By "Amanda Duckworth" ANY ATHLETE WILL tell you that nutrition is an important part of the equation when it comes to performance—and that is no different when it comes to racehorses. The science behind what works best has been well studied in recent decades, but...
The benefits of adding fiber to your horse's diet Dr. Amy M. GillIt’s a constant, never ending battle: A horse wants to chew the wood in its surroundings and as a direct result, the horse owner or barn manager spends countless hours and hard-earned dollars trying to...
The use of food, herbs, and other alternative practices as therapeutic modalities to heal illness and acute/chronic disorders is not a new concept. Ayurvedic medicine (also called Ayurveda) is one of the world’s oldest medical systems. Its origins began in India more...
Smart feeding practices can help a racehorse overcome physical and mental stress The thoroughbred is bred to be a finely tuned animal with tremendous speed and stamina. But years of selective breeding have produced certain...
By including ingredients such as Redmond salt, Electro-Ryte™ provides the horse with all important natural macro and micro minerals. Electro-Ryte™ contains not only sodium and chloride but also calcium, potassium, magnesium and many other trace minerals acquired naturally. Electro-Ryte™ contains minerals necessary for increasing the horse’s energy and endurance levels, maintaining optimal hydration, coat and hoof condition and improving overall vitality.
When thinking about meeting your horse’s protein requirement, remember that it does not mean just supplying a certain amount of crude protein, but ensuring levels of specific amino acids as well. For situations in which protein requirements will be higher, such as growth, pregnancy, and lactation, be sure to re-evaluate your horse’s ration to make sure all requirements are being met.
The misconceptions about feeding horses is a topic that is written about frequently but is worth repeating from time to time, because it appears to be a difficult one for some to grasp. When it comes to feeding horses, myths and old wives’ tales abound.
Since the recent break down of several high profile race horses, the media and others have tried to elucidate the cause of such catastrophic injuries. Those of us directly involved in the daily management and healthcare of Thoroughbreds know that there can be many factors that cause a horse to break bones, and trying to isolate or blame just one is difficult, if not impossible.
The equine digestive tract is a fragile system and the rigors of training often cause disruption of normal function to occur. Gastrointestinal disorders, such as gastric ulcer syndrome, are common among the equine population and are often treated with a variety of pharmacological agents. While we can treat some gastrointestinal disorders with certain drugs, we must also instill good preventive care of the digestive tract so we can lower the incidence of such disorders and help the horse maintain healthy gut function.
“She was fed OmegaTri all the way, never any issues while packing on the pounds, no sickness, no digestive upset, no changes in her feet, just steady improvement all around. Obviously, she was getting a fair bit of concentrates early on (once out of the danger zone) but now she gets nothing but hay and her OmegaTri. I did actually get scale weights on her and her average daily weight gain was 4.7 lbs per day!” – Sue Thompson regarding the rehabilitation of a starved mare with OmegaTri™ oil as an adjunct nutritional therapy.
Today’s Racehorses are selectively bred from a narrow gene pool, asked to perform unnatural exercise regimes, and then fed excessive amounts of unnatural, concentrated grain rations and cultivated, nutrient- dense forages in order to meet their digestible energy and nutrient requirements.
At every level of racing, so much time and money are invested in each horse that trainers and owners want to find the extra edge that will help even the most astutely trained and conditioned athlete be more competitive. Manipulation and timing of feeding, feeds, and supplements can alter the physical performance of an individual horse, and an amazing array of performance enhancers or ergogenic aids are available.
Using bran mash as a weekly ‘cleanser’ is a popular tradition among horse owners and stables. The thought behind the weekly bran mash is that it adds bulk to the stool, helps with hydration, is a good source of fiber, and assists digestion. Despite being fed with good intentions, giving a weekly bran mash actually causes a dramatic alteration to the daily ration and can cause a disturbance in the normal population of microorganisms that reside in the hindgut. Here are some myths and facts about bran mash, wheat bran, and when is the correct time to use it.
The obesity crisis no longer applies to humans. More and more nutritionists and veterinarians are seeing an increase in obesity within other species, including equines. Obesity in the equine population can partly be contributed to better quality nutritional products and pasture management, which over the years has made it easier for horses to get fat and stay that way. Another contributing factor is a lack of exercise; many horses get little to no exercise on a daily basis. What are the risks for an overweight horse? Overweight horses are prone to many disorders.
When was the last time you evaluated what your horse is being fed? The nutritional needs of horses actually change quite frequently, and I always recommend a thorough evaluation of the forage, concentrate and supplements being fed to a horse every four months. Think about it, something has probably changed the nutritional requirements of almost every horse within the last four months.
