I know I sound like a broken record around here. Feed your horses low sugar low starch hay because that is what they have evolved over thousands of years to eat. Low sugar, low starch hay, blah, blah, blah.

Even though I share this all the time I consistently see people saying they don’t need to feed their horses and ponies low sugar, low starch hay. But then I see how FAT their horses and ponies are.

Equines in general have evolved over thousands of years to thrive while foraging in the high plains, the natural grasses, bushes, plants, etc.

Do you see thick lush green grass here? No. Horses would need to forage and dig and browse through here.

Then we humans came along and needed our small acreages to produce more. More grass, more hay, more, more, more. So we fertilize, we spray and kill the weeds, we plant more high powered grasses. Then we turn our horses out on that grass 24/7 because horses are grazers after all and need to eat 24/7.

Ländliche Idylle, Panorama mit weiten grünen Wiesen und blauem Himmel

BUT they are not equipped to deal with the richness of the grass we are giving them. Especially ponies and easy keepers. Of course there will always be the exceptions to the rules. Those hard keepers that can eat all the grass all the time and still need to put on a bit of weight. Just ask people with those types of horses… they are not necessarily easier to manage than the easy keepers.

The thriftier horses, the metabolic horses, the native type horses need us to help them. They need us to give them access to LOW SUGAR, LOW STARCH hay 24/7 and supplement with some grass/alfalfa mix hay for protein for older and younger horses. Supplement with vitamins and minerals to help them balance the forage we are offering. No horse should be given rich hay 24/7. It will catch up to them eventually.

A fat, shiny horses does not equal a healthy horse. If they are not getting the exercise to burn off the calories you are feeding then you need to back off the calories. And sugar and starch ARE added calories.

HERE is an article on the SafeGrass website. It’s very sciency, but ends with a very interesting paragraph:

Where I live, very sunny, and extremely dry, hay cures in a couple days, and growers bale only in the wee hours of the night in hopes of getting some dew to keep the leaves on the hay. Consequently the San Luis Valley of Colorado is well known for producing some of the highest quality dairy hay in the USA. We also have more than our fair share of laminitis and colic. An Amish horse trainer who recently moved here from Minnesota told me he’snever encountered so much laminitis since he has lived here. After a year, they also started seeing EPSM in their draft horses. Data from research trials conducted at Rocky Mountain Research & Consulting, Inc., in conjunction with USDA showed that oat hay maturing in the fall at my facility contained levels of total carbs and fructan specifically that are surprisingly high, even when extremely mature. I have tested improved grasses from the research plots here that are up to 39% NSC dry matter! Surely destiny has a hand in putting me and my insulin resistant ponies in the Founder Fodder Capital of the world.

My friend Molly has a beautiful little 32″ miniature horse mare, Goldie. Last winter Molly was feeding a grass/alfalfa mix hay, from a hay supplier she has used for years. When he delivered her a second (or third) batch of hay in the middle of the winter, he said to be a little careful because it seemed to be a bit richer. But horses are meant to graze 24/7 and Molly knew that so was feeding the hay in slow feed nets or feeders so they would have hay 24/7. She has 2 minis, one was a stallion at the time and an older Arab gelding who has a bit of a hard time keeping weight on in the winter time. The Arab and the stallion seemed to do alright, but Goldie packed on the pounds and ended up being about 100 pounds over weight and on the edge of foundering. She was laminitic and very sore footed. This was the end of January.

Molly immediately took Goldie off the alfalfa grass mix hay and bought a couple of low sugar low starch grass hay bales. She added in some HEIRO to help Goldie manage the extra glucose she was obviously struggling with. She started her on 1/4 cup of Crypto Aero Wholefoods.

By the beginning of May Goldie was slim and sleek and ready to do an 8 mile drive with a local driving group. Over Memorial Weekend Goldie drove 15.2 miles with that same group, in mountainous terrain. Molly also noticed that Goldie was acting like the young mare that she is, playing and being very active. Something that she had not done when eating the richer hay. She has energy in a good way. It’s not jittery, wild energy, but calm and focused energy.

