I appreciate all the answers!
I'll try to respond to you all - Evilamc
, I KNOW! He is the biggest
baby, and so overly dramatic about everything. It's hysterical [mostly because he's usually sensible when it comes to important things...except hay, obviously. haha]. :)
The local hay is, smell-wise, the sweetest hay I feed. He's such a weirdo. haha Chevaux
, slightly changing the size of the holes is a good suggestion. Part of the problem is that no matter the size of the hole, if he decides he wants to eat it, he'll eat it WAY too fast.
The only thing I've found that barely slows him down when he's in "oh my gosh, I am SO HUNGRY and look! You gave me some orchard grass!"-mode is double-bagging his hay in two nets with 2" holes. But, if he's not feeling it, he acts like one 2"-holed net is simply impossible to use... Loosie
, good idea about surrounding the orchard grass with "less desirable" hay. I tried a variation on that tonight - I divided his serving of orchard grass [he gets about 3lbs/day to maintain his weight] into small handfuls and carefully hid those handfuls throughout the 15lb net of local grass. He was pretty into it when I left, it remains to be seen if it kept his interest...
On the topic of "starving him out" I tried once this year and once last year. Last year [early springtime so hay wasn't as needed, it was just mostly a nicety], he fussed about hay for two full weeks [weeks that included numerous break-ins to the goat pen to eat their dirty hay/bedding, and being generally miserable/fussy/mouthy] before I took the hay net down and dumped out the hay. He immediately ate the hay and perked right up.
This year I tried something "similar" in late October - I hung a hay net up, filled with fresh local hay, and he nibbled a little initially but poo-pooed it almost immediately.
Cue the break-ins to the goat pen to eat dirty hay, fussy/angry behavior! He started getting charge-y with me at meal times [I feed a ration balancer as well as hay] which he KNOWS is not ok - this is a deeply ingrained habit from before me. He's always been very prone to aggression over food and he KNOWS I will come after him if he thinks about being aggressive with me, so [now] he's quite respectful at mealtime, but it always comes back when he perceives a "lack of food."
Despite being run off with a lunge whip [and occasionally getting smacked in the butt with said whip because he didn't move fast enough] every time he crossed the line [I literally have a line that he is not allowed to cross at meal time..haha], he started getting more and more anxious-aggressive with me over food. Not necessarily intentionally dangerous, but wild-eyed and "crazy" about it - like an addict who needs a fix...
After a week-ish of escalating negative "stuff," I started noticing that his [formerly well padded with fat from the summer = nearly invisible] topline was protruding. He never got ribby-thin, but I'm pretty unwilling to let it get that far while we're heading into winter. He isn't one of those horses that, conformationaly, the ribs pop out on quickly so he'd have to be REALLY skinny before ribs started showing. He reminds me of a TWH, how some of those lines have those funny hips that make them appear perpetually skinny - he has those hips.
Anyway, his topline shot way up kind of suddenly and I was like "whoa, whoa, whoa, too far" and dumped that hay net hay out.
One of my main concerns about just making him tough it out, besides the behavioral stuff and the potential ulcer exacerbation, is that [at least last year, my first winter with him] he seems to verge on being a hard keeper during the winter [which are relatively mild here]. He is an outrageously easy keeper in the summer, but last winter was a trial just to keep weight on.
My hoof trimmer actually mentioned his weight loss and asked about his diet because she was surprised at how skinny he had gotten.
That was on 20lbs of local hay, 5lbs of alfalfa, 1lb of ration balancer, AND 1lb of alfalfa pellets per day. He wasn't like "rescue-case"-skinny, but my trimmer rarely comments on weight...unless she's telling me my horses are too fat!! haha
I had his teeth done soon after my trimmer's comment because I was concerned that they might be an issue...and the vet barely had anything to do. He does have one very misaligned molar [it's placed more centrally, under the right side of his tongue, vs next to his tongue like his other teeth], but it wasn't causing any issues.
He does get 2tbsp of slippery elm bark everyday in his ration balancer [wetness level: soupy. He doesn't care if it's 50% water, 50% food, it just better not be dry or just
damp!! haha] as a natural ulcer preventative. I would like to, at some point, get him on something like UGuard as well, just to be safe. But, for now, it's just slippery elm.
, see the response I wrote to loosie^ :) I agree with you on one level for sure!
From his reaction to "starving him out", sweet-gentle-goofy-horse to whirling-dervish-crazy-agressive-horse, my gut says that there is something wrong
with doing that to him. Horses don't have that kind of delayed strong reaction, in my experience, unless something very painful or scary is being triggered. I really don't know if it's a mental or physical thing for him, but, either way, "starving him out" does not seem to foster anything positive in this horse.
I appreciate your thoughts though! I do tend to be a little soft on my boys, so it's good for me to consider if I'm being too soft with Fabs here! whisperbaby22
, good idea! I have a net made of thick plastic-y rope and that's his least favorite one. I have another one made out of plastic-y "thread" and he likes that one a lot better. I wonder how he would react to rope! Maybe it's a matter of finding the netting material he prefers....
This could actually be a very valid issue - the hays he prefers from the net are soft, the net he prefers is the softest available to him. Maybe the combo of the not-soft local hay and *any* plastic-net roughness is just too much... Saddlebag
, I'll check him for mouth sores. I had not thought about that. That would be a good thing to check for sure! Beau159
, check the reply I wrote Loosie for the details on my "starving him out" attempts.. :) The weight he lost was definitely topline/hip weight [and all his summer fat pads...but no one is mourning those fat pads! haha].
I'll give a slower transition a try. I do tend to jump ahead! Talking, listening, teaching, working, anything with levels, I try to jump ahead and everybody gets confused. Maybe I did something like that here without thinking about it!