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We Are Flying Solo

August 6, 2011

From The Horse's Mouth. Or Guts: Feed Needs

I have been horrendously remiss.  What with all the medical issues and whatnot, I have fallen behind on, well, everything.  Mea culpa.

Around about the time I was ever-so-gracefully kissing the dirt in Virginia, the folks at Woodruff Sweitzer and Zinpro Performance Minerals sent me a CD-ROM about horse nutrition and their 4-Plex EQ Performance Mineral line for my rambling genius review.  I finally managed to watch it!  It is in part a description of the Zinpro equine mineral line, but also a lot of information about equine nutritional needs.  I was actually quite surprised how thorough and informative it was!  They've done a good job condensing a very complex field (I know just enough to be dangerous) into some very useful highlights, focusing, of course, on the horse's unique mineral needs.

The disc was made up of four chapters, two focusing on your horse's nutritional needs, both generally and specifically. Included: fun facts (oh, they know my weakness...).

-The mature horse at rest drinks 5-8 gallons of water a day. On a 100 degree day, that amount will increase to 20 gallons. Put him in intense work, make that 25 gallons.

-While the energy needs of each horse vary, even very light work increases his need for fuel (calories) by 25%.

-The horse's small intestine absorbs proteins, sugars, starches, fats, vitamins and minerals.

-His large intestine absorbs (large colon) volatile fatty acids, B-vitamins, and (small colon) water.

-Minerals are generally considered in two classes:  (1) Macro -- phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, sulfur  (2) Trace -- zinc, copper, cobalt, manganese, selenium, iodine, iron

Each of these have different vital roles to play in your horse's body and many will have more than one job to do.  For example, calcium is needed for muscle contractions, bone structure, and milk production in lactating mares, while phosphorus is used in the nervous system, for energy transfer, and helps calcium on bone and milk duty.

Looking at trace minerals, zinc influences your horse's coat, immune system, skin & hoof function, muscle development, and appetite, just to name a few.

Now, before you go hurling things into your horse's feed pan, there are some important points to remember.  Chiefly, all things in moderation and you CAN have too much of a good thing.  Selenium toxicity is very real and you can watch your horse's hooves slough off.  Raise his zinc levels too high and he will be unable to absorb any copper, which he needs to run his nervous system, among other things.  The zinc:copper ratio should lie between 3:1 and 5:1 to keep one from blocking the other.  Which is why BALANCED nutrition is so important.

We as owners need to know what we need, too.  Where I live, selenium levels are highly variable and I am also on the edge of cobalt deficient soils.  If you really want to dig, check out your water as well; it can contain all kinds of minerals in differing ratios that are very much a part of your horse's diet.

I know, I know, you are already slavering about the mouth, "ZOMG, tell me where I can order a perfect mix of minerals so my horse will be a healthy champion RIGHT NOW!"  That's what I thought Zinpro was going to tell me, too.  Turns out, their Performance Minerals are already in many horse feeds and they do not sell them individually (quantities fed out each day would be ridiculously small).  Speaking of which, they can use the word "performance" because their product has passed a certain level of research, testing, and certification, so there is some measure of security there that at least SOMEone has checked the stuff out before chucking it in a bag.  Just as important though, these minerals have been formulated to be highly bioavialable to your horse -- meaning they have been bound to "carrier substances' which will allow the intestine to absorb the minerals.  Otherwise, Dobbin just craps it out with the rest of the stuff that doesn't make it through the lining of his gut. 

You, however, have to read your feed tag to find out if it's in your bag -- which their handy CD helps you do.  While you will not often see their logo on the bag, the ingredients will contain 'zinc methionine complex, copper lysine complex, manganese methionine complex, and cobalt glucoheptanate.'  Bite me, spellcheck.  

There is a great deal more information contained on the CD -- you can request a copy of your own at the Zinpro website listed above and I encourage you to do so if you'd like to learn more about what makes your horse tick.  It's got several great tools, including more feed bag label tips, a water analysis tool, and a link to some other health educational materials.

I'd like to thank Emily Stoutenborough for taking the time to contact me and send me the materials.  My sincere apologies again for taking so darn long to actually look at them.  You can be sure I'm going to wrestle down some feed tags tomorrow and start digging for information.


  1. A balanced mineral intake is exactly why I took Greta off of Platinum when she would be getting just as much with her new feed. Phew!

    This was very interesting, thank you for sharing!

  2. I love love love posts like these. Weeeeeeee horse nutrition! Feed nerds unite!

  3. Augh, shades of 4-H Horse Bowl... I was assigned the post of "nutrition expert" on our team, and was expected to memorize boatloads of stuff about Kcal., balanced rations, vitamin content of hay and other knowledge that in truth, interested me not at all (I was much happier learning anatomy). I'm glad SOME of you care and that you can advise the rest of us! :-)

    Seriously, though, the overlap of feeds and supplements does concern me a bit. I'm even hesitant to take a multivitamin myself if I've loaded up on fortified breakfast cereal (any thoughts you may have on that subject are welcome). I do remember from 4-H that the Ca/Ph ratio is especially important. While I don't have a horse (yet), I try to pay attention to that for my guinea pigs, which have a nearly-identical GI tract to a horse (fun fact: they can't barf, either!). I also have carefully selected my dog's food. When I look at catalogs of doggy supplements, though, I always wind up wondering if she ought to be getting something vitamin/mineral-wise in addition to her food. Don't know how to figure that out, unfortunately! Right now she gets a daily joint supplement and that's it...

  4. Wow, I never knew guinea pigs can't puke! Sweet, a new fun fact.

    I'm a big believer in "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" along with "all things in moderation," so I think that applies a lot to feed as well. Much as I love SmartPak, the supplement industry is making huge profits convincing people to oversupplement their horses. Really, a decent feed should do you! Special issues do come up - Solo's ulcers, his feet in Carolina foot-killing summers, his blood levels -- which is why you really do have to go case by case. There aren't any huge shortcuts, but generally, if something is missing, the horse's body WILL tell you, you just have to be listening close enough.