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Ramblings about feed trends

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    Ramblings about feed trends

    I've always been fascinated by feed/ nutrition and generally try to gather all possible info from many sources.
    I remember for the longest time how everyone was sure feeding a 14% protein would give you a maniac. Then we got into the fix for everything was to feed more fat and now it seems like every horse is IR and going to a certain death in a mire of NSC's. Oh, and I guess I shouldn't forget the on-going fad of feeding a hundred supplements to cure everything. Of course, I guess we also go through similar things with the human diet- no fat, then Adkins, etc......
    Personally I think that I'm doing the best for the horses when I feed them what works for each individual horse and that going gung-ho on any one feed trend is not the best idea. Thoughts?
    Wouldst thou like the taste of butter ? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?

    I think the latest fad is the Soy based diet.

    And flax.

    ; )
    Horses are amazing athletes and make no mistake -- they are the stars of the show!


      Being married to a feed dealer lets me keep an eye on all the latest fads, and that's exactly how I also describe the equine feed industry. Starting about a decade ago, corn was the devil, then fats were all the rage, low starch has held the stage for a while, as have ration balancers.

      I am betting on "whole grains" to be the next big thing, and it would be welcome to me. Knowing what I do about the feed industry, it could be a big step in the right direction. A LOT of feed products, including the best, high-end stuff that people are paying $20-30 a bag for is waste products from other industries, repackaged and marketed for our animals. I do believe wholeheartedly it is a major contributing factor to many of the "diseases du jour," in particular the metabolic issues. I love having a warehouse full of feeds, supplements and "stuff" at my disposal, but you know what my horses eat right now? Grass and hay with some fenugreek and grapeseed powder hidden in alfalfa meal a couple times a week. Oh, yeah, I do put out salt blocks for them, but they last months. So boring, espeically to someone like me who used to change feeds like some people change their socks, but my horses have never looked better.

      Every once in a while I go down to the feed store and sit with my hubby, or he'll share stories of horse owners who come in. Many are very earnestly seeking advice, but so many of them are entrenched in outdated and unfounded "old wives tales." I used to get upset and frustrated with the people, but now I just shake my head and ignore it. 80% of the people who come in seeking advice end up doing whatever they made their mind up to do before they walked in the door, regardless of any research or conventional wisdom you try to share with them. Alfalfa makes all horses hot is the #1 thing I hear (followed closely by it causes kidney damage). Sweet feed has way more molasses than pellets is another (really? have you checked the labels, and just how do you think they get that pellet to stick together anyway!?). The majority of people seeking help have skinny horses, and are suprised when my hubby goes right to forage (everyone wants a solution in a bag) first. There's a guy who has bought feed for close to 2 decades, and feeds his horses corn and oats and a giant mineral lick made for cattle. I made my hubby drive me by his palce once, expecting to see horrible looking horses but darned if they weren't all shiny and in good weight (not too fat or thin). He did have very nice pasture though.


        I don't like "feed trends"

        Every horse is different. My horse for example, may not do well at all on the latest "feed trend"

        Therefore I do what works well for him. I could care less if someone is pressuring me to do ration balancers, loads of supplements, soy free, this grain that grain. He looks great, feels great and hasn't been sick in a very long time. So if we're not in with the trends then so be it.


          Originally posted by meaty ogre View Post
          The majority of people seeking help have skinny horses, and are suprised when my hubby goes right to forage (everyone wants a solution in a bag) first.
          Yeah, what is up with that? I run into people with skinny horses and they usually tell me something like "but I feed them such and such grain". I ask if the horse has free choice hay and they look at me like I have two heads. I just tell them to feed as much hay as the horse will eat (and have their teeth checked) and see what happens, hardly any of them ever do it.

          Ann Szolas


            Don't forget that CotH is not your 'average' cross section either... especially some forums.

