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How much should a draft horse eat? (feeding issue)

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  • How much should a draft horse eat? (feeding issue)

    Keep in mind, I am asking this because I have heard different things from different people and wanted a bigger input.

    When Pete came, he was getting 2 1/2 pounds of Safe Choice 2x per day. He was fat and happy, looked amazing. That's the amount I was feeding him and each bag lasted about 7-10 days (depending on if I gave him a little bit mid-day or shared with other horses). He did not lose weight, stayed nice and fat.

    Fast forward about a week, we have moved barns due to the owner of the old one changing his mind about having our horses there. That's fine, I like the new place even more, the layout is much more convenient. I fed him his normal amount when I was out (BM/trainer normally feeds and is the same one from the old barn. Which is good, I loooove her to pieces!), feed lasted about the same time for him. Everything seemed normal.

    Thursday, Feb 28, I brought two bags (100 lbs) of feed to the barn. Should last a little over/under two weeks. This past thursday (march 7) his feed bin is EMPTY. I figured somebody made a mistake (someone else had fed for a couple of days) and fed his feed to the other horses. Irritating, but can be dealt with. So I text BM and ask her if Pete was the only horse eating SC. She says no, and that he goes through a bag every 3 days. I was shocked. 16 pounds per day. SIXTEEN.

    Is this as excessive as I think it is? Especially since he was doing great on his maintenance amount of 5 pounds per day.

    Am I overreacting? Should I be worried about founder at this point? I told her we have to bring his feed back down to his previous amount, because 1) that's a LOT of feed, and 2) I can't afford that when I didn't even know about the amount increase in the first place

    I just don't want something to happen to our sweet boy.
    Should I just calm down and forget about it?

  • #2
    No I would not forget about it. Here are some thoughts:

    If they are feeding him only two meals a day, he is getting too much poundage of SafeChoice per meal, so cut it right back for that reason alone. I would go deeper into the hay side of the equation, because that is where I think you will find your answer.

    I have 17h Percheron x who is more draft than cross. If he is not eating a lot of feed in the winter when the ground is covered with snow, he consumes one 45 pound bale of timothy hay per day. The more I up the feed mix (Triple Crown Sr/Blue Seal Hay Stretcher, 50:50), the less hay he consumes. When I reach 6 pounds of the mix per feeding (2 feedings =12 pounds per day) along with a side of 15 pounds of hay in the afternoon between am/pm hayings, he goes back outside after the evening feed meal, and stands at the hay feeder while all the other horses are eating. So, that is where I would begin looking. How much hay was this horse receiving before the move, and how much after, in pounds, not in flakes. I would also check the bale weights personally (bring in a scale and actually weigh a few) and monitor the hayings for a while to make sure what you are being told is the way it really is. If you find the hay is the real issue here, and you don't want them subsidizing it with additional SafeChoice, then you can always add beet pulp, alfalfa pellets or haystretcher into the grain mix to safely bring up the roughage side of the equation for your horse and leave the SafeChoice at 5 pounds per day.

    I am enough of a control freak that I have pre-bagged my grain into the number of daily feedings needed, and put them in an airtight container for the barn staff to draw from each day. That way you are firmly in the driver's seat and Dobbin stays safe.
    "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



    • Original Poster

      This post will be quick as I am getting ready to leave the house for the day, so will add anything I forgot tomorrow when I get back.

      Before I got him, he got 4 flakes (not sure the weight, I'm assuming a normal sized bale about 30-45 pounds) twice daily. When I got him, I bought 45ish pound fescue bales and he would eat 1/2 in the morning and 1/2 at night. Right now, since I have nowhere to easily get square bales, he has a fescue round bale accessible 24/7 as he is a pasture puff. It is a BIG bale, not sure of the weight, but he stands and munches all day when he isn't napping in the sun. I do have a bag of beet pulp out there now, but I'm working on the amount to feed him as right now he will waste most of it since he hasn't adjusted to it yet.

      Hay stretcher could be a good option for him, but I don't think I have seen it at TSC..

