Retired Racehorse Project Showcase: Setting a Diet Plan, Part 1

Our spotlight Retired Racehorse Project trainers don’t just have training challenges to work with — they need to find the best diet for their OTTBs too! Here’s the inside (feed) scoop.

One of the most challenging obstacles when working with the off-track Thoroughbred is finding a diet that suits their needs. Current body condition and level of work are huge factors when adjusting your horse’s diet, but there are many other things to keep in mind such as hoof or gut health that can require a change in diet. Our Retired Racehorse Project trainers discuss their feeding regime for their RRP mounts this month in an attempt to help other OTTB lovers find the perfect diet for their horses.

Kallie Zeinstra – Competitive Trail, Professional

“Jacob is a very picky eater, the biggest struggle with him wasn’t finding what he should eat but convincing him to eat it!

When Kallie pulled Jacob off of the track, she knew his diet had high sugar and starch contents which led him to be in poor shape and struggling with ulcers and a poor appetite. With healthy weight gain in mind, Kallie transitioned Jacob to a high forage diet supplemented by vitamins and minerals. Each day Jacob gets nine or ten pounds of Standlee Alfalfa Pellets (it is hard for Kallie to find quality alfalfa in her area, so she purchases the pellets as a supplement to his hay source). Alfalfa, if fed over several meals, results in greater saliva production which helps neutralize stomach acid, so Kallie never lets that component slip by.

While Kallie may have opted to take her time with Jacob, it is obviously paying off. Here the pair enjoys a nice, relaxing trail ride together. Photo by Kerri Zeinstra.

One interesting source of nutrition that Kallie relies on is a half a cup of Aloe Vera juice each morning and night to help prevent ulcers. In addition to that, he also gets two and a half pounds of Max-E-Glo (a weight conditioner), HorseManna Vitality Vitamin and Mineral Supplement, SantaCruz Biotin, Clovite and Magnesium. Top all of that off with eight to ten hours of turnout paired with a salt block and ten to fifteen pounds of timothy grass in a slow feed hay net while he is up, and Jacob has a well-rounded diet.

While all of that might seem like a mouthful (no pun intended), Kallie has found that the forage-first diet has helped every horse that comes into her barn. She knows that Thoroughbreds have a hard time digesting starches and sugars, which prevents proper weight gain and results in extra energy. It took her some time to convince Jacob that this diet was for the better, but once he adjusted he has blossomed not only in his weight gain but also his overall condition and attitude.

That positive attitude change has allowed Kallie and Jacob to make great strides despite a slow and steady start. The pair have been enjoying long walks under saddle together, building up to some trot work in a way that he not only trusted himself and Kallie more but also to where he better utilized his body. While saddle fit has become a recent factor in their progress together, Kallie remains hopeful that she will find the best saddle for Jacob and they will continue to progress as a team.

Victoria Gomez – Show Jumping, Amateur

“Athena’s feeding program has definitely been one to keep us on our toes.

Petite and refined Athena has not been the easiest of keepers for Victoria. Any amount of weight loss results in her looking terribly thin and they have battled finding the right diet to help her keep weight on. Victoria started her on a senior feed, but she wasn’t taking to that plan very well. She began playing around with different ratios and finally had Athena up 150 pounds, but it is a constant battle as she has started to level out again. In an attempt to promote healthier weight gain, Victoria plans on dropping the beet pulp and alfalfa pellets and increasing Athena’s alfalfa content daily.

Currently, Athena is being fed three times a day for a total of 10 pounds daily. For breakfast and dinner, Victoria has her fed four pounds of Tribute Kalm N Ez and four flakes of grass hay. At lunch she gets two pounds of grain and two more flakes of hay. In addition to her basics, Athena also gets Cool Calories to help initiate weight gain and Smart Digest by SmartPak, with the latter making an immediate difference in the mares condition. If at any point Athena runs out of hay, she is give extra to help her keep her appetite up and keep her building weight.

Athena looks fantastic after Victoria battled some inconsistency with her weight gain. Photo by Victoria Gomez

After finally conquering the abscess that resulted in unsoundness, Athena started having slight issues with her shoes which took them back down the path of unsoundness. Victoria had bigger shoes placed on her fronts, with pads behind and she is still contemplating adding wedges up front if she still shows sign of discomfort. Between the time of her abscess healing and her growing uncomfortable with her shoes, Victoria was able to ride Athena three times and all of those times she was so very receptive. She is started to develop mentally and it is obvious to Victoria that she enjoys having a job. Thanks to her family, Victoria was able to move to where she is only ten minutes from the barn which will give her plenty more time to dote on the pretty gray mare we all love.

Katie McIntyre – Field Hunter, Amateur

“Porter is a pretty easy keeper and not too picky about food, so that definitely makes it easier!

Portly Porter’s issues are opposite of many racehorses — he came off the track in excellent condition thanks to the care of After the Races! When Katie acquired Porter, he came with an established feeding program that already included the same brand of feed that her barn uses. “While everyone has their own feed opinions and I respect them all, this is a feed that has worked for many of my OTTBs and I have been happy with it,” said Katie. Her feed of choice is high in fat, which she feels allows her to lower portions and still achieve great results. Thankfully, Porter is kept at a barn with a wonderful and knowledgeable barn manager that is happy to make adjustments to daily feeding routines depending on the time of year.

