When the co-op idea first presented itself, I didn't really think too much about the specifics. I figured I'd just start feeding my own hay and grain to my horses to make sure they're getting what they need, at least until my barn decides to supplement the pastures with hay.
The main reason for this, of course, is because I think AJ looks to be about 75 lbs underweight (according to the tape), and I don't see him gaining any weight despite the increase in feed (be it ever so small), and the Weight Builder supplement. The missing ingredient, we've all determined, is hay.
I've been quite lucky throughout my horsey life to have low maintenance, easy keepers and we just 'fed' them. They ate some random amount of sweet feed from the mill, whatever hay we could find that was inexpensive, and they thrived. Who cares what the fiber, fat, protein content is? They look great!
Once I started boarding, I paid even less attention. Someone else fed them and as long as they looked good, it didn't matter too much to me what they ate, or how much. They didn't get anything above and beyond, except for when AJ was put on his joint supplement. If anything, they were a little overweight.
Up until now, AJ has been in that easy keeper category. He used to survive on air. Now I'm faced with a horse I think is about 75 lbs underweight and I'm having to take matters into my own hands. I thought this might be a good opportunity to take the time to learn a bit more about equine nutrition and what's available to horses. That was until I started reading the plethora of online articles about equine nutrition. It's enough to make my head spin!
You can supplement with any of the 16 weight gain supplements currently offered by SmartPak, you can add corn oil, black oil sunflower seeds, rice bran, or flax seed. Feel free to add a little beet pulp or soaked alfalfa cubes, and even some hay stretcher if needed. Purina suggests Equine Senior, Omolene 200, Athlete, Equine Junior, and Strategy as good feed for an underweight horse, while Nutrena suggests SafeChoice, Life Design Senior, Life Design Complete, and then you can supplement those feeds with Legacy or Empower. Then there's hay! Alfalfa, orchard grass, coastal bermuda, timothy?
Currently, AJ is eating 1 lb of SafeChoice and 1lb of Equine Senior morning and night (I pay extra for that), and he's getting his MSM and 2 scoops of Weight Builder. Until this past summer, he was eating only 1lb of grain morning and night, so he survived on 2 lbs of Blue Seal pelleted sweet feed and hay for nearly 3 years without issue.
Lilly, being my more traditional easy keeper, gets 3/4 lb of SafeChoice morning and night.
Neither of them are getting any hay. Well, they weren't getting any hay until about a week ago when I started feeding them hay from my personal stash. I take hay down to them when I go out in the afternoon and sometimes M will throw them some for me too if she's around. Lilly RUNS wide open across the field to meet me and then nickers continuously until she's able to grab a giant mouthful of hay. I think she's hungry...
Lilly was on stall rest for pretty much August, September, and October so she was actually being fed hay. AJ was out in the pasture eating grass until about the middle of October when it seemed there wasn't any left, and nothing new was growing.
So then the question arises: are they getting enough nutrition? AJ obviously is not, but even though Lilly is in good weight, is she getting enough? Nutrena says a horse her weight, in light work, should eat ~5 lbs of SafeChoice per day. Honestly, if she ate 5 lbs of grain per day, she'd be the size of a blimp. But does she need a vitamin/mineral supplement, or will the hay cover that? Perhaps her mineral and salt block are enough to cover that?
And to think I used to feed "half a coffee can of sweet feed and 2 flakes of hay" per feeding. Ah, those were the days!
So, do I keep feeding him his current ration of grain, but supply him with hay and wait for the hay that he should have been getting to kick in and help him put the weight back on? OR, do I supply hay, increase his feed, perhaps even change his feed to something with more calories, and wait? OR, do I shovel him hay, increase his grain, add corn oil, and beet pulp/rice bran? He can't have alfalfa or I'd have to add soaked alfalfa cubes to the list...
Should I be proactive and go crazy, or simply add hay and take the wait and see approach? Perhaps I'll just go crazy MYSELF.
Edited to add:
As a side note, does anyone actually feed the recommended amount of feed noted on the bag? I have a brochure for Equine Senior and it says to feed 13 lbs for a 1,000 lb horse. THIRTEEN POUNDS? Yikes... I wouldn't feel safe feeding that much unless it was over 3 or 4 meals per day. That 13 lbs is if you're not feeding any hay, of course, but still.
It also says to reduce the amount of Senior by 1 lb for every 2.0 lbs of hay. So if AJ got 20 lbs of hay per day, that would drop him to 3 lbs of Senior per day. But then it also says that no less than 6 lbs of Senior per day should be fed, otherwise they aren't getting enough nutrients. They go on to say that if your horse gets fat on 6 lbs of Senior and hay per day, you're feeding the wrong food and you should look at one of the other Purina products.