The Equine Practice Inc, Travels With Doc T

Feeding The Horse As Simple As 1-2-3

(above) A bucket with hay pellets and soy bean meal. This plus grass hay, alfalfa cubes and pasture is all this horse eats.

Keep It Simple Doc

I hear this all the time from horse owners who feel that in making horse nutrition simple, I have missed the mark.  “Just tell me what I need to do.”

The reason for explaining what is going on at the molecular and cellular level is that if you are willing to dig in deep you might feed the horse correctly through understanding.  I guess I was wrong.  It’s not that people are stupid but rather it is because what I am saying is so different.  The brain shuts down because I am asking people to change.  Who wants to change especially when there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong.  Worse, no one is telling you that there might be a connection between what is wrong with your horse (disease, lame) with what and how you are feeding them (nutrition).

Let’s go for what to do and not discuss the why you should.  In a simple 3 step process I will explain how to feed MOST horses.  There are some exceptions to this protocol and if you have any questions you should always ask your veterinarian.  Some of the exceptions include any disease your horse is being treated for or any unsoundness you are working on.  Also foals and seniors or extreme weather conditions bring some extra thoughts.  With this in mind, here goes.

1) Feed only pasture, hay, water.  Real salt is OK.  Do not feed anything else (treats, carrots, candy, apples, sugar cubes, minerals, electrolytes, grain, grain by-products, etc) other than pasture, hay, water +/- real salt.

2) Add about 1 pound of good quality protein per day (soybean meal, alfalfa, whey or a combination of these) after 10 days of no grain.

3) Write down in a dedicated journal for each horse in a dated format everything you see in your horse before you start this protocol and for the next 2 weeks.  Add daily observations then continue with weekly observations out to about 6 months.  Write down body condition, top line condition, hoof and hair coat condition, attitude, behavior, fecal consistency, grooming vices, riding difficulties, training difficulties, workout recovery, ability to sweat, and anything else you want.  It is fun NOT to tell anyone such as your vets, riders, trainers, farriers that you are doing this and wait for them to comment on their own.  Sometimes they need a leading question from you but often they offer it without any prompting.

Any questions?

I’m done here because that’s all that needs to be done.  Understanding the difference between starch and cellulose, understanding the importance of gut microbes or gut inflammation or understanding what minerals and vitamins are isn’t really necessary.  Just trust.  After all the 2 week no-grain challenge is only 14 days.  And it doesn’t cost a penny.  Most importantly if it doesn’t work you can always go back to what you were doing – as long as you don’t cheat during the challenge.  No treats, supplements, or ANYTHING other than pasture, hay, water and some real salt.    

It’s hard to break a habit of feeding a treat to show your love.  But if the treat is part of the carbohydrate dependency which leads to mitochondrial exhaustion and protein loss…..   oops, sorry.  Try feeding 1 or 2 peanuts in the shell or a hay cube instead of the sugar treat.

If this works for you and you want to learn about why it works then you can go to my university course on Horsemanship Nutrition.

This week I received an email announcing a symposium on lameness in horses.  The speakers will be discussing diseases of the connective tissue including laminitis and suspensory ligaments along with diagnostics and therapies.  But not one word on nutrition and the importance of protein to the musculoskeletal system.

We are what we eat – and so is your horse.  Horses were made to graze on what was available where they lived during the time they ate.  With grain only available during a limited time of the year how can we think they need grain every day of the year?  And by-products are created because they don’t want to feed it to humans.  There are no vitamin or mineral deficiencies in horses other than in starvation cases.  Feed horses what they created their unique digestive system for – cellulose digestion.

1-2-3

It really is as simple as 1 followed by adding  2 later with 3 being the recording of your observations.  Just ask yourself, is what you are doing working?  If not, then try something different.  Remove things rather than add things.  Then be patient as the gut inflammation heals.  Then tell others about this.  It’s as simple as….

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Comments 60

  1. I finally had the time to read through all of your blog posts on decomplexicating equine nutrition – what a lot to think about! I think it really makes sense, though, and I would like to start the 2-week period of no grain with my 19 year old gelding. The problem I foresee, though, will be overcoming the good-natured interference of the woman who does the feeding at my boarding stable. She has already administered a shot of penicillin without asking me (or my vet) first, so I don’t really trust that she will be on board with suddenly stopping my horse’s 2x/day feeding of Purina Senior. With that in mind, do you think I could replace the Purina with alfalfa pellets instead of going “cold turkey”? My horse does have some of the symptoms you mentioned with no logical explanation so far, so I would really like to try this. What do you think? Should I just be really firm with the woman and start the no grain period? Thanks for such a detailed and fairly easy to understand series of articles on some pretty complicated science!

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      Thanks Jane – I like your plan of swapping out a handful of hay pellets or a small amount of hay cubes for the grain at feeding time. Care givers as well as the horse and the neighboring horses find this a good solution.

      There are some people who would tell her to do as you say because you are paying her wages – but often this doesn’t work and even makes things more difficult. For this reason you might try a different approach. Open a discussion of the problems you are trying to solve with your horse so she is aware what you are trying to do. Then emphasize that this is only for 10 days and then post a chart with 14 spaces with dates so she can record the results and she can see the results with you. Make her part of the team because anyone is willing to do something simple for a short period of time.

      After she sees the results then she may be more interested in helping one or two more horses in the barn or at the least, continue with your program. This way you are leading by making her think it’s her idea. This is a better way to get her to help you without the dust up that will otherwise occur if you force this. Let us ALL know how this works out in a post a few weeks from now. Thanks!

      1. Thanks for the great suggestions! This woman is not malicious in any way, and I wouldn’t dream of ordering her around. We horse people all tend to be extremely opinionated, as I’m sure you know. I think she will be interested in this trial and having a whiteboard or similar for both of us to make comments on will engage her curiousity for sure. I will go buy one tomorrow along with a bag of alfalfa timothy pellets and get started. I will definitely keep you posted. Thanks again.

