My TB is a VERY easy keeper. At this time he is already at at body condition score of 6--ribs hard to feel, crease beginning along the spine, girth let out a hole from the usual, etc. He receives only a handful of grain daily to carry his vitamins and hoof supplement, and works 3-4 days/week.
My question is about feeding hay. For the months over the fall and winter, he and his three buddies have had access to a round bale 24/7. While this is clearly too much hay for my horse, it suits the others in the field just fine, so I'm considering options--grazing muzzle (ugh, hate it, but maybe necessary) or a separate dry lot with a one horse where he would only be thrown alfalfa hay twice a day.
In the dry lot horse would spend most of his time standing around with one other horse, with no hay to nibble on--long periods of time on an empty stomach. (My work schedule precludes a noon feeding.) In his present field with the muzzle, he would have the heat, discomfort and inability to bite to defend himself in his rowdy group. Plus, he is a houdini at removing things he doesn't like, and he strongly dislikes the muzzle.
So which would you choose? Any other ideas? I have some constraints because this is self-care boarding. For many good reasons, soundness included, I really don't want him gaining more weight.
Small hole haynet like others suggested ("the diet haynet"). We use those a lot with air-ferns who are on stall rest. My OTTB is a VERY easy keeper too and I'm lucky because she'll only eat a minimal amount of hay - she gets free-choice hay 24/7 but eats a few small flakes a day if that - shes not a vacuum at all! And she could stand to lose a few pounds :-).
"When a horse greets you with a nicker & regards you with a large & liquid eye, the question of where you want to be & what you want to do has been answered."CANTER New England
Thanks everyone! The small hole hay net seems to be the only way to go. The reason it didn't occur to me--I didn't realize they made them big enough to fit over a full round bale, which is necessary because I can't be out there twice a day filling nets for all the horses in the field. First step, clear it with barn owner and pony up for something like the "Slow Bale Buddy." Then see if she will arrange the fields by easy/hard keepers. There is a solution! Thanks again.
Any chance you can switch to bermuda or timothy? The timothy has decent protein at 9-12% (perfect for an adult horse) and is calcium / phosphorous balanced.
The big problem with easy keepers is feeding them enough volume to satisfy the chewability craving and the roughage their hindgut needs for optimum health. Alfalfa would not allow either, whereas grass hay does both.
I know, I have those very concerns about the alfalfa. It is all the barn has to offer in small bales. Last year during the drought, in the mixed fields, everything died except the hardy alfalfa, so that is all they were able to bale. Luckily though, we have some grass round bales and will be using those now.