“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 bedding.

          By noon he had eaten his allocated three flakes of hay and was stall walking. 

          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 “Red”.

          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! 

    * For information about nutrition and horse care take the online courses Nutrition For Maximum Performance and Stable Management taught by Eleanor Blazer. Earn certification or work toward a Bachelor of Science degree in equine studies.

Go to www.horsecoursesonline.com for more information. 

Visit Eleanor's web site at

Eleanor Blazer

Xenophon and the Art of Feeding Horses
By Eleanor Blazer