      Also, forgot to add, he is a Belgian X, but is about 90% Belgian and 10% Standardbred. At this time he is 16.3 and weighs approximately 1600 lbs


      • #4
        We are in the same ball park. Genetics and age may account for some differences here. I would cut back the SafeChoice, pre-bag it so they feed what you want them to feed, and see where it goes. Then, add in if you have to from there.
        "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Albert Einstein



        • #5
          If he's an air fern and you're not giving him much work, and he has hay all the time, he probably doesn't need any safe choice at all. Or any other grain for that matter.
          My Equestrian Art Photography page


          • #6
            All horses are different, but in my experience, drafts (well, I guess most horses) do well on a lot of hay and little feed. My draft cross gets two pounds of ration balancer a day and hay about 5 times a day. This winter has been crappy for snow and hay, so I did add beet pulp to each meal (I like to add more water to their diets as well.) He is schooling third level and has never eaten more then two pounds of grain a day to balance it all out. We call him the hay burner. 8 lbs of grain at once is bad for any horse...


            • #7
              Didn't you go over what & how much you were feeding & expected him to continue to be fed when you started boarding at - or even before you started boarding at - this new barn??

              Back when I was boarding, that was one of the very first things I went over & expected agreement on from a barn.


              • #8
                Ridiculous amount of grain for your horse if he now has access to a 24/7 round bale, is in good shape and do nothing but eating all day.
                I would cut the grain completely, add a ratio balancer and wait/see if ever he truly needs grain.
                ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                Originally posted by LauraKY
                I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
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                • Original Poster

                  I will look into pre-bagging his feed, and see if I can find some type of a ration balancer or something. I'm just not sure what's available out here.

                  I wouldn't fully call him an air fern, but he's definitely close, and is totally a hay burner. Once the weather is consistently warm, I don't expect to be feeding much grain at all; more or less just enough to keep him coming up to the fence (and additionally to the water trough) and he will still have free choice hay.

                  Bacardi1- I did, and I'm not sure why it changed, especially without my knowledge.


                  • #10
                    If he is your horse, is it not your decision on how much he gets?? Everytime I have been a BM, I have always talked to the owner of the horse before making drastic changes like that. I would have a sit down talk with the BO/BM and go from there. That is WAY too much feed for a Draftie....or any horse.
                    The Equine Wellness and Nutrition FB Group - Come join us!!


                    • #11
                      My draft crosses - out of heavy work - get about 1/2 of a coffee CUP of grain twice a day. Free choice hay and/or grass, but unless they are really working hard the crosses don't need a lot of grain. You are spending money to do harm
                      Breeders of Painted Thoroughbreds and Uniquely Painted Irish Sport Horses in Northeast Oklahoma


                      • #12
                        Absolutely do not calm down and forget about it!Well calm down, but make changes, quickly. The hay is good, I'm hoping it is under cover, and weather protected. It is not ideal for some horses tohave it available free choice as many happily over indulge.

                        The grain here is the problem.. I would absolutely pre-bag it, and not leave too many bags available. Sixteen pounds of grain a day is way too much, even if some feed bags suggest it. Five pounds are max per feeding and since he was doing well on 2 1/2 twice a day, that's where I would aim.
                        Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                        Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                        • #13
                          If it ain't broke, don't try to "fix" it!

                          Tell the BO to feed the amount that YOU instruct her/him to feed. He's your horse.
                          "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."


                          • #14
                            While every horse IS different, I must say, all of the draft CROSSES I've ever had in my care of been very easy keeper/air fern types, even my very hard working critters (fox hunters through the hunt season, event horses, etc). I had one VERY BIG guy who had to gallop like he was going to Rolex to go training level (so, he was working very hard for his size and type), and even with that work, I had to monitor his hay intake (couldn't do free choice or he get fat, which was too hard on his big body) and I fed him 2lbs of a low cal type feed, plus a vit/min supplement.


                            • #15
                              as if you needed more opinions -- have big horses, including a draft cross. When they are on free choice hay or good grass they need VERY LITTLE grain EVEN when they are working hard (like, Prelim eventing).
                              The big man -- my lost prince

                              The little brother, now my main man


                              • #16
                                I would also be looking into whether or not the BO is using your grain to feed the other horses on Safe Choice, since she says there are others eating it. That seems to happen frequently in boarding situations where owners supply feed and hay. She may be saying she is giving him that increased amount, but it is really going to someone else. Just something to check out..