I would like to introduce you to our Mariska. She was the very first baby born here. Mariska is kind of like the farm mascot, she is sweet, mischievousness and extremely smart. She is loved dearly, but tends to cause us many moments of frustration as she is pretty convinced that doors were made to be opened! And so she does open them and often! Mariska is the daughter of the amazing stallion Fietse 293 Preferent. He passed away in 2007. Fietse was what we call the baroque type. Which means his body type is the more robust build of the classical Friesian. The modern, sport horse type is finer-boned. One thing that we have never called Mariska is "fine boned"! In fact we often call her fluffy, big boned, metabolically challenged, and Dons favorite one, she is not fat, she is just too short for her weight! Yes, we have a weight problem with Mariska, right now she is in foal and of course now she is eating for two! Having said that we seem to constantly be fighting the fluffy Friesian here at Misty Meadows. I am sure that many people, the vet included must think that we just feed them all day long as much as they could possibly eat, that is not however the case. So I ask you, am I alone in my frustrations with horses that seem to have been absent on the day God gave out the metabolisms to our equine friends? We have learned a lot since our first couple of years feeding Friesians. We have learned that as a breed they seem to be "easy keepers", but they also are extremely food motivated. We started out feeling that it was much safer to keep hay in front of them as much as possible to keep their stomachs healthy and to save on the fence boards. We have had to gradually cut back from the original 6 flakes a day down to 4 flakes. And back from the 1 lb of grain we feed them to 1 cup. The good news is the hay and grain last a lot longer, the bad news, they are still over weight. We know that horses like people need exercise and preferably every day, we are told that we should be exercising them 20 minuets a day or more. Our horses are outside as many hours a day as there is sunlight so they do (self exercise) daily. But they need more. I do believe that consistent exercise is the key with any horse and possibly even more important to those that are easy keepers. Those of you that have indoor arena's won't have any problem with this. I however do not have one, and find any consistent riding is very difficult. The winters are long here in Michigan, the spring and fall is muddy, so even the outdoor arena is only usable a few months a year. We do a lot of trail riding in the summer and occasionally trailer to local arenas for a little winter exercise. This still does not seem to be enough and I find it hard to imagine cutting back to even less than 4 flakes. But we are going to make the commitment to shaving a few pounds from Mariska and getting her to a more healthy weight. Having excess weight is not only a problem when trying to breed your mares, but also puts stress on a mare during her pregnancy and while delivering a foal. This winter we will be following Mariska's progress here on my blog, through her weight loss and her pregnancy, right up to the birth of the foal.
We will start with weighing our hay....................
It is important to be able to measure the amount of hay we are feeding Mariska. Don and I find that our "flakes" are not always the same and not the best way to measure how much they are getting. Many small scales are available that can measure the weight of a hay bale. On average a bale of hay weights between 40 and 45 lbs. Once we know the approximate weight of our hay flakes, we can feed Mariska according to body weight. Just like other species, drastic diets are not healthy for horses. We will slowly decrease her feed.
Week 1-2 We will feed 2% of Mariska's current body weight.
Week 3-4 We will feed 1.5% of Mariska's body weight.
Week 5 We will check to see if we have met our weight goal.
Other challenges that you may have just like us are that we feed our horses all together and it is not possible to give them all different amounts of hay. Normally they are even together at night, having access to their stalls, but not locked into them. I may have to start to separate Mariska for at least one feeding to make this work. Also, an overweight horse does not need grain. But I have joint supplements and Thyroid medicine that Mariska needs, and don't know another way to give them without adding it to a small amount of grain. Even then it tastes yucky and needs some molasses to encourage her to consume it. I will be ordering a joint supplement that is a pellet and will see if she will eat it without needing to add any grain. But for now, we feed 1 cup grain evening only. Wish us luck, and please do share any ideas or things that have worked for you.