Rethinking my approach to hay - The Horse Forum
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 06:16 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Vermont
Posts: 6,440
• Horses: 3
Rethinking my approach to hay

All the hay threads the past few days have been really informative and got me thinking about my own approach. I *thought* I had a routine that was working well but am rethinking it a bit.

Current set-up:
3 Morgan mares out 24/7 on ~6 acres of "ok" pasture with shelters. Since we're in southern VT, we now have snow on the ground that will be here until about April-ish. Right now, it's still a thin enough layer they can paw and nibble down to the dead grass for boredom busting, but it's not any nutrition. We generally get 2-3feet of snow here for the winter. So in the winter, all forage is coming from me.

The horses:
-2 mares in their mid 20s, retired. One is good weight but shouldn't lose any, one is too heavy and borderline obese. Neither "officially" have Cushings but I try to feed them on a Cushings-friendly, low NSC diet since they're both "borderline" Cushings and IR. The mare prone to getting skinny is blanketed consistently in winter but fatty is naked.
-1 mare is 12, in moderate work all summer/fall but will basically be on vacation until April due to weather. Good weight. Lowest on the totem pole and when stressed will chew wood on the shelter (when boarded for a year, she hated being pastured alone at night and basically ate the shed she lived in- since I moved her home in summer 2017 I hadn't seen her chewing wood, except she started doing it again about 2 weeks ago-which made me wonder if she was stressed about being hungry as the weather got colder and more difficult).

They all get a vet-approved local ration balancer weighed out to meet individual needs. That's fed 2x daily, with a few addins (salt, probiotics, flax for the two at good weight, remission for the one at the unhealthy weight). I don't think I need to change anything related to hard feed.

This time of year, I find myself going through nearly 2.5 bales of 45ish lb bales daily- that's broken up into three feedings. They clean up every blade and act like they are starving the next feeding. They are fed together, so fatty is definitely eating fastest of the three. I put 3 loose flakes on the ground at each feeding so they can "graze" on that, and then the rest of the hay is hung in 1" hole haynets hung in 6 different locations around the pasture, so they have to move around for it and everyone gets a chance to have some unharrassed. I don't know exactly how much any individual is eating because they are all in the same area. When I had fatty in a grazing muzzle due to a fall laminitis scare, each feeding lasted much longer, which of course isn't surprising.

When I tell people how much hay I'm already feeding, they look at me like I'm crazy going through that much for just 3 small, unworked horses. My hay supplier looked at me like I had three heads when I ordered our delivery for the season and told me she couldn't believe I would need that much. At first I was a bit miffed at her criticism (especially as I was writing her a check!) but maybe she was right?

Because they always seem so hungry and plow through what I put out for them each feeding so quickly, I've been wondering what I should do differently- if anything? Some thoughts:
1. Just feed more so they have hay in front of them longer (all the time?). I have no idea how much that means I'd feed a day- 3 bales (that would be more than 125lbs/day for three horses )? 4? Who knows?
2. Change the timing of my feedings. Right now I (generally) feed between 6:30-7am, 3:30-4pm, and 8:30-9pm. I definitely can't add another later feeding as I struggle to stay away that late as it is But I could probably do a lunchtime feeding too (I work from home, except when I'm traveling for work and then they wouldn't get that)
3. Add more hay cubes. My "shouldn't loose any weight" mare gets ~1lb soaked cubes twice a day in the winter. I could add that for all 3 of them. I could do a third feeding of just soaked cubes in the middle of the day, or do it at night check. Not sure if that would make any difference.
4. Probably an obvious thing would be to separate them for feeding hay so fatty doesn't get more than she should. I do have my fencing set up so that could happen, though I hate the thought of her having to be locked off alone for long periods of time, just visiting across the fence. Also, in the winter I only have heated water in one section of the field so not sure how that would work.

Round bales aren't really a "thing" here nor do I have the infrastructure to manage that, so I'd say that's off the table. But other than that, I could do pretty much anything to add more forage. Or I could do nothing and just not succumb to their pitiful looks and cleaned out haynets and just be assured that they are getting the right amount of hay for their target weights and just call it good.

What would you do if you were me? Change things up or no?
egrogan is online now  
post #2 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 06:23 PM
Green Broke
Join Date: Jun 2017
Location: middle of nowhere
Posts: 3,868
• Horses: 3
Has your hay been tested so you know how much nutrition is in it? If' it's lacking nutritionally, they're going to mow through a ton of it trying to get what they need.

If your overweight horse is getting too much, can you move her for even half the day? Even one feeding where she gets less will help save hay, and may help her weight and health. Being across the fence for a few hours won't hurt her. Put her ration in a slow-feed net so she has to work for it, and see how she does.
SilverMaple is offline  
post #3 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 06:28 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Vermont
Posts: 6,440
• Horses: 3
@SilverMaple , the hay was tested about a month ago- I focused in on the 10% NSC rate, which I was most interested in at the time, and glossed over the rest. I will have to find the PDF of the report to re-read and will post it if I can find it. Having "easy keeper" Morgans, I've always been told that "ok" hay is the goal for them since they don't need anything high octane, and the ration balancer should fill in the gaps. I know there's no perfect formula though.

