Feed SeriesPosh stands calmly waiting for Jenny to get back

First of all I’d like to say that if your horse is 100% OK, 100% of the time on his current feeding regime then don’t change a thing.
However, if that isn’t the case then making some changes to the diet just might make all the difference. With spring coming up it could be a good time for a review...

The picture on the right is of Jenny's horse Posh. Taken in late September 2013, you can see she is a picture of calm healthy horseness! She is standing waiting for Jenny to finish tying up tarpaulins full of brushwood so they can get back to work. There is no need for Posh to be tied up, she just stands patiently and happily waiting.
Read on to learn about various hard feed options and why you would - or would not feed them...


Hard Feeds

Understanding Protein

... and why you should never put NPK or Chicken fert (or pig fert) on your horse paddocks!

Protein is made up of amino acids and is the basic structure used to make all tissue – muscle, bone, skin, hair, organs and milk. It is important not only for growth and milk production, but protein is needed daily as the body is constantly repairing itself and replacing lost cells and tissue.

However you can’t rely on the protein content of pasture grass to meet the requirements of your pregnant and lactating mares.
Crude protein is comprised of both true protein and nitrogen (known as non-protein nitrogen or NPN).
Whilst the crude protein content of the grass sky rockets in spring, it is not necessarily the kind of protein that your brood mare needs in the last trimester and while she is suckling the young foal.

Whilst the microbes in the rumen of cattle can utilise NPN and build it into true protein, non-ruminants like horses CANNOT and it can be toxic to them. Urea is NPN and this is why it is NOT a good idea to use it (or anything like chicken manure, poulfert or NPK) on your horse pastures.

I remember a lady ringing about her horse who had been put onto a paddock that had recently been fertilised with chicken manure. The horse had REFUSED to eat that grass for days and days. Aside from tasting bad it could have killed it. (The lady had to move the horse to other grazing)

This is also one of the reasons that it is difficult for cattle and horses to share the same paddocks. Their requirements are completely different.
Horses, in particular broodmares need more true protein like soya-bean meal or rapeseed meal (Zeaola is great) which have excellent amino acid profiles. They have good levels of lysine which is vital for development of the growing foal. As a guide feed up to 500gms/day to a 500kg pregnant or lactating mare.

Pre-Mixed Feeds

Advantages of Pre-Mixed Feeds
Convenient, palatable, fattening…
Usually molassed so high in sugars & potassium, too digestible, contain (usually inorganic) vitamins & minerals so therefore you need to feed the recommended amounts per day to ensure your horse is getting enough selenium, copper, zinc, etc.
If you do feed the full amount then, on top of green grass, this can mean too much energy for the amount of exercise the horse is doing and this will lead to various metabolic problems.
If you don’t feed the full amount then it means your horse is getting inadequate minerals especially selenium and it becomes tricky to know how much to top up with from some other source.

Hence the other simpler option of feeding plain feeds and add our top spec Premium/Supreme Vitamins & Minerals


Beet is a by-product of the sugar industry, being the fibrous material leftover after the sugar has been extracted from sugar beet. The sugar winds up in your kitchen and the beet shreds wind up in your horse’s feed.
We find it is a relatively inexpensive feed which goes a long way and when soaked it makes a great base to mix in the salt and minerals . It can be fed warm in winter.
Speedy Beet is best soaked for at least a couple of hours so it is well fluffed up, in fact we add the water in the morning for the afternoon feed so there’s no waiting around for it to soak.

Beet is about 18% fiber and therefore helps feed the flora in the hind-gut, producing energy for the horse. Some of the fibre is actually ‘pectin’ which helps slow the passage of food through the intestines.
Beet is only 10% protein as opposed to say, Copra meal which is 20%.
It has a much lower glycemic index than grains so it doesn’t cause a spike in their blood sugar.
Because of it’s small particle size it makes great feed for older horses or those with poor dentition


Copra is the meal left over after the husk is discarded and the coconut oil extracted. This process turns the white flesh to a brown colour. It is convenient if you are feeding beet as both can be soaked at once.
It can be a very beneficial feed if you understand it.

