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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Just got a new 8 yo Arabian mare named Ellie, she's incredibly sweet and pretty intelligent too! I don't intend to do anything other than flatwork and trails on her, maybe some small jumps here and there. She doesn't arrive until Saturday so me and the barn owner are prepping for when she gets here. She's green and hasn't been ridden for years so she's lacking in the muscle category. She's currently on tymothy hay&grass but no grain. I plan on switching her to alfalfa hay and purina ultium performance feed. Do you think with some groceries and a good conditioning plan I could get her a little more filled, or is she just a delicately built Arabian? I know she's not going to look like a buffed up QH but maybe some more muscle? Can't wait to clean her and whiten up that mane and tail.
 

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She'll fill out. I would recommend introducing her to work lightly. Focus on extending the trot, and backing at first to gain strength, and then work on collecting by doing balanced circles and squares. With that being said, I have used ultium, but it is really not what I would use on its own. Since you are using alfalfa, I would either recommend Triple Crown's 30% ration balancer (I think that's what it is called) or the Triple Crown Senior, which I really like for building up muscle and maintaining weight.
 

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Congrats :) She looks lovely. She will muscle up over the top with some work but you wouldnt want her to be too much heavier. Good luck :)
 

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She looks fine to me. She looks like an Arabian at a good weight. You are not going to add visible muscle to an Arabian. Check out some endurance Arabians, they are as fit as horses can be, and you'll see what I mean.

I wouldn't change her feed at all, unless she started dropping weight. Particularly I would not switch to alfalfa, which I regard as a supplement to add calories if a horse is too thin, not a mainstay food. Almost all horses do best on grass and grass hay as their basic food. They are designed to thrive on poor quality forage consumed more or less constantly, and the closer you can adhere to how horses naturally live, the fewer avoidable health problems you will have. I might add a vitamin/mineral supplement but nothing more unless you plan to start working her really hard.
 

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If you're in an area where blister beetles aren't an issue, and you can get good quality alfalfa, I wouldn't worry about feeding her some. Timothy or Bermuda or Prairie grass hays as her 24/7 munch is great and with a flake or 2 of alfalfa at mealtimes, you would probably do pretty well. The higher protein in the alfalfa would do well to fill out her topline and to give her the energy needed to go back in work. Enrich Plus, Purina's ration balancer would be good to make sure she's getting the nutrition she needs. I'd save the Ultium to put bloom on her coat and to fill in if you find that with work she drops weight. Arabians are never going to buff out like a QH but they can become pretty firm and defined. Lots of flat walking and backing up hills, along with up and down transitions, will get her fit fast. And she'll get fit quick, it's never taken me long to bring an Arab back into condition and easy to keep them there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
My barn owner only feeds free choice alfalfa, I personally do not think it's a good idea for her to be on that but give your opinions. If I want her on a different hay I have to purchase it myself, but that's not a problem. I could keep her on the T&A and give her some alfalfa when she comes in for the morning.
 

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Her weight looks great. She'll probably get more muscle tone once she gets working again, but she'll never be bulky, which is totally fine. Fit Arabians are some of the most athletic horses in the world, and they don't need to look swole to do it. ;)
 

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Check out @phantomhorse13 's Journal in the Member Journal sections. She has and rides the most fit Arabians I know!

This is my 50 mile horse (ignore the bandage in the one photo, he got a stick in his leg during a ride this weekend) and he's the fittest he's ever been. He's 18 too so he doesn't get in shape as easily as my younger Arab.

I also ride an APHA mare in distance riding (she does 25-30 mile rides for now) and my husband rides a Rocky Mt Horse and they look VERY different when they're both fit so don't compare your Arab to any ideas you may have of a fit horse of a different breed.

Mine are on pasture now but they'll switch to round bales with 50/50 Alfalfa grass in the next month or so for winter. I feed 4 lbs Purina Ultium Competition with a lb of Outlast mixed in split into two meals with a pan of alfalfa pellets and soaked beet pulp. My 9 year old Arab is a hard keeper and needs this just to maintain his weight, my 18 year old guy only needs that much during ride season.
 

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I wouldn't feed just straight alfalfa hay. Too much can cause nutritional imbalances. Alfalfa + other hay, or as an addition to great pasture, yes.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I wouldn't feed just straight alfalfa hay. Too much can cause nutritional imbalances. Alfalfa + other hay, or as an addition to great pasture, yes.
We have an alfalfa bale in one pasture and a Timothy bale in the other. we alternate days so that one day they're in the pasture with the alfalfa and the next day with the Timothy. But there's tons of grass in both pastures, so they take breaks off the hay to graze. Where she's at now there's not grass so maybe that'll make a difference?
 

