Horse Nutrition

Table of Contents

Research - Geared to Agriculture

Research - Geared to Pet Horses

Research - Geared to Performance Horses

Environmental Research Affecting Equines Today

Research on New Feed Sources

Iron and Manganese

Research on old chemical forms of sulfates and phosphates in minerals

Why our focus is on protein - carb intolerance

Research in History - Geared to Agriculture

Back in history we depended on horses to plow our fields, harvest the crops and for transportation. So nutrition research was geared towards plow horses, draft horses with a high percentage of slow twitch muscles and more aerobic metabolism under work conditions of long slow distance. These horses have a completely different metabolism than racing horses with a high percentage of fast twitch muscles and primarily anaerobic metabolism os short bursts of speed. Food sources were based primarily on oats and Timothy hay as the everyday basics. Copper needs were met by placing copper pennies under the skin of the horses and supplements other than salt were nearly unheard of.

Research Today Geared to Pet Horses

In today’s world, we now have automobiles for transportation and high powered tractors for agriculture. Draft horses are now mostly relegated to the pet horse market and they certainly don’t have to work like they used to. Nutrition needs are now more for maintenance at rest which is completely different from the old days.

Research Geared to Performance Horses

Performance horses today include racing Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds and Quarter Horses bred with significant amounts of Thoroughbred blood, along with event horses, distance racing horses, fox hunters and dressage horses. Standardbreds used to be expected to plow the fields on Thursday, pull the family wagon to town on Sunday, race in a sulky on that same Sunday afternoon and then pull the family wagon back home again Sunday night. Quite different from the Standardbreds of today, who are bred for a higher percentage of fast twitch muscles and more speed, and not at all for pulling plows or wagons. Consequently, equine nutrition for performance horses is geared to horses of speed, endurance and high energy expenditure.


Pesticide Residues in Food - 2004: Residues (2 v.)

This document, published in two volumes, contains the summaries of the residue data considered and the recommendations made at the 2004 Joint Meeting of the FAO Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the WHO Core Assessment Group.

Environmental Research Affecting Equines Today

Like its counterpart in human nutrition, equine nutrition research fails to consider the environmental factors affecting the feed sources and water sources that horses today are subject to, and that significantly affect the quality of health and performance. Pollution of well water with farm chemicals that were unknown 100 years ago, and also the chlorinated hydrocarbons, aluminum phosphate residues, industrial wastes, pharmaceutical residues and heavy metals coming from old degrading pipes, pollute most city waters in the hearts of old cities, where most big race tracks still exist. Add to that scenario the adulteration of our commercial fertilizers with industrial wastes and toxic metals, including high iron and manganese, we find the mineral ratios in the soils skewed where food crops are grown, including hay as a cash crop. These factors all drastically change the mineral nutrition needed by horses (and humans as well) for basic wellbeing whether for pet horses, or most notably our performance horses.

Today we need specialized, cutting edge mineral nutrition to both counteract the abnormal, unnatural and unhealthy mineral ratios coming through our food supply as well as to counteract the mineral competitions and interferences against normal biochemistry by the toxic metals. Conventional feed companies are still using the same old mineral values, calculated many decades ago, under totally different environmental circumstances, in conventional horse feeds today. This practice is not only obsolete, but it is also unhealthy. The high iron and manganese coming through our feeds today interferes with the biochemical pathways for copper, zinc, and potassium. Magnesium levels are only 80% what they used to be, and that is only IF the same foods are fed to the same degree that they were 100 years ago, which they are not. Magnesium is the most important mineral in the body as it is needed for about 98% of all biochemical processes in the living body.


Arsenic Toxicity

Prolonged arsenic exposure causes skin and lung cancer and may cause other internal cancers as well. Skin lesions, peripheral neuropathy, and anemia are hallmarks of chronic arsenic exposure.

High levels of arsenic have also entered our food and water supplies. Even conventional and commonly used trace mineral salt is high in arsenic as well as iron oxide (ie: rusty nails), the red coloring. Arsenic is also used as an additive (3-nitro-4-hydroxyphenylarsonic acid, or roxarsone) to chicken and other fowl feed to keep salmonella at bay and to induce weight gain, with the arsenic showing up in toxic levels in people who eat a lot of conventionally grown chicken and turkeys! Many drinking waters are now found to be high in arsenic, such that back in the 1980’s, President Reagan actually had the national tolerance level for arsenic in public drinking water raised, because the problem was so prevalent, and purification for arsenic was so expensive and complicated to do. Of course, Mother Nature did not agree to declare arsenic non toxic! Arsenic opposes iodine on the mineral wheel and high levels of arsenic can and will cause an iodine deficiency in the body, thus triggering endemic hypothyroidism, which is what we are seeing in the population today, in horses, pets and humans. We now know through updated research on iodine, that we are already direly too low in iodine for good health, meaning high arsenic is doubly dangerous.


