Tuesday, November 29, 2016

CSU hay test explained

For starters horses need a minimum of 1% forage but in reality a horse will want to, and naturally, consume 1.5-2% of their diet in forage to meet their energy needs. Hay is your forage.  So if your horse weights 1200 lbs you should not give them less than 12lbs of forage a day with 18-24lbs/day being more realistic to their natural and desired consumption.

If you have a horse that is susceptible to obesity do not reduce the volume of hay, reduce the quality of hay. By that I do not mean get moldy cow hay. I mean get lower energy, lower protein hay that the horse can eat all day long without gaining. A full gut round the clock is a happy gut.

The below information is based on the factors tested by Colorado State University standard forage test. In 2016 it was a $35 test. There are more tests for minerals available but the below information is just for the basic test that they provide for the hay test. The test from Colorado State University was selected for this post because they are well known. Other institutions may give other reports with other components.

Moisture -  Ideal is 10-17%, when it reaches 18% it’s at high risk of mold. Hay over 25% poses a huge heat and fire risk.

Crude protein (CP) --  Is actually an estimation of total protein based on the amount of nitrogen in the hay. So areas with high nitrogen may falsely read high protein.  It does not tell you anything about the amino acid composition or the protein quality.
High quality proteins are usually found in legumes, like Alfalfa. Combining the two makes a more balanced protein diet for the horse.
Ideally a horse needs around 10% protein (Lactating, Pregnant and Growing foals need more)
Grain hays (oat, rye) generally have a lower CP than grass hay
grass hay contains 8 to 10%
legumes  (alfalfa, clover, perennial peanut) can range from 17-20+%.

Neutral Detergent fiber (NDF) – Measures insoluble fibers. Since fibers are digested by the microbes living in the hindgut (cecum and large colon), a healthy microbial population is important for your horse to derive calories from fiber. This figure is a good indicator of Net Energy (NEL, NEM, NEG see below) they are inversely related so when NDF goes down NE_ increases. This measurement is also the best indicator of how much forage a horse will eat. The lower the # the more the horse will eat. Legumes (alfalfa) are lower in NDF so horse will want to eat more legume than grass. But as most people know high alfalfa diets can risk founder, bloating and other issues. So just because they like Legumes doesn’t mean that is what they should eat 24/7.
40-50% are good
65% the horses may not want to consume them

Acid detergent fiber (ADF) ADF is composed of cellulose, lignin (not digestable), and other poorly digested components. The lower the ADF value, the more digestible the nutrients in the hay. Lignin increases in mature plants and more hay will end up in the manure.
30-35% is desirable
45% and above you will have to feed more hay

Equine Total Digestible Nutrients (Equine TDN): This is a measure of the hays energy value, TDN is rarely used in evaluating horse hay, which is ironic because it’s the digestible nutrients. TDN is very closely related to Net Energy (NE) below. As TDN (DM% increases so does the NE for Lactation, Growth and Maintenance. It is a measurement that is also directly correlated to Digestible Energy (DE) and Metabolizable Energy (ME) below.
 40 to 55% is desired.

Equine Digestible energy (DE): Measure of the digestible energy in the hay. Horses in light work should get about 20 Mcal/day. So if hay is DE 1 Mcal/lb you need to feed 20lbs to that horse. Horses usually have a loss of 35-40% DE in feces, so don’t be stingy on feeding hay to your horses.
Most hays are 0.76 to 0.94 Mcal/lb of DE.
The DE requirements for a 1,102 lb  horse (500kg) can range from 15.2 Mcals to 34.5 Mcals

Net Energy (NE):  There are 3 types of Net Energy
Maintenance (NEm) –maintenance of the animal
Gain (NEg) – Growth and gain for that animal
Lactation (NEL) – Lactation (mainly dairy cattle)
This is highly dependent on the animals actual intake of the forage.
Estimated Net Energy (ENE) A term expressing available energy in a forage. The higher the number, the greater the energy to the animal.

Net Energy Lactation (NEL) this is usually used for cattle to help determine if the forage will meet the needs for lactation. Mostly used for the dairy industry but it can also be helpful for horses.
An average NE Lactation is 0.5-0.95
When TDN is 50 (DM%) NEL is around 0.5
When TDN is 90 (DM%) NEL is around 0.95
So very closely related

Net Energy Maintenance (NEm)
This is the energy available for maintaining the animal
An average alfalfa maintenance is around 0.4-1.02
When TDN is about 50 (DM%) NEm is around 0.44
When TDN is about 90 (DM%) NEm is around 1.02

Net Energy Gain (NEg)
This is the energy available for the horse to gain.
An average around 0.19-0.7
When TDN is about 50 (DM%) NEg is around 0.19
When TDN is about 90 (DM%) NEg is around 0.7

Metabolizable Energy (ME)
Range from 0.82 – 1.48
when TND (DM%) is around 50 ME will be around 0.82,
when TND (DM%) is around 90 ME will be around 1.48


Relative Feed Value (RFV)- Combines ADF and NDF to estimate consumption of the hay. So in theory it’s the expected consumption, or the animals want to consume the hay . As ADF and NDF increase, RFV decreases.  It’s mostly used for Cattle. There is no formula for horses yet for RFV because this formula is based on fiber and cattle have a better fiber conversion because of the rumen digestive system. But it’s a number CSU gives for their hay evaluation so it’s one that we are going to explain.  

