The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

A Question About Soybeans

A simple question came to me recently that needs to be discussed.  A horse owner asked, “The above link is an article circulating on FB; I was curious if you’ve read this? Thoughts? Thank you so much!”  Here is the link for those interested:

This was a well written article.  Many of the author’s points seem valid but her conclusions of using soy beans in horse feed avoids the differences of soy beans and soy bean meal.

Whole soy beans, ground soy beans, soy bean hulls and soy bean oil are all inflammatory in humans and I would assume also inflammatory in horses.  Green soy beans are toxic in all mono gastric animals including horses and humans.  Most if not all legumes are not well tolerated by humans (including miso and soy sauce) while legumes are well tolerated by equids (alfalfa, birdsfoot trefoil, etc).  However I know of no horses turned out on fields of soybeans or fed soybean hay.  The peanut plant, another legume, is fed as a hay to horses and the peanut (not a “nut”) is often fed as a treat to laminitis and insulin resistant horses.  

This article discusses soy beans and soy bean oil but not soy bean meal (SBM). Soy beans are first de-hulled when making SBM and then the oil is extracted. What remains is “toasted” using moist steam heat and then hammered into a coarse meal. The result is a highly digestible source of all essential amino acids for all animals.

A winter scene in Tennessee

The Objections According To The Article

There are two major objections to the feeding of soybeans to horses that I hear from everyone.  These are their genetic modification to resist the use of glyphosate and the use of glyphosate on the crop.

In modifying the plant’s genes, the leaf no longer is affected by the broad leaf weed and plant killer glyphosate.  The gene splicing is done at a specific location but I have not seen how any modification in one part of the genetic code affects any other part of the code.  There are thousands of individual genes in plants and animals and each are influenced by the foods eaten, the environmental stresses, and the seasons in all animals and plants.  I believe this lack of knowledge is what causes the fear in people worried on how any genetic modification will affect any system or organism.  Currently there are no reports of illnesses or diseases caused by consuming genetically modified food in any animal including humans.  But before you jump on me for saying this, consider that there are so many variables that it is impossible to isolate just 1 variant such as feeding a GM food versus feeding a non GM food with all else being equal.  Intellectually, there is obviously a difference.  But there is no proof, and in fact there is a lack of proof in this divisive subject where a specifically modified gene has caused a plant to be inedible or disease producing.  

It is evident that by genetically modifying soybeans there has been an increased yield of a less cost-to-produce product.  This has increased the consumption of land and for this reason, genetically modified foods may be adversely affecting our planet.  There is also a suspicion that the GM foods may also be affecting the gut microbes so necessary for survival but we are waiting for substantial proof of this.  There are so many other things affecting gut microbes that this possibility can only be added a long list.

Glyphosate (made by about 8 different manufacturers and called different names, one of which is Round Up) is an herbicide that kills broad leaf plants such as weeds as well as the leaf of the genetically unmodified soybean plant.  It has a half life of between 120 and 180 days.  It is sprayed onto the genetically modified soybean crop to kill the competing weeds without killing the soybean plant.  It is applied early in the growth cycle before the bean is evident.  Therefore the soy bean has no glyphosate on it or if it does, it has already diminished in strength by harvest time.  In addition, any remaining glyphosate is removed when the hard shell of the soy bean is removed in the de-hulling process when making soy bean meal (SBM).

The Omega 3 and 6 oils she discusses in soybean oil are not a factor in discussing SBM as there is no oil.  All fats including the Omegas come from the microbial digestion of cellulose in the hind gut of the horse.

Trypsin inhibitor protein (TIP) is found in soybeans.  Some people believe that this is another reason not to feed SBM to horses but it is not mentioned in her article.  This protein blocks the naturally occurring enzyme trypsin found in the small intestine (horses and humans) whose job is to break apart proteins into smaller peptides and amino acids.  Thus theoretically the TIP in soybeans would prevent the proteins in SBM from being utilized.  However from what I can find out, the TIP may or may not be in SBM.  Further almost everyone agrees that SBM protein is absorbed well with a biological availability between 74 and 80 percent.  To date, there is no measurement available to accurately determine the precise movement of the amino acids from any food into the body of an animal including humans.  However it has been determined that SBM provides all the essential amino acids for humans and thus for horses.  It is one of the few foods available to horses that does this.  For this reason I do not believe that TIP is a reason not to feed SBM.

The article suggests that mares being fed soybeans have an altered reproductive cycle affecting fertility and behavior.  The article does not distinguish between horses being fed only soy beans, what form they are in (whole, ground or meal) or if they were also being fed other ingredients such as corn, wheat, oats or any grain byproducts or supplements.  Many people trying the no grain diet see major behavioral changes such as focused attention, willing partnership and an improved work ethic.  Maybe grain, grain byproducts, supplements IN ADDITION TO soybeans in any form is why these mares and stallions have poor behavior as the season puts them through stressful reproductive cycles.  The theory that these horses could also be chronically protein deficient is also not addressed.  Hormones are proteins or protein – fat combinations that may struggle to be manufactured if there are not enough amino acids to make them.

The article mentions bloating caused by the large sugar molecules (oligosaccharides) found in soy beans.  This is a common problem found in all animals consuming whole soy beans.  However these oligosaccharides are effectively removed or broken down in the making of SBM.  In my experience, SBM has not caused bloat in horses or the dogs who beg for it at feeding time in the barn.

A friendly bovine in Tennessee

The Making Of Soy Bean Meal

The first step in the making of SBM is to remove the hard outer shell called the hull.  The process is called de-hulling and the shell is either thrown out or is put back into animal feed (Soybean hulls) as a source of fiber.  A horse gets all the fiber it needs from the cellulose of grass and hay.  This is a waste product and should not be fed to horses.  In fact the target of the whole soybean process is the creation of soybean oil used in the human food industry as an inexpensive vegetable oil.  To get this oil, the soy bean must be de-hulled and is therefore a waste product.

