Fat Horses Need To Eat, Too

I board my eight-year-old Arabian mare and have no control over the hay that is fed. It’s generally pretty good, but they change sources each time they purchase hay, so a hay analysis is not practical. She’s fed 1 1/2 flakes of alfalfa in the morning and two flakes grass hay in the evening. I give her 10 carrots a day and loose mineral salt when I give her grain. However, she’s a very easy keeper, and some people think she’s too heavy. Her coat is good, energy great, feet are good. She is 15 hands and weighs around 950 pounds.

I use her for pleasure trail riding, and she’s ridden three to four times a week for 1 1/2 to three hours a ride. She’s turned out daily for about an hour (no grazing). What do I feed her so she gets all her nutrition but so she doesn’t explode’

-Patty Engman

Excess weight is a real health hazard for a horse.??It makes her heart and lungs have to work much harder, stresses her joints and worst of all it increases her risk for laminitis. If she really is overweight, you need get serious about doing something about it. That’s the bad news.?? The good news is she doesn’t have to “starve.”?? In fact, with the correct changes she can actually eat more, feel satisfied and still lose weight.

We would suggest you see if you can remove the high-calorie items from her diet, which means the alfalfa and all grain.??Don’t allow her so much as a horse treat with grain or molasses.?? Pound per pound, alfalfa doesn’t have a huge calorie difference over grass hay but when fed by the flake instead of by actual weight it can be deceiving because alfalfa is usually heavier.

Could you suggest that the stable feed her her 12 lbs. of grass hay/day instead’ Instead of grain, give her beet pulp and wheat bran soaked into a mash. You can substitute some alfafa for part of the beet pulp. Alfalfa actually has fewer calories per pound than beet pulp but when the beet pulp is soaked it will swell to about three times its original volume.??If she misses her alfalfa, or isn’t wild about the beet pulp, you can substitute some alfalfa pellets or cubes for part of the wheat bran.?? Soak them too, or add dry for varied texture.

It’s impossible to give you detailed mineral??supplement recommendations without knowing anything about the hay, but this combination should put you in pretty good balance.?? Add two tablespoons/day of iodized table salt to boost the iodine intake and support thyroid function.??

She really doesn’t need too much in terms of minerals on top of that, but we would suggest you give her an extra 5 grams of magnesium/day and consider boosting traces with a supplement that is a little heavier on zinc than manganese.?? If you can get a pelleted 12% protein mineral supplement, such as Triple Crown 12 (www.triplecrownfeed.com, 800/451-9916), feed about 1/4 pound a day. You can even dole it out as a treat, if you’d like.??Depending on the selenium levels in your area, you could still be short on selenium.?? Try checking with the local agricultural extension agent to see if they can provide that information.

If you don’t think your boarding barn will make mashes for her, do it yourself.?? Mix up a day’s worth at one time, close to either the morning or evening feeding and leave the next feeding with them premixed.?? It will keep this way, covered, for the time between feedings if in a cool room, or refrigerate in summer heat.

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