Feeding Times

This is probably horse knowledge 101, but I am hoping for an explanation here.

I know of many horses who have a set feeding schedule, lets say 7pm. I also know that disruptions in this can potentially cause colic.

But then I read some posts that say their horses are fed in a 2-3 hour window.

I called my coach once to say I was going to be 1/2 hour late for a lesson one evening, but we cancelled because it meant the horses wouldn’t be fed on time.

How do you safely feed within a 2 hour window and prevent colic or anxiety?

They mostly have anxiety when they know exactly what time dinner is supposed to arrive, and it doesn’t.

I always fed in half hour windows. 6/6:30, 3:30/4, 8:30/9. So, they know roughly what time, but they’re not tearing the barn down when I’m ten minutes late.

[QUOTE=Skitten;8501113]This is probably horse knowledge 101, but I am hoping for an explanation here.

I know of many horses who have a set feeding schedule, lets say 7pm. I also know that disruptions in this can potentially cause colic.

But then I read some posts that say their horses are fed in a 2-3 hour window.

I called my coach once to say I was going to be 1/2 hour late for a lesson one evening, but we cancelled because it meant the horses wouldn’t be fed on time.

How do you safely feed within a 2 hour window and prevent colic or anxiety?[/QUOTE]

You just don’t always feed at the same time. So the horses don’t have a set feeding schedule and are not anxious about dinner not showing up at 7:30, because they don’t expect it will. They know it will show up at some point in the morning so they are happy with that. I have never, ever had any issues with this and I’ve been feeding this way for 25 years. I specifically avoid having too set a schedule because I don’t want my horses to be so dependent on the clock.

Also, my horses have hay out 24/7 so they are never “hungry” waiting for breakfast. Grain is fun, of course, but they are never starving like many barns where they have gone hours with nothing to eat so they really are hungry for their next meal. If they are hungry here, they can just snack on some hay.

This may be a good point. I know of a barn where the horses often get colic, but they don’t seem to get turned out during the day and are fed 3x daily. As grazing animals I’d think it would upset their digestive system

I don’t give mine a schedule. It doesn’t work well when they are showing, as long as they have hay they should be okay.

Mine are fed at different hours… depending on the schedule of the day. Usually within the same hours, but never the exact same one every day, if I’m 2 hours late they don’t go bonkers about it.

I don’t think it’s a good idea to create a strict routine, some horses become demanding about it and can become hard to handle. As long as its a few hours within, they’ll be fine.

I’m flexible with feeding times, as I keep mine at home. Most of mine are out with a round bale. The stalled horses (a rehab and a friend to keep her company) have netted hay, and I am a bit more fussy about them only because I don’t want them to sit without hay.

Mine don’t care. Now when I ran my boarding facility, I was more stringent on feed times for the convenience of my boarders. There are other scheduling logistics when you are running a facility that may/can necessitate a tighter schedule, but I don’t sweat it much with mine.

Any barn where horses “often get colic” – that is a huge red flag. Colic should be a super rare event at any facility or something is wrong.

That excludes specific horses with some sort of chronic condition, those a BO can only manage. I board one of those and buy him special hay, keep him in a special lot without rich grass that seems to trigger it, and his owner keeps him on special supplements to prevent gas colics. Even then it only happens rarely usually during extreme weather changes and we watch him very carefully. It is my goal for him to never colic at all, and we have been able to keep it very minimal. He had a long history of this before he came here, and we’ve been able to manage it pretty well.

But if multiple horses are colicking often, I would not board at that barn. They are mismanaging something.

[QUOTE=Skitten;8501113]This is probably horse knowledge 101, but I am hoping for an explanation here.

I know of many horses who have a set feeding schedule, lets say 7pm. I also know that disruptions in this can potentially cause colic.

But then I read some posts that say their horses are fed in a 2-3 hour window.

I called my coach once to say I was going to be 1/2 hour late for a lesson one evening, but we cancelled because it meant the horses wouldn’t be fed on time.

