Equine Vet Discusses Horse Supplements in General Horse Care

Horse Supplements or Horse Sense?

Anyone who owns, rides, or cares for equines should have a basic understanding of horse supplements. These supplements can benefit the health and physical appearance of any horse when used wisely.

Horse supplements include a variety of vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients that can be added to the animal’s regular diet.

These supplemental agents are specifically designed to boost the health and vitality of a horse in much the same way that certain nutritional substances can benefit humans.

Horses can be subjected to a variety of stressors. This stress can affect their immune systems and physical condition. Instead of maintaining peak performance levels the horse can become weak and this will leave the animal susceptible to a number of illnesses and diseases.

The stress of long rides, show-ring performances or travel are just a few reasons that some horses are being depleted of minerals, vitamins and other nutrients. This makes them very vulnerable to a variety of physical and emotional upsets. Horse supplements are one way that a responsible owner can ensure their animal is receiving the healthy diet that they need and deserve.

The judicious use of horse supplements can reverse, slow or prevent the development of many equine health problems. For horses that are already suffering from some type of health issue the proper use of horse supplements can mean a speedy recovery.

Unfortunately most of the deficiencies that affect equines are not very obvious, especially in the early stages. It is important to realize that the use of some simple supplements may be all that is needed to resolve these types of problems.

Horse supplements can be added to the diet if the animal is suffering from health issues that involve the joints, bones, hooves or muscles.

There are even some dietary horse supplements that are designed to improve the animal’s level of performance, behavior and physical appearance.

If you have a horse that frequently suffers from digestive upsets such as gas and colic then a yeast supplement is generally recommended. Improving the level of ‘good’ bacteria in the animal’s GI tract can help them process the roughage and fiber in their regular diet. A properly functioning digestive system will reduce or eliminate problems such as bloating and colic.

Understanding horse supplements and how they work will enable you to quickly provide viable solutions to a variety of common health issues that affect equines of all ages.

For instance biotin is a nutritional supplement that produces stronger connective tissue. Feeding a horse a biotin enriched diet will promote stronger hooves, a glossy coat and healthy skin.

Essential vitamins, nutrients and minerals are recommended for any horse that needs to have their overall diet improved. The addition of these important nutrition sources can be of great benefit for any horse, but they are especially useful if the animal has a poor quality diet, an illness or a vitamin deficiency.

Metabolic problems, injuries to soft tissues and sensory problems are just a few of the health concerns that can be addressed with the proper dosage of high quality horse supplements. The amount and type of supplements that are needed will depend upon the conditions that are being addressed.

Vitamins include anti-oxidant compounds, bone strengthening nutrients and other essential building blocks that are required for optimal equine health. Among the vitamins most often included in quality horse supplements are Vitamins A, D and E.

Many horses are able to obtain Vitamin A if they are fed green forage and healthy hay. Since this vitamin is not water soluble it can be stored for future use. A lack of hay and fresh forage is the usual cause of Vitamin A deficiency for horses. This dietary deficiency can be easily corrected with supplements.

Supplemental feeds or dietary supplements such as roughage, grains, cereal and oils can provide the animal with the necessary amount of Vitamin E. This vitamin is necessary for a strong circulatory system and healthy skin.

Horses can obtain much of their required Vitamin D from hay that has been cured outside underneath the UV rays of the sun. Vitamin D is essential for strong bones and joints and is also available in horse supplements that contain cod liver oil.

Octacosanol is a horse supplement that is found in alfalfa, wheat germ and natural food oils. This supplement is being used for horses when additional energy, vigor, endurance and strength are desired.

In order to improve the overall performance, energy and health of a horse many owners have begun to discover the potential benefit of adding horse supplements to the animal’s regimen. MSM is being suggested as a compound that can alleviate joint and muscle discomfort. This dietary compound has also proven useful at triggering healthy growth of new hoof tissue.

Understanding horse supplements and how to use them properly could help you improve the health and comfort of your own animal. The key point to remember is that you should use these dietary supplements only as recommended.

Feeding Horses – Modern Day Issues That Affect Your Horse’s Health

The vast array of feeds available in-store these days can make choices confusing, but working out a horse’s nutritional requirements does not have to be complicated. Horses have nutrient needs that can be calculated from bodyweight and activity levels. What does make horse nutrition complicated is the process of selecting feeds to balance the nutrient intake with each individual’s nutrient requirement, and providing the feeds in a form that suits the digestive system of the horse. It is often a lack of understanding about the relationship between the digestive system of the horse and the form of the feed, and how this affects the horse, that causes confusion.

