Feeding our horses...is it to complicated? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 07:00 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by walkinthewalk View Post
You know, I really would not want to be starting out with horses these days, lollollol

Half of what new owners need to learn these days, many of us old timers and long timers take for granted - we just do things without thought, lollol

There is so much to learn that we didn’t even think about back in the 50’s, 60’s or even 70’s, that it’s eye twirling, lollol

In the old days, the horse either went barefoot or got put in shoes. Nowadays there are not only boots but a bazillion different makes and styles

Heh...If you think boots are bad, you should see the chemistry lab I call a feed room! And the older the horses get, the more complicated it is to feed them!
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post #2 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 07:25 PM
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I took dogpatches comment and walkinthewalk and brought them to a new thread that is so important it should be seen and opinions offered and not sidetrack another thread...

So, our thoughts on nutrition for our 4 legged friends....

In meaning to help our horse friends...have we made it to complicated and gone overboard with the this, that and something else feeding and supplementing them...


The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #3 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 07:32 PM
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What always gets me, with not just feed but a lot of the care that we give our horses is, how does it compare to what they get in the wild? On the one hand, didn't nature design them to live and even thrive in fairly harsh terrain? Is the way we keep them nowadays really good for them? BUT... how many horses in the wild live past their 20s, into their 30s?

The feed I feed, the hay, the supplements, the additional supplements, the hoof care, the vet care, the teeth floating (heck, Teddy's fillings) ... ultimately, I don't really know ... I mean, I guess some of it is obvious, like hoof care, but all of those expensive supplements, and who knows if I'm really helping anything? Even their foot care -- I guess I'm starting to try to micromanage that, too.

I guess at the end of the day, I just have to do as much research as I can, and then make the best decisions I can. It seems like no matter what we do, there's someone else with newer and better information just around the corner, waiting to second guess us. Is that stuff I'm putting in my horses, all of the other care I give them, really helping them? Ultimately, with a lot of it, it's kind of hard to know. Maybe I'm not doing anything besides making MYSELF feel better ("I did what I could for them"). I don't know. We just do the best we can, all of us, with the information we have.

Maybe someone else will have something more concrete to add. The whole topic just made me feel philosophical.
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post #4 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 07:42 PM
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Originally Posted by ACinATX View Post
What always gets me, with not just feed but a lot of the care that we give our horses is, how does it compare to what they get in the wild? On the one hand, didn't nature design them to live and even thrive in fairly harsh terrain? Is the way we keep them nowadays really good for them? BUT... how many horses in the wild live past their 20s, into their 30s?
Survival of the fittest ("strongest").

The horses in the wild with weak feet, weak teeth, weak... anything - die. This is from malnutrition or from a predator killing them. The domestic horses in our day and age can get away with "weakness" because we can care for that weakness. Bad feet? Corrective trimming, shoeing, booting, softer/harder or flatter/more uneven ground are all options. Bad teeth? Corrective floating, soft mashes, and syringing medication/supplements are options. In the wild, you get that hand you are dealt. If it is a bad one, you die. BUT, since it is also survival of the fittest, "weak" horses generally do not breed. The lucky ones to live to a ripe, old age usually have had a chance to breed and therefor spreading their "strong" genes. However, in our domestic life, "weak" horses, unfortunately, breed ALL. THE. TIME. Why? Accidentally. Backyard breeders. Or, simply people who don't know/care about the consequences. For example, the "TB = bad hooves/legs" or "paint = health problems" stereotypes have some background...

"I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. It's first grade, Spongebob!"

Last edited by Wumbo; 10-17-2020 at 07:58 PM.
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post #5 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 08:50 PM
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For any animal I have care of, I always think first: what kind of life does it have in its natural state? For example the three species I have right now:

Chickens: tropical underbrush birds, roost in low trees for safety at night, scratch for food all day long.

Goats: arid climate animals built to survive on scrubby aromatic brush, and rocky ground.

Horses: steppe animals designed to graze almost continuously on poor grass, adapted to extremes of cold and heat.

All of them social animals which need others of their kind plus enough room to interact with them in a natural way.

The degree to which our care for animals deviates from what evolution prepared them for, is often the major factor in the diseases we cope with through all sorts of interventions. Selective breeding, either for traits that would not survive the test of the wild, or simply not caring to select for healthy traits because we can medically manage the problems we have caused, is part of the problem.

