Prebiotics and Probiotics in Horse Feed

Have you ever wondered if you should be using prebiotics or probiotics in your horse feed? The info below helps explain the benefits of both!

the effects of prebiotics and probiotics on horse digestion, prebiotics and probiotics in horse feed

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Transitioning Your Horse to a New Feed

You may be thinking your horse is in need of a senior diet, or perhaps there is a new feed available that you believe is even better for your horse.  Maybe you are no longer happy with your current feed.  Or, your retailer no longer carries the product you were using.  Whatever the reason, switching your horse to a new feed is a change that requires care and know-how.

It’s important to transition your horse gradually over a 7 day period, gradually increasing the new feed and decreasing the old.  Throughout the process, you’ll want to watch your horse’s body condition and adjust feeding rates as needed.

Mixing with Current Feed – The Ideal Process

If still have some of your current feed, transition as follows:

 

Current Feed

New Feed

Day 1-2

75%

25%

Day 3-4

50%

50%

Day 5-6

25%

75%

Day 7

-

100%

No Current Feed Available

Whether you just simply ran out, or your favorite feed has been discontinued or no longer carried by your retailer, sometimes you may not be able to mix their old and new feed slowly.  While not ideal, if no current feed is available, you can still safely transition to the new feed.

Because you don’t have any of the old feed to mix, you’ll want to reduce the total amount you feed your horse and gradually increase it again over 7 days, using the new feed.  It is a good idea to offer some extra hay or pasture-time during this transition, as well.  Feed your horse the new grain as follows:

 

% of recommend feeding rate of the new feed

Day 1-2

25%

Day 3-4

50%

Day 5-6

75%

Day 7

100%

Heat Exhaustion in Horses

Summer time is here and with it comes risk of overheating, heat exhaustion, or heat cramps for horses especially performance horses.  The following situation comes from Nutrena Equine Specialist Jolene Wright, who owns and trains roping and barrel racing horses in Texas.

The temperatures had just started to get into the upper 90’s and I went out for my usual routine ride on one of my horses in training. I noticed after my ride and cooling him out that he began to get down and roll an hour or so after turning him back out and he was sweating. I had sprayed him off and cooled him out as usual, so I first thought colic since he was dropping down on the ground. As I got closer to his pen I saw his respiration was faster than it should be and I could see some of his muscles quivering. He was also very drawn up in his flank. I started to think maybe he has heat exhaustion.

I immediately got him out and began to spray his legs and chest to get his temperature down. I called the vet while I was spraying him and we went over his symptoms. My vet was also sure it was heat exhaustion, and recommended giving him 10 cc’s of banamine and continuing to spray him off for 30 minutes to get his temperature down. He also recommended not feeding him for the night and to give him plenty of water and keep him in a cool place.

After getting the banamine and spraying him for 30 minutes, he seemed to be much better. He was cooler and his temperature and respiration were back to normal. Then I set up some fans in a stall and moved him to the barn and gave him plenty of water. I monitored him throughout the night, and he stood behind the fans all night.

This was a good reminder that even after a ride and cooling a horse out that they can still actually be over heated or have heat exhaustion. My horse had seemed completely cooled out and seemed fine when I put him up. Luckily, I noticed him and his symptoms right away when I went back outside to check the horses.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Sweating
  • Increased temperature
  • Increased respiration
  • Increased heart rate
  • Dropping down to roll or throwing themselves on the ground
  • Drawn up in the flank
  • Muscles quivering
  • Muscles tying up

If you aren’t familiar with what “normal” respiration and heart rates are for horses, check out our blog post on this topic. And if you suspect heat exhaustion in your horse, please call your vet immediately!

 

Improving Body Condition After Winter

Every spring, we are inundated with a single question from horse owners: “My horse lost some weight over the winter, but I didn’t notice until he shed out his winter coat and I saw his ribs. What do I do now?”

Winter conditions, particularly in locations further north in the country, can definitely take a toll on horses. Bitter cold temperatures, biting winds, combined with the dampness of snow, sleet, and rain, can all cause the horse to require more energy than normal to maintain condition.  Cover the body with a fluffy winter coat, and perhaps a warm blanket, and head out to the barn a little less often to ride, and it’s easy to miss the early signs that the cold is causing problems.

So now your horse is in tough shape – what do you do to bring him back to condition safely?  Follow a few simple steps, and you’ll have him ready to ride in no time.

Once the horse has returned to proper condition, check your feeding program again, and adjust as necessary. A program designed to gain weight and condition, may be too rich for long term maintenance, unless the activity level of the horse offsets the calorie intake.

Finally, get out on the trails or the show circuit, and enjoy the ride!

Stretching Your Horse Hay Supply

This article is courtesy of Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota.

Most horse owners have noticed that the price of feed (both hay and grain) has increased.  At a hay auction in Sauke Center, MN, the 10-year average for horse quality hay (101-125 relative feed value) is $100 a ton; however, this year (2013), that same hay is averaging $220/ton.  There are several key factors that have contributed to these increases, including extreme weather patterns (i.e. drought), high oil prices, currency fluctuations, a struggling economy, and a market that makes growing corn and soybeans more profitable and less risky compared to hay.     

Horses have evolved on diets composed entirely of forage. Therefore, forage should be the primary component of a horse’s diet (at least 2/3 of their diet). Thus, horse owners, unlike other livestock owners, have few options other than forages to use to meet their horse’s nutritional requirements. 

