For those of us horse owners who are concerned with the amount of sugar and starches that we feed our horses, the rule of thumb that we live by is that no feed for our horses should have more than 10% NSC (Non Structural Carbohydrates). It is much easier to accomplish this using a forage based diet, as most commercially produced grains have well over that amount. One product that comes close to living up to that standard that I know of is Triple Crown's Senior Feed which has been tested at 11% NSC.
I am fortunate to have a couple of local hay growers that supply me with my Timothy, Orchard and Bermuda grass hay. All of which test under 10% NSC, with the orchard this year testing at less than 5% NSC!
If you are unsure how much hay you will need for your horse, it is suggested that you plan for a minimum of 75 bales per horse. For my senior retirement horse farm, that would equate to buying at least 750 bales of hay per year to feed the 10 horses who reside here. Let's look at some other forage options that are available.
Chopped Hay: This is one of my favorite forage products! Triple Crown makes a Safe Starch Chopped forage product that is a blend of timothy and orchard grass, with vegetable oil and a vitamin/mineral mixed in. It tests around 8-9% NSC. It comes in compressed 50 lb bags. It is light and fluffy and the horses absolutely love it! I use it as the carrier for feeding supplements. In the winter months the senior horses also get a hearty lunch of this chopped hay.
Hay Cubes: There are many brands of grass and alfalfa cubes out there. In my area, I have access to Ontario Dehy forage products. The one I prefer for my horses is the Timothy Balance cubes. As the name implies, the cubes are made of timothy grass hay and each batch of hay is balanced with a vitamin/mineral mix. Although these cubes are smaller in diameter than other hay cubes, I never feed them dry unless I take the time to break them up into tiny litle pieces to avoid any issues with choke. The easiest way to feed them is to pour enough water over them and let them soak. They will absorb the excess water and expand. Herbs and supplements can be added to the soaked cubes. In the winter months I soak them in warm water and in the summer months, I add cool water. Either way it helps keep the horse hydrated.
Hay Pellets: I make sure that the hay pellets I use are hay only products, that no fillers or unwanted ingredients are added. Years ago I was shocked to see that a bag of alfalfa pellets had animal fat added, so always ask to see the manufacturers label before buying. There again, Ontario Dehy makes hay pellets that I like to use as they are very small and easy for the senior horses to chew, with little risk of choke. I can add them to the chopped forage meal, or soak them. They are also great to add herbs to and feed as a treat.
Now let's just see how many hay products Ferrell Hollow Farm bought for their senior horses in 2009:
686 Grass Hay bales, 25 Hay Pellet bags, 13 Hay Cube bags, and 26 Chopped Hay bags which equals that 750 bale mimimum that I spoke of earlier!
I like to use the variety of forage products as I think it keeps meal times interesting with the different flavors and textures. I guess you could say that the residents here might be a tiny bit spoiled 😉
Did you know that Ferrell Hollow Farm provides Equine Consultation services? Not only do we specialize in Senior Horse care, but provide consultations for horses of all ages.
Cindy Daigre has been providing nutritional and special needs consulting services for senior equine owners since 2000. She owns and operates Ferrell Hollow Farm, a specialized boarding facility for senior, retired horses located on 70 acres in the peaceful hills of Middle Tennessee.
Consultations focus on the unique nutritional challenges specific to senior horses. Proper nutrition affects nearly every aspect of the senior’s quality of life and can differ greatly from horse to horse.
Who benefits from nutritional consults?
Nutritional consults are especially beneficial for those caring for older horses that
- have difficulty maintaining a healthy weight
- are dentally challenged
- have Insulin Resistance or Cushing’s Disease
- need assistance with Supplementation Choices
- Suffer from Ulcers
- Have varying degrees of Arthritis
If you are unable to board your senior horse with a specialized facility, a customized nutritional consult will be very helpful as you establish a healthy continuum of care for your retired horse.
Very specific information about your horse and his/her current nutritional program will be needed for an effective consultation. Once you sign up for a consult, Ferrell Hollow Farm will send you an intake form for you to provide the information needed to begin the initial consult.
Contact Cindy for a quote on your custom consultation!
Not all horse boarding facilities are created the same. Let's take my facility for example. I provide a specialized service for senior, retired horses, most of which have special needs. I am fortunate to have a great group of boarders and horses who understand what I do, appreciate it and are grateful to have found me to care for their horse for the remainder of their years. It is an incredible amount of work and responsibility, but I love what I do or I wouldn't be doing it. It is a 24/7 job, 7 days a week and I am fortunate to have a part time helper who cares enough to tend to the horses and the property as I would like and understands the responsibility involved. I live on site and don't leave the property unless I have my helper scheduled–period! The horses are always monitored. I go the extra mile and always do more than I say I will and never do less. It's just who I am–I care. I won't sacrifice quality for quantity. It's unfortunate that many boarding facilites provide a less than adequate level of care.
