“No disease that can be treated by diet should be treated with any other means.”Maimonides
My long term readers might be well aware by now that I am obsessed with nutrition. I put a lot of consideration behind how I feed my horses and I am always striving to do better.
When I first got Blade I spent countless hours researching feeds, attending free seminars. I made an excell document comparing different brands. I compared Nutrena, Triple Crown, Poulin, and Blue Seal feeds. At one point I even had considered Crypto Aero. I was in pursuit of the feed that provided the best bang for the buck. The one that had affordable prices but also provided the best nutrition.
Just as I thought I had the right mix I read another article that sent my head spinning and I was back to research.
I had always been interested in the 24/7 hay, no grain philosophy. Since lade was prone to ulcers it appealed to me as the best solution. The problem with that was that I boarded and not many farms are willing to consider 24/7 hay. My farm was amazing, though, and was willing to provide a lot more than a typical farm.
While I was sad to leave that farm (it really is amazing) I was excited when we bought our home so I could try the 24/7 hay thing and try to take Blade grain-free.
After dealing with Blade’s ulcers from moving both Blade and Happy thrived. When I fostered Zeno bay and Vai Via, they too, thrived. I brought home Tiger. Thriving. Nahe? Thriving. Sadie? While I couldn’t give her pasture or 24/7 hay she lost weight and thrived.
I am loving my forage based, no concentrates diet for these horses. Of course I am always still in the pursuit of new knowledge but my horses have all done well. Earlier this year I spoke about how I went grain-free and the cost of going grain free. What I didn’t really do is demonstrate the visuals of what the boys currently eat.
That’s what today is all about. Currently out of simplicity I feed my horses the same thing. They are about the same height and no other major health concerns beside’s Nahe’s nasty sweet itch, which I will explain later.
WHAT NAHE AND TIGER EAT DAILY: A VISUAL
- Alfalfa Pellets
- Fed 2x/day
- I use an empty soup container from our favorite Chinese food restaurant. The scoop is a pint and while the two pellets have different densities they weight ROUGHLY 1/2 pound per scoop.
- Alfalfa is a high protein forage and is also high in calcium. The calcium content is an excellent buffering agent for stomach acid. The tums people recommend is Calcium carbonate. Alfalfa is simply nature’s way to get the same effect.
- Brand doesn’t usually matter but I love Standlee. “Oh but Stephanie that’s a Tractor Supply brand and everything at Tractor Supply is junk. Not true. I have been purchasing the alfalfa from Tractor Supply for years and like the quality I see. It’s always green and smells fresh. Dumor is the only brand that I’ve never been impressed with. They smell different and are often dull in color and a lot dustier.
- Hay Stretcher
- Fed 2x per day
- As with the alfalfa I feed a pint-sized scoop. This weighs approximately 1/2 pound.
- I can give or take this product as it doesn’t exactly do a lot for the horses. What I CAN say is I like the price and I like its physical properties.
- I get these 50lbs bags for about $11.
- Unlike the alfalfa pellets (and beet pulp and timothy from past experience) these fluff up faster in water. I don’t presoak my feeds but I like to serve them wet as a way to hydrate the horses, prevent choke, and mix in the supplement powder. Since these fluff up nice and fast I don’t need to wait as long after wetting to feed. In winter I pour hot water on them and in my 200ft walk to the boys the water’s cooled and the pellets are fluffy enough to feed.
- A lot of the anti-inflammatory diet nuts will probably attack me for this one…but let’s look at the facts. My horses are not metabolic. They are not of high sugar feeds. The NSC of my hay stretcher is roughly 15%. The amount of sugar they get from the hay stretcher I feed is not enough to cause any issues. Recommendations for metabolic horses typically recommend diets less than 10% NSC (as a whole diet).
- The brand I use was chosen purely for convenience because it is what’s available; Nutrena Hay Extender. Is it my favorite? No. I do not like the ingredients they use and don’t be surprised if I stop using them altogether soon.
- Forage extenders sometimes add nutrients. For this brand they add Vitamin A, probiotic/yeast, and they balanced out the Cu:P ratio.
- Fed 2x per day
- Pictured is a 4oz applesauce cup.
- Flaxseed is high in omega fatty acids. This helps support the horses’ hooves and coats. The balance of Omega-3s to Omerga-6s is a lot closer than most seeds.
