Nutrition for Horses Pt. 3: How Individual Dietary Factors Affect Nutrient Requirements

16 April, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management | No Comments

Nutrition-Pt3-Blog

Our five-part series on developing an appropriate dietary program continues this week with a focus on the specific nutrients your horse needs. Adapted from a model presented by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition, Part 3: How Individual Dietary Factors Affect Nutrition Requirements will help you design a nutrition program that is both appropriate and safe. Subscribe to the SUCCEED blog so you don’t miss any part of this five-part series.

Basic Nutrients All Horses Need for a Healthy Diet

Different types of forage, grasses and grain provide different types and amounts of nutrients. How much of each nutrient your horse needs will depend on his individual horse factors — the physical characteristics we discussed in our last post.

Nutrients fall into six main classes: carbohydrates, fats, protein, minerals, vitamins and water. This customizable chart from the National Research Council of the National Academies can help you estimate the nutrients your horse may need (based on weight and lifestyle), but always consult a nutrition professional before making major changes.

A Breakdown of the Six Essential Nutrients

To understand what any animal needs from its diet — including horses, humans, dogs and others — it’s important to understand these six core nutrients: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, minerals, vitamins and water. Here we present a basic overview relative specifically to the diet of the horse. More information can be found online or in nutrition books.

1. Carbohydrates

Carbs provide the bulk of a horse’s energy. When discussing carbohydrates in the context of nutrition, it’s best to think of them in two broad categories — fibrous and nonfibrous.

Fibrous carbs are the structural carbs found in the seed coats and stems of plants. Pasture plants and hay generally have more fibrous carbs than harvested grains, along with other important nutrients.

Nonfibrous carbs (or nonstructural carbs) are mainly starches and sugars. Feed products containing mostly grains and seeds (like corn, oats and wheat) are primarily made up of nonfibrous carb sources. Immature pasture grasses have higher levels of nonfibrous carbs than more mature grasses.

  • Get fibrous carbs from: forages such as timothy, alfalfa, Bermuda grass, and orchardgrass, and other high-fiber ingredients like beet pulp and wheat bran.
  • Take Note: When grain feeds rich in nonfibrous carbs are fed in large quantities, they can’t be digested and they can pass into the cecum and large intestine. This can lead to the production of lactic acid and can create an overly acidic environment in the hindgut. For this reason, nonfibrous carbs (grains) should be limited in a horse’s diet, and fibrous carbs (forages) should be prioritized.

2. Fats and Fatty Acids

Dietary fats provide energy, help improve body condition and act as carriers for fat-soluble vitamins. Ounce for ounce, fat also contains more than twice as much energy as carbohydrates or protein, so it’s one way to increase a horse’s calories without overloading his grain rations.

  • Where fats are found: Grasses and alfalfa; grain and sweet feeds, and in brans, ground flaxseeds and other seeds, liquid oils, and in powdered or pelleted fat supplements.
  • Heads up: Most horses need less than 10 percent of their total diet to come from fats. Always introduce any added fats slowly.

3. Proteins/Amino Acids

Most tissues in a horse’s body are made of protein, which is made up of chains of amino acids. Most of these amino acids are produced by the body; others (called essential amino acids) must be obtained from food sources. Proteins serve many functions, including maintaining and producing muscles, enzymes and hormones.

  • Where protein is found: Alfalfa, grass hay, grain and grain by-products. Also soybeans, bran, beet pulp and seeds.
  • Take Note: It’s important to feed a source of protein that includes essential amino acids (such as lysine), as the horse’s body doesn’t naturally make these essential amino acids.

4. Minerals

Dietary minerals are nutrients that include calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chlorine, and magnesium. Important “trace” minerals necessary for the horse include iron, cobalt, copper, selenium, zinc, manganese and more. Horses require large amounts of calcium and phosphorus for building bone (this is especially true for growing horses).

