I have a 11 year old WB/TB gelding, 15.3hh, 950lbs or so last time I measured, likely more than that now. He isn't necessarily a hard keeper but his weight has been fluctuating over the past year more than I would like. High stress times of year (just before shedding out, high bug season etc.) seem to bring on a weight drop. I have been bumping his hay when that happens and over this winter started adding to his grain ration too. I'm considering a bit of overhaul on his diet.
He is boarded so I have pretty much 0 control on hay quality, and limited control on quantity. The hay quality at the current place is much better than we've seen elsewhere so it's decent but has been a bit hit or miss between drought last year and switching suppliers. He gets 2 flakes of hay in AM (that he cleans up before going outside) and 2 or 3 PM (if he's on the skinny side I bump to 3).
He gets 1 3qt scoop of an 11% sweet feed AM with a quarter scoop of Nutrena Compete on top, and 3/4 scoop sweet and 1/2 scoop Compete in the PM. I don't currently have a scale out there to weigh feed, would probably get one if I decided to change. This was all based on what previous trainer gave him and what was readily available at the barn basically.
He's currently what I would consider perfect weight, hint of ribs, and trim but his workload is going up this month. He's been getting ridden 4 days a week and lunged one day, he should now be getting ridden 6 days a week this spring/summber. He will be showing 1 mini-event or CT and 1 dressage show a month May-Sept. He does mostly dressage/flat work, jumps one day in lesson every other week.
He's not "hot" on the sweet feed but I don't want to add any more sweet feed and am thinking about switching away from it altogether. I'd like to see him building some more muscle too. I thought about going just to the Compete, but it seems like he'd need quite a bit of that and if I can get away from so much concentrates and more forage based I think he would do better.
Barn will not soak any feed for AM feeding but I feed PMs and would be willing to do so for the 6 nights I feed. I have two feed shops around me that sell Triple Crown, which seems to be a highly reccomended company. I can look into other brands if needed.
I am thinking about the following:
.5 lb TC 30% AM+PM as main nutrition source
1-2lbs TC Complete AM or
Alfalfa or Alfalfa/Timothy cubes soaked PM
To fill out calorie needs based on condition/hay quality.
With as much hay as the barn will let me feed him (would probably be 2AM+3PM).
How far off base am I? Any other suggestions? I'm trying to keep AM feed simple for staff, but I have some flexibility on nights that I feed. I could probably even set up for AM feed but they won't soak stuff so that limits what I can do re: hay cubes or beet pulp. (He would probably get same as AM feeding on 1 night I don't feed, the chances I will get out there for that 7th night a week are slim right now, after I move this summer it might happen.)
Also considering adding MSM or other joint support and a flax or other omega supplement to his diet, are either of them a good/bad idea on the above mix? Any other considerations/suggestions?
It's really hard to give a solid "yes, this is a good regimen" without knowing exactly what's in the hay or the grain, nutrient-wise.
But if you're mostly happy with his weight, his coat has a good bloom and he's healthy and well you're probably not missing out on anything huge.
I don't consider a bit of weight loss at the end of winter or during times of added work a sign of improper nutrition . . . just that they need a few more calories. I like to see a few ribs in the early Spring--then I know that the onset of grass season is going to be handled better than putting a fat one out to grass.
My "default" for adding a few pounds as needed is more hay. In boarding situations I have bought my own, if necessary, or paid extra. It is just better for them, and unless your flakes are huge, it doesn't sound like your horse is getting a whole lot of hay. Does he get any grazing at all?
I don't necessarily think "sweet feed" is evil, but 3 quarts is a lot. If I have a harder keeper I usually try to get them on a 30% ration balancer and add a fat source if necessary. I really like Purina's "Amplify", which is 30% fat, quite palatable, and puts a nice bloom on them, plus it's pelleted and very easy to feed and handle.
I honestly don't have the patience for hay cubes and soaking things. If I want the horse to get hay I feed HAY. I'm not crazy about alfalfa other than for preggies or nursing mamas. Just too hard to find great quality alfalfa here.
Could you invest in a few small-hole hay nets and buy a few bales per month of really nice, quality hay? Then you could fill the bags yourself and just ask the barn workers to hang one in your horse's stall every night. When he finishes his 2-3 flakes, he will then have hay to munch all night long.
There are MANY ways to do it right, by the way--this is just what I would lean towards.
I could buy more hay, I just have no where to put it, aside from in the trailer, and limited opportunity to haul/move it (I borrow my dad's truck for shows/trailering.) My car is in a word 'tiny', I might get a single bale in the trunk. The more difficult it gets the less likely it is to happen, to be honest. If I could store a good amount, more than a bale or two that is, it would work to borrow the truck to move hay, but barn rules are they won't store more than a bale.
They are pretty good size but not huge flakes, so I agree it's not really as much hays as I would like. I could probably put his evening hay in a small hole net to slow it down a little, but that doesn't make it more hay. There is some grazing in the spring/summer but it gets overgrazed by mid summer.
