Tag Archives: Equine nutrition

Cribbing/Windsucking – case study in minimising the behaviour through management. Part 2: Plan of action & Results

By Wiola Grabowska

PART 2 of LEO’S CRIBBING STORY (and how I decreased it without using cribbing collars) 

leo over the door 2

If you haven’t read the Part 1 in which I explained the background of Leo’s cribbing and my ways of investigating the causes in his case, please see the post linked here: PART 1: CRIBBING/WINDSUCKING CASE STUDY

Plan of action

Agrobs musli leo
Alpengrun Musli

First thing I decided to do was to take control of his diet. “You are what you eat” and all that 😉
After talking to many people as well as having a good read around of tens of Forums and hundreds of opinions I settled for a German feed brand called Agrobs and went for 2 products from their range: Alpengrun Musli and Alpengrun Mash Gut Restorer.
I also learnt (from the earlier mentioned Conference) that there was a study done on several cribbing horses where horses received 9 feeds daily and their behaviour stopped. I couldn’t possibly replicate that but could feed Leo one additional feed which took his meal numbers to 3 a day.

Second action was to give him turnout company. For that I had to wait a long time as I wanted a relatively stable group for him with lower risk of injuries by being out with big, playful athletic horses . Once the yard was in a position to do so, we created a group of 4 small horses/ponies and Leo seemed immediately happier.

leo in the field with friends

The pain/discomfort aspect is something I’d been working on all the time but at the beginning of the year I booked him for an assessment with a very well respected spinal/horseback vet specialist, Rob Jackson and continued his groundwork focusing on restoring healthy biomechanics to the best of my current knowledge and abilities. One method I noticed to have a fairly significant influence on him is the Tellington Touch Method but I will perhaps talk more about it another time.

Last but not least, I removed his shoes…now, I know some of you will say this might have nothing to do with his cribbing but I know shoes can cause low level, chronic feet dysfunction (discomfort/pain) as well as affect blood circulation in the feet. Whether the blood flow in the legs has anything to do with blood flow in the gut I couldn’t say for sure but since the body works as one unit surely we can’t say no for definite?


As of April 2018 Leo’s cribbing reduced to a point that I only see him do it when I create a situation in which he is most likely to crib in i.e. give him a particular treat (sweeter treats make him want to crib more) or take him to some spots where he used to crib a lot. Other yard members don’t see him crib either.

On the basis of my observation of him, I’d say his cribbing has now decreased by 99%.
In the last 6 weeks I noted 2 singular cribbing episodes: one on his stable door for a couple of “gulps” and one by the leg wash area on a post he used to crib on incessantly. None lasted longer than a couple of minutes in comparison to 15-25 minutes I observed before making changes to his management.

He might still return to crib more in some situations and perhaps he does it at night where I can’t see it but I am very happy with this result as my main concern was a danger of colic or other serious health implications that some cribbing horses are reported to succumb to.

Hope this information will help some of you 🙂 Thank you for reading and until next time!


TACKROOM CHAT WITH: Robert Fowler from Castle Horse Feeds. Part 1: The basics, the obvious and the less obvious truths on feeding horses.

By Mairi Mackay www.mairimackay.com


Feeding your horse can seem like a complex business and can be hard to know where to start with all the different brands on the market.

At Aspire we’ve been using Smart Horse Nutrition to feed our horses with really good results, and the last time expert Robert Fowler from producer Castle Horse Feeds came to drop off some bags he agreed to sit down with us for a chat.

We talked about everything from how horses have evolved to whether or not to use supplements and why it’s important to learn to read a feed label.


Aspire: Let’s start with the basics: What are the key things horse owners should bear in mind when feeding their horses?

Robert Fowler: The most important part of any horse’s diet is the forage it gets because that’s by far the biggest part of it. Everyone gets really excited and focuses in on two kilos a day of the food that they are feeding in the bucket and too many people ignore the other 80% or 90% of the horse’s diet. All you are doing in the bucket is topping up what your forage or your grazing [isn’t providing that] your horse needs — whether it’s growing, whether it’s working or whether it’s just maintenance.

So, most of the focus of the feeding should be on forage, not on that last little bit of food that’s going into the bucket. That’s the most important thing. So many horses could just do really well on really good forage and a balancer for vitamins and minerals. All these other fancy feeds are for horses who need more energy for work or more energy for condition.

Aspire: When you talk about forage, you mean hay, haylage and what they are eating in the field?

