The Equine Practice, Inc

Why Horses Should Not Be Fed Grain

Everything you swallow is NOT inside your body

Think about this for a bit.

The things you and your horse swallow is placed inside a tube running through you from the mouth to the anus. There are no little people inside of you opening little port holes in this tube and shouting, “Got any mashed potatoes?”

In fact, if any of the “stuff” inside this tube escaped through a hole and entered your body, you would die – a very painful and agonizing death.

So what happens to the meals you and your horse eat? A simple process occurs that breaks down all food into microscopic molecules and it is these molecules that get transported across the intact but porous tube to inside the body. After this, the molecules are delivered to the cells for energy, construction, maintenance and repair. Very simple but very sophisticated where all needs to work correctly. When it doesn’t, lack of ease occurs and is known as disease to most people.

Disease can come in various forms. We all have heard of bacterial disease such as e coli that causes severe diarrhea, dehydration, and death. But there are also subtle diseases we all know about such as irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, and chronic wasting. But what does this all have to do with feeding grain to horses?

Looking back 50 years ago to 1967 there was certainly an interstate system but it wasn’t completed yet. Transport of materials such as grain was still in it’s infancy. So was sophisticated farming and distribution. The net result was that we did not have grain for our horses available from a local feed store delivered to our barn and stacked in neat, colorful 50 pound bags (easy for women to lift as determined by marketing research) in our feed rooms after just a phone call to the store. When I started with horses in 1973, we had 96 pound sacks of oats delivered 500 hundred at a time to our large farm by box car. It would take half a day with 4 people and 2 small dump trucks to unload from the rail road station and deliver them to the farm where we stacked them ourselves. It was great exercise. Young studs (me) would sometimes challenge other studs (Sam) to carry 2 bags at a time from the box car corner to the truck bed, and on occasion 3.

A few years later a new product became available called “Sweet Feed” which was an unregulated bag of mixed grains, supplements and molasses. The problems started to occur soon after with obesity and laminitis.

Here is an easy question. Why can 1 donut cause one person to gain weight while in another person, they remain thin? The donut is the same with the same ingredients and calories. Why? Maybe not so easy.

Let’s go back to the idea of food being broken down to molecules and those being transported across the solid intestinal wall. We might all agree that there are certain things allowed and some things NOT allowed to pass. Water for example is allowed better than the pilot through the TSA entry point at the airport. In the same analogy, a person with a gun will be stopped by the TSA exam and forbidden access into the airport (unless he is recognized as a officer of the law). Some of these forbidden things are bacteria and toxins. In fact when they do show up for transport, the intestines accelerate their one way movement towards the end (diarrhea).

But what about the things in between that are allowed but with restriction? Like the TSA agent that asks the passenger to step aside for a personal exam of their baggage, some foods will cause IN SOME PEOPLE AND HORSES more scrutiny. Like the donut, some people’s intestines react with inflammation as the defense mechanisms pick up activity for certain foods. Think of people with a gluten intolerance or any other allergy. The result of this is basically one thing – consumption of energy from the battle the body puts forth to try to keep these molecules from being absorbed through the wall.

All inflammation is painful to a degree and also causes damage to the surrounding area. In horses, I have seen this exhibit as discomfort and intolerance when being brushed, girthed, clipped, or ridden (bucking, rearing, crow hopping). A general disinterest and uneasiness in the barn is common which in some horses can escalate to bad behavior including kicking the walls and attacking people with their teeth.

Other behavior associated with gut inflammation is colic, chronic diarrhea (the squirts following the normal expressing of feces), non-sweating, avoidance to loading onto a trailer for shipping, uneasiness when being trailered (kicking, weaving, pawing), and chronic poor keepers (underweight) with abundant intake of food.

In my practice, horse owners willing to try the two week no-grain challenge have seen the elimination of all of these signs of hind gut inflammation listed above in as little as 3 days. It is important to understand that it takes up to 6 weeks for the lining of the intestines to fully heal hence I like to have people trying the challenge to go at least 2 weeks before determining if their horse is inflamed by grain.

Time for some more information to help you understand the digestion process. The horse is a continuous eater. While most of you realize this, there are many that don’t realize that cows (and all ruminants including sheep, goats, deer, etc), dogs, cats, humans, and most other common animals you know are meal takers. The evidence is in the anatomy of the horse. They have no gall bladder to store the bile produced by the liver to digest the food within the intestines. This is because they have no need to store it waiting for a meal because they are true continuous eaters.

The horse is known as a hind gut fermenter meaning that their colon is large and is made for digesting fiber (grass). It is also filled with trillions of bacteria that ferments the fiber into molecules with abundant energy production and absorption of amino acids to maintain life. Simply put, the horse was made to thrive on only grass and water.

So where did the idea of feeding grain come from? I’m not sure but like the donut to a human, grain taste good to the horse. As farmers using horses to plow and harvest the grain discovered, feeding the horses some of the oats seemed to help them along and give them some extra energy. One of the first diseases from this was “Monday Morning Sickness” where horses were fed their normal grain ration on Sunday but not worked. On Monday the horses would suffer severe cramps from the unused lactic acid production (energy formed by the digestion of grain). We call this today tying up or EPSSM (equine polysaccharide storage myopathy) which has a genetic component in many working draft horses.

Today we have several diseases with names that roll off the tongue of horse owners everywhere: insulin resistance, metabolic disease, obesity, body condition score of 8 or 9, Cushing’s, and of course lameness secondary to chronic lack of protein and excessive weight. These were not diseases that existed in veterinary text books in the 70’s and even early 80’s.

Instead of asking why these diseases are occurring at epidemic levels, we look to treatments. Anyone who has had their pony suffer laminitis knows the heartache, yet I am shocked when I hear of a laminitic pony still being fed a handful of grain “for his supplements.”

As with any inflammation, it is NOT the amount of cause, it is the PRESENCE of ANY amount in some horses. Some people can be stung by dozens of bees while one sting can kill another person. Some people eat peanuts by the handful while in others, one peanut can swell their bodies grotesquely and stop them from breathing.

What about the poor keeper that won’t gain weight when being fed as much grain as possible? The answer is that he is severely inflamed. The amount of energy being consumed by the horse to keep the grain out is greater than the amount of energy being produced by the digestion of the grain. A net negative energy consumption occurs causing the horse to use fat and muscle to maintain life. In these horses, removing all grain actually causes the horse to start gaining weight.

What is the 2 week no-grain challenge?

Get a calendar and mark the start date and record all your observations about the horse including physical and behavioral. Then remove all grain from the diet of the horse (no weaning is necessary – just stop all at once). This includes corn, oats, barley, wheat, wheat middlings, sugar beet pulp, rice and wheat bran, oat hulls, etc. Feed only water, pure rock salt (no additives), grass, and hay (grass hay and legumes such as alfalfa). That’s it.

Your horse may go through a behavior withdrawal at feeding time but this will pass in about 2 days. If you insist on offering a timed feeding (again, they are continuous eaters so the concept of breakfast or dinner makes no sense to them), then offer a “meal” of a few alfalfa cubes either dry or soaked in water.

When I say just grass, hay, salt, and water, I did not mean that treats, candy, carrots, or sugar cubes are OK. Remove all supplements too because most of them have grain of some sort. Remove the red mineral salt block (corn syrup and molasses). Just grass, hay, pure salt, and water for 2 weeks. Record your observations. Get others to help you observe without telling them what is going on. Make your own decision on weather or not to feed grain to your horse. The challenge costs you nothing and I have no agenda in you doing this other than for you to see for yourself the changes your horses go through.

Interestingly, in most cases, the horse needs no extra hay to maintain their body condition. In fact, most start to gain weight and become calmer. Read the testimonies of owners who have done the challenge (and be sure to write your own to add).

Some caveats –
1) In very old horses (25 years and older) be careful because the chronic inflammation may cause them to actually loose weight without grain. In these cases get a medium chain triglyceride source of fat to add energy that is non-inflammatory. I recommend CoolStance® which is shredded coconut meal as a great way to add non-inflammatory energy. Avoid vegetable oils such as corn oil because they are inflammatory.

Another product I recommend is Renew Gold which has flax seed, rice bran, and CoolStance® combined into a pellet. Start with ¼ pound and slowly work up to no more than a pound for a full size horse. Too much coconut will cause loose feces.

Finally – use your eye to evaluate every horse on the no-grain challenge. If this doesn’t work out for your horse, going back to what you were doing is simple and without problems. More importantly, if it does work and the bad things in your horse disappear but you want to add supplements, be sure to read the label carefully and find a supplement with little to no grain. Add only ONE SUPPLEMENT AT A TIME and wait 2 weeks and observe. If all goes well, then you can add another supplement if you must.

There is still more to tell you such as additional protein which will require more articles. But if you have any questions, go to the comment section below first to see if it has been asked. If not, add it to the comments and I will answer as soon as I can.

Before I go, I want to tell you about the front page article in the Wall Street Journal on April 9, 2016 – “Awash with corn, imports increase.” We have a surplus of corn that the users are not buying now because it is cheaper to purchase and import it from Venezuela. So guess where all this extra corn is going? To the new market developed by the farmers 30 years ago – horse owners.

2 weeks, no cost to you, improved horse – a no-brainer.

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Comments 122

  1. Pingback: No Sweat! | The Equine Practice, Inc

  2. If my horse eats only alfalfa hay and fresh grass all day what balancer for proper vitamins and minerals is recommended?

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      This is only for a week or so to see if your horse starts sweating. But if you do continue, be careful of “ration balancers because almost every one I’ve looked at has grain, especially wheat middlings. READ THE INGREDIENTS. Find vitamins amd minerals mixed with a variety of proteins – and avoid inflammatory items.

