Overdue Update: Part 2

Part 2 of my mini update week is here!

Don’t forget to catch yesterday’s post, Overdue Update: Part 1.

If you’re really behind you may want to go to the menu and select “BLOG”—>”MY STORY” to catch up on all of the crazy updates that have been going on since we purchased our home last December.

Before coming home the horses were accustomed to the standard stable life.  Two grain feedings per day, hay, turnout, and a clean stall at night.


I love this system and it works, but there are some issues with it that most “natural” horsemen argue against.  I hate to use that word because it is so grossly overused and abused these days.    The system used at most farms is practical and works well for our human schedules.  Horses usually thrive on the domestic stable life as did these two.  With the move, however, I changed up their routine.  A backyard horse’s life is not a lessor one by any means, just different.

For one thing the horses have access to grazing 24/7 on their lush pasture.  In addition to the grass I also provide free choice hay in hay nets hung from their corral panels or from a tree trunk.  Blade has a history of ulcers so by having the access to graze small amounts all day and night it helps keep his tummy happy.

Another benefit of the 24/7 turnout is movement.  The horses are free to roam, wander, and play in their paddocks all day and night.  The paddocks are slightly hilly so they have better access to natural exercise as well as helping with arthritis.  Motion is lotion, baby.


Now to the grain.  With the horses on such lush pasture they don’t need too much from fortified feeds, they have access to all the calories they need.  There are, however, nutrients missing from grass and hay that the horses still need.  In the wild, mustangs can wander and forage and find what they need, but as domestic horse owners we are responsible for providing the missing pieces.  The typical grain I had previously been feeding is higher in calories than necessary, and if I reduce the amount too much I will also be reducing those missing nutrients.  How do I deal with this?

Ration Balancer

Every feed company has a high protein ration balancer.  It’s been in the cards and after some serious comparing of feeds I decided to narrow it down to sample two products.

The first is called Vermont Blend.  It’s a simple powder designed for horses in the Vermont region and fulfills the nutrition required that most northeastern hay lacks.  Since our soil and forage is high in iron Nicole (owner) leaves this out and adds copper and zinc to balance the surplus. This also contains some limiting amino acids which aid in many important systems of the horse’s body such as muscle health and immune health.  Yeast helps support the digestive tract.

I’m really impressed with the product and it smells great.  It’s meant to be a topper to a meal.  Nicole is also available to assist with nutrition questions and custom nutrition balancing for your horses.  You can find it at https://customequinenutrition.com/

In essence the Vermont Blend contains:

  • Lysine: 10,000mg
  • Methionine: 5,000mg
  • Threonine: 2,000mg
  • Magnesium: 6,000mg
  • Copper: 200mg
  • Zinc: 550mg
  • Sodium: 7,000mg
  • Iodine: 2mg
  • Selenium: 2mg
  • Biotin: 25mg
  • Yeast: 2oz (I wish I had the CFUs but I’m taking this right from the site)

The other very similar product is California Trace.  They make a regular and a Plus product for working horses.  I received a sample of both.  Going with the same concept as Vermont Blend, CA Trace omits added iron and is designed to support the horse by adding the limiting nutrients in forage.

What I really like about this product is you are given the option to have it as a pellet.  An added bonus is larger quantities available.  Find it at https://www.californiatrace.com/

The California Trace Regular contains:

  • Lysine: 7,000mg
  • Methionine: 2,500mg
  • Copper: 175mg
  • Zinc: 500mg
  • Iodine: 2mg
  • Selenium: 2mg
  • Biotin: 20mg

The California Trace PLUS contains:

  • Lysine: 10,000mg
  • Methionine: 3,500mg
  • Threonine: 5,000mg
  • Copper: 300mg
  • Zinc: 750mg
  • Iodine: 3.5mg
  • Cobalt: 5mg
  • Selenium: 2mg
  • Biotin: 20mg
  • Vitamin A: 15,000IU
  • Vitamin E: 1950 IU
  • Yeast: 2oz (I wish I had the CFUs but I’m taking this right from the site)

The horses seemed to eat both samples just fine.  The pellets were a lot easier to feed.  Ultimately I have decided on the regular California Trace (at least for summertime…maybe Plus or VT for winter).

Over an extended period of time I have slowly transitioned them from two equal grain meals to one meal with hay stretcher and the supplements.  I did this very slowly and very diligently in order to make the transition easy on their digestive tracts.

What are they eating now?

The horses diets are now forage based with no fortified grain.  The daily meal is now hay stretcher mixed with their supplements.  They receive California Trace, copper/zinc blend, and Animed 3 in 1 BugLyte.  Blade additionally receives ground flax and magnesium (and just worked off the probiotic…for now).


In line with eating, while eating a light evening dinner of hay stretcher (no supplements) during the transition period, Blade choked.

I noticed the moment it occurred because he paused for a moment, coughed, and stopped eating.  He tried to cough a few more times and then I realized what was happening.  I have seen this before in other horses but Blade has never choked on his meals in the past.

Blade’s whole body began to tense and his neck muscles flared up as he tried to pass the grain bolus.  I could tell he was nervous and he was looking to me for comfort.  Since I’ve seen this before I rubbed his neck, throat, and comforted him.  I had my phone ready for the vet in case it didn’t pass right away.  As I suspected, however, about 7 minutes into the event he seemed to relax and start licking and chewing again.  He took a sip of water as was back to normal.

I watched him for a while to make sure there weren’t further complications as a result.  One of the biggest concerns with choke is aspiration pneumonia which occurs if the horse gets anything in the air passage.  It didn’t seem to be the case with Blade and he has been normal ever since.  He now eats all meals as a soup.

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