Excess Selenium and Equine Metabolic Conditions

Excess Selenium and Equine Metabolic Conditions

Is There a Correlation Between Excess Selenium and Insulin Resistance, PPID, or Laminitis?

Life Data® has performed whole blood testing on horses in our in-house lab utilizing whole blood trace mineral ICP-MS analysis. Our research showed that Insulin Resistant, PPID (Cushing’s Disease), and laminitis-prone horses are consistently higher in some nutrients and lower in others compared to the average healthy horse.

Selenium Excesses in Whole Blood

Selenium is one of the whole blood minerals that test higher than average in most horses with a metabolic condition such as insulin resistance or PPID.  The research at Life Data® has not determined the basis or mechanism leading to higher selenium whole blood levels. Higher than average whole blood selenium levels may or may not be related to selenium intake. However, as a precaution, Life Data® does not recommend giving an Insulin Resistant or PPID horse any feeds, ration balancers, or supplements containing selenium. Almost all fortified feeds and balancers contain selenium.

Selenium

What Does Selenium Do for the Horse?

Selenium is required in the diet for normal metabolic functions and is naturally present in forages. Unless the forage or hay is grown in a selenium-deficient area, the horse will not likely be selenium deficient.

Excess selenium in the diet, usually through fortified feeds or supplements, will substitute for the stronger sulfur bonds in connective tissue, leading to weaker tissue. This excess can negatively impact hooves, skin, hair, and ligaments.

Equine Whole Blood Testing

Nutrition for Horses with Metabolic Conditions

Life Data® has formulated several specialty equine products based on our Whole Blood Research. When our research shows that nutrition may benefit horses with a condition, a formulation is produced for field trial testing. Low or high whole blood element levels are often either positively or negatively correlated with other nutrients such as other trace minerals, vitamins, and amino acids. The formulations for these conditions are designed to bring the high levels down and supplement the low nutrients. The formulation is not a treatment for a condition and is not intended to replace veterinary-prescribed therapeutics.

Life Data® Products for Specific Equine Conditions

Life Data® has developed three specialty products to help metabolic horses:

These formulations address the differences found in our whole blood testing. They do not contain added selenium and will replace ration balancers and/or complete feeds. They are also formulated to be given along with Farrier’s Formula® for additional support to the connective tissues of the ligaments, skin, joints, and hooves.

Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS

Equine Nutrition Consultant

Life Data Labs, Inc

www.lifedatalabs.com

cservice@lifedatalabs.com

Insulin Resistance in Horses

Insulin Resistance in Horses Blog

What is Equine Insulin Resistance?

The most basic explanation when discussing Insulin Resistance in horses is that we are dealing with an insulin problem within the horse. When a horse consumes carbohydrates, the pancreas is triggered to produce and release insulin. Insulin regulates and lowers glucose levels in the bloodstream by assisting the transport of glucose into the cells. When we have an Insulin Resistance problem, the cells become resistant to the action of insulin. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas secretes more insulin in the attempt to regulate blood sugar. Blood glucose levels begin to rise along with insulin levels when the pancreas reaches the limit of insulin production. 

Horses at Risk of Insulin Resistance

Although all horses are at risk of developing insulin resistance, factors such as age, diet, exercise, and genetics can increase the risk. For example, certain breeds are more conducive to developing insulin resistance. These breeds include:

  • Morgans
  • Pasa Finos
  • Andalusians
  • Arabians
  • Peruvian Pasos
  • Mustangs
  • Ponies
  • Minis
  • Donkeys

Another example is the average age of these horses. If we look at the correlation between age and Insulin Resistance, horses in the 5-15 age range are predisposed to the development of Insulin Resistance. Insulin Resistance is a metabolic issue, so diet and weight also play a significant factor. Horses that are overweight with a body condition score (BCS) between 7 and 9 or who receive diets rich in sugar and carbs have a higher risk of developing Insulin Resistance than a horse who receives regular exercise and a balanced diet.

Clinical Signs of Equine Insulin Resistance

Overweight Horse
Horse with a Body Condition Score of 8

Since Insulin Resistance is a metabolic problem occurring within the horse, it may be difficult to see the signs of a problem. A common warning sign that can be associated with the development of Insulin Resistance is an obese horse.  Other signs we can look at include:

  • Fast weight gain
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Fatty deposits on the body of the horse
  • Development of a “cresty” neck
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased appetite
  • Excessive thirst and urination
  • Inflammation
  • Frequent bouts of laminitis

Laminitis & Insulin Resistance

Most Insulin Resistant horses are prone to bouts of laminitis. This can be attributed to the abundance of fat tissue, which is extremely common in insulin-resistant horses. In overweight horses, research has uncovered evidence that there is an “insulin resistance” hormone factor produced by the excessive adipose (fat) tissue that contributes to the cells’ inability to uptake glucose from the bloodstream. Adipose tissue may also contribute to higher cortisol levels.  The high glucose and cortisol levels are inflammatory and therefore predispose the horse to laminitis. We highly recommend including a quality hoof supplement in the diet of these Insulin Resistant horses

