Lawd he chonky

By far the best thing about our new living situation is being able to have 100% control over my horses’ care. I was a boarder for 20 years, and while there is a lot to be said for the relative ease of it, nothing holds a candle to having your horses in your backyard and being able to customize their care however you please. Knock on wood, both boys are thriving. Henry in particular.

ok aside from his ranch horse mane

He’s always been a difficult horse to manage in the winter. He loses weight, he gets ulcery, and the past few years he’s even been prone to little colic episodes. I’ve always thought that it had to do with a few things: 1) the pasture not being as good in the winter. Most places he’s lived didn’t have the best grass at any time, but especially not in the winter. 2) increased stall time. Pasture board has not been an option for him, and the soil in this part of the country can be particularly awful when it’s wet. Like… extremely slippery, suck the shoes right off of their feet type mud, and pastures destroyed very easily by turning horses out on them when they’re wet. So winter has inevitably meant that there may be times when he had to stay in for days at a time, and none of his stalls had runs, so he wasn’t able to move around much. I’d go hand walk him, but that’s definitely not the same. 3) not enough forage. Most boarding barns won’t feed more than 2 flakes per meal, which I get, hay is expensive here. But that’s just not enough, especially if the pasture isn’t good, and extra-especially if they’re going to be inside for long stretches. Throwing them 2 flakes of hay at 5pm means they’re out by 8, which usually meant they’d be standing for the next 10-12 hours with nothing.

I tried a lot of things to get around this. I bought extra hay and stuffed slow feed nets. I fed supplements. I tried different feed. I treated him for ulcers. I sweet-talked the barn help to come back down and throw him more hay, and asked them to give him a flake of alfalfa in the morning before he got his grain, and also would they mind turning him out in the all-weather arena for a few minutes if the pastures were too wet (thank god for that particular barnworker, he put up with a lot from me). Often boarding means that you try to make the best you can of the situation you’ve got. Still, though… problems persisted every winter.

“at least there weren’t demon balls at the boarding barn” – Henry, probably

Having complete control over everything this winter, and a facility that’s a bit more horse-friendly, has made all the difference in the world. First of all, the winter pasture here is quite good. Henry’s especially, because he’s out by himself and there’s more grass in his spaces than one horse can eat. Second, the soil in this particular sliver of the area is very sandy, which means it’s basically never muddy, and even when it is, it’s not slick. It can take an amazing amount of water and still be totally perfect for turnout, so he’s not stuck inside unless it’s actively deathstorming. Third, they’re not stalled as much. They’re turned out by 5:30am and I’m bringing them in around 6pm, plus they have runs off their stalls, so they’re still able to move around quite a bit even when they’re “in”. No more standing in a 12 x 12 for 14+ hour stretches. Lastly, I control how much hay he gets and when. He gets a flake of alfalfa and a flake of coastal with dinner, then at night check I give them more coastal. He likes to spend a few hours every night standing in his run staring into the woods, and he takes one good long sleep inside in his shavings, so usually he’s still got a teeny bit of hay leftover by breakfast. Never an empty stomach.

This pasture though.

All of those things combined have led to a chonkier, happier, healthier winter Henry than I’ve ever had before. No signs of ulcers whatsoever this year, and I’ve even been able to cut his grain way back. He’s eating less than half the amount he was before. He’s shiny, he feels looser in his body, and most of all he just seems happy. I’m able to ride him super consistently since the footing is so good, and he seems relaxed in this quieter environment (except for that cursed ball, of course).

I think it probably also helps that so far we’ve had a relatively mild winter, although Texas is apparently planning on getting white girl wasted tomorrow. Still though, the cold snaps haven’t lasted very long.

Presto is in the middle of some particularly interesting growth spurts, so while he doesn’t look quite as good (unless you’re really into llamas) he’s got more room to run and play than he’s ever had, and plenty of grass and hay to eat, so he’s healthy and happy too. Knock on more wood, of course. Because horses.

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14 thoughts on “Lawd he chonky

  1. …if only that ball wasn’t there…Henny’s life would be perfect.
    I love that he’s spending time gazing into the woods every night. Henry, the philosopher.
    It’s too bad that so many barns don’t feed enough hay, I get that hay isn’t cheap but vet visits and colic surgery aren’t either…


  2. the turnout/hay thing is so real. While my current barn doesn’t have much at all in the way of amenities, the horses are out unless it’s deathstorming (as you put it). Even when it’s freezing they are out with a ton of hay. It really makes a huge difference for their guts. Being inside for 14+ hours with no hay is going to be a disaster.


  3. I feel like it’s hard to get most boarding barns, everywhere, to feed “extra” hay without being charged for it. (Same with shavings, if I’m being honest. As a former owner of a mare who emptied 2 water buckets several times a day, I regularly got charged extra for shavings…IMO, if she’d had more hay or more turnout, she might have gone through less water and had a drier stall! End tangent :-P) I am also a big fan of them having constant access to hay if grass isn’t available, but it was definitely tricky boarding. When Promise was on stall rest, I actually ended up purchasing a round bale from the barn to put in her run, because it was WAY cheaper than keeping the desired volume of hay I wanted her eating in square bales!


    1. I get that hay is expensive, so I just bought my own as “extra” and kept it in my trailer. Still though. I think it’s especially challenging at barns with mostly QH’s and drafts, because feeding those horses is nothing like feeding a competition TB and they don’t have experience with that.


      1. That’s very true, too. Promise was a Hanoverian/TB cross and in size/weight alone required a lot more hay than most QHs probably do! I did often buy or pay for extra hay, as well, but IMO, it still was often fed too sparingly.