The energy level of the horse is one of the most commonly analyzed factors of performance. Horses that compete in energy-oriented competitions need the proper amount of fuel to perform at their best. While the main source of energy in feeds for performance horses is carbohydrates, other sources should not be dismissed.
As the summer gets hotter you find yourself with a sweaty horse, but a quick hose down is not all he needs after a good workout. Horse sweat is hypertonic, meaning it contains more mineral salts or electrolytes than water. If electrolytes are depleted from the horse and not quickly replenished, numerous health problems can occur.
Alternative medicines and dietary supplements are quickly growing in popularity among those in the equine industry as a means of treating conditions and illnesses that affect horses. Some of these therapeutic agents have been intensively researched while others have little or no scientific evidence to support their efficacy. However, consistent anecdotal reports on their use in treating musculo-skeletal conditions, pain and behavioral issues as well as enhancing overall well being and performance cannot be ignored.
Horses affected by equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Cushing’s disease require modification in several areas of management to regain their health. Diligent adherence to dietary, exercise, and therapeutic changes are mandatory to avoid long- term negative and debilitating health effects. We now know that horses with equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Cushing’s disease do not metabolize starch and sugar like normal horses, and this negatively affects endocrine function. Other major health problems are also associated with the disorders, such as obesity, although not all horses affected by these disorders become grossly overweight.
With hundreds of vitamin and mineral supplements on the market today it can be difficult in knowing what kind of vitamin/mineral supplement to feed and what type of situation warrants extra supplementation, as well as what products you should avoid.
The energy or calorie requirement of the horse is one of the most commonly analyzed factors of performance. Horses that compete in energy-oriented competitions need the proper amount of fuel to perform at their best, whether it is racing, eventing, or endurance riding. Often times when the topic of energy sources comes up, carbohydrates are considered the main source of energy. While carbohydrates play an important role in the production of energy, other sources, such as fat, should not be ignored.
Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s) are compounds that are called essential because they are not synthesized by the body and, therefore, must be obtained from dietary sources. EFA’s, Omega 3 Fatty Acids in particular, serve as components of nerve cells, cellular membranes, and the very important regulatory substances known as prostaglandins.
As the summer temperatures rise, heat and humidity become an issue for those trying to exercise and train horses without putting both horse and rider in danger of becoming dehydrated, fatigued or suffer from heat stress. Madalyn Ward, DVM in Holistic Horsekeeping provides this advice when trying to decide to ride or not in high heat and humidity: “Luckily, there are simple ways that you can help your horse stay cool during hot humid weather. During these weather conditions, the first thing to do is to calculate the temperature-humidity index (THI): simply add the air temperature (in degrees Fahrenheit) to the percentage of humidity.
A horse primarily obtains feed while grazing and browsing. When offered pasture as its primary source of nutrition, a horse depends largely on hindgut fermentation, using a variety of hydrolyzable (susceptible to enzymatic digestion) and fermentable carbohydrates as its main energy source. The equine stomach contains regions capable of both enzymatic and limited fermentive digestion, while the small intestine performs predominantly enzymatic digestion of starches, proteins, fats, vitamins, and some minerals.
Colic is a nonspecific term that refers to any type of abdominal pain or discomfort. Colic can be acute, chronic, or recurrent and is generally caused by distension or obstruction of the gut with fluid, food being ingested, a foreign object, or gas. Other primary causes of colic include intestinal twisting or torsion or heavy parasite infestation.
From a nutritional standpoint, the most difficult aspect of weaning is preventing a depression in growth rate after the youngster is weaned followed by a rapid acceleration of growth once the weanling has adapted to its new lifestyle. An erratic growth rate can contribute to developmental orthopedic problems. Management procedures such as making sure the foal leads well, stands for the farrier and has had its feet trimmed, is properly vaccinated and dewormed, and is eating well prior to weaning make the process go much easier.
One of the most productive ways of keeping horses warm and supply nutrients is to provide free choice, good quality hay. The heat of fermentation when the hay is digested by microbes in the horse’s hindgut is the main source of warmth for the horse.
There are a number of myths and misconceptions when it comes to feeding the horse. Many traditional feeding methods have been passed from generation to generation of horsemen, and while some of these methods are still useful, many are outdated and even detrimental to the horse’s nutritional health.
Feeding horses with a selective palate can become a frustrating matter, but horses that become particular about what they want in their feed tub are not uncommon. Horses that compete and train at levels that expend great amounts of energy can have trouble consuming enough feed to meet energy (calorie) demands. Older and recuperating horses also tend to back off their feed as well. In order to maintain your horse’s nutritional demands and overall body condition, well-organized feeding strategies become vital.
