Monday, March 15, 2021

feeding Charlie

Equine nutrition is kinda an enormous area of study. Especially if you have a special-needs horse, it can end up being pretty complicated too. There are so many companies promising magical results with their concentrated feeds, supplements, top dressings, nutra-ceuticals... you name it, it's out there.

I'm not much of an expert on this area, to be honest, and generally have a philosophy of, "Don't mess with it if it ain't broke!"
 
supplement cups -- slightly more sustainable than baggies, but takes up way more space
Charlie is not a special-needs horse when it comes to nutrition -- he doesn't have any restrictions, sensitivities or limitations or anything like that. No metabolic issues etc. 

And, somehow, somewhat luckily perhaps, once we got him over the hump of his initial let down from the track, he's generally done quite well with a fairly simple meal plan that's remained virtually unchanged for 4 years. 

nutrena pro force fuel is charlie's base feed
We made the decision early on at the recommendation of a vet to switch Charlie from Triple Crown Senior to Nutrena's Pro Force Fuel (12% protein, 10% fiber, 13% fat). 

It was that vet's opinion that because of Charlie's sheer size, we'd possibly need to balance between feeding enough calories for his weight while not risking too-large meal sizes. And she felt that the Fuel is a denser feed per pound than some other stuff on the market.

it's comparable to a lot of senior feeds on the market, but packs a little more 'bounce per ounce'
That made sense to me, plus I'd already seen a number of thoroughbreds (and Isabel) do extremely well on this particular feed previously. So we made the switch and never looked back. 

Actually, tho, these days Charlie's eating a little less of it daily -- about 2.5ish lbs per meal, twice daily (roughly amounts to three 50lb bags every four weeks). He seems to really love it and looks great, so barring any sort of shift in his general health I don't see this changing any time soon.

run of the mill alfalfa pellets added to every meal (soaked)
Similarly, Charlie also gets ~1lb of soaked alfalfa pellets with every meal. Alfalfa is 100% not a solution for every horse (esp horses that tend toward getting too hot or fizzy) but imo it's generally pretty good stuff. Seems to work well for supporting gastric and muscular health. 

Charlie doesn't love the taste of the alfalfa pellets on their own, but will almost always lick his bucket clean when it's mixed with the Fuel. 

One note about the alfalfa pellets tho: I've been told that it's critical to wet the pellets and give them at least a few minutes to soften before feeding to the horse to avoid risking a choke. 

really would love an alternative to disposable baggies for daily supplements, but haven't found the right storage fix yet
Honestly, Charlie probably gets most of everything he needs from just those two components. But.... For most months out of the year, I like to add in a couple supplements too. Mostly with an eye toward hoof health, plus some seasonal additives like electrolytes.

platinum performance -- charlie gets one full scoop per feeding
I first starting supplementing Charlie's feed with Platinum Performance wayyyy back in the early days in 2016. The stuff is basically glorified expensive flax, as far as I can tell, but honestly Charlie always seems to do super well on it. It's also a nice catch-all to make sure Charlie isn't missing out on any important vitamins or minerals. 

Various different farriers, vets, and trainers have all independently recommended this stuff and it's just a solid supplement for general wellness. It's a little pricey -- one 25lb/5gal bucket is about $150+ -- but it lasts a long time. 

farrier's formula -- charlie get's 2/3 cups per feeding
The other mainstay in Charlie's supplement packs is Farrier's Formula, also something he's been on for almost the whole time I've owned him (with just a few gaps here and there). 

Lots of people tend to swear by this particular supplement. It's basic purpose is to help ensure the horse is growing a good hoof. There's only so much you can do to promote good hoof health for the hoof that's already grown, ya know? Like, topical treatments like Keratex can only go so far if the horse doesn't have the nutrition and ingredients necessary at the point of growth. 

And... Yea, that's basically it. It's kinda a simple meal plan --- bolstered in no small part by absolutely phenomenal grazing during the summer months, and plenty of free choice hay in the winter. 

plus obvi all the free choice forage he likes during turnout (and in his stall -- he has two hay nets that i keep full)
I've also experimented with various other additives over the years -- electrolytes during the summer months, MSM every now and then when I remember, various oil-based top dressings, other muscle- or topline-related supplements.... 

