Horses are not fastidious eaters. I mean, they’re not carnivores, so they will generally turn up their noses at a good steak (although I did run into a horse that had a taste for hot dogs). But they were essentially born to eat. In the wild (which isn’t always the best measure, by the way), they eat in 23 of 24 hours during the day. Eating like a horse, indeed.
Anyway, periodically I get questions about why horses eat what they eat, and whether what they eat is bad for them. Here are some answers.
I have to confess, I like objectivity. I like sports where they keep score based on things like if the horse did or did not knock down the fence, or if the goal was or was not scored. The more subjective sports, where winning is based on whether or not the contestant appealed to the judge’s sense of how things are supposed to be, (like, say, gymnastics, or figure skating), make me a bit nuts.
An article in the October 8, 2009, issue of the New England Journal of Medicine has reminded me of an issue that has bothered me for at least a couple of decades. While horse owners seem more than happy to give their horses any number of supplements, the fact is that, no matter what the supplements promise, horse owners can’t really know if the supplements do any good.
In some ways, being responsible for a horse is like being responsible for a very young child. Neither patient can speak for himself, and each relies on someone else to make his decisions for him. So, when there’s a problem—be it with a horse or with a child—you’re the one in charge. At these times, the question that often comes up is, “Do I need to call the doctor?”