The Horse

APR 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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NUTRITION TheHorse.com/Nutrition KATIE NAVARRA TheHorse.com | The Horse April 2019 35 R emember the children's fable about the tortoise and the hare? The hare took for granted that he'd win the race handily because of his speed. He took a nap instead, and the plodding tortoise passed him as the undisputed winner. The moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race. The same is true for growth in young horses. A horse that grows too quickly can be at greater risk of developing joint and bone diseases. One that grows too slowly might be stunted. A carefully de- signed feeding program supports a young horse's growth at a moderate, even pace so he can reach his full potential. "As nutritionists and managers, we should identify times when growth gets uneven, slow, or rapid and then try to even that out through a feeding pro- gram," says Laurie Lawrence, PhD, a professor in the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food and Environ- ment, in Lexington. Conversations around young horses' growth often center on height. The young horse's weight, however, is just as impor- tant. A growing foal that gets too fat can be predisposed to developmental orthope- dic diseases such as osteochondritis dis- secans (OCD, loose cartilage and/or bone fragments in the joints), says Kentucky Equine Research (KER) Australia equine nutritionist Clarissa Brown-Douglas, PhD. "Owners should regularly weigh and body condition score their growing horses and adjust calorie intake to ensure they maintain a steady growth rate and remain between a 4 and 5 on the Hen- neke 1-to-9 body condition score scale," she says, with 1 considered emaciated and 9 considered obese. A well-planned feeding program helps a foal's caretakers manage growth rate effectively. While we might know the fun- damentals of what nutrients and minerals horses need for healthy development, there's no one-size-fits-all feeding regimen for all foals. In this article Brown-Douglas and Lawrence highlight common foal- feeding challenges and solutions and ad- dress the roles of forage and supplements. Foaling to 3 Months A newborn foal's primary nutrient source is his dam's milk. Immediately fol- lowing birth the colostrum, or first milk, provides needed antibodies to protect the foal from disease-causing microor- ganisms. (You can read more about foal immunity on page 14.) "Colostrum is also high in fat, so it is an important calorie source," says Law- rence. "Milk itself is a highly available source of essential amino acids (which must be provided in the diet because the horse's body can't produce them), as well as calcium and phosphorus." A mare consuming a balanced diet, including plenty of quality forage to meet her increased energy and nutrient require- ments during lactation, is likely producing adequate milk, says Brown-Douglas. "In some cases foals may not receive adequate milk, either through poor sup- ply or in the case of orphan foals," she says. "For these youngsters there are great milk substitutes on the market, and a balanced creep feed can be offered from around 2 months of age." She and her colleagues recommend offering these foals no more than 2 quarts of milk replacer at one time. Results from KER studies have shown that foals fed 2 quarts of milk replacer six times per day gained less weight than foals in a control group that received adequate milk from their dams during their first month. Their ISTOCK.COM A Sensible Start Feeding from foaling to weaning and beyond When a foal is born, his dam's milk is his primary nutrient source.

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