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Archive for the ‘Feeding and Nutrition’ Category

Even though horses voluntarily eat snow in the winter, they require free choice water to prevent dehydration. Requiring them to obtain their needed water from snow would be a full time job and take precious body heat to melt the snow.

It is best if the water is not ice cold as it can be uncomfortable on a horse’s teeth and gastrointestinal tract and chill the horse as he drinks.

It is best if the water is not hot, so if using heated watering devices, be sure they are set to keep water from freezing but not so hot the water is on the verge of boiling !!

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Friends and family around the country tell me how scarce and pricey hay is this winter. It seems like every year one section of the country has a drought or flood or something that affects or even wipes out the hay crop.

Even though good hay might be tough to find in your area, don’t be tempted to feed moldy hay to your horses.

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When shown a bale of premium hay and one of poor quality, most horsemen would have little difficulty deciding which bale they would like to take home and feed to their horses.  But since the average bale of hay has one or more defects and because the hay-buyer’s budget enters into the picture, choosing hay, in actuality, is often not so easy.  The many factors which should be considered when selecting hay all relate directly to the growing and harvesting of the hay.  Understanding the hay-making process from the ground up can help you make wise decisions when it comes to buying your winter supply of hay.

Choosing Good Quality Hay

    Good quality hay should be leafy, fine-stemmed, and adequately but not overly dry.  Since two-thirds of the plant nutrients are in the leaves, the leaf-to-stem ratio should be high.  The hay should not be brittle but instead soft to the touch, with little shattering of the leaves.  Lost leaves mean lost nutrition.  There should be no excessive moisture that could cause overheating and spoilage.

     Good quality hay should be free of mold, dust, and weeds and have a bright green color and a fresh smell.  In some instances, placing too much emphasis on color may be misleading in hay selection.  Although the bright green color indicates a high vitamin A (beta carotene) content,  some hays might be somewhat pale due to bleaching and may still be of good quality.  Bleaching is caused by the interaction of dew or other moisture, the rays of the sun, and high ambient temperatures.  Brown hay, however, indicates a loss of nutrients due to excess water or heat damage and should be avoided.

     Hay which is dusty, moldy, or musty smelling is not suitable for horses.  Not only is it unpalatable, but it can contribute to respiratory diseases.  Moldy hay can also be toxic to horses and may cause colic or abortion.  Bales should not contain undesirable objects or noxious weeds.  Check for sticks, wire, blister beetles, poisonous plants, thistle, or plants with barbed awns such as foxtail or cheat grass.

     Making premium horse hay involves a valuable balance of knowledge and skill.  From a horseman’s standpoint, there’s nothing like snipping the strings on a bale mid-winter and finding soft, green, leafy hay inside.  Horses thrive on such hay and require little, if any, grain supplementation. 


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Horses should have access to salt at all times. I provide each of my horses with two salt blocks. One is a plain white salt block that is simply table salt; sodium chloride. The other is a calcium/phosphorus trace mineral salt block. It is sometimes called a 12:12 block because it contains 12% calcium and 12% phosphorus or an equal ratio of calcium to phosphorus, which is good for most adult horses.

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Hi Cherry
I have a, well, almost 3 year old Quarter Horse mare. Last time I weighed her she was about 800 pounds or so. She is a small girl, about 13 hands. The lady who feeds her I think is feeding her too much (a flake of alfalfa in the morning along with some oat, and some grass and oat at night) Though I think that oat doesn’t matter- for it’s just a filler, Ive been told.
A size 32 cinch is WAY to small on my horse and barely can go around her stomach.
Though she is stalky and so is her family, is she too obese for her size? I am worried about that. Jen

Hi Jen,

I wrote requesting you send me a photo of the mare as that would be helpful in formulating an answer. Without that visual, I’m going to refer you to several articles on my website that will help you get started in evaluating your horse’s weight.

What is the correct weight of a horse?

What should this horse weigh?

How do I put my horse on a diet?

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When my dear hubby Richard built my scriptorium (the cottage where I write) he put in lots and lots of bookshelves…..that was, well, I don’t want to say HOW many years ago but a long time !!

The shelves are now overflowing and its time to downsize my collection.

Most of the books are new or like new. Many have never been opened. Some are current titles and others are vintage and out of print. I’ll be adding a handful every week or so, so keep an eye on Used Horse Books.

Likewise, Richard is also going through his video and DVD collection.

We hope you find something you need or have been looking for.

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Help!  I have a wonderful 5 yr old QH mare that started stall kicking before feeding time and now pins her ears and bites at the stall wall while eating her grain or hay.  She is destroying the stall bit by bit.  We tried kicking chains to no avail.  Now we are using a horseshoe around her heel  and it seems to be working. However, she is still bodyslamming into the wall and pinning and biting the wall while eating.  We have no idea why she is doing this or what is causing her to be so nervous.  We purchased her in May and this didn’t begin until mid July, while we were away on vacation.  She has been treated for a capped hock numerous times and I don’t want this to get worse.  I had my trainer take her for a week and the kicking stopped.  Now that she is back in our barn it has begun again.  I have also talked with my farrier.  I need help as we love her dearly and don’t want her lame.  Unfortunately, we are stuck using our neighborhood barn and can’t really change her schedule.
She goes out at 7:30 am after feeding, to her paddock.  we bring her in at dinnertime and she stays in her stall at night. She is ridden by my 10 year old daughter and myself.  She gets 2 days off a week as be both take a lesson as well.  I would appreciate any guidance you could give.  Sincerely, Kim

Dear Kim,

Behavior such as you describe can have a variety of causes. Some are physical factors which you should discuss with your veterinarian. Others could be more psychological which can be modified with management and training. Observation and figuring out the cause is the first step.

Physical causes could include hormones and eating discomfort.

Mares can be “nervous” as you say, but usually only during certain times of their estrous cycle, so if this happens all the time year round, then hormones are probably not part of the cause.

If a horse is uncomfortable when eating, anywhere along the digestive tract from the teeth to the esophagus to the stomach to the intestines, the horse might exhibit odd body movements.

The most likely psychological explanation would be that it is an exhibition of “pecking order” behavior. At your “neighborhood” barn, if there is a horse in the next stall, your mare could be reacting to that horse’s presence. When eating, she might exhibit aggressive behavior on the stall wall with biting and body slamming to communicate to her next door neighbor – stay away, this feed is mine.

When at the trainer’s the behavior might have disappeared because there was no horse in the next stall or the horse next door was not a threat.

When working on changing a horse’s behavior, always start with the obvious things first:

Check to be sure the feed ration is appropriate

Make sure the horse is receiving adequate exercise and turnout time

Make sure the horse has no health issues such as dental problems, intestinal discomfort and the like.

Change the horse’s companions and neighbors to see if that is changes the behavior.


Best of luck and let me know what you observe and determine!

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