From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Reduced Exercise? Reduce Diet!

I have a 8 year-old Quarter Horse/Arabian/Mustang mix that weighs about 1000 lbs. My 11 year-old daughter barrel races on him about 1-2 times per week and exercises him another 2 days in the week. We are feeding him a scoop of Healthy Edge in the morning and 1 scoop of Healthy Edge in the evening with 1/2 flake of Alfalfa in the morning and evening with his HE. He has a couple of flakes of Coastal hay at his disposal during the day, but he doesn’t really eat it. We are new horse owners, we’ve had him a couple of years. Over the winter, when my daughter wasn’t riding him as often as she usually does, he put on about 100 extra pounds. Our vet recently reduced his grain to 1/2 scoop morning and night and added Platinum Performance to his diet. I’m just wondering what your thoughts are on this? – Thanks, Polly

Dear Polly,

I think your veterinarian made a good decision in reducing the calories and sugars/starches given to this horse and replacing nutrients with a broad multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. While the particular product he recommended doesn’t account for the differences in vitamins and minerals between grass and alfalfa hay, it probably does an adequate job of filling the gaps between what the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses says your horse’s daily requirements are and what he’s getting from a partial serving of grain.

“About 100 extra pounds” is the equivalent of two body condition scores, so if your barrel horse was a 5 on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring scale your vet thinks he’s now a 7 (or if he was a 4, now he’s a 6). Your goal throughout this competition season and into next year’s off-season should be to keep his weight as ideal as possible for his performance and health. So when your daughter has gone to his last show in 2012, begin to gradually wean him down from a full scoop of grain (please weigh this!) and add in the multi-vitamin.

There is one thing that concerns me in your question though, and that is the amount of hay your horse is eating. One half flake of alfalfa morning and night isn’t nearly enough forage to maintain gut health. Are you sure he’s not eating more of the Bermuda Coastal hay than you think? Does he have access to pasture? A 1000lb horse should receive at a minimum 10lbs of hay per day; 20lbs would be an even better amount. I recommend you review the hay situation at your barn to make sure he’s eating somewhere within this range.

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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2 comments on “From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Reduced Exercise? Reduce Diet!
  1. Mary says:

    This is great advice but I am surprised you did not mention the problem with the term “scoop” of grain. This tells you nothing unless you know the SIZE of the scoop. It would be better to specify a weight or actual volume (in quarts, cups, liters…).

    • SmartPak SmartPak says:

      Great suggestion Mary! We totally agree the “scoop” term does change depending on who is measuring and what size scoop they are using.

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