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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
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Hi again DR GETTY,i was told that free feeding orchard grass was to high in sugar and fatening.what do you think??and what is the best free choice grass hay to free feed??Iam in calif,so grass hay is not always available so when i find it i will buy alot.i have made a feeder that restricts the amount of food they can get at one time so they can eat 24/7 with out consumeing alot,i put in 1 1/2 flakes in this feeder and it took her 4 hrs to finish it.(i just wanted to see how much and how long it took for that amount of food)do you think you could put alphalpha in a feeder like this??They are picking out a few strands of hay sometimes more at a time.more like grazing.THANKS FOR YOUR REPLY.JUDY

Where are you from? calif.

How did you locate this forum? internet


Hi Judy,

Yes, it's true that orchard, being a cold weather grass, is generally higher in sugar than other grasses. However, this can vary with the conditions under which it was cut (rainfall, sunlight, etc.).

If your horses are healthy, not overweight, have never experienced laminitis, are exercised regularly, and not aging (more prone toward developing Cushings), then you do not need to be concerned with free feeding a relatively high-sugar grass such as orchard. Alfalfa is also a very good addition to the diet because it boosts the overall protein quality.

Calculate their total need based on weight and exercise. Feed 1.5% to 3.0 % of body weight in forage. So, if you have a 1000 lb horse that is exercised regularly, but only lightly, than 20 lbs (2%) of hay each day is fine, as long as they do not run out of forage.

Ideally, turnout would be best, if you have this option. Standing in front of a feeder for hours, does not give adequate movement and can lead to colic. It would be best to place flakes of hay throughout the paddock so your horse has to at least walk around to get to the hay.

Automatic feeders are really not designed for hay consumption since they offer it very slowly and if it gets too frustrating for your horse, it can cause undo stress and the concurrent release of stress hormones. This can put your horse in danger of colic and even laminitis.

So, the more you can allow your horse to eat the way nature intended, the better off he will be.

All the best,

Dr. Getty

Where are you from? Bayfield, CO