Too Many Goodies

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My three-year-old Arabian mare isn’t holding her weight well. She’s about 15 hands and 600 pounds. She has a thin neck, prominent withers and backbone, and pointy hips. There’s a faint shadowing of ribs visible on her. Her hooves are good.

She seems energetic, always running to the gate to greet me and she plays about the pasture like a foal. Her appetite is good.The vet said she is in good health, not parasite-infested, and her teeth are in great shape. I was told she wasn’t thin but atheletic-looking and I shouldn’t worry, but I do.

Previously, I fed 12% protein sweet feed. I started her under saddle and do light work for about an hour a couple of times a week. With the exercise I feared she would shrivel up and blow away. So, now she’s getting six pounds of a feed twice a day, plus one ounce of wheat germ in the evening.

The feed mix is 40% Manna Pro Super Horse 10% protein pellets, 40% oats, and 20% Calf Manna. She has unlimited access to good grass hay and pasture with brome hay given at feeding time. Is this diet adequate for my mare at her exercise level'

-Wendi Vines
Missouri

Horse Journal Responds:

It looks like your problem may be too much of a good thing.?? With 12 pounds of the concentrate mix you described, the mare is actually getting more energy/calories than she would need to hold a weight of 800 lbs. when in light daily work.????

The concentrate mix also provides twice as much protein as she needs and your mineral levels are about five times higher than they should be for calcium and phosphorus,??and from seven to 25 times higher than they should be for trace minerals.?? There’s also an extremely high iron intake, which can lead to a variety of inflammatory problems.??

All of this is without even considering calorie, protein and mineral intake from hay, which is probably not too great since feeding this level of concentrate may blunt her hay intake.??This can lead to digestive upset and inefficient digestion, as well as poor energy levels.

The horse is designed to maintain a large percentage of energy levels from the digestion of fiber sources in the colon — a slow steady supply.

Your mare will probably do much better if you get her back on a diet of higher digestible fiber and nondigestible fiber and saner protein and mineral levels.??

Try feeding her a mixture of 0.75 lb of Calf Manna with 3.5 lbs of oats and 3.5 lbs of beet pulp. This is the total amount for the day, divided into two feedings.??Soak all of this with enough warm water to cover and add 1.5 oz. of plain salt (0.75 oz. per feeding).??

Feed seven to eight pounds of your brome hay at the same time, divided into two feedings. The brome hay is well suited to the Calf Manna.??This intake should allow her to reach and maintain a weight of 800 lbs., even with the light exercise you describe.??

This diet should more than meet all her protein, major and trace mineral requirements, gets rid of the potentially harmful high iron and will be a much more natural diet, providing constant, steady energy.??

If she has any signs of digestive problems (such as any intermittent diarrhea, hay belly/“bloated” appearance, undigested grain in her manure), we suggest you also consider adding Ration Plus (800/728-4667) to her diet.