Let me just preface this by letting everyone know how appreciative I am of all your comments and suggestion. Some of you even take the time to email me privately to voice concerns, give suggestions, and even share personal stories. Your real world experience is priceless to me, and I thank you very much for sharing!
As you well know, I have been struggling with Lilly's nutritional needs... again. Trying to figure out what those needs are has been my latest obsession and it has taken me to a place I never thought I'd be.
I've decided to go grain free.
1. Going back to August, Lilly was being fed 1.5 lbs of SafeChoice (SC) per day. SC is a pelleted feed made by Nutrena that I had heard really good things about and it was one of the options at our new barn. I hadn't really given feed that much thought at the time, and she seemed to be doing very well on it. Because of nutritional challenges I was facing with AJ, I started looking more into nutrition and after realizing that in order for Lilly to get what she needed out of the SC, she would need to be fed at least 6 lbs per day. Feeding her 6 lbs of grain per day would definitely have caused her to gain weight, so I took the advice of the Purina guy and switched her over to Strategy Healthy Edge (SHE). She was being fed 4 lbs of that per day and she completely lost her mind.
2. She was back on stall rest at this point, and I decided it must be related to the SHE because her behavior was not normal and that was the only major change in her life. I switched her back to the SC. She went back to being her sweet, calm self, but I think it was too late at that point. She had probably already developed an attachment to Baby, and most likely ulcers.
3. She was back to being fed SC when M and I moved our horses to our current barn. Little did I know, she wasn't eating her grain and I'm still suspicious that she was being fed Strategy. We all know how the first show went, and she was again acting like she had when she was on SHE. The second show was even worse.
I've really been thinking about how all these issues and problems she's been having are most likely ALL related. Perhaps the SHE caused the worry, anxiety, and attachment to Baby, which caused the ulcers, which caused her not to eat, which causes all kinds of other issues because she's not getting the appropriate amount of vitamins and minerals that may actually help her!
If only I had a PhD is horse nutrition.
So the first thing I've been wanting to do is address the ulcers. There could be a lot of reasons she's not eating, but when you add it all up, ulcers sound like a pretty good diagnosis. My vet will scope her for around $300, and prescribe a month's worth of GastroGard for an additional $1,000. We could skip the scoping and start her on a week's worth of GastroGard which is about the same as the cost of the scoping. We would know if she has ulcers by her response to the medication. OR, she said I could try a more conservative route, take her off the grain for about 2 weeks and feed her alfalfa hay. Alfalfa is high in calcium and helps raise the pH of the stomach making it less acidic.
After giving it all much thought, I decided to take the "no grain" option and run with it. She's on a great pasture and is fed an appropriate amount of hay. Since she's not interested in her grain anyway, I'm swapping it out with alfalfa pellets. The BO doesn't want outside hay on his property, so actual alfalfa hay is out, and I thought the pellets would seem more like "grain" to her when she's eating than the cubes. Plus, they don't need to be soaked.
She tends to be a pretty easy keeper, isn't worked very hard, and is nervous by nature, so we can go from 18% NSC in the SC to about 9% in the alfalfa pellets. I'll be supplementing her with SmartVite from SmartPak so she's able to get all the vitamins and minerals she needs. I'll keep a close eye on her weight and I may end up needing to supplement her with beet pulp or something else for calories.
I'm still researching and figuring out exactly what I want her to have an how much, but since Friday she's been off grain completely. Alfalfa pellets, grass, coastal bermuda hay, and her supplements are the only things going into her tummy. Well, that and cookies.
Anyone else gone grain free, or given it some thought?