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

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 Dr. Getty 


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

My horse is an ex-PMU mare, who is 4 years old. I believe she is a Percheron X, perhaps with Arab or Quarter Horse. She is 15 hands right now, and 1100 lbs, she is heavy-bodied like a draft. I have had her for 3 years now.

We just bought a horse for my hubby this year, a reg. Paint/QH, 3 years old, 14.3, 1050 lbs, still growing I believe! Both are in good health, and are fleshy at the moment . They are not ridden regularly in the winter, as it is too cold, and footing can be a problem, so they are mostly idle. The temp can dip to -40 farenheight in January.

My farrier believes the Paint has had a bout of laminitis along the line sometime, although he assures me it is growing out.

My stock of feed at the moment consists of 210 bales poor grass hay I purchased last year from a new supplier before I really knew better, but would like to use up. It seems to be a brome grass mix with some timothy, but it is not very green inside anymore, and the bales are only about 30 lbs each . I also purchased 30 bales this year's cut, which is very green, soft and leafy, with a small amount of alfalfa, and 20 bales of almost pure alfalfa/red clover to supplement the poor hay during the coldest months (Dec-Mid March).

I start them with 10-15 lbs each of the old hay, with 1/2 flake each of the pure alfalfa, over 3 feedings. I increase this amount as it gets colder to about 20 lbs old hay, and 1 flake each of the alfalfa (the alfalfa flakes are about 3 lbs each), and mix in the new hay as well.

I also feed oats and corn gradually, to a maximum of 4.5 lbs rolled oats and a maximum 1 lb corn (through 3 feedings) a day. I am rethinking the corn part through research on your site, and others, that it is not good for horses, although I have fed corn through the winter for 2 years past now with no trouble.

I also supplement with a mineral salt block, as well as a vitamin/mineral powder supplement I add to their oats, starting in November. They have unlimited water, as I have a heater for my water tub to keep it liquid in the winter instead of solid!

In summer (May - September) they are on pasture full-time, with no other feed, except salt block, and are ridden an average 3-4 times a week.

Sorry for the long post - just want to make sure I give you as much info as possible! I enjoy reading all your postings on your site, and value the information. I would just like your advice if I am feeding properly for the age and activity of my horses, especially the Paint, as he seems to have foundered already at some point. Thanks so much!


Where are you from? Ontario, Canada

How did you locate this forum? Web Search

Re: Feeding Program

Hello Tamara,

Your hay program sounds fine -- you are wise to supplement the poor quality hay with a better quality, since the older hay has likely lost much of its vitamin content.

Since your paint may be prone toward laminitis, I would caution you about feeding grain -- not only avoiding corn, but also oats. Depending on the cause of laminitis (and there are many causes), a horse that is "sensitive" to starch will respond by an increased secretion of insulin. This can aggravate laminitis. So, even oats should be out of the question for your paint.

Instead of feeding grain, consider offering beet pulp, hay pellets, or a low starch complete feed.

Additional fiber from these sources will also help create more body heat for those cold winter months.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Re: Feeding Program

Thanks for your reply!

According to the farrier, the Paint's founder was mild, but happened none the less. I do know his history, and where he came from, he had been there since he was a yearling, and was started and trained there as well. I discussed the founder issue with his trainer, and she told me it was a very mild case, and happened in his first year there. She didn't mention it to me because her vet and farrier assured her that he would fully recover, and may never have trouble again. He was coming on 2 years old, and the spring grass in her pastures is quite lush. She says it was from that, and when she saw he was having trouble, she removed him and gradually put him on the pasture. She had never had trouble before, but perhaps he is sensitive?

In my opinion at any rate, once a horse founders for any reason, they are prone to it ever I will re-evaluate giving him grain at all, and stick to just hay for him and see how he does. I can purchase a hay pellet, just so he has something in his feeder while my horse is eating grain. I would like to eliminate feeding grain to either horse in the future, but my hay is so poor at the moment, I feel they will need the extra energy come the cold months. I have a new supplier for next year with really good hay, so I will purchase enough to feed without the aid of grain, and see how they do.

I also always gradually introduce pasture-time in the spring, and hour or two to start with hay in between. I have never (knock on wood) had a horse colic or founder in the 6 years I've had my own horses. Is there any early warning to tell if a horse is foundering? I know they can go lame, but is there any way to tell before this happens, as lameness may be too late?

Thank you so much for all your help,

Where are you from? Ontario, Canada

How did you locate this forum? Browsing

Re: Feeding Program

Hi Tamara,

Good plan! You may wish to consider adding some flaxseed meal to the hay pellets. This is an excellent fat source, high in omega 3 fatty acids.

I agree with you about the tendency for a horse to experience laminitis again, so caution is always a good idea. It is best to feel their hooves every day for changes in temperature. The hooves actually are very cold in the initial stage of laminitis, but this stage is often missed because it is quite brief. And, with cold weather, it is almost impossible to detect. But, shortly after the cold stage, the hooves get very warm -- so each day, as you give your horses a "once over," feel their hooves, as well.

Thanks for writing and keep up the fine work!

Dr. Getty