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Discipline: LD/Endurance, CMO, Trail Rider, Cartoonist, Writer, Co-Director/ Green Bean Endurance

January 15, 2011

Thoughts of new things to give a try this spring.

I have been carrying hay with me on rides longer than ten miles for some time now.  Sometimes she will eat it, and sometimes she won't.  She prefers alfalfa but there is that high protein/calcium thing to consider, so I allow her a little, but not a lot.  In my own blog lurking of more experienced riders I picked up the thought of carrying a zipbag of whole feed along to let her nibble at water stops and such.  I'll have to experiment with this "out there" before I give it a whirl on a troqued up ride situation.  Since our regular feed is high fat, and high fat isn't recommended on ride day, I guess a performance feed with a lower fat ratio would be okay as long as the NSC's aren't too high.  I want her fueled, not on a sugar high.

If you are in my little corner of the world I'm in the market for a soft grass hay with a low % of alfalfa (no more than 5-10 %) for our travels this spring and fall.  Ten lowly bales would probably get us by, but I want really GOOD quality, clean, horse hay.  Phebes seems to like timothy so that would be okay too with a few bales of alfalfa on the side to just mix in half a flake or something.

Our LSD (low heart rate training) thing worked out so well last fall that it will be the way we will be going again this year.  Just puttering along down the trail at our whopping 5 mph (on a fast day).  If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

I am starting to get the itch.  Two months of not riding just seems unbelievable to me.  I've never not ridden all winter long before.  I just thought Phebes deserved a break from it, and time to be a horse.  It has done her good physically, she is back to being my chubby monkey.  Mentally?  Probably not so good as she tends to think that she is having a permanent vacation and has "little rebellions."  But we will get through it.


  1. You carry hay??? But you live in a land of grass and trees! There's free uncured green hay on the ground!

    You've read more about nutrition than I have, but I thought sugar would be ok if you're actively exercising. A pound or so of "normal" grain at 10 miles might just refuel her, not jazz her up too bad...?

  2. Funder: All the trails I've ridden so far for LD or training offer NO GRASS as they are woodland trails. I put as much hay as I can stuff in her cantle pack and offer a bite now and then. I also carry a filled water bottle that belongs to her. I offer a drink from the saddle now and then and she has learned to drink from it pretty well. Often her drink reflex kicks in after we have passed the water. She isn't getting much this way, but at least she is getting something.

    I've read on grain during competition being bad as the blood flow is directed to the large working muscles and grains will just "sit" in the gut. I've read likewise on on concentrated feeds, but had noticed an experienced rider routinely feeds her gelding concentrated feed as she hand walks him on certain legs of a given trail. There is SO MUCH conflicting data out there. Things come down to experimentation because what works for the horse you are reading about just may or may not work for your's. As I find things that do work for us they go into the "keep" column in my brain. The other column is "try" and see what happens on a few training rides. If things work out well there I will "try" at a ride. Phebes is so food adverse during a ride (other than a little hay) that I'm going to try anything that might stimulate her to eat. Drives me crazy that on training rides she will settle in and eat a nice wet mash, but at a competition she just won't. I usually consider sweet feed "the devil" as it is junk food for horses, but if she will eat it? When the point is calories for energy then we would try that too. Taking care of her is my priority this year, so our times will be very very slow.

    What do you feed Dixie as a ride is in progress?

  3. Fee is an EATER (Toad was an eater as well), so we usually don't have to argue about grabbing bites of grasss along the trail. On dry/wooded rides I carry hay cubes (timothy or alfalfa, depending on what the rest of the day has been)

    Also, when we approach a vetcheck I will hop off and handfeed a SPECIAL treat that I only feed at that time. Toad loved Nature Valley Oat+Honey Granola Bars. Fiddle loves apple slices. That treat, fed from the ground, is the cue that a vetcheck is approaching. They learn to anticipate food and water, and get ready to rest. The treat stimulates the appetite and gets gut sounds going. This system worked really well with Toad in the last years of our competition together; I wasn't as consistant about it with Fiddle in her first year of competition, so I'll need to be stronger about it to cement the response I want!

  4. There isn't much for a horse to graze on at a ride like Death Valley - so I carried a gallon sized baggie of a complete feed and hand fed them. Keep in mind that when I do that it's usually on rides where we have only one vet check, so the horses are sometimes going for three, four or even five hours between checks.

    I don't care so much what they eat as long as they are eating a few bites of something every half hour or so. On most rides they can graze along the trail and do that.

    If your feed store carries any of the low NSC type feeds you may want to try that to carry on the trail or use during checks. My horses love the LMF Low Carb Stage 1 feed. I mostly use the complete feed types rather than grain by itself. I'll use Omolene 200 during a ride and only after the ride has started.

    btw, it's really a good thing that your horse wants to eat hay - I think I'd be more worried to have a horse that wanted grain and not hay.

  5. Ksren, that is helpful. Her mainstay feed is called Cool Command which is a low starch, low NSC feed. She maintains weight on it, eats it fine at home, but I don't feel that it is supplying the energy reserve she may need on ride as she will hit a wall (by my definition not by Vet Check definition as she still has enough impulsion to half drag me there) at around 25 miles. I can get the performance feed in this which is still reasonably low protein with a higher NSC and I thought perhaps to try that for heavy work days and see how that goes. She is really sensitive to sugar and is on a totally molasses free diet. Eating hay is good though. I've found that she just needs a bigger time window to find her point of relaxation so I may extend my holds a little this year. Forty minutes isn't always enough for her to unwind, eat, drink and get ready to go. We've never ran out of time so I think if I watch my time carefully we can afford a little bit of extra time at the half. All the rides on our schedule for this year are 25 miles vs. the mostly 30 miles we have done, so it should seem a bit easier overall. So I'm going to try the gallon baggie trick in training, and use the times I get off to stretch my legs and give her a breather as also an opportunity to snack! I want to move up and try a longer distance, but I won't do that with Phebes until I'm satisfied that she is taking care of herself well.

    Thanks for the help. Jacke

  6. Dixie doesn't care for mushy stuff, but she's a pretty good eater. Nevada rides usually have hay at the water troughs every 10 miles or so, so I let her eat and turn up her nose at the water. Then at vet checks it's carrots, apples, hay, maybe a bit of grain, whatever.

    I've gotten her used to eating salted ration balancer every night so hopefully that'll help with drinking. She definitely drinks more at home now, and it'll be easier to get e-lytes in her later this spring.

  7. I carried cubes as well. The plain timothy ones are harder to find, but I think you can get them if you ask around. I just use the alfalfa ones or the timothy/alfalfa as I give a free choice mineral that Doc can eat to balance the calcium ratios if he needs it. And really he doesn't get enough that I think it would cause any problems.

    Just make sure to break them into tiniest slivers that you can. Some horses do choke on them. I've seen it with my own eyes. So don't let anyone tell you differently. But you can break them into pretty thin slivers that are not likely to be a problem.

    I also carried an apple and some carrots - which were actually for me and Doc. Ya never know who might actually need the energy. :-)

    Another thing that might work is Hay Stretcher. I used to give this to Doc in Maine. I put it into a toy that dispensed the cylindrical pellets as he rolled it around. It was one way that I tried to stretch his feeding out throughout the day when he was on chopped forage. Those would be really convenient to carry, but they are alfalfa based and have molasses in them.

  8. If you don't find hay elsewhere, I did ask the guys and they do have some that is ALL grass. He prefers to sell the alfalfa, but when I asked he did say he'd be okay with 10 bales. No worries either way, but I did want to let you know. Just email me or call if you want more info.