dancing horses

dancing horses

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Let's talk about diets

No, not mine. That would be a work of fiction.

Is there anything more fraught with opinions then what we feed our horses? Oh yeah- trimming. But let's save that for a post when I'm feeling braver.

Irish has never been an easy keeper. When you board it's difficult to control feeding practices. The horse has to fit in with what the current practice is. And this makes sense. I can't imagine being a Barn Owner and tryng to juggle all the different feeding fads that owners come up with. Over time he's become quite a finicky eater. I have done all sorts of additives:
  1. rice bran. He seemed to like it at first and then would go off it. And it never kept very long
  2. flax- only ate for about 2 months and then refused
  3. beet pulp- I've had my best luck with this but he only will eat when nothing else is left.
I've tried Fat n Fibre but he never seemed to like it.  When I brought him home I finally had the freedom to figure out the best diet for him. And it hasn't been easy. I've tried any number of things. Over the past 2 years I worked out that he like sweet feed and would eat beet pulp at night so I fed him sweet feed and oil in the morning and sweet feed, oil and beet pulp at night. But it still wasn't perfect. Irish would still act 'ulcery' on occasion. It would take him 40 mins to eat his breakfast. It wasn't unusual for me to save what he didn't eat and add to his supper. Nor was it unusual to hear Ed say with a bewildered air "what's he fed now?" and "why do you keep changing his diet?"

The answer to the second was easy- I was trying to find the diet that he would eat, thrive on and gain weight. I weighed him often over the first year (using a weight tape) and while it may go up or down it seemed to stay at 1085,which is less then his optimal weight.Feeding sugar to a horse that is prone to ulcers is not ideal. the sugar can aggravate intestinal upset but he seemed to only want to eat the sweet feed. It was a no-win situation.

Then one day I was reading an online horse forum and clicked on a thread about diet. In this thread there was much discussion about oat flour. It seemed that it was becoming the new thing for horses prone to ulcers. Now I don't leap on a bandwagon right away just because I read it on the internet. So I did bit of research and stumbled on the idea of feeding just oats. Oats are the original horse feed and have been fed for years. As I read some more I discovered that they are easily digested, horse on oats are less likely to colic and a reduction in ulcers. I discussed my idea with my vet and he approved of me trying it out.

So I began the 'Great Oat Experiment'. I started with a small amount and gradually increased the amount of oats. I know that oats are not balanced - particularly for calcium so I sourced a vitamin supplement designed to augment an oat diet. So now Irish is a diet of crushed oats, canola oil and a vitimin. Steele is on oats and the vitamin. And there's been a huge difference: instead of taking 45 mins to eat and leaving a lot behind Irish takes 15 mins and there's none left in his dish. Before he would eat, circle, bite some hay, eat some more and repeat. Now his head goes in his dish and stays there until it's done. While it's not scientific- his ears are pricked forward and his whole demeanor is of a horse happy to be eating. He is waiting at supper time to be fed and is not impressed if it's late. Before he never seemed to care. And best of all- his weight is 1135. He's gained about 50 pounds and during the last vet visit the vet said that he had a 'fat pad' over his ribs. He's never had that. Never.
For comparison:
December 2010

April 2012
Sept 2013

I call the experiment a success.

for more info: http://www.equineoats.org/default.aspx

1 comment:

  1. Wow! What an amazing difference! He looks great! I'm glad you found something that works. :D I feed oats too in the winter when Chrome needs a little supplement. He's an easy keeper so he doesn't need any in the summer. I also feed a ration balancer (protein, vitamin and mineral supplement). :) Usually simple works the best doesn't it? :D


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