  • Where minerals are found: Sodium, potassium, zinc and copper are often found in grain mixes, supplied in mineral blocks or added as a top-dressing to feed. Forages naturally contain minerals. Fortified grain mixes will supply them, as well as mineral blocks or added supplements.
  • Heads Up: Add minerals via mineral blocks and supplements, as relying on grain to supply it may result in an overdose of simple carbohydrates.

5. Vitamins

Some vital nutrients can’t be made by the body and must be ingested via feed. Most (if not all) of a horse’s vitamin needs are supplied via the levels naturally occurring in grains and pasture grasses. Hay no longer contains the vitamin content that once existed in living grasses.

  • Where to find vitamins: Fresh forage supplies beta carotene (which the horse converts to vitamin A) and vitamin E; sunshine provides vitamin D.
  • Heads Up: Most commercially prepared horse feeds include vitamin supplements; check to be sure before adding supplemental vitamins on top.

6. Water

Clean, readily available water is essential for good health. Dehydration can cause illness and death much more quickly than if any of the above feed nutrients were lacking in a horse’s diet. To prevent dehydration during cold temperatures, provide a heated water source; horses do not typically drink enough ice-cold water to meet their needs.

Where to Find Nutrients

All of the carbohydrates, protein and minerals a horse needs can be found naturally in grass. However, vitamins and fats are easily destroyed by the environment once grass is cut for hay, making dried forage products (such as beet pulp, hay and chaff) low in these nutrients. Like their ancestors, modern horses are hardwired to process and make the most of naturally occurring sources of energy. For most horses, an appropriate fresh forage mixture may be the best way to get the vitamins and minerals necessary for good nutrition. For horses that have limited access to quality pastures or that require additional energy, it’s critical to rethink how this extra energy is provided. Throwing simple carbs at the problem won’t help — evaluate what nutrients are missing from your horse’s diet, and adjust accordingly.

Safety of Feed

All types of feed need to meet basic safety requirements. Your nose and eyes can tell you if your hay is spoiled or moldy. If grain or hay becomes wet, moldy, dusty or is infested by rodents, it’s imperative to replace it immediately.

How SUCCEED Can Help

Optimal nutrition is achieved when a horse is getting the appropriate mix of nutrients to match his lifestyle. Some horses may ingest the correct balance of nutrients but be physically unable to use them. The challenges introduced by traveling, competing, breeding or illness may interfere with a horse’s normal, healthy ability to absorb nutrients effectively. SUCCEED can help maintain the healthy digestive system in the horse, in the face of these challenges, to help him get the most out of his feed.

When we ask our horses to compete, we sometimes make it difficult to follow a feeding program that revolves around grazing and free access to roughage. Other practicalities, like time and money, can also interfere with following a “natural” approach to feeding. SUCCEED can help mitigate those factors by helping your horse get the best possible nutrition out of the feeding program that works for you and your horse.

Up Next: Part 4: Feeding-Management Factors

A successful feeding program relies heavily on how you implement it. Stay tuned as we address what may be the most important factor of all — your feeding schedule.

Be sure to subscribe to the SUCCEED blog so you don’t miss any part of this series.


This series was reviewed separately by two independent experts. One is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who wishes to remain anonymous. The other is Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. an equine nutritionist, writer, consultant and speaker. Dr. Getty serves as contributing nutrition editor for Horse Journal, and as a panelist of the Equine Sciences Academy.

Give us 60 days. We'll give you a better horse. SUCCEED Challenge.




Nutrition for Horses Pt. 2: How Individual Horse Factors Affect Nutrition Requirements

09 April, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management | No Comments

Nutrition-Pt2-Blog

In Part 1 of this series, 3 Factors to Evaluate Your Horse’s Nutritional Needs, we talked about the importance of evaluating your horse’s individual needs, diet, and feed program in order to best meet his unique nutritional needs. In parts 2, 3 and 4, we’ll look more closely at specific factors that influence nutrition. This method was adapted from a model presented by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. Every horse requires a different approach to feeding and nutrition, but by presenting an ideal model, we hope to give you tools to evaluate how, when and what you feed your horse.

