Decomplexicating Equine Nutrition Part 12 of 12 – Summary

WE ARE DONE!!! CONGRATULATIONS!! Some Basic Rules Will Help You

1) Feed a horse as it has fed itself for a long time before us. Good pasture and water.

2) Where necessary (weather, lack of pasture) supplement with good quality of a variety of hay (grass and legume). Assure adequate water and add a pure salt block if needed.

3) Allow for the ebb and flow of food availability. Don’t be afraid if your horse becomes lean (NOT skinny) during the dormant months. Balance the horse’s condition with the needs of his work and life while also avoiding carbohydrate dependency and the associated problems.

4) Where a protein deficiency is determined (poor top line, poor hair coat, poor hoof, immune deficiency), look for a medical reason (severe parasite infection, chronic disease) and if none found or it is rectified, then supplement with 2 or 3 different sources of high biological value protein (soy, whey, alfalfa and other non-lectin sources). The results of this will be seen in 2 weeks but may take up to a year for complete realization.

5) Eliminate stress (overcrowding, insufficient pasture, hay and water supply). When indicated, add vitamins and minerals until any deficiency in food availability has been removed. This should be a short time as the drought or starvation is remedied.

6) Work with your practitioner to safely reduce or eliminate all medications including pharmaceuticals and natural medicines. Remove all other supplements including treats unless all ingredients have been shown to have no deleterious effects on the horse. The ingredients matter.

7) Every ingredient (food, medicine, supplement, treat) that enters the mouth has an effect on the health of the horse. Always remember this.

I really hope this series of “Decomplexicating Equine Nutrition” answers all the questions we as horse owners have about the health of our horses. At least it will open the discussion for finding the true answers. But maybe we just need to be like the spider spinning its web. It isn’t necessary for the spider to know how. They just spin it. Start feeding the horse the way it ate for millions of years (at least as best as we can with what we have) without analyzing why or how. The horse is connected with our human world and stuck with us where we live so it may be necessary to supplement.

Summary Of The Eleven Pillars of Equine Nutrition

Pillar 1 Grazing Not Browsing – Horses are grazers eating only what is found on the ground at the time of eating it. This is supported by the development of the ramped retina at the back of the eyeball. Ramping alters the focal point of vision which helps in distant focusing when the head is lowered to eat (seeing enemies on the horizon) while also focusing up close on things on the ground. They are poor at digesting woody plants but excel at cellulose though they need a large body and a continuous intake to meet their needs.

Pillar 2 The Basics of Sugar, Fat and Proteins – This pillar covered the basics of carbohydrates (including the following sugar names: sugar, glucose, starch, cellulose, glycogen, saccharide, monosaccharide, disaccharide, polysaccharide, oligosaccharide, lipopolysaccharide, mucopolysaccharide, fructose, sucrose, lactose, and more), fats (including the following fat names: adipose tissue, short chain fatty acids, medium chain fatty acids, long-chain fatty acids, short chain triglycerides, medium chain triglycerides, MCT oil, long chain triglycerides, ketones, oils) and proteins (made up of essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, peptides). I showed that all of these are made of Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen with the addition of Nitrogen and some Sulfur in proteins. I showed that these three classes of nutrients can interchange with each becoming another in processes such as gluconeogenesis controlled by the body.

Pillar 3 Gut Microbes – The concept of microscopic bacteria (including the following names: microbes, microbiome, microbiota, holobiome) within the lumen of the gut as well as on and around the body is relevant in discussing nutrition. It is the microbes within the gut that consume the raw material we call food and they in turn create the fuels that are absorbed through the semipermeable gut wall. They also can make certain vitamins that also pass through the gut wall. Destroying these “good” microbes creates an area for opportunistic growth of “bad” bacteria, creating lipopolysaccharides (microbe body parts, LPS) that can damage the gut wall and can create ulcerations of the gut wall.

