Feeding minis

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BiologyBrain

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Ok, I have a background in backyard full-sized horse ownership. However, since I'm horseless and my elderly neighbor is having mobility problems, I'm dealing with 4 minis & a Belgian. I offer advice to the elderly owner, but he is the one footing the bill and the one living with the horses. I think all of the minis are overweight and one seems dangerously so. Two of them, the obese one and the one I think has the best weight are struggling with soundness issues that appear to be founder/laminitis on a chronic level. All 5 horses (4 minis & 1 Belgian) are on a pasture 24/7. It's not lush, but it's not a dry lot either. The owner feeds the Belgian hay and grain daily, but usually only gives the minis hay. The hay is good quality with ample green in it, although I don't think it is alfalfa. I'm trying to convince him to put the most overweight one on a diet -- either by keeping him in the barn most of the time or by putting him in a grazing muzzle (the owner has 3-4 of them). So far I've not had any luck.

I just finished reading the thread on Freedom and Justice and saw the suggestions given to that new owner as to feeding the minis. They varied greatly and kind of surprised me. I saw a lot of hay recommended with little grass. I looked at the Feeding Info in the menu above and it listed grass as containing less sugar than hay. So why not let the minis graze more instead of haying them? My advice so far to the minis' owner is to keep the obese mini in his stall overnight and then turn him out to graze during the day. I didn't think hay would be a good idea since he already seems to be getting so much out of the pasture. I definitely wasn't recommending any grain, pellets, or other feed for the little guy. As soon as I can, I'm going to try to exercise the obese mini (as well as his friends) with a goal of getting him (them) sound enough, fit enough, and trained enough to 'work' as driving 'horse(s)'.

I think the extra weight the obese mini carries exacerbates his lameness that's most likely founder/laminitis (no confirmatory x-rays). His hooves are also very long and tin can in appearance when they're not like elf platform shoes (toes curl up) despite the farrier coming every 4 weeks for quite some time. He's on & off lame most of the time. I'm having a hard time determining exactly which leg/food is the biggest problem. I don't detect heat or a raging pulse in any of their legs/feet. Structurally, besides the funky hooves, the leg conformation is adequate for the limited work all these horses perform (which is walking through the pasture for grass at this point). Lately it's finally gotten a bit hotter (more like normal KY weather) and they're all choosing to stay in the barn most of the day. The 2 with the worst feet and lameness issues are extremely reluctant to move some days (for weeks at a time) but on others they seem to have little or no trouble. Right now they're in a bad spell even though they just got trimmed.

We live in Western KY. We've had a wet and cool summer this year. I'm not sure how large the minis' pasture is, but it's enough to sustain them and the Belgian and requiring mowing once a month or so. It has weeds as well as grass in it (its really mostly the weeds that necessitate mowing).

So, for fluffy minis what is the recommended feed schedule/source? Would a grazing muzzle for most of a day be acceptable for the obese one? Would 12 hour or so lock up in the barn be better? If locked up should hay be given? The full sized horses I've had we're usually more in need of supplementing their pasture rather than limiting it, so I'm at a loss.

I'll try to take more photos of them soon to show what I mean about their weight & feet a little more clearly. Thanks!
 

Shes My Style

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Your going to get many differenting opnions because there is no "one" right way to do it.

Personally I have mine on a "dry" lot most of the day. There is some grass in there but its not a lot, but it gives them something to nibble on through the day. I also have a nicer small lot that is fully grassed and they get to go out on that for a couple hours a day (hour in morning and hour or two in afternoon is preferred to spread grazing time out). They also have access to a mineral block at all times. I'm new to minis but so far this has been working out really well for 2 mini horses and a mini donkey. The only difference is I had one of mine come to me really thin so she gets supplemental feeding to add protein/fat to her diet.

Many will recommend hay instead of grass just for the fact you have more control over how much and what quality you provide to them. Grass can flucuate so much in sugar content depending on time of year (spring can be really bad), weather (for example - I'm not sure what our unusually wet/cool summer here in KY is doing to our grass other than making it grow like crazy), and how stressed it is (over grazed, etc). Plus you can't tell how much grass a horse is getting at any given time, where hay you can weigh it out and know for sure. You can also get your hay tested and know for sure exactly what the nutrient content is of your batch.

I prefer dry lotting as a group as long as they have room to move. I really dislike the idea of stalling seperately for half a day just due to the fact it can stress them not being with each other - unless you have a huge area they can be together. Grazing muzzles are a great alternative - I used to use one on my haflinger that was inclined to grow fat by just smelling grass. Just make sure they have a couple hours a day without it on because they can't get all they need with it on 24/7.
 