But, mostly I just keep coming back to what I've written above. Possibly bc mixing out supplement baggies in advance is absolutely my least favorite task omg kill me, so anything not 100% mission critical gets cut out LOL. 

Also tho... Honestly, I try to take my cues from Charlie about what he needs. And ya know. The horse is, by all appearances, well fed lol. 

He's got a soft shiny coat - even when absolutely covered in dust and shedding, like below. He grows good hair and hoof, only really suffering in the hoof department in conjunction with seasonal changes (sugary wet grass; hard ground). He holds muscling well, and generally appears "well upholstered" haha. 

imho i think he's doing pretty well with this nutrition plan!
So that's basically good enough for me. Every now and then I'll talk through his nutrition and supplements with various members of his team (vets, trainers, farriers, wellness practitioners, etc) and they all seem to sorta agree that his bases are covered. 

Tho ya know, as always -- I'm not ruling out any changes in the future. It's possible we'll experiment more with feed through joint support at some point. I also know of folks who feed supplements intended to repel biting insects and pests and stuff. Or maybe I'll try another top-line builder again eventually (I liked that it made Charlie run a little hotter LOL). 

So in that vein, I'm always curious to hear what other people like to use as supplements. Obvi every horse reacts to things slightly differently and nutritional needs can vary greatly by region... But. yea, always curious. Is there anything that you always make sure to add to your horse's diet? Does your horse also get concentrated grain, or maybe you're able to avoid that all together? I've often thought about adding a ration balancer too (if only I had more storage space!) -- have you used one in your feeding program?

Or, unrelated to the feed itself... I'm also always super curious how people manage storage solutions for this stuff. My barn requires we premeasure our own supplements and I honestly loathe that task haha. Plus have first world guilt about using disposable thin-film plastic baggies for the job. But the plastic tubs I use don't fit nicely into the 5gal bucket I have for storage -- I can only make about a week's worth at a time. Maybe I need to find some sort of square drawer or square tupperwares?? Lmk if you have a more elegant solution LOL!

28 comments:

  1. Ours have the option of Tribute Kalm Ultra (low starch extruded pellets) and Essential K (ration balancer). I feed 100% KU in the winter and usually cut it back and mix it with some Essential K in the summer.

    I just went over this baggie thing with my barnmate who just started feeding supplements for the first time. Our feed room is a tiny 3 feet by 7 feet, and everyone gets one Smartpak square plastic drawer for their supplements. She tried every way she could think of to not use baggies, but every thought she had would have made life harder for the feeders or de-optimized an existing optimized process, so she eventually gave up and used baggies. It's not ideal, but what can you do? At least we handle them gently and only throw one out maybe once every 6-12 months. I told her I wouldn't revoke her "cares about the planet" card over this, lol.

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    1. ugh.... the age old dilemma between convenience and sustainability. it always comes down to this, and somehow i just can't quit these damn baggies LOL. tho, yea haha i'm right there with reusing them welllll beyond their typical lifespan -- and actually that box i have is still the same first initial box i bought like a couple years ago... still tho, bleh

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  2. I was thinking about the little 2" square ziplock containers as I was reading, and then I got to the "2/3 cup" part - yeahhh, those are too small for anything measured in cups. Maybe spice tins? It looks like you could get some that would nominally hold 1 cup; the downside there would be that most of those are screw-on, which might be more annoyance than it's worth...

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    1. yea every now and then i peruse the tupperware and storage aisles at the grocery store or on amazon, hoping something new will catch my eye. no dice yet tho!

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  3. If it helps, we do L's supplements in circle tupperwares, like soup containers with screw tops, and then store those in the smartpak supplement drawers. I can't remember how many we fit, but I think they hold 16 oz, and we can stack at least two on top of each other in the drawer. I bet you could get a similar drawer for cheaper at walmart, but thats worked the best for our barn, as we have a wall of smartpak drawers in the feedroom 😬

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    1. yea probably eventually i'll need to just change up the entire process i'm using -- the 5gal buckets i currently use to hold supps just don't really accommodate anything other than baggies or one single week's worth of the plastic cups pictured above, sigh!