How do you safely feed within a 2 hour window and prevent colic or anxiety?[/QUOTE]

The answer does depend on the horse, too.
Some horses just do not do well with out a set in stone schedule and the lack of that set in stone schedule leads to issues.

The average horse likes a schedule but the schedule can be vague and sort of random. Like others have pointed out, if the horses do not get used to always being fed at an exact time they will not be standing there anxiously waiting to be fed at that exact time.

My horses are out with a round bale (or pasture depending on the season) all day. I bring them into their private paddocks (with stalls) for their small grain meal in the evening. That bring in time can be 5PM or it can be 9PM depending on the season, the weather, or my schedule.

Nail On Head :yes:

Stalled horses - unless continuously supplied with hay - will get upset if there’s nothing to “graze” on, including grain meals delivered regularly.
Feeding grain on a strict schedule gets them worked up if the timing is off since that’s all they have to look forward to.
If they have hay in front of them it’s not such a big deal if grain meals arrive at different times.

Those kept on pasture not so great an issue as even chewed-down-to-nubs grass gives them something to occupy themselves.

My horses are out 24/7/365 w/access to stalls.
They know when they see me it generally means mealtime & will wander into the stalls to wait, but their window is huge - anywhere from 1/2h-4h or more, depending on what I have to do before feeding.
When I’m away I don’t request farmsitters feed at any specific time - just get there 2X /Day. Which, in itself, is a different routine because I do a nightcheck & toss hay then too.
Nobody gets upset if the window is on the larger side or the 3rd hay feed is skipped.

Gosh, I bet my horses WISH I followed the protocol your barn seems to. My guys are expected to go to work, and do so willingly, whenever I pull them out. It was hard for a while when everyone else was getting fed and buckets were banging, and they knew what time it was. But after being asked to focus on me regardless, it’s not been a problem.

I would hesitate to say that there is any kind of definitive link between no grain feeding schedule and colic rates.

I WOULD say there is a link between colic and feeding regimens as it pertains to what the horse’s gut was designed to do. I.e., if you turn out regularly, feed plenty of good quality forage and provide regular opportunities for the horse to move about at their leisure, it general won’t matter much if you feed right on time every day. I would even go so far as to say that the majority of horses (save for those high anxiety types) won’t care if there is a schedule at all.

But that’s because we know that the horse’s gut was designed to have forage entering it upwards of 20 hours a day. It was designed with vast amounts of movement in mind. Put a horse in a box stall 24/7 or severely limit movement, feed minimal forage and large quantities of grain, yeah, you can definitely cause colic that way. But it doesn’t have a lick to do with what time you feed/how consistent your schedule is.

So if your barn is sticking to a strict feeding time thinking it will prevent colic, they are going about their prevention the wrong way.

It’s in the same boat as those who say that you must absolutely not offer horses cold water when they are hot and sweaty, might cause colic. Or you must wait at least a 1/2 hour after your horse has cooled out and isn’t sweaty before feeding grain, might cause colic. It’s just misplaced worry and ignorance about the systems at hand.

My horses always have hay and I feed grain in a 2 hour window. They don’t seem too anxious about feeding. What gets them going is seeing me come out of the house in the afternoon - they think it’s time to come in LOL!

Ours are fed almost free choice hay or grass. Grain is fed when it is convenient for me to do so, usually within a 2-3 hour window (easy keepers only get one grain meal/day). Nothing is cancelled or rescheduled around feed time; if a horse is being ridden while the others are being fed, it waits. The only one who is obnoxious about this is my geriatric STB who eats mostly soaked senior feed and alfalfa- when he’s out in the field he KNOWS it’s waiting for him in his stall and has been known to cause a ruckus if he has to wait. Everyone else is fine with this protocol.

I feed on a strict schedule because that is what I was taught to do in ancient times. I don’t vary it by more than 1/2 hour morning or evening. I only have pet minis, goats and sheep now, but still hold to the same schedule. My Thoroughbred benefitted greatly from a regular schedule and I’ve just never varied from it.

