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Riding on an empty stomach - OK or bad?

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  • Riding on an empty stomach - OK or bad?

    Hi,

    I just moved to a new barn and am trying to get acclimated to their routines. Due to work commitments, sometimes I have to ride early in the morning. The barn doesn't feed hay until 7:30 am, they clean stalls first. They drag the arena at 8 am and don't want me in there during that time.

    They said I can come at 6 am, which is fine, except then I would be riding my horse on an empty stomach (hers, not mine). They feed dinner at 4 pm, and her hay lasts until about 6, so that's 12 hours without food. They are not willing to let me feed her a flake of hay at 6 am.

    I am thinking that since the horse's stomach produces acid all the time, riding her on an empty stomach is a recipe for ulcers. Am I crazy?

  • #2
    I agree that riding on an empty stomach is not good. Although I don't have an article or scientific evidence to go to. I somehow always arrive at the barn about an hour before they will be feed so I usually go ahead and feed her grain and a flake of hay. But if your barn wont allow that, could you possibly buy your own alfalfa cubes and maybe feed that?
    The Love for a Horse is just as Complicated as the Love for another Human being, If you have never Loved a Horse you will Never Understand!!!

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    • #3
      I agree that it's a big risk for ulcers. If they won't let you give their hay, I would buy something to give her before you ride. The way I understand it, the empty stomach is already an ulcer risk and making them exercise causes the stomach acid to slosh around, causing more damage.

      In my opinion horses have access to hay at all times, but I realize this isn't realistic for many stall board situations. You could look into getting a hay net so dinner lasts longer, but the workers might not want to deal with refilling it. Just an idea.

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      • #4
        I would be more concerned about a horse going 12 hours without food, although riding on an empty stomach isn't great - especially for an ulcer prone horse. Will they let you hang a slow feed hay net?

        Comment


        • #5
          I'd be inclined to make up a alfalfa hash with a pound or two of cubes well soaked with water. While you're pulling out your tack your horse can get a quick snack and at least have something in their system.

          Comment


          • #6
            I don't know about long term consequences of prolonged periods of non-feeding. One of the consequences of "hay always" is obese horses.

            My regular mare is a royal PIA when worked on an empty stomach. So I give her a cup of oats and she's a pleasure to ride. Since she lives outside (and is getting older and is not worked much) we don't do this as often as before. But if a short shot of an easy to digest food would give a better attitude then I'd do it. This is true even if I had to buy and bring the food in myself.

            This NOT a "recipe for founder" as I was once told. The amount is small and is more a "comfort feeding" than a "functional feeding." Keep the amount small and you should be OK.

            G.
            Mangalarga Marchador: Uma Raa, Uma Paixo

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            • #7
              I refuse to ride on an empty stomach, me or my horses. I've found that my horses are generally more pissy and a PITA.

              See if they will let you bring your own hay, and if that's not possible, then bring some soaked hay cubes or pellets to buffer the stomach. I can understand them not wanting extra hay being fed in the morning right before stalls are cleaned, as hay would get wasted that way, and add huge volumes to the manure pile over time, but if you pay for it and bring it yourself, they may relent.

              I would avoid feeding grains or concentrated feeds right before riding as they often have salt, and soak up a lot of fluids in the GI. I wait until my horses are done riding, have cooled down, and are comfortable before feeding grain/hard feeds. My filly always takes a drink after her workouts, so I wait until she has done that to feed her as well. If you MUST ride after they have eaten grains/concentrated feeds, they I wait at least 20 minutes and offer plenty of water. I usually don't even remove them from their stall/pasture for those 20 minutes. We have a horse that almost died from an extreme impaction of undigested grain and dehydration this year. He ate his grain and his am hay ration, and then was loaded onto the trailer for a 3 hour trail ride. He did not poop for 6 days. We thought we were going to lose him. So now, we are very cautious about riding right after the eat their grain.

              If your BO/BM will not allow you to feed your horse anything extra, bring your own pellets/cubes on your dime, then I would put in your 30 day notice and find a barn that better suits your needs.
              I’d rather ride on a Mustang, than in one.

