(Too) Easy Keepers

Asked October 8, 2018, 9:15 AM EDT

I have two Missouri Fox Trotters, one a 15 year old gelding and a 16 year old mare. Both are turned out on a 10 acre pasture. The grass is a poor mix of bahalia and other southern grasses. Both horses tend to be fat and cresty-necked. My vet told me to stop any commercial feeds and to do nothing to improve the pasture. During the winter I feed a Bermuda hay square bale (1 bale for 3 horses - the third is a 25 year old paint). The Fox trotters still stay pretty fat and I would like to get some weight off, but am still concerned about proper nutrition, especially during the winter months. I don’t ride anymore and it has gotten so hot during our summer months that groundwork has become torture for us all. Any suggestions?

Simpson County Mississippi

1 Response

This is a great question, and one that is certainly an issue for a lot of horses. Easy keeping, overweight horses typically don't need lush pasture or top-quality hay to maintain weight (they DO need fiber and long stem forage, but it usually doesn't need to be the best quality, meaning it can be more mature and less leafy.) You are correct that with lesser quality hay/forage and no grain, your horses are probably missing out on essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids that build protein. The good news is...There is a fairly simple solution!

I strongly recommend you put both horses on a good quality ration balancer. Your local feed store should have at least one brand in stock. Ration balancers provide vitamins, minerals and protein WITHOUT extra calories. Ration balancers often look just like grain pellets, but they are a very different type of product. Feeding rates are typically low (ranging from 1/2 - 2 pounds per day, depending on the weight of your horse.) Follow the feed manufacturer's directions on how to feed your horse the ration balancer you choose. If you have questions about it, call the company, they should readily provide answers or access to a nutritionist.

You mentioned that the summer has gotten tough. I agree, it's been rough! I find that making time to work with my horse early in the morning (before work) is the coolest time of day. It doesn't have to be strenuous, and shouldn't be if there are air quality alerts or heat warnings in effect. A few lighter days, or even a skipped session in brutal weather, is not the end of the world in my mind, as long as you keep some measure of consistency. Absolutely avoid work in the hottest parts of the day, save it for evening or early morning. Keep it short, and offer electrolytes when temperatures and humidity soar to help encourage water intake. Hope this helps, good luck with your horses!