Ask H&H: dampening feed

Q: SOME manufacturers suggest that I should add water to all my horse’s feed, but I’m not sure why. My horse is a fussy eater and I’m not sure he’ll eat a dampened feed.
SJ, Woking

“IF we think about what the horse’s natural diet would consist of — mainly grass and other forages which usually contain a high percentage of water — what we often provide our horses with can be very different, eg hay and concentrate feeds which are lacking in moisture,” says nutritionist Claire Lawrence.

“Remember one of the golden rules of feeding: feed something succulent every day. There is a good reason for this — not only does it add interest to the horse’s diet, but, more importantly, it provides extra moisture.”

According to Claire, adding water to concentrate feed can be a particularly good way of keeping your horse hydrated during the winter months, when horses may not be keen to drink icy cold water from their troughs, but is equally useful during the summer.

“Obviously, for the older horse, or those with impaired dentition, adding water makes the feed much easier to eat,” she explains.

“With dry feed there is always a risk of causing choke, particularly with pelleted feeds, but this risk can be greatly decreased when water is added, as the feed is much less likely to become lodged in the oesophagus.

“From our point of view, a horse’s feed may not look so appetising once we have added water, but horses don’t think like that. The feed will retain its appetising smell and, as long as you make the change to adding water gradually, there shouldn’t be any problems.”

Lizzie Drury, senior equine nutritionist at Saracen Horse Feeds, says adding tepid water may actually help a fussy eater.

“Adding warm water to feeds can make a feed smell more appealing, especially useful if you have a sick or fussy eater,” she advises.

“Generally, horses do not have a problem with eating feeds that have water added to them. Pasture is high in water content, so dampened feeds in the winter can often be a welcome substitute when dry matter intakes are often high due to decreased turnout time and increased forage intake. High-fibre pelleted products often suggest that they are soaked for a few minutes in water so that they form a soft mash.”

Information

Allen & Page Tel: 01362 822900 www.allenandpage.com
Saracen Horse Feeds Tel: 01622 718 487 www.saracenhorsefeeds.com

This Q&A was first published in Horse & Hound (21 February, ’08)

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