              BaileyAnn Neal

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              • #8
                https://feedxl.com/16-feeding-before-exercise/
                Patience pays.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The riding part is pretty much irrelevent as the 12 hours without hay will already have done the damage. Absolutely zero chance I would subject a horse of mine to that life.
                  McDowell Racing Stables

                  Home Away From Home

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                  • #10
                    I dislike riding a horse who has no food in her stomach too, having had ulcery horses. At the risk of seeming a little OCD, I'd start a bucket of alfalfa cubes soaking at home so they'd be ready to feed when I arrived at the barn, and feed them while grooming. If they'll let you throw her a flake too, all the better, but if not, the cubes should help. (Oops, just noticed you can't feed her a flake.)

                    I love hay nets, and have one for my guy, but they're a pain to stuff, and I don't ask the barn staff to do it. I do it myself every night. The barn people feed a flake and leave the rest next to his door to stuff in his net when I arrive. Then I sweep.

                    It's all well and good to say leave, but that presumes that that the OP has better options. I know of a lot of boarding barns locally and have boarded at a few, and none are perfect. Sometimes you have to be a little creative to make the system work.

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                    • #11
                      I'd ask if you can feed her hay in a slowfeed net so it lasts longer. I'd also give something like soaked alfalfa cubes/pellets before riding. The horse can eat this as you're tacking up.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by vttransplant View Post
                        They said I can come at 6 am, which is fine, except then I would be riding my horse on an empty stomach (hers, not mine). They feed dinner at 4 pm, and her hay lasts until about 6, so that's 12 hours without food. They are not willing to let me feed her a flake of hay at 6 am.

                        I am thinking that since the horse's stomach produces acid all the time, riding her on an empty stomach is a recipe for ulcers. Am I crazy?
                        No, riding regularly on an empty stomach isn't good. But the bigger issue is nothing at all to eat for 12 hours every day. That's not acceptable. Ever. It warrants looking as hard and fast as you can to find a new barn.

                        12 hours without food, on a stomach that produces acid 24x7, is what's going to cause ulcers.

                        ______________________________
                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You've gotten good comments already on ways to give your horse a snack before you ride. I have done some research regarding riding AFTER being fed & wrote it up a few years ago (just my personal blog, it's not monetized, I'm just a scientist who likes exploring things):
                          https://www.teamflyingsolo.com/2014/...uel-other.html

                          In short, for an average schooling ride, you want to ride either in the 1st 30 minutes after feeding or 4 hours later (within practicable reason, of course). This avoids riding during the peak insulin spike caused by metabolising food, preventing unnecessary dipping into glycogen storage for energy.

                          I did a multi-part series that also includes how best to refill energy reserves & the different types of metabolism (aerobic vs. anaerobic), they're also under the nutrition label if you're interested. Enjoy!
                          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

                          Bloggily entertain yourself with our adventures (and disasters):
                          We Are Flying Solo

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                          • #14
                            Actually being fed just 2x a day and not having unlimited hay in front of your horse is not DEFINITELY going to cause ulcers , or every horse fed that way would have them. They don't.

                            Some horses can be kept this way ^^^ from the day they were foaled and never have ulcers and then another horse can be kept with hay 24/7 and have ulcers. I know this from personal experience in a long time boarding situation.

                            I do agree that most horses would be happy to eat whenever they choose, but sometimes due to weight or boarding situations it is not possible.

                            My horse was kept like yours for most of his 21 years with me and he never had ulcers or any other issues. Occasionally I would ride early before he was fed with no problems.

                            If you plan to ride consistently early in the morning , is it possible to get there an additional 20-30 minutes earlier and give him a flake or 2 before you rode?

                            Not to prevent ulcers but it just make him a bit happier.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              My boarding situation is very similar to yours. I bought a Hay Chix slow feeder set up for my horse's stall. So easy that it's not a hassle for the workers to unclip the net's frame, drop in hay flakes and re-close. I don't ride super early, but I have a 5 gal bucket (can use plastic kitty litter bucket or whatever) with a lid where I store alfalfa pellets. I feed 1+ lbs before every ride. You don't have to soak them like you would cubes, but I'll often sprinkle some water over them. Horse eats before I tack up or if I'm short on time, I'll groom her in the stall while she's munching.
                              Savor those rides where you feel like a million bucks, because there will be those where you feel like a cheap date...

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                                Actually being fed just 2x a day and not having unlimited hay in front of your horse is not DEFINITELY going to cause ulcers , or every horse fed that way would have them. They don't.
                                No, but not having anything to eat, at all, for 12 hours a day, every day, is a great recipe for ulcers.

