Important info from my article "Mineral Wise, Salt Poor"…
"… our horses' mineral and salt needs change with the weather… just like the mineral content within grass changes with the weather.
I once thought grass was just grass and that there was good grass and not-so-good grass. I never really thought about the chemical composition of grass changing as the weather changed. But that is exactly what happens and this change can be deadly!
… potassium spikes during cool, wet conditions and especially after long droughts followed by rainfall and rapid growth. Situations like frost and freezing are especially bad.
Have you ever had horse colic after a frost? Probably so … the reason is a sudden mineral change in the grass, not just frozen grass! During these times, sodium, calcium and magnesium decrease, while potassium increases. This spike in potassium is often… "
The full context of the Mineral Wise Salt Poor article as well as the Perfect Pastures article are below for you to easily review. If you have never ever taken the time to read these articles I hope today will be the day.
It is especially important to not "short the RED CAL" during the changes in weather. Don't be caught without!
"Just hang a bucket on a fence post and make sure there is always some in it.”
|Mineral Wise, Salt Poor
The Need For Minerals AND Salt
By Dan Moore, The Natural Vet®
Short of water and air, there is NOTHING more important than minerals and salt for the health of your horse. Salt is a mineral too, but because it is so important and because most horses are so deficient in it, we will discuss it by itself. Even if your horse gets a "complete" feed and even if you have salt or mineral blocks in the fields – THAT IS NOT ENOUGH! Literally, every function in the body requires minerals. Even the slightest imbalance can cause severe consequences and in my opinion, humble yet outspoken as it is (!), literally every disease is either directly or indirectly caused by an imbalance thereof!
So what is the "Big Deal"? "My horses have a salt block already, I have a mineral block in the pasture and, besides, I feed a "complete" feed anyway. My horses should be fine, right?" Quite honestly – almost certainly NOT! Conditions like founder, laminitis, abortion, allergies, botulism, Cushing's, hypothyroidism, lameness, joint problems are truly the result of imbalances …
Even a simple "easy keeper" in almost all cases is out of balance on the minerals and salt. "Easy Keepers" just don't get enough – period, because they consume such little feed. When they don't get enough minerals (which is also true for vitamins, enzymes, pro-biotics, etc.) their metabolism is even more negatively affected and they become even more "easy keepers" eventually leading to such conditions as hypothyroidism, insulin resistance, etc .. These are those "night mare" colic prone, laminitic prone, "just waiting to happen" horror stories!
Almost every horse in the world has a salt block. As I said, I say what I think and personally I think salt and mineral blocks should be outlawed. They are NOT your horses' friends!
A horse just can't lick fast enough to get what he needs. If you have ever seen a horse chew at his block, chances are he is not getting what he needs. Cribbing, chewing on wood and other behavioral problems are also likely signs.
To make it worse, our horses' mineral and salt needs change with the weather… just like the mineral content within grass changes with the weather. I once thought grass was just grass and that there was good grass and not-so-good grass. I never really thought about the chemical composition of grass changing as the weather changed. But that is exactly what happens and this change can be deadly!
If you are a cattleman, I am sure you are familiar with Grass Tetany and Milk Fever, and the sudden death associated with its occurrence. These were once thought to be magnesium and calcium deficiencies. We now know it is from high potassium forages and grasses.
Similar situations causing abortions and gut problems often occur in horses. What happens is that the potassium spikes during cool, wet conditions and especially after long droughts followed by rainfall and rapid growth. Situations like frost and freezing are especially bad.
Have you ever had horse colic after a frost? Probably so … the reason is a sudden mineral change in the grass, not just frozen grass! During these times, sodium, calcium and magnesium decrease, while potassium increases. This spike in potassium is often deadly.
A major problem like this occurred in 2001 in the Midwest where reproductive losses occurred in thousands of horses, cattle, sheep and goats. This was severe in Kentucky. Often, cattle were just found dead a few hours after frost and freezes. Mineral blocks just cannot provide the minerals fast enough for such rapid changes in weather. Free choice, loose minerals are a must if such problems are to be prevented!
Excessive potassium and subsequent calcium and sodium deficiencies almost always lead to other opportunistic and even infectious diseases. Potassium promotes the overgrowth of saprotrophic (microorganisms that normally grow on dead matter), commensal (organisms that live together but don't harm each other) and pathogenic (microbes that cause disease) microorganisms in the plant itself. These diseased plants then often produce and become the source of pathogenic bacteria (such as that which causes botulism) and also fungi which as we all know, our horses are extremely sensitive to – especially in fescue grasses.
