Second, fall shots and body condition evaluations are on the horizon. I realized this when I looked at my horse and then looked at the large, new horse in our barn. I think he looks like he weighs 1500 lbs, but the barn owner thinks he is closer to 1200. We are going to have a little guessing contest and then tape him. I do not think that tape is very accurate, but it will be interesting to find out. I guess that I look at the new horse and figure that he could easily have 500 lbs on Harley, whom I think is around 1000 lbs, or, perhaps more accurately, he should be around 1000 lbs.
I think my horse is going to get a "4" on the body condition scale again. Maybe a "4+", but that is probably wishful thinking. I feel like I have made a huge effort to get him up to a body condition score of "5" this year, and we did accomplished it coming off the winter, of all times, but now he is looking boney again. He is muscular and relatively fit, considering his coughing problem, but this horse will not build up fat stores. He is even being ridden less since school started, but has not gained weight to show it.
|Early October 2011: He looks particularly thin here.|
|September 2012: Not very good photos for comparison, but now I think that he actually looks better than last year.|
Here are some things that should have improved his body condition since last year:
- More calories from grain: Last year he was eating 1 scoop Ultium and 1 scoop beet pulp at each meal. Now he eats 1 3/4 scoops Ultium at each meal. That is a lot of food! I do not like giving him that much grain, but it is the only thing that has seemed to add some pounds.
- Prebiotics/Probiotics daily: We tried the SmartPak SmartGut supplement, but recently switched back to my trainer's recommended ABC's Plus, which contains less ingredients and costs less.
- He was blanketed during the winter, which we will do again this year.
- He gets extra hay at each feeding, which I pay for dearly.
- He is brought in before all of the other horses so that he has time to finish his meal without getting distracted or excited about barn routine.
- As always, he is on a regular worming schedule.
- He has a serious overbite, which makes him a very, very slow eater, especially with hay. His dentist is awesome, but only so much can be done to correct the uncorrectable.
- His buddy is a very efficient eater and can mow down hay in record time. They share hay.
- Only two meals a day
- Only two hay feedings a day
- We are at the edge of what he is willing and able to consume at each meal.
- He is a social horse and a busy body. He does not like to be left in the barn after everyone else is put outside. This can cause him to quit eating if he is not finished.
- Irregular feeding schedule and feeders: Since we are giving lessons several afternoons a week at our barn, Harley's nighttime feeding schedule becomes disrupted. I also suspect that this affects the quantities that he receives and late feedings cause him to pace at the gate. His buddy is usually busy in lessons which leaves him alone.
- Alfalfa pellets: He ate them for less than three weeks and then refused to eat them, wet or dry.
- Beet pulp: He ate wet beet pulp for years, but I never saw an improvement in his weight. He also started refusing it.
- Equine Senior: Harley is fourteen and has a dental "imperfection", so senior feed may be easier for him to eat, but his energy requirements demand that he eat obscene amounts of Senior to stay at a "4". Forget about gaining on Senior. I tried it for years and it didn't work.
- Hay net: Tried it. Epic Fail. He dropped below "4", because he could not eat effectively out of a net with 1.5" holes. His buddy had no trouble and gained weight.
- I could wet his grain to make it easier to eat, but this makes a big, unhealthy mess, because he drops wet feed all over the floor of his stall. He also started refusing wet feed this year. He wants and needs to chew to produce saliva and buffer gastric acid.
- I pay for extra hay, but his buddy eat its. Hay quantities also change do to differences in flake size and weight.
- Harley needs a slow-eating paddock buddy, but he loves his friend. He would be miserable is we kept out alone.
- Harley would probably benefit from a softer, leafier hay, but I cannot control which hay is purchased. I already ask that the hay not contain fescue and rye, because he is allergic to them. A boarder can only make so many demands, if you know what I mean.
- Harley is a mover and a shaker and he likes to investigate and keep up with barn activities. He has great work ethic under saddle and I love riding him. He is exercised 2-5 hours per week and has 24/7 turnout. These things make him a fast calorie-burner even though the workload is pretty light.
- Move my horse. I do not want to move and there is no guarantee that another barn will benefit his condition, in fact, the stress of change could makes things worse. I do not think that I could possibly find a barn that would cater to his needs the way my current barn does. They basically treat him like their own horse and they love him. I am very, very lucky.
- Put him by himself and pay for constant hay in front of him. This is not really realistic due to space, finances, and his need to socialize. Having his face in a hay pile all day will probably not help his allergies and he may be so lonely and upset that he will not eat. In addition, my vet thinks that he may not get adequate nutrition from hay alone, due to his teeth.
- Bring him in and put him in his stall early on lesson days so that he can eat early and not stress out. (I tried this and it does help in some ways, but a horse with allergies should not linger in his stall. Usually the aisle is also swept between lessons which will make him cough. No good.)
- One new recommendation I received this year was to reduce Harley's grain meal and add a 30% protein ration balancer. I understand the creative thinking and the good intentions, but decided that this was not something I wanted to try.
- Hay cubes?
...but, that is another change. Change is tough on him and I do not want to upset his eating if he is doing well. Or annoy the barn owners. Or try to find room for the hay cubes in the feed room. I mean I want to do those things, but there have been so many attempts and reverts back to the original plan in the past that I am sort of feeling like staying in the same place is better.
...BUT, I want my horse to be as healthy as possible and live to be thirty or beyond.
Maybe we have hit the ceiling and I should just accept that. Or maybe, I just haven't quite found the right combination. Should I try hay cubes?