Natural Feeding for Horses is a feeding system that puts the health of the horse first and considers digestive, physical and mental health. It does so by meeting nutritional requirements through feeds that horses eat in nature and providing them in a natural way. Through the system, Natural Feeding aims to cover nutritional requirements while providing comfort and reducing stress.
Digestive problems occur frequently in horses; colic, gastric ulcers and nutritionally-induced laminitis are examples. Such problems often have a dietary cause. Whereas horses in nature have roughage continuously available, in conventional practice horses tend to receive their feed in meals, plus are fed other feeds as a (partial) replacement of roughage.
Natural Feeding focusses on roughage first. According to Natural Feeding, horses must have roughage continuously available. A suitable roughage should be fed to suit the requirements of your horse, and any shortcomings in nutrition can then be filled by choosing appropriate supplemental feeds.
In their natural situation, horses graze with the head down. While grazing, they take steps and move - slowly, but steadily. In conventional horse management practice, many horses can be seen stabled for at least part of the year and are fed from hay nets or troughs away from the ground. Furthermore, horses in training may be standing still for most of the day to subsequently be taken out for a sudden one-hour bout of intensive exercise. This unnatural situation can cause physical problems in joints and tendons, lead to back pain and result in dental problems.
Natural Feeding encourages feeding practices that allow for a natural feeding position and provide opportunity for gentle movement throughout the day. Roughage should be fed from ground level and horses should preferrably be able graze if that suits their nutritional requirements.
If given the opportunity, horses spend most of their time grazing with an expansive view. Eating therefore provides a major form of entertainment for horses. When not eating, horses spend much of their waking time interacting with other horses. Horses are herd animals and have evolved to make strong social connections. Solitary stabling surrounded by walls and feeding meals instead of making roughage continuously available can lead to boredom and stress, often resulting in aggressive, depressed and/or stereotypic behaviours.
In line with Natural Feeding, horses should be fed roughage continuously to allow horses their greatest form of entertainment and to support their digestive and physical health. Natural Feeding furthermore encourages social boarding systems, pasture access and the possibility to look around.