How To Feed Your Newly Adopted Mustang

Source:  The Horse


Mustangs live in a social setting eating a varied array of wild plants that are quite different from the quality hays we typically feed domesticated horses, and certainly he will have had no experience consuming grains.

by Clair Thunes, PhD

BLM mustangs are truly special horses. I’ve had a few as clients but was also lucky enough to own one when I was in graduate school. He came out of the Twin Peaks Herd Management Area as a 2-year-old, and I bought him as a barely started 4-year-old and trained him as a kid’s event horse.

When mustangs come off the range, I would argue that they are more in sync with how horses evolved to live and eat than any domesticated horse. Remember that horses evolved roaming large distances over varied terrain eating native grasses and other plants with low nutritional value. As a result 60% of the horse’s digestive tract volume is dedicated to forage fermentation and—because of that almost constant feed consumption whether eating or not—horses constantly secrete stomach acid and bile. While this way of living is far from the domesticated horse’s reality of most domesticated horses, it has been the reality for your BLM mustang until he came in to the holding pens prior to his adoption.

I encourage all my clients to keep this evolutionary history in mind when thinking about feeding horses, but it’s particularly important for your mustang. He has lived in a social setting eating a varied array of wild plants that are quite different from the quality hays we typically feed domesticated horses, and certainly he will have had no experience consuming grains, even traditional grains such as oats.

Alfalfa’s Benefits 

In the holding pens, alfalfa is generally fed as it is typically easily available and cheaper than grass hay in the Western states. Initially, consider continuing feeding your mustang alfalfa and don’t make changes until he is settled in his new environment. To keep your horse safe and contained, when you first adopt, the BLM requires you to keep your new mustang in a small space with high fencing (so he can’t escape). I imagine that at least initially this means your horse will live alone. Your horse might find this management change and solitary life stressful (although he might not show it), which puts him at risk of developing equine gastric ulcers.

Research has shown that feeding alfalfa (even small amounts) will help buffer stomach acid and could help reduce ulcer risk. Down the road transitioning to a grass hay and some alfalfa or all grass hay would be ideal as it will probably mean you can feed more total pounds of hay which is not only good for digestive health but mental health as well. In the meantime try to keep hay in front of him as much as possible and over time consider training him to eat from a slow feeder which helps mimic natural grazing.

Strategies for Easy Keepers

While there’s always an exception to the rule (mustangs are still horses after all), mustangs are generally very easy keepers an—once settled in to your routine—you might find he gains weight on rations when other horses would not. By using slow feeders you can create a scenario of restricted free-feeding, and he will probably self-regulate his hay intake to about 2% of his body weight. If he’s one of the few horses that can’t self-regulate, you can use a slow feeder to make a reduced hay ration (no less than 1.5% of his body weight) last longer, which might benefit his digestive and mental health.


Make sure your mustang has salt (loose or in block form) available at all times. Be aware that he might not willingly take feed from a bucket (remember: he’s never seen one before!), which might reduce his salt consumption if you have loose salt in a bucket. Using a wide shallow pan might work better.

More on Buckets and Mustangs

A note of experience: I made the mistake when I first got my mustang of putting some alfalfa pellets in a bucket thinking that this might help generate a bond between us. Feed buckets had always been seen as a good thing by every other horse I had owned. Not my mustang! He wouldn’t put his head in a bucket. When I thought about this, it was obvious: First of all he had never seen a bucket, or hay pellets for that matter. Second of all, why would a flight animal that relies on sight put its head in a bucket that reduces its ability to see? He did eventually get over this bucket phobia.

While this is one of those funny sorts of quirks you might run in to with your mustang the bucket issue can be a real issue if your barn only provides water through water buckets, or small automatic waterers. The sound of the automatic water refilling can easily scare an already-on-edge mustang. Coupled with not understanding buckets in general, this might lead to inadequate water consumption. It’s likely you’re your mustang has encountered water troughs in holding pens or on the range, and using a trough is preferable until he can be taught to understand buckets and automatic waterers.

