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Hi Dr. Getty...okay so here is the situation. I am in charge of 6 therapeutic horses. One is a mini, one is a pony, two are appys and two are Halfingers. They all live together in a pasture that is maybe an acre to an acre and a half. This pasture is grazed down to nothing but weeds. Fortunately, all the horses look great - except one of the Halflingers. He is overweight (& still gaining) with a cresty neck. They get fed hay 2X a day and although we are using SFHN they are often out of hay by the time the next feeding time comes around. We have them on supplements (Glanzen Complete, sodium, and Quiessence for the overweight gelding). However, they only get these about 5-6X a week.
This gelding is a the dominant horse (usually) and can be an aggressive eater when the food has run out for some time and we are bringing more out. He can be very jumpy and even start shaking and calling out to the herd if he is separated from them (e.g., this past week when we brought him into the barn for the trimmer. She actually wouldn't finish trimming his feet b/c he was so nervous).
The barn owner (we board) wants to pull him out of the current pasture and stick him alone with only 2 feedings a day of way less food..."that'll fix him." I KNOW that is the WRONG way to go about it, but he is making everyone nervous with his continuous weight gain...including me.
My question is: if we are giving him lots of hay, but he can still run out of it, and not really giving him the recommend amount of Quiessence, is that going to actually contribute to his weight GAIN?
Is the answer: up the Quiessence to 2x day at the rate recommended, and be sure that all SHFNs are full and never run completely out?
And why is there only ONE horse in the group that is gaining weight? Does it have to do with his personality, his own metabolic situation, his stress level???
Where are you from? New York
How did you locate this forum? Dr. Getty told me
I think that if you put out some Freedom Feeder
hay bags,one more bag then horses you will see a big
difference in the horses attitudes,These are slow feeders and helps the horses to feed as naturally as
possible when there is no grass in the pasture,put in a low sugar grass hay and the fat horse should lean down and the others should maintain..There will be less wasted hay in a bag and it gives them the natural
pulling action they like..
Dr Getty has said 2 feedings a day is not natural for
horses, because there bodys need forage at all times to keep the stomach acids down.The aggressive horse you talked about may have a very acidie stomach that is why he is so aggressive at feeding time..
I have full bale bags out for my horses and they are very happy healthy horses with great attitudes when i go out there to see them,plus always ready to ride because they have free choice hay 24/7.Please consider slow feed hay bags for your horses you both will love it.
Where are you from? calif
Thanks for the info Judy. I already use hay nets for this herd, but had forgotten the rule about one more out there than there are horses. I think we have 6 right now. Should have 7!! I so appreciate your comment about his stomach being acidic (he most likely has ulcers as well) and that may be what contributes to his aggressiveness at feeding time. I hadn't thought of that. I have read Dr. Getty's book twice, and refer to it all the time. LOVE IT!
It's too late however, the barn owner has convinced the director to pull this gelding out to another pasture where he is alone (although it is next to the pasture he was in - so he can see his buddies over the fence line). He will be fed 2X/day with only 2 flakes of hay at each feeding. This pasture has been eaten down and is basically a dry lot - with very stressed, overgrazed grass (which may make it very high in sugars as it tries to recover and grow, plus it has been hot and dry here for over 4 weeks). This horse will also be lunged everyday to increase his activity.
The director agreed to do this for 3 weeks and see what happens...stating that certainly the reduction in calories will lead to weight loss.
I feel so bad for this horse!
Dr. Getty, can you PLEASE help me understand this. If this horse looses weight, we will not really know if it was due to a reduction in food, or an increase in exercise - or both. Why do vets still recommend this type of action for overweight horses. I'm thinking that horses must loose weight this way or the vets wouldn't be suggesting it for so many years. ??? I am confused. I need to better understand the philosophy behind 23/7 access to food = weight loss. Especially when I have to defend it to the director of the riding program and the barn owner/manager.
Trying no to feel defeated....
Where are you from? NY
How did you locate this forum? Dr. Getty
Since we visited about this via email, I am going to post my response here for the benefit of my readers.
Yes, if you starve a horse he will lose weight. But as soon as you start feeding him normally, he will gain back all the weight he lost, and gain even more than he originally weighed. The science has to do with metabolic rate and with hormones.
When a horse is stressed due to running out of hay, even for only a few minutes, he never realizes that he has all he wants. That sends his body into "survival mode" where his body holds on to fat (because he thinks he is going to run out of something to eat). When he has all that he wants, 24/7, with NO gaps, he will start to calm down and his cortisol secretion (stress hormone) will subside. This allows his body to burn fat and lose weight.
If you severely restrict feed by giving him a much smaller amount (as is being proposed), his metabolic rate will dramatically decrease. Here, again, he is in survival mode but this time his body is trying its hardest to hold on to what it has (fat and muscle) but because the amount of calories provided is severely less than what he needs to survive, he will burn as few calories as he can, but he will also lose weight. His weight loss will be from fat and muscle. Losing muscle further decreases metabolic rate. So, he will take off some pounds and everyone will cheer Hurrah! But now he is a thin, sick animal with significantly lower muscle mass and an unhealthy metabolic rate. He will "blow up" at even a slightly more amount of hay because his body is no longer able to tolerate more calories.
By allowing free-choice feeding, his metabolic rate stabilizes because his hormones are stabilized. Restricting feed is stressful -- both mentally and physically (it is painful to have a stomach full of acid, leading to ulcerations in the stomach and throughout the digestive track). Horses that are allowed to self-regulate their intake, like they would do in the wild, are NOT heavy.
Exercise is very important but this poor horse -- you are going to exercise him with a stomach full of acid! That acid will slosh around to the unprotected area of the stomach and he WILL develop an ulcer. Now you'll have a metabolically ill horse that also has an ulcer.
Exercise burns calories and also makes the horse more sensitive to insulin, thereby allowing for his body to burn fat and hence, lose weight. But exercise should be PART OF a healthy lifestyle. Of course, if you starve a horse and force him to move, he is going to lose weight (and dislike you intensely, while you're at it.) But the outcome is a miserable animal with a miserable existence, that will grow old quickly.
Why do vets not know about this, you ask? Well, more and more vets do know about this and I am seeing article after article in horse magazines that are written by vets that offer this advice in their concluding comments -- Things like... "Always provide hay, continuously" or "Feed your horse all the hay he wants, " or "Hay should be the foundation of the horse's diet and freely available." Statements like these show that vets DO know better and if yours does not, then I recommend getting another vet.
Jane, I am very disheartened to hear about this poor animal. Please, please give him a lower NSC hay, all that he could possibly want where he never runs out -- that way he'll get the message that there's always hay available and he'll slow down his eating. Right now, he's running out, plus there's competition from other horses -- this is KEEPING HIM FAT.
Add magnesium to his diet and omega 3 fatty acids -- both will reduce circulating insulin levels.
And exercise him.
And in 6 - 12 months you will have a new horse.
I wish you well with this and I hope this helps you and others to understand this concept better.
Where are you from? Bayfield, CO
:o) Good idea to copy and paste! Great information! Hope it helps someone besides me (& Kaptain).
Where are you from? Upstate NY
How did you locate this forum? Dr. Getty
I hope so, as well.
Where are you from? Bayfield, CO