I don't take a lot of time to discuss nutrition here, with the exception of saying what Bud gets and why. There's a reason for that: I'm a layman and nutrition is really complicated.
However, there is a growing interest in "slow feeding" horses and, surprise, there actually seems to be a growing consensus about slow feeding equines.
The idea behind the principle is that equines are foraging critters, designed to eat all day long as they graze along the plain. The concept isn't too different from the recent "grass-fed" cow movement and I've wondered if the two are somehow connected (i.e. someone said "Hey cows are healthier grass fed because that's the way their gut is designed ... I bet that would work for my horses!").
Here is an interesting site that was linked by SmartPak Equine's blog on the subject. And here is another website offering information on this practice (looks like it's connected through the Swedish Hoof School).
Growing up, you threw a scoop or two of super-sweet sweet feed to each horse. Each would get maybe a pad of hay with their meal. These meals were only twice a day and the horses didn't get anything in between. I am on the East Coast, so many horses are in small paddocks or stalled and don't have access to a lot of grass. And as I've discussed, grass itself (especially managed grass) can be dangerous on sugar-sensitive equines.
There are a lot of arguments against this "conventional" feeding method that I grew up with.
One argument says that the horse's gut constantly produces acid and, without a constant intake of food, it can cause ulcers or even colic bouncing from "starvation" to "feeding bonanza."
Another argument says that this also messed up the horse's insulin levels. They suffer sugar crashes and booms several times a day and this can lead to metabolic issues if they are already prone to that.
But they all seem to say the same thing: the equine is designed to graze all day, continuously, and the traditional way, while pretty darn easy and efficient on the owner's part, is not healthy for this type of gut system.
And just throwing more hay at the horse is wasteful and not really the answer (though if you have unlimited funds, go for it!). As a rule of good equine nutrition, your horse will eat more hay than anything else during a day, but if he is anything like Buttercup, he'll down 10-pounds of hay in less than two hours, leaving another six to 10 hours before he will eat again. So this is where you get into some cool gadgetry and mechanisms.
Here is an interesting slow feeder design.
One of my friends highly recommends NibbleNets. I'm actually buying two for myself once I save up the cash.
I like this from their FAQ:
Q: WHY ARE THESE HAY BAGS SO EXPENSIVE?
A: TO START WITH, THEY REALLY ARE NOT EXPENSIVE COMPARED TO THE WASTED HAY THAT IS TRAMPLED INTO THE GROUND. WITH THE NIBBLENET, THE HORSES EAT SLOWER, SO LESS HAY IS USED AND MONEY IS SAVED. NOT TO MENTION THE POSSIBLE VET BILLS FOR SAND COLIC, ULCERS AND OTHER AILMENTS FROM NON-CONSISTENT GRAZING WHICH THEY ARE DESIGNED TO DO.
Of course, there is the always tried and true method of slow grazing (it works with hay and pasture):
These things are both like grazing without the downsides of grass pastures. Here is a link to Paddock Paradise's page with different slow feeding designs. Some of them I would try and some I totally wouldn't. But use your own judgment on what works best for your horse. A lot of this is really easy to incorporate.
Another slow feeding method is using soaked forage in with a grain or eliminating grain all together. This means the horse can't simple "wolf" down the food because there are soaked alfalfa cubes or soaked beet pulp in there.
Think NibbleNets will offer me a sponsorship for being mentioned on such a well-known blog? A girl can dream, right?