- People often ask whole or ground? I have seen the benefits from BOTH. Pictured is preground. The 50lb bag is usually about $35. The mill cold grinds and stabilizes the seed to prevent spoilage. When I was more diligent I ground whole seeds every morning. If you choose to grind your own, do it right before feeding to prevent the seed from going rancid and to prevent nutrients degrading.
- Flaxseed is high in phosphorus. If you feed it you may want to consider balancing the Ca:P ratios. Fortunately for me the calcium in the alfalfa does well.
- People also often ask about flaxseed oil. Look at the back of a bottle of flaxseed oil. The first ingredient on MOST commercial bottles is Canola oil or Soybean oil. If you do find the higher end bottles with pure flaxseed oil (or linseed oil) you’re pays $45-55 per gallon. With the seed you’re getting not just the oil but the fiber as well. Why leave that part out? Oils can get messy anyway.
- Vermont Blend
- Fed 2x/day
- Pictured is the original blend, fed at the rate of 4oz per day (2oz per meal for my boys)
- Vermont Blend considers the average hay profile in the northeastern United States and adds what’s missing. Even though it is specific to the Northeast, many horses around the US do very on it.
- This provides everything the horse needs and nothing they don’t. No fillers. No preservatives. It’s a powder so I mix with the wetted down pellets but if your horse would lick it up there’s nothing saying you couldn’t feed just this.
- I am currently trying the PRO version for the fall season. The formulation is slightly different, you feed half as much, costs a bit more, but I figured I’d try it for our hunter pace season. I may return to the original after but we’ll see.
- Use the link to get $5 off and simultaneously get me $5. I’m not a rep or an affiliate but I wholeheartedly support this product and have referred quite a few people at this point. Click this link.
- Copper/Zinc Supplement
- Fed 1/2 Tbsp per day
- I don’t usually add this to the boys feed until recently. I chose to add this because Tiger’s coat faded significantly this summer. While I believe most of it was sweat related bleaching isn’t “supposed to be” normal for horses. Common, but can often be fixed with diet. Coat bleaching with reddened tips to otherwise dark coats is indicative or either iron overload or Zinc/Copper deficiency…something that’s very common in our region.
- In a few weeks after adding Copper and Zinc to Tiger’s feed he began growing in a new darker coat. Nahe gets some, but I don’t always add it to his, his coat didn’t fade this summer and he seems fine without it.
- I love Uckele’s Poly Copper and Poly Zinc. I recently purchased the Copper/Zinc blend from Custom Equine Nutrition. You can use the same link as above (for the VT Blend) to find that version (and use that discount).
- Magnesium oxide
- Fed 1 scoop in the AM
- Magnesium is often touted for it’s benefits to anxious horses
- Magnesium is also known to help ease pain and reduce neurological problems.
- I originally purchased the 50lbs bag for Blade when I suspected headshaker’s syndrome. I found that it worked to some degree.
- As you can see I don’t feed a lot and I no longer need it for Blade (I miss you Blade). The boys don’t exactly need it but Tiger does get anxious periodically and it helps loosen tight muscles.
- *NOT PICTURED* Vitamin E
- Currently I don’t add vitamin E because they have lsuh green pasture. In the fall/winter/early spring I add 1000IU
- Vitamin E is a great anti-oxidant available in green grass but degrades quickly from hay.
I recognize that diet doesn’t cure EVERYTHING but a well balanced and healthy diet certainly is a great place to start. Ulcers, colitis, insulin resistance, bad feet, coat health, joint and muscle health, and many other ailments CAN sometimes be aided if not entirely fixed by diet. When we have the diet in check we can begin to address other issues that diet just isn’t working out.
Nahe gets ananti-histimine for sweet itch….Hydroxyzine HCl. He’s been on prednisone in the past but my hope is that maybe his new diet will help him to some degree. He still got scabby but it has healed a lot already. He also gets a fly sheet whenever warranted, fly spray 2x a day, and lots of swat.
Blade used to get omeprazole from time to time for his ulcers. When we travel or Tiger begins to look anxious (events/travel) I will preemptively administer some omeprazole to keep his stomach acid in check. He’s a wonderful horse but he internalizes everything so I try to keep his tummy happy.
I also keep phenylbutazone, banamine on hand “just in case.” It’s a nice to have peace of mind but if I ever suspect colic I ALWAYS call my vet before administering.
That, in a nutshell, is the visual of what these boys eat every day. It amount to about 2 pounds per day of forage based meals and all the hay/grass they can eat. I’m quite happy with how they look and they always seem happy and healthy.