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Considering grain free with my old mare...

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  • Considering grain free with my old mare...

    I've had my mare for 12 years now; she's 25 now. She's mostly retired except for the occasional hack around the farm or woods. She had a bowed tendon and then a disruption to a sesamoidian ligament. Long story short for the last 4 years she's given me trouble with her grain. For eight years she was happy with (in my opinion now that I've learned more) cruddy Strategy type grain. Then I moved barns, did self-care, and actually started reading labels. She was on Seminole Wellness Senior Mix for about a year. Then she stopped eating it. Went to Seminole Wellness Compete Safe. Ate that for half a year. Went back to Senior which she ate for about two months. Since then we've been through Triple Crown, Strategy, some specific grain milled for the barn (similar to SW Senior Mix), Tribute (again, similar mix to SW Senior), tried a Buckley Brothers, and some other things in between. Her teeth are fine, she's turned out, and other than the whole turning up her nose at the grain, perfectly fine. She happily eats her hay and if you make her a Canter dinner mash, she'll eat it up. It's a toss up if she'll eat soaked Shredded Beet Pulp. She recently went on a two week grain strike and then just decided to eat her grain again (didn't change brands, just kept switching out to a "fresh" batch daily). No correlation to opening/end of bags either.

    At this point I'm wondering if she really needs grain to her diet. She's not easy to keep weight on but then again, fluctuating with whether or not she'll eat doesn't help. I seem to be having trouble finding reliable information on grain free diets and how to make sure she's getting the necessary nutrients, especially for her age. Googlefu is failing me - the early morning hour may not be helping. I don't know if I need supplementation or not, or where to even begin. She does get SmartFlex Senior and SmartTendon (no correlation to supplements and grain pickiness either).

    I don't think it's healthy for her to eat Canter mash in all her meals, although she thinks otherwise.

  • #2
    I would be more concerned with WHY she is randomly having an appetite for grain and then not wanting to eat any.

    When my mare had ulcers, she had no appetite for grain, but would happily eat hay (until they got very bad, then she was completely off feed and water, but taht's another story!) She would sometimes pick at her grain, but would otherwise walk away from it.
    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


    • #3
      My guy gets really slow with his grain eating so I give him some omeprazole from abler.com and his eating speeds way up. I recently switched him to Nutrena Pro Senior and he is eating that better than he has ever eaten anything in his life.
      McDowell Racing Stables

      Home Away From Home


      • #4
        Your comments aren't actually making sense - "grain free" doesn't mean no concentrates. It means "no corn/oats/barley".

        if she's a harder keeper who needs more calories than hay/grass, then she needs concentrates of some sort.

        A grain-free commercial product that's like a typical fortified product is hard to find, but some are out there, typically geared towards the IR/metabolic horses.

        But you can also use a ration balancer (nearly all are truly grain-free) and add alfalfa pellets or whatever she likes best for additional calories.

        I know some horses really are just picky about their food for some reason, but I agree, I'd probably be looking first into seeing if you can fix this, and the ulcer remedies are where I'd start. Ranitidine will be the most easily available, as you'll have to wait to order the generic omeprazole (aka Blue Pop Rocks). 3mg/lb every 8 hours is the ideal, just to see. But I know that's a long time to be doing that if her taste changes every few months. But if she's getting picky after just a few weeks, reliably, then that's more reasonable
        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


        • #5
          Any chance she might eat just plain cheap sweet feed with lots of molasses? You can mix a bit of that with alfalfa pellets and its not too much sugar, hut the alfalfa might be easier on her belly. If she needs calories add some oil so the sweet feed before mixing in the pellets. I use smartvite to make up the missing nutrients, and some flax.

          Does the vet have any ideas? Recent blood panel done?


          • #6
            I would be concerned with why she randomly goes off her grain. It sounds like ulcers to me...hard keeper horse, prefers hay over grain, doesn't clean up meals, will sometimes go off grain...all are common ulcer symptoms.
            It is something I would look into.

            I agree with JB, "grain free" to me mean literally no actual grains, like oats, in her diet, not concentrate free.
            come what may

            Rest in peace great mare, 1987-2013


            • #7
              I think OP is getting at can a horse just live off of grass and hay. I have an older QH mare and she is only on pasture. We feed good supplemental hay in the winter. My horse is in good weight, shiny, dappled, and happy. So yeah, it can be done. BUT - my horse is an extremely easy keeper. And we have really good fields.