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          Absolutely. All blogs have a Creative Commons copyright. No changes plus attribution. Thanks!! Doc T

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          Absolutely – the more who read it the more horses helped! All my blogs are Creative Commons Copyrighted which means that as long as you don’t change a thing and attribute the article to The Equine Practice, Inc you are free to copy and post or use without permission (but thanks for asking).

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      1. I have a horse who has had diarrhea for three years. I don’t feed her any grain. The vet cannot figure it out and we have tried everything from supplements to gut helpers to probiotics etc. She eats grass and grass alfalfa hay. She always seems very uncomfortable. Any suggestions?

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          Have you tried the Succeed fecal test for hind gut ulcers? You vet should be able to get this. If positive then try Succeed.

          Also test for heavy metals. If found they need to be chelated to be removed.

          Also test for any enteric bacteria that don’t belong there (ex salmonella).

          Probiotics don’t work because they are digested by the stomach acid. Prebiotics though are food for the gut bacteria and the best is fresh grass. Any chance of moving her to a new field of grass?

          Some horses cannot tolerate alfalfa hay and some grass hays. Try different varieties.

          Remember no treats – even apples and carrots. Only let her eat what her ancestors ate at least to determine what may be causing the diarrhea. I have one horse in SC with the same issue. Adding a little senior feed seemed to help. I know, this doesn’t follow my advice but every horse is an individual and the gut bugs are also tailored to that individual. You are feeding them and NOT your horse. This will take some work and detailed observations with your vet. Please let us all know what you find with your trials. Thanks in advance.

    2. Wendy, The only way to know is to take samples of several bales of your hay and get an analysis done at a lab. You can do the same with your pasture. Take handfuls from a BUNCH of places in the field and dry it. It is not just the amounts of minerals to consider, but also the ratios of each to the other. There are other needs as well, such as amino acids, and more.

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        Your local cooperative extention agent or agriculture commission (or whatever it is called in your area) should be able to do this for you for free. Many Ag supply stores will do this too in order to apple the correct treatment to your fields.

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      The horses should just eat pasture and hay. We don’t feed haylage usually in the US but it is the cellulose that the gut bacteria want so I would assume haylage would be OK. Just don’t feed any grains or carrots or treats made with grains.

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          Name calling gets everyone nowhere. So rather than calling me crazy take the time to investigate all the blogs that describe the science behind my thoughts. Sure horses have been fed grain for centuries but horses are about 55 million years old and in servitude of man for about 4000 years. Grain was not carried by cowboys or the Calvary or the explorers crossing and discovering this country.

          Horses in the wild would have access to grains only in their season and not throughout the year. It is the CONSTANT feeding of grain that is leading to carbohydrate deficiency, mitochondrial exhaustion and chronic protein deficiency. In the 46 years I have been with horses and the 35 years as a vet I have seen an increase in disease and unsoundness. In fact there are several diseases commonly seen now that were not in the text books in the 1980’s. Examples include dropped fetlocks, kissing spine and EOTRH of the incisor teeth. Why is there an epidemic of suspensions injuries? Why are the top lines of so many horses poor? Why does every horse seem to have a history of insulin resistance, PPID / Cushing’s disease, Lyme’s and EPM? Even the genetics behind EPSM is triggered by diet.

          How in the world did the horse survive 55 million years without the help of humans and their abundant supply of grain. So, my friend, I agree that grain has been fed for centuries. But it was fed only by those who could afford it and only when needed, and in my opinion the horse has been paying for this in the demise of their health. It’s time to stop drinking the marketing cool aid and start asking why are these horses suffering so many “new” ailments. When I do, especially when I have so many years with them, I see only the advent of the abundance and the high availability of grains, supplements and marketing miscommunication. Take a moment and explore the possibility and then return here and let us all know what you discovered on your own. Thanks again for commenting here – I truly mean this. My goal is to reach everyone but like in politics, we need to listen and keep open minds. It is how we learn and advance – and how we become advocates for our horses.

    2. I have been a straight hay feeder long before it became known the issues grain was causing. We feed haylage in the winter and have never had any issues, horses love it and come through winter with great weight. Never sileage, it is generally grain based in our area.

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        Haylage is not commonly used in the US but is popular throughout the world. Whether it is hay or haylage, it is all last year’s summer grass preserved and stored. It is better than any grain but it is still circumventing the idea behind carbohydrate dependency and will lead to protein deficiency. It will keep fat on the backs of horses so they look good coming out of winter but the “weight” seen is more fat and less protein. The protein is not lost just in the top line muscles but all connective tissue, hooves, immune system, neurotransmitters, enzymes and other systems. It may even upset the normal gut flora leading to vitamin and mineral imbalances.

        The point here is to remember that when feeding a horses in a way that is not in alignment with the millions of years of ebbs and flows of nature will alter the overall health. This said, haylage and hay is always better than grain. Just add some protein and all should be better even though it is looking good to our eyes.

        1. What are the differences between baled hay and haylage which above you say “still circumventing the idea behind carbohydrate dependency”, or are you saying both do?

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            Haylage ferments the grass which may eliminate any lectins and may prevent mold. I am not sure of the effect on sugar levels.

            The idea of the ebb and flow of carbohydrates is the driving force behind what human research is finding for the cause of obesity and insulin resistance / diabetes now. Alzheimer’s is now considered diabetes type 3 and is related to gut inflammation.

            In south FL and other places there is a company delivering daily freshly sprouted grass hydroponically grown. I am concerned that horses being fed this daily throughout the year may get further away from this ebb and flow.

            So I am saying that feeding last summer’s grass (or hydroponically grown grass) in any form could be considered carbohydrate dependency BUT then how do we prevent severe starvation in heavy winters or produce competitive horses? For me the answer is to use your eyes. Don’t worry if your horse becomes a little thin over winter or a little fat in the summer. It’s OK and healthy. But horse owners freak out when their horses loose weight in the winter so they feed them more. This only adds fat and covers up the insidious loss of top line muscle and overall protein.

  3. You should check into sweet date feed. All natural feed no added sugars. Wonderful feed. Research it. I feed it to all ages with no problems. Been using it for almost three years.

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      Thanks Connie – but it’s not the sugars but the lectins in the grains that are preventing the horse from using the glucose at the cellular level. Decreasing sugars helps but removing the grains with their lectins is the underlying issue that causes leaking gut, hormone communication disruption, and decreased protein absorption among other things. Dates are much older than grains so there is a chance that the horse (and humans) have accommodated for their lectins and thus you are getting good results. Remember, all fruits eaten ripe and in season have the ability to add fat to the animal eating them. But fruit fed out of season only continues to add fat and thus the animal no longer has the natural ebb of weight needed as spring approaches.

  4. My horse has no grain at all, he is fed a completely natural all grass based diet with yeassaac slippery elm marshmallow and milk thistle and still he has got an upset tummy recently, I think it must be down to the frosty grass. I am at my wit’s end. Suggestions please

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      Emma – gut inflammation is caused by the bacteria in the gut being damaged and losing their proportions. For example, there are 700 individual species of bacteria found in the mouth of humans. Adding one NSAID or one antibiotic damages the relationships by removing a whole section of good bacteria. The gut is a very delicate environment that is easily upset by adding things a human or horse never had access to. The “No-Grain Challenge” is all about removing all feed that is not normally ingested and giving the gut bacteria a chance to reestablish itself. In really sick humans and other animals, a fecal infusion (normal feces with normal gut bacteria made into a suspension and given via rectal tube into the colon) has saved countless lives. I think not feeding grain is an easier way to help the horse. Remember that if you are not getting the results you are looking for as you feed hime what you are feeding him, then you need to change what you are feeding or your results won’t change. Pasture, hay and water for 145 days. Then add back the items you mentioned – one at a time – and wait a week and record the signs.

  5. Very interesting article. I have a 3yr old that does everything hard up to the wall. Have had her checked by a Vet/Chiro, nothing wrong with her. So maybe it could be diet. But, she doesn’t get any grain. She gets lots of hay, Meadow & Lucerne. Hard feed is Wheaten Chaff, Lucerne Chaff, wet Copra with salt 60g, Lime 30g, Rosehip 5g and added Linseeds 0.25 cup. Could such a small amount of Rosehip and Linseeds cause inflammation?

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      The short answer is yes. Remove them for 2 weeks and observe. Remember that seeds have the lectins that are trying to make us ill. It is not how much for sensitive individuals. Look at how much gluten (a plant lectin) is needed in a person with Celiac disease to be affected. Not much! So just pasture, hay and water for 2 weeks. If you feel they need the other things, add one and wait and observe.

      1. I am confused by your comments about avoiding lectins and your advice to use soy for protein. It is my understanding that soy has lectins in it. Why then, is soy a good source of protein for a horse?

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          To be clear, I recommend soybean meal (SBM). This is not whole soybeans. The hull has been removed, the oil extracted and has been heated to destroy unwanted enzymes.

          Lectins are in all plants and the ones in grain are well known to affect humans. This is one of several reasons not to feed grains to horses. But soybeans are not a grain but a legume. Horses do well with legumes (alfalfa, clover, peanuts and peanut hay) whereas humans do not.

          SBM is an excellent source for proteins in horses because 1) it has high bioavailability of these proteins (80%), 2) it has all the essential amino acids, 3) it is very economical and abundant and 4) horses love it. There may be one or two horses in hundreds who have a dislike for SBM but the vast majority of horses that have used SBM as a protein source are reporting substantial results.

          And one more thing. I was feeding SBM in 1973. This is not a new idea But something with a long track record.

  6. I’ve not fed grains for a long time, but our “hard keeper” is now getting Renew Gold and rice bran pellets to keep his weight on. Can you recommend an acceptable amount of rice bran?

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      Renew Gold has rice bran as its main ingredient. Remember that fat is usually a sign of gut inflammation. I like feeding Coolstance which is the 2nd ingredient in Renew Gold. If you can’t get Coolstance in your area then Renew Gold is an acceptable 2nd choice. No need to add rice bran.

