How do I feed my yearling Arabian filly correctly?

Question: I have a yearling Arabian filly that I want to feed correctly. I have gone through countless pages of books, online websites, and opinions from feed stores, friends, trainers, and breeders. EVERYONE is an ‘expert’ – no one has a consistent opinion and I’m getting frustrated.

What I DO know, is that she is doing really well on her Orchard/Alfalfa (30% alfalfa or less) and now that she’s a yearling I want to drop her protein from 16% to 14%. She gets 2 qt/day of the grain. She’s ok on the feed I was giving her, but I DON”T like how sweet it was. She has free access to the hay, and I want to put her on something that she will truly benefit from as far as her graining. I saw in another post your comments on Arabians and sweet feed and its effects on their coat and system.

What are your opinions on feeding the Growing Arabian Yearling? Do you think their tendency to take a little longer to mature physically should change the “regular” young horses diet? In what way?

Answer from April Reeves: When it comes to feeding first ask 2 things:

1. Are there foodstuffs in the product that a horse would not find in the wild (molasses, sugars, especially refined, corn, soy, oils)?

2. Do the feeds you purchase (concentrates) have studies done by the manufacturer themselves? Many companies are jumping on the ‘trends’ bandwagon, meaning they build what horse owners want. Problem is, not all horse owners have a clue as to what their horses actually ‘need’. We tend to overfeed our horses, pumping them with chemicals, diets and concentrates that they really don’t need and their liver and kidneys sure don’t! I’m always questioning the motives behind a feed company’s choice of ingredients. Many are in it for the quick dollar, not the simple science of the horse.

I’m glad you are free feeding the hay. Horses eat naturally all day long so denying them of this natural instinct is harsh. Many neurotic habits are borne of anxiety and discomfort from the build-up of acid in their stomach, and the denial of a herd life.

Keep the hay on the ground, as the horse’s jaw will align properly for chewing and create saliva. I built containers that fit one bale exactly, so their heads are low at all times.

Since your Arabian is a yearling, bone growth will be quite important at this point. It’s also a crucial time not to overfeed her. Bones need nutrients but as they are growing they don’t need extra calcium and protein. Horses are prone to bone diseases from over-feeding protein. She only needs 10% at this time. A hard working horse that sweats daily may use up 12%, but anything after that could be dangerous.

I don’t mind my yearlings getting ‘long’ – a term that means they are growing faster than you can keep weight on them. Don’t panic here. It’s natural. Bones sticking out all over isn’t natural though but I don’t think, with your care, that’s an issue. She sounds very lucky to have found you (horses choose their humans).

One thing I don’t like about many grains is that the majority of them are GMO – genetically modified organisms. I happen to be well educated in genetic engineering, and it’s not meant for man nor beast. I always call my feed supplier and ask them where they get their ingredients and if they are GMO. I may tolerate one or two of the smaller ingredients to be GM but not on a larger scale.

I feed the extruded concentrate ‘Step 2’. It contains local, non-gmo ingredients (other than one) and it’s easy for my horse to digest (he has problems). Regardless, I like to make it easy on any horse to digest the concentrates you give them. Motility is important (the time it takes for feed to go in one end and out the other).

A yearling Arabian is growing the same as a yearling halter bred Quarter Horse. While our human eye may say “oh April, that QH is obviously more grown up than the Arab”, bone is bone. We get caught up in the eye candy appeal. But bone and horses grow at the same rate, regardless of what they LOOK like. By the time they are 7 their bones in their legs, spine and neck are about as solid as they will get, with a few horses growing a bit taller until 8.

Feeding concentrates is almost a matter of when as a matter of what. I space my 2 feedings 12 hours apart. They get fed the same time each day, no exception.

On coats: there is a strong consensus that feeding high levels of oil will give a shiny coat. That’s true, and it also gives potential liver and kidney disease, obesity and a host of other ailments. Look what it’s doing for humans, and we can digest the stuff – we have a gallbladder!

One supplement I have found to be easy on the horse’s system, is found in a wild diet, and takes care of 2 problems at the same time is Farrier’s Formula. It builds up the hoof wall and gives a shine to a coat like no oil has ever been able to do. Having a palomino, I always pray for that dark gold every spring, and this product has delivered the goods for 2 springs now.

Hope I answered your concerns, and thank you for contacting me!

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3 responses to “How do I feed my yearling Arabian filly correctly?

  1. Just a side note: any feed manufacturer who makes an extruded feed with no GMO’s, corn, oils or soy – call me! If you can call it organic so much the better. I will put you up as a sponsor – NO CHARGE – and I get exposed to thousands of people a year!

  2. I will keep on the lookout, Organic Farms is about all we have out here (West Coast) and from all of the suggestions …can I correctly assume I should NOT be feeding her grain if she doesnt need it?

    From what you said about protien, the small amount of alfalfa in the cross should be enough? I foaled her out myself and she’s a VERY good girl – I full intentions of her being my companion/sport horse/trail pony for many years to come. Frankly I’m terrified ill do something wrong and she won’t grow right.

  3. Hi May, I feed very little concentrates as far as weight goes unless the horse is being worked hard (5-6 days/week) or growing. I found my babies grew better with free feed hay, a flake of supplement hay (alfalfa, timothy) and their concentrates at 12 hours apart. Just watch overfeeding of alfalfa. I have witnessed several foals with joint problems from overfeeding alfalfa. One of my students was given a free Andalusian mare when it was a yearling because it had such bad joint problems. She quit feeding it alfalfa and concentrates and 6 months later it was normal. Today it’s a jumper. Just don’t overdo anything. Feeding is a matter of sensibility. And all the pasture and freedom she can get! Nothing grows a horse strong like movement!

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