Katie’s feed of choice is Nutrena Pro Force Fuel, of which Porter gets three quarts twice a day. In addition to that, he also gets two cups of Nutrena Boost with each feeding and a variety of supplements such as a hoof supplement, a basic joint supplement and a digestive supplement. Katie is a big fan of using supplements as preventative maintenance in her feeding program. Porter also has unlimited access to grass or hay depending on if he is stalled or turned out.

Handsome Porter showing off over fences. Photo by Steven King

With all of that energy from a great feeding program, Katie has kept Porter busy this last month. They have gone off the property at least once a week, both having some fun on trail rides and attending some low level shows. Porter attended his first full event at Fair Hill and competed in the Elementary Level in early May. He is currently preparing for his second event where he will move up to Intro Level. With continuous education from Nora Battig Eventing, additional cross country schooling, and the experience from attending a combined test, Porter is getting loads of experience to better prepare him for the RRP.

Heather Louisiana – Working Ranch, Professional

“When I decided to do the TB Makeover and Henry came into my life, it was a no brainer what feed program to put him on!

Shortly after discovering a feed program she believed in, Heather become a local representative for Excel Supplements in Eastern Washington State. She spends a good deal of her free time traveling to promote the product she trusts and has truly loved watching her customers get the results they wanted. So when Henry came into her life, there was no question as to what she was going to feed him. Henry gets a mix of alfalfa and free choice hay, four pounds of LMF Gentle Balance, three ounces of ExcelEQ to boost Omega 3 levels and increase Vitamin E, and two ounces of GastroBalance Plus, another Excel Supplement that uses trace minerals and active yeast for gastrointestinal support, hydration and detoxification.

Heather loves that Excel Supplements products are all natural and GMO free, with high concentrations of Omega 2 and Natural Vitamin E. She also is grateful for Gentle Balance feeds, which was a feed company created with the needs of Northwestern horses in mind that has no grain, molasses, or added sugars. Henry has excelled on the feed plan Heather has put in place for him and she is pleased with his overall turnout. She isn’t the only one that notices, she claims that Henry gets compliments on how well he looks every time they go to events!

Henry and Heather walking past vendor row at their clinic at the Washington State Horse Park. Photo by Jessica Coronado.

Luckily, Heather is able to mix work with play and hauls Henry out to local barrel races where she can set up a table to promote Excel Supplements. While there, Henry can adjust to the commotion and riding around other horses. On a whim, Heather took Henry to their local race track for a nice relaxed walk. She could tell he felt at home, but stayed calm and relaxed, enjoying a walk on a loose rein. Recently, Heather took Henry to an expo at the Washington State Horse Park, not only to set up her vendor booth, but to also ride Henry in a beginning Ranch Riding clinic with Sue Sultze. At first he was nervous with the loud speakers and the crowd, but he soon settled down and worked really well. While there, Heather was able to promote the versatility of the OTTB and promoted the retraining of the racehorse!

Amy Lent – Freestyle, Professional

“With a lot of thought this month, I have decided to pull Azumi from the Makeover as she is not handling the stress of training.

Amy recently faced a big challenge that many trainers deal with when working towards the RRP. Azumi was unfortunately not adjusting to the pressures of training and was developing ulcers and losing weight. She began to crib more than normal and despite having acupuncture to alleviate her sore back, Amy made the decision to hold off on her training this year and let Azumi adjust herself. At this point, Amy is still making her final decisions as to who in her string to select for the RRP, but she is leaning towards a four year old bay filly by Ghostzapper named Edeline. Amy describes Edeline as very laid back, but a bit stubborn. After properly rehabbing from a slab fracture, she has been working well in the lines and through obstacles. Her only catch is that if she doesn’t want to do it, she won’t move. Amy hopes to keep working with her in hopes of taking her to the Makeover this year.

Amy introducing Edeline, her potential new RRP mount, to the cart. Photo by Elaine Eddy

On the recommendation of her veterinarian (who boards at her barn — how lucky is that to have a vet on site 24/7?), Amy switched all of her horses to Crypto Aero Feed. She was struggling with keeping weight on some of her mares and with Azumi’s ulcers, but the company was very friendly and had great suggestions to keep her horses happy and healthy. Most of her horses are getting two pounds a day, but she does supplement that with half a cup of rice bran oil, half a cup ground flax, and half a cup of aloe juice each feeding for weight gain and ulcers as needed.

In addition to all of those goodies, Amy gives MSM to any of her rehab projects or horses who are in steady work. After feeding Azumi this concoction, Amy started seeing results after two weeks. She is so pleased to see all of her horses doing so well with very little grain. While she admits it isn’t the cheapest program, she wholeheartedly believes you get what you pay for and is proud that it is a whole food.

Diet is one of those great debates amongst equestrians, but it all boils down to finding the right feeding program that works for your OTTB. There are no cookie-cutter horses and each one may need something done a little differently to give them the source of nutrition they require. Check back in on June the 23rd to see how our second group of featured trainers have structured their dietary plan for their RRP Mounts.

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