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
, 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:)