Category Archives: How-To Guides

Feeding a Draft Horse

Due to Draft horses being prone to certain diseases such as, metabolic ailments like PSSM (Polysaccharide storage myopathy), laminitis, Cushings, founder, tying-up, and shivers diet is imperative. Based on these ailments, starch and sugar calories should be replaced by fiber and fat calories.

It is recommended that these guys have high quality forage and some concentrates while working due to their slower metabolism (similar to ponies). Meaning that the less energy they use, the more weight they gain. High carbohydrate feed should be avoided, as a forage with a rational balancer and/or a low NSC feed.

Breakdown of How To Feed A Draft Horse

Calorie Breakdown:

  • 15% daily calories from sugar
  • 20-25% daily calories from, fat
  • No less than 1% of horse’s body weight in forage

Calculating Fat Content:

Pounds of feed per day x % of fat

For example,

3 lbs of feed= 3 x 0.25= 0.75 lb fat

Feed Brands:

Feeds should have no more than 33% sugar and starch (low carb).

Low in starch and sugars: soy, beat pulp, wheat bran, wheat middlings

Feeds with 20%+ of fat should be supplemented with rice bran (20% fat). Feed with anything less than 20% should be supplemented with 100% additional fat source.

  • Nutrena Compete
  • Purina Strategy
  • Blue Seal Hunter, Demand, Vintage Gold
  • Southern States Legend

Supplements:

  • Oil: soy oil, canola, corn oil, rice bran
  • Vitamin E & Selenium supplement (be careful when adding in selenium as high levels can be toxic)

The Plan

  1. Either Purina Strategy or Southern States Legend: No more than 5-6 lbs of feed per 1000 lbs
  2. Rice Bran Oil: begin with 1/4 cup and increase by 1/4 cup every few days until 2 cups are reached. Continue with 3-4 cups per day.
  3. Vitamin E with Selenium: 1-2 oz per day
  4. Forage: Alfalfa pellets mixed or substituted with Purina or Southern States feed

Mix 12 parts alfalfa (or Purina or Southern States Feed or mix of the two) with 1 part water. Soak for 10 minutes. Add in oil. Let it sit for 2+ hours. Right before feeding add in the supplement (Vet E/Selenium).

Why Not?

While agreeing to save the ponies from slaughter, I saw a beautiful, senior mare. She is a 17 hand, 17-year old, Belgian mare who was an Amish workhorse until put into the auction. She is visibility underweight and her coat is dull and patchy but her eyes bright and soulful. I watched to see if she got rescued as her slaughter date was for 5/7/2020. Well, last night, I took the plunge and purchased the sweet girl.

Ever since losing Chance I have not had a desire to get another horse. Over a year ago a neighbor gave me a thoroughbred mare but shortly after she arrived I realized I was not ready and I had just learned I was pregnant. Fortunately, I was able to find her a wonderful forever home. However, upon coming across this Belgian I knew she was my next heart horse. The thing is I only have one paddocked fenced in that holds three miniature donkeys. So I am quickly getting things in order- scheduled to have another paddock fenced in, a large run-in dropped off, and everyones vaccinations up-to-date. One of my neighbors has a barn and paddocks and no other horses on the property and generously offered to allow my new mare and friend’s two ponies quarantine there for 30 days. By the time quarantine is over, the fence and run-in will be up and ready for the new members of the family!

There is also a ton of research that I need to do about owning a draft horse. They are a special breed and more susceptible to metabolic disorders and a ton of hoof issues. Once again I will be using this platform as a way to organize my ongoing research. Wish me luck!

Practical Biosecurity Tips to Protect Your Horses – The Horse

Learn equine biosecurity basics for the farm, horse show, and breeding shed to protect your horses from infectious diseases.
— Read on thehorse.com/features/practical-biosecurity-tips-to-protect-your-horse/

Extra Care for Horses in Cold Weather

Horses Require Extra Attention when Temperatures Plummet

With freezing temperatures comes the need for extra care and attention for horses and other equids.

