Archive for the ‘Horse’ Category

Six Signs of Good Quality Horse Hay

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Forage makes up between 50 and 90 percent or more of a horse’s diet. Much of the forage part of the diet comes in the form of hay. Because it’s such a big part of the ration, a good quality hay can help keep a horse healthy, while a poor quality hay can be detrimental. This is why, as nutritionists and horse owners, we put a big emphasis on the quality of hay we feed.

The nutritional value of hay is the most important factor when determining its quality. This begins with the stage of plant maturity at time of harvest. Young, immature plants contain more nutrients than older, stemmier plants. Though after hay is harvested, the level of horse hay quality goes beyond the age of the plant at harvest.

Identifying good quality hay for horses:

When selecting your horse’s forage, keep these six signs of good quality hay in mind:

1. High leaf-to-stem ratio 

Think about the leafy greens you eat. You likely prefer greens with leaves rather than just stems. The same is true for your horse. Look for more flat leaves in the hay and fewer round stems; this indicates the plant was less mature when cut. More leaves typically mean higher digestibility and nutrient content for your horse.

2. Small diameter stems

Stems smaller in diameter or finer are also indicators of higher quality horse hay. Small stems mean the plant was less mature when cut. To test stem size, grab a handful of hay and give it a squeeze. Good quality hay is soft and pliable, and feels good in your hand. If it feels like you’re squeezing a handful of sticks, it is not a good choice of hay to feed your horse.

3. Few seed heads or blooms

No matter the species of plant, hay with little to no seed heads or blooms indicates a younger, early maturity plant, and thus a higher quality hay. For example, timothy hay should be cut in the pre-bloom or early-bloom stage when you see little to no seed heads; and alfalfa should be cut when you see few to no blooms.

4. Fresh smell and appearance

On our farm, there’s nothing like haying season. We love the smell of fresh hay. The same is true for your horse. Good quality hay should have a fresh cut smell and appearance. Avoid musty, moldy or off-setting smelling hay, because it can reduce palatability and indicate poor quality.

5. Cleanliness

Hay should be primarily made up of the harvested forages. Look for a clean forage with little to no dust. Even if the majority of the hay is high quality, hays containing dirt, mold, weeds, trash or other foreign materials indicate poorer quality hay and may be unfit to feed to horses.

6. Hay Color

Good quality hay should be bright green in color with little fading. A bleached, yellow, brown or black color may indicate aged hay, mold or poor storage conditions. Storage condition and age have a significant effect on vitamin content of hays. Many vitamins, such as vitamins A and E, are not stable over time and lose biological activity. After approximately six months, almost all vitamin A and E activity levels are lost. The nutritional value of hay is compromised with increased exposure to heat, sunlight and rain, which speed up this process.

When good quality hay for your horse is scarce or too costly, you may need to compensate for poorer quality hay. You can do this by supplementing with a quality balanced horse feed. Hay balancers help provide the missing essential nutrients the horse requires in the diet. In some cases, they can replace hay in the diet entirely.

Equine feeds and supplements available at Kissimmee Valley Feed offer built-in forage for situations where hay is not available in a horse’s diet.

Article source: Purina Animal Nutrition

Why Fat is Important for Performance Horses

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021

Fat is important for performance horses. The use of fat in the equine diet has a long history.  A very old book, Horse Secrets by A.S. Alexander, published in 1913, points out that horse traders knew back then that adding fat to the diet was beneficial for gaining weight and improving hair coat.  They may not have known why it worked, but they knew that it worked!

Horse Feed With High Fat Content – The Evolving Role of Fat: The Omega-6 and Omega-3 Ratio

Corn oil was an early oil source as it was available and palatable.  Flax seed also provided both fat and protein. Boil the flax seed . Boiling both softened the husk and eliminated anti-nutritional factors.

The use of vegetable oil as an energy source has become standard in horse feeds.  Animal fat sources, while used in early research, have pretty much been eliminated from use in horse feeds. This being primarily due to palatability and perception issues.

