Feeding Oil

My horse receives 1/2 cup sunflower oil 2 x day & 30ml Omega Oil 1 x day in his feed. He is a heavy sweater and I have to be quite careful if it is very hot. Someone just told me that oil can be 'heating' and that they don't feed it in summer as their horses sweat too much. Is this true? I feed the oil for a variety of reasons, mainly being on the advice of my vet as he is prone to mild impactions and constipation and the oil helps the passage of the food so I really don't want to stop feeding it if possible. However I also think that the sweating can add to the colic issue as he dehydrates very quickly and doesn't drink enough water.


The oil you are feeding your horse is fine and is unrelated to his sweating problem. By 'heating' people usually mean that it makes the horse very energetic and full of spark, but oil is not as heating as many of the grains that are commonly fed. Oil can be fed right through the year, and it does not cause sweating.
What does concern me is your horse's excessive sweating and colic issues. I would have your vet do a thorough work up of your horse to determine the reason for the excess sweating. It is vital that you provide your horse with a salt lick at all times, as well as an unlimited fresh supply of water. If the sweating is very bad, you might have to give your horse electrolyte supplementation, however this you will have to discuss with your vet.
Keep feeding the oils, but have your horse checked out by the Vet please, adn get a second opinion if you must.


Thanks Renee I do give him electrolytes now in anticipation of hard work, like when we are going to shows, and 1 or 2 x a week anyway. Funnily enough he has for about 6 weeks been given regular Bemer blanket treatments (to assist in healing a puncture wound) and apart from him feeling so good following them that he has been bucking all over the place his sweating has reduced significantly, even following really hectic workouts (trying to cure bucking issue). He still sweats slightly more than your average horse but no where near as much as before.


How interesting - this sounds like some kind of pain response to me! In fact, it almost would seem like a low grade azoturia that your horse might be suffering from. One of the side effects of that would be sore muscles, especially along the back and hindquarters which would result in him being uncomfortable when you ride hence the bucking. The Bemer blanket treatments work well on back pain and azoturia, which may be what is causing the improvement.
I would seriously have your vet take a look at him, and possibly do the blood tests for Azoturia when he has another sweating episode or at least do a thorough back exam and check his muscles for pain.
Failing that, I would also have him looked at by a physiotherapist or Acupuncturist.
Let us know how he goes!


Been down that road! Vet passed him 100% and the bucking doesn't just occur when I am riding him, it happens on the lunge, in the paddock, he has even been bucking in his stable. I have had numerous experts have a look and they all say the bucking is not a pain reflex, he just looks incredibly fresh and pleased with himself. He literally can't help himself, it's very cute. He is all bright eyed and bushy tailed. Luckily he doesn't have a lethal buck, it is more a happy thing. Problem is when you are trying to interest him in focusing on your imminent dressage test, happy can be problematic! I think you are correct with the low grade azutoria thing, or it being at least related to his circulatory system, though. He has always been a lazy, non forward moving horse until these intensive Bemer treatments, but not anymore. He raced for a very long time so goodness knows what went into his system, but I definitely think we have got to the end of the road, after a year. I think that I am going to keep up with regular Bemer sessions and have now dropped him onto a 10% food as opposed to 12%. Thanks for putting my mind at rest on the oil issue.

First Showing Show


Hi all, i was really hoping someone could give me the best advise when it comes to In-Hand Showing. I have entered me first showing show this week coming and i need all the help and advise i can get... What tack to be used for in-hand classes, what should i wear, what will be expected of me once i enter the ring, etc... all advise will be greatly appreciated.. happy horsing everyone...


The first thing I would suggest is that you go onto the SANEF website and read through the showing rules and regulations. They also have a very nice description of what happens in each class and what to expect. (http://www.horsesport.org.za/disciplines/showing/2007%20Showing%20Rules.pdf)
The judges are usually very nice too and will explain everything to you as the class progresses.
In terms of tack, you will need to show him in his bridle, as per the showing rules. All the rules of turnout also apply, so plaits, polish and a neatly trimmed horse are a must.
You can also read up my article on showing on my blog, http://www.encyclopediaequestria.blogspot.com/ where you will also find a nice picture of an in-hand class. (The art of showing - posted May 2007) One thing I did not explain there was trimming the tail - you lift it up and trim to about the length of a hand or two below the hocks with a clipper, depends on the horse - scissors are a bit choppy. And also use the clippers to remove excess hair from the legs and feet.
If you still have questions after that, please do go ahead and feel free to ask! The most important thing I can tell you is to enjoy yourself, use this first show as a learning experience and check out as much as possible. Observer the winners of the classes and see what it is that they did that looked good.
Let me know if you need any more advice!

Feeding in Winter


I am a complete novice and I am wondering if my Big Baby is getting enough food in the winter. he gets 2 scoops of concentrate in the evening and 1 scoop in the morning. he has grass available in the paddock and gets erograttis or whatever mixed with teff when he comes into the stable. his weight remains constant. I supplement him with probiotics which I bring to the stable evey afternoon. I also give him Omega 3 & 6. Is this enough for him in the winter. I am concerned.


