Hay/feed - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-25-2019, 11:32 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2019
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Hi all! So I’m not “new to horses” as I’ve owned for awhile but I’ve always boarded my horse at a full care facility. I finally have my horses at home and it’s amazing! Anyway, I’m tried to figure out feed/hay. My horse was on 5lb orchard and 5lb alfalfa 2x a day at my boarding facility. He now has plenty of pasture for grazing and his hay needs are currently minimal but I would really like him to have free choice/access to hay or pasture 24/7 - thoughts on this? I have a slow feeder system I would like to utilize for doing so. Also, he’s never been a big fan or orchard grass and won’t even touch it here between pasture and alfalfa. Can I just feed stringy alfalfa? I put him up all night in a paddock which is why he’s currently getting some hay. Any thoughts, suggestions, advice? Thank you.
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-25-2019, 11:55 PM
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Does the paddock have grazing in it? If so, I wouldn't worry about giving hay all night since he will have access to roughage he can pick at. In that case, I'd only give enough hay to keep him at a good weight.

If the paddock is bare, it gets trickier. If the pasture is lush and he is already meeting most of his calorie needs during the day, you may not be able to give him hay 24/7 without him getting overweight, even with a slow feeder. Especially if all you are feeding is alfalfa, which has a few more calories per pound than grass hay.

Horses ideally have forage going through their system 24/7. However, this only works for many horses without overfeeding them if they are on a scrubby, sparse pasture rather than lush green pasture, and/or if their hay is also a mix of unimproved native grasses they have to pick through. Instead, we feed hay that is from improved land and seed, and usually only one or two types of grass or legume that horses find very palatable. This means they will eat all of it without picking through, and easily over eat in a 24 hr period.

In my opinion if you have to choose between a horse having a period without food or a horse overweight, it is safer to have a horse go without food. There is a risk of gas colic or ulcers if a horse does not have feed all the time. In my opinion that is less risky than what an overweight horse may face if he ends up with insulin resistance and laminitis or founder.

If the horse has no weight issues, I'd prefer to feed a mix of orchard grass and alfalfa, personally, and if that makes the horse pick through for what he likes, it will also slow down his feeding. If instead of having the horse in a paddock at night, you were able to keep him out on the pasture, and feed less or no hay, that would be even more ideal unless he already has metabolic issues and needs less grass.

If you're not familiar with the horse body condition score chart, here's a link. A score of 4 or 5 is ideal.
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-26-2019, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Feb 2019
Location: Alabama
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We have our four on pasture grass during the summer and only feed hay (Coastal Bermuda) during the winter when there's no pasture. It's all free choice.
As far as feeding, we feed only once a day, always have. Both of our TWH are easy keepers and have had no issues except with the mare in that she is a super easy keeper so our vet told us to cut back her feed and to also use a low fat feed, which we do. The gelding and the mini mare get their normal amount of feed. The donkey gets minimal feed due to their foraging nature.
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-26-2019, 11:07 AM
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Some of my horses are on pasture exclusively at this time of the year.
Other of my horses need more calories than my pasture provides so they come home and are fed feed daily as needed.
A vitamin/mineral fed to those who maintain a good weight on just pasture.

If unlimited pasture is available...the horse{s} may not need more, or they might.
Hay available is fine if it can be kept out of sunlight, off the ground, dust-free and they'll eat it.
My horses absolutely prefer the pasture to hay...they just do.
If I bring my horses in for any length of time then I do supply hay in several piles for them to eat...
Being honest, I get dirty looks and the hay is more messed with than eaten when they come in with full tummies from grass though...
If the horses are kept in for days then they do eat and eat all offered hay...but they do "voice" their preference in body language standing at the pasture gate.
They do willingly come stand at the feed-room door though looking for feed specifically if I'm in that location...

Watch your horses appearance carefully.
Take pictures, do tape measurements so you can record weight loss or gain. Keep a written record as you learn what each horse needs to thrive.
When we "see" our horses daily it can happen that changes take place and they not be seen till a real marked difference is in front of us...obese or underweight...neither is good for the horse.
Maintaining optimum weight is a art and science for many of us...learned over time to get it "just-right".
Enjoy the new journey in front of you of horses home and all under your care...
I happen to love it and hope to never go back to boarding care...

WELCOME to the Forum!!

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post #5 of 7 Old 05-26-2019, 11:52 AM
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Location: Southern Indiana
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Mine are on pasture full time, hay in the winter only and get a daily snack (a handful of oats) so that I can check them over and make sure everything is ok with them. Of course water, mineral blocks and salt blocks are also available. They self regulate their grass intake by spending most of the day in the barn only going out for short intervals to munch on grass before being driven back in by the sun and/or flies.

The two minis are on a dry lot full time so of course they get hay 2X per day and their little bite of oats once a day.

R.I.P. JC 5/19/85 - 12/9/14. You made my life better.
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-26-2019, 12:27 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: May 2019
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Thank so much guys! This has been helpful! So my gelding is an OTTB and 20 so I am not concerned about him gaining weight but I will tape to make sure we are doing well! (Good idea - thanks!). I bring him into a paddock at night without grass because I feel more comfortable with him in at night right now until he adjusts well to being in this new environment. Since the paddock has no grass - I like to throw at least a flake of hay overnight so he has something to munch. I don’t like leaving him 100% without anything, that makes me nervous. He is absolutely not an over eater and every morning I have gone out to hay left over - which is wasteful right now but until I get into the groove of what works for him, I would rather waste then have him go without and risk colic (I hve a anxiety/fear of colic!) I appreciate all your advice! I’m so excited to start this new adventure with him at home! Once we get in the groove, we will bring home a second! Woo! Happy Trails!
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-26-2019, 03:49 PM
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SSC ,only thing I'll add is hay given in paddock should be lasting all night. Should have some left in morning. I say this because I have an ulcer prone horse. Hay is much cheaper then treating ulcers.

Sounds like you got it pretty much figured out...got good advice already. Welcome to the forums!
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