Pillar 4 Gut Inflammation – Inflammation of the gut wall is at the root of most if not all diseases and dysfunctions (unsoundness) of the horse. I described the opening of the tight junctions allowing the entrance of foreign proteins that not only creates inflammation but also can disrupt hormone communication and nerve transmissions. The causes of the gut damage are altered gut microbes, dead parts of microbes, lectins and molds. Collectively this is called leaky gut syndrome.

Pillar 5 Making Energy and Mitochondria – The production of energy within the cell is done by the mitochondria. The 2 main fuels are glucose and ketones with ketones being more efficient and cleanest in producing energy. I discussed mitochondrial exhaustion as being a possible cause of insulin resistance. I also said there is evidence showing that mitochondria were once bacteria living outside of the cell but now live in symbiosis within every cell of every animal. The gut microbes are feeding these mitochondria which in turn give the energy to keep the body alive and functioning properly.

Pillar 6 Carbohydrate Dependency – Carbohydrate dependency is the cause of mitochondrial fatigue which in turn leads to cell death as well as general malaise, poor energy, disease and dysfunction of the horse. I described what hay is and how that affects carbohydrate load. I discussed why grains and other sources of starch given every day of the horse’s life do not allow the mitochondria to rest. It also causes the creation of more fat, the inability of the horse to lose fat, and the horse converting the muscles of the topline into sugar.

Pillar 7 The High Fat Diet – It is a reality that horses eating pasture and hay are really on a high-fat diet. This changes with the season due to the ebb and flow of starch in the grass. When starch is low, the horse converts cellulose into short-chain fatty acids which become ketones fueling the mitochondria efficiently as well as preserving the muscles from being converted into fuel.

Pillar 8 The Importance of Protein – What is crude protein and why it is so important to know the ingredients that are providing the protein? I also described what amino acids and the biological value of proteins are. I also offered some math to help you determine how to calculate just how much protein your horse is eating and emphasized that if you are low in just one amino acid, you are low in ALL amino acids. I then gave suggestions on why horses are suffering from chronic protein deficiency.

Pillar 9 GMO, Pesticides and Fertilizers – The definitions and history of genetic modification, pesticide use including RoundUp and the mechanics of fertilizers. In my study of these I found no clear evidence that, if used correctly, there was any damage to horses from GM, RoundUp or inorganic fertilizers. This seems to fly in the face of those who believe otherwise. I suggested that what has not been studied is their effect on the microbiome or holobiome. I further suggested that if you eliminate all feed other than pasture and hay you would be eliminating a lot of these issues. Horses need to eat but finding non-GM pasture and hay grown without pesticides and synthetic fertilizer is very hard.  Worrying about it, especially in non-breeding horses, may not be necessary.

Pillar 10 Supplements – The descriptions of Vitamins, Minerals, Electrolytes and Herbs and the problems of deficiency and toxicity if any. What was determined was that there was no need to supplement with vitamins unless the horses were subjected to starvation or severe weather such as drought. The same seemed to be true with minerals as the horse was very efficient in preserving the correct amounts of minerals within the body. Additional electrolytes were needed only with severe sweating and diarrhea or if the horse has the genetic mutation causing HYPP.

Pillar 11 Lectins – An introduction to the relatively new concept of plant proteins called lectins that are protecting the plant from predators by disrupting hormonal communication and nerve transmission. How lectins cause inflammation in the gut and the nerves including the brain was discussed. Lectins are found mostly in the outer part of all soft seeds (grains) and feeding grain byproducts is possibly feeding the horse a concentrated form of lectins. These proteins directly attack the tight junctions of the gut wall and are a major cause of Leaky Gut Syndrome in people.

What I Have NOT Talked About

This endeavor has been to talk about nutrition but it is incomplete. I’m sure many of you will bring to my attention all the deficiencies but let me cover two right off the bat. They are 1) the use of medicines and 2) how we restore the balance between the horse we have and the horse we should have.

I decided to avoid the topic of medicines in the Eleven Pillars because many horses have been prescribed medicines for real issues in their lives by veterinarians. I am a veterinarian but not YOUR veterinarian and suggesting that you alter the course of therapy prescribed by your vet is not only unethical but possibly life-threatening. However, not mentioning here the effects medications have on your horse is unwise in light of their ubiquitous use and effects on horses.

