Weird eating habits - thoughts??? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 12-21-2009, 06:19 PM Thread Starter
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Weird eating habits - thoughts???

So, my new horse is really confusing me right now.

He is being really strange when it comes to eating grain. It is the same diet that he was previously on (whole oats and sweet feed mixture), but he will not clean up the feed in a short amount of time (less than 45 minutes like the rest of the horses). He starts out eating well, but after about 15 minutes abandons the feed bucket (if there is hay in the stall he'll eat it, if not he'll just stand there looking ******ed ) He cleans up all of his hay (5 - 6 big flakes overnight, mixed grass hay) and drinks his water to the bottom of the buckets (two 5 gallon buckets). This is really confusing me, as his previous owner claims he "never" did that at her place - which I find hard to believe, but I can't prove it. I have switched buckets, feed on the ground, put in a corner feeder, same pattern. Now, I've only had him 5 days, but I'm getting sick of frantic phone calls from various boarders and my barn owner telling me he's not cleaning the feed dish (we just had a horse be put down from colic so I understand the worry).

Now, he's not starving, since he is eating 3-4 flakes while turned out during the daylight and the additional hay while inside, he eats about 27 pounds of hay per 24 hours plus all the water. However, this is a 1300 pound warmblood who is about 100 or so pounds underconditioned (sunk in over his hips, can slightly see ribs, no muscle tone, a high three, maybe a 4 on the body condition scale) that we're talking about here. At his previous barn, he was eating 2 quarts of an oat/sweet feed blend 2x's a day. I did watch him eat while at his old barn, he had no problems - I will admit that I only watched him for 20 minutes - didn't think that I'd need to stay longer! He chews fine, doesn't seem to be in pain, doesn't dribble grain everywhere, just seems to lose interest or to be full. He is due for dental work in the spring. When in at nighttime, he will have the feed consumed by the following morning. In the AM, he just stops eating after about 10-15 minutes.

What do I do here? This horse can't afford to lose more condition, and I've been sticking to his old diet while he adjusts to the new barn. He only eats 3-4 flakes of hay max out in the field (no grass to speak of), and since he is a big chicken sh*t if one of the other horses even walks up to his hay out in the field he'll move away and stand staring at it wistfully.

What my barn owner wants to do is stick to the diet he's been on, but switch the proportions - instead of feeding 2 quarts of the mixture in the AM and PM, feeding just 1 quart in the AM (so he can be turned out with the rest of the herd on time) and feeding 3 quarts in the PM so that he has 10-12 hours to clean it up. What are your thoughts? Is that too much grain at one time? He isn't a gulper, no history of founder/laminitis.

And on a side note, what would you all suggest for a weight/muscle gain diet once this weird eating habit stuff works out/is under control? I want to put him on a hoof supplement (all my horses go on one), and was considering a protein supplement like Fat Cat. What are your opinions on hay pellets or beet pulp? He really doesn't need to gain too much fat, just muscle tone, which will come with work. Would you suggest putting him on individual turnout to make sure he's getting enough hay during the day?


Thanks in advance!

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." -Winston Churchill
harryhoudini is offline  
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post #2 of 10 Old 12-21-2009, 10:53 PM
Join Date: Mar 2009
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You say you've only had him for 5 days. I'm 99% positive that he is still adjusting. When I first introduced my friend's horse to my two, my older mare was so enamored with the new horse that she was hardly interested in her grain. What used to take her ten minutes or so to eat started taking her twenty, because she had to look up every two seconds to make sure her new friend didn't disappear. After a few weeks, she seemed to realize my friend's horse wasn't going anywhere, and got back to eating like normal.

There's nothing wrong with changing to a little less in the morning and a little more at night. Do it gradually if you can, but I don't think it'll affect him if you start tomorrow. In a few weeks, I'm sure he'll be more sure of his standing in the new herd and place and will eat like he used to. =]

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds."
riccil0ve is offline  
post #3 of 10 Old 12-22-2009, 12:33 AM
Green Broke
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First, I would have the vet out to check his teeth. He may be having a hard time chewing. I'd also have the vet check for mouth and throat ulcers, and possibly gastric ulcers. These can cause a horse to go "off their feed", but still eat hay.

If he's on grass or Timothy hay, I would consider switching him to a diet of Alfalfa pellets, flax or rice bran, and a complete vitamin supplement with additional amino acids. I'd give 3-5 lbs of Alfalfa pellets, 1 cup of flax or rice bran, and a product like "Tri-Amino" along with a complete vitamin supplement (like EquiBase Grass, Select II, GrandVite, or SmartPak's SmartVite Grass).

