Why Horses Stop Eating: 13 Common Causes


Horses are big, sensitive animals that require plenty of food. They typically consume up to 16 pounds of food each day. If they do not cease eating, it means there’s something going on. It is therefore essential to understand your horse’s eating habits to detect a problem before it becomes a major issue and take care of it before it becomes a problem.

Horses stop eating for reasons.

two horse in a field during daytime

Horses are creatures that have a habit and usually have a regular eating routine. There are however several reasons horses might not eat. They could be sick, suffering from dental problems, or be unhappy with the type of food you feed them.

Horses must eat at least 1 – 2 pounds of hay for every 100 pounds bodyweight per day. If they are sick, horses will often quit drinking or eating and, if this happens it is crucial to see a veterinarian immediately!

I’ve observed that horses are sensitive and if something happens to cause horses to stop eating, it’s a sign that it’s trying to communicate with you something. Therefore, it’s essential to figure out the root of the issue.

When you understand the root of the issue, you’ll be able to do something to assist your horse in getting back on the right track. Let’s take a look at the causes that may cause you to stop eating:

Medical ailments


In horses, abdominal pain can be known as colic. There are numerous reasons for colic such as the intestine, or stomach can be inflamed or swollen and the small intestine could become partially bent, the large intestine could be stretched or the enlarged list goes on.

The signs of colic include loss of appetite, a stomach that are bloated as well as pawing and rolling sweating, and other general symptoms of discomfort. The first step to treatment is determining the root reason for the problem, which is why it’s imperative that you consult with a vet in the event that you suspect your horse is suffering from colic.

* Gastric ulcers

Gastric ulcers occur when stomach acid causes irritation to the stomach’s lining. The cause of ulcers is riding horses on empty stomachs, prolonged usage of NSAIDs as well as excessive concentrations within their meals.

Some horses may lose the appetite to eat. Other horses may be unable to finish their meal in a half-finished state. Anxiety or nervousness is often observed in horses suffering from ulcers.

Certain feeds such as Alfalfa Hay as well as beet pulp are believed to possess acid buffering capabilities and thus are suggested for horses suffering from gastric ulcers.

* Dental problem

Animals with bad teeth tend to cease eating due to discomfort. This can lead to the loss of weight and vitamin deficiencies. Sometimes it’s as simple as having their teeth brushed which can fix the issue.

Dental problems are usually not diagnosed in horses. It is recommended that you brought the horse to see a veterinarian dentist and have them cleaned at least every year to remove sharp enamel spots.

These points could cut the cheek, causing irritation and can make chewing difficult.

* Choke

Choke is a condition that can be caused by substances like roughage stuck in the horse’s stomach which is the organ that connects the stomach to the throat.

A horse suffering from choke is likely to spit out food. It is possible to see mucus, saliva, or food particles escaping from the nostrils or mouth. The horse may be able to bend or move its neck often downwards.

Don’t feed horses any feed or drink in the event that you suspect it is being affected by choke. Most of the time, the issue will resolve itself however, if the horse is still showing signs after a couple of days, it is recommended to consult your veterinarian.

white and brown horses on brown field during daytime

* Diarrhea

Horses who suffer from diarrhea have frequent bowel movements and their stool tends to be fluid. Diarrhoea is a serious condition caused by bacterial infections, parasites, infections or diet changes, intestinal inflammation, or misuse of medications.

If your horse does not show any unusual signs, diarrhea isn’t an issue and generally goes away quickly. If, however, the horse isn’t eating or drinking and diarrhea continues for longer than two or three days, it is recommended to consult an animal veterinarian.

The treatment of equine diarrhea can be a messy job. Learn to avoid diarrhea to ensure your horse remains healthy.

* Injury

If your horse has bad luck you could catch an illness as a result of injuries it may have suffered. However, the majority of minor injuries tend to heal themselves and aren’t an issue to be concerned about.

If your horse ceases to eat following the injury has occurred, the horse could be experiencing temporary discomfort or pain. If taking the horse to a vet is not feasible it is possible to choose a prescription medication in doses that are safe for horses.


* Separation

Horses are herd animals that depend on human or horse friendship for a balanced mental state. Certain horses are easily overwhelmed by abrupt changes in routine and lose the desire to take food.

Horses who are allowed only to leave for a short period of time in the stable can be depressed. They might also display anxiety when separated from their fellow horse. The move to a different property or embarking on a lengthy excursion could cause distress.

