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Discussion on Can hay belly cause ribby look?

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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1244
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 10:03 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Can a hay belly actually stretch the flesh over the ribs so that they stand out, i.e. can the subcutaneous fat be spread so thinly over a large area that it doesn't cover the ribs any more?

My horse, who gets abundant nice-looking grass hay (along with a very small amount of soaked whole oats, a high-fiber low-carb mix, Farriers Formula, Pernamax and electrolytes), is looking very ribby. My vet says it's because she's 25 years old, and he doesn't want me to increase her feed and thus her weight because of her arthritic knees. It's true that she hasn't had any arthritic episodes for a long time with this skinny look - but I do feel there's a limit to how thin she should be. If her ribs show only because of the hay belly I would be more inclined to accept his "thin is better" viewpoint.
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Shannon
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 670
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 11:11 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I don't know the answer but we also have an older (23) mare that gets a hay belly plus ribs in the winter so I will be interested to hear others' opinions. Ours also loses her topline. She gets good quality grass hay and not much concentrate.

When it happens I usually up her hard feed to include a couple pounds of soaked alfalfa pellets, a little beet pulp and 4oz corn oil daily. Then by the spring her ribs have filled in and her topline comes back and she maintains with just grass hay and grazing till November/December of the next year when she starts to get hay belly and ribby again.

I have wondered if because she's older she's not digesting the hay as well? I just ordered some Diamond V yeast to top dress her rations to see if that helps.
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Natalya M.
Member
Username: natalya

Post Number: 11
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 11:19 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

don't know if hay belly can cause ribs shown ether, but we had 25 year old QH he is around 32 now and still kicking, he always had hay belly and very pronounce weather along with the ribs, no parasites problem, no problems with health at all, shiny coat, good appetite, took third place at Junior rodeo at age 25. Don't think its should be an issue, I think its depend on conformation of each horse individually, I have some old horses with no hay belly. See what others think about it. Wish I can put his picture, can't figure out how.
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LiloB
Member
Username: lilo

Post Number: 1827
Registered: 4-2000
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 11:20 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

My mare, Moonlight (26), had been ribby for quite some time, with all the hay she could eat and about 2 lbs of Purina Senior per day. No hay belly, but really looking underfed, and losing her topline.

This winter she is doing better. The changes - orchard/brome mix as hay instead of Timothy, the Senior upped to 3 lbs a day (using the new Senior Active), and lately replacing 2 lbs of her hay with Chaffhaye (alfalfa). I think she is both IR and Cushings, but has not been tested for either condition.

Lilo
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Andrea Duncan
Member
Username: babychop

Post Number: 236
Registered: 5-2008
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 11:49 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I read somewhere that as horses age they lose muscle (and the cushy bits) along the topline, I have an 18 yo mare that I was having a hard time keeping weight on. I checked her for sand and ran some psyllium through her, started her on yeast based hind gut supplements along with small amounts of good quality grain and 4 flakes a day of good quality hay a day + pasture time when the grass was up. She went from quite skinny to an easy keeper. Here she is now, granted she's about a month from foaling, but you can see she's nice & shiny and healthy (and she'd just had a roll in dirt). I'm a believer in the yeast basted supplements but there are some that aren't. Just my humble opinion. I feed Forco, it's less expensive than most, Succeed is one of the best I've found but it's very expensive.

My 18yo mare
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Natalya M.
Member
Username: natalya

Post Number: 12
Registered: 11-2011
Posted on Friday, Feb 24, 2012 - 11:51 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I love Purina senior, do wonders on my horses, I feed it to all my horses even younger ones. I like Purina senior active better, less sugar. It dose put some meat on a ribs. Maybe couse help to digest better?
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1245
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Saturday, Feb 25, 2012 - 10:21 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Many thanks for the helpful replies. It's reassuring to hear that quite a few of you have horses who get ribby in winter.

