Optimal growth Ideally, you should feed young horses to grow at a moderate, steady rate. The National Resource Council (NRC) recommends rates of average daily gain for horses.
Recommended average daily gain values for horses of different mature body weights range from 0.28 to 0.39 percent and 0.15 to 0.21 percent of the horse's body weight for weaklings and yearlings, respectively. Maximum growth Feeding a young horse for a maximum growth rate is undesirable because bone hardening lags greatly behind bone lengthening.
Ideally, young horses should gain weight at a rate that their developing bones can easily support. Growing bones don’t have the strength to support rapid weight gain from overfeeding, especially energy.
Rapid weight gain can also make other skeletal anomalies worse. In these cases the risk of developmental orthopedic disorders (DOD) and unsoundness increases.
For example, switching an underfed, slow growing horse to a good diet that allows quick growth, increases the risk of DOD. Fat should cover the top to ½ of the ribs below the flat of the back.
Risk of defective bone and related tissue formation increases with one of more of the following: Always provide horses free access to fresh, clean water.
Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1. Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health.
Thus, don’t rely on pasture alone to provide your young horse with all the nutrients they need. Concentrates A horse’s ability to efficiently use forage develops over time.
Only feed enough concentrates to achieve the desired growth rate and maintain a moderate body condition score. Always consider the expected feed intake when calculating your horse’s daily ration.
Digestible Energy (Meal/lb of BY)Crude Protein % Crude Protein % Ca UP ICU ppm Zn limit A IU/bit E IU/expected feed consumption (% BY) Weaning 1.2514.0-16.00.70.41040910372.0-3.5 Yearling 1.1512.0-14.00.50.31040910372.0-3.0 Feed young horses to grow at a moderate and steady rate.
Foals between the age of 3 and 9 months are at greatest risk for developmental orthopedic disorders. Young, growing horses need a diet ratio of Ca to P between 1 and 1 and 3 to 1.
Maximizing forage intake will mimic natural feeding behavior and bring about gut health. Nutrition is important for growing horses between weaning and 2 years of age.
During this time, bone formation and size greatly increase as well as muscle mass. Thus, these horses need the proper amount and balance of energy and nutrients in their ration.
Whether you are prepping for sales and halter classes or trying your best to raise a healthy and sound youngster, careful attention to nutritional needs is a key component. Compared to the adult maintenance, the yearling needs 113% more calories, 186% calcium, 134% crude protein, and 134% L-lysine.
Although the NRC has not gotten around to recognizing it officially yet, formal research (such as Van Learn et al. 2003) shows an effect of copper on healing of osteochondrotic lesions, as did Dr. Knight’s original work in 1990. Feeding three times the current NRC minimum requirement is safe and cheap insurance.
If you have a properly formulated weaning diet in place this will also meet all the needs of the yearling simply by adjusting calories. If the horse starts to get too fat, cut back the diet but add 1/2 to 1 lb.
The usual advice for feeding weaklings is a 50:50 diet of pasture or high quality hay and a commercial concentrate, by weight of each. In a 1999 study by Hoffman et al., young horses fed as little as 1 to 1.4 kg (2.2 to 3 lbs) of an average 10.4% fat concentrate twice a day, with pasture, had reduced bone mineral density despite mineral intakes that were at least 200% of requirements.
This leaves no room for hay and sets the stage for wide hormonal swings, digestive upset and impaired development of the GI tract and its microbes. Commercial growth feeds do a good job with minerals but don’t correct imbalance issues in the hay or pasture.
Protein provided is 60 to 65 % of minimum requirement with most or all lysine being met, depending on the product. Of flaxseed per pound of mixture is balanced for calcium and phosphorus, about 12% protein and contains about 65 to 70% of the calories of high fat yearling feeds.
Of oats/beet pulp mixture, 2 cups of ground flaxseed (all daily totals) and 1 lb/day of a high quality 25% protein and balanced concentrated mineral supplement. Attention to detail will get you the well-developed, muscular-rather-than-fat, shining and structurally sound young horse you are wanting.
Dr. Eleanor Mellon is a renowned expert on equine nutrition and related health issues. Growing youngsters are not always easy to keep looking at their best but, with a little care and attention to their diet and management, we can ensure they look well, while still supporting steady, even growth.
Their diet is generally, therefore, deficient in nutrients, including all-important protein, which supplies key essential amino acids for muscle and tissue development. As a result, these youngsters often have a weak top line and poor muscle development yet many may be overweight and, depending on forage quality, may have a “hay belly” appearance.