      The expression “weight” is often misused with horse owners. If you really want to put weight on your horse quickly, purchase a weight belt from the local scuba store and put it on his back! In reality, as you remove the inflammatory grain, the horse immediately consumes the stored sugar in the form of fat on his back. However, because of the inflammation and the horse “starving” in the midst of all the sugar being fed to him, you now notice the poor top line caused by chronic protein loss and muscle wasting.

      Instead of adding a non-inflammatory fat such as coconut (Coolstance) you should be adding a source of protein (whey and soy protein). This will add the top line your eyes are seeing as “weight loss.” See my blog

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      Great question! These “kids” are like teenage boys eating everything in the fridge and still looking good. It seems almost irrelevant if these hard exercising 2 and 3 year olds are fed a lot of grain. The damage is still occurring and if not seen now, will be seen as they get older.

      Removing the lectins in grains will reduce the gut inflammation which will lead to many good things seen in older horses on the no grain challenge: calm and focused work ethic, exceptional recovery post race, reduced joint inflammation and healthier skin and hooves. Be sure to add protein to these working young horses. If the feet and skin look good then you are probably feeding enough of a broad spectrum of amino acids. See

      Try it on a few horses in training especially if they are high strung and not working to their potential. It won’t cost you any money but you may start to see the horse come into himself. Remember to add some protein if you just feed hay and water. They should have lean body mass but good muscle definition and strong top line.

      1. I have an ex standardbred race horse stud came to me underweight, dropped pasterns and overall unthriftiness. Put him right to haylage, (protein is higher) didn’t take 2 months to have him back to a beautiful, healthy horse. That being said I think alot of race horses would benefit greatly from grain removal. I also think the main thing people don’t understand is that they are constant grazers and feeding twice a day just hay may not show them the true benefits… Mine have hay available 24/7.

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          Horses are one of only three groups of animals that are grazers. The other two are tapirs and rhinos. These are grouped as odd toed ungulates. There is no gall bladder in these animals because they are hind gut fermenters of ground plants. This is a very inefficient digestive process while ruminants (even toed ungulates and browsers) are the world’s best digestive system.

          And while the protein may be higher in haylage it may not have all the essential amino acids. Remember that it isn’t just “protein” but it is the quality of the proteins. The more variety the better.

  7. T is an Apx QH, 21 years old and is a hard keeper. He has all the symptoms you have described. I feed him Nutrena Sr. and Boost supplement, hay at night, pasture during the day. I’m starting the no grain diet tomorrow. Thanks for the article.

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      Please come back and let us know how it went. With winter upon most of the northern world, remember to make him comfortable as you do this. Also remember to deworm him if that is a problem. But for almost every hard keeper (exceptions are the 30+ year olds) the results of the horse gaining weight after about 2 weeks is amazing. Remember that in the first 2 weeks the horse may not gain or even loose about 10 pounds as the gut microbes readjust. Usually by day 3 the feeding anxiety goes away and by day 10 you will be convinced that you are on the right path.

      Looking forward to your update.

  8. One question, 100 years ago the soil was not depleted due to over farming, In Ontario we are selenium depleted, essential in prevention of white muscle disease and placenta development, enough cannot be found in grass and hay. So for bred mares and foals what would you suggest?

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      Great question!

      Back in the late 1980’s at Cornell the researchers were testing Selenium supplementation in cattle and they were not getting the results they hoped for. After an investigation they discovered that the mineral content of the water was preventing the cows from absorbing Se. So Se levels in all animals can be affected by not just the lack of it in the soil but the absorption of it in the gut.

      Eliminating the inflammatory grains from the diet might just actually elevate the Se blood levels as the gut will now be able to absorb even low levels in the feed. This is just a hypotheses and in no way is a recommendation for you to try a no grain approach to your pregnant mares. However it may be worth a look especially if you are supplementing now with Se and the mare’s blood levels are still low or you are experiencing retained placentas or WMD.

      You always have the option of injectable Vitamin E and selenium. However in my practice a long time ago I never saw an improvement of RP’s in post foaling mares who were injected with E-Se prior to foaling. This would be an interesting thing to discuss with your vet and if possible, draw some Se blood levels before going “no-grain” and then follow up with samples and note any foaling problems. Let us all know.

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  9. Have you had any experience with a horse urinating more frequently with the ingestion of grain? During a 2 hour outing my 4 yr old horse will sometimes urinate 4-5 times. It seems he urinates more frequently than all my other horses I have owned.

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      Urination is a complex process. The first thing to do is a urinalysis (specific gravity, dipstick and microscopic exam) and blood work for kidney functions. If it is truly associated with grain then it may be part of a hormonal disruption of ADH (anti diuretic hormone) which is diabetes insipidus. This may be tested for by giving pergolide (Prescend) or by removing the grain. Check with your vet to look at these options.

      Signs of diabetes insipidus are increased water consumption and increased urine volume with a low specific gravity.

  10. My pony does not get grain but this happens to him when he eats hay, especially in the winter when the grass is no longer available. And suggestions?

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      I’m sorry Lacy but what is “this?” Do you mean the squirts?

      Be sure he is not getting anything but hay (no carrots, sugar cubes, apples, treats, supplements with grain etc) and if so, then vary the hay he is being given. Be sure that the hay is not treated with anything. Try chopped hay because if his gut can’t digest long stems well, then mimicking the grass length with chopped forage may do the trick. Also eliminate parasites as the shortened day length will cause the encysting of larvae which may lead to gut inflammation. As always, check with your vet.

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      We know the owner of this company and are impressed with their commitment to integrity in their industry. If I were going to feed any grains to horses, these are the people I would go to. No lie. Very honest.

  11. I have a very easy-keeper half-arab pony that gets for Breakfast (dry) 1 cup of Nutrena Topline Balancer and 2 cups of timothy grass pellets -then she’s out on pasture for the day. Then for PM feeding she gets 1 cup of Nutrena Topline Balancer, 2 cups of timothy grass pellets, 1 cup no-molasses beet pulp pellets, 1 tsp of Himlaylan salt, 1 tsp of Vit E & Selenium, 1/3 cup Psylium Husk wetted down – she then gets 2 flakes of hay in her stall overnight. She has lost about 100 lbs since the beginning of October when i started her on this diet. Would she benefit more from not getting anything but hay and pasture grass? But She really needs to have the Vit E and Selenium supplement since we have had 2 episodes of tying up and the vet having to come out.

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      Mindy – It is important to list here the total amount of pasture and hay she is eating. This is the base. Then it is necessary to list the ingredients of all the supplements befor any further analysis can be made. Please reply.

      1. Sapphire will wander with the other 3 horses (1 large thoroughbred, 1 large pony mare and 1 weanling) around the whole 10 acres (4 small fenced off sections) of hilly pasture grazing but there’s not a lot there now with all the snow coverage – so i’m not sure how much grass she’s eating. At night in her stall she gets 2 small flakes (maybe about 10# total) of 1st cutting hay. I get the small 2-stringed bales – they weigh approximately 50 lbs each. The supplements she gets are: 1 tsp of AniMed’s Vitamin E & Selenium (AM & PM feedings), 1 tsp of pure Himalayan salt (AM & PM feedings) and 1/3 cup of AniMed’s AniPysll (psyllum husk) at PM feeding. Sometimes she doesn’t always finish eating up the hay in her stall by the morning either. This is also my winter routine for my horses – they’re stalled at night during winter months because of my hard-keeper Thoroughbred mare. Mid-April to mid-November they are out 24/7 but i rotate them through the 4 sections.

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          I think what she is missing is protein. I don’t see her getting enough in the diet. I see in the follow up that you are no longer feeding the top line balancer. Most balancers have wheat middlings in it which is inflammatory to the gut. I prefer ProAdd Ultimate ( sold through Nutrena because there are no grains in it.

          When you see a loss of any weight (in your case 100 lb) it is important to determine what was lost. If it was just fat then this could be an indicator that inflammation has been removed and this is good. Unfortunately when fat is removed the muscle loss that has also occurred is realized. Adding protein will help to restore this lost muscle and improve the top line as well as tighten up the belly. Be sure to add about 1/4 pound of ProAdd for 250 pounds of horse daily for 6 to 12 months. After this you can decrease the amount.

  12. What would you recommend to supplement if my horse is on a dry lot with no pasture. Also should work be limited during the two week transition from grain?

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      Lisa – The idea is that grain is causing gut inflammation so once it is stopped, your horse should have more energy. Therefore there is no need to limit work and in fact, there is no need to “transition” from grain. Remove it all at once and watch the transition occur as he improves. As far as supplements, first eliminate everything to help the gut restore order in the microbiome. Then find a non-grain protein source or one with as little grain as possible and supplement protein to help the top line. See (become a member for free and log in first).

    1. Post

      ProAdd Ultimate by Progressive Nutrition owned by Nutrena ( – all the extra protein your horse really needs along with the vitamins and minerals we think horses should have. Works well. Also Barn Bag by Life Data works well.

      Feeding extra vit/min without seeing the chronic protein loss will not get you to where you want to be nutritionally with your horses. See The (become a free member and then log in first)

  13. I’m a bit confused. You list rice bran as a grain that should be avoided, yet then recommend Renew Gold which has rice bran as its main ingredient. I am searching for a vitamin/mineral supplement for our easy keepers and don’t know whether rice bran is an acceptable ingredient. Thank you.

    1. Post

      Nice catch! Renew Gold is a distant second to CoolStance ( as a noninflammatory fat source for older horses to add fat to their bodies. With your easy keepers, neither Coolstance nor Renew Gold is needed.

      Adding protein is more important than any other nutrient after removing the inflammatory grain. Nutrena’s ProAdd Ultimate (actually it is Progressive Nutrition at has protein with vit/min without grain. Barn Bag from Life Data also is good. There are others but you need to read the ingredients.

