What is necessary and what is not?

The wild horse’s way

A wild horse grazes for 15-17 hours per day, travelling often many kilometres, in search of new grassy spaces and bushy landscape to pick from trees, shrubs, lichen on rocks and natural mineral deposits on the ground.

Wild horses drink water from springs, streams and lakes.  These natural sources of water sources are abundant in nutrients.

Horses in captivity

A typical horse in captivity will spend some time each day grazing the same limited paddocks.  They often receive hay and a hard feed daily.  Grazing time is usually less than ideal, and the variety of forage limited.

So how do you as the horse’s carer, provide the right balance of macro and micro nutrients to meet their horses daily needs?

Have you ever seen a horse chewing on their fence?  Sometimes this is attributed to boredom but often it too can be a sign that the horse is lacking in some minerals.

Our soils often do not have enough minerals to naturally supply our pastures with adequate minerals either. Overgrazing can cause limited forage species to be available.

Providing minerals

Minerals are broken down into macro and micro.  Macro minerals include calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, potassium, magnesium and sulphur. These are required in gram amounts in the diet. Micro or trace minerals include copper, cobalt, manganese, zinc, iron and selenium. These are required in much smaller quantities in the diet, and are measured  in mg or IU.

Sourcing a commercially prepared daily vitamin and mineral feed supplement that accurately balances each mineral to its co-dependent mineral works best to ensure daily dietary needs are met.  Feeding premixed feeds in volumes less than specified, results in lower than desired daily mineral supply.  Hence adding a guaranteed daily vitamin and mineral supplement to your own base feeds, ensures the right volume of minerals are being delivered every day.

The National Research Guide is a trusted global body that delivers reliable percentages and ratios of mineral and vitamin needed for all horses types, age and size.  However, not all horse feed supplements are created equal.  In the case of minerals, organic chelated trace minerals (minerals that are tied to an amino acid) have increased bio-availability over the oxide or sulfate forms. Vitamins and minerals need to be kept in certain ratios and levels in order to keep horses healthy.  For example, copper and zinc must be kept in a 4:1 ratio for proper bone growth, development and maintenance.  Calcium needs to be around 4:1 to phosphorus and potassium.  Calcium and magnesium absorption is dependent also on Vitamin D and Boron (A synergistic relationship).  Flowers Gold is a quality organic/chelated vitamin and mineral supplement that meets all of these guidelines successfully while still allowing for some pasture grazing and hay to be fed alongside the daily hard feed.

Sourcing quality hays and hard feeds with good mineral profiles will further assist in supplying bio-available additional mineral needs.

Over feeding minerals

Adding a variety of supplements can endanger your horse’s health.  Combining various pre-made feeds or multiple complete vitamin and mineral supplements can result in toxicity.  More is not better. For example, Selenium fed at the right level promotes healthy hair growth, add too much and hair loss occurs.  Vitamins and minerals also need to be kept in certain ratios and levels  to be bio-available and not rendering another unavailable.  When combining multiple feeds, always be aware of levels of iron, zinc, copper, selenium and iodine to avoid toxicity.

Read the full article: Minerals The Nude Horse

Keep It Simple Diet

The basics needs:

  • Roughage – approximately 70 % of the horses feed should be in the form of roughage (hay, pasture or chaff).
  • A salt lick (Himalayan rock salt is a great option as it doesn’t contain any additives).
  • Water at least 30ltrs a day in cool weather for full size horses and double in hot weather or heavy workloads.
  • Minerals and Vitamins to meet dietary needs

 The volume feed needed can be worked out as:

1.7 (% of bodyweight) x 500 (kg horse) = 8.5 kg max feed
(In this example the horse weighs 500 kg, so it can safely consume up to 8.5 kg of dry feed per day.)

Read the full article: Keep It Simple Equine Diet

Watch the KEEP IT SIMPLE Video: https://youtu.be/rS8AeB1VPTU

How Much Do I Feed?

Meeting your horse’s daily dietary needs is actually very simple.  First, rate the horses body condition, then work out their estimated weight.  Reaching their idea weight/body condition is then a matter of either increasing base feed volumes or continue feeding at daily recommended feed rates until ideal condition is met.

Calculate estimated body weight

[Girth (cm2 ) × length (cm)] ÷ 11 000 = Weight

For example:

Girth of 190cm (square this) =36100

Then 36100 x 125cm (length) = 4512500

Then 4512500 ÷11000 = 410kg.

This is an estimate only and could be 50±kg.

 Maintenance daily feed requirements

Formula: Multiply 1.7 x estimated horses weight then divide by 100.  Example 1.7 x 410 (kg)= 697, so 697/100 is 6.9kg.  Meaning you need to provide 6.9 kg of dry weight feed daily to a horse weighing 410kg.

