Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Life Lesson

I've been putting off this post for a while, moreso because I am embarrassed and frustrated I didn't correct it sooner. But, I figure that I may be able to help someone else struggling or help the "light-bulb moment" go off. In any case, I think it's good to share things like this, especially if there is an opportunity to learn.

Some readers will remember my frustration with Suzie's waist-line and how I was attempting to up her weight. When I became more aware of the situation mid-July, I began trying to "fix" the problem. Initially, I assumed Suzie was becoming a hard keeper because she was getting older - heck, I even had friends comment that sometimes old horses just "sag". I wasn't convinced entirely and went ahead in deworming both horses and picked up some sunflower seed oil, beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, senior feed and went to work on graining her once a day.

By the end of August, after graining her every night, we made little to no headway and I was starting to feel as though I was losing the battle. I was frustrated with the way Suzie looked and my efforts seemed futile.

I truly am embarrassed to be sharing this photo,
and not because of Suzanne's facial expression.
  And after seeing photos from our Halter classes at the BVX, I realized we needed some serious help. I contacted a good friend down in the States who is an equestrian nutritionist and sent her the analysis on Suzie's current situation. I felt as though I had exhausted most of my options and needed some serious help, especially before Winter set in.

The nutritionist asked a few questions about Suzie's living arrangements, what type of hay she was eating, what her exercise regime is like, etc. I felt as though most of the questions were answered easily - she gets fed 3-4 flakes of hay 2x a day, 1 cup of oil, 2 cups of beet pulp, 1 cup alfalfa, 2-3 cups senior... Seemed like a pretty solid plan, at least to me.

The biggest, and probably most important thing I had overlooked?

"Measuring" anything in "flakes" or "cups" is not accurate when it comes to horses. Measurements must be in the form of WEIGHT (ie. lbs) - always.

I purchased a small fish scale and as instructed, weighed the feed I normally put out for the horses. Well, imagine my shock when I came to the startling realization that her hay rations were 2lbs less than what it should've been.

Secondly, graining the crap out of my mare once a day was not beneficial, as it is equivalent to eating a rather large turkey dinner and then trying to cram down dessert. The feedings should be split throughout the day to prevent "over-stuffing".

I felt like crying in the middle of the barn aisle.

Essentially, I was not meeting my horse's daily needs and in a way, was starving her. The poor attempt to make up for this in the form of beet pulp, oil, and grain was not well received by my mare because again, I was measuring "cups" rather than by weight. In addition, the sunflower seed oil I came to find was actually quite unhealthy and didn't do much to promote weight gain.

Starting to get somewhere mid-September.
 The nutritionist and I immediately scraped most of my planned regime and came up with a much more simpler version. The final verdict was: 16.5lbs hay (2x daily), 1-2lbs beet pulp (2x daily), 2lbs alfalfa pellets (2x daily), and 1/2 cup virgin olive oil (2x daily)

We have now been on the new regime for just about one month and the change is extraordinary. I am both ashamed and annoyed I even allowed her to lose weight in the first place mostly because my mare was the one who suffered in this.

Before: July 18
After: September 29
 I urge anyone who is having issues with their horse gaining weight to please consult a professional - do not guess and do not assume your horse is skinny because of age, breed, etc. Knowledge truly is power and if I hadn't reached out and asked the questions, we would still be at square one.

So yes, I am serving myself a slice of humble pie in hopes anyone else who reads this will evaluate their own feeding regime and ask for help.


  1. Great transformation on that mare of yours! :)

  2. I had a consult with an equine nutritionist six months ago and it changed my life! Henry is the worlds hardest keeper and even with my best efforts he looked horrible. Now he looks awesome! Sounds like you and Suzy are on the right track, I'm sure sharing your story will help others. :)

    1. It was a really great experience - I gave her all the info and she did all the 'calculations'. Really positive experience for sure!

  3. You were doing the best for your girl with the knowledge you had. And then you sought even more knowledge. And now she looks grand (but she didn't look like she was starved before). Lucy is doing this weight thing as well (she is 28 this year) and was always the easiest keeper of the bunch. I have started switching things up for her, so we shall see how she does!

    1. I feel like I should've known better, though.

      Live and learn and all that.

      Lucy is 28?! Holy sheep balls. I honestly didn't think she was that old!

  4. Wow, she looks so much better! The important thing is that you figured it out and all is well now :)

  5. She looks fabulous. Good for you for consulting with the nutritionist!

  6. she looks wonderful! and seriously, don't beat yourself up. there are always *always* gonna be times when we try to do the best for our horses and somehow end up falling short anyway. the important thing is that you recognized when things weren't working and changed tactics, and it's made all the difference!

  7. Oh girl, we've all been there! I let a golf crack go a little bit and it BALLOONED into a huge issue. I felt like the worst horse owner in the world. But I did what you did-- kept working to find a better answer and once I did I jumped on it. Suzie looks much better, so don't bet yourself up too much.