Problems - different horses or different conditions same horse:
1 - you have a horse that every spring goes touchy and lame in front, showing coronal hoof growth rings as the months pass.
1a - the horse above also grows a long coat of hair that won't shed in warm weather.
2 - a new hay you just bought four tons of for the season isn't keeping your sport horse up to normal weight.
3 - you have a gaited or Spanish breed horse and they are fat, cresty, overweight, and going lame.
In all three cases the horse needs to be tested for Insulin Resistance, and Cushings Disease (the latter especially if the horse is older, say 10 or up).
There are two things you must do if you want to save your horse and help him maintain and perform near normal levels as before.
You must know her health profile and you must know what is and is not in her forage. Protein, starch, minerals, vitamins in the hay are critical.
"But," you say, "I don't have a health compromised horse."
Got a dark horse with sunbleached hair? You may have a copper or zinc deficiency, or both in your horse's forage, whether pasture or hay.
Got a horse that you wish to up the performance athleticism on? If you don't know what is in your forage you cannot know what to supplement with.
Many supplements, for instance, have added iron. If your water, or your forage has elevated iron, you can have sufficient zinc, and sufficient copper, but the iron will block the uptake by the horse and will not be digested.
Some supplements have selenium. Do you know the profile of your forage for selenium content? Selenium is toxic to horses in very small increases above their needs.
How can some company offering you super duper supplements for your horse know the constituents of your forage/hay? Is there a profile for hay from different soils, different parts of the country you live in that can be used?
Seasonal changes alone, drought, over fertilization, lack of proper fertilization, how the hay crop is grown and harvested and stored all factor into what is available to the horse's physiology and how supplements must be formulated to deal with all those factors.
You cannot know what is in your hay unless that hay is laboratory tested for certain key elements that effect equine health and well being.
"But, but," you say, "I haven't had to worry about that before, why now?"
Be prepared. One day you very likely will have to worry about it. The aging horse, a foal to raise, drastic changes in diet, endocrine problems (PPID, cushings disease is common in older horses) will require you DO start caring about diet and nutritional information.
I could find little that I trusted, and in fact trusted the wrong information when Altea was diagnosed with Insulin Resistence. I found a group that for over ten years has dealt with these issues, many health professionals among them, and a veterinarian specializing in these very issues of nutrition and therapeutics.
There I found out how to have my hay lab analyzed. What to ask the vet to test for, and precautions against certain tests that can provoke laminitis/founder (the number killer of horses in the U.S. and likely around the world).
I found out how to formulate my own supplements to best meet Altea's health needs and bring her back to near full functioning.
As I learned it occurred to me that all horse's would benefit by this knowledge and these methods of nutritional care, and Bonnie too had her hay tested, and it's balancing with minerals and vitamins formulated by ME. I found out where to buy the elemental minerals, the best sources for vitamins in the proper form for equine assimilation, and how to mix them into their feed.
Compared to formulations that cannot possibly meet and balance the profile of my forage and hay cheap. Very. Altea costs less than a dollar a day to supplement, Bonnie just over a dollar. I find NO "mix," that can match the price, and NONE that can so exactly meet my horses' requirements. NONE.
Where to get this information?http://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/EquineCushings/
Don't let the "compromised horse," part put you off. Nowhere on the internet is so much nutritional information available in one place than this group. And that for "normal," horses.
Got a hoof problem? The sister site for hoof care has natural and barefoot trimmers you can consult with.
Got a paddock building or other horse care question? Yet another sister site provides a massive base of information easily accessed.
Donald, Altea, and Bonnie Cupcake