I've had a few unused horse items that I've sold recently and had the opportunity to meet other local horse owners. Unfortunately I've heard some horrific boarding stories thru these people I've met. One woman owns several horses and pays an inexpensive amount for pasture boarding. She said her horses don't have shelter available and there is a barn they could access, but the barn owner keeps them closed off from it. And it's been very cold here. So she was looking for some reasonbly priced blankets to keep them warm. She stated she had been trying to contact the barn owner thru the numbers he provided and could never locate him. She was going out to the farm almost daily to check on them. Most recently she said a horse was lying dead on the property and the farm had done nothing about it!
The next story comes from a horse friend who is trying to help a client locate a safe boarding facility for a retired older horse. When I inquired about it's current situation I was alarmed at what I was told. The horse was not being fed any hay and had no water. Either the troughs were empty or the troughs were frozen so solid, it could not be broken. The horse owner was paying to have these things done but was instead going to the farm twice a day to do them.
My first question is how do these farm owners get away with this lack of responsibility? My next is how can they seemingly not care about the welfare of the animals that are entrusted into their care? Most, but not all, of my boarding clients have themselves come from a similar type of situation when they send their horses to me. No shelter, lack of water, not feeding hay, only feeding when the barn owner knows the horse owner is coming out to keep up good appearances, and the list goes on.
What about the horse owners responsibility to address these situations if they know they are going on? Should they either try to remedy the situation and/or find a suitable boarding alternative? Is it OK if their financial means won't allow them to "upgrade" their horses situation? Is it OK to knowingly leave them in a place where their basic needs are not being met?
I believe for the most part that the saying holds true "you get what you pay for" and not all horse boarding facilities are created equal. And I also believe that I personally have a responsibility to give back to these older horses the love and support that they have given to us for so many years.
In spring of 2009 I started making a line of natural products for horses mainly out of need for a quality product that actually worked. Fortunately I have plenty of test subjects here on my Senior Retirement Horse Farm in TN. www.ferrellhollowfarm.com
The Natural Coat Spray that I developed happens to be my favorite–mostly because I love the way it smells! I use only pure essential oils of Rosemary, Lavender and Peppermint and add fresh sprigs of each from my garden. My lavender plants are just heavenly!
The Coat Spray is very useful during all seasons of the year. It will remove sweat and grime during the hot months, and leave your horse feeling refreshed. Now, during the cold of the winter, it will remove dirt, dust and dander after you groom and before you put on the horses blanket. Just spray it on your grooming tool and brush in the coat. Since it is a witch hazel based product, it will NOT freeze when left outdoors! It is also good to use on dogs and will keep them smelling fresh in between bath time.
A 16 oz spray bottle is $25 and lasts a long time–a little really does go a long way! Feel free to email me if you are interested and of course I am happy to ship. firstname.lastname@example.org
It was 16 degrees this morning when it was time to go outside and feed. We are expecting below freezing temperatures for the next 4-5 days. I do not like the cold weather but it's just a fact of life when you care for horses for a living. I've been prepping myself mentally for this weather and thinking ahead of what all is needed for the horses while it was actually "warm" enough to work with my hands outside.
Let's begin with water. To encourage the horses to continue to drink enough water I use heated water buckets and tubs. I make sure my troughs are filled from the overflow tanks when the temperatures are above freezing. Then when the heated tubs get low, I can chop the ice in the troughs and scoop into the tubs. I also keep a heated bucket in the shed and make sure it stays full so it's a bit more convienent for them to take a sip right there instead of walking out and around the shed–oh so spoiled!
Just about every horse here has a wardrobe of different weights of sheets and blankets. The blankets provide an extra layer of insulation on these cold days and nights and also help the arthritic joints. I take extra care to not let any of these senior horses get wet and cold. The blankets are inspected daily and removed for grooming and horses are checked to make sure they are not too cold or too warm while wearing them.
The newest product I've tried for the winter are Whinny Warmers. I was not sure that I could get them on and off of these special needs horses, but I've managed to use Maggie, Tess and Dawn as my testers. These are long socks made for horses. I've only used them on the front legs. Once you get the hang of it, it's not bad to get them on. They pull up over the knees which is great for the arthritic legs. They do have a tendency to fall down when the horse is out moving about, but I just pull them back up again and they are good to go. So far the testers have liked them! http://www.whinnywarmers.com/
It is often necessary to make dietary changes to ensure that the horses are consuming enough calories and have access to forage for as many hours as possible since the grass is very limited and the ground is frozen. In the winter they are fed at least 3 times a day. I have a pretty regimented schedule and the horses know it! Eagle likes to stand at the back gate and holler at me whenever he sees me–if you didn't know any better, you'd think I never feed him! Don't let him fool you.
I have a variety of hay feeders that I use and some of them are called slow down hay feeders. They are designed to keep the horse eating and occupied for longer than just putting out a loose flake of hay. Easy keepers like Mary and Francis and Insulin Resistant horses like Dawn, and horses with dental or digestive issues like Tess and Maggie can benefit from being fed this way. They actually enjoy pulling and yanking on the bags. Special thanks to my brother for making me 2 Nibble Nets!
Manure is removed from and around the sheds at each feeding and from the smaller diet paddocks at least once a day. I sure don't want the horses stepping on frozen horse manure!
Here's a slideshow of the horses in this cold weather today–enjoy!