The best way to judge whether your horse is getting the right sort of feed is really to just look at him! Does his coat shine and is it a healthy looking coat? Does he have lots of energy and sparkle? Is his weight constant and non-fluctuating? Are you feeding the best quality roughage and other food that you can?
The answers to these questions will tell you plenty about how your feeding regime is affecting your horse. During winter, the quality of roughage can get a little poorer, but if your horse maintains his weight, he is fine. If he does lose a little weight, you can supplement with extra calories - firstly, and most importantly, feed more roughage. You can also feed a small slice of lucerne in the evenings or supplement with extra oil or sugar beet. Those types of things will increase the caloires in his daily ration without resorting to increasing his concetrate feed. Remember to make any changes very slowly over time, to give his digestive system time to adapt! In winter, horses will also burn extra calories staying warm if they are exposed to the elements - especially of they are wet. Horses can handle cold rather well, but wet, windy cold is something that will drop condition and probably have him unhappy too. Make sure there are no cold draughts blowing throught the stable at night, use a warm rug at night and turn him out with a day sheet when the weather gets chilly and windy. This will help keep him warm and he will burn less calories. If the weather is 25 out and the sun is shining, please, don't keep the rug on! He will overheat and sweat and lose condition anyway!
I hope this helps you - it sounds like your horse should be fine! He sounds like he is getting everything he should. Make sure he has access to a salt lick, and if you want, provide him with a vitamin and mineral lick too. That way he has access to it if his body tells him he needs it.
Thanks for a great question!

Backing a Horse


Hi!! I have a Friesian that is really a sweetie. He is 1year 4 months and already 16 hh. He is going to be really big when he is older and i don't know if I should let him be backed by a profesional or not since he has such a temper. Does a horse need to be backed or can he just be ridden if he is old enough? (and safe enough! :) )


Fresians can be big, strong boys as youngsters and the challenge of getting them started can seem a bit daunting.
I don't like to get onto any horse's back until I am happy that they are strong enough to handle it. Neither do I like to work young horses on the lunge too much. Fresians, like Warmbloods, take time to mature and become physically ready to carry a rider, however there are a multitude of groundwork exercises that you can do with your horse to prepare him for his adult working life that will not tax his body beyond what it can handle. At such a young age, mental training takes priority, and if that is done well, the physical training becomes much easier.
I start all my horses on the lead - they need to be able to lead properly, including walking, trots, halt and rein back. They need to understand the concept of working shoulder to shoulder (theirs to mine) which is also the foundation of lunging that will come later in their training. I also like to teach them to move away from pressure. Teaching a youngster to stand quietly, be handled and accept what a human is doing is something that is often overlooked but vital! Getting them used to bright colours, dogs, people, traffic and so on is something that can be done from the ground too. Practise getting in and out of a horsebox if you have access to one (you don't have to go anywhere, just get him used to the idea of getting in and out).
I would also investigate Parelli horsemanship - this involves a number of 'games', each of which targets a specific training principle. (Go to www.parelli.com) You could try clicker training or natural horsemanship which also has a number of skills to master without actually sitting on his back.
Now is the time that you should be working on obedience, partnership and trust - all of that means that his physical size should in no way be a problem when it finally comes time to start him under saddle, as the trust and respect will be there already!
Personally, I do not like to even get on a horse's back until he is at least 4 years old, although some people will back a horse at 3. He has 20 years of ridden work ahead of him (at least) so waiting for his body to be ready is a small price to pay if it means he is going to be pain free, sound and a pleasure to ride in years to come. Fresians tend to have long backs, especially the big boys, and I have often seen Fresians that were ridden hard too early - once they hit 12 or 15, their backs become hollow, or they have become unsound.
Whether or not you should have your horse backed by a professional is a personal choice, but a very important one. The rest of your horse's riding future is quite literally in your hands, so if you are going to do it yourself, I would be very sure that you know exactly what you are doing, what your plans are for him and how you aim to achieve your riding goals once he is backed. I would still enlist the help of a qualified person, like an instructor, because there is always the chance that things could start badly, and if you are not prepared for the problems that arise, it could spoil him or you could get hurt. If you decide to send him to a professional, do your homework carefully - visit the trainer, watch them work with horses, chat to as many people as you can and make sure that you are sending him to somebody that knows what they are doing.
Good luck, and enjoy your horse!

Horse Eating Droppings


Hi, I recently noticed my horse eating his droppings in his stall, this is the fist time I've seen him do it so I dont know how often it occurs, is he lacking something in his diet? He is fed three meals a day (Vuma Red 12%), goes out to graze in the mornings and always has a constant supply of hay in his stall, is his diet lacking something, is he just bored? he is exercised 4-6 times a week.