Hay/grass/chaff should make up at least 70% of the daily diet. A 410kg horse, for example, in maintenance mode feed at least 4.8kg dry weight of hay/grass per day PLUS a hard feed (dry weight) a maximum of 2.1kg to make up the daily feed requirement of 6.9kg in this example. The hard feed can of course be less if the roughage is increased to compensate.

Read more….How much to Feed a day

Oils – the good and the bad

Along with ‘sugars’, the debate on what oils are actually bad and what are good is possibly the most contentious topic in the nutritional industry this century.

Why the belief that saturated fats are bad:

Diet professionals have slammed ‘saturated fats’ as the cause of heart disease in humans from as early as 1912.

From as early as 1912 Russian Scientist, Nikolai N Anichkov announced his discovery that saturated fats were the ‘primary factor’ of induced atherosclerosis (plaque that builds up inside the arteries).  Nikolai tested vegetarian rabbits with egg yolks and purified cholesterol added to their diet.  What he did not disclose is this:  Anichkov fed his rabbits cholesterol dissolved in vegetable oil (polyunsaturated oil).1

Could health professionals be so wrong?

Consider the rise and fall of trans fats. From the 1970’s they were used in everything from cakes, cookies, breads, snack foods, deep fryers, movie popcorn, chips, restaurant foods, salad dressing etc.  The food industry promoted trans fats as ‘healthy’.  The Life Science Research Organization of American Societies for Experimental Biology declared trans fats to be safe for consumption.

Only in recent times have trans fats been exposed as dangerous for consumption from data revealing trans fats contribute to cancer and heart disease.4

…A 1994 study estimated that over thirty thousand heart disease deaths per year in the USA are attributed to the consumption of trans fats.5

…More bad news

Heating at such high temperatures creates dangerous free radicals and aldehydes and neutralize or destroy any beneficial antioxidants such as vitamin E.

….The industrial processes to create vegetable oil damages the extracted fats and makes them unstable and rancid right from processing (rancid smells hidden by the deodorizing step), when consumed free radicals enter the body.

Read the full article: Oils The Nude Horse

Base Feeds

The truth about carbohydrates

 Most grains are high in the polysaccharide carbohydrates of sugar and starch (NSC).  This type is connected with metabolic disorders.

Feeds such as beet-pulp, lupin and copra by com-parison are high in the fibre type polysaccharide carbohydrates.

Issues with feeding grains

During the digestive process, both sugars and starches are turned into the sugars.  Horses have a limited capacity to digest substantial amounts of sugar and starch in the stomach and small intestine.  The excess supply of sugar and starch travels through the small intestines and on into the hindgut where the trouble begins.  An increase of sugar fermentation creates lactic acid.  Lactic acid lowers the pH causing an acidic environment, this in turn kills off the good microbes.  The dead microbes give off endotoxins that now enter the blood stream, this chain reaction often culminates in poor gut health, ill thrift (or obesity) and potentially laminitis.

Benefits of feeding Copra, Beet-Pulp and Lupins

Copra, Beet pulp and Lupins are rich sources of ‘super fibre’ type of polysaccharides.  These super fibres have a high water-binding capacity (viscosity increases from the presence of fibrous polysaccharides).  The fibres carry volumes of water and nutrients un-digested through the small intestines and on into the hindgut (large intestine) to release their nutrients and feed the good microbes such as Clostridium, Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus, Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Streptococcus, Enterobacter and Escherichia hence stimulating colonization of intestinal microflora.

Fibre types of Polysaccharides provide sustainable energy (slow release energy) and help stabilize blood sugar levels (reduction in glycaemic response).  Polysaccharides fibre have also been claimed to increase the amount of feel-good chemicals in the brain, decrease gastric emptying, increase satiety, improve immune system health and assist liver function.

Read the full article: Base Feeds The Nude Horse

Explore causes and management and treatment of bighead in horses

Bighead in Horses

Learn what causes it, how to prevent and best feeding practices to treat successfully.  How to manage calcium to phosphorus ratios, what are phytase enzymes and how do they help?  How does Vitamin D maintain healthy bones?

Big Head The Nude Horse

Feeding: Foals through to Young Horses

Ideally a foal will suckle within 20 minutes to 3 hours after foaling and readily take in the 15% of the immunoglobulin concentrates of colostrum.  During the following 7 days of life a foal should suckle approximately 7 times every hour each suckle lasting 1-2 minutes. As the weeks go on, the frequency reduces to about 3 times per hour.  From a mare fed nutritionally balanced feeds, the milk bar will provide all the necessary nutritional needs of foals for the first 6-8 weeks of age.  Within days of foaling a young horse will likely begin to sample the grass, hay and hard feeds in their environment, increasing as milk concentration and production decreases.