      All brans (wheat, oats, rice, beet (pulp)) are the outside of the plant or grain where the highest concentration of lectins are located. Lectins are the plant proteins that cause the gut lining damage. Removing all grain and grain products such as wheat middlings removes these inflammatory agents allowing the gut lining to heal and the micro-flora (the microbiota or microbiome) to re-establish itself and the horse to become healthy. Adding protein advances this process.

  14. What about a 6 month old weakling? He looks pot bellied and lacks muscle and thinner on top. He has been deformed with everything but Quest and had a fecal done and tested for Lawsonia. What can I feed a weakling and not stop proper development. I am in Canada.

    He was negative for Lawsonia.

    1. Post

      Hey Janet – don’t you love spelling auto-correct? So a weanling who is a weakling, right? LOL

      Deworming is often incorrectly done. In fact, ask your mother how she dewormed you and you will begin to realize that no chemicals were given to you. Yet all the deworming medicines approved for use in horses are also approved for use in humans. The answer simply is that you did not eat where you defecated. If your 6 month old is suffering from parasites, then the environment needs to be cleaned AND he needs to be dewormed once a week for 3 weeks. It is the frequency that is important. Giving deworming medicine every 8 weeks is a waste in most situations especially where the environment is dirty.

      It is the horse’s immune systems that kills the parasites. All parts of the immune system are proteins made of the amino acids you are feeding him. If he is not being given enough of a variety of proteins and what you are feeding him is not getting into him due to gut inflammation, then this will lead to muscle wasting that causes a pot belly and a poor top line.

      Talk with your vet about deworming him once a week for 3 weeks with ivermectin. Remove any inflammatory feeds such as grain and grain byproducts (wheat middlings, brans, hulls). Add a good quality protein supplement with whey, soy and alfalfa along with the vit/min but without grains.

      More info can be found here:

  15. Hi, i have a weanling who eats hay, grain, supplements and no grass. I understand the idea that horses don’t actually need grain and that it’s possibly harmful to them but what about supplements? dry hay doesn’t contain the same amounts of essential minerals and vitamins as fresh grass. So what would you recommend for a growing foal with no issues but also with no access to grass (winter)? And when you say to give them protein, what source of protein should be used? Thanks

    1. Post

      Hi Julie – I’m glad you understand that grains cause inflammation and it is this inflammation that is preventing the vitamins and minerals from getting absorbed and utilized. Removing the grain actually improves the vit/min use from hay. Remember, it is the re-establishment of the microbiome within the gut that will help more in the vit/min department than adding them as a supplement.

      There are a lot of protein supplements available. Look for whey, soy, alfalfa and coconut meal – it is the variety that is important.

  16. What would you feed a 6 month old weanling that has been fully dewormed with fenbendazole double dose 3 times, a tripple dose strongid P and now once with ivermectin. He has tested negative for Lawsonia and has a total protien of 54. He eats well and no diarrhea, but he has a big belly and ribby on top. Since his last two dewormings, he is developing a bit more of a top line, but still has a ways to go. A fecal showed a 1+ for strongyles before I dewormed with the last two dewormers. What would be the best combination of concentrate and vitamin mix if he can’t eat grains?

    1. Post

      The term “fully dewormed” is confusing because you never state the FREQUENCY of deworming. How often the medication is given is critical. In addition, cleaning the environment is even more critical. I gave you some links in your last comment. ANY POSITIVE FECAL EXAM IS A WARNING.

      Cleaning the environment, removing inflammatory products such as grains are the 2 most important steps. It is now being discovered that deworming medicine can also kill off whole groups of gut microbes. So BE PATIENT because it ewill take months to heal the gut and re-establish the microflora.

      Adding any protein source you can find will help in his recovery as long as you read the ingredients and try to avoid grains such as corn. ProAdd Ultimate ( works well. So does Barn Bag from Life Data. There are others listed on The Horse’s Advocate web site.

  17. Inspiring read, thank you! I have a 9 year old Quarab mare, who is extremely reactive to saddle fit, a hard keeper, and long guard hairs throughout her winter coat (these do shed out).
    I am going to try her on Grain free to see if some of her reactivity is related to inflammation/Grain. My current plan is 3 cups alfalafa pellets, 1 Cup Renew gold, 1 oz camelina oil, and 1 dose of bio star supplements per feeding. Unlimited grass Hay. Has turnout, but grass is minimal due to winter.
    Would we be better looking at the cool stance? Would it be wise to add a Chia or flax supplement? (I know the renew gold has flax already).
    Appreciate your time!

    1. Post

      Keep us all posted for the results you get. But if you really want to see things work, then feed only pasture, grass and water. No oils, Renew Gold or Bio Star. These along with chia and flax may be inflammatory but after the gut inflammation calms down then you can add back in – one at a time – extra ingredients.

      Adding protein before all else is a better alternative ( ). More on this in future articles.

  18. I started a week ago feeding soaked alfalfa and beet pulp (no molasses). I have noticed a huge difference. I just came across your article.
    Should I just do pasture grass and alfalfa cubes? Why is beet pulp not good?

    1. Post

      The whole name is SUGAR beet. It is one of the leading sources of sugar in America. The pulp is the left over byproduct after the sugar has been extracted. In addition, the appellate court in 2015 ruled that all sugar beets can be legally be modified genetically in America. Finally, most plant lectins are found in the skin of the plant. As most lectins of plants new to the horse are reactive, it would be logical to assume that the lectins of the sugar beet are in the pulp and can possibly affect the horse.

  19. Hi! Love this article! I have a 14 yr old Morgan gelding that just stopped sweating. He is on pasture and hay only, no grain or treats. What can I try for gut health for him or what is the best protocol? Thank you so much!

    1. Post

      Discovering that a lot of non-sweating horses start to sweat after removing grain was a surprise to me. I still do not know the mechanism behind this but many people have found that it works. Now your horse comes along so let me say a few things.

      If it is true that it is the inflammation of the gut, you will need to look at any cause for this. Included in this would be: any chemicals added to the pasture or hay; increased sugar content of the spring grass; spreading of organic material (horse, cow, pig, chicken manure); anything else.

      If nothing has been added, then try removing or limiting your horse to the pasture. This can be an experiment done for only a week to test the results. If it is true that some change caused him to stop sweating, then that change needs to be found and either eliminated or addressed.

      After you exhaust all possibilities in finding the cause, you can try to add something to calm the hind gut. My go-to for this is Succeed. Get the starter pack of paste followed by granules. Be sure he is still not sweating when you add this and then record the results. If it works, the result may be permanent or you may need to continue it until cool weather come back.

      I really would like a follow up to this as you get more information. I see that you also read my other blogs on this subject so be sure to comment there too.


  20. Finally, a DVM, with common sense LOL! I have never had a Vet tell me to stop feeding grain! I have been feeding a small amount of grain pellets (for easy keepers), by Safe Choice, a Nutrena product. I would add supplements to this like Flax oil, ground flax or herbs that were specific to certain symptoms that any particular horse might have. For instance, my Insulin Resistant horse had his feet almost destroyed by laminitis about 2 years ago. I put him on a herb mix, developed by another Vet, which was mixed into his grain pellets along with Flax. He did really well, lost weight and with a good farrier, my horse became sound again. I cut back on these gradually until he was only getting a couple of handfuls of the Safe choice with some flax oil…. and then this spring he developed COPD… severe!!! Lots of mucus coughed out, could barely breathe some days and then he became lame again. He had been dripping some mucus for a year or more, before this but nothing like what was happening now!

    The medicine given by our Vet (antihistimines and some steriods) were not working well. I turned to herbs like turmeric, elecampane, citrus tinctures and others to help him. The turmeric appeared to make his breathing worse so I stopped that. The mucous kept on coming… poor boy was gagging and coughing blobs of phlegm. When cough suppressants were given, his breathing became worse. When steriods were given to help his breathing, his coughing up phlegm became worse… followed by more pain in his feet. It was looking very grim. I had already replaced his bedding with salt instead of any other bedding, to keep down dust and any possible mold. My horses are brought in for their grain and for periods when the flies are just impossibly nasty outside. The hay was a bit old, baled two summer ago but I could not tell if there was mold, it smelled okay. I hosed the hay down and sprinkled more salt on it too.

    We also use a hay net with 1 inch spaces. Three days ago he was at his worst, I thought the end was near! I took him off of ALL his supplements and grain pellets. We got a new shipment of fresh hay too, a mix of natural grasses and alfalfa from a hay field that is 40 minutes away. Our present hay was baled locally as ditch hay. That was a Saturday, by Sunday morning I was dreading going out to see him… thinking he might be worse.. Instead I was greeted by a happy horse, and his breathing was normal!!! He still had some residual mucus stuck to his nostrils but nothing fresh. Today, Monday, he is still happy and doing well, I cannot even hear the lung noises that he had before! Today he kicked off his EasyRide boots in the pasture (he’s allowed out for about 2 hours every other day, the rest of the time in the corral with netted hay), the boots are still sitting side by side where I collected him LOL! I am overjoyed!

    At this point, I don’t know for sure whether it was the hay or the grain (or both) was causing his problems, but after reading your article, I will not be giving him any more Safe choice grain. I was also putting a handful of beet pulp on his mix to make his medicine more edible. I just bought a new bag of the Safe Choice, maybe the store will allow a refund. We still have a lot of the older hay left over so we’ll try to sell it for a great discount to cattle or sheep owners around here. At this point, I do not want to experiment to see which was the problem! I had to put another horse down 2 years ago who also had severe COPD complicated by a muscle injury. That horse did not have the terrible mucus and coughing but had severe breathing difficulties. Thank you for your great insight here 🙂

    1. Post

      It is almost fantastic how some of the things we all think are OK for horses actually are not. Great story. Now read about protein and if all is well, start adding protein to support a better immune system (which are proteins).

  21. Hi I have a very old mare in her thirties, she is very thin and I have tried lots to help her put weight on. She has no teeth at the back so can’t eat hay. She is out 24/7 . Any advice on what to feed her to help with her weight and condition. We are in the UK. Regards Lynne.

