Is your boarding stable killing your horse?
By Eleanor Richards

Certainly your horse is in prison.

He is dependent on others for his food and water.

There is no escape for him…he is at your mercy.

Only you can insure his needs are being met….no matter what the cost.

“Two flakes of hay in the morning and two flakes of hay at night.”  I hear it all the time.  But how much do those flakes weigh?  How big is the horse? What is the quality of the hay?

A horse should receive at least 2 percent of his body weight per day in good quality digestible forage.  So that means a 1200-pound horse would need 24 pounds of hay each day.  The average flake of hay weighs around three pounds…take that times four flakes per day and it equals 12 pounds of hay – half what he should be getting.  The horse is starving.

In addition to not getting enough hay, the hay is probably not good quality.

Drought in some areas, rains in others mean hay shortages, driving hay prices up.

Many boarding stables are buying anything that can be tied in twine…regardless of the quality.  So the 12 pounds of hay our starving 1200-pound horse is getting may only have 6 pounds of digestible material. 

He is probably wasting the rest - “He wastes it, so the boarding stable decreased his hay.”

They should be feeding more, not less, so he can pick through it and get what can be digested.
Or he is being forced to eat what he cannot digest.

Eating what should not be eaten can cause impaction colic while he is being starved to death.  Adding to his troubles is his hay belly caused when the cecum (part of the large intestine) is being stretched with non-digestible material.

If your boarding stable refuses to feed more hay or cannot purchase better quality hay it is up to you to take steps.  This may mean paying more board, moving the horse to a better facility or providing your own hay (and making more trips each day to be sure your horse gets it).

Horses are trickle feeders – they need to graze.  Small frequent meals throughout the day are better than two large ones.  If it is possible - pay an employee at the boarding stable to give your horse hay at noon.

Boarding stables are a business and the goal is to make money.   This means keeping expenses down.  Don’t expect your horse to get the best quality grain on the market.  The “house mix” may not be what your horse requires, especially if the hay is poor.  Be prepared to supply your own grain or pay more for a better quality feed. Consult an equine nutritionist for help balancing the diet.

Water is the most important nutrient for any living creature.  Death will come in three days if water is not available.

Water is cheap but it takes work to provide fresh, clean water at all times.   

Automatic waterers are convenient, but there is no way to monitor how much water your horse is drinking.  They do not get cleaned and checked regularly, and that’s a fact.

It is usually taken for granted the automatic waterer is working…until the horse gets colic. 

If the stable provides automatic waterers ask if a flow meter can be installed.  Take it upon yourself to check and clean the bowl daily.

Buckets of water hanging in the stall work great, but they need to be cleaned.  I’ve seen dead rodents, manure, old feed and green slime in buckets at many upper-class facilities.  A little bleach and a stiff brush works wonders.

In the summer make sure your horse has two buckets of water filled twice daily.  In the winter make sure the water is not frozen, in addition to being kept fresh and clean.

When you bought the horse you accepted the responsibility of caring for a living creature dependent upon you for life and good health.  It’s a responsibility that must be met…no matter what the cost.

Life in prison for an innocent horse is the worst kind of torture.