Two different equines

One thing that became very clear to me last winter was that Ben and Cloud do not co-exist ideally on my track system. Cloud’s rate of eating impacts on Ben. Ben’s slower rate, punctuated by rests, does not fit with Cloud’s non-stop and rapid eating. The result has been that Cloud became overweight (far too overweight) and Ben became underweight and looked bad. His coat looked dull, his bones showed and for the first time he looked old.

Having the use of the field this summer reversed this for Ben. Ben’s coat gleamed, his top-line improved (I was also riding most days which I am sure helped) and he gained weight. Cloud’s weight held until the second half of August, when increased grass growth told its tale and he became very round again.

Since coming back, my ad lib experiment has not worked. I have abandoned it a couple of weeks ago. Cloud also got mild laminitis due to the flush of Autumn growth and I have had to face the obvious: they are two different animals and need to be treated as such.

I do not understand this insistence some proponents of track system/paddock paradise have for ad lib feeding. The most I have been able to stretch this for Cloud has been three weeks. I was told (on the facebook paddock paradise group) that it can take six months for a horse to self-regulate. How can this be right? How can this be the right thing to do to a pony like Cloud? I certainly have not been prepared to take this risk.

Feeding ad lib hay worked for Ben and Rosie. Ben set the pace of eating and resting. He may have looked a bit too well-covered but I was not worried for his health. Now Cloud sets the pace.

I do not know Cloud’s breeding, but that he is a native type is obvious, in both character and make-up. He responds so very differently to Ben, for instance, when it comes to loading. Ben, you could say, is more “trainable”. For Cloud, it was clear that he was prepared to resist in every possible manner and a different way to reach him had to be found. I have found Hempfling’s writing on “The Origin” very helpful in helping me understand Cloud. And as regards his make-up, well I wonder about insulin resistance, I wonder also whether he could be leptin resistant which (if I understand correctly) would make him unable to self-regulate. And even if neither of these apply (the test for IR resistance is very expensive so I am holding off for now) I cannot see how a native type, whose ancestors lived on sparse forage over rough ground, could thrive on ad lib forage 24/7.

This morning, I let Ben into grass and spread Cloud’s hay around the track so that he circled Ben moving from small pile to small pile again and again as he foraged for the last remaining wisps. I am still working it out. I have been reluctant to abandon my system which worked so well for Ben and Rosie, where both could share everything day and night. But my big realisation has been that they are two quite different equines and I have to treat them as such. “Keeping it natural” is not quite so easy for this pair.



Filed under ad lib hay experiment, health, track system

9 responses to “Two different equines

  1. Hi Máire, I hope it’s okay to comment?
    Just wanted to let you know that I can relate to what you wrote about the ad lib feeding. I have tried it for several months in the past with my herd of seven Icelandics, but they just kept eating and eating and eating, so I stopped the experiment. I think it’s very logical, as in their country of origin they have to eat all they can in summer to make it through the harsh winter, so it’s their nature to keep on eating.
    Although I have only one breed of horses, they are still all different. There are two who can be on grass most of the day, one who can take very little grass as it affects his summer itch negatively, and the rest are in between the two extremes. And like you, I still haven’t found the ‘perfect’ diet for all of them; the ‘middle group’ are still much too fat.

    Best wishes,

    • Hi Marja,
      Delighted you did! It is interesting to hear about your herd and how they can be different within one breed. And, as I know you too have a paddock paradise set-up, it shows that you cannot have a one size fits all approach.

      • No, unfortunately the ‘one size fits all’ solution doesn’t exist. I run a paddock paradise forum where feeding measurements are discussed frequently. No forum member with ‘economical’ ponies like ours has found THE solution yet… Perhaps that comforts you a little bit ;-)?

  2. I remember way back in the days when I was training for my AI, the books all said “Treat each horse as an individual.” The other quote I remember is “The eye of the Master makes the horse grow fat” (fat meaning in good condition & therefore desirable in this instance). As you can see these thoughts have stayed with me!
    You’re not alone in your conclusion at all, as is clear from Marja’s comment! In fact there are many, many seasoned horsepeople who would do well to remember this advice – one man I worked for fed every single horse the same, no matter its workload or its condition.
    I’ll be interested to see how you juggle the boys to feed them appropriately!

    • Martine, I am experimenting with juggling them. Trying things out and going by feel. But as you say, ‘treat each horse as an individual’ and this applies to their supply of forage as much as to any hard feed they may have.

  3. With our Shetland-x I see a tendency, especially late summer on into fall, to eat nonstop, as if he is in fact packing it on for the winter. If ridden regularly he can eat like that without gaining too much weight. Now that Salina is gone and he is with the donkeys it’s easier – the three of them are much thriftier and we can put them in different areas than the big boys and cut back on their hay.

    • Billie, you and Marja have the luxury of more equines and therefore, when you separate the extra good doers, they can have company. My reluctance to separate Ben and Cloud has been because they are then on their own. However, I am doing so for part of the time. Ben does not seem bothered at all but Cloud is not quite so happy.

  4. Oh, hooray, that book is back in print!!!

  5. I always thought Chloe was the Origin. “Apparent stubbornness is in truth the expression of independent existence”!