Average RFV for alfalfa is 100 (ADF 41, NDF 53). The higher the # the better the quality

Alfalfa can be up above 150, 185+ is considered Supreme quality. Low quality alfalfa will be around 70.


Keep in mind that horses do not need the higher quality forages that a dairy or meat cattle need. And horses digestive systems are not equipped to handle the higher levels of RFV and CP. Feeding strait Alfalfa with a  100 RFV could risk obesity, founder and other health issues, So please consider other values that are more tailored for horse feed to base your feed choice on. If you pick a lower TDN grass hay you could supplement with Alfalfa to meet your horse’s needs, or free choice the grass hay so the horse has a full gut (much more healthy for them than sporadic feeding)


But when in doubt test your hay, soil and water. Take those results with your current grains and supplements to an equine nutritionist to balance your ration. You may find that a few simple changes could reduce your feed cost and ultimately have a healthier horse. Do not grain your horses blindly, know what they are eating so you don’t throw them off balance.




Saturday, November 26, 2016

Colic and the Broodmare

There are many causes for colic, after all by definition it's abdominal pain.... there is just sooo much in there to go wrong. The broodmare has some extra "baggage" to deal with when it comes to her abdominal cavity.

While they are pregnant....

We experienced a 7.5 month pregnant mare that had a splenic colic. So her intestines were up over her spleen. The only way to fix that is surgery. Yes she went through surgery 7.5 months pregnant. Her baby saw the light of day before birth when she was opened up for colic surgery. She could have rolled, but that was not common for this mare. It was likely that the foal movement pushed it up to the wrong spot.
She made it through the surgery and successfully carried to full term a healthy baby boy. The foal is now an adult and is doing very well. The only complication is that the surgery clinic did not put a hernia belt on the 7.5yo very large Friesian mare and she has a life long hernia. Her abdomen is also distended towards the ground an abnormal amount likely from having the stomach re stitched in such a distended frame from having the foal. She is healthy and rides. She got a few years off  to fully heal and has since had 3 foals. She did loose her first foal post surgery in a late term abortion. No autopsy on the foal was done so there is no way to know if the abortion was because of mare pain or foal problems.

There are other pregnancy colics that are possible such as uterine twisting. This is very painful but there is a chance to fix it non surgically by rolling the mare. This obviously takes a vet and a large team so please don't try it at home. This FYI is just so that you know there are other things to look for with broodmares and colic symptoms.

During or just after birth.....

It's scary when your mare goes into labor... then she's still in labor an hour later. You check the foal, it's in the right position, cervix closed... ok so not labor.. Colic. We had a situation where the foal was due and all the signs that the foal would be born in the next 24 hours was there but the mare coliced instead. What happened in her situation was that the birth impacted her cecum. She was distressed from that so didn't want to give birth. The big debate was to force the birth medically... not safe and the foal can be red bag, or wait till the foal is born, or get her to surgery. We opted for all three. I know that sounds odd. We took the mare to the clinic because a pasture or farm birth with that much distress could cost the foal and the mare. Our drive was not longer than 30 min and we were lucky that we got the mare there safely. She was in the clinic under serious watch of the vet for the foal and for her. She was up and down deciding if she would have the foal or not. The foal came out Red bag, meaning that the placenta detached before the foal was born so there was blood in the sac and the oxygen was deprived to the foal. She was not a dummy foal (no suckling response) so we gave the foal post natal care of oxygen and plasma. We rushed the mare down to the surgical vet so that if and when she flipped her gut she would be ready for surgery. With the added space from the foal being out, the added gas from the impaction and the weight of the impaction she flipped. Lucky for her and us she was at the clinic ready to go on the surgical table so there was no damage to the intestinal track. She recovered in record time, 4 not 7 days. She was ok with us taking her baby away, it was as if she knew we had to save her. The foal lived 36 hours. The trauma of the birth complicated her blood flow. When we stood her up her tongue got cold and fell out of her mouth. When she was laying down her limbs were cold. She was suckling and did have a few pees and poops but her viability was very low. We stayed with her round the clock and had her in the house by the fire. She got plasma to replace the inability to get colostrum, but she was too compromised to make it longer than 36 hrs.


Longer after birth....

You don't need a traumatic birth to have a post birth colon flip. It's very common when the intestinal system takes back the space where the foal is. It can happen up to 2.5 months post foaling. Most surgical clinics don't put the 2 together when it's that late after birth. Or they are more worried about saving the horse then why they are saving the horse. But many surgical clinics have put the 2 together and when you tell them the foal is 3 mo or under they put that mare on the higher risk for a twist or flip.

