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Hi there! I'm trying to put some weight on my gelding, who is a hard keeper. He gets hay twice a day and grain once. I've been reading about grain intake because I'm considering upping his grain for the winter, but I keep seeing that you should not feed more than 4-5 pounds per meal or you risk colic.

Is this true of senior feed (which is ostensibly easy on the digestive system)? Also, does soaking help mitigate this risk? If the guideline applies to senior feed, I'll need to have him put on a 2x/day grain schedule even at his current level (three scoops of a mix of 1 part Haystack Special blend to 2 parts Purina ES) or if I switch to all Senior. And of course I will absolutely have it done that way if it's better for him, but I don't want to be "that boarder" if it's not necessary. Most of the other horses in the barn eat their grain in one meal. I've talked to the barn owner about it, and she doesn't think there's any reason not to do it in one feeding, but I'm skeptical.

Does anyone have experience feeding a significant amount of senior feed in one meal as a supplement to hay?
 

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I am not a feed expert, and in fact, learning more & more about this nearly every day.

I would be very hesitant to feed 5lbs of straight senior feed. Of course, any change in feed (quantity, product) should be done so gradually.

Is your horse JUST getting senior feed? There are other ways to increase fat intake. Beet pulp is great and can replace up to a certain percentage of the horse's forage. You can mix whatever feed (senior feed) and supplements your horse needs into the beet pulp. I find the sloppier it is, the more the horses like it. Beet pulp is high in fibre and good for their hind gut.

I also feed my horses ground flax seed. It is high in fat/omega's.

Just a couple ideas although I'm sure others will have more advise.
 

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Even at that amount of feed fed your horse would do better utilizing it to have it presented in 2 meals...
Smaller meals more often is the better way to go.
It is not only to reduce the colic risk...
More meals, smaller amounts is so digestion can slow down a bit and get more nutrients out of the feed than food being pushed through faster and then less absorbed happening.
Even hay, less fed more often, hence why so many refer to slow feed hay nets offer pluses to many animals.

For the size of a horse there stomach is only capable of holding about 2 gallons of content...
The intestine is about 70 feet long, from small to the large to colon..
A horses intestine can work through anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days...so smaller meals are not as rushed along is my understanding.

Soaking feed helps to start the breakdown of the food pieces as soon as it enters the mouth.
Soaking also increases water intake and often a horse eating large amounts of feed fed does not stop to drink water, so when food hits the mouth and further along the digestive tract it absorbs water{saliva & gastric juices} and expands, which can lead to a impaction colic...just to make you nuts..
I feed pelleted feed and add water to it so my horse is also getting water as he eats, his food has already started the expanding and breaking down it must do to be utilized correctly and in my case my guy bolts his food without chewing well, so it slows him down to eat wet food and lessens the chance of choke happening too.

Do read your bag labels carefully because different feeds made by different manufacturers contain a vast difference in fat content.
Safest to put weight on a horse is feeding forage {hay}, if that is not enough add a food with higher fat content and fiber. Any food for the average horse with a protein ratio about 10 - 12% is fine...honest. You do not need to feed anything over 14% protein either.
Also feed in amounts recommended on bag back for the feed specific you are giving...it makes a difference the animal not only get calories they get vitamin, minerals and amino acids in proper daily amounts needed by their body.
You can always add, aka top-dress, a fat supplement but read carefully as supplements are not food to be fed alone but in addition to a nutritious feed fed...just adding extra fat often = weight gain.

There are some great resources available online to read and apply information learned to our own horses.
I found a short, easily read and not so complicated from SmartPak... https://www.smartpakequine.com/content/horse-digestion

The best answer to feed once or twice a day feed...split the amount in 1/2 and feed feed 2x a day and if you increase amounts fed consider adding a third feeding for the horses benefit.
:runninghorse2:....
 

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Make sure basics are in place

(1) Assuming his teeth have been checked and are as good as can be expected for his age?
(2) Worm-check-ups and deworming applied, assuming done.

A horse is made to eat with their head DOWN (for multiple reasons, one significant being how they wear their teeth), and do so for essentially 17h/day. Keeps their whole system in shape. So think of it as a pyramid:

BASE: Set it up so he has access to good quality hay throughout the day. This might be what you're already doing, but this should be the very bulk of any horse's diet. Many horses don't need much more.
NEXT LEVEL: You can slowly introduce slow amounts of alfalfa, to provide higher protein content and some additional nutrients.
THIRD LEVEL: Grains, appropriate for horse's needs, teeth status etc. Soaking it is a good idea. Keeping it consistent is the most important aspect, and of course not over-feeding. Absolutely, if could be fed five times a day would be the best, as with automatic feeders, but he shouldn't need that much extra, so if only possible feeding him once a day, as long as kept consistent and to a minimum, this will work.
FOURTH LEVEL: All these commercially marketed supplements, stay skeptical. He should of course have access to mineral/salt stones, but starting to experiment with too many supplements etc is, as for humans, taking unnecessary risks.

