Help! Keeping a horse healthy on little to no grazing
I had to move my 11 year old quarter horse gelding to my backyard pasture due to finances, but its only 1/4 of an acre. I feed him a complete feed with hay in the feed twice a day on top of a healthy ration of coastal grass hay. He's not in poor shape, but not as filled out as he was when he had access to grazing. Someone asked if I ride him regularly, but I'm afraid to work him too hard regularly anymore in fear of him dropping more weight. So, I'm looking for some experienced advice, I've never been in this situation. Are there other things I can do to keep him healthy and as filled out? Would working him regularly be beneficial?
It's possible to keep a horse perfectly healthy without a blade of grass in sight. People who keep their horses in deserts areas can attest to that. Is he getting enough forage? Forage should be at least 1% to 2% of horses body weight per day spread over several meals. That means that a 1000 pound horse should be recieving 10 to 20 pounds of forage (hay) each day. Weigh his hay to find out if you are feeding that amount of forage. If not I suggest upping his hay volume. I've had excellent results feeding part of the forage in alfalfa or hay cubes...soaked for at least 20 minutes ahead of time. A scoop morning and night in addition to hay had made a huge difference for one of my horses. You can add some beet pulp for additional fiber.
"My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."
Regular work would be beneficial as it would help with muscle tone. If he's underweight (and is he really? Most people underestimate body condition, according to my vet), just walking and a little trotting on trails would be good for him, maybe 30 minutes at a time.
AS for feeding him, have you had your hay analyzed to see how much nutrition he's actually getting? That would be a good start, because it might help you know how much he needs. That said, if he really is underweight, I'd go with free choice hay-let him have all he wants until he's at the desired condition.
Or, you can supplement with a bagged forage. We use Triple Crown Safe Starch forage for anybody who needs a few pounds. It's low starch/NSC but has added ingredients including rice bran, and it is pretty good for adding a little extra. You could also try adding rice bran or rice bran pellets to his grain ration for extra fat. IME, it works better than liquid oils, too much of which just slide on through.
In addition to what others have suggested, supplementing with Vitamin E is beneficial for horses not on pasture. Typically they get Vit E from green grass, but when there is none, they are often deficient. Supplementing Vit E can also help prevent nutritional myopathies like white muscle disease, and there is a link between Vit E deficiency and equine motor neuron disease.
I second the vitamin E supplement, as well as feeding as much hay as possible. Another thing to consider is he might be stressing a bit, causing him to lose weight. Could be over lack of companionship (if he's completely by himself), or lack of grazing time. I know there's not much you can do in either case, but I'd keep an eye on him if he also starts to go off his feed or anything else unusual. If he is stressing over something, he could develop ulcers.
Once you start mowing your lawn, you could also feed the grass clippings to him. As long as you give them to him immediately, before they start to mold. This could help temporarily assuage his desire for grazing. One thing I do every once in a while is set up a temporary hotwire fence (I use the wide tape kind) in my front yard and turn out my old broodmare to help "mow" the front yard. The tape isn't actually hot, but she respects it anyway.
It's possible to keep a horse perfectly healthy without a blade of grass in sight. People who keep their horses in deserts areas can attest to that.
I had a quarter horse who was probably 1200 lbs and had to get about 30lbs of high quality hay (more alfalfa than bermuda) plus a weight gain grain in order to maintain his weight - just a hard keeper.
All of our horses get mostly bermuda hay pretty much free feed, varying amounts of alfalfa (not a lot for any), and the two with a lot of TB get beet pulp shreds as well. They all get Strategy for horses on a grass hay diet to get needed vitamins, with quantity varying depending on who is working how much.
The key is just having as many feedings as possible so their digestive systems aren't sitting empty for long periods and plenty of forage.
Originally Posted by Silverbridge
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