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  2. I know for a fact that the horse feed you feed your horse really messes with them. I feed mine some alfalfa pellets now. She is like a different horse. I did this because I could not find out why she would buck. I tried everything, and then I knew it had to be the feed. Took her off feed and a week latter I had a horse new horse. I tell everyone that is having problems, if you are feeding feed take them off of it, and you will see a difference. I read they don’t any minerals either. I have been feeding minerals. The name of the product is Big Sky Mineral. My friends Vet told her this was good stuff, so maybe not so good. I would like to hear from you on this.
    Thanks

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      Minerals are everywhere with the biggest source being water followed by pasture and dirt and hay. People worry about the trace minerals and are now voicing concern about too much iron.

      Have you seen a horse with a mineral deficiency that is on a good diet without inflammatory ingredients? A dilemma isn’t it because most horses have inflammation from grain plus a protein deficiency. We quickly blame white spots on the skin as a mineral deficiency as I have done for years but could it also be a lectin based autoimmune disease from the grain hulls (wheat middlings, oat hulls, etc)?

      Unfortunately there is no real research. Even the pH of the water can affect absorption. Adding dicalcium phosphate to every bag of grain to compensate for the high phosphorus of grains yields an abnormally high calcium and phosphorous which together prevents the absorption of magnesium. While we stop rickets (soft bones) in horses on high grain diets with the Di-cal-P, we create hyper excitability from the low Mg. Adding Mg is not solving the problem but removing the grain allows the calming effects of MG plus it eliminated the upset gut as the hind gut ulcers resolved.

      Please read all the blogs here – https://theequinepractice.com/feed

  3. I have a horse who is eating straight grass hay but is not able to to get much pasture. Maybe an hour a day part of the year because of lack of pasture at places to board your horse around here. I”ve been told and also read that your horse is not going to get all the minerals and vitamins it requires from just straight grass hay and so you should supplement with a vitamin and mineral supplement. I have been giving her ground flax seed so that she can get her omega 3’s. She also gets salt. She is 25 years old now and having a little more problems with maintaining her weight now. Can you explain what would be wrong with giving her the flax seed and why no vitamins or minerals.

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      Flax is a soft seed (a peach is a hard seed) and all soft seeds don’t want to be eaten. After all they are the plant’s babies. To prevent this the seed develops a protein in the seed shell called a lectin that creates gut inflammation and gut leaking. Once inside the body they disrupt hormone communication. A great example of a lectin that causes damage in many people is gluten.

      In addition, all seeds are available in nature during a short period of time (summer or early fall). They are never available year ’round so while some horses and people can tolerate some lectins for short periods of time, they are gone from the environment after a short while. But feeding any seeds (flax, wheat, corn, oats, etc) every day of the year may in some horses take its toll.

      Most vitamins are made either by the horse or the HEALTHY gut microbes. I cannot think of a vitamin deficiency in any horse that has no gut inflammation. In fact vitamin deficiencies are only found in starving animals (hence the term “Limy” to described British sailors who starved on the long voyages that had to eat a lime to prevent scurvy).

      Minerals are everywhere including water, soil, pasture and hay. We worry when there is no pasture that the hay isn’t supplementing enough yet we never seem to analyze the water and soil contributions. I tried to find a mineral deficient disease in horses normally fed in the US. Except again for starvation cases it seems to not be a problem. Selenium deficiency (white muscle disease) may occur and certainly toxicity in some locations. But adding a pure salt source adds a bunch of minerals (Na, Cl, K and others). Remember that electrolytes are minerals with an electron or 2 or 3 added or missing.

      Basically we all worry about something but show me a horse suffering from a vitamin or mineral deficiency that has a healthy gut from eating correctly. Maybe I’m being too simplistic but from my position, gut inflammation and protein deficiency is SO VERY MUCH MORE PREVALENT that I’m not going to worry about vitamins and minerals because there is no evidence of there being a problem with these.

      Stop the inflammation, restore the protein and then let’s look at the other things. Sorry to be so strong here but I need to emphasize the focus on the big problems. In the meantime please read all of the blogs on this here https://theequinepractice.com/feed and consider enrolling in the nutrition course. Thanks for posting your questions here.

  4. I stopped grain years ago and never looked back. As for treats, I used to treat my horse with herbs (parsley, mint, cilantro). You can never get through a whole bunch when you buy some, so my horse would get the surplus and loved it. I’ve been laughed at, that my horse is not a rabbit, but I thought it was better than anything with sugar.

    Thanks for another great article.

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  5. I have been feeding Bravo, my 21 yr young APHA gelding, diagnosed w/Cushing 3 years ago, the no grain diet for close to a year now. He starting sweating last summer after a few days on the no grain challenge. He struggled sweating a bit last Oct and Sept, but not completely shut down (it was extremely hot and humid in SFL last summer especially). I understand his sire was a non sweater later in life, but lived to be 28. I noticed anytime i gave the boy Previcox for arthritis, he would not sweat. November, when the weather was a bit cooler, sweating is no problem. He was also on Prescend initially after Cushings diagnosis the first year, and along with 2 other horses in my barn–, and i noticed immediately the horses on this med all had similar detrimental effects–all got extreme fungus, loss of appetite, refuel to take the meds(in cored out carrots and apples) rough hair coat, bleached out and Bravo would not sweat on Prescend. I have since switched to a very low dose of Pergolide (and chaste tree berry herb) , with much improvement. So here we are one year later on the no grain challenge, Bravo is bright, happy, hungry, shiny, no fungus, black as night, perfect weight and so far sweating. He is on free choice Timothy hay in a slow feeder bag, alfalfa hay cubes 3xs instead of grain, a flake alfalfa a day, salt, tsp chaste tree berry powder, tsp roseships, 1/4 c chia, 1/4 c flax seed and 1/4 c sunflower seeds and one sm scoop pergolide and medicine bag complete minerals. Dr, T may say the seeds are lectins-i”ll wait for his input. No more squirting on stall walls, or poopy tails. And of course, Bravo has free range of 10 acres turnout 4:40pm–7am with his turnout buddy. I feed my other APHA mare (whom i ride) exactly the same w/o the pergolide. I am convinced this is helping my horse sweat. I dont eat additives in my food, and dont want them in my horse food either.

