Slow feeding is a term that’s much more widely understood and accepted now than it was even a few years ago. With more products and information becoming available on slow feeding systems, many horse owners are realizing it makes good sense and giving it a try.
By seeing and sharing their positive experiences with slow feeding systems, horse lovers everywhere are creating a network of believers who are helping save horses’ lives all over the world.
“We saved a beautiful gray ten-year-old Haflinger/QH cross mare that was severely overweight and foundered on all four feet,” says Shauna Johnson of Eco Nets. “Her previous owner fed her alfalfa hay and had her on rich grass up to her knees. As soon as she came in, she was fed strictly grass hay through our mesh hay nets. Her feet were maintained by a natural trimmer. As soon as her feet would allow, she was started on a gradual exercise program to help her lose the excess weight. A year-and-a-half later she has completely turned around.”
SPREADING THE WORD
We live in a time when we can access any information we want almost immediately, and companies and horse owners alike are using this to their advantage by spreading the word about the benefits of slow feeding systems.
“Slow feeding is rapidly gaining acceptance and popularity as horse owners, trainers and veterinarians are seeing the great health benefits for the horse,” says Mandy Blais of N.A.G Bags. “We have a new audience of owners out there; they are educated and really care about how their horses are fed and why they should be fed this way. Many of us are out there educating, teaching and showing the how’s and why’s of slow feeding.”
THE PROOF IS IN THE STUDIES
Many horse owners, however, need more than personal experiences and testimonials to try something as “radical” as changing the entire way they feed their horses. After all, we all know how delicate the horse’s digestive system can be, and no one wants to disrupt it. Several major studies have been done on the slow feeding system. “[One of the most recent is] a study from Dr. Stephen Peters, a leading neuropsychologist with decades of experience in brain function, neurochemistry, the functions and effects of chewing, and the reduced serotonin levels and dopamine sensitivity that occur when they are not grazing,” reports Mandy. “All this plays a large part in horse behavior and health, as detailed in his book with Marten Black called Evidence-Based Horsemanship.”
Mandy adds that equine nutritionist Dr. Juliet Getty’s informative work and studies on slow feeding benefits have played an important role in giving credibility to this feeding method. Ease of use is a big factor – if you have to struggle getting the hay into the net or system, you are not going to use it.
SELECTING AND INTRODUCING SLOW FEEDING SYSTEMs
“When looking for a net or slow system, you really need to look at how you currently feed, and research the different methods and products offered,” says Shauna. “Ease of use is a big factor – if you have to struggle getting the hay into the net or system, you are not going to use it.”
“You also need to look at the hole size of the netting you are going to use,” adds Mandy. “For horses that have never experienced this method of feeding before, you would not want to start with a netting that has too small a hole size – you would have a very frustrated horse! For the first week, we like to start with a 2” or 1½” hay net with full access to loose hay, and then transition down to a smaller hole if needed.”
WIDESPREAD HEALTH BENEFITS
While the major benefit of slow feeding is proper digestion, this system has many other benefits as well, ranging from emotional to physical. “Judy Hoffman from Hoffman’s Horse Minerals had a favorite horse she was not able to ride anymore,” says Mandy. “His coughing (CPOD) had become severe. I talked to her and sent her home with a slow feeder. Within a week, we received a lovely message that she had noticed the cough changing. By the second week, she was riding him with no cough at all. My key to knowing this slow feeding system was going to work for this horse was that he never coughed when on grass, but went downhill as soon as he had to be on dry feed.”
A worldwide revolution is occurring in the way we care for and feed our horses. Slow feeding is one piece of the puzzle that positively impacts your horse on every level – emotionally, psychologically, and physically. The people behind the various slow feeding products on today’s market are passionate about educating and helping horse owners so they can make the switch to slow feeding systems. Get in touch with one of them to get started – you’ll soon notice a difference in your horse’s well being!
Mandy Blais’ equine education extends to an agricultural diploma in marketing, forage and production, and an extensive background as a trained Equine Natural Health Care Consultant and Kinesiologist. In her business, and with her own horses, Mandy’s main objective is to see the life of our horses to be as natural as possible, whether they are race, show or pleasure horses. SlowFeeder.com
Shauna Johnson was born with an inherent love of everything horse. A passion for learning and teaching led her to get CHA level 3 Western & English certified. Her daughter’s aged mare becoming Metabolic led her to develop Eco Nets which quickly became a full time business. Shauna now helps equines of all shapes and sizes daily by educating owners on proper digestion and the benefits of using Small Mesh. EcoNets.ca