Equine Nutrition

​​​​​​​Why is nutrition so important? Because everything the horse eats, or doesn't eat,  effects the horses feet. 

A horse is a forage animal and the majority of their diet should be forage, preferably low sugar/starch tested grass hay (not 100% alfalfa). To help keep a horses diet balanced, because of minerals and vitamins lacking in the forage, supplement with a mineral/vitamin that balances to the forage.  

What do I feed my horses, what do I suggest to clients, and why?

-Tested hay. Why do I test? I need to know what is in my hay. High sugar/starch (above 10%), high iron and/or manganese, low levels of trace minerals (copper and zinc) can lead to weak (cracking, splitting, thin, separating), sole and frog sensitive, thrushy, compromised feet. I own a few horses that are sensitive to high sugar/starch.  I already know the copper, zinc and selenium will be too low to meet the daily NRC, Nutrient Requirements of Horses, levels (this has been proven from many West Coast hay tests). I also want to know my protein levels (8-10% is recommended)  and iron. Iron blocks the absorption of copper, and I can increase copper and zinc but if the iron is too high I won't buy from that field again.
I use Equi-Analytical labs, send in samples from 8-10 bales, and they email me back the results.  I use slow feeder hay nets (1"-2" holes) when feeding. Why? Less waste, saves money and slows down the horses intake, making their forage last longer, which is better for their digestion. An empty stomach is not healthy and can lead to ulcers and digestive upset (colic). Large meals, a few times a day, are also not idea for this grazing/browsing animal. A horses stomach is always producing stomach acid, multiple meals in a slow feeding hay net will protect the stomach and mentally make the horse feel better. 

-California Trace Minerals Why? Because our grass hays are lacking in copper, zinc and selenium. Sally Hugg has made balancing a horses diet so much easier. A fellow barefoot trimmer, she developed the CA Trace Minerals because she saw the need for a supplement that would balance our grass hay. Based upon the numerous hay test showing the same minerals lacking in our West Coast hays, copper, zinc and selenium. Feeding this economical horse supplement to my herd of five, and horses that come in for training, I have the peace of mind that the horses are receiving their daily nutritional requirements. I also see thicker walls, better hoof wall to laminae connection, less thrush, bigger healthier frogs and healthier horses when their diets are mineral balanced. 

-Haystack Special Blend. Just a small amount, as a carrier for CA Trace and salt. Sold at Kiperts (Tumwater), Martins (Elma) and Tractor Supply.

Ingredients include, Plain dried beet pulp, alfalfa pellets, timothy pellets, rice bran (provides phosphorus to balance the calcium in alfalfa), and ground flax seed meal (provides Omega 3s and Magnesium), and Canola Oil. This blend is tested, its a low sugar high fat balanced forage feed that horses love. (However its not ideal for metabolic horses, use Timothy pellets as a carrier instead)

-White Salt. A horses daily requirement of salt (sodium) is 1 oz. (two tablespoons) according to NRC Nutrition Requirements of horses, or more if the horse has been working.  I feed loose salt in the horses supplements and also provide a WHITE salt block. I purchase livestock salt from Kiperts or Tractor Supply, 50lb bag. If you have only one horse, buy iodized salt at the grocery store. 

The red salt blocks are meant for cattle and have iron and not enough trace minerals to meet what a horse needs. Everything we feed horses has iron in it, sometimes too much and they do not need to be supplemented with more iron. Iron is cheap so feed companies use it and consumers that are not educated on equine nutrition think its a good thing when a product has a high level of Iron. Horses and people are not the same when it comes to Iron. We need lots of Iron, horses only need 400mg per day and once fed Iron they have a harder time getting it out of their bodies and it stores up in the liver.

What are signs of Iron overload? Weaker hoof walls, hoof wall separation, more thrush, and darker horses will have a reddish tint to their coats. Studies have also been finding that iron overloaded horses are more susceptible to insulin resistance and cushings (PPID)
Since a horse can not lick enough salt to meet their requirements, and sometimes they wont eat enough loose salt, I put it in their supplement mix. Why? It meets their daily requirement for sodium, its an important electrolyte,  and it helps to prevent colic and tying up. Always provide a horse with plenty of clean fresh water. 

​-Filtered Water.  Our water is often high in iron and/or manganese. Ive seen a dramatic difference in horses feet when the owner filtered the horses water. I recommend the Boogie Blue Plus water filter, with quick disconnects, so the filter is only used to fill the horses water tanks and save you $$$

This is my thoroughbred Tj, he is a product of a balanced nutrition program.
 A grass hay diet balanced with California Trace Minerals.
I am a distributor for California Trace Minerals. CA Trace Minerals are a supplement to balance our grass hay diets. West Coast grass hays are deficient in copper, zinc and selenium, minerals needs for the whole horse, not just the hooves. 
I feed CA Trace to my own horses. Why?

