Q: I have a 26-year-old Arab stallion that I have recently bought over from America. I’ve managed to source sun-dried alfalfa hay, but he only eats the leaf and not the stem.
I have tried alfalfa pellets too, but he won’t eat them either, preferring to starve all day. I’m also feeding a veteran mix and carrots but am worried about the hay situation. His teeth are checked regularly and everything seems fine. Any suggestions?
A: I suggest you get a second opinion on your horse’s teeth. It sounds as though there’s a problem either with sharp edges, loose or missing teeth.
Make sure the vet or dentist puts in a gag so he can check right to the back of the mouth for a really thorough inspection. Alfalfa hay hasvery tough, thick stems which may be aggravating the problem, and though the leaf is very nutritious, tender and easily digested, it’s low in fibre.
If you do find there’s a problem with your Arab’s teeth I’d suggest you feed soaked beet pulp or high fibre cubes which have been soaked for 20 minutes in warm water.
These are both ideal hay replacers and the beet pulp will also provide a good level of fibre. Alfalfa cubes can be slightly sour and hard, so I’d suggest you try to feed a very soft, sweet meadow hay instead.
This will be more digestible than the alfalfa hay you’re currently feeding and the horse may be able to cope with this better.
Another option is to feed a hay replacement chaff comprising chopped oat straw blended with either dried grass or alfalfa. These have the same nutritional value as a good quality hay but because they’re chopped, they’re more easily managed by horses with poor teeth.
You’re right to buy a feed designed for the older horse. It may be an idea to check his droppings daily to make sure the cereals are being digested in the gut. If not, change to a veteran cube in which the ingredients are ground and pelleted.
If your Arab has lost weight and condition, add a cup of corn or soya oil daily.