Friday, December 11, 2009

Weighing in

To feed or not to feed?

That's not the question!

How much?

Now there's the real question...

(Photo credit- Seminole Feed)

So here you have it. A horse is put on the scale, much like a Weight Watchers meeting. The numbers come up on the wall. The horse hangs his head in shame. He gained a few pounds because he ate the amount of feed in his feeder, as provided by the barn help.

Next horse steps onto the scale. She has lost a few pounds. It took friends. Her ribs show and her frame is thin. Worming schedule is up to date, teeth are fine, things seem to be in order. Yet the numbers keep declining...

Next horse steps on the scale. The numbers come up, this horse has remained at the same weight for weeks. Everything must be on track. Life is good, the horse looks fine. No worries for the owner there. Whew!

But what's going on? What is so different? Why is one horse gaining, one losing and another maintaining their weight? They are all eating the same hay...

Anyone consider their size as a factor? The scheduled workload a horse has ahead of them? Where they came from? Age? Health conditions?

Every barn I have been in, measures their feed in some way. Some weigh the hay, some measure pellets by the bucket or 3lb coffee can, grain and bran are measured accordingly- 1 lb coffee cans work well, plastic or metal feed scoops, and now with the invention of SmartPak Equine, supplements are premeasured before they are even shipped.

Some folks still 'eyeball it' and feel for the weight of a flake of hay before putting it in front of the horse. Different bales and different hay, means different amounts when feeding the same horse. Time of the year of the cutting makes a difference too, in what you get.

When talking about alfalfa- it can be a heavy bale, thick flakes and high quality. May cost you a bit more per bale, but you will find you feed less and the horses are just fine. There are also bales which are light, full of stems, loaded with shake or leaves and you end up feeding the horse over half a bale just to make up for it's poor quality. You may have saved on the cost per bale, but when you figure how many bales you go through- it ends up costing you more.

Bermuda grass hay that we have here in the desert, can also come in heavy bales, breaks off in a nice flake, decent enough moisture content and high quality. Or it is dry, light weight bales, cut the string and *POOF* it goes everywhere! Add in a windy day and it really is everywhere.

It has been mentioned recently, that one barn is weighing their horses, under the 'advice' of the trainer. As a baseline for medications or worming, or for later use if suddenly the horse drops weight and begins to suffer health issues, that is understandable. But when you are basing your day to day feeding allowances off of the numbers on the wall, you may have to consider the knowledge of the person calling for this. Can you not look at a horse and tell by what you see- this horse needs more food or that one needs a little less?

I have also been in a couple of barns where a baseline was established for 'maintenance only' horses. They received a set amount of feed, no matter their size, weight or other considerable factors. Two things fall under this category. These were either 'board only' horses in a training barn or horses whose owners were behind on their payments. I have seen horses lose weight on these terms of how much to feed.

Another local farm feeds hay cubes out of a wheelbarrow using a scoop shovel. Several if not all of the horses there were overweight. The ones I seen had fat globules on certain spots of their body- near the withers, the dock of their tail, shoulder area and cresty necks. Issues in the making...

Another barn I was at, (actually a couple fall under this one) the owner flipped out if you fed more than 2 or 3 bales per feeding. There were around 60 head on the property at the time. Um, helloooo! The pony doesn't eat much and whatever he doesn't eat- the warmblood moose will. Psssst, SHE NEEDS IT TOO! It all balances out. But she didn't see it that way. Instead it was all based on numbers. The number of horses, the number of bales and the price per each. There was little to no getting through to her. Even when stating the case- the boarders are PAYING FOR IT! Any wonder why I didn't stick around?

Another barn switched the hay being fed to my horse. He didn't like it or eat it and instead chose to decorate his stall with it, sleep and poop on it. How to handle it? They approached me and told me he needed to be put on grain. Which cost $10-$20 extra per month, of course... How did ever you guess?


