Sunday, February 19, 2012

Getting Ready

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.

Voila:




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!

18 comments:

  1. If only people put as much thought into their own diets! I've heard great things about slow feeders - awesome DIY version.

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  2. I couldn't agree more on anything you just posted. People are so stupid when it comes to grain. And truthfully, I don't think I have ever met a horse that got the full amount of grain needed to provide all of the necessary vitamins, etc.

    I keep my horse at a farm where the guy grows his own hay, and the horses get free choice, 24/7. Previously, my horse was used to two flakes in the morning, three flakes at night, and it would disappear rather quickly. When he first came to the new farm, he literally stood there eating the entire time. But after a week or two he figured out that there would always be hay. So he has hay all the time, plus a vit/min supplement every day. He is healthy and has quite the hay belly.

    I'm so excited to see pictures of the new mare!

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  3. Have you thought about feeding Copra (coconut meal)? I'm considering switching my guy to a whole food diet and the nutritionist recommends CoolStance and flax seed as supplements, plus a multi. I'd love to know your thoughts. Here's the CoolStance: http://www.stanceequine.com/horsefeedproducts.php?CoolStance-Copra-2 and here's the whole food multi: http://www.biostareq.com/formulas/optimum-whole-food-multivitamin-supplement-for-horses

    It's kind of expensive and I'm in two minds, so I'd love to know what you think.

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  4. Savannah, the only bit I know about copra meal is that is is a good source of low NSC fat and fiber, but that it is somewhat lower in fat than say rice bran (copra meal is around 8-9% fat, whereas stabilized rice bran is around 18-20%). It, like rice bran, is also rather high in phosphorus and low in calcium, so it needs to be properly balanced. As for the other product, it sounds very interesting, but the only product of theirs that I am familiar with is Tum-Ease. The mare was on a LOT of other stuff though, so I don't really know if it made any sort of a difference. I'll look at these in more detail!

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    1. Thanks so much for the info. The lower fat content would be great for my guy--he's a bit of an air fern. I love the IDEA of a whole food diet, but the reality of switching my horse from the way he's been fed his whole life is a bit daunting.

      I'd love to know what you think of the BioStar stuff, and I look forward to reading more about the diet you settle on for your new girl. Congratulations, btw!

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  5. How about Carpe Pangaea...instead of Seize the Day, it could be Seize the World!

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  6. So true about horse nutrition being part science, part art. There's just too many variables!

    LOVE your diy slow feeder! Another blog I follow has had good luck with the Freedom Feeder (~$50): http://www.bakersfielddressage.com/1/post/2012/02/whats-a-freedom-feeder.html

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  7. Love that slow feeder, and I'm going to steal that idea if necessary. We'll see what kind of feeding situation I end up with when I go to CA and board - right now I'm just stuffing small-mesh bags once a day and throwing them out twice a day. Easy enough for one person and one horse, but I can totally understand if a boarding place doesn't want to do that.

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  8. How about Pangaea's World since Pangaea is the supercontinent.

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  9. http://fuglyblog.com/horse-portraits/ <- You should totally have this done.

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  10. I love the feeder idea and would love to show it to some of the folks I know. Can you show how you mounted this on the fence?

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  11. Oooooh Pony Nutrition!!!! (and to the poster who said something about if only people put as much thought into your own diet-I couldn't agree more! I am a vegan, and a (human) nutrition nerd as well. I try not to explain to people what they are eating, but, well, not very successfully)
    My three horses have been using slow feeders with good quality grass mix 24/7 for most of this year, with stabilized rice bran, flax seed, mutlivit w/ probiotic, and aloe. My old man has occasional diarrhea that I add beet pulp, gatorade (i know, sugary, but he loooooves it and it really helps clear up his tummy) and some alfalfa pellets. No grain. No soy. No molasses. And the old man and my TB mare are NOT easy keepers. AT ALL. But this works the best for them!
    On your slow feeder, it looks good (I have one of similar design, an extended day freedom feeder, and 2 large smhn from dover (btw, the bags from dover hold more than my freedom feeder, and are MUCH cheaper, around $15) for my three, I have to fill twice a day. An 8-900lb round bale lasts me 2 weeks) But while the old guy and the 3yr old don't eat all the time, the mare does. So some horses don't adjust to the idea of hay being available all the time so they spend their time gobbling. every. minute. Also, you may end up having to use a smaller holed net on your feeder. Depending on how much Pangea (cute name btw, but I also liked Sophie, and I have no ideas on a blog name) eats, she will probably figure out the holes and the best way to suck down the hay as fast as possible. For whatever reason mine eat faster from my barrel feeder, and if Bailey saw holes of that size she would eat that entire barrel full in an hour or 2, seriously.
    This is ridiculously long and may not help you at all, but figured I'd toss in my (unasked for) two cents since I have been feeding like this for the better part of a year (before that it was still no grain, but tossing hay in piles versus slow feeders)

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  12. Good idea on the slow feeder. :) Pretty cool! It sounds like you have the whole diet thing figured out. I have Chrome on a ration balancer right now while he's growing, but when he turns into an air fern (which he will because he's Friesian/Arabian) I'm going to put him on a vit/min supplement. I do feed the shredded beet pulp and it does have molasses. That's the only part of the diet I'm not very happy with. I'm rinsing it though so that helps a little. They get free choice hay and live on thirty acres so I think I have all of that good. :) I love these kinds of posts so I hope you're planning to do a bunch more of them!

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  13. Funder sent me here because I just did a post on trying to figure out a cheap way to build some hay feeders to keep hay out of the mud. Your ideas is great...really cool. I also noticed in reading your post, you menionted you feed Aloe Juice. So do I, but I am curious what your reasons/findings have been? My findings have literally been a lifesaver for my old gelding that I cherish. He was getting episode after episode of moderate colic and he was really starting to act like he just didn't want to thrive anymore. I was almost considering euthanasia last winter. Now? He comes galloping up for his feed, is bright eyed, and bushy tailed like the horse he always was. I am also feeding MSM, which I think has also helped his old joints and any other inflammation. Anxious to hear your findings on it...

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  14. Jonna, my last mare Gogo had an issue with Lyme disease and a gastritis along with it that was giving her the violent spooks and an increasingly dull attitude... when treated for Lyme alone she got worse... when I gave her aloe for the suspected belly stuff (even though she showed no other symptoms for ulcers) she turned into a new horse... back into the horse I knew and loved. And it literally happened overnight! I use it now as support and as a preventative for Pangea because she tends to err on the hotter side and I trailer a lot. So far so good!

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  15. I like the small mesh hay nets. I have only two horses, but they take about three horse feeders to eat two flakes of hay each. The nets get easier to fill after you've done it a few times. I fill all my nets at once and then use them as needed so I don't have to fill nets at every feeding. Smith Brothers has them on sale right now.

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  17. OMG. I have seen the same feeders and thought...I can make that! And now here you are with a homemade one that is AB.SO.LUTE.LY. PERFECT! Thanks for the tips! I have 9 horses, (most lesson horses) and this is a great way to keep hay from being wasted! Love your blog!

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