Saturday, December 19, 2015

You've Been Asking For This -

So I finally sat down and reviewed, updated and revised my original Hay Analysis Mineral Balancing Paper/Pencil Worksheet.  I haven't done a major revision on this in several years and several users who prefer the paper/pencil and calculator method to using my spreadsheets have been asking me where to find it.

In addition, I have also made up a "simplified" version with a bit less detail which can help walk you through a quick look at what your need with your hay - based on your hay analysis results, of course. This can also be used as a quick manual check against a spreadsheet if you do use those.  There is a Basic Example Worksheet already filled out to give you an idea, and a Basic Blank Worksheet to download and print.

Both versions will take you step by step through the math and I purposefully did not use any "shortcuts" which tend to snag the unwary or math challenged.  If you simply plod through each step you should come up with correct results.

I'd like you to keep in mind that these worksheets are simply a device or tool to help you plow through the math, these are not recommendations or guidelines for supplementing your horse's diet.  If you're not familiar with or comfortable with the Nutritional Requirements of Horses, seek assistance from an independent equine nutrition consultant, your veterinarian or other equine professional familiar with your horse's nutritional needs.

To help get you started, a basic table of NRC Nutrient Requirements (from the 1989 edition) is available on the Equi-Analytical website.

I'd like to thank everyone who has stuck with me through what turned into a very stressful year filled with a multitude of unanticipated medical issues but which brings me to this holiday realizing I am blessed in my friends, my family, my horses and my life.

(And did I mention the pdf worksheet downloads are free?)

Happy Holidays and Warm Regards,

Patti in balmy Vail, AZ
whose going to go to the barn and hug a horse!

Mineral Balancing Worksheets on Google Drive

How to Access the Equine Nutrition Balancing Spreadsheets

Basic table of NRC Nutrient Requirements

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Itchies Are Coming!... Whoa - it's not even Winter yet!

Now is the time to be thinking about warding off the spring/summer "itchies" which seem to plague many horses beginning with spring shedding and progressively getting worse as summer's bugs and sweat become part of daily life with your horses.

"It's winter and cold out, it's not a problem now!" I can hear many of us thinking. But this is exactly the time to start thinking about the basic causes of the inflammation process that triggers many forms of "the itches" and to begin your intervention tactics.  A multi-pronged approach I first learned from Dr. Eleanor Kellon, VMD, well known  leader and innovator in equine nutrition, has worked well for clients horses in the Southwest and across the country.

The basis of "itch", a sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch, arises from inflammation of nerves. Once sensitized, it becomes easier and easier for the nerves to become "excited" and more and more difficult to quell the sensation.  The sensitivity may carry over from the original culprit (an insect bite or contact with a noxious plant or substance) so that almost anything becomes a "trigger" - something which will set off the need to scratch.  Along with this comes a whole catalog of false-positive "allergies", even to substances the horse has never been exposed to before. A "true" allergy requires previous exposure to an allergy causing substance and the development of antibodies to the allergen itself, while a "false" allergy is an inflammatory reaction to a trigger acting as an irritant to the immune system.

Why some horses respond or react more to inflammatory insults than others isn't really known - just as why some people are allergic to bee stings or have autoimmune diseases and others do not.  There may have been a reaction to midge bites or another "trigger" when their immune system was busy with something else and that began the process. What we need to accomplish is to support the immune system so it can effectively deal with future triggers.  At the same time we don't want to "stimulate" the immune system as it is already overstimulated.

The first step in a comprehensive plan to combat next season's itchies is mineral balancing your horse's diet.  Without the base diet in place to provide the body with the tools and building blocks to develop and maintain a strong immune system, all your subsequent interventions become an exercise in futility and a waste of your time and money.  Start with a calcium phosphorus ratio as close as 2:1 as you can bring it, add magnesium to bring it to a similar level to phosphorus, then identify and balance excessive levels of iron (pro-inflammatory) and manganese.

The next step in your comprehensive plan is to provide a source of Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E in your horse's diet year round.  When horses graze active gowing pasture they receive adequate Omega-3 but, as soon as hay is cut and cured this is lost almost immediately (along with vitamin E). Flaxseed (fresh ground or stabilized) at a rate of two to six ounces a day, flaxseed oil at one to four ounces per day, chia seed at two to six ounces per day or any of a number of commercial Omega-3 supplements can provide the powerful antioxidant support missing from hay.  Vitamin E is another antioxidant which is easy to include (at a rate of 2 IU per pound of body weight or 2,000 IU for an average horse).

By starting these steps now when your horses may least seem to need them you're ensuring they enter into the critical spring shedding season with good immune system reserves.