  1. Awesome post! Love it.

  2. OH too cool! I'm 1st!

  3. I weigh my hay. If I don't pretty soon I'm feeding the 14.2h chubbo 16lbs twice a day. Then I wonder why she waddles, and looks funny behind as she has to turn out her stifle joints to get around her tummy.

  4. Oh yeah, now if I could just get some cooperation from the best cook ever hubby and have him weigh MY food...oh never mind, I'm just going to get okay with chubby!
    I do like having a weight baseline for my horses though, if just to prove that yes, that big ole' horse DOES weigh in at 1450 and will need more chow. And I weigh my hay bales just to make sure I'm getting the ton of hay I paid for. A ton is 2000 pounds, not 20 bales dangit!
    Proper hay and enough of it, plus water and salt, is the best way to keep a horse healthy, but some feed companies would rather you not think like that. I've seen too many horses poisoned by feeding 63 different supplements all at once. And I learned the hard way to watch rice bran feeds carefully. A lot of horses are allergic to it.

  5. I always kind eyball it , look at the horse , the weather , age, mare in foal or gelding. I figure a ballpark amount then monitor the horse from there,for wieght energy ,coat conditon. There are always the "high needs" ones out there and the huge TB that would survive literally on shavings. when I book my feed I always figure on about 1/3 more than I should need. The leftovers are always OK for the cows. That said If I was boarding I might do things a little diferently...or not

  6. COurse for me having someone monitor my intake might be good , I am an extremely easy keeper, could founder at any moment!

  7. When I first got Top, it was 20lbs a twice a day...or if there wasn't hay in front of him, I threw more. He also got ricebran and beet pulp twice a day. He doesn't get that now.

    Now he's at about 10 to 12lbs twice a day, and a token amount of ricebran and beet pulp for his vitamins and supplements. I'm giving him MSM and Equerry's Plus. I'm really liking the Equerry's plus. It just made him bloom and I feed less. Way better than the Platinum. It has live yeast culture in I'm wondering if that has made the difference.

  8. Awesome post!

    I'm moving my boy today to a new barn simply because of the feeding philosophy of the the barn I've been at. Olliver is an 18 month old Friesian/TB cross. He eats A LOT. The current barn feeds the same amount to everyone. 2 flakes twice a day and 2 lbs of Strategy twice a day. No matter what the season, breed, age, etc. I pay extra to have them feed the Equine Junior I provide (um....cuz it costs more to add an extra scoop of grain that they didn't have pay for???). Anyway - I've started getting weekly e-mail rants from the barn manager about how I'm over feeding my horse and they're going to cut him back. BTW - his feed plan was prescribed by not one, but TWO vets.

    Yeah....he's going to a new barn today. One that feeds each horse according to age, breed, weight, work,etc.


  9. We too are part of the crowd that 'eyeballs it' and feels for weight. A pound or two +/- isn't going to starve a horse or push Jenny Craig over the edge. Not when you are cramming 3-4 flakes in front of two ton Tilli or when you put a half flake in front of the pony.

    I forgot to mention in the OP- the one barn I was at. I was boarding Pi when I first got her. 10 hand pony, so I don't understand why, but the 'help' would throw her a full flake of alfalfa at feeding time. She's little and she's a PONY for shouting out loud... Thankfully my friend at the time, was there to oversee everything and took away the excess before it was eaten and destined to make her colic or founder. She constantly told the help- Look at her! Does she really need That much hay? Are you trying to kill her?

    Stellamn- I'm always happy to hear from new posters about their horses. Good thing for Oliver, he belongs to someone who cares! If you ever have any questions about grooming topics or ways to make your horse look his best- ask away! If I can't answer it, maybe another poster can. I'm always open to learning something new.

    If you have questions about training, my husbands blog- Mr Rottens Neighborhood may have the answers you seek. There is a link to it on the homepage of this one. You may find many of those commenting here, add their voices there too. We are all happy to share- including a drink, snack or whatever. It can be a rowdy crowd at times, just so you know...

  10. I also use the eyeball method too. Mine range from two honys, to my old man then up to my full Perch, who is a serious eating machine.

