Treating Through Feeding

It is truly amazing how the diagnoses and treatment of equine maladies has changed in recent years. Those of us who have been around longer than a horses full life span remember a time before the common horse owner used terms like PSSM, IR, EPM, and Cushing’s when describing their horses health. These conditions were certainly present, but usually classified under broader generic terms, and only really understood by their vet. To yesterday’s horse owner either the horse thrived and was healthy or it was a “hard keeper”.

How times change. Access to extensive research information, both in print and on the internet, has elevated the understanding of underlying health challenges to a new level by the average horse owner. Today, we seldom hear the term “hard keeper” while working with our customers.  Instead, many informed customers ask how to best feed their horses while taking specific health conditions into consideration. While some equine health issues can be genetic, many are related to the horse’s environment. Activity levels, exercise regimen, available turn-out time in an open area, stall size, interaction with other horses and nutrition all influence a horse’s health. Taking all of these factors into consideration can help minimize the effect of otherwise debilitating conditions.

Looking at feeding programs for horses with Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM), one form of tying–up in horses, versus a feeding program for something basically unrelated like Insulin Resistance, we see clear similarities between the two. In both cases the horse can benefit from a normalized digestive system that avoids high starch level concentrates. Better utilization of the roughage (hay) in the diet by improving hind gut efficiency results in consistent utilization of available nutrition and pays large dividends for these horses.

If you expand your attention to many of the other chronic health issues that affect today's domesticated horse, you see that most current research will lead you to the same basic conclusion. Speaking broadly, feeding a horse in a way that better utilizes its roughage as the primary energy source, while providing any needed additional energy with the smallest footprint in the digestive system, will usually result in a horse that is more likely to be and stay healthy.

This is the goal of our feeding philosophy. First, feed the best hay that you can buy. Second, avoid overpowering the upper GI tract with more starch than it can handle. Third, normalize the PH in the hind gut so that the digestion of the roughage source is as efficient as possible. The result will be what we are all looking for, a horse that thrives.

I once heard the story about a person who, trying to make a point about avoiding confusion, said “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”. Upon hearing this, his mentor said, “I think one Simplify would have sufficed”.