I need some feeding advice.
Despite working around horses quite a bit in my life, I have never been directly involved with their diets, and despite my research I am still new about a lot of things regarding this particularly confusing aspect of horsekeeping. Yeah I know -- Keep It Simple, Stupid...but it doesn't really help that my boarder, M, has a slight difference of opinion than mine...which, although my own opinion has been bolstered by months of reading articles and pestering people and feed store employees, hers is a result of several decades of horsekeeping. But some things still don't add up, so I am going to ask if any of you can give me some general advice.
Lilly, my new horse, is an easy keeper in every sense of the word. She is a 9 yo arabian mare, but not extremely high strung. Her previous owner had not been doing much with her, so she a little chunky at present, but in excellent condition otherwise. She was on soaked alfalfa cubes in the morning, a flake of teff hay in the afternoon, and a flake of teff in the evening along with another "ration" of cubes. I am aware that, in order to prevent ulcers and other problems, it is best for horses to have their forage and have something in their stomachs as often as possible, but is this a little much to you? She was on pasture, but no grass...and she will not have access to grass here with us until spring, then only with hand grazing. Everyone has a mineral block.
At our place, M feeds her horses twice a day...oat alfalfa cubes. They get treats like carrots and apples and such, but otherwise no forage. They are all in good condition...but two of them eat their own poop, and I don't think that is the healthiest thing in the world to do. Could they be doing this because of a lack of forage?
Anyway...it's not my place to tell her how to feed her horses, but although M is GREAT in all other aspects, if we want Lilly to continue to have hay, we're going to have to go out there every day and feed it to her ourselves (she's willing to feed at present, because we can't just take it away cold turkey from her of course). This is kind of impossible for us currently, although I'm sure we could work something out if we absolutely had to. In short...M is against feeding hay, period. She does feed the gang a sweet feed made of corn, and says her reason for this is to help them stay warm. Ideally, M wants us to take Lilly off hay completely and get her started on the grain along with the cubes.
Personally, I'm not sure I want Lilly to have grain. I don't think she needs it. First off, she's an easy keeper, like I said. Second, it will be a wee bit until she gets into a more rigourous excerise program. At the moment she will be excersised by us 3-4 times a week, possibly more depending on schedule, by way of lungeing and walks. In another week we will begin riding her, with the lungeing and walks as well. She will be a trail horse, although this summer she will be started in conditioning for endurance. But no...I don't believe she needs grain right this instant.
Also, I really want to keep her on hay. Perhaps a low-nutrient grass hay, so she can have her chew time like any normal horse. How necessary do you think this is for her? Considering how adament M is against feeding hay, I want to explore all my options...I know, ultimately it will be my decision and I will feed Lilly what I think she needs, but the issue here is I don't know for certain what to do.
What are your opinions on feeding her this corn grain stuff? I will start her on some apple cider vinegar, that I know for certain. Everything else now is just...confusing as heck. I only want the best for her, but all these conflicting opinions are driving me up the wall.
im agreeing with you on this- hay is best, horses are not supposed to have empty bellies, they are trickle feeders; will she be out on grass all day?
Nope. She is on dirt...they all are. Apparently when the weather warms up there is a grassy lot that we can hand graze them on, but otherwise no grass.
Its unnatural for a horse to be on 100% processed diet. If someone told me they dont feed hay Id be gone in a heart beat. Horses usually eat things in a bucket alot faster than hay on the ground. What is her reasoning for no hay. Most people who limit hay are usually just cheep.
My easy keepers get
1 quart beet pulp before soaking
1/2-1 quart alfalfa pellets
2-3 quarts 12% pellets (I refuse to feed anything else besides pellets)
1/2 cup flax seed (ground)
(all soaked for 10-15 minutes)
ONCE A DAY
mare gets some glucosamine and hoof supplement
and a bale of hay per day, maybe less depending on the weather and how much grass is out there. Our bales have about 10 small flakes. I like alfalfa but I dont think any horses diet should be a majority alfalfa (cubes)especailly easy keepers and horses not working hard.
Dried Corn is almost nutriet-less, it usually comes out partially digested, or even whole, like whole oats do, in the manure. HAY is what is going to keep a horse warm, because they will always be digesting something, if you give them enough of it. Horses eat grain/corn from a bucket in a matter of minutes sometimes, so its going to get digested more quickly then hay. Talk to your vet or a horsey nutritionist, they will probably tell you something simmilar.
