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Tip of the Month



 

 

Antioxidants:


FREE RADICALS - BAD GUYS MEET THEIR MATCH IN ANTIOXIDANTS!

What is all the fuss about free radicals, and what does it mean for your horse’s health? A free radical is a very unhappy molecule. Although it was once stable, it is now missing an electron. Determined to become whole, it sets out in search of another vulnerable molecule and steals its electron. The original bad guy is now neutral and can relax. But in its wake, it has created another free radical that is just as desperate to steal and destroy.

In your horse (just as in humans) a small number of free radicals is normal, but factors such as stress, nutritional imbalances, illness or injury can cause these outlaws to multiply beyond the body’s ability to cope. Most commonly, we see the result 
as decreased immune function, inflammation and pain.

The only way to stop this destructive rampage is to call on a nearby “free-radical neutralizer.” This hero sacrifices itself by giving the free radical the electron it needs, thereby protecting defenseless cells from harm. Since our hero doesn’t seek his own stability, his own demise is without consequence. Without these noble molecules, free radicals would be entirely unchecked in devastating healthy tissue. These selfless champions are known as antioxidants.

 

Antioxidants should be part of your horse’s nutritional program. Vitamins C, E, and beta carotene are the most common, and are plentiful in fresh, healthy pasture. Once living grass is cut, dried, and stored as hay, it loses these precious nutrients, creating nutritional gaps that should be filled through supplementation.




Behavior:


FIVE POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE USING A CALMING SUPPLEMENT

Championship season is here, and “show nerves” are common, even in horses. Agitated, nervous horses that are normally well behaved may benefit from a calming supplement. These products can contain vitamins, or minerals, or herbs, or amino acids. So, which to choose and how best to use them?  Before making a decision, consider these important points:

·         An empty stomach is the main cause for behavioral issues—forage (hay and/or pasture) should be available at all times.

·         Magnesium deficiency may be the issue, since most horses don’t get enough of this mineral—if this is true for your horse, supplementing 5,000 mg of magnesium per 500 lbs of body weight will make a positive change in demeanor.

·         A borderline B vitamin deficiency will affect behavior and can result when the hindgut microbial population is compromised by stress, high starch diets, illness, or antibiotics. Thiamin (vitamin B1) has been shown to be especially effective at high doses (1 mg per pound of body weight). Prebiotics that feed existing microbes also result in more B vitamin production.

 ·         Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, leads to serotonin synthesis in the brain and can be useful in soothing a nervous horse. For this effect to occur, it is best to offer tryptophan as a paste between meals. When added to a meal, tryptophan will not be used for serotonin production and the calming effect will be significantly diminished

·         Caution! Herbs such as chamomile, valerian, black cohosh, ginger root, and passion flower may have an over-tranquilizing effect, interact with other medications, and have side effects. Consult with your veterinarian before using.



FAT CALMS HORSE BEHAVIOR

Horses fed a high fat diet are less reactive to startling stimuli, and have lower levels of excitability and anxiety than horses fed a more traditional grain-based diet. Fat is high in calories, so limit the amount you feed based on the horse’s weight and his caloric need. Provide no more than 10% of the total calories (8 fluid ounces or 240 ml of oil) for normally active horses. This can be doubled for the highly athletic horse. Start by adding a small amount (say, one tablespoon or 15 ml) and build up every few days. It takes 4 to 6 weeks for the horse’s cells to become accustomed to metabolizing more fat.


Omega 3s need to be four time higher than omega 6s. Avoid animal fats, as well as oils that have high levels of linoleic acid (an omega 6), which increases inflammation: Corn, soy, sunflower, and wheat germ oils. Choose oils or fatty feeds high in omega 3s, which reduce inflammation: Flaxseed oil, ground flax, or chia seeds. Fish oils are also high in omega 3s but are not as palatable. Hemp seed oil has fewer omega 3s than linoleic acid, but contains beneficial gamma linolenic acid (a non-inflammatory omega 6). Oils high in monounsaturated fatty acids can be added to a diet already high in omega 3s if more fat is needed: Rice bran and olive oils. Please note: Ponies, minis, donkeys, and mules should not receive high fat diets.


 


 Black Oil Sunflower Seeds:

BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND INFLAMMATION


Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are a popular addition to the horse’s diet. They are highly nutritious, offering protein, vitamins, and minerals and are especially high in magnesium (100 mg per ounce). BOSS are high in fat, as well, but the type of fat is mainly in the form of omega 6s, with very little omega 3 content. Since omega 6s are inflammatory, balancing with a source of omega 3s is important to consider, especially for the horse who is experiencing inflammation due to injury, aging, or obesity.


One cup of BOSS provides approximately 10,000 mg of omega 6s and only 34 mg of omega 3s. To bring this in line with the naturally occurring ratio of 4:1 omega 3s to omega 6s found in fresh grasses, you would need to feed approximately 2 cups of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. 


Be certain to feed only the black seeds, typically purchased for wild birds; their shells are soft and easy to digest. Avoid the striped shelled seeds; their outer shell contains a large amount of indigestible fiber that cannot be managed by the microbial population in your horse’s digestive tract.  





Bran mashes:


WEEKLY BRAN MASHES ARE ASKING FOR TROUBLE!

The bacteria that live in the hindgut need consistency. That's why new feeds need to be introduced very slowly, taking a few weeks to completely switch over. A bran mash, or any feed for that matter, is unfamiliar to the hindgut microbial population and exposing them to it suddenly can trigger a dangerous colic attack. But there’s more to be concerned about, when it comes to feeding bran mashes.

 

Many people feel that a bran mash helps as a laxative. Sure, the manure becomes softer but that’s because bran irritates the digestive lining, leading to softer manure. This indigestion causes poor absorption of nutrients. Furthermore, bran is very high in phosphorus – it has 10 times more phosphorus than calcium. When phosphorus exceeds calcium, it can lead to porous bones and poor muscle contraction/relaxation.


If you want to feed a warm bran mash during this winter, consistency is key – it must be fed every day, not once a week.  Be sure to introduce it gradually and use a commercially fortified version that has added calcium to correct for its naturally inverted ratio. 

 

 



Calculations:


CALCULATING WITH PPM  IN TWO EASY STEPS

 

The trace mineral content of most feeds and supplements is provided in terms of parts per million (ppm). It is the same as mg/kg (1 mg is a millionth of a kg). 

 

To do calculations, you need to convert lb or oz to kg using the following conversions:

·         1 lb equals 0.454 kg

·         1 oz equals 0.0284 kg

Example #1: Your hay contains 140 ppm of iron.  How much iron is in 20 lbs of hay?

            Step 1: 20 lb X 0.454 kg/lb = 9.08 kg

            Step 2: 9.08 kg X 140 mg/kg = 1271 mg of iron

 

Example #2: Your supplement contains 12 ppm of selenium in each ounce and you are feeding 2 ounces per day. How much selenium are you feeding?

            Step 1: 2 oz X .0284 kg/oz = 0.057 kg

            Step 2: 0.057 kg X 12 mg/kg = 0.68 mg of selenium

 

Formulas to remember:



Camelina oil:


NEW!!    CAMELINA OIL - EVER HEARD OF IT?


Sometimes your horse will need additional calories to sustain high energy needs for work/performance, or to help with weight gain. In such a case, oil can be safely added to your horse’s diet. Horses with metabolic conditions requiring reduction of dietary sugar and starch can also be fed oils to provide extra calories. Start slowly, building up to no more than one cup per day, depending on the intensity of activity.

However, the type of oil you choose can have a significant impact on your horse’s health. Oils that are high in linoleic acid (an omega 6 fatty acid), relative to alpha linolenic acid (ALA) (an omega 3 fatty acid), can lead to an inflammatory response that causes pain and tissue damage. Commonly fed oils that are too high in linoleic acid include soybean oil (often referred to as “vegetable oil”) and corn oil. While some linoleic acid is necessary, the diet should be higher in omega 3s. They have been shown to alleviate arthritis symptoms, improve hoof quality, benefit immune function, decrease post-exercise muscle pain, aid in respiratory health, and reduce inflammation throughout the body. Chia seeds, ground flaxseed, and flaxseed oil are commonly used, excellent sources of omega 3s.