            I went soy free because I have a horse who can't tolerate it. Same horse can't have even a whiff of alfalfa or he gets photosensitivity. He's a beeyatch to find a good vit/min for, and can be difficult to get enough protein into as my hay is poor and he's a working dressage horse and breeding stallion.

            Honestly, my wallet is what leads me down certain paths. I'm back to my roots though, with whole oats, 'falf (for everyone else) the vit/min I started out with as a kid, and used on a breeding farm I partnered with. It's neither fancy nor popular, and is cross-species, and balances my grass hay nicely.

            I've been down the premium feed road, and it did the trick at times. Fussy, fussy Princess mare with ulcers did fabulous on TC Senior and about ate me out of house and home. Feed bill went down by half or so when she passed on, God rest her soul.

            These days I'm in the blasted position of having to stretch my hay. I've always fed free choice hay until the end of last year. I HATE rationing hay. They still get plenty, but not free choice. My chores are doubled and tripled, and it sucks on nights like tonight fighting with 40mph wind gusts. I would like nothing more than to go back to free choice hay, but there just isn't enough. So we make do, we compromise, we curse at God and beg Mother Nature for a break...

            I think as more hay farmers go out of buisiness, more pastures are developed etc., we'll see even more changes.

            I think what I have come to, after 30 years of making my own choices, is what is best for the particular horse, in the current situation.
            InnisFailte Pinto Sporthorses & Coloured Cobs

            Bits are like cats, what's one more? (Petstorejunkie)


              Well, I probably helped start the latest free! I tried an upper end RB with lots of soy in it and it was a disaster for my horses. I know it works well for some horses and certainly those feeds have a strong following, but I'll never feed it again.

              I also agree with Meaty Ogre that we are going to learn more and more that such highly processed by product feeds are implicated in metabolic issues...the very problems they were created to help with...we just lack any real studies now to prove it...but word is getting out to horse owners and I know of more and more horses who are "sensitive" and are doing better now on a different diet.


                I agree that COTH is an unusual cross section of the horse world. Aside from being primarily English riders, we all tend to be continuing learners in the horse world. That means we hear about new stuff, test it out, and report back.
                I remember being one of the first to drink the kool-aid for gel hylauronic acid for joints - now you see LA ladies getting it as restalyn face treatments!

                Regarding feed, I try to KISS. I have two older horses who live out 24/7 on 8 acres of pasture. We give them some hay as well as grain, mostly to get their vitamins and MSM in. Twice a day pelleted senior feed in the winter, once a day in the summer. If I had a young horse, or one with a compromised digestive system I would be on here doing way more research all the time.

                I like the movement towards simple whole grain feeds theoretically, but I feel a feed program should be based on forage first, then a vitamin/mineral supplement. If needed, more calories can be added. Period.
                Do not take anything to heart. Do not hanker after signs of progress. Founder of the Riders with Fibromyalgia clique.


                  I'm feeding Farr XTN - basically COB w/mollasses. Yeah, I know. All the NSC gurus are probably "tisking" me... but my horses are doing well on it. And the amount they get is very small - really probably not enough to make a huge difference.

                  I feed based on forages first (for example, during the winter to help with weight, I cut bermuda hay 2 flakes: 1 alfalfa, instead of uping grain), also feed beet pulp and some flax, then XTN.

                  They go out on pasture full-time spring/summer/early fall. No hay unless stalled, and scaling back on grain/BP/flax as needed.

                  Forgot to add that I also feed a multi-vit. My allergy mare gets Breathe Ease & MSM.
                  Last edited by Boomer; Apr. 14, 2009, 09:21 AM. Reason: multi-vit, et.


