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My Horse Eats Old Hay Off The Ground

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She writes...

I purchased an underweight 7/8 yr. old quarter horse last week. She has good hay available 24 hours a day and is being fed appropriate feed for her condition. She seems to be gaining almost daily. My question is why does she sometimes eat old hay that is lying on the ground and why does she not finish her feed? She eats VERY slowly. Her teeth were done weeks before we got her and they were in bad shape but I feel like her mouth should be completely healed from anything that was bothering her. We soak her pellet feed because if her month is still bothering her that makes it easier to chew. Could she just not like that? Yesterday she started eating old hay off the ground instead of the good stuff in the barn and outside!

Maybe she likes the taste of old hay. Or perhaps old cheap hay is what she is used to. You've had her for a week and maybe the hay around the ground hasn't had that much of a chance to turn old. Now it has and she's "Yummy, normal food!"

I really have no idea why she eats the old hay. It could be pretty much anything. You'd be surprised at what some horses will eat.

She is very calm and sweet. She was a halter horse until she was about 3 or 4, then owned by an older man the past few years and used for riding. She will not back up when being ridden.

To me, the question is not what she was used for, the question is what was she bred for? Traditionally, halter horse breeding goes for a set body style (conformation) that looks good standing still. Many times this conformation does not lend itself well to all around riding. I hear and see breeders claiming, "Halter horses bred for using." I'm skeptical. A horse primarily bred for standing still often can't move well. It may very well be that if she is halter bred, backing is not the most comfortable thing in the world due to the halter conformation hind quarters.

If she doesn't have major conformation issues she probably just hasn't been trained to back up.

I havenít forced the issue since I am not sure what is going on in her mouth. When I ask her to stop she raises her head I think to get away from pressure and she raises it several times before I can get a bit in her mouth. I am using a light snaffle as were the folks I got her from.

Great! Forcing the issue causes more problems than it cures.

What does the term "light snaffle" mean? Thin? The thinner the snaffle the more bite it has. You can see this for yourself by lifting a filled pail with a loop of lead line and then lifting it with a loop of binder twine.

How do you signal the horse to stop or back up? Do you pull back on the reins? If so, and she has mouth issues, which you seem to have picked up on, this may cause the head to move out of position and make backing difficult if not impossible.

I am trying to find out more of her history because I realize she may have gotten away with some of this stuff before and it works for her. I have an equine dentist coming to check her mouth again this week but would a mouth issue cause her to leave feed and eat old hay? I know eating slow is a good thing and we are not concerned about that, but she acts like she isnít even hungry!

I'm glad to see you use the words "equine dentist" instead of "vet." Nothing against vets but they don't get a whole lot of tooth work in vet school and that often consists of, "These are horse teeth. The upper arcades are wider than the lower and they develop points from uneven wear. Rasp them off." This is referred to as "floating." I've looked inside a few horse mouths. A lot can go on in there. Equine dentists usually have a lot more tooth education than traditional vets.

The difference between equine dentistry and floating is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.

I'd be interested in hearing what the equine dentist finds.

I never worry about a horse's history and things it may have gotten away with in the past. If you are not careful you can repeat the past. I am only concerned with the present and dealing with that. You can untrain or uncondition a horse no matter what it has been trained or conditioned to do. Often times when you move a horse, dog, cat or change its surroundings you change the animal. Worrying too much about the past can hamper positive changes.

Her eyes are clear and bright and stool is healthy, she looks very happy and content. She was getting 1 scoop in the morning and 1 scoop at night at the previous barn and we are giving her the same. (3qts)

Good! Sounds like nothing needs fixing there.

The subject line of your original email contained the words "Head Shaking." Your horse does not even slightly fit the term. She is evading. Correct what she is evading and she'll stop. Head Shaking is an insiduous affliction that can have a bunch of causes and you will know when you have it. You may not know what it is but you'll sure know when your horse has it. So far, there is no cure for headshaking.

Thanks for any advice you can share.

I'm slap et up with advice and some of it is actually good.

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