Equine obesity comes with its fair share of complications, just as it does in humans. As discussed last time, organ failure, intolerance to exercise, laminitis, and predisposition to certain conditions are all unfortunate consequences of being an overweight horse. Insulin resistance, the body’s inability to store starch and sugar properly in the body, is also a very common side effect with overweight horses, which must then be treated for the entirety of the horse’s life.
Spring is here and with the warmer weather comes thoughts and plans of hitting the road with our horses for trail rides and horse shows. Getting to and from events is fairly straightforward when the distance to travel is short but traveling long distance with your horse involves a bit more planning. Horses are creatures of habit and thrive on routine on a daily basis, so the disruption of normal feeding, sleeping and working schedules associated with travel can be a cause of undue stress for our equine friends.
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Over the past several years, testing horses for horse feed allergies has become very popular in veterinary practice. When a horse develops a skin and/or respiratory problem, the feed the horse is eating immediately becomes suspect as a causative agent. What is problematic about this situation is that the horse is limited to all vegetarian dietary ingredients and with the list of possibilities that can be used to make horse feed limited to twenty, it has not been uncommon for the allergy test to come back reporting the horse is allergic to almost all the ingredients in feed. Why is this occurring and what is a better way to test for food allergies?
Often when we hear the word calcium we think of it as a bone-building nutrient, but calcium also serves many vital functional roles in addition to structural roles. As discussed in our previous blog post, Keeping the Horse Replenished – Equine Electrolytes, calcium is one of the most important electrolytes, which are mineral salts that create an electrical current in the horse.
Minerals are inorganic molecules, also called elements, which are derived from the earth. Minerals can be incorporated into living tissue (organic) but eventually return to earth in the inorganic form when excreted by the horse, or as ash once the animal is buried or cremated. Minerals are essential to the physical and mental well-being of horses and are components of all cells, including blood cells, as well as nerve, muscle, bone, teeth, hormones, and soft tissue.
Vitamins in the horse’s body serve as antioxidants and are necessary for several metabolic processes, often acting as catalysts in biochemical reactions. Unlike minerals, which are inorganic, vitamins are organic compounds that can be classified as either water- or fat-soluble, depending on how they are absorbed and stored within the body.
Do you ever wonder if your horse’s feed is affecting his behavior? The way we feed our horses and the ingredients in feeds can contribute to behavioral changes, but with knowledge of how feed can affect behavior and diligence in the way we feed our horses, we can prevent behavioral upsets.
Alternative medicines and dietary supplements quickly are growing in popularity among those in the equine industry as a means of treating conditions and illnesses that affect horses. Some of these therapeutic agents have been researched intensively, while others have little or no scientific evidence to support their claims of efficacy. However, consistent, anecdotal reports on their use in treating musculoskeletal conditions, pain, and behavioral issues, as well as enhancing overall well-being and performance, cannot be ignored.
Botulism is caused by toxins produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum. Horses can consume the bacterial spores from soil and feedstuffs. Most often it is found in forage where an animal carcass has been baled with the forage. Botulism can also gain entry through wounds. What are the signs of a horse that is affected? Read more to find out!
Hot, dry weather is on the rise across the country and will continue throughout the summer months. This type of environment poses challenges for horse owners in keeping their horses healthy and comfortable. Keeping horses hydrated and cool are of paramount importance during hot, dry weather.
As we head into fall, it’s time to plan for changes in the nutritional needs of your horses and those of the pastures they have been grazing. After a long hot summer, many pastures become overgrazed, overrun with weeds and possibly contain toxic plants. If there has been insufficient rainfall in your area, the entire pasture may be in poor condition.
Before discussing pasturing options, let’s take a quick look at the basic management strategies that should be employed for our easy keepers.
Horses are naturally active animals that require a lot of exercise. Too much of the same type of physical activity, however, can lead to damage and deterioration of joint tissues. Many performance horses will eventually suffer joint damage or Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD). Joint damage can be minimized through proper training and with the addition of a horse joint supplement to the diet, as well as sound veterinary care.
The topic of oil supplementation for the horse is a common discussion among horse owners. Often when you walk into someone’s feed room you may see bottles of corn oil, sunflower oil, or fish oil. What are these oils trying to accomplish? For some, it might be to improve coat quality or to help add weight, but the type of oil product that will be looked at today has another purpose – reducing inflammation and restoring balance to the equine diet.
For performance horses, healthy joints mean everything. The rigors of training and competing can have a degenerative effect on equine joints. One way to help alleviate pain and rebuild healthy joints is by providing your horse an equine joint supplement. Equi-force has four joint supplements to promote optimum bone and joint health: Siiforce Horses, Osteo-Gen, GLC 5500, and MSM Equine.
