How can I stop my horse from bolting his grain meals?


Horses that scarf their grain meals down in a few nano seconds are called “bolters”. You also have a “bolter” if he can take you from one end of the arena to the next county in a few nano seconds, but this is a story for another day.

Bolting of food is dangerous for a few reasons:

  • Choke
  • Colic
  • Decreased absorption of nutrients (less chewing going on!)

Choke and colic are definite call the Vet NOW reasons, and you may not notice the decreased absorption of nutrients immediately, but over time your horse may not thrive.

Why do some horses bolt their food? Some horses are just plain gluttonous, and some are fearful that their food will be taken by their horse neighbor - even if they eat in a stall.

What can you do to slow your bolter down?  Lots of options here, you may even need to try a few things at a time.

-Feed hay first. (This is actually the best way to feed anyway.) Sometimes this will alleviate any perceived or actual hunger from your horse and the grain eating will slow down.


A slow feeder for grains and mashes is also a good idea!


Part slow feeder, part carnival ring toss game.  


-Feed more meals with smaller amounts. This is also a best way to feed grain anyway.

-Add water. I always add water to grain meals, this can help a senior horse with chewing, and it’s a great way to add some hydration. For pellets, this works well, as they expand into a mush after about five minutes.


Feed soup!


-Create an obstacle course in his feed bucket. Some folks add smooth stones, dog toys or mineral blocks so that the horse needs to work around the obstacles to get the grain.

-Put the grain meal into a toy that must be manipulated for food to dispense, like the Nose-It.


-Think croutons on a salad and scatter the grain over the top of his hay pile. This works best if your horse’s hay meal is contained in a large feeder.

-If your horse is in a herd, consider separating him so he can eat without the threat of his food being stolen.

What has worked for you when feeding a horse that bolts his grain?