Stimulating Activity

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I never know what to expect when I head up to the barn at feeding time. Usually Jo greets me (or, at least, the milk bucket) with an excited whinny, but occasionally she’s disinterested. Knowing that her lack of interest means that she’s already full, I would prefer the latter more frequently.

We’ve pared down the number of daily meals offered to Jo. We started at 12 feedings, each consisting of two cups of formula, and cut that to eight three-cup meals after the first week. Now we’re down to six four-cup feedings each day. What do all those numbers mean? Well, for Jo, it’s easy–she’s getting a consistent 24 cups of formula each day. For her owners, though, the difference is huge. At 12 feedings per day, someone was going up to the barn every other hour. Four o’clock in the morning is a bleary-eyed, foggy-headed time of day to have to pull on a pair of muddy boots, hike up to the barn, prepare a bucket of sickly-sweet-smelling milk replacer, and then go stand out in the cold while a little filly dribbles the sticky liquid on your cold hands. Two in the afternoon isn’t much better, though–when everyone’s working, the mid-afternoon is about the least convenient time to drop everything and take a 20- or 30-minute break from work. Repeat that every two hours through the workday and see how much you get accomplished! So being able to drop down to six daily feedings has made for three much happier horse owners.

But… you quickly point out…a 10-day-old foal needs to eat more often than every four hours, and a filly as big as Jo really needs more than the six quarts of liquid we’re providing.

Now, before you get the idea that we’re starving the poor fillyÉwe definitely are keeping close wraps on her, watching for any decrease in energy, signs of dehydration, and weight fluctuation. The cut-back in formula is strategic: we want Jo to get a little bit hungry when we’re not there. Jo’s playing an important role now in Hermione’s treatment–she is providing the "suckle stimulus" that is crucial to promoting lactation. It’s important for her to continue nursing, both for the nutrients that she consumes, and for the benefit that Hermione receives

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