Updated: May 10
Never use a hay net - always use a hay net. Never tie hay nets - always anchor hay nets. Never tie hay nets high - you should always give them a hay net or two tied high so they have to browse high as though eating tree leaves. Always feed grain - never feed grain. It's important to always balance their vitamins and minerals - it's not important to balance their vitamins and minerals.
This is what we find when we head out to start researching pretty much anything about horses and ponies. Especially feeding the equine!
So what do we do? Well first, we should always always listen to our horses and ponies. If you see a change you don't like after adding, or taking something from their diet then be all means go back to what was working!
If you know something isn't working in what you are currently feeding;
your horse has explosive diarrhea
they are losing weight
they are gaining too much weight
they have become Insulin Resistant
they have become a fire breathing dragon
they have lost all their previous energy
they have developed hot spots and are itching like crazy
they have developed hives
they have lost their appetite (unless this is do to adding in medicine... then you may need to start slower on the meds so they can adjust!)
I'm sure you get the picture. It can be overwhelming drudging through all the information out there. Especially if you are knew to horses or have a new medical issue that has cropped up. Who do you believe and what exactly should you do?
The best answer I can give is, try different things. Read some more, ask lots of questions. Find a mentor that you can trust to bounce ideas off of and gather more information. Take some of these things to your pony. Try them. In some cases you will know immediately if something is NOT going to work. If that happens stop feeding whatever it was IMMEDIATELY! Don't mess around, but remove it from the pony's diet.
Keep in mind that all horses and ponies are different. Even those that have been diagnosed IR or metabolic. What worked for one pony may not work for another. In this way we have to experiment a bit to find the thing that will work for OUR pony. This does not make the other pony wrong. It just means it was different. Keep that in mind when you are trying new things. If it doesn't work for you that is fine and you should share what happened and why it didn't seem to work, as this feedback is valuable to others searching for an answer. In this way we are all scientists! Also in this way we are always sharing our opinions. These are not facts, but simply opinions. The same goes for the marketing of the high end feed companies. What they are sharing is simply their opinion and should not be taken as solid fact. Because, no matter what, there will be a horse or pony out there that will prove their information wrong. It's the nature of the beast! LOL!
I read a comment on Facebook where the gal shared that her horse would violently shake the hay nets which lead to him hurting his neck muscles. Therefore she believed ALL hay nets were bad and horse should never be fed from them. This is a perfect example of something not working for her horse! He violently shakes the nets, so feeding him out of a hay net is not a good idea. My ponies do not shake the hay nets but instead paw them. That is what horses in the wild do when digging for grass in the snow or digging for roots as they forage. So, the hay nets work for my ponies. Hay nets are not evil, nor do they cause every horse damage.
Here is a great little video that I shared on Facebook the other day about why some horses prefer hay nets:
I have changed the way I feed many times over the 10 years. First, my Curly horse was allergic to flax. Have you ever tried to find supplements, feed or horse treats without flax in them? Well let me tell you, it's VERY difficult. I fed him whole triple cleaned oats and herbs, along with Turmeric to help him with his allergies and skin inflammation. But I did NOT feed him flax!
Then I had a pony that was very sensitive to Rice bran. He is NOT the first horse or pony that I have known that is sensitive to this specific kind of fat. In my personal opinion the number of horses and ponies that react poorly to this ingredient shows that it may not be a very good fat to feed an equine. Though, that leads me to my newest studies that show it is not necessary to feed horses fat at all! We have been told that they need the short chain Omega 3's in their diet. BUT if they are fed hay or fibrous feeds that make it to the hind gut for digestion, they will MAKE their own short chain Omega 3's! Isn't that amazing!! (and also probably explains why my ponies absolutely glisten on their very simple winter diet of hay, water and salt!)
So, things change, ponies change and we must be willing to roll with that. Whether it means we have to stop following a diet change we had hoped would help them or whether it means they are telling us we are on the right path with healthy weight loss and awesome hoof health, slow down, pay attention to your pony and listen. Then make adjustments when necessary. That's the best advice I can give you!