RF: Yes, you’ve got to take that whole part as the forage part of their diet and for a lot of horses that satisfies their maintenance. You should be really obsessive about forage. Nutritionist[s]…look at everything the horse is eating, not just the little bit that [they’re] designing for it. If you want to have any idea of what to give your horse, you have to know what he’s already getting.

Aspire: How can you know if your horse is getting the right nutritional value?

You’ve got to understand whether [the temperature is] minus 20 or plus 20, you’ve got to understand whether the horse is working, you’ve got to understand all those different things that come into it. Because basically your horse and it’s condition is a very simple proposition: You’ve got energy going in, you’ve got energy coming out. Now, if the horse is getting more energy than it requires, it puts weight on, if it’s getting less energy than it requires, it loses weight. It’s as simple as that in a healthy horse.


If you want a horse to put weight on you want to feed it more energy than it’s expending. Now, is it expending that energy because it’s cold — it’s clipped and it hasn’t got enough rugs on? Is it expending that energy because you’re riding it for two hours a day and it’s using more energy than is going in? Again, on fat horses, if you’ve got a fat horse, it’s getting too much energy and you’re not getting enough energy out. It really is that simple.

Aspire: Where do things like a horse being a “good” or “bad” doer come into it?

RW: That comes down to their genetics. Certain genetic makeup of a horse makes it more able to get more nutrition out of a given feed than another horse. That’s really where that [phrase comes from]. If you think of native ponies and some of…my wife has Lusitano horses, they are really, really good at extracting maximum nutrients and energy out of given feedstuffs [and much better] than other horses are. So, it is really the genetic makeup of the horse that predisposes it to being a good doer or a bad doer.

Aspire: One of the perennial debates in the horse world is how often you should feed your horse each day. What’s your advice on this?


RW: You’ve got to think about what your horse is and how it has evolved. Your horse has evolved to be a trickle feeder. It’s a hindgut digester, so its whole physiology is suited to having feed in its system all the time. It’s not a meal-eater at all — it should be having forage all the time.

If you look at a horse, every part of its digestive system denotes that it is meant to be chewing all the time: its teeth grow constantly throughout its life, so therefore it’s expecting to be chewing all the time and grinding those surfaces down … our teeth don’t grow, so we’re meal-eaters. A horse is expecting to be eating for 17, 18, 19 hours a day so it is expecting to have quite a high wear and tear on its teeth.

It has a very small stomach because it is expecting food to be coming in and out of there. It’s not expecting half a bucket-full of oats to arrive in its stomach at any one time. It also has a very short small intestine — which is where it digests starch and sugars — so it’s saying [that] it’s not expecting to come across much starch and sugar … [which are] are digested through being broken down by enzymes in the small intestine.

It’s expecting the bulk of its food to be digested in the hindgut. It relies on microbes to digest fibre, so the fibre and everything that it has evolved to eat lands in the hindgut for the microbes to break down. They break fibre down into volatile fatty acids which go into the horse and are stored and the rest is…history.

Aspire: So, how does all that translate into how to think about feeding your horse?

RW: The ideal for a horse would be to have a fully formatted diet where he eats over 18 hours a day. The next [best] way to feed horses would be to break up what they need through probably 20 hours of the day…Then you are all the way down to… well, if you are just having a balancer then having half a kilo of balancer is not too bad to be fed over one or two times [a day] but you really don’t want to go over feed sizes of a kilo to a kilo and a half because the horse’s stomach is only the size of a rugby ball. Smaller is better.

Aspire: Should horse owners add supplements to their horses’ feeds?

RW: I personally wouldn’t use any vitamin or mineral supplements. You would expect to get that from a quality feed. [If] you are feeding a balancer — and when that’s fed at half a kilo a day — that should supply all the vitamins and minerals and probably digestive aids that your horse needs along with a good, well thought through plan for your horse … based on forage, which it should be…

The only other thing I would look at is an electrolyte for hard-working horses and … a joint supplement [as a] belt-and-braces thing. I don’t have a huge amount of confidence in most of the joint supplements out there because if you look at how they work and how they are absorbed in the horse, I’m not sure that there is good enough evidence to prove that they get there.


Aspire: If a horse owner wants advice about feeding to protect a horse’s joints or the condition of their hooves, who would you suggest they talk to?

