Diets for a hard keeper? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 20 Old 08-15-2012, 08:35 PM Thread Starter
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Diets for a hard keeper?

So the mare that I'm looking at is a hard keeper, and also a cribber (although we have a few cribbers at our barn and they're awesome horses otherwise). Since she'd be my first horse, pending the vet check and if we "click", I'm not too experienced with diets. I'd probably get the opinion from the vet on a diet, and from the seller.. but I just have a few questions for those who own hard keepers.

Do you feed them in morning and night? (if so, how much pasture time do they get?)

Are supplements added for hard keepers to help keep weight on?

Forever loved, never forgotten; my beautiful Indie. <3 Hoofprints on my heart.
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post #2 of 20 Old 08-15-2012, 09:57 PM
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If the horse is a 'hard keeper' & also cribber, I'd guess she has been kept confined & fed too little roughage &/or too much high starch feed(grains, etc). She has probably got ulcers because of this, which have led to the cribbing. You may find that all it takes to make her an 'easy keeper' is a healthy diet & lifestyle/management and ulcer treatment. Teeth are another consideration that a good equine vet will no doubt check & advise about.

Unfortunately if it's already become a habit, even well managed horses don't tend to quit cribbing.

Basic 'rules' of feeding are that horses are built to have small amounts of roughage going through their system near constantly. They don't handle large/infrequent/starchy feeds very well & a variety of problems can come from that. They need around 2-3%bwt daily in roughage, be that hay, chaff, grass, etc. 'Hard feeding' if required is also best done little & often - at least 2-3 meals daily. Low starch/sugar & high fibre feeds are healthy alternatives to grain & such. A good nutritional supp is also important IMO, to balance otherwise deficient/imbalanced diets.

Horse Nutrition Explained is a good site IMO for more info & is a fantastic program/service for working out the.... workings.
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post #3 of 20 Old 08-15-2012, 11:26 PM
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I like Melyni Worth's Horse Nutrition Handbook. It is a great resource for understanding how to build a feeding program. It explains how the digestive system works, individual nutrients, how to calculate the requirements of your horse, and special diets for special needs. I recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about nutrition.

As loosie said, is a great site. (She originally turned me onto it, so "thanks, loosie") You enter your horse's information, then build the diet. You must know what you geed every day by WEIGHT, not volume. (This is important no matter what method you use to calculate a diet.) The website will tell you what's missing from the diet. You can enter more than one diet for each horse, so you can compare various ways to achieve a balanced diet.

For putting on weight, I prefer free choice grass (pasture is best but hay is good), with a little added alfalfa hay/cubes/ or pellets. Beet pulp is great. Flax and rice bran are good too. Depending on the horse, a senior feed might be useful. A lot of people like Strategy and SafeChoice. Ration balancers are a good way to balance a diet if the energy needs are being met through roughage.
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post #4 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 08:13 AM
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Jore, since you have already asked for thoughts on buying a first horse because you're a junior in high school, I am going to say "please pass on this horse".

I wouldn't buy a serious cribber; I have a lifetime of experience and my horses are out on 22 acres every day to where a cribber stands a good chance of being too busy to crib.

On top of juggling new horse ownership with school (and the expectation of keeping your grades up), this horse is going to become a lot of frustration for you and your parents.

Cribbers don't stop cribbing - it's tragedy the horse ended up this way but now that he is, he won't stop. Some "devout cribbers" will find a way to crib even with a cribbing collar. Serious cribbers have also been known to crib in the field, not just when they're in the stall

A serious health issue that often develops, due to cribbing, are stomach ulcers.

Stomach Ulcers: One Of The Common Health Problems In Horses

Where it says one cause of ulcers can be:
-Horses that crib bite or wind suck. These horses typically don't eat well and so have very little gastric contents to neutralize stomach acid.
I know you must like this horse very much but again, this is your first horse and I really would pass on it as you're setting yourself up for a lot of extra work, expense and heart ache if you end up having to sell the horse because of the cribbing

It's also possible the mare is a hard keeper because she is already dealing with ulcers. Ulcers are not cheap to medicate and they could be a "forever thing" with her since she's a cribber:(
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post #5 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 12:58 PM Thread Starter
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The ad did say that her cribbing is controlled with a cribbing collar. I've also read that more mental stimulation and less stall time would likely decrease her time spent cribbing. She'd likely get 24/7 turnout, as all the horses at my barn do (minus a few), and I think I could also invest in some horse toys for her stall. I know a few people in the barn have jolly balls tied to the wall as well as salt blocks and those flavoured lick things. (the name escapes me at the moment)

I still haven't gone to look at the horse, although she sounds like she could potentially be a good fit. If I do end up liking her, we'd definitely have a thorough PPE and I'd also look long and hard into the cribbing issue. (which I'm currently doing a bit of research on)