The article describes the solvent extraction process where the oil is removed from the soy bean.  The oil and the solvent used called hexane are heated to remove the solvent from the oil.  This heating denatures the oil making it even more inflammatory than if eaten raw.  Hexane is also a pollutant though I am sure that it is well controlled in reputable manufacturing plants (even reused).   But there is no mention in the article of the remaining meal.  In reality, the meal is now devoid of oil and outer hull.  There is no glyphosate, hull, oil or possibly any genetic modified material in the meal.  

The final step in making SBM is toasting it which the de-hulled and de-oiled bean actually is gently heated with moist steam.

Busy hands getting ready for the show season.

Conclusions from the article

The article never addresses soy bean meal specifically as a feed for horses.  Rather it just says soy beans should not be fed to horses while never looking at SBM as an exclusive ingredient in horse feed.  I agree with the article in that any horse feed that has inflammatory ingredients such as soy bean hulls, soy bean oil or whole soy beans is not beneficial to horses.  As a side note, soy bean oil is added to lubricate the machines making the feed.  Remember they must use food grade lubricants to do this.  SBM has no added oils because it is not made into a pellet.  The dried flake is hammered into particles the size of coffee grounds.  Most manufactures add an anti-caking ingredient which apparently has no ill effects on horses.  Some add molasses which is ridiculous and unnecessary.

Some people consider the effects of a genetically modified plant, the use of glyphosate and the destruction of forests for planting soy beans as reasons to not feed SBM to horses.  The concern for horse owners, however, is the chronic protein deficiency seen when horses are dependent on carbohydrates (fed grain and “good” hay all year long).  The most efficient solution is to stop the feeding of inflammatory ingredients and to supplement with an efficient source of protein which is SBM.  

It is better to look at SBM as a treatment for an illness.  The goal of feeding SBM is to replace the lost amino acids. This will restore the proteins used in all of the body systems (connective, integument, immune, neurological, hormonal, vitamin, enzymes and more).  Once restored, SBM can be removed.  Like any other manufactured or holistic medicine, there is always a treatment protocol and there are always side effects.  It is up to the user to weigh every side effects to the benefits of using a medicine.  To date both in my experience and in researching I have not found any adverse effects to the use of adding soy bean meal to the diet of a horse for 1 to 2 years or until the amino acid reserves have been restored.  The benefits of feeding SBM to horses in every health system of the horse far outweighs the objections, perceived or real.

If you disagree with this then at least stop feeding all the other things that are causing gut inflammation.  Stop the protein loss.

Comments 70

  1. Thanks again for an in depth explanation. I can always count on you for an honest evaluation to clear the air on so much conflicting info. See you soon!

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  2. Yes, but how do you feel about contributing to the adverse effects that GMO is afffecting our planet. How about finding a way to get SBM that isn’t GMO?

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      There are a lot of non-gm sources of SBM and many people have found them.

      According to the current research in humans, there are many people changing their minds about any perceived ill effects on GM of food. I have yet to see a report of any ill effects of GM foods on horses. I believe the jury is still out on GM effects on the gut microbes.

      But let me address something I feel is more sinister and few talk about. This is carbohydrate dependency in horses (and humans) and the deleterious effect on the cell function and the conversion of protein to sugar. To me, this is getting to the root cause of more problems in horses and is the basis of my hypothesis that carbohydrate dependency is the cause of chronic protein deficiency in horses. To this, then, I suggest that soy bean meal is more of a treatment given only long enough to restock the amino acid reservoir. This will take 1 to 2 years according to my observations. There is no test other than when the horse’s urine starts to have an ammonia smell then the protein being fed is breaking down into urea and glucose in the gut. Time to stop as the signs of chronic protein deficiency should be all gone.

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          Alfalfa hay does not have a complete amino acid profile plus its bioavailability is 50% versus 80% of SBM with ALL the essential amino acids.

          If you want to avoid SBM then you will need to find a variety of amino acid sources that give the horse all 10 and in enough amounts. This will require some investigation. A lot of people are using hemp as a protein source as well as coconut meal. Maybe a mix of ingredients is available to horses. SBM seems to do the job so well and so completely with decades of use from the 1970’s. I still have not found demonstrable evidence that GM SBM has had a deleterious effect on horses but to be honest, no one is talking about the carbohydrates dependency causing chronic protein deficiency in horses either. This is to me a more egregious problem that a temporary use of SBM can resolve.

          Overall, we need to find a scientist with enough money to do an analysis of all I am talking about. Until then, I am banking on the results people are reporting to me in these comments. And to all those reading this, please let us know if you have seen a direct or measurable issue with GM SBM. We all need to hear about it.

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            We have found bulk sources via web searches and someone in WA state has found some. Every area is different.

          2. Does “ground extruded whole soybean” fit the bill for nutrition for my horses? I am looking at the label on Tribute Equine Nutrition Essential K Horse Feed
            Brenda Y

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            No it does not. Soybean meal has the hull removed and the oil extracted yielding 48% protein without the inflammatory ingredients. When you purchase SBM you are getting a single ingredient. Tribute Equine Nutrition Essential K Horse Feed is a mix of ingredients many of which are inflammatory to the gut wall and gut microbes.

  3. I have two questions? Can you use roasted soybeans instead of meal ? and is one better than the other.Second question is, if using Alfalfas pellets and soybean meal how much of each should you feed ? I’ve always been a as little grain as possible person, if I need grain I use oats and a free choice mineral/ salt Grostrong. But I have a few that just aren’t looking as good as normal this year, lost their toplines and hay quality on east coast is awful this year. I think this would help mine just in what quanity ?

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      1) No don’t use roasted soy beans. The soy bean meal has been dehulled and the oil extracted and both of these can be inflammatory. I am not sure that roasted soy beans would have one or both of these removed.

