I have had my OTTB for about a year now. He was underweight when I got him, and despite our efforts it wasn't easy to put weight on him. The thing that really helped was high-calorie grain with canola oil added on. Now we've taken the oil out and he seems to be holding weight. I would like to get him off the high-calorie grain too (as it seems to affect his personality), but I have some questions.
My barn owner recommended a ration balancer and I love the idea, but would that be right for my horse? I don't plan on making a change until he can get back to 24 hour turnout (weather has kept them in). He gets plenty of roughage each day.
Also I think it's important to include that I ride him 6 days a week. Mostly dressage in this weather, but most of the year we compete in eventing (usually 3 dressage days, 2 conditioning, 1 jumping, 1 off per week. Competing once or twice a month).
Some other questions:
1. If a ration balancer was not enough, what could we add without adding sugar?
2. Would a low starch option be better (possibly less of a change)?
Thanks so much!
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I'm mostly posting because I'm curious as to what people will recommend. If you switch to a ration balancer beet pulp, alfalfa cubes, and/or copra/Coolstance can be added for extra calories. The Coolstance may not be available depending on where you live, and some people do not like feeding it so if you do decide to try it just make sure to do a little research on it. Others have had amazing results feeding it so it may be an option.
What concentrate/grain are you currently feeding him? Many feeds are designed to be high fat, low sugar/starch and shouldn't affect the horses temperament. I personally like and feed Purina Ultium and Triple Crown Senior, but after reviewing the ingredient list, the analysis, and seeing horses on these feeds, I also like LMF feeds (I wish they were sold in my area, *sigh*) Sentinel Low Starch, and Buckeye Cadence Ultra. These brands have others that are good, and there are other brands with good feeds (Seminole, Pennfield.) I just have not experienced them and so cannot give much of an opinion on them. All of the feeds I listed are low starch, high fat, and on the higher end for calories. You would have to check the NSC levels if that is a concern, I only know that TCS is something like 11 or 12%. I have not had any negative impacts on the horse's temperament from feeding these.
Cost wise, it would probably be more effective to feed the recommended amount of a high quality feed than it would be to try and meet your horses dietary requirements by adding large amounts of alfalfa cubes, beet pulp, or copra. I'm saying that based on you stating that your horse is more of a hard keeper and that he is kept in consistent work. What level are you eventing at? That will have an impact on what and how much you should be feeding him. I have evented as well and take lessons from a few eventing trainers, most eventers even at beginner novice and novice require quite a bit of calories, it demands a lot of fitness from a horse.
If your horse has an allergy to something, is sensitive to sugar, or you just prefer to go concentrate/grain free, I recommend high quality free choice hay (I recommend this for every horse, but unfortunately some stables cannot do or will not do free choice hay and getting high quality hay can be difficult these days) and then go from there in seeing what additional calories your horse will need. I hope I helped at least a little :) And I hope to see eventing pictures next summer!
If he needs calories, a RB may not be the simplest or cheapest choice since while it will take care of your vitamins and minerals, you'll still have to add something like beet pulp or rice bran in to keep him at weight. Beet pulp pellets go a long way, so while they require prep (soaking), the price may or may not make them worthwhile.
Feeding a low NSF supplemented feed may be an easier and cheaper option since when fed at label directions, it will give you the calories as well as the vitamins and minerals in one product. Then again, depending on the product, it may not be cheaper! RB really are the best product for easy keepers who DON'T need extra calories, but when a horse can stand to have some extra feed, you have a lot of different good options to choose from.
Thanks for the help! This morning someone recommended a grain - Purina Amplify. She said she loves it for her OTTBs and her pony, as it is higher in fat, but low in sugars. Anyone heard of it and/or had experience with it?
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I've always viewed Purina Amplify as a weight gain/extra calorie source. It will help with weight if fed at the recommended amounts as it's mostly rice bran, soybean oil, dehulled soybean meal, and flax. Do you plan on feeding it exclusively or in addition to a multi vitamin/mineral or another feed? It states that it supplies 100% of the required nutrients but there are two things that concern me. First, some nutrients are missing from the analysis, so they might be included in amounts that are negligible and you would have to supplement the horse with something else. Second, it doesn't have a recommended feeding rate so I have no idea what would be needed to be fed to a horse with a particular work load to meet all of his requirements. It just says that the maximum feeding rate should be four lbs a day.
I typically add alfalfa and Cool Calories for extra calories. Those have been the cheapest ways to add calories to a RB IME. There is a point tho where a good non grain based feed will be cheaper and a better option. It just depends. I use Triple Crown Senior when and if we get to that point.
My TB does well on a RB with 3 Scoops of cool Calories twice a day and 5 to 10 lbs of alfalfa with free choice grass hay. I alternate the alfalfa amounts as needed.
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