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Many of us grew up having it drilled into us that you shouldn’t feed your horse for at least half an hour before and after riding to prevent colic. This was so drilled into us, that even my Mum, who rode as a child but hasn’t gone near horses since remembered this! But research now suggests that it is better to feed a horse before riding them.
Feeding before riding to prevent stomach ulcers
We now think that feeding your horse before riding can help prevent them developing ulcers. This is because the horses stomach has two halves. The bottom half is where the stomach acid sits and is resistant to the stomach acid. But the top half of the stomach isn’t and can react to the stomach acid, causing ulcers.
When horses run and jump around, the acid in their stomach also sloshes around. So this acid hits the softer half of the stomach, irritating it and potentially causing ulcers. But when the stomach is lined with forage, the acid doesn’t move around as much, so there is less irritation to the softer lining of the stomach.
Feeding too much could still cause colic
Much like if you have a big Sunday roast and then went to play football, you would likely feel a bit sick. Colic is essentially belly ache/discomfort in horses. So really filling their stomachs before asking them to work could make them show signs of colic.
What is your horse doing before you ride?
If you are unsure as to whether you should feed your horse before riding them, I would ask yourself what he is doing before you are riding him. Has he been out in the field grazing or standing in the stable/tied up with a haynet? If so, he probably doesn’t need to be fed as he should have plenty of forage in his stomach.
But if he has been without hay for over an other, whether that be he’s finished the hay in his stable or has been tied up for a while while you groom etc, you might want to give him a little something to line his stomach.
What should I feed my horse before riding?
If you think he needs a little something before riding, think forage. It could be as simple as letting him have a nibble on a haynet while you groom and tack up. Or it could be a handful of chaff in a bucket before you tack up. It doesn’t need to be a big feed or anything like that, just a little bit of forage.
Do any of you feed your horse before riding?