Thursday, 17 December 2015

SPILLERS fed Leo’s journey to Olympia 2015: Part 2!

Leo, winning HOYS in 1998. Photo credits Real Time Imaging
Following his triumphant performance at Arena UK in July 2015, 24 YO coloured stallion Lostock Huntsman (Leo) and his handler, Bethany, are now preparing for their showing debut at the prestigious Olympia Horse Show in December 2015. Before I recap on where we all are now, let’s pick up where my last blog finished just after Leo had qualified for Olympia.

Back To Reality… For Now
Once Leo returned home after Arena UK, he settled back into his normal routine, enjoying his SPILLERS® Senior Conditioning Mix feed alongside summer turnout. Leo was also kept busy as a total of 6 mares were covered and in foal by him over the summer.

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn!
As autumn approached our thoughts turned towards preparing Leo for his Olympia performance. Leo’s skin and coat condition had improved immensely since changing his diet to SPILLERS® Senior Conditioning Mix, and it was time to decide whether to clip him. Of course, we wanted Leo to look his best at Olympia and as his new and improved coat was so healthy and glossy, we decided to not have him clipped. Unfortunately for us, Leo enjoys nothing more than a mud bath which meant that we were leading in a brown horse from the field rather than a coloured!

Beth and Leo out on
one of their hacks.
Operation: Keep Leo Fit For Olympia
As the fields became continually wetter, Leo’s turnout had to be cut down. In order to keep him in shape for Olympia, Bethany and I had decided that Leo would benefit from some gentle exercise and hacking seemed like the ideal workout. Both Beth and Leo really enjoy their hacks and it is lovely to see Leo’s ears pricked forward every time they leave the yard. Even after being out of ridden work for more than 2 years, Leo still has the same enthusiasm as he did when he hunted! The new riding jacket provided by SPILLERS® has also come in handy as Beth looks very smart when out hacking!

Leo’s Leading Weeks Until Olympia
Leo’s recipe for success now involves a daily routine of the following exercises:

·        A leg stretch in the field.
·        A gentle hack round the lanes with Bethany.
·        Some in hand showing practice. Trotting a figure of 8 seems to be Leo’s strong point, although Beth sometimes struggles to keep up with his strides!

 Of course, Leo does not go without a daily pamper session which includes:

·        A 20 minute groom.
·        A hot oil rub down for his coat.
·        Moisturising spray on his mane and tail before being rugged up ready for bed 

To ensure that Leo is always as snug as a bug in a rug, our friend Maralyn had kindly made him an under blanket made of double thickness moleskin fleece which we always use under his rugs.

 The Countdown Begins
Beth, 6 months old at HOYS 1998.
Our countdown has finally begun with only a couple of days left until Bethany and Leo compete at the Olympia Horse Show in London. We’re all feeling very excited now as the hotel is booked, tickets are purchased and checklists are being made. This will be the first time that Leo has been back to London since he competed at the Horse of The Year Show in 1998 at Wembley. It all feels quite surreal to me as Beth was only 6 months old when we took her and Leo to Wembley, and now 17 years later she will be leading him herself. I will be very proud of them both whatever the outcome.

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Filling Your Horse Up With Forage This Winter

With temperatures dropping and the frost setting in, your horses pasture may now start to look rather sparse and those patches of grass that haven’t already been turned into a wallow of mud, are likely to finally stop growing. Many of you will start to worry therefore, that your horses and ponies are no longer getting what they need from their pasture.

Second to water, forage is the most important part of any horses and ponies diet, as fibre from forage provides a valuable source of calories to help maintain the horse’s weight and is essential for maintaining gut health and the absorption of nutrients. It is important to ensure then, that they are receiving a sufficient amount, below are some useful tips to help you do this.

5 Fabulous Truths about Feeding Forage


·       Ad-Lib access to forage is ideal for any horse or pony unless they start to gain too much weight

·       All horses and ponies (including good doers) need a minimum of 1.5% dry matter of their bodyweight in forage per day (7.5kg for a 500kg horse)

·       If continuing to turn horses/ponies out to pasture, as a guide, if stabling for approx.12hours, provide no less than a minimum of half their forage ration in their boxes as hay/haylage/hay replacer, as we cannot be sure how much is being received as grass.