Make sure he cannot knock the trough over, though. Once over his fear he might want to play with the water as if they’re puddles, streams, or ponds!


At some point, just as with any other horse, you’ll need to add a source of vitamins and minerals and possibly quality protein to your mustang’s diet. A commercially available ration balancing feed is a good choice due to their low calorie content. Or, an even lower-calorie supplement fed in some hay pellets would be a good option.

Read the rest of this article HERE.

Failed prosecution in US underscores uphill battle to end horse slaughter

Source:  The Guardian

Animal welfare advocates left exasperated with Proposition 6, a law that has done nothing to stop California horses from ending up on foreign dinner plates


No horses have been legally slaughtered for human consumption in the US since 2007, when the last operating horse slaughterhouse in Illinois was closed down. Photograph: Denis Doyle/Getty Images

by Daniel Ross

In 2014, Billy Ray Brown Jr, a prolific livestock dealer on the west coast, was charged with buying two old rodeo horses in California, and shipping them to Washington state before selling them to be slaughtered across the border for human consumption.

The case was expected to have far-reaching implications. It was the first time in its 18-year history that someone had been charged under Proposition 6 – an obscure California law intended to crack down on horse slaughter. And the time and resources that the local sheriff’s department had dedicated to the case was unusual for an investigation involving livestock.

But at a preliminary hearing for the case this month, the charges against Brown were dropped, leaving animal welfare advocates exasperated with a law that has done nothing to stop California horses from ending up on foreign dinner plates.

“Tons of horses are crossing the border every week for slaughter. This was the one chance to hold someone accountable,” said Caroline Betts, a University of Southern California professor, and founder of Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue. “I think this will embolden California horse traders. They’ve been getting away with this stuff for 18 years. The law’s well written, but with zero enforcement, it’s meaningless.”

No horses have been legally slaughtered for human consumption in the US since 2007, when the last operating horse slaughterhouse in Illinois was closed down. An effective federal ban on commercial horse slaughter – which essentially pulled funding for inspections of horse slaughter plants – put the brakes on an industry already on the decline. In 1990, nearly 350,000 horses were slaughtered in the US for consumption. By 2006, that number was a little over 100,000.

Welfare was the deciding factor in the ban. Frequently on long journeys to slaughter, horses were crammed tightly without food and water into trucks ill-equipped to haul horses great distances. Many were found fallen and trampled during transit, often resulting in terrible injuries including broken bones. Some died even before they reached the slaughter plants. Other studies linked slaughter plants to high local crime levels and environmental pollution.

In the wake of the 2007 suspension of horse slaughter, Mexico and Canada picked up the slack. According to the US Department of Agriculture, a total of 130,707 horses left the US for slaughter in Canada and Mexico last year, worth an estimated $45.6m of horsemeat combined.

The slaughter industries in both Canada and Mexico have come under scrutiny in recent years. The EU suspended the import of horsemeat from Mexico on the back of a damning 2014 audit that showed how lax identification standards opened the door to banned drugs making their way into the food chain. A subsequent EU audit of Canadian slaughterhouses also raised similar concerns, though no such EU suspension has been enacted against Canadian horsemeat imports as yet.

But the sale of horses for slaughter outside of the US is still widely permitted. Only a handful of states like Texas, New Jersey and Illinois have enacted similar legislation to California’s Proposition 6, attempting to tackle the issue at the state level.

With these laws on the books, animal welfare advocates have hoped to save horses from days-long journeys across the border, and the slaughter practices used in foreign plants. Multiple investigations have found that the captive bolt – a cattle gun method of stunning horses – sometimes fails to render horses unconscious before they’re hung upside down and butchered. Many saw Proposition 6 as an important step towards a federal ban on the export of horses for commercial slaughter altogether.

But it hasn’t worked out that way.

Read the rest of this article HERE.