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Monday Myth #39: “Every Horse is Different” in What May Cause Colic

25 August, 2014 | Posted in category: Horse Health, Monday Myths: Horse Health | No Comments

2808946278_4f27804dfa_bLeaving a horse without fresh, clean water or overfeeding grain are practices with high risk for causing colic. On this, horse men and women agree. But when it comes to trailering, competing, keeping horses stalled, activity level and other possible colic risk factors – they also tend to agree that “every horse different.”

It’s true: some horses are more prone to colic when the weather changes, or when they are first introduced to spring grass, or when you haul them off to a show. Some horses may struggle with mild colic episodes several times a year, while others never have a gut sound out of place in their whole lives.

But it’s a myth that “every horse is different” in the situations that may cause them to colic. Every horse is working with the same sensitive gastrointestinal tract and digestive function prone to the same issues for all the same reasons.

Here’s a quick tutorial on colic. This includes some common risk factors for colic that have the potential to affect any horse, why horses may be affected differently, and the importance of being aware so you can minimize this risk.

Colic Risk Factors Common to All Horses

There are some causes of colic that are either unavoidable, like cancer, or clearly related to health conditions, like an enterolith or strangulating lipoma. But the majority of colic cases – over 80% – are considered idiopathic (that is, with no known cause). Research and experience both show that poor gut health, and the management practices that are hard on gut health, are major contributing factors.

It’s critical to understand that these practices have a cumulative effect on the equine gut. The impact of continuing to feed grain, restrict turnout, travel, and more over time is that the risk for poor gut health and colic increases. Just like a smoker is more likely to develop lung cancer, a horse kept in even one of these ways is at a higher risk for colic.

Here are some of these common practices and how they may impact equine digestive health and ultimately increase the risk of colic.

Feeding Grain

Over time, grain-based feeds – especially more than 5 pounds per meal – can be an overload of starch for the equine digestive tract. Undigested grain reaching the hindgut interferes with its microbial balance, producing lactic acid instead of beneficial volatile fatty acids. If left unmitigated, simply feeding grain meals can eventually lead to a cascade of issues starting with digestive balance and including hindgut acidosis, colonic ulcers, and yes – colic. Research supports a correlated risk between grain-based feed in the diet and colic.

Changing Grain

Switching feeds, from one type to another, from one supplier to another, or adjusting amounts, can also alter the microbial population of the hindgut. If done too quickly, this is known to lead to colic. Any adjustment to grain-based meals needs to be made gradually over a period of weeks to avoid disrupting the hindgut and causing colic.

Changing Hay

While most equestrians are aware of the risk of changing grain feed too quickly, the impact of changing hay tends to slip under the radar. Hay of different grass mixes, different suppliers, different fields, or different cuttings has differing nutritional content – and again affects the microbial balance of the hindgut. Changes in hay also need to be made gradually over time to ensure gut health.

Keeping Horses in Stalls

Reduced gut motility (the surging action that moves food through the GI tract) is associated with decreased motion in horses – which increases the risk for impaction colic. Being stalled can also be a stressor for some horses, which impacts their eating and drinking behaviors and consequently their gut function. Over time, a horse kept stalled for longer than a few hours each day could be at risk. Colic is a serious concern, too, if a horse’s turnout is suddenly restricted, such as when put on stall rest for an injury.


While there’s nothing inherently unhealthy about putting a horse in a trailer and driving down the road, it is known to increase colic risk. Typically, this is because a horse isn’t drinking enough, risking impaction, or eating enough, interfering with healthy hindgut function. Also, while the specifics of why aren’t clear, stress is a known link for decreased immunity as well as colic risk.

Competing (or Any New Environment)

Taking horses to shows or races or new environments of any kind is also one practice that induces colic in some horses. As with trailering, this is likely a result of stress (which can depress the immune system) and changing eating and drinking patterns.


Many equestrians have noted that their horses are prone to colic with sudden changes in weather. While the weather itself isn’t the culprit, the horse’s response to sudden fluctuations may be. Eating, drinking, and moving less as a result – and our tendency to feed more concentrates when it suddenly gets cold – are influencers for colic.

Eating Too Close to Exercise

Waiting half an hour to ride after a grain meal, and cooling down thoroughly before feeding grain, are Horse Care 101 for most equestrians. But did you know that the same rules apply for hay? The issue is that increased activity level redirects blood flow to the muscles – the part of the body that is currently working the hardest. This means that there is less blood flow to the digestive tract, which can reduce gut motility and function.

These are a few practices that you need to recognize may lead to colic in any horse. Do keep in mind that there are lots of other risk factors as well, including introduction to new spring grass, feeding in sandy areas, and more.