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      Thanks Judy for this great testimonial!

      All seeds have lectins. But so what? You are having great success so don”t change a thing. But for all who are reading this let me add a few things.

      1) One underlying premise to feeding horses that I have is to feed them only what they can find outside at the time they are eating. However horses in captivity and are in hard work need something more than poor winter grass covered with snow. This is where hay is used to supplement the diet. Remember hay is harvested summer grass and this harvesting and storing of grass is only a few hundred years old in our human world. It adds sugar year ‘round to their diet which for some horses may lead to carbohydrate dependency ( https://theequinepractice.com/decomplexicating-equine-nutrition-part-6-carbohydrate-dependency/ ). Grass is available in one shape or another almost every day of the year but seeds filled with starch are not and therefore should not be fed year ‘round.

      2) There is an overlying principle to feeding every horse (and person) called genetics. And it’s not just the genetics of the horse but of all the microbes in, on and around the body. This may explain why gluten is devastating for some people while others eat bread without problems. While your horses may be OK eating soft seeds with their lectins (like chia, sunflower and flax) as well as herbs and spices there will be other horses who suffer from their ill effects on the gut lining ( https://theequinepractice.com/decomplexicating-equine-nutrition-11-lectins/ )

      3) Adding supplements to a diet such as soybeans for protein makes sense if there is a deficiency and once resolved can be reduced or eliminated. In addition the root cause of the deficiency also needs to be resolved (such as gluconeogenesis). What deficiencies do horses have that can be resolved with adding omega oils? More importantly, if there is one, what is the cause of this deficiency and how can that be resolved? In other words, in principle, supplementing is no different than medicating with a pharmaceutical. They are there because you are trying to relieve a problem. There are so many unanswered questions and because of this supplements and feeds get a foothold in a barn where they stay. They don’t appear to cause harm and the horses seem to be “better” on them.

      What you are doing Judy is working so keep doing it. However, this is a world wide stage where some horses still aren’t right and need to understand the individual variations of gut sensitivity. For example all but 1 of Melissa’s horses responded perfectly once off grain. The one horse still had squirts when she defecated. Discovering corn in Strongid-C but not in Strongid-C2X helped once removed but it still didn’t resolve fully. After 3 phone calls to the manufacturer of the red mineral salt lick she finally discovered they used corn syrup and molasses. Removing the mineral salt block stopped the squirts.

      Stay cool and keep reporting back on how they are doing as the oppressive heat lowers itself on south FL in September. Things I am interested in are sweating and the resolution of the Cushing’s (as some people are starting to report to me). Be sure to involve your vet on any medication changes. Thanks so much for trusting me and my thoughts on this. You know of my passion to help horses everywhere. My appreciation and gratefulness to you for our friendship over the years.

    2. My horse also has cushings. I just give her 1/2 mg of prascend and she is a Clydesdale. My vet thinks that’s fine. Why not give your horse just half a dose of Prascend. Prascend is pergolide just in pill form so I’m wondering what the difference is.

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        Elaine is doing this with her vet’s input which is the way to go about any change in medical protocol. Thanks Elaine

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      Any grass hay (timothy, blu grass, orchard, Bahia, Tiff, mixes etc) will work but for most horses you can add 1 flake (1.5 to 2 pounds) for a full sized horse of a legume (alfalfa etc).

  6. There are some vets that will not go along with the no grain approach. I firmly believe in it because I have seen a HUGE difference in my Spotted Saddle non sweating horse. He is not only sweating but his attitude has changed for the better. He is a nicer and happier horse. His allergies also seem less. He has a long mane. So glad I no longer feed grain. I have converted other horse owners to the no grain way of life. Thanks for all your info.

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      Thank you for commenting and providing your testimony for all to read.

      Most veterinarians are not horsemen and have been raised under the influence of grain advertisers. However, slowly I see many are questioning their beliefs and realizing that all they have been told is suspect. With some thought and the evidence mounting, vets will quickly understand that they are being left behind by owners like you wanting something better for their horses without the misdirection.

  7. I didn’t mention that my horse also has Cushings. She is on 1/2 mg of Prascend. She has had loss of topline and around her hips. I think she is not able to maintain her weight anymore or build muscle just on the grass hay. She can have a little bit of alfalfa but not a lot, Ever since she was young she would get indigestion or mild colics from eating too much of it so she primarily eats grass. I would like to give her the soybean and alfalfa like you mentioned for more protein. Are you talking about a ration balancer? Also anything that has soybean in it now are GMOs. A Lot of the alfalfa is also GMO now too. What’s you view on feeding GMO products to your horse?

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      Please AVOID all “ration balancers.” See my blog here: https://theequinepractice.com/betrayal/

      Please STOP WORRYING about GMO foods. See my blog here: https://theequinepractice.com/decomplexicating-equine-nutrition-09-gmo-pesticides-and-fertilizers/ Enrolled students of my Horsemanship Nutrition Course will also find an added finding about GM food written by an advocate of avoiding them (“Frankenfoods”) who wrote in the Wall Street Journal this year apologizing for his position, admitting he had been wrong and reversing his position.

      Another way of looking at this is to look at the top line, hair coat and poor hoof condition. The case for chronic protein deficiency is well made by these obvious conditions of the horse. There may even be a link between protein deficiency and illness such as “Cushing’s disease.” But there are no diseases or ill conditions of horses brought about by genetically modified foods. In the short time remaining in your horse’s life it becomes more important to eliminate gut inflammation and to feed the amino acids needed for protein recovery than it is to worry about a perception that GM foods will adversely affect you horse.

      More about protein here: https://theequinepractice.com/decomplexicating-equine-nutrition-08-the-importance-of-protein/

      1. How would I best feed soybean meal to my horse without it being mixed with all kinds of other ingredients that you see in feeds? Also, you mention that there are exceptions to feeding the basics to horses and very old horses is one of them. What else would I want to be incorporating in my 25 year old clydesdale mare’s diet?

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          Soy bean meal is loved by horses – they eat it out of your hand. See the image at the top of this blog which is soy bean meal and hay pellets – only 2 ingredients.

