I spend a lot of time doing research on supplements. I don’t like to jump around from one thing to another, but I do like to be aware of how my horses are doing and then adjust to what they need. When Mikey came here last summer there were quite a few red flags that went up as I watched him and interacted with him.

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  1. He was extremely anxious and spent most of his time pacing. He would pace when in his own area and pace when out on the track.
  2. He would paw aggressively when it was time for food or when he THOUGHT it was time for food. He pawed for grain, he pawed for hay, he pawed if he thought there were cookies involved.
  3. He had some fat pads over his hips, on his neck and over his shoulders. Then he lost a bunch of weight and got ribby.
  4. He was always spooky. Extremely spooky.
  5. He HATED to be brushed or touched. He is not a pony that likes to be petted or snuggled. But he is totally fine for harnessing. He will meet me at the gate if it’s time to go for a drive.
  6. He hardly ever pooped a regular size amount of poop just just two or three little balls of manure. He also had the runs often. That may seem like TMI but it’s significant.

Interestingly Mikey was great when I had a halter on him or when he was in harness. Not spooky or reactive at all. He was confident and seemed very happy to get out and do things!

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When tied up he was/is a basket case if he can’t see the other horses, but if we are in cart he doesn’t care at all about leaving them when we are at home. If I take him out to other places to drive then he is more herd bound.

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I had my equine body worker come out and work on him. He had lots going on physically and there were audible pops and cracks while she worked on him. He went from feeling anxious about having her touch him to feeling better, so looking forward to having her work on him. He was still doing a few weird things with his body but my body worker said physically he was great!

I started him on Magnesium powder right after I brought him home as well as Crypto Aero mixed with some grass pellets. He was also getting California Trace mineral. After a few weeks I also put him on B1 pellets hoping that would help as well. None of the supplements I was feeding seemed to help him with his anxiety at all.

So I called my vet and ran a few of his behaviors and the state of his manure past her. As I was suspecting she said “ulcers”. Sigh. Such an expensive problem to have! But also very painful and would make many of his behaviors understandable.

So she had me start him on Gastrogard (Omeprazole). He had to have the paste once a day for 4 weeks and then I tapered him off by giving him a dose every other day for 3 weeks. During the tapering off time I also started feeding Uckele’s GUT supplement. After a few days on the Gastrogard his manure became normal and quite a few of his behaviors stopped. I was relieved thinking, “what a simple fix! A little medicine and everything is better!”

Then, I was visiting with a mini horse friend while at my first Combined Driving Event, and we started talking about the dreaded ulcer. Mikey was done with his Gastrogard and seemed like some of his behaviors were coming back. Was this because he had the ulcers so long, ‘learned behavior’? Or were his ulcers coming back? She told me about Purina’s Outlast pellets. This supplement is also a gut support supplement and aside from the wheat middlings, didn’t have anything I wouldn’t want to feed in it! Such a rare thing in supplements!supplements

During all this juggling of meds and supplements I noticed that Mikey’s hair coat was not soft and silky any more. Also he had some hot spots where the skin felt very warm and he was rubbing the hair off. Typically if I start seeing skin allergies the first thing I try is removing Rice Bran. For some reason I have known quite a few horses that were sensitive and even allergic to Rice Bran. So I had to take Mikey off the Crypto Aero and California Trace mineral. Both have Rice Bran in them. Sigh. Back to the drawing board!

As with many things in my life, timing is everything. I had a reader email me asking about a vitamin mineral she wanted to try with her minis, High Point Grass-Mixed Hay daily Vitamin/Mineral. And walla! The perfect supplement for Mikey. And this one even has Probiotics and Prebiotics great for gut health! Thank you to Victoria for that email!!

So over the summer and into the fall I switched Mikey from Crypto and California Trace minerals to plain timothy grass pellets from Standlee, topped with the High Point minerals, GUT from Uckele, the B1 pellet and some Outlast pellets. He didn’t have the bloom I wanted so I also added in some ground flax and chia seeds. For a little while during the switch over it felt like he was getting a supplement BOMB every day! Even Bonnie’s breakfast wasn’t so complicated.