Coprophagia is the consumption of feaces, from the Greek copros (feces) and phagein (eat). Many animal species practice coprophagia; other species do not normally consume feces but may do so under unusual conditions.
There are a number of theories and ideas surrounding this behaviour, depending on the situation.
Firstly, a starved animal will eat its own faeces because there is simply nothing else to eat. The problem with this is that it can become a habit - in other words, once the horse is removed from his environment into better care, he may still keep eating his faeces because it has become so ingrained into his behaviour. Obviously your horse is not starving, which leads us to the next possibility.
Young animals of many species will eat the feaces of their mothers in an attempt to provide their digestive systems with the microflora that they require for digestion. Young elephants and hippos commonly do this. What your horse may be trying to tell you is that he has a lack of microflora and is seeking to replace them. I would suggest that you consider supplementing with a probiotic for a few weeks to see if this improves the situation.
Apes have been known to eat horse feaces because of its higher salt content. This may be another reason why your horse is eating his droppings. All working horses should have access to a salt lick. Horse sweat is high in sodium and a horse cannot store salt in his system to be used later. He needs a daily intake of sodium to maintain an healthy balance in his system. If your horse does not already have a salt lick in his stable, I would definitley add one. Electrolytes are not needed unless your horse is sweating profusely and in danger of dehydration, and an excess of it may cause harm to your horse - free access to a lick means your horse can regulate his own intake.
A lack of fibre in the diet is another reason that has been speculated as to why a horse would eat its droppings. Your horse seems to be taking in a good amount of fibre. In the case of low fibre issues, I believe a horse is much more likely to start chewing wood or eating his bedding as a result of not getting enough fibre in his diet. Make sure that he is getting enough good quality hay and if you are worried about fibre, you can supplement with extra sources of fibre (Please not bran! It is not a good source of fibre at all!) This is unlikely to be the cause of your horse's problem.
Another reason why horses are said to eat their droppings is because of a mineral or vitamin imbalance. Horses will eat all sorts of things if they have an imbalance - a common imbalance manifests itself as the eating of sand. This can cause a serious colic in horses. I had a horse at my yard that, when she arrived, would eat large mouthfuls of sand. We had very successful treatment by a homoepath, who put her on a course of tablets, including silica, which is a form of sand of course! She recovered completely in a matter of weeks. I would advise you to make sure that in addition to a salt lick, your horse also has access to a mineral and vitamin lick, or that you supplement with a good broad spectrum multi vitamin. Consulting a homeopath might be something you could consider.
Boredom has been blamed for horses eating their own droppings. If you feel your horse is spending too much time in his stable you could turn him out a bit longer, alternatively, find things to keep him busy with, such as food toys. I would rule out the other causes first, as I have yet to see a bored horse eating his poo! Bored horses get up to other mischief!
Once you have ruled out all of these possible contributing factors, you may sadly find that your horse is still eating his droppings and that it has become a learned behaviour! In that case I would urge you to make sure that his droppings are removed from the stable as often as possible and that you keep the pastures free of droppings of other horses that he may eat - this is a risk factor for picking up worms.
Let us know how it goes! Once you start supplementing, allow a good two weeks or more for the behaviour to stop - it will not happen overnight.

Stiding for Polework


Trotting poles- What is the stride for a 16.2 TB between 3 troting poles in feet and meters. Cantering poles- What is the stride for 4 cantering poles in feet and meters for same horse. And last what is the canter pole stride in meter and feet before a jump? Thanks


Here are some guidelines for you. (Below are the official SANEF Equitation Test guidelines, so will be what you may find at a show)

Distances between Trotting poles : 1.40m

Distances between canter poles: 2.80m – 3m

Placing Pole to a Cross Fence: 2.80m

Distance between Bounce Fences: 3.50m

These are distances incorporating feet that I have referenced from my British Teaching Manuals: (remembering that they take ponies into account too, so go with the bigger distance!)

Distances between Trotting poles : 1.20 to 1.50m (4-5 ft)

Distances between canter poles: 2.80m – 3.7m (9 – 12 ft)

Placing Pole to a Cross Fence: 2.5 - 2.80m (8 – 9 ft)

Distance between Bounce Fences: 3.35 - 3.7m (11 – 12 ft)

The distance between the poles remains the same, no matter how many you have. I would recommend you start with the official SANEF distances before changing them to suit your horse and training purposes. Also, it is always good to have someone on the ground to check that your horse is landing nicely in the middle of each distance, so that you know you are doing it right! I would do anything more advanced than trot and canter poles under the guidance of my instructor!

TB off the Track


I am looking for a young thoroughbred off the track in which i can school myself and do light competing with in dressage as i am in juniors now, .but What exactly Should i be looking for in a good, sensible horse?


Wow Jadie! Good question! What makes a horse a good buy could take up a whole book full and of course depends very much on things like what you want to use the horse for, how much you will be paying and a host of other factors that could influence your decision.
The most important piece of advice I would give you when deciding to buy a horse off the track is to have it vetted properly, INCLUDING X-Rays of at least the front legs from the knees down. If you can do the hind legs too, then great! Racehorses take a great deal of strain and often their limbs are not in great shape. Things like hairline stress fractures, knee chips or injuries that are just waiting to blow might not be apparant to the naked eye, but an X-Ray will quickly show the impending problems. I had a client that was given a horse off the track – a magnificent beast in all respects. Two weeks after he arrived at the yard, he cut his leg out in the paddock and suddenly went lame. After a series of tests, drugs and a host of opinions, X-Rays were done which indicated not only a small hairline fracture in the navicular bone that was inoperable, but multiple knee chips that were about to blow. There was damage to the cartilage on the joints as well. The horse had to be put down. What a tragedy! The owner was devastated. A simple X-Ray would have shown this right away and would have prevented further misery. Also important to know, with a sachet or two of Bute in his system, the horse trotted up sound… broken bone and all! The vet will also be able to give advise on conformation and possible problems that might arise.
Also take a knowledgeable person, such as a qualified instructor on a second visit. They will be able to further advise you on conformation, temperament and suitability to your chosen discipline. Even a horse with a few conformation faults can make up for it with heart and attitude, so that is also very important.
There are good dealers and sadly, not so great dealers. The trick is to take somebody knowledgeable and to do the proper pre-purchase Vet checks so that at least on the health front, you are well on your way! Be wary of any horse being given away for free from the track – try to establish exactly why the horse is being given away – often there is some underlying health reason or serious behaviour problem.

How many Treats are Too Many?