I do know that she's an OTTB and was raced until she was seven, so I could guess that's when she picked up the habit.
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post #6 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 02:19 PM
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If she is an OTTB over 7 and has been raced, and she cribs, I can almost guarantee that she has ulcers. She will also not stop cribbing, I don't care how many toys, cribbing collars or pasture turnout time you give her. Horses can become addicted to cribbing, they can learn how to do it from other horses, and it becomes a source of pleasure for them. Many stables will not allow horses that crib because of stable upkeep and also because other horses may mimic it. (so if you ever wanted to change stables.... )

If she is an OTTB and a hard keeper with ulcers you have NO IDEA of the amount of quality feed and alfalfa you will be serving up to her. In addition to medication. I'd pass. This really sounds like more of a problem than a first time owner needs to deal with.
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post #7 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 02:24 PM Thread Starter
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I should've been able to guess that the first horse who sounded perfect, and was in driving distance would end up having such huge issues.. I suppose that's life though. I think I'll still go down and look, since I need to go down that way anyways, but I won't get my hopes up.

I'll just have to keep hoping something else pops up within three and a half hours of where I live.

Thanks for all the advice, everyone!

Forever loved, never forgotten; my beautiful Indie. <3 Hoofprints on my heart.
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post #8 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 02:46 PM
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My horse is a cribber, and most likely has ulcers: besides cribbing, he's VERY girthy, although he's not a hard keeper. I've only had him for about 4 months, but having a cribbber/horse with ulcers is certainly a different set of challenges.

When I bought my horse, the seller told me that he "might" crib "a little." Well, he cribbed on everything. All the time. He's gotten better about it since I got him, but he will still crib without his collar on. This is something that I'm OK with. However, he's still very girthy, and this is something that I'm still working to fix. I started out with U-gard and ProBios; he did improve on it, but I'm not sure if that's because of the supplement or just because he settled in to his new home. Just recently, I replaced those with Succeed, which is a bit pricey, but I'll stick with it if it seems to be working after 60 days on it. I'm hoping not to have to resort to omeprazole paste- which runs $30/day for 30 days and doesn't necessarily cure ulcers permanently. Despite all this, I would definitely buy him again. I spent 5 months looking for my horse, and I didn't see any other horse that I liked even half as much as him, and I looked at a LOT of horses.

Take a serious look at your finances and determine if you can afford to keep a horse that is a hard keeper and might need expensive supplements. Consider whether you'd be able to afford $900 for omeprazole if that's what's needed to cure her ulcers. A lot of people have a very hard time affording to keep their horses while they're in college, so think ahead to how you'll pay for all this while you're in school. If you don't think you'll be able to afford it, then don't even go look at the horse.

However, if that doesn't put you off, then absolutely go look at the horse and don't write her off just because she's a cribber. Ask the seller what she's being fed currently to get an idea of how much food she'll need (it can easily be 2x as much for a hard keeper TB, cribber or not!)
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post #9 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 03:24 PM
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my paint is a hard keeper and EATS like crazy! at the trainer he had 2 big flakes of mix hay a day while his ate half of that. but he was also off of grain at the time. hes outside 24/7 and they have a round bale 1400lb and the three can eat it in 10 days.. or less. he gets 1 1/2 scoops of sweet feed and supplements for calming/focusing, and joint last year he was on farnam Weight Builder Supplement for a month and he gained weight good and took off of it and hasnt needed it again.
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post #10 of 20 Old 08-16-2012, 05:11 PM
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Not to get too far OT but Verona:

Succeed is pricey but I have to say I've had my 25 yr old on it for two months. He has Equine Metabolic Syndrome, confirmed hind gut ulcers, and the vet suspects he might have lipomas in his digestive tract

So far, Succeed has "rounded out" his barrel and he's been looking/acting like he's ten again I can't believe the difference in him.

I had him on EquiOtic and he colicked twice while on it and finally the vet said "don't waste my money"

That being said, just an FYI during the brutal heat/humidity we were in until late last week:

I cut his Triple Crown Senior back to 8 ounces in the AM and none at night. Night time was 1/4 cup of pelleted rice bran and a handful of carrots and apples that had been crushed in the blender to get his metabolic and arthritis meds down him.

I hated doing that but he couldn't eat at night without getting on the ill side; when his head dropped at Mach 80 and he wouldn't go to his hay, I knew his supplements were hitting his tummy wrong.

Also, regarding the Omeprazole. You pay that much for 30 days?!?! My 26 yr old Arab has gastric ulcers that flare up every once in awhile. I think I last bought 30 days of Omeprazole in 2011 and paid $150 from the vet; I thought that was horrendous.

Great first hand cribbing/ulcer information for the OP
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