* Boredom

Horses can easily become tired of the same diet or routine as humans. Mixing up their diets by providing tasty treats and offering horses toys can be a great way to increase mental stimulation.

* Bullying

You may have heard of the phrase “pasture bullies.” They are horses who show their teeth and bite and kick other horses. Bullies can not only stop your horse from accessing grass or hay, but it could also make them anxious and decrease their appetite.

Although bullying is normal and often hard to manage (you cannot always be watching the horses! ) It is important to try to avoid any aggression in the presence of your horses. Focusing on the bully’s treatment or redirecting it could be more successful.

Other causes

* Abrupt diet changes

Are your horses picky eaters? Introduce a new diet with no prior warning, such as switching from a high-protein Bermuda Hay to Alfalfa which causes horses to refuse to eat their food. It is best if you changed the diet gradually over the course of several weeks.

* Food that is bad

Horses are extremely adept at spotting the moment their food is going bad or they’ve been fed damp hay. Food that is left in dirty and hot conditions can cause staining faster. So, it’s a good idea to make sure that your horse’s food is smelling and looking like it should prior to eating.

* Hard work

Horses who have been worked more hard or exposed to an intensive routine could also become less hungry. It’s because they’re now requiring more concentrates that are hard and tough in place of the roughage. Also, if your horse doesn’t have the experience to handle demanding work, you should consider changing only gradually in the routine.

* Dehydration and heat

woman in red and white checkered dress shirt standing beside brown horse during daytime

The heat and insects could also hinder horses from eating their meal. Similarly to that, dehydration is a frequent cause of a decrease in appetite. Hence, giving your horse regular baths throughout the summer months and 5 to 10 gallons of water each day is vital.

How do I make my horse feed?

One of the most frequent problems that owners of horses face have to get their horses to consume. Horses aren’t the most palatable eaters, and at times it is difficult for them to consume their grain or hay.

It is first important to ensure that your horse has access to drinking water that is fresh at all times. A horse who suffers from dehydration has a higher likelihood be picky about food. Make sure the water bucket of your horse is clean and full of a regular supply of water.

The second thing to do is to give your horse smaller food portions throughout the day rather than eating a single meal. Horses are natural grazers and are accustomed to eating small portions throughout the day.

We purchased two of the fillies which were in poor shape. We tried various methods in order to make them eat, but what was most effective is feeding them small quantities every day for four days. Also, if feed your horse a large meal, it may not be capable of digesting it correctly and may be colicky.

Thirdly, you must ensure that the feed your horse receives is fresh and of high quality. Certain feeds are stuffed with fillers, and they are not very healthy and healthy for horses. Find out more about the best quality feed that is rich in fiber and has low sugar content. We have switched our fillers to Purina Omolene which is a pricey feed that is made of premium ingredients.

Also, it is important to discuss with your veterinarian any medical conditions that may cause your animal to lose appetite. There are a variety of ailments and conditions that can cause the horse to lose appetite, and it’s crucial to rule out possible medical reasons before attempting to modify the way he eats.

Monitoring how horses consume their food is a great gauge of their overall health. The horses that consume consistently are usually healthy. If your horse is refusing to eat is suffering and needs your full focus!

Finding out the root loss of appetite in your horse is the most difficult thing to do. Sometimes, the issue could be as simple as minor anxiety or pain and will go out with the passage of time and positive treatment.

If you suspect there could be a medical reason behind why your horse’s diet isn’t as good or drinking, you should contact your vet immediately. Once your horse is eating again, it will begin increasing weight quickly.

How many hours can a horse last without taking a meal?

Horses can’t last longer than a couple of weeks without water. Like human beings, horses are able to remain alive for longer without food even in weak and cruel conditions.

Horses can go up to three weeks without eating any food. But, horses who are starved begin to experience health problems within the span of one to two days.

There is no research on the exact moment a horse is likely to be hungry, but there is evidence that suggests that abusive horses can go for a few days without food.

Because horses are used to eating grass for the majority of times of the day, horses who are hungry are vulnerable to serious medical issues like colic and gastric ulcers.

A horse that is starved will slowly lose muscle mass and the immune system is likely to weaken. This means that the body is more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, resulting in low blood flow and organ failure.

If you suspect any kind of horse abuse it is imperative to immediately contact your local animal welfare office or dial 911.


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