Consider Camelina oil

Relatively new to horse diets, camelina oil offers an excellent alternative to flaxseed oil. It comes from an edible seed, often referred to as “false flax.”  It is high in ALA with a 2.5:1 ratio of omega 3s to omega 6s. Although flaxseed oil provides even more ALA—four times more ALA than linoleic acid—camelina oil’s shelf life is far superior. It is resistant to oxidative rancidity, making it highly stable. This is because of its remarkably high vitamin E content: 100 ml (slightly less than ½ cup) of camelina oil contains 150 IU of natural vitamin E, whereas flaxseed oil only contains 26 IU. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, and as such, it neutralizes damaging free radicals formed when the fatty acids are oxidized from air and light.

As we head into the fall months, pasture grasses are starting to slow down their growth, and produce fewer fatty acids. Hay, of course, contains little to no omega 6s or 3s after it’s been stored for a few months. Consequently, your horse relies on additions to his diet to provide these two essential fatty acids. You can feed ground flaxseeds or chia seeds for ALA and linoleic acid, with favorable omega 3:6 ratios, but if you need the most concentrated source of calories, it is best to add oil. Camelina oil offers a high quality option to help fill this need.

Wild Gold Camelina Oil and Premium Camelina Oil (with added spirulina, DHA, aloe vera, and prebiotics) are available with free shipping from Dr. Getty’s Supplement Store.



Cribbing:



NEW!!   MEASURES TO REDUCE CRIBBING

 

Your horse presses his top teeth against a solid object, arches his neck, and swallows air in a rocking motion. A grunting or gulping noise emerges. This is cribbing. Its true cause is unknown but genetics along with stressful circumstances appear to be the underlying problems. Cribbing is such a seriously addictive habit that many horses will actually prefer it to eating, and so they will slowly waste away.

Early weaning can lead to this negative behavior later in adult horses. While there’s nothing you can do to change the past, you can take measures to reduce physical discomfort and mental strains that contribute to cribbing. Cribbing collars are tormenting. They may discourage the behavior but they do not relieve the urge. 

Managing your horse’s conditions will help lessen the behavior. Here are some suggestions:

·         Provide freedom to graze and roam. This will have a remarkable effect on stopping this habit. If this is not feasible, give him as much outdoor space as possible.

·         Keep hay in front of your horse at all times. This one simple change will calm your horse’s demeanor.

·         Do not isolate your horse. Non-cribbers will not “catch” the cribbing habit by seeing another horse do it.

·         Consider ulcers. Most cribbers have ulcers. Stress, forage restriction, and stalling make things worse. Basic nutritional management to cure ulcers includes supplying hay that is always available 24/7, plentiful water consumption, avoiding starchy feeds (such as oats and corn) and sweet feeds, and restoring microbial populations through pro/prebiotic use.

 




Cushing's:


RHODIOLA ROSEA CONTROLS CORTISOL

Cortisol – the STRESS hormone. Although an important hormone, when consistently elevated it negatively impacts carbohydrate metabolism, causing blood insulin levels to rise, leading to fat storage and most critically, a possible laminitis attack. Controlling excess cortisol requires attention to what is bothering your horse. One of the most stressful circumstances a horse can endure is an empty stomach. The acid that accumulates leads to painful ulcerations, as well as an increased potential for diarrhea, colic, laminitis, and the progressive damage of oxidative stress, affecting every part of your horse’s body. Free-choice forage feeding is a necessity for all horses to maintain hormonal balance. 

Once you’ve met this basic, foundational necessity of feeding horses, consider supplementing the herb, Rhodiola rosea. It has a lot of research behind it and is considered an “adaptogenic” herb, meaning it has the ability to normalize body systems. During stress, a cascade of events occurs where the hypothalamus portion of the brain stimulates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which in turn, tells the adrenal gland to secrete cortisol. Rhodiola calms the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal cascade that is stimulated during times of tension, and may even be helpful for horses suffering from equine Cushing’s disease.





Digestive health:


NEW!!    HAY BEFORE GRAIN, OR VICE VERSA?

This is a recurring question that I receive. Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage in hay and/or pasture 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse's digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it. 

 

But if you were to feed starchy cereal grains (oats, wheat, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse would produce more acid than normal, which could potentially lead to ulcers. Furthermore, grains leave the stomach quickly, increasing the risk that they will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the resident bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

 

A better approach is to have hay present in the stomach first. It creates a physical barrier for the grain, making it leave the stomach less quickly. The fiber in the hay mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine to be digested. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.




CECUM EXIT DEFIES GRAVITY

Little known fact: The cecum in a horse has its entrance and exit at the top. 


And you should pay attention to this because... For digested material to exit, it has to defy gravity! To process food, the cecum contracts to push the contents out the top. To do this critical function  forage needs to be flowing through the digestive system at all times. 

Picture a full toothpaste tube that is open. If you squeeze the bottom of the tube, toothpaste will come out the top because it is full. Picture a half empty toothpaste tube, with the paste at the bottom. Squeeze the tube and no toothpaste comes out the top because there isn't enough inside.

Without enough food matter to "fill the tube" (cecum), sand, dirt, and undigested material can remain at the bottom of the cecum, leading to colic. Avoiding this is simple: Feed your horse a continuous supply of forage -- all day, and all night.

Worried about weight gain? No need. Feed a low calorie, low NSC hay, free choice and your horse will let you know how much he needs to maintain his weight. Read Dr. Getty's articles on the easy keeper in my library at www.gettyequinenutrition.com or read the Easy Keeper, part of the Spotlight on Equine Nutrition Series.



WHY DON'T HORSES NEED A GALL BLADDER?

Because horses are designed to eat constantly.

 

We humans, on the other hand, eat few, relatively large meals. Our gall bladder serves as a storage pouch for bile – the emulsifying agent produced by the liver that is needed to start fat digestion. When we eat a large amount of fat at one time, the gall bladder releases bile into the small intestine.  If we did not have a gall bladder, and indulged in a high fat meal, we might experience indigestion.

 

Horses, on the other hand are trickle feeders – they are supposed to continuously graze on forage, all day and all night long (virtually all the time, with a few minutes of napping here and there). The small amount of fat that they eat is easily managed by the liver. Therefore, there is no need to store bile in large quantities.

 

In recent years, however, fat has been shown to be an alternative to high starch diets, since it is more concentrated in calories. There was initial concern that large amounts of fat would not be sufficiently digested. However, the horse’s liver has the ability to compensate. This adaptation takes several weeks; therefore it is best to increase fat levels slowly.



DOES THAT HAY BELLY REALLY MEAN YOUR HORSE IS FAT?

Ever been told that your horse has a hay belly and needs to lose weight? Well, relax! He’s not fat, he just has gas! In fact, gas production is normal and healthy. It indicates that your horse is getting enough hay for hindgut microbial fermentation to occur.

 

A distended abdomen is often referred to as a “hay belly” to describe an overweight horse, even when the rest of his body is normal, but actual fat does not accumulate extensively on the horse’s lower abdomen (belly).

 

Horses do accumulate worrisome fat in specific areas: neck, withers, back, ribs, shoulders, and tailhead. Excessive fat in these areas increases a risk for laminitis and increased inflammation throughout the body. In 1984, Dr. Don Henneke, of Texas A&M University, developed a “body condition scoring system” that categorizes horses’ condition based on the amount of fat stored in these six areas. This system is still the mainstay for equine health professionals.

 

Horse owners who deliberately limit hay consumption and replace it with cereal grain to avoid a hay belly are doing their horses a disservice and are increasing the risk of digestive and metabolic disorders. Forage should be the foundation of any horse’s diet. It is vital for the health of the hindgut microbes, and hence, the health of your horse.

 

 


AVOID LONG TERM USE OF ULCER MEDICATIONS

They either turn off the acid-making machinery in the stomach or they neutralize acid. Stomach acid is a necessary component of your horse's immune system, destroying harmful pathogens that your horse picks up from the ground. Acid is also necessary to start protein digestion.

 



USE YOUR STETHOSCOPE BEFORE YOU NEED IT!

Your emergency kit likely includes a stethoscope – a highly valuable piece of equipment during any urgent health situation. Knowing your horse’s normal heart rate and gut sounds beforehand will allow you to better assess the seriousness of the situation -- so use your stethoscope now.