The classes of drugs include antibiotics (antimicrobials), anthelmintics (deworming medication), anti-inflammatories (steroidal and non-steroidal and others), anti-ulcerative medicines (protein pump inhibitors, antacids and others), behavioral modifiers (sedatives, tranquilizers, and others), hormone modifiers and replacements (reproductive hormones, system hormones and others) and neurotransmitter modifiers (dopamine agonists and others). In fact, everything placed into the horse’s mouth other than the plants it naturally grazes upon has the possibility of altering the gut microbes. Yes, this includes all the herbs and natural therapies derived from organic materials that are often used as an alternative to natural chemicals approved as medicines.

The thought that this large swath of things considered beneficial for the health of horses may actually be the cause of body dysfunction will bristle every practitioner. Veterinarians and holistic practitioners have used medicines, herbs, roots and proprietary formulations for centuries to comfort their horses. They are usually successful. You may have benefitted from them too. I could not imagine having surgery performed without anesthetics, a broken bone without pain medication or a life-threatening bacterial infection without antibiotics. I have had all of these conditions and medications. But has there been a cost?

It is being suggested in human medicine that there are costs associated with the use of all medications just as there are with any recreational drug (cocaine, meth, LSD) or toxic plants (gluten and other lectins). This cost is paid by the changes in the gut bacteria and possibly in the holobiome (in, on and around us). At Texas A&M vet school it was shown that a whole family of naturally occurring bacteria within the mouth was eliminated with the dosing of just one Eqquiox (Prevacox) treatment. This is remarkable. Is it possible that treatments with multiple medicines over longer periods of time have a more profound effect on horses?

We have a conundrum. How do we use our medicines? The Center for Disease Control (the CDC) announced in 2017 that the biggest threat to human health in the world today is antibiotic resistance. Would it be wrong to say that the real threat is that the “good” bacteria have already been wiped out?

I love the idea of jumping into a time machine to look back on the millions of years the horse has existed without human interference. With the exception of broken bones, lacerations of skin and starvation, did the horse live well? Was he plagued with insulin resistance, laminitis, Cushing’s disease, dropped fetlocks, suspensory injury, anhydrosis (non-sweating), parasite infection, cracked hooves, thrush, the various skin diseases and cancers, moon blindness, EOTRH of teeth or any of the problems you have had with your horse today? Will the horses still suffer from these after correcting their diets? This brings me to the second point I am not talking about.

How do we restore the normal gut microbiome? I cannot answer this because no one can measure this other than to look at the fecal microbial colonies. However, I have been suggesting a solution throughout this discussion. It is the removal of all grain and all supplements and the addition of a variety of proteins when the horse is confined to a single type of pasture. The results have been the following: elimination of unwanted behavior (bucking when ridden, objecting to girth tightening, objecting to brushing, objecting to trailer loading, objecting to clipping, elimination of anhydrosis, the exchange of poor hair coat and poor hoof condition with good quality, the replacement of a poor top line, the reduction in bloating and excess fat, the addition of fat and muscle on hard keepers, elimination of colic, the reduction of choke and an overall improvement of the attitude of the horses in the barn. The time it takes to see these resolutions starts in as little as 3 days and for some, up to two years.

If your horse currently has a disease that your practitioner is treating there you should include them in any changes. They can monitor objectively the progress with blood analysis, radiographs, ultrasound and other diagnostics. But if your horse is not being treated, then use a notebook and record your own observations including all the issues before changing the diet.

Final Thoughts

Take the 10-day no-grain challenge to prove to yourself the benefits of removing inflammatory food from the gut. It costs nothing. There is science behind this. The benefits have been seen by many horse owners already. If it doesn’t work for you then go back to what you were doing. After all, it’s only 10 days.

For the health of the horse, it is far more important to remove the problem-causing ingredients than it is to add something to the diet.

The best thing you can do is to make a journal for each horse. Write down the starting date. Write down everything about each horse that you feel is not normal and that you want to objectively follow. Then commit to entering your observations on a regular basis.