It is well established in humans that they are what they eat. Obesity is now one of the major disorders in the western world – in both humans and horses. Can correlations and similarities be found between the two species, that can help improve health and well-being?

In order to know where to start it is helpful to look at some known facts. Firstly, pasture alone often does not provide enough nutrients for horses. Consequently, they are fed supplements in the form of concentrates and hay but some concentrates can be considered ‘fast foods’ – full of energy in the forms of sugars and fats. Many horses are overfed on fast foods, yet under-worked, which can lead to obesity, health and behavioural problems.

MEASURING ENERGY

The non structural carbohydrates (NSC) index in horse feeds equates to the glycemic index (GI) in human foods, and is a way of measuring the energy in foods by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on blood glucose levels. Insulin resistance – now identified as a serious and life-threatening condition in horses, equates to Type 11 diabetes in humans. Many metabolic disorders in horses are associated with high NSC feeds.

Digestion in horses

Digestion in horses is not the same as in cattle and sheep, which have large fore-stomachs. These animals are called ruminants, because they can ruminate, i.e store food in their fore-stomach, or rumen, and regurgitate and re-chew their food to gain more nutrients. By comparison, horses have a small stomach, and have to graze little and often to maintain nutrient intake. Horses graze at least 18 hours per day, i.e. they are ‘slow feeders’, meaning they eat slowly and the nutrients are absorbed continuously throughout the day.

Slow feeding

The relatively ‘new’ idea of devising ways to ‘slow feed’ horses makes a lot of sense. It provides a semi-continuous supply of nutrients to a digestive system designed to digest nutrients on a natural, continuous basis. This can be achieved with roughages and pastures, but is difficult to achieve when feeding high-energy concentrates. Human lifestyles add to the difficulty because many people don’t have time or aren’t available to feed concentrates little and often throughout the day.

Pulse or shock feeding

Unfortunately, with modern day horses, they often graze pastures designed for cattle, and are held in small paddocks or yards, which means than pasture intake may not be sufficient to deliver the required nutrient intake – especially for active horses in work. To meet the total nutrient demand, the horse often must be supplemented with other feeds, including hay, and processed feeds usually containing grain. Living conditions for horses and the lifestyle and work hours of their owners often determines that most horses are only fed twice or even once per day.

This style of feeding can deliver large loads of nutrients into a digestive system that is designed for a continuous supply. Termed pulse, or shock feeding, it is exacerbated when the feeds contain levels of some digestible nutrients (particularly sugar and starch) that exceed the digestive capacity of the horse’s intestines and cause spikes in the concentrations of blood glucose. These concentrated feeds can be considered as ‘fast foods’. ‘Pulse’ feeding ‘fast foods’ is one of the major factors contributing to the range of metabolic disorders found in horses today.

Feeding concentrates

Horse nutrition is based on mathematics. The nutrient requirement of horses can be calculated, and the nutrient composition of feeds can be measure and described in feed tables. The amount of feed required is a simple calculation; the difficulty is in knowing the effects of feeding concentrated feeds as ‘pulse’ feeds, rather than ‘slow feeds’, and knowing when one is over-feeding concentrate feeds.

What is a fast food?

Studies over recent years have identified the sugar and starch content of feeds as being one indicator of the ‘fast food’ status of a feed. All feeds contain sugar and starch, which are the major energy supplies to the horse. As said previously, the sugar and starch content is called NSC (non structural carbohydrate) and is equal to the glycaemic index (GI) in human nutrition.

The NSC content in a range of Australian horse feeds is shown below (Richards, N. Proc. Aust. Equine Sc. Symp., Vol 2, 2008)

This figure shows that commercially available horse feeds contain a range of NSC concentrations.

Grains also contain varying amounts of NSC, oats 46%, barley 57%, corn 65%, whereas hay contains as low as 7% NSC.

Feeds with higher NSC content are suited to horses in active work with higher energy demand, ie as work load increases, energy supply must increase.

For metabolically sensitive horses, e.g. older, overweight and/or laminitic horses and ponies, and some breeds, the suggested ‘safe’ NSC requirement is 10-12% in dry matter. It is proposed that feeding more than 12% NSC, and not increasing the horse’s work load is a possible reason for the metabolic disorders associated with over-feeding and under-working, because the horse is unable to burn off the additional energy from the glucose derived from the NSC.

