A foal’s digestive system changes as it matures based on its diet. As foals incorporate more forages and concentrates into their diet, the hindgut continues to develop, becoming populated with microorganisms that function to break down and ferment ingested fiber.
Many horse farms have had an occasional foal that is born with, or eventually shows, problems with proper skeletal development. However, if a farm sees these problems in more than just a few foals each year, there may be some particular genetic predisposition, horse care practice, environmental factor, or nutritional element, either for mares or their foals, that is out of line.
The formation of functional bone in young horses requires the delivery of the right material in the right proportions. If any factor is disturbed, the possibility of poorly formed or malformed bone exists.
Over a four-year period, scientists studied the incidence of developmental orthopedic disease on a single large commercial Thoroughbred farm in Kentucky.
A recent study conducted may help to explain the mechanism by which large starch-laden grain meals can disrupt safe growth patterns in young horses.
In a three-year study conducted by Kentucky Equine Research in the early 1990s, 350 Thoroughbred colts and 350 Thoroughbred fillies in central Kentucky were weighed monthly on a portable electronic scale through 18 months of age to determine effect of birth month on size and weight gain.
Proper feed management is critical for those who are feeding young, growing horses. Type and availability of forage, variation in amount and frequency of grain meals, and each horse’s individual metabolism and body type must be considered in order to meet the needs of these young equines.
The goal of raising performance horses is to produce sound athletes. All young horses require certain nutrients in specific amounts to grow optimally.
How much and how often should my orphaned pony filly be fed?
Is there ever a reason to completely remove a concentrate from a foal’s diet in order to avoid growth problems?
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