We had a mare go through a 2 month post partum colic surgery. She was vibrant and feeding her foal, there were no indications of issues. We looked out and she was laying down in a spot that she would normally have felt unsafe. She had some gas build up on rectal palpation, but no elevated pulse, respiration or temperature. We got her down to the surgical clinic and were told they would watch her closely. My gut just knew she was surgical, that mother intuition or something, but I was scared. Sure enough they called us 30 minutes after we left and she was going into surgery. Her Colon had slid up along her diaphragm and her small intestines were twisted around her cecum. So she definitely had a displacement and was surgical.
Her foal was taken from her as she went into surgery. He was already eating hay and grain and grew as steady as the other foals from that point on. She must have known that we had to save her life because she was not upset that her foal was gone. She was milked out a little bit to keep from having utter pain while she was recovering from surgery but her utters dried up appropriately even with being stall bound. If we had left such a large foal with her during recovery she would have had to produce milk for the foal which is taxing on the mare's resources. The foal would have been fussy in a stall for a month and in the ICU would have likely tangled in the catheter line and cause issues with that.

Colic is never a good thing and there are sooooooo many causes of colic. So keep an eye on those broodmares, they have a lot more going on in their abdomens.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The other side of Colic - The stomach

It's sadly more common than you think
Stomach Rupture
The symptoms can be nothing to full thrashing colic symptoms. The reason I'm brining this to my blog is because this happened to us, but not in a normal way. No ulcers, now colic, no grain, just pasture living with pleasure rides and lots of love. I'll start with what is normal. I'll also include some autopsy photos so WARNING graphic photos to follow.  
The most common cause are gas or feed back up from the small intestines causing distension of the stomach and eventual rupture. Diagnosis and treatment for this would be along the lines of colic, passing a stomach tube to evaluate the horse. Tubing a horse is a very common practice in a colic exam.

The other common cause is ulceration of the stomach that eventually leads to the ulcers and the weak tissue of the stomach ripping open. Ulcers can be caused by many things; stress, excessive exercise, lack of exercise, high starch feeds, a lot of grains and sugars in the diet, rescue horses that have an un known past. Ulcer guards and treatments are recommended there are several supplements out there that treat ulcers. I could go into all the symptoms of ulcers but that would have to be a whole post. But bucking, irritation, poor personality, lethargy, not wanting to do normal activities are all signs of ulcers, but there are more. I should also add that some horses show no signs of ulcers till autopsy. So be aware of the stress your horse is under and try to keep their life as natural as possible. If you can't, then consider supplementation as a prevention.

Well what if your horse lived on pasture with their friends never had grains or sugars in their diet. They were not hauled around for shows. They were just home being loved and ridden from time to time. That horse seems lethargic, not a lot of moving around the pasture. Followed by laying down and having to be forced to stand. She lay on her belly legs folded, no thrashing or rolling, almost like a nap but she was drooling. Horses DO NOT drool. She was not exhibiting any normal colic symptoms, so choke was suspected. Obviously the vet was called and a tube passed all the way to the stomach, so not choke. The vet extracted 20 liters of saliva from the horse. The stomach was not emptying. The small intestines were moving and manure was being passed appropriately... what was going on? The valve at the base of the stomach that goes to the small intestines was not passing appropriately. It was probably a degenerative situation where just enough got by and the horse could graze all day so eat at a pace that didn't over strain the stomach. But it got to the point that fluid was not passing and the back up of saliva was voluminous. The horse was treated on fluids in the hospital but ultimately 3 weeks later her stomach ruptured. The autopsy showed a ruptured stomach. Small intestines were fine, no abnormal gas or feed. All other organs were normal. There was less feed in the stomach than we would have expected to cause a rupture but the saliva volume can put equal pressure on the tissue.  There was obvious irritation of the tissue area near where the tear was, but the vet suspected that because we managed to keep her alive an additional 3 weeks that we were looking at fresh damage to the tissue and not ulcers or long term trauma to the stomach. It was decided that the valve emptying the stomach to the intestines was abnormal and ultimately non functioning.

During an autopsy the first indication of a stomach rupture is food debris up near the heart area or girth area when the body cavity is opened. If the intestines had ruptured it's usually further back in the body cavity.
This autopsy was done on a rescue horse that had bad ulcers that went necrotic causing the stomach tissue to tear. In her adopted home she lived a year longer than anyone had ever expected. She was loved in her last year by many and was given appropriate care prior to death, so please no harsh comments, they were kind enough to share the autopsy photos for education.  She exhibited no signs of colic leading up to her death, was eating dinner normally and interacting with other horses normally. She was found in the morning with no signs of struggle. She did have a worn spot on her sternum/girth area as if she had been laying like the above horse, so please add that as something to watch. Horses do sleep, but not to the point of having sores on their sternum/girth area, so please check for that on your horse.

Sadly the stomach is not an organ that they can operate on. Sometimes even when you do what every Vet would consider the dream horse life and most natural life, sometimes it still can happen. But be aware of the life your horse is living. Their natural life is not a box stall with corn and sugar and limited exercise, so please take the precautions and preventative measures for your beloved beauty.