      2) Alfalfa pellets should equal in weight to 1 flake of hay. Maybe 4 pounds. But if feeding alfalfa hay then only a handful of pellets is enough. SBM should be fed at 1 pound per day for a horse 1000 to 1400 pounds. Adjust to the weight of a pony, mini or draft. Also adjust to the severity, chronicity, age of the horse.

      A lost top line is one sign of protein deficiency. It will take 6 to 12 months to replace this if all causes of inflammation is removed. This includes oats. Be careful of many mineral mixes that contain sugar (red salt licks have corn syrup and molasses). Vitamins don’t need to be added if there is enough protein available and the gut microbes are healthy.

      “Poor quality” hay is actually cellulose which is a fat source of energy for horses. This actually helps the cells to recover from their summer sugar loads and is beneficial to horses. Don’t discount the value as long as there is no dust and the horse is eating it. For more information on this please read all my nutrition blogs or better yet, take the nutrition course.

      1. When it comes to not feeding an vitamin or minerals what about Vitamin E? Everything I’ve read by equine nutritionists says that if your horse is not eating pasture grass they are not getting any vitamin E at all. Vitamin E is very important for muscle development and neurological issues.

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          Vitamin E is essential for many nerve functions but how many horses are seen with this deficiency other than starvation cases? At the last AAEP meeting Vitamin E was discussed and apparently there is only 1 kind that gets absorbed while the others are not. But when listening to the presentation, I was not convinced that adding Vitamin E is necessary in horses whose gut microbes are normal and the gut lining is not inflamed.

          My premise to all my discussions is simple. All animals have evolved to have available all they need to thrive including making of all vitamins (which are just proteins). When we alter the natural state, specifically when we alter the raw materials presented to the digestive tract of ANY animal (including humans), we create an imbalance. While I personally hate the word “balance” because there really is no such thing in animals, I will use “imbalance” in that a shift occurs from being efficient to being inefficient in a process. This inefficiency causes certain thing to be made either less (a vitamin deficiency) or more (increased cortisol).

          While there may be documentation that a horse is low in Vitamin E and there may be discussions of which Vitamin E supplement should be used, few if any are looking at the question of WHY there is a deficiency. There may be postulations but as far as reproducible and quantifiable cases of cause and effect, there are none.

          For example, when horses were first fed grain they all developed rickets due to the high phosphorus in grains. This leached out the calcium from bones. The solution was to add dicalcium phosphate to all grains. The result was no more rickets. What they didn’t mention was that the now increased levels of calcium and phosphorus prevented the absorption of magnesium. This is an “imbalance” in the efficiency of minerals in the horse. The result of this shift is hyper excitability in horses. But instead of removing the cause, marketers suggest you add magnesium to the diet. Yes it does calm horses but what else is this shifting?

          If we get back to the most efficient state, the body will be at its finest.

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            Most of the info on Vit E is written by people selling it (every item on the 1st page of a Google search for Vitamin E in horses was this way). Down on the list were articles saying that horses get adequate Vit E from pastures.

            Plants make Vit E and humans and horses ingest this. Green leafy vegetables and some oils supply humans and pasture grasses are the source for horses.

            At the last AAEP meeting a paper was presented on which Vit E source should be used. The paper is at home so from my memory I think it said the Vit E in powder form was not absorbed at all. I need to verify this but I am positive that one form or another (powdered v in oil) was definitely not absorbed.

            More importantly, Vit E in humans has a vague purpose. Many studies on Vit E supplementation have shown no effect on a number of diseases and a moderate effect on others. There is enough evidence that over all, Vit E supplementation in humans is correlated with an increase in death rate. Yikes! In fact 2 studies have shown that Vit E prescriptions are DOWN about 50% in the past 10 years. The bottom line in humans is that Vit E deficiency is rare in humans.

            It may be good to supplement with Vit E in horses with no access to pasture or fed only old hay. But Vit E deficiency in horses is rare too with the exception of starved horses and foals born to starved horses.

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            I can’t remember exactly but it was discussed at the AAEP meeting last Dec in San Fransisco. I have the notes back home so when I get there I will post it (if I remember).

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  4. I enjoyed your article, thank you. It’s a fresh perspective and very specific. Can you please explain the protein quality difference between SBM and alfalfa? Why not feed alfalfa instead of SBM as a protein additive/method to replace lost amino acids especially since horses are designed to eat forage (based on how their digestive system works)? Thanks!

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      Thanks Melanie. Soy bean meal provides ALL of the essential amino acids where alfalfa only provides some (not sure exactly which are missing though). Also SBM protein is absorbed at about 80% while alfalfa (and grasses) are absorbed at 50%.

      Remember that alfalfa and soy beans are both legumes. But the meal made from the soy bean plant, while not a forage, is still OK for horses (based on its use since I’ve been with horses – 1973).

      Finally, 1 pound of SBM at 48% protein is about 175 grams of a full spectrum amino acids while 4 pounds of alfalfa hay at 12% protein is about 109 grams of a limited spectrum of amino acids. Unfortunately there is no test to determine which amino acids are missing in a horse.

      1. You say in the blog that the SBM supplementation can be stopped after a year or two, once ant protein deficiency has been corrected.

        So after 1-2 years are you advocating that we feed only pasture, grass hay, 4-5 pounds of alfalfa, and natural salt?

        What about the fact that alfalfa has only a limited spectrum of amino acids whereas at SBM covers the full spectrum?

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          The reason for the protein deficiency is threefold. First there are limited amino acids in the feeds of horses today to restock the lost amino acids. Second through gut inflammation and anti ulcer medication there is a reduced digestion of proteins. Third the carbohydrate dependency effect causes mitochondrial exhaustion which leads to cellular dysfunction and death. That causes gluconeogenesis which in turn depletes the amino acid resources.

