The hay is tricky.
I board. The boarding stable has worked out well for me so far, and although I'm not perfectly happy, I assume that anywhere I go, I would have some issues, so I've happily dealt with the ones at this location.
There are some downsides. They feed hay. Only hay. I can't depend on them to give her any kind of regular supplements or "extras", so if I'm not there to do it, it doesn't happen.
Even though they would recognize a horse that's down or obviously not eating, I doubt that they would catch a more minor problem, like a horse that looks slightly dehydrated, or one that has minor lamintis from stress (which is my current fear with Farley), so relying on them to let me know how my horse is recovering from a stressful race while I'm out of town, is not something I'm comfortable with.
In short - I'm a picky person. No location would match how *I* want my horses managed. I understand that. So I go out of my way to only ask for changes that *really* matter to me and that I can't manage around.
For example. My horses (this was an issue back when I had Minx too) finished all their hay within an hour, and they looked skinny. I brought up the issue and asked if they could increase the hay ration, I would pay whatever I needed for the privilege etc etc. Their response was "do you know how much we are feeding them??!!!! We are giving them a LOT". I was very kind and pointed out that they other 30 horses on the premises looked fat and shiny so I was sure they fed well, but that my girls needed more hay because of their work load, and should get all they could eat. And then, when I needed to switch them to 50% grass because of a thumps issue with Minx I got told that they have fed alfalfa for 20 years with no issues.....but I was firm had my vet's backing.
It's gotten better. Farley has hay for 3-4 hours after a feeding. I still don't feel like it's sufficient. I throw her more when I can get away with it. I feel like I wouldn't have to feed so much beet pulp, oil etc if she had free choice. I feel like I wouldn't have the problem with sand in her gut if she was free choice. I feel like she would actually be a good weight on free choice, or at least fed ~3% of her BW (which is NOT happening right now).
But here's the problem - boarders are actively discouraged from bringing in their own hay. It's more "trouble". I understand - truly I do. Which is why I have a plan.
A plan that will bring any inconvience on ME, not them.
Would you like to hear my plan?
Here is my plan
- Buy my own hay and feed free choice. Probably orchard grass hay. Have it tested for NSC.
- Test the alfalfa at the boarding stable. If it tests low, then feed as needed. The boarding stable gets their alfalfa in huge loads so it should be consistent for months at a time. Repeat testing as needed to verify (probably 3-4x a year).
- Test the grass hay at the boarding stable. I'll be testing just to see if it was especially high in NSC and therefore the culprit. I won't feed it because they constantly get it from different sources, different kinds of grass etc. and it's in very small batches which means it changes often.
- Since I will be buying in small quantities, I will not be able to feed hay that has always been tested. BUT - it will be from the same grower, same fields etc. I will retest the hay anytime I feel like there is a siginficant risk - for example before a 100 mile ride so I can make sure that she is eating hay low in NSC in the recovery period.
- Keep the hay in my trailer. it's a 3 horse and I have 1 horse. I should be able to make it work.
- I will feed enough hay that she will have hay for 3-5 days and I have a system in mind to keep the hay IN the feeder.
- My vet is suppose to call me back today - I'll discuss the plan with him and explain my reasoning. Because he thinks the hay is the main culprit, he will probably support this, which will come in handy.....
- leave me in total control of what she's eating, when, and how much
- She'll finally be freechoice
- I can be consistent with with the hay
What do you think?
I still won't know for sure what the simple sugar content of the hay is all the time, but I think I'm minimizing the risk. I'll know what it is during the high risk times (hard rides and recovery). I can't find anyone who tests their hay in this area. My other option is if some private horse owner has the same problem I do, and DOES have their hay tested and has a large quantity and was willing to sell me a couple bales every month.......that would work. But until that time, I have to figure out something. She doesn't have access to pasture. If the stable owners refuse to accomodate this, I will have to start looking for other arrangements, but that is my last resort.
Any other ideas out there?
Update: I wanted to be clear, in case anyone isn't familiar with the whole carb and hay thing.....a lot can influence the sugar levels in hay. In general, sugar levels will increase when the hay is "stressed", so different cuttings from the same field may have very different levels of sugar depending on how hot or cold, water availability etc. The best case senerio is to test hay EACH time you switch to a different cutting. For someone buying in small batches (like me), the cutting likely changes each time I buy hay at the feedstore.