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OTTB 08-17-2011 12:32 AM

I want to ween an underweight horse off of his special diet
I'm buying a horse on Saturday that was taken from someone not feeding him enough. He's gained about 100 lbs in the last month and a half, and needs to gain another 200 or so. His back (spine) still lacks muscle, but he's filling out everywhere else nicely.

I realize I need to tell you guys what he's currently eating, but I need to call the barn manager where he is and actually write it down instead of trying to remember. Basically it's a high fat sweet feed with oats and alfalfa pellets mixed in, but I can't remember the brands or the type of oats.

I want to ween him onto strategy healthy edge with high quality hay twice a day. I've been told by the woman who does horse rescue for the local shelter that she uses this feed, wet down into a mash, adds corn oil, and it works just as well as the high fat diets. If he was severely underweight I'd keep him on his special diet, since it seems to be working great for him, but she, and three other people, have agreed that he can gain the 200 lbs easily with good nutrition and light exercise to help build muscle.

I will be posting the feed info tomorrow when I can call, but so far what are your opinions on my plan? How would I ween him off of his current diet? I know how you do it with dogs, but my dogs have stomachs of iron and I have never transitioned food on them so this is all new to me.

mbender 08-17-2011 07:05 AM

Really all you need to do is feed what he's getting now and get the Strategy and add that to his feed. Everyday, adding less of what he was eating and adding more strategy. Does this make sense?
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OTTB 08-17-2011 09:22 AM

Yes, that makes sense, but what kind of ratio are we talking about? I know with dogs it should take about 7-10 days to do a transition, so if a dog is eating two cups a day that's under 1/4 a cup change daily.

iridehorses 08-17-2011 09:33 AM

I normally take a week to switch over feed. I don't use a set formula but since I weigh my feed rather then go my volume, I just subtract from the old and substitute with the new a little more each day until the change is complete.

Unless there is a very drastic and immediate change you should have no problem.

mls 08-17-2011 09:38 AM

You don't NEED any of the current feed. 99% of the new horses that come to our barn or are hospitalized at the clinic do not have their current feed with them. Start with small portions of the new feed and work up to the amount the horse should be fed.

Left Hand Percherons 08-17-2011 10:35 AM

Do not feed oils to an underweight, underdeveloped foal. His diet need to be nutritious full to things that will make him grow. Protein, Vitamins, Minerals, carbohydrates not empty calorie fats. You don't feed Micky D french fries everyday to a toddler.

A nice grass hay supplemented with a little alfalfa for extra protein and Ca is all he needs with the HE.

OTTB 08-17-2011 04:11 PM

This horse is not a foal. He is 4 years old. Does your advice still stand, and if so, why?

loosie 08-18-2011 12:40 AM

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Yes, I'd get him off the sweet feed & oats too, ASAP. While 'junk food' such as that is high in energy, it is quite bad for them, as is living on junk food ourselves... although a well conditioned, hard working athlete can/should consume more calories. I would 'wean' him onto the new diet over 7 days or so. I wouldn't bother adding more vegetable oil to the Strategy, as it's already got oil in it. I would consider adding some flax seed though, as what's already added will be no good, as it loses it's nutritional value if not fresh & oil not kept cool & out of light. I would add more hay, part being lucerne/alfalfa if he's not gaining much on what you suggest. I would definitely add chaff/beet pulp to the pellets to provide enough roughage with it. Slow, steady weigh gain is best rather than rapid. He may also have ulcers due to the sweet feed & previous underfeeding. It's also important that whatever you feed is fed in small, frequent feeds, rather than just 2-3 feeds daily.

Left Hand Percherons 08-18-2011 10:18 AM

When I see wean, I jump to foals...

If he just needs to add some weight than by all means adding fat to the diet is the cheapest and often fastest way to go. If he needs to keep growing, build muscle and topline, he needs more than empty extra calories. He can't build muscle without adequate protein. He needs balanced Ca and P to lay down bone. If he's been deprived of feed for a while, he's going to shoot up once he's on a good feeding plan. Before adding extra calories with fat, make sure his needs are being met with the hay and HE. Put him to work too.

~*~anebel~*~ 08-18-2011 10:42 AM

LHP, and OP: the equine digestive system is quite different from the human one and upon reading most recent literature on weight gain, maintenance and performance the number one thing recommended is fat. Oats, sweet feed and corn are all high in starch (a complex sugar) and sugar. Not fat.

I would get the horse and as mls has said, just gradually introduce the new feed instead of continuing to pump candy down his throat. Overfeeding oats and sweet feed can actually cause severe colic problems should the stomach be overfilled and spill into the hindgut as starches disrupt the fermentation process back there.

I like most of the other rescue's feeding program far better. I may however be inclined to find a vit/min supplement balanced for you area and mix it with either stabilized rice bran or extruded soy bean hulls and top the whole thing off with beet pulp and oil. This way you are ensuring the horse is getting the proper minerals regardless of the amount of feed you are giving him. In the beginning he may be under supplemented and when you are feeding as much as you need so he is gaining weight he may be over supplemented, neither of which is good.

Good luck!

Eta, for the average horse a good quality hay with some alfalfa provides enough protein, extruded soy bean hulls also have a moderate amount of protein. Protein is not usually a concern when feeding horses a supplement or feed other than hay.
My horse is fed a high fat extruded soy bean hull ration balancer and good quality hay. He has no issues gaining muscle and I have never supplemented protein for him.
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