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  4. My horses get hay (amount varies based on supplier and weather but usually ~20# per horse), 1-2# soaked alfalfa, and California Trace Plus (has added selenium that we need for our region). Through the winter and when in full work, they will also receive rice bran for the added fat/calories and grain (usually something from Purina because that is the easiest for me to get) to give added glycogen to help with quicker recovery post workout.

    I took Dr. Kellon's NRC course last year (strongly recommend) and it was a big eye opener. I can now do all of the specific calculations for nutrition for each of my horses as needed. Because I was already on a forage-first diet, I really didn't have to modify too much of what I was doing.

    The biggest takeaway for me from that course was learning how to best vary the amounts of each nutritional item that my horses need based on their weights and exercise routines. I have pretty average size horses (Grif is 1030#, Stan is 947#, and Q is 870# per the length/girth equation that is favored for estimating) and didn't really expect to have to vary their diets too much. And I don't when they're not in work. But when in work, Grif especially *needs* a greater amino acid amount to really look and feel his best. As Stan travels further into his senior years, I also know exactly what changes to incorporate for him to be his best. I love having the knowledge and power to simply run through some basic algebra to double-check that my horses' nutritional requirements are being met.

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    1. one of these days i'm going to take one of those nutritional classes. i'm always super interested when i hear stuff like what you write above, and love the idea of that app a lot of people use (feed XL?) to get their horse's nutrition dialed.... tho, idk, i'm not sure i would actually change anything at this point with what charlie eats bc i'm so disinclined to rock the boat when he, by all appearances, is doing well LOL.... #changeaverse.... still tho, awesome to know those resources are out there -- esp as it relates to fine tuning the adjustments to seasonal & work level changes

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    2. I discontinued FeedXL after taking the course because I have no need for it anymore. It's quicker and easier to just do it myself now lol. And I feel like it does a better job than what FeedXL did so far as targeting my specific horses in their specific needs. I think having the knowledge is valuable because then you can see how you may need to change - or hopefully how you don't need to change and can have more support for doing what you're doing! ☺

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    3. ha yea that makes sense --- and was also kinda my impression of the feed xl thing.... like, why would the typical one-horse ammy need a subscription service for that? isn't it kinda 'one and done'?? but yea. one day i will take that course!

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  5. I put Opie's Empower Boost and Purina Outlast in square ziplock tupperware containers. They hold both those fairly sizeable rations easily. He also gets the world's saddest "calming" supplement to keep him chill in his stall at night that I feel like shouldn't work because he has zero reaction to drugs getting shot right into the ole bloodstream, but whatevs. Anyway, that's only an AM thing and the other two are 2x/day so I put that ounce scoop in another tiny single serving of ranch tupperware (idk, ranch was all I could think of what you would put in there lol). His tiny tupperware goes in a smartpak bin and the big ones go in one of those 10 gallon totes.

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    1. hm in my mind i've been imagining the kind of drawers that smartpak sends (like is referenced above in another comment too), but hadn't really thought about just a general plastic bin. which is stupid bc those things are like the solution to just about any problem LOL... also lol at Dopie's little 'calming' help.... whatever it takes, tho!

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  6. Keep up what you are doing, Charlie always looks great in photos.
    Mo is high maintenance in that he doesn't eat hay at all and his hay replacer pellets have to be soaked for like 36 hours. Well, maybe not that long, but it needs to be done in advance along with his Hygain TruCare (a senior concentrated feed) which is the only thing we can mix with the hay pellets that convinces him to eat all his food (eat your food, you lard!).

    I'm very lucky that Trainer M will prep his feed and just scoop Cosmo's supplement (mushroom based inflammatory) into his feed bucket - I just make sure to have his grain tubs stocked. M is very particular about everyone's feed, so he makes everyone's buckets at the same time. And put cuts up carrots into every single one also.