    1. Post

      The answer is to get ANYTHING past her throat and into her stomach. At 30+ I find any diet changes may not be as effective as hoped for. But if the horse isn’t swallowing then they are being self-starved.

      Grass is always the best. Chopped hay and soaked hay cubes are good. Hay pellets may cause choke so be careful. Shredded coconut is a great source of non-inflammatory fat and efficient energy. Coolstance (stance in the USA is really beneficial for horses like yours.

      Protein in any form (preferably as soy bean meal) is also essential to help add top line and cheek muscle as well as improve hair coat and overall health. Consider reducing grain or even eliminating it as gut inflammation may be adding to her weight loss. But at 30+ this may not work as intended because removing inflammatory grain causes body fat loss which makes them look worse even though they are healthier.

  22. Doc T:

    Thank you for answering my email and encouraging me to try skipping the ulcerguard for my out-of-town training trip. It was a leap of faith, but I’m listening to my horse and six weeks into the No Grain challenge I’m seeing such promising results that I took the plunge. (I took the gastroguard along just in case.)

    The trip went REALLY well! No ulcerguard/gastroguard and he trailered and stabled very well and was a joy to ride. I got excellent work from him and my trainer hopped on and took him through the entire Grand Prix test for the first time. There was one moment in the first piaffe that he got backward thinking and went up when corrected, but that looked like greeness handling the pressure. Nothing explosive like the issues that led me to your grain free challenge.

    Six weeks no grain and he looks great and acts happy and has the energy for the upper level work. We will see how it continues with shows and other pressure situations, but I think I have a horse I can enjoy and progress with again. Hallelujah!

    I’ve sent at least ten people the links to your nutrition blogs in the last three days. I’m enjoying delving deeper into the issues through your video courses. The more I learn the more comfortable I am with the new feed program (it’s hard to accept at first what seems like such a radical change). My vet here says “that’s a really stomach friendly diet regiment.”

    I’m really hopeful that you’ve given me an important key to keeping my horses happy and comfortable.

    I have a 21-year-old gelding on stall rest from a check ligament injury. From reading your blogs I think he’s protein deficient. I think he’s putting on topline while on stall rest just from the diet change to SBM. The vet doing his shockwave agrees that his topline has improved in the past four weeks (time of injury).

    My girthy mare is still girthy but not as viciously so, and she has been “startling” under saddle in situations where she might previously have spooked. A welcome improvement.

    The 20-y-o draft cross seems no different but is doing well on the SBM too.

    Thank you for being so generous with your knowledge and ideas and time.


    1. Post
  23. I have just purchased a horse (10 year old) that is only on pasture, hay and water (will change the salt). I live in the sand hills so I started giving beet pulp (wet) to push the sand through. Any other suggestions instead of the beet pulp. Also he has gone from 12 acres of grass to about 2 acres ( concerned with possible losing weight from change of pasture size. Not feeding grain is new to me. Finding your input has really helped. Will timothy hay work as well as the alfalfa. In the past when feeding alfalfa hay to my horse, it seems to give added energy which I do not want since I only trail ride now. Really loved reading your input. Looking forward to your input for healthy diet for my horse.

    1. Post

      Sand accumulation is still not fully understood but one thing most agree on is that adding a lot of fiber to the diet helps “push” things through. But from what I have been reading it could also be hypothesized that by removing gut inflammation, the gut can now improve peristalsis yielding the same effect. While there is no research, it would be interesting to get data where the diet of horses with sand colic is correlated.

      If the size of pasture is reduced then the amount of hay should be increased as hat is really summer pasture preserved.

      Timothy is a GRASS and alfalfa is a LEGUME. When you added alfalfa in the past, was he also on grain and other carbohydrates? Some horses do react to alfalfa with some spunk. Add a small amount and gradually build up to about a flake a day.

  24. Anyone out there familiar with THRIVE feed? I totally believe horses do better without grain, BUT I run a barn and can say none of my boarders would ever quit feeding grain. We saw immense improvement of a couple of horses taken off various grains & put on THRIVE. Wondered your opinion. *Also, we have a very old pony mare with tooth issues, can’t have teeth floated due to respiratory and heart issues. She’s very thin. Would y’all recommend feeding just grass (which she “quids”, makes into a bird nest, and spits out. Would you do soaked alfalfa pellets?

    1. Post

      Thrive feed has an interesting website because the owner is passionate about doing what is best for the horse which I find commendable. Hoewver digging into the ingredients there are some questions. For instance he says that horses fed correctly don’t need supplements yet Thrive feed is supplemented with kelp, minerals, vitamins, buffers (calcium carbonate) grain byproduct (rice bran), diatomaceous earth (why?) and grain sorghum (causes insulin spiking according to the last AAEP meeting I attended but not clear if this is the case with Thrive’s “processed” sorghum).

      Thrive also uses “whole soy meal” which implies that the hulls are included (a possible source of inflammatory lectins) and the soybean oil is included (inflammatory to the lining of the guts in humans).

      In addition, assuming that there is a chronic protein deficiency in most horses, the minimum crude protein in Thrive is only 15%. Most of the ingredients are grass hay, legume hay and grain sorghum whose bioavailability of protein is about 50%. Being generous with the inclusion of soybeans and making the bioavailability of protein 60%, that means the protein content of 1 pound of Thrive is about 272 grams. However the amino acid spectrum is unknown and is why they have added lysine and methionine (2 of the 3 limiting amino acids) to the feed.

      I believe Thrive makes horses feel better due to the high content of grasses which is an ancestral diet for horses. Adding calcium carbonate helps to raise the pH but adding it in the feed raises it everywhere including the stomach where an acid environment is essential for protein digestion and disease prevention. Additionally adding seaweed is foreign to horses and the effect of this and other ingredients on the gut lining is unknown. Remember the first step to helping horses “thrive” is eliminating all sources of gut inflammation.

      As far as helping your boarders understand the damage of grain and the benefits of eliminating it, consider having them try a 10 to 14 day challenge agreement. At no cost they can try feeding hay pellets or hay cubes as a replacement for the meal of grain. Have them write down the problems they are having now (squirts, poor ride performance, girth, tail swishing when brushed, poor trailering, moody, poor behavior) and compare it after the trial. They can always go back to grain – no one will suffer during the trial. Remember no carrots, apples, sugar cubes, treats during this time and remove any sugar added electrolytes or salt licks too. You can offer a peanut or 2 in the shell as a treat.

      Old horses with limited chewing abilities always need management changes in their feed. Finding the righ combination of grass / legume hay formulations (cubes, pellets, chopped, soaked) is critical to their survival. Remember that these older ones usually are protein deficient as seen in their poor top line. Add soy bean meal to give the amino acids needed to rebuild this (these are not found in hay). To add fat in very poor horses consider adding Coolstance which is shredded coconut meat (a non-inflammatory source of fat). Do NOT add oils to the feed as all oils from seeds are inflammatory.

      People have asked me to make a feed for horses as Thrive has done. But horses are grazers (not browsers like ruminants and therefore cannot eat wood or woody plants and bark unless starving). All they need is what they can eat from the ground. Hay, a man made product. supplements this to extend the horse’s ability to work for us during the winter. Because of carbohydrate dependency most horses have become chronically protein deficient and this must be added back. My “mix” would be pasture, grass and legume hay and until protein competent, soy bean meal (no hulls, oil extracted). That’s it. Those who have tried this are excited with the results in their horses and in their feed and supplement bill. Oh oh – some people won’t like that. But I am here for the horse by DECOMPLEXICATING their care.

      Thanks for this question.

  25. Dr. Tucker
    I wanted to let you know how we are doing with the no grain challenge. I started the no grain challenge in August after listening to the on-line classes. The horses are doing wonderful! Coats have shined up and they are calmer. Have not lost any weight that I can tell. I am supplementing T&A hay during winter months although they have 24/7 access to pasture. Obviously though the grass is not growing now. I’m very happy with the results so far.
    Thank You!

    1. Post
  26. Since it’s winter, we have no grass. My horses are outside 24/7 with round bales. Do you recommend feeding alfalfa or Timothy in pellet form or chaffhaye? My horses are all on a low sugar diet, but it’s still grain. Very interested to try out no grain. Thanks for this info!

    1. Post

      “No grass” really isn’t so. What you have is dormant grass which is cellulose which becomes fat when digested by the colon bacteria. Fat is at least 20 times more efficient a fuel than glucose (starch). However when feeding grain all winter the glucose short circuits the natural process of using body fat and giving the cells a rest by using ketones rather than glucose. Our eyes see the body fat remain which pleases the owner but in reality is perpetuating inflammation in the gut and elsewhere (joints, muscles) and causes gluconeogenesis (top line loss, lameness, infections, unthriftiness).

      Please read all the nutrition blogs or enroll in the nutrition course to get all of this information. Yes I recommend about a flake a day of alfalfa (hay, cubes or pellet) and an additional variety of amino acids. But to get a broader spectrum of amino acids you should add soy bean meal. See the blog about “Chronic Protein Deficiency In Horses.”

  27. I am getting ready to start the no grain challenge and am wanting to supplement with the Pro-Add ultimate. On the bag it states to feed with existing feed. Is it ok to feed by itself or with some alfalfa pellets?

    1. Post

      You can feed this alone or with some alfalfa pellets.

      Did you read this blog? ProAdd changed their formulation and I don’t think it is as good as straight soy bean meal. That is what I recommend now. If you already bought the bag go ahead and use it. Then switch over to straight SBM and you will do better for your horses.

      Thanks for trying the no grain challenge. Try only pasture and hay (and water and salt) for about 10 days to reduce the gut inflammation. As the fat comes off the horses (especially in the winter) you may see the loss of top line. That has been gone for a while but the fat loss revealed it. This is where SBM will shine. In about 6 months the top line will be almost back to normal.