After eating them, horses and other livestock face an overgrowth of these microorganisms, which rapidly grow and produce toxic by-products like ammonia.
Excess ammonia is deadly – especially to fetuses and the immune system. Early and mid-term fetuses may abort, while near term may suffer premature birth and/or septic weak births. By the way, this problem is no limited to grass. Hay can also be the source – especially from fields that are heavily fertilized.
An extremely beneficial solution to high potassium forage and grasses is having readily available free choice minerals AT ALL TIMES!
High calcium limes will help, but it often takes years to correct severely imbalanced soils. It is also important to consider that since sodium (the Na part of NaCl or salt) is so similar to potassium, horses often think they have enough sodium (but really have too much potassium) so they stop eating salt. This is especially so in the winter when they need it most. Force-feeding salt is a viable solution particularly in pregnant mares, which apparently never seem to get enough. This should be in addition to making it readily available free choice. (Always be sure to put any salt product near readily available water.)
Naturally balanced sea salts are the best source of sodium salts and are excellent sources of many other essential macro and micro minerals. Man does have somewhat of an idea of what animals needs are, but truthfully there are minerals today that we did not know of 5 years ago, and there will be minerals years from now that we don't know of today. If we don't know they exist, how can we put them in a mix?
Personally, I prefer Mother Nature's sources. These are also less likely to contain undesirable ingredients such as lead, aluminum, cadmium and even mercury. According to one study at a major university even dicalphosphate, which is almost always a major part of mineral mixes is often contaminated with lead and cadmium. Typical white salt used in blocks and most mixes is really made for industrial use anyway and since our horses and live stock consume such a little amount by comparison, this industrial grade is usually what is used. Any white salt is also bleached and kiln dried – this is not a very "natural" process. Salt and mineral blocks are not enough and should be outlawed in my humble opinion.
Probably the worst problem is the excessive other minerals that are added to free choice mixes and even trace mineral blocks. This is especially a problem with many "hoof supplements". These are usually full of minerals and will often help and they "look good" on the analysis BUT again, in my humble opinion, they often tip the scales of balance the other way leading to excessive amounts of other problems in the future. A slower, more naturally balanced approach leads to more stable health.
According to my sources and with personal experience in thousands of animals, if sodium and calcium are always readily available free choice, macro and micronutrients will more likely remain and deficiencies are less likely to occur.
Access to Needed Nutrients
By Dan Moore, The Natural Vet®
also viewable at https://askdrdan.com/HOME/?p=353
Grass Muzzles for pasture horses – that’s crazy!
Or is it? Grass muzzles are a hot item these days. I see them at almost every equine event I attend. Truthfully, I almost laughed the first time I saw one. Then I thought to myself “that is a great idea”, many horse owners today really need them. But why?
For thousands of years wild horses have lived on grass alone and typically they ate all they wanted. There was no one to stop them, turn them out for only a few hours at a time or worse yet MUZZLE them. Today, colic, allergies, metabolic issues, laminitis, hoof and other health issues are often associated with eating too much grass.
What is different about today’s grass or perhaps what is different about the horse? Obviously a lot has changed! If we truly look at the way it was and, “mimic” what’s natural, perhaps we can have healthier horses and avoid a lot of problems.
Today’s species of grasses are totally different from the past. Most horses today on pasture only have one or two varieties of grass – usually timothy, orchard grass with some degree of clover and fescue. In the wild, they had access to vast areas of grass and abundant species.
Equally important was access to other plants and herbs. Today they eat what they have access to in the spaces we confine them to. Most species of grass (and even grain) today are genetically modified – a controversy and discussion all in itself. By being able to “pick and choose” what they needed, horses received a balance of nutrients.
For instance, as I am sure you know, most horses will chew on tree bark. Of course it is bad for the trees – totally inconsequential in the wilderness, but in the back yard pasture, chewed dead trees look awful! Simple sugars called polysaccharides and amino acids like methionine and perhaps tannins are probably what they a re after by eating the trees.
Regardless, if methionine is supplemented most horses have better hooves. Supplementing simple poly saccharide sugars (not refined complex table sugar or syrup) will often help the gut (sometimes stop cribbing and help ulcers, too) – the gut being the source of almost all problems in a horse.
One such simple sugar in particular is Arabinogalactan, obtained from the Western Larch tree. Another is Mannose – from the Aloe plant. The Native American Indians and “grandmas” everywhere have used these substances for centuries. In other parts of the world they may have used Noni fruit or Pomegranate or whatever was native to the area – and if the horses that were there had access to them, be assured they ate the bark, fruit (or whatever) too!