                                I don't subscribe to the "they must have something in front of them 24x7" mantra because that's a man-made notion that isn't rooted in how a horse works. On free range pasture, horses only eat 16/18 hours a day. they spend time walking and napping and sleeping and playing, and never, ever ever eat 24x7.

                                The number of times a horse is fed is not how to evaluate things - there's context missing. I only feed once a day in Summer, twice a day in Winter. But they *always* have forage *available*. But they still aren't eating 24x7, even in Summer when they're out on pasture with good grass. In Winter, I put hay out twice a day, but each time it's enough to give them access to hay until I put more out.

                                If a horse goes 2 hours a day, every day, without forage, that's typically not a recipe for ulcers. 1 hours, 8 times a day, also not a recipe. What matters most is how many hours at a time, on a regular basis, they are not allowed to eat anything at all.

                                12 hours a day, every day, is a terrible way to keep a horse.

                                Some horses can be kept this way ^^^ from the day they were foaled and never have ulcers and then another horse can be kept with hay 24/7 and have ulcers. I know this from personal experience in a long time boarding situation.
                                I challenge anyone to show that a horse without anything to eat for 12 hours a day, every day, doesn't have ulcers

                                I do agree that most horses would be happy to eat whenever they choose, but sometimes due to weight or boarding situations it is not possible.
                                I agree that many boarding situations don't offer as much hay as really necessary. Sometimes, that's acceptable. What's described is not.

                                ______________________________
                                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I agree -- like G. I have a mare who will be pissy and petulant if ridden on an empty stomach. In your situation, I'd do what others are saying -- soak a bucket of hay cubes at home and bring it with you to feed when you get there.

                                  I have never boarded at a place that would not allow me to feed a flake of hay. However, I'd usually feed it in a bag on a chair in the aisle, with her on the crossties. And then give her her breakfast "grain" -- though keep in mind that she doesn't get a lot of this, 2 to 3 cups total.

                                  As for hay in front of the horses 24/7 ... there are *very* few boarding stables that would do that in my area. Staff scheduling issues mean that the horses who eat their hay quickly (Feronia raises a hoof!) will go for a number of hours without hay. Last hay where I am now is 8 or 9 p.m., and the first hay is fed around 6:30 a.m. or so. The latest night check hay we've had, across 5 barns, was at 11 p.m. but this was at a trainer's, and she had working students who lived on-site to do it.

                                  They get 2 flakes at night check and given my mare's nature, I'll bet it's gone within an hour -- while the horses across the aisle from her pick through those 2 flakes all night and rarely finish it. Hay nets mostly frustrate her but don't slow her down much, and she gets a sore neck from yanking at them.

                                  The only time she's had hay 24/7 since I bought her was during the "Snowmageddon" winter in 2015, when she was living outside (with a shed). She spent most of that time standing on a giant pile of hay and snow, picking at the hay. She did slow down a lot once she realized that the hay would never go away. Unfortunately, the 24/7 hay continued too far into the spring, and she ended up getting very fat, and had to go on a diet, which made her very anxious.
                                  You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                  1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by JB View Post

                                    I challenge anyone to show that a horse without anything to eat for 12 hours a day, every day, doesn't have ulcers
                                    I have several horses who go 12-14 hours every single day with zero food in front of them without an ulcer to show for it. Don't know what to say. As someone else said, works for some, not for others.

                                    Most of my horses live out 24/7 (well, they all live in/out 24/7), so it's a moot point because they *can* get *something*, nutritious/good or not....though those that live out 24/7 rarely spend time out in their bigger field eating and mostly just hang out around the barn. But a couple live in diet pens and cannot eat more than one flake twice a day or they turn into something that looks more like a hippo than a horse.

                                    I would not be bothered by the barn not feeding for 12 hours at a time unless my horse was starting to show signs of ulcers.
                                    __________________________________
                                    Flying F Sport Horses
                                    Horses in the NW

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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Laurierace View Post
                                      The riding part is pretty much irrelevent as the 12 hours without hay will already have done the damage. Absolutely zero chance I would subject a horse of mine to that life.
                                      Yep
                                      Custom tack racks!
                                      www.mmeqcenter.com/tacklove.html

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                                      • #20
                                        12 hours a day without any food, day after day, WILL cause ulcers to some extent. How big, how much it affects the horse, is then the question. It's not acceptable.
                                        ______________________________
                                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET

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