While we all brainstorm and try to figure out a good name for the new Pangea blog (can't really make a new blog without a name), I'll keep posting here on Bay Girl's blog until a name comes to me. Keep sending suggestions!
There is a lot to be done when it comes to getting a new horse! Ordering supplements, picking up feed and hay, signing documents, making sure everyone is on the same page... yikes! And this time, I'm doing things a little bit differently than I have in the past when it comes to feeding. Feeding horses is part science and part artwork... you can calculate all the formulas you want, crunch every number you can think of, and still get it all wrong. There are factors you can't control, such as the mineral content of your water supply, the health of the soil your hay was grown on (unless of course, you grow your own hay), and your own horse's particular digestive process. It gets a bit overwhelming, eh?
I had particularly good luck with Gogo's feeding schedule. It worked great for her, with one notable exception: she always has the tiniest, tiniest bit of white line separation despite her strong, beautiful, sound, healthy feet. Years into feeding her, I finally figured it out: she had a soy sensitivity, attributed to the soy in her ration balancer. That was the only thing we could attribute to the soy... the rest of her looked fantastic:
First picture was taken late in the fall, the second was of her shiny shiny shiny springtime dapples.
She was fed Buckeye's Gro N' Win ration balancer (in varying amounts, somewhere between 1 and 2.5 lbs a day), more or less free-choice timothy/orchard (fed between 6 and 10 times a day), ground flax, and Cosequin ASU (and a few other supplements, but none that I liked enough to stick with). I liked that protocol, except for her particular soy sensitivity, and would use it again.
However, this time around I thought I would try things a bit differently. The hay I am feeding is a mix: there are bales of tim/brome/orchard/alf, and bales of straight timothy. The four-way grass mix is very, very nice, with lots of beautiful soft leaf and color. The tim is a bit more mature with more stalks and seed heads, and will be used more as chew time versus the four-way mix. Both of my suppliers stock hay from the same location year-round, so there will be a fair bit of consistency. Local hay is very hard to get right now due to last year's drought, and all hay grown in the area is coastal. I'm not interested in feeding coastal, so I went for the colder-weather hays brought in from up north. Just about any hay supplied to the area right now is trucked in from outside locations, so it doesn't make all that much of a difference in price.
I'm also not feeding grain. In my area, there seems to be a lot of local emphasis on large grain meals and hay only fed twice a day, which is a recipe for starch overload, ulcers, boredom-induced bad behavior, colic, laminitis, general malaise... the list goes on. There is a general misconception that hay doesn't provide any nutrients for some reason, that only grain can do that... I've heard people say it! (*facepalm!*) I personally am all about supplying my horses with the large majority of their energy and nutrients from their hay, and supplementing with a good vitamin/mineral supplement and possible fat if extra calories are needed. Pangea, being at this moment in time rather sedentary (i.e. not in work), will get the majority of her nutrients through high-quality forage, and be supplemented with a quality vitamin/mineral supplement that is specifically balanced for these particular types of forages. It has a base of flax, added and balanced amino acids, and several strains of viable good bacteria as a probiotic. For her level of work, this and her hay should in theory supply her with everything she needs. We'll see how it works!
She'll also be on Cosequin ASU, and my good old favorite, aloe juice. Instead of a pelleted grain, the carrier for all these supplements will be a small amount of sun-cured timothy hay pellets, just enough to wash everything properly down. I wanted to use molasses-free beet pulp as my carrier, but you have NO idea how hard that is to find around here... not to mention the question of whether or not that would be too much of a hassle for barn staff.
The major flaw in the design of all of this is the feeding schedule at the barn. As is the norm around here, hay is only feed 2x a day, once in the AM and once in the PM. Well that's not gonna fly for me! Horses are browsing grazers, designed to take in small amounts of forage throughout the day, and when their digestive system sits empty all sorts of foul things can happen. I'm not keen to let that happen, so I decided to look into a slow feeder. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a slow hay feeder allows the horse to eat a controlled amount of hay in a slow trickle fashion, versus just gobbling down their portion and then have nothing to do with the rest of their day.
There is only one problem with slow feeders. They are MAD expensive. Like, several hundred dollars for a feeder. Well, there had be a cheaper option, yeah?
I did some more research, and I found a picture online of this homemade hay feeder. A much better idea! But I could do even better.
A garbage bin, an old basketball net, and... that's it! All you do is fasten it to the fence, lift off the lid at mealtimes, and dump in the (fluffed up) hay. Maresie does the rest!
Cost? About $18. If I had used an old haynet or a recycled garbage bin or barrel, it would have been even cheaper.
It was super, super easy to make... all I did was punch holes in the bin and tie the net on, then tie the bottom of the net closed. It's a pretty tough net, but if she chews through it, I will use a tougher small mesh hay net instead.
We'll see how well it ends up working!
(More on slow feeders here if you are interested!)
SHE ARRIVES TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Keep those blog name suggestions coming!