Thinking ahead to your horse's spring and summer response to their usual triggers - bug bites, sweat, etc. - be prepared to take action before these triggers can set off a full scale inflammatory response. If your horse always breaks out in hives at the first sign of a gnat or midge, begin giving Spirulina at a rate of 20 grams twice a day (or 40 grams once a day) about a month before the first bug is expected to appear.  Spirulina is a farmed source of a specific blue-green algae (not "any" blue-green algae will do). Despite some of the outrageous claims of Spirulina as a "super food", it does have some mast cell inhibition properties and suppression of histamine levels which can effectively slow down or even halt some inflammatory responses, (similar in effect to the human medication montelukast).

A "nutraceutical" which has an anti-inflammatory effect is chondroitin sulfate.  This is the "same" chondroitin popular as a joint supplement but given at a rate of 2.5 to 5 grams per 500 pounds body weight per day, or 5 to 10 grams per day for an average horse.

There are several other herbs and "natural" remedies which may be helpful but few will be effective once the inflammatory cascade has been set in motion.  If you wait until your horse is already reacting to sweat and bug bites with hives or scratching themselves raw, you'll most likely need veterinary intervention and medications incluiding steroids and anti-histamines to slow down and halt the process and you - and your horse - will be stuck with another year of the misery of the itchies.

Caution! Just because sometihing is "natural" does not mean it is safe!  Make sure your veterinarian is aware of any supplements, herbs and nutraceuticals you give your horse, especially if any medications or treatments are also needed.  Even "natural" topical medications and sprays can be triggers - for example, a "natural" fly spray triggered my asthma last summer and raised hives on one horse's rump.

Plan ahead - and think about next summer's worst being a good roll in the sand and a shake after a ride. (This would be a great time to take Dr. Kellon's NRC Plus and Nutrition as Therapy courses!)

Warm regards,

in very chilly Vail Az

I have included Wikipedia and commercial links here today because they provide some simple explanation.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Warm Days, Chilly Nights and a Cold Snap Moving In - Salt is for Winter, Too!

Just another reminder that these conditions in the Southwest can set up your horse to easily become dehydrated which can lead to an impaction.

Your first line of defense? SALT!  An adult horse needs about an ounce of plain white salt a day added to feed for maintenance - about four teaspoons or a small handful. This will ensure an adequate "thirst response" as long as fresh clean water is available.  Most horses can't get enough salt solely from a block, although a plain white block or brick should always be kept available in their feeder and/or turn out area.

Next in our line of defense is monitoring water intake. My horses consistently are drinking ten to twelve gallons each now that the weather has cooled down, and a little more when daytime highs go up into the 80's (I just love living in Arizona!)  I long ago got rid of my automatic waterers and switched to large muck buckets for water, along with a 100 gallon tank in the turn out area. If you use automatic waterers, they need to be checked every day to ensure they are working properly and not freezing up during the night; providing a bucket of water also is good insurance but not always possible if you board. You should also do a hydration check on your horse daily - squeeze a fold of skin between your index finger and thumb, it should snap back flat in less than three seconds, and check that the gums are moist, not dry or sticky.

As horses age they make less saliva when they chew; this can be aggravated if water intake is inadequate. Combined with worn or missing teeth hay can become difficult to chew into digestible lengths which will pass easily through the digestive system leading up to an impaction.

Consider using a leaf mulcher to chop hay into finer lengths and/or wetting the hay down.  Getting the older horse used to accepting concentrates as a mash, with wetter and soupier consistency as it's accepted, is a good way to get more water into these older campaigners.  Hay pellets and beet pulp shreds will hold many times their weight in water and the fineness of the grind makes them a good option.

Caution with beet pulp pellets - unless they're soaked for several hours, beet pulp pellets can retain a hard center which may cause a problem for some horses.  I've been finding much more consistency in the beet pulp shreds I purchase now (cleaner, more consistent chop) than when I first started feeding beet pulp fifeen years ago, plus they soak up water quickly, eliminating the need for a long soak.

Feeding the mash in a large muck bucket will also encourage whoever is doing the feeding to add more water than if the feed is mixed up in a small bucket. I mix the beet pulp shreds, Timothy hay pellets, supplement (AZ Copper Complete), salt and any other add-ins in easy to carry buckets out to the stalls, then dump it into the large muck buckets and soak it all with a hard spray setting with a hose to thoroughly mix, using at least a gallon of water per horse.   The muck buckets are easy to keep clean and don't tip easily - at least not until they're down to licking up every last drop!

Bottom line - plain white salt is likely the most essential supplement you can provide to your horse - along with lots of clean, fresh water and quality forage.