Part 2: Horse Factors that affect nutrition requirements starts with the most basic information about your horse: the physical aspects of breed, body type, and age. It also considers a horse’s usage, including the type and level of activity. All of these factors dictate how much energy is required to support basic functions like blood circulation and a horse’s physical activity. It also influences the amounts of certain nutrients different horses require.

You take all of these factors into consideration every day, whether you realize it or not. You wouldn’t ask your senior horse to exercise as vigorously as your five-year-old horse, for example — so you shouldn’t assume they should follow the same diet. By isolating each factor and analyzing how it applies to what you feed your horse, you may gain a new perspective on his actual nutritional needs.

Physical Factors That Influence a Horse’s Nutrition Requirements

The National Research Council of the National Academies provides documents on the nutrient requirements of animals, including horses. These requirements change according to various factors of the horse’s physical make-up, including its breed, body type and weight, age, and life stage.

Breed

Different breeds have different nutrition requirements: If you feed a Morgan the same number of calories as a Thoroughbred, you’ll either have a very fat Morgan, or a very thin Thoroughbred. Each breed’s metabolism handles feed at different rates . Arabs and Thoroughbreds tend to require more nutritional attention than Warmbloods or draft-type horses, as they often carry less weight. Furthermore, some breeds (e.g., miniatures, ponies, Paso Finos, Morgans, Quarter Horses, Arabians) have a higher genetic tendency toward developing equine metabolic syndrome, necessitating attention to the sugar/starch content of the diet.

Body Type and Weight

A horse’s body type is often closely tied to its breed (see above), but a horse’s weight can fluctuate throughout the year and with a varied training schedule. A horse’s weight is also affected by its diet, and changes in weight may signal health issues. Keep a close eye on weight changes, and know what your horse’s baseline looks like (and also when he’s looking his best!). Remember that “fixing” an underweight horse is not as simple as throwing grain at the problem. Likewise, slimming down an overweight horse requires a balanced, well-rounded approach.

Age

A horse’s age is a critical factor in deciding his diet. A horse’s ability to ingest essential nutrients is compromised as he ages, for a variety of reasons. Saliva production decreases, and digestive enzymes are not as plentiful. Over time, the fingerlike projections in the intestinal tract — called “villi” — don’t work as well. Like humans, older horses’ teeth (as well as kidneys and liver) deteriorate, and their immune systems slow down. That makes older horses more susceptible to environmental factors, such as cold weather or lower-quality feed. So, a senior horse may require more energy to maintain a healthy weight, as well as specific nutrients to support basic functions. All of these factors should be counterbalanced with a nutrition program that compensates for specific challenges.

Growing Horses: Foals and weanlings generally fall much lower on the Henneke Body Condition scale, which means they have higher caloric needs. The National Research Council defines the caloric requirement of a growing horse as the sum of the energy needed for maintenance and the energy needed for gain. In addition to energy (calories), growing horses require additional protein to aid cell development.

Usage Factors That Affect a Horse’s Nutrient and Energy Requirements

Pregnant and Nursing Mares

Broodmares’ nutritional needs fluctuate throughout gestation and while nursing, but remain consistently higher than those of horses in a physiological state of maintenance. Mares in the first month of lactation require the highest amounts of calories, protein, calcium and phosphorus — higher even than horses in heavy work. Studies suggest that lactating mares increase voluntary forage intake by 65 percent, compared to those same mares during pregnancy. Additionally, nursing mares require additional water to make up for dehydration caused by nursing. Pregnant mares should also be kept at a higher number on the body condition scale (ideally 6 to 6.5 on the Body Condition Scale) for increased reproductive performance and to create body tissue.