To bit or not to bit.... Check out that Smile

I have been around horses a very long time and seen and heard a lot of theories on when to start your horse with the bit, Either riding or driving. I can go into long discussions about frame and bone growth and joint closure, but that will be a whole other post. This post is just about the teeth.

I'm not a dentist, but I believe strongly in equine dental care. I hire an actual equine dentist to take care of my horses teeth and not just the regular vet. Just because they say they can float teeth, doesn't mean that they are current on the dental procedures, or that they have the experience. Not to say there are not Vets out there that are not fantastic at teeth. But I was conned one time by a local vet that said that they would be able to float my horses teeth and it cost me 3 times more than it should have. Their price was not high, but they did such a bad job that those horses lost weight, consumed/wasted more feed, needed extra supplementation to maintain themselves AND I had to get the real dentist in to redo the crappy job that was done the first time. So lesson 1 know what a good job is, and make sure it's done right the first time.

So back to our trusted future riding or driving partner. Some industries hop on their horse in their yearling year. That is their choice but at 1 year old they have a full set of baby/milk teeth in their mouth. They also may have grown wolf teeth, which may or may not irritate them when bitted.  Not to mention they are gangly and have a ton more growing to do. So some industries wait till the horse is 2 years old. Well there are A LOT of changes going on in a horses mouth from at 2-5yo. They systematically loose all their baby teeth and grow in their adult teeth. Their caps should be checked to make sure they are coming off correctly and all sharp points should be addressed.

Here are some photos of some very stunning 2 1/2 and 2 3/4 year olds before they got their teeth done. Several caps were pulled on both horses are now more comfortable. But could you imagine having a bit in your mouth trying to behave and accept the bit with these teeth.

With so much going on in their mouth from 2-5, why would that be the most optimum time to put a bit in their mouth and ask them to do things quietly and to teach them to be comfortable with their bit???? Well not all horses are uncomfortable or have odd things going on, but it's guaranteed that they will be loosing teeth, shifting their dental structure for those 3 years. So be considerate in your bit choice. Be kind with your hands. And more importantly get the dentist to have a look and make sure that their teeth are growing in properly, caps are coming off as they should and that they are ready for the bit.

Monday, January 5, 2015

My foal was overdue, but under cooked.....

You waited and waited and waited past 340 days and then 350 days still no baby. You think to yourself, few at least I won’t have to deal with a premature foal. Well…. Not exactly.

Dismature foal
We had a foal born at 365 days, yes a WHOLE year. Conception 1/1/14 birth 1/1/15. Was a maiden mare so we were worried that she went so far over. We did a rectal palpation 2 times in her overdue period to make sure that the foal was alive and heartbeat strong. Kept tabs on the mares birthing signs and temperature and we got a filly at 365 days.
When she came out she was TINY. A whapping 60 lbs where 80 lbs is considered a small foal for our breed, We prefer them to be 100lbs. She had a longer mane and tail than normal newborns as well as having very thick body hair like she was already 2 weeks old. Her head was proportionately a bit large for her body. She was weak in the tendons, not too much to where we didn’t think she would straighten up but worth mentioning for the blog. We had another foal born the same day just over 18 hours later (gestation 321 days) who was healthy so we had instant comparison, but also had years of experience of what to expect.
Normal foal born 18 hrs later
All seemed to be going well she got up at a normal time, she drank, meconium (first poop) came out, she took a pee. The mare’s colostrum test put her in the excellent/ above average!
But something made me feel like she was still “fetal”. Her looks as previously mentioned were a bit of a concern, but her actions were also interesting. When a foal sleeps they normally just plunk down and pass out either curled up or flat but they don’t do much fiddling. This little girl seemed to walk in circles while sleeping or scooching from one spot to another while sleeping. You could say it would be what a fetus does in the belly, moving while sleeping, except she was already out.
Dismature foal up and dry
She was also very easy to restrain and seemed overly imprinted. I could do just about anything including give her an enema without her getting up off the ground. WAY too placid for a foal. A foal even when imprinted should still have some fight in them and give a good push on you from time to time and flinch at things that are new to them.

I’m glad I had that gut feeling like she was not quite at the top of her game. By the next day she was not pooping. Lots of straining and stomping and swishing of her tail but no poops. I gave her an enema, and walked her and the dam around in the arena where I could evaluate anything that came out. Nothing came out. Not good.

