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Balanced Equine  Carol Layton – 23-06-2017

Maren’s notes:

Digestive system:

 Stomach 2-4 hours

 Small intestine 0.5 – 1.5 hours

 Hindgut (incl caecum) 35-50 hours


The stomach is divided into a pH neutral top half and an increasingly acidic lower half (bottom part pH 1-2)

The top half starts off microbial fermentation of food.

Bottom half has glandular release of acid which is released continuously.



Magnesium Chloride:

Highly irritant if not diluted

In people said to be highly bio-available, no evidence in regards to horses

Magnesium Oxide, Magnesium Sulfate, Magnesium Carbonate

 All three have been proven in horses, uptake up to 60%

? Cause for enteroliths in equines?

Magnesium Oxide dissolves in acid and therefore is turned into magnesium ions inside the stomach.

Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salt) can cause scours if fed in large amounts.

In general minerals are absorbed throughout the whole GI tract with the exception of Calcium which is taken up in small intestine.

  • Feeds

50% of energy comes from hindgut fermentation of fibre.

Changing feed, new feeds should be introduced over 7-10 days, this includes changing paddocks.


Best type of fibre followed by hay/chaff

Some nutrients available in grass are lost during hay making.

High fibre feeds

If grass and hay not sufficient for energy needs high fibre feeds like the following are the next step.

Beet pulp - high in iron so needs to be rinsed-soaked-rinsed, this reduces iron significantly

Soybean hulls - not full fat soy bean meal as there can be some intolerance

Lupin hulls


For high energy needs, e.g. sports horses, up to 1:1 fibre : oats

Safest grain

Fed whole, no preparation needed

In combination with high fibre feeds, oats provide a good balance of energy.

Best to feed immediately after work.


Minerals and Salt

Salt – 45g - 50g per day

Vit E and Selenium – antioxidant

Grass a rich source of Vitamin E, horses on grass should have sufficient intake.

Horses on feeds/hay only will need supplementation of natural Vit E

Vit E is fat soluble, when fed dry, oil needs to be added directly with Vit E as it otherwise may not be close enough to a fat molecule and will not be taken up in the gut.

Vit E capsules good source and easy to feed once horse is used to it.

1000 IU as a simple/safe number


Benefits of fibre

Microbial fermentation – symbiotic relationship with microbes, fibre feeds microbes, microbes produce and release nutrients, e.g Vit Bs

Fibre relaxes the stomach and reduces acidity.

Constant flow of material through GI tract for normal motility.

High fibre in mares results in higher fertility.

Best way to put condition on is high fibre (soluble). (Maxisoy, speedibeet, Hygain zero/fibre essential, Prides BasiSport, Easy fibre). Hygain fibre essential is a mix of beet, soy and lupin.

Older horses – Not able to grind down grass/hay/chaff enough to free nutrients. Feed a good high fibre wet feed with minerals, e.g: - beet pulp (high in Calcium)

   - wheat bran (high in Phosphorus)

   - minerals

   - salt


! - nutrient requirements of the horse, free of charge for individual horse


Enzymes split proteins into individual amino acids which then make new proteins.

Copra – poor quality protein

Lucerne – good quality protein

    • Risk is in the Ca : P imbalance



Makes horses fat with little nutritional value.

Fat will feed energy at walking pace, higher energy work needs glucose from fibre and protein.

High fat diet reduces number of mitochondria and reduces activity of energy conversion.

! Fat that reaches the hindgut can negatively affect hindgut microbial health:

    • Lowered fibre utilisation
    • Lowers Magnesium uptake in hindgut
    • Decrease in apparent phosphate digestability
    • (In bulls it has caused lower bone density, no research on horses)
  • Flaxseed – similar rate of Omega 3 : 6 as in grass (4 : 1 and up to 20 : 1)

Horses on grass - most likely no need to add flaxseed, but if on hay then yes.

Chia seeds also high in Omega 3, but $$



Salt – Sodium Chloride, 2 Tbsp/day – increase if high use, e.g. exercise or hot days.

Potassium – easily excreted through kidneys into urine

    • Grass
    • Hay
    • Feeds
  • 4% Potassium is high and will be a problem. Often due to fertilisation (misuse), especially dairy pasture.

High loss of electrolytes due to sweating, horses need:

  • Sodium
  • Potassium
  • Chloride
  • In the form of Sodium Chloride and Potassium Chloride
  • 1.6kg of hay has sufficient Potassium.

Most common deficiencies:

  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • Selenium
  • Vitamin E
  • Less likely:
  • Omega 3
  • Protein


  • Sulfur containing amino acids, e.g Methionine
  • Biotin
  • Chromium – usually sufficient
  • Cobalt – grass; only function inside the horse is as part of B12 which is produced in hindgut
  • Boron – no proven insufficiency in horses

Ratios are important

  • Ca : P - 1.2 : 2.1
  • Zn : Cu - too much zinc prevents uptake of copper and vice versa
  • Lucerne is high in Ca so feed only a small amount unless on grass low in Ca, e.g kikuyu

Greasy heel, rain scald – signs of a compromised immune system. Causes can be low minerals, stress, exercise, moving place.

