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Small Animal Vet Meets Forager, and Two Horses Eat Happily Ever After

Small Animal Vet Meets Forager, and Two Horses Eat Happily Ever After

California amateur rider Dr. Susanne Lanini expected plenty of training advice
while attending a clinic with British dressage Olympian Carl Hester in the spring of 2017. The small animal veterinarian was not expecting a godsend in caring for her Fourth Level dressage partner, Just In Kayce, an Arabian with Cushings Disease.

Justin’s condition requires a restricted diet, so Dr. Lanini already had ample experience with various “slow feeding” methods. That’s why she was happily bowled over by the Forager™ Slow Feeder on display at the Haygain™ exhibit during the clinic. “Oh, my god, that’s cool!” was her first reaction. On closer inspection, the Forager’s unique features inspired her to put her name on the list to purchase one. Two, actually. Today, Dr. Lanini’s two horses share two Foragers in her home stable’s 30’ by 40’ paddock.

The design of the regulator that sits atop the hay was the first detail to catch Dr. Lanini’s attention. The “easy” and “standard” grids that come with the Forager restrict overall intake while stretching out their mealtime to simulate the many hours of grazing that horses’ digestive systems were designed for. “Especially for my Cushings horse, it’s so important that he doesn’t gorge and eat all at once,” Dr. Lanini explains. “With the Forager, he is literally grazing and he has gotten a lot better.”

The Forager beats using a hay net for many reasons, including its ease of use. There’s no “stuff, stuff, stuffing hay” into a net or the back-straining effort of hanging it. “And there is absolutely no mess,” she adds. “All the hay stays in the feeder and the only hay that is outside the feeder is the stuff I spill on the ground.” Her horses consistently prefer their Forager hay to those fallen loose scraps. “With the hay nets they would always pick through the bag and leave a mess below the bag with stuff that fell out or the pieces they didn't like. They eat everything they pull out of the Forager grid.

Another advantage over hay nets: Forager encourages horses to eat in a natural position, preventing issues such as back and neck muscle tension, and uneven teeth alignment, which have been linked to using hay nets. Grazing with heads down, whether in the field or from the Forager, helps prevent respiratory problems because the respiratory tract can drain naturally.

Ventilation and drainage in the Forager also appealed to Dr. Lanini. Vents allow air to circulate through the forage, minimizing dust. The light they let in invites the horse to delve deeply into its feed, even as the grid lowers into the 28.3” tall cylinder as the horse consumes the forage. She keeps one Forager under a paddock shelter and another in an uncovered area. “If the hay gets rained on, the water drains out enough that the hay is fine,” she explains. “With a lot of bucket feeders, that hay would be soup!”

As a horse owner and veterinarian, Dr. Lanini is keenly aware how good horses are at getting themselves into trouble, even with objects designed to be safe. While the Forager has very few places where a fly mask or tail bag could get snagged, horses sometimes find a way to get in trouble. “I like the fact that it’s made to come apart in an incident like that,” Dr. Lanini explains.

Justin and his younger pasture partner, Kirby, needed no time to adjust to the Forager. Dr. Lanini typically puts one or two flakes in each feeder, in the morning and the evening, and more when her busy schedule requires. However hectic her day becomes, she cares for her clients’ animals, confident that her horses will spend most of their day eating with no worries about them getting fat or gorging. “I know they are grazing all day because my horse friend always comments how, every time she walks by with her horse, my horses are always happy and eating out of their Foragers.

Dr. Lanini’s small animal practice is based at Golden Oaks Veterinary Hospital in Southern California’s Rancho Cucamonga. She and Justin are targeting the Fourth Level California Dressage Society Championships this year.

Careful management has kept the now 18-year-old in great shape, despite Cushings, and together they have accomplished a lot on the open and Arabian dressage show circuits. They are equally comfortable in western tack during their volunteer work as Sheriff’s Department Mounted Patrol. 

Justin’s pasture-mate, Kirby, joined the family as a dressage prospect, but soundness issues have redirected his career path toward backyard buddy and the trail, where “he is a great partner.” Both love their food and Dr. Lanini loves the Foragers that enable them to enjoy it in slow, small and sustained quantities – just as nature intended.

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