Strictly Hay Diet Healthy? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 12:11 AM Thread Starter
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Question Strictly Hay Diet Healthy?

Just curious of a couple things. My husband and I own three horses, all of different ages (12 yr., 3 yr., 8 mth.), so the easiest safest way to keep them all healthy and up to weight is to feed them round bales all year round which they have all kept a healthy weight on so far. They are all worked and rode weekly and kept in shape. Anyways, we heard that a horse eating constantly will prevent them from stomach ulcers or any other food issues. The 8 month old gets grain as well but the other horses only get hay 24/7 with no grain. What is your thought on that? Healthy, or should a horse be getting more grain and supplements? They have a salt and mineral block outside as well.

Here are most recent pictures of them, do they look healthy weight from just hay, how they should look? Or do they look thin, to fat, sunken it, etc.? I only want the best for them and so far for the last two years this has seemed to be the "best option" but always open for suggestions.

12 year old mare

3 year old filly

8 month old filly

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post #2 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 12:31 AM
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Just hay can be perfectly healthy, IF the hay has everything in it they need vitamin and mineral-wise. The only way to know if your hay fits the bill is to have it analyzed. Back home, in the pacific northwest, there is essentially zero selenium in our hay, so all horses have to have that supplemented and the easiest way is through a ration balancer. I imagine that hay from other areas might or might not have other deficiencies depending on where, what type, and how it is grown.
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post #3 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 01:13 AM Thread Starter
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We feed Alfalfa/grass/timothy mixed hay, and they have a selenium block rotated out in the pasture because Michigan, especially where we live in eastern Michigan, selenium is a deficiency around here. How do I go about getting my hay checked out? By who?

Is it horrible for the baby to be on only hay as well?

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post #4 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 01:35 AM
Green Broke
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Well in my honest opinion I think the baby should be supplemented. She looks to be a bit thin in the hips(sunken in). I would get her on a vitamin/mineral supplement. Some feeds have everything in it. The baby is still doing a lot of growing so I would just make sure she can get everything that she needs. Your other horses look great.
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post #5 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 02:05 PM Thread Starter
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What are the best supplements or grain to put my baby on? She is on mare and foal right now. I heard from a friend who has a colt, that she feeds grow colt. Is that a good option?

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post #6 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 02:19 PM
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If your oldest is in good health, stick to just hay. Talk to your Vet about supplementing for the 3 yo and the 8 mo. They are both still growing. If you make the choice for supplements you may miss some and overfeed other vitamins and minerals. After all, once the bones are set and the other inside and outside parts finished growing you won't be able to change any abnormalities. PLUS, with the 8 mo, you'll want to watch that the legs develop correctly. This could help give them a good future home, since most people don't keep horses for 20 years, like I have.
Puppies and kittens need a lot less care when developing, lol!
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post #7 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 02:30 PM
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I feed nothing but hay to every one of mine (youngest ever being about 3 1/2 months, though he is about 18 months now, to well up into their 20s), they get no supplements beyond a salt block and loose minerals. They all stay fat, healthy, and happy year around.

One of the most serious problems that people have in the US, though many don't realize it's a problem, is severely overfeeding their horses. So many people think that "Oh, just hay can't possibly be enough for them, they need this or that or this other thing too." What most folks don't realize is that horses evolved eating grasses, hays, twigs, even the bark of some trees. They simply aren't designed for many of the grains and feeds that they are given these days, then people wonder why their horses are so prone to founder or colic.

We stopped feeding grain of any kind in the mid 90's, when my Dad stopped showing. Since then, we've never had a single case of colic or founder with any of the hundreds of horses that have gone through our barn since then. Every one of the horse's gets either grass or alfalfa hay and nothing else.
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post #8 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 03:18 PM
Green Broke
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I have to chime in to what smrobs is saying....if you do decide to feed grain choose a grain free pellet. This is important as horses don't digest corn,barley,oats as well.They enjoy it but don't need it. My horse colics easily...I MEAN EASILY! She can't have grain at all..the closest thing is alfalfa pellets and rice bran so I can put her probiotic powder and mare magic in it. If she gets anything else she does colic.

I would talk to your vet to see what they think the younger ones need.
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post #9 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 03:55 PM
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I think it depends on the quality of the hay. I give my guys (including a 16 month old gelding) 50/50 grass/alfalfa hay and the baby does get a couple ounces of vitamin/mineral supplement and less than a pound of Purina Strategy (just enough to mix his vitamin supplement in). Is it overkill? Perhaps, but that rests my mind that he is not lacking for any important nutrients as he grows. I also am a big believer in alfalfa because of the extra calcium and protein.

I assume the round bales are just grass? The adult horses look great. Baby doesn't look bad, but I guess I would be afraid that grass hay alone won't build strong bones and muscles. I know they wouldn't get alfalfa in the wild, but neither do they often grow to their genetic potential in the wild either. Also, they would get more of a variety of plants while if we just provide hay alone they don't get much variety, so if the hay is lacking something they are stuck.

So that's why I personally like to feed some alfalfa and a vitamin/mineral supplement to my youngster. I'm sure I could leave off the vitamin/mineral supplement but I wouldn't want to leave off the alfalfa because our grass hay is junk. But if you have excellent quality grass hay you might be fine.
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post #10 of 14 Old 11-28-2011, 04:31 PM
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Is the hay you are feeding grass hay or does it have some or all alfalfa or clover in it. They are vastly different in Mineral and Vitamin content. Grass hay is usually deficient in Calcium and both (but particularly grass hay) are deficient in Vitamin A by mid winter. If you do not supplement Vitamin A, you will likely see things like goopy, runny eyes and rain rot by mid winter and will probably see lice in the spring.

The 3 year old and 12 year old appear fine, now and their hay is obviously providing all they need. Again, I would make sure they have a good source of Vitamin A by mid winter when their stored Vitamin A (stored in the liver) will run out.

The weanling appears to be lacking protein and Vitamin A. It is pot bellied and rough haired. Is this weanling on a good deworming program? This appearance can be either from parasites or can be nutritional.

Young horses have a tremendous need for good quality protein. They particularly need the essential amino acids, Lysine and Methionine. Alfalfa will help here, but grass hay is great if it is supplemented with a pound of soybean meal per day. If this weanling is not getting any alfalfa or other legume, it should also be supplemented with Calcium. It needs a Vitamin A and Calcium supplement now as it is showing the first signs of a deficiency with its upright hind pasterns and rough hair coat. The upright pasterns with contracted tendons is one of the first symptoms one sees along with fetlock joints that have a 'square' or 'knobby' appearance when viewed from the front. These deficiencies along with too much high Phosphorus grain contribute greatly to OCD, DOD (also known as Developmental Orthopedic Disease and formerly known as Epiphysitis).

I would like to know what kind of hay and what kind of grain you are now feeding this weanling as well as the deworming program it is on. I can respond in more detail if I know these details.
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