Could 24/7 turnout cause weight to drop?
My horse is an older Appy, at least 20. When I got him he was at a not great barn on 24/7 turnout. Huge herd, competition for hay. After a few months of owning him, I decided to do 12/12 turnout. In at night in winter, in during day in summer. He seemed happier over all, relieved, better rested and just better overall, despite arthritis. I had worried he would be stiffer but he wasn't.
At my current barn that we moved to end of Oct, he has been in at night 12/12 through winter. He has always been a hard keeper but did decently in winter. In early April, we noticed he dropped weight, so we upped his feed. He started to gain nicely but end of April, early May, BO started turning them out 24/7 due to the nice, moderate temps and amazing grass. We thought the grass would really pack the weight on him. Nope - he started slipping BACK. He is still out 24/7 until temps reach mid-80's. He is now back to his end of winter weight on the weight tape. UGH. The ONLY change is the turnout to 24/7???
He is turned out with a mare and 2 yearlings. They move, walk and play alot. His old barn he was out with 2 retired geldings in smaller fields. He just hung out by the gate most of the time. He is MUCH more active at this barn which has been fabulous. He is sound, happy, rides well, I took him off his Previcox completely which worried me but vet recommended it since he had been on it for almost 2 years, and he is doing GREAT. But his weight drives me crazy.
COULD the change from 12/12 to 24/7 cause him to drop weight?? He has poor back teeth and when he is in his stall, he only eats about a flake of alfalfa. He quids some. I do also believe he doesn't eat nearly as much grass as the other horses, even though he grazes ALL day. He drops some and it probably takes him twice as long to consume it. The grass is LOVELY LOVELY. Can't even describe it. So one would think he is better to be out 24/7 but I wonder if he is just burning too many calories?
He is wormed (always negative, but wormed twice a year with Equimax). Teeth were just done sedated by vet/dentist. All fine. He can be ulcer-prone but is on Smartgut and devours his food. No ulcer signs.
His diet is:
a.m. and p.m. - 4.5 lbs. combo of Triple Crown Senior and Genesis Organic (crimped oats based feed), 1 lb. Legends Omega Plus, large scoop beet pulp soaked (probably 1 to 1.5 lbs dry weight), 2 ozs Cocosoya Oil. I can't really increase the concentrates/grain but could increase the oil.
Mid-day third meal - I feed him 2 lbs. soaked alf. cubes and chopped alf. combo (weighed dry), 1-2 lbs. MORE of the Triple Crown Sr, and 2-3 ozs. more of the Cocosoya.
When he goes in 12/12 next week I think due to higher temps, I can leave additional cubes and beet pulp when I visit mid-day, for him to munch on all afternoon. He'll also get his flake or two of alfalfa/grass mix. (60% alfalfa)
I feel if I pump any more groceries into him he'll burst but my trainer is concerned that he isn't plumping up due to the grass. His health otherwise is great. His coat is shiny - best it has ever been (I think due to the cocosoya and Smartvite I started a few months ago - he looks amazing coat-wise)
Sorry for the book, but my question is, can change in turnout to 24/7 cause a horse to LOSE weight??
No, I think something else is going on with your guy.
Turnout 24/7 on good pasture *should* be putting the weight on. Either he's walking the fence, playing or fretting the weight off, or the real issue is his teeth or an underlying medical condition. You mentioned that he quids some hay; that's a big red flag. It is entirely possible that he does better with half day turnout because of the alfalfa mix hay he gets in his stall; it may be easier for him to get digestable nutrients out of that than the pasture.
In any case, it's past time to get his teeth looked at.
Thanks Maura - he did just have his teeth done, sedated by vet/dentist. Top in our area. There is never anything to file - his issue is that his back teeth are worn down to the gums. The vet checked his manure. Interestingly he is processing the hay and grass he eats very well. We just feel he consumes LESS because it takes him longer to chew. I would think grass is easier for him to consume more of, but maybe the nutritional value is not as good as the alfafa/orchard grass mixed hay he was getting. He is getting none of the hay now due to the 24/7 turnout. He has always quidded a few balls of hay a night....for years actually. His teeth were this way when I got him. He is not dropping grain.
The only change is the turnout. I just think the other horses may have him on the move too much. He isn't stressed - they just walk and roam the fields all day - BO lives on premises and watches them and she says they rotate all around - he also gallops and plays some too but he isn't a wild man per-se....he's probably the quietest, calmest horse you'll ever meet. He is 3rd on the totem pole out of 4. He used to always be last, LOL but he is the "grandaddy" and keeper of sorts for the little yearling gelding. He keeps him in check! He is also in much larger fields vs. old barn - several acres larger and still only 4 horses.
Comparison pics at this link.
You'll see end of March he was probably at his skinniest. The "muddy" pic was taking last week. I do think he looks much better than he did end of march but my trainer is still worried. BO thinks he looks great. You can slightly feel ribs but I can tell by my saddle girthing that he has dropped weight.
If his weight comes back up when they start to come up during the day in warm weather, then you'll have your answer. But that will bring up some other questions: will your current barn be willing to keep him up half days when the rest of the barn is out 24/7 with the good weather?