Goldie at the first group drive. She is so slim and in great shape here!! No one would ever believe that just 3 months before this she was 100 pounds overweight!
Goldie after our 15.2 mile drive. On this day we did a 6 mile drive before we headed home. So she had driven 21 miles total for the weekend!

This just goes to show that feeding a horse properly, balancing it’s vitamins and minerals as best you can and making sure their hay is low sugar low starch hay makes a HUGE difference to the health of the animal.

Another great example is Mikey. He was quite a bit overweight, for his build, when he came here a week ago. I feed low sugar, low starch hay, in a slow feed net, pretty much 24/7. The first day he was here he did not eat and he did not let any of the other horses or drink, so we need to take that into account. But skipping meals does not always mean a horse will lose weight!

Left is the before photo taken on 6/24/18. Photo on the right is the after, taken today 6/30/18. 6 days on a low sugar low starch diet and a bit of added exercise. He is just as shiny it was just not such a sunny time when we took the after photo. You can see that his shoulders are smaller and he doesn’t have the big fat pads on his butt. He still has a little bit to lose, but will slim up and muscle up when we start driving!

I have him on 1/4 cup of Crypto Aero Wholefoods, 1/2 a scoop of California Trace, 1/2 a scoop of Remission, and 1/2 a teaspoon of magnesium once a day. He is in his own area while everyone gets acquainted, and he is spending some time every day pacing. He is no longer pacing all day, but he does walk quite a bit. This is actually mimicking life on the track. So pair the proper diet with exercise and you get a pony that has already lost quite a bit of weight. He had hard adipose type fat on his shoulders, neck and butt, they are all gone. His neck is soft again and the “swollenness” has gone away. He is feeling better and has settled down emotionally and physically.

Left is the before photo taken 6/24/18 and Right is the after taken today, 6/30/18.

I am really looking forward to getting Mikey in cart, but he needs a little ground work and some body work done first. He is very stiff in his hind end. I wouldn’t want him to try pulling a cart if he isn’t feeling his best. To have him pull incorrectly to try to balance out a soreness will only hurt another part of his body. So we will go slow and steady!

Bonnie is doing so much better. She had a great day on Saturday, April Fools day. That seemed to be the turning point for her. Since that day she has been up and about, moving more and eating better. I’m so happy to see that! Since that day I have started walking her a little further and the last couple of days I walked her twice a day. After our little walks she moves much easier and is clearly less sore. I am so grateful for that!

The outpouring of love and support we have had on Facebook and the internet world has been so heart warming! All the stories people have shared, the things that worked for their horses and things that didn’t help, have helped me feel so much hope and kept me positive throughout this entire episode. I am simply amazed at the kindness! There is a Facebook friend that I have never met in person that is sending Bonnie a pair of Soft-ride Boots for her recovery. She is allowing us to borrow these until Bonnie is feeling better! I just want to say Thank you Thank you to you all that have offered suggestions and kind words!

I want to share what I am feeding Bonnie right now. I have had many questions about this on Facebook and through emails and private messages so I figured I would just share it here!

She gets hay 24/7. The same hay that I had analyzed. It is nice and low in protein (8.7%), starch and sugar (6.5%). It is high in iron (118) so I am balancing that with California Trace mineral. The magnesium (.11) is low in the hay so I am balancing that with some magnesium powder. I offer it loose in their run in shed, but am also top feeding it to both Sky and Bonnie. I give them about 1/2 – 1 teaspoon once a day. HERE is an excellent article about feeding magnesium and the kind you should feed for the best results.

I am feeding her 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero Wholefood topped with about a 1/2 a cup of Standlee timothy grass pellets because I wanted to give her a bit more fiber with her feed. I top that with 1 teaspoon of magnesium powder, a small amount of Remission as I am weaning her off that product, and 1 scoop of California Trace. When I receive the Milk Thistle seed she will get 2 tsp of that as well. I wet the feed a little bit because of the grass pellets and she thoroughly enjoys her meal! I feed this once a day and make sure she always has hay in her slow feed net. Once a day, provided that we aren’t having hurricane-like winds, I put out one flake of loose hay as well. Before I started messing with the Crypto Aero I contacted Anna and talked with her about all the additions. I wanted to make sure I wouldn’t overload Bonnie with anything. Because the Crypto is a whole food you can feed a lot less and have wonderful results. I didn’t want to mess that up! I got a green light from Anna and altered Bonnie’s feed program.