          Older horses I tend to observe closely so that there are no upsets from what they have been fed for decades. The first thing people see is that the fat gets absorbed and the reality of the lost top line is more evident. This usually sends the owner back to feeding grain which covers up the lost muscle with fat.

          If the horse has a severely affected top line or the weather is harsh (winter) I recommend shredded coconut meal (Coolstance by stanceequineusa.com) as a noninflammatory source of fat that will help maintain body fat but allow the horse to absorb protein and build the muscle.

          1. I don’t understand the problem that everyone is having regarding their horse not be able to sweat. Why is this becoming prevalent now and what in their diet would be contributing to this.

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            Horses living in hot climates and that stop sweating are unable to cool themselves. This leads to a severely elevated respiratory rate that can be life threatening at worst and totally unrideable at best. There is no proven cause for this but in my 2 week no-grain challenge, it became delightfully evident from people around the world.

            At Cornell (upstate New York) we never saw a non-sweating horse and we really didn’t discuss it in class. My first horse I saw in Florida with it I didn’t “see.” all I saw was a face above the water and the rest of the body below the surface.

            Now people around the globe living near the equator have read my blog and have discovered the “magic” of removing grain from the diet. Recently we took our boarding horse off of a protein supplement which had changed their ingredients to include inflammatory things and replaced it with straight soy bean meal. In less than 2 weeks on SBM she has gone from sweating just on the neck to total body sweating. This indicates that non-sweating is possibly due to gut inflammation.

            I’m sure a researcher will find the answer but for those with horses suffering (and I mean SUFFERING) from non-sweating, these owners now have a working solution.

            Please read this blog and all the comments there: https://theequinepractice.com/no-sweat/

          3. What i’ve noticed is that with as hot the temperatures 93-100 have been here in Utah the last two summers my horse has not been sweating this summer as much as I would have expected. She doesn’t have a fan where she’s been the last two summers either. She sweats but what I’m seeing is she doesn’t get wet but that she’ll leaves white streak marks on her body which is salt. She never used to do this before. Clydesdales need cooler temperatures.

  8. My 2 yr old racehorse -currently doing fast work 3x weekly- has now been a month without grain. She lives out on good, unfertilized pasture, has a small amount (2lb) of soya for protein and fish oil for the proven benefits to wind and erythrocyte flexibility during extreme exertion. Working well and looking good. Actual bodyweight unchanged (we have scales), however has definitely “tightened up” her body shape, which was a bit too bulky before. Her coat is super shiny. She is very calm. My feed bill has shrunk to almost nothing. And, still working barefoot on fabulous hooves! Thank you for your challenge which gave me the confidence to try what I “knew” was right. PS she has also grown since cutting out grain, so obviously getting sufficient energy.

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      Thanks for this incredible testimony for a no-grain life style in race horses.

      There has been some research on racing performance in Standardbreds in Sweden fed only hay. They have data that shows no diminished race results between grain fed and no grain horses. A Google search did not find the study but I know it is out there. But then again, we have your own account which we need more of. Please come back with your race results and, more importantly, the health and soundness report.

      Thanks too for finding my blog and trying this. It takes courage to do something different than what the rest of the sport does. Kudos to you!

  9. Nope Elaine–not the same in my opinion with seeing results on 3 horses in my barn. every horse greatly improved being off the prascend with top line, hair coat, fungus, appetite, sweating. I use chase tree berry and the smallest dose of pergolide. All horses on prascend had issues and all disappeared when off the prascend–hummmm.

    1. Whats the smallest dose youre talking about? MY horse was losing her topline before I ever put her on Prascend and that’s the only issue shes had.

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        I’ll let Judy answer this but I have seen many horses have adverse effects from pergolide from poor hair coat to inappetence. Remember that this medicine is a replacement for the neurotransmitter dopamine but doesn’t treat the underlying dysfunction of the transmission of signals from the hypothalamus to the pituitary. It is only a hypothesis that this dysfunction may be secondary to the bigger problem of chronic protein deficiency because horses diagnosed as “Cushing’s” are usually older (indicating chronicity) and also have poor hair coats, poor hooves, poor immune system and a poor top line.

        Always adjust any medical dosing with the support of your attending vet and do this gradually with testing of values along the way. Assuming that adding protein will eliminate the need for any prescribed medication is wrong, but it does allow the development of a discussion with your vet who will be able to help you adjust or eliminate any medication correctly. This is not an CYA statement but as a veterinarian myself, it is a logical statement and is in the best interest of your horse.

        https://www.thehorsesadvocate.com/pituitary-dysfunction-what-is-cushings-disease-in-horses/

        1. In response to Elaine Winter….. I am not a vet, but a horse woman and owner of a small farm in SFL. 3 horses, 2 of which were mine , we’re all diagnosed with Cushings disease about the same time, summer 3 or 4 years ago. All horses were over 15. All horses went on Prascend around the same time. All horses were on 4, 5, or 6 pills a day, depending on what their blood values were, gradualy increasing the dose to become Theraputic. From the first few doses, all horses displayed lack of appetite and dull expression, which was to improve over continued dosing. My horse, a supreme Cookie Monster, would not take the dose, even in cored out carrots, apples, hay cubes. We physically dosed him w/ a syringe. My 2 quit sweating. All horses, my 2 are Black and white APHAa and one Black Bay Arab, turned orange on their black markings. All horses developed extreme fungus and rain rot ( my one horse had never had fungus his entire life).. Over maybe 6 months or so, I decided to self medicate, and slowly reduce the Prascend. My 2 were not IR. My gut was telling me the Prascend side effects was detrimental to the benefit. My boarder w/ the Arab call the company, and they suggested the Arab was getting the dose of a draft horse, but contrary, the vet was running blood work to get the ACTH level close to normal- thus increasing the dose accordingly as per dose recommendation. My vets whose clients were on Prascend we’re seeing many problems with their clients horses w/ hair coat fungus, color, rain rot. My vet suggested I try peroxide, the compounded formula, and I saw immediate improvement. My one horse died from an unrelated cause so he’s out of my observation, but now there are 2 horses, mine and the boarding Arab w/ Cushings ( she is also IR) . My horse improved in hair coat, hair color, appetite, bright and happy, shiny and good body weight- but not sweating well, especially Sept and Oct in hot humid SFL. Last year, on my dental visits from Geoff, we discussed this along with any thing in the universe I can think of to pick his brain. He’s a wealth of information. We discussed protein deficiency and gut inflammation and he suggested his no grain challenge. He had seen almost all horses started to sweat in 2 weeks. Well, Bravo had a sweat going in 2 days on the challenge. He eats hay, hay cubes, hay pellets, and grass and real salt and 1/4 c coolstance. I have added alfalfa to suppliment his protein, as he was on straight Timothy. His weight is good. He looks amazing for a 21 year old. So, some of this is about my observations of Prascend, and some of it is about feeding my horse like a horse and sweating or lack of in SFL. It all relates in my unscientific opinion. It’s just information from my observations of my horses and some boarding horses.

