This article is not only aimed at the older horse it is also aimed at that horse with bad teeth.
As a horse ages, it can become increasingly hard for them to eat hay, however some young horses have dental issues that make feeding hay hard also.
Ensuring your horse gets enough fibre in their diet when they have bad teeth can be difficult. Generally, fibre is linked to feeds that require a lot of chewing, such as hay. When a horse doesn’t get enough fibre their gut health can suffer, which affects everything and is often seen as weight loss.
There are many alternatives on the market that allow fibre to be given in a palatable form, however they often come with a low nutritional value or low benefits to the rest of the gastrointestinal system. When considering what to feed our older horses, or horses that struggle, we want to ensure we are packing as much nutrition into what we are feeding them as possible.
When a horse struggles to eat hay, it often balls up in their mouth and falls out as clumps. The technical term for this is “quidding”. This means the horse doesn’t get the nutrition from the hay, they waste a lot, and they’re also at risk of choking on this ball of feed.
First off, we need to understand why it is hard for some horses to eat hay. There are a few reasons this can happen.
As a horse ages, so do their teeth. These aged teeth will either get removed or fall out. So often, the older a horse gets the fewer teeth they will have. The fewer teeth they have means they cannot chew their feed because teeth are essential to this process.
Some horses are born with abnormal mouths or gaps between their teeth. Sometimes this can mean that their dental arcades (rows of teeth) don’t meet together very well or their mouth may be painful. If their dental arcades don’t meet well, these horses have trouble grinding and breaking down the feed they’re eating, leading to them trying to swallow things whole or in big clumps.
Some horses also may have trauma to their TMJ joint or other problems in their mouth that make chewing hard. This includes nerve damage, pain, previous surgeries, or trouble swallowing.
Why do Hay Cubes work well for older horses or horses with poor teeth?
There are a few reasons why Hay Cubes are ideal for these horses. Some of the benefits have been outlined before and we will touch on them again here.
- You can break them into smaller pieces. You can break hay cubes up by peeling them apart to help get your horse used to their shape and consistency. This means for horses with TMJ restriction or who will inhale their feed, you can rest assured they are only getting small pieces.
- You can water them down. Hay cubes absorb water very well and are very adaptable. So again, you can tailor their consistency to what works best for your horse. Adding a small amount of water will soften them a small amount, versus adding a lot of water will soften them a lot.
- The different blends cater for all horses. The Teff & Lucerne Cubes are the lowest in sugars, making them safe for laminitic ponies and other metabolic horses. These are also the softest cubes, making them easy to peel and soak if you are worried about your horses’ ability to chew.
There are also another couple of reasons why incorporating Hay Cubes into your horses’ diet can help them.
- Cubes are hay with their own nutritional content and longer fibre lengths. Hay can provide more nutrition to your horse than just empty fibre. Hay contains vitamins and minerals which are essential for overall health. The fibre length in the hay cubes is actually longer than that of chaff, which in turn helps to keep your horse’s gut health as optimal as possible.
- MultiCube Hay Cubes are all feed tested! The hay used to produce the cubes is of the highest quality available and feed tested to ensure it is what they say it is. This means you can rest assured that the hay you’re feeding is good quality hay, not the off-cuts or dregs of a production process. This helps to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep your horse healthy.
Article by Dr. Sabine Ware BVSc CERP.
Sabine has been riding and competing horses for over 20 years, and working as an Equine Vet for over 10 years.
She currently runs an Equine Practice at her farm in Seymour Victoria aimed at a whole horse, holistic approach to their care and she has a particular interest in balance dentistry, nutrition, pain management and rehabilitation. Her business is known as Equine Health, Spine & Dentistry.