If I receive enough journals that are well written with good objective and subjective observations along with good data and an accurate timeline that shows that the basic feeding rules have been followed, then I may consider publishing them for all to see.

Consider enrolling in the Horsemanship Nutrition course coming in May of 2018. Links will be on website. There you can immerse yourself in these articles, videos of me going into each pillar, additional material and most importantly, the forum to ask your questions. This is where we will all learn together and help our horses live more comfortable lives.

Good luck and thank you again for taking the time to listen to my thoughts on “Horsemanship Nutrition.”

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  1. I found your website while searching google for information about food intolerances. I recently pulled my mare, who was dealing with daily colic, off all her hard feed and put her on a hay, alfalfa cube, and salt diet and she improved completely. I was interested to find your very similar recommendation since it had worked so well for me. I have read all 12 of your articles and they are very interesting.

    I’m wondering about how to make a nutritionally balanced diet for a yearling? I’m feeding him a ration balancer with first cutting grass hay and think he might do better without the concentrate but am concerned about protein deficiencies since he is still growing. I didn’t see any information about feeding young horses but may have missed it.

    1. Thanks Jamie for reading all the articles. You should join the private Facebook group “The Horse’s Advocate.”

      I dislike all ration balancers because every one I have seen has inflammatory ingredients. See the blog “Betrayal.” Young horses, if not fed inflammatory ingredients, will do well on pasture and hay up to a point. However as you ask more of them they will break down near 12 years of age because all tissue in the body regenerates. Connective tissue in humans regenerates every 6 years. Hence you will see horses break down by 6 years if used at a young age (racing) or 10 to 14 in horses started later in life (showing). Adding soybean meal as a protein source by 3 to 4 years in show horses and 1 to 2 years in race horses will help to prevent connective tissue injury. It will also keep the hooves in good condition. By 18 years many horses who have not become lame instead show disease with the most prevalent being Cushing’s disease. This is now considered a neurodegenerative disease being treated with a neurotransmitter replacement. All neurotransmitters are proteins. By 24 and 30 years most horses are showing signs of some kind of chronic protein deficiency.

      The short answer is it is never too late to supplement with protein any horse living on a mono-grass pasture and / or hay. And remember they need sunlight to make vitamin D. Feeding an all forage diet will allow for the healthy gut bacteria to make all the other vitamins. The minerals will come from the well water, mined salt and forage. A “ration balancer” is unnecessary. After all, how did they make it this far?

  2. Hi Geoff! I just started leasing one of my riding instructors horses and could use some guidance on her diet. She is a TB/Warmblood mare (1300-1400 lb horse) that used to event training level two years ago, was turn away after that and I’m just getting her back into steady work. She’s been through multiple owners throughout her 15 years and Im trying to bring some consistency back into her life. I work with her almost everyday and mix it up with liberty/ground work, riding or simply spending time with her doing massage/stretching. When I first met her she was describe as a stereotypical grumpy mare with mood swings. She’s improved a lot with daily work but still has occasional issues. On being upwards transitions – for example I thought she was sour to leg pressure so used voice commands for trot and she will still pin her ears and throw her head up (checked saddle and it fits, vet also gave her a clean bill of health). She also hate when I put her blanket on/take it off, girth tightening and being touched in the wrong way around her belly/flank. Im really wondering if these issues are diet related or purely hormonal and/or behavioral. Some days she loves to be groomed and others she despises being touched. She’s had the same vet for four years and he suggested putting her on, what is essentially, horse birth control. However, after reading your blog posts I’m worried it could make things worse. I do plan to keep a journal tracking her mood over the next month as she started this medication today. For food she Currently she gets 1/2 quart of alfalfa pellets morning and night mixed with 1 pound of Purina enrich morning and night. I’m very skeptical about Purina enrich given the oils, minerals and not knowing the source of the crude protein. I googled and couldn’t find the source anywhere. For hay, morning is one flake alfalfa and one grass hay, night one flake alfalfa and 2 flakes grass hay, then a 10pm snack Which is one flake of grass hay. I also do carrot stretches with her but just switched to alfalfa cubes after reading about treats. Do I need to ditch the enrich and do soy bean meal? Is there a brand you trust that I could purchase? I have heard soybeans effect hormones levels (estrogen) but wonder if SBM does as well? Sorry for my mile long message. Love all that I’ve learned from your blog and really hope to get your advice!