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    1. thanks!! and honestly that's awesome that Trainer M is so involved in the feeding program and mgmt. i feel like my barn life right now is very siloed---- there's entirely different people overseeing all the various aspects of my horse's life and i'm constantly worrying that there's some sort of gap that i don't realize.... also that's cute about the cut up carrots -- the woman who does water at charlie's barn often leaves little goodies in his feed bucket too <3 <3

      also. Cosmo. yes, please, eat the food sir !

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  7. With my own horse journey starting again (soon, I hope!) I'm back to being very interested in feed and nutrition. I'm so lucky that my barn here in Oregon has a fabulous hay supplier and a lot of basic feed is provided in board. They feed a NW-formulated ration balancer, then as-needed alfalfa, barley, Showtime, or Senior depending on your horse's workload, weight, and needs. So in the future I hope not to need many more supplements, but if I do I think I'd probably consider the Arenus gut support products first and move on from there.

    You're a pretty savvy shopper so you may already have this covered, but if not (or for others who come across this), Farrier's Formula comes in a 40lb bucket that is more affordable (by weight) than their bags. Your feed store will probably special order it for you if you guarantee you will buy it!

    PS -- if you haven't listened already, Straight from the Horse Doctor's Mouth has a great pod on supplements!

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    1. that's awesome that your barn offers so many feeding options and base feeds / forages. that's sorta how isabel's barn was. they had like 5 different concentrated base feed options, plus all the general add-ons like rice bran, alfalfa, ration balancers, AND would measure out any supps you wanted to add. that feedroom was practically a pharmacy, i LOVED it lol! charlie's feed room now is.... uh, less sophisticated haha. if you want literally anything more than the most basic sweet feed, you better provide it yourself as well as the storage and premeasured amounts...

      also re: farrier's formula, i've priced it out a couple times on their website and always find the best price for the 2-pack of 11lb refill bags. the 44lb bucket is almost $1 more per pound --- not sure if there's a better source to buy from, tho?

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    2. HMMM that is super interesting. I must have mixed up my calculations in the past because you're totally right - the bags are the most affordable option. (lol probably just assumed the lower $/lb price was for the 44lb bucket!) I don't hate that for environmental reasons, I guess! So even better to know.

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    3. lol for real tho i have to check every time i order bc i always just kinda wanna assume that the bulk package is the best price per unit... but yea, i think the extra dollars basically pay for the bucket haha

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  8. Charlie certainly looks fabulous and shiny! Platinum performance is a great supplement if your horse will eat it lol. Stampede was on it for quite a while but then decided he was done eating it and that was that. I'm pretty certain Ernie would not be down with that volume of loose supplement.

    At home I focus on providing 24/7 access to forage. Phoenix makes this more difficult with his aging teeth, but we manage with soaked hay pellets and chopped hay. I feed Tribute senior at home, with Vinny getting a token amount.

    For supplements, Vinny doesn't get any. I've thought about a multivitamin, but he looks so much better just with the quality hay and small amount of senior that I haven't gone there. Phoenix gets Arenus assure guard gold - this supplement saved his life when he was full of sand and sand clear didn't work so it's non-negotiable for the rest of his life. He then gets some ground flax for his coat and some table salt.

    Phoenix and Ernie used to get Omega Horseshine, but when they did a reformulation last year both boys started refusing to eat it sadly. I can't seem to find anything comparable. :(

    Ernie gets a joint supplement (smartpak senior herb free since it had what I was looking for) which eh, maybe it does something. I do at least believe in MSM. He is currently on a respiratory supplement that is also from Arenus to help with his recovery from his cough that started in late November. Once that's used up I hope to discontinue it. Then to get him to eat all of the respiratory supplement since it's a powder, I'm giving him Horseguard flaxseed oil. He gets Tribute Kalm N EZ, which is a nice low NSC grain. He gets a pretty good amount of it to maintain his weight. I also bring him a flake of hay from home every time I go out because I would prefer he had more forage than he gets.

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    1. ha definitely know what you mean about the volume of the supplement.... i think if charlie didn't get as much fuel he'd be much more skeptical of all the other crap i stick in there LOL. it's interesting you mention the Arenus supplement too -- have literally never heard of that company before today with two separate people highlighting it. also that's nice that you can bring in hay from home.... it's so frustrating when barn mgmt doesn't give as much forage as we'd want....

