ShannonHorseLRAfter many years of graduate school, beginning a career and then motherhood, I am finally back into the world of riding. I have recently started a lease on an older gentleman with many miles in the ring, and I look forward to my first show in almost 20 years! It is also the first time in a while that I get to actually practice what I preach in terms of nutrition, and I thought it might be interesting to share with readers what “my” horse actually gets. Of course, he isn’t really mine, so I can’t have full “rein” (ha ha) on what he eats, at least without making myself a very high-maintenance boarder.

He is a little challenging in that he is older, has heaves (which is managed best when he isn’t fed hay), and is allergic to carrots. Allergy might be the wrong word, but apparently the last time he had a carrot he broke into hives. So, I just give him apples and peppermints (too many?).

So even though my guy doesn’t actually eat it, one thing that impressed me about my barn when I toured it was the HAY. It is gorgeous. Bummer he can’t eat it. Being in North Carolina, there is actually some pasture year round, but it isn’t enough for him to maintain himself on pasture alone, though he can nibble all day. Instead of hay, he eats hay extender pellets, which contain oat hulls, soybean hulls, dehydrated alfalfa meal and wheat middlings. Nutritionally it fits the bill, but isn’t the most appealing to look at, but he seems to quite like it and does well on it, so “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I need to find out if he would be ok on hay cubes, because I would probably prefer him on something like that.

He is also fed a well-known commercial brand’s senior feed. But, because he is old, and has some arthritis, I want to offer him a little more nutritional support. I’ve just purchased a big jug of fish oil – menhaden (aka anchovy). Fish oil has the best profile of the best omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA. Other oils, like flaxseed oil, have got omega-3s, but horse’s can’t convert them to the DHA/EPA as well as perhaps some other species. Because these omegas can be protective for joint health, and have some anti-inflammatory and immune benefits, I wanted to include them in his diet. Learn more here. Also, having been in the barn during this research study, I saw first-hand the amazing coat quality that developed when horses were fed fish oil. Click here for more.

So far he isn’t a huge fan of the oil, but I will give him a little more time to get used to it. If he won’t eat it I will probably switch him to a premium senior feed; one that has these omega-3s already added in and is higher in fat.

I will also give into buying him an oral joint supplement. He will have his hocks injected, but I want to give him a little more help if needed. While the research isn’t crystal clear, there is enough evidence out there for me to give it a try. Check out these links for more information:

Determine the Effect of an Oral Joint Supplement on Equine Limb Kinematics, Orthopedic, Physiotherapy, and Handler Evaluation Scores

To Determine the Effect of An Oral Joint Supplement on Orthopaedic, Physiotherapy and Handler Evaluation Scores in Horses

The effects of three-month oral supplementation with a nutraceutical and exercise on the locomotor pattern of aged horses

I will look for one that contains the three big ingredients – glucosamine, chondritin sulfate and hyaluronic acid. I will also look for one without devil’s claw.

I will update as he (and I) progress!