 

A resting pulse is typically between 32 and 40 beats per minute (ponies’ are slightly higher). Place the stethoscope in front of the girth area, just behind the elbow. Using the sweep second hand on your watch or a stop watch (usually a feature on your cell phone), count the number of beats for 30 seconds and double it to get beats per minute. Measure at various times of day, before and after eating, and at any change in circumstances or activity level; this will give you a clear idea of how your horse generally responds to his environment. Marked deviation from normal (without obvious explanation such as exercise) can indicate the presence of infection, pain, or illness.


Your stethoscope is especially useful for listening to gut sounds. It is normal and healthy for sounds to come from the digestive tract due to the movement of feed, gas, and fluid. Intestines are made of muscles; processing forage continuously provides the necessary exercise to keep these muscles in good condition. Normally, the sounds will be low in pitch with some growling. Colic occurs when there is a change within the intestines, ordinarily due to obstruction, gas, or torsion and sounds change or stop altogether. If you don’t hear any noise, or if the sounds have become higher pitched, significantly slowed, or sound hollow, it likely indicates colic and you should contact your vet immediately. 


Practice listening to four areas of the gut: along the upper barrel and the lower flank area on both sides. Generally speaking, sounds from the upper left come from the small colon and tend to be high pitched and of short duration. The lower left has sounds from the large colon. On the upper right, the sounds come from the large colon and cecum whereas the lower right has the large colon. However, the point of origin for gut sounds is not completely predictable; the important thing is to identify a variation from your horse’s normal sounds.

 

Deviations from normal in pulse or gut sounds may have many possible explanations, so unless you have extensive experience, you should never put yourself in the position of diagnosing colic or other disorders. But you can be a valuable resource to your veterinarian if you know what is normal for your horse and can identify a change, before illness happens. 



RECOVERING FROM COLIC SURGERY

 

Surgery is one of those necessary evils. It helps your horse overcome whatever is ailing him, yet at the same time, it can give him a new list of concerns and ailments – pain, inflammation, risk of infection, and suppressed immune function due to the hormonal changes that arise from enduring physical and mental stress. 

 

Recovery from colic surgery is particularly challenging because the very route of nutrition – the digestive tract – is impaired. Things that your horse normally would eat, such as hay, may cause further harm. Surgery to the digestive tract leads to a decline in motility. Therefore, feed has to be gradually re-introduced, with small, frequent feedings of highly digestible feedstuffs, such as:

        Fresh pasture. Pasture has less bulk and is more digestible than hay.

        Alfalfa leaves. Alfalfa leaves offer protein and are well-tolerated in most cases.

        Complete feed pellets. Pellets can be moistened and are fortified with vitamins and minerals.

        Psyllium and beet pulp. Both offer water-soluble fiber.

Nutrient supplementation will make a difference. Some important guidelines:

        Avoid soybean or corn oils. These are high in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids. While inflammation has a role in healing, too much can create further damage, lengthen healing time, and cause excess pain.

        Offer two sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3s – plant and fish oils. Ground flaxseed and chia seeds are balanced in their omega 3 to omega 6 content and contain the essential, alpha linolenic acid (ALA); fish oils contain eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).  EPA and DHA can be made by the body from ALA, but adding extra will serve to aggressively reduce inflammation.

        Provide high quality protein for tissue repair. Grass hay does not provide all of the necessary amino acids. Supplement with alfalfa, or provide a protein supplement.

        Add vitamins C and E as well as the herbs, Curcumin and Boswellia.  These are potent antioxidants, neutralizing damaging free radicals, thereby reducing inflammation and pain. This improves immune function, paving the way for recovery. Vitamin E also helps inhibit formation of adhesions.

        Supplement B vitamins. These are necessary for rebuilding healthy tissue. It’s best to offer a B-complex preparation.

        Add a probiotic. Antibiotics kill harmful bacteria, as well as beneficial hindgut bacteria. Offer a probiotic that contains billions (not millions) of colony forming units (CFUs).

Knowing what caused the colic problem will help avoid another episode. Colic can be prevented. Free-choice forage, eliminating cereal grains, movement (avoiding confinement to a stall), and stress reduction will go a long way toward keeping your horse healthy.

 


Electrolytes and salt:


SALT, NOT ELECTROLYTE SUPPLEMENTS, NEEDS MORE ATTENTION DURING HOT MONTHS

Your horse sweats more during the summer, making electrolyte supplementation worth considering. But electrolytes alone will not protect against dehydration. Your horse needs to have enough sodium (salt). One ounce per day (two tablespoons) is adequate for maintenance during cool months, but hot, humid weather calls for at least two ounces per day, and more if your horse is in work of any kind.

 

One way to accomplish this: provide a plain, white salt block, Redmond salt rock, or Himalayan salt rock in close proximity. But make sure your horse licks it; many horses do not, due to tiny scratches that form on the tongue. Even better is to offer coarsely granulated salt free choice by pouring some in a small bucket. You can also add salt to each meal. Iodized table salt and Redmond and Himalayan rocks offer a small amount of iodine. Take this into consideration if your horse already receives iodine from another source. Total iodine intake should not exceed 5 mg per day.  

 

Be aware that electrolyte supplements should be given only to a horse that is already in good sodium balance. They are designed to replace what is lost from perspiration and should contain at least 13 grams of chloride, 6 grams of sodium, and 5 grams of potassium per dose. If your horse works more than two hours at a time, provide a dose of electrolytes after exercise by adding it to a gallon of water, top-dressing a feed, or offered via syringe. And always, be sure to keep fresh, clean water nearby.




SHOULD YOUR HORSE HAVE IODIZED OR NON-IODIZED SALT?

A full-sized horse does best on a diet that offers 1 to 6 mg of iodine each day to keep his thyroid gland working properly. Because the iodine content of grass is too low to measure, it is best to rely on supplementation -- from salt or other sources -- to meet your horse's need. Many supplements and fortified feeds already add it. It's always best to know what your horse is consuming since too much iodine can damage the thyroid gland.

 
Since all full-sized horses require at least one ounce (2 tablespoons) of salt per day for maintenance (and up to 3 ounces/day when perspiring heavily), iodized salt is a good way to add iodine and provide the needed salt as well. Granulated salt that you buy in the grocery store comes in both non-iodized and iodized versions; one teaspoon of iodized table salt contains 0.4 mg of iodine (3 tsp = 1 Tablespoon = 15 ml).
 
White and brown salt blocks generally do not contain iodine, whereas blue and red ones do. Sea salt, kelp, and other natural salt sources can vary tremendously in their iodine content. Only use reputable sources that guarantee their iodine analysis in writing.

 


HORSES NEED SUPPLEMENTAL SALT YEAR ROUND

Regardless of the weather, horses require a daily supply of salt. In cold seasons, salt helps promote enough water consumption to prevent dehydration. In warm seasons, salt replaces what is lost from perspiration. A full-sized horse requires at least one ounce (two level tablespoons or 30 ml) of salt each day for maintenance, this much provides 12 grams of sodium. Heat, humidity, and exercise increase the horse’s need.  

 

There are several ways to accomplish this. The best ways include offering free-choice granulated salt, or adding salt to your horse’s meal (for palatability, limit the amount to no more than 1 tablespoon per meal). A salt block should be available should your horse want more. A plain, white salt block is preferable, but many horses do not lick it adequately since it can be irritating to the tongue. Mineralized blocks often go untouched due to their bitter taste; however a Himalayan salt block is often preferred.  

 

Calculate the amount of sodium your horse is getting from any commercial feeds or supplements and add salt accordingly. Always have fresh water nearby. 




 

Feeding:


SCOOPS MEASURE VOLUME, NOT WEIGHT


The directions on most feed bags offer guidelines in terms of the number of pounds (or kg) you should feed.  If you use a scoop to measure your horse’s feed, how many pounds are you actually feeding?  Are you assuming that a 2-quart scoop, for example, offers 2 pounds (0.9 kg) of feed?  This can be a dangerous assumption.