- Horses tend to like it so it can be great for fussy eaters
- Being 8% fat it is good for weight gain. The type of fatty acids in copra are easily digested and less prone to going rancid
- Residual coconut oil is great for their coats
- It is considered Low GI (being less than 11% NSC and less than 2% starch) it is good for horses with metabolic problems
- Approximately 20% fibre
- Whilst it is 20% protein it shouldn’t be relied upon to supply all the amino acids a horse needs
- It has acceptable levels of potassium so won’t upset grass-affected horses
- It should not be relied upon to supply vitamins & minerals as it has the same inverted calcium:phosphorous ratio as grains and bran products. It also can be low in zinc compared to copper. No problem if you are also feeding Premium NZ Horse Minerals.

Whilst Copra has had a bad rap at times it is now packed and stored with quality controls in place.





I know a lot of people feed garlic to their horses forHere’s ‘Buddy’ in his late teens but still healthy 
and spritely. 
He has been with us since he was 4. 

Here’s ‘Buddy’ in his late teens but still healthy 
and spritely. 
He has been with us since he was 4. 
Here’s ‘Buddy’ in his late teens but still healthy 
and spritely. 
He has been with us since he was 4. 

various reasons. However it is a case of “what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander” so here is the reason so you can make up your own minds.

The consumption of plants from the onion family which includes Garlic cause ‘Heinz Body Anaemia’ in horses. This is considered a low-grade, insidious form of anaemia caused by a chemical present in garlic and onions that when consumed by horses has the end result of damaging red blood cells.

These damaged cells are then removed from the bloodstream by the spleen and over time the horse can become mildly anaemic depending on the dose and the frequency and duration of feeding.

There may not be obvious signs as you would need to look at their livers or the blood under a microscope. It tends to affect things like stamina, energy level or resistance to disease.

In the photo above is ‘Buddy’ in his late teens but still healthy and spritely. He has been with us since he was 4.

Why not Kelp as a ‘Multi- vitamin & mineral supplement’?

 Before formulating the Premium/ Supreme Horse Minerals we took a long, hard look at kelp because while there are some good points there  are two major disadvantages that make it unsuitable to use to supply your horses nutrient requirements:

  1.    The process of obtaining seaweed (kelp) extracts from live, fresh plants involves the use of ‘potassium hydroxide’. The residue of this process means that kelp can have high potassium levels which means it can really affect some horses especially those prone to being ‘grass-affected’.
  2.      Kelp is one of the main natural sources of iodine but only provides very small amounts of other essential nutrients like zinc. Whilst it does contain 48 minerals, 16 amino acids and 11 vitamins the quantities aren’t anywhere near enough to satisfy nutrient requirements for your horse. To ensure the horse gets enough of these other essential nutrients you would have to feed larger amounts and then you would be feeding way too much iodine. In other words it is very unbalanced.

This can be a real problem especially for broodmares. The surplus iodine accumulates in the placenta and is excreted in the mare’s milk.  Foals born to mares inadvertently over-fed iodine are at risk of being born dead, very weak, or unable to suckle properly.

Far better to feed a high spec multi such as Premium NZ Horse Minerals or Supreme Vit & Min if you live in Australia.


How Come My Horse’s Urine is
Burning the Ground?

 Nitrogen is one of the building blocks of protein. It is Urine'burns'.attached to the ends of the chains of amino acids that make up protein.

 When protein is digested the nitrogen is split off and the excess nitrogen goes through several chemical reactions ending up as urea, which is a waste product that is excreted in the urine.

When the protein or nitrogen component of the diet is too high blood tests will show increased BUN (Blood Urea Nitrogen) and you may see these burnt patches of grass where the horse has urinated. Sometimes you will also notice the ammonia smell.

 NB This is why dog urine does the same thing because dogs have a high protein diet.

 Wherever you see : Crude protein (CP): this is an measure of the nitrogen content of the feed or grass, not the full protein content.

 Vegetative (growing) Spring grass can  have well in excess of 30% CP which can cause metabolic problems for horses.

 In simple terms:  too much protein from grass and high protein feeds, means too much nitrogen turning into too much urea, resulting in brown urine patches in your pasture.

