From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Easy Keeper Developing Bad Habits

I have a 6 yr Morgan horse who is a very easy keeper. She is currently getting 1 lb ration balancer and 12 lbs grass hay and 2 lbs Alfalfa cubes a day total – broken down into 3 feedings. Her hay is fed in small mesh hay nets to help it last longer, but she has started digging holes to chew on tree roots. She is on Recovery EQ and Quitt. Any suggestions on what to do or is normal behavior? – Tabatha

Dear Tabatha,

I feel your pain! Here you are trying to do the right thing and your mare is not participating in the program. Couple of suggestions for you:

1. Omit the 2lbs alfalfa cubes. Alfalfa typically provides more calories than grass so she probably doesn’t need this particular feed.

2. Feed the right amount of forage. How much does your horse weigh? If she weighs 800 pounds, then the 12 pounds of grass hay you’re feeding her per day is 1.5% of her body weight. If she weighs 900 or 1000 pounds, then she’s receiving closer to 1% of her body weight. This may simply not be enough long-stem forage and therefore chew time for her. Try gradually increasing her hay to 15lbs or more and see if her behavior quits yet she does not gain weight.

3. Soak hay to reduce the NSC content. Since you’re already putting her hay in the small hole hay net, soaking in a clean muck basket would be really easy! Sugars and starches but not important nutrients are removed in just 30 minutes of warm water soaking or 60 minutes of cold water soaking.

4. Add a grazing muzzle. I’ve had great success with putting grazing muzzles on horses to slow down their rate of hay consumption. I know they’re designed for grass pastures, but they also work well in situations like yours where the small hole hay net doesn’t keep her from finishing her hay too early.

5. Include a supplement targeted to support metabolism. Ingredients like chromium, magnesium, taurine, biotin, cinnamon, fenugreek, and other herbs—including adaptogens—help some horses lose their ravenous appetite.

In addition to these diet recommendations, I have two more ideas for you: provide at least 30 minutes of controlled exercise each day, not just turnout, and consider adding stall toys or another distraction to her environment. Hopefully something here will help your mare cope with her diet restrictions that are necessary to her overall health and soundness!

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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One comment on “From AAEP’s Ask the Vet: Easy Keeper Developing Bad Habits
  1. Lisa says:

    Smartpak, do you have a supplement that has the suggested items in it?

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