Preventing Insulin Resistance in Horses

The first ten years of your horse’s life often sets the stage for the development of metabolic conditions. Horse owners should start providing the correct nutrients and a balanced diet to the horse at conception. This balanced diet must be continued throughout the horse’s life to maintain health and prevent future metabolic problems. Other factors that can help prevent the development of Insulin Resistance:

  • Regular work and/or exercise
  • Maintaining a healthy body condition score
  • Feeding grass/hay with a quality hay balancer
  • Refraining from feeding “sweet” feeds or treats

Caring for the Insulin Resistant Horse

There is no cure for Insulin Resistance, but we can help make the life of these horses as comfortable as possible. The first step in this process is to examine the horse’s current diet and develop a feeding plan that will assist the horse in dropping excess weight. This new diet will be focused on reducing the number of sugars and carbs the horse consumes daily. This means no sweet feeds, limited treats, and no grasses with high fructan. Grasses likely to have high fructan content include:

  • Fertilized and growing pastures
  • Pastures stressed from drought or frosts
  • Grazing in the afternoon and evening
  • Tall fescue and ryegrass

Monitored grazing, dry lotting, and grazing muzzles may also be necessary depending on the horse and pasture.

Adding exercise to the horse’s daily routine is the next step. If the horse is not accustomed to exercise, it should be introduced slowly, 2-3 times a week, and built up over time. Eventually, we want the horse to exercise daily with body condition steadily improving.

Supplementation for Insulin Resistance

Supplementation is vital for horses with Insulin Resistance, especially when we begin cutting calories from the diet. We want to cut calories without cutting the horse’s required daily nutrients. If the horse’s diet is not balanced nutritionally, we are not providing the support needed to maintain our horse’s health.

As mentioned above, a quality hoof supplement is essential for insulin-resistant horses to help improve hoof wall density. A denser hoof wall is more resilient to the effects of laminitis and may reduce the risk of founder. One good option is to utilize a hay and pasture balancer alongside a hoof supplement to replace the missing nutrients from the low-calorie diet. Another option is to use a quality hoof supplement and a supplement specifically formulated to support horses with Insulin Resistance.

Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier's Formula® Double Strength
Life Data® Insulin R Formula and Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength

Life Data® Recommendation

Farrier’s Formula® Double Strength and the new Life Data® Insulin R Formula work in conjunction to support horses with Insulin Resistance by supplying active ingredients to assist with glucose metabolism, fat metabolism, insulin action, and help reduce inflammation. Life Data® Insulin R Formula also supports proper metabolism to encourage weight control and general health.

Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health: PART 1

Equine Hoof and Joints

Have you ever considered the substantial influence the health of our horse’s hooves and joints have on one another? For example, can poor hoof quality negatively impact joint health? Can a joint injury add extra strain to the hoof? It is easy to look at our horse’s health from a narrow perspective, only considering the problem at hand. When it comes to the longevity and comfort of the horse, we need to look at the whole picture. The horse’s joints and hooves function together in its movement and balance. When one is afflicted, the other is often affected as well.

Effects from offloading, poor nutrition, hoof balance, terrain, and body condition accumulate over time, weakening the horse’s extremities and creating real problems in the horse’s locomotion. These influences become even more important for older horses, who are more susceptible to joint pain, arthritis, and hoof problems such as laminitis. In part one of this blog, we will discuss the impact that body condition and nutrition have on the health of the hooves and joints.

Overweight Body Condition

Obesity continues to be a growing problem in the horse community. Approximately 50% of the horse population in the United States is considered overweight. It is almost guaranteed that an obese horse will eventually develop hoof and/or joint problems. The additional weight increases the strain and pressure heaped onto the hooves and joints. The excess weight will also boost the risk of problems developing when combined with unbalanced hooves, frequent exposure to hard terrain, and offloading. In addition, most of these horses also do not receive enough exercise or balanced diets. This sedentary lifestyle does not provide the needed exercise to maintain joint strength and quality. Providing an imbalanced diet only adds to the problem. Nutrient and caloric excesses in the diet are typical in overweight horses and can have many consequences on the health of the hooves and joints. Common problems that can occur in obese horses are:

  • Laminitis
  • Hoof “pancaking”
  • Joint inflammation
  • Hoof Abscesses
  • Joint related injuries
  • White line separation
  • Arthritis
  • Poor hoof and joint quality
  • Sore joints
Horse with Body Condition Score of 8
Overweight Horse with a Body Condition Score of 8

Overweight Body Condition: What to Do?

The most impactful move horse owners can make to reduce their horse’s body weight is to return to the “basic diet” of the horse. Remove all complete feeds, sweet feeds, and treats from the horse’s diet. Utilize grass and hay as the cornerstone of your horse’s feeding program. We also recommend including a quality hay and pasture balancer, such as Barn Bag®, for nutritional support. This approach allows horse owners to control the number of calories their horses receive while still providing the essential nutrients the horse requires. Adding regular exercise to the horse’s daily regime is also extremely important. Start slow and allow the horse to build up to the new activities. The last thing you want to do is cause an injury by pushing your horse too hard and too fast.