    1. Stop feeding enrich (see the blog “Betrayal”). Stop the carrots for 2 weeks. Feed only forage (hay and grass), water and mined salt (Himalayan). After this, if all is good with the horse, stop the medication then start the soybean meal. Write everything down. Read all the blogs and consider enrolling in the nutrition course. Thanks and good luck.

  3. Thank you for all your work on preparing the “Decomplexicating” series of articles. They are so valuable to me. With all this information, I can’t imagine the “Nutrition Course” will have more than you’ve already given us. Will it benefit us even more to purchase the course or is it a repeat of what has already been said?

    1. I created the course for those who really want to understand this information. The blog is reposted there for convenience but I also add a video of me teaching these subjects using a different approach. Many people who don’t learn well from just reading need a visual presentation. I add to a white board as I speak. Then in another tab, you can read the notes I created from the video as the video plays helping to cement the ideas. In a third tab I have created bullet points to highlight the important points.

      At the end of each unit there is a quiz. Each quiz must be taken to allow advancement to the next unit. After the quiz is completed and submitted, the answers are revealed along with an explanation which many have said added to their understanding. After all units are completed there is a final exam which are a random selection from the unit quizzes.

      If this isn’t enough to help people dig in and understand this, there is a 30 day money back guarantee so if you are not happy, I return your money. So far this hasn’t happened. Those who have taken the course have gone on to help others multiplying my effort. I’m grateful for this!

      1. Thank you Doc T. I’m so grateful for what you do for us and our horses. I’ll continue to read and re-read and participate in the FB group. If I feel I can’t “get” it, at least I know now there’s a study course to help me.

  4. If you have time to clarify — I want to try your No Grain Challenge in a couple of weeks when I move my horse to a new farm that has pasture (current place has none). He is in the last leg of recovery from colic surgery (right dorsal large colon displacement) that was followed by an impaction colic two weeks later. He has lost quite a bit of weight. My vet advised limited access to hay but we have no grass so… argh. Will feeding him soymeal and alfalfa pellets plus hay and pasture likely be sufficient? He is fed “2 scoops” (~6 lbs) of grain plus a pound of alfalfa pellets per day. I use the alfalfa pellets as treats as well. He’s a 6 yr old Tb, not that HE knows what breed he is, but he isn’t typically a hard keeper. Just trying to get this right.

    Many thanks for presenting this series on nutrition.

    1. The 6 pounds of grain a day is striking especially in light of the 2 colic episodes. In the no grain protocol the first thing you are trying to do is eliminate gut inflammation. Colic IS gut inflammation so this is really going to help him.

      Colic surgery will cause a horse to loose condition. Also the stress and the medications he has taken are very upsetting to the gut microbes. You need to be very careful with this horse especially as you move him to another location (another stress). You need to work with your vet here to prevent another colic. You should discuss with him or her your concerns about the gut inflammation coming from grain, the surgery and shipping to a new home. Once you get the gut bacteria back to normal then things will get better. If you still want to feed grain or you vet insists on it then order some SUCCEED as soon as possible and start him on a double dose of the paste for a week BEFORE you ship him and continue on it until he is fully recovered and has adapted to the new home. Then, if all is good, get him off the grain and reassess as to his protein needs. As a 6 year old he should not have a severe protein deficiency but adding some down the line should help restore any muscle loos from the ordeal he has gone through. But adding protein is secondary to restoring the gut microbe health. Remember that proton pump inhibitors (anti ulcer medications) will adversely affect the normal gut population as well as prevent the absorption of proteins. SUCCEED won’t upset the gut flora but rather it will support their regrowth.