NSC Digestion

Carbohydrates are composed of monosaccharides, which can only be absorbed from the intestines as glucose or fructose. Therefore all carbohydrates must be broken down to monosaccharides by various enzymes including amylase, maltase, sucrose and lactase. Amylase is the most important enzyme for digestion of starch. Unlike humans, amylase is not present in saliva in horses, and the horse only produces small amounts of amylase from the pancreas. The horse therefore has limited capacity to digest starch in the intestines.

Metabolic Disorders

The possible effects of overfeeding NSC feeds, in combination with pulse/shock load feeding rather than slow feeding, can be outlined as follows.

The Stomach

The horse’s stomach is divided into two sections. The second half has a thick cell wall lining, and the front half has a thin cell wall lining. With slow feeding, the feed enters the first part of the stomach and the horse releases acids into the stomach continuously, to help digest the food. With ‘shock’ feeding (feeding only twice per day) and feeding high NSC feeds, the horse releases higher levels of acid into the first stomach. The pH level declines, and can cause damage to the thin cell wall lining, causing ulcers. It is preferable to select low NSC feeds to reduce acid release into the first stomach, and feed little and often to avoid pulse/shock loading.

Small Intestines

The small intestine is designed to digest and absorb proteins, carbohydrates, oils, minerals and vitamins. The intestines have a maximum digestive capacity, and this capacity can be overloaded by feeding too much at any one time. They contain a large population of benign micro-oganisms, which live in symbiosis with the horse, i.e. they live together, where the horse provides the ‘home’ and the food supply, and the microbes digest the feed and provide nutrients to the horse. Dysbiosis occurs when the relationship between the host and the microbes is disturbed, usually when the feed supply to the microbes increases and there is rapid growth of the benign organisms, which can colonise the cell wall lining in the intestines. This may cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, which allows leakage of molecules such as glucose into the blood stream together with microbial toxins and other compounds. Leaky Gut Syndrome is known to occur in humans, and is implicated in Candida albicans. It is possible that Leaky Gut occurs in horses fed high NSC feeds, and causes increased blood glucose. What happens to the increased circulating level of glucose? If the horse does not use the glucose for energy (i.e. for exercise) the glucose has to go somewhere.

The horse releases insulin to enable the passage of glucose into the muscle cells. If there is too much glucose, the horse continues to produce insulin, but the cells lose insulin sensitivy and cease transporting glucose into the muscle cells. The cells become insulin resistant, which is the same as Type II diabetes in humans. Blood sugar levels rise, and insulin levels rise too. The blood sugar must go somewhere, and some can be stored in the fat cells, causing obesity. Increased insulin causes increased cortisol production, which in turn is implicated in laminitis, Cushing’s Syndrome and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS). In some breeds, the glucose can be converted into an unusual polysaccharide and stored in the muscles, causing tying-up. It is well known that low NSC feeds should be fed to those horses susceptible to tying-up. Some glucose can also combine with proteins, forming a proteoglycan, which is deposited in connective tissue in the legs, possibly causing swelling and stocking up, lameness and DSLD. It is suggested that selecting low NSC feeds that don’t overload the intestines, causing abnormal growth of benign microbes (Dysbiosis), may be a possible means of reducing the effects of some of the feed-related metabolic disorders.

Large Intestines

The small intestine has a maximum capacity to digest sugars and starch. Feeding too much starch can cause starch overload, i.e. the sugars and starch flow on into the hindgut. The hindgut contains a population of microorganisms similar to that in the rumen of cattle. If cattle are overfed on grain, this causes acidosis (grain poisoning); the same effect occurs in horses. The additional sugar/starch is fermented by the microbes, and converted into acids, which are normally absorbed across the wall of the hindgut gut to provide energy. If the rate of fermentation is too high, the microbes produce high levels of acids, which are both absorbed, and also cause a decline in pH (acidity). These acids can cause cell wall damage and leakage of nutrients and microbial toxins into the blood stream. The effect of hindgut acidosis causing laminitis is well described by Dr Chris Pollitt in ‘Equine laminitis’ for Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation Pub.No.01/129.

Hind gut acidosis is also implicated in causing hot and fizzy behaviour in horses.

Feeding low NSC feeds will reduce the flow of fermentable carbohydrates into the hindgut, and therefore reduce the production of acids.

