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Diet help, balancing an alfalfa only diet?

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  • Diet help, balancing an alfalfa only diet?

    Reader's Digest version.

    14 year old mare who was in full training as a showjumper is now on vacation with light riding a few times a week. Because of this I had stopped her extra feed and she was just eating the alfalfa/oat provided by the barn. Weight was good, dapples, etc... She starts having mild tying up like episodes, breathing issues, and weird transient hind end lameness.

    Have the vet out to pull blood and do a lameness exam and test results show that she has elevated enzyme levels so is definitely having ongoing tying up issues. Just got the selenium titre back and she is deficient.

    Vet says reduce starch add fat, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium supplements into her diet (I add some electrolytes as well to cover all bases).

    So. My only real hay choice is the alfalfa the barn feeds. I've already asked that she get none of the oat hay. I've added the above suppplements to her diet. As well as Canola oil and flax mixed with a couple of pounds of a low carb pellet. (King Carboraider).

    My question? What about phosphorus? I only seen to find ration balancers that are full of all kind of other junk. Do I add yet another thing in like rice bran to balance things out? If so how do I figure out how much? The list is already so long!

  • #2
    There are many more knowledgable diet people than me, but...

    Is your mare on a multivitamin? If not, you could consider adding the Smartvite Performance Alfalfa. It has over 1500 IU of E and 3 mg of selenium, so you could kill a bunch of birds with one stone and not be dependent on grain.


    Also, I found this article:

    As for the tying up... welcome to the story of my life. How much oil is your mare on?
    Can you add beet pulp?
    Gone gaited....


    • Original Poster

      She is not on a multivitamin so that might work. It seems like that is enough vitamin E not sure about the SE though. She is getting 1 cup of oil now, I just added it and will probably increase that a bit. Though she is also getting 1 cup of flax which is 40% fat.

      I read that article actually but it didn't really tell me how to solve the issue. If I did the math right I would have to add like 4 pounds of rice bran and that's just way to much!

      I could add beet pulp but I don't think it would help anything it is more calcium, and the pelleted feed is balanced and low carb. If I need to I will just increase that.

      I wonder if the smartpak multivit is the best though. Aren't they rather spendy also?


      • #4

        Originally posted by Ember View Post
        Vet says reduce starch add fat, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium supplements into her diet (I add some electrolytes as well to cover all bases).
        Have you had the hay tested? If so, if you could let me see the results, perhaps I could help you. I just finished coming up with a program for my 17hh+ PSSM jumper so I am familiar with everything that is needed and what you need to supplement for. I would definitely get rid of the oats. I will admit I am not clear on the NSC content of oats and I believe you would have to get the stats to know for sure anyway, but I do know that my horse was on an oats/alfalfa diet back in CA in a show barn before he was diagnosed with PSSM and was tying up constantly unbeknownst to his trainer with that diet. If your horse's enzyme levels were raised and there is an E/Se deficiency present, it is likely that the horse has PSSM.

        Alfalfa in the PSSM diet can be very useful, but you do have to watch the amount of calcium. Some people get confused and think that alfalfa is high in NSC and therefore makes their horses "hot." This is usually not accurate--alfalfa is normally very low in NSC. However, studies are emerging that some RER horses and TBs (RER is very similar to PSSM... often hot-blooded breeds suffer from RER while the warmbloods and drafts suffer from PSSM/EPSM) actually have a defect in intracellular calcium regulation. Therefore, while some owners think that the alfalfa their horses are eating (that normally are beneficial to the PSSM horse) is high in NSCs and contributing to their horses' tying up and/or changes in behavior, it is actually the calcium that is causing it because the horses cannot process such large quantities. Even if this is not the case with your horse, you still want to make sure you are balancing the calcium with phosphorous.

        How do you do this? Well, I have done a ton of research and compared everything to the National Resource Council to come up with my own program. As far as finding the proper vit/mineral supplement, I was almost surprised to find that SmartPak has done an outstanding job. I literally compared all the vit/min supplements there are, and the SmartVite Performance Alfalfa pellet met the needs of my horse perfectly and worked to get my calcium/phosphorous ratio slightly out of the less than healthy 7:1 range it was in when just alfalfa was being fed. Not only does it provide E/Se, but it also helps to balance the Ca/P ratio and adds in some salt, magnesium, and probios--all things that the PSSM horse can benefit from.

        My horse is a 1500 lb Irish Sport Horse gelding. Here is what I feed him:

        Absolutely no grass
        As much timothy hay as he can eat (NSC levels tested at 8% or below)
        5 lbs Alfalfa Pellets
        2 cups soy oil
        1 serving SmartVite Performance Alfalfa
        1 serving Finish Line Vitamin E & Selenium (this brand best matched the amounts of E/Se my horse needs... he gets the extra E/Se because I found that his hay has a surplus of iron and he needs the antioxdiants to balance out the prooxidants)
        1 serving SmartMuscle Stamina (probably not necessary, but seems to help my horse, and the added Magnesium and DMG seem to be beneficial so far)

        It can be very difficult to find the right diet. Little things can make huge differences. After getting my hay tested, I found that my horse was getting about 4 times the amount of iron that was healthy. Iron can actually cause laminitis and muscle damage, so for my horse, it is essential that he gets the extra E/Se. Make sure all changes are done slowly and you record the results. If it's working, you should see a change in behavior/consistency in 2 weeks and a drastic change in physiology in 4 months. My horse has been on his diet for just over 4 months now and he has more muscle than when he was jumping 4'-4'6". The change is incredible.


