Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thoughts on Feeding the IR/Cushing's Horse

So one morning while I should have been fixing the kitchen drain or catching up on my charting or cleaning the corral, I'd been answering posts on the Equine Cushings Group which is what I really want to be doing.
There are so many new people feeding grain to their IR horses, so I posted this:

  • Horses evolved eating grasses and their bodies are built to get calories/energy from the digestible fiber in grasses (hay). Generally, that's all they need to stay fit an healthy.
  • The healthiest horses I have seen in the past few years are a herd of Morgans running on desert acreage where they have to work for their grass (they get a little supplemental hay and also forage on mesquite and cactus). You have seen these horses in movies and TV and in TV commercials - they are gorgeous, fit and have great feet. They also work hard. Some of them are old - over 20 - fit, healthy and working.
  • Unless you are plowing, driving/riding your horse to the grocery store or to work (with your horse pulling the cart), racing, eventing or training for endurance, your horse probably doesn't need any grain or commercial feed.
  • What we humans need is another matter - the feed companies have done a good job convincing us our horses will die if we don't give them Brand X.
  • He/she doesn't need lush pasture, either - that's not how grass grows in nature (except in pockets at foaling time in the spring so the mare can make milk - isn't nature clever?)
  • Treats are for us, they make us geel good.
  • My personal wording preference - grain is oats, barley, corn, etc. Concentrate is any mix of grain or other commercial feed (ie - grain is a "bad" word for an IR horse, "concentrate" may be OK).
  • Your horse does need certain known levels of nutrients (protein, major minerals, trace minerals, vitamins, fiber). Sugar and starch aren't on this list.
  • Most (but not all) hay really does provide the required protein, calcium and energy for a horse at maintenance or in light work.
  • Almost all hay provides more than enough iron. Most are low in copper and zinc and magnesium. Because we know what a horse's requirements are and we can test the hay, we can figure out what's high and low and adjust it.
  • You want to feed the best quality hay you can find and afford. Good quality hay has adequate but not excessive protein, energy and calcium, low iron, low NSC (sugar/starch) and does not have high levels of potentially toxic minerals (aluminum, etc). Nice if it smells and tastes good, too.
  • "Poor" quality hay makes good bedding.
  • Most of the horses on [the EC] list will do very nicely on just low NSC hay, a half pound of plain soaked beet pulp and a good iron-free supplement, with a little extra flax, magnesium and vitamin E and some cinnamon. Some need their minerals balanced very tightly, and some hay deficiencies will creep up on us (like Sue's hay with the inverted calcium/phosphorus ratio - which we wouldn't know about if she hadn't tested her hay). Most Cushing's horses need meds, and there are some "special needs" horses.
  • Contrary to advertising claims, "magic bullet" supplements and potions won't fix your horse's laminitis. You need DDT/E - Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise.
  • My personal opinion again - if you give your horse herbs, you should know what they are, what they do, how they work, where they came from and possible side effects.
  • You won't kill your horse if you can't figure out all this stuff in one day. It's taken Mandy, Kathleen, Abbey, Susie G, Beth and the other regulars [on the EC list] a few years, under Dr. K's guidance, and they're all still in learning mode. BUT - your horse will get better faster if you follow their suggestions.
  • And Most Important - Dr. Eleanor Kellon is an angel and this list (and many of our horses) wouldn't be here if it weren't for her.

One of the things I want to do when I'm free of the house and FT work is devote a lot of time to the Cushing's list and Desert Equine Balance - it will be so nice to be able to work on them again without feeling guilty because I'm letting something else go.

No comments:

Post a Comment