          We also have a 29 yr old OTTB with extreme low body condition, no top line, dropped suspensories, extreme muscle wasting and extreme skin conditions who has not sweat in 20 years. He was on 20plus pounds of grain a day, and all the Timothy and alfalfa and grass he could eat. We did do the no grain challenge, he did actually gained weight, his skin/hair coat/color greatly improved. He gets clammy, and slightly wet on the neck and up under his arm pits- not dripping sweat, not yet, but he has endured the summer heat much better with what little relief his body has managed to muster. That owner has taken him to NFL this summer and continues the no grain regime, and says he’s doing well.

          In winter, I have a boarder who is an equine nutritionist. She also suggests a high protein diet and said many horses are protein deficient. When she and Geoff said the same thing in unrelated instances it made me go huuummmmmmm. Feeding this way is less complicated. The horses seem to have improved.

          Too Much Information? Sorry. I think Geoff is on to something here from my personal experience. Read the whole blog on equine nutrition if you are really interested in equine nutrition. I think it relates to huma nutrition also.

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            Well done Judy!! Thanks for believing and being an advocate for your horses.

            In all things, we need to trust our senses. If what you are doing for your horses isn’t working then keep asking the question, “Why?” If the answer you get doesn’t make sense, keep asking, “Why?” until your senses say, “OK, I’m good with that.”

            “Why” is what has been driving me and I appreciate this detailed account as it clearly answers the “why” of the PPID and pergolide debate. Any medicine should solve the problem with no side effects HOWEVER, the reason BEHIND the disease seems never to be discussed. For example, the non-sweating issue has dozens of remedies but no reason why. So when I found out that removing grains and grain byproducts started horses to sweat again, I discovered the cause of non-sweating. Maybe the molecular reason is still not understood but at least a cause that can be removed is now established.

            So keep asking “Why?” and keep detailed records as Judy has done in both. Our horses will be happier.

            Thanks again for the time you spent here. We ALL appreciate it.

  10. My 18 year old paint gelding is boarded in the city and maintained in light work. His only access to ‘pasture’ is an urban piece of land where he can graze for 40-60 minutes most days – weather and traffic permitting. He is currently getting Total Equine feed, 20-25 lbs Bermuda hay, Himalayan rock salt, and Previcox daily.

    Am I understanding from your simple guidelines (many thanks for simple!) that I can replace the TE with hay pellets (adding soy meal 10 days later) and change the ‘rock salt’ to pure salt and my horse will receive better nutrition? Does the lack of pasture affect the equation? At what point should alfalfa cubes be introduced, if at all?

    I’m a novice horse owner and a good horse-person wannabe. The no-grain challenge makes absolute sense to me; just need some verification because it almost seems too simple. 😀

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      Just eliminate the TE or, if you want, you can mix some hay pellets with the soybean meal and give this as a “meal” once or twice a day.

      Rock salt is “pure” salt. In other words you should avoid salt with binding ingredients and sugars added. Rock salt will have other minerals in it which is good.

      Alfalfa cubes can be added anytime after the no grain challenge reduces the gut inflammation. Add a few and work it up to the equivalent of 1 flake a day (for a normal size horse – less for ponies and minis).

      Thanks for trying this. “Better nutrition” is really eliminating gut inflammation and replacing lost protein.

  11. We have horses in all stages of life. We feed grass hay, water, salt block, soybean meal and oats. I am going to try your no grain challenge and remove the oats from their diet. My question is regarding studs, late stage pregnancy, lactation mare and weaning goals. What do you change in their diets to account for the nutritional requirements (referring to breeding, lactation and growing) do I just increase their soybean meal intake? What about putting them on a grass alfalfa mix?

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks for removing the oats.

      Stallions – these are seasonal and if they are breeding 40 to 60 mares a season then watch them and feed if they need it.

      Last ⅓ of pregnancy – the mares are supposed to be losing their fat in late winter and early spring. They are using this fat to make ketones and that is what feeds the baby. Adding sugars (grains, “good” hay) adds fuel directly to the foal and may be the reason behind developmental orthopedic disease of the foal at birth or during their rapidly growing stage (OCD, contracted tendons, epiphysitis, etc).

      Lactating mares – the same as late pregnancy above.

      All foals (pre-wean, wean, yearlings up to 36 months of age) – developmental orthopedic diseases are common in well fed and rapidly growing horses. Avoid feeding these any grains.

      What these horses need is a meal of cellulose with starch diminishing over the winter months. As work increases or as your eye sees “weight loss,” determine if it is just fat or fat plus muscle. The goal is to not lose muscle so when the fat is lost, the top line remains.

      Adding protein (soy bean meal, legume pasture or hay such as alfalfa) – most likely needed in the older horses (any gender or use) if there is a chronic deficiency (lost top line, poor hair coat, poor hooves). However for foals that are rapidly developing but are on adequate pasture and or hay (all types of grass and legume) there should only be a need to add a minimum amount of soybean meal to add the missing amino acids. Supplementing with try-amino (lysine, threonine and methionine) will give the 3 limiting amino acids. The key to making sure these foals don’t start to destroy their own protein (gluconeogenesis) is to be sure their gut never becomes inflamed (grain being the primary cause followed by medications). The bottom line is that adding any form of protein: 1) is pointless if the gut is inflamed to the horse is on an anti-ulcer drug and 2) is needed for about 1 to 2 years as the protein reserves are rebuilt but can be decreased or eliminated after this. Foals may only need a handful daily to supply the amino acids missing in the pasture and hay.

