The Saga of Supplementary Feeding
by Wendy Hemsley

Rowengay Gilded Amber

In the middle of May we were delighted when a lovely Pure Bred filly foal was born. She was very pretty, chestnut with a neat blaze and three white feet. She was very "laid back" and did not seem to worry about anything although very inquisitive and active. She was the first to get her head in the manger at feed times and galloped around the field with tail erect when she went out.

When she was about a month old things suddenly seemed to change; she did not seem keen to eat, when she went out she only walked with her tail down. In the stable she just seemed to stand around whereas previously she was often to be found lying down "crashed out" when it almost needed a "bomb" to disturb her. Now she just stood with her head down near mum.

I watched her on and off over several days, and although I could not see anything really wrong she just wasn’t "right". Having thought about the problem continuously, it came to my mind that perhaps she was not getting enough milk from mum – I don’t know why I came to that conclusion, but I did. So I decided to do something about it.

I have reared one foal completely and supplemented another while her mother was very ill so I did not think this would be too much trouble. I mixed up some formula (more about that later) and went to the stable armed with bottle and jug. Neither of the previous foals I had fed used a bottle – they both fed direct from the jug. This was NOT to be the case with this one!!!

After more than an hour of trying we had succeeded in giving her - or spilling - about and ounce! At this point my daughter had a brain-wave and suggested we use a syringe to carefully squeeze the milk into her mouth – success at last. We managed to give her about a pint. The procedure was repeated later in the day and she gradually got the idea of putting her head on one side as she would do to feed from mum while we dutifully squeezed in the milk. We continued to feed her three times a day, two pints to a feed. The improvement in her manner was quite dramatic - after a day or two she no longer stood head down, and before the end of the week she was "crashed out" again. Soon after that she trotted out after mum with her tail starting to come up. It was several weeks before she was galloping, but it came in the end.

After about three weeks we reduced the number of feeds to two but kept the quantity the same. I fed her in the morning and last thing at night and this seemed to suit her well. We had several tries to get her either to drink from a jug or to use the bottle, to no avail. She would rather starve than do either!! SO we plodded on.

It was well into October and we were still going out armed with jug and syringe, but we cut her to one three pint feed, which seemed to be sufficient, for her ( she terrorised mum, going around the box bucking and kicking hard while waiting to go out) She galloped around the field full of the joys of Spring although it was Autumn! She had begun to share mum’s short feed again – and ate loads of hay and grass of course.

Earlier I promised to tell you more about the formula I use (that was one of the main reasons for writing this article). I hope that it may be of use to readers if they are in need of a quick and reasonably cheap, easily obtained and efficient mare’s milk replacement or supplement at any time. It is one I found some years ago in one of my many books, and as shown earlier in the article, I have found it very successful.


2 parts Cows milk to 1 part boiled water (hot)

1 ounce Brown/Demerara sugar per 3 pints liquid

The amount of formula to be fed will obviously vary with the circumstances and the size of the foal and what other feed intake there is. Just as an example the Thoroughbred foal I reared completely was at one stage having 18 pints of formula plus hay and hard feed! Fortunately, at the time I was milking my own cow.

Through November I gradually cut down the supplementary feeds given to "Amber". She accepted this with fairly good grace although she came looking hopefully every time she saw me. Her condition and energy remained the same and she still continued to feed from her Mum (whom she still terrorized while waiting her turn to be let out into the field).

Amber went on to thrive and grew on well and gallops round the field with tail and head held high, investigation anything new or unusual. She is quite a character with a definite mind of her own.

I hope you will find this of some interest and help, if anyone wants to talk about it or know more detail, I will be pleased to oblige.


If you would like to have an article included in this section then please send your article to editor@arabianlines.com

© Arabian Lines 2002. All Rights Reserved