From an energy standpoint, all of the common vegetable oils are very similar.  More recently, considering the essential fatty acid content, particularly the Omega-6 and Omega-3 levels, has become important in selecting the oil source.  As with many things, balance along with quantity is important.

As grazing herbivores, horses are accustomed to the limited amount of fat (3-5%) found in forages, particularly fresh pasture, which is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, whereas oils from grains and seeds tend to be higher in Omega-6 fatty acids.

Scientists have not yet pinpointed the ideal total dietary intake or ratio of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for horses.  Multi-species work has indicated that a ratio someplace between 2:1 and 10:1 is an acceptable Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio in a total diet.  This considers the higher Omega-3 content of forages and the higher Omega-6 content of grains and some vegetable oils

Omega-3 Benefits:

Dietary supplementation with Omega-3 fatty acid sources has been shown to provide numerous benefits to horses and other animals including:

  • Improved skin and hair coat quality
  • Decreased joint pain in arthritic individuals
  • Reproductive benefits
  • Reduction in risk of gastric ulcers
  • Anti-inflammatory effects

Better sources of Omega-3 areFlax seed, flax oil, soy oil and fish oil (limited use due to palatability).  Chia seed and oil may also be a useful source and other sources are becoming available.

The fat present in forages is balanced by feeds and supplements containing added oil . Which, subsequently, deliver balanced Omega-6 and Omega-3 levels in the total diet.

Here at Kissimmee Valley Feed, we are happy to lend our knowledge to maintain the perfect diet for your horses.

Source: Roy Johnson at HorseFeedBlog.com

How to Keep Horses Cool in Hot Weather

Friday, August 20th, 2021

How to Keep Horses Cool in Hot WeatherHow to keep horses cool in hot weather? As summer drags on, heat can become a serious problem for many horses.

Sweating is the primary way horses cool themselves. Experts believe that prolonged, consistently high sweat rates can lead to “exhaustion” of the sweat glands. In horses, this may result in anhidrosis, or the inability to produce sweat adequately. It is crucial to address anhidrosis and find other ways to keep horses cool because it can pose a serious health risk to horses in warm climates.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when trying to keep your horses cool this summer.

1. Fresh, cool water

Hydration is critical during hot weather, but poor water quality can severely limit your horse’s intake. Most horses don’t like to drink hot water, so it is best to provide fresh, cool water daily. Dark-colored troughs or buckets placed in direct sunlight will absorb heat and warm the water quickly.

Keep horse water troughs and buckets clean and free of algae to encourage drinking. Remember, it can be hard to see accumulated algae and debris at the bottom of a dark-colored trough. Another tip: overfill water buckets and troughs to provide moisture for your horse’s hooves, especially in dry climates.

2. Salt and electrolyte supplementation

Feeds do not contain enough salt to meet a horse’s daily sodium requirement. Therefore, an additional source of salt is always recommended. At a minimum, a salt block should be available free choice. However, horses are not natural lickers and may not lick enough voluntarily. Top-dressing their feed with 2 oz plain salt per day is a good way to ensure they get enough.

In the “sweating season,” whether due to temperature or workload, salt should be switched to a quality electrolyte. This will supply important minerals like potassium and calcium, in addition to salt, that your horse loses through sweat. The best electrolytes will be mostly minerals, not sugar.

3. Summer horse shelter

We can all appreciate how much cooler it is under the shade tree in the middle of summer versus being out in the full sun, and your horse feels the same way. If there are no trees in your turnout areas, providing a run-in shed or even a fabric sunscreen as a horse shelter can make a big difference in helping to keep your horses cool.

Horses cool themselves primarily through evaporative and convective cooling. To help them, apply cool baths or use sprinklers to keep your horses more comfortable and to decrease their need to sweat as much. Moving air increases both convective and evaporative cooling. If the breeze isn’t blowing, provide a fan to move the air. Some farms even use large golf course fans to keep their horses cool in pastures. Finally, remember it may be more comfortable outside in the sun than inside a stuffy barn with poor airflow.