      Alfalfa – I like a flake a day for the adults. Yearlings and younger don’t need this but it won’t hurt them either.

  12. Hi Dr. T!
    We live in Western Washington state ans I have TB broodmares who have been off grain since april. I feed them a heavy alfalfa to orchard ratio during winter, and a heavy orchard to alfalfa ratio during the summer months. They have a decent amount of graze from oct to april/may, but nothing that will warrant not feeding them hay. During the dry lot months, they get an 80/20 orchard alfalfa ratio hay twice a day, normally 2 flakes each feeding. water is changed and buckets are cleaned as needed (typically every 1 to 2 weeks depending on how quickly the algae shows up) and filled with fresh clean well water. they do have pink hemilayan salt blocks in their run in shelters. They are never stalled and they are not currently being worked. They are looking great, 2 of them are tipping to a little thicker than I like. I am in the process of putting them on Equine Omega Complete for the full Omega 3,6 and 9 coverage since full graze is not available currently. I am looking at putting them on just alfalfa this winter to see how they do on a straight source vs the mix.
    Knowing that background, my question is this: On no graze and just hay/water/salt, is there a higher chance of colic since they are not constantly eating? Also, would you recommend i do anything differently? We have had them for 4 years now, and all has done well, but I always worry i am not doing enough. Colic is honestly my biggest fear.
    Thanks so much for your time and I hope to meet you one day!!

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Maegan – I’ll be in western WA in 2 weeks!

      Because you are on a no-grain protocol the horses do not appear to have become dependent on carbohydrates throughout the year. However, because they are gaining weight now (as they should before winter) this becomes evidence that they are consuming carbs. Because hay is cut summer grass or legumes, it becomes necessary to look at the carb (sugar) content of the hay. This is known as non-structural carbohydrate or NSC and can be measured by a lab but NOT by our eyes.

      In the real world the pastures become dormant and the NSC becomes low. This forces the horse to convert from glucose as the cellular fuel to ketones. Doing so causes body fat absorption and the horse “looses weight” in body fat but preserves muscle. However when the horse has access to high NSC hay throughout winter they remain fat (winter is still coming is the message) but the cells become exhausted using the poorly efficient glucose (sugar) fuel. The brain thinks they are starving even though body fat keeps forming. For survival the horses starts to convert protein into glucose causing poor top lines (covered by fat and not seen), poor hair coat and poor hooves.

      The result is a chronic and insidious loss of amino acids. To prevent this you can either give poor quality hay throughout winter and allow the horses to become thin or you can supplement with a variety of amino acids (alfalfa and soy bean meal) to compensate.

      In your favor is the fact that the gut microbes and gut lining should be healthy and not inflamed because of the all forage diet. I would not worry about the omega fats as cellulose is the primary source of short chain fatty acids in the horse. See https://theequinepractice.com/decomplexicating-equine-nutrition-part-7-the-high-fat-diet/

      1. I have a couple of questions. Where can I get bulk soybean meal for my horse? Also, what isalt ss the best salt I can get in bulk for my horse?

        1. Post
          Author

          SBM should be available from any grain mill or grain distributor. It is readily available in the US as we now have a surplus and the China tariff is lowering its foreign sale. All SBM uses de-hulled soybeans and the oil in the bean is extracted either by pressure or solvents. Either is OK to get. A flow agent is usually added such as lanolin. Some add sugar (molasses) and this should be avoided because all horses love straight SBM.

          Any salt that has nothing but salt in it is OK. It may also have natural minerals but be sure it does not contain sugars such as corn syrup or molasses. Most clients use Himalayan salt or similar blocks.

          1. Post
            Author

            It is what is added to the salt I want you to be looking at. Many salt licks have corn syrup and molasses added.

            Salt in block or loose form is OK. Iodine added is good for people and should be OK for horses. I just don’t like forcing salt on a horse by adding it to their food. Free choice is better.

  13. I started researching and thankfully found your website after I heard about the Plant Paradox and while I’m excited to give it a try from what I heard about it but I got to thinking maybe my 20 year old geldings problem is linked to diet also. He somehow, he’s accident prone, injured the tendon on his front right leg and I have been sweating it for three days now with some success but I thought maybe what he’s eating could be atributed to it? I use to feed him alfalfa and timothy grass pellets but he started to get really chubby despite the fact that he was given only grain with his supplements for his joints and probiotics. Anyway I was wondering what I should do for him is it ok to give him Lubrisyn and Cosequin on the no grain diet? He is now on Triple Crown’s Ration Balancer and pasture for two hours twice a day. I saw on one of the comments that ration balancers are not good to feed so I will quit him on that asap. Thanks in advance for your help!

    1. Post
      Author

      All joint supplements are really proteins. All proteins are broken apart in the stomach acid into peptides and amino acids so what you feed the horse is destroyed. The smaller pieces are then absorbed by the horse and then reassembled in the cells of the horse. Feeding soy bean meal is a less expensive way to get these amino acids into the horse and offer a broader variety of amino acids.

      Additionally, removing the inflammation caused by grains and grain byproducts will help resolve joint conditions these supplements are treating. This is why step one is to remove inflammation (grain and grain byproducts) and step two is to add more protein.

      Please read all the blogs in this section on nutrition to get a full understanding: TheEquinePractice.com/feed

      Thanks for asking and I look forward to hearing about your results.

  14. Doc T I have a question about soybean meal. I looked it up and found soybeans do contain lectin. I also read the amount of lectin can be reduced quite a bit with boiling or soaking. Is soybean meal processed in a way to reduce lectin content?

    1. Post
      Author

      Lectins are found in the outer layers of seeds and plants. In addition, all beans and legumes are reactive in humans but horses have been eating legumes for millions of years. I have not seen a horse in 45 years have a problem with SBM which has been de-hulled (where the lectins are) and the inflammatory oil has been removed. Soy bean meal (SBM) is NOT whole soy beans.