Scoops provide volume – they measure quarts or liters; they tell you nothing about weight. Even those scoops that offer weight measurements on the outside are estimates at best, because it depends on what you put in the scoop that determines the weight. One quart of marbles is going to weigh more than one quart of cotton balls. By the same analogy, one quart of oats is going to weigh more than one quart of shredded beet pulp. 

Knowing how much you are feeding is important for several reasons. First, your horse can potentially become obese from too many calories. Second, since the stomach is relatively small, it can only process a small amount of food at a time, so supplemental meal size should be limited to no more than 4 lbs (1.8 kg) for an 1100 lb (500 kg) horse. Finally, following the manufacturer’s directions is the best way to ensure that your horse is getting all of the vitamins and minerals listed on the label, otherwise additional supplementation will be important, and the only way to follow manufacturer’s directions is to weigh the feed.   

A scale is a must-have piece of equipment for any barn. Weigh your feed and mark your scoop so you do not have to weigh it each time you feed. If you change feeds, be sure to weigh the new feed; do not rely on the previous measurement.





Flaxseeds:


WHICH GROUND FLAXSEEDS SHOULD YOU CHOOSE - GOLDEN OR BROWN?


The benefits of ground flaxseeds are numerous. They are a good source of protein, boosting the overall amino acid pool available for tissue synthesis and repair. They contain vitamins and trace minerals. Their high lignan content (not to be confused with lignin, an indigestible fiber) gives your horse antioxidant protection against disease. And most of all, their plentiful omega 3 fatty acid content promotes health by reducing inflammation, lowering insulin, balancing immune response, and feeding hooves, skin, and hair.  


Flaxseeds come in two basic varieties - golden or brown.  Is one better than another? The Canadian Grain Commission did a recent study comparing the two and found them to be very similar. The alpha-linolenic acid (omega 3) content of brown flaxseeds was 59%, compared to 51% for the golden seeds. Producers of ground flaxseed products also show them to be virtually equal in their omega 3 content.


Bottom line: Either form is nutritious and worthwhile. It is best to feed a product that adds a small amount of calcium to correct for the naturally high levels of phosphorus found in flaxseeds. Be sure to grind them daily, or purchase a stabilized product from a reputable provider.





Forage:


HORSES THAT GRAZE ON PASTURE 24/7 EAT MORE SLOWLY


If you let your horse out to graze on pasture for only a few hours each day, and provide hay the rest of the time, you’ve likely noticed how he approaches the grass like a vacuum cleaner, barely lifting his head the entire time he is outside. On the other hand, horses who graze on pasture 24/7 are more relaxed, eating less grass at a slower pace, taking time to rest and interact with buddies.


Researchers at North Carolina State University were interested in just how much pasture horses consume at varying combinations of pasture and hay availability. What they found confirms what we have all witnessed. At varying levels of pasture turnout, an 1100 lb (500 kg) horse will consume the following amounts of grass dry matter (all horses were given free choice hay when removed from pasture):

The less time you allow for pasture grazing, the more excited your horse will be at the opportunity to have fresh grass and will eat nearly three times faster than if he had access to pasture 24/7. 


Note: To convert lb/hr to kg/hr, divide by 2.2





Garlic:


GARLIC MAY NOT BE WORTH THE RISK

Do you feed garlic to help keep the bugs away? The active ingredient in raw garlic is called allicin (also known as N-propyl disulfide) and can lead to Heinz Body anemia. Commercial products use a heat processing which supposedly destroys all of the damaging allicin, but also reduces  the insect-repelling properties. It's true that the strong odor will help keep bugs away, but most folks love the real smell of horses, and would not enjoy one that reeks of garlic.  Bottom line... the jury is still out on the long term safety of garlic-containing products. Until we know more, feeding garlic may not be worth the risk.




 

Hooves:

HOOVES -- PUTTING THE HORSE'S BEST FOOT FORWARD

 

Hooves are made of a hard, crusty protein called keratin. You cannot add keratin by painting it on – it is produced by specialized cells within the hooves called keratinocytes, which rely on a nutrient-rich blood supply.

 

Key nutrients for hoof health include omega-3 fatty acids, quality protein, minerals (including copper, zinc, and silicon), beta carotene (which is used to make vitamin A), and the old standby – biotin (approximately 20 mg per day).

 

It’s important to realize that hooves are low on your horse’s list of priorities. Available nutrients will first be used for survival – feeding vital organs (heart, liver, kidneys, lungs, glands). If nutrients remain, they can be used to feed hoof tissue. Therefore, unhealthy hooves are an indication that there just aren’t enough nutrients to go around. A forage-based diet, with proper vitamin/mineral supplementation to fill in nutritional gaps, will help ensure overall health, while protecting your horse’s feet.


 



Inflammation:

BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND INFLAMMATION


Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are a popular addition to the horse’s diet. They are highly nutritious, offering protein, vitamins, and minerals and are especially high in magnesium (100 mg per ounce). BOSS are high in fat, as well, but the type of fat is mainly in the form of omega 6s, with very little omega 3 content. Since omega 6s are inflammatory, balancing with a source of omega 3s is important to consider, especially for the horse who is experiencing inflammation due to injury, aging, or obesity.


One cup of BOSS provides approximately 10,000 mg of omega 6s and only 34 mg of omega 3s. To bring this in line with the naturally occurring ratio of 4:1 omega 3s to omega 6s found in fresh grasses, you would need to feed approximately 2 cups of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. 


Be certain to feed only the black seeds, typically purchased for wild birds; their shells are soft and easy to digest. Avoid the striped shelled seeds; their outer shell contains a large amount of indigestible fiber that cannot be managed by the microbial population in your horse’s digestive tract.  




Immune function:

REDUCE RISK OF INFECTION WHEN TRAVELING 


For many horses, this is the season for traveling to fall horse shows and events. Considering periodic outbreaks of equine herpes virus (EHV-1) and other infectious diseases, it is critical that your horse be in top physical health before embarking to an unfamiliar area. The foundation of that health is a strong immune system. Added antioxidants and supportive nutrients can have a positive impact on your horse’s ability to resist an infection.

Boost supplementation of the following nutrients per day for at least two weeks before you leave and throughout the travels or event; wean your horse off of them for two weeks following your return:

Be sure to check how much of these nutrients your horse may already be getting from commercial feeds and supplements, and calculate to add only enough to boost quantities as noted above.

Remember that stress suppresses immune function. An empty stomach is incredibly stressful -- both mentally uncomfortable and physically painful. Protect your horse by allowing him to graze on hay (and pasture, if available) at all times, throughout the day and night. And never let him perform without some forage in his digestive tract.

Attention to increased nutritional needs will go a long way toward keeping your horse healthy during the time away from his familiar surroundings and routine.



HEALING PROPERTIES OF MANUKA HONEY

As any horse owner knows, horses get their share of cuts and scrapes. If you’re inclined to reach for something natural, consider honey. Honey has been used for centuries because of its antimicrobial properties. When raw, the enzymes are still active, and work well as a topical first aid.  Because of its high sugar content and low pH, it kills microbes by making the environment more acidic, while also drawing water out of cells.

 

Manuka honey is especially effective -- collected from the Tea Tree manuka bush native to New Zealand, manuka honey has a higher enzymatic activity, making it more potent than other forms. When eaten, it is helpful for seasonal allergies that affect the skin and respiratory system. When applied to a wound, manuka honey has been shown to speed healing. Researchers at the University of Sydney’s Veterinary Science and Clinical Training Unit compared healing time of open leg wounds over a 12-day treatment period; they found a significant improvement in the honey-treated group:  reduction in healing time, size of wound, and amount of proud flesh produced. 

 

Manuka honey can be applied in its natural state, but it is messy and attracts flies; therefore, it requires bandaging. Commercial dealers offer a medicinal gel that also promotes healing while being easier to apply. Consider including it in your horse’s medicine kit.      .



Insulin resistance:

HAY BEFORE GRAIN, OR VICE VERSA?

Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage (hay and/or pasture) 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse's digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it. 

 

If fed starchy cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse will produce even more acid (potentially leading to ulcers) and it will be leave the stomach quickly. When this happens, there is a risk that it will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

 

If hay is present in the stomach first, it creates a physical barrier for the grain to move out of the stomach as quickly. Starch does not get digested in the stomach so the grain is simply mixed and churned into a semi-liquid mass, which enters the small intestine where it can be digested down to glucose. If there is hay present, fiber mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.

