Feeding Young Horses

Now that spring is here we have started bathing the young horses and broodmares that were allowed to grow their winter coats. Warmblooods frequently grow very heavy coats and it can take some time for them the shed out, in the meantime as the temps rise they are sweaty and matted. Bathing them really helps to shed the hair and they really appreciated the cool water. But every spring I am frequently surprised by one or two of the yearlings who are suddenly quite ribby under all that hair.

We really walk a fine line with these young warmbloods. They grow fast and they usually don't require the amount of grain that is recommended on the bags - in fact, they usually only need about 1/4 or less. A fat young warmblood is asking for growth problems, their legs and joints cannot handle the weight, so we try to keep them slim without making them skinny. My vet and I were recently talking about this problem and he was telling me that if they don't get the recommended abount of grain that it is very important to supplement them with at least a calcium and phosphorus supplement to ensure that their bones grow correctly. Many European breeders think that we give our horses too much food and that is why we have more joint problems with our young horses, but they raise their horses like livestock and the weaker or less athletic ones are sold off for food. They only keep the ones who grew up correctly with no help. We don't choose this option, so we must try to make each one the best that they can be. It is hard to ensure that the hay and grass nutrients will be consistent from one month to the next, so supplements and carefull grain selection are important.

We use a popular brand of grain that has a special formula for broodmares and young horses and add supplements because there is no way we could feed our babies the recommended amounts and not have fat, unhealthy horses. We have to monitor it closely as growth spurts can cause a healthy looking foal to suddenly look ribby, so we up the grain and/or hay, a few months later they may start to look a little chubby, so we cut it back. Usually by the time they are three or four years old we have a pretty good idea of whether they are a hard or easy keeper.

Spring is usually the time for growth spurts, so it is really not surprising to find some of the yearlings looking a little thin - it is just a surprise when a thick haircoat sheds out a plump looking weanling into a ribby yearling!


Rising Rainbow said...

I go through the same things feeding young horses here. I think I have it under control, growth spurt comes and out pop ribs. lol Sometimes it feels like a full time job just trying to keep up with the individual diets for this many horses.

Grey Horse Matters said...

I guess it's always a balancing act, too much or too little, it constantly has to be adjusted. It is good that as a conscientious breeder you are always monitoring them to make sure they get what they need when they need it.

Linda said...

Yes, they have to be watched, but then that is part of the fun of raising horses, isn't it? Watching them grow!

Natalie B said...

I am a new owner to having a warmblood foal. the just dont grow like the TB's i'm used to. What doyou feed your warmblod yearlings?
thank you so much i'm currently feeding Triple Crown Grow. but am not sure if this type of feed is good for a warmblood. That i why i am not feeding him what we feed the TB's kentucky sweet oats. if i could have peoples opinion i wold appreciate it.

Linda said...


Our yearlings are getting Nutrena Safe Choice. It is a low startch and sugar feed that is safe for all horses. They are also out on grass 24/7 and get a small amount of hay (1 flake) with their grain feeding (2x a day). They get 3 - 6 lbs of grain a day depending on how they grow. We don't want to have them too ribby, but should be able to feel the ribs. Yearlings on grass sometimes get a bit of a belly, but as long as there is not a lot of fat over their back, neck and croup, we don't worry about it. Some warmbloods really grow fast and others more slowly. It is usually the ones that are shooting up that tend to look skinny and will need more grain to insure they are getting the vitamins and minerals necessary for proper growth of the bones. Don't make the mistake of starving the fast growing, large jointed warmblood - you won't stop what they are programed for, but you could cause harm. As long as their joints feel hard, everything is fine, if you notice that they look swollen or are soft like a water ballon, you should consult your vet. If you are familiar with the rating scale on horses, you want your growing horses around a 5. You will need to make adjustments frequently as their growth speeds up and slows down. Hope this helps.