Natural Horse Magazine

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Feed, Facts & Fancies Feeding Miniature Horses and Donkeys: by Monique Warren Why slow-fed forage is best M iniature horses and donkeys—also known as minis—are some of the cutest creatures you will ever see. But don’t let that special stature fool you—whether your mini is for showing, therapy, or a pasture ornament and best friend—they are essentially a scaled-down version of their full-sized counterparts. And when it comes to nutritional needs and feeding protocols—that means a slow-fed, forage-based diet is key. Read on to learn more about why a slow-feed strategy is best for your mini and to find answers to common miniature horse diet questions. What to Feed a Miniature Horse? Given that your mini is fundamentally a horse or donkey, the foundation of your feeding program should be forage (hay or pasture). Why? Because equines are grazing herbivores with a digestive system designed for constant uptake. Yes: Constant. Uptake. How do you allow access to forage or pasture 24/7 without the risk of your mini overdoing it? By implementing a slow-feeding program. Slow feeding requires your mini to eat smaller amounts over a longer period of time. This concept simulates natural free-choice foraging and promotes mental and physical well being. Photo courtesy of The Hay Pillow. 8 • NATURAL HORSE Magazine – VOLUME 20 ISSUE 3 Slow feeding can be accomplished by using slow feeders for hay (bonus points for having multiple feeding stations to encourage mini movement— more on that below) and a grazing muzzle when on pasture. Do Hay Pellets Qualify as Forage? ​Not really. Even though it is pelleted hay, the fast breakdown doesn’t allow for “chew time,” which is one of the many benefits of a hay or pasture diet. Chewing produces saliva, which buffers gastric acid and aids in digestion.