          Once you see the amino acid supply return (good top line, good hoof health, decreased illness and lameness) then the recycling program of amino acids is complete. The downside to continually adding extra protein is that the gut will perform gluconeogenesis on it before or after it is absorbed. The horse will then be on a higher sugar diet and the urine will have the ammonia odor. This is why the Atkins diet in humans would eventually become ineffective.

          Feeding horses (or humans) is a continually adjusting art form. But for now, step one is eliminating gut inflammation by feeding horses what they were developed to eat. Step two is to restore the lost amino acids. Step three is to adjust for season, age, degree of use and genetics. Feeding horses in captivity requires all of us to use our eyes and adjust throughout their lives.

          Once you see the horse looking good in the top line and hooves, decrease the amount of protein fed to ¼ pound per day or even eliminate it during the summer pasture where they might have access to other plants.

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            One of the most expensive parts of owning a horse is the land needed to keep them. Today it is common to have either no pasture or too many horses for the available land. This said we need to look at city dwelling horses less than a century ago. Or we could look at the asses living in poverty in Ethiopia and other lands where they are kept as beasts of burden (personal communication this week from a client who visits there regularly). For whatever reason there is little to no pasture it must be remembered that all equids are grazers with a hind gut fementing machine for forage.

            When horses are kept in unnatural conditions we need to provide as much forage as is needed to maintain their health. Unfortunately in many areas hay is more expensive than complete feeds so owners go there first for feed. These grains and byproducts create an amino acid deficiency which the SBM resolves.

            Once the amino acid reserves are replenished then horses on only hay should be maintained on a reduced amount of SBM. This is where we need to use our eyes and our nose. A diminishing top line or a poor hair coat and you will know that they need more. A good top line, good hooves and a nice hair coat but an ammonia smell in the urine means the horse is turning your protein feed into fuel. That is when you need to stop feeding SBM for a while.

            Every horse and every farm will be different. As a rule of thumb I have been suggesting 1 pound SBM per horse (1000 to 1400 pounds) per day for 1 to 2 years. When the horse looks good, you can reduce the amount to a quarter pound per day as a “top off.” Remember the amino acids recycle with the exception of the hooves and hair.

            I hope this helps everyone. Thank again ELAINE for asking these questions so we can all learn.

  5. Thanks for explaining how SBM is made, I was always curious about how the bean and oil were removed. Interesting how the oil is used to lubricate the machines making the meal. Thanks for doing all the research for us. We appreciate all your help and hard work to keep our horses and ponies healthy.

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  6. Where can SBM be bought? I can’t find coconut meal either. Only renew gold which has rice bran included. I have a neurological horse and would like to see if amino acid supplementation would help at all.
    There is a supplement that offers amino acids with great reviews but it’s $100 for a month I believe. I would rather supplement through a meal if possible.
    Thanks for the great article.

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      There are some areas where SBM is hard to find. Keep looking or just ask your feed dealer to get it for you. they come in 50 pound bags so 1 bag is 50 days per horse. At about $20 per bag, it is a lot less expensive and it works so well. If you do get several bags, store it in rat proof containers. They’re not dumb! They need protein too!

      Coolstance will set you up as a local distributorship if you think this might be a way to go for you. Remember, Coolstance is for older horses needing extra non-inflammatory fats during the winter. As spring is coming soon and the grass gets better, many of the older horses start to get their fat back on plus add the muscle from the SBM. In other words, Coolstance is good if you can get it but if you can’t then blankets and / or time. As a last resort for very thin horses, I have seen Renew Gold work well but I would use it only until the grass starts to come back.

    2. Try chia. The amino acid profile is fantastic and unlike flax, you don’t have to grind it before feeding. The ALA’s are readily available so the horse doesn’t need to convert them. 1/4-1/2 cup per day is enough to be of benefit to a horse.

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        Thanks for this information.

        There are some human functional doctors who are suggesting avoiding chia seeds due to inflammation in the gut. I tend to be conservative on using ANY soft seeds in horses due to the lectins. There is no sound evidence that chia seeds help horses compared with SBM.

        When adding a protein supplement (SBM, whey, chia, coconut meal) please remember that you are only trying to restore the lost amino acids from protein resorption secondary to chronic carbohydrate dependency. Whatever you choose to feed, it is only temporary (1 to 2 years with SBM),

        Due to SBM’s track record of decades of use with no ill side effects, I would stay with them known supplement that works in horses.

  7. Always learn so much from Doc T’s articles and now his reader’s comments to this piece. So grateful you are on the case for our horses. A really big thank you.

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      Thank you for taking the time to read the comments. I agree that these comments really answer a lot of questions.

  8. Hello Dr. T. When I first found your blogs, I stayed up till 2:am reading alllll of them. (I am not a night owl) so, I was a little fuzzy on detail and have left you a few questions on other blogs, thank you for responding. I have gone back to read them again, and have taken time to read the comments, quite helpful, others had similar questions. I am now at day 10 of no-grain for my 3 horses. Please help me out again…

    1- My horses are not liking the Alfalfa pellets. I did try Timothy-Alfalfa pellets, they eat those just fine. Have other horses refused Alfalfa pellets? I live in Texas, and not comfortable about buying Alfalfa due to the Blister Beetle.

    2-Soybean meal, is to much Phosphorus an issue with SBM? still fuzzy on that issue. I have not offered the SBM (it will be in later today) do horses ever refuse to eat it?

    Thank you for generously sharing your Nutrition information. I have been sharing your website to everyone I know. I think you are absolutely on track, and ahead of what is to come.

    PS: have tried to sign up to receive your info in my email, but it does not seem to respond.

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      1) Horses usually like the alfalfa pellets. There is no problem feeding the mixed pellets. I agree with your blister beetle concern. You should be OK with the T-A pellets and you can add the SBM to this.

