Feeding My New Horse:Advice Appreciated!!
Hi! I just got my first horse a few weeks ago, and I'm still unsure about whether or not I'm feeding him properly. I've read so many different things, and thought someone here would have advice. The place I bought him from mainly had him on pasture with a bit of grain. Unfortunately, my pasture is not hot-wired yet, so he is in a large paddock--mostly ditr w/ shade trees. I have been leading him out to the pasture once or twice a day for about an hour-hour and a half at a time. I also give him between 3 and 4 lbs. of grain(split into two feedings), and four flakes (again, split into two feedings) per day. He is about 15hh, a two-year old gelding, and was underfed by a previous owner, so he has some weight to gain, not to mention he is still growing. Anyway, he seems to be fine with what I've been feeding him, but I am paranoid about messing something up---don't want to founder him or under-feed him. Any suggestions? I'm sure I sound pretty ignorant of horses to some, but I don't want my horse to suffer for my ignorance. Thanks!
If it was me, I'd give him free choice hay. A horse has to constantly eat for their digestive track to work properly...a horse that has free choice of hay (or grass) is less likely to colic.
So my advice; give more hay.....
I try to give my horse as little of grain as possible. He's on grain only because he was skinny...and I'm slowly weaning him off of it. I worry about ulcers from the grain. He only gets maybe 3 lbs of grain (mixed with beet pulp) and then it's soaked (eeer...the beet pulp is soaked and grain is added later...grain isn't soaked)
Keep it simple and natural. Our mares get free choice hay and only a cup a day of grain and have never had a problem. If you measuring the hay, our mares each eat about 2/3 of a square bale a day.
Thank you for the advice. The lady I bought my horse from said that hay has no nutrition for horses, it is just a "filler". She also told me that if I could not get hay in the winter, I could get by just feeding them grain---I wondered about that. Again, thanks so much!
She's backwards!!!! They need the hay more than the grain.
We feed our 2 geldings free choice hay (in winter)/ Pasture (summer) and they get 2 cups of grain each every nite.
No, she's not really backwards.
At two years old, your horse is a growing boy--he NEEDS grain, especially if he's in a dirt paddock (taking him to grass a few hours a day is really only a mental thing for him; it won't help him nutritionally). She is also right that SOME hay is just a filler--unless you're getting an alfalfa mix or some really good quality timothy, your horse is getting little to no nutrition. (look up the protein levels on grass hay--about 6%!!! Your boy needs around 12% overall to continue growing.)
(Also, I'm not saying the natural way is bad, just that most people cannot afford bales of hay a day for one horse and most horses cannot get enough nutrition out of grass because the area isn't big enough.)
ALSO take into consideration: if your boy was underfed, get him back to ideal weight VERY slowly. Growing horses who were underfed can have sudden growth spurts when given a lot of grain/hay/grass to 'plump' them up--which is BAD! Sudden growth spurts can have the bones growing faster then the muscles/tendons, so be very careful! (I'm not saying starve him, lol, just don't try for rapid weight gain!)
So, bottom line: Try to assess your feeding program. Your boy needs about 12-13% of protein total (seeing as he is still growing). Try to assess your hay honestly (there's charts online for that sort of thing), and figure out what percentage of protein he's getting there (also, try to get a feel of the WEIGHT of the hay, not the amount of flakes. Flakes vary in weights DRASTICALLY!) Then supplement with feed.
IMPORTANT: When you go to your feed bag, take off that little white nutritional information 'flag' at the bottom of the bag and take a look. SEE WHAT THE SERVING SIZE IS. TONS of people do not do this! If the bag says to feed one pound of feed for every 100 pounds of body weight, then that is what you need to feed to get the nutritional information that is on the bag. if it says he's getting 10% protein, x amount of fiber, and x amount of fat but you're only feeding him .5 pound of feed per 100 pounds of body weight, then he is NOT getting what the bag says!
Some feeds want you to feed way too much. Take for instance, Purina Mills Junior feed for Foals/Yearlings. I just purchased this feed for my weanling that got shipped in (it was what he was eating beforehand) and I am not impressed at ALL. On the back it gives you the 'pound-of-feed-per-100-pounds-of-body-weight' spiel, and it wants me to feed my baby 15 pounds of feed a day! WHAT? My grown horses in moderate to heavy work only get 8 pounds a day! I'm switching the baby over to platform feed, which is a lot more calorie dense then purinas feed.
Eating too much feed at one time is bad for one thing, usually--your pocket! Horse's stomachs can only hold about 4-6 pounds of feed (or 8 to 15 quarts? I think? Correct me if I'm wrong.), and if you give them more then that (which some uneducated people do to 'fatten them up'), all they do is poop it out! If the stomach is getting overloaded with feed it will, in most cases, dump it into the intestines. In minor cases the horse won't gain and might lose weight; in major cases, colic and founder are inevitable.
Hope all of this helped... if you need anything clarified, lemme know!
mayfieldk , EXCELLENT post!!! Bang on!
Thank you! Feeding correctly is very important to me--hooray having a college class in Equine nutrition with an AMAZING teacher! lol
Thank you Mayfieldk!! I am happy to tell you that I am one of those people who do read the info. an the feed bag! My horse is on Granoline Elite---which is formulated specifically for growth.
Thanks again! :)
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