Nutrition & Supplementation

The health and quality of your horse’s hooves and joints are reliant on proper nutrition and a balanced diet. In fact, poor hoof quality is one of the first signs of poor nutrition. The hooves, skin, hair coat, and ligaments supporting the joints are all made of connective tissue. If the hooves are impacted by poor nutrition, all other connective tissues of the horse will suffer, including the joints. Although nutrient imbalances can develop in any horse, overweight horses are highly susceptible to imbalances and the resulting hoof and joint issues.

Nutrient deficiencies and excesses in the diet will hinder the development of hoof and joint quality. One example is a deficiency in Vitamin A which creates a hoof wall defect where the hoof wall “flakes” away. Another perfect example is sulfur. A deficiency of sulfur-containing amino acids could lead to structural weakness of the ligaments, tendons, joints, and hooves. However, too much sulfur in the diet can have a negative effect on connective tissue strength. When hoof and joint quality are poorly affected by nutrition, we can expect:

  • Higher risks of thrush, white line disease, and microbial invasions
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Laminitis
  • Deteriorating joint health
  • Joint inflammation
  • Variations of poor hoof quality
  • Risks of injury
  • Hoof defects and deformities
  • Arthritis

Nutrition & Supplementation: What to Do?

Providing a balanced diet supported with essential nutrients will have one of the most significant impacts on your horse’s hooves and joints. Adding a quality hoof supplement to your horse’s feeding program will also benefit all dermal tissue of the horse, including the hoof and the connective tissue of the joint. A hoof supplement will build, improve, and support hoof quality to make it more resilient to many hoof problems.

Horse owners can also utilize a joint supplement to support joint health further. Although, feeding a hoof supplement with a separate joint supplement can have risks of sulfur over-supplementation. To avoid over-supplementing, utilizing a combo product to support hoof and joint health, such as Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint, is highly recommended. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint is balanced to support the hoof and joint without the risk of over-supplementation. Starting horses on Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint from an early age is also a great preventive measure.

Hoof and Joint Supplement for Horses
Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint

Prevention Versus Treatment

Preventing a problem is always better than treating a problem. Protecting and building quality hooves and joints begins at conception. Waiting to tackle a problem until there is a problem can be time-consuming, costly, and have lasting effects on your horse’s health. The key to prevention and extending the longevity of your horse begins with:

Although nutrition and weight management are major factors in hoof and joint health, there are other factors that still need to be considered. In part 2 of “Correlations Between Equine Hoof and Joint Health,” we will dive further into this subject to discuss offloading, terrain, and unbalanced hooves. Contact us if you have any questions about this article or the supplements mentioned. Consult with your farrier and veterinarian immediately if you believe your horse has a hoof or joint problem.

Equine Cushing’s Disease and PPID

Cushing’s Disease

Horse with Cushing's Disease

The number of horse’s affected by Cushing’s Disease (PPID) is steadily increasing in the United States as the horse population is living longer. Unfortunately, there are still many unanswered questions revolving around Cushing’s Disease and how it impacts the horse. Cushing’s Disease falls into the same category of diseases as Metabolic Syndrome and Insulin Resistance in that the extent of the problem is relatively “new” to the equine industry. Continued research into the disease and other metabolic problems must be conducted before we can fully understand the full extent of these diseases. What we do know about equine Cushing’s Disease can be used to help identify the disease early and assist in improving the overall quality of life for affected horses.

What is PPID in Horses?

PPID, or Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction, is another name used to identify Cushing’s Disease. Breaking down the name, PPID, helps us better define what is occurring in the Cushing’s horse. For example, “Pituitary” refers to the gland that is being affected in the horse. The pituitary gland in the horse is only as large as a prune and is located at the base of the brain and produces hormones in response to brain signals. The word “dysfunction” relates to the dysfunction occurring in the small middle region of the pituitary gland (Pars Intermedia). This dysfunction effects the inhibitory function of the gland, resulting in the excessive production of the hormone ACTH. The excess ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to overproduce cortisol. High levels of circulating cortisol lead to a multitude of problems.

Signs of Cushing’s Disease in Horses

The average horse with Cushing’s Disease is around the age of 15, when signs of the disease appear. It is estimated that the disease will impact approximately 30% of the population of horses who are 15 years of age or older. It is beneficial for horse owners to watch for any signs of Cushing’s Disease, especially if they have an older horse, so that it may be diagnosed in the early stages. Early identification can make the disease easier to manage and increase the quality of life of the Cushing’s horse. Below is a list of early signs:

  • Increased lethargy
  • Regional shaggy hair coat
  • Delayed shedding
  • Loss of topline
  • Regional fat pockets
  • Abnormal sweating
  • Recurrent laminitis
  • Recurrent hoof abscesses

Cushing’s Disease can progress slowly, but the advanced stages can also develop unknowingly. These advanced stages are much more severe and have a greater impact on the horse’s health. Symptoms of the advanced stages of Cushing’s include:

  • Dull hair coat
  • Poor shedding
  • Exercise intolerance
  • Round abdomen (potbellied appearance)
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Regional adiposity
  • Poor performance
  • Loss of topline
  • Increased thirst/urination
  • Blindness
  • Delayed healing
  • Laminitis
  • Hoof abscesses
  • Suspensory ligament/tendon laxity 

Feeding a Horse with Cushing’s Disease

A horse’s diet plays a major role in every aspect of the horse’s overall health. As such, feeding a proper, balanced, and basic diet to a horse with Cushing’s Disease is one of the most beneficial lifestyle changes to make. Many horses with Cushing’s will struggle maintaining a normal weight, either developing an overweight or underweight body condition score. In either case, horse owners must be mindful of the calorie, carbohydrate, and sugar intake their horses consume daily. The addition of a quality hoof supplement is also recommended to help in the recovery of many of the hoof related issues that often develop from Cushing’s Disease. Below is our recommended feeding routine for horses with Cushing’s.

