Two of my four horses have insulin issues. All my horses have been grain-free since 2007.
Three get a ration balancer that only requires 16 ounces daily to meet their vit/min needs.
The fourth gets a condensed vitamin/mineral supplement that only requires one ounce daily.
I took this pic on July 19, 2013. The 4th horse was lagging far enough behind, that I couldn't include him but you can see these guys are healthy.
The front horse turned 27 in April. I rescued him 20 years ago, starving. He has mild gastric ulcer issues and four missing molars.
The middle horse is 25 -1/2, has metabolic issues, hind gut ulcers and colciked NINE times between March and October, 2012. The vet couldn't believe how he's snapped back and commented I "---really got lucky with this horse." That's partly because I went way outside the box to feed and care for this horse, whose been my BFF for 22-1/2 years. The other part, he is tough as nails
The third horse turned 19 in April and has some digestive issues the vet can't figure out, even with several blood tests. I've sorta got him on track with a good pre-probiotic and Remission of all things.
Meaning, I don't think anyone can say these horses aren't being kept as healthy as possible, given their ages and health issues, and they haven't had anything with grain in it since 2007
Ditto on the ration balancer. My horse gets grass hay, 1 lb ration balancer, 1 lb alfalfa pellets daily. Personally, I don't see any reason to feed cereal grains to horses- they don't do much in the way of nutrition, and if they need additional calories there are better things to feed them.
For the stiffness, maybe ask your vet if injections would be beneficial. It sounds like feed-through supplements alone are not sufficient. I agree it is surprising to see an issue like this in such a young horse unless he was started early and ridden very hard at a young age.
Hmmm...there it is again. I have some easy keepers. I used Blue Seals trotter for years and years. Then something happened and they didn't look so great. Both horses were over 30 so I attributed it to advanced old age but something kinda nagged me and I switched to a ration balancer. Over the course of a few months I watched the years roll off my two old friends.
The QH was a big blocky boy who had always been super athletic. The last couple years he had been kinda lethargic but still a mover. The pony at 11 hands was a true air fern I could never give her full rations as recommended by the feed bag. She would have exploded. She was also more cranky than her usual little alpha witch self. Neither of them had coats that looked great anymore. The QH had hooves that looked dry and brittle. It's kinda hard to articulate just things weren't right but both were very old so...
But something nagged me and I started reading up on different feeds and easy keepers.Switched them over to a ration balancer and within couple months I noticed a change in their energy levels. Few months later the shine came back to there coats. The QH passed before he had been on the ration balancer a full year. The change in the pony these past 2 years is dramatic. She looks and acts like a 20 yr old rather than her 38 yrs. Her muzzle is still grayed but the dapples are back in her dark chocolate coat. No where near as grumpy and anti-social either. Still the queen of the stink eye though.
You've got an easy keeper. 2 cups isn't a full ration for a full sized horse according to the feed sack. Means he isn't getting a full share of vitamins and minerals. Feeding the full recommended amounts would probably blow him up. Feed bag on trotter says 1-1 1/4 lbs per hundred weight. 900lb QH and that's 9lbs on a maintenance diet. Goes up as the work load increases. I pretty much think that was the problem with mine. As they aged it got more pronounced.
My family stopped feeding any sort of grain back in the mid 90's when my Dad stopped showing horses. Ever since then, we've fed nothing but hay and gave them access to either a mineral block or loose minerals. They all stay fat, shiny, and healthy and we've not had any instance of colic or laminitis since then.
If I have one that needs a little bit more than just regular old hay to maintain themselves (usually that's horses in heavy work), I will give the straight alfalfa hay. Never had one that didn't pick right back up with that.
IMHO, horses are severely overfed these days. They evolved over millions of years eating mostly coarse forage; grasses, both dry and green, twigs, leaves, bark, etc. There was some grain mixed in there just from what they would eat durning the autumn that was still attached to the grasses, but grain has never been a prominent part of their diet.
I saw a picture once, years ago, and it has stuck with me. I wish I could find it now. It showed a comparison between the necropsied intestines of a horse that was fed a forage based diet for it's entire life and a horse that was fed primarily grain based feeds it's entire life. It was on par with comparing the lung of a smoker versus the lung of a non-smoker. The forage fed horse was still pink and healthy. The grain fed horse was dark, discolored, irritated, and swollen.
LOL, Walkin, I don't think they really worry about it. For every one of us that is grain free, there are 5-10 people who either think "my horse needs this grain because he's a hard keeper" or "I feel like I'm neglecting him unless he gets his 10 pounds of sweet feed per day".
He's so stiff at a younger age, I'd talk to your vet more about the stiffness. Not very common, there could be a deeper problem there.
I know a few horses that are not on grain and they do just fine. I believe a lot has to do with his turn-out situation. How is the quality of grass there?
I don't have a lot of background on him unfortunately. I purchased him at age 7. I know he was owned by a gentleman for a year who did about 6 months of trail riding and let him sit for 6 months. Before that he was owned by a girl for a little while and came originally from his breeder/trainer at 5 years.
The stiffness could definitely come from overworking at a young age - he has allllll the buttons and whistles. I highly doubt any of the in-between owners had the time or experience to train him like that. The past owner mentioned that he also had an accident backing out of a small trailer. He cut his nose on the top and now has a slight bump. He also has capped hocks. So that could definitely be the cause too.
He started showing slight stiffness around age 8. We started with MSM and have been slowly working our way up the $$ joint supplement chart. Smartflex III is the first time he's showed improvement. My vet did mention a supplement that he recommended. There is a people version of it and he uses it himself. I'll have to get the name and see what it's all about.
Turmeric? I've never heard of that, but will look it up.
I'm a big fan of grain free. My easy keeper Arabian is currently on nothing but grass. She wears a grazing muzzle during the day. She's currently a great weight. I may start her on a ration balancer soon (Triple Crown 30%), just because the BO insists on feeding her something (currently a handfull of alfalfa cubes) so she doesn't bother all the other horses when they eat in the morning.
On the other end of the scale, I have a hard keeper SSH who shows ribs if I look away for five seconds. She was never a manageable horse to begin with. Her diet therapy for PSSM requires two cups of oil a day and a vitamin E/selenium supplement. Her has to be off the pasture during the day due to high sugar in the grass. Then I competed her too much and too often. She dropped from a 5 on the body condition scale to a 3 in a period of 4 months. Took her to the vet. The vet told me to feed her six pounds of high fat, low NSC grain a day. Two months later and she's a 4.5.
^^ She's a rare horse who absolutely needs grain. And she isn't a normal horse either. 95% of horses are better off with increased hay, pasture, salt, and a ration balancer.