      Boiling does NOT damage lectins in beans but pressure cooking does destroy them. See Dr Gundry’s book for more info for lectins in humans. Unfortunately there are no studies of lectins in horses.

  15. Hi Doc T! 

Thank you so much for the nutrition blogs- as an owner of 2 horses, and working in a community of 15 horses, we are looking to go on a no grain diet. (Also, I just signed up for your course! Excited to delve into it!) As the other horses are not mine, though the owners are interested in also coming on board, I ran the following by our veterinarian who expressed concern about vitamin/mineral deficiencies, especially with the older horses. We are currently located at a farm in Dunnellon, FL. We have ample pasture space for most of the horses (who are able to get along in a big herd well) and feed Alfalfa hay/orchard alfalfa hay. The grass quality here is not great- I am unsure of the type of grass we have now (we just moved to Dunnellon from our farm in Ocala) but it is stringier and less nutritious. The previous farm owner had to actually bring in topsoil to grow grass, though we have quite a bit of sand, still. That being said, and with the expressed concern of the vet, is there a free choice or added vitamins/minerals source you would recommend in addition to the following feeding plan, or will they obtain it from the diet below despite the stringy grass? I apologize if I am being too vague- in being responsible for switching the diets of 15 horses on this farm and not being a vet or nutritionist, I want to double check!

    The plan:
    Timothy Alfalfa Pellets -accordingly per horse weight/training/age- determined by barn owner
    Soybean Meal (dehulled and oil extracted)- approx. 1 lb a day for the time being (your blog instructions were approx 1 lb a day for a 1,000/1,400 lb horse until signs of protein deficiency are gone)
    Coolstance: 2-4 lbs a day depending on horse/training/season

    *Switching to pure (the white) salt blocks (just NaCl, not the giant red blocks we have been using)
    
*Trying to convince the humans to not feed apples/carrots for some time to at least get a baseline of the no grain diet..

    Thank you very much for your time, and all of your information.

    Have a good day,
    Mia

    1. Post
      Author

      1) You say the hay is not ”nutritious.” We need to know what that word means and relative to what. All hay is stored summer forage (grass, legumes, weeds). Therefore by definition it is a supplement to what they normally eat in the environment. This stored forage may be high or low in sugar and cellulose as well as minerals. In reality, the nutrition value is unknown unless tested before feeding. You cannot look at it to tell if the sugar content is high. However, if the gut microbes are healthy and there is no gut inflammation then ALL hay will supply cellulose which will be converted into short chain fatty acids which is an efficient fuel for horses (and humans). In other words, forage and salads are a high fat diet that benefits the horse in so many ways.

      You will learn all of this in the nutrition course.

      How many horses have you heard of with a vitamin or mineral deficiency? The only cases are in starving horses (rescue). However all horses fed carbohydrates year round without supplementing protein are in reality starving. While their bodies become fat, they also consume their own protein (poor top line, poor hair coat, poor hooves, poor immune system, diseases, breeding problems, etc). Protein deficiency is a much greater worry than a vitamin or mineral deficiency. All vitamins are proteins made by the horse or by their bacteria. Get the horse healthy and the vitamins will follow. Minerals are well regulated by the body. Na, Cl, K, P are all readily available in the forage and in any salt lick. Fe is never needed unless there is a large blood loss. Mg should be OK as long as grain with di-calcium phosphate is not given (prevents absorption). Iodine and others are trace and therefore should be available in the natural sources. If the horse excessively sweats he will lose minerals which are added back with electrolyte solutions either orally or IV. Thumps is an electrolyte deficiency but selenium deficiencies are really not seen with the exception of some newborn foals. Iodine deficiency and toxicity both show as goiter and that is usually related to a supplement with kelp seaweed.

      Coolstance should only be fed IF NEEDED in severe underweight horses over 25 years or with a sever winter and very thin horses. You should feed only 1 pound=d of Coolstance per day IF NECESSARY to add fat.

      Avoid the red trace mineral salt blocks because of the added sugar. The Himalayan salt blocks or pure salt are good sources of minerals as well as the water you give (forgot about the minerals in water didn’t you). If you have to you can use the white salt licks but they are not as good as the real salt sources.

  16. Thanks so much for the comment Dr. T. So my next question is, when feeding majority/whole alfalfa diet through winter, what is the best thing to give them to prevent phosphorus absorption, etc?

    1. Post
      Author
  17. That makes sense. It was supposed to say “to prevent lack of P absorption.” I have decided to go more a 60% alfalfa to 40% orchard but am concerned there is far more calcium and not enough Phosphorus. I am also concerned about Selenium and foals born in the winter month (race horses). I have several farms say they grain a “high quality feed” for horses (pregnant and lactating mares, and growing foals) who are on 100% alfalfa. I am trying to stay away from grain, period. When I asked my Vet, the chinese telephone basically was that I need to mix my alfalfa with orchard and prevent a super heavy alfalfa ratio but I also need to add a supplement to ensure enough Phosphorus is being consumed and absorbed. I think I am freaking myself out over small things but I want my horses, from straight out of the womb to their last breath, to have the best nutrition and care. Especially when I am asking them to do some much. All your info has been beyond amazing and I can’t thank you enough for your input and responses!!

    1. Post
      Author

      I think your thought that you are worrying too much about the little things is insightful. Most people do this forgetting that horses have been doing well for 55 million years. But then we ask of them things they had not planned on doing (racing at a certain time etc…) which has concerned that we are depleting them of something. Then we all tend to ADD something and this further upsets the balance. This process you are not alone in.

      I recommend 1 flake of alfalfa hay a day more as a protein variety. I also suggest adding soy bean meal as the main protein source. This is so important especially for race horses as well as growing horses. Remember that proteins are EVERYTHING and not just connective tissue (muscles, tendons, etc). They are also the vitamins, enzymes, immunoglobulins, hormones, neurotransmitters…. If you are low on one essential amino acid you will be low on many of the proteins made of that amino acid. Like a dictionary missing one letter.