  • Grass/Hay
    • Be mindful of the sugar in the grass
      • You may consider limiting grazing
    • Allow grazing only in the morning to early afternoon hours
    • If the horse is overweight, consider a dry lot.
  • Additional Calories (Only for Underweight Cushing’s Horse)
    • Avoid carbohydrates
    • Remove all “Complete Feeds”
    • Shredded sugar beet pulp or copra (coconut pulp)
      • High in Fiber
      • Low in Carbs
      • Good option for underweight Cushing’s Horse
      • Soaking prior to feeding helps prevent choking and excess sugar

*Overweight horses will not require additional calories*

  • Farrier’s Formula®
    • Promote Hoof Quality
    • Assist in laminitis recovery
    • Assist in hoof abscess recovery and prevention
    • Improves hair coat and skin quality
  • Life Data® Adrenal Formula
    • New formulation from Life Data
    • Designed specifically for the support of Horses with Cushing’s

Life Data® Adrenal Formula

By conducting blood analysis research, Life Data® has discovered many correlations in horses diagnosed with Cushing’s Disease. Life Data® Adrenal Formula was formulated using this research and will provide additional support for horses with Cushing’s. The active ingredients may help improve the function of the adrenal gland, improve metabolism, regulate thyroid hormones, and reduce the effects of Cushing’s. It also provides essential antioxidants and helps rebuild healthy connective tissue. Life Data® Adrenal Formula is designed to help promote:

  • Normal adrenal gland function
  • Improved glucose metabolism
  • Rebuilding of healthy connective tissue
  • Regulation of thyroid and adrenal hormones
Adrenal Formula for Equine Cushing's Disease

Treating Cushing’s Disease in Horses

Unfortunately, no cure for Cushing’s Disease has been found. If you believe your horse may have Cushing’s Disease, it is important to consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian can conduct yearly tests to evaluate your horse’s condition and provide medication to assist in regulating symptoms. Providing proper nutritional support along with Farrier’s Formula® and Life Data® Adrenal Formula can also assist in relieving the effects of Cushing’s Disease. If you have any questions regarding proper equine nutrition or any of the products mentioned, please contact us.

The Importance of a Healthy Equine Skin and Coat

As spring arrives, we tend to focus on our horse’s hair coat as they begin to lose their woolly winter coats. And, show season is just around the corner. We put a substantial amount of importance on the outward appearance of our horse, and rightfully so, but your horse’s outward appearance says more about your horse than you may know. Your horse’s beautiful coat is more than a bragging right. The quality of your horse’s hair coat reveals a lot about the overall state of your horse’s health. In fact, a decline in hair coat quality can be one of the first signs of a health-related issue, improper nutrition or poor maintenance.

Brushing Horse with Winter Coat

The Function of the Horse’s Coat

We can’t refer to equine hair without also discussing the equine skin. The horse’s hair coat, mane, tail and skin are all made of dermal tissue. Dermal tissue is the largest organ of the equine body. The hair coat and skin perform functions that contribute to the overall wellbeing and performance of your horse. A healthy hair coat and skin:

  • Helps protect from insects and micro-organisms
  • Insulates the body in colder weather
  • Produces natural oils to reflect sunlight and repel water
  • Cools the horse in warmer weather through sweat production
  • Provides natural beauty

Factors that Affect Equine Skin and Coat Quality

The development and management of a healthy hair coat does not happen overnight. There are several factors that can affect quality. Below are a few examples.

Genetics

  • Genetics is a factor over which we have no control. The genes your horse inherited can be the deciding difference between a beautiful versus a less than perfect hair coat. The goal is to give your horse the best hair coat that genetics can provide.

Nutrition

  • Nutritional deficiencies and/or excesses often contribute to the development of dull, thin, brittle or rough hair coats.
  • Selenium over supplementation will directly affect the quality of not only the skin and coat, but also the hooves. If your horse has poor hoof quality and brittle thin hair, you may want to investigate the amount of selenium in your horse’s diet and have the whole blood selenium levels tested.
  • Utilizing high-quality hoof supplements, like Farrier’s Formula®, will benefit ALL dermal tissue in the horse including the hooves, hair coat, skin, mane and tail. Farrier’s Formula® will provide the nutrients important for a quality skin and hair coat.

Environment

  • Parasites and microorganisms can interfere with hair growth, causing patchy and brittle hair. Fortunately, with advancements in equine medicine treatment options are available.
  • Insect bites can create itchy irritable skin. This can cause horses to bite or rub the afflicted area, resulting in patchy hair loss. Limited pasture time and sprays can help reduce exposure to insects. Healthy skin is more resilient to irritation from insect bites.
  • Long exposure to the sun may dull the color of your horse’s coat.
  • Long exposure to wet and muddy environments can cause the development of sores, hair loss, microbial infections and parasites.
Horse biting itchy skin

Disease and Equine Conditions

  • Different equine illnesses, diseases, and skin conditions can directly affect hair growth or even cause hair to fall out. A dull or brittle hair coat is not an uncommon side effect caused from an illness.
  • Some medications may also cause hair loss or a patchy coat. Check with your veterinarian if you begin to see this side effect.