                    When I was growing up my family had a huge working farm and kept fifty to sixty horses and mules all the time. All of them were riding animals and working animals. They ploughed, pulled wagons, some logged. No fast work but HARD work and they lived forever.
                    They were fed corn on the cob grown on the farm, all the hay they wanted also grown on the farm and had good but not lush pasture. All had beautiful coats and were well fleshed.
                    No thin animals on my uncle jim's farm.
                    I loved going through the barns when the horses/mules were eating their corn. Most grabbed a bit off the cobb and ate it one bite at a time. My mare would shell her corn and toss the cobbs before she settled down to her meal. She was a lady.
                    I'm betting that the corn today wouldn't even start to compare to the corn grown on the farm then. The fertilizer used then was called guana (not sure of spelling) but I was told it was bat poop!!
                    You know why cowboys don't like Appaloosas?" - Answer: Because to train a horse, you have to be smarter than it is.


                      I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who thinks this way.
                      Wouldst thou like the taste of butter ? A pretty dress? Wouldst thou like to live deliciously?


                        We tends to over-complicate things - I consistently find that less is generally more and feeding as species specific (as nature intended) is usually best for any critter, humans included.


                          I get a kick out of the Internet feed trends too and I try not to get too much on a bandwagon, mostly for $$ sake. I have fed lots of different stuff over the years- beet pulp, flax, BOSS, whole grains, all the Nutrena and Purina stuff, but never could say that anything made any difference in any way. My 3 horses always look good. My basic is feeding lots of grass hay, with some alfalfa (depending on the horse's weight / condition / exercise level). Other than that, it doesnt seem to matter what else I feed.

                          I only once had a problem that I attribute to feed- I was giving my endurance gelding about 5 lbs. of Strategy every day and he tied up, so I dont feed Strategy at all anymore just to be on the safe side, and I feed him less grain overall and only a handful on days I dont ride him.)

                          For the past month, I've been feeding some of the Manna Senior food I bought at Walmart LOL A little cheaper than Purina and Nutrena and seems to be working fine


                            I just can't think about the fad feeding. It makes my brain explode. I have been managing barns with 30-40 horses for well over 30 years, and they ALL have done well on a basic sweet feed (horror of horrors)

                            The only time I feed anything different is for a foal that I may see a growth question about. If I think a horse needs something more, I go for the alfalfa - the perfect vitamin supplement. The other thing I have needed to add is Athlete for a Intermediate level eventing horse doing high conditioning.

                            I would love to feed whole oats and corn, but it would terrify everyone that comes in here. Years ago, I was at a barn and did not like the quality of the feeds they had available. My horse ate nithing but oats and timothy - NO supplements. I won every grooming and conditioning class I went in.

                            Over the years, I have had many "IR" horses, many horses that people have said could nto handle sweet feed, get too hot, etc. Never happened.

                            I even had one horse that "had" to be on a special feed as he was "allergic" to the things in sweet feed. Well, for 2 years, he was first out the gate, and cleaned up ALL of the sweet feed remains that my youngsters left each morning. Funny, but he was a horse that only age a lb a day of the "special" feed. I am sure he ate that much of the youngster's leftovers. NO reaction.

                            One lady came in with a horse that was really hot. She said she was worried about the sweet feed. She had been kicked out of her trainer's barn because the mare was so hard to deal with. We started her on the sweet feed to see how she did. Over the next few months, the mare got really easy going. When she evented her the first time, she turned her out the night before, so the mare would not be crazy. Well, she had a slow, relaxed CC ride, and from then on, she was able to clean her up, braid, and leave her in before shows/events.

                            Scary sweet feed - not! I always find it terribly amusing to have someone tell me their horse can't have molasses in the sweet feed, and show them the label of the pellets they have been feeding. (molasses mixed in)

                            I am all for free choice hay to harder keepers, but the easy keepers can't handle that. I prefer to feed a better quality hay, and less of it, than crap/garbage/all calories soaked out of the "straw" and try to feed free choice.

                            Too fat is much harder on their health thru a lifetime than too thin. (not talking emaciated, but healthier to be a bit ribby than carry an extra 100 lbs)

                            Killing with kindness applies to today’s feeding fads.


                              I guess I'm an oddball and don't see much of this as a fad, unless it's a particular situation where people are doing this or that for no reason other than someone else is doing it.