Why Some Horses Colic and Others Don’t

While the same practices and situations do have the ability to cause a horse to colic, not all horses will show signs of colic under these conditions every time. There aren’t necessarily clear-cut reasons why horses are affected differently, but there are certainly some common-sense conclusions we can draw.

Some horses are simply hardier than others and their digestive systems less sensitive. They can go from turnout on a dry lot to a full day on a new pasture with no trouble whatsoever. Others have to be built up slowly in half hour increments over a period of weeks. Some can handle a new shipment of hay with no trouble, while some may experience mild gas colic as a result.

In cases like weather changes, traveling, and new environments, a horse’s personality plays a major role. A high-strung horse that is easily stressed is more likely to stop eating and drinking, possibly leading to colic. A picky horse may not like the water and doesn’t drink enough. The increased activity and energy needed in a show environment may impact gut motility.

Every Horse Isn’t That Different

While horses’ physical sensitivities, personalities, and responses do vary and impact whether or not a particular stressor will lead to colic – the fact remains that the potential is always there for any horse. For that reason, it’s important to know what risk factors may lead to colic and always err on the side of caution.

It’s better to play it safe and take the necessary steps to avoid colic, than find out the hard way to what a particular horse is susceptible.

Flickr Photo Credit: elrenia_greenleaf


Welcome New Zealand’s Lizzie Brown Eventing to Team SUCCEED

14 August, 2014 | Posted in category: Our Riders, SUCCEED® News & Events | No Comments

WEB-14-LUH-NZL-Brown-174925-year-old Kiwi eventer Lizzie Brown officially arrived on the international scene when she won the Boekelo CCI3* with Henton Attorney General in October 2013. While that win launched her into a bright future with the New Zealand eventing squad, her road to success as a professional eventing competitor and trainer has been a lifetime in the making.

Raised by equestrian parents, Lizzie sat her first horse at just 3-months-old. She dabbled in jumping, dressage, eventing, and hunts while growing up riding with the Cambridge Pony Club. Lizzie says she did a little bit of everything until she was 14, when she got a horse that was “quite special in eventing,” as she puts it. Between that horse and her off-track-thoroughbreds who were best suited for cross country, Lizzie got the eventing bug.

Lizzie decided to make horses her career after she spent a year in the UK as a working student with top British eventer Lucy Weigersma. Back in New Zealand, she was offered the ride on Henton Attorney General (and purchased a half share in him) at the same time she was working to obtain a degree in Business Management from Waikato University.

With Henton Attorney General, barn name “Frank,” Lizzie moved up through the grades and gained national success Down Under both as a Young Rider and at the Advanced/3* level. The season culminated with Lizzie awarded Leading Rider for 2010/2011 and winning the SuperLeague series.

Lizzie decided the appropriate next step in her career was to relocate to the UK; so she sold most of her horses to finance the move and went to Milton Stud in Wiltshire with Frank.

Health Challenges with Imported Horses

Moving horses always poses challenges due to traveling and new environments, and the impact is more significant when it includes the lengthy travel, a change in hemispheres, and differing weather from New Zealand to the UK.

Frank was imported to the UK in 2012, and subsequently dealt with travel-related health challenges that affected his appetite, body condition, and performance. And he wasn’t the only one. Some other horses in Lizzie’s string were also struggling to maintain condition and turning up their noses at their feed.

Vet Recommended SUCCEED

Lizzie’s vet, Peter “Spike” Milligan of Labourne Equine Vets, recommended she try SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program to get her horses back in top condition. She used it first with one of her young thoroughbreds imported from New Zealand in January 2013, who struggled after the long trip.

“Within 24 hours of starting on SUCCEED paste, his appetite returned,” Lizzie explains. “He was soon eating all his ad-lib roughage and licking his bowl clean. In a couple of weeks his weight started building; after a month his coat was glossy and his topline starting to bulk out. He was happy in the stable and to train. He had a very successful first eventing season in 2013 thanks to SUCCEED, starting out in pre-novice and finishing his season completing CCI* double clear.”

Why Lizzie Brown Recommends SUCCEED Digestive Conditioning Program

Lizzie now uses SUCCEED across her team of six horses. And she says the most dramatic improvement was with Henton Attorney General:

“We started Henton Attorney General on SUCCEED in 2013. Immediately, his appetite and condition returned. We had an amazing event season, winning three major events including Boekelo CCI3* and were shortlisted for New Zealand’s 2014 World Equestrian Games team.”

Most recently, Lizzie and Frank helped the New Zealand Eventing Team clinch the Houghton Hall CICO3* Nations Cup win in May 2014, also coming in second individually behind Sir Mark Todd. We look forward to seeing how far this promising young rider and her horses go in the years to come, and are honored to play a small part in their success. The feeling seems to be mutual:

“I believe success starts from the inside out,” Lizzie says. “SUCCEED is the platform upon which we can train and compete our horses to produce top results at the highest levels of eventing.”