I had been watching her on the cameras and she was drinking still but had gone from good long gulps to lots of utter bumping and walking around. The dam was doing a lot of squirting of milk and there were puddles in places to indicate that her drinking was not as effective as her mom’s milk let down. So dehydration was on my list of concerns as well as decreased immune transfer.
Dismature foal straining trying to poop
She was also doing a lot of straining trying to poop with no poop coming out so there was clearly something irritating her, blocked or not right
The whole time I was taking her temperature, 102 normal, normal 101.5, normal 102.1 then uh oh 103.5.
We called out the vet, you can’t be too cautious with these little one’s and at this point I was worried about impaction, dehydration and lack of immune transfer. Not a fun way to greet your babies first day after such a long wait.
Vet came and agreed that the foal looked fetal, or premature, but being past due would now be called dismature. We tested her IgG and blood work. Gave her IV fluids with glucose, another enema, and started her on antibiotics. The IgG came back above 800 on the snap test to luckily she did get immune transfer, but if she had not we would have done a plasma transfusion. Her bloodwork came back that she had an infection but we had already started the antibiotics. Her blood cultures did not grow anything so we felt strongly that the infection was affiliated with the intestines not functioning as normal.
Dismature foal straining, trying to keep her warm in a blanket
Dog blankets are the best fit for premature foals
When dealing with a premature/dismature foal it’s always a possibility that their intestines are not functioning as they should so absorption of nutrients, immunity, and fluids for hydration. Even if your foal is late or on time please keep an eye on them very closely in the first few days.
You also have to worry about their temperature every 6 hours because a foal, especially an immature, premature, dismature foal has problems regulating their body temperature. This foal’s temperature was anywhere from 100 to 102.7 the few days after the vet had come out. Ask your vet what temperature you should call them out again at. We found that the foal did a little better when wearing a little blanket at night when it got a bit colder. The weather was not terrible but the poor little girl was shaking a lot even when dry. Some shaking when born is normal and wakes the muscles but they should not be shaking the next day. It’s always a good idea to check your foals temperature even if there isn’t something concerning you.
They are very fragile and they can go downhill very quickly. Watch their nursing very closely, just because they are under there doesn’t mean that they are swallowing or consuming the volume that they need.

Here is an update on this very cute loveable beauty. She is now 1.5 years old and growing at an appropriate rate for her age and is a normal height that I would expect her to be for 1.5 yo.
Photo Courtesy Of ORY PHOTOGRAPHY (on Facebook & Online)

Friday, January 2, 2015

The 3 Types of Friesians

Friesians have undergone some serious changes over the past 50 years but most of them have happened in the last 10 years. The Dutch KFPS inspection committee have been analyzing the master plan for the Friesian breed as well as reviewing results of inspections and having strict stallion selection processes to create such impressive changes in the entire breed over such a short period of time.  
The history of the Friesian included war horse and plow horse as well as cart horse for transportation. In todays time wars are not fought on hoses and tractors now plow the fields. With the power and elasticity that has always been a part of this breed in history they are ideal candidates for todays riding and harness driving show world. They are used for Dressage, Fine Harness, Saddle Seat, Jumping and many other disciplines, even trail and natural horsemanship.
With all the changes in use of the Friesian horse we are now starting to see some physical or "type" changes in the breed.
 There are now 3 very distinctive types of Friesians being breed. The three types are Baroque, Classical and Modern.

The Baroque type is what commonly comes to mind when people think of a Friesian. A strong bone structure through the legs covered in ample body mass to cover those bones. Baroque build usually appears to have shorter leg length to body height ratio and appear to have a longer body length in comparison to height. Almost giving the body the appearance of a rectangle on it’s side.  (Photo of Crüe S.R., Mark Keyser, Crüe S.R. Enterprises, LLC photo by www.lauramcclurephotography.com)

The Classical type, like baroque has curvy lines and ample density to the body but the ration of body to leg seems to be equal or appearing like a square. Their bones are not as thick as a baroque horse but they have ample structural soundness. Stallions will still have a developed crest but the barrel and hip area will be leaner than that of the baroque built horse. (photo Maiko 373 by Ory Photography)

The Modern Friesian is significantly more lean throughout the frame. They have lighter bone and leaner body mass. They tend to appear to be longer in the leg than length of the body giving them an upright rectangle appearance.  The Modern type Friesian is also referred to as the spot type. Please don’t get that confused with the sport title that the horse can earn. For example Maiko 373 Sport was not given the title sport because of his frame but rather his accomplishments as a riding horse (can be earned in driving also). Maiko 373 is the photo example used in this article for the Classical type. Modern built Friesians (Photo Viduna, Sable Ranch)

Modern - Leg Reach + HAIR
(Photo Aphilion/Sable Ranch)
There are many misconceptions associated with Friesian “type”. Notice that there was no reference to hair or movement in the above explanations. There is no correlation. Yes we imagine a Friesian to have ample hair, a Fabio like appearance, but you can have any frame type combined with any length or thickness of hair.  Anton 343 the hair man of the US is classical in build.

Modern - Knee Lift
(Photo Nadeen Davis)
There is also no correlation to movement, suspension, power, knee lift vs. extension to type. You can have any type of movement from any frame type. Knee lift can be in baroque or modern. It’s most common that people assume that Baroque has lots of hair and knee lift but that is not always the case. We had a VERY modern mare with over 4 feet of mane who had knee lift and reach as well as a VERY baroque mare with knee lift and reach and not much hair.

