Monday, May 31, 2010

Another Silver Bullet - the reply I didn't post

In early May, I was introduced by a Veterinarian to Steadfast, by Arenus. He offered me a 30 day money back guarantee to try it on my horse's DSLD. It costs about $2. per day.

My horse started Steadfast on May 25. I was told, if there is no improvement within 25 days, I could notify the company for a full refund. I thought it was worth a try since I don't think my horse is a responder to the AAKG/J protocol (although I am using it on him) since it can't hurt.

When I saw this on the DSLD group, my immediate reaction was "another magic supplement". I don't get to that group often enough and don't want Bunny and Terry to kick me off so I felt I should take my response off-list.

I am so tempted at times to create and sell a silver bullet supplement - I'll mix a little poly copper and poly zinc with some selenium yeast, dry and grind up some eggshells, add a little flax and yeast as a base. Maybe I'll include some "natural" herbs.
Some innovative packaging - I like the idea of single serving cups with peel off tops. I'll write and publish a few supporting articles on how copper contributes to soft tissue repair and zinc and
methionine support hoof integrity and at least one on joint health. Of course, I'll mention the importance of Omega-3 and use lots of relevant citations. Frequent references to "organic" and "natural", pictures of shiny well-bred working and free-roaming horses, and I'm in business. I won't have to reveal the active ingredients as they are "proprietary" - after I think of a catchy trademark name. Testimonials from a few horse owners - it should be easy to find a few copper-starved horses that will bloom when given this magical stuff.

When I reviewed the website for the mentioned product, it seemed to me like an expensive form of chelated minerals and known (even if they do come from a novel source) joint supporting nutrients in a pretty "this will save your horse" package.
Did this veterinarian state what the "improvements" would be? The only actual claims made on the website for Telafirm® and NEM® are reduction in arthritis-related pain - the rest is standard boilerplate related to the effects of certain minerals and nutrients in the body. Nothing is said about the amount of minerals and which ones are in the product though the implication is there that it can make up for circumstances where minerals are deficient. I even considered the possibility of Telafirm® simply being a relabeled combination of Zin-Pro minerals and selenium yeast.

You can take a look at the Arenus site and decide for yourself.

If you really have that kind of money to spend on silver bullets, why not try a mineral balanced diet based on hay analysis for a third of the cost and send the rest to your favorite equine research or rescue.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Bigger They Are...

I was talking with Sheila, my equine management associate here at Desert Equine Balance, this morning when we got on the topic of "big" horses and some of the different management issues they have.

Draft horses generally have been bred for strength and size rather than being mainly a refined version of a more naturally evolved light horse. They were bred for heavy work on a regular basis - pulling or carrying heavy loads - and weren't really expected to jump things or carry us on adventures around the countryside.

The appeal of these large purebred drafts and draft crosses can't be denied. For the most part they seem laid back, willing to please and are beautiful to look at. As more and more draft crosses show up at rescues, more people make the decision to bring one home as their primary riding horse. I find I'm working with more and more of these horses as time goes on and some owners find themselves with big horses that just aren't doing as well as they should.

Draft and draft crosses are susceptible to a condition called EPSM - Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy, a muscle condition that causes weakness and a specific type of rhabdomyolysis - known as "Sunday Morning Disease" to working draft horse owners.

Some new large horse owners have heard that drafts may have special needs or requirements and spent time preparing for their "gentle giant". They can be prone to insulin resistance (IR) and poor performance related to stiffness and gait abnormalities related to the EPSM. Obesity is sometimes not "noticed" because of their large size. Compare the large yet fit Clydesdales above to the fat workhorse here -

Some draft/draft cross owners have told me "my horse doesn't have EPSM". It's possible that the question isn't "if" the horse has EPSM but "when" it might show up. But with appropriate nutrition and management, the effects of EPSM don't have to affect your large horse.

  • Monitor your big horse's weight and condition frequently. has an interesting discussion on measuring for weight; useful as most weight tapes don't go around.
  • Avoid grain unless your horse is working hard. Use NRC guidelines to avoid over feeding your draft horse.
  • Feed low sugar/low starch hay - try to buy tested hay or learn to test it yourself. See
  • Exercise your draft horse every day. Owners on the ESPM group report seeing more symptoms when they skip exercise. "Turnout" does not have the same effect as structured exercise.
  • Learn all you can about diet, EPSM and caring for draft horses.
EPSM: List for owners of horses with EPSM, a common problem of big horses. Lots of information from owners of big horses who have or want to prevent problems.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD is a frequent visitor here and works with list members on diet and supplements. Many owners have been using a low sugar/low starch diet along with ALCAR (Acetyl L-carnitine or plain L-carnitine) and other supplements to effectively manage EPSM symptoms.

Rural Heritage Vet Clinic - Dr. Beth Valentine
Lots of background on draft horses. Dr. Valentine is an advocate of a high fat diet for draft horses.

Information on muscle biopsy to diagnose EPSM

U of Minnesota PSSM testing information
Information on both genetic testing and muscle biopsy, plus a "decision tree". PSSM is similar to EPSM, seen most often in Quarter Horses but also in draft horses and other breeds.

NRC Plus - online nutrition courses by Eleanor Kellon, VMD.
NRC Plus is the basic and gives the framework for the advanced courses that follow.