In several discussions on feeding treats the comment was made "just don't feed too much". But how much is too much? My horse gets about 2kg of carrots a week. He is in very good condition, bordering on overweight. He also gets half a cup of sunflower oil per day. Should I cut that out?


Carrots are highly unlikely to cause your horse to become overweight, unless he was eating them all day every day! I would go slow on treats only because it may cause my horse to become too used to getting them and start nasty habits like nipping and temper tantrums to get at treats. Feeding carrots is great because not only do most horses love them, they are a great source of fresh vitamins, a high moisture content and are sure to put any horse in a wonderful mood at once! Often a horse feeling under the weather or recovering from illness won’t eat his regular meal but will tuck into a few carrots, which is great because it is better than nothing! I have never really seen a horse get sick from too many treats! Sticking to fresh treats like apples, carrots even a bit of brown bread should be fine.
Being overweight is really not a great thing for your horse because it puts him at risk for a number of serious health problems, not least of which is laminitis that could be life threatening. If you are feeding oil, I assume it is being put into a concentrate feed of some sorts. It is very tricky to give you advice on your feeding regime, as we would need a little more info from you such as what type of horse you have, what type of work he is doing, what exactly he is being fed and how much and how the grazing looks where he is turned out. Then it will be easier to see how your feeding regime is contributing to his being overweight. Please feel free to send us the details if you want a bit of advice.
We would have to see what ELSE he is getting in addition to the oil to make any comment about cutting it or not. I would take a serious look at his feeding program though, as being overweight is really not great, especially if you are noticing an increase in weight gain over a period of time. (ie he is getting fatter)

New Reply:

My boy is a crossbreed gelding, 8 years old. He gets ridden for a maximum of 3 hours a week - dressage, hacking and a bit of jumping. Once a week he is lunged for about 20 minutes. In summer there is very little grazing where I stable, grass in winter.
He gets 1.5 kg of Equifeeds drought meal in the morning. In the evening he gets 1.5 kg drought meal, 3 kg 12% Equifeeds meal (Maintenance I think) and a slice of oat hay. He used to get bran instead of the drought meal, but the bran has been unavailable for some time now.
At the moment he is bordering on overweight - you can take a look at him on the brag pages.
Is this diet balanced, and is he getting too much food? It would be easiest for me to change the quantities of what he eats, tricky to change the actual food.


For everyone out there’s benefit, I am going to do a ration calculation and let’s see how much it all adds up to. This is the scientifically correct way of calculating your horse’s daily ration, however I am going to simplify it a little here for your benefit. We are going to pretend that you want to drop a few kg’s off your boy…!

STEP ONE: Calculate the Horse’s Body Weight

There are a number of ways of doing this, however for the purpose of this calculation we are going to assume that your horse’s ideal weight is around 500Kgs. He looks to me to be about 15.3 to 16hh tall and is of big build. There is an interesting way of calculating your horse’s weight using his heart girth measurement and the length from his point of shoulder to point of buttocks.

The equation is as follows:

Bodyweight (kg) = heart girth (cm)² X length

This will give you an accurate measurement of his weight. Important to remember, your horse is overweight, so we are going to calculate his score based on what he should weigh! We are working towards an ideal – similarly, if your horse is underweight, you should ideally calculate according to what he should weigh and then increase your caloric value to cause an increase in weight. More about that later!

STEP TWO: Calculate your Horse’s Appetite

An adult horse will eat approximately 2.5% of his bodyweight in dry matter. It should always be your goal to feed not to the point of saturation, but at 2.5%, he will still be under his full appetite and will always finish his food. Some horses are always starving and others are picky eaters! You will need to take this into consideration when working out a ration for your horse too!

Appetite = bodyweight X 2.5

= 500 X 2.5

= 12.5 kg dry matter per day

Also remember, a horse out at green pasture will eat much more than 12.5 kg per day because the moisture content of the food is much higher.

STEP THREE: Calculating the Energy Required for Maintenance

The energy required to maintain your horse’s body relates to the amount of energy he needs just to keep all his systems functioning and to keep him alive. This number is measured in megajoules of digestible energy per day.

Energy for Maintenance = 18 + bodyweight (kg)
= 18 + 60

= 68 MJ DE/day

STEP FOUR: Calculating the Energy Required for Work

The energy that your horse needs to perform his daily work routine is calculated next. This is measured on a subjective scale of 1 though 8 – 1 being an hour of walking daily and 8 being racing. Rigorous schooling activity with trots, canters and some jumping every day measures a 4, so I am going to score your horse at a 3.

Energy for Work = work score X bodyweight (kg)
= 3 X 500

= 30 MJ DE/day

Your horse’s total energy requirement daily can now be calculated:

Total Daily Requirement = 68 MJ DE/day + 30 MJ DE/day
= 98 MJ DE/day

STEP FIVE: Forage to Concentrate Ratio

Depending on how hard your horse works, he is going to need more or less concentrate feed and less or more roughage (hay). As a general guide, a horse in light to medium work like yours should be getting about 70% of his energy daily from hay and 30% of his energy from concentrates. That means our ratio of forage to concentrate will be 70:30. Now we need to calculate exactly how much energy will be provided by each component.

Energy from Hay = 98 X 70
= 68.6 MJ DE from hay (round off to 69)

Energy from Concentrates = 98 X 30
= 29.4 MJ DE from concentrates (round off to 29)

STEP SIX: Calculating the Daily Ration

The next step in our ration formulation is to convert the energy values into actual physical weights so that we know how much to feed. This requires information on the actual feedstuffs.