Maybe what I'm looking for is a way to better balance what hay he does get without stuffing him with more and more sweet feed. And hoping to even things out in the process.
Will check out local shops for Amplify too. I don't remember seeing it but I wasn't looking either.
Last edited by dude.does.dressage; Mar. 17, 2013 at 12:28 PM.
Reason: forgot about the Amplify
Is it worth getting the hay tested in this situation? We get about a month's supply at a time right now, and I would not be surprised if we switch suppliers again once hay comes in this spring. I just figured assume the worst and try to get as much other forage stuffs into him as I can manage since I can't do much about the hay situation.
I used to store about 20 bales in my trailer when I was in exactly your situation.
How many days a week are you there? Even if you hung a stuffed hay net every other night, you'd be ahead of the game IMO. And you can store 2-3 bales of hay (enough for a couple of weeks' worth of midnight snacks) just about anyplace--garage, under the porch, cheap-o plastic storage container from Lowe's, etc.
I always get my hay tested, but I buy a year's worth all at once. Unless you're thinking there are major deficiencies and you're prepared to test and adapt to every new batch of hay with diet changes, I wouldn't bother. It's optimal if you can swing it, but not practical for people who buy hay in batches, and many, many horses live just fine with hay that's not tested.
Why not just replace current amounts with TC complete instead of mixing and trying to come up with the amounts? It would be comparable to the amount of feed your horse is already getting. RB are better for horses who are getting less than recommended amounts and you only need a little extra calories.
I can probably stuff my trailer for winter months but during the summer it gets used. I might be able to store hay at home after I move this summer but at the moment, limited options. Thus cubes or whatever I can get and store easily.
Why the RB? I don't think he's really a hard keeper exactly, just tends in that direction rather than the other one. He was at one point getting fat on the hay at current place. I'm hoping I can decrease feed by increacing nutrition, use the RB as a platform, add alfalfa, rice bran or whatever seems to work to keep his weight stable. More complex? A little, sure, but I like math Am also hoping I can convince some other folks at the barn to go in with me and share the hauling/workload and flexibility might be helpful there.
He is fine at the moment but not glowing and great the way I'd like to see him. These are his prime years and he should be better than fine.
As I said, there are many ways to feed a horse properly. I am a fan of RBs because of the low volume fed and the experience of many years of having horses thrive on them. I do NOT like math, and have very little desire, at my advanced age, for meddling with a scoop of this and a cup of that. If I can have a horse doing well on 3/4 pound of something AM and PM I am so much happier than if I have to feed it 3 pounds of this, a cup of that, a scoop of that and a bunch of soaked what-not. And HAY is the basis of all of my choices, including the ability to keep all of mine (even the harder keepers) on such a simple regimen. I know it's less convenient, believe me--been there, done that, in many situations. But "forage first" is a venerable adage for a reason.
If baled hay is an issue, maybe try adding chopped hay, like lucerene farms or TC chopped hay. You can easily get 3-4 of them in a small car and they are well sealed. You could add maybe 10 lb per day of the chopped hay in addition to the hay the barn feeds.
IMO I'd skip the ration balancer and just use a lower sugar/carb pelleted feed like TC TLC. Ration balancers are typically for easy keepers who get no grain.
I have been thinking about this thread all day. The question that needs answering is "why are you changing his feed?" You say he looks fine, but not prime. If that is the case, then tinkering is not the answer. You need to analyze his feed, see if he is deficient and change feed accordingly. How is the Ca/P ration? Cu:Zn? Is he getting enough lysine? Especially if you like math. I would recommend consulting an equine nutritionist or taking Dr. Kellon's course and really crunching the numbers. This will also answer your question about whether he NEEDS a RB or any other supplements.
It sounds to me that he is not getting enough hay. I would try to fix that issue first.
At our barn (boarded out), in the throes of winter with zero pasture, they get:
2 flakes breakfast
outside hay (tossed around in piles - probably 2 or 3 flakes per horse)
2 flakes lunch (3 pm)
2 flakes dinner (about 8 pm).
If they are in during the day they would usually get another couple of feedings (think 5 pm or so with a later night feed). I also supplement with alfalfa 'soup' - about 1 pound of alfalfa in hot water fed each night we ride, mainly so they get their multivitamin/mineral mix in and to make sure that they drink lots of water.
I am leery of feeding large amounts of concentrates and prefer to add extra calories (if needed) through a warm mash. Other dense calorie sources that can add a nice bloom would be oil (add slowly and work up to about 1 cup over the course of a couple weeks) or flax seeds. I get the flax seeds in big bulk bags and each horse gets about 1 cup each (we worked up to this number).
Important thing to remember is that you need to make feed changes slowly so the bugs in the hindgut can adapt to the new stuff. Be patient and give the horse time to aclimate to the changes.
