t eat it out of the net through a muzzle. Nope, she somehow manages to get hay through both the muzzle and the small hole hay net.

Note she only will eat second cut through the muzzle. She doesn’t eat any first cut I put out, but I’m not sure if that’s because it’s too hard to eat or because she’d rather nibble on overgrazed pasture than eat first cut.

Maybe just experiment with some different muzzles. Mine HATES the usual basket type but has done fine with both the ThinLine and GreenGuard muzzles. I personally like the ThinLine better in the sense that it is softer, but my mare eventually figured out how to eat out of the side. So we are using the GreenGuard and she’s actually lost weight over the summer, despite being on grass about 10 hours a day (and about half of her daily portion of under 10% NSC hay in her stall at night).

I then try to make up calories for my ribby senior when she’s in her stall. She gets lots of Triple Crown Senior, alfalfa cubes, ground flax, and free choice hay when stalled. Seems to be working okay.


Candyappy -

Great idea but the pony’s 14.1 and the old mares are 15.1 and 15.2 so it won’t work here. But I do have a friend who’s having the same problem with her horse and her mini, and I’m going to mention this to her because it would definitely work in her situation!

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Put your mini with friends mini and friends horse with your horse :stuck_out_tongue:


I have a std donkey and a Ottb. Very different calorie requirements! They are together during the day, donkey wears a green guard muzzle. Separate paddocks at nite, that’s when the tb gets his alfalfa. Fed grain separately. Tb in a large grassy paddock, donkey in a small lightly grassy paddock at nite. It works great for mine.

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Hmmmm. You might be onto something @SuzieQNutter :thinking:

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I have a similar challenge. I quickly gave up on soaking hay because it just wasn’t practical. My gelding wears a muzzle and the hay is in nets. He couldn’t figure out a basket muzzle so I put him in a green guard with loose hay. Once he figured that out, I added nets and then later switched back to the basket muzzle. If he’s got the muzzle and hay net, I think that should slow him down sufficiently. I read a study that a horse without a muzzle on will gorge enough grass in 3 hours as it would eat in a whole day under normal circumstances, so don’t give the pony a break from the muzzle. I’m also finding the supplement Heiro to be very helpful, although it has to add it in very gradually to get one of my IR horses to eat it - it took several months!

You could also feed less hay overall and give the ladies soaked alfalfa cubes at meal time to compensate for the hay that they are missing.

I think the problem with the horse standing there unwilling to do anything in the muzzle on is a human problem more than a horse problem.

Keep ignoring it. They (well, almost all of them) will figure it out. The whole point is that they eat less, so them standing there doing nothing while they sulk is accomplishing that.

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@trubandloki - yes, fair point however in this case it is also a horse problem. She literally will not eat hay in the muzzle (I’ve tried a few different kinds, she just gets frustrated, stomps, chases her paddock mates around, and is generally unhappy). Letting her go for hours at a time like this, in my opinion, will cause more problems than it solves. I get that a mildly disgruntled pony is better than dealing with laminitis, but my goal is not to make her any more unhappy than she has to be so for now I’ve decided to feed less hay overall outside, and bring the old ladies in for a few hours twice a day for their alfalfa cubes and beet pulp mash. Thanks to everyone for your suggestions!

I had to split mine up. Fat 20yr old pony (who has never, in 12 years of owning her, needed any supplemental feeding whatsoever), was stealing the 5yo TB’s hay, the TB of course, does need feeding, and although she started off very protective of her food, she now lets fat pony sneak in and help herself. I’m not out every day and my dad feeds on the days I’m not, so feeding needs to be a case of toss it over the fence and done.

Luckily my setup already allowed to splitting, and as long as they can see each other they’re pretty unbothered by it. TB is putting on weight, fat pony gets a handful to keep her happy and is still trying to convince us she’s starving to death.

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