This is one of the reasons supplements are so important today – horses just can’t get all they need from the typical diets we give them, and the one or two species of grass they graze just doesn’t provide all they may need. There are most likely many ingredients or micronutrients that we have not yet discovered. I believe we will someday classify polysaccharides as “ESSENTIAL” polysaccharides, just like there are essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids now.
The need for the essential fatty acids like Omega 3, 6 and 9 are beginning to be more recognized by horse owners today. IN the wild, horses can pick and choose seeds and grass heads from various grasses and plants to get the fatty acids they need- in our care they take what we give them – unfortunately, until recently they have received very little. For the most part, they just receive sugars (like from corn and molasses), which, as we know, turns to fat but are not essential fatty acids.
Today high fat is “in” but again we must be careful. The easy thing to do is buy cheap fat like REFINED or partially hydrogenated oils (corn oil for instance). The problem with any refined oil is that all the “goody” is filtered out and sold for other purposes. Hydrogenated oils are more stable and less likely to spoils or go rancid, which is why they are used in almost every snack food, but they actually harden and damage cells within the body ad make tissue less pliable. This can actually make a situation like insulin resistance or metabolic disease (which are often the clinical problems that trigger the need for fats to be supplemented in the first place) to be even more of a problem. “Hardened” cells don’t respond to insulin and other “metabolic reactions” like more pliable cells would. Over time “hydrogenation” causes premature aging because more and more insulin must be produced and the body’s cells become more and more damaged.
One of the main purposes of insulin is to regulate sugar. The grain we feed our horses (corn, especially, and molasses) and the “richer”, single variety grasses in our pastures (and snack foods for us) also cause more and more insulin to be secreted. With time, this causes “insulin resistance” – requiring more and more insulin to get the job done. The higher the resting insulin overall, the quicker all species age and subsequently die – period! High resting insulin is rarely detected because usually just blood glucose is checked. Simply relying on blood
Many horses (and people) are insulin resistant with high resting levels of insulin, but because the body is such a miraculous machine it is still keeping the sugar normal. Most fat and overweight “easy keepers” are insulin resistant. Certainly hypothyroid, Cushings, and chronic recurring laminitis or foundered horses fit this category as well. Lush green grass or stress (as in people) is often associated with, and generally what get blamed for acute occurrences – but the underlying metabolic situation is usually at cause. Horses need good fats, not sugars!
By now it should be clear that except in a free wild range situation with thousands of acres, it is impossible to have a perfect pasture today – but there is a “next to perfect” answer to the perfect pasture question! A perfect pasture is one that has a bucket (free choice access) of natural salt and naturally sourced minerals hanging in it – AT ALL TIMES. And I stress NATURAL source here and at ALL times. Even white salt and most minerals are chemical, often other industry’s leftovers, full of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, aluminum, mercury). And salt blocks are just simply useless because horses are not lickers – they can not get all of what they need from blocks – period! They just can’t lick fast enough.
Once again – in the wild, horses have access to all types of salt and minerals where they can pick and choose and balance themselves as needed. Today we fortify the feeds with various minerals and fortify our pastures with fertilizer.
The problem here is that we may actually becausing an imbalance of nutrition. Mineral supplements, though well intentioned, may give them too much of what they don’t need. Hoof supplements are especially bad for this – massive amounts often, chosen by man and based on an RDA (recommended daily allowance standard) that is 15 years old or more. Natural minerals and salt like colloidal minerals and sea salt (often from desert sources that used to be the ocean millions of years ago) contain other micronutrients as well, and are balanced by mother nature, not by man.
The confusing issue here is that if you compare mineral amounts to man-made products, natural sources often look like they contain very low levels. But what they do contain is so much more usable or bio-available that it packs a much greater, yet balanced punch! They literally contain every nutrient and mineral that was once in the “living oceans”. Often with manmade our horses over-consume what they don’t need while trying to get what they do need. AND what they really need may not even be in the mix because man is not aware of it –
Pasture horses must have access to loose salt and minerals at all times. If they don’t, they can colic, founder, abort and die almost without warning. It all comes back to the health of the horses’s gut. Any sudden change, as we well know, can be disastrous. Obvious concerns are getting too much grain or sudden exposure to lush green grass – but a weather change without free access to loose salt and minerals can be just as deadly to a pasture horse.
Grass is a living, breathing organism (it just breathes carbon dioxide rather than oxygen) and it changes hour to hour. If the grass “thinks” it is going to die or has less chance of survival, it conserves and prepares – just like we would. Conservation of water would be a likely action. Grass does this by actually drawing potassium up from the ground, and if the soil is heavily fertilized, it can draw a lot, because a major part of fertilizer is potassium. Potassium allows the plant to attract more water. This is good for farmers who sell hay and crops by the pound but bad for the actual nutritional value because the grass, crop or whatever, is mostly just water. Devastation can occur if horses, cattle or other creatures are exposed to too muchpotassium at one time.
