California Riding Magazine • March, 2013

Ask the Vet:
Reduced Exercise? Reduce Diet!

by Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA

I have an 8 year-old Quarter Horse/Arabian/Mustang mix that weighs about 1000 lbs. My 11 year-old daughter barrel races on him about 1-2 times per week and exercises him another 2 days in the week. We are feeding him a scoop of Healthy Edge in the morning and 1 scoop of Healthy Edge in the evening with 1/2 flake of Alfalfa in the morning and evening with his HE. He has a couple of flakes of Coastal hay at his disposal during the day, but he doesn't really eat it. We are new horse owners, we've had him a couple of years. Over the winter, when my daughter wasn't riding him as often as she usually does, he put on about 100 extra pounds. Our vet recently reduced his grain to 1/2 scoop morning and night and added Platinum Performance to his diet. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on this? Thanks. Polly

Dear Polly,

I think your veterinarian made a good decision in reducing the calories and sugars/starches given to this horse and replacing nutrients with a broad multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. While the particular product he recommended doesn't account for the differences in vitamins and minerals between grass and alfalfa hay, it probably does an adequate job of filling the gaps between what the NRC Nutrient Requirements of Horses says your horse's daily requirements are and what he's getting from a partial serving of grain..

"About 100 extra pounds" is the equivalent of two body condition scores, so if your barrel horse was a 5 on the Henneke Body Condition Scoring scale your vet thinks he's now a 7 (or if he was a 4, now he's a 6). Your goal throughout this competition season and into next year's off-season should be to keep his weight as ideal as possible for his performance and health. So when your daughter has gone to his last show in 2012, begin to gradually wean him down from a full scoop of grain (please weigh this!) and add in the multi-vitamin.

There is one thing that concerns me in your question though, and that is the amount of hay your horse is eating. One half flake of alfalfa morning and night isn't nearly enough forage to maintain gut health. Are you sure he's not eating more of the Bermuda Coastal hay than you think? Does he have access to pasture? A 1000lb horse should receive at a minimum 10lbs of hay per day; 20lbs would be an even better amount. I recommend you review the hay situation at your barn to make sure he's eating somewhere within this range.

Article provided by SmartPak.
Dr. Lydia Gray is the Medical Director/Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak, where she guides research and new product development, answers questions on her Ask the Vet blog, and speaks around the country at various events such as Equine Affaire, Dressage at Devon, and the USHJA Trainers’ Symposiums.