This failure to chew is a big problem because the horse gains few benefits from the feed: for example, if you are feeding a whole grain such as grain, the oats will still be visible in the droppings, undigested. One danger is that the horse’s digestive system will become upset and it will lose condition; it is also possible that a horse that eats too fast will develop colic.
One cause of this problem is greed and stems from horses being fed in groups. Very often horses fight among themselves in the field over grass or concentrate. The weak go without feed, and the dominant eat well. Therefore, the less dominant horses will be inclined to “down” their feed as fast as they can, before they are chased away. These horses realise that the faster they eat the more feed they will be able to consume.
The other reason horses may bolt their feed is because they feel threatened by a groom while they are eating. In some stable yards, it is common practice to tack up the horses while they are eating. This makes the horse feel that it has to hurry or else it will not finish its feed. It is important to feed horses in a quiet environment, and is a good idea to leave a horse alone for an hour (from when it is given its short feed until it is saddled up).
There are many ways of coping with this problem. You could add two handfuls of chaff or bran to the horse’s cubes. This should make the feed look less exciting and thus encourage it to eat more slowly. If the chaff still makes no difference, try adding a few lumps of rock salt to the feed manger. The feed is then hidden under the salt and the horse has to search for its feed. This slows it down enough to make it chew properly. – Kim Dyson Contact Kim Dyson on 082 • 888 6511.