      2) SBM is a legume and not a grain. All grains are high in P but I am not sure about SBM. I would suspect that SBM will not affect the minerals in your horse because I have never seen this happen. If high P was a problem in SBM then manufacturers would be adding dicalcium phosphate to it to prevent rickets (big head disease, nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism).

      Thank you so much for becoming your horse’s advocate. Please either contact me directly via the web site contact form about your problem subscribing to the newsletter. Better yet, join or enroll in the nutrition course (link there). You will automatically be subscribed AND you will receive my book (pdf version) of The Ten Irrefutable Laws of Horsemanship.

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          The Equine Practice is the company and the hub of all information. I have several websites associated with it: HorsemanshipDentistrySchool,com

          The Horse’s Advocate also has a subdomain: The main domain will be going through a complete makeover this year and more courses will be added to the university site.

  9. I have had my 13 yo OTTB on hay only (no additives/no supplements) diet for six months now. He gets Timothy pellets/alfalfa cubes and free choice orchard/Timothy hay. I am looking to start him on a “top line builder” because he is finally sweating, back to his previous weight and jumping again. He had lost 40 pounds after initially starting the hay only diet, but we kept with it because you said he would gain it back (and he did!!) He went last summer with horrible complications from androhydrosis. He needed vet intervention for severe dehydration and his vet says he is the worse case he ever saw. I want to THANK DOC T SO MUCH for his phenomenal turnaround. I do have some questions regarding which suggested topline builder I should start. You’ve suggested Manna Pros Calf manna w/ corn – I thought we weren’t supposed to feed corn at all. The other is Nutrenas pro add ultimate which on the ingredients list contains soybean/vegetable oil (I thought these were a no no also). I have considered adding Nutrena’s top line advanced support because it’s a very limited ingredient product and seems to cover all of his needs (but it has wheat gluten and rice bran oil). Can you please advise on what I should start him on and why it’s ok to give the product. The horse is doing so fantastic that I don’t want to reverse his progress. When I had started the hay only diet I was accidentally feeding some grain that was a hidden ingredient in his previous vitamin regimen and until I stopped EVERYTHING so he was only on his hay with no additives did he start to turn around which leads me to believe he is highly sensitive to any grain.

    Thank you again for his enormous progress and look forward to your suggestions on my next step. MUCH APPRECIATED!!

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      Hi Rebekah and thank you for this update.

      I am constantly updating the information I give here as more information comes in. It becomes complicated as I update things and I apologize. Please read this blog:

      I do not recommend Calf Manna (or Horse Manna which does not have corn) or ProAdd because the ingredients keep changing and not for the better.

      What I am recommending for a protein source is soy bean meal. It is economical and efficient in adding the essential amino acids needed for everything including the top line. Feed 1 pound per day (1000 to 1400 pound horse) until the top line returns (and the hair coat and hooves repair or hormones, enzymes, neurotransmitters and immune molecules). This takes 1 to 2 years depending on the amount of amino acid deficit.

      Thank you again for helping your horse.

  10. Hi – thank you for the article . I am hoping you can clarify . Whole roasted soyabeans vs soyabean meal . If I grind the whole roasted beans I have a meal , however they would contain the oil . Is this the reason you suggest the already oil extracted meal ? I don’t mean to be dense but need to straighten it out in my head . Thank you .

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      Soy bean meal (SBM) has the hulls removed and then the oil extracted. Both the hull and the oil could be inflammatory in the gut assuming they follow the human gut reaction to these. The hulls may have lectins that may cause leaky gut. The oil may bind with the lipopolysaccharides (broken pieces of dead gut bacteria) which then penetrate the gut lining setting up inflammation.

      The roasting is a high temperature process which may damage the proteins in the roasted soy beans. All of this is not good and reasons to not feed roasted soppy beans.

      Once the bean is de-hulled and has had the oil extracted it is then “toasted” which means it is steamed (don’t ask me why they call it toasting) and then it is hammered (not ground) into a meal. An anti-caking agent is added. That’s it.

      I personally have used SBM alone or in mixes since 1973 when I started with horses and the track record is good. However recently the protein mixes that have SBM as the main ingredient have added some suspect ingredients so I now recommend straight SBM. And at about $20 for 50 pounds you just can’t get a better return on investment.

      Thank you for having the courage to ask what you thought might be a question that implied you were dense. I am very grateful that you did because if we were all afraid to ask something we would be stuck where we are. Not asking is NOT being your horse’s advocate. But you did and your horse will thank you. So do I.

  11. Hi Dr. Tucker:

    Word is getting out! Last week, I sent a friend (who was visiting that area from Kansas) to a feed store in Southern Pines for SBM and when she asked if it was dehulled/toasted/oil-extracted, all the employees turned and looked at her and one said “do you know Allie?” Allie is a friend of mine that I told about your diet and who has spread the word in her area, and the feed store has had a dramatic increase in SBM sales. My KS friend bought the last bag they had in stock.

    This week I was on a training trip in Tryon and went to the feed store there to pick up SBM while I was in town. When I ordered it, the lady said they had to vastly increase their orders of both SBM and Coolstance over the last four months because so many people have started feeding it. I know this is because of several people there who have heard my horse’s story and who then started the diet and spread the word. The feed store here in Aiken has also reported noticeable increase in SBM production.

    My saddle fitter was out today and is thrilled by the beautiful, lean muscling on my FEI horse and the healthy condition and lack of hay belly on my 21-year-old draft cross. She was interested in the diet and your theory on chronic protein deficiency and kissing spine, so I sent her that blog post. She responded “Awesome! Thank you! Man, I’m working on a horse right now that looks just like the picture from the article! How do you go about telling people about this without sounding like you’re criticizing the way their horse looks?! 😬” She’s going to use my horses as an example and suggest your blogs.

    My vet was out last week to do spring shots and Coggins and was thrilled by what she saw. The 22-y-o horse who had a huge hole in his check ligament six months ago now looks fantastic on U/S and sound, far exceeding our original conservative expectations, and she credits the protein supplementation as an important factor.

