Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Feeding the Hard Keeper

This subject has come up a LOT lately on various discussion boards, especially going into winter. There are as many theories as there are replies, but I would like to share mine. It’s really pretty simple, depending on what you are feeding for.

The Hard Keeper – First, I try to figure out WHY a horse is a hard keeper. Teeth? Nerves? Picky? Over-worked? Under fed?

Teeth – Even without an exam, you can tell if it’s the teeth. Just look at the poop. (I know…eeeewwww) But really, what does it look like? Are the “apples” tight smooth balls? Or does it look like someone tried to press wet grass clippings into a ball? If it’s the later, there’s a good chance that you need some dental work done. This can range anywhere to $150 to $400 and up. I know I don’t have that kind of cash laying around, especially if I just acquired the horse. So I save up and try different feeding methods to get the weight on and keep it there until I can’t get them to an equine dentist.

Nerves – Joy was a classic case. This mare paced and fretted and paces some more ALL DAY LONG. She never laid down to rest or sleep EVER. It was constant motion with her. She most likely also had an ulcer, for which she was treated. She gained the most weight and was the most relaxed when she was turned out with two other TB mare to boss around.

Picky Eater – I don’t have one of these, but my neighbor does. He has to have everything “just so” or he’ll drop weight. Since he is a barrel racer and needs to stay up to weight and in condition, she accommodates him.

Over-worked – as the amount of exercise and work increase, so should the quantity of feed. Pretty much a no brainer here.

Under-fed – another no-brainer! If you double the chow and the horse gains weight, here’s your sign… You weren’t feeding enough!

Feeding a horse up – So, for whatever reason, you’ve got a horse that is under weight and it’s now late-November. Winter is here. You do NOT have 2 or 3 months to get weight on the horse! You need to pack the weight on NOW!

So what do I do?

First – Double the hay rations, am and pm. If the horse is wasting the hay, either he’s a messy pig, he can’t chew it, or he’s picky. This is always my first course of action.

Second – Add a complete feed. I prefer Purina Strategy. It provide 250 calories more per pound than Equine Senior. They have a formula for Grass hay or alfalfa hay, to prevent inverting the calcium/phosphorus ratio. It soaks and crumbles very easily – which is a benefit for horses with teeth problems. I will start a thin/skinny horse on 6 pound per day, 3 pounds in the morning, 3 pounds in the evening.

Third – I buy and feed Purina Amplify. I just found this product this year and I LOVE IT!!!! It has 30% soluble fat content and will pack weight on a horse faster than ANYTHING I know of! I start the horses on 2 pound per day, split between AM and PM feedings. For horses that are “a little ribby”, a week is all they need, then they can be cut back. For horses in worse shape, I’ll feed it longer and will adjust the amount according to how they are gaining weight. (It doesn’t take very long…TRUST ME!)

Fourth – Alfalfa pellet. They soak easily and are “pre-chewed” for the teeth problems.

Fifth – Beet pulp. I like to soak it. I can add all the other pellets and feeds into it. If the horse is of the opinion that I’m trying to poison it, I’ll add apple sauce to make it more palatable.

Raw Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)– Do your research. There are anti-inflammatory benefits, it’ll flush the kidneys, AND it will mask the flavor of those “yucky” things that we add to make the horse healthy that they are sure is poison. I pour Distilled ACV in the waterers and tubs twice a week. For the horses that I haul, the ACV will mask the taste of the water in a new place.

I DO NOT add corn oil or rice bran. Though some people swear by them, they have a high glycemic index (high carb/sugar). The best oil to add is Flaxseed Oil (marketed as Linseed Oil) or Canola Oil. But with oil, you’re adding fat, right? This is where I LOVE the Amplify.

Lastly, free access to loose minerals and a salt block with selenium (because I live in the selenium deficient Pacific Northwest)

I have used Necessity with Glucosamine and MSM and I LOVE it! I just can’t afford it at $110 per gallon.

I just ordered a new supplement called Seabuck. I’ll take before pictures of Squirrel and Dobbs and post them here. In 30 days, I’ll take another photo. Then again in another 30 days. What better test that to see a “change” in winter?

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