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Thoughts on cutting down grain?

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  • Thoughts on cutting down grain?

    I am brand new to COTH and wanted to get some opinions on cutting a horse's grain down.
    I have just purchased a 5 yo OTTB, and he is getting about 4 quarts of sweet feed a day (it is a 10% fat, 10% protein, 15% fiber textured feed) and he is now on full turn out on very nice grass.
    The BO is a strong believer in natural horsemanship, and believes in letting the horses live off the grass entirely and that grain is not necessary.
    I am retraining my horse for eventing, and I am really unsure about how much to feed if he is now getting so much grass. Just wanted to get some opinions from some of you.

  • #2
    My opinions:

    Get the horse off sweet feed, period. If he needs calories, go with something with less sugar.

    If the horse doesn't need calories to keep the weight at an acceptable level, provide a vitamin/mineral supplement or a ration balancer, and allow the horse to live on grass if the horse can do so safely (no metabolic issues, etc.)

    If you find the horse needs calories to keep weight on, Triple Crown Senior is an EXCELLENT low starch (11.8%) and contains 10% fat as well. Beet pulp based and is a great feed for horses that need weight without sugar.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


    • #3
      You want to introduce him to grass...SLOWLY if he hasn't been on grass before. A friend of mine gives all her OTTBs a weeks worth of Gastroguard when she brings them in, right off the bat. Find yourself a non-sweet feed like TC senior, cut the amount back and see how he does.

      But don't throw him out on grass 24/7 right off the bat unless he's been on grass.

      And honestly, if your BO is a one approach fits all horses type of person...I might be looking for a new barn.


      • #4
        Well, an unworked horse generally does not need a lot, if any, concentrates.
        A horse being worked might not be able to fill all the caloric needs with grass alone.

        That means that your horse might initially be ok with less grain, but as work increases, the feed amounts might have to as well.

        There are no real one size fits all solutions. You will have to play it by ear and adjust as you go.

        And make sure the BO is on board and increased the grain as needed.

        (the description of your BO makes me a little leery....although truth be told, most horses are probably overfed)


        • #5
          How do you feel about the horse's weight/temperament now, on grain + grass? Is your only reason for wanting to make a change the BO, or does he seem overweight or overly energetic?

          I currently own 3 OTTBS (2 eventers), and in my life have had many more, and honestly none could have gone on grass alone. Though the type/amount of food required varied by horse/workload.

          I agree with other posters that there is likely a better feed solution than pure sweet feed, but if the BO doesn't want to feed anything, then that is probably a moot discussion. If cutting the grain completely is a requirement for this barn, I wouldn't be too optimistic that you can make it work.


          • #6
            Our horses literally get a cup of grain 3Xs a day. They get a supplement laden lunch and a generous amount of good quality hay.They are on 5-6 hours of turnout a day. They are in good flesh, happy and healthy. They are all ridden as pleasure horses and are ridden almost every day. I have an older clientele and don't need anyone hitting the ground because of excess energy. I know performance horses would certainly be fed differently but this works well for us. Horses can do quite well on high quality forage.

            Hell hath no fury like the chestnut thoroughbred mare


            • #7
              Horses do not need grain, unless they are in really hard work

              Grass, hay, water.

              Even good hay and water will suffice.



              • Original Poster

                I just brought him over to the new farm on Saturday. At the previous owner's farm, he was in his stall with hay a little less than half the day, and out the rest of the time on nice grass and hay. He was getting 4 quarts of this same sweet feed 2x daily, and he looks great to me. I don't find him to be hot at all, but I am definitely cutting down the amount of sweet feed because 8 quarts a day is a lot, especially now that he's eating more grass. I don't feel like he really needs a change, other than balancing the amount of feed he gets with the amount of grass he is eating. I am definitely very uncomfortable with the idea of taking him off feed completely and would never have thought about it if the BO hadn't brought it up.
                I'm also unsure about how this barn is going to work out for us, I just don't know enough to decide what's best for him so am seeking as much advice as I can from friends, trainers, etc. I just want to make sure I am doing what's best for him!


                • #9
                  I've found it's hard for a working horse to get enough calories on forage alone. A critter living the life of leisure is fine on hay/grass/cubes/beet pulp, but as they start working hard they can't take in enough calories in those forms. I also think as you increase grain you need to decrease the protein in the grain. The sweet feed sounds fine to me, but you may not need as much, depending on the work he's doing.
                  blogging at HN: http://www.horsenation.com/
                  check out my writing: http://jeseymour.com
                  Just out: http://www.barkingrainpress.org/dd-p...ead-poisoning/


                  • #10
                    Why do you think he needs grain?

                    You said there is plenty of hay and grass. What do you think will happen if you take him off grain completely?

                    I've had race horses on less oats than that, good hay and no grass. Trust us when we tell you that grain, especially sweet feed, is really not necessary unless your horse is in really, really hard work. Then only if he's dropping weight and feeding more hay won't do it.

                    I just sold a field hunter that was in hard, daily work. Out on grass during the day, in with zero hay and no grain at night. Perfect weight. Out of work, he was fat as a tick on the same schedule. No ulcers, no nothing.

                    Had he been a less easy keeper, he would have gotten some hay at night, but he still wouldn't get any grain.


                    • #11
                      I don't feel like he really needs a change,
                      If I had to pick one change, I would pick removing all sweet feed from this horse's diet. If he needs "grain" to keep a good weight, that's fine, but really, ditch the sweet feed.

                      He's young and I'm assuming healthy. If you remove grain from the diet and find that he doesn't do well, then add back a grain that is better than sweet feed (like Triple Crown Senior)
                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you for all the input. I think the plan is to switch him over to a different type of feed and just monitor his weight for the next few months. The TC Senior sounds like a good option, seems to be a favorite of a lot of people here. We'll see how we do!


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by 2ndyrgal View Post
                          You said there is plenty of hay and grass. What do you think will happen if you take him off grain completely?
                          I guess I'm just worried about him not getting what he needs? My only experience is feeding horse grain 2x daily, so I guess the nervousness is just because it is unfamiliar


                          • #14
                            I would stop the grain, put him on the grass (slowly and carefully as others have suggested) and give him a daily vitamin/mineral supplement, and go from there.

                            If he loses weight to the point that if he continues he'll be underweight or lose too much, I would put him on TC Senior and discontinue the vitamin/mineral supplement (it would be redundant because the senior would be providing those if you fed it at the minimum recommended daily rate).
                            "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."