      Gotta go…

  18. I am intrigued and would like very much to follow this diet for my 8 yr old hard keeper TB. Presently he is on 8lbs of Triple Crown Senior a day, quality Timothy, one fat flake of Tim/orchard/alfalfa twice daily, and out to pasture all day and only brought in at night if bad weather. As pasture grass is going dormant, I will be increasing hay. I’m worried that fasting him from the grain for 2 weeks will result in him dropping massive weight. Excuse me if you’ve answered this before, but what exactly should I give him to transition him to this diet? Hay pellets? He has no underlying health issues, but he drops weight immediately whenever I decrease his grain. Also, I’m in SC where there is little selenium in the soil for our fescue/orchard pasture. Thank you!!

    1. Post
      Author

      This is a common observation that horses “drops weight.” What is really happening here is that when the gut inflammation of the grain is eliminated the horse will start to remove the fat that was laid down because of the inflammation and mitochondrial exhaustion both from the daily intake of carbohydrates. What is now seen is the chronic loss of muscle from gluconeogenesis.

      Please read all the articles at TheEquinePractice.com/feed This is where I take away all the misunderstandings we as horse owners have been dwelling in while the horses become unhealthier by the day due to us feeding them like anything BUT a horse. In becoming the advocate for the horse we all need to learn, understand and take action. Horses are horses! Why do we continue to create them as anything else?

      Trust the process. Add protein to build the top line. Add non-inflammatory fat with Coolstance if you feel it is necessary (cold temperatures). Most importantly, write down all of your observations and include how the horse is feeling off of grain. If he has fat loss but is feeling more relaxed and less hungry then you are on the right track.

  19. Hi I am very interested in trying your no grain. My question is I have a 2 1/2 yr old gelding that is tested positive for PSSM 1. He is on triple Crown ratio balancer, sunflower seeds, Nanio vit E, alfalfa hay, alfalfa pellets, mag, Can you please advice me what is best for him. Thank you

    1. Post
      Author

      Poly saccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) is a genetic mutation that causes horses to have difficulty storing glycogen which is the way the muscles of the horse have quick access to glucose for fuel. The alternative fuel is ketones which become more abundant when the diet is low in glucose (sugar). The recommended diet for horses with PSSM is low sugar which is the essence of the no grain diet. In addition you need to monitor the starch (non structural carbohydrates) of the hay and pasture.

      Most ration balancers are filled with inflammatory ingredients which adds to the sugar load. All seeds (sunflower and grains) have lectins that inflame causing leaky gut syndrome which also affect insulin. Cellulose is a high fat diet (see my blogs at TheEquinePractice.com/feed)

  20. Hello, Doc!

    My 8 yr old hard keeper OTTB has been on your diet for about two weeks and has probably gained 50 lbs. Consider me converted. For the first time, he doesn’t appear ‘ribby.’ Now here is something else interesting: I retired this horse a year and a half ago from a soft tissue stifle injury from his racing days. He was diagnosed, by ultrasound, as having 4 soft tissue issues in the stifle, ranging from inflammation in the synovial lining to a pocket of fluid about the size of a quarter. No effusion could be felt by palpating. X-rays clean. Following prescribed rehab protocol, he was still rested for over a year, hand walked, small paddock turn out, but to no avail as, even with ace, I couldn’t prevent him from spooks and bucks during rehab in which he repeatedly reinsured himself. So I gave up and turned him out. Every few months I’d stick him on the lunge to see if there was any improvement— he was never crippled, just a toe drag and a slightly shorter step in the left hind—but the unevenness was still there. It may be anecdotal, but I put him on the lunge yesterday and this flat soled, low heeled horse with also slight navicular change in right fore looked great. He started out slightly short behind and within a couple of minutes on a big circle, he looked completely sound—most notably when I watched his transition from canter to trot—took full weight on that hind leg instead of a short stride or hop to land in trot in which he stretched over his top line and used his entire body. Even better— he’s usually a spookaholic who explodes on the lunge and he gave only one buck at the beginning of the canter (perhaps expecting a twinge of pain?) and that was IT. He was completely obedient.

    From what I witnessed, I think it’s worth the investment now to have another ultrasound to see if his injuries (all labeled mild to moderate, chronic, but with ‘good prognosis’) have indeed healed. I read in your blog that this diet (Timothy pellets and sbm) should only be continued for a year? And then I should transition him to…?

    Anyway, I can’t thank you enough. He looks and feels great.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thanks Pam for this great report. People removing inflammatory foods from their diet are also noticing decreased joint inflammation. Studies show that lectins, after invading the gut’s tight junctions, can go to the joints to cause inflammation there.

      Glad you are a convert! Your horses are glad too.

  21. This is absolutely fascinating! Thank you for all the informative articles!
    All my horses have been off grain for over 5 years. They are on pasture 24/7, and are fed grass hay.

    Just this past weekend, I brought a new 7 month old Oldenburg filly home.
    Her diet has been pasture, Alfalfa/orchard grass-free choice, and ration balancer, “equalizer”. Can you suggest how you would set up her nutrition program?

    1. Post
      Author

      The idea of a “ration balancer” still eludes me. It is a catchy phrase that makes us think that adding one will balance out all the inadequacies we are having with our horse’s nutrition.

      Please read all of the nutrition blogs or enroll in the nutrition course to understand what you need to feed your horses. Protein deficiency appears to be the underlying factor in so many problems horses have. While grazing a wild field is normal, grazing a limited pasture may also lead to a deficiency of certain amino acids which in essence limits the formation of certain proteins. Trying to make the word “W A T C H” with only the letters “W A T and H” is impossible but with the available letters you can make “W H A T” This is why I suggest all horses be given an extra source of broad spectrum amino acids in sufficient quantity. Soy bean meal does this nicely for horses and does it inexpensively.

      Read the blog about feeding seniors and you will understand my philosophy that all horses should be fed the same from weaning until death.

As of November 2018 I will no longer reply to comments. There is just not enough time in the day! I sincerely appreciate all of your interest and am grateful for the time you take to comment here. Doc T

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