    Thank you again for your generous help. I credit your ideas with saving my partnership with my very talented FEI dressage horse. Not one explosion or moment of dangerous behavior in the six months on The Diet, and not one drop of gastroguard or ulcer treatment. He is lean, muscled, strong, and working very well. Getting closer to that GP debut!

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      Thanks for this testimony! Sharing it here will help those hesitating to try this program – then they in turn will share their stories and we will ALL learn together. Best of luck with your GP debut – let us all know how it goes with some future updates!

  12. Dr. T, my Southern States soybean meal now says do not feed to horses. Same bag I have been using for 2 years only the ingredients tag now says do not feed to horses. It also says buy one our premium horse feeds. Maybe they are on the us! I am going to continue feeding it since I have been without any problems for 2 or more years. In my area of Va this is the only company that sells soybean meal.

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      Adriene – Please go to Facebook and search for the private group “The Horse’s Advocate” and ask to become a member. Once allowed in, go to the search bar and type in “Southern States” and press enter. There you will find a discussion on this exact subject. The link to the comment is here but you need to become a member first.

      Basically Southern States feeds are made by Nutrena and according to one member, this is a legal claim because they do not believe that SBM is a complete feed. Duh…. And one person thought she found molasses in her bag. Anyway this is an interesting thread.

  13. We have pelleted SBM available in our area. It does not show any other ingredients except for limestone. I would soak it before feeding. Would that be o.k.?

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      The pelleting process usually requires an oil added to lubricate the machine. Soybean oil is the common lubricant but all oils can cause inflammation. And why would limestone be added? It is calcium carbonate plus a bunch of tiny seashells. This would not be my first choice to feed protein to my horse.

      My clients in Louisiana use a pelleted soybean meal and are seeing success. The bottom line here is if the SBM pellet is all you can get then it is better than nothing. Just watch for improvements and for problems. Ask others who use it for their thoughts (not the guy selling it). You can ask them why CaCO3 is added and if they add oil in the pelleting process. We all would like to know.

  14. I have been devouring your information since I found it yesterday. My question is the alfalfa pellets. I have been told that they can cause choke. Do I soak them first, then add the SBM? Is it 4 pounds of dry alfalfa pellets per feeding, ot divided into two feedings? Being a new horse owner, I am truly overwhelmed, and your info is starting to unravel a lot of my questions, but still fell nervous about everything I do. I have a 17 year old MFT that has foundered in all four feet. We think that this is recurring, but he is a rescue and I don’t have a history. My horses are on pasture 24/7 up tonow. I have a 25 year old, a lactating mare and her 5 month old filly. Do they all get the same feed? alfalfa pellets and SBM?

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      Thanks for finding these blogs and “devouring” them.

      Many worry about their horse choking on pellets. Some do but most don’t when only a small amount is fed and there is water available. A lot also moisten the pellets anyway. There is no harm in doing this but it is not necessary to “soak” them into a soup – unless the horse has a history of choke.

      But if I had a horse with good teeth, I would just feed a flake of alfalfa and forget the pellets. Horses eat the soybean meal out of your hand.

      Adding SBM is the best way to strengthen the hoof and its attachment to the coffin bone. Along with reducing inflammation and normalizing insulin resistance, strengthening the hoof increases the chance of preventing laminitis.

      All horses benefit from eliminating grain and all but the 5 month old will benefit from SBM. The young horse won’t have a protein deficiency but if she was fed grain daily then by 6 years the connective tissue loss would be starting.

      You may notice that the grazing time decreases about a month or so after adding the SBM as the horses become satiated. This will reduce the caloric intake which will improve the insulin resistance but will also cause loss of body fat. Replacing the muscle will take at least 6 months ands up to a year.

      1. I live in north central Missouri and alfalfa is hard to get. A lot of fescue and grass hay. I have a pasture that is hayed but it is grass. Should I not feed this? Is it best to divide up the 4# of alfalfa pellets into two meals?
        Thank you for your answers and giving me a place to get information to get my head around all this!

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          Adding alfalfa is not a requirement to supplying all the essential amino acids. It only adds another source of proteins and is usually available throughout the world (it’s called Lucerne in other parts). Using a variety of protein sources spreads out the ability to ensure that the horse gets what they need. SBM is all that is really needed but is not available everywhere.

          Grass (fescue and otherwise) is not a source of protein but is a source of carbohydrates (through the enzymatic digestion of starch) and short chain fatty acids (precursors to ketones and deprived from the bacterial digestion of cellulose). Grass therefore is essential to the survival of horses who are technically grazers and eat only monocotyledonous plants (grasses and legumes and NOT carrots).

          The 4 pounds of alfalfa is about a flake of alfalfa hay. Feeding it as pellets is an acceptable substitute and can be fed in 1 or 2 feedings.

          [side note – my wife is an exceptional quilter (in my opinion) and she recognizes you and your books and contributions to the quilting world. Thank you for helping her in her craft!]

          1. Hello to your wife! I have retired from teaching and writing, bought a 40 acre farm in Missouri (left Colorado) and am working harder than ever taking care of the place and 4 horses. I SO appreciate your help. I have so much trouble finding answers around where I live. One more question – when you call hay last years grass, and grass is part of the cause of laminitis, it makes me think I shouldn’t feed it. Is it just that it needs to be soaked like the orchard/alfalfa hay I get from the amish for the laminitic horse? I would love to have your wife email me and send a picture of one of her quilts. I do miss teaching and contact with quilters!
            Thanks again for the hand holding!

          2. Post

            Hay is last summer’s grass. Grass has a starch component made of glucose (sugar) called non-structural carbohydrate (NSC). This a is what is removed when the hay is soaked.