      1. No, I hadn’t seen that article. I hadn’t purchased it yet. Thanks for the information and and will keep you updated on how it goes.

        1. Post
  28. Wanted to let you know: I thought I was feeding as clean as possible in the last 3 years. As I’m sure you know flax seeds are heavily promoted and high fats. I started flax in my mineral mix from Horsetech and later added horseshine which flax is in. My horse has stood with one back leg behind him and not always the same leg. He been thru several vets and they would say it’s just the way he is or hocks or back so on and on. But my Holy Spirit would always tell me to keep searching. What was baffling is he can work the prettiest barrels! And run! I pulled the minerals and flax bout 2 weeks before I started your class! The last four days he is standing square! If he does stand one leg behind himself it’s bout 1/2 what he was doing. But I am catching him more and more square! 3-4 years of searching! And thinking I was crazy! And started thinking maybe that’s just the way it is and maybe epm did more damage than I thought! So now I’m convinced after your class and pulling vit/min and flax I had hind gut ulcers! Tho he didn’t act like or look like ulcer guy! I feed just grass and alfalfa with a little oats when I started this clean feeding bout 3-4 yrs ago but my horses went downhill and bc I live by a smelter place I didn’t understand what was truly going on and thought they need extra vit/min and fats! I’ll be honest your class was my last ditch effort bc I was gonna say screw it! I’m going back to grains! But I’m so happy I took one more shot! My horse no longer looks pregnant with no top line. But I do think i do not have enough protein so I have added that. (Calf manna) all I could find in my area. Both horses are happy eyes super bright! I thought they was happy before but I can tell even better! Sorry so long! I know that the Topline gonna get better and better as time goes on!
    I haven’t been running last 6 mths bc of my own deal but I’m excited to get them back in shape and see how much better it’s gonna be!
    Thank you and so sorry so long! I know you busy! I hope I can take the dentistry and whatever future classes you may do!
    I’m hoping when my horses get to running and winning I can spread the word on how to feed to help more horses! And of course tell them to take your class!!!
    Thank you!
    Shelly Hares
    You just don’t know how I’ve struggled and how happy I am!!!!
    Thank you again!!!!

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Post

      Thanks Shelly. If there are any other readers who have experienced their horses holding a hind limb back and have resolved this with the no grain challenge, please comment here under Shelly’s comment.

  29. Thanks for this article.

    Question, how do you feed the salt while doing the grain free challenge? Is it loose rock type salt?

    I’m in Cambodia. We have 6 ponies and we have been feeding them rice bran and banana palm stem. We’d like to take them off the rice bran. But we don’t have much pasture and can only source rice hay at certain times of the year.

    Also, would banana palm stem cause any problems?

    Thank you

    1. Post

      Hello to you in Cambodia! Thanks for finding this blog and for reading and commenting.

      Salt can be either loose or a block. Redmond or Himalayan salt is good because it has minerals. Avoid the red trace mineral salt blocks as these have corn syrup and molasses.

      I agree with you wanting to remove rice bran from the pony’s diet. All brans (rice, wheat) are removed from human feeds due to their inflammatory nature – maybe lectins. I am unfamiliar with rice hay but all hay is made from grass (Timothy hay), grain (oat hay) or legumes (peanut hay). All of these provide cellulose required in horses.

      Banana palm stems are also new to me. I would look at their cellulose content versus the lignin content. Lignin is wood-like cellulose found in taller plants. Horses (grazers) are poor lignin digesters as opposed to all ruminants (browsers such as cattle, goats, sheep, deer, etc) that easily digest lignin. While I don’t know for sure, I don’t think banana palm stem would be a problem but they might not be nutritious either.

      Are there any other sources of grass there? In Florida, tropical and sub-tropical grasses store their sugar (starch) in the root system to protect during drought. However it is the cellulose that horses need and all grasses have that.

      Please let us all know in a reply what other horse owners do in your area. Thanks, Doc T

  30. Doc T have you researched Total Equine Feeds? I would really like to know your thoughts on this feed.
    Sincerely, Marna

    1. Post

      Hi Marna – I don’t like the ingredients in these feeds. Wheat middlings are in the 3 horse feeds they offer. They also have added kelp which in some horses may induce goiter (enlarged thyroid). They also use Ascophyllum nodosum which is the seaweed you see if you receive fresh lobsters. It is a source of minerals and other macro and micro nutrients – but I have yet to see a horse swim in the north Atlantic where it is found foraging for this marine plant.

      My view of feeding horses is based on the simple principle of eliminating all gut inflammation by removing all feeds not natural to horses. This includes vitamins and minerals of suspect origin and few companies are willing to show the sources of these ingredients. In a recent conversation with Biostar feeds, they are proud of sourcing their ingredients from ethical and effective sources.

      Hind gut fermentors are the equids, the tapirs and the rhinos. They all ferment grasses for nutrition. They were never made to consume on a regular basis any seeds and certainly not processed seeds and seed parts such as wheat middlings, flax, rice bran and so forth. Unfortunately in today’s times there is little pasture available and what is available is of a single grass source. Add to this the harvested summer grasses (hay) and there are deficiencies especially in proteins. Add to this feeding excess carbohydrates year round and the horse starts to consume its own proteins to stay alive. It is all insidious culminating in lost top lines, unsoundness, poor hooves and illness. The solution is NOT to add things but to subtract them leaving only pasture and grass / legume hay. However adding extra protein to fill in the loss is necessary until the reservoirs are restored. Then all they need is a small amount of protein to make up the lack of it in the environment they live in.

      1. Thank you for the info. What about oats and or barley with an oil? I feed an oral joint supplement that helps my horse tremendously but I need to feed it somehow. What type of oil?
        Thanks again☺

        1. Post

          Oats and barley are grains. In humans, all oils are inflammatory with the exceptions of EVVO, coconut, macadamia and avocado. I would consider adding your joint supplement to Coolstance (shredded coconut) as this seems to be non-inflammatory in horses.

          Most oral joint supplements are medium chain sugars much like the mucopolysaccharides that line our gut. It is theorized that the joint supplements bind to the offending lectins of the food before they become absorbed therefore reducing the inflammatory load on the joints. Removing the offending lectins of the grains would do the same. Many people who eliminate lectins from their diet have an elimination of their joint pain due to the autoimmune aspect of rheumatoid arthritis. Many horse owners experience increased activity in their horses after eliminating grain and I suspect it is from the removal of inflammation. Remember that inflammation in the gut is reflected in other parts of the body including the joints.

          My recommendation is to first remove all inflammatory food. Then after this you can add back in 1 supplement at a time. And remember the importance of supplementing with protein to help restore the amino acids which help to repair connective tissue.

          More info can be found in my blogs at or by enrolling in my nutrition course (link in the blogs).

  31. I also thought I fed very clean. Feed one cup of Coolstance and one cup rice bran a day and supplement with kelp, MSM, sprirulina, rosehips and garlic. Should I remove all of that for the no grain challenge? I have one horse that had severe ulcers. Sadly it took me and my vet a few years to figure it out, I thought he was just really lazy cause he just wouldn’t go when riding. We treated the ulcers with Omeprazole for 30 days and then kept on OE Align or ulc r aid since so he wouldn’t get them again. But he has developed a REALLY bad trailering issue .He still gets in great but then he kicks and kicks, hurts other horses and himself. I told my vet who checked him for ulcers (just felt for them) and he seemed fine but on your list of symptoms it sounds like this issue could be ulcer related. Is it safe for me to remove OE Align and ulc r aid to do no grain challenge or will I be making things worse for him? Should I worm before starting no grain challenge?
    I feed Purina loose mineral right now. Would you recommend removing that too? Are the blue salt licks ok?

    1. Post

      There is a lot to “chew” on here Rochelle. The simple answer is to remove EVERYTHING for 2 weeks and feed only pasture, hay (grass plus 1 flake or 4 pounds of alfalfa), water and pure salt such as Himalayan salt.

      I have seen just carrots (6 per night) cause inflammation in the hind gut. Everything you are adding to the food intake of your horse may be causing the problems you are seeing. It is simple to remove everything and then observe. If you don’t like what you get you can always go back. It’s only 2 weeks.

      As far as the medication for the gastric ulcers, they all alter the pH of the stomach which makes him feel better but it also shifts the gut microbes from further down the gut up towards the stomach. This is called dysbiosis. The “dys” means dysfunctional and is the cause of all gut ulcers in humans. After removing the potential inflammatory ingredients the gut microbes will start to reestablish themselves and removing any anti ulcer medication should be possible. However please remove any prescribed medication only after consulting your veterinarian. The feed type anti ulcer medications I would remove gradually over the first week of the challenge.

      Do you know anyone who doesn’t like to fly? It’s usually because they get sick to their stomach as the plane hits the bumps. I believe this is the reason horses show trailering behavior like yours. I even think that horses that refuse to load may anticipate the ride and show that they don’t want to experience it. The video I have on my page in the testimonial section is about a horse that exploded in the trailer (just like yours) but 6 months after removing grain, the horse loads himself and goes anywhere.

      You do not need to feed extra minerals. There are plenty in the water and hay. However minerals need to be bound to proteins to be absorbed effectively and if your horses are low on protein then all the added minerals are leaving in the feces. Eliminate the inflammation in your horse and then read to learn about that then start adding it.

      Better yet, take my nutrition course and study this information and then teach others.

      1. I can see potential trailering issues and a no grain connection with my horses as well.
        I am now at 90 days no grain.
        Before I would load my horses once a week for a 30 min drive to my jumping or dressage lessons, I found it odd, they would resist loading to come home. They go home to a 12 acre pasture… who wouldn’t want that? I now have zero loading issues away from home. I suspect they had an inflamed hind gut bouncing around on the ride to the lesson, and did want a to that again so soon. I have made no other changes. Useless to work on loading at home, since there was never an issue loading at home. Looking forward to hear more from Rochelle and Lea.

