Tuesday, September 27, 2011

supplements and feed

My Dad, every time the talk turns to horses, wonders why Major doesn't eat oats. "But that is what horses are supposed to eat," he says. I try to explain, but it is too complicated. "But he gets apples, right?" he questions. Yes, he gets apples. That seems to keep Dad happy, horses are supposed to have oats and apples, poor Major gets only one of those things.

Of course, my father grew up in the city, and has never been around horses, but Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger must have imprinted on every child of that generation. What horses eat has gotten so incredibly complicated. When I got Major I was so nervous that I needed to do everything right (of course, I've still made lots of mistakes in many situations, and know there is rarely a "right" way with horses, just the way that is working, for now).

In the beginning I did consult with a nutritionist, who I've also heard speak at Expo, and I really liked her advice. She didn't advocate any special brands or anything too complicated (though my situation/horse isn't very difficult). I haven't changed much, because Major seems healthy and happy, with all the healthy indicators: good weight, plenty of energy, good feet and a shiny coat. He gets a good quality grass hay, and always has plenty of that to eat.

But every month I turn into a drug dealer, and make up his baggies. Those of you lucky enough to keep your horse at home don't have to deal with this, you can scoop each day. But my boarding barn will feed if you've got everything organized, so I make up a month of bags. I keep all the ingredients at home, just easier with the tight spaces at the barn. I make up bags and listen to the radio and wonder why my horse eats more balanced than I do.
Organized supplements, orange labels are psyllium for the 1-7 each month.

sophisticated storage techniques for minerals and salt.

His first supplement is California Trace, which helps balance the trace minerals lacking in hay. Not exact (unless you get your hay tested) and of course there are other similar products on the market, but I like it being a local product. I like the added biotin for hooves too. I add some Omega Horseshine, which is ground-stabilized flax. I could get straight flax seeds, but this has been easier to store (as flax can go rancid pretty quickly). Good for skin and coat. Then salt. Just plain salt, a 50 pound bag is about $7, lasts a long time! For his basic requirements he'd have to eat a 2 pound block every month, which he certainly wasn't doing, so I just add it to the feed.

Of course all this (which is only about 3/4 cup of stuff) needs something tasty to put it in. And luckily Major loves something simple: beet pulp. I just add a scoop to the bags (about 4 cups dry). The barn adds his baggie to his feed tub, adds water, lets it sit while they fill the cart with hay, and feed. It has been simple.

The first seven days of the month he also gets psyllium. Last I read, psyllium doens't have any studies proving it's effectiveness, but Dr. Langdon Fielding, a well-respected vet close by at Loomis Basin, recommends it. Where Major grazes is well-drained sandy decomposed granite, so I'll be on the safe side with this.

As a total treat, Major will get some grass hay pellets. He thinks a mash of this is the best thing ever after a ride. When it is cold out, I'll make a warm mash, knowing it probably makes me feel better than the horse actually needing it.

Last time I calculated, it costs about $25 per month on supplements. The beet pulp and grass hay pellets last a couple months, so about $13 per month for those. So approximately $40 a month, which isn't cheap, but Major is doing well. And I'm really glad when I see some of the amounts of supplements other boarders use, and how they switch from item to item in search of the "perfect" recipe to fix their horses feet, or put a shine in the coat, or calm their behavior.

My Dad came and visited Major, but I only had carrots for him to feed. Next time I'll get a tiny bag of oats and apples, so he can feed Major what horses are "supposed" to eat.


  1. That's so funny you posted this, I had an hour and a half conversation in the parking lot of Tractor Supply today about figuring out what to feed your horse, the different options, sugar issues, supplements, selenium...just have to trial and error and stick with what works when you find it I guess. I am still questioning my choices and adjusting feed. Since my mom is now needing to dry up milk and move on to a working horse again, her diet changes of course. Supplements and feed are driving me crazy right now! Lol

  2. Oh yeah, and there are so many opinions! That is why I liked the nutritionist, it gave me an idea that I wasn't crazy, and justification (when my barn owner thought beet pulp was just a terrible thing, though now she feeds it herself!)