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  9. Third person recommending Arenus! Peebs is on the Assure Guard Gold. My vet recommended it after his two colics last fall. It's expensive af, but they have a colic assurance program which Peebs is now finally eligible for. He'll be on it for the rest of his life.

    I'm in the middle of switching up Cinder's feed. She's on Purina Strategy, but I'm not liking her body condition. I did start paying for the upgraded hay at her barn but I still think she could gain more weight. I'm putting her on platinum and am going to talk to my vet about what he thinks.

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    1. oh man switching feeds can be so stressful haha.... like it's one thing when you can look at the horse and be like -- yep, everything looks good here! but when they're not really thriving or showing the condition you'd expect... yea, it's not a good feeling. good luck figuring out what works best for her!

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  10. Remus gets 3/4 scoop of Senior (when he got to Trinity he only got half a scoop so there is movement as he is fitter and not as fat as he was 2 years ago) and his supps in the am. I unfortunately only do the smartpaks for now. One day maybe I will do my own. He only gets a senior vitamin with joint and his Digest(colicare). So he is not killing it with the supps. But he does good. I had him on the metabolic forever from Smartpak but swapped that out last year for the mutlivitamin senior formula instead as we seem to have his weight in hand now. I do think the supplements are a pain. WHY can we as humans have a one pill does all for a vitamin but horses have 2 wells of it in Smarkpaks? LOL Remus is 19 this year so we will see if moving forward he needs more supps and more grain!

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  11. Try looking up condiment/salad dressing/snack/dip containers on amazon. I found some a couple of years ago for salad dressing that were a good price and have lasted so far. Otherwise, freezer bags can usually be reused a few times before they fall apart. They have thicker plastic.

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  12. Nay gets too many supplements. His succeed is non-negotiable as every time I take it off, he gets grumpy so it does something. He also gets platinum performance. He's not crazy about it but still seems to be eating it. I was happier when he'd eat alfalfa pellets, but those are currently a no go (soaked or dry) so he's less great with his powders. He also gets Redmond's Daily Gold, but that might get cut out once this tub is gone. It helps, but he's less than impressed currently. I'd be happier if I could get him eating something soaked to catch all the supplements. He eats everything with oats and rice bran plus chopped carrots (his favorite part of his meal) then gets his orchard grass plus alfalfa. I'll really struggle if I ever have to board. Having a horse who can't eat soy is REALLY hard. I don't recommend it.

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  13. Renew Gold has been one of my mainstays with every horse I've owned since Carlos - I just love it to add calories without adding too much energy. haha I am with you about pre-bagging/containering supplements tho. What a pain lol

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  14. They make silicon baggies that are reusable indefinitely. They’re a pain to wash out (I’d recommend turning them inside out and leaving inside out to dry). But if you don’t need to wash often for dry supplements, it’s might be a good solution.
    Reusable Snack Bags, 12Pack Food Storage Freezer Bags (8 Leakproof Reusable Sandwich Bags + 4 THICK Reusable Snack Bags for Kids) Plastic Ziplock Bags, Washable https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0819L9998/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_glt_fabc_PEBHC7W14QXGTHKV05HJ

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  15. I'm very much on the keep-it-simple nutrition plan. Of the 27 horses in my stableyard in South Africa, the majority of them don't eat concentrate feed except for a cup of ration balancer in winter. I'm really picky on the hay that I feed and how I feed it, and they never go without. I pick the best quality concentrates (I find that feeding cheaper concentrate is penny-wise, pound-foolish anyway) and hardly supplement at all. Most supplements, imo, are expensive dust lol. I do feed three that I swear by: GCS-Max for joints, Protexin for bad doers, and Equine Balance (zeolite) for anything that's giving me ulcer or stressy vibes. (Obviously horses with signs ulcers should be scoped and medicated - but sometimes Equine Balance can catch those slightly stressy, slightly unthrifty horses before they go into full-blown ulcers).

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