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Horse's Diet of Choice

>Duncan pointed out the following about a horse's free choice diet:

>They know so well, they don't ever eat poisonous plants. Despite potential
>problems with an all alfalfa diet, guess which hay the horse will eat. Put a
>50 lb sack of grain and bale of grass hay in front of then and see if the
>horses know which one to eat.

Interestly enough, an all alfalfa diet would be highly unlikely in the
horse's natural pasture and if you watch horses that have been raised with a
herd in natural settings and are then placed in pastures with alfalfa, they
will seek out all kinds of other forage, particularly dandelion and
sheppard's purse. (We have 250 acres of alfalfa which become "pastures " for
the horses in the fall.  I have also planted mixes of all kinds of natural
herbs in the alfalfa--you'd be amazed at how much time they spend picking
the "goodies" out of the alfalfa.) 

You are talking about offering the stall raised horse a couple of options of
man produced hay and a sack of manmade "grain" which is usually not grain
but molasses based mixes that are enhanced to make them very tasty.  Those
do not exist in nature.  Like a child raised on candy and sweets, of course
you can create a taste for these things in the horses.

I have a warmblood colt who is now 7 months old.  After being imprinted and
kept in the farm pastures for one month, he was then sent with his very
conscientious dam to the mountain ranch to run wild on 10,000 acres of very
rugged country all summer and fall.  He has been home since early November
and I would defy you to get him Equine Junior, sweet feed or any of the
standard mixes.  I have tried and tried as he is being weaned and I feel he
needs the nutrition but it has been very difficult to get him to take any of
it.  He will have to acquire the taste as it is foreign to him right now.

Most horses that have the opportunity to forage will not eat poisonous
plants, but obviously, they have to learn the choices.  Those that have
never been in a natural state will not have the skills.For esample,  the
ranch horses will never touch Lupine in the spring and summer (highly
poisonous) but will eat it in the fall when it is a natural wormer.
Interestly enough, the new horses seem to adapt pretty well and I've never
had one even sick from their mountain or desert range diets.

Joane and the herd
Price, Utah


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