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How long does your horse go without forage?

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  • How long does your horse go without forage?

    In looking at different boarding barns, I'm curious how long your horse goes without any hay/grass in a dry lot in the winter time? What about water?

  • #2
    I suspect you are mentioning winter because it is germane to your question, in which case you might want to mention what type of weather you are looking at. Better yet, ask about location along with the rest of your question -- if it matters.

    Regarding your question, my horses are never without water and seldom go for even an hour without forage. They get premium alfalfa stuffed into large tubs and there is usually hay left over from one meal to the next. In addition, my oldest mare gets a balanced senior feed daily plus a vitamin supplement. It's important to mention breed and age as well because a hard-keeping Thoroughbred needs different feeding than a thriftier horse, and age plays a part as well. Many people on this forum have discussed the issues of preventing overfeeding, which can be a real problem with many horses, especially those prone to hormone problems like Cushings disease.

    I like to have water available at all times because it is hot here in Southern California, but I have heard of people in northern climes who will herd their stock to water on a regular basis and then turn them back out onto grazing land. It may work fine but I would worry about health risks like colic in such a situation.
    "Random capitAlization really Makes my day." -- AndNirina

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    • #3
      I have stall boarded my horse and every place I have ever been they go 10-12 hours overnight without hay. Hay in their stall at dinner time, 2-3 flakes that would last a couple hours and that is it till morning feed and turn out. Water access 24x7. Not ideal but my horse has always have done fine. I paid $425-525 for stall board at a few different places and that was what every barn offered. For a jump in price at a higher end barn I could have had another night check and more hay then but that just was not something I could afford. Edited to add, my horse is an easy keeper and always has been so weight wise, this was fine for him.

      Now my horse is retired and pasture boarded, they are in stalls from 7am till noon, they are usually finished with their hay by 8am and just nap till 12:00 and turn out again.

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      • #4
        I have mine at home and they do not go without forage.

        When I boarded, I was willing to give up a lot of amenities for 24/7 hay. It's sure not common!

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        • #5
          I have always had my horses at boarding stables. I have always found places where the horses were not without forage for more than a few hours if they ate fast. At some barns, there were grass turnouts which was nice even if the grass was eaten down.

          At the current stable, my horse is out 8 -12 hours in a dirt paddock (changes day or night with the seasons). This always includes a large pile of hay and a lunchtime pile if out during the day. Mine is a bit of a Hay Hoover so he spends some time without forage, but he would be massively obese if he got all the hay he wanted!

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          • #6
            My horses are at home, and live outside 24/7. My horses always have water - usually two sources. 2 are in a 1/2 acre dirt paddock overnight (5PM to 9AM). They are fed dinner at 5PM and given their hay. I'm quite sure they've hoovered up all the hay by 9PM - so they go 12 hours without any forage. 1 horse stays in the paddock 24/7, and he gets hay with his breakfast at 9AM. The pony goes out to pasture for the day, so he gets no hay, as he has grass.

            In winter they do get their night hay in two portions - at 4PM and 9PM. But still, I'm sure they are done by midnight. So that's 9 hours without forage. So, in winter, they get hay 3 times a day (9AM, 4PM, 9PM) - 4 if it is bitterly cold (I add a noon feeding) and they need more to help keep them warm.

            These two are air ferns and if given more hay would get too tubby. Years ago, we tried the "free choice" way (having a round bale), and that was a disaster. They both ate themselves silly. They both looked like Thellwel ponies. We never got another round bale after that.

            So it really depends on the pony/horses needs. Easy keepers that don't need 24/7 access to grass/hay can do well in a pasture board or dry lot situation. Whereas a hard keeper, if additional feedings are not an option, and there in no round bale (or constant source of hay), might not do too well.
            ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~

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            • #7
              4-5 hours max for both hay and water. Ulcer horse does just fine with that now that ulcers are totally under control and there is hay and water in stall at all times.
              Ahhhh, spring is here. The birds are singing, the trees are budding and the paddocks are making their annual transformation from cake mix to cookie dough.

