I am in a feeding dilemma-I am afraid of founder and metabolic diseases. I...

Asked September 3, 2019, 9:22 PM EDT

I am in a feeding dilemma-I am afraid of founder and metabolic diseases. I have two easy keepers in light work. I have lots of pasture. I am away from home most days for 12 hours. I have been trying to get them to lose weight. I would grade them 7 and 7.5 BCS. They get 1 lb of a ration balancer divided into two feedings per day. How would I best handle their forage? I know forage is the base of the diet and ideally, they should have access to forage at all times. I am afraid to offer them 24/7 access to pasture. They got fat on free choice hay in slow feed nets over a fairly harsh Ohio winter. Right now I offer them 8 - 10 hours overnight with grazing muzzles and 3 flakes of grass hay each per day when they are in their dry lot. The muzzles rub no matter how hard I try to pad them and they hate them and my husband thinks it makes them tear more of the grass out at the roots, thus damaging the pasture. I have also tried only about 6 hours overnight with no muzzle and hay when they are in and I also had tried them free choice hay and only 2- 3 hours of grazing in the evening. All hay is in slow-feed nets. I have not had them in the grazing muzzles long, so I do not know if they will lose weight on this regimen yet or not. I am torn on the fact that horses should have forage in front of them almost constantly vs their weight issues. How would you feed these two? And where can I find info on the best mix of grasses for both grazing and hay making. We alternate pastures between grazing and cutting hay.

Wayne County Ohio horses pastures and forages

3 Responses

Hello,
I don't believe there are any short cuts to controlling and/or reducing weight for an overweight or over-conditioned horse. It comes down to caloric intake and exercise. Reduce intake and increase exercise ideally. I don't think your horses need access to forage at all times. Consult with your veterinarian. Do you have an analysis of the nutrient content of the hay you are feeding? That should be a first step to balance the nutrient content of the forage with the nutrient requirements of your horses.
Some things to consider:
  • Cut out the grain (ration balancer?)
  • feed a more mature, lower nutrient quality hay
The following web sites may be helpful:

Regarding your pasture and hay question, check out the following resources:

Sincerely,
Rory Lewandowski






Thank you for these helpful links. I am already doing a lot of the things. All hay is fed in slow feeders. Our hay was tested last season. It is certainly not the best quality. The only grain they get is the ration balancer to provide the vitamins and minerals not in the forage and I feed it slightly below the minimum recommended amount. I know my mare really needs to lose, but she has been having hoof issues, so exercising her regular is difficult. I have done the grazing muzzle-padded it the best I can just putting her out for brief periods and she still comes back with sores on her face from it. I know the weight loss is most important, but I do not want ulcers either from not offering enough forage. I read somewhere where horses allowed access to 24/7 hay and pasture tended to better self-regulate their diet? I cannot find that information currently.

Hello,
I did some searching and did not find any information about horses with 24/7 access to forage self-regulating their diet. All livestock, including horses, will overeat unless passage through the digestive system is slow and sends a "full" message to the brain. So it comes down to nutrient density and forage quality in this case. Better quality forages pass through the digestive system more quickly, so intake is higher. These forages are also more nutrient dense. The combination results in weight gain if not balanced with sufficient exercise/work. Self-regulation, if it occurs, is probably more likely with poor quality forages, high fiber content, that move through the digestive system more slowly and have less nutrient density.

Sincerely,
Rory Lewandowski