It sounds like you're doing all the right things managing his diet.
I had an older Appy pony with no molars, very similiar situation.
His diet was similiar to your guy's: Equine senior, alfalfa cubes and beet pulp, and wet to the consistency of gruel so he could practically drink it. He quided up grass as well. On of the problems with managing his weight is that it took him *forever* to finish a meal. Eventually I had to turn him out by himself; other horses would either chase him away from his food or he would lose interest in his food as the other horses went out. I personally dislike keeping the older guys up at all from an arthritis standpoint. Is it possible to turn him out with another senior citizen with similiar needs? Or a companion animal that won't bother him while he takes an hour to finish his food?
I'd love to see your photos of him.
I think Maura gave you great advice. I agree that it sound like you are doing it right with his diet.
My oldest stallion (he's 29) isn't on 24/7 turnout but is out all day & stalled at night. He has the opposite with his teeth, he was a cribber in his younger days and his incisors are little nubs. He loves his pasture time & though he enjoys the grass, with his wonky teeth he can't get full benefit from it. I think he too would drop weight if he was out 24/7. I have to wait for him to finish breakfast inside before I turn him out, once he is outside he has no interest in his grain at all.
I think if he does well with his hay, that would be where I would start upping him if possible. Good luck! Sometimes those oldies can be tough.
Thanks everyone. Photos are now in Post #3 in Shuttefly link.
The BO tried to keep him in during the day one day last week - plan was to leave him in at breakfast until noon when I arrive, giving him more time to eat another pan of forage or beet pulp. The day they tried he went crazy calling out to his fieldmates and he really stressed so they put him back out. All the horses anticipate turnout in the a.m. - for a while he wasn't finishing his breakfast even given an hour to eat - he eats kind of slow, so BO would leave his pan for me to give him mid-day. He would scarf it up mid-day in ADDITION to the lunch I gave him.
This winter he may need personal turnout, a.e. he and the little yearling gelding maybe could be turned out together in top field, and mare and other yearling in bottom field. There are two good sized pastures, and both will have water troughs. I should be able to leave him soaked feed/forage and his own hay stash - and he would have over the fence contact and visibility to the other 2. Luckily I am 5 minutes away and can easily go mid-day to put them back together or adjust food, etc.
The mare is herd leader and he is attached to her, but not horribly so. He rides out alone with me, trailers places alone and is great. He just doesn't want to be left in the barn alone while they are out, even though he has a dutch door that is open.
Actually, you may be right in your suspicion that the increased activity could be the reason.
Our previously thin OTTB and our Belgian fatty were on a small dry lot and/or stalled part time all winter...both maintained their weight well. Our OTTB is given probiotics and a weight supplement to maintain his ideal body weight....as TBs can be notoriously hard keepers.
When spring came we opened up the large pasture and they are allowed 4 hours grazing daily. BUT, instead of the grass fattening up the OTTB, his weight dropped slightly....the Belgian's weight however did NOT drop. So, after observing them out at pasture over a period of days, I noticed that the wide open fields were intoxicating to our OTTB, not for the grass, but for the running room....and boy, did he run. He would get running sprees all the time. The Belgian, however, rarely runs. she eats.... Our OTTB also doesnt stand still while eating, he'll eat, then walk, then grab a few more mouthfulls, then run for 5 minutes, then eat for a bit, then walk some more.
His weight only dropped slightly, but it wasn't what we expected. Of course, we didn't expect him to be so active when all that green grass is just begging to be eaten:-)
So yes, if your horse is trying to keep up with the others in regards to activity, the increased walking/running time...i.e. turnout time.....could indeed cause a slight weight drop.....as opposed to being stalled 12/12 or in a smaller dry lot as our horses were.
His weight isn't all that bad, but still, I understand your concern. His bottom line is a little tucked up, and he has a little hollow in front of his hip I'd prefer not to see.
Certainly doesn't look like a 20+ year old.
Your plan of turning him out with the yearling and allowing him more time to finish his food is a good one.
There is beet pulp in Senior's feeds already. I'd be concerned that his vitamin/mineral intake isn't way out of kilter as it is easily done with concentrates. Try feeding him over the largest area you can find so he can nibble his food, not devour it by the mouthful. (fast in, fast out) I made one from plywood that fit in the corner. The sides that ran along the walls (it's a triangle) were 30" and I forget how many feet wide across the front. I just used 1x4's for sides. I am able to scatter the pellets/cubes all over this. Because the horse would be eating more slowly, he will also be digesting his food better.
I'm sorry to say that turning your horse out 24/7 can make him lose weight. Adding an additional 12 hours of turn out time is significant. Remember horses are meant to be constantly grazing, his metabolism will have to adjust to being out 24/7. That means that he is out moving around more. Horses do not graze in one spot. They are always moving, it helps with digestion. I have seen many over weight horses go from partial turn out to 24/7 turn out and lose weight. I have also seen horses who are on partial turn out need muzzles when they go out, where as the horses that are out (in bigger fields) do not need muzzles at all. (keep in mind that I'm referring to 4-5 horses on 10 to 14 acre fields. I will not put more than 5 horses on any of my fields. There is more then enough grass for the horses all of the horses.
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