SUCCEED again to sponsor NSBA World Show starting today

09 August, 2014 | Posted in category: SUCCEED® News & Events | No Comments

NSBA World Show
SUCCEED is excited to return as a corporate sponsor of the National Snaffle Bit Association World Championship Show for the fourth straight year. As part of the sponsorship, SUCCEED will also continue to be the title sponsor of the Heroes on Horses event. And, as in year’s past, SUCCEED Sponsored Rider and NSBA Hall of Famer Nancy Sue Ryan and her daughter Courtney will be on hand.

NSBA World Championship Show

2014 represents the ninth year for the NSBA World Championship Show & Breeders Championship Futurity, held August 9-17 at the Built Ford Tough Livestock Complex at Expo Square in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All-breed classes will be featured, along with 46 classes from the Breeders Championship Futurity, Over half a million dollars in cash and prizes will be awarded over the week-long event. Learn more about the show program at

Special Events to Look Out for at NSBA Worlds

Heroes on Horses
With the return of the NSBA Worlds, NSBA will once again offer a very special Heroes on Horses competition, in a pair of classes Saturday. Heroes on Horses provides an opportunity to honor service men and women and the horses that are helping them heal. The Heroes on Horses competition at the NSBA World Championship is sponsored by SUCCEED. To learn more, watch the post-competition interview with Doug Willard, the 2013 NSBA Heroes on Horses Independent Rider World Champion.

Nancy Sue Ryan and Courtney Suzanne Ryan of SUCCEED
SUCCEED is also a proud sponsor of NSBA Hall of Fame rider, trainer, and breeder Nancy Sue Ryan and her champion hunter under saddle horses. Nancy Sue and her daughter Courtney Suzanne Ryan will be competing at NSBA Worlds with their Show Stop Farm horses.

During the entire run of the show, Courtney will also be representing SUCCEED. Interested in learning more about SUCCEED or signing up to try it risk-free for 60 days? Stop by the Show Stop Farm stall area to pick up some literature or speak with Nancy Sue and Courtney.

Are you a veterinarian? Access exclusive product information, research, & materials in the Vet Center.

MM #37: Feeding Horses Dry Beet Pulp Will Cause Choke (or Worse)

04 August, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management, Monday Myths: Horse Care | No Comments

beet pulp for horsesBeet pulp is one of the best tools in a horse owner’s arsenal of feed choices. A fibrous byproduct of the sugar beet, beet pulp is dehydrated and sold in pellets or shredded in bags. However, beet pulp is very dry when you buy it, and expands when water is added to the mixture. These tendencies have led to a rumor that it causes choke (esophageal obstruction) or even makes a horse’s stomach explode if it isn’t soaked before feeding. But studies have shown that these rumors are myths.

Feeding unsoaked beet pulp will not cause a horse’s stomach to explode. But there are reasons to keep soaking it before feeding — and why you should keep feeding it, despite the rumors.

Benefits of Beet Pulp for Horses

Beet pulp, a complex carbohydrate that is fermented in the hindgut, is often referred to as a “super fiber,” thanks to its high digestibility and low lignin count. (Lignin is what gives stalky, over-mature hay its structure and makes it harder for horses to digest.) It’s an excellent source of digestible fiber and has a similar calorie content as oats — but with fewer starches and sometimes sugars, which can cause problems if they reach the hindgut undigested. That absence of starch and sugars makes beet pulp a good choice for hard-keeping horses. Nutritionally, beet pulp is a more natural source of concentrated energy. It’s nutritional qualities compare to good-quality grass hay and it’s an easily digestible supplement to your horse’s roughage intake.

And rest assured — just because beet pulp is the by-product of the sugar beet doesn’t mean that it’s a high-sugar feed, as extraction removes the majority of sugar. In fact, since it has a low-glycemic index, it causes only a very small rise in blood glucose levels, giving your horse steady, slow-burning energy. All of these qualities make it an excellent addition to a horse’s diet — but be sure to skip beet pulp with added molasses, which can be detrimental to the horse’s digestive system.