DrO commented recently in someone's thread that a horse which lacks sufficient protein in its diet will look like a horse which is overall underfed. This makes me wonder whether the grass hay is low in protein - except that, as she has about 10 flakes a day, in total there should be a fair amount of protein even so.

what do you think of the vet's insistence that I leave her skinny for the sake of her joints? I feel that while of course she shouldn't be overweight, there's no need for her to be actually underweight ... is there? Personally I would like to bump up her weight a little, as most of you have done, but he seems determined that I shouldn't.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26199
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Saturday, Feb 25, 2012 - 6:34 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hello All,
A ribby look and a hay belly reflect two different aspects of a horses condition and may or may not be related. First the idea that a hay belly might stretch the skin over the ribs is not factual. A horse that is ribby reflects the amount of body fat the horse has. A horse with a hay belly reflects a horse receiving a high forage diet resulting in an enlarged abdomen to accomodate the larger bowel that in turn accomodates the increased forage.

A horse, that is healthy otherwise, that is both ribby and has a hay belly is most likely receiving large amounts of forage that is not quite meeting caloric and/or protein needs of the horse.
DrO
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1246
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 - 10:16 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks DrO for the clarification. And .... in the interests of protecting arthritic joints in an older horse, do you sometimes recommend the horse be kept at below ideal weight, or would you always suggest that any caloric or protein deficit be filled? What's the priority? (I suppose you can't really answer that, and it has to be judged case by case, but I'm running it by you anyway!)
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Laurie Sweeney
Member
Username: lsweeney

Post Number: 296
Registered: 8-2004
Posted on Sunday, Feb 26, 2012 - 6:50 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

I have an older ribby horse, who also has a founder history. I try to balance higher calorie food against her founder tendency. She probably also benefits by being lighter on her feet. So I just take it day by day. She is getting supplemented with Senior Feed plus good quality hay. Her ribs show, but I don't think there is any amount of feed that I could give her that would prevent that because of the way her weight is "hanging" on her. I think it is a natural part of the aging process and her IR condition, that she will be bony looking in some spots with fat pockets elsewhere.
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1248
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2012 - 4:43 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Thanks Laura. I agree that it's pretty much a balancing act. Mine doesn't have fat pockets, she's just bony, and my vet would agree with you that it's part of the ageing process.
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Shannon
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 671
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Monday, Feb 27, 2012 - 10:34 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Frances it might help you make this call if you ignore the hay belly and rate your horse's overall body condition score aside from the belly. Then you can determine what overall score you're looking to achieve and try to reach that.

We have a horse in our barn who is a little arthritic and we keep him at around a 4.5 and he does well. I like to keep the rest of them at about a 5.5, so he is a little lighter than I like to see but he is not boney by any means. I think what benefits his arthritis more than anything is getting as much turnout as possible.
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1249
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, Feb 28, 2012 - 7:10 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Yes I'll try that Shannon. I've read that you should score the different areas of the body separately and then find the average, and this might be the best idea for my horse, whose shoulders and neck seem pretty much as they should be, but tailhead, withers and ribs have little covering. Hips not bad but could do with more cover too. It was snowing today so I'll wait till it warms up a bit and then get my hands on her!
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26206
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Wednesday, Feb 29, 2012 - 8:20 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Better would be to think of a little on the thin side as the ideal for a horse with chronic lameness problems.
DrO
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Shannon
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 673
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Thursday, Mar 1, 2012 - 12:11 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

DrO what BCS equals a little on the thin side? And should one count the hay belly when calculating BCS? The Henneke scale guidelines that I have seen don't include the size of the belly in the parts of the body to score.
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Lee
Member
Username: paul303

Post Number: 1581
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Thursday, Mar 1, 2012 - 1:17 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Dont forget to consider the Cushings issue at 25 years old. My 24 yr. old QH mare had a prominent backbone, ribs and hips before her diagnosis. Her belly was fine and plump. Cushings can involve muscle loss. It's seen a lot around the spine and just accentuates the belly,
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1252
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, Mar 2, 2012 - 8:44 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Hmm, yes, I hadn't considered Cushings for her.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26210
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Friday, Mar 2, 2012 - 7:16 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Lets say a 4.5 to 5 and the standards for judging BCS do not include the girth of the belly.
DrO
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1255
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Thursday, Mar 8, 2012 - 1:16 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

I think mine is around 3.5 - 4. I'm going to try feeding her a flake of alfalfa hay a day with her grass hay - starting with even less than a flake as she hasn't had it for a few years.