Getting the basics right takes care of most problems.
 

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I've got 2 horses both getting 6 pounds of feed twice a day. I think doing 4 to 5 lbs once a day is fine.

Could split that into 2 lbs twice a day or 2.5 lbs twice a day. Really don't think it's necessary though.
 

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I’ll just bet your horse would not be near the hard keeper if the Barn Owneri would be more interested in the welfare of the horses, instead of trying to save money——


Your horse only gets hay twice daily. Ask the dear barn owner how much those flakes WEIGH.

If your horse is on good pasture and your horse does not have to share those two flakes of hay, IMHO, he should be getting at least 1% of his desired body weight in hay every single day.

If your horse does not have decent pasture, which most boarding places do not have because they over graze with too many horses, your horse should be receiving 2% of his desired body weight in hay every day.

And no, I would not feed 4 or 5 or more pounds of feed in one feeding. It should be done in two feedings at the least, so the horse’s digestive system can properly process the feed.

Horses have one of the worst domestic animal digestive systems on the planet. Cramming all that grain down it’s throat to to keep the barn owner happy is asking for trouble, IMHO. It might be different if your horse was on your property to where you could monitor it but even then, feeding something out of a bag once daily is not ideal.

Again, the barn owner is lazy and not too interested in the good and well being of the horse - apologies to those BO’s that are indeed conscientious and care for the welfare of the horse; this one doesn’t sound like it does:)
 

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Hi there! I'm trying to put some weight on my gelding, who is a hard keeper. He gets hay twice a day and grain once. I've been reading about grain intake because I'm considering upping his grain for the winter, but I keep seeing that you should not feed more than 4-5 pounds per meal or you risk colic.(
Hi,

Yes. Horses are 'trickle feeders'. Their digestive tract is built for small amounts going through near constantly. Additionally, it's made to process 'low grade'(compared to modern diets) high fibre feed. The more you move away from that 'model', the more problematic it becomes. Eg. feeding infrequent 'meals' or feeding rich, high carb ingredients, or feeding large meals that are eaten quickly.

Horses have small stomachs and food doesn't stay in it for long(esp if big meals) before moving to the 'hind gut', and one big prob of cereal grain & the likes, it needs to be 'processed' in the stomach, undigested starch/sugar in the hind gut is problematic in that it can cause 'acidosis', die off of the bacteria needed to process the rest of the diet. Acidosis can also cause ulcers, colic, 'leaky gut' and laminitis. Of course, with all those things, 'failure to thrive'/being a 'hard keeper' can be another result.

Is this true of senior feed
Depends what 'senior feed', what ingredients. As a rule, best to avoid cereal grain & other 'high carb' ingreds. High fat is generally far healthier, but you still have to feed more than once a day for much more than... greasy poo! 2-3 times daily minimum is the rule.
 

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Your horse only gets hay twice daily. Ask the dear barn owner how much those flakes WEIGH.
Read that & thought 'wait! What?' But OP didn't say only 2 flakes a day, just twice put out, so the horse may well be getting enough. But OP, remembering 'trickle feeding, your horse needs enough hay that he is never left hungry for long(or at all, esp if he needs weight). Best way to do this I reckon, so they can't gorge on it & then go hungry, or waste it, is to use a small holed hay net. Put 3-4 'biscuits' of hay in & see how you go. If it's empty by next feed, add another. If he leaves a fair bit, give him less.
 

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You should only be feeding a max of ~5lbs per meal. This is based on the capacity of the stomach. If they are really slow eaters, in the range of taking 1+ hours to eat, you could get away with more. Doesn't matter if this is 'grain' or senior feed.
If you need more weight, the #1 thing is to up the hay. 2x a day, unless your horse is getting like half a bale each time, is no where near enough hay for a hard keeper.
Beet pulp has around the same calories as hay, but is more concentrated and easier to digest. It's also a great carrier for other, more calorie dense feed.
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
Thank you all so much for the insight and the links. I will read through them carefully!