Pulse Feeding

A pasture trail was conducted in which feeds with various levels of NSC were fed to grazing horses (Richards 2010). These included a sweetfeed (33% NSC), a pelleted feed (25% NSC), and CoolStance copra meal (11% NSC). The supplements were fed in two equal feeds, morning and night, in nose-bags to ensure all the food was eaten.

Circulating glucose was measured for six hours after pulse feeding.

Although the sweetfeed had a higher NSC, the digestible NSC was much lower, suggesting that some of the starch in the sweetfeed was passed undigested through the horse.

The results indicated that there was an immediate glucose spike after ‘pulse’ feeding the sweetfeed and pelleted feed with NSC>20%.

The CoolStance copra meal (NSC 11%) did not increase blood glucose levels above that in the pasture fed horses.

Is low NSC enough?

The pasture trial suggests that some energy feeds such as copra meal can be pulse fed, and yet be digested as a ‘slow feed’, ie they don’t cause a glucose spike. These feeds are low NSC and high DE (digestible energy) because they contain a combination of oil and digestible fibre. Some low NSC feeds are created by diluting the high NSC concentrate with poorly digestible, low NSC fillers, so they are low NSC and low DE, however, these feeds are usually unsuitable for performance horses.

High NSC Feeds and Horse Behavior

There is an age old expression that a horse is ‘feeling his oats’. This usually reflects a horse that is grain fed, and underworked, causing it to become ‘hot’, ‘excitable’, or ‘fizzy’. It is suggested that the glucose spike, and changes in insulin sensitivity arising from feeding high NSC feeds causes some horses to become hyperactive and difficult to manage. Reducing the NSC intake by feeding ‘cool feeds’ containing oils instead of grain, or increasing roughage is often recommended.

Whilst ‘slow feeding’ is the natural state for the horse, supplementary feeding is necessary for the modern horse, but shock/pulse feeding is, unfortunately, a function of human lifestyle and work hours.

Some concentrate feeds are ‘fast foods’ yet there are no labelling requirement for NSC levels in a feed, which is regrettable as feeding above 12% NSC and not increasing the work level may contribute to many metabolic disorders of performance horses. Careful consideration must be given to match the feed to the horse’s activity level, so as not to overfeed a high NSC feed and under work the horse. Horse owners can gain much by surfing the web, typing in keywords and following the links to reveal an amazing amount of information, and traditional thought is being challenged all the time.

Horse Feed and Horse Behaviour

At Australian Natural Health and Healing, we believe in natural feeding. This means that if possible, provide your horse with feed as natural as they can be, that is less processed and as close as possible to what a horse would eat naturally.

Of course grass is the most natural feed available. However, our lands are not as prosperous as they used to be and the variety of grass on a small acreage property would be limited. The soil is also likely to be poor in nutrients, meaning that the grass will not be very nutritious, hence the need to provide extra feed.

The closest feed to grass is hay and chaff. It is important to provide plenty of those. There are different types of hay like lucerne, barley, grassy etc.

The important thing here is that you must provide a balanced diet between roughage (hay, chaff, pasture, bran) and concentrate (grains, meals, fats etc). Although chaff is chopped hay, hay as such is a primary ingredient of the diet because it provides longer stems which help in the horse’s digestion. When horses do not have access to valuable pasture, or are fed grains, they should be provided with hay or chaff with a minimum of 1% of their body weight to enable efficient digestion (Dr John Kohnke).

Feed should be weighted and not measured in volume because it is the only way you will be able to calculate your horse’s intake. If you are using a 2 litre ice-cream container to measure your feed, take 1 measure of each feed, weigh it and record it. On average, a 2 litre container will be about 300g of lucerne chaff, 250g of white chaff etc.

Feed must be free of mould and “unwanted visitors” alive or dead! So it is important to store your feed correctly to avoid any spoilage and contamination. Mould and horses do not agree!!

Whatever ration you establish, you must monitor its effects on your horse and adjust accordingly. For example, if your horse seems to actively seek food after he has been fed, this means he is still hungry and you might need to increase the quantity. If, on the other hand, he has leftovers, then you will need to reduce the quantity. It takes around 3 weeks to see the effect of a particular feed, so if your horse is losing weight without any apparent reason (you know he is not sick or worm infested), then you will need to re-assess his ration. The same applies if your horse starts behaving strangely.

So lets see how food can affect a horse’s behaviour.