Dispelling the Myths Around Soaking Beet Pulp

In spite of all of the proven benefits of feeding beet pulp, they are overshadowed by the rumor that it’s a potentially dangerous feed. For this reason, most horse owners soak it prior to feeding. However, this is largely due to personal preference (either the horse owner’s, or the horse’s!). Here’s why it’s not necessary:

  • Beet pulp will not cause your horse’s stomach to rupture. Adding water to beet pulp does increase its size. But home tests prove that it does so too slowly to cause concern, given the stomach’s overall capacity and tendency to empty feed matter out of the stomach and into the small intestine, and ultimately to the cecum and the colon, when it becomes full. A large university further dispelled the stomach-exploding myth in a study where horses ingested up to 45 percent of their total diet from beet pulp. No adverse effects were noted.
  • Beet pulp will not cause choke on its own. Esophageal obstruction can occur when a horse eats dry beet pulp — but is generally a problem that starts with a horse’s eating behaviors — such as bolting his food — not necessarily due to the feed itself.

Why Soak a Horse’s Beet Pulp if it’s Not Necessary?

However, there are several reasons you should soak beet pulp — if your horse will eat it soaked.

  • It increases palatability. Many horses prefer it soaked to a mash-like consistency.
  • It’s easier to chew. This is a boon for older horses or those with dental issues.
  • It provides a good medium to add supplements or medications.
  • It helps hydration.
  • Soaked beet pulp can help slow a horse down that bolts his food.

In summary, all of these are excellent reasons to continue (or to start) soaking beet pulp — even if it isn’t medically required.

While it’s a myth that you must soak beet pulp prior to using it, there are numerous advantages to soaking it first. Mix it in small batches at a time — left for more than 24 hours in warm weather, it could ferment. And in the wintertime, it could freeze.

And while beet pulp is an effective and highly recommended part of your horse’s diet, it doesn’t contain enough vitamin A or selenium for proper nutrition, and should be supplemented with other sources of forage and energy. A high-forage diet, plenty of turn-out time and feeding a supplement like SUCCEED can help your horse get the nutrition he needs. The ingredients in SUCCEED are specially formulated to help your horse be as healthy as possible on the inside, while feeding beet pulp can help him ingest both his feed and the supplement appropriately. And remember to always check with a veterinarian before making major changes to your horse’s diet.

Flickr Photo Credit: Rusty Clark


Monday Myth #37: Reduce Feed for Pot Bellied Horses

21 July, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management | No Comments

Pot Belly Horse

Pot bellies can afflict virtually any horse, not just ponies or senior pasture pets. When your gelding is looking more and more like he’s pregnant your first inclination may be to cut back his feed to encourage him to shed a few pounds.

But it’s a myth that reducing feed is the best remedy, or even a necessary one, for a pot bellied horse. A pot belly isn’t a fat problem, it’s actually a conditioning issue.

The Real Reason Horses Get “Pot-Bellied”

“Pot belly” is a commonly used term among horse people for a horse that looks bloated and full through the bottom half of its barrel. It makes the horse look a bit pear-shaped: narrow on top and wide underneath.

But when a horse starts to gain too much weight, fat is typically deposited along the crest of the neck, behind the shoulders, over the ribs, and around the tail-head and croup – not its underline.

A pot belly is not a sign of excess fat. Rather, it occurs as a result of two contributing factors:

  1. Lack of condition, particularly along the top line.
  2. A diet with lots of forage.

Because high-fiber forage like grass and hay is fermented in the horse’s hindgut for several days, a diet high in those may cause the horse’s belly to expand and look pot-bellied. This is not necessarily a bad thing! As we have discussed ad nauseum, a high-fiber diet is ideal for digestive health, nutrition, and overall health in horses. A pot belly is NOT a reason to cut back on a horse’s hay or pasture time.

However, when a horse lacks muscle tone, especially along its topline, it then loses the necessary strength to support the lower belly. A pot belly actually reflects a lack of muscle conditioning in the horse.

That’s why you tend to see pot bellies in very young horses or mature out-of-work horses – but rarely in racehorses (and other high performance horses) who are in top condition yet consume much larger diets.

Exercise to Reduce a Horse’s Pot Belly

While a pot belly is primarily cosmetic, it signals a lack of muscle conditioning along a horse’s topline that could lead to other health and lameness issues. The best way to get rid of a pot belly is good old fashioned exercise.

Here are a few ways to concentrate on strengthening a horse’s topline in particular:

  • walking and trotting up hills
  • working over ground poles, flat and elevated
  • jumping
  • transitions, transitions, transitions
  • encourage your horse to move forward, engaging the hind end, and lifting the belly
  • doing belly lifting exercises by pressing gently upward under the belly

Keep in mind that if you are still concerned about your horse’s weight and digestive health, it’s almost always a good policy to reduce grain-based feeds and maximize forage. And of course, support your horse’s total gut health with SUCCEED.

In conclusion, a pot belly on a horse doesn’t reflect a weight issue, it represents a lack of conditioning. Before cutting back on your horse’s feed, get him into a regular exercise program to strengthen the topline muscles and support the belly.

Flickr Creative Commons Photo Credit: radsaq

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