My filly is almost 5 months old and has been home with me for about 3 weeks. When she was being boarded, the pasture did not have a ton of grass, so she was not getting as much forage as she is now.
And since she has been home, she has one big belly. She is half Lusitano and half Appendix QH, and both parents are round horses. Both are naturally very muscular, as is the filly. There does not seem to be fat on her really, but her belly is just huge. I can see a hint of ribs at the top, but from the side and the front she looks like her mom did at 9 or 10 months pregnant. Just round and wide. I have her stalled most of the day, with a small amount of alfalfa cubes (we have just bermuda grass here) twice during her jail time. She seems a bit less wide after almost a week of this, but that belly is certainly still there.
My camera is broken so I can't post pictures, but how do I know if she is truly just too chubby and needs to be stalled to keep from possibly ending up with joint issues, or if she just has a grass belly? She is very muscled, shiney coat, bright eyes, and seems to be just thriving. I want to do what is best for her though.
What is her deworming status? If you can see a hint of ribs, it doesn't sound like she is too fat, so I would be worried about a huge belly like that. If she is stalled most of the day she should have hay in front of her all of the time; I don't know how long the alfalfa cubes take her to eat, but babies should have free-choice hay. What is she getting in the way of vitamins/minerals/protein/grain?
My guy is 4.5 months and lives in an irrigated pasture 24/7. He doesn't get additional hay. He is wormed every month like clockwork. But he's built like his mom with a deep heartgirth. He is a pinto so depending what side of him you look at sways the way he looks and his size.
She gets no grain right now, and an all-around vitamin/mineral supplement with her cubes. She is wormed every 30 days with either ivermectin or double strongid. Ivermectin was this month, and strongid will be next week. I have a very strict worming program with all three of my horses, so I would be shocked if worms are the issue for her. Especially as hot as it has been this summer.
The cubes take her a while to eat because they are not soaked. If I were to put hay in front of her 24/7, I might as well just leave her outside. As it is, she maybe goes 2 hours with nothing in front of her because I put her in for the morning with some cubes, let her out for a while in the middle of the day, and bring her back in for the afternoon.
Love the FL summer pastures! But it is a battle right now to keep my weanling from looking the same. We are mowing just about everyday to try to keep the grass under control. But with all of the rain we have been getting the bahia is thriving. My weanling, is now coming in during the day to keep her from exploding. She is, like your weanling, wormed vigilantly.
As is our confidence, so is our capacity. ~W. Hazlitt
Glad to know someone else is having the same issue down here! I have only boarded here until this month, and boarding barns around here don't have enough grass to actually count as a feed source. We have bermuda and several other kinds of grasses, not sure which. There is some crabgrass, but the horses eat that down faster than it can grow.
What do you supplement your weanling with can't re-? If I give my filly any kind of grain she will blow up like a balloon, so right now she is just getting a small amount of alfalfa cubes and a vitamin/mineral supplement. She has a red salt block that she just loves too.
Unless you have amazingly (as in rarely to be found) excellent and well-balanced forage, I strongly recommend a commercial ration balancer and/or growth formula. Until horses are about 2 years old (maturation and growth rates do vary) the vast majority will require a much higher percentage of concentrate vs. forage (hay and/or pasture) than adults because of the immaturity of their digestive systems: i.e., the caecum/hindgut which handles the breakdown of cellulose or plant fiber is the last part of the system to achieve full growth. "Therefore, as young horses grow, their need for forage increases... need for milk is eliminated and grain mixtures decrease." Hence, the NRC, for example, recommends a 6 mo. old's diet be 30% concentrate to 70% grain mix, with the proportions reversed for a 2 year old.
Assuming there is no parasite problem, the condition you describe, combining visible ribs on top and big "grass belly" suggests a combination of protein deficiency (which will produce a hollow topline) and too much coarse/overly mature plant fiber for your weanling's immature hindgut to manage. The products I suggest should improve the situation.
(My own 5 month, 700#, old colt receives 4.5# of concentrate/day, half ration balancer, half growth formula, divided into 3 meals/day and free choice forage: pasture and hay, both mixed grass and legume. He has no visible ribs and no suggestion of grass belly. If he were to gain too much fat, I'd increase the (low calorie) ration balancer and reduce or eliminate the growth formula).
Ditto what fish writes. A ration balancer will give your weanling what it needs without excess carbs and calories. Also ditto about the pot belly from less easily digestible grass and hay for this age foal.
I would suggest giving her something extra, with a bit more protien. My babies look fantastic on Purina's Equine Junior. Expensive, but not so bad considering the results I get -- and you're just feeding one, so it won't break the bank.
Since you are really on top of the worming (that's just what we do also), I would give her a probiotic supplement with her grain. I feed Fastrack, but I'm sure there are lots of other good ones out there.
It is important to remember that the maturity of the digestive abilities sometimes lacks a bit -- ie babies don't digest forage as well as adult horses, thus can get somewhat pot bellied, when in fact they are healthy and parasite free.
I've had some interesting discussions with my veterinarian on this subject a couple of times, as she is a breeder also, so she's great to get management advice from.
I have been feeding alfalfa cubes and a vitamin/mineral supplement along with the grass pasture. I can pick up a ration balancer for her specifically, but I have always been under the impression that alfalfa is the main ingredient in them anyway. She is not lacking on muscle or topline at all.
She does have a turnout buddy, my 2-yo gelding. He is just wonderful with her.
I want to just add to be careful adding a lot of soy to her diet as is in some ration balancers. See my post on my mare and my experience with an easy keeping breed of Spanish descent getting very IR on a soy based ration balancer.
If she were mine, I'd add some oats to the alfalfa cubes and grass hay. Make sure your protein level is adequate also. If you pm me your email, I can send you a spreadsheet that will help you calculate protein, calcium and phosphorus down to a gram.