Draft Health issues? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 02-23-2011, 05:24 PM Thread Starter
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Location: New Mexico
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Draft Health issues?

I worked on a guest ranch a few years ago and Loved riding and working with the Drafts but they had special dietary needs.

The Drafts I cared for could only have grass hay, never alfalfa. Also grain wise they had their own special grain, I no longer remember what it was but the where not allowed to have what all the string horses got. I was told the string grain could make them very sick and that if they didn't get the right stuff and oil they could get a muscle difficancy(sp?) disiese(sp?). Sorry my spelling is pretty bad and the spell check isn't helping lol.

Anyway I have been considering a Draft or Draft cross as my next horse to get some height and because I love their big gental(sp?) nature. My current horse is only 14.1 3/4, he's short and I have always loved being high up.

Can you guys tell me if what we where doing at the ranch was right? Do draft horses really have a lot of extra special health needs? Is the mucle thing something I really have to worry about? Are they more prone to colic because of their size? I have seen and heard of several draft's dieing because of stress induced colic.

Read more: Draft Health

"It's a lot like nuts and bolts - if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts!" ~Nicholas Evans
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post #2 of 5 Old 02-23-2011, 06:39 PM
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Short answer is no. A horse is a horse is a horse.

Grain & other high starch/sugar feeds are generally not good for horses. Some horses & types, be it due to being overweight, insulin resistant, the type of horse, etc, are more sensitive to the problems this sort of feed causes than others in this regard.

Lucerne/alfalfa is low in sugar but high in energy. It is also very high in calcium, phosphates, protein & nitrates, so while it can be a great feed, it should be fed only as *part* of a balanced diet, or else it will cause imbalances. Being high in energy it should also be fed sparingly to 'easy keepers', of which drafts often are.

Perhaps also the 'string' horses were getting a lot more work, so needed more calories than the drafts? Perhaps also they were from the same genetic line & susceptible/allergic to same things?

Colic is generally(not always) related to diet & how they're fed. Eg. horses are evolved to 'trickle feed' - little & often - on low grade(compared to 'improved pasture & rich 'hard feeds') forage. Feeding rich feed, &/or in large &/or infrequent meals leads to all sorts of problems, including digestive ulcers & colic. So it may have been 'just' stress induced colic, but probably more likely that was the trigger or final straw, not the cause.
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post #3 of 5 Old 02-23-2011, 07:45 PM
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Yes and no. Drafts (and some light horses) can develop what is called EPSM (not to be confused with EPM) or PSSM in light horses (both same thing) which can cause tying up and muscle deterioration/atrophy. If they develop this, which not all drafts do, they need to be fed a low starch/sugar, high fat diet. Any extra calories they need, need to come from fat (usually oil). This is a good diet for any horse (low sugar/starch, most calories from fat) as like loosie said, starches/sugars aren't really good for horses. I'll post a link that can answer any questions you may have on EPSM from rural heritage. Dr. Beth Valentine has done extensive research on this and is very knowledgable about drafts. Selenium and vitamin E are also good for drafts/EPSM drafts, but make sure to consult with your vet, as you can overdose the selenium.

My Clyde does not have this, and I have no problem feeding him alfalfa, although most of the time it is a good mix with grass. Alot of misconceptions about drafts and EPSM is that alot of protein is bad for them, but it's needed to help rebuild muscle. If you get a draft, it doesn't hurt them to feed them the EPSM diet (on the link) but also isn't required if they don't have EPSM. Clear as mud, huh? And as far as I've read, they are no more prone to colic than light horses. When it comes to colic prevention, do the same with the drafts as the light horses. Hope this helps!!

There's lots of info on this link, the EPSM info is the third section down.
Draft horse and mule health care
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post #4 of 5 Old 02-23-2011, 08:49 PM
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When drafts do colic, they are more prone to complications than light horses. They are more sensitive to sedation, surgery is more risky and just being down for prolonged periods of time can put an undue burden on internal organs that can lead to death. As a group they aren't anymore likely to colic than other horses managed the same way.

Painted Bones has it right. Alfalfa is actually encouraged with a EPSM diet because it is actually lower in sugars than grass hays when you eliminate fructan that is well absorbed.
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post #5 of 5 Old 02-24-2011, 12:28 PM Thread Starter
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Location: New Mexico
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Thank you for all the advice this is just what I was looking for. Painted bones the link you gave me is great!

"It's a lot like nuts and bolts - if the rider's nuts, the horse bolts!" ~Nicholas Evans
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