A natural diet for a wild horse contains large amount of cellulose fibre from plants that are digested in the large intestine. This natural diet contains very little amount of starch and sugars found in grains and protein in legume plants like lucerne. Starch, sugars and protein overload in the small intestine are a cause of digestive upsets and will “heat up” a horse or cause colics as the feed ferments in this region.

Some horses are so intolerant to starch they cannot eat oaten chaff (yes, there is a little bit of oats in quality oaten chaff). A common feed stuff that is very high in starch is wheat bran with between 30 to 50% starch. If you must feed grains, it is important that you provide plenty of roughage to help with digestion and the amount of grains be minimal.

Synthetic or poor quality vitamins and minerals may also create some unusual reactions, depending how sensitive your horse is. Horses are like people, some react to red cordial, others to lactose, some to red meat etc. Unfortunately there is no black and white answer. It is a matter of trialling something and observe how your pony reacts.

The good news is that once the culprit ingredient is identified and removed from the diet, your horse should return to its normal-self within days.

A good idea is to introduce new feed one by one (if possible) and see how it goes after few days.

Of course there are other factors that might affect your horse’s behaviour and they should be eliminated from the equation before blaming its feed. Horses by nature are not mean animals. They do have a hierarchy in their herd and there is always few fights among them. The alpha horse will ensure to maintain its status and will “boss” other around if needs be. This is normal. There are few books written on the subject that might help understand their behaviour within a herd.

An aggressive horse, on the other hand, is not normal. We should ask ourselves questions such as:

  • When does this behaviour happen? (feed time? During riding? Etc)
  • Has he always been aggressive?
  • If he became aggressive suddenly, what happened? We might need to investigate a little
  • Was he abused, starved or neglected in the past? Horses have a phenomenal memory and it might take a lot of re-education to change behaviour caused by bad memories!
  • Is he in any sort of pain? Like us, some horses are more sensitive to pain than others so a little thing might seem the end of the world for the sensitive ones! This is where we (or a vet) need to check his feet, back, neck, muscular tightness etc. If a horse is unbalanced, even slightly, it may cause some pain in his body and could be the cause for misbehaving. it is true that some horses will endure horrible pain without blinking an eye until they simply fall apart (or down)! This is then a shock to the owner who did not know their horse was hurting. One should take the time to really know their horse and be attuned to them to depict any abnormality. It takes time and patience.
  • Does his tack fit properly? Wrong saddles can cause some musculoskeletal issues and make our pony very unhappy!
  • If it’s a mare, is she in season? Some mares can get extreme during these times!
  • Is he badly educated? Have we got a spoiled brat?
  • Does he have an ulcer? This is difficult to determine and you will need your vet to run some check-ups. According to scientists, it is very common in horses, especially those who raced or competed as they get highly stressed and their diets might not be the best in terms of digestion. Some symptoms might be sensitivity to some feed stuff, especially starch and proteins, behavioural issues and weight loss. These symptoms alone are not sufficient to provide an accurate diagnostic, so if you suspect your horse has an ulcer, contact your veterinarian who will be able to confirm it and prescribe medication.
  • Now, a very simple question which gets overlooked quite often: does he get too much food for his activity level? Food is energy, so if our horse does not use his energy in his activity, he will have some left to spare!!
  • Does the horse buck when ridden (regularly)? Bucking takes a lot of effort for horses so there has to be a good reason. Assuming that it is not a horse in breaking, causes for bucking may be a painful saddle, sore back/body/feet, bad memories as explained above, too playful (too much food)?

I guess the first thing to eliminate is any physical health issues whether they are illnesses or injuries. Your veterinarian is the person to contact first and they will be able to refer you to other professionals if needs be, like farriers, chiropractors etc.

Elimination of any ill-fitted tack is the second one. If there is an issue with the saddle then you might need to get a saddle fitter in. It is not expensive and is worth the spending. Better have a good saddle than having a horse that bucks, is sore, unhappy and dangerous.

Any mental issues due to the horse’s past are better dealt with the help of professional trainers. Same applies to a badly educated horse. These professionals can help us in re-educating our horse and teach us what to do or not do.

If your horse gets supplements like minerals and vitamins, do a bit of research to see how other horses react to what you are giving yours. It is not uncommon to see a change in behaviour according to supplements given to a horse. Sometimes, it is wise to stop all supplements to see if the horse goes back to a gentler state. It is possible that these supplements might be too concentrate, or of an average quality, or that the horse has some allergic reaction to them, especially if they are synthetic. And sometimes, it might be necessary to only give natural supplements like herbs, dolomite etc.