Improper Maintenance

  • Neglecting your horse’s hygiene could negatively impact your horse’s hair coat and skin. A good grooming regimen is essential to a wonderful hair coat.
  • Excessive bathing, shampooing and conditioning can also strip the horse’s coat of important natural oils. This can result in a duller hair coat. It’s important to follow label instructions and leave the “deep cleaning” to important events or extreme dirt.
  • Lastly, consider the tools you are using in your grooming regimen and their purpose. For example, currycombs massage the skin which stimulates the production of the skin’s natural oils, whereas softer brushes are more effective at helping distribute those oils across the body of the horse. Using these combs in tandem, even during the winter when the coat is thickest, can help bring out the coat’s natural shine.  

Although many factors can negatively impact your horse’s skin and hair coat; balanced nutrition, environmental control and proper maintenance can help develop a coat that is truly breath-taking. Utilizing these factors to their fullest takes hard work and time but can create a coat worth remembering.

If your horse is losing hair or has developed a skin condition, consult with your veterinarian to ensure there is no underlying problem. Contact us at 1-800-624-1843 if you have any questions on utilizing a hoof and coat supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, to improve your horse’s hair coat.

Feeding Hay for Horses in the Winter

Hay… It’s Cold Outside!

As the colder weather settles in, many of our forages will lose nutritional value. This is especially true for warm season grasses such as Bermuda. This change can lead to nutritional challenges for many horses due to:

  • Insufficient Nutrients Through Grass
  • Over Supplementation Through Complete Feeds
  • Additional Calories Burned to Stay Warm

 So, what’s the best option when substituting forage to maintain your horse’s body condition? The answer is not to substitute it at all. Providing sufficient forage in the form of free choice hay is best to maintain a horse’s natural diet through the winter.

Close up of horse eating hay
Providing sufficient forage in the form of free choice hay is best to maintain a horse’s natural diet through the winter.

Unfortunately, not all hay is created equally, and one type of hay may work better for your horse than another. Below are a few tips to consider when choosing the best hay for your horse.

Alfalfa Hay for Horses

Alfalfa hay, due to its imbalanced mineral and low-quality protein content, can create several issues in horses:

  • Calcium and Phosphorus Imbalances
  • Excessive Urine Production
  • Joint Inflammation

Many of these problems can create other issues as well. For example, the increased urine produces excess ammonia that can eat away at the bottom of the hoof or create respiratory problems in the horse. This is especially true for horses who remain stalled for long periods of time or in barns that are not well ventilated.

Unfortunately, alfalfa hay is the easiest type of hay to obtain in many regions around the world. It is also the only option of hay for certain areas. If alfalfa hay is your only option, be mindful of the amount you are feeding.

Hay and Nutrient Requirements for Horses

Horses in different stages of life and disciplines will have distinctive nutrient requirements. For example, growing horses and performance horses will have a higher protein and nutrient demand than a retired horse. As you are choosing hay for horses, be mindful of the horse you are feeding and try to find a hay that meets its requirements.

Early-season hays usually yield more protein and nutrients and will be more desirable to horses that need the additional protein and nutrient requirements. Mid-to-late maturity hay tends to be a better fit for horses with lower nutrient demands. The only way to know if your horse is receiving the optimal hay is to have your hay tested. Once you know the nutritional value of the hay, you can make an informed decision.

Utilize Hay Balancers

Even the highest quality hay for horses will not contain every nutrient that your horse requires. Utilizing a high-quality hay and pasture balancer, such as Barn Bag®, will help ensure your horse’s daily nutrient requirements are being met. It also eliminates the necessity to feed compound feeds, which can deliver a surplus of both nutrients and calories to your horse’s diet. Utilizing a pasture balancer is highly recommended for elderly horses and hard keepers.

Young horses sharing hay
Horses are grazers, so keep feeding troughs low to the ground

Adding Calories

Some horses, such as hard keepers or performance horses, will require additional calories during the winter months to maintain body condition. Although compound feeds can provide the necessary calories, they also put your horse at risk for over supplementation. Below are a few feeding recommendations if your horse needs additional calories in addition to the hay being fed:

Other Winter-Feeding Tips

Additional winter-feeding tips to consider:

  • Feed Chopped Hay to elderly horses that are unable to chew properly
  • Build body condition in the summer/fall to maintain through winter
  • Horses are grazers, so keep feeding troughs low to the ground
  • Hay should be made available to the horse 24/7

Consult your veterinarian if you have any questions on maintaining your horse’s body condition score through the winter. Feel free to contact us at 256-370-7555 if you have any questions on Barn Bag® or feeding a natural diet to your horse. Visit our website for further information on equine nutrition.

Barn Bag® Call to Action

White Line Disease: Nutrition’s Role in Prevention

Equine Nutrition and White Line Disease
Properly balanced nutrition and quality hoof supplements strengthen and increase the density of the hoof wall, reducing the likelihood or severity of White Line Disease.