        1. Post

          I look at horse loading issues much like humans not wanting to fly because they associate flying with nauseousness. Many horses, once their gut inflammation is resolved, also resolve their loading issues with no other therapy.

          In your case maybe it was the added exercise that made their gut feel uncomfortable. They were only marginally inflamed at home. I wish horses could talk with specific details. But it seems clear that once the gut inflammation was resolved the trip home loading issues also resolved and I’m good with that.

          Thanks for this comment

  32. Everyone in my barn has accepted my horse has a “strong inflammatory response” i.e. a mosquito bites him and he gets a massive lump or he gets a miniature scratch and the whole leg swells up or I use a dressage whip behind the leg with slightly too much flick and he gets a mark that looks as though I’ve beat him…I’ve always written it off that he’s a chestnut TB. Is that the same type of inflammation or otherwise related to the inflammation caused by gut dysfunction? Is it an indication of an ongoing problem? Since chestnuts do seem to have some sort of greater skin sensitivity in my experience, do chestnuts and/or TBs have any greater sensitivity/lower tolerance to grain than other breeds and colors? Just curious.

    I found myself feeding a mostly-grain free diet over the course of this winter and have been convinced after finding this to discontinue all of it. I’ll be curious if that “inflammatory response” changes…

    Why don’t more vets think this way?

    1. Post

      It is interesting, Lea, that my thinking has diverted from what most of my colleagues think about nutrition. But I kept asking, “Why?” After not getting any good answers, I started to research myself and found myself immersed in the world of restorative medicine in the human world. Most of what I talk about in horses is from human research within the last 3 to 10 years. Most importantly, these MD’s mostly move away from adding things and focus on restoring the body to the way things are supposed to function. I think more vets are moving in this direction though healthy horses will have a reduced need for vet care (reduced illness, colic, lameness).

      I agree that TB who are chestnut in color seem to be very skin sensitive. But most of them also have gut inflammation from feeding grain and they are also chronically protein deficient. In humans, some are finding that all autoimmune diseases are caused by lectins, the plant proteins made to injure those eating the seeds of these plants. All grains have these lectins and they cause gut leakage. Many of the lectins move on to other parts of the body inflaming joints (rheumatoid arthritis) or disrupting hormone function (insulin resistance). I agree with your thought that reducing gut inflammation may also reduce the skin sensitivity. At least it is worth pursuing. Please keep accurate notes over the next 6 months and be sure to add soy bean meal as a protein source to restore the amino acid reserves. Please read my other blogs if lectins and proteins seem new to confusing to you. Thanks for finding this blog and trying it on your horses. Doc T

  33. Just stumbled across your articles in an attempt to help my three, very different horses. My first horse is a 32 year old TB that was recently diagnosed with low grade PPID. She is NOT overweight…quite the opposite actually. Poor body score, muscle wasting etc. Vet suggested upping her grain and adding alfalfa pellets to her meals. She can still eat hay but it quite picky. She has access to pasture 24/7 but she shares it with two other horses so it’s not “rich” by any means. She is currently also on Pergolide. The vet seemed quite sure that she would gain some weight and topline back, but she hasn’t at all. She has on and off diarrhea. I’m really interested in all of your grain free options, but I see that you caution it in very old horses. What is best for an old horse like her? I want to do the best that I can for her!

    My second horse is a 26 year old standardbred. He’s also recently lost a ton of topline/muscle although his weight is decent. He is lame due to a number of ailments and currently not ridden, but I’m also interested in the best type of feed for him. He lives in the same situation as the TB, with 24/7 access to pasture and hay fed as needed.

    Third horse is a 15 year old QH. I’m definitely interested in the grain free route with this one! He’s a great weight, but has always seemed to lack a little topline. He’s long backed to begin with, but also tends to be back sore/often stiff starting out our rides. He does have navicular which is managed very well with a low starch diet (he’s on minimal grain). He also lives with the other two under the same conditions.

    Is it feasible to go “grain free” on the older horses? Is Coolstance the best protein option for all of them? I’ve read several of your articles and am thoroughly interested in doing the best for my horses!

    1. Post

      All 3 of your horses seem to have a protein deficiency: lost muscling, unsoundness, hormone dysfunctions and loss of use. The answer to all 3 horses is 1) eliminate gut inflammation by removing all grain and sugar treats, 2) add sufficient protein through the addition of soybean meal and 3) record everything in a daily log for each horse.

      The older horses will lose fat and will be perceived to be losing weight. The assumption that this is bad is wrong as the fat loss means they are converting to fat for energy. This is when the cells repair and the horse stops consuming their own muscle to survive. Doing the grain removal at this time of year with summer approaching is the BEST time for these older animals. Adding soybean meal will take 6 months or longer to achieve the desired results and that is perfect timing for the approach of winter.

      Coolstance is a non-inflammatory source of fat fuel. While it also has amino acids it is not as good a protein source as soybean meal because of the bioavailability and the spectrum of amino acids. It will help to add fat on the older horses for winter but with green grass and warm temperatures here now I would wait until fall before deciding to add anything else other than the soybean meal.

  34. I basically have no pasture. Will access to coastal Bermuda hay in a round bale be sufficient for my horses? One horse is 28, the other 26 is a hard keeper. One of my mini’s is a hard keeper also.

    1. Post

      Hard keepers have responded well to the removal of inflammatory ingredients. In fact many gain weight after the grain is removed. However they may at first loose the fat they do have revealing the lost muscle underlying the fat. To add top line muscle add soybean meal. I have written extensively about protein loss and adding soybean meal. See my blogs and more importantly read the numerous comments in each blog.

  35. I would love to go this route–if only my boarding barn had grass pastures and/or quality hay (the hay hasn’t been analyzed but visibly the quality is inconsistent. I add alfalfa pellets.) I’d like to hear how others in boarding situations deal with this when they don’t have full control of how their horses are managed. (Difficult to find any boarding barns in my area that have sufficient grass, for instance.)

    1. Post

      Read my blogs about cellulose in hay and how what you say is poor quality hay is really a high fat diet with all the benefits of that. For me dusty hay is poor quality. So if there is no dust then don’t worry about any perceived quality. Remember this annual crop is now at the bottom of the quality pile. June is almost here.

      Many boarders prepare 1 meal of soybean meal plus alfalfa pellets. (1 pound of each for horses between 1000 and 1400 pounds) and feed that each day they visit. They also mount signs on the stall saying “NO GRAIN AND NO TREATS”.

  36. I love reading your blogs, thanks!

    We’ve fed hay and grass only, with small meal of alfalfa pellets once daily for years. Once horse is 1400 lb, 17.2 and we’ve never had a weight issue with him. People comment on how healthy, shiny my horses are with nice toplines and they seem happy. I do wonder/worry about any needed supplements. I have fed Platinum Performance Equine in the past, do you see any negative ingredients: Flax Seed, Flax Oil, Rice Bran, Low Lactose Whey Protein Concentrate, Sunflower Seed, Cane Molasses, Performance Minerals™, Natural Vitamin E (d-Alpha-Tocopheryl Acetate), Calcium Carbonate, Mixed Tocopherols, Vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Glucosamine Sulfate 2KCl, Chromium Yeast, Selenium Yeast, L-Carnitine Tartrate, Zinc Gluconate, Magnesium Citrate, Manganese Citrate, Copper Gluconate, Cobalt Chelate, L-Lysine, Vitamin A, Vitamin D3, Iodine Chelate, dl-Methionine, Choline Bitartrate, Niacin, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Aloe Vera Concentrate, Vitamin B12, Thiamine Mononitrate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid

    I know it lists molasses (but not enough to notice or taste … I’ve tried it) and whey protein concentrate – I think this would be different from wheat middlings, but not sure. Can you comment on these ingredients? I am willing to try the ProAdd Ultimate if you still recommend it. Thanks for your feedback.

    1. Post

      There are a lot of inflammatory ingredients and many unnecessary ones too. If your horse looks good already why add these? Does your horse have any mineral or vitamin deficiencies? Probably not but most owners are concerned that they might be missing something. They are covering the bases justifying it by saying that there is no harm in adding these ingredients. With many horses there is no “harm” evident but some do bishop signs of inflammation.

      Remember that horses are grazers meaning they are supposed to eat plants that grow on the ground. If there are seeds available then they eat them, but they are not available year round so the gut has a chance to heal from the short periods of exposure. As you probably know from reading the other blogs here on nutrition, cellulose is converted by the hind gut bacteria into fats. Additionally the healthy gut bugs also help to make the vitamins. And minerals are in abundant supply in the water as well as the pasture and hay. However – with a low protein diet and where the proteins are being over consumed due to carbohydrate dependency, the minerals may not be absorbed, the vitamins may not be made and the horse may become over-fat. Alfalfa provides a lot of the necessary proteins AND an no grain diet preserves the existing protein (top line, hooves, etc). As long as the gut is not inflamed and there is some variety of protein, your horse should continue to look good.

      Whey protein in the isolate form is good but is expensive for the amount needed to feed a horse. Low lactose whey protein concentrate is the cheapest form of whey and has inflammatory ingredients at lease in humans. Whey protein is unrelated to wheat middlings which are the outer part of the wheat seed. I no longer recommend ProAdd or Calf Manna unless you absolutely cannot get straight soy bean meal. Be aware that these 2 products have inflammatory ingredients and grain. Soybean meal is a better choice to ensure your horse has a broad spectrum of amino acids.

      Be sure to read all the blogs at

  37. I took my OTTB mare off grain Six months ago and switched her to alfalfa pellets, Cool Stance and Power Horse ( trace minerals) …. and guess what! No more ulcer problems, her weight is perfect and her shoeless hooves are hard and trouble free!!

    1. Post

      Fantastic!! And thank you for posting this here so others reading can learn from your experience. For those of you sitting on the fence about doing this, what are you waiting for?