Polycopper – polysaccharide coated copper, meant to be more bio-available. Copper Sulfate ok to feed as is.

Forage test – Hills Lab, test several areas of grazing, doesn’t matter what time of the year when testing for minerals. When testing hay, samples from as many bales as possible.


Dietary laminitis

Most common form is insulin resistance IR

Other cause is rich carbohydrate spill over into hindgut

  • Microbes digesting carbohydrates increase ++
    • Increases large number of lactic acid
      • Kills other good bacteria
        • Releases endotoxins into blood
          • Causes catastrophic cascade in hooves
  • Fructose doesn’t cause pasture laminitis, it only causes laminitis as rich overload hindgut laminitis! Most pasture laminitis is IR.

NSCs is sugar + starch = carbohydrates

The more insulin resistant the more likely the horse is also leptin resistant. Leptins are messengers that result in the feeling of ‘being full’.

Magnesium 20% - 25% of total intake is not beneficial (not sure what this was in context to)

Safest time for horses to be on grass is between 3am – 10am!

Cushings horses:

  • Low sugar and starch, hay 10% of diet
  • Adequate protein
  • Less than 4% fat
  • Balanced minerals, incl Mg
  • Flaxseed seeds 20g/100kg bw
  • Vit E, natural, 3.5IU/kg
  • Selenium, 0.4mg/100gk bw unless not required


Newsletter ‘The Horses’s Mouth’


Biotin acts as ‘insulin signaller’ which means it can move nutrients into cells without insulin being involved.


ppm = mg/kg

Major minerals are in g

Trace minerals in mg

  • If given in % then move one decimal spot to the right - 1.5% = 15mg

Feeding myths

Iron – highly unlikely deficient, more likely Cu deficiency.

  • A low iron blood test more likely due to infection causing low rbc count.
  • However, iron overload causes damage to liver, eg black liver and scaring.
  • Iron cannot be excreted!
  • Dr Kellen: “Excess iron can cause predisposition to infection, secondary zinc and possibly copper deficiency; predisposition to arthritis and increased risk of tendon/ligament problems, liver disease and altered glucose metabolism - including insulin resistance”

Chelated minerals – In horses no difference in absorption and retention of Cu, manganese, Zn when fed:

  • Oxide
  • Sulfate
  • Organic chelate form (attached to an amino acid)

Selenium – preferably organic


Founderguard – coated calcium carbonate which prevents acidity in hindgut – not effective in IR

Equisure – antibiotic, again not effective in IR


Sulfur shouldn’t be fed to horses, it needs to be bound to an amino acid.

MSM - anti-inflammatory, other claims not supported by evidence

  • Available sulphur ? interferes with uptake of Cu and Zn
  • Glucosamine and chondroitin - ? quality of studies?

Vit K – uptake usually sufficient through good diet, studies showing feeding Vit K is beneficial don’t show if horses were deficient before adding Vit K to diet for study.


! Check studies mentioned on products, often don’t back up claims!!


Carol Layton notes - Jenny

Chelated minerals aren’t evenly distributed to all body tissues and end up in higher organs

Ulcers = Aloe Vera juice (DR Eleanor Kellon)

Founder Guard = no good for I.R horses but works for carb overload laminitis

No lucerne for I.R

Don’t feed Rosehips to I.R horses = high in sugar

MSM = some people in the equine cushings group aren’t feeding it because sulphur may interfere with insulin function

Kellon newsletter has very good info

Biotin is an insulin signaller = can move nutrients into cells without insulin being involved

Low Vit E = red blood cell fragility

Iron is pro-inflammatory and potentially very toxic excess causes a predisposition to infection, secondary zinc/copper deficiency, arthritis, increased tendon/ligament problems, liver disease, altered glucose metabolism including I.R

There are digestive microbes in stomach

Mg chloride is caustic =not good for horses

Mg aspartate = not good for horses

Mg oxide is bio-available for horses

Enteroliths = more likely to form from lucerne, water and in Arab horses. Not from mg oxide

Minerals are absorbed throughout the entire digestive system except calcium which is absorbed in the stomach

50% of energy is from fibre digestion


Toxin binder for seasonal problems = staggers etc

With feeds, the more processing it has the more iron it has

Some horses can react to full fat soya bean meal

Rinse – soak – rinse beet pulp to reduce iron

Only feed oats to horses in work. Helpful to increase energy if they are getting fatigued near the end of a competition

1 to 1 ratio of oats to beet for most working horses

Best time to feed oats is after horse has been worked

Check in droppings to see if the inside part of the oat has been digested = husk only thing left

There is Vit E and selenium in green grass

Hay only fed horses need Vit E capsules = check the caps have oil not water for best absorption.