Beet Pulp - Endosulfan Exposure

Both α- and β-endosulfan and its metabolites (endosulfan diol, ether, and sulfate) were found to penetrate plant tissue and were translocated from the leaves to the roots of both bean and sugar beet plants.

Research on New Feed Sources

Today, with the highly mechanized food production that we have developed for a bulging post war population, many varied and sundry waste by-products are generated that then are looking for “recycling towards a profitable end”. These include beet pulp, loaded with pesticides and herbicides which are actually concentrated during the sugar extraction process, which is water soluble and these toxins are fat soluble and stay in the residual pulp. And with the huge industry that sugar is, there is ample money for funding studies to show that beet pulp is something wonderful, as they dangle monies in front of university noses now so hungry for research funds. So remember that when you read about the wonderfulness of any products. Be descriminating and look into how the product is grown and treated before and after harvest. Sugar beets pop up out of the ground as all beets do during growth, so that about 1/3 of the beet is above ground. Then, to harvest, the beets are sprayed with herbicides to kill the leaves that would entangle the harvest machines. These herbicides go into the beet. Statistics from case histories at Vita Royal over the years has shown beet pulp to be the main feed trigger for hind gut problems and neurological compromises. Often, just the removal of this product from the feed allows the horse to make significant recovery. Of course, some horses are more sensitive to beet pulp than others but if you see this problem in your horse, this is certainly worth a try.


Soy - Phytoestrogen Exposure

Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring polycyclic phenols found in certain plants that may, when ingested and metabolized, have weak estrogenic effects.

Soybean hulls are another feed by-product for which corporate sponsored research was done. Despite the results showing that soy hulls are not readily digestible for horses, they are used as if they are in many commercial feeds and supplements. With their outright exposure to pesticides and herbicides, they are better left alone as more digestible feeds should be sought with less hazard. Soy, is also high in phytoestrogens, with research showing the effects of these compounds in altering normal hormone cycles in males and females mammals.

How to Decode a Horse Feed Ingredients Tag "The tag on your horse’s feed will provide you with the information you need to ascertain what the ingredients are, how much to feed to the animal, and savvy shoppers will also be able to tell a lot about the quality of the feed."

Wheat middlings are another old ag by-product that is comprised of the cleanings and screenings of wheat from the fields. Wheat midds are typically composed of broken wheat grains but are also laden with dirt and mold spores, so that you have essentially a high NSC dirty feed, something that most horses are sensitive to today.

Iron and Manganese

With the increase in acid rain over decades that tends to acidify the soils, and the dumping of iron and manganese into commercial fertilizers, both iron and manganese have been steadily increasing in he food supply. Today, doctors are recommending that men and also women who do not menstruate give blood regularly to reduce the accumulations of high iron in the liver. For this reason, using supplements that contain manganese and iron can increase this problem in both humans and animals. Add to that, the knowledge that high iron in foods, feeds and water can be increased in uptake in the body by increased gut acidity that also plagues both humans and animals today. thirty years ago and further back, equine textbooks taught that since horses were vegetarians and had a higher digestive tract pH than meat eaters, and that they were grazing animals, that they could not even develop ulcers. Today, we see an epidemic in ulcers in both horses and humans, with corresponding rising sales of various acid neutralizing digestive remedies. Vita Royal has been monitoring the increasing statistics of iron and manganese since 1977 and discontinued any additions of these minerals 15 yrs ago in all feeds and supplements.

