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Horse Overeating: 5 Answers To 5 Q's

As you gaze out of your kitchen window, you see your horse grazing on a hay bale in the pasture. Fast forward 7 hours, and your horse is still licking his chops, ready to eat another morsel of hay. You begin to wonder if your horse is over-eating. What do you do? Can your horse eat all day? Does a horse overeat? What do I do if my horse overeats? How can I prevent my horse from overeating? Don’t worry, we’ll answer some of these questions in this write-up. Horse overeating should be taken seriously; that’s what this article is all about.

exterior of brown horse eating hay for horse overeating article

Photo Credit: Unsplash: Chris Robert

How Do You Know When A Horse Is Hungry?

In some ways, this is a rhetorical question. A horse rarely ever is filled with grub, and he’ll constantly be eating. The feeding behavior of horses usually consists of eating most of the day; basically, you know that a horse is hungry when they are alive and healthy. However, that does not give reason to feed your horse whatever, whenever. Horses should be given a healthy diet and not just gorge on grain, for example, as too much grain may cause digestion problems or even a ruptured stomach.

To more specifically answer this question, however, helpfulhyena has some insightful comments on horse feeding behavior when they are hungry. According to helpfulhyena, a horse’s feeding behavior when hungry will be restlessness, slowness, and fatigue, among other things.

Should Horses Have Hay All The Time?

Although there are varying opinions and concerns on both sides, it is probably acceptable for a horse to have access to hay all day. With that said, different horses have different dietary needs. So, depending on your horse, it may or may not be a good idea to give them hay availability all day. It is imperative that your horse receive a nutritionally balanced diet that suits their needs every day.

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Photo Credit: FeedXL

Can You Give A Horse Too Much Hay?

Yes, you can give a horse too much hay. Horse overeating is, unfortunately, a circumstance that has taken the lives of horses in the past. One factor that may cause a horse’s feeding behavior to tend toward gluttony is if your horse is bored. Sometimes a horse may just feel like being greedy and eat way more than necessary. According to Extension Horses, control over food consumption is not something that a horse can do. However, this is a question that is fairly controversial.

One thing is for certain: a horse can definitely eat too much grain. Grain is an excellent way for horses to receive the nutrients they need. However, if a horse consumes too much grain, there can be serious repercussions that can potentially be fatal. If a horse overfeeds on grain, some of the repercussions may include upset digestion, laminitis, diarrhea, and colic.

Laminitis

Laminitis basically is an infection of tissue found near the hoof of a horse. It results in extreme pain for the horse and owners may have to end up euthanizing their horse. Basically, laminitis is when the coffin bone (a bone near a horse’s hoof) has a severed connection from the hoof wall.

Colic

Colic is a fairly common disease that horses suffer from. It is a pain that occurs in the stomach of the horse. It can result from a stoppage of the blood in the intestine or a dietary change, among other things.

exterior of horse eating from feeder for horse overeating grain article

How Do I Treat A Horse Who Has Overeaten?

Although a horse overeating is not necessarily a situation you want to be in, there are things that you can do to treat the problem.

If your horse has eaten too much hay, the repercussions will probably not be too serious. As we mentioned, a typical horse’s feeding behavior is to be consuming food for a lot of the day anyway. One thing to keep in mind is to not suddenly starve your horse out of panic after you think that your horse has consumed too much hay. Withholding hay from your horse may actually result in a more serious problem for your horse. If you are still very concerned about your horse, call your local veterinarian. 

A horse overeating on grain is another story. If a horse overeats on grain, there are a couple of general steps to follow.

  1. Have water available for the horse to drink and take the horse away from the grain.
  2. Call or visit your nearest veterinarian. 
  3. For the next several days, soak your horse’s hooves in ice water, which can help prevent inflammation, which, in turn, can prevent laminitis, an inflammation of tissue found in the hoof of a horse.
  4. Assess how much grain was eaten and write down the details of what happened for your vet to assess.
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How Do I Prevent My Horse From Overeating?

There are a couple different ways to prevent your horse from overeating. We’ll talk about two ways.

Haynet

A haynet is a great way to keep your horse from overeating. It not only helps prevent your horse from overeating, but also helps to prevent hay waste.

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Photo Credit: Texas Haynet

If you would like to learn more about why a hay net is a great solution, this article is a great resource.

The Farmco “SF” Horse Feeder Series

The Farmco “Slow Feed” Covered Hay Feeder” is a high-quality slow feeder that pays for itself with hay savings, usually within 24 months.

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Slow feeding is the healthiest way to feed hay to horses. By recreating natural grazing habits, slow feeding provides a steady stream of fibrous nutrition, critical for maintaining the health of equine digestive tracts. Plus, the right horse slow hay feeder can reduce feed costs drastically by cutting hay waste to almost zero.

Farmco designs hay feeders that can handle groups of up to 8-10 horses. These slow hay feeders allow the feeding of entire large round or large square bales, drastically reducing labor. 

exterior of quality farmco green slow hay feeder for horse feeding behaviour article

Each feeder is built with reinforced heavy-duty 12 gauge steel and coated with a two-part polyurethane paint in Hunter Green. If you’re interested, you can also read about Farmco’s standard slow hay feeder standard features. Speaking of metal hay feeders, this article will help you understand metal horse feeders a bit more.

If you’re interested, we also have an article on the best hay feeders for horses.

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Conclusion

We hope this was able to answer some of your questions about horse feeding behavior, including when horses overeat on grain. Like we said, when a horse overeats, it’s no joke. So, we hope we were able to give you some ideas on how to prevent this occurrence from happening! Feel free to click the button below if you would like to request a quote on a slow-feed horse feeder.