Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Managing Dawn's Weight Challenge

Managing Dawn's weight at the new barn has become quite a challenge.  She wasn't fat when she moved there a month ago, but she's been losing weight continuously since.  My girth is now four holes higher than it should be.  All of her ribs are easily visible when she's just standing there, she has big hollows in front of her hips and her rump is no longer round, and she's started to lose along her spine and behind her shoulders.  I'd say she's on the border between 3 and 4 on the body condition scale, which is not a good thing.  She's always tended to get a bit thin at the end of the winter, but she's never looked as thin as this.  She seems to feel fine, though, and has plenty of energy.

There are two primary causes for her weight loss - first, I've got her back in work and she's been expending quite a few calories working with me on a daily basis, and second, despite her alpha status in her old small herd, she's fallen to the bottom of the new herd and gets chased away any time she tries to eat at a round bale.  So basically, she's getting no hay to eat except what she gets in her stall at night, and I've been adding increasing amounts of Buckeye Ultimate Finish, but the maximum amount of that I can feed of that is 3 pounds a day, and it's not a forage substitute, just a good weight-gain/maintenance supplement.  If she were already in good weight or only slightly underweight, and getting access to enough hay, that would work fine to help her hold her weight, but it's not doing the trick.  She's also probably not getting enough hay at night - she gets quite a bit but needs more.  Dawn keeps a very messy stall and tends to spread her hay all over and pee and poop on it and then not eat it all, which has made the barn owner reluctant to give her more as it looks like she's wasting a lot.

I'm making some feeding and management changes.  With the cooperation of our barn owner (thank you, good barn owner), Dawn will be turned out in the morning in a small pen with some hay of her own.  I'll stop by a few hours later - the barn is only a 5-minute drive from my house - and turn her out in the herd for about 6 hours of herd time.  Until her weight starts to pick back up, I'm going to reduce the intensity of our work sessions to conserve her calories. In the evening, the barn owner, who does a nightly bed check (thank you, good barn owner), will give her another flake of hay and I'll also hang her a small mesh hay net so if she's still hungry overnight there'll be more to nibble on and less waste if she doesn't eat it all.

I'll be switching her over the next week to 10 days to a full ration of Purina Ultium.  It's a complete feed - it can replace part of forage as it's both high fat and high fiber and contains all the necessary vitamins and minerals.  She can get at least 6 pounds per day of this feed as a horse in moderate work - perhaps even a bit more if she's doing more strenuous work - and it should do the trick as it provides 2,000 calories per pound of feed.  I have also used Purina Senior as a complete feed before (when Maisie had impaction colic and was taken completely off hay for a period of time), but the NSC value of Purina Senior is considerably higher (reported to be 24%) than Ultium (16%), so for Dawn the Ultium is preferable.

Pie and Drifter can make use of the leftover Ultimate Finish, as they are also in need of some extra calories with all the work they're doing.  They were both pretty plump when they went to the trainer's about two weeks ago, so that should do the trick for them.  And, in other exciting news, I'll be heading up to Wisconsin on Friday to see and work with my trainer and the boys . . .


  1. Poor Dawn...she must be so afraid to get the hay when she is with the others. Good that you are making arrangements to remedy the situation.

  2. Good for you. You will have Dawn back in fine form soon.

  3. It can really be challenging when the herd dynamics change. We had no choice with the drought but to depend heavily on complete feed. Thank goodness we have had enough rain that they now have grass.

  4. I had no idea that Ultium had an NSC value that low. Sounds like it could be the right answer!

  5. Poor Dawn. Ultium is a good choice. My Boys are on Purina Healthy Edge and so far, Toby is keeping his weight on. (The other two are chubby on air.) I really like the high end Purina feeds and the value of the pelleted feed is excellent.

    Adjusting the turnout so Dawn can get her hay ration is a great idea as well and you are very lucky to have such a good barn owner to cooperate with a solution like that.

    Herd relationships can be daunting to overcome. Hope it all works out for Dawn sooner than later.

  6. Thanks for sharing this. My gelding is in training and I was amazed when I saw him how thin he was. He is in TN so the weather is different, the hay is different and his work schedule is different.

    I know he is healthy and well cared for but I need to work on his diet to get a little weight on him.

    How I wound up with such efficient calorie burners when I'm not is a head shaker for sure!

  7. That can be frustrating, we went through something similar at the end of October. I was able to push past it by BP mixes and bumping up feed slightly and hay too. I'm sure under your eye, Dawn will bounce back in her weight. Good luck in WI :)

  8. Its so hard when some are thin and others arent. I notice that on my horses at home here 2 are quite a bit thinner than the others but now everyone is getting hay even though the rest dont need it. But nowhere to move them now so thats how it will be for a while.

  9. That is interesting. The opposite dilemma to one I have, but very important. A change in herd dynamics can make such a difference. I am not familiar with the feeds you list - I am sure they are not available over here but I will follow your links out of curiosity

  10. Poor Dawn. I think her new arrangement in the morning will help her get the hay she needs. I only hope the herd will let her start getting her fair share during her turnout time with them. We use very large hay-nets in each stall and everyone benefits from them. There is also not much cleanup and no waste. My daughter made them out of hockey nets and dowel rods with snaps.

    Here's the link if you're interested in something like this:

    If the barn owner would let you do this Dawn would get all of her hay and not waste any. Good luck and have fun with the boys.

  11. My barn feeds Ultium and all the horses look fantastic. It really is a great feed because it's high in calories, but has such a low NSC value. Lilly was on it for a while, but we had to pull her off because she got so plump.

  12. I think Ultium should work very nicely for Dawn. Harley has been on Ultium for several years now. This winter we increased his ration (replacing the beet pulp he was getting with his grain) and he has finally filled out. I like the relatively low NSC and the percentage fat, which is 12% compared to Senior's 3%.

  13. Glad to hear you caught the feeding situation quickly. Nothing is worse than a horse that can't get hay!

    Looking forward to your trip, take pictures!


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