Home of Shotgun Equine Nutrition
Articles of Interest
Frequently Asked Questions
I have been using an herbal wormer for several years & a friend just told me they don't work & can cause laminitis. Is this true?
First, let me make something perfectly clear, I'm not anti-herbs. I use herbs on a regular basis & at one time had my own equine herbal business. I use pharmaceuticals cautiously, but medically active botanicals ARE drugs. All drugs and chemicals, whether purified, synthetic or in native form in a plant are processed by the liver in exactly the same ways and all are potentially toxic. However, there is absolutely no studies or data to substantiate the parasitic claims made of the herbs used in herbal dewormers. But there are studies that substantiate the dangers & toxicity of the more common deworming herbs such as Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium), Goat's rue, Hyssops, male fern & black walnut. Remember the strong & toxic chemicals in these herbs must also be processed by the liver & kidneys. Only there are no studies in regards to the safety of these chemicals like there is with Ivermectin, for example. And yes, black walnut will cause laminitis. See my article on Safe Herbal Feeding in the Articles of Interest section.
I'm so confused, some friends tell me that bermuda hay is low in sugar and safe for my insulin resistant horse and others are telling me that it is not so. Who do I believe? I don't want my horse to come down with laminitis again. Can you tell me what is right.
The levels of sugar & starch are influenced by the time of the cutting. Sugars & starches go down into the roots at sunset & go back up into the foliage when the sun comes up. In other words, if you get hay that has been cut before sunrise, sugar & starch levels will be lower than hay that is cut later in the day. You can lower the sugar level in the hay by 30% by soaking it, but starch will not soak out. So if your hay is high in starch, chances are soaking will not make your hay safe. The only way to assure that your hay is safe for your IR horse is to test it.
What do you usually charge to balance a horse's diet?
It depends. If it's just one horse whose diet is mainly comprised of hay and a carrier for supplements, the base price is $60.00. If you have several horses with different needs & feeds the price will go up. It's very individualized to each situation.
I have no place to store hay so only buy several bales at a time. I can't afford to test hay every time I buy some. What can I do to make sure my horses are getting everything they need?
This is a common problem. If you know where your hay is grown we might be able to use a regional mix. Or if you buy your hay at the same place or from the same grower all the time we can come up up with a custom mix based on a few random analyses. You'd be surprised what kind of information a little investigating will get you.
My older horse is having problems maintaining his weight. My friend suggested feeding him corn oil to put some weight on him. Is this a good idea?
High fat feeding is never a good idea. The horse's natural diet of fresh grass contains very little fat.
Plus high fat feeding can induce Insulin Resistance. Because this an older horse I would first make sure his/her teeth are not the problem. Then I would evaluate the diet. Even without teeth problems older horses can have trouble maintaining their weight because of inefficient fermentation & reduced digestion of protein, etc.
Well soaked beet pulp and/or pellets are good choices for older horses. A probiotic such as Ration Plus might help too. But I would stay away from the oils.
I have seen some places that offer hair analysis for mineral balancing & to see what is lacking in your horse's diet. Is this pretty effective or is getting blood levels better?
Hair analysis are but a picture in time & not a very good picture at that. By the time minerals reach the hair they've been circulating in the blood stream for awhile & regulated by hormones, some stored in the liver, etc. So, really don't give you an accurate picture of dietary needs. Plus, the hair analysis process doesn't distinguish between what is on the hair (such as surface contamination with dirt) or what's in it. It is more effective to evaluate/analyze the diet. Although it can be helpful in determinig a toxicity...if properly washed first.
How do you feel about free choice minerals?
I think feeding free-choice minerals is ineffective & can be dangerous. Some companies will actually add sugar to their minerals to get your horse to eat them. Contrary to popular belief, horses don't instinctively know what minerals are lacking in their diet anymore than you or I do, but they will eat what tastes good. Salt hunger is very real though.
Can't a salt block provide my horse with all the salt he needs ?
It can, if he actually eats it. An 1100 pound horse at maintenance requires 10 grams of sodium a day. He would have to consume a 2 pound salt block a month to meet minimal requirements.
Stay away from the mineral blocks; they are geared more for cattle & contain iron which your horse does not need. Horses have no way of actively excreting iron. Iron overload is very real but most horse owners don't even know about it.
What lab do you use to test your hay?And how do you get a sample ?
I use Equi-Analytical Labs (the equine branch of Dairy One) in New York. See the Links section.
I have a corer (that I bought at Equi-Analytical about 8 years ago) that attaches to a battery powered drill. To get a representative sample, I usually core about 15 bales from a 64 bale stack. Look at my Hay Analysis Example w/ my notes (on Home page index)
I heard I should give my horse Vitamin E. Should I & how much?
Vitamin E is an important antioxidant & doubly important for the exercising horse. Horses that aren't on pasture should receive Vitamin E supplementation, because the Vit E content decreases rapidly once grass is cut & baled.
Depending on the horse, I supplement between 2-5 IU per pound of bodyweight. My 1100# PSSM horse gets 5000 IU/day.
The important thing to remember is that Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin. So, requires fat for absorption. Supplement companies won't tell you that. Powdered Vit E is not going to cut it, unless you mix it directly with oil before feeding it.
How can I get my horses' coats shiny & soft like your horses' coats?
1) A mineral balanced diet...dull, bleached out, orangey coats are caused by copper/zinc deficiencies and/or imbalances.
2) Flaxseed. At 4:1 omega-3 to omega-6 ratio, flax has the closest ratio profile to fresh grass. Four to six ounces a day should do it.
There seems to be a lot of controversy about feeding alfalfa to horses. What are your feelings on this?
Alfalfa is notoriously high in protein & calcium. A diet of 100% alfalfa always exceeds crude protein requirements. The excess protein is excreted through the kidneys & while the high protein has nothing to do with the formation of kidney stones, the ammonia generated by the excess protein can contribute to enteroliths. High protein may also increase the risk of developing allergies.
The high calcium in alfalfa can increase the risk of kidney stones. And because of the high calcium it is almost impossible to balance the major minerals in a diet of 100% alfalfa.
Having said that, I am not opposed to using some alfalfa to boost protein or calcium in a diet.
Claire & her donkey"Gustomer Gustafus"
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