Minerals and vitamins (supplements) should be given based on what the horse’s nutrients requirements. A good start if to check the NRC web site and John Kohnke’s book “Feeding Horses in Australia” to understand nutrients and calculate what your horse needs.

So Many Varieties of Horse Feed – How Do I Know Which is the Right Grain Mixture For My Horse?

Decisions, decisions. I can understand how a person just getting started in the horse world could become confused when deciding what to feed and how much. Personally, I came from the old school of oats, corn, barley and molasses. Electrolytes, salt and a good quality hay, preferably more than one kind of hay. Usually if the horses in consideration were riding or show horses, then a good timothy and a good quality of clover hay was sufficient. Racing horses were fed the same but there was a good quality alfalfa added to the diet. Young horses from the time they were weaned, were given vitamins and different supplements with their daily grain. As young horses grow, their nutritional needs are different because of the constant developmental stages they go through, similar to those of growing children. In my experience, young horses seem to get fairly round on the corners and hold their weight well and all of a sudden they sprout up an inch or two at the withers and slim down, then they get a little round and hold their weight again, and then sprout up an inch or two and so on, seemingly until they reach about their third year. The sprouting still occurs until they reach four of five years of age, but not as often, and they become fuller.

There are many high quality mixtures of feeds on the market of which I have used in the past. Many of the companies producing the newest mixtures of feed, have been in business for years, feeding millions of horses and other animals, and they are constantly researching new and better forms of nutrition. My suggestion is to research the larger companies first. They will be happy to show you the different feed mixtures and explain what it is they have to offer. Most feed stores promoting the feed companies will ask you about your animals, what kind of horses you own, whether they have pasture and if they are being ridden, and if so, how often and how hard. There are guidelines on how to feed your horse on each bag of feed, just remember that these are suggested amounts. Time, trial and error will probably be your best teacher, but most feed stores will be able to guide you into the right direction and help you to decide on the correct amount of feed per horse, per day.

On the market are different prices of feed. The lower priced feeds of course have the lower end feed products in them and they do serve their purpose. On the other end, just because a feed is very high priced does not necessarily mean that it is the best feed for your horse. Feeds very high in protein may not be the best for horses that are not being ridden often, these feeds are more for performance horses, growing weanlings or yearlings and perhaps two and three year olds as well as broodmares but that is another episode. And, as we all know, you sometimes pay a higher price because of the brand name. Each company has the right to charge as they please, so if you find a particular mixture of feed that you like becoming a little too expensive, take a little time to compare with other name brands that are up and coming. As time goes on, and you learn more about your horse and his or her nutritional needs, you may at a later date and if you have enough horses to warrant the extra time and energy, go to a mill and design your own mixture of feed. If you run into problems with your horse not wanting to eat the feed you have chosen, you may need to upgrade or have your horses teeth floated (filing down of your horses teeth done by a professional in order to reduce sharp edges in the mouth). Follow your instincts and go with what feels right to you. If you do not get the results you are looking for, never be afraid to ask a fellow horseman. True horsemen are always willing to lend a helping hand. Doesn’t matter if it is just giving out advice or lending a working hand. Horsemen are usually very obliging.

Feeding horses is not something you should take lightly. You can damage your horse in more ways than one by feeding them too much feed or too little. You will always need to monitor the way your horses look weight wise. When feeding large amounts of horses at a time, basically the fatter horses got a little less feed and the thinner horses got a little more feed. With each breed, age of the horses, and their daily activity, comes a basic standard of daily feed. Look at your horses’ weight every single day. Look at the brightness of their coat. Look at their eyes, whether they approach their feed tub in the same manner every day, whether they are stepping as lively today as they were yesterday. If you see any changes in your horse from day to day, ask yourself why and try to figure out what things are different today in comparison to yesterday. A horse that does not go to his or her feed tub is an immediate red flag and you need to investigate and figure out what is the reason for this horse not wanting to eat. Colicing or sick horses will not eat. Remember, horses are creatures of habit. Usually horses will drink fairly soon after consuming their grain. If you keep a sharp eye on your horse or horses, you can then determine if you are giving them either too much feed or not enough. Each horse is an individual, has different metabolisms and different needs. Feeding horses too much can cost them their lives from laminitis or colic. These are very painful deaths. Feeding them too little can cause a barrage of ailments. So don’t be afraid. Be informed, be careful, be observant, and be the horseman you have always wanted to be with a little help from your friends.