Thursday, March 17, 2011

Eat, Horse! EAT!

Last night was Lilly's first official night on pasture board. So was it a success? Of course not! This is Lilly we're talking about.

First of all, she lost her shoe at some point during the night. She was wearing her bell boots and still managed to rip off her left shoe anyway (the good hoof). The damage wasn't too bad, and my farrier came out this evening and put one back on. So instead of riding, I spent the morning searching her pasture for a lost shoe... unsuccessfully.

The BO told me that Lilly ate about half her grain this morning and then tried to steal her pasture buddy's food. When they chased her off she just left her grain and went off to eat grass. So the problem with this situation is going to be that she's not locked up in the stall with her grain at night to snack on. That means there's a good chance she won't be getting nearly as much grain, or supplements.

So I realize it was only one night, and she will need some time to get used to the new routine, but I'm not hopeful that this is going to work either. From what they said, she was calm and content, but just didn't have an interest in her grain after eating about half of it. There's some other reason she's not eating and I don't know what it is yet, but we can probably eliminate anxiety.

The BO thinks that cutting her feed back is the answer... you know, I guess because then I can't complain that she's not eating all her grain. Just cut back the amount she's not eating and voila! No more issue! He thinks she's just not hungry, but 2 lbs is really not that much to eat at a time, and I've never had a problem getting her to eat grain. What horse turns down grain even if they're not hungry? And not hungry for 6 weeks?

He also seems to be very tired of me bringing up the fact that the grain is different. Not only is it a different color, but the pellets are a different size. I don't need a lecture about soybeans and corn to know that she's not eating SafeChoice. Either way, it sounds like he's only going to get it from TSC from now on (and hopefully he doesn't fill the barrel with Strategy).

My next experiment is with her supplements. She's on a supplement for her coat and skin called Nu-Image, and while the description says 'crumble', it's really more of a sawdust texture. She's pretty picky about powdery stuff and perhaps she's just developed an aversion to that...? So tomorrow the BO is going to feed all her supplements excluding that one, and see if she has more interest in eating.

I'm grasping at straws...


  1. Oh Lilly...

    What if you take out all the supplements and just give her the SC? Will she eat that? Maybe try that for a week and then see about adding supplements back one at a time - if one supplement is causing her to go off her feed, you'll know which one it is.

    What if you switched out her grain for a beet pulp or a small flake of alfalfa? Horses don't really NEED grain. I still feel guilty because I don't feed mine any grain right now, but you know what? My hard keeper is fatter than ever. Plus those two items are foraged-based and easier for them to digest. Worth a try?

    Finally, a thought on shoes and growing out her feet. I realize that barefoot isn't for all horses, but barefoot horses tend to grow hoof a lot faster than shod horses. If you pulled her shoes and maybe purchased a pair of Renegades, it might help the damaged hoof grow out faster and you'd have the added benefit of her not ripping shoes off all the time. Just a thought!

  2. Could it be the supplements? I don't know what you feed but I've know horses to only eat half of their feed because their trying to eat around the supplement(s).

  3. Thanks, Jen... I apprecaiate your suggestions because they get me thinking!

    Her evening grain is supplement free sometimes (unless the BO adds that to her dinner) and she seems disinterested in that as well. I don't know that taking the Nu-Image out is going to do any good either, but I'm thinking maybe because of the powdery one she's decided that she doesn't like it anymore.

    I've thought about the beet pulp too, but when I was feeding it to AJ she didn't have much interest in it. Do you feed yours a vitamin supplement since they're not eating grain?

    And as bad as it sounds, I don't know that the BO would let me feed alfalfa hay... he is anal about the hay that comes into the barn because of rogue seeds that could ruin his pastures. Maybe I could do cubes instead.

    I would LOVE for Lilly to be barefoot! I'm so sick of her losing shoes I could scream. Her feet are much better than they used to be, even my farrier commented that they're much stronger and not as soft as they used to be so maybe we're moving toward being barefoot. I'd probably have to wait until the fall when I don't have shows to pull her shoes, but I'm definitely thinking about it now.