              I'd be concerned about her hunger strikes. My horse doesn't get grain but if I were to offer it to her - and every once in awhile I do, I'll get a bag of sweet feed and give each horse a small scoop as a treat instead of buying cookies - she jumps on it like a beast. The fact you've tried so many grains and with all of them she'll eat it then and then she won't eat it concerns me. Get a vet checkup just to be safe.
              *Wendy* 4.17.73 - 12.20.05


              • #8
                Two suggestions
                1) Buy a tube of UlcerGuard and see if her appetitie improves after using it. Instead of giving the entire tube at once, break it down to 2-3 doses. I did that with my gelding and the change was impressive enough for me to start an ulcer treatment.
                2) Have her teeth checked, especially if her breath is rancid.. She could have a bad tooth and going off her feed. Running into that with my old girl (33). She lost a tooth earlier this year and went off her feed. The vet commented on it when he did her teeth this summer and stated she would most likely lose another. She has been off her morning feed and her breath is off, so calling the vet tomorrow. Like yours, she is happy in every other way.
                "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
                Courtesy my cousin Tim


                • #9
                  Originally posted by shiningwizard255 View Post
                  I think OP is getting at can a horse just live off of grass and hay.
                  That's sort of what I was getting from the OP too, but that's not "grain free" in the real context, it's "concentrate free", though I can understand someone using "grain free" if they generically lump all non-hay/grass food into "grain"

                  But the answer is still probably a resounding "no" in this case, not when the mare is "not easy to keep weight on"
                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                  • Original Poster

                    Thank you, I did mean concentrate free. Bad choice of wording on my part. Sorry for the confusion!

                    I'll check with my vet. Her teeth are fine. She gets them checked twice a year, just had them done early summer (power) and they were still good at the fall shot wellness check.

                    I'll talk to my vet about ulcers. I don't think that's the problem (from what I've heard from friends who have had the issue; they tend to be the high stress competitor/travel horses) but I'd love to be surprised with something so "simple." Would UlcerGuard potentially hurt her or cause anything I should keep an eye out for? That seems like to might be a "cheaper" option to getting a full scope or would that be a better idea and necessary anyway if she did have ulcers? I have no experience with them.

                    Bloodwork came back from fall wellness exam (Oct) as WNL.

                    Thank you for the feedback!


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by kudosirony View Post
                      I'll talk to my vet about ulcers. I don't think that's the problem (from what I've heard from friends who have had the issue; they tend to be the high stress competitor/travel horses) -- This means NOTHING when it comes to horses and ulcers. Literally ANYTHING can stress a horse into ulcers...being alone in the field, being bossed around in the field, being the boss of the field so always on guard, not getting enough forage, being fed high starch grain, being on limited turnout, trailering without a preventative, etc etc etc etc.....

                      but I'd love to be surprised with something so "simple."

                      Would UlcerGuard potentially hurt her or cause anything I should keep an eye out for? No, even if she does not have ulcers, it won't hurt her.

                      That seems like to might be a "cheaper" option to getting a full scope or would that be a better idea and necessary anyway if she did have ulcers? I have no experience with them. I paid $529.00 for the initial scope on my mare, who DID have ulcers, and the follow up scope was $350. The original was more expensive because they ran bloodwork while we were there. IMO, if you are the type of person who has to KNOW for sure, do the scope. If you would rather go with it, and try treatment with ulcergard to see what happens, then do that. FWIW...my mare had classic ulcer symptoms and got so bad that she was going off feed and water...we did 8 days worth of a full tube of GastroGard daily, and saw NO improvement. SO, even if your mare DOES hvae ulcers, not all horses will show improvement in a few days, certainly not after only 1 tube of ulcergard as Fooler suggest in the post above.Bloodwork came back from fall wellness exam (Oct) as WNL.

                      Thank you for the feedback!
                      "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                      • #12
                        FWIW - the very first symptom my mare exhibited was being picky about grain, and having grain strikes just like your mare. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that...

                        I wish I took her more seriously when she started being picky...

                        www.photobucket.com/ulcers you can see her scope images at the link.
                        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."