Stay warm and enjoy your horses!

in warm sunny Vail AZ - until the weekend (Brrrrrr)

AZ Copper Complete -
Leaf Mulchers -
Large muck buckets -

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Feed Naturally to Prevent Winter Colic - and Don't Forget the Salt!

Prevent Seasonal Colic and Ulcers Holistically by Joyce Harman, DVM from
Not something we want to see in our barn!
“It’s no secret that horses have a finicky digestive system. By design, they should move and graze for up to 20 hours a day. This natural behavior keeps the hindgut full, which leads to a properly functioning digestive tract. Most horse owners aren’t able to provide this optimum environment and alter the horse’s patterns to fit into their lifestyles. At times, that means stalling horses or keeping them in small paddocks, while feeding them large amounts of processed feed. Whether we realize it or not, altering the natural behavior puts stress on the horse’s body.”

Dehydration is often a primary cause of winter impaction colic. As the weather cools down, our horses may need to be encouraged to continue drinking adequate water - this is best done by adding salt daily to their feed. Most horses won’t get the one to two ounces (four to eight teaspoons) of salt they need to provide their sodiumrequirement (it's the sodium which triggers a thirst response) from a block. If your horses aren’t used to having salt added to their feed, you can start by “salting the environment” - literally sprinkling salt around their stall, on their hay, etc. the help them get used to the smell and taste.  Then gradually add up to at least one ounce per day for an average 900-1100 pound horse. If you provide free choice salt, make sure you monitor their intake.

It’s also important to monitor your horses’ water intake during the winter which can be difficult if you use automatic waterers - especially as they can be subject to freezing.

Old Camping Trick:  In my part of Arizona, we generally have only ten nights or less of hard freeze. I’ve found the easiest way to get fresh warm water to my horses on these days is to place a clean trash bag in muck buckets, fill them at the house then tie off the top of the bags.  I can then drive them to the barn in my truck or in a cart without sloshing or losing a drop. 

Warm regards from
Patti in sunny Vail AZ
 - where Fall has finally arrived

Winter Water Needs for Our Horses
Introducing New Feeds (or “salting the environment”)
Prevent Seasonal Colic and Ulcers Holistically

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Updating Vitamin E

This has been a busy and challenging summer for me and it's good to finally be back on line - though it will still be some time before I expect to be back in the saddle.

I'd like to invite you to check out some recent updates to my Vitamin E article, “Comparing the cost of providing Vitamin E for our horses” at my website. Thanks to Rob Stuart, Ph.D., President of Stuart Products, Inc. (supplier of EMCELLE TOCOPHEROL micellized alpha-tocopherol) for pointing out some changes which were needed.

If your horses' primary diet consists of cured hay during the winter, they should receive supplemental vitamin E.  Current NRC daily recommendations for vitamin E in horses are 1 -2 IU/kg body weight (250-500 IU)which is easily supplied by active pasture but is quickly lost when hay is cut and cured. This is a “minimum” level and may not be adequate for horses with neuromuscular disorders, pregnant or lactating mares and metabolically challenged horses. Vitamin E, although a fat-soluble vitamin, is not stored in the body as vitamins A and D are, so should be supplemented daily when not supplied by the diet.

Dr. Eleanor Kellon has suggested a minimum of 2 IU vitamin E per pound of body weight (or 2,000IU/day for an “average” horse)on a cured hay diet to ensure they receive adequate levels.

I hope you find the updated article interesting and helpful in selecting the most cost-effective vitamin E supplementation for your particular circumstance.

Best regards,

in sunny Vail, AZ


Vitamin E: Comparing the cost of providing Vitamin E for our horses

University of Minnesota Equine Center, Neuromuscular Diagnostic Laboratory : Selecting a Vitamin E Supplement

