Easy Keepers



My horse is an easy keeper. Above, you can see her summer condition, when there’s green grass to eat. At that point she get’s about a handful of Triple Crown Lite and some supplemental hay. (Lite as in: for Fatties.) In defense of Dharla I will say that she’s really not all that fat, but it’s her build that makes her look pudgy. It’s her Polish belly. My other Arab mare was built the same way, only Tia had that side-to-side chunky look rather than the Big Belly Below thing going on. I swear, sometimes Dharla looks pregnant. She certainly tries to eat for two. That girl rarely even picks her head up when there’s food around.

I kind of like the fact that my horse is an easy keeper. I’ve had a hard keeper before and you’re constantly at whits end trying to get and keep weight on them. You’ll practically stand on your head begging them to eat all their grain or trying to coax them to polish off their ration of hay. God, is that frustrating. And wasteful. I can’t tell you how many pounds of half chewed or slobbered on grain I’ve tossed out or how many different kinds of “tricks” I’ve tried to get our previous hard keeper to eat. I constantly worried that someone was going to call the SPCA and report us for animal neglect!

Now it looks like we have another easy-keeper. Bullet used to be chunky, but we put him on TC Lite last summer and that helped. And since his Lyme treatment in October his weight has gone down even more. In fact, I’m a little concerned about that and I’m thinking he should probably go back on a slightly higher fat grain. Dharla is still eating TC lite to which I’d decided to add a few supplements.

After a couple of conversations with some folks I respect and after doing some research of my own, I’m going to add a supplement that contains magnesium, some B vitamins and a bit of L-Tryptophan to her gain ration. It’s been said this combo can help decrease spookiness and may calm and soothe a highly reactive horse. Now normally I wouldn’t consider Dharla highly reactive or nervous, but when we trail ride alone she can be very spooky. So I think it’s worth a shot. I’ve also decided to try adding an herbal remedy to her chopped forage that’s supposed to improve hormone health. (She gets a very small amount of a chopped timothy grass mix which absorbs the herbal stuff quite nicely. Far better than pelleted grain.) This product helps relieve reproductive symptoms such as irritability, back soreness and other moody behaviors that pop up around their heat cycles. Last year I noticed Dharla was very nasty to Bullet just before she went into heat, then she turned into a whore once she was in full cycle. Poor guy. He never knew which end was up! I’m also putting Bullet on a supplement that has magnesium,Vitamin E and Selenium that targets muscle soreness.

Eventually I think I’d like to switch both horses over to oats and get them off the processed grain. If I end up doing that then I’ll need to add some supplements to their feed anyway, so I figure I may as well get them used to having them now. Dharla was very put out about having something strange in her grain. Bear in mind the dosage is very small, but it amazes me how horses can tell something is different and will find a way to avoid eating the offending foreign item. I had to cut the dose in half and split it between morning and evening feedings or she would just spit it out or flip her grain pan over. Bullet was a bit less dramatic, but he was hip to the change too. He gave me his best “Huh?” look, but kept eating, albeit slower. It only took him a feeding or two to forget there was something different in his grain. Dharla hasn’t been quite as easy, mostly because grain is still a new concept for her and she’s not nearly as ga-ga over it as Bullet. Getting her to consume the herbal concoction was tougher, but I think once she ate it she didn’t mind it as much as the grain supplements. The herbal stuff has apple cider vinegar in it which smells strong, but probably doesn’t taste all that bad.

I have to admit, I’m a bit of a skeptic about giving horses supplements. I sometimes wonder if it’s just a placebo to make pet owners feel better? I told myself I’d give it a try and see if I can tell if there’s any difference. I certainly don’t think it will do any harm to try.

Has anyone ever given supplements a fair shake and if so, what did you try and what where your results?

6 thoughts on “Easy Keepers

  1. I have not done much supplementing myself, but I have seen the effects of SmartPak’s SmartCalm in the university barn on a particularly reactive OTTB. The change in his entire attitude has been remarkable to see and he has gotten much more tractable and trainable.

    If I were to start supplementing, I would probably personally start my reined cowhorse filly on a joint supplement. For now, though, my guys’ regular grain and hay gets them through just fine.

    • That’s good to hear about the SmartPak SmartCalm since that’s what I’m using with Dharla. I’ve kicked around the idea of using a joint supplement, but at some point you have to ask yourself where it ends. If I put both my working dogs and horses on joint supplements it would put me in the poor house. Like you, I’ve decided to hold off on that for now. Thanks for the feedback!

      • Also take into consideration what you’re doing and how exactly you want your horses to feel. Honestly, for myself as a person, I could probably be on a joint supplement already even though I’m only in my early twenties–my joints feel it by the end of the day. Does it prevent me from doing my job? No…would it help me do my job better? Probably not at this point.
        So if your horse is sound and fairly comfortable, I don’t feel that there’s any sense in adding supplements just because. I would wait for some visible stiffness or the feeling as a rider that they are not flexing, reacting or moving like they used to. Is that a little tough on them? Maybe a little, but I’m tough on myself that way too so to me it balances out!

  2. A supplement I find of proven value for hoof and mane/tail growth is biotine – really helped my horse who had previously suffered from laminitis/founder and sweet itch – (best value formulation, Vetvits Equihoof). So impressed I use a human supplement containing biotine!! My oldies are also looking good on the same company’s Equisenior. Luckily these mail order products are not too expensive…..and no, I don’t work for them!

    • Ah yes, hoof stuff! I forgot to mention that my husband has both horses on a hoof supplement. He does our shoeing and he did a lot of research into what product to use. He also takes care of ordering it from one of his vendors, so I kind of forgot about it since I’m not paying for it …. even though I’m usually the one who feeds our gang. I have no idea what it costs, but he gets a pretty good discount I guess and he says he thinks it works well. Glad your guys are getting something out of their goodies because it can indeed add up to a bit of expense!

  3. Pingback: Feb 8, 2012 | Cowgirl Up!

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