  4. I can’t stand reading that OTTB group on FB because every other post is someone going “why can’t I put weight on my horse??!” That person inevitably then describes how their horse gets, like, 3 flakes of forage daily. And I’m over here banging my head against my computer screen screaming FEED MORE HAY OMG. It’s amazing how “easy” the fix is, but how hard it is to actually achieve. Good pasture is basically irreplaceable in my mind. I can’t imagine how much it must cost to try to replicate with hay in places with sub par pasture access. 🙈


    1. I had Henry at a barn once (briefly) years ago that insisted that more hay didn’t put weight on a horse, more grain did. They offered to feed as much grain as I wanted, but wouldn’t give him more than four flakes of hay a day. And they had NO grass. Henry was basically emaciated in no time flat, I had to jet from that place. Too bad, because the facilities were great.


  5. It’s so much easier when you get to control everything! I will say, I maybe complain a bit about the boarding barn, but they’re VERY generous with hay. Unfortunately, both Eros and Shiny are the easiest keepers on the planet, and we just can’t feed them very much. They both look ready to explode as I type this…
    Henry looks amazing. Nice quarter horse you have there 😉


  6. What a nice chonky boi he is right now! I love it! Yeah, someone should write a book: Forage: the overlooked source for putting weight on a horse. Or maybe: Forage: Horses love it!
    I boarded at a place that prided themselves on feeding round bales so the horses had enough hay. The only catch was they would wait 3-4 days after they finished a round bale before putting a new one in each paddock. Err…doesn’t that defeat the purpose? One horse would escape the paddock like clockwork as soon as a bale was done, looking for food. They asked the girl to leave because her horse was “bad”, when really he was just starving. I started looking for a new place as soon as I saw that…sheesh.


  7. MOAR HAY ALWAYS! 🙂 I get it is expensive but a lot of grain is pricey now so really more hay is the better (and healthier)choice. *unless the horse is older and can’t eat regular hay, they have some oldies at the barn and they supplement with cubes and pellets soaked)….*

    I was worried at the boarding barn Remus (due to them trying to make him lose some weight) they would starve him forage wise. He has hay in his paddock (Round bale all day yes as long as it is not raining then he is in) But they feed him a couple flakes if he is in then more at lunch and then more at dinner. So he mostly has some hay in front of him most of the day if he is in. I told them NOT to ever cut his hay but he is getting a small handful of grain and I am fine with that. I said if he starts losing weight we can up his hay or even get him a bit of alfalfa but NO MORE GRAIN.

    I liked when I had him outside my door but am glad I am not buying hay anymore. The barn has some excellent grass hay and they pay dearly for it (Both squares and rounds) But they have clean good hay that Remus eats (SO PICKY at home LOL) and I appreciate the forage choices.

    They even put Remus in some stalls if a horse doesn;t eat all his hay> Remus has the nickname Hoover there now. I love it…MOAR HAY 🙂

    hahahah And one of the horses at the barn has that ball. UGH Remus hates it. I think presto is more active than Smooch playing with it. Remus takes Henry’s side on this. GO AWAY BALL. 🙂

    Glad Henry is doing so well. And Presto will be 17.2 mark my words 🙂


  8. I ride a Paint who’s an air fern. He’d LOOOOOOOVE to eat hay all day long, but dude would be a tub o’ lard in nothing flat. Luckily he isn’t ulcery, colicky, a stall-walker or a cribber *KNOCK ON WOOD,* or I’d worry about him because he does spend a lot of time in his stall. That said, I’ve decided to give him a little hay after i ride him (twice a week), just because it makes him so happy. 🙂 I figure if I scoop up some of the leavings in the bottom of the wheelbarrow nobody will care!

    Great to see your QH wanna-be doing so well but good grief, I think *I* could gain weight on that gorgeous pasture. Your horses are living in paradise right now with their ever-diligent mom watching over them!


  9. I was a LOUSY boarder. My barn name (and the business name too) came from my problems in finding a boarding barn that would tolerate me. Why was I so difficult? I wanted horses to have water, hay, and enough shavings. 🤷🏼‍♀️ One place changed its policies because I fed too much hay, and wanted the waterers not cleaned with strawberry chemical “scented” hand sanitizer (yeah, that led to a colic bill), and wanted shavings in stalls. I was banned when 7 additional horses left to go where I went. Sigh. And then we had to leave the next place because we wanted blankets pulled in the morning, and shavings in stalls. When I said “but I told you that was crucial?” They said “yeah, I know. We agreed to it, but now we changed our minds.” Um, what?
    I felt bad about being a group of losers (still had that group of 7 horses traveling with me — and one of them said “hey, we aren’t losers, we just have Higher Standards.” 🙂 And now I have both a farm name, and a saddle soap business with that name. . I guess we made lemonade after all!
    But, after the second situation, I have rented facilities, and then had them at home ever since. Mine look like wild creatures, and live outside 24/7 but I feed what I want, when I want. Well, mostly. My DH is trying to help my mare slim up and we are going back and forth about how much coastal she should get. But basically being in control of it is the best.
    I have a friend right now that is dealing with a new barn, where she was very clear about what allergies her mare has, and that she could only have Orchard grass hay. Barn owner readily agreed — first week? Mare has a runny nose and is being fed alfalfa. Which she has tested allergic to — and which was made clear at the outset. And after the owner complained about the wrong hay, her mare stood in a stall with no hay instead.
    I don’t get it. But, then, during the time I ran a barn, I barely broke even, and only did that by not charging for any labor and just splitting expenses. On the up side, I’ve had people walk up to me and say things like “if anything ever happened to me, I hope someone like you gets my horses.”
    Didn’t know what to say to that! I mean, this isn’t hard. Feed good forage, make sure they drink enough water, and try to keep them from killing themselves . . .


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