Feeding Your Horse

Updated: Jan 4

Did you know that Alfalfa is an all encompassing food? If a horse had only alfalfa and water, it would be just fine. However, there are drawbacks. If you fed only alfalfa, a horse would eat himself until he weighted 1,500 pounds and was severely obese. You might hear skeptics say that alfalfa causes stones and you should not feed it, but, the people who say that typically are not getting their hay from New Mexico, Colorado, Texas area where alfalfa is very nutrient rich. If you go to New Mexico, many horses only get alfalfa because that is what grows there. A friend of mine who runs the horseback division of Customs and Border Patrol area in New Mexico only feeds her horses, and the Border Patrol horses alfalfa. The horses have never had issues with stones. East and West coast people expect low quality alfalfa, where as the mid-west has great alfalfa options. 

Did you know that Purina Equine Senior was a revolutionary advance in horse feed because it too can be the only thing that a horse eats, and the horse can live to have a long healthy, fruitful life? A horse can live solely off of Equine Senior and water and live to be 35. I asked about switching my horses to Senior since they need to gain weight, but my vet explained that many horses don't like the taste of it, and you can find a lower priced mid-range feed that will do the same thing. According to my vet, adding one cup of canola oil to each feeding will help them put on the weight I am hoping to add, and I might not have to go all the way up to 1% of their desired body weight. Speaking of this, everything I read on the internet talks about feeding a percentage of your horses body weight. My vet clarified that it is a percentage of the horses DESIRED or IDEAL body weight, not their actual weight.

The reason I am writing about feed is because I recently had a horse colic from a dorsal torsion (twisted gut), and anybody that has dealt with a colic knows that the first thing an owner does after a scare like that is reassess their feeding regime. During my research, I found a great online feed calculator, but I decided that I needed my vets input on my specific situation of my three rescues.

Case Studies: 

  1. Gypsy - an 8 year old QH mare, she is 14.1, used for Rodeo Drill Team twice a week and long trail rides between 6 and 15 miles about once or twice a month. Moderate workload. She weighs about 950 pounds. She needs to lose a few pounds

  2. Titan - a 12 year Appendix gelding, he is 16.3, and is in training, used for trail rides mostly at a walk and trot pace, training to be a rodeo drill horse. Light to moderate workload. Recently colicked, dorsal torsion, was very dehydrated, weighs about 1,050 pounds, should weight closer to 1,200 to 1,300 pounds

  3. Sampson "Our First Affair"- a 9 year old OTTB gelding, used for light trail riding and jumping. Endurance prospect. Light workload, weighs about 900 pounds, but should weight 1,200 to 1,250. 

With these horses, there are several options, it truly depends on what is financially feasible in your area, but here are some options:  

Currently they all have access to unlimited coastal hay on a round bale. So some options would be:

- put 2 and 3 on unlimited alfalfa/coastal and water

- feed 2 and 3 five pounds of pelleted feed 2 times a day, add a cup of canola oil to each feeding, add alfalfa twice a day. 

- Combine lots of alfalfa, and less pellets with unlimited coastal to find a happy medium. 

- horse 1 should only get 2% of her ideal weight in coastal (~18 pounds), with just a handful of grain to keep her mentally happy and not too jealous of the others. She also will get alfalfa on rodeo days as a treat for the trailer ride. 

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