The Horse

DEC 2018

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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NUTRITION KRISTEN JANICKI, MS | The Horse December 2018 41 T hat handsome gray gelding greets you enthusiastically with nickers at every mealtime. He licks his feed bin clean daily. Yet, he sports a poor-quality coat. Maybe he lacks energy during lessons. Or, he can't seem to put on weight. Something with his feed just isn't working. Signs like these often alert savvy own- ers that their feed's at fault. "Probably the most common reason clients call our clinic is weight loss," says Dana Reeder, DVM, Dipl. ABVP (equine), clinical as- sistant professor of equine field services at the Virginia-Maryland College of Vet- erinary Medicine, in Blacksburg, Virginia. Second to weight loss, lackluster hair coat or lack of topline muscling can also be why owners seek veterinary advice about their horses' diets. Sound familiar? Let's get to the bottom of why your feeding program might not be working for your horse. Diet Detective Although instinct might tell you to blow like a dust devil through the local feed store and flip your entire feed pro- gram on its end, take a moment to think things through. After working with your veterinarian to rule out any health issues, consider that there are four nonmedical factors that could be affecting a feeding program's efficacy: the horse, the human, the forage, or the grain/concentrate. The horse factor Nutritionists sort horses and ponies into four physiologi- cal categories to best meet their nutrient needs: maintenance, growth, reproduc- tion, and exercise. "Nutrient requirements vary through- out each stage of the horse's life," says Zoe Davies, MSc, R.Nutr, equine nutritionist consultant and owner of Silverhall Equine Nutrition Ltd, in the U.K. "Sometimes this is not taken into account, and the diet is not altered accordingly." Nutritionists can break each class of horse down further, depending on the situation. For example, if an 8-year-old idle Quarter Horse starts a moderate training program, digestible energy (or calories) in the diet must increase by about 6,000 calories per day or he will lose weight. Now, let's say that horse is currently in a moderate training program, sustains an injury, and is put on pasture rest for six months. Without adjusting the diet accordingly to remove those calories you added, the horse's weight and body condition most certainly will change. But calories are just one example of how nutrient needs vary among different types of horses and ponies. The same is true for protein, vitamins, and minerals, although the outward implications of excess or deficiency might not be very noticeable, if at all, particularly in the early stages of nutrient imbalance. The human factor The National Research Council in its (NRC) Nutrient Requirements of Horses (2007) calculates daily nutrient requirements based on the horse or pony's weight and, there- fore, serves as the basis for most feeding guidelines. According to this guide, the amount of forage in a horse's diet should be around 2% of body weight per day for proper digestive health. Very few of us, however, have the luxury of using a horse-sized scale to determine weight. So we rely on the best estimate we can, or we roll the dice and make an educated guess. We can get a better idea of weight by us- ing either a weight tape or measuring the horse's body length and heart girth (both in inches) and calculating weight using this equation: heart girth x heart girth x body length, divided by 330. It's a good idea to determine your horse's weight a few times a year, such as ISTOCK.COM Fed Up Signs your horse's feed isn't doing its job and how to fix it Signs a horse's diet is not effective include weight loss, a dull hair coat, and a lack of energy.

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