Bluegrass Horse Feed hosted a live webinar focusing on topics surrounding feeding our horses during lockdown. Bluegrass nutritional advisor was joined by guest host Dr Kathleen Crandell from Kentucky Equine Research, answering questions sent in by Bluegrass customers and webinar attendees.
1) I have not been riding my 17 year old Irish sports horse since lockdown, she is a good doer and is turned out during the day, she started to become hard to handle so I’ve been reducing the amount of her senior feed to the extent she gets a hand full in the evenings to help get her into her stable and haylage, should I continue like this and how should I transition her back onto feed once restrictions are raised and I can start to ride again?
The horse in this question has all that excess energy she would usually expend when working, and so it’s understandable why she is harder to handle. It was smart to cut down the hard feed as she does not need the extra calories.
There are some options for feeding this particular horse.
- The problem when cutting down to a handful per day is that if the feeding rate is meant to be say, 1kg per day (or what the recommending feeding rate is listed on the bag), you are cutting down the calories but also the minerals, vitamins and protein. You may want to optimise the diet by balancing it with a vitamin or mineral supplement along with the handful of feed your giving, so providing no extra calories but topping up the microminerals that might be missing in the forage/ grass, and as she gets into work you can increase her back to her normal ration.
- Option two is a ration balancer, for example Bluegrass Stamm 30, it is a low intake feed, concentrated in protein, vitamins and minerals but low in calories. It is fed in small amounts designed to give these nutrients that would be lacking from reducing intake of the other feed. Balancers are a good substitute when you don’t want extra calories in the diet. An Irish Sport Horse not in work would get around 500g per day and if she did well on this you may continue this when she goes back into work.
2) I have a warm blood broodmare who is a 5 condition score, she is in her last trimester and her previous colt foal was diagnosed with physitis. I have been recommended by a friend to try Bluegrass Stud Mix, would this help with preventing problems in this years foal and how much to I feed her during her last trimester and lactation?
The stud mix would be very appropriate for this type of horse, but be careful that she does not gain too much weight when provided the recommended feeding rate of the stud mix. If that is the case you could use the Bluegrass Stamm 30 Balancer instead of the Stud Mix which is fine to use during parturition and then once the foal is born she may require more calories to help her maintain condition and support lactation.
Why is Stud Mix good and what has it to do with physitis?
If we look at the last trimester of pregnancy, the broodmare is giving her own supplies of trace minerals to the featus including, Zinc, manganese, copper and selenium which is stored in the liver. These stores will supply the foal when nursing the trace minerals as these are low in milk. Minerals are really important in the newborn foal for cartilage and bone growth and maturation.
A good study highlighting this was conducted in New Zealand to help illustrate why minerals are so important and how nutrition of the mare can affect the foal once they are born. New Zealand forage is low in copper. The study supplemented a group of pregnant mares with copper and half of the group got no supplementation. When the foals were born half were supplemented with copper and the other half did not. At around six months they euthanised the foals and looked at the occurrence of osteochondrosis and physitis. They found foals had lower incidence of both osteochondrosis and physitis when the mare was supplemented with copper during last trimester but didn’t seem to impact when the foals received supplementation directly. It is important to remember that physists can be nutritional impacted, but this is not the only cause, it is multifactorial.
3) I have a 2 year old thoroughbred breeze up colt who I was producing for breeze up sales, he is on a reduced work load waiting for guidance from Horse Racing Ireland he is a good doer. How should I manage his feeding regime?
As he is a good doer and on a reduced workload, you will want to cut back on the amount of calories in the diet. But we have to remember he is still growing so careful not to cut back on the protein as that is required for growth. There are a couple of options: you could cut back the amount of hard feed or can switch to lower calorie feed. I would put this colt on Bluegrass Racehorse Cubes, as he is in reduced work he doesn’t need the extra starch for energy and the racehorse cubes are low starch (15%), but have a high protein content (14%).
4) I have a 4 year old thoroughbred point to point gelding which the trainer has sent home till we have an idea when national hunt racing should resume, should I just throw him in the field straight from training and take his hard feed away from him?
Traditionally we would have thrown them into the field, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it is the best option for the horse. It is better to have a gradual transition. Gradually increase turn out the horse has and reduce the amount of hard feed, gradually but keeping him on something like Stamm 30 or a lower energy feed. He has worked hard and has a good supply of energy sources to do the work, so if we throw him out straight away these will diminish.