I will look up Dr. Kellon. I did attempt to find an Equine Nutritionist but to be honest, I figured because I have little control over the hay in the first place it might not be money well spent. This month the hay looks not so good, next month, who knows? Should I be looking for someone local or is halfway across the country just as good? Any credentials I should be looking for? I'm all for talking to an expert, but googling equine nutritionist wasn't terribly helpful, lots of people selling lots of books and supplements it looks like.
I'm not convinced that sweet feed is the best thing to balance his diet, and the fact that I've been adding more (and will probaly need to add more again, as work keeps ramping up, this is the most he's ever worked in his life as far as I know) makes me wonder if there are better things to feed him that will make all the hard work pay off more. I'm not as comfortable with the sugar/corn in sweet feed as I used to be and 6 qt daily strikes me as a lot of sugar & corn. People at my barn seem to switch to a Senior feed (Purina) when sweet feed isn't doing it, I'm wondering what other options there are. I've seen lots of reccomendations for Triple Crown. I've seen folks saying forage forage forage as much as you can get into him and that makes sense, but my options there are not the best, I can only get so much hay from the barn, so what else to use? Bagged stuff pretty much. Cubes, pellets, beet pulp...? When he won't eat any more forage if he still needs more add fat seems to be the answer.
Thanks everyone for your input. I am probably overthinking things but nothing changes tomorrow, I'm not in a big rush. Maybe see how he goes until grass comes in and hopefully hay quality goes back up (and price goes down) this summer. Maybe just go for the TC Complete and stop fussing with it
You might enjoy a 30 day subscription to www.FeedXL.com. For twenty bucks, you can plug in as many combinations of feed/hay as your heart desires and see if you can come up with something that makes sense. In lieu of having the hay tested, you can input "average" nutrient amounts for the kind of hay your horse is getting, just to get a ballpark figure for the nutrients in the hay.
I do this every now and then--if I get a new horse or find a feed product that looks like it would work for my small herd. Money well spent for an occasional "spot check".
personally i would got with a RB and then feed beet pulp and rice bran - i'd start with a coop or two of beep and a scoop of rice bran. i would get rid of the grain. this option is also less expensive than some of the others mentioned if that is a concern.
i have successfully brought back many not so great looking horses with this regime
I think Feed XL is a pretty good idea. I just use low numbers for my hay because it varies in quality even though I buy from the same supplier. Some bales are fantastic (save for TB) some not so good (feed to fatties).
On finding an equine nutritionist, find someone who isn't selling something and whose site provides good information. Besides Dr. Kellon, you could try Julia Getty. I think she does consultations. Or start a new post, I know others on this board have used one.
Working at a barn once there was a thoroughbred gelding who was not a hard keeper, but he was always not prime. He was also jacked up worse than a coke head on a 3 day binge. They had him on 5 lbs daily of a 12% sweet feed, timothy/alfalfa mix hay (fed freely), and he only got 1 hour at pasture every day and the grazing was pretty poor. After owner got bucked off the last time and injured herself I told her that a blood panel for nutrients needed to be pulled to see what he was missing and to talk with a nurtionest. She did the panel which turned up some definicies (cannot remember exactly what was deficient, it was 8 years ago), but did not contact a nutrionist. She added ration balancer to his diet, but he was still thrifty and strung out 24/7. I suggested that she needed to take him off sweet feed and alfalfa. To discuss at least with her vet about ultium and maybe a lucerne or small batches of alfalfa cubes/pellets (and there are alfala pellets, you just dont see them much). She finally did the switch. He eventually was on 2lbs of ultium, 1 pound spread out over the day of alfalfa cubes (soaked), 6 pats of timothy hay (more if he needed it) and the TC lucerne hay mixed in with his regular hay. All the hay (not the cubes though) was placed in a hay net that had tiny tiny holes which kept him busy. He was also on a RB, he was placed on something similar to Quitex it was orange and made his poop stink like a litterbox which helped him out, and of course no molasses and very little sugar. Within a month he went from crazy nutzo dull coated thifty thoroughbred gelding to a calm, almost old school quarter horse type temperment with a fabulous coat. He literally in a month changed into a whole nother horse. His coat before was dull mouse brown with the orange looks that comes from being sunburnt (even though he never spent that long in the sun and had sheets on to protect him) to a deep mahogony bay that never bleached. I had never used ultium before, I thought it was just another foo foo food that the company was using to milk money out of people (back in 05 I remember it was somewhere around 24 bucks a bag, dont know what it is now). After that day I was a believer and used it on many many many horses since. So do a panel, see what he is deficient in, then talk with your vet and a nutrionist, see what they say and see if they agree maybe he could use ultuim? By the way the thoroughbred I am mentioning, went from being a low level jumper that hated his job to a dressage horse who has taken his young rider from low levels to two medals already and they have already started to hit collegiete. Makes me so proud that I got them to get him off sweet feed. Its not an evil feed just some horses do not thrive on it. Some cannot handle the sugar content, and some just there again need that extra umph that sweet feed does not have. Oh and have the hay tested for quality along with the soil the grass grows on! That will help out alot! If a new batch comes in get it checked! Knowing the numbers is alot better than guessing!