Thursday, March 3, 2011

Reader Question on Feeding Grain

I received a question, from Angie, who asked “My horse is some what underweight so I have been feeding him grain and would like to know should I give him the grain all at once, and with or without his hay?”

Angie, you didn’t mention how old your horse is, if you routinely get his/her teeth floated, what type of grain you give him, and how much riding you do or how much work the horses does.

So I’ll give you some general beliefs of mine. First of all not all horses need grain. There is a propensity of owners to keep their horses too fat. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt when you say your horse is underweight. People sometimes feed way to much grain. A horse cannot digest more than 5 lbs of grain at any one time, and grain should not make up more than 50% of the horse’s diet,....and we’re talking as measured by weight. I believe that ratio of grain to ahy should be substantially smaller.

I have seen some horses lose weight and the owners typically want to give them more food, but the problem was in their teeth and being able to chew their food sufficiently. You can tell by the hooks and points on their teeth but it's kind of hard to look in their mouths with a flashlight, or, you can tell from them bolting food or dropping golf ball sized masses of partially chewed food.

I think horses do better if they are fed throughout the day, with each meal being the same. That is if you horse’s daily diet consisted of 20 lbs of hay and 2 lbs of grain, then if you fed twice a day that would be 10 lbs of hay and 1 lb of grain at each feeding. If you fed four times a day, that would be 5 lbs of hay and .5 lb of grain at each feeding.

I don’t feed natural grain. I feed a processed grain called Opti-12 from Hi-Pro. Purina Strategy is another excellent processed feed, but a little more expensive. I do not feed sweet feed nor corn. The glycemic index is high on both; the horses seldom need that type of energy and if they do then I add corn oil to the grain. Plus sweet feed is molasses based and therefore has a higher chance of molding.

I feed a relatively small amount of grain and do so for several reasons: provide my horses with a standardized feed through different cuts of hay; use the grain to introduce supplements such as sand clear, hoof supplements and joint supplements; and ensure they are used to the grain if I’m on the trail overnight and need to feed them more of the grain, in case the grass is sparse or their work load is increased significantly.

I feed four times a day: morning, mid day, evening at night. I feed the grain in the morning and evening. My young horses get about 1.25 lbs each feeding and my older roping horse gets 2.25 lbs each feeding.

I prepared a video to better explain weighing grain. Good luck and Safe Journey Angie.

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