Ask The Vet: Equine Nutrition

Question: I have a 10-month-old colt that is being creep fed twice a day and has all the hay he wants, but is getting really thin. He has not been dewormed yet, but will be soon. I don’t exercise him anymore except for an occasional walk. Could there be a nutritional deficiency he is missing? He was with a more aggressive colt that would eat his feed, but have since been feeding them separately. Can you provide some suggestions on what I should do to increase his size?

Answer: Separating your colts at feeding time was probably a good idea to ensure that the less-aggressive, thin one is getting his fair share. However, it sounds like it’s time to involve your veterinarian in your overall program to ensure that the nutritional, parasite control and vaccination, exercise, and other components of raising healthy, sound horses are all in order.

For example, according to the AAEP’s Parasite Control Guidelines, during the first year of life foals should receive a minimum of four dewormings:

  • First deworming: 2-3 months of age
  • Second deworming: 4-6 months of age (just before weaning)
  • Third deworming: 9 months of age
  • Fourth deworming: 12 months of age

Because your weanlings are behind on the recommended schedule, it is very important to include your vet in their first dewormings, as a heavy burden of internal parasites that are suddenly killed off can have complications such as colic and worse. Parasites may or may not be part of the reason your colt is thin, but they need to get on a good program regardless.

It’s also a good idea to have your vet thoroughly examine both colts, including performing a body condition score (BCS). Experts agree that growing horses should be maintained at the ideal BCS of 5 – not too thin and not too fat – so that they reach their mature size and weight safely and avoid bone, joint, or other disturbances. Your vet can help you determine their current status, review your feeding program, and make suggestions for what might need to be changed in order to get them back on track safely. For example, it’s possible that the amount or type of hay and grain needs to be adjusted so that you’re meeting the NRC’s requirements for young, growing horses.

Question: What conditions benefit from Vitamin B in horses?

 Answer: The Vitamin B family is made up of several compounds that serve many important roles in the body: protein, fat and carbohydrate metabolism; energy production; proper nerve cell transmission; and cell reproduction and division (especially rapidly dividing ones such as red blood cells). B-vitamins include Thiamine (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Niacin (B3), Pantothenic Acid (B5), Pyridoxine (B6), Folic Acid (B9), and Cyanocobalamin (B12). Choline, Biotin, Inositol, and a few others are sometimes referred to as B-vitamins.

For most of the B-vitamins, microorganisms in the large intestine make all the horse needs. Only Thiamine and Riboflavin have NRC dietary requirements. However, research suggests B-vitamin supplementation may be beneficial to stabled horses with little access to fresh pasture, heavily exercising horses, pregnant and lactating mares, horses with GI conditions that may interfere with normal gut flora, and any periods of stress (injury, illness, shipping, old age, etc.).

Courtesy of AAEP
Answered by Lydia Gray, DVM, MA, SmartPak Equine