I really appreciate your opinions and advice. I've been a horse mom/owner for about eight years, but I tend to defer to the barn standard because I don't trust myself to make decisions that are different from what everyone else does. But I know that horses are individuals and it's my responsibility to make sure my boy gets what he needs. I get very overwhelmed trying to research it all, so having you weigh in is really valuable to me <3

To clarify on some of your points:

  • He sees the vet regularly, including having his teeth floated and being checked for parasites. His last float was two months ago, and he got a clean bill of health. He gets his annual exams plus visits for vaccines and worming every year, farrier every four weeks. He does have a couple of teeth that are very worn in the back bottom, so that might contribute to the nutritional efficiency of his feed, but the vet said that as long as we keep the corresponding uppers from getting sharp, it shouldn't affect his ability to eat in any meaningful way.

  • He's around 20, according to the vet's estimate. He was sold to me as a "13-year-old" four years ago, but the vet suspects he's a little older than that.

  • He is fed hay twice a day, and he is pastured with a group of three other horses who are all very mellow, so I know he does get his share of the hay (I've lurked to make sure he's not bullied away from it). I think it's two flakes per horse per feeding, so about 12 pounds of hay per horse per day (16 flakes in their pasture every day). It's NW Oregon hay that is routinely tested for quality (one horse at the barn has Cushings, so the owner tests each new batch to see if he can have it soaked or not at all). In the summer they get both hay feedings in their pastures, and in the winter they get one feeding outside and one feeding in hay nets in their stalls at night.

  • His pasture does not have grass. I turn him out on grass for a few hours a week, but grass isn't a significant part of his forage.

  • He has access to a salt lick and gets Acti-Flex Senior with his grain.

  • He is currently getting a mix of Purina Equine Senior and a local grain, but I'm going to switch him to all Senior for at least the winter. His grain is soaked, and he's a fairly slow eater.

  • Re: the barn owner, because I know it can be a small world — I did not mean to imply that she doesn't take excellent care of the horses. When I said I didn't want to be a pain about feeding grain twice, that's all me — she has never given any attitude about it when I've floated the idea, and a few of the older horses do get their grain in two meals. I only meant that I didn't want to request it unless it would be beneficial to him, and now I understand that it would! It's really a fantastic barn where everyone looks out for each other's horses.


    As for hay, many/most of the horses don't get grain at all, so the hay output is sufficient for your average "easy keeper." I should know exactly how much they put down, but I don't. I need to ask.

My new plan is to have him fed his grain in two meals and leave the amount as it is now (three scoops, so two in the morning and one at night) but give him all Purina Equine Senior and cut out the non-senior local grain I was mixing it with. He started his 2x daily grain yesterday, so I'll see if it makes a difference. If not, I'll think about bringing in my own alfalfa to add to his evening meal.

Here's the kiddo. He's a 15.3 APHA, around 20.

IMG_3037.jpg

IMG_0981 copy.jpg
 

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What a pretty boy...
I love his markings..
I too have a paint but my guy has the soft merge of colors {Tobiano} where your is more overo isn't he?
I'm not great on all the coloring specifics...just know I love my horse and his markings too. :cool:

So, there are several variations of Purina Senior today on the market.
I'll take it though you are feeding the original style of Senior.
With a 5.5 percent fat amount if your horse is a hard-keeper and if he not pick up weight with the now only fed Senior, I would invest in a bag of Amplify adding the Amplify to his meal...aka top-dressing, it will get him more cool calories as fat is a cool calorie designation and that will get him more weight on his frame. Start with small amount and do not feed by itself as it is not palatable per Purina when I spoke to their nutrition consultants it needs top-dressed. But it works and adds the extra many horses can use.
40 pound bags and by me about $40 a bag, I fed 1 pound per day and it made all the difference in appearance on my horse. Something to consider.

Scoops come in different sizes, most barns use a 3 qt scoop which = approximately 3 pounds of pelleted feed as Senior is when filled nearly to the top.
So he is getting about 5 pounds now per feeding @1 1/2 scoops fed 2x a day now..
Senior feed though is designed to better digest and release nutrients to the horse, and sadly our older horses do not often absorb as much of the nutrients and utilize them as younger horses do I have read.


