I thought it might be useful to do some posts about horses we are helping through this site. I will try to post one write up per week about a nutrition consultation, beginning with Ralph.
Ralph is a 24 year old quarter horse that came through this past winter with a significant weight loss. It’s hard to tell from this picture but his Body Condition Score (BCS) is a 4+ but he should be a 6. He is 15 hands tall and should weigh around 800 pounds. We used a weight tape to calculate his current weight and he measured at 645 lbs. That is a significant amount of loss.
Ralph is not in any work and has free range of his 3 acre pasture (as you can see from the burdocks in his forelock) 🙂 His owner was feeding him “2 coffee cans of sweet feed a day and timothy hay, not sure of the amount.” After measuring Ralph, we measured the feed and hay. Turns out he was only getting 2 pounds of feed that has a recommended feeding rate of 6 pounds per day for a horse his size. So he was obviously not getting enough.
The hay was on the lighter side too with the bale weighing 40 pounds, the quality was average, making the amount Ralph was receiving low in weight and digestible energy (DE). His pasture was adequate but not enough to add much in nutrient value.
It’s easy to look at this and think adding volume will fix this but we must remember that this same diet was “good enough” to keep Ralph fat in the past so we needed to figure out why it wasn’t working now.
The answer was Ralph’s teeth. He hadn’t had them done in awhile and they were not helping him chew the long stem hay and the whole grain concentrate. Without proper chewing the feedstuff cannot be absorbed and metabolized by the digestive system.
So Ralph’s owner scheduled a visit with his vet. I have found that older horses do best with a diet that is dust-free, easy to chew and digest, and based on digestible fiber instead of grain. So I switched his diet (gradually of course) to a beet pulp and alfalfa cube mash based on the weight we WANT Ralph to be rather than on his current weight.
We developed a program of .5% of his body weight (BW) in mash (so ~ 4 lbs/day) and 1 % of hay/forage (~8 lbs/day). Therefore Ralph will be getting a daily total of 4 pounds of dried beet pulp mixed with 1 pound of alfalfa cubes soaked in water with a 2:1 (water to feedstuff) ratio. This is divided into two feedings per day.
Ralph’s program will still include about 8-10 pounds of hay a day offered but with the soaked mash he won’t be relying on the hay for fiber.
Eliminating the sweet feed also eliminated a energy dense feed source but the alfalfa cubes (~1,000 Calories/pound) and beet pulp (~1,100 Calories/pound) will make up for the Calories.
A good daily vitamin/mineral supplant was added to ensure Ralph gets what he needs. If you would like to get some of the benefits of beet pulp but don’t need the soaking chore, try switching to one of the commercial beet pulp based feeds like Triple Crown Senior or Complete.
A few tips on feeding beet pulp: Dry beet pulp weighs about 0.6 lbs per quart so a 2 quart scoop will hold 1. 2 pounds. Soak it for at least 30 minutes using warm water. Longer if using cold. A pony shouldn’t get more than 2 lbs of dry beet pulp per day, a young horse no more than 4 pounds and most mature horses should get less than 6 pounds of dried beet pulp per day.
I’m happy to say that Ralph loves his new diet and is starting to bloom again after only 3 weeks!
If you’d like your horse to become a member of the Nerd Herd, please schedule a consult today http://www.happyhorsehealthyplanet.com/consulting.html
~Peace and Good Feed,