Is This Horse Too thin??
Is your horse using his daily calories, or storing fat?  Do we even know what a healthy horse looks like any more? Or are we so used to seeing nice round horses that we consider that to be the picture of health and considered the “norm” for our horses? And any time we see rib on a horse we flood the horse with extra grain, fat, oils, etc. to “plump” them up.  Why are the standards different for our pets? We consider it the look of health to have wash board abs and able to see the outline of our rib cage, why do we consider “fit” horses thin? Now, by no means am I saying that we need to see rib on horses for them to be healthy, please don't take me that literally. I am merely just making observations. I know that horses, like people, come in all shapes and sizes but we can easily tell if a larger person is "fit" or not. We should be able to see the same with our horses.

Below is a photo of my daughter’s horse Star, “Big Star” as we like to call her. We call her that for a reason, She’s big. She has always been a large “easy keeper”. It was obvious she had metabolic issues. She stood a lot (actually, most of the time), she had a cresty neck and fatty deposits on her dock, and shoulders. It was no wonder she foundered, and continued to have laminitic episodes, even on winter grass buried beneath the snow. This horse could get fat looking at a flake of hay! Sound familiar? In the photo she is stretched out. She was standing at the gate pawing (I hate that) to get her breakfast. So, yes, it is over dramatized. When she turns, and moves, you can see her ribs show through her coat, not usually at a stand.

She developed this nice lean look since I put her out on the track. Now she is burning calories like you would not believe. She can still use more muscle tone. That can only come from  more exercise. But for now, I think we need to change her name from “Big Star” to just plain “Star”. 
So, what am I feeding you ask, and how much?

Well, we have purchased some very nice hay for the winter. Well, actually my husband did it for me. When I took a look at this “great hay” that he found for me, I was, to say the least, a little terrified to feed it. So, before I panicked and sold the whole barn full of hay, I decided to get it tested. Below you will find the results. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the sugar and starch was in a very desirable range in both samples, and  nutritionally speaking, this hay was providing more nutrition than the grass hay. All is well again.

This hay is about a 60% - 70% alfalfa to grass ration, and in some bales even more heavier in alfalfa. I also have a few bales of some nice grass hay. It is soft grass, and although I do prefer a more fiberous grass for the glycemic value, it has a lot of variety and different types of grasses and weeds. I have not tested this grass hay.  I do not have very much of this hay, so I simply blend it with the other hay during the day.

In order to keep up with my horse’s daily nutritional needs and caloric intake I am feeding 3 bales of this hay to four horses.  These bales are heavier than the average and are rather large bales. They always have access to hay. We spread it throughout the day with the last feeding between 9 and 10 PM for the night. 

My daughter, Star's owner, has just started college this year and between the two of us Star is ridden about three times per week, what I would consider very light work. Which fits her muscle tone at this point. Most of her caloric intake is used up just by her movement on the track foraging for food, water, and her other daily needs. Her metabolism is through the roof. I hardly ever see this horse stand any more. The only time I do is when it is raining and she is in the shelter. Otherwise she is out on the track moving all the time. She no longer takes the short route for anything, or stands waiting for things to come to her. She is not lazy, is my point, and not afraid to get her butt in gear.

In addition to a daily vitamin/mineral/amino acid supplement, Ioffer my horses a free choice vitamin and mineral blend that I make up myself. Besides the usual calcium, phosphorous, vitamins A and B complex, etc. It also includes organic kelp meal for the rich magnesium source and trace minerals. Diatomaceous earth for detox, trace mineral support and inti-parasitic properties, and a probiotic, to help maintain their gut flora during any time of stress such as season changes or hormonal changes.

Do you think she is thin?  I think she is perfect. Star will be 20 yrs. old next May.
Sample #        Date 8/21/06

Analysis Results

Moisture =  27.92%      Dry Matter =  72.08%

Dry Matter BasisAs Is
Crude Protein %DM       18.62%     13.42%
% Protein Solubility %CP      12.00%
Avail. Crude Protein %DM     17.90%    12.90%
ADF Bound Protein %DM0.72%      0.52%
ADFICP %CP   3.87%
Acid Det. Fiber %DM      31.22%    22.50%
Neutral Det. Fiber %DM 40.83%    29.43%
TDN (est)  46.00%
Digest. energy (Horse)     0.87 Mgcal/lb
Relative feed value           147
N.F.C.                                     32.21%
Calcium %DM     1.28% 5.81 g/lb 0.92% 4.18 g/lb
Phosphorus %DM0.30% 1.36 g/lb 0.22% 0.98 g/lb
Magnesium %DM0.31% 1.41 g/lb 0.22% 1.01 g/lb
Potassium %DM  2.00% 9.07 g/lb 1.44% 6.54 g/lb
Sulfur %DM0.22%0.16%
Fat %DM     1.94%       1.40%
Ash %DM   7.55%        5.44%
Lignin %DM3.16%       2.28%
Sugar %DM 3.97%       2.86%
NDF/ICP %DM    1.15%       0.83%
Starch %DM (no sugar)      4.03%       2.90%
Starch %DM (sugar incl.)    8.00%      5.77%
NRC 2001 Energy calculations:
N.E. LACT.0.675 Mgcal/lb
Net energy of gain0.464 Mgcal/lb
Net energy maintenance0.740 Mgcal/lb

Lab #   453403          Date 08/25/2006

Sample #        Date 8/21/06

Analysis Results

Moisture =  22.74%      Dry Matter =  77.26%

Dry Matter Basis   As Is
Sugar %DM   4.62%     3.57%
Starch %DM (no sugar)        3.77%    2.91%
Starch %DM (sugar incl.)     8.39%            6.48%

Lab #   453404          Date 08/24/2006

Digestible Energy calculated for equine use only.

Analyzed by wet chemical methods.                                 
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How about this one? is this more your speed? This is the latest issue of "Your Healthy Horse" put out by our local Equine Clinic
What about the performance of some of these larger horses. Do they risk injury, much like ourselves when we perform tasks that we are not in any shape to handle?

Many horse owners are recreational riders. Meaning that they lead full productive lives and usually ride after work and on weekends. Now, what we expect of our horses is very different than what we expect of ourselves. A horse standing most of the time, eating at it's leisure all day long, standing in a box all night long, is not going to be in the best muscular shape, or will they have the best metabolism. Just as a person, such as myself, would not be in "peak" condition either with a sedentary lifestyle. But, because they are horses and we envision them running with graceful speed and beauty, we assume that they are always just ready to go. Then we literally ask them to run marathons or "perform" when we are ready to ride. Ask someone who has a desk job how comfortable they would be if they were asked to run around an arena every weekend, then sit and eat for the rest of the week. We would never do that to ourselves, let alone if we were slightly overweight, or worse, extremely overweight. I think we would be doing some of these horses a favor if we tried our best to keep the weight at a level for their own comfort and based on their level of performance. Makes me wonder. Even if the horse is worked consistently for an hour per day, is this enough to make them fit? What if we were locked in the "Old Country Buffet" except for one hour per day when we exercised, would this be enough to keep our weight, metabolism, and muscle tone at a decent level? Would I be sore, or have a greater risk of injury?

Here are my results for the hay testing:
Lets continue...shall we?

Since we are on the subject of food, metabolism, and weight, here is some food for thought. This is something that I have been thinking about for quite some time. Many of my clients have already heard this theory from me when we discuss diet, grass, turnout, laminitis, founder, IR, etc.  This is a theory of mine based on facts already made available regarding mineral depletion in our American soils. It will make you wonder, just as it did me when I started looking deeper into this issue.

Why are our horses not tolerating grass any longer? Why is our grass hay so high in sugar? What is changing? Is it environmental? Or something else? Horses are getting fatter and fatter. They are becoming insulin resistant, foundering at record rates, metabolism issues, health problems.......

A piece of information that I was introduced to many years ago, still haunts me today. It is the fact that according to the 1992 Earth Summit Report and the U.S. Senate Document 264 (From 1936! - Link to full document), mineral content in North America farm and range soils is declining significantly. In Fact, North American soils are as much as 85% deficient in mineral content. This means that edible plants are incorporating fewer minerals into their cells, and, as a consequence, we are getting inadequate amounts of minerals in our diets. Many health authorities believe that most diseases begin with nutritional deficiency, especially insufficient dietary intake of essential minerals and trace minerals.

Now, essential and trace minerals support MANY enzymatic and cellular functions in all tissues and provide structural material for bone and teeth formation. They generate and maintain electrical conductance in our bodies through their activity in or around nerve cells. Trace minerals are an essential part of hormone structure and help regulate hormonal activities. Minerals are necessary for utilization of vitamins.  

As a result of the mineral depletion, farmers need to add minerals to the soil to produce a decent crop each year. They replace THREE minerals. Who are we kidding? How many essential minerals does your body require on a daily basis? Somewhere around 17 I believe. Not to mention the other 77 trace minerals that our bodies need as well.  Do we think we are getting this from our produce?

So now lets think about this, are farmers required, or do they, re-mineralize hay fields? Do we seriously think there is very much nutrition left in some of these fields? What about our over grazed pastures? Do we think that the soils re-mineralize themselves? Do you fertilize your pasture? Are there any minerals left to these fields? Enough to handle the amount of sugar produced? Maybe our horses could handle the sugar content of the hay and grass if the mineral content was balanced. What about magnesium? Magnesium is second to Potassium in terms of concentration within the body's cells. It's primary function is enzyme activation. Magnesium participates in more than 300 enzymatic reactions in the body, in particular those processes involved in energy production.  Minerals are vital for glucose utilization and insulin production. Do you think there is enough magnesium or any of the other essential minerals in our hay and pastures to handle what they require on a daily basis? Is it no wonder that minerals seems to help founder? With the lack of essential minerals in our hay and pastures, are we in essence feeding our horses “cotton candy?” If there is no nutrition left to these fields to handle the sugars, then how do we expect them to?

Lets go one step further. What is your water source? Heavy metals are quickly becoming an issue in our horses. We can spend hundreds of dollars on the best supplementation only to destroy the balance by giving our horses drinking water laden with metals and imbalanced minerals. So now they are even more compromised.

Time and time again I hear "Are we doing something wrong?" "Why is my horse IR?" "Why did my horse founder and not the horse down the road?" "All we are doing is giving them pasture, hay, and fresh drinking water." "We are giving them all the best feed and still they have issues?" The best affordable thing you can do is get educated, test hay, and get a filter for your hose.

You can order one through my web site for $39.95 plus shipping. Many pool and spa companies sell these filters. Once again, our standards are different than those of our animals. Almost no one drinks plain old tap water any longer for these same reasons I just listed. It is our responsibility to keep the horses system in balance. They no longer get what they need from their food and water source alone, just like us.  (Link for Info On filter - Here)

Growing out a snubbed toe and Bringing back break over

I felt this was important to write about so my clients can better understand what changes the hoof is going to go through when I begin to correct this issue. What I have been finding out in the field, when a hoof has been snubbed in the toe, it gives an appearance of a shorter toe, but it does nothing to change the hoof form and permanently bring break over back where it should be. It is merely an illusion and something that is often applied by other barefoot trimmers and traditional farriers.

When I need to correct such an issue, the first thing to be done is obviously a set up trim, which is nothing different than any other trim I do except for the fact that I will be leaving the toe wall alone from the top.  It is usually snubbed all the way to white line anyway, so there is usually nothing to roll. This hoof has not changed a whole lot after this first trim and the owner is generally “happy”.

By the next trim they tell me that the horse’s toes are too long. Well this does not surprise me, They are too long! They were before I started trimming. If you were to follow the hoof wall from the coronet down to the ground, the toes are long! At this point I have not had the chance to really change anything other than allowing the toe wall to come back. Just the mere illusion of allowing the hoof wall to come back on a hoof that they are used to seeing snubbed is enough to convince people that the toes have “magically” become longer in one trim.

After the second trim, with continued movement on their new hooves for the past 4 to 6 weeks, changes are starting to happen, you can now see the obvious stretching in the toe, the sole looks as if it is “shrinking away” from the toe wall.  At this point there may be more pressure from the break over and the toe wall may try to correct itself.  A crack may appear, it may have formed a rocker, or it may even chip or break. Now you have a horse owner thinking you are out of your mind when you tell them that you are correcting it. I have had clients ask me to start bull nosing the toe again. They tell me their horses were OK or sound that way, why do I insist on letting the wall come back, “BECAUSE GOD PUT IT THERE FOR A REASON” You will not get proper hoof form and function if the whole hoof is not working correctly. If the heel is constantly trimmed and groomed, and the toe wall snubbed, first of all you do not have proper hoof form so you will not get correct movement and you will not change anything. If it did, then when I come along and merely let wall grow back in, the connection would be tight!