Burney Chapman, a world-renowned farrier from Lubbock, Texas, became one of the foremost authorities on White Line Disease back in the late eighties and early nineties. At that time, he began to see an alarming increase in the numbers of cases he encountered in his shoeing practice both in the U.S. and U.K. Burney determined that it was not a disease of the white line, but rather the result of a fungal invasion of the middle hoof wall. Burney named the condition “Onychomycosis”, or ONC.

The disease is also known as Stall Rot, Seedy Toe, Hollow Foot and Wall Thrush. At first blush almost everyone, including Burney, thought White Line Disease was found in environments that were poorly maintained. However, the more he encountered it, he began to realize the disease occurred more often in clean, well-managed stables and barns. He also observed that there was no correlation to breed, color, or front versus back feet; and that the initial stages were non-painful and usually detected by the farrier during routine hoof care.

The Hoof Wall

Today, we know a bit more about White Line Disease and recognize that all horses are exposed. The medial (middle) hoof wall is the structure affected. The damage is caused by organisms commonly found in the environment, both bacterial and fungal. These organisms require a nutrient-rich environment that is lacking oxygen to flourish. The outer hoof wall is more resistant to invasion due to its higher density and exposure to environmental oxygen compared to the low density and lack of oxygen in the middle hoof wall. The third section of hoof wall, the inner hoof wall, is more resistant to invasion due to the proximity of live tissue in this area. The live tissue is not only oxygen rich, thereby inhibiting these opportunist anaerobic organisms, but also has infection fighting abilities.

The Importance of Internal Hoof Health

Due to this, many horse owners approach White Line Disease as an external battle, but prevention begins with internally healthy hooves. For example, picture a castle protected by a strong exterior wall. If the people inside are healthy and thriving, the outside wall can be maintained and kept strong from outside invaders. If the castle is unable to maintain the wall, over time the outside wall will begin to deteriorate, weaken, and crumble; making it easier for outside invaders to penetrate. We can take this same example and apply it to our horse’s hooves. If we are not properly providing for the hoof internally, the outside integrity of the hoof will reflect the same. As the external protection begins to deteriorate, the hoof becomes less resilient to infections. Maintaining a healthy hoof internally begins with proper nutrition.

Prevention with  Equine Nutrition

Proper nutrition and hoof quality are directly correlated. In fact, poor hoof quality is one of the first signs of poor nutrition. Developing a balanced diet and feeding a quality hoof supplement can provide the nutrients needed to support stronger and healthier hooves. It may also help promote regrowth and recovery for hooves suffering or damaged from white line disease.

Feeding your horse an unbalanced diet can have the reverse effect. For example, excessive selenium supplementation and excessive bran in the horse’s diet are nutritional factors that can increase the risk of White Line Disease or other hoof related issues.

Although proper nutrition alone may not resolve White Line Disease, it is a vital step in building more resilient, stronger and healthier hooves. Protecting hooves externally utilizing a non-caustic topical product while also providing a quality hoof supplement is the most effective way to prevent and treat the problem. Consult with your veterinarian and farrier if your horse is suffering from White Line Disease. If you have any questions, feel free to visit our website or contact us at 1-800-624-1873 or cservice@lifedatalabs.com.

Learn More About White Line Disease 

Learn More About Feeding for Hoof Health.

Understanding the Horse’s Digestive System

Horse's Digestion System Blog Photo

Whether it is an animal, plant or other living organism, all living things must have a genetic code and chemical process to maintain life. All living organisms have nutrient requirements that are basically the same at the metabolic level. The difference is how these requirements are absorbed to provide nutrients and energy to live.

For example, plants can manufacture the nutrients and energy they need by staying in one place. They can do this by using the energy from sunlight, along with water, oxygen and nutrients from the soil. In essence, they are self-sufficient.  Unlike animal life, plants do not depend on other living things to survive except for the soil microbiome at their roots.

The Horse vs Other Mammals

Although horses belong to the same animal class as humans and other mammals, they are metabolically smarter than most other mammals. The nutrient requirements between horses and other mammals are the same at the metabolic level; however the horse’s ability to manufacture nutrients is far more advanced.

Humans, for example, must obtain most nutrients they need directly from what they consume. The food and nutrients are delivered to the digestive tract, broken down, and provided to the rest of the body. A horse’s digestion process is much more complex than this. This is in large part due to the hindgut (including cecum and large intestine) of the horse.

The Horse’s Digestion System

The cecum is a large organ within the digestive tract that houses microorganisms. These microorganisms break down the fiber and cellulose the horse consumes and converts the cellulose into additional nutrients and energy that the horse needs to survive. So unlike humans and other monogastric mammals which eat and drink to consume nutrients that are ultimately absorbed, horses not only eat and drink to absorb nutrients but also to feed the microorganism factory within their cecum.

To simplify this process, we can think of the cecum as a “garden” for the horse. This garden enables horses to be mobile in order to consume the nutrients they need. Horses fertilize the garden with the energy and nutrients needed to thrive by providing it with the cellulose of the plants consumed. The garden then produces the “fruits”, or additional nutrients, the horse requires.

