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From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Picky Eater

I have a very picky mare, a little hyper, that doesn’t clean up anything but alfalfa/oat cubes. She ties up on too much alfalfa so am trying some timothy grass hay with the cubes. She eats some of it. Any suggestions?
– Thanks, Christy

Dear Christy,

I spend most of my time devising methods to slow down horses from eating too fast and creating diets that are not very calorie-dense so they can eat a lot of bulk but not gain weight. So your question has really made me think! Here are my ideas:

I just attended a training session with the HayGain Steamer folks and one of the groups of horses their product is perfect for is picky eaters! Turns out horses love the smell and texture of steamed hay (I know I love the smell). This particular brand comes in three sizes: full bale, half bale and travel; you may want to purchase the travel size to see if she likes the smell and taste as much as other horses do. Or, you could see if someone in your area has a unit they would let you borrow as a trial.

It’s true that horses like their food to have a “nose” or attractive odor, so anything you can do to make her food smell better would be a benefit. A study from the UK found that fenugreek, an herb with a maple or vanilla smell, is one of the top preferred flavors for horses. I recommend you look for a supplement, like SmartGain 4, that contains fenugreek and sprinkle it on top of foods that she might not go for with gusto.

Now, some horses LOVE the taste and feel of soaked beet pulp and will knock you down for it—does yours? If you have not tried this product, which has a nutrient profile somewhere between hay and grain, give it a whirl. Best of luck getting your Picky Patty to finish her dinner!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Picky Eater
  1. Dillon says:

    Try her on a diet of Fodder. Fodder is fresh green and nutritious. Horses love it.

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