    Thanks, Mare! She's been on the supplements for a while now, but I am starting to rotate those out and see if there's one she doesn't like. I think maybe it's the powdery one, but I really have no idea!

  4. I would try alfalfa pellets before cubes. They are more "grain like" and might be easier for your BO to feed. I would try her on them alone for a week or so to see how it went then start adding your supplements back.

  5. We have a horse at the farm that has got to be the most finicky eater ever. We are constantly trying to find a grain that he will eat and he just picks at it whenever he feels like it. It wouldn't be a problem but he is in full time training and a country english horse at that! He is on the thinner side, but we can't really pump anything else in him. He is maxed out right now, he just has no interest in food, not even hay! It's crazy.
    I was thinking the supplement could be the problem too, but then read your comment that she doesn't eat the SC when the supplement isn't in there either. And you said she ate the SC at the other boarding place right? I'd definitely give it a few more days to see if she adjusts to her new arrangement. There seems to be something she isn't liking. It could take quite a bit of experimenting to figure it out. Sorry you have to go through this, horses always seem to cause us to worry!

  6. Maybe it's time to ask the vet about ulcers. Paj's first symptom was not finishing his food. Then he started acting like he was hungry for his neighbor's food but not his own. After they scoped him and saw the ulcers, he went on GastroGard ($$$$$$$) for 14 days, and now he's back to finishing his food first and begging for more. Just a thought.

  7. I'm with Terry on the ulcers.

    If you wanted to avoid the vet expense, you could just start treating Lilly with some UlcerGuard as if she did have ulcers. There's nothing in the supplements/paste that will hurt a horse if they don't have ulcers (actually the additional magnesium and calcium is good for working horses). Lilly really may not be able to eat much of her grain if she is having some tummy issues and it kind of sounds like she is agitated about something. I'd give the routine some time as well. It sounds like you have tried to give Lilly the most ideal setting possible...she probably just needs some time to unwind and get used to it (along with some ulcer treatment to help calm her stomach).

  8. I didn't read through all the comments people already posted so I might just be saying stuff others already have...but...what ive noticed about pasture boarding is this:
    a- if they are fed further apart, they are less likely to wonder what their neighbor is eating and will stay at their own buckets

    b- in the beginning i think feeding time is always gonna be crazy because they are still trying to figure out herd dynamics. it's a bunch of "I'm your boss I eat your food!"

    c- i feed mine supplements too. they make the feed taste different and usually not for the better so they want to see whose food they can steal.

    Just give her some time :)

  9. Lilly, Lilly, Lilly!

    Maybe she's not a fan of Safechoice. Bobby only like straight up oats/corn/pellets and or senior feed. We've tried Safechoice with him, but he won't touch it....darn finicky eaters!

  10. I would stop all of the supplements for a week or so and see if that would work. Ive never had a horse refuse the Nu-image but it could be a combination of everything that is just putting her off her food. If everything was perfect she wouldnt be Lilly would she?

  11. I really appreciate all this feedback!! I'm soaking it all in and will be trying a few things over the next couple weeks.

    The BO said she ate dinner last night but not breakfast this morning, and I couldn't get her to eat her leftover breakfast for dinner tonight, but she did lightly snack on fresh grain without supplements. So... maybe it's a different supplement, although she still didn't seem very interested even though she picked at it.

    I think I'm going to stop the supplements and the grain for now and give my vet a call on Monday to discuss possible ulcers and see what she thinks are options are.

    She has been on the SafeChoice since August of last year, except when I changed her over to the Strategy Healthy Edge for that short time. Before that, she was on a very similar pellet, so she's been on boring pellets for quite some time. She's never been disinterested in her food until we got to this new barn.

    Maybe she just needs some more time out in the pasture to be able to eat 'round the clock...

    She's either going to put me in the poor house or the nut house!!

    Thanks again for all your suggestions... I feel like I should be writing you all checks! :)