If you are a cattleman, I am sure your are familiar with Grass Tetany and Milk Fever, and the sudden death associated with its occurrence. These were once thought to be magnesium and calcium deficiencies. We now know it is from high potassium forages and grasses.
Similar situations causing abortions and gut problems often occur in horses. What happens is that the potassium spikes during cool, we conditions and especially after long droughts followed by rainfall and rapid growth. Situations like frost and freezing are especially bad – have you ever had horse colic after a frost? Probably so- the reason is a sudden mineral change in the grass, not just frozen grass! During these times sodium, calcium and magnesium decrease, while potassium increases. This spike in potassium is often deadly.
A major problem like this occurred in 2001 in the Midwest where reproductive losses occurred in thousands of horses, cattle, sheep and goats. This was severe in Kentucky as well. Often cattle were found dead just a few hours after frost and freezes. Mineral blocks just cannot provide the minerals fast enough for such rapid changes in weather. Free choice, loose salt and minerals must be available to pasture horses at all times if such problems are to be prevented!
It is also important to consider that since sodium (the Na part of NaCl, or salt) is so similar to potassium, horses often think they have enough sodium (but really have too much potassium) so they stop eating salt. This is especially so in the winter when they need it most. Force-feeding salt is a viable solution particularly in pregnant mares. This should be in addition to making it readily available free choice. (Always be sure to put any salt product near readily available water).
One further point is that fescue alone is usually blamed for abortions in mares when it is actually the fungus like organisms on the fescue that cause the problems. BUT again it is elevated potassium that generally makes these organisms more deadly! The bottom line here is that less fertilizer is better and fescue should be avoided for pregnant mares. It would also seem obvious to me to avoid hay that has been grown on heavily fertilized fields – especially for pregnant mares.
Now the big question is how can I make my field better if I can’t fertilize? The answer is to avoid the typical types of fertilizers – those that are salt based. Salt fertilizers are destroying our environment as well as our soils. Year after year of fertilizer use kills beneficial earthworms that oxygenate the soil with their tunnels. Lack of oxygen kills the soil just like it would us.
Fortunately, there are “time tested” ways to fertilize that are often even more economical and certainly more beneficial. Unfortunately because of all the “politics” involved, major universities seldom teach their use. One of the healthiest ways to make good pastures and again, often the most economical is to heavily lime your fields twice per year. Lime is Calcium Carbonate. Calcium keeps the soil basic rather than acid. Basic soil is healthy just as a more basic pH is healthier for people. Calcium in the form of lime is cheap and I promise if you have many weeds at all growing in your pasture, you need lime. Don’t expect immediate results however, because it take time for the lime to be absorbed and utilized. But it will help tremendously over time.
While your pastures are improving, it is important to supplement the diet. Most horses I have found, at least in the eastern US, are calcium deficient. Typically, soils in the western United States contain more calcium – which is why the buffalo once flourished there and not in the east. Tremendous calcium is needed for the buffalo’s huge bones.
For many years now, ring neck pheasant have not grown in the southeaster United States either, simply because there is not enough calcium in the soil to support their egg shells. Most horses have plenty of phosphorus in their diets, so I don’t worry too much about balancing the calcium to phosphorous ratio. An exception would be older horses, which occasionally can use more phosphorus.
The answer to perfect pastures is simple – do not use fertilizer and if you do, use liquid, non salt types, plenty of lime for the pasture and keep a bucket full of NATURAL salt and minerals readily available to your horses at all times! Consider the use of crude unrefined essential fatty acids because horses today just can’t get them naturally and because they are so important to overall health.
One final suggestion: If your horse does not have access to grass, such as in the winter, or if the grass if poor, always supplement with Beta Carotene. Green grass generally provided plenty of Beta Carotene (vitamin A, by the way, is not enough) but hay provides hardly any. Beta Carotene is crucial for reproductive health, lactation, immune function and hundreds of other benefits.
I believe it too, will be considered “essential” in the future.
“All horses especially those pastured horses must have access to loose (preferably naturally sourced) salt and minerals at all times! In my humble opinion, RED CAL is the single most healthy thing you can give your horse to prevent problems. Just hang a bucket on a fence post and make sure there is always some in it.”
RED CAL is a component of our "Feed For Success" program adhered to by thousands everyday!
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