The problem actually turns out to be wider: all the horses in the barn have lost weight this winter, young and old, on full diets or restricted ones. We did a fecal egg count which showed no eggs at all in any of the horses tested (is this possible?). Of course the FEC doesn't cover tapeworm, but they were wormed with praziquantel last October. The only horse which hasn't dropped weight is an old guy who gets only bagged haylage as he has respiratory problems, which makes us feel it must be the grass hay. It looks absolutely beautiful, but I guess could still be lacking protein? The barn managers are very concerned and we're all racking our brains to find an answer.

Perhaps this last paragraph should be a separate thread?
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26216
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Thursday, Mar 8, 2012 - 5:34 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

There is nothing to rack your head about here. The horses simply need either more and/or better quality groceries. Winter time weight loss is a very common event that is almost always due to not making up for the decrease in nutrients (protein, energy, or both) on pasture that has gone dormant.
DrO
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1256
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Friday, Mar 9, 2012 - 3:15 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

We don't have pasture for them here, so their nutrient intake hasn't changed; it's been a cold winter, but they're rugged up well to compensate.

Also they seem to be exceptionally fresh and excitable these days - strange if they're not getting enough groceries. So maybe that does point to lack of protein rather than calories. We're ordering alfalfa hay.
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26218
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 14, 2012 - 6:56 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

No that is not exactly true LL, hay and all feed stuffs loose nutrients as it is stored. Usable protein and to a lesser extent energy have a fairly rapid drop off the first few months so winter hay is not as nutritious as what was fed during the summer and fall. The effect is certainly less than what would happen on pasture however.
DrO
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Shannon
Member
Username: stek

Post Number: 676
Registered: 10-2008
Posted on Wednesday, Mar 14, 2012 - 4:47 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Interesting Dr O. I have read that stored hay can lose vitamin content from exposure to sunlight but not that it loses protein and energy content if well stored. Where does the protein/energy go?
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26223
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Thursday, Mar 15, 2012 - 7:54 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

LL protein and the energy components are chemicals, like all chemicals they degrade over time. Some of this is simple chemical reactions with the oxygen in the air and the water causing oxidation. But in the complexities of the chemical milieu that makes up the hay I am sure there are other chemical reactions going on. Secondarily there are microbes that want to use these nutrient sources that increase the rate of breakdown.

Consider any foodstuff in your house and what happens to it over time. With well made hay the same processes are going on but the low moisture content just slows it down.
DrO
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LL
Member
Username: frances

Post Number: 1266
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 9:09 am:   Edit PostPrint Post

Well, I'm happy to report that my horse's ribs are now well-covered (can be felt but not seen) and she's looking shiny and like her old self.

We've been giving a grass hay/alfalfa mix for a month or so - in fact what we have at present looks like mostly alfalfa - and I hand-graze her for about 30 minutes a day on the wild spring grasses, although they won't last much longer.

It seems the whole oats being supplied over the winter had gone down in quality too, so we have changed suppliers and now have good, clean, dense ones, though she only has half a scoop morning and evening.

Personally, I don't think she needs to go back to the hat rack look to stay sound ... so here's hoping!
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Robert N. Oglesby DVM
Moderator
Username: dro

Post Number: 26275
Registered: 1-1997
Posted on Tuesday, May 8, 2012 - 7:26 pm:   Edit PostPrint Post

Delighted to hear things are back on track.
DrO
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