    I adjust their feed and hay according to the seasons and their workload. All four are easy keepers but Buck the Perch flat out requires more feed than any of the others because of his size.

    I feed Triple Crown low starch feed and we buy locally grown hay, mainly good quality grass hay. I do buy some alfalfa mix and timothy mix hay bales mainly for a treat. Nice thing about living in the boonies, we have three different farms within 3-4 miles of the house that grow nice hay.

    I know it is good hay because Whinnie pees on hay she doesn't like.

  11. Stella07: Gee for a moment I thought you were boarding at an old barn of mine...Nope..Wrong part of the world..I hate that mentality. What is really scarey is that's what the friggin Sales Rep sells to BO..One feed for all horses.

  12. I eyeball...then I have to weigh it again when everybody starts looking tubby. I tend to creep up in the weight of the flakes. Oh, and if it's know you gotta up the feed. The grain isn't what is going to keep them warm, it's the hay. The process of them digesting the hay, warms their bodies.

    I see people way overfeed babies. However, you're little Arab isn't going to require the same calories as the Friesian. Maisa was growing too fast...backed off his feed. I had a woman all over my case that I was starving him. Her foal ended up with epiphysitis.

    Some of you have seen pics of Maisa...does he looked starved or stunted? Uhm, don't think so. lol

  13. Too many horses get crippled with kindness. I wonder if the current trend towards horse obesity is because of the lead and feed classes, or the human population's redefinition of what is overweight? Dog obesity is also an epidemic. I think a lot of people don't really know what a fit critter should look like.

  14. Kestrel I am with you. Good hay, clean water, and salt.
    THAT is the whole program here.
    The colts hit a growth spurt and yeah they may look a little raggedy until they catch up with themselves again.
    But we do not have bone issues here.
    Unless, good, dense, healthy bone is an issue.

    Seniors can play havoc with a program like this. But then, maybe they are telling you something too.

    and possibly 14th?

  15. The other thing that drives me nuts-people who think that a yearling with a hay belly is a problem. I am NOT talking about a wormy belly, I am talking about the round tummy that a hay fed colt develops.

    I see much less colic in horses that were allowed to eat enough roughage for their intestines to develop properly when they were in their growing years. The sleek, trim tummies on babies that are fed high percentages of concentrated feed to please the human eye seem to have major digestive problems later in life.

  16. I've always been an advocate of 'fat on hay'. If you grain them up, or beet pulp, or ricebran or whatever the bucketfeed of the week is they don't seem to do as well. They need roughage going through their system all the time.

    I feed grass hay, or alf, or alf/grass. The horses on pasture often get fed straight alf. Before anybody nuts up on the latest research on alf. I also feed local grass hay. Around here we call it starvation hay, or poverty hay. Hay here doesn't cure fast enough to maintain the nutrients well. It is too cool and damp.

    I throw a few flakes of 'poverty hay' out so they have stuff to nibble on throughout the day or evening. Keeps their tummies happy, keeps them warm, and keeps them busy 'grazing'. This is thrown to them in addition to their regular hay ration. I think it helps the horses in town, in stalls and pens stay 'sane'. Nope, no scientific evidence of that...just observation.

  17. >Before anybody nuts up on the latest research on alf.<


    But..but...entroliths are caused by, and they will founder, or colic, and, and, and...
    Oh almost forgot my favorite, they will pee blood.

    Most common cause of hay founder, sugars in new grass, and grass hay rich in sugars.

    Most common cause of colic associated with alfalfa, an amazing lack of common sense by the feeders of.

    Proper transitioning from one feed to another will greatly reduce the problems associated with feeding alfalfa.

    I have never yet seen the grass hay that comes close in protein values.

    Don't get me wrong. I love buying grass hay for $2 a bale and selling it for as high as $6.
    Because I can buy more alfalfa for my own ponies.

  18. Since nobody else has addressed this one yet- how about the minis often used in petting zoos? The poor things generally look more like a potbellied pig than a pony.

