Preventing Horse Bolting — Here's How to Slow a Horse That Eats Too Fast

May 31, 2021

Preventing Horse Bolting — Here's How to Slow a Horse That Eats Too Fast

Have you noticed that your horse tends to eat their food rapidly? This is a common phenomenon among horses called bolting.

The term “horse bolting” describes the behavior of horses when they eat too quickly. It might seem harmless. After all, you've probably devoured food at one time or another. However, it can be a problem for you and your horse for several reasons:

  • When horses eat quickly, they're liable to spill lots of food out of their mouths. The wasted food means it will cost more to feed horses if they eat in this way, and it's more of a hassle having to clean up after their feed.
  • Horses can be prone to choking, and they're more likely to do this if they eat too quickly, which could lead to injury.
  • When they eat quickly, horses are unlikely to chew their food as thoroughly as normal, meaning that they don't extract as much of the nutritional content of their food when it passes through their digestive system.

For all of these reasons and more, it's important to try and limit horse bolting as much as you can. That's why we've put together a list of six helpful tips to prevent horse bolting below.

1. Feed Your Horse Alone

Sometimes, your horse will eat more quickly if it's eating alongside other horses in your stable. This is because it may be worried that other horses may steal its food or that it'll run out if it doesn't eat quickly enough.

Therefore, feeding a horse on its own can help put the horse at ease and allow it to eat at a more leisurely pace, stress-free. 

2. Feed Your Horse Hay

One approach that's commonly used is to fee horses hay. This is because the hay can make their stomachs feel full, so they're not prone to eat as much. As a result, they're less likely to want to eat their food very quickly.

Whether hay should be available to horses all day is up to debate and depends on your horse. However, it's possible that with more access to hay as an all-day snack, your horse will be less likely to bolt at dinnertime.

3. Increase the regularity of mealtimes

If you have the time available to you, reduce bolting by increasing the regularity of mealtimes. If a horse has a greater number of mealtimes, it'll have less food to consume at each mealtime. Therefore, there won't be enough food available to them to bolt the food. 

Sometimes, adjusting your horse's routine without changing its food intake can be the most effective means of preventing horse bolting. However, keep in mind that horses still need a consistent routine, and you can't switch to an erratic feeding schedule, or they may get upset.

4. Wet The Grain First

You can add water to the grain or concentrate you feed your horse, and then stir it into a thick, soup-like liquid. This will make it more difficult for your horse to bolt. 

They'll have to work harder to pick up the food in their mouths, and they won't be able to stuff their mouths quickly. It'll also reduce the chances of choking, as the smooth mixture will slide down their throats more easily.

However, depending on the climate where you live, this approach might not work all year round. During the winter months, the wet grain is liable to freeze, or it may be too cold for the horse to digest easily, so you may have to resort to other solutions on this list. 

5. Adjust The Feed Tray

There are several ways you can adjust the horse's feed tray to influence the rate at which it eats.

One approach that is often used is to apply rocks to the bottom of the feed tray. This works as it forces the horse to be more careful about where it has to look to consume food, and therefore it's less likely to bolt. 

However, this approach doesn't always work as some horses are clever enough to flip the rocks or move them out of the way to eat more quickly. If this is the case, you could consider screwing down balls, like toys that dogs play with, to the bottom of the tray. This prevents the horses from finding a clever way to avoid your plans.

Another common method is to use a wide flat bin instead of a deep bucket. This helps prevent horse bolting because it spreads the grain out over a wider area, which means your horse will not be able to scoop up large amounts of food in one mouthful. But make sure you don't encourage your horse to feed off the floor, as they could ingest other substances, leading to sand colic.

6. Get A Slow Feeder

There are several purpose-built slow feeders on the market, which can help your horse eat the right amount of food at the right pace. For example, the Nose-it will keep your horse entertained while also encouraging it to prize out the food contained within the device over a slower period of time. 

In addition, the pre-vent feeders are a simple way to slow down the pace at which your horse eats. The bucket-shaped device has several small crevices for food which your horse can only tackle one at a time, preventing it from bolting.

Bottom Line — Help Your Horse Stop Bolting

Preventing your horse from bolting is easier than it seems. Remember, the chances of your horse bolting its food is affected by both the way it has to consume the food (the shape of the feed tray or the use of a slow feeder) and by the atmospheric conditions when it is eating (whether it is eating in proximity to other horses, and how regularly it is eating).

Did you find this guide useful and want more helpful information about caring for horses? Join our mailing list, and we'll send you more top tips on how to look after your horse.

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