We know that the average crude protein in Eragrostis hay ranges quite a bit during the year and is also dependant on the way it was grown and harvested, and is around 4.5% at its lowest during mid-summer and 17.5% at its peak in early spring. (Strickland, 1973) Let’s say you are feeding a good quality Eragrostis, with a crude protein level of 8%, and a Digestible Energy score of 8 MJ/Kg. Teff is slightly higher in crude protein, at around 11% to 14% average and a Digestible Energy Score of around 9 MJ/Kg. Lucerne has a crude protein of around 16% - 18% and a Digestible Energy Score of also around 9 MJ/Kg. The best way of determining these values is by sending samples of your hay to be analysed.

To keep this simple, let’s assume your horse is being fed Eragrostis. We now use the Energy from Hay calculation we just did to work out the weight of hay to be fed.

Weight of hay to be fed/day = Energy from Hay
Digestible Energy Score

= 69
= 8.63 kg per day

To work out how much one average bale of your hay weighs, use a spring balance (one of those scales they use to weigh fish that the guys have caught – scale with a hook on it) or try weighing yourself holding the bale minus just you on your own!

Now we need to calculate how much concentrate feed your horse requires. For this we need to refer to the dietary info provided on the feed label.

I have studied Equifeed’s product range again and do not find the ‘Drought meal’ you are referring to, however let us go on the assumption that it is similar to the 12% Maintenance Mix, or that your horse is only receiving the 12% Maintenance Mix. This will have a Digestible Energy Score of approximately 10 MJ/kg of energy.

Weight of concentrates to be fed/day = Energy from Concentrates
Digestible Energy Score

= 29
= 2.9 kg per day

Now, let’s see what happens if we add a cup of sunflower oil to this mix. (Bearing in mind that vegetable oil has a Digestible Energy Score of 35 MJ/kg and that one cup of sunflower oil weighs approximately 0.24kg) One cup of oil will have 8.4 MJ DE. If we subtract this from the 29 MH DE that your horse requires daily, that leaves us with a total of 20.6 MJ DE.

Weight of concentrates to be fed/day = Energy from Concentrates
Digestible Energy Score

= 20.6
= 2 kg per day

This brings the total amount of concentrates that your horse should be getting to 2kg.

Our final ration looks something like this:

Daily, your horse should be getting almost 9kg of good quality Eragrostis, 2kg of 12% concentrates and 1 cup of sunflower oil. This falls just under our original appetite calculation of 12.5 kg dry matter. So far so good! What is also interesting to note is by how much one can decrease the concentrate feed when you increase the caloric value by adding oil!

STEP SEVEN: Checking the Protein Levels

If you are using a good quality feed, then your ration should be meeting your horse’s daily protein requirement. A horse in light to medium work like yours should be getting around 7.5% to 8.5% crude protein in his ration. Crude protein estimates the total protein content of a feed. When measuring crude protein, the nitrogen content of a feed sample is determined . Since proteins contain 16% nitrogen on average, the nitrogen value is multiplied by a factor of 6.25 to calculate the crude protein content of the feed. Since crude protein level includes both true protein (amino acids) and non protein nitrogen, it does not provide information regarding the quality or availability of the protein in a particular feed. That is important to know because people often confuse crude protein of a whole ration with the amount of protein indicated on the concentrate food label.

Protein in Our Ration:

Feed Qty (kg) Protein Content (%) Protein in Ration (g)

Eragrostis Hay 9kg 8% 72g
Maintenance Meal 2kg 12% 24g
11 kg 96g

(I did not include the oil in this calculation as it has no dry matter weight, nor does it contain any protein)

The percentage of protein in this ration is 96 = 8.7 %

Bearing in mind that the quality of protein in the Eragrostis hay will be quite variable and might fall to slightly less than our estimate of 8%, the total protein of the ration falls within acceptable levels. During months where the quality of hay really drops, adding a small slice of lucerne to a feed will help pick up the protein levels. For the obese horse however, this is not a great idea!

STEP EIGHT: Check and Adjust the Ration

Every horse is different, and I would venture that every horse will respond differently to any given ration. Your horse is naturally of slower metabolism, a good doer and in good health. I would like to see him lose just a little weight, as being obese is not only unhealthy, it puts serious strain on his limbs and joints. After about three weeks, you should get an idea of how the ration is affecting him. What you want is a very slow but noticeable weight loss – not too fast, or you put him at risk for serious health problems! If he loses weight too quickly, you can increase the concentrate feed by small increments at a time (less than 0.5 kg) wait a week or two and see if his weight loss has stabilized.

If he still is not losing weight, you should consider one of the following options:

Reduce the amount of hay you feed during the day while he is out. It helps if there is a bit of average to poor grazing in the paddock, as he will nibble on that which will keep him busy. You can also get creative and put toys out for him, like hanging treats in a tree (Like apples) for him to get at. Make a teff net for him with smaller holes – that way he has to work twice as hard to get the hay out!

Try to increase the amount of exercise he is getting – long slow walks are great because you are not stressing his limbs and he is still getting a workout – when he is fitter, you can do long sessions of slow trot too if the ground allows it. Alternatively, ask the stable manager to lunge him one or two extra days per week.

Horses on diet can feel pretty crabby, just like us! The best is to ignore it, try to keep him mentally stimulated and be patient!