The Wild Horse

Before the domestication of horses they were naturally roamers. They would roam, graze, and find the proper nutrition they needed to fully provide for the hindgut microorganisms. Today, we have restricted the horse’s ability to do this by enclosing them in pastures, paddocks, and barns. We have also increased their natural calorie needs by demanding more of them through riding, training, athletics, and work.

The Modern Horse

Modern feeding practices have altered the natural diet of the horse.  Many complete feeds contain excess fats and sugars (molasses), and are also fortified with additional nutrients. This “all-in-one” concept tethers calories and nutrients together; therefore hard keepers and working horses must consume large amounts of the fortified feed to maintain body weight.

This often results in over-supplementation of nutrients, and a diet too rich in fats and carbohydrates. On the other hand, easy keepers are often under-supplemented using this method of feeding. Also note that horses do not have gallbladders. Without a gallbladder the horse is unable to break down and digest the excess fat in many of the modern complete feeds, leading to diarrhea, gas and digestive upset.

Horses Must Chew

Chewing is instrumental to the horse’s digestion because the grinding serves two purposes, to grind the feed down to small particles and to generate salivation. In a horse, salivation is not initiated from smell or taste, but by the physical action of grinding the teeth. For proper digestion and utilization by the hindgut microbes the feedstuffs must be properly chewed and ground down into fine particles.

For the horse to achieve suitable grinding dental health must be maintained with proper floating. “Over floating” the teeth will inhibit the horse’s ability to grind. The teeth must have rough opposing surfaces for the horse to be capable of proper grinding – if the teeth are too smooth it would be like trying to grind feedstuffs between two pieces of glass.

The horse’s salivation is also important because it coats and moisturizes the food particles in digestive enzymes to kick start the digestive process and help deliver the particles to the GI tract. Most compound and textured feeds that we are using to replace the natural diet of the horse are “pre-chewed”, meaning that the feed has been ground already. The reduced chewing time restricts the amount of salivation, thus interfering with and bypassing an important part of the horse’s digestion.

Horse Eating

Proper Care for the “Garden”

If you do not properly care and provide for your garden at home it will not produce healthy fruit, but only weeds and grass. The same goes for your horse. If you do not feed your horse naturally, the garden within your horse will not provide the proper nutrition your horse needs. This can create health issues for your horse.

But, like your garden at home, these weeds can be picked. It is never too late to provide your horse with a natural diet. Remove the fatty foods, the complete feeds, and provide your horse with the diet nature intended it to have. Natural grazing and feeding hay will provide the horse with most of the calories and nutrients the horse needs. Any additional calories needed to maintain body condition should be separated from any additional nutrient intake.

If additional calories are needed, oats, beet pulp, or copra can be fed to meet these increased demands. Proper supplementation with a hay and pasture balancer is also important to replace the nutrients the horse may not be finding in the modern restrained lifestyle. If you have any questions regarding your horse’s diet contact your veterinarian or feel free to contact us at 1-800-624-1873.

Frank Gravlee, DVM, MS, CNS

Scott Gravlee, DVM, CNS

Life Data Labs, Inc.

Makers of Farrier’s Formula® and Barn Bag® Pasture and Hay Balancer

www.lifedatalabs.com

Does My Horse Need A Joint Supplement?

Farrier Supporting Horse's JointSome of you may already be asking yourself the question, “Should I be providing my horse a joint supplement or formula ?” Maybe you’re noticing that your once energetic horse is slowing down and seems to be stiff and not as nimble. Perhaps your award-winning steed is now taking longer to recover after a competition or a long ride. Maybe your horse is young and thriving and you want to prolong its life and career.

We all want to see our horses live a long, healthy, and enjoyable life, but can a joint supplement really make a difference? Would your horse benefit from receiving this form of joint support?

What is a Joint Problem?

Before we go on any further, we first need to establish what is a joint problem. To make the joint work, it takes the collaboration of tendons, cartilage, bone, soft tissue, and fluid. Any number of these working parts can develop problems and create discomfort in the joint. Some of you may not consider a joint problem an issue until it’s just that – an issue, but a joint problem begins at the first signs of discomfort in the joint. If you ignore the first signs of a problem, it will likely bring more discomfort and develop more issues for you and your horse. If you pay close attention, you can catch the signs of joint discomfort before it develops into something worse or creates irreversible damage.

Does Your Horse Have a Joint Problem?

So, how do we know a problem is there? As the horse owner, you will spend more time with your horse than anyone. You are familiar with your horse’s personality, habits, the way it walks, and so on. You are the first person in a line of checks and balances concerning the health and well being of your horse. Watch the way your horse walks and runs. Keep an eye out for any changes to it’s gate or any initial signs of discomfort. 

These signs of discomfort can especially be seen when you pick up the foot to clean and pick the hoof. Also discuss your horse’s health with your farrier. If you’re regularly maintaining your horse’s hooves, your farrier will be working with your horse’s feet and legs on a regular basis. Your farrier will see the signs of discomfort in the joints as they watch your horse walk or pick up the foot to work on the hoof. Your veterinarian can also assist you in determining if there is an actual problem.Horse Jumping

Preventing Joint Issues and Injuries

It is also important to note that it is much easier to prevent a joint issue than to try and fix one. Prevention is all about protecting the joint before a problem can develop and extending the life and durability of your horse’s joints. Prevention is especially important for horse owners that are regularly using their horse for competition or for work. Competing with your horse in the form of racing, jumping, dressage, three-day eventing, reining, roping, barrel racing, or other athletic competitions and training will regularly apply stress to the joints of your horse. These horses are at the highest risk of developing joint issues or suffering from a joint injury.

