Coping with faddy eaters

According to nutritionist Derek Cuddeford, the first essential in coping with a horse who is a faddy eater is to decide whether the problem is all in the mind – yours, that is.

“When people phone me and say their horse is a fussy eater, I often find that he isn’t fussy at all: just overfed,” he explains.

“Horses are like kids, they’ll eat when they’re hungry. If you were hungry and given a plate of sandwiches, you would begin to eat. But, as you got more full, you would becomepicky and start looking at the fillings.

“Obviously, you need to check that a horse hasn’t got a problem with worms or with his teeth but, if his health signs are all correct, then make sure he’s not overweight.

“You should be able to feel the ribs – if you run your hand along the horse and create a bow wave, then he is too fat.”

Dr Cuddeford says that too many people worry if a horse does not eat all his feed immediately. “That’s why many people put molasses in, because horses like sweet things.”

In rare cases where there is a problem, it is important to know your horse’s personality. Some will only eat in peace and quiet, for instance. But Dr Cuddeford says that if a horse is isolated and has not seen anyone until you come to feed him, he will probably want to spend time with you.

“The ideal way to rehabilitate a horse is to put him out on good grass,” he advises. “Remember that horses are geared to eat wet food, and you will get more wet roughage by feeding haylage.

“Also, give the horse small feeds and try dampening the coarse mix.”

Derek finds that horses are often like their owners.

“Obese animals often have obese owners and the same applies to faddy ones. If a horse doesn’t eat his grub straight away, it doesn’t necessarily mean that he doesn’t like it.”

  • Derek Cuddeford is the author of Equine Nutrition, published by Crowood Press.