NRC Plus - Eleanor Kellon, VMD’s introductory equine nutrition on-line course

ECIR: Treatment of Insulin Resistance

Friday, September 04, 2015

Figuring Out What Works - and What Doesn't

I frequently enjoy reading David Ramey, DVM's interesting articles on his website and the variety of 
 comments they evoke at his Facebook page. While I identify with Dr. Ramey's common sense approach and his feelings about the many costly yet ineffective treatments and interventions marketed to horse owners, I often can't agree with his blanket approach of throwing out any intervention which isn't totally based on published scientific study.
Equine research is expensive - ask any horse owner how quickly we can go through a huge portion of our income - and unless there is opportunity for a substantial financial return there is little incentive to run original research studies or seek FDA approval.
Unfortunately, this has led to many purveyors of products targeted to horse owners making unsubstantiated claims of effectiveness based on myth, inappropriate use of studies in other species with little or no bearing on equine health and inflation of prices on anything labeled for "equine".
Midas turns his daughter into gold
I once saw a claim by a mineral supplement manufacturer that the sodium (salt) in the supplement would be changed in the gut to potassium.  In alchemy, this is known as transmutation - and has also been known as the "Midas touch".  I would be very hesitant to purchase a supplement from a source which doesn't understand basic chemistry or digestion.
Another (well known and "trusted") manufacturer lists all the intrinsic elements of the base ingredient (flax) in their supplement. This grossly inflates the length of the "analysis" listing, even though these individual substances appear in insignificant amounts.  This makes it easier to justify their high cost and may falsely lead someone to believe they're actually providing all their horse needs. (I use HorseTech for all my custom supplement needs - they list "flax" as simply "flax", not a compendium of 18 or more substances that are intrinsic to flax and not added by them.)
Cross-species extrapolation can be a valuable research tool but needs to be validated in the target species, not just assumed that what is good for one is good for another.  Look at Xylitol - an artificial sweetener which can help reduce cavities in humans but can be a life-threatening toxin to dogs.
One way to validate is by extensive field trial, which has been successful in helping to establish the protocols used by the ECIR Group with Insulin Resistant and Cushing's horses.
Horse owners can objectively validate the usefulness and success of a supplement, feed, medical treatment or alternative intervention by tracking clinical signs, along with taking quality photographs and videos.  Some time ago I developed a simple Clinical Signs Tracker which you can use to observe and track changes in your horse.
You should be specific in defining what you're trying to fix (which requires a proper and specific diagnosis), tin understanding how the intervention (supplement, medicine, treatment, etc.) is supposed to address the issue and how quickly the intervention is expected to resolve or improve the issue. For example, an intervention for ulcers (medical treatment, stress management, changing feeding management) should take your horse from a "3" to an "7" or "8"on the Attitude scale fairly quickly - often within a week, while adjusting the diet for improved hoof quality can take upwards of three months to see significant results and a full hoof growth cycle or more to completely resolve hoof problems.
This won't work if you're looking for a magic bullet but can be very useful in determing if the medication or laser treatment or expensive supplement actually made a difference or just lined someone's pocket. Depending on the intervention, you might track and photograph only on a weekly basis, while for something like wound healing, daily photos - at least initially - might be helpful.
The best reward? Someone asking "When did you get a new horse?" and having the documentation and photos to show your hard work paid off.

With best regards,

in warm, wet, cloudy Vail AZ


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feeding Practices, Equine Dental Health - and Whiskers?

In the past twenty years I have only had one horse I've raised require dental floating. I have had rescues and "rehome" horses needing work but, when my vet or dental professional has checked my horses it's always been "They're fine, we'll check again next visit".
I was reminded of this seeing the recent article from Kentucky Equine Research (KER) - Feeding Practices May Impact Horse Dental Health which explains how many modern diets and horse keeping practices can affect our horses' teeth.
I'm fortunate in Arizona to not have the lush green pasture often prized by many horse owners. As some owners with "easy keeper" horses discover, this beautiful pasture can be far from ideal for their horses' health and they find themselves ripping out grass to make "Paddock Paradise" tracks and dry lots.
My Arizona "Pasture"
My horses get to "graze" on mesquite, chaparral, prickly pear cactus and other desert bounty in addition to their main diet of ground-fed Bermuda hay with Timothy pellets added for variety.  When it's windy I place their hay in nets at a fairly low level and with extreme weather, they eat directly from floor mats in the barn. They've gotten quite good at ferreting out the stray clump of grass that shows up during rainy season and don't seem to have problems with the annual mesquite bean crop - likely because they ease into them as they ripen with daily access so don't gorge like a horse with limited turnout might.

Along with good dental health, I haven't had sand issues from ground feeding, either.  I attribute this to always having hay available so their gut is never empty, feeding a substantial amount of (molasses-free) beet pulp daily with their supplements which supplies some pectin and mucilage, and never clipping muzzle hair.  I don't advocate direct ground feeding for show horses which may be clipped as they are lacking vibrissae - the essential, extremely sensitive whiskers which allow the horse to feel tiny differences - such as separating a flake of food from a grain of sand.  Because of the importance of the facial vibrissae to the horse, including for protection from eye trauma, trimming equine facial whiskers has been outlawed in Germany. See the fascinating discussion of sensory perception in the horse at the link below.

Warm regards,
Patti in Sunny, Warm Vail AZ


KER article: Feeding Practices May Impact Horse Dental Health

Vibrissae - general in mammals:

Vibrissae - importance to perception in the horse