      I recommend Coolstance as a noninflammatory source of fat for calories in older thin horses especially as winter approaches. But for routine feeding when there is green grass it may be too much for dome horses. Trace minerals is a common thing for horse owners to add but 1) is you horse showing signs of a mineral deficiency and 2) are you feeding enough protein so the minerals can become cheated to cross through the gut wall? I am not recommending adding any minerals even in selenium deficient areas because many deficiencies are a malabsorption issue and not a supply issue. Calm the gut inflammation and add a broad variety of amino acids and you probably will not need to feed vitamins or minerals. If anyone has proof that this is not good advice and is NOT associated with a vitamin / mineral company please reply here. In other words I believe that marketing rather than science is driving horse owners to spend on horse supplements that are not needed.

  38. I have a horse who said chronic diarrhea for three years. We have tried everything from Cocosoya, to probiotics, prebiotic’s minerals, supplements etc. the vet cannot figure it out she is fed grass and grass/alfalfa . No grain. Do you have any suggestions or thoughts on this she always seems very uncomfortable does not like to be touched. Thank you for your help.

    1. Post

      This is the same horse as in your other comment but you say here she is uncomfortable. Get some Succeed to determine if this is hind gut ulcers. Also stop feeding everything except the hay, Himalayan salt and water. No treats. Nothing. 10 days and see if she feels better. If so then it is gut inflammation. then look at the other things I mentioned in your other comment.

  39. What are your thoughts on the Crypto Aero feed? I have a 13 year old barrel horse that will not eat grain, period. We buy a complete feed and she picks at it but will eat all the hay you put in front of her.

    1. Post

      Crypto Aero is a responsible feed manufacturer with a great grain product, if you want to feed grain.

      I find the second part of your comment fascinating because your horse is basically saying to you that she doesn’t feel good AFTER eating grain. Think of it this way. If flying in an airplane makes our stomach sick, will you willingly board another plane? The way I see it, your mare knows better than to eat inflammatory foods.

      However I understand why you want to feed grain. Many think their competition horse needs this extra energy boost. The sugars in grain are actually a poor fuel producing 20 times LESS energy than fat. Horses get their fat fuel from the cellulose in the plants they eat (pasture and hay). In addition, the grains will cause gut inflammation through the lectins which create a leaking gut. I describe all of these in the blogs and it is worth your time reading all of them. I also have a nutrition course where I lecture via video and then test you on your knowledge.

      Grain also upsets the mineral balance in horses triggering hyper excitability. This is not what you need in barrel racing. Rather a focused mind and an abundant energy supply will help shave off the time fractions. Grain’s inflammation will also prevent the absorption of protein and the cellular exhaustion from the poor fuel of sugar lead the the horse converting the protein it has into sugar. I know this sounds funny but it is the reason horses breakdown or become ill at the height of their career. Remember to add protein to her all hay diet.

      Your horse is preserving herself by rejecting grain. Unfortunately this is rare as most horses fed grain suffer from its effects at some point in their lives.

  40. I had decided to discontinue grain for my pasture pets even before I read the posts. I am however considering alfalfa pellets. I won’t feed them dry as my mare choked when I tried it just once. Thankfully I was there to stroke her throat until the pellets were dislodged. Due to the harsh winter in the midwest and the winter kill of many hay fields it is hard to find good hay. So what are the concerns about hay pellets or cubes (other than not feeding dry)? Even feeding wet causes some concern. Sorry if this topic has already been addressed.

    1. Post

      Pasture is always the best food for horses. To help horses survive severe winters we started to harvest the summer grass and legumes making hay. In recent years manufacturers have found ways to store good crops of hay as chopped, cubed and pelleted. The advantages include drying, adding mold resistors, adding pelleted ingredients and homogenizing the product. All of these can be good but there may be disadvantages. These include using moldy hay which can be covered up. Some of the added pelleted ingredients may be inflammatory or unnecessary such as molasses. And as you mentioned, many horses have choked on cubes and pellets.

      For horses with poor dentition (older horses with missing teeth) these products have extended their lives when they have been soaked.

      Remember that horses have done well for hundreds of thousands of years eating “poor” pasture because of their large hind gut that ferments the cellulose into fat. This is a much better fuel than glucose from starch which is more abundant in “good” pasture. Hay follows this same thought. What I call “poor” hay is moldy and dusty. Washing this hay can help. When a horse eats a high cellulose and low starch (sugar) hay they will eat less of it because they gain a more efficient fuel. If fed an added source of broad variety amino acids (soybean meal) then they become even more satiated because they no longer need to hoover the pasture / hay looking for the amino acids they need.

      The drawback of poor pasture and hay is when the horse owner sees their horses not eating in winter and the fat being removed from their backs. They fear the horse is loosing weight without understanding that this loss is normal. More importantly when they start consuming the body fat, the mitochondria in the cells are regenerating, the protein is being preserved and the horse is becoming healthier. It is the ebb and flow of life.

      Adding some alfalfa pellets or cubes will add some protein but it isn’t as broad in amino acids as soybean meal nor is it absorbed as well. Feed them wet or only a handful at a time. Buy only quality manufactured products without additives. Most machined products have an inflammatory oil (vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, etc) added to lubricate the machine.

  41. I bought my current gelding in August 2018. I had him on sweet feed which is what he was already on. He started losing weight even after I increased his hay and feed so I switched his feed in late December or early January to a senior feed. He put his weight back on but has coliced 3 times since then. He is currently at the vet. He is only eating about 2 pounds a day along with 12 hours of turn out on good coastal Bermuda grass. He also gets some alfalfa hay and some coastal hay when he is stalled. I have fed other horses just like this with absolutely no problems. Could that small amount of feed be causing this? He is a wonderful horse but I can’t afford to keep treating colic. I’m thinking of taking him off the grain but I just don’t know. He doesn’t have ulcers. He is 17. Mostly a pet. As a side note. He has moved a lot in the last year or so.


    1. Post

      This small amount can absolutely cause these problems. I have seen the removal of carrots from the diet in horses and in others the removal of red mineral salt licks return the hors to normal gut function. The removal of grain has caused weight gain in hard keepers. Give it a try and record everything

  42. I have a couple of Qs about the timing of my no-grain challenge…. In couple of weeks my three horses (all currently at different barns) will be moving to new barn, and it might be great time to start no-grain challenge. The new barn has far better grass pasture than the current barns. I’d assumed that I would need to gradually lengthen their turnout to adjust to the better forage. Is there anything about the no-grain challenge that should change my thinking on that? Also, one horse will be graduating to better hay – she’s currently mainly on fescue, but at new barn will be getting timothy-orchard mix (with some alfalfa, as recommended in the no-grain challenge). Same question – is there anything about the no-grain challenge that would affect the way I change her to the higher-grade hay? Thanks!

    1. Post

      The idea behind removing grain and grain byproducts as well as supplements is to remove all causes of inflammation to the gut. This is step one in restoring the health of horses in all aspects. This includes the ability to change environments and diets as you are describing here. Based on this, removing the grain is not stressful to the horse but actually reduces the stress.

      It is always a good idea to introduce horses slowly to a new pasture. The reason behind this is the changes to the gut microbiome from a change in the forage. Sudden changes to that environment can lead to digestive upsets. However, removing grain before this change occurs you allow the “good” bacteria to reestablish in the gut while removing the “bad” bacteria. This will increase the mucopolysaccharide lining the gut which protects it from changes in sugar content of the grass and hay. This will soften the effects of a sudden change in forage.

      Horse owners often “grade” their pasture and hay and use relative terms such as “better,” “lush,” or “poor.” All forage is made up of starch and cellulose. The starch (NSC or non-structural carbohydrate) is digested by the horse into glucose (sugar) and the cellulose (SC or structural carbohydrate) is digested by the gut bacteria into short chain fatty acids (butyrate or fat). Therefore all forage (pasture or hay) has a NSC to SC ratio and this is what makes a forage richer or poorer in sugar content. If the gut bacteria are close to normal for a forage diet (less starch fed due to the removal of high starch grains AND a better gut wall due to less inflammation from the feeding of oils and byproducts) then they will be more effective in digesting the cellulose of any forage. This will release more short chain fatty acids into their systems which protects the gut lining, provides more quiet energy, enhances body fat loss and creates satiation.

      Your questions are great! My answer would be to do the no grain challenge before moving to heal any inflammation in the gut and provide an optimal gut environment for the new pasture / hay. Take a week to transition the horses to the new pasture and hay by bringing with you some of their current hay. My rule of thumb has always been this for pasture change: 15 min on day 1, 30 on day 2, 60 min on day 3, 2hr on day 4, 4 hr on day 5, 8 hr on day 6 and full turnout on day 7. For the hay, divide the days into the hay: 1/7 new hay and 6/7ths old hay on day one, 2/7 new and 5/7 old on day 2, etc. This is arbitrary I know and you will need to closely watch each horse for any troubles especially if they are metabolic or have insulin resistance / laminitis. EVERY HORSE OWNER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR OBSERVING AND CLOSLY MONITORING THESE TRANSITIONS. Using this guide and going no grain will help.

      Please return here and reply to this comment after you have moved with your observations and comments for all of us to learn from your experience. Thanks in advance, Doc T

  43. Hi there! I just stumbled upon your post and its insightful!

    One of my horses, he poos on the wall of his stall. He has no sugars or sweet feed. And his feed is phase V and enhancer from the company BROOKS FEED.

    He has no bad behaviour in any way. Or any other bad tempers or tantrums. He a really happy horse. But the pooping directly on the wall i find that a bit alarming.

    could it be ulcers?

    1. Post

      Any inflammatory ingredient can cause a dysbiosis of the colon and hence the diarrhea. Try the 2 week no grain challenge where all they eat is forage (grass / hay), water and mined salt. Most “enhancers” have inflammatory ingredients. Read all the blogs for more information.

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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