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Horses Require Extra Attention When Temperatures Plummet
The next few days will bring freezing weather to many parts of the country, and with that comes the need for extra care and attention for horses, donkeys, ponies, mules, and any other outdoor animals.As the temperatures decrease, a horse’s feed requirements increase. Allowing horses free choice to good quality forage (hay) is the surest way to ensure that they consume enough energy, and the process of digesting forage will actually produce heat. Horses will typically consume 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in forage each day; that would be 25 pounds per day for a 1,000 pound horse. Winter pasture alone will not provide enough forage to sustain a horse and, therefore, must be supplemented with hay and/or grain.

The growing season some parts of the nation had last year produced overly stemmy or fibrous hay with a lower digestibility. As a result, making certain that horses are supplemented with grain when fed lower quality hay will help them maintain body weight and condition, a key factor in withstanding cold temperatures.

Constant access to clean, fresh water at 35 to 50°F is an absolute necessity to keeping horses healthy. This can be achieved via heated tanks or buckets, or by filling a tank, letting it freeze, cutting an access hole in the frozen surface, and then always filling the tank to below the level of the hole from that point on. This provides a self-insulating function and will typically keep the water below from freezing. Regardless of the method you choose, it’s important to check tanks frequently to ensure your horse’s water remains free of ice.

Additional ways to keep horses comfortable in cold weather include making sure they have access to shelter. A well-bedded, three-sided shed facing south or east will typically provide adequate protection from wind and snow, as can appropriate bluffs or treed areas.

When the temperatures get colder, mature horses will not typically move around much in an effort to conserve energy. Making an attempt to keep hay, shelter, and water fairly close together can limit the energy expenditure required, thus conserving body condition.

And, finally, keeping horses at a body condition score of 5 or 6 (on a 9-point scale) will help prevent surprises when horses shed their winter hair in the spring, and improve conception rates for those choosing to breed.

When it rains…

ker.com/equinews/white-line-disease-requires-early-diagnosis-and-aggressive-treatment/

Dealing With Equine Colic: Here are 33 Do’s and Don’ts – The Horse

What should you do (or not do) if your horse shows signs of colic? And how do you prevent colic in the first place? Find out from our veterinary experts.
— Read on thehorse.com/features/dealing-with-equine-colic/

Three Ways You May Be Inadvertently Putting Your Barn at Risk for Fire

We all love our horses. Sometimes in the interest of expedience we can inadvertently create unsafe conditions. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

More so than from other tragedies, I find myself physically as well as emotionally affected by these stories. As the horses usually have absolutely no chance of escaping, I think it is probably the horse owner’s worst nightmare.

Emotions aside, in my job as a professional electrician, I am mindful that many of these fires are caused by faulty electrical wiring or fixtures. Over the year,s I have borne witness to my share of potential and actual hazards. Designing a barn’s electrical system to today’s codes and standards is a topic for another day. For today, let’s address what we can do to make the existing horse barn safer.

I can’t cite statistics or studies, but my own experience shows the main safety issues that I am exposed to fall into three general categories:

 
  1. Using extension cords in place of permanent wiring
  2. Exposed lamps in lighting fixtures, and
  3. Overloading of branch circuits.

The first item I am addressing is extension cords.

I am often asked how extension cords can be UL-listed and sold if they are inherently unsafe. The answer is that cords are not unsafe when used as intended, but become so when used in place of permanent wiring.

The main concern is that most general purpose outlets in barns are powered by 15 or 20 ampere circuits, using 14 or 12 gauge building wiring, respectively. Most cords, however, for reasons of economy and flexibility, are rated for 8 or 10 amperes, and are constructed of 18 or 16 gauge wiring. That’s no problem if you are using the cord as intended—say, powering a clipper that only draws 1 to 4 amperes.

The problem comes when the cord is left in place, maybe tacked up on the rafters for the sake of “neatness.” You use it occasionally, but then winter comes and you plug a couple of bucket heaters into it. When the horses start drinking more water because it’s not ice cold, two buckets become four—or more.

If they draw 2.5 amperes each, you are now drawing 10 amperes on your 18 gauge extension cord that is only rated to carry 8 amperes. The circuit breaker won’t trip because it is protecting the building wiring, which is rated at 20 amperes. A GFCI outlet won’t trip either because the problem is an overload, not a ground fault.