·       If providing a forage only diet, provide a balancer to ensure the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins.

·       Try to avoid long periods of time where your horse or pony has no access to forage which could increase the risk of conditions such as colic/ulcers.

2 Top Tips When Feeding Forage to Poor Doers

·       In winter months, grass intake may need to be virtually ignored, meaning a greater amount will need to be supplemented, especially for poor doers. Additional forage may also need to be provided in the field if possible – you might even find this encourages them to stand away from the gate!

·       Although many often think haylage is richer/more nutritious, therefore less is needed in comparison to hay, in fact due to the additional water content of haylage, you need to offer 25-50% more than you would as hay (10-11kg of haylage in place of 7.5kg of hay.)

3 Ways To Manage A Good Doers Forage Intake


·  If your horse or pony has a tendency to greedily consume their hay or haylage all at once, consider putting one hay net inside the other, to help slow them down. Placing these nets in several stations around the stable can also help encourage them to take their time.

·   For especially good doers, or laminitics, soaking hay for 12-16hours is highly recommended to achieve maximum leaching of water soluble carbohydrates (sugar + fructan – stored sugar in grass)
·       Good quality oat or barley straw is a low energy option, making it ideal for good doers, although it is best used as a partial rather than sole forage source.

Does Your Horse Need A Hay Replacer To Stay Happy & Healthy?

·     Horses and ponies that can no longer manage long fibre such as hay or haylage will require a hay replacer. From the SPILLERS® range consider SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF®, SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free or SPILLERS® High Fibre Cubes (cubes can be soaked to form a mash) and un-molassed sugar beet is also a great option.

·     If providing a hay replacer, ideally this should be provided in as many small servings as possible, and divided between several buckets to help encourage ‘trickle feeding’. If providing a hard feed, offer this first, followed by the hay replacer, so that they do not necessarily see it as another ‘feed’.  
There are many ways to ensure then that you horse or pony has sufficient forage this winter, even when struggling with poor pasture. Should you have a more specific query however please contact the SPILLERS® Care-Line of 01908 22 66 26.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

SPILLERS fed Leo’s journey to Olympia 2015: Part 1!

By Caroline Hamilton

First and foremost, let’s introduce the team behind this Olympia showing adventure

Leo with handler, Bethany

Lostock Huntsman (Leo): 24YO coloured stallion.
Bethany Driver: Leo’s 17 year old handler.
Caroline Hamilton: Bethany’s mother and breeder of Leo.

Leo’s fact file!

        Sired by Lostock Blue and out of Daisy May. I am also the past owner of Lostock Blue.
       Leo is an ex intermediate eventer.
       He had an extremely successful showing career, both in hand and ridden. He notably won the Coloured Horse and Pony Championship at Horse of the Year Show in 1998.
       He hunted for a total of 15 seasons, rarely missing a day.
       Leo is still a working stallion who has sired numerous foals who have gone on to compete in similar disciplines to himself.
SPILLERS feed supports the senior, showing, stallion!

Leo before the trial
In the autumn of 2014, we had discussions with our feed supplier, Mole Valley, to seek their expertise about how to help maintain or improve Leo’s condition. It just so happens that Mole Valley were conducting a field trial for SPILLERS® Senior Conditioning Mix at that time. We duly entered the trial and sent pictures of Leo to SPILLERS and were extremely pleased to be chosen as one of the lucky participants.

The SPILLERS nutritionists provided us with a feeding plan for Leo which we consistently followed for the trials three month period. To say that the results were amazing is an understatement. Leo has thrived on the SPILLERS® Senior Conditioning Mix and his improvement is clearly visible in the pictures we took of him at the following intervals, Oct’14, April’15 and July’15.
If Leo’s got it, flaunt it!

We were all in agreement that Leo looked so well that he deserved to be taken out to a show. We joined the Senior Showing and Dressage Ltd and shortly after started looking at veteran, in-hand showing classes.
Leo after his bath!
There’s always a hiccup on show day!

Our first outing to test the waters of a veteran showing class didn’t quite go to plan. We had spent hours ensuring that Leo looked show ready which had included everything from grooming, bathing, tail washing to trimming and plaiting up. Just after we had loaded Leo up in the early hours of the morning, we discovered that the radio in the horsebox had been left on resulting in a very flat battery. Unfortunately on this occasion, we were a no-show.

Show day… Take 2!
Leo at the SSADL Show
Thankfully, our second outing on 12th July proved to be a much more successful trip. Having completed our show day preparation making Leo look as smart as can be, we safely travelled to Arena UK for the SSADL Show. Coincidentally, this was the same show where the second round Olympia qualifiers was being held.

Leo was very much on his toes in the first class, failing to settle and finding the atmosphere of this pony party quite exciting. We had forgotten, of course, that is was some 12 years since Leo had been in a competitive showing environment. Although Leo was penalised for his manners, he managed to score high enough to win the Senior Plus Section which qualified him for the second round.

Leo's lap of honour after qualifying for Olympia!
The pressure was on!
The Second Round Section was much later in the schedule which gave Leo time to settle back at the horsebox. Once the second class had commenced, Leo found his composure and totally shone.

His paces were solid, he was well-mannered and obedient with Bethany’s expert handling. Leo went on to win the class AND the championship which in turn qualified us for the Olympia grand finale.

It was a very great moment for us as a family to watch Bethany and Leo’s partnership achieve such success. Keep an eye out for us at the Olympia International Horse Show 2015 and stay tuned for our next blog!

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Feeding Fizzy, Excitable Horses Throughout The Firework Frenzy!

Bonfire night is looming, and for those of you with especially nervous or excitable horses, the idea of a ride following a festival of fireworks overnight, may not be a welcome one. Below are a few tips to help you try to avoid any undesirable performances from your horse or pony.

How can feed affect excitable horses?
Whilst many factors can have an effect, nutritionally a high fibre, controlled starch diet is the best way to feed excitable horses as it is the high starch content in some feeds that we most commonly associate with fizzy behaviour. Although many horse owners also try to avoid high levels of sugar in their horses feeds, in fact the largest contributor of sugar in our horses and ponies diets is their forage (grass/hay/haylage) – think of the ‘spring grass effect’!

So, what can I feed my fizzy four legged friend?
In practise, when offering hard feed, we would recommend avoiding all mixes, due to their cereal content (cereals are high in starch) and choosing fibre and oil based feeds containing a maximum of 15-20% starch. It is useful to remember, the definition for a ‘non heating feed’ is one that is ‘less likely to produce an excitable response in some horses and ponies’ so there is no guarantee. The amount of starch tolerated can be very variable between individuals and for more sensitive horses, it may necessary to reduce the level of starch further. Another factor that can sometimes lead to excitable horses or ponies, is over feeding energy. Should you be unsure whether or not you are providing the correct levels however, get in touch with a nutritionist.

Calling all horse calmers for back up!
Many horse owners also find the use of a calmer helpful. There are several available on the market and often it is a case of finding one that suits your horse.  Numerous ingredients have been associated with helping to reduce nervous/excitable behaviour in horses anecdotally, including herbs such as chamomile and lemon balm. A 10g daily serving of magnesium has now been scientifically proven to have a positive effect on the flight response of horses, which may therefore help to reduce spooky/fizzy behaviour in excitable horses.

Useful tips to easing excitable horses!
  • Keeping your horse or pony in a familiar environment with the same routine to avoid stress.
  • Providing distractions when fireworks are going off overhead such as; licks, snack balls and hanging root vegetables. Playing a radio in your barn or stable block can also help muffle loud noises.
  • For owners with especially anxious horses, it may be a good idea to stay with them at all times, or even speak to your vet about sedation.
  • For horses who live out, try to look out for and remove anything your horse could injure themselves on should they become distressed.

Post Bonfire Night recovery for you and you horse!

