Your horse is hungry. And you want to help. Yes, but what does it take to help my picky eater eat healthy and well again?
Do you find yourself asking these questions?
- “How can I get my horse to eat powdered supplements and other food products?”
- “Why is my horse eating grains and grass, but not hay?” or
- “Why is my horse not eating what I’m serving?"
If so, you’re not alone. Every year, we hear from customers just like you who wonder how to help their horses live and eat better.
If there’s one piece of advice we can give, it’s to treat each horse as if they’re a totally different type of eater. If you’re interested in learning how to help your horse eat better — picky horse or not — we’ll discuss some of the common causes of a picky eater, as well as tips for helping them eat well, live, and thrive once more.
Let’s dive in!
Our 6 quick tips for picky eaters
Too long, didn’t read? Here’s a summary of what to do to help your picky horse eater start loving and grubbing on their powdered supplements.
- Start with only giving one product initially, and add in any others over the course of a couple of days.
- Give a smaller dose, say ¼ to ½ of the recommended dose. Then, work up to the full recommended amount.
- If your horse is eating hay, you can give some of the herbs mixed with the grain on top of your horse’s hay so your horse has to sift through the herbs to munch on the hay.
- If you’re able, you can leave the grain pan or bucket in the horse’s living area for as long as needed to allow your horse to pick throughout the day.
- Our Hemp Seed-Coconut Oil can also be used to help with the smell and taste of our powdered supplements. Horses seem to love the taste of the nutty flavor in the hay. We do suggest staying away from anything sugary, such as molasses, to mask the taste of the new powdered supplement. Molasses is terrible for horses!
- Make a paste by adding a small amount of water to the powder, and administer it with a syringe on the back of your horse’s tongue.
To make the most out of the six tips above, we highly recommend you read on to learn about how to care for your picky eater in the long run.
A winning recipe: picky eater no more
Over the years, we’ve never had one of our horses not take a liking to our herbs (that is, after a few days of munching on the herbs, of course). In fact, if our horses don’t get their herbs, they seem disappointed.
Most of us here at Silver Lining Herbs mix the herbs with water and whole oats — or we add an ounce or two of our Hemp Seed-Coconut Oil — to help the herbs stick to the oats.
Next, we stir the entire mixture together. Horses love the mixture, and they lick their grain pan clean.
If after trying the above tips you still notice your picky eater isn’t eating your herbs or their food, reach out to us. We understand that every horse and situation is different, so we’d be happy to talk you through your options for better care for your horse.
Picky eaters, easy keepers, and sick horses
If your horse isn’t eating like they normally do, it’s important to rule out that they’re not sick.
Asking yourself the following questions could help you rule out whether your horse is indeed a picky eater, an easy keeper (meaning a horse that just needs less food to maintain an ideal weight), or is truly sick.
Ask yourself about your horse’s physical health
- Does your horse have a loose tooth that makes eating uncomfortable (They could be having dental issues)?
- Has their stomach been bothering them (They could have an ulcer)?
- Have you noticed any changes in your horse’s gait (They could be experiencing lameness or laminitis)?
Ask yourself about your horse’s environment
- Has the weather been affecting your horse (winter weather can increase the chances for a horse to contract colic, for example)?
- Have you made recent changes to their living area (such as a new barn stall or living with new neighbors)?
- Has their exercise routine or work schedule changed recently (seasons — like Spring — can affect horses in different ways)?
Ask yourself about your horse’s food
- Have you made recent or sudden changes to their food or diet (more on this in the sections below)?
- Have you increased or decreased the amount of food served in their diet (more on this in the sections below)?
How to help your picky eater eat well again
If you’ve ruled out that your horse isn’t sick, hasn’t been affected by their environment, and isn’t reacting to the types of food you’re feeding them because of a health issue, then they may indeed be picky eaters.
The following lifestyle changes can help your picky eater live well, eat well, and thrive again.
Feed your horse when they’re hungriest
If your horse is a bit shy about powdered supplements, feeding them on a full tummy won’t go over well for either you or your horse. The last thing you want to do is traumatize your horse from a negative experience with food.
We recommend feeding your horse powdered supplements at a time in the day they’re most hungry. This time could be after a long day’s work, an exercise regime, or at a time of the day when you know your horse is chomping on the bit for a meal.
A word of caution: if you do choose to feed your horse after strenuous work or exercise, make sure you follow these key dos and don’ts of feeding horses to ensure your horses remain healthy in mind and body.
Offer your horse options
As babies, we thrive off eating the same food meal after meal. Soft, mushy foods make us squeal with delight.
To grow a baby’s palette, we usually give them options. Doing so helps them slowly expand their interest in different foods.
Yes, as we grow older, our palate becomes more sophisticated. We might start enjoying crunchy or hard foods. We may even expand to sweet or sour foods.
