Feeding horses optimally and Supplementation

Healthy from the inside out!
I would like to offer some ideas about nutrition and supplementation as people seem to have a hard time navigating this subject with their horses. As someone who feeds myself well, it makes common sense to me to use similar guidelines in food choices for my horses. I eat as much unprocessed whole food as I can and that's how I feed my horses and dogs.

What is whole unprocessed food? It is food that has literally been unprocessed or minimally processed. An Apple or Carrot raw is an unprocessed food. So is a steam crimped, rolled or whole oat. A hay pellet or Alfalfa pellet has been processed into meal and pressed into pellets so there is some processing but you are getting a relatively pure product in Alfalfa pellets. With Hay pellets you need to be label savvy to make sure your not getting a lot of uneccesary ingredients especially if your feeding them to Cushings or Insulin Resistent horses as they can have high molasses content. Chopped Dengie and other brands of bagged hay often have molasses added as well and you need to be aware of that if your horse needs to avoid it. Molasses in itself is not the worst thing but it is not a necessary ingredient and is over used as sugar is in human food.

Diets should be clean and simple not too fancy. If supplementation is needed for balancing vitamin and minerals, a free choice set up is nice so horses can pick what they want and in what amounts as they would in nature. For specific supplementation issues, such as Joints, Real mineral deficiencies, Probiotics, and specified health issues (allergies, respiratory, immune weakness, hoof) you want to pick high quality hand crafted mixes that cater to your horses needs. Most big name supplements have a lot of leeway in how much they put of actual therapeutic amounts for their dosing. I will repeat be a SAVVY label reader. Do the math. How much per scoop not per bucket of the so called active ingredient is in the supplement. Also, what kind of other fillers and artificial flavors are in there. Make sure the dosing is to the weight of your horse not just a scoop AM and PM. You may have a Mini or a Draft and the amounts will vary a huge amount. I find that you get what you pay for a lot in supplements so you may say "wow that supplement is expensive!" And buy the cheaper one. I can almost guarantee the cheaper one is of lower active ingredients and quality. Again check labels against price. It goes up as active ingredient amounts go up which is what makes them effective. You could be wasting you money on the cheaper one.

To close I am going to give you some recommendations on some resources and feeds that are in my program. Also remember to consult with your vets before making changes in feeds and make any changes very gradually.

Typically I feed:

Free choice high quality hay is the main source in my horses diets and or grazing
Whole oats, crimped or rolled oats
Alfalfa Pellets (if my hay has no alfalfa mixed in it)
Hay Pellets
Ground Flax seed
Kelp or Seaweed powder or pellets
Free choice Minerals
Whole Apples, Carrots
Treats made from good ingredients

The Supplements or companies I swear by from experience are:

GlC: I give my young sport horses as a preventative and for maintenance in arthritic or "sticky" horses. It just plain works and it is very pure. Horses after 30 days are moving much more freely and with more elasticity. I also use higher doses for rehabing soft tissue injuries as it helps repair and regenerate.

Gem Country Equine: Owned by my friend Angela Morlan who is a supplement genius at making custom supplements for your horse and their needs. She goes by weight and uses organic and pure ingredients no fillers. Her prices are incredibly competitive for a superior product. You tell her the problem, she'll make it for you. Also if you want a blend for a couple of issues you can get that too. Totally custom! How cool is that. Her email is gemcountryequine@gmail.com

Advanced Biological Concepts: For free choice supplements and feeders. They also have and extensive line of quality products.

Happy Natural Horse: Hyland's Big Sky free choice minerals http://www.happynaturalhorse.com/shop.html

Standlee Hay company: Huge selection of pure hay pellets of all varietys and mixes http://www.standleehay.com/ViewProduct.aspx?type=sh&id=ogp


Keeping Training and Practice Fun and Joyful

Mercury learned to smile from me teaching him how to take oral medicine. How useful is that! And he thinks he's so cool he walks around smiling all the time. Especially for the camera! Big ham...
As a young riding student, I learned a fairly traditional approach to horses and riding. This was niether good nor bad. It was what it was. I was taught all the basic things you are taught as a young student and I soaked it up like a sponge never questioning any of my instructors. As I got older and morphed into a trainer and teacher myself, my thirst for knowledge never ceased and is still there. I was starting to expand out of the box of traditional Horsemanship and branch into some other ideas of approaching horses and training.

The real revolution occurred with the idea that Practice and training of horses could actually be more like playing or a game and it could be fun not only for ME, but also for my HORSE. What a concept! As youngsters most of us were taught that riding was a fun activity, We LOVED horses with a passion and wanted them to love us back. But how many of us really thought about if our horse was having fun with our goals we had. Hunters, Jumpers. Eventing, Dressage, Western Pleasure, Reining etc. I'll tell you right now as someone who is still actively competing and coaching, I look into the eyes of some horses and they do not look like they are having fun. They are being obedient and performing but why can't it be fun for them too?

The first step to making it fun for your horse is to start by building a connection using a method such as Carolyn Resnick's Waterhole Rituals or something similar. This helps foster a horse who likes to be with you and wants to participate in the activities you may set up. The next thing is pick horses who have at least a little aptitude for the work you'd like them to do. This has nothing to do with breed or size. It has to do with raw materials. They don't have to be the next Olympic Reiner or Jumper but they will enjoy the exercises more if it is EASY for them to do them once they understand the question. The next step is relaxing agendas and being creative with exercises. Present them in little pieces, step by step. Not all horses learn the same way. Just like us. If they don't seem to get it one way, try another approach. Reward the slightest try and act like your horse is the smartest, coolest horse ever.Use the 10 second exercise between tries to allow your horse to come up with something. Don't judge what ever he comes up with. Go with it. Give treats at the right time as motivators. Horses like to know there is a food reward involved especially with hard exercises. The timing and giving of the treat is important to the "games' and "puzzles" you create. Some of my happiest training accidents have been when my horse was trying to invent a "New" exercise to offer me. You'll note that I said my horses will "Offer" or invent things on their own. If you let your work/play be like this then it is likely that your horse will invent things on his own and if you are open and flexible you might be knocked over by what your horse can do!  I encourage this experimenting and interaction. That is when it is the most fun (even magical seeming) for me AND my horse! Happy Training!


Winter Virtual Clinic Classes

I will be offering Online Integrative Horsemanship and Equine Wellness classes this winter and will be looking forward to getting input from my Blog readers for what you may be interested in learning more about. I have already had some requests for some introductions to Holistic remedies and Flower essences. Fearful riders also seems to be a popular topic. I would like to offer some virtual riding clinics as well so there should be something for everyone in every discipline. I will be using video and other media to support the classes so all you need is a computer, a phone, and the desire to learn to participate. Let me know your thoughts!