Grazing Habits

​Have you ever stopped to watch how your horse eats? I don’t mean whether he’s a head in the bucket and wolf the feed, or a nibbler who watches the world go by. I’m talking about when he’s grazing in the field.

This came to my attention a few weeks ago when, after Otis had been washed off and cooled down after his cross country run he was allowed to graze the long grass in the lorry park. Whilst I busied myself loading up my tack, and bagging up the sweaty items ready for the washing machine my chauffeur held Otis. 

Otis grazes in quite an interesting way. He’s not very methodical, rather rushing from one patch of green grass to another. He takes a few bites at each patch before moving on.  

Interestingly enough, we were in a similar situation with Llani a week or so later. When Llani was allowed to graze he put his head down and moved left to right, before taking a step and ingesting the next row. You can imagine which one had a greater intake of grass!

We were discussing this with friends, and someone said that it was a breed thing. Thoroughbreds tend to graze erratically, akin to Otis. Not that this makes sense with regard to Otis and Llani as they are the same breed (Welsh cobs) but it could reflect their temperament and approach to food. Otis has never been easy to keep the weight on, he’s never been fat and whilst he doesn’t lose weight like he used to, he’s always on the “just right” part of the scale. When he’s stabled and given ad lib forage he eats for a little while, then wanders off and dozes, before coming back. He never finishes his allowance, and doesn’t head straight for hay when he goes into the stable. Llani however, is very food-orientated. Going into a stable the first thing he looks for is his haynet. He doesn’t gorge his hay, but you can be sure there won’t be any left in the morning.

In terms of their bucket feeds, they both look forward to it (what horse doesn’t?) but again Llani eats his as fast as he can, whilst making sure no one dares to even look at the bucket. Otis meanwhile will munch away steadily, ignoring any nearby horses.

Going back to their different methods of grazing. Is it to do with their temperament? Does a more highly strung thoroughbred or Arab feel the need to walk more when grazing, so move around patches of grass? Then a calmer, more sedate horse has less of a “walking” mind set, and try to be efficient in peace and then run from predators if they have to?

Again, the fact my boys are the same breed and Llani is probably more highly strung than Otis I don’t think this is the case.

Then I wondered about the horses level of laziness. Otis is a worked, and doesn’t try to take short cuts, whilst Llani has to be pushed to work under saddle, so Llani’s approach of eating grass line by line is actually energy saving!

Perhaps this is an opportunity for scientists to research grazing habits and correlating factors?

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