Once he is at an ideal weight, you can slowly increase the amount of hay he is getting again to the 9kg - 11kg, and if that still has him losing condition, up your oil to 1 ½ cups per day or even 2 cups per day.

I would also always be sure to give him access to a salt lick, as well as a good vitamin and mineral lick or supplement with a good all round vitamin supplement. (But please remember that overdosing on a supplement can be even worse than having a deficiency! Just because one scoop of a product works well, it does not mean that two will be even better! Also, spread out the supplement over all his feeds, not just in one.) You can keep on feeding him carrots with his meals, since cutting his concentrate by 1kg (if you choose to do so) is going to leave him quite depressed! If he is really sulking – toss in a small handful of molasses meal with every feed too.
I hope this has given you a slight idea of what to feed your horse, and also gives you an idea of how much thought and planning actually should go into deciding what to feed your horse! The ration is quite basic, but I wanted to explain the principles without getting too technical – every ration has to be flexible – quality changes and so does your horse’s own body! I also wanted to reinforce how important it is to actually weigh the amounts of food your horse is ingesting – one coffe tin of one thing does not equal one tin of something else – neither does one scoop necessarily weigh one kg! Also remember to make any changes gradually, to give his gut time to adapt!

Feeding Cosmos


Hi. I would just like to know how good cosmos is for horses, that is the pink and white flowers that eventually turns into blackjacks.
I red a book of what horses jused to live on in the older days when there were no extra feeding exept grass and cosmos and apparantly that was the best food for them and it kept them fat and healty.
Can i feed my horses cosmos? And does it have side effects or something? How many nutriants does it have? I will still feed theyre normal food but with extra cosmos.


Interesting question, Cathy. The types of plants you are referring to are Cosmos (Bidens Formosa) which bears the pink or white flowers that we see so commonly in the country, and the Blackjack (Bidens pilosa), which is in fact in the same family but not the same plant. I had a little help on the facts here, so thanks to PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa) for some of the helpful information. I have a superb book on toxic plants which, sadly, is snugly tucked away in a box in the garage! The Blackjack is found throughout the world, and is considered a weed in most parts. It has been used by human and animal alike over the centuries and is thought to contain many properties. In sub-Saharan Africa, the fresh or dried tender shoots and young leaves are used as a leaf vegetable especially in times of food scarcity. It is an ingredient of sauces accompanying the staple food. The leaves are, fresh or after parboiling, dried in the sun and stored as powder for the dry season. In Uganda, the leaves are boiled in sour milk. Old leaves are not suitable for consumption because they have a bitter astringent taste.
Bidens pilosa (Blackjack) is used as a medicinal plant in many regions of Africa, Asia and tropical America. Roots, leaves and seed have been reported to possess antibacterial, antidysenteric, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimalarial, diuretic, hepato-protective and hypotensive activities. In Uganda, five different medicinal uses are known: the sap from crushed leaves is used to speed up clotting of blood in fresh wounds; a leaf decoction is used for treating headache; sap from the plant is put in the ear to treat ear infection; a decoction of leaf powder is used to treat kidney problems; and a herbal tea made from the plant decreases flatulence. Extracts of Bidens pilosa are used in southern Africa to cure malaria. The Manyika people in the eastern highlands of Zimbabwe retain the first water used for cooking Bidens pilosa foliage for later use as a medicinal drink to cure stomach and mouth ulcers, diarrhoea, headaches and hangover. The Zulu in South Africa use a suspension of powdered leaves as an enema for abdominal trouble, whereas in Congo a concoction made from the whole plant is taken as a poison antidote, or to ease child delivery and to relieve the pain from hernia. In South Africa, strong decoctions of the leaf taken in large doses have been reported to be helpful in treating arthritis. In Côte d’Ivoire, the plant is used for treating jaundice and dysentery. The plant sap is applied to burns in Tanzania. In Nigeria, the powder or ash from the seed is used as a local anaesthetic and rubbed into cuts. The Giriama tribe from the coastal areas of Kenya use a leaf extract to treat swollen spleens in children. This tribe also uses a mixture of the dried and ground leaves of Bidens pilosa, soap and hot pepper as an insecticide for the control of leaf miners and other insects.
In Nanyuki, Kenya, Bidens pilosa is collected for the extraction of natural dyes. Among the Efe of the DR Congo the root is washed and dried, then used as a painting brush. Livestock browses on the plants and in South Africa Bidens pilosa has been used as a fodder for pigs. However, dairy cattle are discouraged from browsing on it because the aromatic oil present in the plant has an objectionable smell that can taint milk. Chicken feed on the seed. In Uganda and in Mexico, the leaves are used as an invigorating or stimulant substitute for tea; while in the Philippines the flowers are used in the preparation of a kind of wine. The flowers are a good source of nectar for honeybees. The composition of raw Bidens pilosa leaves per 100 g edible portion is: water 85 g, energy 180 kJ (43 kcal), protein 3.8 g, fat 0.5 g, carbohydrate 8.4 g, fibre 3.9 g, β-carotene 1800 μg (Leung, W.-T.W., Busson, F. & Jardin, C., 1968). The traditional medicinal applications in China of Cosmos and Bidens species have been confirmed by the fact that Cosmos and Bidens extracts are shown to inhibit bacteria, fungi, and viruses and to have potent anti-inflammatory effects in laboratory animal experiments with induced gastric ulcer, liver inflammation, or arthritis-type swelling. The Yellow Cosmos plant is widely used as a source of yellow dye. In short, I see no evidence of the plants being toxic to your horses, and if you want to feed them in addition to the normal diet as a source of fresh food and as a treat, I don’t see why not. Although they seem to posess some beneficial qualities, they are not a major source of nutrition on their own. I would start with small quantities though, to give the digestive tract time to adapt to it and would never feed it in very large quantities (ie, don’t let it become a major portion of the daily feed). If out in a typical veld situation, your horse may very well be eating the cosmos anyway, and if he does not want to eat it, take it as a sign that his body does not want it. Horses generally tend to be good at choosing plants that are not toxic and that taste good to them out in the wild. Ideally, horses in the wild do well on natural grasses and veld and do not need any hard feed or supplementation, however always remember that a horse in the wild does not have to perform physically or mentally, be in quite as good condition, nor is the caloric requirement of a wild horse as high as that of his sporty counterpart working every day! Horses in the wild also do not generally live as long as those kept in domestication! If you run this by your vet, I am also sure he would be able to advise you and check that you are not causing harm.

