A Lifetime of Missing Nutrition

Posted by Bluebonnet Feeds on Sep 26th 2022

A Lifetime of Missing Nutrition

You’ve just purchased that aged horse or young prospect that you've had your eye on. While they've been living the good life out on full-time pasture, they've never seen a pellet of feed or mineral block in their lives - leaving them at risk for substantial nutritional deficiencies. When it comes to nutrition, is it too late for the senior horse, and can the up-and-comer recover and thrive without repercussions?

The benefits of resolving a nutrition deficit, even late in life, can close significantly the gap on potential issues. Some common questions we hear are:

“My horse performs just fine on grass pasture and salt, what more could he need?” Consider the differences between basic nutrition and “Functional Nutrition”. How can we support the equine physique and aging beyond the bare essentials?

“She LOOKS healthy on the outside, how could I be missing something?” The negative impacts from missing nutrition is often not obvious from the outside until way later, if at all. How can we get ahead of concerns before they're a noticeable problem?

“Is it safe to change my horse’s diet after this long?” With some patience, just about any horse can safely transition to a new feeding program. Change can be scary, we are here to make things simple.

The basics: “Nutrition Nutrition”

All horses require enough protein, calories to meet energy needs, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. When left unmet, the negative impacts can be both immediate on growth and performance, as well as felt much later in life. A quick web search will supply horse owners with industry-recognized standards of feeding based on age, level of performance, breed, and more.

Meeting the needs of most horses can be as simple as providing minerals or a diet balancer to quality forage. This option is also great as an economical solution, or when your horse needs to cut some calories to shed those unwanted pounds. For those who are exercised regularly and need a little extra energy, adding a balanced, fortified feed is another easy solution.

Going beyond: “Functional Nutrition”

Beyond basic needs, functional nutrition utilizes components of the diet which have an added beneficial effect on the body. Components such as prebiotics and probiotics do not fall under a nutrition nutrition requirement. However, we employ these to support a healthy microbiome within the animal’s digestive tract. For instance, a young barrel horse heading into its futurity year will experience stress in ever-changing stimulus, varied schedules, miles of travel, and shifting training intensities. A demanding time like this is when support from prebiotics and probiotics to sustain digestive health can make or break the equine athlete.

Functional Nutrition feeding allows us to think past minimal requirements, and create positive physical change for all levels of equine companions and elite performers. Some nutrients may fit into both categories. Serving as an antioxidant, Vitamin E is essential within the diet (nutrition nutrition). However, we know that increased levels of Vitamin E have a functional impact aiding in free-radical reduction and nervous system support. Elevated quantities of this required nutrient can act as a therapeutic relating to muscle recovery, neurological disease, and genetic disorders such as HYPP and PSSM.

Recognizing Gaps

Your new (or old) horse may have gone without for some time, but what does this actually mean, and what can be done about it? Let’s talk specifics:

What can happen when specific nutrients go missing?

  • Amino Acids/Protein - underdeveloped “stringy” musculature, decreased immunity
  • Copper/Zinc/ Manganese - weak hoof walls, chronic weight loss, poor joint health
  • Selenium - muscle disease, impaired thyroid function
  • Calcium/Phosphorus - reduced bone density, stunted growth
  • Vitamin C - low tendon/ligament strength and flexibility
  • Vitamin E - slower healing and muscle recovery
  • Vitamin A - reproductive challenges, vision difficulty
  • Omega Fatty Acids - rough/dull coat, inflammation

The result of combined nutritional deficits, low-grade, systemic inflammation can be extremely damaging to the cells of the body. Risks include age-related diseases such as metabolic syndromes, arthritis, and osteoporosis being brought on more quickly or intensely.

Yeast culture metabolites have been proven to not only decrease total body inflammation, but assist in cartilage regeneration within joints. Bluebonnet Feeds offers the first feed on the market containing advanced levels of these super yeasts in Equilene® Pro Care®Omega 3's have also been shown to have many positive benefits when added to the diet, and can help take your horses' nutrition to another level.

Did you know? Specific chains of Omega 3’s have different benefits. 

  • Better support for healthy hooves, skin, and coat is shown through EPA & DHA Omega 3’s
  • While the potential boosts to inflammatory responses and mobility from ETA Omega 3's can better help joint stiffness from aging or performance.

Making Changes

Now that we’ve explored whether a horse’s nutritional needs has a history of being shorted, identified the gaps that we want to fill, how do we go about safely making changes?

1) Determine forage baseline: Test each new load of hay for a nutritional profile, Remember that harvest time and plant maturity determine forage quality. It is important to know where you stand with forage before adding a feed or supplement, to avoid doubling up on nutrients that may be covered in your grass or hay.

2) Build a plan: Receive individualized recommendations in-person or virtually via Bluebonnet Feeds’ Free Nutrition Consultation. Our team will make recommendations based on the horse's specific baseline and workload, with no extra fluff.

3) Have a little patience: A complete transition should take 12 - 16 days.Protect your equine’s sensitive gut by properly adding new feeds and supplements. When introducing something new, use the 25% Rule, adding the new feed by 25% of the recommended quantity every 3 to 4 days.

Better Late Than Never

A lifetime of missing nutrition is not a sentence for future poor health. Making a change can only help your equine partner in their future days of high level performance or low stress maintenance, and prevent the onset of adverse physical challenges. As equine owners, it is our responsibility to help our horses thrive. Start your journey toward ideal nutrition today using the resources and ideas in this blog.

✴ Prefer to listen? Hear Dr. Jyme Nichols’ thoughts on Episode 64: A Lifetime of Missing Nutrients on the Feed Room Chemist podcast. Available on Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | Stitcher and more.