Often, horses and ponies appear not to thrive when they come in from summer grazing. Having first ascertained the horse is receiving adequate food, the next reaction may be to increase the ration and/or start adding supplements to the diet, but often with disappointing results. It may be as subtle as just thinking the horse could look slightly better, to an obvious ‘ribbiness’ or lack of interest in life.
At this point it is useful to say that an effcient pro- and pre-biotic, ie Stonebridge’s ‘Biospectrum’ will greatly ease the transition from grazing to a ‘hard feed and hay’ regime.
First we look at the common problems.
1). Is their paddock perhaps horse-sick? Or lacking in essential trace elements and nutrients? Over-used paddocks should be rested/treated where possible and later grazed with sheep or cattle. Although horses are browsers needing more than just grass (such as vetch, clover, yarrow, plaintains), check that green-looking pasture does not contain any undesirables - creeping buttercup, ragwort, and other weeds that compete with more desirable growth. All horses should be wormed when being brought in for the winter. Sometimes a good appropriate syringe wormer for the time of year, or a 5-day wormer may resolve the problem. In the case of a deep worm bed the vet can administer a wormer by stomach tube. Lacking trace elements can be given orally by proprietory syringes such as ’Trace-gel’.
2). Teeth. These should be checked at least once and preferably twice per year, especially during the developing years (4yrs+) although sometimes younger horses may also have problems with sharp teeth. A good equine dentist is as essential as a good farrier. Senior horses will rapidly lose weight with teeth problems and keeping their mouths balanced is essential. It is unwise to wait until the horse is quidding, (dropping feed from his mouth) before calling the dentist.
3). Ulcers. These have really recently come to the forefront of equine knowledge with advanced scoping machines, but in fact they are very easy to scan externally. Visually, the horse may appear ribby, even after every other obvious cause has been addressed. In painful cases the horse may be heard grinding his teeth, he may be ‘tetchy’ and not want to be ridden or even have the girth cinched tightly. He can be slow to eat, leaving food in his manger and just picking at it. On the other hand, some horses with ulcers show no outward signs, except perhaps a harsh ‘brassiness’ to the shine on their coat, and will continue to compete and win races, etc. When it is a question of colonic ulcers their presence can be tested by the use of a faecal test kit, that detects minute amounts of blood in the faeces. There are excellent products available for both stomach and colonic ulcers that will usually cure the problem in a fairly short time.
4). Toxins. The non-thriving horse could be suffering from toxins that have colonised his digestive system. ‘Unfriendly’ bacteria that are the by-products of excess starch in the diet; mycotoxins such as aspergillus and aflatoxins created in some horse feeds during the manufacturing or storage; toxins from moulds in the environment or in hay and other forage. All of these can have serious, even fatal, effects on the horse. It is essential to buy top-quality feedstuff, and manufactured feeds must contain toxin neutralisers, such as those found in all of Stonebridge’s range of feeds. The energy source for horses should be mainly soluble fibre, such as alfalfa, and starch should be limited to what can be completely digested. If mycotoxins pass into the bloodstream and thence into the kidneys and liver, the horse becomes unable to absorb or store nutrients efficiently. He becomes weakened and will perform poorly. If mycotoxins attack the kidneys, these become inflamed and painful. The area around them will be sensitive to touch and the horse may be reluctant to drink.
These are some of the more common reasons for the horse not thriving, although there may be other causes that could be explored by a veterinarian, but if the cause is thought to be one of the above, it can be quite easily remedied and prevented in the future. The simple adage of clean water before feed, clean pasture, good clean forage and the best quality manufactured feed available should ensure your horse a long, useful and happy life.