University of Maryland Medical Center - on Manganese

Oregon State - on Manganese

Cornell University - on Iron

Research on Old Chemical Forms of Sulfates & Phosphates in Minerals

In the old days, back when trace mineral soil deficiencies were not so widespread and the need for supplementation and enrichment of foods was not routine, cheap inorganic widely available chemical forms of minerals could be used safely, because the soil deficiencies were not so severe and so higher levels of minerals were not needed to be supplemented. With lower levels needed and used, the toxicity and adverse effect levels of the inorganic sulfates and phosphates were never reached. however, in today’s world the case is far different. Mineral deficiencies are more severe, and the lower levels of essential minerals that are still left in the soil are being offset by the interferences of toxic metals that interfere with uptake and metabolism in the body. Many of the toxic metals can substitute themselves for the healthy essential minerals in the very biochemical pathways themselves inside the body, causing major dysfunction in enzyme systems, hormone systems, digestive functions, brain functions, reproduction and more. These toxic metal interferences only serve to compound the effects of the mineral deficiencies and make the health compromises of such even greater. This situation causes us to have to increase even more the supplemental levels of minerals we would need to supplement if those toxic interferences did not exist. This important problem is often not taken into consideration by conventional medicine when determining levels of needed minerals in the daily nutrient values for health. It is as if those toxic elements did not even exist.

Using the necessary higher levels of minerals for supplementation, we now need to focus on the safest and most bioavailable chemical forms of minerals available. The old inorganic sulfates and phosphates can have adverse effects on the body when used in higher levels that are now needed, and also can be interfered with during the absorptive process by the toxic metals and other minerals in competition for absorption too. So the old phosphates and sulfates have now been rendered obsolete in effective mineral supplementation that addresses all the factors in supplementing a deficient and also toxic food supply. In the last 50 years, nutrition research has focused on developing mineral forms with the highest bioavailability and also the best safety used in higher levels. These forms are the amino acid chelates which can be directed towards tissues and organs most in need of specific minerals, and referred to as “tissue targeted”.

Bioactive Forms of Nutrients: Not all Supplements Are Created Equal

Why Our Focus is on Protein - Carb Intolerance

Since the early 1990’s, health statistics for both humans and animals, have been showing a steady rise in obesity and metabolic syndromes. The bulk of these health compromises center around the rising inability of the living body to metabolize carbohydrates properly. Blood sugar imbalances, first manifesting as epidemic low blood sugar back in the 1970’s and 1980’s really was a preview to what we are now seeing as epidemic high blood sugar or diabetes. Hindsight reveals the living body going into “overdrive”, struggling to adapt to the the changing nature of the food, water and environment quality, and the rising levels of toxic metals, solvents etc, skewing the hormone and enzyme systems necessary to properly digest carbohydrates to completion and providing energy to the system. With compromise here, the body cannot properly regulate its blood sugar internally anymore and then craves simple sugars from without. Hence, the junk food craze. When the liver, the organ responsible for both filtering toxins and regulating blood sugar becomes compromised by toxins, hormones become skewed and blood sugar falls, causing the body to look for quick fixes in simple carbohydrates and junk food. The current ill health epidemic, as is expected, is toxic liver syndromes such as NAFLD or Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease which now affects 80% of the population of all ages.

We see the effects of a toxic and deficient food supply in our horses too, as girths expand and saddle tree width gets ever wider. Those beautiful classic old saddles we often see on Ebay and at auctions don’t fit hardly any horses any more. Our horses, dogs and cats all look like us now! -Nesbitt PD, Lam Y, Thompson LU. Human metabolism of mammalian lignan precursors in raw and processed flaxseed. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999;69:549-55
Protein composition and ruminal amino acid degradability of linseed meal "Even though this is about digestibility in ruminants, the charts on the protein composition of both linseed meal and canola meal are quite valuable" -Linsey McLean, Envornmental & Nutritional Biochemist University of Saskatchewan
CANOLA MEAL Feed Industry Guide "This technical guide on the use of canola meal in animal feeds is the latest in a series of canola meal publications produced by the Canola Council of Canada. Every few years, the guide is updated to incorporate new research information about canola meal and developments in feed technology. Since the previous edition in 2001, a considerable amount of new research on feeding canola meal has been conducted from around the world, especially from Canada, Europe and Asia." - Canola Guide
Sweet Horse Feed Recipes with Added Molasses
(i.e. Sugar) May Contribute to Underlying Equine Health Conditions
"Molasses has been added to horse feed recipes to decrease the dust that is usually found in substances that contain oats and other grains. To the horse’s palate, the sweetness is quite tasty, and you will find that they will prefer the sweet food over other kinds. Yet horse owners are beginning to wonder if this added sugar may not be related to such illnesses as diabetes, hyperactivity, colic, founder, as well as equine Cushing’s disease."

Sweet Horse Feed Recipies with Added Molasses (i.e. Sugar) May Contribute to Underlying Equine Health Conditions