Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Read the label!

It happens so often - someone is innocently feeding their horse the best possible feed, bought often at vast expense, and can't understand why the horse is footy.

They've understood that they need to focus on the horse's diet, so perhaps they are already being careful with their grazing and have tried to avoid sugary feeds. They know that minerals are important so they provide a broad spectrum supplement for their horse.

If they are VERY conscientious, they may even have sought advice via a feedline or on an internet forum.

As a result of all this research, they formulate their horse's diet and can't understand why its still not working.

HOWEVER, as soon as we drag out the feed bags and read the labels - not the bright shiny marketing blurb on the bag but the little white label sewn onto the top - it often becomes clear :-)

There was a great example of the UKNHCP forum today, but it happens all the time when I see clients too. The feed in question was a well-known "Lo Cal Balancer" - but it could just as easily have been marketed as "Ideal for Laminitics" or "Low Sugar, High Fibre".

In fact, the ingredient list included barley, wheatfeed, mollasses and soya, and only a small amount of pre-mixed inorganic minerals. The starch content was 10% and sugar 2%.

Surprise, surprise, when the horse changed to a genuinely low sugar mineral supplement, which consisted mostly of bio-available plant minerals, it improved dramatically.

We've put lots of feeding info in "Feet first" - and ALL the dietary advice in there has been approved by an independent nutritionist - but here are some reminders:

  • Feed companies are there to sell feed - with the best will in the world, they rarely dispense genuinely impartial advice - only independent equine nutritionists can do that.
  • What goes onto the bag is ONLY marketing, and cannot be relied on - there are plenty of "low starch, low sugar" feeds which have given horses laminitis, and there are a number of supplements which are notorious among barefoot horse-owners as so many horses are footy when fed them. You can ONLY rely on what is on the statutory ingredients list.
  • Most feed companies underestimate the magnesium levels necessary for horses because its a poorly researched area, and Mg deficiency is more commonly recognised in sheep and cattle than horses (probably because it tends to kill them!).
  • If your horse is not rock-crunching and you aren't sure why, be systematic and read through what is in your feed - be ruthless - exclude anything that might be causing trouble for at least a month, supplement with bioavailable minerals and the right level of MgO, and see if the horses improves.


Bex said...

Hi Nic,

I've just had to comment on this!!
I'm the one who posted about the Baileys Lo-Cal balancer!
Before I found the UKNHCP forum, I was feeding my horse that feed as I thought that it would be a good idea as a combination with Alfa-A "Lite" that I was feeding him.
My horse wasn't too footy at this point. However, I went on holiday for 2 weeks and my horse had to be out 24/7 whilst I was away. I came back to a very overweight horse with what looked like LGL.
I panicked and did a bit of research into it and I found Bruce Armstrong. I emailed him and he helped me a lot. He directed me to the UKNHCP forums (which have been a complete lifeline to me) and he really opened my eyes to all the baddies in the feeds of the feed companies!
Now, he told me that Baileys Lo-Cal balancer was a cereal based product so I took my horse off this straight away. I also removed the Alfa-A "Lite" which isn't so "Lite" at 8% sugar & starch!!!! So much for being approved by the laminitis trust...!
Then, yesterday, I found out just what the Baileys Lo-Cal contains and I was shocked. I was amazed that it can be advertised in such a way when it contains all those 'baddies' which are a nightmare for any lami-prone or metabolically sensitive horses. And to contain 12% sugar & starch combined just left me completely stunned! (and slightly guilty for ever feeding it...)
Nowadays, I don't trust feed companies at all and will not feed any mixes or feeds that come in some fancy flashy bag full of empty promises.
The problem is Nic, that pretty much every feed doesn't even tell you how much sugar and starch is actually in it.
The Baileys Lo-Cal didn't and neither does the Alfa-A Lite. In fact, I haven't seen a feed that actually states the sugar and starch ... they've obviously got something to hide. I've had to do 'extra research' (I've found a really good table of all the sugar/starch contents of all the common feed company feed stuffs - it's really interesting/shocking!) to get the figures and I also found out that even Hi-Fi Lite is 7%. I cannot believe that they 'hide' this information from us.
Therefore sometimes just looking on the back of the bag is not enough!
My horse is slimmer, happier and looks so much better on the new diet and the one that you recommend in the Feet First book. At least I know where I stand with that!!

Nic Barker said...

Its something we have all learnt the hard way, Becki, but once you've got your head round the basics, it all falls into place!