Horses are designed to eat around 1 percent of their body weight in forage (which means either hay pellets, beet pulp, or, ideally, hay or grass). If you feed too much grain, it can back up in their hind gut and cause ulcers and/or colic. Bottom line: You horse needs to be getting hay. If you can't find a hay with a good nutrition balance for horses (such as 2nd cutting timothy) get a higher nutrition hay, such as alfalfa, and feed a smaller amount of that mixed with a larger amount of a lower nutritive hay, such as local grass hay. It sounds like Lilly is already kind of chunky, so she may not need the calories associated with alfalfa, but in any event, I wouldn't be feeding grain, let alone giving it as the only feed.
sillybunny - you see, I thought the exact same thing -- it is the digestion of the hay that will keep them warm! Not a junkfood like sweetened corn grain...
Just curious, why do your easy keepers get beet pulp? I thought that used to put weight on horses? And why do you only feed pellets? :)
I'm not entirely sure about M's motives for not feeding hay. Yet from what I've seen, it takes Lill forever to finish a single flake...I don't think she likes the teff grass a ton, but she eats it, and eats it slowly, which is good.
I am going to call up our vet...but you two sound right on the mark. So, what about feeding her the cubes in the morn/evening, with the grass hay to chew on in the meantime? It's what her previous owner had her on and she has never had an issue. Don't get me wrong, M knows her stuff...all of her horses are over 13 and very healthy, but the no-hay thing is what confused me.
I wouldn't board somewhere they wouldn't feed hay to my horse. You're right on the mark for all the reasons to feed hay instead of grain. And I definitely wouldn't add grain to a already easy keeper's diet. Even if they are still getting cubes. I would find out why M doesn't want to feed hay. That may be the most important thing you can do to figure the situation out.
Thank you, I am going to have to have a more in-depth talk with her.
What is teff hay?
I use beet-pulp as well for my easy keepers. Beet pulp is a forage substitute basically - Fills their bellies and has a bit of energy, but not high in fat. If I need more energy/fat, I add a small amount of copra (coconut meal) - All the oils in copra provide a cool, safe alternative to the energy found in grain.
However, my horses are on grass 24/7 - At the moment they aren't getting fed anything - They have a salt lick and mineral block and that's it. I'm thinking of locking up my arab - He is way too fat and not getting enough excercise. If I do? He will get a big biscuit of meadow (grass/pasture) hay morning and night - That's it.
If I were you, I would stay away from the grain. The biggest issue with grain is NSC's - Non-Structural Carbohydrates. They are bad news - The reccomended maximum for horse feed is 12% - Most sweet feeds are up in the 30-40% range - Most 'cool' feeds are in the 20-30% range. I did my research after finding out my horse was tying up, and decided to go no grain. Beet-pulp and Copra are both low in NSC's - below the reccomended maximum, but still provide forage and energy. For a horse that isn't being excercised much, she will be better of with a lower percentage of alfalfa and a higher percentage of pasture/grass hay - Maybe keep the alfalfa cubes morning and night and give her purely pasture hay.
I would definately say NO to a barn that mandated feeds - Making me feed sweet feed and no hay would be an absolute deal breaker.
"Just curious, why do your easy keepers get beet pulp? I thought that used to put weight on horses? And why do you only feed pellets?"
My horses are easy keepers- so they dont need any attitives/sugar above pelleted feed. Around here most sweet feeds are low quality, and have alot of crap fillers in them. Its a junk food basically. Its like filling your tummy with candy bars instead of a healthy snack. Its a waste of calories. You are substituting nutrient rich calories, for nutrient poor ones. When you have an easy keeper you have less discretionary calories, this those that do get consumed have to be more nutrient rich.
As for Beet Pulp, we have my weanling vet checked, dewormed, the works, he kept getting loose stool. So I thought, maybe Ill try adding more fiber, so the cheepest, fastest way to get fiber into him (without alot of extra protein in aflafa cubes) was beet pulp. Hes been on it since. He gets more beet pulp, and my mare gets more alfalfa pellets. My mare needs more protein, to help her feet grow, she has been pulling her shoes off (along with half her hoof) monthly. My baby dosent need all that additional protein, I worry about him getting to fat or growing to fast, which cause developmental problems.
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