 This is just one reason why we don’t want to apply nitrogen fertilisers ( eg NPK or Urea) to our horse pastures and why you need to bear in mind that repeated harrowing of manure will increase the nitrogen content of the soil.


Why do grains make some horses ‘fizzy’?

 Grains are composed of a fibrous hull, a larger amount carbohydrates including starches and a small amount of protein.
The horse ingests food which proceeds through the stomach, small intestine, hind-gut (caecum & large intestine). Carbohydrates and protein are broken down in the small intestine whereas the flora in the hind-gut ferment the fibrous components.

 Different grains have differently structured starches, some like oats are relatively easy for the horse to utilise. They are a good source of extra energy because they break down easily and the simple sugars are quickly available in the bloodstream.
Corn and barley are not so easily broken down and this is why cooking (via boiling or the ‘extrusion’ process) makes them far more digestible.

 Best NOT to feed grains   

  •   unless your horse is 100% OK and  in pretty hard work and will use up the extra energ
  •   if your horse is not exhibiting his best behaviour (We don’t want to add energy to a mentally unstable horse!)
  •   if your horse is not getting enough salt in his diet (sodium is required to transport sugars across the cell membrane)
  • if your horse is an easy keeper, prone to being metabolic(IR) and laminitic (the previous point applies to the cells of the laminae)

The average recreational riding horse simply doesn’t need grains in his diet let alone when they are all mixed together in sugary molasses!

It is especially not good to feed large quantities at any one time as they don’t get digested in the small intestine but get pushed on through to the hind-gut where the small population of flora that can ferment them have a feast and soon become a much larger population, dropping the pH of the hind-gut environment and upsetting the ‘good flora’. This is known as hind-gut acidosis and the flora can take some time to recover

More Helpful Information Regarding Feeding Grains

 If you are feeding grains to your horse on a regular basis for maintaining weight or extra energy then make sure you also feed Premium NZ Horse Minerals (or Supreme in Australia)
  Grains have a negative Calcium:Phosphorous ratio (they contain more Phosphorous than calcium) which can cause problems if steps aren’t taken to correct it, especially in growing horses. Feeding the grains mixed in beet is a good start (because beet has more calcium than phosphorous) but also feed Premium or Supreme minerals which will ensure the correct ratios.

Grains also contain phytic acid which can bind various nutrients and render them unavailable to the horse. Soaking grains over-night before feeding will help denature the phytic acid.

If your horse’s behaviour isn’t as good as you would like - then before you feed grains re-read the post regarding the role of sodium from salt in the metabolism of grains.

What is the Difference Between ‘Grain Intolerance’ and PSSM (Poly Saccharide Storage Myopathy)?

Not much when it comes to the symptoms: Grumpiness, tight muscles, inability to move out properly, bucking, not wanting to hold back legs up for the farrier, agitation, stiffness, proneness to tying up, tail swishing, no top-line, no energy, muscle degeneration, kicking out ‘at nothing’.

These symptoms are familiar as they can also be due to the comparatively easily treated electrolyte imbalances outlined on the calm, healthy horses website; especially relating to a chronic lack of salt.

Grains have a high carbohydrate content which means they get broken down into sugars (glucose).
Sodium (in salt) is required to transport glucose across the cell membrane (Merck Veterinary Manual). Failure of this process causes high circulating blood sugar and leads to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
If you suspect your horse is grain intolerant or has PSSM then delete all grains/sugars from their diet, especially the extruded ones.
Items like beet, grass chaffs, bran, and oils can still be fed. It may require some trial and error to establish what you can feed.

*Address mineral imbalances by adding salt, GrazeEzy, Premium or( Supreme if you are in Australia) to simple, plain feeds See Recommended Diet Changes
*Identify what grasses are in your horse’s pasture and hay and make adjustments See Pasture Management

PSSM is a serious metabolic disorder with a genetic predisposition and proper diagnosis involves either a genetic test or a muscle biopsy, neither of which are easy to access.
So first make some diet changes FOR AT LEAST A MONTH. Observe, remember, compare