A Digestion Question

Zanhar has asked me to pose a question on the blog in hopes of gaining some insight.

Hello Mercedes – I have a question I’d like to throw out to your readers, especially since there are some Morgan boosters out there.  A few months ago I took on a boarder (my dear Harry died at the ripe old age of 38).  This is a 22 year old Morgan gelding, bursting with personality and always on the go (I can see why people like these horses!) but unfortunately his owner is a newbie and hasn’t been terribly helpful in sorting out this problem.  The horse is in excellent health – a bit overweight actually and I am trying to ease that back.  He gets hay, pasture and supplements including pro-biotics and virtually no grain – in fact I’ve stopped the 1 pound a day he was getting.  He is really gassy, long noisy farts all the time.  He’s constantly hungry – it’s hard getting him to diet so I feed him multiple small meals.  He produces a phenomenal amount of manure – 15 piles to six from my thoroughbred who is 16.1h and this little guy is 14.0h.  His manure is totally normal in color and consistency.  He isn’t colicky and does not seem in any kind of discomfort.

 Any ideas?  Are Morgans prone to this? Is it indicative of something or just a benign peculiarity?

I’d really be interested in what anyone can offer.


19 thoughts on “A Digestion Question

  1. You say he’s overweight. I’m wondering just how overweight.. In my experience horses with IR tend to have that appetite, they aren’t content unless there is food going down. But I also think about IR constantly as that’s what I’ve been dealing with lately. My horse with it is just back to work this year, he’s a good weight and sound. I’ve found that appetite has disappeared. He eats when he’s hungry and leaves food when he’s full now. My vet feels like IR and gut issues are fairly common, my gelding’s been gassy with loose stool. She has him on Succeed right now. Good luck! I hope you get to the bottom of it!

    • I find the IR comments really interesting – over this summer I’ve had cause to wonder if my cob girl is borderline IR. She has been putting weight on in pasture that the others were loosing weight, she alwasy puts weight on on her crest (and it’s the last place to loose it). We’ve managed to get her down to a decent weight apart from her crest with very restricted pasture and soaked hay when she’s in during the day but she has the most voracious appetite I’ve ever come across!! It would make sense that they are linked.
      A couple of years ago when she was in foal and lactating has been the only time I’ve been able to give her enough hay to last the night and she was going through 1 1/2 – 2 large square bale slices a night (about 15kg easy as she would normally get about 1/4 a slice which weighs in around 3-4 kg and topped up with some straw to munch on as I hate them standing with nothing to eat)

  2. “Bottom of it”. 🙂 Gassy and fat Morgan. Keeping weight off these guys can be a problem. Sounds like IR, but you might try cutting out the pro-biotic to reduce the gas (never heard of this problem before!) Your care sounds very good, but you might want to worm him. Put him on the poorest pasture you have and feed him coarse hay and maybe just a cup of grain a day (if you don’t give him a little grain and he sees the others get some, he will resent it, and you) and you may be able to drop the weight down a bit. Many small meals throughout the day is a good idea. As far as the massive manure production, it has to be coming from somewhere. (Although as I clean behind 8 Morgans, I sometimes wonder if they have overcome the law of entropy and are somehow making this stuff from nothing). Still, having 12 or so piles in a 24 hour period is not unusual. They are efficient little machines and as a result, seldom colic.

    • Agreeing here that a dozen manure piles (that’s one every two hours) is quite normal ‘production’ for a horse. In fact, I’d rather see a dozen then half a dozen piles.

  3. That was my thought, Mercedes. I think I would worry more about the thoroughbred NOT having more bowel movements. It sounds like his digestive system is running just fine, and the probiotic (although helpful where there are digestive problems), may instead be kicking the system into overdrive.

  4. Also look at balances of nutrients in the grass and hay. Too much calcium can make IR worse. Supplementing with magnesium can help get the balance back. Some grasses, hays, and grains are very high in calcium. Magnesium chloride is supposedly best absorbed and is available online. You can use epsom salts, but that isn’t absorbed as well.

  5. Another factor to consider is the size of each individual ball of manure. I have horses that make significantly different balls from walnut to golf ball sized. I was taught that the larger the balls, the less chance of colic. Narrow intenstines will all the turns to and for are idea places for blockage to occur.

  6. one more thought, ulcers are common in horses, often undiagnosed and he may eat a lot to keep the acid down. Just something else to think about.

  7. My morgan gelding farts like no other. All the darn time! He is just slightly over weight right now, but not awful. He has however, always, and I mean always, farted. I always thought it was just a healthy digestive system? He has only been colicky once since I’ve had him, but we had some weird ass weather and I think that just really threw him for a loop. Went from 25 degrees, to 50/60’s and back to freezing.

  8. All good thoughts. I believe he IS developing IR, having had a horse with this before. He has three risk factors (age breed and sex) he is cresty, has fat around the eyes and the last of his winter hair (just whisps) didn’t shed until July. He isn’t massively overweight but could easily drop 50 pounds. The owner does not want to know. His manure piles are good size and the ‘balls’ quite normal. Re the thoroughbred – the six piles are overnight – about 8 hours so he is fine I think. It’s the 15 in the same time period that amazes me! That’s more than one per hour. I had not heard about increased appetite with IR but that does make sense – diabetics are always hungry too. Also the probiotic – it seems like a good idea re the gas but worth the thought that it might be worth cutting out. I just brought in my hay and this year I bought first cut for this guy because it’s higher in lignin and hopefully will fill him up better. The trade off is that it’s higher in WSCs and if he’s IR that’s not good.
    The pasture has been totally burned off for the last six weeks so I actually put hay out for them as well. I worry about what will happen when it greens up though – I see a grazing muzzle on the horizon if I can convince his mommy that it isn’t cruel. When I feed the TB who is a really hard keeper and gets a bucket of stuff (not all grain!) I have been giving this fellow a combo of beet pulp (1/2 cup) and about six alfalfa cubes soaked. Makes him happy. The alfalfa is because of the calcium. It’s one of the things that helps the TB maintain a happy digestion.
    Thanks to everyone – this gives me good places to go to.

  9. Forgot to add – he is on a worming program and was just done this last month. I will be doing a fecal on them both some time this month

  10. Just wondering where abouts you are? I’m in Northern BC, lots of clay the soil is very alkaline. It’s not unusual to see 30% NSC with under 1% protein and as jrga pointed out not enough calcium either. I have to find an alfalfa mix hay up here or there’s literally nothing but sugar and starch in it. I’ve fortunately found a farmer close that can grow it, his fields border a river and it grows.

    In my experience beet pulp is gassy too. I had an old Cushings pony, very picky eater.. Little bugger would turn his nose up at anything but beet pulp. He was so gassy, and prone to gas colic as well. If I had to seperate him from the herd any length of time (more than a day or two) he’d stand around and build up gas. Took me a few times to figure out what was setting off the colic episodes.

    • I am in southern BC – on the Island. Our hay is good, depending on area and I generally get orchard grass or orchard-fescue mix. The major problem is Selenium deficiency – there is virtually zero in the soil and likewise the hay so supplementing is necessary. Have to be careful of the farms who grow for cattle (mostly dairy) as they have really high Sugars and protein. Some people do use it but soak it well to remove the sugars.

  11. No selenium here either, I had to do selenium injections at the height of his laminitis. It was actually a Vetrinarian that was up here from the Lower Mainland filling in for my Vet when she broke her leg that suggested we test for selenium deficiency. I guess down there it is a fairly standard procedure to test IR horses as the two seem to go hand in hand. I could only find fairly minor amounts of information about it when I researched it though.

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