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@Eryn Jones I would worry too she might get a little hot on just alfalfa. I don't worry about mine eating it during the winter because I'm rarely riding and they need all the help they can get but if you plan on riding 5-6 days you might want to see how that effects her. Obviously some horses are more sensitive than others. Especially combining it with Ultium performance. Several friends have had to take their endurance horses off of it because they get a little too much energy on it. My horse is 18 and he's pretty high strung right now, a combination of being super fit and likely his feeding as well but he's pretty safe so I don't worry about it as much with him (although my shoulders screaming from holding him back beg me to reconsider). Just something to think about if she's already green and young.
 

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I just wanted to say that that gray mare is really nicely conformed. She has the look of the type of horse that can stay sound and active for a LONG time.



Don't let her get fat, please. IT's so hard to take weight off, once it's on. ( same goes for me!)


I agree with others that you may find straight alfalfa makes her hot headed. It may also cause diarhea. It's kind of hard to say how a horse will react to it.
Our place feeds straight alfalfa, to pastured horses, and the easy keepers do just fine on that. most receive no additional supplements.



But, the hard keepers get really fat on free choice alfalfa, (such as my lease horse, X) so now X is kept on a small dry paddock, which breaks my heart to see him there. But, after 6 months of controlled feeding of orchard grass, he has finally lost almost all of the weight he has been carrying for YEARS!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I do agree with it probably making her a little hot, if It doesn't is there aditional supplements she should have for things she may be missing on just hay and grass?
 

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I think supplements are often given completely without any real need. If the hay is good, and the hrose has grazing freedom, NO supplement is really needed for most horses. It makes US feel better to give them, but are they NEEDED? probably not.


Some hays are lacking in certain minerals. So, maybe just a light vitamin/mineral sup. I dunno what is common in your area. I am in the Pacific NW. There is a mild selenium deficiency, but most of the horses at our barn get zero supplements and do fine. They might do better on sups. I don't know.
 

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Congrats on your new mare - she is lovely! I don't think she needs to gain weight but could use a bit of muscle. As others have said, she will never muscle up like a stock horse will, so please don't have that image as your end goal. In general, Arabs have long and flat muscles versus the bulging type associated with stock horses, so they are more angular than rounded (unless they are fat).

These are two geldings currently fit and competing in endurance:



Personally, I would not want to feed free-choice alfalfa. While my competition horses could probably deal with it calorie-wise, I cannot imagine their mental states on it! Trying to balance the calcium/phosphorus ratio to prevent enteroliths would also be complicated. Ultium is also a very calorie-dense hard feed, so it would not be my starting point.

Having your mare on grass and grass-based hay would be ideal. Add in a basic ration balancer and then see how things go. If she needs a few more calories, add in a bit of alfalfa at each meal. If that still isn't enough, add in a small amount of hard feed (we use Triple Crown Senior, but there are lots of choices).
 

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I would be wary of changing her diet to Alpha and a high performance hard feed, you might just blow her mind.

Initial work should be slow, walking and trotting until she is hardened around the girth area and beginning to fatten up, then, if she needs hard food start small and build up.
 

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I would keep her on a grass hay and add a ration balancer, and only some alfalfa if she needs it-- if she starts to drop weight. The only people around here that feed free-choice alfalfa are those with hard-keeper broodmares and show hitch draft horses that need help keeping weight on. When I worked on a ranch, the horses were on free choice alfalfa overnight, but those horses worked 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week. The personal horses I kept there only got a couple of forkfuls of alfalfa with their evening feed, and either grass hay or pasture the rest of the time, and they were usually ridden every other day for 10-12 hours at a time. Both would have ballooned on free-choice alfalfa even under their heavy workload.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Thanks for the suggestions! I'm going to keep her on the grass hay and add a ration balancer like you guys suggested. I'm currently on accutane so it'll be about 3 months before I'm able to ride, would hand walking her for 30 minutes a day with some hills help her start building a little strength?
 

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Certainly! Hand walking 30 minutes a day would be great for both of you, for exercise as well as bonding. You could also do groundwork and things like 'in-hand trail' or obstacle challenge while you aren't able to ride. She's a very pretty mare and in good weight right now. You don't need to change much for her feeding program unless you see her losing weight or gaining. Congratulations on your new friend :)
 
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