 

One thing to note - there is more water involved when hay is present (from increased drinking and saliva production). This is a good thing since digestion within the small intestine cannot take place without water. 



IS GLUCOSAMINE SAFE FOR THE INSULIN RESISTANT HORSE?

Glucosamine is a sugar (glucose) bound to an amino acid (building block of protein). It reduces inflammation and is a precursor to building blocks found in cartilage. Cartilage cells are able to produce glucosamine from glucose, but supplementation is often preferable if your horse is experiencing osteoarthritis. It can be supplemented orally or via injection.

Many horse owners are reluctant to give glucosamine to their insulin resistant horse that has joint pain. This is a valid concern. Insulin resistant people have experienced adverse effects when given high dosages of glucosamine (though the research results are mixed). But since glucosamine is not digested down to glucose, it should not cause a rise in insulin. So what causes the glucose and hence, insulin to rise? Evidently, glucosamine confuses the cells into thinking that they have enough glucose. So, glucose from other sources cannot enter the cells. The result can be increased blood glucose, not from glucosamine, but from the diet in general, leading to elevated insulin.


That’s what happens in people; we really do not know if the same thing happens in horses. So, use your judgment. If your insulin resistant horse has been taking glucosamine without any problem, continue using it. But if your horse is battling laminitis or equine Cushing’s disease, consider getting a joint supplement that does not contain glucosamine. You can safely use ingredients such as MSM, chondroitin, hyaluronic acid, n-acetyl-l-carnitine, cetyl myristoleate, and orthosilicic acid. Or start with two basic ingredients – vitamin C and omega 3 fatty acids -- especially in the older horse (who no longer produces the same level of vitamin C as when younger). Vitamin C is used for collagen production (which covers and cushions the surfaces of opposing bones) and omega 3s are potent anti-inflammatory agents. 



APPLE PEELS FOR WEIGHT LOSS

When asked about an appropriate treat for overweight horses, I often recommend apple peels. Whole apples are too high in sugar – nearly 15 grams in a small apple – but the peels are tasty and a good source of fiber. 


But they just got even better – apple peels actually promote weight loss! It has to do with something called “ursolic acid.” This naturally-occurring substance has been shown to stimulate muscle growth, increase carbohydrate metabolism, and reduce body fat by triggering production of brown adipose tissue (calorie-burning brown fat, or BAT) in mice. 


What exactly is BAT? Mammals possess two types of adipose (fat) tissue, brown and white. White adipose tissue stores fat, while brown adipose tissue (BAT) burns fat to produce heat when the body is exposed to cold. BAT also plays a role in energy metabolism. Studies on humans have shown that greater quantities of BAT are associated with lower body weight, so BAT has been of major interest to researchers based on its potential as a treatment to combat obesity. Studies have shown similar results in mice.


Admittedly, humans and mice differ from horses -- and each other -- in their metabolisms and body percentages of BAT, and no such studies have been done to date on horses; however it is worthwhile to note that apple peels may offer even more health benefits to the overweight horse than we previously thought. 




EASY KEEPER? THINK PSYLLIUM!

It’s a vicious cycle – elevated glucose leads to elevated insulin. Elevated insulin leads to excess body fat. Excess body fat leads to too much insulin in the blood (insulin resistance). If only blood glucose levels could be reduced – that would put a halt to this circular pattern. Removing starchy cereal grains, molasses, sugary treats, and testing your hay for low levels of non-structural carbohydrates – all of these are important. But did you know that adding psyllium husks to your horse’s daily diet will also reduce blood glucose? 


The outer husk of the psyllium seed (an herb called Plantago ovata) is rich in water-soluble fiber. It has long been used to help remove sand from the hindgut as a means of controlling sand colic. But recent research has revealed its ability to lower blood glucose in horses. It is believe that the fiber slows down glucose absorption and therefore, reduces insulin output from the pancreas. 

 

Low sugar/starch diets, plenty of exercise, reduction of stress… all great ways to help your overweight horse lose weight. And now we can add psyllium to the list! Adding 1/3 cup per meal will lower blood glucose and lower blood insulin, making weight loss easier and preventing obesity-related disorders.



iT'S NOT JUST SUGAR THAT RAISES INSULIN - POOR QUALITY PROTEIN CAN, TOO!

Dietary protein supplies the body with amino acids, which the cells can reassemble to form body proteins specific to the tissue the body needs (bones, skin, muscle, etc.). When only one source of protein is fed, such as one type of grass, this is considered to be "poor quality protein," meaning there is not enough amino acid variety for the cells to combine into useful body proteins. The amino acids that the cells can't use (the left-overs) will be destroyed by the liver, potentially leading to the formation of glucose. Elevated glucose leads to insulin secretion, which can be problematic for the insulin resistant or cushingoid horse. By feeding several protein sources (e.g., different grasses, legumes, and grain by-products) the amino acid pool will be improved, allowing your horse to produce the body proteins he needs. 



TOO MUCH IRON CAN BE DETRIMENTAL TO THE insulin resistant horse

 

Are you adding a supplement to your horse’s diet that contains iron? If your horse is overweight, diagnosed with insulin resistance, or suffers from equine Cushing’s disease, here’s a word to the wise: You may want to reconsider giving that supplement. Studies have shown a direct correlation between iron intake and insulin levels in the blood, making it an important factor in managing the diet for these horses.

 

Iron deficiency anemia is rare and too much iron can potentially lead to laminitis, as well as create an imbalance with other minerals. Furthermore, forages (pasture, hay, hay pellets or cubes) are already high in iron, making supplementation unnecessary and possibly dangerous. To protect your horse, choose a vitamin/mineral supplement that does not include iron and have your hay analyzed.

 

Calculate the total iron intake in the diet; though an upper tolerable limit for all horses is 500 ppm, it should be far less for sensitive horses. Soaking hay can remove much of the iron, but will also remove other minerals. Balance iron with zinc and copper: iron should not be more than 5 times the level of zinc, and the zinc to copper ratio should range from 3:1 to 5:1.

 

One more comment: Forages grown from acidic soils will be higher in iron. If you grow your own hay, or can discuss this issue with your hay provider, consider increasing the pH of the soil through lime application. 



TURMERIC IS A WINNING SUPPLEMENT FOR INSULIN RESISTANCE


Turmeric, an Asian spice, has an impressive resume of reducing inflammation, relieving pain, protecting against brain degenerative diseases, and suppressing insulin resistance.  Research[i] has revealed that feeding turmeric to laboratory animals suffering from Type II diabetes (which involves insulin resistance) resulted in weight reduction and increased glucose utilization.[ii]

 

Turmeric also has potent antioxidant properties, making it valuable in reducing the inflammatory response caused by excess body fat.  Reduction of oxidative stress due to inflammation can allow the horse to become more sensitive to leptin, as well as slow down the progression of equine Cushing’s disease.

 

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is fat soluble, so there must be some source of fat in the meal to promote its absorption (e.g., ground flax, chia seeds, rice bran, oils, etc.).  Curcumin amounts to less than 5% of turmeric, therefore, the exact dosage is not clear; however, feeding 2 to 4 tablespoons of turmeric per day to the average-sized horse is very well tolerated.


[i] Kim, T., Davis, J., Zhang, A.J., et. al., 2009. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 388(2), 377-382.

[ii] Zhang, D.W., Fu, M., Gao, S.H., and Liu, J.L., 2013. Curcumin and diabetes: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013. 





Laminitis: 

HAY BEFORE GRAIN, OR VICE VERSA?

Which should be fed first – hay or grain?  If you’re feeding correctly, this issue is truly a moot point because the horse should have access to forage (hay and/or pasture) 24/7 with no gaps. Therefore, when fed concentrates, the horse's digestive tract should already have hay flowing through it. 

 

If fed starchy cereal grains (oats, corn, barley, etc.) on an empty stomach, the horse will produce even more acid (potentially leading to ulcers) and it will be leave the stomach quickly. When this happens, there is a risk that it will not be fully digested in the small intestine (especially if large amounts are fed), and end up in the hindgut where starch can be fermented by the bacterial population. This can lead to endotoxin-related laminitis.