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              • #8
                Worth noting, too, that "free choice" hay doesn't need to equal a big pile of loose hay all the time. That obviously doesn't work for a lot of thrifty horses. Hay can be netted, horses can be muzzled. There are lots of ways to reduce intake while not limiting availability.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by LBeringer View Post
                  In looking at different boarding barns, I'm curious how long your horse goes without any hay/grass in a dry lot in the winter time? What about water?
                  Never except when pulling blood for insulin check (have to fast overnight). Dry-lotted due to Cushings/laminitis. Three sources of water - tubs cleaned daily.
                  "When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered." CANTER New England

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                  • #10
                    I don’t board mine, but I do have a couple boarded with me. They are never without forage or water unless I have them out grooming/riding/etc. Their pastures are grass and if they’re in, they have hay nets that always have hay. Most also have small paddocks attached to the stalls with some grass as well.

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                    • #11
                      My horses go without water and hay while I am riding, trailering, and at shows. Usually not for more than 2 hours at a time. At home, they have access to water and forage all the time.
                      "When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him."

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                      • #12
                        This is a sore subject at my barn! Horses are fed grain around 7:30-8AM and then get turned out where they get a flake or two of hay. My horse inhales a flake in about 30-60 minutes, so he is without food by 10/11AM.

                        They get turned in around 2:30PM, at which time they get PM grain and 1-3 flakes, depending on the horse's needs. I normally get to the barn around 5PM and my horse usually has a bit of hay left. Not always.

                        They then get PM hay, 1-3 flakes, at around 6:30. I left the barn at 9PM last night and he had just a tiny bit left. Meaning he went 9:30PM-7:30AM without any hay.

                        Horses have automatic waterers. These IMO are not reliable and are often full of "grain soup". I fill 2 5-gal buckets for my horse daily. He drinks both.

                        In turnout, it's 50/50 they get water. I think they'll fill buckets and troughs 2-3x a week. I make sure my horse has fresh water every day. Certainly this should be the barn's responsibility but apparently "the automatic waterers should be enough". In the winter, horses have no water while in turnout. We have cold winters and the troughs freeze.

                        I do have a hay net, but it has rusted shut. I've been working to pry it open to get his evening hay inside of it. That way he won't go quite as long without hay. So, if you get in a situation like mine... I'd recommend a hay net and DIY buckets!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tipzythegreat View Post
                          This is a sore subject at my barn! Horses are fed grain around 7:30-8AM and then get turned out where they get a flake or two of hay. My horse inhales a flake in about 30-60 minutes, so he is without food by 10/11AM.

                          They get turned in around 2:30PM, at which time they get PM grain and 1-3 flakes, depending on the horse's needs. I normally get to the barn around 5PM and my horse usually has a bit of hay left. Not always.

                          They then get PM hay, 1-3 flakes, at around 6:30. I left the barn at 9PM last night and he had just a tiny bit left. Meaning he went 9:30PM-7:30AM without any hay.

                          Horses have automatic waterers. These IMO are not reliable and are often full of "grain soup". I fill 2 5-gal buckets for my horse daily. He drinks both.

                          In turnout, it's 50/50 they get water. I think they'll fill buckets and troughs 2-3x a week. I make sure my horse has fresh water every day. Certainly this should be the barn's responsibility but apparently "the automatic waterers should be enough". In the winter, horses have no water while in turnout. We have cold winters and the troughs freeze.

                          I do have a hay net, but it has rusted shut. I've been working to pry it open to get his evening hay inside of it. That way he won't go quite as long without hay. So, if you get in a situation like mine... I'd recommend a hay net and DIY buckets!
                          I think I'd be moving my horse... Even more expensive board elsewhere is cheaper than the vet bill for a colic.

                          My horses are at home. I have one remaining boarder from the old (larger) farm. The kids are NEVER without forage. Even on their winter sacrifice paddock they always have much more hay than they can eat. They are never without water. Water troughs are checked daily and filled as needed. During the winter all necessary precautions are taken to make sure they have access to unfrozen water. I had automatic waterers in the field at previous leased farms. The water line was below the frost line (we're in Virginia), but during the coldest months I did put out a water trough, just in case.

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                          • #14
                            Zero hours. Tested, low-sugar hay.

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                            • #15
                              I am used to feeding hard working TBs so my goal is to have them with access to food and water 24/7. They come into stalls for the day with two full water buckets and slow feed haynets that are 20-25lbs. They all eat TCS for breakfast and some get dinner, depending. They are turned out on grass for the night. In the winter, they have heated water troughs in the field and buckets filled with warm water in the stall (working on getting heated auto waters installed).

