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.
If you 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 his disgust!
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