What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Not Eating New Feed


You have introduced a new hay or feed to your horse. The horse refuses to eat it. Is there something wrong with the horse or are they just refusing the new feed?

Plan ahead and try to transition your horses slowly over to a new feed, ideally overlapping the old and new feed over the course of two weeks. This gives the digestive bacteria in your horses' intestines time to adjust, lessening the possibility of digestive upset and colic.

By feeding very small amounts of each type to begin with, horses generally will begin to transition over to the new hay. However, if the horse continues to refuse the new hay, you may need to completely stop feeding the old hay.

  • Code Orange

    Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours
  • Code Green

    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) suggest the horse is otherwise normal.

your role


What To Do

If you must make this transition more abruptly, recognize that it takes time for a horse to become accustomed to a new hay. Often, they will not eat it until they become quite hungry. Always monitor your horse when feeding new hay for signs of abdominal pain (colic), particularly when the transition is abrupt.

Be sure the hay looks acceptable to you, that there are minimal weeds or unidentifiable grasses, and that the hay looks and smells fresh.

If the horse refuses all feed, and has not eaten anything for awhile, assess your horse's general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) and share your findings and concerns with your vet. There may be something more to their behavior than a mere dislike of the new feed. They could have an underlying illness.

your vet's role

Your vet may advise you to return to feeding the original feed. If that does not work, they may determine that examination is the best plan.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Does the horse show interest in feed?
  • Is the horse eating, drinking and behaving normally otherwise?
  • When did you begin feeding the horse this new feed?
  • What, specifically, are you feeding?
  • Are you feeding the horse alone or in a group?
  • What kind of hay are you feeding the horse?
  • What type of grain and how much grain are you feeding?
  • What, specifically, are you feeding?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP