Thursday, March 28, 2013

Monitoring Nutrition : Finding the Right Supplement Balance

Mel over at  Boots and Saddles did a post HERE  about supplements.  I am going to piggy back a bit off that post because I have been working on making sure my horses nutrients levels are balanced. It's a process.

We have 5 horses here at Acer Farm, all with very different needs. In an effort to keep chore time simple and cost effective, we mostly have it figured out but it's always a good idea to reevaluate things from time to time. We have chosen that we would rather spend more money up front to get good quality hay as opposed to cheaping out on hay and supplementing to fill in the gaps. We feed  beet pulp with senior for the old guy Rebel and give everyone access to loose mineral and salt.  It seems to work and we have pretty healthy horses with good feet, clear eyes and shiny coats (sans Maggie right now, as her coat , mane and tail are looking less than ideal) .

The recent hay testing will help us with decisions on keeping nutrient levels as balanced as possible and hopefully provide me some insight into what I need to supplement in addition.

In regards to Maggie, I have been working through a more detailed approach because she has some different needs and she is used the most heavily.  I don't want to blindly supplement, possibly creating additional issues. She has a few different things going on that are unique to her from the rest of the herd. The biggest difference is that she is a mare.  Say what you will, but sometimes girls are just  higher maintenance! Maggie is a pocket poney to handle and do anything on the ground with but can  be hot or nervous under saddle or in new situations, although this isn't consistent either. Sometimes, she is as calm and quiet as an older QH ranch broke gelding. Her other "main" issue that can't go without consideration, is that she is what is considered high risk for Insulin Resistance.  When I first got her,  she was about to founder and had several fatty deposits  in her hind quarters, a thick cresty neck and a rain catcher for a spine. She got dry-lotted for the first year she lived here. It was not an easy time for her because she had spent her first 3.5 years of her life grazing in irrigated farm ground with green lush grass up to her belly. Since that time, I  have managed her on a  strict diet and lots of excercise.  She is as easy of a keeper as they come so no grain for her if I can avoid it.

While I am waiting for my hay analysis to return, I have been using Smart Pak's wizard  as well as the program known as  MYFEEDXL program. Since lots of folks are familiar with SmartPaks' wizard, here are the survey flags I marked for Maggie , the output from the wizard and my review of those results.

Take a look and see what you think...

 Flags I marked for Maggie in the survery:

Maggie as a nervous mare

Maggie can be a cranky mare

Metabolic- Maggie is not tested out as insulin resistant but given her history, breed and weight tendencies, she is definitely a candidate. It would not take much to tip the scale in that direction with her.

Work load= heavily used flag, (4-6 hrs a week is considered heavily used according to smartpak.. I would tend to disagree… but it was an accurate representation of her workload for right now. If I were conditioning for endurance, it would be a lot more.

Pasture access- Rarely. Right now our pasture is dormant, soon to bloom into a green luscious founder causing goodness. Maggie will only get limited access to this until late July, when the grasses cure out an the sugar levels decrease.
Maggie is a picky eater- if there is anything not familiar about her food.  Even grains that are supposed to be very tempting that endurance riders will use to keep their horses eating during competition like Ultium or Omolene.. she could take it or leave it.. again, she does not eat well if tired..

 Ulcer/ gastro= negative- even though she is a sensitive nervous mare, I don’t suspect ulcers at this time.  She can tend get looser stools , but it’s situational. Mostly during her cycle or a new environment with lots of unfamiliar activities. She gets a nervous stomach and she could be at risk for ulcers, but I don’t feel like it’s ulcers at this point.
Skin/coat- She gets sweet itch under neck every summer and welts up from the bugs so I flagged this.

 Maggie has no joint or hoof issues but I did flag for a slightly dull coat .

 So  here is what got returned:

Basic Support- $3.03/day

Metabolic-Smart Control IF $1.14/day

Calming – Quiessence , which has Magnesium and Chromium- .86/day

Multivitamin- SmartVite Performance Grass $1.03/day

This would cost me $84.85/month

 Enhanced Support-$4.17/day

Metabolic-Smart Control IF $1.14/day

Calming – Quiessence , which has Magnesium and Chromium- .86/day

Multivitamin- SmartVite Performance Grass $1.03/day

Insect Control-$0.71/day

Skin/Coat – Smart Shine Omega $0.43/day

This would cost me  $116.75/month

Comprehensive Support-$9.14 day

Metabolic-Smart Control IF- $1.14/day

Calming – Quiessence , which has Magnesium and Chromium- .86/day

Multivitamin- SmartVite Performance Grass $1.03/day

Insect Control-$0.71/day

Skin/Coat – Smart Shine Omega $0.43/day-

Digestion- Smart Digest Ultra- $1.25 (probiotics/prebiotics)

Joint- Smartflex III Resiliance- $2.14/day-

Immune Support- Vitamin E - $1.07/day – this also decreases stress.

Mare-ish Behavior-$ 0.71/day

 This would cost me  $261.55 a month.

1. Multi-Vitamin- I know Maggie is not balanced. I would really prefer to avoid grain due to her IR risk.  I have been feeding Accell Lifetime vitamin/Mineral but only because I had some left over from last year. I discovered half way through my season last year it contains L- Tryptophan which is illegal in several equine sports, including endurance. It also is high in Iron , which she is already getting more than she needs through her hay (I already know our iron levels are high here).

I will switch her to the SmartVite product that is recommended by Smartpak.

2. Metabolic- This is a tough one. I think Maggie  is definitely high risk for some IR but I have been managing her diet and exercise to keep her out of dangerous territory. I think that goes further to prevent it than supplementing. I will not include this in her feeding routine . 
( Anyone have any other thoughts about supplementing for IR prevention?)

3. Joint support-  Maggie has not shown to be stiff or exhibited any swelling in conditioning. I will consider this recommendation more of a preventive thing to fight cartilage breakdown that comes with heavy use.

Its’s probably a good idea but pretty hard to justify the added cost. I often use straight MSM and it's alot less expensive.
I believe in taking really good care of legs but I do ride a horse with really heavy bone and no legs issues to speak of. Supplementation would probably fit into “nice to be able to do and probably  good idea “  category, but pretty hard to justify the added cost.  If I have a hard ride, I hose,  ice or poultice to get the inflammation down so at this time I treat it as needed.

4.Vitamin E- She should probably have this because of her limit to pasture but I can get cheaper sources.

5. Skin/Coat- I think this is a good recommendation but I am going to go with a less expensive alternative , Flaxseed . I have used it before with good results and can buy it in bulk. Yes, more work to grind it myself to keep cost down but it's not a huge inconvenience.

6. Digestion- I give a round of probiotics and prebiotics prior to and just after seasonal worming or after a round of antibiotics. Not sure there is a need for additional supplementation on a regular basis. 
7. Insect Control- I might consider this. I have never fed a feed thru before.
What are people’s experiences with it? Does it help much?

7. Nervous Behavior- The product that was recommended was Quiessence which has B1, Magnesium and  Chromium in it.Chromium is also helpful for horses with IR so I might get an added bonus by feeding this.  B1 deficiency is also common in horses if they are not on pasture.  I had previously placed an order of just straight magnesium for her but I am reconsidering using this product.
Any thoughts?

8. Mare-ish Behavior- She definitely has this issue at times, but I don't think this will be something I will include in her regimen for now.I will assess as the year goes on and reconsider if her cycles are hindering her work.

One surprise I had with the SmartPak wizard is that there was no recommendation for Selenium supplementation. I live in an area that is known to be deficient. I feed loose salt as well as give our horses access to block salt with Selenium added . I am not sure they are really getting enough but this is also a supplement that has a small window to over supplement as well. As soon as my hay testing gets back, I should know how far off we are.
Where does all that leave me? (other than broke if I were to supplement her with all of this)

Here is the final decision for now *(which is subject to change at receiving the hay results)

1. Multi Vitamin

2. Quiessence

3.Vitamin E- capsules for pennies on the dollar instead of Smart Pak product

4. Insect Control(threw it in here because it's a good possibility I will use it)
About $73.00 /month which calculates less than their basic support package. I have not added in the cost of loose mineral and salt .

 I would welcome any thoughts/feedback, etc...
I have also been using MYFEEDXL program as well but I can share that in a follow up post if anyone is interested.

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