Articles: Horse Tips
The Way Of Horses
Xenophon and the Art of Feeding Horses
By Eleanor Richards
© Copyright 2012
"He looks thin."
The trainer looked at Red's owner and shrugged, "Well, he gets fed twice a
day and the nutritionist said we had him on the right feed."
"Okay, if you think he's fine I won't worry about it," said the owner. "I'll
see you next month."
Two hours later, after giving Red his ulcer medicine, the stable girl put
the expensive feed in Red's bucket. As she moved on to the next horse she
failed to notice Red swish the concentrate out of the tub. In several quick
movements he soon had all the feed on the ground.
Four hours later Red was out of hay and stall walking.
Seven hours later a very hungry horse attacked his morning grain, again
throwing most of it on the floor, mixing it into the soiled churned up
By noon he had eaten his allocated three flakes of hay and was stall
No one paid any attention.
"Consign yourself, life and limb, to the safe keeping of the horse"
Advice given more than 2,600 years ago to all who keep horses; advice
followed today by the caring horse owner.
Xenophon, an Athenian cavalry commander and philosopher whose life depended
on horses wrote "On Horsemanship" about 350 B.C. "On Horsemanship" was one
of the first "how to" books about the selection, care and training of
horses. Advice Xenophon gave then, pertains today, and can truly help
After telling the reader how to select a horse, Xenophon gives advice on
stabling and care.
He recommends the "master" place the horse in an area where the horse will
be seen as often as possible; isn't that advice that would aid "Red"?
In the next section of his book Xenophon addresses the issue of a horse
scattering feed. He says once the action is detected the master "may take it
as a sign and symptom either of too much blood, over-fatigue, an attack of
indigestion or some other malady coming on."
During the last 2,000 years we have discovered that having too much blood is
not a problem, but the other issues are legitimate conclusions. Ulcers come
to mind when observing Red.
Modern science has given us the ability to analyze forage and design
balanced feed rations. But if we don't utilize observation and the art of
feeding horses, the horse suffers.
Our modern horses may never have to save our lives during battle, but we
still require them to perform to our expectations. Observation is the
key. If poor Red had an owner who felt responsible for his well-being he
would be healthier. Visiting him once a month and depending on others is not
going to put weight on Red or soothe his ulcers.
Heed the advice of Xenophon!
Eleanor Richards was raised training and caring for horses. She learned
to ride and care for the horses her family bought and sold. Many of
these horses required improved nutrition when they arrived for training.
Eleanor's experience and research has benefited both horses and horse
lovers in the field of equine nutrition.
The equine nutrition consultant for Western Reserve Farm Cooperative,
located in northeast Ohio, she keeps busy doing equine nutrition
consultations, conducting seminars, and speaking to youth groups about
horse care and nutrition. Eleanor is the author of the syndicated column
The Way of Horses. She has more than 20 years experience helping and
being a mentor to those wanting to know how to provide the very best care
and nutrition for our special friend - the horse.
Richards is also the author and instructor of the online course
"Nutrition for Maximum Performance". This course is offered by Breyer
State University as part of the Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies
program, New Mexico State University, Paradise Valley Community College,
Allegany College of Maryland, Scottsdale Community College, Iyuptala
University, and Success is Easy's certified Professional Horse Trainer
Visit Eleanor's web site at www.thewayofhorses.com or
contact her at