      Keep us posted.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing all this information! I have pulled all my horses off of everything but pasture, hay, salt, water, and alfalfa pellets and will be watching for changes in the girth mare, the 21-y-o with the poor topline, and the FEI dressage horse with the unwanted buck.

    In a few weeks when I want to add some more protein back in, I wonder what you think of roasted soy beans? I encountered these when visiting a friend in Canada this summer and had never seen them before. They were tasty to me and her mare loved them. I googled and found this info and source for them in the US, and I have to say that the idea of feeding something closer to the “whole food” than a meal is appealing.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and findings!

    1. My thoughts on roasted soy beans is two fold:

      1) The whole grain myth is not supported by the damage the lectins do to the gut wall. In humans, all whole grains seem to cause gut leakage from their lectins. Horses are fed an extraordinary amount of hulls in commercial feeds and this seems to be causing a lot of problems.

      2) The soybean oil is not removed in the roasting process. This oil is certainly inflammatory in humans and I would guess that it is also inflammatory for horses. This assumption may be wrong but it SB oil is added back into a lot of commercial grains that also are inflammatory. I want to reduce this chance.

      Their add is made for cattle even though the header shows all barn animals. Cattle are ruminants and therefore any comments made for cattle do not apply to horses, asses and mules. They also say that roasting destroys certain enzymes. Enzymes are proteins and most proteins are destroyed by the stomach acid (made into peptides or amino acids). These then are processed in the small intestine and the cells or the gut bacteria of the horse use them to make their own proteins which include enzymes and vitamins.

      Chemical solvents used to extract the oil are evaporated off according to a chemist friend of mine and this is why solves extraction of the SB oil has had no ill effect on horses sine I started using soy bean meal in 1973.

      Bottom line – feed soy bean meal until the chronic protein deficiency brought on by the carbohydrate dependency and the subsequent gluconeogenesis is resolved and the amino acid recycling program works effectively again (1 to 2 years).

  6. Hello I am a lady from the uk who has stumbled on your website and I am amazed and sickened at the same time . I have fed all the wrong things to my cob and donkey thinking I’m doing the best for them. Thanks so much for this information I am going to read it over and over again. Could you please answer 2 questions I have 1 I keep my donkey and cob on a paddock paradise limestone track they get access to a half acre paddock on a night and have ad lib meadow haylage which is only fertilised with chicken manure will this be enough to keep them well ? Also I have bags of barley straw for the donkey to eat should I ditch this? And lastly I pick up poop every day do I quit using warmers. Thank you for your time

    1. Hello Dawn – or how about this – “Howdy Dawn!” That sounds more American!

      Thank you for finding and sharing these. I too have been “sickened” and resolved to give back to all what I have learned.

      1) Your words from the UK are unfamiliar to me here. What is a “paddock paradise limestone track” and what is “meadow haylage?” I know that haylage is partially dried grass cuttings and is popular in many areas of the world, but it is virtually unknown in the world I travel in. If my interpretation is correct you are saying your donkey and cob are on a paddock with a good calcium source plus they are fed “hay” cut from a field with a variety of grasses. This should be adequate for all living horses with the following exceptions. Any horse with gut inflammation and / or is suffering from chronic protein deficiency (poor top line, poor hooves, etc). The diet you described is low in a variety of good quality protein. In addition, if you have horses with carbohydrate dependency then there should be a period where they eat a decreased amount of starch (winter). Haylage may be higher in starch than a dried and older cut gras hay. Finally, assuming the chickens are not fed antibiotics, hormones or feed toxins, the use of any manure on crops should have no ill effect on horses.

      Many people feed the hay from grains such as wheat, rye, barley and oats. The same concern of starch (non-structural carbohydrates) applies to this as it does to any hay. The hay made from grain is called straw but many times it will have the grains still attached. This adds starch as well as the lectins of the grain. Be careful purchasing straw for feed (rather than bedding) and look for grains and test for quality and starch content.

