In horse lingo Tonka is an "easy keeper" and Raven is a "hard keeper" (they would be a "good doer" and a "poor doer" in the UK where, apparently, grammar is more flexible). Easy keepers (like me) put on weight easily and are prone to getting fat. Hard keepers (like some friends I hate) have a hard time keeping weight on, and they are prone to getting thin. Yet housing Tonka and Raven together in a paddock with an all-you-can-eat buffet has produced two ideally fleshed horses. Locking me and Kate Moss in a room with an endless supply of raw fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts would probably have a similar outcome (assuming that I didn't eat Kate Moss). The devil, of course, is in the desserts.
High octane grass and legume hays are prized by many horse people, but I'm convinced that they make easy keepers fat and hard keepers frenetic. Based on my experience with Tonka and Raven a quality low-sugar mid-protein hay is suitable for both metabolic types, especially when fed free-choice. Providing unlimited nutritious-but-undelicious forage allows horses to eat instinctively so that they moderate their own intake. We go through anywhere between 50 to 75 lbs of hay daily at Farcical Farm, and I would guess that it's split 55% to Raven and 45% to Tonka (who outweighs her by 200 lbs).
Of course I do regulate other aspects of their diet. Raven grazes freely while Tonka is muzzled, and Raven's twice daily feeds pack more punch thank Tonka's. She gets:
- 2 cups of dry beet pulp pellets soaked in a colander to leach off any residual sugar
- 1 cup of high fat pellets
- 1/2 cup ground flax seed
- 1/4 cup black sunflower meats
- 1/4 cup corn oil
- 1/3 cup of Hoffman's Horse Mineral
- 1 tablespoon of salt
The only real difference between them lies in the beet pulp and the corn oil. Tonka gets:
- 1 cup of Raven's soaked beet pulp, just to hold everything together
- 1 cup of whole oat
- 1/2 cup of ground flax seed
- 1/4 cup of sunflower meats
- 1/3 cup of of Hoffman's
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 1 big handful of alfalfa cubes
These mixes are flexible if I find Tonka looking cresty or Raven looking ribby, but they have kept both horses looking great for the past three months. Raven actually looks overplump right now, but that is exactly how you want a high-strung thoroughbred to head into winter.