The Alfalfa pellets are high in quality protein and calories. It's also high in calcium, which will help prevent ulcers.

Flax or Rice bran (the kind stabilized and balanced with added Calcium) are both a great source of fat and quality calories.

The Tri-Amino product will help build quality muscle and top-line.

The vitamin supplement will help round out his nutrition.

If you don't want to feed three different "extras", talk to the people at about making a custom supplement with their flax base. That's what I do .

I like making my own feed this way so I can make sure my horse is getting proper nutrition, and I can change the amount of calories they're getting, without sacrificing nutritional content (like you would changing the amount of feed). Plus the grain-free diet is more "natural" for a horse, which allows their metabolism to normalize, and prevents ulcers.
luvs2ride1979 is offline  
post #4 of 10 Old 12-22-2009, 01:12 AM
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i agree with luve2ride. i would get the vet out for a general exam and then get an EQUINE DENTIST out for his teeth. no offense to vets but all of the ones i had didn't do a very thorough job. vets need to learn so much in vet school that they only spend so much time learning certain parts of anatomy until they have to move on to the next anatomy part. t

hat is why farriers usually know more about hoof ailments,imbalances and anatomy function of the leg and how to treat them then vets. and also why certified equine dentist's (that preferably went through vet school) specialize in it and are more knowledgable in teeth floating. (they know how a horses mouth should be balanced and how to treat imbalances)

how much grain is this horse getting? what type? he may be adjusting still. however the first thing i think of when a horse is off his grain or doesn't finish it is ulcers. grain aggrivates ulcers and hay soothes them.

the stress of the move could also aggrivate them.

hope all goes well.

Last edited by ShaNeighNeigh; 12-22-2009 at 01:15 AM.
ShaNeighNeigh is offline  
post #5 of 10 Old 12-22-2009, 12:00 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: East Texas
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My first concern would be gastric ulcers. What you are seeing is the most commonly noted symptom of them because grain based feeds cause irritation and pain in a horse that has ulcers. Hays/grass on the other hand don't so horses with ulcers tend to eat their hay well but pick at grain-based feeds.

Dental issues might be a part of the problem, but I would expect your horse to be slow with all feeds including hay if there was a dental pain problem.

So, a vet exam and some discussion about options for diagnosing the problem would be a good way to start. You may also want to go ahead and cut the grain portion out of the diet and replace it with a forage based "ration balancer" type feed

Cindy D.
Licensed Veterinary Technician
Ryle is offline  
post #6 of 10 Old 12-22-2009, 01:05 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks Everyone - vet is calling me this afternoon and we'll discuss our options then.

You have all been so helpful!

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." -Winston Churchill
harryhoudini is offline  
post #7 of 10 Old 12-22-2009, 03:11 PM
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I agree with everyone else on the ulcers. I have actually seen many horses in different barns go through exactly what you are describing. I have had several boarders come to me that way. Forage diet with balancing supplement works wonders. It can take a little bit for their eating habits to return to normal, so don't get discouraged if he still takes a bit, but they always come around after some time of being on a forage diet.
FlitterBug is offline  
post #8 of 10 Old 12-25-2009, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Well, now I'm even more confused, but in a good way, I guess :) The horse is eating well, cleaning up all of his grain in a timely matter, eating a ton of hay, basically back to completely normal. Nothing special was changed - no supplements, no diet changes (I am away for Christmas and didn't want the barn to do anything while I wasn't there). I am still waiting for a vet consult, but I guess that what this basically means is that he was experiencing lots of acid in his stomach due to stress of moving/travel. Any thoughts? I am still leaning towards a higher forage diet because I like that kind of thing for horses anyway, but this is a positive signs. And all of your suggestions made me research ulcers and I learned a lot, which is a great thing.

Merry Christmas!

"No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle." -Winston Churchill
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post #9 of 10 Old 12-26-2009, 05:09 PM
Green Broke
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Yes, probably an upset stomach due to the stress of moving. He might have even been midly colic-y. Good to hear he's feeling better!
luvs2ride1979 is offline  
post #10 of 10 Old 01-17-2010, 10:05 PM
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[quote=ShaNeighNeigh;497231] i would get the vet out for a general exam and then get an EQUINE DENTIST out for his teeth. no offense to vets but all of the ones i had didn't do a very thorough job.

First off ShaNeighNeigh, I couldnt agree more with you! But I also know an amazing vet that does only dentistry work with just hand floats that uses his hand and feels every tooth in the mouth so he knows hes doing a great job.

In reply to ulcers and acids feed more hay. Ulcers are created by acids splashing up onto the lining because horses are worked on empty stomachs.
horsechick48 is offline  

diet , grain , muscle tone , rehabilitation

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