Own Livery Yard - Feeding Question


To all the knowledgable horsey people, we have abeautiful farm and we have decided to move my horses to my house where we have now put up fantastic stables. I am not happy with the condition of my horses on what they were being fed at the previous yard. Where can I find a breakdown of what does what and how much your horse should get. I want to tailor each horses feed to get the best results. We want to mix our own feed, its more effort but worth it. I only find overseas sites with this info and it doesnt always apply here in SA. I want my horses to look great, please help!


Renee Swanepoel answered: I would start by buying a good Nutrition book. Something a bit more complex than the average book you would find in the CAN. A really great book, if you can find it is the ‘Nutrient Requirements of Horses: Sixth Revised Edition’, published by National Academies Press in 2007. It is a great technical read and has a lot of nitty gritty as well as the latest info on research that has been done. Do your research properly – if you are going to be responsible for feeding your horse then you had better make sure that you understand how his digestive tract works, and what his body needs. Once you understand how nutrition works, you might have a better understanding as to why your horses may not have looked so great at their old yard.
It is possible to have great looking, well fed healthy horses without having to mix your own feed. If you do decide to do so, I would get in touch with the guys at TUT in Pretoria (Department of Sciences, Equine Studies 012 382 5332 and Email is westmorehm@tut.ac.za ) ask for the details of the Professor in charge of the Equine Nutrition course and he/she will be able to advise you on a balanced ration that will cater to your horses’ requirements. It is important that you mix a balanced, correct ration, based on sound scientific principles. There are feed companies with their own in-house nutritionists who will also be more than happy to answer questions you may have. You can find them quite easily in the web.
That said, if you decide to use a commercial mix, I would still do as much research as possible, try to look at samples of the ration first if you can. Is it fresh? Is it properly labeled and can you tell what is in it? Is the quality consistent? How easy is it to get hold of? Then do a proper feed analysis, which will tell you exactly how much to feed and how protein to feed. Also very important is your source of roughage – quality is vital. Maintaining your pastures will also play a role in the health and well being of your horses.
The best way of learning, in addition to all the studying, I have found, is whenever you see a horse in really great condition, ask the manager or owner about their feeding principles and what they are feeding, and after a while you will start to notice that there are things that seem to work, and things that do not!
I hope that helps you a bit, if you need more info please do let me know and I will be happy to help!

Sourcing Raw Feed Materials


I would like to mix my own feeds. I have finally devised a recipe and I now need to buy the raw materials. I am however having a problem sourcing the materials. Feed merchants will be a bit more expensive so I want to see if I can source it from somewhere else. But where? The larger grain merchants only do large batches to feed maunfactuerors and not to single people like me. If there is anyone that can help PLEASE let me know!


Thanks for the question. Without knowing exactly what area you fall in, it is a bit tricky to give you exact advice, however I would start with the following contacts. (I must add that one must be very sure that when anybody decides to mix their own feed, it is done using sound scientific principles and that they have consulted with professionals on the exact requirements of the horse. Simply adding a few common ‘horse feed ingredients’ like oats, bran and mielies together will not only probably not be balanced, you could actually be causing your horse harm.)
In the Gauteng area, you can give Groenvoer a call. They make their own horse feed, but also stock a wide range of base ingredients that you may need. They will also be able to advise you on other suppliers to try. Call them on (011) 314 1211 or request a pricelist by Fax on (011) 314 1156. The staff at Farm Fresh Feeds are also able to advise you on sourcing ingredients – call them on (012) 6681890.
If you are outside the Gauteng area, I would try getting in touch with Agri South Africa on (012) 300 9500 and explain your situation. They may be able to direct you to a Co-op or supplier in your area. You could try Grain SA on (056) 515 0918. Try to find a Co-Op (Agricultural Cooperative) in your area – they should be able to help you as well.
I really hope this helps and I wish you luck. I must just stress again that you need to be exactly sure that your mix is balanced and that it is formulated to your horse’s individual requirements.

Lethargic Mare


I've got a friesianxboerperd mare 2.5 y/o, when I got her a year ago she was infested with ticks and was in a very poor condition. We took approx 150 ticks of her and per the vets advice shot her some booster shots for a couple of days. I'm just concerned she's still very lethargic, doesn't play with the other horses, the only time she shows interest is feeding time. Feeding consists of lucern and 2kg of equifeed per feed. She's got a high bony wither and a big grass belly. She gets dewormed regularly.Any advice would be appreciated. Thanx.


