Ask H&H: feeding an unbroken youngster

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    Q: My horse is five years old and unbroken, but I am struggling to keep weight on him with his current diet of alfalfa, economy mix and sugarbeet.

    I don’t want him to become overexcited, so what can I feed for extra condition?

    This is a difficult one to answer and if I could talk to you on the phone, I’d want to just check which parts of his body that you feel he is weak in. My initial thoughts are that he is probably looking weak around his hips and possibly over his neck and to be honest at this stage of his career I wouldn’t worry too much.

    Remember he is young and isn’t broken in, so he is at his ‘teenage’ stage. Compare him to a young teenage boy who is all scrawny and lanky — simply because his biology isn’t ready for him to muscle up.

    Until your horse is ridden it will be difficult to strengthen his outline and develop his muscles because he’s not using them to maximum capacity. Thus if we try and make him look stronger at the moment through food alone, this will just be ‘fattening’ him up and I really wouldn’t advise that.

    It is possible that he’s not getting enough protein, but access to plenty of grass will help that.

    My first priority would be to make sure that he is getting enough fibre — if he’s kept in the stable overnight, then he needs to be offered at least 1/2 bale of hay each night.

    We then need to balance his protein and the alfalfa chaff you are feeding is an excellent way of doing this, as it is slow releasing energy but contains the same amount of calories as oats.

    Finally, I would pick a feed for horses in light work such as Leisure Mix. This will provide him with enough calories while he is being broken in and is fortified with 28 vitamins and minerals, QLC and Fibre+.

    Remember the vitamins and minerals are as important as the calories and protein, because without them he cannot use the rest of his diet.

    I suggest you fat score him before you send him away to be broken and again when he comes back, then continue to do so fortnightly together with weighing him with a weightape.

    If he falls below fat score 2.5, then either increase his hay and Leisure Mix (feed small meals), or maybe add some Build Up Cubes.

    But please don’t worry about a young horse looking lean. As long as his coat is gleaming, his feet are good and he has some muscle, then you’ve got it right — fat horses aren’t fit!

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