Saturday, May 31, 2008

Another Approach

Before Raven arrived at Farcical Farm I used to spread Tonka's daily grain ration onto a feeder full of hay so that it would dispense slowly along with the forage. Wild horses don't happen on buckets of oats very often, so I assume it's more natural for domesticated ones to get the good stuff a little at a time. I stopped doing this when Raven arrived because she eats so much more than Tonka, but I have revisited the idea over the past two days. Instead of soaking and feeding beet pulp in two large helpings I have been spreading dry pellets onto their hay (the shredded product would be better for this, but I'm not worried about choke when they are getting one or two pellets at a time). So far so good -- Raven hasn't been gassy and Tonka hasn't been laminitic -- and I am still able to feed their other rations separately.

I spent some of this afternoon visiting with an 18-year-old quarab (quarter horse X arab) gelding on behalf of some friends on Vancouver Island. Shadow is a sweet fellow who has not received proper food, farrier visits or veterinary care for some time. His owners were going to auction him for meat, but a kinder young lady has volunteered to find him a good home instead. With time, patience and TLC he will make a great horse of light trail riding, which is exactly what my friends are looking for. Keep your fingers crossed for Shadow, and please please please become a regular at Fugly Horse of the Day if you are interested in the creation and disposal of unwanted horses in North America.


green_knight said...

*Please* do not feed unsoaked beet pulp, particularly not pellets. They expand upon contact with fluid, which might be in the throat (and choke is ugly), but they can also expand in the stomach or the gut, and as one of your horses is colic-prone *anyway*, making sure she stays well hydrated and is not exposed to anything that might slow down or impede gut function is utterly vital.

(came over from FHOTD)

dp said...

Thanks for your post and your concern. I have stopped doing this for the latter reason. As for choke, there is little scientific evidence (though lots of anecdotal support) for it being associated with unsoaked beet pulp -- even in pelleted form. I was willing to take the risk of choke, but I am not willing to take that of further colics.

green_knight said...

little scientific evidence (though lots of anecdotal support)

Good enough for me. I've stood next to a horse that was spitting out blood from choke, trying to gently massage his neck and keep him as undistressed as possible. Four hours of that has cured me of risking choke ever again.

(In his case it was straight pellets, which expand some but not a great deal. He went back on straight oats and lived a long and healthy life, but it was a close call.)

I've also done the home experiment where you put a pellet into water and watch it expand. Quite frightening, really. Shreds are less dangerous, but they still expand enough.

If you do need to supplement them, have you tried oil? I'm even more fond of oil for putting on weight than sugarbeet.

dp said...

Thanks again for your comment. I am a scientist through-and-through so the peer-reviewed literature is always my first source of information on such questions. In your shoes I would certainly defer to personal experience!

We feed a very low-carb hay to ensure that Tonka doesn't get too much sugar with his forage, but it also doesn't provide the kind of nutritional value they should be getting from their main source of feed. I do my best to make up for this by supplementing with a flax, sunflower seed, whole oats and alfalfa cubes (and corn oil for Raven). Everyone suggests that feeding beet pulp can help to make up for low quality forage, and I was simply trying to find a way to get it into them without (a) causing gastric problems for Raven and (b) overloading Tonka with sugar. The gradual dispensing of individual pellets seemed like a good idea until the vet said she thought Raven was dehydrated.

Anyhow, I've gone back to soaking for now (and draining off the water), but in lesser quantities. We'll see how it goes...