 

If hay is present in the stomach first, it creates a physical barrier for the grain to move out of the stomach as quickly. Starch does not get digested in the stomach so the grain is simply mixed and churned into a semi-liquid mass, which enters the small intestine where it can be digested down to glucose. If there is hay present, fiber mixes with the starch and the whole mass enters the small intestine. Fiber is not digested until it reaches the hind gut, but its presence slows down the digestion of starch, and obstructs the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, leading to a less dramatic rise in insulin.

 

One thing to note - there is more water involved when hay is present (from increased drinking and saliva production). This is a good thing since digestion within the small intestine cannot take place without water. 




ADD a SERVING OF CAUTION TO THAT TENDER SPRING GRASS


Spring is almost upon us in most of the country, so it’s time to revisit that critical topic: spring grazing.


Transitioning a horse from hay to pasture must be handled with care; this point is non-negotiable. For every horse, a gradual change from hay to grass is required to allow the digestive system to adapt, but for the insulin-resistant horse, grazing time and duration can make the difference between soundness and a disabling condition like laminitis. This time of year can be a test of patience for horse—and owner. The horse may be pawing at the gate to get to the first taste of tender spring grass, yet the owner must pay close attention to making the transition safe and healthful.

As the leaves form from the first spring sprouts, the sugar and starch content increases, making it especially tempting. Regardless of the growth stage, quantities should be monitored because horses crave fresh grass and will eat volumes of it, making their overall non-structural carbohydrate (NSC) consumption dangerously high for horses who are overweight, cushingoid, or who have experienced pasture-related laminitis.

Temperature and sunlight play a major role in the amount of NSC accumulation. To be safe, here are the rules:

·         When the night temperature is below 40 degrees F, the grass is too high in NSC.

·         Once it gets above 40 degrees F at night, the lowest NSC level is before the sun rises.

·         The NSC level is highest in late afternoon, after a sunny day.

 

There is no exact “best time” to turn out your horses on pasture. Generally speaking in moderate climates, it’s safest before dawn, until approximately 10:00 am, and then again at night, starting at around 11:00 pm. Start slowly, offering hay when horses are not on fresh grass.

Finally, test your pasture! Yes, testing is not only for hay. It will take the guesswork out of knowing which times are best.


 



Minerals:

IS YOUR HORSE'S COAT COLOR RUSTING?

The dark color of your horse’s coat, mane, and tail can change color. This is often attributed to exposure to sunlight. But red tips on dark manes and dark coats, particularly noticeable in bays and black horses, may be due to a copper deficiency. Fortunately, this is easy to fix. But it requires knowing the levels of copper and zinc in the entire diet.


Copper and zinc need to be balanced. Too much of one can interfere with the uptake of the other. The ideal copper to zinc ratio is 1:3. To bring your horse’s diet within this level, you must evaluate everything you are feeding, including hay, pasture, feeds, and supplements. The most common mineral imbalance found in hay is too much iron combined with low zinc and copper levels. A high iron concentration can interfere with both zinc and copper absorption, making already low levels of these minerals even less available to your horse. Strive for no more than 8 times more iron than zinc.


The “rusting” of your horse’s hair and mane may be the tip of the iceberg. Zinc and copper are involved in many important bodily functions including red blood cell health, metabolic enzymes, immune function, and the overall health of tendons, ligaments, hooves, and bones. Go deeper than the surface – protect your horse’s overall health by assessing the mineral content of the entire diet.




TOO MUCH IRON CAN BE DETRIMENTAL TO THE insulin resistant horse

 

Are you adding a supplement to your horse’s diet that contains iron? You may want to consider changing it if your horse is overweight, diagnosed with insulin resistance, or suffers from equine Cushing’s disease. Studies have shown a direct correlation between iron intake and insulin levels in the blood, making it an important factor in managing the diet for these horses.

 

Forages (pasture, hay, hay pellets or cubes) are already high in this mineral; therefore, supplementation is not necessary. Iron deficiency anemia is rare and too much iron can potentially lead to laminitis, as well as create an imbalance with other minerals. 

 

Forages grown from acidic soils will be higher in iron. If you grow your own hay, or can discuss this issue with your hay provider, consider increasing the pH of the soil through lime application.  To protect your horse, have your hay analyzed and choose a vitamin/mineral supplement that does not include iron. Calculate the total iron intake in the diet; though an upper tolerable limit for all horses is 500 ppm, it should be far less for sensitive horses.  Soaking hay can remove much of the iron, but will also remove other minerals. Balance iron with zinc and copper:  iron should not be more than 5 times the level of zinc, and the zinc to copper ratio should range from 3:1 to 5:1. 

 



Omega 3s and fats:

FLAX, CHIA, OR FISH OIL -- WHICH IS BEST FOR OMEGA 3S?

Omega 3 fatty acids keep your horse healthy in a variety of ways. They balance immune function, protect joints and ligaments, diminish airway inflammation, support gastrointestinal function, reduce skin allergies, and decrease nervousness. Fresh grass has ample omega 3s -- four times more than omega 6s.  Hay, however, has virtually none left. And commercial feeds usually contain soybean or corn oils, which are very high in inflammatory omega 6s. While there’s one omega 6 that is necessary – linoleic acid -- too much of a good thing can create an imbalance.

To provide omega 3s, horse owners generally turn to one of three sources – flaxseeds, chia seeds, or fish oils. Keep in mind that there are several fatty acids that can be classified as “omega 3” based on their chemical structure, but there is only one omega 3 fatty acid that your horse cannot produce on his own, and therefore, must be in the diet: Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). The fat found in flaxseeds (oil or ground into a meal) and chia seeds is predominantly in the form on ALA; flax provides approximately 4:1 omega 3s to omega 6s, while chia has slightly fewer omega 3s.

Fish oils are high in two omega 3 fatty acids: docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Though horses are not fish-eaters, both of these fatty acids offer strong anti-inflammatory benefits and may be useful for heavily exercised muscles and joints. But, fish oil does not provide the essential ALA.  Horses need ALA in their diets because their bodies are unable to manufacture it. They can, however, create DHA and EPA from ALA. Therefore, supplementing the diet with flax or chia will better mimic the omega 3s found in plants -- what horses are designed to eat.



WHAT IS AN N-3 PUFA?

I recently saw the term “n-3 PUFA” used in an article about supplementing fat for insulin resistant horses. It discussed a study performed at Colorado State University where “n-3 PUFAs” were shown to significantly reduce insulin levels. Great news!  But what in the world is an n-3 PUFA?

 

Allow me to simplify. First, PUFA stands for “polyunsaturated fatty acid.” All fatty substances contain a combination, in varying amounts, of three types of fatty acids: (1) Saturated -- the kind you’d find in butter, beef, or coconut oil, (2) Monounsaturated (abbreviated MUFA) – found in high amounts in olive oil and rice bran oil, and (3) Polyunsaturated (abbreviated PUFA) – a more complex molecule found in most plants and in fish. There are two main types of PUFAs, which are named based on their chemical structure – Omega 3 or Omega 6. The Greek letter, omega, is often symbolized in the literature by an “n” followed by the number.

The omega 6 PUFA, (symbolized by n-6), known as linoleic acid is important because the horse cannot produce it; therefore, it is considered “essential” and must be in the diet. A problem occurs when the diet contains too much – high amounts of linoleic acid (an n-6 PUFA) can lead to inflammation. Oils from soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower, and wheat germ are very high in this specific fatty acid. Omega 3 (n-3) PUFAs are found in three forms: (1) Alpha linolenic acid (ALA) – found in high amounts in flax, chia, and fresh grasses, (2) Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA – found in fish oils, and (3) Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – also found in fish oils. ALA is also “essential” and can be converted to the other two n-3 PUFAs. 


Back to the good news… while all fat is high in calories, foods that are high in n-3 PUFAs can lower blood insulin levels, which helps reduce fat storage and lessen the risk of laminitis.

Please listen to the recorded teleseminar, “A Clear View of Fat – Types, Sources, and Benefits” for a great deal more information. Also, read the article, “Fat is Fat, Right? Check Your Omegas!” found in the Getty Equine Nutrition library.




WHAT IS VEGETABLE OIL?