1. It balances the West Coast grass hays which are lacking in copper, zinc and selenium. 
2. Its affordable. 
3. Its concentrated, I am not paying for any fillers. 
4. It works! Most clients see the difference with thicker healthier hoof walls, no cracking, no hoof wall separation, a tighter hoof wall to laminae connection, less thrush, healthier coats and it gives me the peace of mind that every one of my horses is getting what they need daily. 
I am still looking for a product that meets all the above benefits provided by CA. Trace and I have not found that product. I read labels, I do the math and I have a spreadsheet that compares the mineral amounts and the cost per day and I still have not found that product. Ca. Trace works, I see it in my horses and I see it in clients horses that stay on the supplement.

IF I dont see a significant change after a horse has been on California Trace for a period of time the diet is still not mineral balanced. Possible causes are; unfiltered water, too much iron or manganese in the hay, too much Haystacks special blend, the horse is possibly metabolic, not enough movement, some or all of the above!

I feel my Ca. Trace with a small amount of of Haystacks Special Blend as a carrier, (or soaked and rinsed beet pulp), and 1 oz. of loose white salt (sodium). Iron is cheap so feed companies use it and consumers that are not educated on equine nutrition think its a good thing when a product has a high level of Iron. Horses and people are not the same when it comes to Iron. We need lots of Iron, horses do not and once fed Iron they have a harder time getting it out of their bodies. What are signs of Iron overload? Weaker hoof walls, hoof wall separation, more thrush, and darker horses will have a reddish tint to their coats. 

"My horse doesnt like it." Its concentrated, its very strong and your not paying for fillers. Many horses do get adjusted to the taste. Start by feeding less of it and slowly build up to the 2 scoops. Add it with some Haystacks Special Blend or Timothy pellets (for horses sensitive to Alfalfa and metabolic horses). Soon they stand at the fence wanting their daily supplements.  
A 10 lb bag of California Trace will last 80 days (2 oz per day). You can read more about California Trace on the mfg. website  California Trace.com   Some common questions and answers on forage and supplementing

"What about alfalfa?" Alfalfa to supplement a mostly grass hay diet is ok, an 80/20 (grass/alfalfa) mix can increase the protein levels. However, a 100% alfalfa diet for horses is very unbalanced,  the protein and calcium levels are too high. Alfalfa was developed for the dairy industry, it increase milk production. Cattle and horses do not have the same forage needs and their digestive systems are different. 

"But when I feed 100% Alfalfa I don't need to feed as much hay" Horses are forage animals, feeding 100% alfalfa, which would be only a few flakes of hay a day, is not good for the horses digestive system. The horse will have an empty stomach for a long period of time between feedings, which leads to ulcers because a horses stomach produces acid all the time. A horse needs 8-10% protein, alfalfa is usually 16%. "Alfalfa is very high in calcium and causes an imbalance in the calcium/phosphorus ratio which is not ideal for pregnant mares and growing horses.  The high calcium also causes hormonal shifts that make it difficult for the horse to rapidly mobilize calcium from bone stores in time of need. This can cause "thumps" or muscle problems in horses working hard, or weakness and muscular problems in mares when they first start to produce milk." Dr Eleanor Kellon Is Alfalfa a Wise Choice?"
Alfalfa also causes a calcium/magnesium imbalance. We often think alfalfa causes 'hot' horses however the high calcium cause a calcium/magnesium imbalance and a lack of magnesium can lead to many training issues, including jumpy, nervous horses. To read more about the effects of a magnesium deficiency at Performance Equine Nutrution
I see rampant thrush, weak frogs, thin soles, hoof wall separation, and sole bruising with horses that are on an 100% alfalfa diet . Plenty of tested (low sugar/starch) grass hay, balanced with a forage supplement and you will have a healthier, happier horse with great feet. If your boarding facility feeds 100% alfalfa, supplement with a forage balancer, HorseTech High Point-Alfalfa. 

"California Trace is not balanced" Its not balanced to itself, its balanced to West Coast hay. The results of numerous West Coast grass hay tests show a deficiency in copper, zinc and selenium and high iron levels. If we feed a supplement that is balanced to itself, and then add in our hay, you end up with an unbalanced diet. For example, a supplement that is balanced to itself would contain iron. West Coast soils are high in iron, as a result our hay and water may be high in iron. So if we feed a supplement that contains iron, we would have to increase the levels of copper and zinc and we are increasing the iron levels being fed and then unbalancing the diet. California Trace contains no iron. Iron is cheap, feed companies add it for this reason. Iron overload is common in horses, you can see it in the dark horses, they have a red tint to their hair. I see it in feet, the hoof wall quality is poor and the the connection to the laminae is weak. People and horses do not have the same requirements for iron. 

Additional links:
Merck Veterinary Manual Nutritional Requirements

Dr Kellon Online Nutrition Courses - The is not an easy course, but it will really open your eyes to understanding your horses digestive system and how it works, what your horse needs and how to provide it. Its a 10 week online course that you can take from the comforts of your home. 

Nutrient Requirements of Horses - practical and technical reference manual.

Disclaimer: I am not a vet nor an equine nutritionist. I have taken Dr Kellon's NRC Plus course, December 2010, and Sally Huggs nutrition clinic 'Between the Twines', April 2011, and Dr Gettys Webinar, Feed Your Horse like a Horse January 2014, to become a more informed horse owner and as part of my PHCP certification requirements.

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