Monday, March 3, 2014

Eating Like a Horse

Our horse, Avi, gets advice from his vet that I never, ever am given by my own doctor: Eat! Eat more! You need to gain some weight!


Avi eats like a horse, to be sure (nearly all the time, the consequence of being a creature constructed to consume many small meals over the course of a day; a cow has a big ol' multi-chambered stomach for fermenting a massive meal, which allows it to loll around chewing the cud for hours--a horse doesn't have that option).

But he's not what you call an "easy keeper" (a "good doer," in the UK)--a horse who maintains his weight effortlessly even on relatively little food. If he were to get it into his head that he should be a Proud Wild Horse and take off to run with a band of mustangs, he'd be a walking skeleton in no time.

And that is why he can easily polish off 12 flakes of hay a day (that's about 60 pounds). Hay varies in its digestibility based on what kind of hay it is and how old it is, but being plant matter there's always some amount that is basically roughage and helps keep horse girls busy mucking stalls.

All the barn's horses are alert when feed time rolls around.
Like most working horses, he also gets grain. Don't ask me just how much--it's the Resident Teen who fills zip-lock bags with pellets of compressed grain with a dash of supplements and ulcer-prevention formula tossed in, along with some grocery-store gelatin (for strong joints and hooves).

For a while, His Majesty was also presented with pans of beet pulp to help bulk him up, but he would have none of it. Not even when the Resident Teen spent half an hour smashing peppermint drops to slivers with a meat mallet to sprinkle on top. He tried to snuffle up the peppermint bits without consuming any of the pulp but finally gave up, emitting a weary sigh at all the troubles in his life.

Now, to add that extra 4,000 or so calories to his diet, the Resident Teen's grain of choice is Ultium (for "world-class equine athletes," so if Avi can read he may feel inspired--though I hope he doesn't learn to read or else he'll find out that one of the secret ingredients in Ultium is beet pulp). It's mixed with a substance that Avi would gladly chug by the bottleful, an elixir that is, in his book, a fine Riesling: corn oil.

Yes, while many people are seeking ways to exclude corn oil and other corn by-products from their diet, Avi is guzzling the stuff.

Sometimes I find bottles of store-brand corn oil on the 50%-off rack at the back of the store. At that price, I end up loading 10 bottles of corn oil on the conveyor belt, drawing sidelong glances from customers and cashiers alike. I need a button to pin to my coat that says, "Our horse drinks half a bottle of this stuff every day!"

Carrots and apples are also cheerfully accepted, but the fastest way to Avi's heart is a snack not typically associated with horses: He adores Lay's barbecue-flavored potato chips.

Despite his gargantuan appetite, however, and unlike many human consumers of chips, Avi knows when to stop. After a few chips, he says, "No, thanks"--leaving plenty for the hardworking horse girls to consume.


  1. Scarfing down a bag of chips I can easily understand, but drinking corn oil? What a funny horse!

    1. I know...eating corn oil mixed with grain is exactly like pouring corn oil on your morning bran flakes. Yuk!

  2. He'll put on weight when the grass comes back.

    2 out of 3 of our TB's can be hard keepers but they get v. little grain. We manage to keep their weight on by feeding haylage rather than hay and yes they do have lots of soaked beet. Our brand has added molasses which makes it more palatable and fortunately none of ours get fizzy on molasses, we add chaff usually a chopped oat straw and a few pony nuts (grain) and / or oats which of course they love. They also get copious amounts of carrot, apple & parsnip + a seaweed supplement and free access to salt.

    Be careful feeding corn oil which although high in calories and more palatable to most horses than many other oils as it can be inflammatory due to being high in Omega 6 fatty acids. Also horses on high oil diets may need additional Vitamin E & Selenium.

    If you and the teen are interested Coursera run a v. informative equine nutrition course in partnership with the University of Edinburgh and it's free. You'd probably have to sign up to be notified when it was going to be run again but here are the details

    1. Thanks, Carol, I'll definitely go check out the equine nutrition course. I somewhat exaggerate his consumption of corn oil for the sake of humor :) but it's good to keep in mind the side effects of any consumption of it. The Resident Teen definitely wants to be a horse trainer and manage a farm, so she consumes any information related to horses with the same vigor that Avi brings to snuffling up peppermints.

      We'll be trailering him again shortly and will keep in mind your advice to avoid the shadows that make it look like a dark tunnel! He's moving back to the original stable he lived in when we got him, so they will be aware of all his quirks.