The other part is, if your horse is fed in a herd situation although plentiful hay is offered, the horses do chase each other from pile to pile and those who eat and gobble faster do consume more and consume the best pieces, so no...your horse might not be eating his full ration of hay.
I have that myself...one horse is a sloooow eater my other a vacuum..
So my slow boy goes in his stall to eat in peace while the vacuum eats then pesters at the stall door but can't touch nor steal. What it takes one to eat in say an hour my other one takes 3 hours and still is not done. Slow feed hay net not needed for the one. :|
So do make sure your horse is fed plenty of hay in his stall at night since that is where he will have the ability to eat his daily ration all night long if he is as slow as mine. :smile:

Other than that...sounds a nice barn, good boarders to be with and good owner/management watching the horses for what each needs.
:runninghorse2:...
 

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That ^^^ was a great and detailed explanation - thank you:):). I am the first person to pass judgement on boarding barns because I have personally seen and also read some nightmare stories:)

Ok on to the handsome fella, and he is a handsome guy:)

1. I was surprised to look at an APHA that is built more like a Spotted Walker or Spotted Saddle Horse and that may largely be due to his lack of muscle:). He could use a bit of fat but he needs more muscle than anything:)

2. Agree to cut the local grain completely out and keep him on Purina Senior if that’s your on,y other feed choice:)

3. Has the vet tested him for early onset Cushings? If not, I would ask for him to be tested. He is certainly in the right age bracket.

He does not need to have the yakky hair or tufted pieces of hair to have the beginnings of Cushings. It’s that big lack of muscle that smacked me with “possible Cushings”. You just don’t see that in the Paint breeding:)

4. I might also wonder about the genetic diseases Paints are predisposed to, that might lead to such muscle loss.

https://equusmagazine.com/horse-world/paint-registry-require-genetic-testing-52911

5. Even if the Senior feed has a pre-probiotic in it, it isn’t enough. I might look for a pre-probiotic at your feed and tack stores. Make sure it does have a lot of fillers in it.

At his age, he could use a pre-probiotic permanently to help his digestive tract, especially since you don’t know his entire history.

My Walking Horses are 25 & 26, and they’ve been on HorseTech’s “GutWerks” for quite a few years. Which, HorseTech has fantastic pure products, if you have a credit card:’

https://horsetech.com/gutwerks

*****
So I take back what I said about your barn owner, lollol. but I do think your horse should be tested for Cushings and perhaps a panel of other blood tests to rule out genetic issues, in which case diet is very important:)
 

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Being he's 20 wouldn't hurt to do a cushing's test. It will at least give you a baseline. He's a handsome boy ! He looks to be a good weight.

I did a cushing's test on my paint gelding who's 19 years old. Didn't have much info on him when I bought him. Always thought he was a grade pinto colored horse. Someone I went riding with recognized him said hey I know his breeder.

Come to find out he's registered paint his papers got lost. Last owner said he was grade never got papers with him. I was able to get his registration papers with a lot of hassle.

Nice knowing how old he really is I kinda thought he was 23 -25 years old. Really hard to keep weight on boney top line. Reason I tested him for cushing's which he doesn't have. But at least I now have a baseline on him.

But giving pre and probiotics really has helped him. His diet is totally forage based I use a supplement from horse tech. It provides all he need vit/min wise. Supplement is costom made to fill in gaps in hay that's been tested.

I feed a mix of timothy pellets and alfalfa pellets. I've been feeding this way for a year and half,my horses look good. Horse tech has been awesome to deal with. I don't have to buy extra anything. Horses need higher fat in diet it's added into supplement. Supplement has no added iron or soy.

Best decision I ever made never going back to bagged feed. I honestly think it was the cause of a lot of issues, with my horse ice. He's in my avatar.

It's not cheap doing costom supplement but I know what's in it and I know it's exactly the same, every time I order it. Only time it's changes is if hay tested has changed.

Only extra thing I buy is gut werks I feed it to both my horses.
 

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——-

i might look for a pre-probiotic at your feed and tack stores. Make sure it does not.

That should say does not
have a lot of fillers in it.:frown_color:
——-
 

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My best advice is ... I have a hard keeper as well ... keep the horse out in the pasture 24/7 if you have that opportunity and if not make sure that the horse has hay in front of it 24/7. Feeding twice a day in a stall is not good for horses. . I also don’t believe it’s healthy to feed grain. My mare gets alfalfa pellets,Cool Stance Which is a feed made from coconuts, and necessary vitamins and minerals. I never have a weight issue with her any longer.
 

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I've only read the opening post but wanted to make this feisty reply.


If a human is under weight, how many candy bars should they eat each day to get up to the proper weight?


I'm joking but I'm serious.


It took 10 pounds of oats per day to finally kill Secretariat, a multi million dollar horse.
 
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