I was talking with my neighbor the other day and she was worried because her horses had broken into her feed room and between the 3 of them eaten about 50 pounds of feed. Luckily it was a high fiber feed and other than being a little sluggish no horse was showing any problems. We gave them each a few doses of nux vomica for over eating just to make sure they were OK.
A few years ago this kind of feed room break in would have been a disaster with colic and possibly laminitis. Back then most people fed oats or sweet feed and a horse eating twice his normal amount of feed could cause a major upset in his intestinal bacteria. Horse feeding practices have really changed over the years and the high fiber feeds today that so many people use are so much safer and forgiving of feeding mistakes.
People are also becoming more aware of the importance of feeding a horse good forage so less concentrate type grain is being used. When I first graduated from vet school it was common for horses to get 5 to 10 pounds of grain twice a day and like I said before it was often straight grain or sweet feed. Needless to say I treated many cases of colic and laminitis. Now many people are very hesitate about feeding a horse more than 2 to 3 pounds of grain at a time even when the horse is in hard work. Feeding a horse several more times a day is much safer unless one of the higher fiber feeds is being used.
Many feeds on the market now are over 15% fiber and these feeds can be fed almost free choice with little concern of digestive upset because the fiber moves through the horse’s small stomach and into the large intestine where there is plenty of room and time for it to ferment and be digested by the bacteria. The more we learn about our horses feed needs the better we can care for them. In the meantime, safer feed for horses is being made by most companies. Now we can focus on our hay suppliers and get them to provide consistent nutritious, balanced, low sugar hay for our horses. Madalyn