My horses have round bales out i feed grain 2 times a day no certain time,it when i get out there to feed. Summer time when we ride because there is no set time they don’t expect grain so don’t have a fit…even if they did doesn’t matter they’d still go riding.

There are days they only get grain once…there is no set time so they never expect it.

I think it’s easier on some of the barns to have a set feeding schedule because that way they can schedule their help and their day around it. I think it might have more to do with that than the horse’s benefit.
I have mine at home. They have hay almost 24/7 usually. They don’t get grain but they do get soaked alfalfa, oats, flax and their vit/min. Some days they might get it in the morning, some in the afternoon, sometimes both…all depends on my thinking for that day…Oh it’s cold and the weather is changing, I want more water in them- half feeds twice the water…know I have to work late tomorrow so plan on feeding in the morning…They don’t ever hang at the gate waiting for their feeds. Never any banging or kicking or where is my food. They are nosy for treats but not anxious. I think hay in the belly is the trick to being able to not have a strict schedule.

Mine usually have grass or hay 24/7. I only feed grain (oats, BOSF) in the evening. I have a window of about 2 hours so they won’t expect me to be on the dot time-wise. My Cleveland Bay mare does meet me at the gate sometimes, pointing to her watch :D. Even with hay available all of the time, during this time of year they want their evening meal.

Many years ago I had a friend showing at Deep Run. She told me that the flat class was at “dinnertime” and her horse threw a fit because he knew it was dinnertime. I think she had to go stand in the middle of the ring while attempting to calm him down. That scenario has stayed with me over the years and that is why I do a “window” feeding.

[QUOTE=Skitten;8501113]This is probably horse knowledge 101, but I am hoping for an explanation here.

I know of many horses who have a set feeding schedule, lets say 7pm. I also know that disruptions in this can potentially cause colic.

But then I read some posts that say their horses are fed in a 2-3 hour window.

I called my coach once to say I was going to be 1/2 hour late for a lesson one evening, but we cancelled because it meant the horses wouldn’t be fed on time.

How do you safely feed within a 2 hour window and prevent colic or anxiety?[/QUOTE]

My horse literally eats 24/7. He’s outside at a giant square bale with his turnout group eating nonstop. Food doesn’t become OMG EXCITING IT’S FOOD TIME FOOD TIME FOOD TIME because it’s always available. He’s never without. He eats between 8-9ish in the morning, and at like 4:30 on weekdays (I bring him in and feed him after work.) On weekends I feed him dinner earlier, anywhere from 2:30-4. He eats his meals well but is never bouncing off the walls waiting for his grain because his intake isn’t restricted. Most of the horses where I board are pretty chill about meal times. We’ve had like 3-4 colics in the almost three years I’ve been there.

The barn I used to board at didn’t do free choice hay, so breakfast and dinner were super duper exciting with door kicking/striking (not aggressively, just annoyingly), nickering, walking circles, usual “I’m excited it’s dinner time AHHHH!!!” behavior.

I don’t have a firm schedule it varies depending on various reasons but they are all slow feed net fed and most have hay 24x7 and aren’t at all worried if they haven’t been topped up. None get huge amounts of grain and they do enjoy their grain when it comes am and pm but again not exactly same time every day. Most of them travel for clinics and shows and it is served to work well. No anxiety at all for any of them and all happy :slight_smile:

Mine are home now, and I use the window method also. Days I work, breakfast is 5am. Days I’m off, when it gets light. (no power yet in barn and its just easier on days off not to do the flashlight routine,) Dinner right now is at dark -5ish, even if Im off. My husband feeds dinner when I work and lets the OTTB out in am after his huge pile of morning hay is gone. They are out if not meal time and dont seem anxious at all. We still have grass outside and I keep some hay in the run in shed also. They rarely feel the need to eat the hay(so far), mostly just nap on it. :lol:

On days I work (4 or 5 days a week), I feed my horses at 4 a.m. There’s no way in hell I’m getting up that early to feed them on my days off! My afternoon feed times will vary a bit, but are in about a 1 hour window (and they’re turned out in the daytime this time of year). I have never had a problem with any of them.