The Long Riders' Guild
Feeding and Grooming
A US Cavalry patrol feeds
their horses prior to embarking on a mission into Mexico to try and
capture famed revolutionary, Pancho Villa.
Long Rider Comments
I carried a pound of so of compressed horse
feed whenever possible. Even in farm country where I had called
ahead to a neighbor's house and knew I'd be staying at a place with
feed, I'd still pack some of the feed from the previous farm to the next
to try to minimize the changes in the horse's gut. Colic is a big
worry on long distance trip, especially when the roadside graze differs
within the space of a few miles. I always let my horses graze
several hours each day if at all possible, even when feed would be
available. I paid attention to exactly what they ate and tried to
keep the food intake well spaced out over the course of the day and as
consistent from one day to the next as possible. Neither of my
horses dropped weight, but I did obsess about this issue, and on the
first trip, Cacho did get colic. If his intestines started to
cramp I would get him walking again, even if it was the middle of the
night. In the end I called in help from my family, and they
brought me my car. I left Cacho in a safe place and used my car to
cache a flake of hay every ten miles or so for the last 150 miles of the
trip. His gut was fine once he had the regular flake to go along
with whatever else he had during the day.
Shawnee, the mustang, endured much more
severe changes in feed, and also shortages while going through the
desert, but she never got colic. She liked to eat brush and wood
as well as grass, and I let her. One night I tied her to a fence
and she ate a wooden sign that had said "No Hunting." In
the morning it only said "ng."
I carried rock salt on the first trip on
Cacho, but he never ate any when I offered it to him. I didn't
bring any on the second trip. Often the only water Shawnee had to
drink was salty, and in pastures there was sometimes a block. Also
people offered me all their favorite electrolytes and other products, so
she sporadically had access to salt.
plan to pack feed, you need maximum feed
value per kilogram carried. Extruded
feeds (if available) are low in water content and very readily
digested - worth the extra cost.
Horse food. Read the US Cavalry Horsemanship
Manual, which says all that is needed about what a horse can eat. A long
thin canvas bag over the front of the saddle can carry 15-20kg of hard
feed. Travelling horses need salt.
I have found that feeding horses on a rigid
schedule is not a good way to prepare a horse for a long ride, when they
might be turned out to graze at any time of the day or night or given feed
at unexpected hours. Riding in the desert, you never know when you're
going to come across a beautiful patch of grass or when you're going to
pass by a ranch where you can buy oats. If you feed a horse on a rigid
schedule he will be much more likely to colic when his feeding schedule is
disrupted on the trail. What's worse, a horse fed on a strict schedule
becomes highly anxious on the trail when the feed times are delayed or
changed or when there isn't enough feed. So I try to alter feeding times
and, once in a while, I actually skip a feeding time.
I do several other things with horses that
I feel are essential to make a good long-rider horse, but which might not
be usual for most horse lovers. In the wild, horses tend to drink twice a
day, in the morning and at evening. It is good to train a horse to do
without water, so they learn to drink well (but not over- or under-drink)
when water is available. So at home, I let the horses only water twice a
day and do not give them free, all-day-long access to water. On the trail,
the horse does not get anxious or panicky at not having water all day, and
when we do find water (I've done a lot of desert long-distance riding) the
horse knows that he should drink well when he has the chance.
One of the
best things we carried were the canvas nosebags we had made in Ecuador.
They were lightweight, would hold water when necessary and ensured the
rations we gave our horses were for them only and not other horses,
goats, pigs etc that often crowded round. They also eliminated the
competition for food between the horses.
Item of interest
|This neat little gadget weighs
only 1¼ oz. It's a textured fibreglass block that's the size of a
pack of playing cards, and it removes mud, dust, hair and dung in no time
I have used it to great effect on the
notoriously filthy Count Pompeii, my Cossack stallion - to my delight and
to visit The Long Riders' Guild Academic Foundation: "Science, not