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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44 December 2018 The Horse | Conversely, reduce concentrate gradually over a one- to two-week period, subtract- ing about ¼ pound every other day. If you're changing concentrate types, such as starting your older horse on a complete senior feed (one that provides his daily nutrient ration, including what's obtain- able through forage), the transition should take five to seven days. Replace 25% of the current feed with the new one about every other day until switched over completely. There is little research looking into the effects of rapid changes in hay types or amounts. Still, make these changes gradu- ally, as well, especially when switching from a grass (e.g., timothy, orchardgrass, or Bermuda) to a legume (alfalfa and clo- ver). Replace 25% of the ration with the new forage every couple of days. When turning horses out onto lush pasture, limit their grazing time for several days to avoid digestive upset. Increase the amount of turnout time by one to two hours per day until they're turned out for the desired time (be it 24/7 or just until they're brought in). Nutritionists also suggest turning out horses with a full stomach (achieved by feeding a hay or concentrate meal prior to turnout) to try to reduce initial overexuberant grass intake. One consideration is for seniors unable to chew long-stemmed forage or horses with poor teeth transitioning to a com- plete feed. As the sole ration, complete feed must be fed in large quantities daily (15-20 pounds is not unusual). Therefore, meal sizes need to be small and frequent to mimic natural feeding behavior to reduce the risk of digestive disturbances. Start by feeding small meals four to five times a day, and increase the amount per meal by ½ pound every few days until feeding the desired total amount. Seeking Help If the thought of balancing a feed pro- gram makes your head spin, have no fear, nutritionists are here. "Equine nutritionists are highly quali- fied scientists that can advise clients and work out the best feeding program for your horses," says Davies. They can assess in detail the whole ra- tion, including the forage, and balance it to make sure it's meeting all your horse's nutrient needs. They can also assess if you've upset the feeding program balance by adding unnecessary supplements, which might provide horses with very high levels of certain nutrients on top of their current balanced ration. "This is important because owners can then rule out diet as being a cause of poor performance, for example," says Davies. If you have any concerns, always discuss them with your veterinarian, even if it's just to rule out potential medical causes. Nutrition might be a part of the problem. "A common call that we get is for lami- nitis," says Reeder. "The most common cause of laminitis in Southwest Virginia is equine metabolic syndrome as a result of obesity. So, we have to address nutri- tion, and many times owners don't realize that it's a factor." When nutrition isn't the cause, finding the true source of weight loss can get complicated. Common issues that are simple to diagnose, such as stress and gastric ulcers, do cause weight loss, but Reeder says other diagnoses, such as cancer or malabsorption disease, can be harder to pinpoint. Wrapping It Up One size definitely doesn't fit all when it comes to feed. Getting to the root of a less-than-ideal feeding regimen requires evaluating the horse, the human, the for- age, and the grain or concentrate. Work with a qualified equine nutritionist to fully dissect the entire diet, find any imbal- ances that exist, and implement changes to get your horse back on track. h NUTRITION Forage changes, such as a new supplier or hay type, can affect your horse's nutrient intake. ISTOCK.COM

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