4. Exercise and heat stress in horses

Metabolic heat from exercise is another primary heat source for horses; therefore, it is best to confine strenuous exercise to early morning or later evening hours when ambient temperature and humidity are the lowest. Alternatively, you can give yourself and your horse a break from hard training during the hottest summer months.

To avoid additional heat stress, postpone events such as vaccination, weaning, changing barns, moving horses between groups, etc. If any of these events must occur during the hottest days of summer, try to do them during the coolest hours of the day.

Even though summer can be a sweaty, uncomfortable time, these tips can help your horse stay healthy and happy year-round.

Check out Kissimmee Valley Feed’s equine feed & supplements to help your horse stay happy!

Article source: Purina Animal Nutrition

Performance Horses and Muscle Recovery

Tuesday, August 17th, 2021

Concern for performance horses and muscle recovery may be the difference between a win and a loss. In various disciplines speed, strength, collection and stamina all play into the difference between earning a big paycheck and awards or going home empty handed.

Performance horses need to be able to come out of the stall ready to win. (Whether it’s the first day of the event or the last.) Like their human athlete counterparts, a solid nutrition plan is the fuel that allows performance horses to compete and perform at their highest level. With Rebound Technology™, recovery isn’t an afterthought, the horse is always being fed for optimal performance.

Rebound Technology™ is a unique, proprietary blend of research-backed chromium and branched chain amino acids (BCAAs). They support exercise recovery. When performance horses have the right nutrition, they are more able to quickly return to peak performance after strenuous training sessions and/or competitions.  Each time an equine athlete competes or performs there is an opportunity to increase its value, that of future offspring or help a rider achieve his or her goals. That’s why avoiding muscle fatigue and giving horses the ability to rebound from exercise and efficiently train for performance activities is a high priority for horse owners and trainers alike.

What Happens When Horses Exercise

When horses exercise, they experience an increased cortisol level. Additionally, reduced muscle glycogen, increased Serum Amyloid A (normal inflammation), increased heart rate, reduced blood sugar and reduced plasma BCAAs. Three major factors in improving athletic performance in the horse are muscle development, muscle recovery and glycogen availability. Faster glycogen replenishment in the horse could lead to increased muscular performance.

As horses work, ATP or energy enables their muscle fibers to quickly contract and relax. Each muscle cell contains only enough ATP for a few contractions. This means horses must continuously resynthesize ATP during exercise primarily via stored glycogen. The more glucose we can make available to the cells in the performance horse, the better able they are to quickly replenish glycogen. The unique ingredient combination found in Rebound Technology™ optimizes opportunity. Opportunity being for these glycogen and glucose levels to rebound after work.

The essential BCAAs leucine, isoleucine and valine help to decrease muscle fatigue and improve muscle recovery19. Research with BCAAs has demonstrated that leucine infusion along with glucose infusion appears to increase whole body glucose availability. Also potentially increasing glycogen synthesis in horses1.

Oral leucine supplementation has shown increased markers associated with protein synthesis in the post-exercised horse. Providing an increased rate of protein synthesis would increase both muscle mass and muscle recovery. Both of which may improve athletic performance. In humans, BCAA supplementation prior to exercise appeared to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Also muscle fatigue, increased insulin response along with increased post-exercise rates of glycogen synthesis. Increased availability of amino acids and glucose demonstrated in research shows an improvement not only in protein synthesis, but also a decrease in protein breakdown.

Chromium’s Role in Recovery and Protein Synthesis

Recently FDA and AAFCO approved chromium propionate as a feed ingredient. It’s in Rebound Technology™.  It supports glucose getting to the cells. Glucose provides energy to repair. As well as to replenish after work. Chromium is involved in carbohydrate metabolism and other insulin dependent processes such as protein and lipid metabolism. As horses exercise, increased levels of cortisol work against insulin as insulin attempts to move glucose and nutrients into muscle cells.

Chromium supports more efficient insulin function. It does this by stabilizing insulin receptors leading to more efficient movement of glucose from the blood stream. Subsequently, reducing the negative impacts of exercise stress. Additionally, increasing the body’s physiologic ability to move nutrients into muscle cells to function efficiently during exercise and rebuild muscle broken down following exercise13. Research in Thoroughbreds during exercise has demonstrated blood glucose was controlled on lower insulin levels versus control. This demonstrated higher insulin sensitivity when they were supplemented with chromium.