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Now things are settling in and he gets 1/2 a cup of the Outlast pellets, 1/4 cup grass pellets, 1/4 cup alfalfa pellets, 1/2 scoop of the High Point minerals, 1/3 of a scoop ground flax and 1 Tablespoon of the Chia seeds, all soaked in water, once a day.

Sky and Zorro get a variation of this a well, less Outlast and Sky doesn’t get the alfalfa pellets. So far they are all looking great and Mikey has completely quit pawing when ANY food is present. He just doesn’t do it anymore. He still has some anxiety but I think that will continue to get better and better with more time. He is still settling in here and we have quite a bit of ground work, in hand work and driving to do yet before he I would consider him completely settled and confident. But we are on the right path now. And at least I know his behavior is no longer associated to pain in his body!

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I have always fed Billy with a slow feeder, making sure he had hay at all times.  When he was being boarded at the barn I had a big slow feeder that would hold up to 75 pounds of hay and I would fill that thing, every 24 hours, to bursting!  I did not want him standing around on an empty stomach… ever.  Did that  make him fat?  YES!  He was absolutely fat when stalled at the barn, with me only being able to exercise him for 2-4 hours a day.

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My home made slow feeder.
Billy all fat and happy!
Billy all fat and happy!

Of course horses are meant to eat all the time because they are also meant to move all the time.  We have taken them from 100’s of miles of mountain, meadow and range lands and locked them onto tiny stalls, runs, and pens.  We don’t ride them enough and they don’t move enough. There are wonderful pasture options out there that can cause the horse to want to move more.  My favorite is the Pasture Paradise.  If you can, I highly recommend setting one of these up!  I will in the future, when we can afford it.  It’s definitely on my list of “Must Haves”.

There is a trade off to keeping and feeding a horse like a horse.  It’s not cheap and it’s definitely not easy.

Horses are constantly producing stomach acid.  They don’t wait for food to hit the tummy for these acids to be produced.  They are constantly producing them.  And when fed two large meals a day the horse will digest them faster than several smaller meals throughout the day.  So if you take a horse that had it’s morning feed, oh about 4 hours ago, saddle it up and canter circle after circle after circle, you are literally sloshing around stomach acids in an empty tummy.  What happens when stomach acids are churned up without something to absorb them?  ULCERS.

A good rule of thumb, do not work a horse on an empty stomach.

Grain is not a substitute for hay.  Do not work a horse on a stomach full of grain.  Grain aka starch, does not digest the same way that hay does.  Most horses should not have more than 2 pounds of grain a day.  And did you know that grain can cause ulcers as well?

Horses are not made to digest and utilize starches. Horses are made to ferment their food.  When food does not stay in their system long enough to ferment, they will not get the nutrients that they need.  Starches digest very quickly and don’t stay in the small intestine long enough for them to get everything they need.  That is why forage, hay and grass, is so important in a horse’s diet.  If you are feeding large amounts of grain, you are literally throwing your money away.

Having a system in place that allows your horse to slowly eat forage 24/7 is very important for the physical and emotional health of your horse.  I highly recommend a slow feed net or feeder of some type.  I wanted to share these big slow feed nets that hold an entire 70 pound bale of hay.  I bought mine through Hay Chix.  They are easy to put the bale in and the horses love them.

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Billy and his hay net from Hay Chix.
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Photo on the Left was taken last week Photo on the Right was taken last May.

I have watched them stand and work at a bale, then walk away and nibble at the little bit of grass that grows in the playground, then wander off to take a nap.  They are not cranky with each other and will even eat off the same bale.  I have two nets, full, at all times.  We have been going through 2 bales every 2 days, but I have noticed that they are slowing down and leveling off.  The 2 bales lasted 3 and a 1/2 days this week!  I know as they get used to having the hay around all the time it will level off even more and Chloe’s weight will also level off.

In the mean time we are all on an exercise program to help balance the extra hay in take.  (And I am on one to lose the excess weight I’ve been packing!)  I am so happy that I don’t have to fill the smaller slow feed nets two to three times a day and the horses are happy they they never run out of food.  It’s a win-win!