Just think of a human athlete. How many NBA, MLB, or NFL stars have we seen fall early in their careers due to an injury involving a joint? Today, these stars are taking precautions to extend the life of their careers. Eating healthier, stretching, taking supplements and staying in shape. It is an investment for them to prolong the life of their careers. We can do the same thing for our athletic horse and extend the life of their athletic careers through their diets, training, and supplementation.

Providing a joint formula like Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint will deliver the ingredients important for the health of the joints and will make the joints more flexible and less prone to injury. These ingredients will also help your horse recover more quickly after a competition and compete at its peak performance. By providing a joint formula early you’re not only preventing future problems but investing in the longevity of your horse.

Joint Supplement for Horses

Supplementing will also help relieve discomfort and pain for a horse that has already developed joint issues. If you have an athletic horse that developed an injury during competition or training, the ingredients in a joint formula will help rebuild and strengthen the connective tissue within the joint. Providing a joint supplement or formula will also support relief to the problem areas, allowing your horse to regain movement that was once too painful to make. This is especially important for the older horse who may be arthritic or have problems due to the build up of past injuries. This will prolong the longevity of your horse, strengthen the joints, and help prevent issues from worsening.

Factors that affect horse joints

You may not be jumping hurdles or taking your horse on week long rides, but it doesn’t mean problems can’t occur. Providing a joint supplement or formula is never a bad idea, especially if you are seeking to extend your horse’s ability to work and compete or wish to address issues developed from injury or age. If you are looking for joint support, we recommend Farrier’s Formula DS Plus Joint.

Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint strengthens the connective tissues of the joints, tendons and ligaments and contains ingredients to promote lubrication of the joints. The inclusion of proline, ornithine, and manganese provide targeted joint support. This product contains the sulfur needed for joint health in the form of the amino acids methionine and cysteine. Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint also provides ingredients important for hoof growth and joint repair without the concern of over supplementation that could occur from feeding a separate hoof and joint supplement. If you have any questions on Farrier’s Formula® DS Plus Joint, proper supplementation, or on joint health please call us at 1-800-624-1873.

Joint Supplement for Horses

Hoof Care Doesn’t Stop in the Winter.

Worse walking in snow

Winter is in full force and Jack Frost is blanketing many of our pastures with snow, freezing rain, and ice. Many of us are now concentrated on keeping our horses healthy, while maintaining body condition through this cold spell. We all have different routines we practice to keep our beloved horses as comfortable as possible during these months. We can debate all day between blankets VS a horse’s natural coat, or even more barn time VS more pasture time – but the one thing we cannot argue about is that proper hoof care doesn’t stop in the winter. Providing a balanced diet, staying on top of any hoof problems caused by the environment, and routine farrier work is a year-round effort.

Worse walking in snow

How Winter Affects the Hoof

It doesn’t take an expert to see that any amount of snow is going to leave our pastures wet and muddy, and as we have discussed in previous articles, wet and muddy conditions can create the perfect environment for “hoof eating” microbes to thrive. Prolonged exposure to water can soften the hoof capsule, leading to stretching and separation of the white line area. Regardless of how much pasture time you are allocating to your horse during the winter, ensure to properly clean and dry the hooves before moving your horse back into the barn.

Even if your horse is not spending a lot of time out in the cold environment, it is still important to regularly clean your horse’s hooves. Some horse owner’s may choose to restrict pasture time due to the freezing weather. Extended periods of time in a stall might keep your horse warmer, but this confinement can create hoof problems as well. While stalled, your horse will be standing in its own waste. This exposes the hooves to different bacteria that will affect the health of the hooves. Regularly cleaning your horse’s hooves and maintaining a clean environment for your horse can help prevent problems, but issues such as Thrush or White Line Disease can develop if left unchecked.

Hoof Maintenance in the Winter

Farrier Applying Hoof Topical for Thrush

Even with regular cleaning, sometimes you may need a little extra help maintaining the health of your horse’s hooves. Regularly feeding a quality hoof supplement, such as Farrier’s Formula®, will provide the nutrients your horse needs to promote stronger and healthier hooves. These stronger hooves will be more resilient to problems such as White Line Disease and will help prevent the softening of the hoof capsule. Using non-caustic antimicrobials, like Farrier’s Finish® and Life Data® Hoof Clay®, may be applied after cleanings to help fight and kill any “hoof-eating” microbes. These products will also help maintain hoof quality, and are non-caustic to you and your horse. We also recommended talking with your farrier and veterinarian to create a plan to properly care and maintain your horse’s hooves. Regular farrier and veterinarian visits are always recommended. Farrier visits should not be eliminated because of the winter season.

If you have any questions please feel free to call us at 1-800-624-1873 or e-mail us at cservice@lifedatalabs.com.