Another potential benefit to the improved insulin sensitivity demonstrated in horses supplemented with chromium propionate? Supporting the signaling pathway for protein synthesis. Protein synthesis is the re-building of structures. When insulin sensitivity is improved, glucose can more readily be available for protein synthesis. Insulin infusion in mature horses was shown to stimulate whole-body protein synthesis and activate the upstream and downstream effectors of mTor signaling in the gluteus medius muscle. Simply put, this means is there was an increase in protein synthesis, or a re-building of muscle.

Glucose – An Important Component for the Working Horse

Glucose is the key energy source for every cell in the horse’s body and BCAAs stimulate protein synthesis. The proprietary BCAAs and chromium in Rebound Technology™ make this key energy source more readily available to horse’s cells. Rebound Technology™ can be extremely important. Especially for the performance horse needing muscle repair and remodeling to rebound in between shows and workouts.

Here at Kissimmee Valley Feed, we are happy to lend our knowledge to maintain the perfect diet for your horses.

Source: Amanda Zenczak at HorseFeedBlog.com

Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses

Tuesday, August 10th, 2021

Managing Feeding Programs on the Road for Show Horses: picture is a rider on a white show horseManaging feeding programs on the road for show horses is a necessary skill. The show season is in full swing. Subsequently, horses are subjected to the stress of going down the road on a regular basis. This travel schedule imposes additional requirements for managing the feeding program.

Horses like consistency. Changes can cause emotional and physical stress. The more we can keep the routines the same, the easier it is for the horses to cope with the challenges of travel and competition. The following are some suggestions that may be useful to help maintain the body condition, appearance and performance that is required to maintain the competitive status of the horse.

Management Tips:

Water Intake

First and foremost, it is critical to maintain water intake. While traveling and while stabled away from home. The water may taste different at different locations. Horses should have fresh clean water available at all times. They should be offered water as needed between classes. Additionally, when stabled at shows.

  • When traveling, horses should be offered water on a regular basis. I recommend offering water every 2 hours while hauling and others may have different schedules that work for them.
  • If horses are reluctant to drink water that smells different due to chlorination or water source, it may be useful to flavor the water at home with something like wintergreen or vanilla so that you can do the same when traveling.
  • You need to make certain that whatever you use does NOT contain caffeine or anything that will trigger a positive drug test!
  • If you are going to flavor the water, do it well in advance of travel so that the water at home smells and tastes like the water while traveling.
  • If horses get dehydrated (especially during a show), the risk of impaction colic may increase, particularly during hot weather. The horses may also not perform up to expectations, particularly in multiple day or multiple event competitions.
  • As a judge and as an announcer, I can see the difference in some horses from day 1 to day 3 of an event.

Routine Feeding

Secondly, maintain your feeding schedule as close as possible to routine followed at home. You may have to adjust slightly to accommodate classes.

  • If for some reason you have to miss a feeding, do not double up at the next one!
  • Use the same forage as you feed at home. A sudden change in forage can be a potential cause of colic.
  • Offer salt. (Free choice while traveling.)
  • Additional electrolytes may be used prior to, during, and following a competition. However, they should not be added to the water as this may impact water intake.

Thirdly, monitor body condition carefully and adjust feeding rates to avoid excess weight loss while traveling. A horse can tuck up badly if it goes off feed and water.

Lastly, select a horse feed that will help reduce the risk of metabolic issues and will help maintain intake to maintain body condition and bloom. Added fat, controlled starch & sugar products with balanced amino acids and added key vitamins work well for virtually all classes of show horses.

Pre-season preparation involves achieving desired body condition, coat condition, hoof condition and the required training. Managing feeding programs on the road for show horses is essential to maintain the competitive edge!

Here at Kissimmee Valley Feed, we are happy to lend our knowledge to maintain the perfect diet for your horses.

Source: Roy Johnson at HorseFeedBlog.com

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