What a lucky mare, to have somebody take her and love her and care for her like you are doing! Well done on coming this far!
What I would suggest is that you ask your vet to do a health check including a blood test on your mare to rule out any health issues such as anaemia or other health problems. I would also have him or her do a faecal count to check on worm populations because even though your mare has been dewormed, it could be that she still has a worm problem that might require treatment. Blood testing is useful because sometimes horses have a heavy larval infestation but have low faecal egg counts, because at the larval stage there are no eggs. At this time a blood test is the only way of detecting whether a horse is infected with larvae. A proper deworming schedule should include particular active ingredients that target the population of worms you are trying to control particular to that time of year. If management is not great, your horse could easily be picking up worm eggs in the paddock so even deworming regulary might not be controlling the population. Resistance to dewormers is becoming a large problem in this country unfortunately, as most owners will choose one type of dewormer and use it all the time, or give too little to save costs or not give it at the correct time of year. Signs to look for include a dull coat, scratching the base of the tail (pinworms), grass belly, lethargy, diarrhea, colic and summer sores (equine stomach worm or habonema).
The fact that she is not interacting with the rest of the herd may have more to do with her personality than with her state of health. I have often noted that many mares will keep to themselves when out in a group, often a very dominant mare will do this. They will often go a bit ahead of the herd, keeping it moving along and seem to be keeping to themselves. They appear solitary in the group. At feed time, however, they will display their dominance by fending off the other horses and feeding first, if in the group. Some horses that have not been used to interacting with other horses in a group may never integrate fully into a group because they have never been taught how as youngsters. This is rare though.
Lethergy can also a very subjective observation. Comparing one horse to another may give a false impression of lethargy because not all horses will play when out. What should be noticed is whether the horse becomes suddenly more, or less energetic. That usually indicates a problem.
Management can play a role in her behavior too – things to consider are where she is turned out, what the grazing is like, does she have access to some type of roughage during the day and how much stimulation she is getting during the day. (ie is it a busy yard with lots of activity or a private property with little human contact or other activity) You might want to introduce some stimulation for her, such as hanging treats in trees, introducing another animal such as a goat or sheep or other imaginative ways of keeping her mentally stimulated.
Feeding can play a very important role in the behavior and energy level of a horse. It is possible to increase the energy levels of the horse by feeding certain foods. What I would suggest is that you supplement your feed program with the following:
Oils/Fats – try adding ½ cup sunflower or corn oil, or try feeding soaked sugar beet (Speedi-Beet) daily. This should not only improve your mare’s overall condition but will also provide some extra energy that will make her a little less lethargic. I would also consider putting her onto a probiotic supplement, as her system will have been under a great deal of strain due to the heavy parasite burden she had at such a young age. The probiotics will boost her digestive system and improve absorption all round. Depending on the verdict of the blood tests, you might consider supplementing with garlic to boost her immune system, B Vitamins and Iron to improve immune system and general blood health (try BLUD IRON SUPPLEMENT, RED CELL) as well as a general vitamin and mineral supplement (such as Horse Power). As well as feeding Lucerne, I would also feed something like eragrostis hay to ensure that there is enough roughage being taken in during the entire 24 hour cycle – depending of course on what the pasture looks like.
The most vital piece of advice that I can give to you though, is to have her thoroughly checked by your vet first.
Good luck!

Feeding a Miniature


Please can someone help. I have a new miniature and am unsure what to feed. At the moment he is getting a small handfull of molasses and 2 of bran with a half an apple and two carrots morning and evening. I am not sure how much to put into his hay net for the night, and how much lucern to feed, which I give to my other horses last thiong at night. The big horses get 2kgs of hay in a net and then I top up with either a wee bit more hay or teff when I put their light out at about 9.00 and they then get a "wedge 'of lucern each. I dont want the miniature to get too fat as he is just a pet so other than walks with the dogs he has no other exercise. Thanks.


The most common problem with miniatures is that they tend to be overfed. Most miniatures do well on hay and pasture and never need anything more than that. Care should also be taken as to the lushness of the pasture, as they are prone to laminitis if turned out onto lush green pasture to graze at will.
A miniature’s nutritional requirements are the same as their larger counterparts, however taking into consideration the fact that the average miniature is not often used for work or breeding, they can easily get by with less food.
I would start with feeding just eragrostis or teff hay for a few weeks, along with the handful of molasses and fresh treats (just so he does not feel ‘out’ at feeding time) but I would skip the bran. Bran has about the same amount of fibre as the equivalent amount of oats, so is not significantly higher in fibre at all. It also can cause a Calcium and Phospherous imbalance in the horse because it is so high in Phospherous, it causes a serious imbalance in the ratio and can lead to a host of problems. Feeding a small amount of Lucerne will provide the extra calcium needed, however by leaving it out you are avoiding the problem to start with. If he is maintaining weight on the hay then I would stick to just that and leave out the Lucerne, or alternatively give him a big handful of Lucerne as a feed in the evening. A breeder noted that he fed about two bales of hay to his mini per month, if that is an indication to you of how much he can get, but I would fill ½ a teff net for him in the evening and see how it lasts him at night. If he finishes it and seems hungry for more, then by all means, add a bit more!
The most important thing is to monitor his weight and if he seems to be losing weight then add more hay, or add some Lucerne to the evening net. If he seems to be gaining then cut down on any Lucerne or re-evaluate your pasture situation.
I hope that helps!
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