RW: I would suggest they talk to a nutritionist from one of the feed companies. [If you are] feeding [your horse] a quality feed you shouldn’t have any hoof issues. So, are there other things going on with your horse that are not right? The basics are: If you are looking at feet, you want your horse to be eating about 15mg of biotin a day. Is your balancer or feed providing that, along with some quality zinc.

Again, minerals are quite important — [as is] the form that they are in. With the Castle/Smart brands, we’re moving towards only using chelated minerals. That means they are more bio-available. You want to avoid oxides and sulphates of minerals because that means they are man-made basically and they are a cheaper form.

Aspire: Any last thoughts on feeding for owners?

RW: [What] I would say to horse owners is just remember that you’ve got a half ton of … animal with lots of complex things going on in their body. Remember how they’ve evolved and what they are. Feeding is really simple. Don’t get caught up with all these latest branded things. Try and learn how to read a feed label to see what that feed is delivering. If it’s got high energy and high starch then all that energy is coming from cereals. If it’s got high energy, high oil, low starch then it’s a much safer feed to feed to your horse. It’s more what your horse has evolved to eat.


This interview has been carefully edited for clarity and readability.

Huge thank you to Christine Dunnington for capturing moments throughout! www.cdphotos.co.uk 

Equine Joint Pain Management

photo (8)postWhen we ask our horses to push their bodies to their maximum capabilities, in order to excel in competition or give us a thrilling ride, it is only fair that we give them all of the tools they need to keep them comfortable, healthy and happy as they do. In any conditioning programme, the bones and ligaments take the longest time to adapt to the enhanced performance we’re asking them to produce, which is why it’s so important to keep your horse’s joints healthy and pain-free.


Joint mobility can vary irrespective of a horse’s breed or age, and limited mobility is a very real concern for horse owners, particularly those who compete. Joint pain due to osteoarthritis (OA) is one of the primary causes of lameness and lost training days, accounting for 60%, so it’s really important to understand how it should be treated. To alleviate pain vets will often use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) and corticosteroids, but there are also many supplements available which contain substances naturally occurring within the horse’s body to aid in cartilage production, and improve mobility and flexibility. So how do all of these treatments stack up?


Systemic Treatment of Joint Pain

The most commonly used pain relievers are known as NSAIDs, and they function by inhibiting the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX) and limiting the production of pro-inflammatory molecules known as prostaglandins. Most traditional NSAIDs inhibit COX-1, which is associated with beneficial functions such as protecting mucosal barriers in the gut, as well as COX-2, which causes pain and inflammation in the body. Newer NSAIDs are working to combat this indiscriminate inhibition.

Phenylbutazone (Bute)

Bute – officially Phenylbutazone – is the most popular NSAID, being both highly effective and inexpensive. However, its effect on cartilage is questionable, and it acts more as a pain inhibitor than a treatment. It also has a worryingly narrow safety margin, and a link has been proven between being medicated with Bute and developing gastric ulcers.

Flunixin (Banamine)

Banamine is mainly used for treating abdominal pain, but has also proven effective for treating lameness.

Meloxicam (Metacam)

Metacam is a COX-2 inhibitor, and is the only NSAID which has data proving its effects on cartilage in vivo (in the live horse). This means that it not only acts as a pain-killer and anti-inflammatory, but also has a mitigating effect on the inflammation-induced damage to the cartilage.

Local Treatment of Joint Pain

Local treatment generally consists of intra-articular (IA) corticosteroids, which reduce inflammation and promote cartilage turnover and repair. They have proven controversial due to the deleterious effects of frequent long-term use on cartilage integrity, but there is now a consensus that where they are used judiciously, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.

Methylprednisolone acetate

This long-lasting corticosteroid has clear anti-inflammatory properties, and still preserves the normal joint environment.

Betamethasone acetate

This medium-to-long acting corticosteroid has unfortunately been shown to have a detrimental effect on cartilage in vitro (in the lab).

Triamcinolone acetate 

Triamcinolone acetate has a medium duration of action, and is one of the most popular corticosteroids. In vitro studies have indicated that it suppresses inflammation without negative effects on the transcription of extracellular matrix genes, which are found in the articular cartridge.


Opioids like morphine are often used in humans to lessen post-operative pain. They have been shown to have a significant effect on lameness, joint effusion and behavioural signs of pain, but are still in the experimental stage. Many have pointed to them as a promising new treatment.

