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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40 TheHorse.com THE HORSE October 2017 said, she points out that DOD can still show up in youngsters despite excellent management and diet. "Cutting back on protein, vitamins, and minerals slows growth rate without inter- rupting growth," she continues. "Deficien- cies in important nutrients potentially lead to delayed onset of DOD. Steady and proper growth can be optimized by controlling calories, providing properly balanced nutrition and adequate free- choice exercise." "Excess weight on bones and joints of a growing horse is more detrimental than being underweight," says Crandell. "Use of a ration balancer provides a low- calorie option to balance out the forage for the easy keeper." A low-starch, high-fat concentrate with a ration balancer might benefit horses with specific growth or metabolic issues, says Crandell. Always offer free-choice salt, as well. Once a horse has matured, he is not likely to incur a new "developmental" orthopedic disease. "However," says Davison, "unsoundness caused by DOD may not become apparent until skeletal structures are stressed by concussion or repetitive work, as when a young horse enters into training or competition." Preventing Gastric Ulcer Syndrome The equine gastrointestinal tract evolved to handle small frequent meals throughout the day. Equine gastric ulcer syndrome (EGUS) can result when any age horse consumes abundant carbohy- drates (grain products) and/or is subject to long periods of fasting between meals. Providing steady access to forage is an important strategy for lowering a horse's risk of developing EGUS. "Feeding free-choice hay to any age horse is appropriate when they're work- ing hard enough to burn calories and don't exceed body condition scores of 5-6," says Davison. Crandell refers to a 2011 study of young Standardbreds to illustrate the importance of forage type in the growing horse's diet: "Youngsters that had been on a pasture-only diet at the start of the study were tested on two diets high in concentrate—the ulcer scores worsened. The first diet was 50% hay cubes and 50% commercial grain concentrate. The second diet used the same ingredients but ground into a complete pelleted feed. Ulcer scores were highest with the com- plete pelleted feed, even though it had the exact same ingredients as the cube and concentrate diet." She says this is probably due to horses' decreased chewing and saliva production when con- suming a complete pelleted diet, as well as the interval without feed because horses consume pellets quickly. Feeding recommendations to prevent EGUS in adult horses are relevant to the growing horse, says Crandell: ■ Provide smaller, more fre- quent meals when feeding large amounts of concen- trate or grain; ■ Limit starch content to less than 1 gram of starch per kg body weight per feed- ing. For example, a 450-kg (1,000-pound) horse should receive no more than 5 pounds of grain or concentrate per feeding; ■ Provide free-choice access to forage if possible, or offer at least 1.5% of the horse's body weight in daily forage; ■ Maximize chewing time using slow feeder hay bags or bale boxes that allow for periodic eating without overconsumption; ■ Add alfalfa to the diet to help reduce ulcer scores. Tackling the Transition Understanding gastrointestinal func- tion and offering the proper balance of nutrients are key to transitioning a young horse to an adult diet. Davison says the transition might not come through feed- ing a different ration but, rather, offering less total feed than you would to an adult horse. Or, the shift might be to a higher proportion of forage and less supplement. "Protein provided in the transition pe- riod is a little higher than for the mature horse because of ongoing develop- ment and building of body tissues, albeit at a slower rate," says Crandell. Davison says there's no hard rule about what percentage-protein feeds horses need. "This is often affected by the calorie con- tent or recommended feed- ing rates of supplements," she says, to meet his total protein requirements. In general, growing horses 1 to 2 years old need about 10-15% more protein than do mature horses. "Usually protein require- ments for the transitioning period are addressed by good-quality hay with a 12% protein concentrate given at the recommended feeding rate," says Crandell. "If a horse matures early in size, weight, and substance, then tran- sitioning to an adult feed may be done with little to no transition time, but if the horse still seems immature with growing yet to do, then staying a little longer with growth feed is advantageous," she adds. Also consider nutrient quality when modifying diet: An "adult" diet of a supplement of 10% protein with 8-10% protein in grass hay is not sufficient for a growing youngster. Davison doesn't recommend transitioning youngsters to adult diets until all growth and develop- ment is complete. Take-Home Message Dietary decisions aren't necessarily about good or bad feeds, calorie sources, or ingredients, says Davison. Rather, they're based on the total diet's balance. Proper feeding management and nutri- tion should support growth without over- feeding and fattening the young horse. "Successful transitioning depends on the individual horse and its rate of maturation," says Crandell. "Transition- ing a horse is more an art than a science. As the old saying goes, 'It is the eye of the master that fattens the calf.' " Practice good husbandry and feeding to maintain a steady growth rate. Provide ap- propriate amounts of correctly balanced, lower-starch rations intended for growing horses, and weigh and measure horses regularly during their growth period. h NUTRITION ALEXANDRA BECKSTETT/THE HORSE Nutritionists consider fat calories from sources such as calcium-to- phosphorus ratio- balanced rice bran to be "safer" for growing horses than carbohydrate calories. Excess weight on bones and joints of a growing horse is more detrimental than being underweight." DR. KATHLEEN CRANDELL

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