If you are aware of any displays close by, look for firework debris once the event is over. Although it may seem obvious, riding near or whilst a display is going on is probably best avoided and riding in company for a week or so if possible may also be a good idea!

By taking some of these tips on board hopefully Guy Fawkes will be the only one who lands up in a heated situation this bonfire night and the rest of us can enjoy the glitter and bangs!

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Feeding Your Laminitic Horse or Pony This Autumn and Winter

As the days shorten and temperatures drop, many of you start to assume that due to decreasing quality of the grass it is safe for your lamintic horse or pony to go back out to their paddock, however beware this may not be the case! There also several key points to remember when managing your laminitic during colder temperatures ahead.  
First of all, even as pastures appear to be losing their lush green colours, it is impossible to know what levels of water soluble carbohydrates (WSC) are contained, in fact we often experience what many refer to as an ‘Autumn Flush’. Additionally turning out on grass that has been exposed to cold temperatures in conjunction with bright sunlight i.e. sunny frosty mornings, should be avoided, as these conditions can result in especially high levels of WSC. For this reason we recommend continuing to restrict access by making use of stables/menages/bark paddocks, strip grazing or a grazing muzzle, so long as there is a sufficient covering of grass.

Providing a balanced diet is key for any horse or pony, so it is vital to ensure they are receiving the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins. If maintaining weight on forage alone (grass/soaked hay), provide a balancer, a small nutrient dense pellet which contains a negligible level of calories, starch and sugar. If on the other hand your horse needs the help of a hard feed to maintain weight, consider a fibre or cube suitable for laminitics with added nutrients. Remember, even in Spring/Summer months, we cannot be sure what level of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins our horses and ponies are receiving, therefore feeding a balancer if providing less than the recommended amount of feed, is still advisable.

Secondly when continuing to turn out onto bare paddocks or strip grazing, these areas can quickly become bogged down with mud. In the wild, horses would roam the land continually, foraging for food, it is important therefore to provide continual access to forage. For our laminitics this involves offering either soaked hay or alternatively a suitable hay replacer such as SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF®/SPILLERS HAPPY HOOF® Molasses Free. All horses and ponies require a minimum of 1.5% (dry matter) of their bodyweight in forage per day, however it is difficult for us to know how much of this ration is being consumed as grass. As a guide, when being stabled for 12 hours, offer a minimum of half this ration, but those prone to weight loss may require more and of course when stabling for longer periods, a larger quantity will be required.

Finally, winter can provide the perfect opportunity for those horses and ponies who have been doing a little too well in warmer months to finally shed some extra pounds. If your laminitic does in fact struggle to maintain weight however, harsher conditions can pose a problem. Start by checking that you are feeding the recommended ration of your horse’s current feed as a simple increase may be all that is required. If this isn’t enough however, look for a feed with higher level of digestible energy and protein but always avoid cereal based feeds with high starch content and opt for fibre and oil instead.

This autumn, as we start cooking up soups and stews for ourselves, there are several points that need to be considered when considering your lamintic’s winter diet. Taking these steps now however will hopefully avoid any set backs for next spring!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

7 Undeniable Reasons To Have Your Horse Weighed By A SPILLERS® Nutritionist

Never had your yard visited by a SPILLERS® nutritionist before? Then you must not have heard of the wonderful service that we offer.

So, we’ve pulled together 7 reasons why you should get in touch on 01908 226626 and book your place now!

1.      Tailor-Made Advice
At SPILLERS® we are committed to providing you with the best nutrition for your beloved companion. With this in mind, each horse will receive a tailor-made diet plan, formulated to suit his specific needs.

2.      It’s A Real Treat
Our pockets are always lined with delectable SPILLERS®treats for your four-legged friend to sample.

3.      You’ll Be Quids In
Each owner will receive a £5 SPILLERS® feed voucher when they have their horse weighed by one of our nutritionists.

4.      Get Hands On
Not only will your horse be weighed on our ‘super-sized’ scales. Our nutritionists will also get hands on and show you how to calculate his body condition score.

