I need the collective COTH wisdom and experience to help me sort out a problem. Oh, and settle in… this is a long one.
I have 3 horses. Two are 29 & 30 years old, both quarter horse mares, holding their own. They’re at a good weight, they still have good teeth, and they do very well on a good senior feed and lots of hay. They would do especially well on free choice hay, but that’s not really possible due to horse #3 who is a lami-prone connemara pony with insulin resistance. She should ideally have no more than about 15 lbs of hay per day.
Here are my challenges: Our set up is not good for “separating” horses (it’s a shedrow type barn, with stalls opening into the paddock, and all horses currently come and go as they please. The only time we close the stall doors is at grain time, so the pony won’t steal the old girls’ grain. We’re set up this way specifically because the lami-prone pony is also ulcer-prone, and does best with a) absolutely as much turnout as possible and b) a “herd” situation, albeit a small herd of 3 in this case. One of the older mares also gets very stressed when either closed in or out of her stall, so it’s best for everyone emotionally to be able to come and go.
This causes issues with hay intake. In the beginning (up until the pony foundered last year), all 3 had access to free choice hay (which of course made the pony obese because she is not able to self-regulate, even after 3 years of being on free choice). After the pony foundered, I switched to feeding everyone in slow feed haynets (again, because of our set up, what we do for one we must do for all) with about 45 lbs of hay per day (split up into 4 feedings to try to keep them from having more than 4 hours at a time without hay). I supplemented the old girls with beet pulp and extra grain and they seemed to hold their weight fairly well although both are now on the leaner side of where I’d like to see them, and the pony is still overweight.
After 6 months on levothyroxine to try to kickstart some weight loss, the pony has lost about 100 lbs (with 100 more to go). However she lost the majority of that within the first 3 months, and hasn’t really lost anything since. She’s had active laminitis twice in the last year, so she is not yet able to be ridden although when she’s sound I try to get her out for 30 minutes or so of hand walking daily. But we just can’t get that weight to come off, and her insulin numbers are not coming down either. She is still on the levothyroxine, at the highest dose my vet is comfortable with.
Ideally, she should be getting 15 lbs of hay per day measured and soaked (our hay is under that magical 10% for sugars & starch, but my vet still believes that soaking will help from a calorie perspective). This brings me to the next set of challenges:
The only way to give only the pony soaked hay would be to separate them for all feedings. This means either actually running a fence down the middle of the paddock (which again I am loathe to do because the three of them do so much better when not separated), or having them eat all hay in their stalls, which means going longer between hay feedings. We could feed all of them soaked hay, but we did try that in the past and the two oldies lost weight quickly on soaked hay (obviously).
The next challenge (I know - this is getting out of hand) is that our property has one well, which is a hundred years old and 17 feet deep. So to soak enough hay for all three horses runs our well dry, so we end up having to have water brought in which is hella expensive, and also really unrealistic in winter as the well could literally be under a foot of snow.
See where I’m going here? The only way I can see to get weight off this pony is to soak her hay, and the only way to do that in a reasonable manner is to do the one thing that I really, really, really don’t want to do, which is to separate the horses.
Are any of you able to give me some ideas as to how to make this all work? I’d really, really appreciate it.