Reading time 5 minutes

In the summer months, the beautiful weather asks for outside activity, more and more riders are keen to discover the world on horseback. The infrastructure for trail riders is improving year by year, thanks to well-developed trails and overnight accommodation available to horse and rider. The question often gets asked, how should you feed your horse while on route? Concentrated feeds yay or nay? And what about hay supply?

Horses are trickle feeders

Horses are permanent feeders by nature and are busy foraging day and night. Horses are not lawnmowers as often commonly referend to, they are indeed very picky eaters.

They nibble a little in one place, then walk a few metres to bite twice at another and then continue to forage a few metres further on. They are constantly on the move in search of food. This doesn’t seem an achievable goal while on the trail ride, nobody wants to just sit on the horse grazing, quite the opposite in fact – the priority is to be on the move. On second thoughts it’s actually quite simple to integrate this natural behaviour of trickle feeding during the ride. The easiest way to incorporate trickle feeding on the ride is by introducing the horse to a bitless bridle, some practise up front should be taking place.

Short breaks can be taken every so often and the horse can be allowed to forage a few minutes here and there. If you combine these feeding breaks with a voice command, most horses will quickly learn to distinguish between riding and eating time. This way, you can ensure an ample supply of roughage and energy throughout the day. By lunchtime, a longer break should be taken.

The route should be optimised, so that the horses have a longer break over lunch to eat and then have a snooze. Especially in very hot weather, it is better to start earlier in the morning and plan a longer break in the midday heat, ideally in a wooded shaded area or by the water (to cool down)..

Hay

In the evening, when you will arrive at the equestrian accommodation centre, a small paddock or stable with hay will have been prepared for your horse. It is helpful if your horse isn’t a fussy eater (beware, this can be an indication of stomach ulcers), and the hay provided gets eaten as the quality can vary from place to place.

There should be plenty of hay available to last the horse all night. Testing the amount of hay requirements is easy to do at home, stuff some hay nets and weigh before and after feeding. This will give you a rough idea of how much your horse needs to last the night.

Concentrate feed

Many horse owners believe that their horse needs large amounts of concentrated feed on trail rides for daily energy supply. This might apply if you are planning on an Alpine crossing with your very poor doer. Most horses, suited to trail riding tend to be good doers and therefore will have plenty of energy. After all, you spend most of the day at a relaxed pace.

Walking for horses – even with a rider weight on their backs – isn’t strenuous work, it falls into steady energy consumption and can be classed as normal steady workout.

While allowing foraging on the route throughout the day with plenty of hay overnight, most horses are more than adequately supplied. If your horse however drops a few pounds there is no reason to panic. It will quickly be back on once back home to the horse’s normal daily routine.

Mineral supply

To ensure an adequate mineral supply, the mineral feed should be taken along on the ride and offered every evening. Mineral Pur G von OKAPIlends itself well for this purpose as horses will only eat as much as their body’s require, it’s also easy to pack and take along.

OKAPI Mineralkekse
For the necessary minerals, high-quality protein and fatty acids, we recommend OKAPI Mineralkekse. © OKAPI GmbH

OKAPI Mineralkekse are also an effective choice to take along, to cover off mineral supply, qualitative high protein, and fatty acids starch-free concentrated feed) in combination with the mineral balancer. Salt licks are generally provided by the boarding stables or maybe a neighbour might be willing to share theirs with your horse.

Water

If plenty of water is offered (water is available at the overnight stabling facility, and some stops at lakes or streams provide a water source on route), horses are sufficiently fed and hydrated on the trail ride. In general, it doesn’t make sense to take large amounts of concentrated feeds – no matter what consistency – the majority of horses are well supplied with energy by eating quality roughage, the steady continuous movement is beneficial to the horses over all health.

Horses that are difficult to keep weight on and are already on the leaner side prior to setting off should of course be fed extra calories, the best solution is to make an enquiry with the overnight facilities to find out if any grain feed is available. That way you can save some additional weight the horse has to carry otherwise.

This shouldn’t be a problem, letting them know however up-front often helps with the organisation and avoids disappointment.

. .

Enjoy a fun filled summer on horseback!

.