by Jill Davies, MSc
I get to look through a lot of feed rooms around WA.
Each time I ask why is a horse fed with this or that supplement, most replies will be because “such and such “ is feeding it to their horse and their horse is looking and performing great!” Or they read on the social media how great this product is and now everyone must feed it to their horse.
We can agree that we all want what is best for our horses. However, a significant amount of our spending on horse supplements can be credited to good marketing and in a lot of cases is generally unnecessary. To know which ones to choose, read the top 5 I recommend to be in everyone’s feed room:
1- A good quality mineral supplement
This is your insurance for your horse’s general health. A good quality mineral mix, powder or pelleted, will help protect your horse from nutritional maladies and general equine illnesses by making sure your horse’s daily nutrient requirements are met by a balanced diet. When choosing a mineral mix it is very important to find one designed for the type of pasture/forage you are feeding.
You need to also consider your own horse’s circumstances:
- what type of horse do you have?
- how much does your horse weigh?
- what is your horses level of activity? – is your horse on a spell or at rest, maybe you only hack out a couple of times a week? Do you compete your horse and or ride your horse every day?
- Is yours a mare going in foal or with a foal at foot?
2- Table or Granular Salt
Electrolytes control blood volume; muscle and nerve function, plus maintain the blood’s pH. The average horse requires more than 10 grams per day of sodium. This can easily be supplemented by giving your horse 1-2 tablespoons of salt per day in their hard feeds.
Salt requirements increase any time your horse is sweating more, as in hot, humid weather and/or during heavy work, or when your horse is drinking less water during the colder weather months. Do not use molasses based salt blocks, as some horses inhale these like sweets/lollies – some horses stand there biting off choke-sized pieces.
Plain table salt is fine; granulated salt, with its coarser texture, is fine too depending on your horse’s preferences. If your horse is getting any commercial sweet feed or pellet or a vitamin/mineral supplement, give the iodized salt a miss as your horse will be getting enough iodine. Please note it does take time for your horse to get used to that amount of salt in their hard feed. So start slowly adding salt to your horse’s hard feed.
3- Vitamin E!!
Horses don’t make Vitamin E, so they require a daily source. Horses can get deficient if they are working in moderate to high levels of exercise without a supplement. The best source of Vitamin E is green grass/pasture. Vitamin E’s main use is as an antioxidant, a go-between which keeps free radicals from forming and possibly weakening cells and tissues in the horse. In addition to its antioxidant duties, vitamin E is vital to immune, cardiovascular, circulatory, neuromuscular and reproductive functions of a horse.
The average horse (500kg) needs approx. 1,500-2000 IU (international units) of Vitamin E per day when at rest to light work. You can purchase vitamin E at the local grocery store.
This is an essential amino acid often deficient in conventional horse diets. Lysine is one of the 20 amino acids essential to horses. It is often the most deficient in horse’s diets due to its inadequate levels in commonly-fed cereal grains or grass hay based diets and is the key to improving protein availability. If lysine is deficient, the horse’s body will use it up and convert the excess of the remaining amino acids into carbon dioxide, which is exhaled, and to urea, which is excreted in the urine.
Lysine makes the proteins in the feed available to the horse which is one of the most important keys to efficient growth, blood building, tissue repair, and muscle development. By concentrating on improving protein quality and availability, you can avoid the problems and expense of high levels of crude protein. Supplemental lysine is the best approach to achieving this goal. The average shortfall for horses is estimated at 6 to 10 g per day, so if you want to make sure your horse is performing at its best then this is something you should supplement.
5- Linseeds (freshly ground whole linseed or linseed oil)
The curing process of turning grass into hay destroys the omega-3s critically important for optimal horse health. Linseed is recommended as a fatty acid supplementation for horses on predominantly hay diets as they would otherwise miss out on the omega-3s.
The latest equine research showed that feeding Linseeds is fine in reasonable amounts of ~450g per day to a 500kg horse – that is about 0.9g per kg of body weight. Feeding up to these amounts of linseed per day to a horse is harmless because at these levels a horse’s stomach acid inactivates the enzymes that interacts with the cyanogenic glycosides to form cyanide, therefore preventing toxicity.
Linseed oil contains approx. 58% omega-3 & 14% omega-6 fatty acids and is an as can be used as an alternative to freshly ground whole linseeds, but rice bran, sunflower seeds, canola oil and any other oils are higher in the pro inflammatory omega-6.
A word of caution – Find out the amounts of nutrients your horse requires daily and only feed this amount as the risk of over-supplementing their diet can cause health related problems.
Some vitamins, such as vitamin B, if they are over supplemented are not hazardous to your horse’s health; they are just unnecessary and an expensive waste passed out of the horse’s body as urine. But for other trace elements, such as iodine and selenium, Vitamins A and D there is a small margin of error and care should be taken when supplementing.
I would love to hear from you about your own top supplements & chemistry experiment stories! If you want some advice for your own horse, please contact me by commenting on this article or via my Feed Your Steed Facebook page.
Jill Davies is a qualified Equine Nutritionist. She runs her own business “Feed Your Steed – Equine Diets Based on Science.” Equine Nutrition is predominately a biological science, & as such, influences the entire horse’s body & cognizance. When helping horse-owners, Jill takes exceptional care to achieve a thorough understanding of all the aspects of a horse’s unique lifestyle, whether it is a competition horse or a retiree. This holistic approach permits Jill to analyse each horse’s specific & individual situation.
Jill offers: Qualified Independent Equine Nutritional Advice, Design of Equine Diets & Bespoke Minerals Mixes
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