                              I think most of the "fad" issue is due to continued research and discovery about more/better/different ways to feed more types of horses for better health.

                              It's a GREAT thing that the low-NSC "fad" has come about. People used to just accept that their horse was hot - couldn't take him off the sweet feed because he needed the calories, couldn't ride him when he was getting the sweet feed, so they just dealt with it. Thanks to more information which has led to lower-sugar feeds, those people can safely feed their horses now.

                              The same can be said about most other "fads".
                              The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                Feed trends drive me around the bend. The only trendy things I feed are beet pulp, flax and will add sunflower seeds occassionally in winter. Now, the flax added to feed I learned from my father more than 50 years ago so it isn't new, trendy or anything but a shedding agent and coat supplement for me.....and that is why the cows and horses got it here. Beet pulp - learned to feed that as a water carrying medium long before anyone fed it routinely, way back in the dark ages when the stuff was free and you would go to the sugar refinery and pick it up by the 2 ton lot; not a bag in sight either, was loose and unloaded from a huge hopper bin. I have been feeding the stuff in the winter for years, over 30 years. Learned about sunflower seeds shortly after and I had a horse that fit the then profile for adding them - he bloomed physically with the combination of beet pulp, whole oats and sunflower seeds, but alas, it didnt make him go faster. All grains I ever fed were whole for the most part with some exceptions caused by lack of supply, special needs such as fussy eaters (had one that would pick corn out of her ration and would leave it in a lovely heap in the bottom of the pail, but she refused to eat anything but sweet feed) and the irrisistable urge that all humans have to try something new and different. I also feed 'bad' things - add dry molasses to feed a couple of times a week here as the free copper in this soil is non-existant and without copper, horses can get anaemic and I remember Dad telling me to make sure the cows and horses got a handful every couple of days because if they didn't, they would lose colour around their eyes - copper deficiency, he didnt know the medical reason but he knew the symptoms.

                                As to the buy this, try that and stuff it down their throats supplement hype ads, well, the best I can tell you is get a supplement that is made where you live and formulated for your area if you grow your own feed, otherwise one less specific but still local and that should fix most deficiency issues for the average idle or lightly used horse. Heavier work logically dictates something more high powered and when I need that, I go to McIntosh Supplement. For what the retirees are doing now, molasses and salt about covers it because I know the quality of feed they get, and additional supplementation only gets excreted.

                                The other thing that bugs me is addition of electrolytes to every water pail, every refill, every day......and if you read the label, well you are adding mostly sugar and artificial flavouring to the water, and not much else. Now in some circumstances, addition of flavouring and sugar is beneficial as some horses don't ship well, and refuse to drink water that smells/tastes different so by all means, make it taste all the same. We accomplished the same in the dark ages by adding a touch of sweet spirit of nitre or a dash of some oil designed for bakeries and kitchens or by adding a slug of (heaven forbid) coke, coffee, beer, whatever the horse liked the taste of (I had one whose choice was 7-Up),

                                Now, as both horses are over racing age, they get hay, enough oats to make them think they are getting fed 'properly' and to carry the salt and molasses, and in winter I add beet pulp and some flax. Nothing complicated at all, and when weather is fit, they are out, but not 24/7 - too many predators here for that and besides, coming in at night gets them abit more handling and makes them easy to catch when needed as they associate lead shank with oats.

                                I think many of the fad feeds ARE crap - grain that has been frozen, has bugs, is cracked or otherwise mangled is a great part of it, next on the list would likely be screenings and chaff and then truck sweepings. When I see grain by-products on a label (any label) I leave the package in the store,...grain by-products generally are not that nutritious and are mostly bran. I sent a horse off to someone one time and this guy was a staunch believer in fad feeding....fancy bags with loud (colour loud) proclaimations of how much better the victim would do if fed this stuff,, fancy supplements, more sugar fed via electrolytes than is good for anything except perhaps a fancy bakery, and that horse came home in pathetic shape. Took me months to get him looking good and acting like himself. All that good feed made him thinnish and just plain weird, and when I did pick him up in fall, he was refusing to eat that fancy feed, only ate hay. Got him home, give him some real oats and he ate like he hadnt been fed in months, and did the same with the hay. The point of this bit of rambling? Too much of a supposed good thing is bad, and can cause malnutrition because the stuff has been prepared and processed to the point of being nothing but empty calories with added vitamins, but no real wonder poor Wall Kicker was only eating hay.