    We went to a 'festival' one time. Spotted the petting zoo right off. One of the people was leading this mini around. I figured she was either just seriously obese, pregnant or both. She had just turned 2! Not pregnant, just way overfed and way overweight. I asked her handler, "She founder yet?". Blank stare, absolutely clueless. Probably already had and didn't even know it. I just told him, "don't worry, she will."

    Then there was Baby Huey on the hoof at a WB inspection... Judge asked the owner what he was eating? Grass hay and still nursing. The owner was concerned about epiphisitis and any other growth issues. The 'judge' docked points off his score because "He is growing too fast for his own good." She never asked about the mares feed, offered any insight as to how that affects the content of the milk produced, if the vet was advising them in feeding Baby Huey, nothing. Just docked points off the score. Gotta wonder about some people...

  19. I just figured out the grass thing the hard way - my poor Shetland was lame for, I swear 2 months! Vet/farrier thought she was abscessing (she was pointing on the 2 front feet) so I soaked, wrapped, soaked, wrapped. She would start to seem better, than worse, than better. Finally my farrier said he thought maybe she was foundering (she also was very unresponsive to the hoof test so it was very confusing!). I switched her off the good grass hay I had her on to an IR no carb diet and FINALLY she is sound although still a bit tender footed. She was foundering on the grass hay I was feeding her (I had her in a dry paddock the whole time with no green grass). This was a new one to me as I had always heard the "horses don't founder on grass hay" thing. Now I know better! (I also recently talked to a guy who had 2 lovely Percheron Mares founder on grass hay!)
    I've got the pony back on a partial IR grain and small amounts of grass hay, but it is the driest yellowy looking stuff (and I still started out by soaking it first!). All better now, thank goodness. I haven't had her tested (is their test) but it seems pretty clear to me she probably is IR, after reading about it. (She doesn't appear to have Cushings, sheds well and has NO PROBLEM putting the weight on...).
    She also gets to wear a muzzle now out in the "big pasture." Boy she hates that! But I don't feel so bad when I see her little black butt running around kicking and bucking (especially cute with the 16 hand white TB mare).

  20. I'd never heard that they couldn't founder on grass hay. If that is a common myth out there, it would sure explain a lot. Yeesh. They can founder on anything.

    Didn't Secretariat die of founder?

  21. Yes, I'm discovering that a lot of the stuff I grew up thinking about horses wasn't correct. (Pretty much raised a ya-hoo really. Barb-wire, no helmets, worming? what the heck is worming?). The grass hay is one of the things I always heard "quoted" and my dad will say to this day.
    On the other hand, some things they did seemed right on. Lots of pasture, never started before 3 or 4... Let a horse be a horse, etc....

  22. My boy is an eeeeeeasy keeper.

    Half a scoop of grain, a few flakes of hay, and he's nice & sleek. Of course he's not getting much exercise besides loafing around the pasture & just a little riding/lunging right now.

    Did you read the fascinating experiment done by Dr. Henncke recently? Free-choice grain. NOT sweet feed, I think it was straight oats. And of course hay.

    After an initial adjustment period, horses evened out at good weight, not one case of founder. He hypothesized that horses scarf up those 2 meals of grain a day because they are HUNGRY, but if allowed to keep munching all day long... Sounds like how Weight Watchers works.

    It was in Equus....

  23. Horses don't founder on grass hay. Is that like the other one I've heard even from vets...

    All ponies will founder. They are just prone to it.

    Um, would that be because people just feed them the same as a normal sized horse? And the ponies the vets are usually treating when this comes out of their mouth? Overweight ponies who are in the process of foundering... DUH! moment is there ever was one!

    Does the common sense even escape those with book smarts and practical experience. Cuz it sure seems that way sometimes.

  24. I forgot to add the studies on the best way to put weight back on emaciated horses, was in fact to feed straight alfalfa. Of course offering small amounts several times a day so as not to overload the digestive system or the body altogether, but to slowly bring them back to normal, increasing the amound fed, over time as you go.

