The Horse

OCT 2017

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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38 THE HORSE October 2017 should generally consume 50% forage (hay and pasture) and 50% concentrate or a "junior" supplement by weight. (For the purposes of this article, "concentrate" or "supplement" refer to a manufac- tured, balanced feed combining forage and grain, often called a complete feed. "Grain" refers to corn, oats, and/or barley.) Horses younger than 2 might develop a hay belly when ingesting more than 50% forage, says Davison. "This isn't neces- sarily body fat but indicates a youngster's less-efficient forage digestion," she says. "Support lean tissue development in the youngster while not overfeeding. Body condition scoring is a great management tool to monitor growth and fat deposi- tion." Ideally, keep your growing horse's body condition score around 5 or 6 on the 1-9 Henneke scale (TheHorse/30154). The proper forage-to-concentrate ratio depends on your forage quality. This is where you might want to have your hay analyzed to determine its nutrient con- tent. As growth rate slows, a horse volun- tarily consumes more forage. Because a young horse typically won't eat enough forage to meet his protein, vitamin, and mineral requirements without getting too fat, Davison recommends feeding a ration balancer, which provides concentrated levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals without too many additional calories. By about age 2, a horse has reached nearly 90% of his mature weight and can transition from the 50% hay and 50% supplement diet to free-choice quality hay and however much supplement or ration balancer he needs to maintain an appro- priate body condition score. How a young horse develops depends to an extent on his genetics and how the owner feeds him. "A tendency toward early development needs to be supported with good nutrition," says Davison. "A horse that is genetically programmed to slower maturity still needs good nutrition but fewer calories. An oft-made mistake is the attempt to slow growth rate below a horse's 'preferred' genetic programming, with a misguided idea that the slower the growth rate, the better. However, slow growth achieved at the expense of bal- anced nutrition won't prevent develop- mental disorders; it simply delays when musculoskeletal abnormalities appear." Must-Haves: Minerals and Vitamins Horses need a balance of specific minerals—particularly calcium and phosphorus—for bone and cartilage devel- opment. Our sources suggest ensuring horses get as much calcium as phospho- rus, ideally with a calcium-to-phosphorus ratio of 1.1-1.25. In areas where horses subsist primarily on calcium-rich alfalfa- based diets, Crandell suggests supple- menting at least 0.6% dietary phosphorus. Researchers have found that calcium-to-phosphorus ratios as high as 6:1 don't cause developmental orthopedic disease (DOD), provided the horse receives adequate amounts of both minerals. Trying to compensate for imbalances by adding minerals has its limitations. "Adding calcium to a calcium-deficient diet likely reduces the incidence of DOD, but adding more calcium to a diet that already contains adequate calcium is not likely to prevent DOD," Davison says. "A growing horse that receives the minimum recommended feeding rate of commercial concentrate growth feed or amounts above recommended feeding rates of mature horse formula- tions shouldn't need additional mineral supplementation—minerals are already included in those formulations," Crandell adds. Otherwise, you can feed 1-2 pounds of a ration balancer daily to mitigate nutrient deficiencies. Feed Fat Over Carbs Nutritionists consider fat to be "safer" than carbohydrates to feed young horses. This is because blood glucose levels don't tend to rise following the ingestion of fat calories as much as they do after carbo- hydrate (grain) calorie consumption. "Added dietary fat, such as vegetable Forage alone can't fully meet nutritional requirements for growth; therefore, youngsters have higher nutrient needs than do mature horses. ISTOCK.COM NUTRITION Adding more calcium to a diet that already contains adequate cal- cium is not likely to prevent DOD." DR. KAREN DAVISON

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