For years and years I have thought that the best way to feed my horses was on the ground. That has changed.
In most stables here, where I live, they feed their hay on the ground or in tubs and the grain or supplements in a managers/tubs, with the water either in buckets or waterers. One relatively new addition is the large round bale of hay, which does put the horses into a different position for eating. Yet when given the choice, such as when on a large pasture with brush and natural water sources it is much different.
Not only do they eat grass, they eat the leaves from trees and bushes and drink from streams or water troughs provided. I was fortunate to observe this behaviour when I did chores at a stable I boarded at. Though I did not think about it at the time. The horses on this pasture were well fed and although not competition fit they were usually well muscled and content. When they were brought in to be put back into work, they did not injure in the same way as the horses in the smaller pastures. They would be stiff with the new work and somewhat over weight if the grass had been good, but they did not seem to have the shoulder and back injuries that others had when brought back.
When I think back to many of the older barns I have been in, the mangers were usually setup to be at least a foot off the ground and the horses just reached over the wall to eat. The hay was given from a walkway on the outside of the stall and the bales could be just spread out between them. Or in a hayrack above so the hay was thrown over the wall into it. I know this was for convenience sake, when feeding the horses after a long day of work. It was efficient and time saving to have it that way. Not all were like that but many were. Did this change when we started using the horse for pleasure and competition or when we had people design stalls with hallway facing doors and it was more convenient for us to just open the door or window to feed? I don't know.
In many forums and discussions, with others from my groups, it has been interesting to see where various groups stand on the issue. Thoughts and discussions are quite strong on this for many people. The information from, Thirza Hendrick, Zefanja Vermeulen, Tamara Dorresteijn from the Equine Studies group has certainly put a different perspective on my thoughts. If you would like more information on this please visit their links on my Links page.