The ingredient list is your most important source of information when evaluating a feed or supplement for your horse. Items within the ingredient list must be presented in a certain order. According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), the ingredient with the highest percentage of total weight must be listed first with all ingredients listed in descending order. However, under certain conditions, the manufacturer may list ingredients alphabetically, making it difficult to interpret concentrations. Also, feed items are often clumped together in one term.

 

This is typically the case with added fat. Many manufacturers will list fat content simply as “vegetable oil,” leaving you, the consumer, with absolutely no idea of the source. The only thing this tells you is that the fat is not of animal origin. But there are many vegetable oils available -- the most commonly added ones are soybean, corn, and coconut oils. The majority of fatty acids in soybean and corn oils are in the omega 6 variety, which is inflammatory in high amounts when not balanced with omega 3s. Coconut oil does not contain any appreciable omega 3s or 6s, but it is easy to handle because it is solid (due to its highly saturated chemistry); however, research is unclear about whether it is safe for long-term consumption.

 

Ultimately, it is your responsibility to know what is in your horse’s feed. Call the manufacturer for clarification. Don't guess when it comes to your horse's health.  



BLACK OIL SUNFLOWER SEEDS AND INFLAMMATION


Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are a popular addition to the horse’s diet. They are highly nutritious, offering protein, vitamins, and minerals and are especially high in magnesium (100 mg per ounce). BOSS are high in fat, as well, but the type of fat is mainly in the form of omega 6s, with very little omega 3 content. Since omega 6s are inflammatory, balancing with a source of omega 3s is important to consider, especially for the horse who is experiencing inflammation due to injury, aging, or obesity.


One cup of BOSS provides approximately 10,000 mg of omega 6s and only 34 mg of omega 3s. To bring this in line with the naturally occurring ratio of 4:1 omega 3s to omega 6s found in fresh grasses, you would need to feed approximately 2 cups of ground flaxseeds or chia seeds. 


Be certain to feed only the black seeds, typically purchased for wild birds; their shells are soft and easy to digest. Avoid the striped shelled seeds; their outer shell contains a large amount of indigestible fiber that cannot be managed by the microbial population in your horse’s digestive tract.  






Pasture:


PILES OF GRASS CLIPPINGS ARE NO TREAT FOR YOUR HORSE!


Are you tempted to cut your grass, then rake it into soft, fragrant, tasty piles of clippings for your horse to nibble? According to equine nutrition expert Dr. Juliet Getty this should be the last thing you encourage your horse to eat. It has to do with that extra step: raking. Grass clippings that stay on the pasture after mowing, where they can dry in small amounts, are generally not a problem. But never gather them into piles to feed them to your horse. Here’s why:

 

·         Clippings are too easy to over-consume, and eating large amounts at one time can lead to excess fermentation in the hind gut, potentially causing colic and laminitis.

·         Piles of clippings can rapidly invite mold to form (especially prevalent in hot, humid environments), which can lead to colic.

·         Because there is no air inside a dense pile, botulism can develop, which turns this “treat” absolutely deadly.

 

Three really good reasons those pretty piles are no kind of treat for your horse!



ADD A SERVING OF CAUTION TO THAT TENDER SPRING GRASS

Spring is almost upon us in most of the country, so it’s time to revisit that critical topic: spring grazing.


Transitioning a horse from hay to pasture must be handled with care; this point is non-negotiable. For

every horse, a gradual change from hay to grass is required to allow the digestive system to adapt, but

for the insulin-resistant horse, grazing time and duration can make the difference between soundness

and a disabling condition like laminitis. This time of year can be a test of patience for horse—and owner.

The horse may be pawing at the gate to get to the first taste of tender spring grass, yet the owner must

pay close attention to making the transition safe and healthful.

The first spring sprouts are actually lower in sugars and starch (non-structural carbohydrates—NSC)

because they use all that energy to promote their own rapid growth. As the leaves form, the overall

sugar and starch content increases, making it especially tempting. Regardless of the growth stage,

quantities should be monitored because horses crave fresh grass and will eat volumes of it, making their

overall NSC consumption really high—dangerously high for horses who are overweight, cushingoid, or

who have experienced insulin-related laminitis.

Temperature and sunlight play a major role in the amount of NSC accumulation. To be safe, here are the rules:

·         When the night temperature is below 40 degrees F, the grass is too high in NSC.

·         Once it gets above 40 degrees F at night, the lowest NSC level is before the sun rises.

·         The NSC level is highest in late afternoon, after a sunny day.


There is no exact “best time” to turn out your horses on pasture. Generally speaking in moderate

climates, it’s safest before dawn, until approximately 10:00 am, and then again at night, starting at

around 11:00 pm. Start slowly, offering hay when horses are not on fresh grass.

Finally, test your pasture! Yes, testing is not only for hay. It will take the guesswork out of knowing

which times are best.




NEW!!  BEWARE OF FALL PASTURE -- LAMINITIS RISK INCREASES!


As temperatures begin to dip, Dr. Juliet Getty, equine nutrition specialist, reminds you to help your horse make the transition to winter feeding in good shape—and that means you being informed about the sugar and starch that lurk in your fall pasture growth. 


If you have horses that are overweight, insulin resistant, or suffer from equine Cushing’s disease, you know about keeping them off of spring grasses. The non-structural carbohydrate (NSC--sugars, starch, and fructans) content is too high for free-choice pasture grazing to be safe, increasing the risk for laminitis. But don’t think you're out of the woods once spring is over. True, summer is safer, but as early fall nights cool down below 40 degrees F for the majority of the night, the dangerous carbohydrates once again increase.

Grass accumulates NSC as it is exposed to sunlight. The levels reach a peak in the late afternoon. During the dark hours, the grass uses this fuel for itself, and by morning, the levels are at their lowest. But cold nights prevent grass from using as much NSC, resulting in a higher NSC concentration remaining during the day.

Don’t be fooled by the brown grass you see in the late fall. Spread it apart and you’ll likely see some green at the base, which is high in sugar and starch. If it hasn’t rained in a while, your grass will look dried outbut be careful – dry grass can actually have a higher NSC percentage than long, lush-looking grass.

 

Testing your pasture every couple of weeks may be a good option this time of year, especially if your horse is otherwise at high risk for laminitis. Equi-Analytical Labs offers their economical "Fast Track" test that provides WSC (simple sugars and fructans), ESC (simple sugars), and starch levels. Though just a snapshot of what is happening to the grass at that moment in time, consistent testing will provide a trend that may offer some peace of mind in determining when the grass has gone dormant for the winter. 


 


Pregnancy:

 

YOUR PREGNANT MARE'S LAST THREE MONTHS

During the first 8 months of pregnancy, your mare may be fed like any other horse, with a balanced, quality diet. But, things are changing rapidly during this last stage of pregnancy – She requires more calories, more protein, more omega 3s, and balanced vitamins and minerals, not only for the unborn foal but also to prepare for milk production.

Grass hay or pasture should be provided ‘round the clock; she should never run out. If allowed to self-regulate her intake, she will likely consume 2.5 to 3.5 percent of her body weight as forage. Alfalfa hay should also be included to balance her protein needs. Alfalfa should never be fed exclusively (due to potential mineral imbalances). Strive for a 60:40 ratio of grass hay to alfalfa hay.

The fetus gains 1 pound per day during these final three gestational months. Hay alone will not meet all her caloric needs. Furthermore, hay is missing many vitamins that would be found in living, fresh grass. A quality commercially-fortified feed designed for broodmares will meet her nutritional needs as long as it is fed according to recommended amounts. Or you can mix your own feed by offering beet pulp, hay pellets, ground flaxseeds or Chia seeds, and other whole foods, along with a comprehensive supplement that provides balanced levels of vitamins, and minerals such as copper, zinc, and manganese, as well as selenium and iodine.


Attention to nutrition will help the mare maintain strength and health in this final stage of pregnancy as well as be ready for the significant demands of milk production and nursing. 