Foals are dependent on enzymes to break down nutrients in the gut.  Young foals start with high levels of lactase, an enzyme that digests milk.  Adult horses depend on their gut microbes to ferment and release the nutrients from fibre in forage (soluble fibre).  Young horses typically source these gut microbes from grazing on pasture grasses.  For this reason, foals are often seen eating their dam’s manure, a rich source of fibre fermenting bacteria.  From 3-4 months of age, the young gut can begin to digest concentrates in hard feeds, this is the time to begin feeding the foal their own small hard feed.  A common method is for the foal to have access to their own smaller feed portions in an area the mare cannot enter, known as a creep feeder.

Research shows foal health and skeletal development begins in the prenatal phase

Of interest copper supplementation of dams in late gestation may be protective against articular cartilage abnormalities/lesions in foals2, prevention of skeletal problems3 and a significant reduction in physitis score (swelling around the growth plates in young horses).4

White muscle disease has been attributed to selenium deficiencies from in gestation.  WMD is characterized by myopathy resulting in weakness, impaired locomotion, difficulty in suckling and swallowing, respiratory distress, and impaired cardiac function.  Selenium deficiencies can increase when a pregnant mare consumes high levels of unsaturated fats (vegetable oils.) 7 Selenium deficiency has been suggested to be involved in some cases of flexural deformities.  Janicki et al. reported that foals from mares fed 3 mg per day had higher concentrations of IgG at 2, 4 and 8 weeks of age than foals from mares fed 1 mg or less of selenium per day.6 Organic forms are shown to be more effective (Pagan et al).

Vitamin E has received considerable attention in recent years as a powerful antioxidant that reduces free radical activity. Vitamin E helps maintain membrane integrity in virtually all cells of the body. It also enhances immune response.

A study by Hoffman et al. reported that mares fed a minimum 160 IU of Vitamin E per kg of feed during the periparturient period had higher serum immunoglobulin G concentrations (IgG) than mares fed less.   Suckling foals of mares fed the higher concentration of vitamin E had higher serum concentrations of IgG than foals of mares fed 80 IU per kg of feed.8

During the last trimester of gestation, two-thirds of fetal growth occurs and 85-90% of fetal calcium is accreted from the mare into the fetal bones.  The pregnant mare should be fed a diet containing 0.45% calcium and 0.3% phosphorus.  Protein requirements should also increase by 10% (NRC).  Poor nutrition before and after foaling have been implicated in stress and early embryonic death.

Progesterone is critical to the maintenance of early pregnancy.  Holtan and Hunt (1983) reported a positive relationship between dietary protein and progesterone concentrations.

Read the full article:Feeding Young Horses The Nude Horse

The truth about Colic

 The cooler months coupled with drought conditions (increased hand feeding) can increase the risk of colic episodes

Colic is the most prevalent cause of death in horses, followed by old age, accidents and laminitis. (Adeyefa , 1990).

Horses are unique in their digestive processes to other species and understanding their needs may help owners adjust feeding practices to help prevent colic.  Horses continuously produce stomach acid, the design purpose is to be able to graze constantly.  The saliva produced when chewing neutralizes the stomach acid.  Horses fed one to three feeds a day, without access to quality ad lib quality hay, are at a higher risk of colic and stomach ulcers.  Early signs of poor gut health may be mucous matter present in fecal matter.

Common factors that may increase the risk of colic

Fermentation of grain based hard feeds can easily result in a decrease in cecal and colonic pH when lactic acid is produced. This decrease in gut pH causes a shift in the microflora of the hindgut, which may result in the release of toxins and subsequent clinical colic. Additionally, the causation effect may also be an increase in gas production in the hindgut leading to colic.

One study Munsterman* discussed showed that consuming large portions of low-quality forage (hays) increased the risk of impaction colic, and another revealed that horses consuming round bale hay had a 2.5 times greater risk of colicking. Abrupt hay changes have been implicated in colic cases.

Research study results have found several associations between concentrate (grain, processed grain based feeds and premixed/pelleted feeds) and colic risk.  One study found that feeding more than 2.7 kilograms of oats per day increased colic risk, while another identified whole corn as a major risk factor. Researchers have shown that changes in the concentrate a horse consumes elevates colic risk.  Another study discovered the risk of colic increased 6-fold for horses at the highest concentrate intake levels over the horses on pasture who received no concentrate.

Read the full article: Colic The Nude Horse

Electrolytes – what you need to know

Did you know a horse not in work loses up to 10 litres a day in sweat! That means losses of 10 grams of Sodium, 10 grams of Chloride, 25 grams of Potassium and 10 grams of Magnesium!

A horse in mid-range work sweats by comparison 27-43 litres a day.  That means losses of up to 43 grams of Sodium, 71 grams of Chloride, 43 grams of Potassium and 13 grams of Magnesium.