Can pierce capsules or pour warm water over them prior to feeding if horse is fussy

Need to feed with fat if using pellet or power form of Vit E

Dose = 1000iu per horse

High protein in lush grass can cause scouring

Old horses = wheat bran (or maybe rice bran) and beet. Can also feed processed (crushed) oats

Book = Nutrient Requirements of Horses

Copra is poor quality protein = lacks some amino acids

4-6% fat in grass

Horses are efficient at fat digestion but should be feed excess fat

Feeding too much fat reduces mitochondria.


Too much fat may kill gut microbes and reduce fibre digestion

Oil can depress mg availability/depress uptake. Can have a negative effect on phosphorus absorption

Omega 3 and 6 in grass can range from 4:1 to 20:1

Omega 6 is hard to destroy and never needs supplementation

Chia = high in Omega 3

Linseed oil = high in Omega 3

 Grind or sprout linseed

Potassium = high in everything. Excess is excreted

4% potassium in pasture is high. Could be from misuse of fertilizer

2 hours sweating needs replacement of sodium, potassium and chloride

1.7kgs of hay provides enough potassium for maintenance

Copper, zinc, selenium and Vit E are the most common deficiencies

Essential fatty acids, omega 3 protein often deficient

Sulphur, biotin, folic acid and B6 are less likely to be deficient on a high forage diet

Chromium, cobalt, boron don’t need to be added and may be toxic/dangerous. There is enough in grass

Kikuyu grass is high in calcium and may need to be balanced by feeding lucerne or clover to avoid/correct bighead and joint problems

Nutrient deficient diet can cause immune problems = greasy heel, rain scald

OCD = low copper high zinc

Move Eze for joint problems

Silage = fermented grass doesn’t suit all horses

Wait 2 years after fertilising soil before testing or re-testing pasture


Fructan laminitis is very rare =horse would have to eat too much to get it

New thinking on NSC = looking at starch and sugar as the laminitis trigger now

Test all of the following in suspected I.R horses blood sugar, insulin and leptin

20-25gms of mg oxide is the max to feed, more may not be absorbed

Jane Myers EquiCentral book for small grazing properties/areas

 Cushings can begin from 4-5yrs

Test for Cushings in the autumn

Not all have a long curly coat

Not all are I.R

Signs can be infections, skin darkening, thickening, scaling, worm burden

Balance diet and maybe use Pergolide

I.R diet

Hay = starch/sugar under 10%

Protein = under 4%


20gm per 100kg linseed

Vit E 3.5iu per 100kg

Sel 0.4iu per 100kg = if selenium is needed.

Do a blood test, best way to check if selenium is needed


Carol Layton Notes - Linda

Trained under Eleanor Kellon VMD.  See

She did the NRC Plus course (found at above website)

Also see “the horses mouth” at above website

Feeding 101:

  • Grass
  • Hay or chaff
  • Fibre: rinsed beet pulp (to remove half the iron)
  • Soybean Hulls
  • Lupin Hulls
  • (Not copra: too high in fat)
  • Oats for horses in work and hitting the wall for energy – immediately after work is good
  • Barley
  • Minerals and salt (sodium chloride 2tbsp a day, excess is wee’d out)
  • Sufficient iodine is needed
  • Vitamin E (in the grass) and selenium and antioxidants (Natural vitamin E: wet it with oil/fat)
  • Fibre content should be over 16%  (Ezifibre, higain zero, fibre essentials, easily sport, maxisoy, speedibeet)

Nutrient requirement for horses:

Linseed/flaxseed 100g

Chia seeds

Salt, is easily excreted, potassium is high in all grass/feed. 4% is high

Sweat causes loss of sodium, potassium and chloride

Deficiencies: copper, zinc, selenium, vit E

 Omega 3, Protein

 Sulphur, biotin

Harmful: chromium, cobalt, boron

Lucerne is very high calcium to phosphorus ratio

Big head disease: not enough calcium: lucerne good

For good hooves need: nutrition, hoofcare, movement

Laminitis: gut disturbance, carbohydrate overload: equine metabolic syndrome, Insulin resistance: glucose cause insulin to rise, need low sugar starch.


The more insulin resistant, the more leptin resistant. Biotin is an insulin signaller.

Get sugar, insulin and leptin tested.

Cushings: excess cortisol from adrenals, symptom may include insulin resistance

Low sugar = less than 10% (speedibeet, easifibre, maxisoy, higain) for cushings support group and loads of info

Best Guess, hoof supplement has copper, zinc and iodine, no iron or manganese

Never supplement iron without vet diagnosis, (if low in iron often may be due to an infection)

Iron can’t be excreted.