I long ago made a kind of vow to myself, that I would never keep animals unless I could keep them optimally. I was a child when I decided this. That meant I had to have both the knowledge and the means, monetarily and spatially, to provide that level of care. I am very aware that most people do not have this intensity about animal care. At least, I would say about 80 to 90% of the people I buy livestock from, or whose farms I visit, I feel some pity for those animals.

My horses get fed local grass hay in winter and pasture in summer. They get a vitamin/mineral supplement year round, and in our cold winters they need more calories than grass hay can provide so I feed a proprietary 'forage extender' as needed to keep weight on. And that's about it right now. The horses do fine so far on this simple regimen. When I was more obsessive and tried different supplements and 'cool calories' and so forth, they also did fine.
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post #6 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 09:28 PM
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As a 73 yr old who has been around horses my entire life and paying for my own, non-stop since I was 12 —— yes it surely has become more complicated.

IMHO, the root cause of that is stripped natural nutritional value from our soils and replacing with various types of fertilizers to grow more product to feed —— cows. Safergrass.org starts out by saying “—-are we feeding our horses like cows—-?” Yes we are, thru no fault of our own.

In order to produce more feed to feed cattle, and people, seeds for just about every feed stuff are now GMO. GMO stuffs are also made to be bug and fungus resistant - I’m no chemist to answer “what goes into those seeds?

To that end ^^^^^[

1. In my youth, my horses ran 24/7 on 98 acres shared with beef cattle. They had a double run-in barn for shelter. I fed them home grown oats and (GASP!!) CORN to keep them coming up to the barn. They ate home grown timothy hay, put up from granddad’s farm.

I rode them a lot but not near as much as I rode my second set of Keepers. Meaning, nobody was vaccinated, nobody got sick, nobody had crappy hooves, nobody developed metabolic issues, but grandad’s favorite fat rascal did develop Cushings when he hit his 20’s.

I had always said my Sonny & Fury cost me less money in vet bills during their lifetimes than any of my dogs ever did. I laid Sonny & Fury to rest in the late 80’s. Sonny at 29 with cancer, Fury at 27 with high ringbone.

2. In 1990, gradually along comes the second set of Keepers with my beloved Duke being the first, Rusty and Streeter joining a few years later.

To coin our UK friends, I was gobsmacked when Duke ended up diagnosed with metabolic issues in 2007. All I knew was how to spell the word.

Streeter was a rescue with a body score of a low three and an injured vertebra, so I expected vet bills for him.

Rusty ended up being grain/soy intolerant and developed environmental issues after we retired to Tennessee.

Joker came into my life in 2006. By 2012, he had seriously foundered and his insulin numbers were three times higher than high/normal; Cornell U. marveled he was still alive.


I hadn’t changed anything, in terms of management, between Keepers #1 and Keepers #2, except to feed them bagged feed that did have grains in it and used soy as the protein source. Who didn’t feed that way? It was just “the way things were done”.

While life in SoCal consisted of a huge sandy dry lot for them and they ate Bermuda hay, we were only there five years, it was four years after that (2007) that Duke was diagnosed as metabolic, and Joker hadn’t even come into the picture.

I have had the soil on this farm tested; it is not high enough in iron to raise a red flag. EXCEPT FOR JOKER, who is the worst metabolic patient, the horses have been on city water from the time we lived in SoCal to the present - 22 years.

I test the hay every year. My horses stopped receiving grain in 2007. We have evolved to a condensed vit/min supplement that is soy-free with no added iron. I use timothy pellets as a carrier for any supplements they have to have, which they get a lot but it is all needed.

Keeper Horses #1 didn’t need supplements. Sonny & Fury went on their last 25-30 mile hard trail ride when they were 27 & 25 respectively.

Joker at 25 is not rideable and Rusty at 26 has stifle issues. Meaning, I could never ask them to ride the difficult trails I put Sonny & Fury on, at the same age.

In conclusion, I see two possibilities for horse nutrition being more complex today, at least for me:

1. Poor soil issues and the other things I alluded to above.

2. Sonny and Fury were grade horses. Sonny Arab/Saddlebred. Fury Arab/Morgan.

Streeter, of my second set of Keepers was registered Arab but remained healthy as a — horse until what the vet felt was cancer took him at age 29.

It’s been my registered Walking Horses who have been the big metabolic issue.

