Feeding the Horsemen's Re-Union Colts

The 2014 Horsemen’s Re-Union event in Paso Robles gave horse enthusiasts an opportunity to watch some of the world’s best horsemen and horsewomen take a two year old and a three year old horse from the halter to a comfortable start under saddle in six days. It never ceases to amaze me how comfortable these young horses can be with a human on their back when it is presented to them in the proper way.

The producers of the event, Rowly and Cathie Twisselman, asked us to provide a feeding program that would assure that the young horses involved were in the best possible physical and mental condition. There is a lot to consider when a program like this is planned.

Two and three year old horses grow at a very rapid rate with very specific needs when compared to mature horses. Where protein requirements in mature horses moderate once they have reached the majority of their growth, younger growing horses require a more complicated diet to reach their structural genetic potential. Added to the specific needs of these young growing horses was the fact that the majority of these colts were turned out in several large groups. This made supplementing them a challenge.

The first step in this project was to provide additional protein and fat to the colts’ diet without having someone there every day to do so. To accomplish this, we developed a Renew Gold™ based turn out tub that could be placed in the areas where these horses were held. These tubs held 125 pounds of supplement that was specially formulated to support the hay being fed and the limited natural feed growth that the severe California drought conditions allowed. One tub per five head of horses allowed each to get their share. Consumption rate was a little over one pound per head per day. This gave the colts the added protein and fat support that their growing bodies needed, and gave the horses a head start toward ideal body condition before they were brought closer into the ranch headquarters where they would be switched to a regular daily Renew Gold diet prior to the event.

Once the colts were located in a place where they could be directly tended to every day, they received a mixed hay that consisted of approximately 60% grass and 40% medium quality alfalfa. This basic forage, when allowed to be digested properly forms a safe base of nutrition for the colts. Adding Renew Gold at about one pound per day along with this hay assures effective digestive efficiency. This in turn produces a horse that is in proper flesh with the basic health and strength necessary  to go to the Horseman’s Re Union and properly cope with the stress involved in the event. While ideal body condition may seem like the ultimate goal of the feeding program for these colts, it is important to understand that there is much more to this than that.

The Horseman’s Re-Union event creates a new stress level on the horses involved that they have not experienced before. This is the first “trip to town” for these horses. Gone are the unrestricted spaces and security of interaction with the rest of the herd. Gone, in fact is the herd. Now they are in smaller groups, in a smaller area. In addition there are crowds, noise, and traffic. Not to mention the much more intense interaction with a person who intends to end up on their back. All things considered, this is a lot of new and unique stress that they have not had to cope with before. The pressure from the horsemen involved is offered in the very best way possible. Remember, these people are some of the best in the world. Even so, the more we can do to keep the horse from being mentally troubled the better. This is where Renew Gold is truly worth its weight in gold.

In what most people would consider a conventional grain based feed supplemented program, the amount of starches and sugars contributed can lead to seriously elevated blood sugar spikes in addition to a loss of hind gut efficiency. This in turn can make a young, untrained colt more than a handful to deal with. The more “sugar attitude” that the horseman has to work through to get to a willing mind, the more stress is placed on the horse. Avoiding this circumstance pays huge dividends to both the horse and its’ new rider from both a health and safety standpoint. Using a smaller feed rate of Renew Gold, in place of conventional feeds, avoids the blood sugar spike and the corresponding attitude that comes with it. A naturally calmer, quieter horses that still has the physical energy to remain fit and healthy means that more is accomplished per work session, with less effort and stress. This was the goal of all involved in this amazing event. The end result spoke for itself. By the fifth day the colts, that just days before were only halter broke, were comfortably under saddle, tracking cows, tolerating a rope being swung, and loading in a trailer. Would the same result have been reached with a feeding program that included conventional grain based feeds? I would argue not, and so would the horsemen involved.