Baroque- Knee Lift

Classical -Knee Lift
There is also no correlation between Type and success as a riding or driving mount. It would just depend on what you prefer to look at. There is a belief that the Modern type will have an advantage in the Dressage arena and that the Baroque type looks better in harness. However Several of the top FEI Friesian stallions are not the Modern build, and all the Approved stallions that go through the testing are presented in harness as well as under saddle. The type of Friesian you want depends on personal preference for what you want your horse to look like. If you breed your dream horse for the judges preferences then please research the judges that you will be presenting infront of, but remember you will be the one living with and loving on your Friesian every day, not the judges, so please make sure you are living your dreams with your horse.

Modern - Knee Lift + HAIR
While you are breeding or buying your dream Friesian enjoy looking at all the types of Friesians so that you know what you would like to have. Also know your goals with that horse so that you can evaluate their movement, not everyone can sit a 9+ trot. Even consider the amount and thickness of hair that you are looking for.
At Sable Ranch Friesians we have a diverse portfolio of Modern, Classical and Baroque mares with various types of movement and hair.  www.Maiko373.com
Photo inclusions from Nadeen Davis Australia and Mark Keyser, Crüe S.R. Enterprises, LLC USA and Sable Ranch

Sunday, March 30, 2014

So now you have an orphaned foal

There are no words to describe the pain of loosing a beloved horse. When they leave behind a foal that needs you to raise it you have to suck in the pain and get right to work raising that foal, but what where do you start.


The foal first and foremost needs to be fed. Depending on the age of the foal is depending on where you start. 0-48 hours Colostrum is a very important concern. You can either use a frozen horse colostrum or powdered (brands and availability vary and dose rates, follow labels and consult your vet) It's also very important to get an IgG test done on that foal to make sure they got enough of the colostrum. If there is a poor result It's possible to give them a plasma infusion. If your foal is orphaned after that point you'll have to have an idea of how much hay and milk they are consuming for their age. Our 3 week old orphan was not eating more than a leaf or two randomly of the hay and grass so was on full milk rations and our 2 month old was eating a bit of hay and grass but supplementation was very necessary. Always provide free choice water 24/7 even if they are fully on milk water is crucial.


You'll need to research the brands in your area (your vet and forums such as facebook might help with your specific area) Foals have different needs from calves so don't just run out and buy a calf milk replacer. You might have to hunt and call on some of the brands but make sure it says specifically that it for foals. And get the rations for the foals because they will usually also mark the bag with calf rations as the powder base is almost 99.9% likely from cow milk anyways. But horses mineral and digestive needs are not the same as a ruminant. So read your labels. Volume will also depend on the estimated full maturity size of the horse. The standard horse is usually what they calculate for but if you have a mini or a draft or in this case a Friesian you will have to adjust accordingly.

Teddy with Dolly his companion
Some foals will need to drink out of a bottle. A normal baby bottle the nipples tend to be a bit small for the suckling lips of a foal. If the foal is very young then the largest human one may work for a short time but it's better to get either a sheep pig or cattle nipple. I personally find the cattle/pig one a bit large but because it's sturdy and slightly rigid I find it easier for me to handle getting it in a foals mouth when they are not wanting to eat. The sheep one being smaller is good for the very young ones but the holes will need to be made a bit bigger so the foal doesn't loose interest because they are not getting enough food for their efforts. Once they get used to the taste of the milk they will likely come looking for the nipple and you won't have as much hassle trying to get it in their mouth but at first you might have a challenge. If the foal is drinking water out of a trough and they are ok with the taste of the "fake" milk you should try to bucket feed them. The smaller the bucket the better for them to get that last drop and don't leave milk un attended for flies to get in or the foal to tip it or worse for it to spoil in the sun. You will want to know how much they are drinking and how often. The sooner you can get to the bucket feeding the quicker your life will get easier.


The 3 week old was on the bucket on his second day because he already drank out of the water trough, and liked the taste of the milk and was a pig. The bag said 12lt, 3 feedings of 4 lt. We had a discussion with the manufacturer, not the sales rep, but their true feed specialist. and for his age that was too far apart and for his future size it was not the right volume.  I fed him every 4 hours for the first 3 weeks then went to every 5 then every 6 and so on. Of the feed that we had available in our area he drank 15 leters a day in even volume feedings. The volume will decrease as he gets older tapering down so that he is weaned off milk between 4.5 -6 months depending on condition of the foal and the amount of hay that they eat. If you don't taper down the milk they will not have the incentive to eat the hay if their belly is always full. You'll also want to return to normal sleep patterns.

We have also found a way to rig up a sprinkler system to time the release of certain volumes of feed. A 2-3 zone system was sufficient and we just attached the volumes of feed to each zone. The sprinkler could then be set to turn on/open and let the milk out on a schedule and drop it into the bucket for the foal to eat. There are also ways in hotter environments to attach the nipple to an insulated water cooler so that the heat doesn't ruin the milk and the bugs can't get in. just make sure that you check the feeder regularly so that the foal is not ingesting all of it's daily rations at one time and then starving the rest of the day.

