It is truly amazing how the diagnoses and treatment of equine maladies has changed in recent years. Those of us who have been around longer than a horses full life span remember a time before the common horse owner used terms like PSSM, IR, EPM, and Cushing’s when describing their horses health. These conditions were certainly present, but usually classified under broader generic terms, and only really understood by their vet. To yesterday’s horse owner either the horse thrived and was healthy or it was a “hard keeper”.
How times change. Access to extensive research information, both in print and on the internet, has elevated the understanding of underlying health challenges to a new level by the average horse owner. Today, we seldom hear the term “hard keeper” while working with our customers. Instead, many informed customers ask how to best feed their horses while taking specific health conditions into consideration. While some equine health issues can be genetic, many are related to the horse’s environment. Activity levels, exercise regimen, available turn-out time in an open area, stall size, interaction with other horses and nutrition all influence a horse’s health. Taking all of these factors into consideration can help minimize the effect of otherwise debilitating conditions.
Looking at feeding programs for horses with Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy (PSSM), one form of tying–up in horses, versus a feeding program for something basically unrelated like Insulin Resistance, we see clear similarities between the two. In both cases the horse can benefit from a normalized digestive system that avoids high starch level concentrates. Better utilization of the roughage (hay) in the diet by improving hind gut efficiency results in consistent utilization of available nutrition and pays large dividends for these horses.
If you expand your attention to many of the other chronic health issues that affect today's domesticated horse, you see that most current research will lead you to the same basic conclusion. Speaking broadly, feeding a horse in a way that better utilizes its roughage as the primary energy source, while providing any needed additional energy with the smallest footprint in the digestive system, will usually result in a horse that is more likely to be and stay healthy.
This is the goal of our feeding philosophy. First, feed the best hay that you can buy. Second, avoid overpowering the upper GI tract with more starch than it can handle. Third, normalize the PH in the hind gut so that the digestion of the roughage source is as efficient as possible. The result will be what we are all looking for, a horse that thrives.
I once heard the story about a person who, trying to make a point about avoiding confusion, said “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”. Upon hearing this, his mentor said, “I think one Simplify would have sufficed”.
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There are lots of different opinions today when it comes to added energy sources for performance horses. Here is one to consider that I feel makes the most sense:
When a domestic horse is asked to operate at a faster pace day in and day out, like you would see in a performance horse training program, more energy than that provided by forage alone may be required. For generations that additional energy was provided by high starch grains. I believe that it's time that we rethink that practice.
Horses have been domesticated for about 3500 years, but, their digestive system evolved for 200,000 years before that. There was no place in nature where the evolving horse could consume large amounts of the high starch mature grain commonly used in most feed concentrates today. The enzyme that breaks down starches and sugars in the digestive system is amylase. Since horses did not historically consume significant amounts of starch at one time they did not need to produce amylase in large amounts, so they don't. They do produce enough to process light starch loads, but larger amounts eaten at one time, say two pounds or more, easily overwhelm the digestive system's ability break the starch down.
So what happens then? Grain passes through the stomach and small intestine undigested to ferment in the hind gut. This continues in a domino effect to alter the acidity of the hind gut, killing beneficial bacteria, which, in turn, limits the proper digestion of the best source of energy in the horse, it's forage.
At this point digestive efficiency has gone out the window, or more plainly put, out the back of the horse. Hose down a fresh manure pile and see how much grain is washed out. I prefer to think of that grain as rented, not purchased.
Is there an effective way to provide additional energy that suits the horse better? I believe that there is. We have been advancing the principle of low starch, moderate vegetable fat supplementation for many years. The natural evolution of that principal has led us to add multiple natural vegetable fat, protein, and fiber sources along with yeast as a digestive aid in a low starch package that does not overwhelm the horses normal amylase production. The result is support with the "lightest footprint" in the entire system, and support, rather than disruption in the hind gut. A healthy beneficial bacteria population in the hind gut allows better utilization of of the hay or pasture, better production of water soluble vitamins, and less need for additional, potentially disruptive, sources of energy. In other words, a horse that functions the way 200,000 years of evolution says it should.
