Picky hay eater?

Have one horse who just does not seem to like hay very much. Other horse is fine with the hay, so I don’'t think that is the problem. I’ve tried feeding on the ground, which she tends to paw at and just waste, so I usually feed in nets to save the waste and so they have hay in front of them for longer periods of time. Never met a horse that doesn’t like hay. She gets a big meal of beep mixed with small amounts of grain and flax twice a day, and doesn’t seem to be losing weight (I’ve only had her since the fall). I just worry that she is not getting enough fiber due to the lack of hay. Live up north so no grass for at least 6 months of the year, so pasture is not available. Anyone else have picky hay eaters? I also offer hay cubes, twice a day, which she turns her nose up at, doesn’t matter if they are dry or soaked, drizzeled with molasses or grated carrots.

I have a very picky hay eater. When I first got him I thought to myself ‘what kind of gold flake laden hay has he been served thus far in life!’ I tried everything — different cuttings, different grasses, on the ground, in a tub. Fast forward three years, it’s just him. Of my herd, he’s also the most polite at feedings and waits outside of his stall (it opens to his field for 24/7 access) for me to drop his twice daily grain servings off, which he gobbles down and promptly returns to the field leaving his hay behind. He keeps weight on and eventually eats it so I’ve learned to embrace it.

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I am going to ask it, even though I am sure you have done it, but…

Have you checked her teeth to make sure that is not the problem?

It sounds like she gets plenty of calories with what you are feeding and that she does pick at the hay. I am thinking you are going to have to do what @Fleurdelis says, embrace it.

Did she eat hay at her previous place? Was it a different kind?

Is it possible she is too full from the soaked beet pulp/grain/flax you are feeding her?

She does pick at it, but as soon as she sees me (driving past, she knows my car) or hears me walking down to the paddock, I can’t tell if she was eating and then she abandons the net. Previous place she was in a herd, on round bales, so they couldn’t really say how much she was eating. The other horse is a bit of piggy, will stand there picking away all day, rarely moves to .come say hello.
She looks to be in fine shape, weight wise, so I’m probably just stirring up trouble in my brain

I’m thinking perhaps you might be on to something. She will get distracted by a chicken or guinea running by, or I come to check on them, anything really, and just seem to lose interest in the hay, while the other one is still picking away. Maybe it is just her, it’s how she rolls!

She is only four, and I did have her teeth checked, but yes, i realize they can change a lot in a short period of time. Hay and grain would be that different to chew, I guess, especially if it is a mushy grain meal. But I was really curious of other people’s experiences, because it seems to have been this way since she got here, and I can’t remember meeting a horse that would waste/not eat so much hay.

Hay and grain are different. For starters, grain is a higher value food. Think about it - if your mouth hurts and someone offers you a food that you like but it is certainly not a food you love you might eat a little but decide it is not worth it. If they offer you something that is your absolute favorite food you might eat thru the pain to enjoy the deliciousness of the meal.

But teeth aside, I have owned this horse. We tried everything (or it felt like everything). Hay on the floor she would pee and manure on and then have a melt down that she had no food. Hay in a hay rack was just pulled out and landed on the floor and became problem 1. We tried feeding just a flake at a time, which worked better but our lives do not allow for regular flake tossing. For this mare what happened was she liked the challenge of the smallest hole hay net. Backwards from what I would have thought for a horse that was a picky hay eater, but it is true. One day I filled the old horse’s over night hay bag before putting everyone in (old horse stayed out all night so this hay bag was in a spot that when everyone was out they could get to it). She checked it out and would not leave. I got her a very small hole hay net and we have never looked back. Disclaimer, this mare is weird in lots of ways so I am in no way saying this will work for you.


I guess I am just over analyzing things. I do use hay nets most of the time, and they are always completely emptied, but by which horse, who knows! I did just change blankets, so saw them both completely bare, Picky eater looks great, other mare is actually starting to look a little fat!! Lol (She was skinny going into winter, so I was a little more worried about her before.)

I’ve seen this a few times, so I will vouch that you aren’t weird thinking this. I think it’s partly the challenge of it, partly avoiding the, “Ew it hit the floor…POISON” factor. But I have definitely got a few picky eaters to eat more from small hole nets, rather than less.

As for your particular mare @Seagram, it sounds like you have the horses together and can’t actually tell who is eating. In this case, keep a close eye on their BCS more than anything, and try not to overworry unless you see her losing weight.

I have 2 that don’t eat much hay. Both have really high quality hay 24/7. They are also both ulcer prone types that usually get a course of omeprazole once or twice a year. It’s a chicken egg thing. Do they not eat hay because the belly hurts? Or, do they not eat hay and then they get ulcers from empty bellies? Both prefer to eat out of nets. Once the hay hits the ground it’s inedible. Neither horse is fat but both are in good enough condition. I guess some horses are just picky eaters like some people.

My mare became less interested in hay when she had hindgut ulcers. It was very uncharacteristic for her, as she was typically a very good eater, so I was sure something wasn’t right. I did the Succeed challenge and she returned to happily eating any and all hay I gave her!

So…since posting this, I’ve been pretty much exclusively feeding from hay nets. The nets are always emptied by the time I go to refill. When I am rushed for time and just throw them some flakes instead of filling the nets, there is always leftover hay on the ground. Horses!!! Go figure!