But what if you can't be there round the clock because you have to work. You can modify a drinking cooler with a nipple and hang it outside fence with the nipple in to the horse. it will control the temperature, is sealed so flies don't get in it and the foal can free choice eat. There are some ideas on line but you would have to see what parts you have available in your area.

Hay and grains

 Even if your foal is not ready for hay or is not eating much of it you need to offer good quality dust free hay free choice to them at all times. Unless there is sufficient pasture, but even then we still offer a bucket of hay for the foal to pick at. Unless you have a very large round bald for the group or the foal is alone you will want to set up a spot where the foal can get in to eat without having the older horses eat the food from them. You can do this with a partially open stall, door tied part open, or bottom section open top closed. Or you can set up a temporary box that is only tall enough or wide enough for the foal to get in and eat but the adults can't. This is also something to consider with the grain/hard feed commonly called creep feeding. Basically you'll find a brand of feed and type of feed best suited for the age of the foal and for your area and then ration out either portion of a ration at a time if they eat fast or a day ration if they eat slow. Keeping that feed available to them around the clock will make up for the fact that you can't be standing there 24/7 with them like their mom would have been.

Companion horse or Surrogate mare

It's very important that your foal not grow up to think it is a person. Hand raised foals can be very
dangerous when they get large and don't know their boundaries and size.  There is no better teacher of horse behavior than a horse itself. In some cases you can use social media to find a surrogate mare that will take on your foal as if it was their own. That is a dream situation and gets your foal fed without having to go down the path of bottles and buckets and round the clock feedings. The risk to that is that usually the mare owners want the foal to go to the mare and that can put you out of your comfort level. We have raised a foal from day one without a companion mare. We made sure that we
taught him respect of space as well as introducing some training with him that would support him being submissive. We taught him to lay down, sit down and to stand on blocks. The blocks were less of a submissive thing but his aptitude once he started learning was amazing and his respect for space and humans as boss was incredible. He was put with the first group of weanlings when he was about 2 months old and he was gently schooled by them on how to be a horse. Reports from his current home, where he lives with other horses is that he has learned very quickly and injury free how to be a horse, but still comes quickly to his human when they come to visit him. That is not unique to him as an orphan but seems normal for the Friesian foals that we sell. So we are glad that he's adjusted to being a horse despite being raised by a human.

I had a rare situation where a mare who had not had a foal in a few years, bagged up and nursed a 2 month old orphaned foal and we just supplemented the milk for that foal for the transition time and to help supplement if the surrogate didn't have enough
Orphan Betty nursing on her Grandmother
milk. We bottled for the first few days, then the foal liked the fake milk and we just filled a 1 lt container when she was standing there asking for milk and she drank it up right away. She was also nursing off the surrogate mare, who happened to be her grandmother. The first few days we kept a gate between them so that the foal didn't get hurt and so the mare could adapt to the foal being around. When we could supervise them we had them together. It only took about 2 days for them to work out the routine. There was some squeeling and nipping because a 2 month old came with teeth and was eagar, but there had to be some rules not just a baby torturing the surrogate. We got lucky that we had an on property mare but most of the time you can't get one of your mares or even a surrogate to feed the foal.

Another option is just a kind companion babysitter horse, mare or gelding that will take on the companion and socializing of that foal. If you have other mares with foals then the interaction with those foals will also help develop your orphan's horse behavior.

For any horse that takes on raising (feeding or just companion) the orphan you should expect some amount of behavior training. That can mean ears pinning, a bit of squeeling, even a slight kick or bite from the surrogate. There is a level where it's unsafe for the foal and that horse doesn't want that foal within it's area, but there is also a level of educating that foal on how to act and not act in the surrogates space. Mares who birth their own foals will bite, kick squeal to some extent to make sure that their offspring respect them.  Just think of how 2 adult horses act when they meat for the first time, then how they are 2 days later. But you do have to have some amount of caution even if it means a small fence between the two for a few days till the get to know each other. It might be that the surrogate is only mean when there is food around so eating separate might be safer. That is horse acceptable behavior but don't put your foal at risk if the surrogate crosses the line to mean.

Our 3 week old orphan was out of the mare that fostered her 2 month old granddaughter, so we had lost our surrogate. We didn't have any other mothers that would feed a foal that was not theirs, not even during weaning when they had a HUGE bag. Other mares that were offered the chance
to raise him would get right to ears back squeal kick in less than the time he would be able to react or get out of the way (luckily fence was in the way), obviously not safe for him to stay with them. We did have an Arab mare that was kind enough to hang out with him and teach him manors in a polite way that would not get him hurt. We knew she was right for the job because at the beginning she went through the normal horse communication to tell him when he was out of line, not strait to mean angry. Normal ears back, if that didn't work she turned her teeth at him (not biting), a swish of the tail and if that didn't work she lifted a let (but not kick). Even if she did get to the level of having to kick, after 5 other warnings, she gently would extend the leg to him. She was a natural born teacher and mom. She knew him because she lived next to him when he was born but when he was born she was not nice to him, only after he lost his mom, she just knew. To date he's not missing any skin and has no bumps so he either learned quickly or she never hurt him. Heck I have more foals with missing patches of fur from their biological dams telling them to straiten up. and he is very respectful when he's around me, which is good considering he will stay a stallion. If you are a breeder and come across a mare like this you have landed a pot of gold.