We don’t eat the same food for every meal as adults. So, it makes sense that we wouldn’t do the same for our loveable equine companions.
Some horses might just need options. Like we would with a toddler, consider offering a variety of options at feeding times for your horses.
Having your horse eat your powdered supplements might just be a matter of presenting the right options to them. Once you find the right food, you can mix and match powdered supplements into their feed.
The sky’s the limit. Your horse stands a greater chance of loving the powdered supplements in front of them.
…Or be firm with only one option
Horses are smart — sometimes more so than we give them credit for. They might be holding out on eating, because they know you’ll cave in and give them tastier options.
If you’ve presented a variety of options, and your horse still isn’t eating, it might be time for some tough love. Provide your horse with one type of feed at a consistent time, and that’s it.
If they’re hungry enough, your horse will start munching and crunching. Consider being firm and providing a single option if you’ve exhausted the giving-a-variety-of-food-options method to your horse.
Separate feeding times for your horse
Some people are energized by spending loads of quality time alone. Others prefer being in larger groups.
The same principles apply to your horse during mealtimes: some enjoy eating alone, and others prefer to eat together.
If you notice that your horse is a bit more on the shy side, consider creating separate feeding times — and locations — for your equine friend. Your horse may not be eating, because they either prefer eating alone — or they could be shy, intimidated by, or affected by a more assertive, aggressive colt or mare who’s racing ahead to be first to the chow line.
Regardless of the reason, experiment with separate feeding times and locations for your equine pal as a way to help your picky eater live well.
...Or feed your horses together
In the wild, resources and food are often scarce. The horse that survives is the one that breaks through the pack and finds enough grass worth munching on before it’s all gone.
If your horse tends to spend most of their time in an isolated stall, barn, or stable — away from other horses — a little competition couldn’t hurt them. Consider giving them viewing access to other horses who might be eating at the same time as your picky eater.
Doing so can often stimulate your horse’s natural survival instincts — and appetite — when it comes time to feed.
Make changes to your horse’s diet slowly
Horses love routine. They’ll eat for 15-17 hours a day consistently, day in and day out.
It comes as no surprise that if they’re thrown totally new hay or powdered supplements, they’ll likely bulk at it.
If you’re thinking of adding powdered supplements to your horse’s diet, do so slowly. Consider giving ¼ or ½ of the recommended powdered supplement dose. Then, work them up to the full amount.
Thinking of adding multiple powdered supplements to their diet at a time? Hold your horses (literally).
Do your best to give just one product initially, and then add in other products as the days progress.
“Slow and steady wins the race,” the saying goes. Play the long game when feeding your horse powdered supplements.
You can do so by introducing new supplements slowly into their diet.
Tasty foods can help horses warm up to supplements
As children, do you remember when our parents would remind us to eat all our vegetables (we sure do)? We were so much more likely to clean out that bowl of steamed broccoli if we knew it was sprinkled with our preferred seasoning or slathered in our favorite dipping sauce.
Your picky eater is no exception.
Many horses aren’t fond of some of their foods because of either the smell or taste. Our Hemp Seed-Coconut Oil is what salt and pepper or dipping sauce are to a bowl of steamed broccoli: the product makes a picky eater more likely to want to eat their powdered supplements. Horses seem to love the taste of the nutty flavor it provides when chomping on their hay.
But keep feeding clean and natural
As you try out new tasty foods, just make sure you don’t feed sugary food — like molasses — to your horse. Sugary foods can be harmful and toxic to your horse.
Keep feeding your horse what is natural to their bodies. Tons of familiar, high-calorie, and nutrient-dense food — like alfalfa hay — can be provided at first to ensure your horse transitions into eating and enjoying their powdered supplements.
Alternatively, you can also leave the grain pan or bucket with your horse throughout the day — or give them some of the powdered herbal supplements mixed with the grain on top of the hay — so that your horse can sift through the herbs throughout the day as they eat the hay.
Both options work.
A word of caution: if you feed your horse sugary food to help them transition to eating powdered supplements, your horse could have an adverse reaction to their food. Eating sweet foods can cause health issues, health issues which could require you to detox your horse.
Set the tone with the right environment
Does your horse eat in certain locations around their stable? Do they prefer to eat from a pan or from the ground? How about under certain lighting conditions?
Depending on your horse, your horse may have clear preferences for where, when, and how they prefer to eat. With a little trial and error, you can figure out the best way to feed your horse to ensure they receive the proper nutrition for all their needs.
A silver lining in every situation
We hope you enjoyed these tips. Once again, if after trying the above tips you still notice your picky eater isn’t eating your herbs or their food, don’t hesitate to reach out.
And don’t forget: there’s a silver lining in every situation. Don’t lose hope.
You’ll find a winning recipe for you and your horse’s needs. We look forward to hearing how everything goes!