Breeding Stallions

A stallion also needs additional calories and protein. The amount of dietary energy required during the breeding season will be affected by breeding frequency; refer to the National Research Council’s Nutrient Requirements of Horses for a tool to help you chart these differences.

Performance and Training Horses

A performance horse in active training has specific nutritional needs that support a more demanding schedule than a horse that is turned out much of the time. The needs of performance horses will vary between discipline, depending on the frequency, intensity and duration of exercise. A racehorse will require a different program than an endurance horse. Be sure to check with a nutritional professional to customize the specific blend of nutrients (protein, fats, carbohydrates and the like), vitamins and minerals, and level of calories required for a particular travel, training and competition schedule.

Nutritional challenges for performance horses include:

  • Increased caloric requirements
  • Limited turnout
  • Frequent travel
  • Physical demands
  • Emotional challenges

The additional challenges presented by these factors make it even more important to nourish performance horses while maintaining the delicate balance of their digestive systems. Feeding SUCCEED is one way to combat challenges, as it can help a horse maintain a healthy weight, optimize nutrient absorption and support his body condition.

Up Next: Part 3: Dietary Factors

In order to meet individual horses’ needs through good nutrition, it’s important to understand exactly what horses need from their diets, and how we can help provide it safely and appropriately. We’ll talk about basic nutrients all horses need, where they are commonly found, and areas of diet that can influence health in Part 3: Diet Factors. Be sure to subscribe to the SUCCEED blog so you don’t miss any part of this series.


This series was reviewed separately by two independent experts. One is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who wishes to remain anonymous. The other is Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. an equine nutritionist, writer, consultant and speaker. Dr. Getty serves as contributing nutrition editor for Horse Journal, and as a panelist of the Equine Sciences Academy.

Give us 60 days. We'll give you a better horse. SUCCEED Challenge.




Nutrition for Horses Pt 1: 3 Factors to Evaluate Your Horse’s Nutritional Needs

02 April, 2014 | Posted in category: Care & Management | No Comments

Nutrition-Pt1-Blog

As horse owners, trainers, breeders, and managers the most basic issue we address daily is what to feed our horses. There are countless types of hard feeds, hay and roughage out there to choose from, and everyone has an opinion on what and how much should be fed. When a horse is in active training, proper nutrition is even more important.

This five-part series will take a closer look at the factors that influence nutrition for horses. It will also provide an outline for how to design a feeding program that is both appropriate and safe, based on your horse’s individual needs.

Why Rethinking the Differences Between Your Horse’s Nutritional Needs vs. Today’s Feeding Norms is Important

A pasture that offers a variety of grasses, edible weeds, shrubs and flowers may look ugly, but can provide a non-working horse all of the nutrients he needs for a balanced diet. Most of the time, this horse probably won’t need much intervention to get a balanced diet that fits his needs. He’s living exactly how his ancestors lived, on a slow and steady forage diet that is appropriate for a horse’s digestive system and overall health.

A performance horse is being asked to expend considerably more energy. We often try to compensate for greater energy needs by giving performance horses large amounts (more than 4 lbs. of dry weight) of hard-to-digest feed two or three times a day. And somewhere along the line, this feed practice became the norm for nearly all horses — whether they actually need the extra energy and nutrition or not.

Here’s the problem: horses’ digestive systems aren’t designed to process grain feed, especially so much fed all at once. Grain feed (e.g.: oats, corn, barley, wheat, rice) contains higher levels of simple carbohydrates and starches that can be difficult for a horse’s GI tract to digest properly. This can modify the horse’s natural digestive balance, especially in the hindgut, which can affect the horse’s weight, condition, health and more. In turn, this can impact a horse’s behavior and ability to perform to his full potential.

3 Factors for Evaluating Your Horse’s Actual Nutritional Needs

If your horse isn’t getting all of the available nutrients from his feed (or is dealing with poor digestive health), he’s probably not behaving or performing at his best. It can be hard to judge whether a horse is nutritionally sound or not — and if he’s not exhibiting obvious signs, you may think he’s just fine.