      Cleaning the pastures of manure is absolutely the BEST parasite control. Please log in to The Horse’s Advocate and listen to my HorseTalk webinar here:

      Thanks, Doc T

  7. Looking forward to the nutrition course.
    Is coconut meal not easily digestible? Are you better off using a good quality protein over an amino acid supplement?

    1. I can’t wait to bring it to all of you, but this is the busiest time of my year for floating horses. I was aiming for tomorrow but it looks more like about May 14th.

      As far as I know, coconut meal seems to be OK for horses. The oil in it is non-inflammatory in humans and I assume in in horses. It may help horses over 25 years with weight loss.

      I think the biggest problem with amino acid supplements is how to get it into the horse. Other than that, if the gut bacteria are working well and the stomach acid is normal (no proton pump inhibiting medicines) then either should work well.

  8. My horses are turned out 24/7 and have access to either pasture or hay. I have been having problems with 2 Thoroughbreds with weight, one mare that was diagnosed with PSSM through a muscle Biopsy and the last is my preliminary event mare that I have never been able to but a top line on. She was diagnosed with Kissing spine last summer. Last year I started feeding coconut meal, alfalfa cubes, medicine bag mineral supplement and a variety of other supplements to balance their diets according to feed xl. I avoid all grains or grain by products. They are turned out 24/7 and have either pasture or hay. The PSSM mare can’t have grass. The preliminary mare still has no top line, the 2 thoroughbreds are thin, and the pssm mare is tough to manage.
    I am wondering if I am still doing too much in feed???

    1. Anne – in some horses, the continuous feeding of sugar causes dependency on glucose for cellular fuel. This leads to mitochondrial exhaustion, insulin resistance, over weight or under weight horses (either) and chronic protein deficiency.

      There is sugar in the starch of pasture and good hay. It is also hidden in many supplements especially minerals (which are not necessary to feed)

      I don’t see any supplemental protein. You should be aiming for 0.5 to 1.0 gm protein from several sources per pound of body weight.

      It is my hypothesis that kissing spine is from a poor top line that doesn’t support the spine. This is from autodigestion of the protein from the “starving” horse being fed an exhausting amount of sugar and little cellulose (converted to ketones for cellular fuel).

      If this sounds con=fusing then re-read all the posts before this and study what they say. Consider enrolling in the nutrition course (coming in May 2018) for more in depth look at this.

  9. Thank you Dr T for this series! I agree 100%. My question is this; what about endurance horses that are completing 50, 75 or even 100 day rides? How do we get enough calories in them for that level of competition? I know several people who feed a forage based diet, but on ride day they add grain, beet pulp and electrolytes. Any recommendations?

    1. Forage and the cellulose providing the SCFA’s for fuel (ketones) will have enough energy for an endurance ride. It is what happens after that needs attention.

      The extra sugar fed in the form of grain will be used as glucose to replenish the glycogen stores first. These were used up in the competition. Excess starch will be used for resolving energy needs but if the horse is conditioned well and using ketones for fuel then the horse will not need a lot of excess glucose to run the race. Horses (and humans) will have long lasting energy from ketones but horses on high grain diets will not have the endurance of a ketone fueled horse.

      Any extreme activity requiring more than normal energy needs will tolerate some extra glucose. Remember, it is the carbohydrate dependency (daily feeding of starch) that is the problem. Some starch to relieve the glycogen debt is OK.

      Replacing lost electrolytes in an activity producing a lot of sweat is required to avoid electrolyte imbalance (remember excess sweating and diarrhea are reasons for electrolyte supplementation). Most electrolyte mixes have sugar in them for better absorption (think Gatorade) so this will count towards the glycogen replacement.

      Thanks for following through all of these.

  10. Many heartfelt thanks, Doc T, for all the research and explanations you have put forth to help our equine family members. I have gone through many emotions while reading/studying (biology – aaack, chemistry – aack aack) while modifying my feeding program. It has been an amazing journey of discovery. Your comments section has been especially important. I hope you turn this into your next book.

