Holistic Horse Health: The Buzz From the Barn

Madalyn with horseMadalyn Ward, DVM shares her answers to specific holistic horse care questions from clients. To see more questions and answers on real holistic horse care situations check out the Horse Health Hotline postings.

Q – I am foster caring a 26 year old gelding over the winter. His current feed regimen is 3 quarts senior feed with three cups of soaked beet pulp and two flakes of hay (20% alfalfa) in the morning and three quarts of senior feed and two flakes hay at night. He is ribby. He just arrived yesterday so I don’t know his habits/abilities yet, but was assured his teeth were just done and were OK. My hay is all grass/timothy, organically grown and I plan to switch him to this hay. My initial observation is that he is eating all the alfalfa out of his hay and not eating much else of the hay. He drops grain as he is eating. I saw a couple of hay quids. My feeling is he is getting too much senior feed (and molasses!) and not enough forage, but I base this on experience with a much younger horse. What is a good diet for this horse who is only pasture sound and will not be doing any work? He does live outside 24/7 with a run in shed and a heated water tank. He is a companion to my 15 year old gelding. BTW, this horse was a stallion until the age of 24.

A – Some of the rules that apply to holistic feeding of a young horse don’t apply to the older guys. I focus on forage with young horses but as you are seeing, the older ones may not be able to digest much hay. Too much alfalfa will be hard on the kidneys so you are left with increasing a senior type feed to keep the weight on. Chopped or chaff grass hay may be an option for some and beet pulp and wheat bran can be used to increase the fiber. Whole foods such as carrots, sweet potato, etc. will help keep the food interesting. Digestive and concentrated nutrition supplements such as these packets of bluegreen algae, probiotics and enzymes will help keep the weight on. More frequent meals are easier for the horse to handle and digest.

Q – I have a senior Metal horse. He is my curmudgeon horse, set in his ways and likes his routine. His last vet check the vet suggested he was a little skinny, and I had noticed as well, so we increased his Equine Sr to 6 lbs a day (3 lbs 2x day). I also noticed that he was dropping wet hay balls, so he is not able to eat hay as well. His teeth are in good shape but a definite wave to them. He has a history of ulcers but has not been ‘girthy’ in years. He gets 1 packet of essentials 2x day, daily immune support supplement, Citrus CQ and chia seeds. During the cold weather, he developed diarrhea. I live on sand, so I used Sand Clear for a week. No real change. I thought perhaps his blanket. He was out in his neck at 5 and lumbar region around 5. I thought the neck was the blanket. He is usually consistent being out around L1-5. I looked on your blog and saw that could be colon ulcer. I got some Succeed. It worked overnight. I used it 2x day for 10 days. Took him off, diarrhea came back. Kept him on 1x day and he was fine. He has been off a couple of weeks, the weather is great. His appetite has never changed and he drinks plenty of water, but the diarrhea seems to be back. He has suffered from cancer on his eyelid and penis. Treated successfully and seemed to be clear, but realizing it could matasticise anywhere. Could I be looking at something other than an ulcer? Since the Succeed seemed to work, is that a product that I could keep him on indefinitely? If so, should I adjust any of his other supplements? Or any suggestions other than Succeed for a long term situation?

A – Succeed is perfect for a Metal horse and you can keep him on it long term. The skin type cancers do not usually go internal so I suspect your horse has a colonic ulceration as the cause of his diarrhea. Since he can’t chew his hay well he may not be getting enough long stem fiber to support good colon bacteria. You might try getting some chopped hay if you can’t get the waves on his teeth right.

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