5.      Weigh Tape Worries Will Be a Thing Of The Past
It can sometimes be a real challenge to get an accurate
reading from a weigh tape. But, once your horse has hit the
scales, we can show you how to best utilise this super piece
of equipment.

6.      Touch Up Those Tea-Making Skills
Okay – this one may be slightly more for our benefit – but you know what they say, practice makes perfect. Our nutritionists are expert ‘tea-samplers’. So, pop the kettle on and let’s talk horses!

7.      We’ll Be Back…
…depending upon the standard of tea making, of course! Many horses require changes to their dietary management throughout the year and we’ll be on hand should your horse need a repeat visit.

Book Your SPILLERS® Weigh Clinic Now!
If you have a minimum of 10 horses on your yard then we would love to pay you a visit! To book your SPILLERS® weigh clinic now, just call the Care-Line on 01908 226626.

Quote ‘FACEBOOK WEIGH CLINIC OFFER’ when you book and the organiser will receive an additional £10 SPILLERS feed voucher.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Getting To Grips With Ulcers

 Although originally associated predominantly with racehorses, ulcers have become increasingly recognised in sport and leisure horses also (11% of leisure horse owners mentioned Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome in the 2015 National Equine Health Survey.) First of all you need to get your head around your horses’ digestive system. The stomach can be split in two, the region food first enters is the non glandular section, not protected by a mucous layer. Below is the glandular section, where hydrochloric acid is produced and is consequently protected by a mucous layer. Ulcers occur as a result of prolonged exposure of the stomach lining to gastric juices and disruption to mucus production, causing erosion and ulceration, more often in the non glandular unprotected region. In the wild, horses would roam continually on pasture, eating little and often. To support this behaviour, the digestive system evolved to produce gastric acid continually throughout the day, breaking down forage. It is important to remember however as the horse continually chews, saliva containing bicarbonate is produced, acting as a buffer to the gastric acid. In their domesticated environment however, your four legged friends may not always have the opportunity to utilise these natural adaptions.

There are various factors that are believed to be connected with ulcer occurrence. Firstly reduced access to forage, which means acid is allowed to build up, teamed with a lack of chewing, so limited saliva is available to buffer this. High cereal starch diets can encourage rapid microbial fermentation leading to excess acid. Stressful situations including travel and competitions can cause disruptions to the mucus lining the stomach, reducing its acid defence. Irregular feeding patterns which may mean horses are without feed for long periods. Finally gastric splashing, which involves acid from the bottom of the stomach splashing up to the non glandular region, which can occur especially when horses are galloping regularly on an empty stomach.

If you suspect your horse has ulcers, the vet must be contacted and alongside treatment there are steps you can take from a nutritional point of view. Access to forage is essential and should not be restricted to less than 1.5% of bodyweight per day. Avoid your horse standing for long periods of time without forage, allowing pasture turn out wherever possible. Straw should not be used as the sole forage supply, as it is abrasive, has low buffering capacity and does not form an effective fibre mat in the bottom of the stomach to help prevent splashing. If possible, provide forage whilst travelling and before exercise in small holed haynets if required, to try to slow your horse down.

Regarding hard feed, starch intake should be restricted to less than 1g per kilogram bodyweight per meal, so look for feed containing less than 20% starch or less than 15% in low energy/calorie feeds. Feed little and often, adding alfalfa to compounds to lengthen eating time. Due to the high protein and calcium content, alfalfa is also useful for its buffering capacity against acid. If your horse needs help gaining weight, consider using feeds higher in oil rather than traditional conditioning feeds with high starch levels, alternatively pure oil can be added, however speak to a nutritionist for advice on this to ensure the diet remains balanced.  Water should be available at all times to encourage saliva production and flow and if your horse is sweating regularly and you need to supplement with electrolytes, avoid using pastes. Always provide a balanced diet, offering either the recommend amount of feed, or a balancer. Finally a supplement may be considered, however it is important to remember these cannot replace the need for veterinary treatment.

Should ulcers become a problem for your beloved friend, do not be at a loss, with appropriate treatment and by putting the above tips in to practise, hopefully they will be back to their old selves in no time.