However, there are management practices that can help horse owners ride out high feed prices:

  • Horse owners should take a critical look at equine body condition and maintain a body condition score of 5 (on a scale of 1 to 9).
  • Horses that maintain their weight on forage-only diets do not usually require any concentrate (grain).
  • A well-formulated ration balancer (concentrated vitamin and mineral mix) will ensure that vitamin and mineral needs are being met when dried hay is the sole dietary component.  Even the best, nutrient-dense hay will be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, copper, zinc, iodine, selenium and manganese (in alfalfa hay).

While all forage offered to horses should be free of dust, mold, weeds, and foreign debris, the nutrient density of the forage offered can vary depending on the type of horses being fed. Forage selection should be based on horse needs, as there is no one forage best suited for all classes of horses.

  • For example, providing nutrient dense forage like vegetative alfalfa hay to ‘easy keepers’ can create obesity issues; however, that same hay would be a good option for a performance horse with elevated nutrient requirements.
  • Have hay tested for quality to help determine how much and what type is best to feed to individual horses.
  • Keep in mind that higher quality hay usually demands a premium price and such hay is not needed by all groups of horses. 
  • Finally, older hay, if stored properly, is usually a great option for horses. 

Plan ahead and know how much hay you need. Horses eat roughly 2 to 2.5% of their body weight in feed (hay plus grain) each day.  For example, an average 1,000 pound horse will eat around 20 to 25 pounds of feed daily, plus water. Weighing the amount of feed offered will help to avoid over-feeding. 

When calculating hay needs, make sure to account for wasted hay. In a recent study conducted by the University of Minnesota, feeding round-bales to horses without a round-bale feeder resulted in 57% waste, while using different feeders ranged from 5 to 33% hay waste.  Although feeders do cost money, all round-bale feeders tested paid for themselves (due to reduced amounts of waste) in less than 10 months with hay valued at $200/ton.  A Texas study found that when horses were fed in a box stall, waste from feeding small square bales off the ground was 7% compared to only 1% waste when hay was fed in a feeder.  Using a feeder, regardless of bale-type, is essential to reducing waste and stretching your hay supply. 

Finally, have a good working relationship with a hay supplier to ensure a consistent and reliable source of hay.  Consider adding hay storage space to reduce the effects of price and seasonal fluctuations.  For example, hay is sometimes more expensive in the winter vs. the summer.  Buy hay early (do not wait for second or third cuttings) and budget for the price increase by re-evaluating how many horse you can afford to feed.

Horse Nutrition 101

Horse nutrition is confusing! So many things to consider for your horse, and then on top of that, every horse has different needs…Where is a new horse owner, or even someone who has been around horses for a while that is now interested in nutrition, to begin?

Here’s a quick list of past blog posts that will give you the basics – a “Horse Nutrition 101″ class list, so to speak!

Determining How Much Should Your Horse Eat:

Basic Needs:

Understanding Horse Feeds:

There is much more beyond just these topics, but horse owners should all have a good handle on the basics to keep their horses happy and healthy!

Feeding HYPP Horses

HYPP horses need low potassium diets when compared to “normal” horses – less than 1% potassium in total diet including hay + grain.  But, a percentage in a feed is really only a percentage and doesn’t tell you what you really need to know – which is, how much potassium your horse is actually getting in the total diet.  This number will depend on the percent of potassium in each feedstuff, and how much of each feedstuff is being fed. 

Hay Selection:  Hay makes up the majority of the diet so typically contributes the most potassium. It’s best to have your hay tested if possible, but if you can’t do that, keep in mind the following:

  • Oat hay and grass hay are the lowest in potassium
  • Orchard grass is high in potassium so stay away from that.

Feed Selection:

  • Textured/whole grain based feeds tend to be lower in potassium then pelleted feeds, since whole grains are naturally low in potassium, where some ingredients used in pellets tend to be higher potassium sources.
    • “Sweet” feeds may or may not use a lot of molasses, which is high in potassium. The “wetness” of a sweet feed may come from vegetable oils rather than molasses, so don’t automatically rule sweet feeds out. 
    • Some pelleted feeds can be a good choice if the horse is N/H and doesn’t have many episodes, but may not work for horses that are H/H and have severe or many episodes.   
  • Higher fat and calorie feeds may allow you to feed less, and this can lower total potassium as well when you can feed less to maintain body condition.
  • Do not feed electrolytes containing potassium. 
  • Do not use high levels of cane, molasses, or bran mashes because they may be high in potassium.

Doing the math: To determine how much potassium is in your HYPP horse’s total diet, you’ll need to do some good old fashioned math!

To check for total potassium in the diet:

(Pounds of hay x percent potassium in hay) + (pounds of grain x percent potassium in grain) / total lbs of feed

Example: If you feed 15 lbs of hay at 1% potassium and 6 lbs of grain  at 0.8% the calculation would be:

((15 x .01) + (6 x .008))/21 lbs of total feed = 0.942% potassium in total diet

From this example, the horse should do well on this diet.  If the horse can maintain body condition on less hay or grain, or if the hay tested lower in potassium, then that would be less potassium in the total diet as well. 

Other Considerations:

  • Starch Intake: It is a misconception that HYPP horse need low starch.  They actually need sufficient starch as a source of glucose, because glucose stimulates the release of insulin and this promotes potassium uptake by the cells.
  • Management:  HYPP horses should be turned out as much as possible and/or placed on a regular exercise program.