Ask H&H: feeding a lazy horse

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    Q: I cannot seem to get my horse’s feeding regime correct. He is a 16.2hh warmblood with a tendency towards being stubborn and lazy.

    However, when I try to increase his energy levels through feeding, he becomes too excitable. Either way, he ends up a challenge to ride.

    He is currently fed on a diet of economy mix, chaff and sugarbeet, with garlic, oil and magnesium. Can you help improve upon this?

    You don’t say how old your horse is, but I wonder if he is young and just trying his boundaries.

    I often find that when you have such a conundrum with behaviour, it is most beneficial to get some help from the ground and maybe find a trainer who has a reputation for helping with complex characters.

    I can help you with his diet, but won’t be able to provide a magic solution to his behaviour. Firstly, to distinguish between what diet can and cannot help with, I am going to substitute the word ‘calories‘ for ‘energy’, as they are actually the same thing.

    You can certainly provide him with more calories, either by increasing the amount of food you are giving or by moving up a calorie level. Obviously, feeding too many calories (energy) will make him fat and feeding less calories (energy) than he is using will mean he loses weight.

    You can feed to minimise the effect of diet on his behaviour, but NO nutritionist can change your horse’s behaviour through feeding. Horses that react to fast energy releasing ingredients need their calories to come from slow releasing ingredients, such as high fibre nuts or leisure mix.

    Do make sure he is getting enough fibre (at least 1/2 bale of hay and/or adequate grass) in order to keep both his gut and brain healthy.

    Finally, if you feel that he is stressed and this may be why he behaves as he does, then some people have found our dietetic product, Take Control, which has been formulated for horses in stressful situations, very effective. This contains B vitamins, magnesium, oil and omega 3 fatty acids, as well as a full vitamin and mineral supplement.

    Rather than adding Take Control on top of his current diet, you should replace 600g of his feed with the supplement, which will also enable you to cut out his oil and magnesium supplements.

    Alternatively, if you prefer herbal solutions, then Placid maybe worth a try.

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