Return to Website

Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition

   Welcome to my forum. 

Here you will find more than 6 years of questions and my answers. It is searchable and offers a great deal of information. 

Currently, I am discontinuing new questions. This may change in the future, but in the meantime, please know that It has been a true pleasure serving you. 

Take a look at my Nutrition Library and Tips of the Month for a variety of answers on selected topics. Be sure to sign up for my monthly e-newsletter, Forage for Thought

I also have a growing number of recordings on "Teleseminars on Nutrition Topics that Concern You" as well as the new, Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series -- printed versions of favorite teleseminars.

And finally, look for my articles in a variety of local publications and online newsletters, as well as the Horse Journal, where I am the Contributing Nutrition Editor.  


All the best,

 Dr. Getty 


Ask the Nutritionist: Dr. Getty's Forum for Equine Nutrition
This Forum is Locked
Foal Nutrition

I have acquired a foal born on June 5/2004,she is an Arabian that was rejected by her mother.I have had her since July 3rd. She eats well and is gaining weight but only in her little belly. Her legs are still spindly. I am under the impression that she needs more exercise to build up her muscle mass. She does alot of eating,sleeping,pooping.Not much walking or running.I have her on a foal ration(1/2 cup 2x daily),oats(1/3 cup 2x daily),milk powder for foals(1/2 cup 2x daily),and alfalfa pellets(1/2 cup 2x daily)plus lots of water and fress grass.I mix all the ingredients together, other than the grass & water(she gets these free choice). She also has an equine mineral block that she licks at freely. What can I do to help her gain weight? I'm not looking for rapid weight gain just a healthy amount of fat & muscle.

Thank You Kindly

Where are you from? ,

Re: Foal Nutrition

Hello Dawn,

It is so difficult, as you know, for a growing foal that has been rejected by its mare. You are doing a fine job taking care of her and overall, she seems to be doing well. I do have a few suggestions for you.

I am assuming that she did receive colostrum during her first 12 hours of life and then later, she was either nursing or was receiving a commercial milk replacement. It sounds as though this is the case, since she is thriving.

Foals at this age do better when they can eat free choice, instead of twice/day feedings. If you have adult horses around, I would recommend setting up a creep feeding area where the foal can have free access to her food throughout the day.

Do you know what kind of grass she is grazing on? If it is of high quality, and low in legumes (such as clover and alfalfa), then I would recommend that you supplement her diet with a flake of alfalfa hay each day to provide her with a high quality protein and adequate calcium.
I know you want her to gain weight, but be careful. If the foal ration you are providing is predominantly grain, you may not need to be supplementing it with oats. I am concerned about her gaining body mass too rapidly. If a growing horse becomes too heavy, it can contribute to developmental orthopedic disease (DOD). Regardless of the source of calories, if they are used toward increasing body mass, her bone growth may not increase at the same rate as her body mass. Proper ratios of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium (as well as other minerals) are essential for normal bone development.
To round her her vitamin/mineral profile, she would benefit from a vitamin/mineral supplement. I recommend Select I (made by Richdel) as long as she is receiving milk replacement. This will provide her with the correct balance of calcium and phosphorus (since alfalfa is already high in calcium). And, since it already contains minerals in the proper proportion, it would be safer for your foal if you just offered a plain, iodized salt block, rather than a mineral block.
And, lastly, and very important, do you have her on a regular worming program? You can start worming her at 6 weeks of age and every month thereafter, until 6 months of age. Consult with your veterinarian for the worming program he/she prefers. I use Panacur (fenbendazole) for foals since it is well tolerated.

To build strength in her legs, she does need exercise, as you mentioned. If she is grazing throughout the day, this will provide her some exercise, no doubt. In addition, you may want to start halter-training her and teaching her to lead. A short walk each day on your lead will be additional activity for her. Also, being around other foals, if possible, will stimulate her playing-instinct.

I hope this is helpful. Please write again to let me know how she is doing.

All the best,
Dr. Getty

Where are you from? ,

How did you locate this forum? Getty Equine Nutrition

Re: Foal Nutrition

Tiara is doing very well. She has caught up to other foals who were born at appproximately the same time.
I was already performing all the recommendations that you suggested.She was previously halter and lead broke
when I wrote you. We are now working on some light ground breaking techniques. She is spunky and full of energy and we love her dearly. We own a 3 yr.old
gelding who took her under his wing and became her big brother. I recently purchased a 9 yr.old mare to complete the family. They are all doing well.
I still have her on alfalfa hay and a weanling ration but have weaned her off the milk replacer.
How long should I keep her on alfalfa before I switch her over to the alfalfa/timothy hay that I feed the others? I am presently mixing the straight alfalfa and the alfalfa/timothy at a ratio of about 70/30.
Do I continue this and gradually increase the blended hay until she is completely swithched over?
I have been warned that the straight alfalfa hay will cause her to be hot. One fellow told me that this is why she is so spunky. I was under the impression that her energy levels were due to the fact that she is so young. We don't particularly want a foal that stands sedentary all day.We are quite happy to see her moving;running and playing.She lacked energy for so long that it is a welcome treat.

Thank You Kindly,
Dawn Brown.

Where are you from? Glenside,Sk.

How did you locate this forum?

Re: Foal Nutrition

Hello Dawn,

What wonderful news! I am so delighted to hear that she has blossomed and is doing so well.

Yes, you can certainly start switching her over to the alfalfa/timothy mix – do it gradually.

The straight alfalfa, in my opinion, does not cause her to be behaviorally “hot.” This is a myth that has been around for quite a while about alfalfa. Alfalfa is high in protein and the myth suggests that protein causes changes behavior. Actually, a diet that is high in starch (from grains such as oats, corn, and barley), will affect insulin levels and consequently, the blood glucose levels will have sharp peaks and valleys. This can, in some horses, produce a “hot” temperament shortly after eating.

If you have any photos of Tiara, I would love to see them.

All the very best,

Dr. Getty