Anyway, next winter, you decide to remove two of the buckets and add a trough outside the stall with a 1500 watt heater, which draws 12.5 amps at 120 volts. If you thought of it, you even replaced the old 18 gauge cord with a 16 gauge one that the package called “heavy duty.” Now the load is 17.5 amperes on a cord that is designed to handle 10 amperes.

In this case, it is possible to overload a “heavy duty” cord by using it at 175% of its rated capacity and never trip a circuit breaker. What has happened is, we’ve begun to think of the extension cord as permanent wiring, rather than as a temporary convenience to extend the appliance cord over to the outlet.

In doing so, we have created an unsafe condition.

Overloaded cords run hot. Heat is the product of too much current flowing over too small a wire. The material they are made of isn’t intended to stand up over time as permanent wiring must. It’s assumed that you will have the opportunity to inspect it as you unroll it before each use.

 
“Love means attention, which means taking care of that which we love. We call this stable management” —George Morris. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

The second item on our list is exposed lamps (bulbs) in lighting fixtures.

Put simply, they don’t belong in a horse barn. A hot light bulb that gets covered in dust or cobwebs is a hazard. A bulb that explodes due to accumulating moisture, being struck by horse or human, or simply a manufacturing defect introduces the additional risk of a hot filament falling onto a flammable fuel source such as hay or dry shavings.

In the case of an unguarded fluorescent fixture, birds frequently build nests in or above these fixtures due to the heat generated by the ballast transformers within them. Ballasts do burn out, and a fuel source—such as that from birds’ nesting materials—will provide, with oxygen, all the necessary components for a fire that may quickly spread to dry wood framing.

The relatively easy fix is to use totally enclosed, gasketed and guarded light fixtures everywhere in the barn. They are known in the trade as vaporproof fixtures and are completely enclosed so that nothing can enter them, nothing can touch the hot lamp, and no hot parts or gases can escape in the event of failure.

The incandescent versions have a cast metal wiring box, a Pyrex globe covering the lamp, and a cast metal guard over the globe. In the case of the fluorescent fixture, the normal metal fixture pan is surrounded by a sealed fiberglass enclosure with a gasketed lexan cover over the lamps sealed with a gasket and secured in place with multiple pressure clamps.

Unsafe conditions tend to creep up on us. We don’t set out to create unsafe conditions for our horses. ©Thomas Gumbrecht

The last item, overloaded branch circuits, is not typically a problem if the wiring was professionally installed and not subsequently tampered with. If too much load is placed on a circuit that has been properly protected, the result will be only the inconvenience of a tripped circuit breaker.

The problem comes when some “resourceful” individual does a quick fix by installing a larger circuit breaker. The immediate problem, tripping of a circuit breaker, is solved, but the much more serious problem of wiring that is no longer protected at the level for which it was designed, is created.

Any time a wire is allowed to carry more current than it was designed to, there is nothing to stop it from heating up to a level above which is considered acceptable.

 

Unsafe conditions tend to creep up on us—we don’t set out to create hazardous conditions for our horses.

Some may think it silly that the electrical requirements in horse barns (which are covered by their own separate part of the National Electric Code) are in many ways more stringent than those in our homes.

I believe that it makes perfect sense. The environmental conditions in a horse barn are much more severe than the normal wiring methods found in the home can handle. Most importantly, a human can usually sense and react to the warning signals of a smoke alarm, the smell of smoke, or of burning building materials and take appropriate action to protect or evacuate the occupants. Our horses, however, depend on us for that, so we need to use extra-safe practices to keep them secure.

As I always state in closing my electrical safety discussions, I know that we all love our animals. Sometimes in the interest of expedience, we can inadvertently cause conditions that we never intended. Electrical safety is just another aspect of stable management. I often use the words of George Morris to summarize:

 

“Love means giving something our attention, which means taking care of that which we love. We call this stable management.”


About the Author

Thomas Gumbrecht began riding at age 45 and eventually was a competitor in lower level eventing and jumpers. Now a small farm owner, he spends his time working with his APHA eventer DannyBoy, his OTTB mare Lola, training her for a second career, and teaching his grandson about the joy of horses. He enjoys writing to share some of life’s breakthroughs toward which his horses have guided him.