Following are some food-for-thought suggestions as you plan for feeding your horse while trail riding and camping:
· Feed your horse the same brand of grain and/or type of hay he is used to eating at home. Do not opt for a higher protein grain or straight alfalfa hay if your horse is not used to eating such at home.
· Estimate the time that you will be away from home to determine how many feedings of grain that you will need to have on hand. Add at least two feedings to this number just in case your return home is delayed due to some unforeseen reason.
· If possible, pre-measure grain servings and place into individual, large zip lock bags for easy serving while in camp. This will save you time and trouble, particularly when feeding during night time hours. With pre-measured portions, your horse is guaranteed to receive the same amount of grain he would get if at home. Never feed your horse more grain because you equate his working harder and longer with an increased need for more grain. Feeding more grain than your horse is used to eating may cause an unwanted bout of colic, impaction, or tying-up (azoturia).
· When determining the amount of hay you need to take, add one bale to the total to allow for extra portions (always okay to feed more hay) as well as allow for the possibility that any particular bale may have a portion that is not palatable (moldy, dusty, dirty, etc.). Keep your baling string in situ and simply tie up any unused bale portion for the return trip home.
· Morning feedings should be done one to two hours before you saddle up and hit the trail. Think about how you would feel if you had to work out right after eating your breakfast. Allow some time for digestion to begin before saddling up. Give your horse time to eat undisturbed. Don’t couple feeding time with grooming or riding prep.
· After an end of a day’s ride, your horse should be given adequate time to cool down and relax before being fed. Offer cool water, but never feed an overly exerted, hot horse as you risk a colic episode. Wait at least an hour or two before feeding grain/hay.
· If you are riding with a group and your horse is picketed, tied, or stalled next to the horses' of others horses with whom you will be riding, try to orchestrate feeding around the same time. This will eliminate unneeded stress on those horses that have to hungrily stand and mouth-wateringly watch as other horses eat. Position hay bags and feed buckets out of reach from other horses to prevent territorial/food protection behaviors. Canvas feed bags are ideal to use in camping situations as they are easy to fill and strap onto your horse and will keep other horses from nosing around to scavenge extra grain.
A little time and effort in planning meals for your horse while trail riding and camping will make sure he is a happy camper, too!