If I were young enough to have a third set of Keeper Horses, I would go on the hunt for a hidden pocket of Arab/crosses and hope I would have the same good luck with modern day grade horses as I did back in the old days.

I hope I have made some sense, as I agree with @horselovinguy , this IS an important issue.

People should NOT get caught up in the popular supplement of the month club, “just because”. People need to learn why they should or should not feed something to a horse.

Generally speaking, more is not better, unless it’s forage. Even then, there seems to be a need for limits in today’s world that weren’t needed when I was young:)

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.

Last edited by walkinthewalk; 10-17-2020 at 09:35 PM.
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post #7 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 10:05 PM
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Right!!! Horses need 3 things.....grass (either wet, or dried as hay), water, and salt.

Most of the rest is called profit for someone besides the owner.
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post #8 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 10:17 PM
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Call me jaded, but I am very conscious of when I'm being "marketed to" and the horse industry is full of companies wanting to sell you something and about half of that seems to be bagged feed and supplements.

Generally speaking I'm a straight bermuda grass and alfalfa guy. In my opinion horses should be allowed to graze on decent grass as a normal part of their day and they should not be left with nothing to eat for very long if not working. Not completely opposed to supplementation but I'm a hard one to sell on it.

I think that thread was about an OTTB? Thoroughbreds need a comparatively high calorie diet as far as I know compared to say a good old Quarter Horse. By all means give the horse the calories and macros they need, and I think I have said my point on the rest and feel the same regardless of breed.
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post #9 of 28 Old 10-17-2020, 10:21 PM
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I've had this topic at the back of my mind as well. I was thinking about it especially when I was talking to a vet at a recent event and she commented about New Bolton's semi-feral pony herd that they observe closely for behavior research. They live, eat, move, and breed as they see fit on a 40 acre pasture with very little human involvement outside of vaccines and deworming. Read: NO grain, farriers, barns, blankets, herd separation, etc. The researchers and veterinarians have noted that in the decades this project has been running, they have not seen a single case of hoof, respiratory, or metabolic disease. Here is a link to an article on the project below. An excerpt from it:

"The overwhelming opinion of veterinarians at New Bolton and those that visit is that the ponies are incredibly healthy, requiring little intervention. Literally, they are portraits of health as opposed to the vast majority of domestic horses. 'We have had none of the diseases that are so common among domestically managed horses,' notes McDonnell."

The article also notes "their pasture diet is supplemented only with salt and mineral blocks and occasionally hay during extremely cold, snowy winters."

What strikes me as interesting is that Shetland-type ponies are supposedly the most prone to metabolic issues yet these ponies are on 40 acres of pasture 24/7 and no metabolic disease has been noted. I can't say exactly what conclusion should be drawn from this, but I do find it fascinating. I have my own theories regarding horse management in general but they aren't solidly founded or coherent so I won't bother to ramble about them.

Another article I was reading the other day (though likely less reliable) was encouraging people to take their horse off of all grain and supplements and leave them to pasture/hay and salt/mineral blocks and wait to observe the positive difference it makes in their health. I definitely don't encourage every person to go and do this willy nilly with any horse but this in combination with the above study does make me wonder if going overboard starts to create the very problems we try to patch with even more supplements, and then we get stuck in the mentality of "they need it."

@walkinthewalk I absolutely believe your theory there regarding Arab crosses - I have not had any problems whatsoever with my Arab/Standardbred mare. She gets a cup of ration balancer a day and 24/7 access to salt/mineral blocks and green pasture or hay and that's all she's ever needed. I used to compete in hunter/jumper on an Arab/Welsh cross in her late 20s and she was the same way.
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post #10 of 28 Old 10-18-2020, 04:28 AM
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I was taught to feed with the 'old' method, basically oats and chaff (chopped hay) to make them chew the oats more slowly. Anything needing a bit more weight was fed flaked maize, (corn) and boiled barley and linseed also some soaked,sugar beet.

I learned to feed by eye, to notice if a horse was gaining/loosing weight. To feed according to the rules, little and often, temperament, work load and condition.

I was well into my career before I saw a Cushings pony. Many of the school ponies were well into their late twenties and still sound and working. Now it is common. I am sure that feeding all these sweet feeds is detrimental to their health long term.

I feed my dogs raw. Again I feed by eye, gaining weight, they get less, bit skinny, more. They rarely see a vet, never have tartar on their teeth and haven't a clue what a blocked anal gland is!

Look at nature and follow the pattern.
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