Originally Posted by existentialpony
1. Should I be transitioning him off of alfalfa altogether, or is it okay to maintain the 80-20 split?
I'd go with whichever is cheaper/easier to get in your area and of good quality (free of mold and weeds). Ideally, you should get hay from someone who's had an analysis done on it, so you know its nutritional profile. Then you'd want to feed a ration balancer
or vit/min supplement that fills in any nutritional holes.
2. It's so hard to know what is necessary since he is a relatively easy keeper-- I want to add Omega Horseshine because the front of his back legs (on the cannon) has lost hair; the old owner claims it was because he pees on his legs.
Have you had a vet check him? He may need his sheath cleaned, or he may just need a more deeply bedded spot to keep the urine from splashing up on him. If he's peeing on his legs, you're going to have a hard time keeping urine scald at bay, no matter what you put in his diet. Supplementing omega-3's is a good idea for horses on hay regardless; you can achieve this by feeding just plain flax seed. There are differing opinions on whether or not it needs to be ground; I don't believe it does. But, if you're going to feed ground, it does need to be either a stabilized commercial product (like Omega Horsehine) or it needs to be ground fresh before each feeding. For an easy keeper, I'd keep it between 2-4 oz. Daily.
3. Does my horse also need a pre/probiotic supp, or switch to an "all inclusive" supp like SmartVite Grass Performance (which has vit/min/probiotic/omegas)? I know it tends to be good for them, but like I said, easy keeper... can you tell I'm a first time horse owner? ;)
Yes- definitely a good idea. As mentioned above, you would ideally use such a supplement to fill in the holes from the hay. Grass also loses a number of nutrients in the drying process, and continues to lose more over time- vitamins A & E and omega-3 fatty acids are big ones that deteriorate very quickly and do need to be supplemented for sure when a horse is not on fresh grass. If the hay is low in copper or zinc, those need to be included as well (many vit/min supplements provide very little of those, so it's important to check).
For my own horse, I couldn't get a hay analysis (my barn uses several different suppliers for hay), so I assume my hay is on the low side of average using the grass hay profile from Equi-analytical
. Most nutrients have a very wide safe range between the minimum recommendation and overdose, so it's generally OK to "oversupplement" just a little. (Selenium is the one with the narrowest range of safety, so it's important to know if you're in a selenium deficient area or not, here's a map: Selenium in Counties of the Conterminous States
) I know that SmartVite Performance Grass does a pretty good job of balancing out my "low average grass hay", but it also costs more than feeding Triple Crown 30% Supplement
, which I consider to be a very high quality ration balancer (and is what I feed my easy keeper).