The diet must supply the essential quality protein and micronutrients, to support growth, while meeting calorie requirements to promote or maintain condition. The key to achieving excellent physique is to provide the correct nutritional balance to support growth and development while meeting an individual’s calorie requirements.
The quality of the forage available (grass, hay or haulage) will determine the amount of additional calories required in the diet. For those holding weight and condition well on a forage-only diet, Stud Balancer is ideal for providing essential supporting nutrients without additional calories.
Prep Mix, Prep-Ease or Yearling Cubes are ideal for those prone to excitability as they non-heating with a good oil content for slow release energy and a shiny coat. Ensure that the diet is fully balanced and meeting nutritional requirements, aiming for muscle tone, top line and ribs that you may not see but can certainly feel.
Weigh tape on a weekly or fortnightly basis and make a note of body weight to spot any upward or downward trends. You want your youngsters to achieve their maximum height and full athletic potential–but you don’t want to overdo the nutritional support and create all sorts of growth-related problems.
Horses achieve about 90% of their full height by 12 to 15 months of age as well as 95% of their mature bone length and 70% of their adult weight. Because the growth rate has slowed there is less risk of developmental joint problems; if your yearling hasn’t developed them by now it’s likely that with continuing correct nutritional support he’s out of the woods.
Studies have confirmed that a fast growth rate will not increase the mature size of a horse, and it puts undue strain on developing bones and joints. It is a long-standing joke that only fools breed horses as it is rarely a profitable venture and is hugely demanding on your time and energy.
Ensuring an age appropriate, balanced diet may help to avoid some of the potential pitfalls that can occur when breeding horses, especially regarding nutrition. This is one of the reasons that bigger horses tend to take longer to mature and so may need more time to develop before they are ready for work.
At the 2006 European Workshop on Equine Nutrition (EVEN) which focussed on the nutritional requirements of the broodmare and young stock, a leading French researcher commented that “the period between 3 and 6 months is very sensitive for Developmental Orthopedic Disease (DOD) as it is established that 67% of foals exhibit potential bone lesions which regress for most after weaning when feeding is correct and suitable exercise is provided.” If the foal is overweight or growing too quickly then it is an indication that the amount of energy that is being derived from their feed should be reduced, but it is vital that levels of protein, vitamins and minerals are maintained in line with their development.
The advice from the researchers was to reduce reliance on cereal based feeds for breeding and young stock and use fiber and oil as energy sources instead. Contracted tendons or epiphysis are clearly evidence of a problem, but the aim is to try and spot a fast growth rate before clinical signs of DOD are apparent.
If you see a very steep growth curve forming, you may want to reassess the diet, reduce energy intake, and consider changing the young stock horse feed and sizes that you are using. Within a few weeks they will begin to fill out and bony areas such as the point of the shoulder and the pelvic bones will have a smoother appearance and should look less protruding.
As long as they have rounded quarters and are developing a top line, visible ribs in foals shouldn’t be a cause for concern as it might be in the adult horse. This naturally helps to dry the mare off and gives her time to gain condition prior to having another foal in the spring.
Between 3 and 4 months of age the foal’s digestive tract starts to develop the ability to gain more nutrition from fiber and so becomes less dependent on a milk based diet, this means that other young stock horse feeds can be introduced. Getting them established on their own feed before weaning is important in helping to minimize weight loss post-weaning especially if this is happening in the autumn as the foal will start to use more energy for keeping warm.
Most weaklings, yearlings and 2-year-olds are out in the field for at least some day and so grass will be making a contribution to their nutritional requirements. When grass quality is good they may not need any additional energy from young stock horse feeds to maintain their weight and growth, but they do still need vitamins and minerals.
UK's pastures are naturally very low in copper and so supplying a supplement or a young stock balancer designed for breeding stock is advisable for all. Fiber feeds with about 10% added oil contain around 12.5MJ/kg DE which is the same level of energy found in a traditional stud mix.
When starting to back any youngster, avoiding high starch horse feeds is usually beneficial for promoting good behavior. This was backed up by a study supported by Dengue and carried out at the Royal Dick Vet school where it was found that horses on fiber and oil diets were less reactive to novel stimuli than those on cereal based equine feeds.
This is a decision that only you can make, but you should be aware that by putting extra weight on immature joints and limbs you are increasing the risk of problems.