Though it’s not really anyone’s fault per se, today’s modern horse keeping practices have unfortunately forced horses into sedentary lifestyles where free ranging and getting plenty of exercise foraging for foodstuffs has essentially become a thing of the past. To compound the problem of too little exercise, many horses are often fed excessive amounts of concentrated rations and high calorie, nutrient dense forages.
When forming a program for your insulin resistant or Cushings’ horse, be sure to keep in mind products such as Meta-Librium to use in conjunction with other proactive measures.
From time to time all horses can benefit from an immune boost and Beta-Stim™, a novel and unique equine immune supplement, is effective at helping the horse fend off bacterial and viral infection when exposure occurs.
Vitamins are the organic materials that act as catalysts for a variety of reactions that take place within the horse’s body. This means they speed up chemical reactions, enabling them to take place more quickly and efficiently than they would otherwise. If these catalysts are missing, as in a vitamin deficiency, normal body functions can break down and make the horse susceptible to disease.
When discussing the quality of hay, we often hear the terms “first cutting”, “second cutting”, and “third cutting”. The type of cutting that hay is derived from has often been used as an indicator of quality, but this method of evaluation is not the most accurate. The thought that first cutting hay is not as good as second or third cutting hay may or may not be true; it depends on the factors that make up quality hay.
Ever wonder what precisely is in the feeds formulated for horses? Examination of the feed tag or list of ingredients on the bag can be a daunting task even for the trained professional.
Horse manure is one the most widely scrutinized “by-product” of horse husbandry. Owners, trainers, and barn managers are all too acutely aware of the consistency of the manure the horses in their care produce.
Feeding horses is an art and an ever evolving science and horse breeders, trainers and owners need to progress with the times and embrace how to use nutrition as a tool for longevity in their horses.
Well, the question can be answered several ways, as there is not one particular reason why horses engage in this perfectly natural activity. Horses are supposed to eat a certain amount of dirt on a daily basis.
Here is the scoop on the two most common myths associated with protein and the truth behind them.
When used correctly, alfalfa can supply a great deal of natural nutrition and has some other physiological benefits as well.
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Some nutritional additives, or supplements, are proven to help a horse improve its athletic potential – a growing number of horse owners and trainers are aware that alternative therapies and dietary supplements are useful in treating many conditions and illnesses that affect horses.
Now, more than ever, with so many horses developing metabolic problems, we must recognize that horses still are simply grazing herbivores. They are equipped with a digestive tract and endocrine system that can handle large quantities of fiber but are not very efficient at metabolizing, absorbing, and processing sugar.
Looking through and examining the many types of equine feed available in today’s market can be an overwhelming and frustrating experience. Textured, processed, complete, what does it all mean?
For horses, the sweet smell and green, leafy look of alfalfa is hard to resist. While horses love the taste of this forage, it often comes with a variety of myths and misconceptions that lead horse owners to underutilize this valuable forage in their horse’s diet.
Keeping horses healthy and free of disease and disorders is a hot topic of conversation in many popular press journals, magazines and on the internet. Horse husbandry advice ranges from nutrition to shoeing and veterinary care.
Newly FDA-approved organic selenium improves selenium status in exercising horses, weanlings, and broodmares. Availability of selenium yeast represents a breakthrough in the equine industry that will assist equine professionals in addressing problems of marginal selenium status that affect the health and productivity of all classes of horses
Feeding racehorses correctly is an art and a science. One of the most delicate areas to balance is the safe feeding of horses that are in intense exercise programs but also are confined to stalls and must consume high concentrate rations to meet their energy requirements.
When developing rations for horses, especially those that are required to perform at the highest level, balance is crucial. From broodmares and young, growing horses to racehorses on the track, nutritional requirements for digestible energy (energy) or calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals must be considered.
Factors such as physical and psychological stress, an unbalanced diet, antibiotics, and an oversupply of starches and sugars can result in inflammation and erosion in the horse’s gut wall.
While we can treat some gastrointestinal disorders with certain drugs, we must also instill good preventive care of the digestive tract so we can lower the incidence of such disorders and help the horse maintain healthy gut function.
Optimizing Equine Bone Formation - Role of Nutrition, Training and Drug Interaction By Amy M Gill, PhD. Many Variables Involved in Formation of Healthy Bone Since the recent break down of several high profile race horses, the media and others have tried to elucidate...
Alfalfa provides excellent-quality forage but is often underused due to misconceptions By Amy Gill, PhD Horses love the taste of alfalfa and for many, nothing could be better for them. Unfortunately, due to some myths about this forage, it is highly underused as a...
Sorting through science and fact versus tradition is often a difficult task By Amy M Gill, PhD. The misconceptions about feeding horses is a topic that is written about frequently but is worth repeating from time to time, because it appears to be a...