The horse’s body cannot retain water without the presence of electrolytes.  Adding electrolytes to the horses feed helps replenish the lost fluid.  However, after prolonged sweating it will take several days of electrolyte supplementation to completely replenish losses.  Hence supply of necessary electrolytes should continue.

Critical attention needs to be adhered to on how to sustain and replace electrolytes.  Sadly, some recommend loading hard feed with salt.  Is this safe or even necessary?

Studies consistently demonstrate sodium chloride (salt) should be available for the horse ad lib in the paddock/stables all year round in the forms of either plain iodized, cobalt-iodized or trace-mineralized salt (Himalayan Rock – often the easiest choice).  Research indicates a horse will naturally uptake only 0 to 62mg/kg BW/day*.  (Example: a 500kg horse would uptake naturally between 0 gr a day to a maximum of 31 gr by free choice).  Common sense dictates adding more than 31 gr a day to hard feed (including what is already available in their feeds/supplements) would be unnecessary and even dangerous in consideration of Holbrook et.al., 2005 ‘repeated oral administration of an electrolyte solution has been associated with an exacerbation of gastric ulcers.’

Read the full article: Electrolytes The Nude Horse


Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Protein is made of chains of amino acids.  Therefore, the horse’s requirement is for amino acids. Protein begins digestion in the stomach and moves to the foregut (small intestine) for most of the processing.  Here the proteins are broken down in to free amino acids.  From the foregut these individual amino acids are transported via the blood stream to the cells for use. The cells take these singular amino acids to recreate peptides or proteins needed by the body.  Peptides combine to form a new chain of amino acids a polypeptide or protein. Shorter peptides are chains of 50 amino acids or less. Longer proteins have upwards of 27,000 amino acids.  Amino acids can be arranged in many different combinations, it’s possible for your horse to make thousands of different kinds of proteins from just the same 21 amino acids.


Feed bags usually only list Crude Protein (CP) content.  This can make it a challenge to know the quality of the protein content.  Ideally you need to know the amino acid profile rather than the crude protein content.  We will discuss some common base feed profiles, so you can understand if the CP you are feeding is of the desired ‘quality’ rather than pure quantity.  You will have to read the ‘Ingredients’ list to see what amino acids are present on your hose feed bag rather than just the CP figure.The horse can synthesize some of the amino acids itself. These are not specifically required in the diet and are thus termed “non-essential” amino acids. Those amino acids that the body cannot synthesize (or at least not in sufficient amounts) must be provided for in the diet and are considered “essential amino acids.” There are 10 amino acids that are considered essential for the horse: arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.  A “limiting” amino acid is an essential amino acid that is often found in less than adequate amounts in feeds. Three such of these limiting amino acids are highlighted and will be expanded on in in this article.

Read the full article: Protein The Nude Horse

Fatty Acids – Omega 3 & 6

What is the difference

We hear a lot about the three Omega 3 fatty acids Alpha Linolenic (ALA), Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).  But did you know there are many more?

Mammals are unable to synthesize omega-3 fatty acids.  Supplement feeding has taken popularity with the plant based omega 3 ALA found in Flaxseed, but only a small amount as low as 5% is actually converted into the necessary EPA and DHA. Fish oil (Cod Liver Oil) & Hemp Seed Oil on the other hand provides pre-formed ready to be utilised EPA and DHA Omega 3s in the right ratio.

Surprisingly for some, Pasture grass naturally offers a ratio of 1:4 (Omega6:Omega3) it simply can’t be beaten as the best source for your horse.  When pasture is unavailable, then it is recommended by Kentucky Equine Research to supplement 60 ml/day of fish oil. (Pagan, Lawrence, Lennox).

We hear about the excesses of omega 6 fatty acids in the diet.  High proportions of Omega 6 to Omega 3 fat in the diet shifts the physiological state in the tissues toward pathogenesis of many diseases. Omega 6 increase inflammation.

Animal feeds high in Omega 6 throw the correct dietary ratio out of balance.  Feeds that are proportionately too high in Omega 6 to Omega 3 are vegetable oils (soybean, cotton seed, sunflower seed, corn, grapeseed, rice bran, peanut, sesame oils) Corn oil for example has an omega 6 to omega 3 ratio of about 45:1!  Caution too with seeds like sunflower, sesame & pumpkin along with grains including corn, oats, wheat, quinoa and rice, not to be missed are legumes like soybean and peanuts that are very high in the Omega 6 fatty acids.

….Fortifying your horse’s diet with an omega 3 of at least 2-5 to 1 of omega 6 provides key health benefits.  A healthy diet low in Omega 6 and high in Omega 3 (being naturally anti-inflammatory) can help reduce allergy symptoms.  Research indicates these additional health benefits of increased Omega 3 uptake….

Read the full article:Fatty Acids The Nude Horse