I talk about feeding and nutrition on this blog often. Equine nutrition is kind of a passion of mine. Since Bonnie became so terribly laminitic learning about and understanding nutrition has become paramount. However I feel that the simple basics may get lost in the mix around here.
This will be a short, simple blog post. Keeping the miniature horse diet as simple and natural as possible is the key to having a happy healthy mini.
Sky and Zorro are healthier than they have been for awhile. They are both in good body condition, not too fat and not too thin. They are bright eyed and have tons of energy. Their hooves are in the best shape they’ve EVER been. (I attribute that to the feed program and the trim technique I’ve been using.)
So what have I been doing feed wise?
They get low sugar low starch hay that has been tested. I only feed grass hay because Bonnie is so sensitive to protein, but to be honest after seeing how their feet have improved over the last year I wouldn’t feed an alfalfa grass mix hay anymore. Now I AM supplementing Sky and Zorro with a bit of alfalfa pellets, for a short time. Zorro has been very bloated and gassy lately and I think he needs a bit more protein. The easiest way to get that into him without feeding him a fatty supplement is using alfalfa pellets. Usually I would give them hay in slow feed nets, enough to last 24 hours. However I have been running low on hay and Sky was a bit heavier than I wanted her to be coming into spring, so I now feed a measured amount. They get one to two flakes (depending on the size of the flakes) in the morning and the same in the evening, in the slow feed nets. Most of the time they still have hay in the nets when I go out to do evening chores. I figure they eat for about 14 hours.
In the morning Zorro and Sky get 1/4 cup of the Crypto Aero Wholefood with 1/4 cup of alfalfa pellets. I top that with 1/2 a scoop of California Trace minerals and 1/2 a scoop of Remission. Zorro also gets 3/4’s of a scoop of Excel , a digestion health supplement. Then in the evening both Zorro and Sky get another 1/2 a cup of alfalfa pellets with about 1/4 cup of timothy grass pellets. They will not get the alfalfa for very long, just this spring.(When I say a 1/2 cup I mean an actual measuring cup. When I say 1/2 a scoop I’m talking about the scoop that comes with the supplement.)
That’s it! The main things I want to get across are:
- Get your hay tested!!!!! I use Equi-Analytical. I am buying 60 bales of hay from a guy and I took the time to go out and gather a sample. I paid $54 for the test and $34 to over night it as I needed my results as soon as possible, before he sold all the hay. If I was buying 20 bales I would have it tested before I fed it to my horses. If I could only buy 1 or 2 bales at a time then I would only buy from someone that had it tested. So basically… GET YOUR HAY TESTED. For a healthy miniature horse that isn’t metabolic, I would want the hay to be below 12% sugar and starch, when they are added together. If you have a metabolic horse or one that is sensitive to grass then make sure those sugars and starches are below 10%. I suggest you also have your grass tested if your minis graze. Again I would want those sugar and starches to be below 12% for a healthy mini and below 10% for a metabolic mini. I tested my grass at different times of the day and found that here the grass is lower in sugar and starch in the late afternoon. That is after a warm night. If we have a cool night, below 50 degrees then my grass is not safe to graze at any time of the day.
- Keep things as basic as you can. It’s so much easier to stick to (and afford!) a basic feed program. When you have your hay tested you will not only find out what the sugar/starch levels are but you will know what the protein levels are, how much calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and molybdenum is in the hay. If you pay a bit more you can find out how much selenium is in the hay as well. I know my area, Montana, is low in selenium so I choose a supplement that has that. I don’t get too picky about perfectly balancing all the minerals, but I do want to be sure I am balancing the iron in the hay. I have found for my area, California Trace mineral does that well. I plan on upgrading to the California Trace Plus when I finish this last bag of the regular. Then I won’t need to feed the Remission any longer.
Something to keep in mind. When you feed a lower quality hay, which to be honest, pretty much every horse should be eating, you WILL need to supplement with some kind of vitamin/mineral. And I don’t mean a trace mineral block. Look for a supplement without added iron. This is KEY! And also when I say a low quality hay I DO NOT mean hay that is moldy or dusty or yellow. I mean a hay that is low sugar low starch with a lower protein.
Here is a bit about reading a hay test:
The first column with the big red arrow pointing to it is the column you read. These are the numbers that matter. So first of all the protein is pretty good. It’s a bit low, but I would far rather a bit low than too high. For a horse with IR the protein should be below 10%. Next, my simple sugars and starches are good. When added together you want them to be below 10% as well and added together mine are about 8.2%! Phew because finding a low sugar low starch hay at this time of year is a trick! Then the calcium/phosphorus should be 1:1 or 2:1 and mine is just over 2:1, so that’s good. The magnesium is low, but I have been supplementing with magnesium for some time now loose in a bucket in the shed. Next is the iron. It’s high, but honestly I’ve seen hay with much higher iron. And that is why I feed the California Trace! Iron/zinc should be no more than 5 times more iron than zinc. This is much higher! The Copper/Zinc/Manganese — should be close to 1:3:3. So to help balance these minerals since they are SO out of whack I balance with the California Trace. It’s not a perfect balance but it’s working for my horses.
My horses have a water trough of clean heated water in the winter and clean clear water in the summer. I don’t let a lot of algae grow in my water trough. I scrub it out weekly. They have access to plain white salt and a Redmond Rock Salt as they all three prefer that one.
They live on the track system which also helps keep them super healthy and active. They move all day and all night. They have a big manure pile that they like to nap in. They all three live together (except for when Bonnie is having an acute attack) and they forage for the hay and pellets that I hide around the track when it’s not so wet and muddy. They have a scratching post and a shed. I provide them with numerous wind breaks all around the track. They live a very happy active life, even if I can’t get out there to play with them. I am so thrilled with how they are coming out of winter this year.