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  • Q:

    I own a yearling Paint filly named Roma that weighs about 600 lb (275 kg) and is in moderate body condition. She seems to be an easy keeper. She is kept in a pasture most of the day, only coming up to be fed. Her current diet includes 3 lb (1.4 kg) of a low-starch feed and one scoop of a hoof and coat supplement. When the pasture is not growing, she also gets orchardgrass hay. Roma began cribbing about a month after weaning. Because of this I’ve tried her on a few different feeds, including a growth formula and a senior product. I am concerned her cribbing might be due to stomach discomfort. She does not crib prior to being fed but will while eating and afterward. I’d like to help Roma, and I’d appreciate any suggestions you may have regarding her nutritional management.

  • A:

    Weaning can be a stressful time for young horses, so much so that weanlings have been identified as an at-risk group for gastric ulcer formation. In certain instances, cribbing is believed to be associated with digestive discomfort, though the exact relationship is still unknown. Working with your vet to rule out gastric ulcers would be my first recommendation and implementation of an appropriate treatment program, as needed.

    Your current management practice of near-constant pasture turnout with supplemental hay is ideal for horses that crib. Because the frequency of cribbing increases after feeding grain, it is not unreasonable to think it is a result of digestive discomfort. With or without a gastric ulcer diagnosis, I would start Roma on a proven digestive health product, such as RiteTrac, a product developed by Kentucky Equine Research (KER). RiteTrac contains an equine-specific antacid blend that is proven effective at elevating gastric pH and a time-released hindgut buffer, EquiShure. Australian horse owners should look for these research-proven products.

    I recommend switching Roma to a ration balancer that is highly fortified with the protein, vitamins, and minerals necessary for optimal nutrition. This type of feed is more appropriate for Roma based on the current feeding program. The amount of feed you’re providing (3 lb or 1.4 kg) is undersupplying essential nutrients. Adding some alfalfa pellets to her diet will also provide digestive support, as the higher protein and calcium in alfalfa is thought to buffer gastric acid, helping to alleviate gastric discomfort and minimize the incidence of ulcers.

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