Thursday, May 22, 2014

Evening Nutrition Seminar

As I was driving home last night eating the fries I’d just picked up from a drive thru by scraping together loose 20c coins, I had heaps of time to reflect on the nutrition seminar (and the $300 I’d just spent on adjustments to the horses’ diets).

It’s funny where ‘horse people’s’ priorities lie isn’t it? Someone mentions how delicate a horse’s digestive system is and you suddenly question and scrutinise everything you’re pumping into it, yet when someone mentions that a salad is probably better than deep fried and salted potatoes for your own digestive system, it’s all about convenience!

The seminar last night was actually very informative and I did learn/question a thing or two. Initially we looked at a horse’s digestive system in comparison to a human, cow and a dog. Most of the digestive process takes place in the hind gut, as the horse has a smaller stomach and intestine than most mammals, and so foods that are easily and quickly digested are broken down better by the time they reach the large intestine, which is where the horse’s body extracts the good stuff from his food.

Basically, the mouth, stomach and small intestine break down the food so the large intestine can get what it needs from it. Smaller stomachs and small intestines mean less time breaking down food.

We then went through the main food groups for horses, and this is the section that was perhaps most interesting to me, as the nutritionist talked about protein. Traditionally horses are fed a very low protein diet (apologies if this is not the case for overseas readers), and we focus on fibres and fats (think chaff, oats and oils).

Exercise breaks down muscle, and then it repairs itself, and re breaks and repairs, which is how muscle and strength is built, so protein is actually very useful for ‘sport’ horses. Obviously we’re not to feed our amateur eventers protein shakes with breakfast, but switching popular low GI feeds to balanced feeds with higher levels of protein could be really beneficial to working horses.

As Oscar and Kiri are typically good doers, I certainly sit in the low GI food group avoiding most feeds that aren’t high in fibre and low in everything else. Reducing the amount of hard feed they are eating and topping up with a balanced vitamin/mineral supplement may be a better way to go in terms of performance. It’s just a case of choosing easily digestible forms of protein and fat, so they get more out of it when it sits in the hind gut. Smooch and Buzz, who aren’t such good doers will also benefit from this.

Finally we spoke about vitamins and minerals, which are specifically lacking in New Zealand soil (we’re looking at you Selenium! We’re looking at you hard) and the relationships between these, i.e. Copper cancels out Zinc when fed in excess.

When feeding a balanced feed, it is formulated to contain every vitamin and mineral your horse needs, unless your horse has an existing deficiency.

If you have a horse that puts weight on easily, you may not want to feed the recommended diet - which is typically based on an average sized TB horse in moderate work. In this instance it is beneficial to supplement your feed with a balanced vitamin mix.

Some extremists do frequent blood tests and supplement vitamins specifically, ie Copper, Zinc, Magnesium, Selenium.

For someone like myself, who does blood tests maybe once every two years, a balanced feed mix supplemented with a balanced mix of vitamins/minerals should be sufficient to provide your horse with everything he needs.

The last section the nutritionist covered was probiotics and prebiotics. I need to research these more as I didn’t quite get all of what she covered on this topic.

During the Questions and Answers section I asked about Oscar’s extreme ‘gassiness’, and she recommended a probiotic, as gassiness was usually a sign of something not quite right in the hind gut.

The whole seminar was a fundraiser to send a kiwi team over to the World Equestrian Games in Normandy to compete for the endurance medal. We covered a whole lot more than I have covered, but they are the most interesting sections to me, and are what I’m looking at at the moment with my horses diets.

There was a fundraising auction at the end and I won the auction on a FeedXL voucher, which is an online program where you fill out information on your horse(s) and what you feed them, and it generates recommended amounts/adjustments. Not sure if this is a NZ thing or global, but I have a year’s membership so I look forward to using this program once I’ve made some changes to my horses’ diets!

I also purchased a bag of Alltech Life Force supplement, which is quite pricey but sounds amazing. It is a yeast based multivitamin, so full of good probiotics and antioxidants. Fed with a balanced hard feed, it contains everything that our soil lacks and more. It also came with a little WEG teddy horse which is cute, and the rep is one of L’s clients! Small world we live in!

In terms of equine nutrition, my next step is to look into balanced hard feeds and choose one that has higher fats and proteins, combine it with the Alltech Life Force and see what FeedXL thinks of it!
My mission is horses with happy tummies, I’ll write more in the future about individual areas of digestion as I learn – serious colic is my biggest fear and so I’m jumping on any way I can prevent it happening to another of my horses.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like lots of good information. I've studied equine nutrition and there is just so much to learn!