I'm asking you guys for advice... It's about Cessa. I'm trying to decide if its That Time. I don't know if I'm being selfish or not but now that we finally have our own place I'd just really like one last winter with the old girl. One final chance to give her 150% care now that we're home. I just don't want to try to get through the winter if it's not what's fair to her.
Here's the situation. For the last few years I've supplemented her diet in the winter. It seems she has a hard time eating hay** so I would give her beet pulp mixed with senior feed, crushed/rolled oats and some oil. She had a hard time keeping on weight but I think that if I had been able to give her that extra feed every day she would have done better. However that just wasn't possible because of my boarding situation. Instead she got that extra feed anywhere from 3-6 times a week (I know it is better for horses to get fed on a regular basis, I was doing my best in the situation)
Once spring came around and she was able to graze on nice, soft grass she always seemed to thrive, I was even able to stop giving her that extra feed.
**I've had her teeth checked on a regular basis and the last horse dentist to take a look at her told me there's not really much he could do for her. A certain place that had worked on her teeth with a power float had pretty much screwed up what was left of her teeth. And yes this pissed me off royally.**
When we first moved Cessa was doing pretty good on pasture. The last little while she has dropped a lot of weight. A. Lot.
We have good quality pasture. In fact I often have the geldings in pens and just Cessa & George in the pasture, otherwise the boys get too fat.
I'm planning to have a fecal count done to check and make sure she doesn't have a heavy parasite load and then deworm accordingly. I've also been referred to a good horse vet (by our small animal vet who happens to own horses herself) and will get her teeth checked just to make sure that there are no sharp edges bothering her (even if there's not much else that can be done for them)
I've started giving her that "winter ration" once a day, and now I've just upped it to twice a day. Its 2 cups of beet pulp, measure dry then soaked; I add to that 4 cups of senior feed, a hoof supplement, a cup of rolled/crushed oats, a cup of sweet feed (just because she likes it) and 2 cups of oil. She seems to be starting to put on some weight, but not enough to get through winter. I have no problem giving her that ration 3 times a day but in my thinking if I need to do that to keep weight on her NOW what will I do once winter comes? If she has trouble eating hay again this winter what can I do for her?
One suggestion was to feed her soaked hay cubes but lets be realistic... she's an old gal that takes her time eating and this is "Tundra Country" as Mrs Mom puts it. Those soaked hay cubes would freeze before she could eat them.
When I had her stalled overnight to get out of the super cold rain the other day I gave her the smallest, softest, fluffiest scraps of hay that I could get and she ate those right up. The actual hay that was in the stall? Not so much. But that isn't really a workable solution, I can't exactly sift through the hay to get small fluffy bits all winter, even if I could there wouldn't be enough.
However I remembered an article I had read a few years ago, not sure what magazine it was in. Probably Horse & Rider or Equus. It was about feeding chopped hay to horses that can't chew very well. The people in the article chopped (or shredded??) the hay themselves with some kind of garden implement or power tool. That's what has me stumped. I can't remember what the heck that thing was called! All I remember clearly is that you can get electric or gas powered models and they advised getting the electric so that you don't risk gas fumes contaminating the hay. Any clues what the "thing" may be???
If you guys have any tips/ideas/advice I would really appreciate it. I'm not sure yet whether I'll try to keep her this winter or if I'll just have to be a big girl and say my goodbyes now. I'd sure like to give her a chance, and not just for my own selfish reasons but because Cessa still has a spark in her eye and a spring in her step... she even trotted her nice floaty trot to the barn the other day when I was bringing her in out of the cold.