5) My string of eventing horses have been eased off their work load but I want to keep them ticking over and ready to go when the season starts, I would like to feed that does all ideally, most get 3 or 2 scoops each a day with 2 horses, getting 1 or less scoops a day, do I need to continue adding salt to their feed?
It can be difficult to get one feed to be the right balance for a wide range of feeding rates. One option would be to give all the horses Bluegrass Stamm 30 balancer and for those needing more calories this could be topped up with something like a high calorie additive such as Equi-Jewel or Flax plus. Alternatively, you could use the current feed but for those that would not meet the recommended feeding rate, the Stamm 30 balancer could be added. I would recommend offering a free choice salt block, as they aren’t working, they aren’t sweating so don’t have as high of demand.
6) My daughters pony club is a Connemara and is 20 years old, she is not being ridden at present but hope to start when it is safe to do so, she is turned out on grass and is in good condition although she is loosing muscle on her top line, is that just because of not being ridden and should I be feeding her?
As horses age its harder for them to maintain muscle mass particularly if they aren’t working. Some problems can occur with protein digestion and protein is important for building muscle. An option would be a protein supplement such as the Bluegrass Stamm 30 as it has good balance of amino acids which would support good musculature. This pony would also benefit from ground exercises, a good example was from a Bluegrass sponsored rider on the Bluegrass Facebook page showing some examples of groundwork exercises.
7)I have a yard of mainly 2 year old flat racehorses, I have them in moderate work in anticipation of season starting, I have in the past had problems with splints when I increase their work load, especially when the weather is dry like this. Is there anything I can feed them to reduce the chances of splints as we are going to have a condensed season and I want as few set backs as possible
Increasing workload on these young horses can be stressful on their bones and so it is really important for them to receive a balanced diet and have enough minerals like calcium and phosphorus to support bone development. Bluegrass Horse Feeds contain BMC, this is a highly digestible calcium, marine sourced supplement and these feeds are good for these horses in that respect as the have enough of the highly digestible calcium available. It has also been found to buffer the gastrointestinal tract to help reduce EGUS and hindgut acidosis. A Study by KER found BMC effective at reducing bone loss, particularly when young horses are going into training. A supplement by KER called Triacton has shown to help with bone loss and reduced the risk of bucked shines, common if horses are put into hard training fast.
8) I’m only able to get to my livery yard once a day, my gelding gets turned out for half an hour a day, he’s not coping well and has lost weight, he is being fed 2 scoops a day of a 10% feed produced by a different feed brand there are no oats but a lot of other cereals in it. He gets Haylage twice a day, he seems to be on edge all the time what can I do to help him?
Due to this horse having limited turnout and in combination with the high cereal feed, it is giving him a high starch and high energy source and therefore giving him more nervous energy overall. If the cereals are not being digested well they could be entering the hindgut resulting in hind gut acidosis which can also effect behaviour.
I would suggest to take this horse off the current feed and put him on a high fibre, low starch and high oil feed like Bluegrass Re-solve. Bluegrass Turmash is also a good option for this horse, it is low starch, high fibre and the turmeric is anti-inflammatory along with the type of feed which may result in him eating it slower and so spent more time eating.
9) I have a pony for my child he is on restricted grazing only turned out in the night and in during the day I’ve been told by my farrier not to feed him hard feed to prevent a recurrence of laminitis he is in good condition, although he is lifeless and is slow to loose his winter coat am I doing the right things? He seems so unhappy.
With the signs of lack of energy and slow to lose his coat, it seems like this pony is suffering from Cushing’s Disease or PPID, which is a disease where there is a tumour of pituitary gland and this affects different hormones of the body. They will usually put them on medication to help control this. Laminitis is common in horses and ponies that have PPID. I would recommend putting this pony on the Stamm 30 balancer and looking at an official diagnosis and treatment for PPID.
10) I have two yearlings; they were lacking condition as foals so I have had them in and out of fields and fed as much as I could without over feeding. I now have them on Bluegrass Foal and Yearling Mix but my farrier has said they are heavy and worried about their joints. I have decreased their feed to 1.5kg per day but worried they are growing and not get enough?
If they are receiving the minimum recommended feeding rate that should be meeting their requirements. You could move them to Bluegrass Stamm 30 balancer if you thought they were still getting too many calories in their diet from the mix and grass.