When I purchase more hay I will have it tested and adjust the program accordingly. If iron is low and the other minerals, zinc and copper and manganese are better balanced I won’t have to feed the California Trace. I will always offer magnesium however I won’t always top the feed with it. I also will only feed the Milk Thistle for a little while, 3 weeks on and one week off until Bonnie’s body says she doesn’t need it anymore! I will get her back to the simplest program that she can manage as soon as possible.

I have also been using my essential oils on her. I oil her feet every day and her body every other day. On her feet I have been using Ortho Sport. The oils I use on her body vary. Some days I use Grapefruit Oil, Stress Away, and Valor II. Then other days I use Peppermint, Wintergreen, Lemon, and Grounding. Sometimes I only use one or two oils and other days I will layer on 4-6 oils. It all depends on how she tests that day! For her kidneys I have been layering Grapefruit, Geranium and Lemon oil over her kidney area. I always allow her to smell the oils before I put them on. Sometimes she will nibble on the oil bottle, sometimes she tries to eat the bottle! Sometimes she will turn her head away at first, then if I wait, she will bring her head back around and take some time to smell and smell the oil. Oils benefit when applied to the body as well as when we smell them.

How fast do oils work?

I am happy with how things are progressing for Bonnie. I wish I could snap my fingers and take away all her pain and make her IR free, but since I can not I will continue to study, read and learn more about this condition so I can support her the best I can. I have high hopes that I can cure her of this with wholefoods, herbs and oils!

Bonnie came to me in seemingly good shape. She wasn’t fat at all. Her feet were not great and needed some TLC, but to just glance at her you would have thought she was healthy.

Now that she has been on the Crypto Aero feed for 75 days (2 months and 15 days) I can see that she wasn’t as healthy as I originally thought. I like my driving horses to have some body on them. She was thin, but didn’t have any muscle tone at all. After packing on some pounds (she’s a little fat!) she is starting to develop some muscle tone and is looking much healthier for it! It’s my opinion that people tend to keep their minis either too skinny or too fat. There are very few in the middle. Those that seriously drive their minis tend to keep them in better health. Because a thin mini can’t drive very far. Neither can a fat one!

I choose to manage weight with exercise instead of the starvation feeding program. So all of my minis are on the heavier side. However I believe this gives them a great place to start building muscle. The two girls and I walk 3-6 miles nearly every day right now. When I get Sky in cart we will trot 4-6 miles a day and both will slim down a bit but keep that round, blossoming look that I love so much!

The photo on the left is before I trimmed her. Photo on the right is today. She was trimmed about a week ago. You can see all the new growth and how it is growing down from her coronet band in a healthy way. I wish I had grabbed this photo a bit further back so you could see how much healthier her heels are! No more underslung…
Photo on the left is after her first trim. I was able to get all that long slipper foot off but she had a long way to go… photo on the right is from today, about a week after her last trim. What a long way we have come in a short time! I attribute this to Crypto Aero Feed and consistent trimming, plus lots and lots of exercise!
Though at first glance most people would rather their pony look like the one on the top, however when you really get to looking at these two photos you can see just how round and blossoming Bonnie is now in the photo on the bottom. If I had asked her to stretch she still has that nice neck under there… But what I am loving is how round her shoulders are and how nice her butt is now. She is more balanced. I’m not too concerned about her neck. We aren’t showing after all and she will be able to stretch down and collect up when driving just fine. She is already doing this on our walks! I drive both the girls ahead of me down the road on one rein and Bonnie spends a lot of time stretching down and relaxing as we walk. Actually I should take another after photo now of her body as she has changed a bit more from all the exercise!

Sometimes we have to look a bit deeper and be willing to think outside of the box to understand just what makes a healthy horse. I write often about how I have my horses on 24/7 forage and just 1/2 a cup of Crypto Aero once a day. I truly feel I’m doing the best I can for my horses, keeping things as natural and close to nature as I can. And in so doing, I believe my horses reflect great health!