When I trim to allow the hoof to function as it should again, that is when the “permanent” changes start to occur. The next thing that may start happening is that a toe callous may appear, or the sole will present the break over this horse is intended to have. Now you proceed by “helping” this horse maintain this break over until the rest of the hoof is grown out. This stage can look pretty awful too. Because generally you will have a deviating hoof angle. Of course you will! The bottom part of the hoof is the old connection that was long and had a stretched connection, and the growth at the top of the hoof is steeper showing you the new connection is indeed bringing those toes back. (You always had a DTA, but the bull nosing masked it). Over time as the horse continues to weight the hoof correctly and evenly, and the hoof wall gets the stimulation and the now correct connection that it needs, you will find the hoof wall getting incredibly thick and healthy again.. You should start to achieve concavity, and you will have a totally new, functional, hoof, with the correct break over for this particular horse, naturally, not forced through bull nosing. Sometimes a hoof that is snubbed will not ever achieve concavity.  I believe it due to the lack of wall density and the sole having to take up more of the initial impact on the ground. 

This hoof was slightly bull nosed. Can you see how dangerous this could be if the hoof wall was thinned even more?

The type of toe callous or ridge of sole that the hoof will get depends on the severity of separation. If the hoof is mildly separated then the new break over may be something as mild as a ridge of sole that mimics the hoof wall develops. It is literally a ridge of sole about as thick as wall, almost even looks like wall, or it may be raised sole in the toe area creating a mound of sole.

This toe callous is pretty obvious. I did not touch this callous, or clean it up. It is worn this way from the horse using it for break over. It is hard to tell, but the hoof has nice concavity and slopes nicely up to the toe callous. Once again, I roll the toe from the water line and maintain this hoof while it continues to grow out.  You can see where the hoof wall already chipped in the quarter. The hoof wall in the toe is quite thin in an attempt to heal itself. I think it would have broken completely off too if it was not rolled. I would like to stress that the water line is not to be confused with the white line.
The dark area (dark line) is actually a ridge of sole. The amber ring to the outside of that is the lamine (white line) Can you see that the next ring is actually a thin ridge of water line, followed by more water line. Do you see how the water line is split? When the new connection is grown in the water line next to the white line will be the permanent structure and will proceed to get thicker and thicker. I continue my mustang roll as usual by beveling from the water line. That is how I maintain this connection until the new hoof capsule is grown out.  The separation on this hoof used to be well over ¼” wide in the toe. This hoof has nice concavity too.
This hoof did exactly the same thing. The sole is nicely concave. If you examine the photo, the sole directly behind the amber color line is the highest point on this hoof. Directly in front of that is the white line (amber color) then in front of that you can see the thinnest beginnings of water line. (Once again the water line is split). I will start my roll at the water line. Both of these examples have very thin wall and thin water line in the toe. The edge of the sole shows you where this hoof would like the wall to be. This hoof will come in tighter. All I have to do is maintain the trim and let it grow. All these horses are sound. They were sound when I started and continued to stay sound throughout all of their changes. Actually improving on tougher terrain as the changes occurred.
I just started helping this owner with her horse. The toe was constantly bull nosed or snubbed to try and bring these toes back for the past year. All I did was tell her to leave it alone. The stretching is still there. Snubbing the toe does not change the connection permanently like trimming properly and growing out the new connection with consistency. The hoof was completely flat. Now it has some concavity and presented a nice callous. It is obviously showing us where the new break over will be. When the toe callous is a little taller it will become weight bearing and by- pass the wall in the toe. I will continue to mustang roll this toe right from the water line and help this horse break over while these hooves grow out and into their new connection.  Although the hoof wall looks much higher than sole, it isn't. You can see the rasp mark on the sole. It is the separation giving it this perception.
The hoof above was cracking and chipping in the toe. It is obvious where the break over should be. The toe wall was too stressed. All that needed to be done is a mustang roll from the water line. The callous was already higher than the toe wall. Once again the water line is very thin and has areas where it was split.
The hoof above presented it's new break over shortly after I began trimming. The callous is slightly higher than the toe wall. I do not change anything I am doing with the trim. The stretching is so minor at this point. Consistency will grow in this new connection.