But even if your horse appears outwardly to be in good health, it’s worth evaluating three main factors that influence every horse’s nutritional needs:

  1. Horse-specific factors, or the horse’s specific age, breed, body type, discipline, activity level, and individual health needs
  2. Dietary factors, or the horse’s current diet and any specific nutrient requirements that aren’t being met, relative to his needs
  3. Feeding-management factors, including the frequency, timing, location and method of feeding.

This method of assessing an animal’s nutritional program was adapted from a model introduced by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition. You may not take the time to do this three-step analysis every time you change your horse’s schedule, but by presenting an ideal model, we hope to help you develop your own customized approach to feeding.

This series will take a closer look at how those three factors can influence what, how, and when you feed your horse — and why each matters. In parts 2, 3 and 4, we’ll address each of the factors above separately. We’ll wrap up in part 5 by showing how these three factors can be applied with an example program based on this model. In the process, maybe you’ll discover that you’re doing everything exactly right — but if not, we can help you rethink how and what you feed to create the basis of a program that better meets your horse’s unique needs.

Remember that every horse is an individual and should be fed as such. Horses with special needs, such as allergies, diseases or other conditions that require particular nutritional support, will require additional customization. Always talk to a nutritionist or your vet who is qualified in the field of equine nutrition before making major changes. The American College of Veterinary Nutrition maintains a database of ACVN Diplomates who are specialists in veterinary nutrition.

Up Next: Part 2: Horse Factors that Influence Nutritional Needs

We’ll look at how a horse’s body type, usage, levels and types of training, and other individual factors can affect his nutritional needs in the second post of this series. Be sure to subscribe to the SUCCEED blog so you don’t miss any part of this series.

And remember that the first step in implementing a new feeding regime is to start with a healthy digestive system. SUCCEED is appropriate in supporting digestive health for horses of all ages, conditions and life stages, making it part of any program you implement.


This series was reviewed separately by two independent experts. One is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist who wishes to remain anonymous. The other is Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. an equine nutritionist, writer, consultant and speaker. Dr. Getty serves as contributing nutrition editor for Horse Journal, and as a panelist of the Equine Sciences Academy.

Give us 60 days. We'll give you a better horse. SUCCEED Challenge.




Monday Myth #32: Certain types of wormer cause my horse to colic

31 March, 2014 | Posted in category: Monday Myths | No Comments

There’s a surprisingly large population of horse owners who have experienced a case of colic immediately after giving a horse treatment to get rid of worms. This has led to a belief that certain types of paste wormer (or even, all wormers) cause colic in some horses. This is a myth. Paste wormer does not cause colic.

What is Colic?

To understand why this is a myth, it’s important to first properly define what colic is. According to the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, colic is “a vague term that indicates clinical signs of pain in the abdominal cavity. It is not a specific disease, but rather a combination of signs that signal the presence of abdominal pain in horses.”

There are several different types of colic. The type of colic most frequently observed in correlation with worming is intussesception, where the intestine slides back into itself and causes a blockage that triggers an episode of colic. Another type associated with paste wormers is gas colic (also called spasmodic), which is generally caused by inflammation along the gastrointestinal line or over-fermentation of food in the large intestine.

The Correlation Drawn Between Wormers and Colic

Most reported post-deworming colics occur within 12 hours of using a wormer — and to horses who have not been on a regular deworming program. To understand the correlation, it’s important to know more about the two most common offenders: roundworms and tapeworms.