Protein:

IT'S NOT JUST SUGAR THAT RAISES INSULIN - POOR QUALITY PROTEIN CAN, TOO!
Dietary protein supplies the body with amino acids, which the cells can reassemble to form body proteins specific to the tissue the body needs (bones, skin, muscle, etc.). When only one source of protein is fed, such as one type of grass, this is considered to be "poor quality protein," meaning there is not enough amino acid variety for the cells to combine into useful body proteins. The amino acids that the cells can't use (the left-overs) will be destroyed by the liver, potentially leading to the formation of glucose. Elevated glucose leads to insulin secretion, which can be problematic for the insulin resistant or cushingoid horse. By feeding several protein sources (e.g., different grasses, legumes, and grain by-products) the amino acid pool will be improved, allowing your horse to produce the body proteins he needs. .

 



Supplements: 


SUPPLEMENTING THE SUPPLEMENTED FEED

 

“For an adult horse with moderate activity, feed .75 to 1.0 lbs per 100 lbs of body weight.” These are the feeding instructions for a popular commercially fortified feed. If your horse weighs 1100 lbs (500 kg), you’ll need to feed 8.25 to 11 lbs of feed per day. For enough calories? Enough protein? Enough vitamins and minerals?  Yes, to all of the above and more. That’s a lot of feed!  That could amount to three to five two-quart scoops (depending on the weight of the feed) per day. And you’ll need to divide it into multiple feedings since meal size should never exceed 4 lbs (your horse’s stomach is small compared to the rest of his digestive tract).

 

Chances are excellent that you don’t feed anything close to the suggested amount.  Does it matter? Yes. Most of what you pay for when you buy a fortified feed, are the fortifications. You pay for the vitamins, the minerals, and any special ingredients such as flaxseed and soybean meals to provide omega 3s and protein. The only way your horse will benefit from these nutrients is to feed according to directions. Modify them and you’ll need to “supplement the supplement.”  For example, this feed provides 100 IUs of vitamin E per lb. If you fed half of the recommended amount, say 5 lbs, your horse would only receive 500 IUs per day. That’s the bare minimum, according to the National Research Council, for a 500 kg horse. Most equine nutritionists agree, however, that this horse at maintenance would do better at amounts closer to 1,000 IUs per day. Furthermore, as activity increases, so does the vitamin E requirement. Therefore, supplementation would be appropriate.

 

Other nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins A and D, minerals such as copper and zinc, and a host of feedstuffs provided to offer enough fat and protein, may need to be supplemented when less than recommended amounts are fed. As you can imagine, it becomes very tricky to figure out just how much to supplement. You could simply give half the supplement dosage if you are feeding half the fortified feed dosage. But to do this accurately, you should figure out how much your horse would have gotten if fed the recommended amounts, and then calculate how much supplement to feed to make up the difference. If you’re not comfortable with crunching numbers, your best source of information would be a qualified equine nutritionist.

 

Bottom line… pay attention to labels, weigh your feed using a scale, not a scoop, and keep your calculator handy when making adjustments that supplement the supplement.




TURMERIC IS A WINNING SUPPLEMENT FOR INSULIN RESISTANCE


Turmeric, an Asian spice, has an impressive resume of reducing inflammation, relieving pain, protecting against brain degenerative diseases, and suppressing insulin resistance.  Research[i] has revealed that feeding turmeric to laboratory animals suffering from Type II diabetes (which involves insulin resistance) resulted in weight reduction and increased glucose utilization.[ii]

 

Turmeric also has potent antioxidant properties, making it valuable in reducing the inflammatory response caused by excess body fat.  Reduction of oxidative stress due to inflammation can allow the horse to become more sensitive to leptin, as well as slow down the progression of equine Cushing’s disease.

 

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. It is fat soluble, so there must be some source of fat in the meal to promote its absorption (e.g., ground flax, chia seeds, rice bran, oils, etc.).  Curcumin amounts to less than 5% of turmeric, therefore, the exact dosage is not clear; however, feeding 2 to 4 tablespoons of turmeric per day to the average-sized horse is very well tolerated.


[i] Kim, T., Davis, J., Zhang, A.J., et. al., 2009. Curcumin activates AMPK and suppresses gluconeogenic gene expression in hepatoma cells. Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 388(2), 377-382.

[ii] Zhang, D.W., Fu, M., Gao, S.H., and Liu, J.L., 2013. Curcumin and diabetes: A Systematic Review. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013. 


Traveling:


REDUCE RISK OF INFECTION WHEN TRAVELING


For many horses, this is the season for traveling to horse shows and events. Considering periodic outbreaks of equine herpes virus (EHV-1) and other infectious diseases, it is critical that your horse be in top physical health before embarking to an unfamiliar area. The foundation of that health is a strong immune system. Added antioxidants and supportive nutrients can have a positive impact on your horse’s ability to resist an infection.

Boost supplementation of the following nutrients per day for at least two weeks before you leave and throughout the travels or event; wean your horse off of them for two weeks following your return:

·         Vitamins E and C: 5 IUs of vitamin E and 5 mg of vitamin C per pound (0.45 kg) of body weight

·         Selenium: 3 to 5 mg of selenium

·         Vitamin A: 30 to 60 IUs per pound (.45 kg) of body weight

·         Omega 3 fatty acids: 1/4 cup chia seeds or ½ cup ground flaxseeds per 400 lbs (180 kg) of body weight

·         Protein: 14-16% of the diet, and of high quality protein by feeding a variety of protein sources

·         Magnesium: 5,000 mg of magnesium per 500 lbs (227 kg) of body weight

·         B vitamins: Provide a potent B complex preparation.


Be sure to check how much of these nutrients your horse may already be getting from commercial feeds and supplements, and calculate to add only enough to boost quantities as noted above.

Remember that stress suppresses immune function. An empty stomach is incredibly stressful -- both mentally uncomfortable and physically painful. Protect your horse by allowing him to graze on hay (and pasture, if available) at all times, throughout the day and night. And never let him perform without some forage in his digestive tract.

Attention to increased nutritional needs will go a long way toward keeping your horse healthy during the time away from his familiar surroundings and routine.



Water:

SNOW WILL NOT MEET YOUR HORSE'S WATER NEEDS!

Piles of fluffy snow in your pasture—and a horse that nibbles at them—making you think your horse is all set for water this winter? Sorry. Think again, please! The main cause of colic during the winter is from reduced water consumption. Snow will not provide enough water: A gallon (128 fluid ounces) of average-moisture snow only contains 10 ounces of water, far short of the 8-12 gallons of water your horse should consume each day. Also, eating snow will force your horse to burn precious calories to keep his body temperature steady.

 

Horses will not drink enough when the water is icy cold. Plan on heating your horse’s water to 50° F. And don’t forget the salt—it is necessary for electrolyte balance as well as to encourage your horse to drink. Either add table salt to each meal (one tablespoon, twice daily) or offer it free choice in a small bucket. A white salt block is helpful, though many horses avoid them. Mineralized or blue (from added iodine and cobalt) salt blocks are only appropriate if hay is the single feed source or if your horse is not receiving minerals from fortified feeds or supplements.




Weight:  

How Much does your horse weigh?

It’s important to know how much your horse weighs for a variety of reasons, such as calculating feed requirements, administering dewormers, and deciding how much medication to provide. Furthermore, most commercial feed preparations base their directions on your horse’s weight and activity level.

A weight tape provides an estimated weight. For an even better approximation (a scale, of course, is most accurate), use a tape measure (Click Here for a diagram**):

1.      Measure length in inches --a straight line from the point of shoulder to the buttocks.

2.      Measure girth in inches (circumference of the horse's body about 4" behind his front legs).


Weight (in lbs) = (Girth X Girth X Length) divided by 330

(To obtain weight in kg, measure length and girth in cm. Use the above formula, except divide by 11,900, instead of 330.)


Keep in mind that a horse can be of normal weight and still develop regional fat deposits along the crest of the neck, back, shoulder, and tail head, indicating insulin resistance (metabolic syndrome).

 

** copyright Dr. Robin Peterson 2010

 

 


Permission to reprint the above tips commercially is granted, provided prior notice is given to Dr. Getty at gettyequinenutrition@gmail.com. No editorial changes may be made without her approval.

 

Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. is an internationally respected, independent equine nutritionist who believes that optimizing horse health comes from understanding how the horse’s physiology and instincts determine the correct feeding and nutrition practices. She is available for private consultations and speaking engagements.

 

 

 

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