    When hubbys red mare Johnie, from which he took his screen name coliced, then coliced again a month later and developed ulcers from the steady doses of drugs to get her through it... It was the alfalfa that repaired the damage and helped her heal. Not the Ulcer Guard, (cha-ching) or U-Guard-X the vet never ordered for her, (thanks asshole!) the gallons of orange flavored Mylanta we doused her with via wormer tubes or the numerous boxes of Prilosec we went through...

    She was so bad, she would lay flat on her back, legs straight up in the air and people would pull in our driveway, bang on the door and tell us we had a dead horse in the pasture. Last I checked- dead horses lie on their sides.

    She dropped so much weight, she looked like something we dragged home from the KB auction. She developed shoe boils from the hooks on her long hooves because she lacked the energy or strength to stand long enough for a trim. I ended up trimming her while she was down one night. Not an easy task, but the boils disappeared.

    We switched her back to alfalfa, packed in protien. Gave the gut something to work on besides itself. Got the probio's going, the ulcers subsided and disappeared, the energy returned and after the weight came back she went back to work. About a year later when she was finally ready to go under saddle again, the first ride back was just like we never skipped a beat.

  25. OK..I have a 911 situation. The AQHA gelding I got is now being returned to me. He's 16.1h reg, trained as H/J and has a really nice dressage base. I will tell you lady who bought him said he's off on the RT hind.

    when I had him if you trimmed him to toe out on RT hind he was sound. She didn't believe me and sounds like she was trimming him for looks vs what I told her.

    His LT fore hoof is a tad upright but NOT a club. Because of my back..
    I'm in no postition to take him back.

    Anyone interested in a made horse who will probably need some TLC. I had him sound in 2 months with proper trimming and chiro. I honestly don't know what she's done with him for the last year. She said she's got some health issues and wants to return him to me.

    He has a very forward trot (which is why I sold him in the first place) I can't ride it w/my back. Likes someone with a light hand, someone who will stay out of his face. Goes like a dream in just a snaffle. Current owner said he was rushing fences but I never had that issue w/him.

    Anyone???? He's only 12-13 yrs old.

  26. Ignore me...

    I am testing to see if I was able to add a photo to my Google account.

  27. Let's try again...

  28. OK, SO very OT, but it worked!

    I am finally revealing my boy!

    I got him for free last year when he was dumped at a boarding stable.

    I have been too paranoid to post his picture, for fear that the asshat that dumped him would run across his photo and want him back somehow. I realize that this is ridiculous, but I freakin' LOVE this horse!

    It's been almost a year now, so I figure it's time to get over it. If anyone tried to come for him now, I would sue for back board, vet care, training, and anything else I could think of.

  29. Thanks! It's a particularly flattering photo, because you can't see his Standardbred profile!

  30. He's a STB/QH cross. He paces if he really gets going in pasture (not very often), but not under saddle.

    Under saddle, he does do a running walk. And I'm told he has the greatest canter ever (I am still walking and working on the running walk)!

    He is SWEET beyond belief, and I truly believe he knows he was rescued (he was about 2 weeks from a REALLY low-end auction)...

  31. NHM... what a noble face!!

    It manages to have a cute expression at the same time.

    C3D, good luck finding a home for your boy.

  32. CD3, where do you live? I have a student looking for a horse...good rider, 17, kind, just went through a growth spurt, needs a taller horse than her little Morgan mare. They are the kind of people who are keeping the outgrown horse anyway, their horses are family. The mom owns another mare with a serious club foot and has kept her sound for years, the old girl is 26. In NW Montana though.

  33. Kestrel- She's in the Houston area. Drop me a line if you need and I will put you two in touch.

  34. NHM- He's quite the looker! No wonder you took him in under your wing. You two will get there one day, and when you do- watch out world.

  35. C&J,

    Thanks! Although he sure did not look like that when I got him!

    He was a pot-bellied yak living behind barbed wire when I went to see him!

  36. Kestrel..If you pop in here. EM me..I'm willing to pay shipping if you wanna talk!