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Monday, 27 April 2020

Springtime Feeding


Louie is a good doer when it comes to his condition and feeding regime. And even though he's suffered briefly from ulcers in the past, I keep a very simple approach to his feed all year round. I find it gives Louie everything that he needs, nutritionally, and it gives me the easy flexibility to add or remove energy as I need.

He has two feeds per day, with the same in each - 1x cup dry of Allen & Page Fast Fibre, 1/2 scoop of Dengie's Alfa A Oil, and 1x cup of Top Spec Joint Balancer. He was also on Top Spec's Calmer until February this year.


So let me explain a little bit about how I manage Louie's diet. From October until the New Year, I really want Louie to hold as much of his weight as he can; I definitely don't want him dropping too much as early as November. So I pretty much stick by his diet until the grass starts to die back, and lose both its length and its goodness.

Once the grass changes, which is usually when we start getting frosty morning or the horses are looking to come in mid-afternoon, I add extra Alfa Oil to his diet - 3/4 of a scoop. He has this as soon as he comes in mostly as a way to make sure his tummy is full and the stomach lining isn't exposed to excess acid.

I'll start to increase Louie's workload at the beginning of January, just in the arena at first, and then as the ground dries & becomes more suitable, doing more trot and canter work out on hacks. Usually, that's the first week of February and at that point, I'll just touch up his Alfa Oil to 3/4 of a scoop, mostly to try to balance his energy level with this workload.

However, by this time, I'm trying to not only get him fit, but I'm also trying to get some of the weight that's still on him, off in preparation for the spring grass coming through. It gives me usually five or six weeks to trim him down until the temperature warm up enough to get those lovely bright green shoots of grass. Once they appear, Louie's feed changes.

Joint Balancer by Top Spec is an excellent product in my opinion, and I've used it for many years, but it is a conditioning balancer. Last year, Louie got far too fat, not helped by a saddle being missing for over a month while on spring grass! This year, I had to change things to prevent that.

I planned to switch him to the Lite balance from Top Spec and add in the extra 10:10 joint supplement, but I just wanted to check that gave him all the same nutritional goodness. I'm glad I checked as I learnt two things...

  1. Joint balance doesn't contain MSM as in pellet form it becomes unpalatable 
  2. Senior lite balancer is the same as joint balancer just without the conditioning effect

I'd have never even considered looking at a senior product for Louie, so it proved worthwhile to just double-check with Top Spec via a few messages on Facebook. 

But the balancer isn't the only thing that changes at this time of year. No. As soon as the grass grows, Louie stops getting the Alfa Oil when he comes in from the field too. Not only are the calories available now in the grass, but it's also in enough volume to leave Louie's tummy lovely & full, and less risk of any acid causing ulceration.

Now it's almost the end of April, I'd ideally like to remove the Alfa Oil completely from his diet, however, he isn't so keen on eating just Fast Fibre and the balancer.

Finally, the one cup of dry Fast Fibre that Louie has been getting, is dropped to 1/2 a cup when it's dry. It's soaked using one cup of water so it's not too soggy as I find that disappears through him and creates a bit of a mess at the other end...

I often think that weight management, the conditions inside the stomach, and the level of energy that horses need for their required workload, isn't all factored in together in some kind of triangular matrix. If you look at the routine above, it would be very easy to only view things as fittening Louie up and therefore he needs extra feed to keep the energy up to do so, but that would have no immediate impact on his weight; he'd stay at the same weight. I am doing that, but I'm also looking forward, knowing that he will put weight on as soon as the spring grass arrives. Therefore, he needs to trim ahead of it.

My feeding regimes, apart from last spring, work really well for Louie and I get a lot of compliments on his condition and how well he looks. But every horse is different, so while I'd suggest trying this diet out as it's relatively simple and suits almost all kinds of horses, you may need to make the odd change here and there. 

Louie's diet could be even simpler this summer, and I may just try a cup of his balancer at either end of the day as the fast fibre offer not much extra, or maybe just cut it down even further as a token to eat with a balancer.


Simplistic feeding is my approach. I have the flexibility to add all kinds of specific supplements, energy boosts, conditioners or specialist feeds without very much clashing of ingredients. I avoid high starch-based feeds, mostly due to Louie's stomach, and also complete feeds as they offer no flex to dial-up (or down) the levels of the individual elements when you need to. 

Oh, I forgot one other thing...which Louie never does...Carrots! And here he is enjoying his feed after a super flatwork session! 


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