Pain relief alone can have very favourable short to medium-term clinical effects, but can have potentially adverse effects on the underlying disease process and long-term outcome. You should therefore work with your vet to use these drugs judiciously and determine what works best for your horse.

photo (4) postDiet

Your horse’s diet can also affect joint health, and correct feed can improve joint mobility exponentially.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 Fatty Acids are anti-inflammatory by nature, and low in omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory. To improve joint health and mobility, you should increase your horse’s fibre intake (hay and grass) and add fats rich in omega-3 to their diet, whilst reducing grains and oils which are high in omega-6.  The ratio of omega-3 fatty acids to omega-6 fatty acids should not exceed 5:1, and ideally should be around 3:1. Research has shown that horses with joint pain supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids exhibited reduced levels of inflammation, less pain and a longer stride length.

Joint Supplements

High-quality joint supplements should contain effective levels of glucosamine and chondroitin sulphate, key nutrients necessary for the maintenance of normal joint function. Glucosamine acts as a substrate for certain components of the cartilage matrix, whilst chondroitin sulphate controls the enzymes associated with inflammation and tissue destruction. You should look for formulas which contain hyaluronic acid, as this supports and nourishes the synovial fluid which coats and protects the surface of joints. Maganese is also an important cofactor in the formulation of the cartilage matrix and synthesis of connective tissue, and can be helpful in supporting a healthy joint. A manufacturer such as Equiform Nutrition should be able to recommend a suitable supplement for your horse, so it’s worth getting in touch with a brand you trust to receive some expert advice.

The Right Treatment for Your Horse 

We all want to keep our horses in top shape, so you might be wondering what treatment is best for you and your horse. First and foremost, consider the extent of the problem you’re trying to address. As horses age, the wear and tear of a lifetime of activity takes its toll on their joints, but not always to the same extent, and this affects how you must handle the problem.  If you’re looking for a preventative measure, then dietary adjustments are the best course, and most feed manufacturers will be able to recommend a suitable supplement.

If your horse is showing any of the following symptoms, however, then it’s time to call a vet:

  • Subtle changes in movement, such as shortening of their stride, hollowing their back or raising their head
  • Unwillingness to perform tasks that came easily in the past
  • Stiffness which goes as your horse warms up
  • Puffiness, warmth or pain around the area of a joint

They should perform a complete physical to rule out other possible problems, before pinpointing the affected joints, determining the severity and helping you to develop a suitable treatment plan.


This is a sponsored post. Enjoy, learn,stay open-minded. 


Guest Blogger Filippa about Bella’s health scare and investigating hay quality

Hi! This is the third week that Lo and I are writing on this website. It is so much fun and I’m glad that we got the chance.

This week we have had a few issues with Bella. For a part of the autumn she has been a bit unlike herself. She has been tired and unmotivated periodically. One day when I came to take care of her, she was bleeding from her nose. At first I was not sure if it was nose-bleed from illness or if she had just hurt herself and was bleeding from a scar.

Filippa and Bella

But it turned out that Bella was bleeding through her nose from inside. At first I was very scared, it´s never fun when your horse is bleeding anywhere. We quickly called the nearest veterinary. The Vet came to examine Bella trying to find out what was wrong. A horse with ordinary flu does usually have fever but Bella didn’t. The same day my Mum found some mould in Bella´s hay. Some of the hay-bales smelled like old mushrooms. However, most of the hay-bales that where mouldy where at the back of the stack. The vet took some blood, for tests, from Bella, with hopes of finding out what could be wrong. The tests showed that Bella had had an allergic reaction to mould in the hay. Even if all of the bales was not mouldy, the spores had spread throughout them all. Bella rested for 2 weeks and later quickly became fully recovered!


However, in the beginning of this week Bella was coughing and had a higher temperature than normal. Some of our hay bales were affected again. Bella  developed an allergy against mould. Now we are trying another kind of hay for her to eat, silage. It has higher water content than hay and it’s generally easier for hay to get mouldy than for silage . I hope that she will not have to rest for a full two weeks like the first time she reacted.

It is Christmas break from school right now for me. It’s great to have and I will spend my vacation with Bella. We are going to have so much fun. Lo and I will be back next week. Otherwise we update daily on boella.horseworld.se

Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year!


Spores under microscope…Source: http://www.haygain.co.uk/the-problem.php

If you too have hay quality issue I highly recommend having a look at HayGain hay steamers: http://www.haygain.co.uk/the-problem.php


Related articles: 

Do not feed mouldy hay to horses