Time period to safely go without chewing on hay


I soak hay year round and use nets to slow consumption; the nets are taken away at intervals so hay is not free choice. How long can EMS Tuck 
safely be WITHOUT munching since at this time his 
caloric intake must be reduced?
Kim F

Sherry Morse

Hi Kim,

You need to reduce calories by feeding no more than 2% of Tuck's ideal body weight per day - that amount includes hay and concentrates and may need to be less than 2% depending on how much Tuck weighs vs. what he should weight.  As far as how long a horse can be without food in front of them - they'll be fine for up to 6 hours at a time.


I agree with Sherry that overnight in moderate temperatures, six hours without hay is fine. During the day or under cold weather conditions, I prefer to keep periods without hay in the belly to be no more than 2-3 hours. During a Wisconsin winter, you will need to feed to allow your horse to produce heat by digesting fiber. So these time periods are not hard and fast rules and vary with conditions. The best plan for an overweight horse IME is to divide hay into as many feedings a day as you can manage with 2-3 hour gaps between when hay is finished and the next hay is fed. Special rules for cold weather feeding are in the Files in this folder about hay: 

Cass, Sonoma Co., CA 2012
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