  • Roundworms live in the small intestine. The roundworm larvae bury themselves in the wall of the intestine and in the blood vessels. When owners administer deworming medication to kill the worms, the dead worms can turn into an obstruction in the intestine, causing impaction colic. This is a particular problem in young horses or in horses that have not been on a regular deworming program. Some veterinarians recommend administering one-half the dose of wormer, then a week later, administering the second half to avoid a large buildup of dead worms that can cause impaction.
  • Tapeworms are most often associated with gas colic and impaction colic, and cause colic in two ways: first, by doing damage to the intestine, and second, after worming. In the first type of colic, adult tapeworms affect the cecum, causing erosions, ulcers and inflammation that lead to severe pain. The pain is thought to result in a spasm-type colic, intestinal impaction or intussusception. The second type of colic occurs when a horse has a bad tapeworm infestation and is dewormed. In these cases, the wormer causes the parasite to release antigens as it disintegrates, causing what vets believe is an allergic reaction in the horse that can trigger a case of colic.

Putting Your Horse on a Regular Deworming Program is Essential

It’s important to remember that any type of worm that affects the digestive system can cause colic. For example, large strongyles (or redworms) also cause an inflammation of the arteries, decreasing blood flow to the intestine and causing damage that impacts the overall digestive health.

For that reason, it’s important to remember that the risk of a horse colicking after worming is far less than the risk of colic caused by an infestation of worms. The most susceptible populations to post-deworming colic are old horses, young horses and those with a heavy parasite load.

While there are some correlations between paste dewormers and colics, it is a myth that paste wormers cause colic. Keeping your horse on a regular deworming program is an essential part of good digestive health. 




Driving Champion Chester Weber Feeds SUCCEED to Power His Team

25 March, 2014 | Posted in category: Our Riders, SUCCEED® News & Events | No Comments
Photo © 2013, Friederike Scheytt, www.scheytt-photography.de

Photo © 2013, Friederike Scheytt, www.scheytt-photography.de

For Chester Weber, a four-in-hand driving champion based in Ocala, Florida, 2014 is starting out in a big way, in an already impressive career. He was named one of the USEF’s “Equestrians of Honor” in January, and nominated as a candidate for the USEF Pegasus Awards Equestrian of the Year for 2013.

Weber’s success as a driver relies heavily on the health and condition of his horses. He asks his team of mixed Warmbloods to do a lot for him — such as moving rapidly and precisely through courses, and pulling a carriage that’s around 1,000 pounds. That kind of work requires a well-conditioned, happy horse that’s nutritionally sound.

“There’s that old adage: ‘No hoof, no horse’ — but there’s also what happens when a horse goes off his feed,” Weber said. “Then it’s ‘no food, no nutrition. No nutrition, no energy; no energy, no performance.’ There’s a direct correlation between eating well and being a successful competitor.”

Feeding SUCCEED to Maintain or Gain Weight

Weber, an 11-time winner of the USEF Four-In-Hand Champion and a multiple medalist at the World Equestrian Games and the World Driving Championships, can’t afford to gamble on his horses’ digestive wellness. He currently has every single horse in his barn on SUCCEED, a practice that he first started in 2006.

“We weigh our horses twice per month and adjust their hay rations accordingly, and since we’ve been feeding SUCCEED we’ve seen objective proof that our horses maintain better weight at competitions,” Weber said. “We need them to maintain mass when they’re mid-season, so we do anything we can to keep them interested in the feed tub. We’d stand on our heads every day if it would help!”

At Weber’s barn, that means feeding SUCCEED as a daily top dressing, then using syringes of SUCCEED Oral Paste before traveling. Weber will also give a syringe to a nervous horse before the cross-country segment — “just as a bit of a buffer.”

Whats Next for Chester Weber

The first selection trials for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy began this month for Weber, and he recently hosted (and won his 11th title) in the Live Oak International at his home farm. Running March 19-23, the combined driving and show jumping event is one of the largest combined driving and show jumping events in North America. As the reigning champion of the FEI Horse Teams division at Live Oak and the host of the event, Weber says that it was a busy and challenging event for the “home team.” After Live Oak, he has a full line up of European competitions on his schedule, culminating in the Caen World Equestrian games in France.

Best of luck to SUCCEED sponsored rider Chester Weber!




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