MountainWoman

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Everyone is different.. My horses are turned out on about 30 acres of rough pasture. From November until April or May, there is no pasture because of snow and then they are on hay alone. I haven't had any problems with the horses with weight but they are covering a lot of ground each day and get a lot of exercise. If I had restricted space, I'd have them on a dry lot with hay. If you have an obese mini, he is going to require special care and I'd put him on a dry lot with hay with his best buddy and if he is well enough to exercise, I'd gradually start exercising him each day. You do have hoof issues with him if I remember the photos correctly so I'd try to find a farrier who can straighten them out and that might help him too.

I wouldn't lock a horse up in the barn for 12 hours just to help diet. You could accidentally foster behavior problems or boredom problems if his buddies are turned out and he's in.

You are going to get lots of conflicting advice. Best of luck to you and it's so wonderful you are doing so much for these minis.
 

shorthorsemom

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I have dry lots with pea gravel and mats and a hay feeder. I never turn my guys out on grass without a muzzle because they balloon on very little grass. I have never been able to turn them out 24/7 without problems. I have a run in shed. I feed a fine grass hay and a pelleted feed supplement for vitamins etc (enrich 32). One of my boys stays excellent on that ration, my other boy is still fluffy so I feed him remission in his feed.

You are very nice to help those horses. Sounds like a 911 situation on the obese miniatures to me. Founder and laminitis can be deadly.
 

BiologyBrain

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So for my really fluffy guy, I'd probably best best to muzzle him most of the day. Exercise from grazing right now is about all I think his Little legs & feet can stand. To my knowledge these guys have been on this same pasture the entire time they've been owned by this gentleman.
 

wingnut

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I have a 5 yr old mare that was diagnosed with EMS (equine metabolic syndrome). I had her tested after she came up lame in June. She wasn't getting nearly the amount of pasture time as what you describe yet came up lame. She was overweight but I've seen far worse. Once I realized she was lame (and had a good guess as to what was causing it even before the blood tests), I put her in a stall deeply bedded with saw dust and straw. She stayed there around the clock for a week. The first 3 days I gave her banamine (with the vet's okay) twice daily to help her with the pain. It was during this confinement that the vet drew blood for the test and we got the official results.

Since her initial lameness and subsequent blood work confirming the EMS, she is strictly confined to our very large dry lot and given only grass/alfalfa hay. I try to keep just enough in front of her to keep her from going around with an empty belly throughout the day. She always has a companion (I alternate between my two 4 yr old mares) with her during those time I let the hard keeper and one of the other mares on the pasture. All except the hard keeper only get a ration balancer (1/3 of a pound) most days...no true grain or feed of any kind as they don't need it.

I fear that unless you can get your neighbor to handle things differently, there's little you can do to help the horses. I can't imagine how hard that must be though.
 

BiologyBrain

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I do kind if feel helpless with these little guys. I'm sure this wont be popular, but I've considered telling my neighbor to euthanize these two boys. They spend quite a bit of time in pain due to their feet/founder/laminitis. Since winter, there has been an improvement, but after this last trimming, they haven't gotten any relief. I'm torn between continuing to subject these boys to their unhorse-like state and the pain, but I also feel that I can probably help them if I keep trying. Today the largest one's feet are hurting so badly he kept laying down. When I tried to pick out his feet, he wouldn't give them to me because he couldn't put more weight on them to balance on 3 legs. I tried picking his feet while he was down, but he kept scrambling up every time I touched his feet. The thread on gelding made me think about the pain these guys are in and whether its worthwhile for them to be so miserable just to be pets. They're super sweet and have good attitudes even when in pain, but should they keep suffering? I deal with chronic pain, as does my husband, and know that on bad days you do just wish you could die in peace.
 

MountainWoman

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BiologyBrain, what a sad story. They are so lucky to have you. Is there any way you can get a different farrier out there to look at those hooves and see if getting them trimmed correctly could help at all or is anyone on the board near you? Just so sorry for what these minis are experiencing. Must be awful for you to see. Don't know if you have seen any of the rescue stories but there have been horses who have come back from terrible conditions and now that they have you, they might have a chance.
 

disneyhorse

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Euthanization is a humane choice if an owner isn't willing to put the time and expense into trying to relieve an animal of its suffering... Whatever the path for the horses, I hope it's a humane one... Good luck to you...
 

Shes My Style

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Seems like you are between a rock and a hard place with these two little ones. Good luck with whatever route you can go with these two as it may come down to which ever you can convince your neighbor to follow since they are his horses and he has to make the ultimate decision. I just hope they can either be helped or humanely put down - either is better than staying at the same current state.

Even if you can get him to use grazing muzzles right now it is better than nothing.
 

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