Most horse owners have a pretty steady routine when it comes to working with their horses, and that includes keeping a consistent feeding schedule and program in place, which is a good thing for the horse. However, a variety of situations, from moving to a new place, to a change in the horse’s health, can require a change in habits and possibly in diet.
Chris Cox, renowned clinician and dedicated SafeChoice® feeder, offers this advice on preparing your horse for change: “I never ask a horse to do something I haven’t prepared it to do. By the time I’m asking a horse to step on to a trailer, that horse has all the preparation it needs to do it – and by prepare I don’t mean desensitize. I don’t desensitize my horses as much as a lot people do. It’s easy to overdo it and end up dulling your horse. It’s okay for your horse to react to something, but if it is properly trained it won’t overreact.”
Chris’s training tip follows easily right in to the realm of changing your horse’s feeding program. Abrupt change, while a horse can manage and get through, isn’t the most desirable scenario. Gradual introduction of whatever is new to the feeding program, whether it is a change in the amount fed or a change to an entirely different type of feed, should be done incrementally over a period of about 7 days. This time frame allows the horse’s digestive system to adjust to the new levels of nutrients being digested, and also allows time for the sometimes-picky-eaters to realize that the new feedstuff is, in fact, OK to eat.
Preparing your horse, whether it is in feeding practices, daily schedule, or training, will set you and your horse up to make changes successfully.