        • Original Poster

          Thank you ontarget, very helpfull post. I'd still prefer something less expensive than the smartvite but that is a good starting point for me. I'd love to be able to just add a phosphorus supplement. I'm a bit leary of multivitamins in general. The pelleted feed I'm using is very well balanced, includes probiotics, and has a fixed formula.

          Testing the alfalfa does not make alot of sense to me as it is not consistantly sourced. I have, however, asked the BM to let me know when they change.

          There are some grass hay pellets available, I can try and find out the NSC or have them tested. That seems like it would be an ideal solution if they are low enough. How low would they need to be?


          • #6
            Nothing to add other than I use the SmartVite supplements and love them. I also use FeedXL (www.feedxl.com) to help balance diets. Of everything I plugged into the program, the SmartVite line comes out arms and legs ahead of everything else in terms of truly being balanced. The Arabs get the Performance Alfalfa and the fatties get the Maintenance Grass.


            • Original Poster

              I'm considering this if I can figure out the math.


              Strange that it is the only one I can find.

              That way I can continue the oil based Vitamin e seperate from the selenium, as I may need to stop the SE in a few months, and the Mag Ox that she is getting.


              • #8
                Phosphorus supplements are very rare... I'm surprised you were even able to find that one. You are right to be wary of multivitamins--there is so much in there that you just don't need, and most don't take the time to check their values and make sure they aren't overdosing in certain areas which then leads to all sorts of other problems. It makes more sense to just purchase the vitamins you need and supplement that way if you can.

                I use this as a cheat sheet to measure my values: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/AS/AS-429.html

                From there you can determine how many grams of P your horse may need. My guess would be 1 or 2 oz. of that supplement would do the trick, but I don't know your horse's workload or weight. It's still going to be guesswork since you don't have consistent hay, but there is a general idea of the values of alfalfa you may be dealing with through that link.

                As for the pellets, I called the company that produced my alfalfa pellets and they were able to tell me what the NSC levels were. They said they had gotten asked that question a lot. I'm sure you could do the same for grass pellets.

                That is an incredible source Auventera! How useful! I'm going to check that out.


                • #9
                  Not a feed expert, but for allergy (and a few other) reasons, the only hay my mare can have is alfalfa. She is borderline EPSM (as in biopsied negative, but muscle enzyme tests are really bad) so she also gets 2 cups of corn oil daily (which has helped the enzyme levels). She doesn't need any extra weight, so rice bran wouldn't work. I give her 2# (dry weight) regular wheat bran every day. It's very high in phosphorous and really mixes the oil well. I also give her a vit sup for alfalfa based diets. She has been on this diet for a year and looks better than ever. Her energy and work ethic have improved too.
                  Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


                  • Original Poster

                    I thought about the wheat bran but isn't it rather high NSC?


                    If scroll down you see that it is, nearly 31%. I think grass pellets would be significantly lower than that.


                    • #11
                      My girl cannot have grass-(orchard, timothy or other) in pellets, hay or growing form, she also cannot have any form of oats or barley, so I'm pretty limited to bran and alfalfa. I know it's not an ideal diet, and it's not what I would put a different horse on, but it's working for her with her restrictions.
                      Do not toy with the dragon, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup!


                      • Original Poster

                        Ah, that makes sense. I also found this but the numbers don't seem right.


                        It seems to more concentrated than the Uckele sopplement...

                        I have a call in to the mill that produces the orchard grass pellets to see if they are tested. Mountain Sunrise makes Bermuda grass pellets which should in theory be pretty low NSC but their customer service is not responsive so I have not been able to find a dealer to get more info.


                        • #13
                          I would recommend feeding the Uckele supplement before trying that one. You won't just be adding phosphorous to the diet with that supplement, but a whole lot of sodium. Unless your horse needs it, I don't see a reason why you would want to feed it.

                          Also, just sharing some more PSSM knowledge, most PSSM horses will actually slim down on the added fat (oil, rice bran, etc.) because it is their metabolism and their ability to process glucose too quickly that causes them to gain weight. Its different for every horse though--for example, my horse could not keep the weight on. In most cases it seems to be that the horses are overweight, and adding your fat of choice to the diet does not usually make the PSSM horse fat. As for the borderline comment, if the muscle enzyme levels are that out of balance, then the horse almost definitely has PSSM unless you find that it was purely a severe selenium deficiency after testing the blood again after proper Se supplementation.

                          Some new studies are showing that ALCar can help the overweight PSSM horse that does not fare well on oil, although after speaking with Dr. Valentine, she has not found a horse yet that has not had success with the added fat supplementation--from hard keepers to easy keepers.

                          I am glad to hear that you had success, though, thatsnotme. It can be an incredibly frustrating and disheartening process. I read a comment on the yahoo PSSM group that said "When you have an EPSM horse, boredom is not a problem." So very true.


                          • Original Poster


                            I'm not conviced that the Uckele supplement has less salt. If you read the label there are salts added and the phosphorus content is lower so you would have to feed more. It is also in a carrier base while the other is not. I think they both have sodium as they are "monosodium phosphate" but the one at KV vet says "Sodium phosphate...99.6%, Apple flavor...4%. No calcium, Iodine or salt added." So I am a bit confused. Reading the Uckele supplement label it appears that it has both the sodium in the sodium phosphate and additional salt added. Labels can be so deceptive.

                            Either way a bit of salt seems like it would be fine. I am already adding electrolytes and could cut those in half.

                            I'm not concerned about her weight. She tends to be very lean even when not in full training. Kind of like a mini TB.


                            • #15
                              You are correct. I looked at the pictures of the supplements and the Uckele phosphorus supplement not only has salt, but calcium. It looks like 11% calcium and 19% phosphorous from what I can see. So yes, it looks like NaturVet supplement is the way to go. I suppose it would be impossible to get pure phosphorus.