                              In the winter, I will throw hay in the field daily, estimated by weight but also if they are scarfing up every scrap I will throw a little more. So really they never are without food/water unless they are being ridden, shod, vetted, or trailered short distances. Trailering long distances (1hr+) they’ll have hay.

                              I currently have one TB/Connemara in my care and he is very much a pony when it comes to food. So he was an adjustment — he will eat just to eat and get fat, unlike a TB who burns those calories and also tends not to overeat. So for the pony, he gets a 15-20lb haynets for the day which he eats by 12-1 and is without hay for a few hours before turnout but has done fine and would be too fat otherwise (and too $$!). With the TBs, I am of the mind that "if they're eating, they're hungry and they should have food!" but not so with this pony lol.

                              That all said, I know a nearby farm where horses only have water 1-2x per day, sometimes going more than 12 hours in between, because there are no spigots near their fields and water is hauled in. These horses live out 24/7. They are given hay 1-2x per day also. And most don’t have sheds. Not how I’d keep my horses but these ones seem to understand the routine and do okay, amazingly.
                              Last edited by firefoot; Sep. 13, 2019, 02:15 PM.

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                              • #16
                                I have 2 horses that get unlimited hay. I have 2 others continually on a diet because they stay plump and would be obese if given free choice hay.

                                I try to let them go no longer than 5 hours with an empty belly. Definitely not ideal but better than laminitis. I've bought new hay nets so hopefully i can drop that number to 3 hours, but I'm not sure as one is a houdini at eating hay. I don't think the best net in the world would slow her down.

                                Unlimited water for everyone.

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                                • #17
                                  When I boarded my horses would only get thrown hay twice a day so after they finished that they were done. I would add extra hay that I personally brought to their paddock when I could but it wasn't something I could do every day since other boarders would move their horses into my paddock for the extra hay.

                                  For water, their water would get filled by the barn staff twice a day. I would scrub and fill their buckets daily myself but if I was sick or was not able to get to the barn they would only get buckets filled twice a day. When my ASB cracked the water bucket (she loves playing in water) the cracked bucket was left in the field and only filled twice a day with as much as it could hold which was about 3 gallons worth. That did not go over very well with me and was one of the final straws that forced me to bring them home.

                                  Now that they're at home I have them on full grass paddocks, they get thrown alfalfa twice a day and they always have full hay bags in their stalls that they have full access to. Water is a bit excessive since every time someone is out we'll top off all the buckets plus they receive a "soup" for lunch. Since they have been provided with constant forage I've noticed they obsess over their food less, crib less, and spend a lot more time snoozing or playing with each other.

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                                  • Original Poster

                                    #18
                                    thank you for the responses. I have a TB who is a decent keeper, but the boarding barn I'm looking at does turn out for about 8 hours during the day - but there is no water once the troughs freeze in the winter and no hay thrown. So they are going that many hours without. They do get plenty of water and hay when turned in and all the horses there look good. I'm more concerned about ulcers without forage for that many hours during the day. We are in Canada and our winters are rough. Of course I would love for him to have free choice hay/water during turnout but that doesn't seem to be an option around here.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Hay was a major sticking point for me in my boarding situation as well. When I first got there, the barn feeding program was 3 small flakes AM and PM. It wasn’t nearly enough for my then 16yo, 16.3h WB in full work. He was without hay from maybe 7pm to 7am. He started dropping weight, showing symptoms of ulcers, and stall walking. At the time, the barn owner wanted me to pay an additional $200 a month for more of their hay. I couldn’t afford that, so I found a hay supplier and purchased my own - 150 bales for $600, delivered and stacked. That lasted me almost 6 months - a huge cost savings compared to the BO’s price. And because it was hay that I purchased myself, I could freely give as much or as little as I felt was necessary. He started holding weight, ulcer symptoms disappeared, and stall walking completely stopped.

                                      The following winter, the boarders and barn management had a meeting and came to the conclusion that all of us wanted our horses to have more hay. Our barn management is fantastic, and have changed the feeding program to allow free choice hay to every horse as needed, without any significant increase in board prices. It’s been an absolute godsend. Now he’s only without forage for maybe an hour or so a day.

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                                      • #20
                                        Horses are out 24/7, 365 and always have hay or pasture and water. Doing anything else would be a big no for me.
                                        "Traditions are basically just peer pressure from dead people"

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