New to horse ownership so need some knowledge
My horses get grass/alfalfa mix and are nice and winter plump. After reading a few other threads I decided I needed to ask if mineral blocks are necessary. I haven't bought one yet. What is needed?
Also, there was a lot of talk about sand in bellies. I don't have sand where I live. It was a wheat field before it was sold for housing. So we have really great quality dirt. Do I need to be careful about dirt in their stomachs instead? How do you check for something like that?
First, congratulations in horse ownership!! I have salt/mineral block in my mare's feeder at all times - it replaces some of the nutrients she would get out in the wild. Read the label, however, and choose one with the least amount of iodine content, as apparantly too much is harmful.
As far as sand, what you heard about is called, "Sand Colic", and it is deadly! There are a few simple things you can do to prevent it - Go to your local feed store, (mine is Tractor Supply Company), and you can buy a large tub of pellets called, "Sand-Aid" or something comparable. One tasty scoopful, once a day for a week in your horse's feed could save it's life. Another option, is Metamucil (or whatever store brand) once a day for one week....
I do this religiously, and it is worth the effort!!! Good luck with your horse, and enjoy!! :)
Sand colic isn't just in places with sand. Its anywhere there is dirt. They take it in while grazing, from the roots of the grass or from eating things off of the ground. I just lost a horse to this, and it is one of the top causes of death in horses. Anything with psyllium, for a week out of every month will help. You should research the symptoms of colic, so you know what to look for. Often times it can be treated and the horse will be fine, if you know what to look for and you catch it early.
I have mineral blocks in my stalls at all times. It just helps with certain mineral deficiencies, and can stop them from chewing wood and doing other things that may do more harm then good. They're cheap and it certainly doesn't hurt to have them!
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Wow, didn't realise sand colic was so common as to be a major cause of death in some parts! Yes, I'd be inclined to take preventative action by feeding psyllium, if the horse grazes very short grass, if you feed on the dirt or such. As most mineral blocks that I've looked at arent very well balanced & according to nutritionists, horses don't get much from them - they'd have to lick solidly all day to get enough of some things - I just put out a straight salt lick - himalayan rock salt - and they get a 'ration balancer' for other nutrients. If you are going to get a mineral lick, I'd ensure it was molasses/grain free.
If your horse is fat & it's midwinter, you may want to consider feeding less/less rich stuff, at least by spring, as long term overweight can cause issues. I think grass hay with a mix of alfalfa can be a great feed for horses, but it's high energy & also high in various nutritients, including protein & calcium, so this needs to be considered for amount of calories as well as when trying to balance nutrition.
The way to check for ingested sand to to grab a few road apples, put them in a latex glove. Fill the glove with water, shake and see what settles out in the fingers. You will be able to see and feel any grit.
Trace mineral blocks are pretty much useless as a mineral source. They are typically 99% salt and only offer trace minerals. The minerals horses need in much larger amounts aren't even in them. All the major feed companies make a loose vitamin and mineral supplement. It's typically a 12:12 (12% Ca and 12%P) or 12:10. They're a little generic for most horses but with feeding same alfalfa, it's a better blend that if you only feed grass. You want to find a product with around 100,000 IU/# of vitamin A and the salt should be less than 20%. Check with your local feed mill. They should have their own blend that complements your local forages and fills the gaps in your soils.
I used to use plain old salt blocks, but then my horses started to chew the wood in their stalls- to the point where we had to replace the walls. The vet suggested a mineral block, and since then the only chewing that I see is when they're impatient at feeding time. So it seems to have helped... The new walls that we put in do have rubber mats on them, so they can't chew. But the back walls are still the same ol' wood, and aren't getting chewed. I have the big salt blocks out in the pastures and paddocks, which they love too.
A salt block of some sort is helpful to keep them hydrated, because they make the horses thirsty. Good for winter because they don't drink a lot if the water is too cold, and good for summer because they sweat half of what they drink!
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Your best advice about sand ingestion would come from your local vet who can see your fields. I too do not find sand ingestion to be a big issue at all in my area. No one I know has ever had any concern about it.
As for the mineral block -- yes, something is advisable. I tried mineral blocks, but my horses still were lacking so I switched to free-running blue salt and Hoffman's minerals, each in their own containers that the horse has access to 24/7. What's really nice about the Hoffman's is that I know how much my horse is eating of it. It was interesting to watch her basically pig out for the first 2 months before tapering off.
Good luck with your horse! Pics?
Gatorade doesn't hydrate a horse. Water does. Yes, they can be fussy about strange water & not drink enough in stressful situations, so a little gatorade, molasses, whatever in the water to make it taste better can sometimes be a good move. But generally the extra pure sugars and electrolytes are unneeded & can be unhealthy. Horses in hard physical work in heat, such as endurance horses for eg, may benefit from extra electrolytes but I don't think a great percentage of horses need or benefit from them.... or people for that matter.
Just like anyhting else, horses need to stay hydrated. There are a lot of complicated biological explanations but a dehydrated horse has a higher chance of colic or other issues. Most horses will drink adequate amounts of water without anything being added but some problems can still arise which may require some owner creativity to get them to take more water. One way I have seen that solved is to soak the hay, like one would do for a horse that can't handle any dust, or even the grain, making it soupy.
If a horse is worked heavily in the heat and is sweating a lot, adding electrolytes to the feed will encourage the horse to drink more and gives back those electrolytes lost. My last horse tended to drink less in the summer for whatever reason and had a minor colic episode due to it, forcing the vet to not only tube for the colic but also to give him IV fluids. Adding electrolytes to his feed got him to drink more and he never had any other problems.
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