            In the “real” world a horse would eat the grass of summer with the starch and fat would be added for winter. Then in winter the starch would be gone from the dormant grass but it would have the structural carbohydrate called cellulose. The horse can’t digest this but the gut bacteria can and turns it into short chain fatty acids, the precursors to ketones. Ketones as a fuel are superior to glucose and allows the cells to clean up pollution and regenerate mitochondria. In short, when a horse goes through winter the fat is lost and the cells become healthier. This is how a horse avoids laminitis and insulin resistance. It is NOT the grass that causes laminitis – it is the daily feeding of grass (and grain and byproducts and treats) throughout the year that creates insulin resistance and makes the horse susceptible to laminitis.

            As winter comes it’s OK to restrict the hay and keep the horse on the dormant pasture (restrict this too if you are concerned about recurring laminitis). Adding protein in the form of soybean meal will add 2 things: 1) it will strengthen the hoof and the attachment of the hoof to the coffin bone and 2) it will satiate the horse which will diminish the caloric intake. This along with the switch from glucose to ketones for fuel will let you see a horse that even as it looses weight will not seem as hungry. This is a vision of a horse becoming healthier.

          3. Okay, things are starting to make sense. So let me get this straight – The horses can be on pasture 24/7 year round if they are not on grain and by products of concentrate feed. If I feed them SBM for protein, they have hay in a slow feeder system in the pasture, and dormant grass all winter they will be fine? How about the one that is stalled right now with laminitis in all 4 feet? He is going crazy (and developing some nasty behaviors) being confined. Once his new shoes are on, or at least boots, and a muzzle, can he be on the pasture year round for limited amounts of time?
            I hope this is helping others, as I gather there is quite a bit of confusion for many of us as to how pasture is to be used. I do not have an alternative right now with a dry lot, so pasture is the only place they live.

          4. Post

            It is important to work with your vet and farrier when considering any changes to a horse with laminitis.

            In this program of eliminating gut inflammation and replacing the lost amino acids, each horse responds differently at a different pace. The goal is to strengthen the hooves to prevent laminitis and to eliminate the dependency on carbohydrates which leads to the precursor of laminitis – insulin resistance (IR). This takes time. You can test for IR and once under control you can move to the daily turnout with more confidence.

            Hay available throughout the winter may not be effective in eliminating IR because there is a starch component and this will continue the presence of insulin. Limiting hay through the winter is a more natural approach to reality although the horse will loose body fat. However they will depend more on the fatty acids from their body fat and from digestion of cellulose for the fuel called ketones. This is a better more efficient fuel and does not need insulin. In addition, during this time of low to no carbohydrates, the cells and mitochondria will repair themselves making them stronger and the free radicals (cell pollution) will be eliminated.

            This sound complicated but it isn’t. The system works if we honor it. Adjusting healthy horses to it is rather easy and usually goes without a problem other than they loose body fat in the winter. Working with horses with existing issues such as laminitis may require more care including careful management to prevent a problem. However with laminitis, removing any gut inflammation and reducing the use of insulin is a priority. Strengthening the hooves with protein will take up to a year.

    1. Post

      Coolstance (CS) is NOT a replacement for soybean meal (SBM). CS is a non-inflammatory fat source to add weight to horses especially older horses when winter pastures are dormant and the environment causes increased needs to stay warm and alive. While CS has a variety of amino acids, the bioavailability is not clear to me.

      SBM is a source of protein that has all the essential amino acids with an 80% bioavailability. It has a track record and is not a new feed. I have been using it since I started with horses in 1973. This adds muscle to the top line and improves the hooves and hair coat as well as improves the immune system, neurotransmitters, hormones, vitamins, enzymes and just about everything else.

      Keep looking for SBM. Some owners travel over an hour to get a few bags. That may seem like a long way to travel but the results are worth it.

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  15. hi Dr T Maura here. I started the no grain diet last feb and contacted you then about SBM sources. Anyway, I wanted to update you on my horses. I started this because of two older horses. First let me say I am a sporthorse breeder.So i have foals to old timers. all of them are on a no grain diet and have been for years for the most part
    The two older horses, broodmare of 21 and geld of 25 looked awful last Feb when I started feeding SBM to them with Alfalfa pellets and both were on an alfalfa/grass mix hay I must say they both did super thru spring and early summer.They looked so much better and the mare who has always had terrible feet can now go barefoot for the first time in years. But as soon as summer heat hit and grass was poorer they both fell apart lost all the topline they finally built. They both have bellies but very little toplines now. Ribs are easily seen. FEC negative, followed your Ivermectin 1xweek for 3 weeks on both early spring. So I’m panicking a little here coming into winter again and they really fell apart. They are still getting SBM and Alafalfa pellets as well as free choice first cutting hay via round bale with three to four flakes of alfalfa/grass mix hay once a day. I can’t keep weight on them. Was thinking of adding beet pulp, NO molassass to there SBM. Feel like I read thats not a good idea ? Ideas ? I should tewll you that both these horses are TBs , the mare is 16.3 and had 6 foals so I know she’ll never look like a ten yr old again. The geld is 16 hands and always been a very easy keeper.
    Since I’m here and writing this, how am I supposed to be feeding weanlings and yearlings? I’ve always given them a RB but stopped when I started your program. One yearling doesn’t look well worming him now. Shame on me, prob should have done a fecal first but.. I am a believer, have sucess stories too my two 6 yr olds look amazing.But I know they are all individuals and need help tweaking this program for the harder ones. All of my horses have or will have first cutting timothy grass round bales free choice for winter and get between two and four flakes alfalfa/grass mix once a day age and size dependent and their pound of SBM .
    Is plain Beet Pulp ok for the older ones ? will it help or hinder ? and the weanlings, yearlings how do I tailor to them ? Last but certainly not least should I keep the in foal mares on a RB ? or free choice minerals ?
    Thanks in advance, for all you do !!

    1. Post

      First what you say is true – all horses are individuals and will respond differently.

