With winter fast approaching, I have a question concerning feeding my mare. She is an 8 year Arabian who has been on grass hay and pasture grass. She is certainly not underweight, but I would not call her chunky. She hasn't been ridden much lately, and I don't know how much riding she'll get in the winter (it rains often in the winter here in the PNW) - probably only 2-3x per week and probably not hard riding. It was suggested to me that I give her alfalfa pellets in the winter for extra warmth. Will have any effect on her, like make her "hot" or will it have no effect at all? My 7-year old daughter rides and I wouldn't want to make our mare tempermental with my daughter on her. She's fairly mellow right now and when we first got her she was on sr.feed and we did see a difference when we took her off of it.
Any suggestions welcome! :-)
Pellets won't sustain the "internal fire" needed for warmth the way hay will. She should be getting between 1.5-2.5% of her body weight in forage daily. If she's off pasture you need to replace that with the best hay you can.
I live up in Northern Canada where the winters can get darn cold. We feed a mixed hay of Timothy, brome, clover and alfalfa and when the temp. drops down to -20 Celcius or colder we will usually give them a cup or so of oats morning and night to help get them warmed up. They don't get rode a whole lot in the winter. Usually don't have any problems keeping the weight on but they usually have slimmed down some by Spring. Never ribby or anything.
NewHorsemom- I am not a fan of Alfalfa, and I probly will never feed my horse Alfalfa. If you do choose to use Alfalfa, then be dang sure you are gettin it from a GOOD, RELIABLE, and TRUSTING person.
sorry if i sound rude or anything. I have just heard to many bad stories about it.
So, it sounds like she really doesn't NEED any supplements if she is keeping weight on and getting good hay and plenty of it, right? (I'm still a bit new to this so bare with me) She'll still get turnout, but the grass isn't all that great in the winter months.
If she does get something extra it sounds like alfalfa pellets might not be the best choice. Will oats provide more to keep her warm? What ingredient should I look for in a good supplement that won't change her temperament?
It usually doesn't get too cold here, mostly in the 40's with a couple of weeks where it might dip down into the 20's.
stuff to stay away from is Corn, Oats, Barley and high amounts of Molasses
as long as she is getting plenty of good hay she should be fine heat and weight wise
BUT she may be lacking in Vitamins/minerals especially over the winter when there is no grass
Depending upon where you live you could look into a ration balancer for the "extra" nutrition the grass/hay is not providing...
This is a great easy to understand nutrition website a friend of mine IS building that explains nutrition so the "common" horse owner can understand IOW plain English not science terms LOL Horse Nutrition Explained
As has already been stated, alfalfa pellets won't do anything in the way of "heat" for your mare (as in keeping her warm). Normal hay does fine at that. She should be getting 2-3.5% of her body weight in hay a day if there is no pasture, which is 20-35 lbs of grass hay a day for a 1,000 lb horse. As long as she's keeping up her weight and normal energy levels, I wouldn't worry to much over it ;).
If she is not a hard keeper, I would give her free choice hay and 12% or 15% supplement. You might throw in some straw as feed if you are concerned about warmth. Oats and alfalfa are energy foods, not warmth or weight.
This is going to be a very long post!
There are a LOT of choices for supplements and everyone is going to have a personal favorite/opinion about each. I personally feed orchard grass/timothy because it provides adaquete protein, calories, and carbs. I supplement my hay during the winter with 6 cups of soaked beet pulp, 3 cups STABALIZED rice bran pellets (I use triple-crown), and 1 to 2 cups of ground or soaked flax seed. Beet pulp is a wonderful supplement, as it is a high calorie forage for the horse, and not a grain. It is high in calcium and low in phosphorus (two minerals that must be balanced within the horse) so I feed it with the rice bran which is high in phosphorus and low in calcium. Triple crown rice bran is stabalized within minutes that the rice is "husked", for lack of a better word. This is extremely important as it prevents fermentation and allows for a better shelf life. Rice bran is high in fat (this particular supplement is 20% fat) but it is also super high in starch, so I know that with a horse your size it is best to stay at a pound or less a day. It is important if you feed rice bran that you feed something with extra calcium, so if not beet pulp then the alfalfa pellets would be acceptable as alfalfa has a lot of calcium. Lots of people dislike alfalfa, as it is a "hot" feed that is high in energy. For some horses, alfalfa is a magic cure that puts on weight and they live happily ever after. Arabians are hot blooded horses, and for many of them alfalfa is not a good option. I personally do not feed alfalfa as there are many other alternatives that are healthier. If you do choose to feed alfalfa, hay is better than pellets because the horse consumes it slower and they have less of a chance of founder. Flax seed is high in Omega 3, and is very tasty and palatable to the horse. I like it because it gives that extra fat supplement and makes the horse very shiny and is a great alternative to grains. Omega 3's are not found in grains and only small amounts are in pasture grass. This combination of food amounts to about 4 pounds of feed, and it is only a supplement to the best quality hay I can find. I pay top dollar for my hay and feed my 900 pound arabian gelding around 13 - 15 pounds a day. He is also blanketed when it is below 40 degrees, which also aids in keeping weight as less energy is used to keep warm. All in all, this adds up to an average of 18 pounds of food every day, plus a couple carrots and pieces of fresh fruit for varieties sake. Just remember that a horse should eat 2% of his total body weight per day, so an 800 pound horse should be eating 16 pounds per day of forage, or forage supplemented with grain.
So, my recommendation would be to feed something similar to what I am doing, but I can totally understand if you do not want to spend as much money each month as I do on feed. I only have one horse, and his monthly bill averages at 145 dollars for feed alone. If you want to, you can put your horse back on senior feed. I personally like TDI-Senior because it is cheap and contains beetpulp, and I think it is better quality than other brands. Sr. Feeds are complete feeds and almost all are grain based. These will not make your mare hot, but they will give her more calories and more energy. They are also very safe for novices to feed, as they are balanced for you and you just feed to your horses weight. I personally do not feed complete feeds, and I wouldn't do it unless I couldn't afford feeding the way I do now. Anyway, I'm done with my super long post and hope this helped!
Lacey has a good diet. I just wanted to point out that a horse should get NO LESS than 1.5% of their body weight in hay/forrage daily. That's 15 lbs for a 1,000 lb horse. Concentrates should make up no MORE than 50% of their daily diet by weight to keep the gut healthy.
That said, studies have shown that horses are healthier long term on diets consisting of 80-90% hay or forrage, grass hay or mixed grass hay. Horses fed a higher percentage of concetrates have a greater risk for developing ulcers, laminitis/founder, and metabolic problems.
Also, you don't have to soak or grind flax in the US. Flax grown here is not toxic to horses in its whole form. I have feed whole flax seeds in the past with no problems.
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