    With no fresh pasture here in Eastern Washington, except when I can hand graze, I am mixing grass and timothy hays and orchard grass pellets (Mellow still thinks he is getting grain, haha), with a handful of alfalfa thrown in, and will search for soybean/whey protein/alfalfa mix.

    You’re building an army to benefit the horse world; keep up the good work! Thank you!!

  11. I want to add some soybean meal to the horses’ ration. I feed 5 lb alfalfa cubes and free choice grass hay, but I have no pasture for them, just dry lot. I found soybean meal at the local feed mill. It is solvent extracted soybean meal. Is this going to be a good option or should I look elsewhere?

    1. Soybeans have their fat removed either by pressing, heating and pressing or by dissolving in an organic solvent before being processed into meal. Not much research has been done on horses as compared to ruminants, chickens and even fish. However, the most common oil extraction is done by solvents and as far as I could find out, there are no ill effects on any animal. Most tests were done to determine if the amino acid content was affected by the chemical versus pressure extraction methods. They were different but not substantially.

      I am guessing here but I am pretty sure that either extraction process is OK for horses because I have not heard anything to warn me otherwise. I will say that you should use meal without soybean hulls as the hull is not beneficial to the horse (think lectins).

      Thanks Glenda

      1. Thank you, I bet if I contact other feed mills I’ll find they are all solvent processed and if I try to find a different process it will be cost prohibitive. Years ago we feed soybean meal without feeding alfalfa and the horses looked awesome and performed well. Back then they had pasture, hay and a little oats. Again thank you for getting this info out there. My daughter is a person and animal chiropractor and she is giving her clients the link to your feed series.

      2. I am feeding the same type of soybean meal, with no issues. At my feed mill it is the same soybean meal they put in their custom mix feeds.

  12. Hi Doc T – I have had my horses on a non-gmo diet for a few years now. They are all out in the pasture and are only given a coconut meat feed in the winter time (here in FL), along with Tifton 44 hay or Timothy/Orchard blend and Equi-Pride Lix mineral which has Omega 3’s (Flax) in it throughout the year as they need it. I have a Insulin Resistant horse that this all started with – so all the horses get the same thing. He does get any treats so they don’t either. They are all pretty stress free these days and no competition, loading or unloading to go different places – everything stays pretty consistent for them including the same pasture mates. No new horses being introduced into the herd, no establishing new pecking orders. They are out 24/7 – no coming into the barn because it’s raining. No blanketing when its cold unless they are very old. But, with that said I had to put 2 mares down last year and one was 42 y/o and the other 40 y/o. They didn’t have any medical problems overall so they didn’t receive any medications. One did have a back hind arthritic issue which when she stood could fall over backwards. I sourced a medical Dr. who I had known had a portfolio of herbal products for pets, horses, & people. He was not with the company and his 2 partners had only 1 jar of the horse product left since they only make products that their customers want internationally. I extended the dose which was very small (20 ml) to begin with. Used this as the loading dose and then went down to 10 – she was cantering in the pasture after 3 days – never fell backwards again while she was on this product. Didn’t have to roll her over to the good side to get up. It took down the inflammation & increased the circulation. FDA studies were done on all his products and he had testimonials from top TB trainers (which never shared his product but used it on their horses) because they would be giving away a competitive edge to their rivals. But, with that said I have gone back to letting horses be horses as you have always advocated for a long time now and they are all respectively appreciative for it. I call it feeding RAW for horses. I do the same for dogs since the menu food debacle and this is the healthiest set of dogs I have ever raised as well.

    Always follow your advice – Your the best!


    1. Thanks Pam for your comment. Adding a medication (herbal or pharmaceutical) to help a horse suffering is always warranted and outweighs the adverse affect on the overall system. As you said, though, for most of the horse population (and other animals), feeding “raw” seems to be what they do best with.

  13. Thank you so very much for writing this series. I learned so much from each post. It has helped me to make changes in what I was feeding my horses and all for the better. I appreciated that you have listened to my concerns too as it has been tough letting go of various beliefs. In any event, I hope more horse owners will take the time to read your posts. They have been truly enlightening for me and have helped my horses a lot!!