      Amino acids are recycled throughout life to make new proteins. There is some attrition and this attrition accumulates over time. A rule of thumb would look at muscle regeneration which, if like humans, rebuilds itself every 6 years. Horses under 6 years will usually never show any protein loss such as a poor top line or poor hooves. Where it starts to show is about the 12th year (most competing horses start to have soundness or hoof issues), 18 years (when the horse starts to “look old” and has a poor top line and hooves as well as several medical disorders (Cushing’s, IR, skin allergies)), 24 years (when they really look old or die), 30 and 36 years. therefore it is never too early to supplement with SBM when the nutrition is lacking the complete set of essential amino acids. The young ones may not need as much and the older horses may need more than a pound per day per 1200 pounds body weight.

      However, when horses are fed sugar daily as you are through pasture and then through accessibility to hay throughout the day and night, then they can become carbohydrate dependent and get mitochondrial exhaustion. This usually leads to 1) added body fat and 2) protein loss due to gluconeogenesis (poor top line, skin and hooves).

      I suspect your Thoroughbreds are being overfed sugar in the form of hay 24 hours a day. While most horses become fat, many TB’s actually look thin and loose their top line muscle. The knee jerk reaction is to add more sugar in the form of grain or other inflammatory byproducts such as sugar beet pulp. But to decrease hay seems to go against the common sense of adding more food to a horse loosing weight.

      But what you are doing is not working for your 2 older TB’s. If you add anything, add noninflammatory source of fat such as Coolstance. I would also suggest you limit their hay to only 12 hours a day. This will give them a break from the continuous source of starch (sugar) that is causing the body to convert their muscle into fuel. In essence they are “starving” in front of you even though you are feeding them.

      If this concept seems a bit hard to figure out then please re-read the blogs on carbohydrate dependency and mitochondrial exhaustion – better yet please enroll in the nutrition course if you have not done so. Most horses being fed what your 2 older horses are eating would be fat. The role of intermittent fasting is being recognized in many species to stabilize weight and actually promote longevity. It has not been studied in horses but extrapolating from the recording of horses chewing between 10,000 and 40,000 chews per day AND assuming 1 chew per second, then even at the higher rate the horse only chews half a day (86,400 seconds per day). Letting them not eat for 12 hours allows for resting the inflamed intestines, reducing insulin and allowing for apoptosis and autophagy (cell cleaning and restoring).

      Many “hard keepers” actually gain weight once grain is removed as you have witnessed. But now the hay is the culprit. Remember that hay is 1) last summer’s grass high in starch (sugar) and 2) a new product in the lives of horses only made available to the masses once tractors and trucks became popular only 60 years ago. Step one is to limit the total amount of forage to a 1200 pound horse to about 20 pounds and possibly less if you have abundant pasture (dormant or not) and 2) limit the feeding of this forage to within a 12 hour window (7 am to 7 pm). If needed as the weather becomes colder, add 1 pound per day per 1200 pound horse Coolstance.

      Once your horses start to become adjusted to the new approach then the SBM you are feeding will no longer be converted into sugar. But for the next month you should eliminate the SBM too because it is being converted into a fuel (glucose) and not being used for building protein. After things stabilize you can add back in the SBM.

  16. I am still looking for a source of soybean meal. I live in Merritt Island but can get to Orlando – has anyone found any around here?

    1. Post

      SBM is a common feed for hogs and other livestock. Call feed stores up to an hour away and you will find it. Usually about $20 for a 50 pound bag (or more $ for non-GMO or organic).

  17. Worked with a feed store in Cocoa, FL and he is getting SBM from Georgia so I am able to get a bag when I need it. My horse thinks it is a big treat…I split up his pound by putting a scoop each in morning and evening feed and a plain scoop after we ride – he licks the bucket clean.

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  18. I haven’t been giving my horses any grain or beet pulp for at least six years for one horse and three years for a new horse. I use Horse Tech nutria flax and arizona copper complete plus a digestive enzyme. They do get pasture in the spring with muzzles on for about three or four hours and small tracks at night plus hay in hay bags consisting of alfalfa/bermuda/orchard grass. My pastures are full of fescue so it’s tough on most horses in the spring. One of my horses’ lab results showed he was low in protein and glucose (I think they let the blood sit to long). So, I started to add whey protein (very expensive). This horse came to me very unthrifty but has come a long way. I’ve read a couple of studies, one from Cornell University, about a lack of copper can cause a protein deficiency not letting the protein be digested or something along that line. My horse looks great, I don’t ever recall that he looked bad. But he had an injury and my vet thought he wasn’t healing fast enough so he wanted to do some blood work and that’s when the protein deficiency showed up. I’ve had two labs done since then, one showed much improved enough to lower the whey protein but something else about Vet 12 deficiency. He wants me to give him some hemo iron stuff. Anyway, since the whey is so expensive I’ve decided to try the SBM which I just found out my Feed mill has and it’s non GMO with 55% crude protein. The cost is something like $26 for 100 lbs. or close to that. The flax I give was for the omega 3 and a vehicle to get the other supplements in. I’m thinking I won’t need the nutra flax if I’m using the SBM. I’m using Arizona Copper complete because of the above mentioned research and he has a black mane and tail which did have a reddish tint on the ends.

    1. Post

      Thanks for this description. I see chronic protein deficiency everywhere and horses just on pasture with a limited amount of plant variety will also be protein deficient because of the quality of the protein (amino acid distribution and concentration). Soybean meal provides the highest quality for the least amount of money and you should see the results of that. 1 pound per 1200 pound horse per day minimum. Regular SBM is 48% protein and cost about $18 per 50 lb bag so you are getting a good deal here. Thanks! Keep us updated and yes, feeding flax in unnecessary in horses that are getting SBM.

Your thoughts are important for all to hear and may help others to learn from your experiences. Take the time to add to the discussion. However due to time limitations I will probably not answer direct questions to me. Thanks, Doc T

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