From Endurance to Dressage
Why is feeding a horse so dang complicated? You should see our feed room. There are piles of different kinds of feed bags, supplements, and cookies; frankly, I struggle to keep it all organized. And the funny thing is that I TOTALLY subscribe to the KISS method of horse keeping. Nothing simple about my routine.
Speedy's feed is pretty well dialed in. He gets enough alfalfa to always have at least a little bit that he can pick through during the day. The ranch owner recently adjusted his ration because he was leaving too much. She's always searching for the magic amount that keeps him with hay all day without wasting piles of it. He also gets a bit of beet pulp and rice bran just to make him happy. In the winter, I increase both, but right now, with our hot weather, I feed it more as a treat than for actual nourishment.
Izzy, on the other hand, is not so easy to feed. Over the winter, I discovered that he is far, FAR more sensitive to the energy available in his feed than I had previously thought. I've known for more than a few years that alfalfa makes him hot, but this winter, he showed me that he has no tolerance for it at all. The day after cutting even his token handful of alfalfa, his energy level dropped to just regular horse energy as opposed to a horse "jacked up on Mountain Dew."
The thing is, grass hay isn't particularly nutrient/energy rich. And for a horse who works as hard as Izzy does, it's not really enough feed even though he gets mounds of it, heaps of it, PILES of it. The ranch owner jokes that she just can't stuff enough of it into him. If she comes out mid-day and sees his feeder empty (not very common), she fills it back up. The dude gets as much as he wants.
To make sure that he gets enough calories, I also supplement daily with several pounds of beet pulp and a pound and a half of rice bran. And on the rare days when I can't come out, the ranch owner and I have set up a communication system. If I am not going to make it out to the ranch, I text her so that she can increase his hay that day because If I don't feed him his supplemental feed, he blows through his hay far too quickly.
Part of the problem is that Izzy simply can't consume enough grass hay to meet his daily requirement. The stomach can only hold so much, and grass hay is a little like eating rice cakes. I can eat those things all day long, but I am not going to be able to maintain my weight. Like I couldn't stand to re-lose a few pounds. Would someone PLEASE feed me some rice cakes for a few days?
So, he gets added beet pulp and rice bran. I used flaxseed oil for about a year, and while it was working pretty well, it was a bit messy to deal with. I did some searching, hoping to find a denser feed that didn't take up as much volume as hay that was also cleaner than oil. Enter Cool Calories. It's about the same price-wise as flaxseed oil, but it's a whole lot easier to feed.
The directions state that you can feed 2 - 4 ounces daily, and up to 8 ounces for horses that are severely underweight. I started with 1 ounce for several days. Things went well. In fact, Izzy was darn near lazy on Wednesday but still super focused. The product claims its "High-fat formula provides cool energy ideal for performance horses." That was exactly what I was looking for; more calories without more 'hot" energy.
On Wednesday afternoon, I bumped his serving up to 2 ounces. On Thursday morning, he was literally vibrating under the saddle. I rode him for nearly an hour and a half, trying everything I could to get at least a semblance of relaxation, and if not that, maybe some control. Within 10 minutes of riding him, I had to switch out his snaffle for the correction bit. He simply couldn't hear the snaffle. I let him blow off steam by cantering, doing transitions, more cantering, walking, but nothing would "cool" him down.
At first, I just chalked up his ... exuberance to "one of those days," but when he just Would. Not. Let. It. Go. I started asking what else it could be. That's when I remembered that I had bumped up his Cool Calories the day before. I could be wrong, but he has proven to me that his energy level can go through the roof in just one day. On the other hand, it also comes back to normal as soon as the energy inducing edible is gone. While Cool Calories may offer "cool" energy, it's still ENERGY, something he doesn't need more of.
So far, the only fats that don't seem to spike his energy level are those in rice bran and flaxseed oil; so much for cleaner and easier to feed. I think I'll shelve this bag until winter when he really might need more energy to keep warm. And if he loses any more weight, I'll either boost his rice bran or order more flaxseed oil.
Thank goodness one of my horses is easy to feed. Where one is easy, the other is always hard. This time, the point goes to Speedy.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: