Then I got Echo, and now food prep time has turned into a bad episode of Iron Chef.
Echo is your typical high-maintenance TB. He's got two related issues: he's rather on the thin side, and he very likely has ulcers.
When he arrived, you could see every rib in his body, despite being fed vast quantities of Senior feed and good hay at Adopted Horse Parent's farm. My goal in life became cramming more calories in, but Echo has a problem with this - he doesn't actually like to eat. Sure, he'll eat his grain, but hay is iffy. He'll eat it for a while, but then there are other things to do, like annoy Cash. Or stare off into space. Or watch the donkeys. Or the deer. Or the butterflies. And it doesn't matter what type of hay I give him either - alfalfa, T/A mix, and I've tried three different Coastal hay suppliers. He eats for a bit, and then he's just not into it. Cash helps some, in that Echo often eats when Cash does, but it's not enough. I feel like someone's Jewish grandmother, going "Eat, Liebschen, EAT!" every time I see Echo.
At the advice of my vet, I moved Echo from Senior feed to a Complete feed when he arrived, which has about 100 calories more per pound (roughly 1200 more calories/day for the same weight of feed). Unfortunately, it also has almost 2x as much NSCs, which is not good for his feet. In fact, he's been a little footsore of late, despite that nasty chunk of his hoof being almost grown out. If he's sensitive to sugar like Saga was, the feed could be contributing to him being footsore (it's also possible that the grass is contributing, but they are all limited to 2 hours per day of grazing, so that shouldn't be much of an issue). So we're switching him back to Senior (again on the advice of the vet, TC, and my farrier). But then we have to make up the calories somehow...
There are lots of ways you can do this. I've spent too much time researching options, and here's what I found and why I feed what I do:
- Rice bran - Lots of calories, but also high in NSCs (25-30%). I used to use it, and it works, but because of the NSCs I now stay away from it.
- Corn oil - Cheap, but extremely high Omega 6/Omega 3 ratio. Omega 6 causes joint inflammation and other issues, so you want to get as close to 1/1 as possible. Corn oil is like 46:1... YIKES!
- Cocosoya or soybean oil - I've heard really good things about cocosoya, and I know some blog readers have used it with excellent results. However, some horses are sensitive to soy (Saga was one) so I try not to feed it. Good Omega 6:3 ratio, though, about 8:1, and readily available.
- Cool Calories or another weight builder supplement - The Smartpak reviews for these sorts of supplements are good, but check out the ingredients list. Partially hydrogenated vegetable fat is usually the #1 ingredient. We know that hydrogenated fat isn't good for us, why feed it to our horses? Besides, if it's really just a hydrogenated vegetable oil, I'd rather simply feed some sort of oil. Rice bran is another popular ingredient.
I'm running out of options here, aren't I? Making horses fat is haaard! So here's what Echo DOES get to help him gain weight:
- Olive oil - Decent Omega 6/3 ratio (10:1). No NSCs. Roughly 1000 calories per cup. Horses do not seem to have a sensitivity to it like they do to soy. It's expensive compared to the other oils, so it's a good thing I can buy in bulk from Costco! Anyway, Echo gets 1/2 cup 2x/day.
- Ground flax - LOADS of Omega 3s, about 900 calories per cup. This stuff comes highly recommended not only for helping with weight, but clearing up skin conditions, putting on a good shine, and helping grow a better hoof. There's some argument as to whether it needs to be ground to feed it or if it can be fed whole - either one seems to be OK, but the ground stuff goes rancid quickly. I just started feeding it ground, and am grinding it myself in small batches and storing it in the fridge (I may switch to a stabilized version in the future). We're working up to 1/2 cup 2x/day for both Echo and Cash, who has been having trouble shedding out this spring.
I get the people-grade version of this stuff in my breakfast cereal. Nomnomnom.
Of course, pouring all this feed into Echo won't do any good if he's got digestive issues. I have not had him scoped, but he shows some classic symptoms of ulcers. When I first got him, he would not let me groom or touch his belly, especially on the off side. He pawed constantly. He pinned his ears and nipped while being girthed. He wouldn't finish his feed. He was lethargic under saddle. And of course, despite all the food he was getting, he wasn't putting on any weight. I discussed these symptoms with my vet, and she suggested trying some (relatively inexpensive) things to see if he improves, and he has. So to help with digestion, he gets:
- 1/2 cup aloe vera juice 2x/day
If you add a splash of lime juice to a cup of this, do you think it would make a margarita? Oh wait, that's AGAVE juice. Oops.
- 2 magnesium tablets 2x/day (same stuff people take for heartburn, lol!)
Now in the barn aisle as well as the health-food aisle.
- 3 packs of Omnezaprole ("blue pop rocks", same stuff as Ulcerguard but much less expensive) 1x/day (this is only for a month)
Blue pop rocks!
I am happy to say that today, I can groom him all over and he is comfortable. The pawing has stopped entirely. Being saddled and girthed is almost a non-event (he's even mostly stopped biting his lead rope). He eats his grain in good time, has much more energy under saddle, and I can only see about 4 of his ribs now. So all this stuff seems to be working - THANK GOODNESS!
He also currently gets SmartPak's Bug Off supplement, since the flies annoy him terribly despite his impressive anti-bug wardrobe. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be helping him, and it smells AWFUL (actually makes me gag, and I have a strong stomach!) so I will be discontinuing that when I run out.
I can't even tell you how vile this stuff smells. Echo eats it though, go figure!
For his delicate little thin-soled flat feetsies, he gets Bioflax 20. This stuff helped Saga grow almost 10 mm of sole depth in about 9 months, so I'm hoping it will work for Echo too. And once a month, everyone gets a psyllium supplement to clear out any sand that has taken up residence in their guts.
So... come clean, y'all. Please tell me someone out there is a crazed supplement addict like myself?