                                Beware of fad feeds, they may be a pig in a poke.
                                Founder of the Dyslexic Clique. Dyslexics of the world - UNTIE!!

                                Member: Incredible Invisbles


                                  Originally posted by JB View Post
                                  It's a GREAT thing that the low-NSC "fad" has come about. People used to just accept that their horse was hot - couldn't take him off the sweet feed because he needed the calories, couldn't ride him when he was getting the sweet feed, so they just dealt with it. Thanks to more information which has led to lower-sugar feeds, those people can safely feed their horses now.
                                  I wonder why in hundreds and hundreds of horses over the years that I have managed, I have not found a single one. So from that research, maybe less than .25%? One out of a thousand?


                                    Originally posted by Daydream Believer View Post
                                    Well, I probably helped start the latest free! I tried an upper end RB with lots of soy in it and it was a disaster for my horses. I know it works well for some horses and certainly those feeds have a strong following, but I'll never feed it again.

                                    I also agree with Meaty Ogre that we are going to learn more and more that such highly processed by product feeds are implicated in metabolic issues...the very problems they were created to help with...we just lack any real studies now to prove it...but word is getting out to horse owners and I know of more and more horses who are "sensitive" and are doing better now on a different diet.
                                    I also still wonder how much GE food crops could be a factor in health problems horses develop from processed feeds that may contain them.

                                    Fairview wrote: I wonder why in hundreds and hundreds of horses over the years that I have managed, I have not found a single one. So from that research, maybe less than .25%? One out of a thousand?
                                    I would really like to give you the benefit of the doubt here, but I have also found over the years that some horse folks simply do not see the problems associated with feeds, attribute them to something else or chose to ignore them.

                                    I had a friend who has her horses on straight alfalfa and Equine Senior. Both horse were incredibly cranky all the time, especially the mare and stiff. The owner though that was normal because she never experienced or tried anything else! It really wasn't normal for those horses to feel that way.


                                      Well. the boarders that come in here are usually amazed at how happy and relaxed the horses become. I really believe attitude and health is more about mamagement than a specific feed.

                                      I also have found that over years of being here, horses that come in on many supplements, end up on none within a few years. Seeing stiffness and lameness is my specialty. Movement is what fascinates me. We have had horses jumping and foxhunting into late twenties, and no supplements or meds needed.


                                        Many COTHers have been feeding and managing horses for 30 plus years. Me on the other hand rode all my life and for a living, but yet knew nothing really about feed. I only had my own horses when I moved to Ireland so I came into feeding when fads were everywhere all the time. That's maybe why so many people turn to boards to see what's going on. I don't want to do anything wrong and with so many different things out there it's a nightmare.

                                        Now I have simplified, even though it's a little more work. I have oats, alfalfa pellets, and beet pulp. Also a broad range vit and min supp and flax. All horses don't get the above and with spring grass coming in, I will be using much less of everything. I do have one on an immune booster herb thing to help with sarcoids. I also have 2 arthritic horses on rosehips, msm, and cortaflex. I use garlic and raspberry leaves and that's it. I use to use more supplemements, but they just aren't necessary since switching feed around.

                                        So yes, I was one of those people seeking advice on here and was taken by many new fads. But now I just have to stick to basics and the horses look great. I also agree with showing a little bit of a rib is far less evil than a fat horse any day of the week.

                                        COTH, keeping popcorn growers in business for years.

                                        "I need your grace to remind me to find my own." Snow Patrol-Chasing Cars. This line reminds me why I have horses.