The Horse

FEB 2019

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 February 2019 The Horse | and extent of any weight loss, these ani- mals were more likely to put weight back on more rapidly (when fed the same diet that was needed to maintain their obesity originally) than if they were restricted more moderately. Weight-loss diets need to take this into consideration and bal- ance the level of restriction (and, there- fore, rate of weight loss) with the need to provide sufficient fiber/forage over the 24-hour period—the maximum weight loss we recommend is 1% of body weight (BW) per week (after the first week), and we do not recommend feeding less forage than 1% BW in dry matter (with veteri- narian involvement and with strategies to extend foraging time)." 3. Feeding racehorses coming off the track, whether going to the breeding shed or into performance horse training, can take time. "Horses that come home to the farm and they've been in race training … we try to put them on a high-forage diet," says Lawrence. "It takes them at least two weeks, and usually a month, before they actually start eating as much hay as you would expect a normal horse to eat." Consider the mare that comes from the track at a body condition score (BCS) of less than 5 in the fall, and you'd like to increase her BCS to above 5 by February, when breeding season begins. "To increase one BCS unit, you have to feed more than a maintenance level of calories," Lawrence said. "How far above maintenance depends on how fast you want her to gain weight and how big the change in BCS is going to be … one unit or two units, etc. "In general for a Thoroughbred mare, changing BCS in about 60 days takes 5-6 pounds of regular concentrate above her normal maintenance ration," she continued. "So if she is at a stable BCS of 4.5 and she is getting ad lib high-quality hay/pasture and 3 pounds of concentrate per day, then you are going to increase the concentrate to 8-9 pounds per day to achieve the weight gain in 60 days. Ideally you might want to achieve the weight gain more gradually … say 90 days. Then you can feed 3-4 pounds above maintenance per day (so, a total of 6-7 pounds/day). The other advantage of starting earlier if you live in cold climates is that you can take advantage of milder weather and probably better pasture. In all cases, diet changes should be made gradually." 4. Be sure horses fed in groups get their rations. "You need to keep in mind that some horses eat fast, others slow, and mares, especially maiden mares who have just come off the racetrack and are low in the group pecking order, might not be get- ting enough in groups," said Huntington. Keep this in mind with groups of broodmares with foals at their sides, too, as older foals will eat some of the mare's food. "So if you're calculating how much you're going to feed a lactating mare, you've got to factor in that the foal might be having 20-25% of the dam's feed," said Huntington. "Some older horses can't get their heads down to graze or they can't move to get to the grazing, or problems with their teeth or jaw mean they cannot chew properly," added Harris. "So you think they've got plenty of forage and, if the owner reports the horse is losing weight, it might just mean they're not able to use it." Or they simply eat concentrate much more slowly than the other horses do, added Lawrence. 5. Consider pasture intake, hay wast- age, and horse type when calculating for- age intake. Diets are built around forage first, but it can be challenging to know exactly what the horse is consuming. Lawrence said she generally estimates hay intake to be 2% of body weight, but individual ranges vary greatly. She calculates pasture the same way, thinking about total dry matter intake and, of course, the horse's pasture access. "The biggest thing that's going to af- fect how much pasture they're going to eat is how much pasture is there," said Lawrence. "So, if they have to wander from one plant to the next on the range, that's a lot different than if they're in a beautiful Central Kentucky pasture that's 8 inches tall and dense." As for whether horses are consuming enough pasture, her solution is to throw hay to the pastured horses. "If they eat it, there's not enough pasture out there," she said. "And if I take them hay and they leave it, then there's enough pasture." But Harris says this can depend on the grass and the individual: "When we've got very, very rich, low-fiber pasture, horses will sometimes eat hay because they seem to want the fiber. Some horses might ignore really wonderful grass in favor of some more fibrous hays." Either way, remember that ponies seem to have the potential to eat more as a pro- portion of their weight than do horses. "We have seen that ponies can eat up to 1% of their BW in dry matter when out at grass in just three hours and nearly 5% over a 24-hour period, whereas horses more typically eat around 2-2.5% BW in dry matter per day," said Harris. "But they are all individuals—so, again, moni- toring is key. Huntington said to always put out one more hay feeder/pile than there are horses, and place them in a circle, not a line, to help the natural pasture politics play out, even while everyone gets to eat. Bottom line: Allow for 10% wastage, he said, as well as variation with indi- vidual intake, while also considering the variability of digestibility and metabo- lism. Adjusting the feeding program to a horse's individual needs is vital. h DIETARY DEVELOPMENTS Make sure you're feeding according to your horse's activity level; many owners overestimate this. COURTESY MATT WOOLEY/KER

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