Monday, June 1, 2009

Manna from Heaven (part 1)

Back in The Day, horses consumed varied grasses, seed heads (grains) and other sundry munchies as they wandered the plains being horses. Today we provide for them, sometimes feeding them the prettiest "label" on the shelf, the flashiest "centerfold" in the equine publication, the strongest claim on the award-winning website...OR what we can afford and pick up at the feed store as they're locking the door at closing time. I've been guilty of all of the above. Multiple times.

But now I'm learning to provide the best for my horses according to the experts. This time around I'm really paying attention to what the nutritionists say is the proper way to feed a horse. I've just completed the NRC (National Research Council) Plus course from Dr. Eleanor Kellon VMD via her website:

http://www.drkellon.com/coursedescriptions/nrcplus.html

I've learned to prepare a balanced diet for each of my horses -- including digestible energy (calories) for different training (or not) levels. Crude protein for growth and maintenance. I can balance major and trace minerals for fine tuning the diet and bringing out the sheen and color in a healthy coat. And, I am doing it on a shoestring. My plan is to provide the best nutrition I can afford without being swayed by slick horse magazine advertisements -- starting with the hay! (Gosh, what a novel idea, huh?)



Ahhh, manna from heaven. The lowly hay. Grass jerky. Call it what you will, it all starts here. The diet is based on the forage.

But how in the world do you know the nutritional value of your hay? Other than an outrageous dent in your wallet, what is really in that stuff? To find out, you send a sample of your hay to a testing laboratory. Here's the journey:

First, I contacted Equi-Analytical for the forms and an explanation of their services. They had a special deal going. You buy a Penn State hay probe from them (get a free ball cap and weight tape to boot) and they'd throw in a complimentary hay analysis. OK, I was hooked. I sent the money --- the hay probe, forms and freebies arrived.






Next I asked top-hand-hubby Bruce to get the trusty power drill. He snapped the hay probe onto the drill and off we went. He randomly drilled about half the load of timothy hay for the sample. Putting the hay probe at the end of each bale, between the strings, he started the drill and pushed.





Into the plastic bag went the plugs for the sample to be sent to the lab.




The sample headed off to the lab in the postage-paid envelope this morning. Equi-Analytical will email me the results in about a week. Very cool. Then I'll sit down for a quiet evening. A calculator in one hand, glass of wine in the other and my NRC Plus text at my side....the diet balancing will commence.

Math is not my strong suit. Actually, I hate math and it hates me! But one of the highlights of Dr. Kellon's classes is: if you enroll in a class you can continue to audit that class each time it is taught --- forever and ever. Also, Dr. Kellon has graduate students who thrive on helping former students with any and all questions about diet balancing. If you have even a glimmer of hope in the math department, they'll walk you through the diet balancing until you have it down pat!

Meanwhile, back in the corral the minis and Pete wait (with baited breath) for the results of the hay analysis. Stay tuned folks.

1 comments:

billie Tuesday, June 02, 2009 4:47:00 AM  

LOL at those cuties waiting with anticipation - hoping for low sugar and starch - so they can have more of the good stuff! :)

If Keil Bay ever gets wind that his meals depend on my math skills, he'll be out in the paddock picketing!

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