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We receive calls daily from customers asking how best to incorporate Renew Gold into their feeding program. To get the most out of Renew Gold, and the rest of your horses’ diet, you need to consider the entire feeding program, and what you are trying to accomplish.
Most horse owners do not have the luxury of permanent year-round pasture with a mixed roughage source for their horses to graze at their own pace. Instead, most horses live a somewhat confined life with food available in large quantities once or twice per day. An average performance horse diet commonly starts with several flakes of hay of some sort in the morning and evening. Most horse owners feel that additional energy, beyond that provided by the hay will be needed. Therefore, some sort of grain based concentrate gets added to each feeding. Most feed manufacturers recommend between four and ten pounds of their grain concentrate. If the concentrate is palatable most horses will eat that first. This creates a most unnatural situation that greatly lowers efficiency of the entire digestive system. In many cases horse owners feel that they now need additional support for horses that for some reason are not thriving. This is where the supplements start. Hoof conditioners, pro-biotics, ulcer treatments, coat conditioners, herbs, magic powders and enough bags, tubs and bottles in the tack room to fill every available corner and shelf. If one does not seem to work try, another one.
The Renew Gold point of view
Let’s take a look at this from the Renew Gold point of view. The diet described above is inefficient because it simply does not fit in the horse’s digestive system in the way that horses evolved to convert their food into usable energy. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and start over.
Some things can’t easily be changed. Most horses will continue to live in a relatively confined area and be fed once or twice per day. By limiting the concentrate portion of the ration with one pound of Renew Gold in place of four pounds of higher starch, grain based concentrate, a significant roadblock to efficiency of the system is eliminated. The benefits from such a change start at the stomach and continue to the small intestine and through to the hind gut. The result is that a smaller amount of concentrate can contribute more to the energy needs, and a fully functioning hind gut becomes more efficient in utilizing the major source of fed nutrition, the hay. In some cases, less really is more. This is one of those cases. In almost every situation, changing to a Renew Gold diet is less expensive at the end of the month, and results in a bloom in condition and usable energy that can be seen with the use of one bag.
How much do I feed?
When planning a diet around Renew Gold, I like to use the one half pound per job rule. Living is a job. Growing is a job. Training/competing is a job. Pregnancy is job. High stress is a job. Using this as a rule, results in the following feed rates.
Adult horses in low use ½ pound (living job)
Adult horses in training /competition 1 pound (living job, training job)
Growing horses in training / competition 1 ½ pound (living job, growing job, training job)
Brood mare 1 pound (living job, Pregnancy job)
Senior horse little or no use ½ pound (living job)
As you can see, once you identify the jobs that the horse is doing, figuring how to use Renew Gold in the diet is easy.
Is there ever a place for additional concentrates?
The potential problems in the digestive system that may result from high concentrate feeding does not mean that there is never a use for those types of concentrates at all. Once the entire system is running at its peak potential some horses may in fact benefit from a limited addition of grain based feed. This varies from horse to horse and also with hay quality. The difference, when combined at very low rates of one to two pounds with Renew Gold at recommended rates, is that the grain based concentrate is now efficiently digested higher in the digestive system rather than causing the disruption in the hind gut that can come from feeding it at higher rates. Additionally, the effect of that added feed is very predictable as far as energy production and behavior. This is because there is a direct effect from its use, not a rollercoaster of reactions that can come from overloading the system with starch that can’t possibly be used in a consistent beneficial way. Remember, undigested grain in manure has only been rented, not bought, and is a great indicator of how potentially disrupted the digestive system may be.
The answer is easier than it seems.
In the end, supporting healthy utilization of the entire diet you feed is easier than it seems. Feed the best quality hay that you have access to, and then follow these simple steps.
(1) Assess how many jobs your horse has.
(2) Assign ½ pound of Renew Gold per Job
(3) Reduce or eliminate up to four pounds of grain based feed concentrate per pound of Renew Gold.
(4) If you have very poor hay and you still feel the need to feed some additional grain based concentrates, do not feed over 1 ½ pounds of it at any given feeding.
(5) Reduce or eliminate additional supplements for hoof condition, coat condition, and pro-biotics.
So, this is how it is done. It really can be that simple, cost effective and rewarding. Renew Gold carries a money back guarantee of satisfaction.
If you have questions contact us today.