We have seen situations where a horse could not be used so a goat or sheep or other similar farm animal is used. This is good for the very young foals that are too fragile to endure a horse initiation or where no horse will be kind to it. But horses should still be along the fence line for them to have contact of some sort. A farm animal is a companion they can touch but it's not a substitute for that horse learning to be a horse so trying to get another weanling at the time of weaning or get them in with a safe horse as soon as possible is the best thing for that horse to learn proper horse behavior.

They need all the love in the world but remember over handling incorrectly can cause them to think they are people and when that cute little baby becomes a giant 1200+ lb horse it can be a very dangerous situation for humans.


At the beginning check their temperature to make sure they are not getting an infection from their surroundings. Also consider putting them on an ulcer prevention program because the stress of loosing their mom and replacement feeds ect will cause ulceration and once a horse is prone to ulcers they will have lifetime issues with ulcers. You'll also need to get them vaccinated accordingly to your area as soon as they reach the age when the vaccination can be safely given because they are not protected by mom. Take regular photos in intervals to track the progress of the foal so you know if you are on the right track with feed. Keep them on a regular worming schedule even if that is monthly or more to make sure that everything they get is going towards growth not worms.

Hopefully you will have great success with your hand raised foal. Losing mom is not always and end, sometimes it's the beginning of a new adventure.

Betty at 2.5 yo

Here are photos of the filly at 2.5 yo that was raised by her grandmother. As of March 2014 she was doing fantastic, 3.5 yo, pregnant with her first foal and getting started under saddle.
Betty at 2.5 yo
Teddy 5 mo with
Companion Wynnar 
Teddy 6 mo after flying from AU to the US
Teddy 1 yo with his now friend for life Cookie

William at almost 2 years old and doing great with his groundwork and tricks!

Black beauty born Silver, When your Friesian foal is born silver.

When black beauty pops out all shiny black and wobbly you get very excited because you have your very
own beautiful black Friesian horse.

But then your beauty starts to dry and you notice they are not black, but a rare shiny beautiful platinum silver color. The panic starts to set in... can I register a grey Friesian? Will they be black? Why are their eyes a silvery color also? Will I get my deep black soulful eyes?
It's rare but it's also special. Getting a platinum baby is dependent on the blood lines. Maiko 373 is know to have lots of silvery babies and his sire Tsjerk 328 P also had several. At Sable Ranch (www.sableranch.net) There are about 2-3 born each year. There are lots of theories as to if it means the horse is going to grow to be non fade black but they end up maturing to be as normal as if they were born their mature and genetically pre determined adult color.


As the foal grows up you will notice that the sun makes the silvery color turn almost yellow or tan so they go from the photo on the left to the photo on the right. It's a very cute puffy yellowy mocha coat.

Oje born silver
 A little later they start to loose that fuzzy baby coat. They even can get the cutest Mask of Zorro eyes as their adult coat pears through. Then they reveal to you the true splendor of their black coat. They usually will still have the yellowy tips on their mane and tail from when they were first born but with time that will break of naturally.

Some foals that were born black have the same faded baby coat if they are out
in the pasture playing (like all babies should be!) See the photos of the colts below. One born silver, one born black, both born about the same time and living together.

Nemo born black
Mambo born silver

Here are the 2 boys from above at almost 2 years old, guess which one was the one born silver... They even both have the lightened tips from the sun from being foals but a both clearly JET black. They live in the pasture and don't have any blankets/rugs on at any time.
Mambo left and Nemo right
Here are photos of foals that were born silver and the photos are of them over 1 year old showing that they will be on their way to black in not time. If you have adult photos of a Friesian horse that was born silver and want them on this blog please send them to Allison@sableranch.net.
Oje as a yearling that was born silver

Teddy on the right born silver showing blonde mane
As they grow  you may notice that the mane will face out faster on a silver horse. There is no problem with that as the mane replaces itself with age the blonde tips from when they were silver will darken, or you can trim the ends exposing the black hairs at the root. But we don't get concerned by the yellowing from the sun when they are young.
In summary don't get to worried if your Friesian foal dries off and is a platinum gem. It's rare and it's special and it makes for fun baby coat colors. As you can see from the older horses photos, those sterling eyes darken to the deep soulful black that we all love in the Friesians. Even to keep a foal coat of a black born baby black would require some stabling or blanketing. But at the end of the day they are babies so they should be out playing in the sun and growing up to be the best beautiful Friesian that we know they will be!

If you are interested in having a chance to get your very own platinum colored baby contact Sable Ranch at Allison@sableranch.net to either breed your mare to Maiko 373 Sport, or to select from one of the beautiful foals that they have every year (they usually have 2-3 a year)  www.sableranch.net
Maiko is non fade black and never has a blanket/rug on and lives outdoors full time.