Horse, Feed, and Health by the Remote Horse Coach

Horses, Feed, & Health Issues

For those of you who don't know, I seasonally split my time into two locations. For years I've observed the difference in my horses' health as I shift from the Pacific Northwest to the desert Southwest.

From changes in the quality of hay to grazing options to the types of grasses available, to the freedom to move in the woods and on texture terrain versus flat open spaces, all affect their health.
I often get "troubled" horses that come here for mental re-education and an emotional reset. One of the major contributors to the horse's behavior is his physical health. It affects his mental clarity, ability to be present, sleeping habits, and his emotional rollercoaster.

On one hand, over the last few decades the horse community as a whole has begun to raise their awareness to consider things like the horse's gut health, being insulin resistant, etc. These things were never discussed decades ago.

On the other hand, I find the way in which crops are grown presently has a huge amount of human influence, affecting the quality of the end product. Whether it's from using GMO seeds, applying pesticides and herbicides, or applying chemically infused water, most of the things we feed our horses have been completely altered from their natural state and diminished from their original natural nutrients.

Especially in terms of grains and mixed feeds, the amount of foreign product, or that which would be unnatural for horses, carrying excessive products difficult for the gut to process, can contribute to the difficulty in maintaining their health, despite our good intentions in offering them a variety of supplements in their diet.
Taking into consideration the individual horse, their build, health needs, and their physical exertion on a daily basis, all affect dietary requirements. Most humans can't offer the horse what they truly need to become healthy, so they do their best based on studies, research, veterinary advice, et cetera.

My takeaway in recognizing that many factors affect physical health but specifically thinking in terms of feed and diet, in my experience, often the simplest diet can be best.

I cannot tell you how many horses I've seen with ongoing and constant health issues as their owners try to educate themselves and start offering the latest fad diet or supplements.
Many equine feed "nutritionists" I have spoken with really have no hands-on experience with horses. So you get scientific data reports or studies without people who spend time around the horse and understand all the factors that affect the horse's health. As with anything if we look at things from a narrow perspective we don't realize how much we may be missing and what else might be influencing the outcome we're seeing.

I also find a majority of people over-feed their horses. There is an awareness of things like offering slow and constant feed... Yet with the solution of slow feeders, I have found a new wave of horses that are now binge eating and having many other issues.

Again not wanting to over-generalize, but many contraptions designed to help the horse spread out their eating throughout the day, are actually triggering mental anticipation and neurotic behaviors, never mind physical ones that you see in their mouth and dental changes.

So my suggestion as always, with everything horse-related, educate yourself and take time to experiment with your individual horse.
Just because a feed program works for one horse, doesn't mean it works for another.
Be aware if you board your horse, many times there is a one-size-fits-all feed program, irrelevant to what the horses actually need.
Many behavioral issues I see in horses start with physical health problems and gut issues based on their diet.
Please do not just randomly one day change up what you're feeding your horse because it seems to be successful with another.
Take pictures every three months of the profile, head, and rear of the horse, for you to be able to compare, and noticed physical changes seasonally. This will help recognize if you need to adjust their diet seasonally.

Make note of when you have a new shipment of hay, when you begin to feed it, and assess your horse's behavior and inspect his manure for any significant changes.

Assess what supplements you're feeding, how long you have fed them, why you are feeding them, and if there are any excessive ingredients that are unnecessary.
If you do make any adjustments to your horse's diet, I always suggest making one change at a time and giving the horse at least three weeks before assessing if you need to make more changes. Too many people make many sudden changes in the diet without realizing how sensitive the horse's gut really is nor able to decipher what is or isn't working.

Just because your horse's barrel is large, does not mean that he is healthy. In fact, there are many physical indications on horses that show despite their ability to carry and hold weight, they are very unhealthy.

Visit the Quick Tips Horse Health Assessment HERE

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