I like your idea about putting Maggie on her own for part of the day. That's a good compromise.
AnitaAnne and Captain Evil like this.
egrogan is online now  
post #4 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 06:43 PM
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: Canada
Posts: 7,137
• Horses: 2
That does seem like a lot of hay. My three go through about 1,5 bales a day, maybe a little more. Similar setup with hay cubes and beet pulp fed twice a day with supps. But I agree that the nutritional value of your hay will make a big difference. I got some not-so-good hay that had a lot of weeds and twigs, and I get a lot more waste with that hay -- which I encourage, actually, because there's stuff in there I'd rather not have them eat. (I'll never buy hay from that guy again, but luckily, I don't have a lot from him). What I'm getting at is that there may be a lot more waste if the hay is of poor quality. Did you weigh your bales? Are you sure they're 45 lbs? I bought second cut hay one year, and they were light as a feather. Maybe 25 lbs each. The horses just plowed through it too, so I had to feed more.

I've also noticed that sometimes Harley looks thin, and he is definitely eating slower even though his teeth are done every year and the vets always say they look great (but they file down a couple of points for maintenance). So I separate him a few hours a day, say between two feedings, and give him extra in a stall. You could do the same with Maggie. Give her a little hay in a haynet and let the others have some loose hay. You could also add a bit of beet pulp to the hay cubes you're feeding to the other two.

It is a balancing act, especially when horses live as a herd. I don't think it's a good idea to keep them separate for long periods of time, but I actually think Harley likes his alone time now.
egrogan, Captain Evil and rambo99 like this.
Acadianartist is online now  
post #5 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 07:07 PM
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 1,931
• Horses: 0
@egrogan . Sounds like you're feeding schedule is fine. Also sounds like plenty of hay at 2.5 bales 45ish pounds. Maybe double net ??the hay in hay nets.

Then they have to work a bit harder to eat hay,so takes longer to finish.

Really what horse doesn't think there starving. Two hours with no hay here,and mine are thinking they're gonna die.

Out riding my horse.
rambo99 is offline  
post #6 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 07:40 PM
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Coastal Maine
Posts: 1,596
• Horses: 4
Originally Posted by egrogan View Post
The mare prone to getting skinny is blanketed consistently in winter but fatty is naked.
Fatty? You called her fatty? Poor little thing, she's probably just big boned.

My 15 hand, 900 pound Arab ate a bale a day without blinking, but it was not great hay by any means. He had Cushings, but was not overweight.

My 1600-1800 pound (depending on who you asked) Percheron ate a bale a day of the not-so-great hay, but cut himself down to seventeen pounds a day when I got better hay, even though hay was always available to him in a slow feed net..

My 1100 pound should be 1000 pound Haflinger has been limited by the vet to 10-12 pounds of hay a day. He will, if given the chance, eat 30+ pounds a day through a smaller hole hay net, even when doubled up: one 1" hole net with a second 1-1/2" net inside.

(He now eats from a Port-A-Grazer due to the violence with which he addresses the hay net. He is not sound and I worry that the head snaking, neck-jerking he does with the net is an exacerbating factor.)

The Haflinger should probably be on crappier hay so he can eat more volume with fewer problems, but I can't bring myself to buy baddish hay now that I finally have a good supplier. I use a ration balancer and supplements also.

I will be interested to see what you come up with.
Captain Evil is online now  
post #7 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 07:49 PM
Super Moderator
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 10,716
• Horses: 0
So no one is getting any hard feed for extra calories?
Vitamin mineral supplement and any incidentals are fed in ration balancer ration...
One horse is fed soaked cubes. Alfalfa or something different?
I happen to feed alfalfa cubes soaked, 3 pounds a day in a noon time feeding to my older horse {OTTB} who just will not hold weight unless he gets piglet QH gets about 2 fistfuls and then glares at the other one who eats his in his stall unpestered.
So, ...
If your bales of hay weigh 45 pounds and you are feeding 2.5 bales...daily! Yikes.
3 horses of Morgan decent makes me think 15 hands and stocky, easy keepers...
{I had a Morgan as a kid and remember him being so easy to keep fat and cheap to feed.}

I get cold temperatures and get the horses want to stuff their faces but being kind can also be unhealthy for the horses too.
What is your hay? T&A or something different?
For me, if the winter temperatures are so cold and unfriendly the horses need the heat from digesting food for warmth...blanket them, seriously.
Take some of the stress off their body and blanket them, offer them shelter at night from the biting cold and winds that strip a horse of their warmth.
Haynet all their hay rations and muzzle your fatty as you are not doing them any good letting them consume and be obese...truly.
Make sure though you not take away so much nutrition the horse is not thriving...
There is a fine balance to feeding to lose weight and starving a horse and then the body shuts down the ability to burn calories and hoards every morsel it can eat in bad ways...this works for humans too.
You need to eat properly to lose must.

