Friday, October 24, 2008

Rational Rations

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.


Carole said...

Is that a full muzzle, or a grazing muzzle that Tonka is wearing? How much grass does he get through it?

I ask because we have a heavy horse cross who gets so much grass through his grazing muzzle that he still gains weight. He's the easiest keeper ever - I think he'd get fat on a bare concrete floor. Not that we've tried that. Yet. :-)

dp said...

It's a grazing muzzle. The original whole in the bottom was about 1.5 cm in diameter, but I cut it to about 3 cm in diameter because he couldn't get anything through it. He still doesn't get much -- it's kind of pathetic. You might have richer grass than us?

Brandy said...

They both look great! Raven has good weight, and Tonka looks fit!

And you're a good owner for caring and studying and adjusting the formulas. I remember with my dog, I had quite a fun time feeding him. He was allergic to corn products, so I found wheat based kibble, added some canned food, supplements, powders, warm water, mixed it all up with love... He would actually DANCE for that bowl!

Your babies look great, and we know the goats are nice and plump, and Titan is growing a nice fluffy coat too! Seems you're just about ready for winter!

Black Jack's Carol said...

I found this entry fascinating. I had never heard the terms, "easy/hard keeper" for horses, let alone humans:) I realized as I thought about it, that my interest in nutrition has really only developed in the past five or so years (slow learner). I really didn't ask many questions about my horse's feed. Things would be very different now. Never heard of a grazing muzzle, either. Lots to ponder here.

Rising Rainbow said...

Figuring out horse diets makes me crazy.

allhorsestuff said...

I have wanted to give flax..but I need to find a "stabalized" source. Do you gring your own?
And, Why do YOU give it?

dp said...

I can buy it ground and stabilized at our feed store. It's about $30 for 20lbs. I would feed it whole if I could, but I cannot find a source. If you feed whole there is no need to grind or stabilize.

I started feeding it because it is supposed to support hoof regeneration, which was important for Tonka as the old hoof was growing out. I continue feeding it because both horses have lovely, soft and shiny coats. I love the way their winter growth has come in -- thick but not too long.

MichiganBarb said...

I used a grazing muzzle on my foundered horse for a couple of years when he was pastured on rich grass. It's a great tool. The horse could be turned out with buddies and get his exercise without ingesting too much.

I was amazed at how much grass he was able to eat through that little hole. The drawbacks were his doleful expression at the pasture gate at turnout, as if he wanted to say, "Come back! You forgot to take this thing off!" And eventually the muzzle wore his whiskers off. I imagine that must have been like having them plucked. Ouch.

These days he doesn't need his muzzle anymore and he's sporting a full complement of whiskers.