If your horses can shame you into feeding them more acting starving, they will.
Do they need it or just want to eat because they are conditioned to non-stop gorging?
If your horse{s} is surviving on doing actual pasture only in growing seasons that is one thing that they "need", they must eat more than when we provide cut and baled hay they have to do nothing but gorge their faces on...most of the time not moving from a haypile or net offered.
In reality, when grazing they probably consume less quantity of grass than what you feed to them in hay.
Feeding hay, providing forage the animal not have to wander over acres of ground and use effort to tear off blades of grass but just chow down and consume...yes there is a difference.
If you want your horses to eat more, consume larger quantities of forage but not be obese then you must reduce the nutritional content so it is more filler not proteins and calories ingested... = cheaper quality hay.
If you don't want to feed them as much or more often then feed a better quality of hay.
The decision of how much to feed, how often is all yours to make...

Now people may flay me but...
I worked in show barns on Long Island where horses did not have pastures of endless acreage of grass to be out on...
The horses were t/o on dry lot paddocks for a few hours a day...
What did happen where I worked/managed is we fed hay and feed as our horses needed to be fed that which the ground could not support...
We fed baled hay morning, afternoon, dinner and night-check in amounts each animal required to thrive, look great and be healthy.

It was not endless hay by any means.
2 flakes per feeding, a few received more, some less.

Feed was also animal dependent on need of the animal and some got a pittance so they had something when everyone else, about 1/2 - 3/4 a bale a day to horses who rode daily in exercise and lessons, showed on w/e.
We fed T&A 50 pound bales...the horses I had in my care were often 15.2 - 16.3 Thoroughbred or Quarter horses. All horses wore blankets and had individual stalls opening onto a center aisle barn.
So, use that story as a idea of what it could be...
And, none of our horses had ulcers, behavioral problems or health issues either on the routine they were accustomed to for eating, riding, t/o...they were well-adjusted, nice animals to be around.
So, there is more ways to feed successfully, keep animals well adjusted, thriving and healthy mounts and riding partners than endless food eaten or out to wander acres of ground a day.
Horses are adaptable creatures to their living conditions and what/how they eat and are fed...truth.

Otherwise, your older gal may just need more calories now she is older and by design she not utilize her food as well as the younger horses.
She may need to be fed a senior feed for calories and things made to be digested and absorbed easier for those with a digestive system not working at premium levels anymore.
Try beet pulp by all means, but my horses won't touch the stuff so be prepared for a no-go attitude with that one too.
Older horses when combined with younger are more a challenge...separating so they can eat in peace and eat all their daily need is also very important...
Your older horse needs protection from those who will push her away and threaten her...not good.
Feed her separate and try adding in her feedings 1 pound of senior feed each feeding to start and see if she not do she will!!

Do let us know how it goes...

egrogan and Captain Evil like this.

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
horselovinguy is offline  
post #8 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 08:12 PM
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Coastal Maine
Posts: 1,596
• Horses: 4
Originally Posted by horselovinguy View Post piglet QH gets about 2 fistfuls.....
Oh, so now we have a "Fatty" and a "Piglet"? What's next, a "Blimp-O" or a "Tub-O-Lard"?

@SilverMaple How does one interpret the hay test results? I have tested my hay for four years, but then just slide the results into feedxl because I am not sure how to interpret the results. I call it "good" hay, because it is relatively green, has leaves and timothy heads, and I have not seen or smelled anything stale or moldy, although I did run into a fawn pelt once...

@horselovinguy Interesting what you say about the show barn. Makes me feel a little less worried about my dudes restricted hay. He is not lacking in the padding department... He'd be the perfect weight if he were 16 hands instead of 14.3.
egrogan and JoBlueQuarter like this.
Captain Evil is online now  
post #9 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 08:20 PM
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 1,931
• Horses: 0
[QUOTE=Captain Evil;1970794365]Oh, so now we have a "Fatty" and a "Piglet"? What's next, a "Blimp-O" or a "Tub-O-Lard"?

Out riding my horse.
rambo99 is offline  
post #10 of 51 Old 11-21-2019, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Sep 2019
Location: Arizona
Posts: 300
• Horses: 0
My mare acts like she is starving always. She is a great weight. The preggo tub-o-lard also acts hungry all of the time. She is actually too fat but with her being preggo we obviously cannot cut feed too much. My point in this is if I fed those two horses hay at the rate they want it then who knows how many bales they'd eat in a day! Don't worry too much if they act starving if they look good.

to ride on a horse, is to fly without wings
therhondamarie is offline  

Quick Reply

Register Now

In order to be able to post messages on the The Horse Forum forums, you must first register.

Already have a Horse Forum account?
Members are allowed only one account per person at the Horse Forum, so if you've made an account here in the past you'll need to continue using that account. Please do not create a new account or you may lose access to the Horse Forum. If you need help recovering your existing account, please Contact Us. We'll be glad to help!

New to the Horse Forum?
Please choose a username you will be satisfied with using for the duration of your membership at the Horse Forum. We do not change members' usernames upon request because that would make it difficult for everyone to keep track of who is who on the forum. For that reason, please do not incorporate your horse's name into your username so that you are not stuck with a username related to a horse you may no longer have some day, or use any other username you may no longer identify with or care for in the future.

User Name:
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:


Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page

Posting Rules  
You may post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome