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.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Keeping it cool this summer!

Rising temperatures this summer often result in sweaty horses and ponies after those longer rides, competitions and when travelling too. It is important to ensure then, that our beloved friends stay fully hydrated at all times. In order to achieve this, both water and electrolytes are needed, as providing greater quantities of water alone will simply cause the body to excrete the excess, as it is not able to be retained. I often hear of horse owners adding salt to their horses feeds, however many are unsure how to do this correctly.

Electrolytes are mineral salts which, when dissolved in water, become electrically charged particles called ions. Sweating causes the loss of electrolytes, in particular sodium, chloride and potassium but also magnesium and calcium in smaller amounts. Electrolytes are extremely important, required for numerous functions including muscle contractions and transmission of nerve impulses. Imbalances could therefore lead to conditions including heat stress, fatigue, synchronous diaphragmatic flutter (thumps) and tying up. Free access to a salt lick is generally more than sufficient for horses at rest/light work and with suitable rest, most losses can be replaced over time with eating and drinking. For horses in harder work however, sweating on a regular basis, additional support is advisable. 1-3 tablespoons of Table Salt (sodium chloride) depending on sweating rate may be sufficient for horses receiving >1% of their bodyweight in forage per day, as forage provides potassium. Horses sweating heavily, especially when on restricted forage diets, may also need additional potassium therefore adding 0.5-1.5 tablespoons of Lo-Salt (sodium chloride & potassium chloride) per day on top, will be beneficial. Salt can be added directly to feed, or diluted in water, however additional water must always be offered alongside both methods. Try to ensure that horses are familiar with drinking solutions before using them at an event and if adding to feed, do so after they have started drink to prevent further dehydration. It is not possible to ‘pre-load’ with electrolytes but try to avoid dehydration pre-exercise by allowing free access to water and forage beforehand. Although many believe allowing horses to drink immediately after exercise will cause colic, this is in a misconception and withholding water will delay rehydration. In fact, allow your horse to drink small amounts for the first 30 minutes and ad-lib once they have cooled down fully. To allow your horse to cool down efficiently, walk them round until their pulse and respiration rate have returned close to normal rates and sponge/hose them down if required. It may seem obvious, but whenever possible try to tie them up in shady areas if waiting around at shows and make sure water is available at all times.  

As an alternative, look for a specialist electrolyte supplement containing sodium, potassium and chloride. Supplements will often have dextrose and sucrose added also to help improve palatability. This can also support glycogen recovery, Glycogen is stored glucose, and it can take up to 72hours for levels to be restored following intense exercise. If competing, ensure supplements are suitable to be used under FEI rules covered by BETA NOPS. Care should always be taken however when using pastes and syringes particularly during exercise. High concentrations of salt will result in water from the body being drawn to the digestive system leading to further dehydration. Syringes and pastes should also be avoided for those at risk of or suffering from gastric ulcers.

This summer when packing yourself off with bottles of water and sun cream ready to brave the heat, always remember to think about your horse too. Providing sufficient water and electrolyte support will help ensure that they stay hydrated and if you are unsure about the level of support they need, get in touch with a nutritionist.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Summer Figures!!!

Finally, the sun has come out and rugs and coats are off which means it’s time to perfect that summer figure…not just for you but your horses and ponies too! This time of year, one of the most common problems I hear about is horses or ponies lacking energy, worn out after just one or two rounds. It is vital to remember however energy = calories, meaning as long as your horse is maintaining a healthy weight, they are receiving sufficient energy from their feed to support their workload. Lack of energy could also be due to other factors including changes in work, weather, routine, temperament and excess weight gain. Although it is tempting to increase feed to achieve a more ‘energetic’ response, this is unlikely to be the solution and you will instead encourage weight gain, leading to a porky, lazy horse! Traditionally adding a high starch mix has been thought to be answer but this often results in an increase in spooky/heated behaviour rather than helping them get to the end of the course any better, as well as causing them to gain additional squashy bits! Feeding a mugful or handful of mix will not cause the pounds to pile on, however in this amount is unlikely to have any affect at all. Finally, for those at risk of, or suffering from conditions such as laminitis/colic/ulcers, high starch feeds need to be avoided altogether.

Forage is the largest source of calories the horses diet so if your horse’s waistline is expanding, you may need to think about restricting his intake. Forage should not be restricted to less than 1.5% of bodyweight per day although depending on how much your horse is currently eating; cutting back so significantly may not be necessary. In fact, ponies turned out at grass un-muzzled have been seen to consume up to 5% of their bodyweight in grass alone! Equally, horse owners don’t have the luxury of being able to measure just how much their horse is eating once they are given access to grazing, so consider speaking to a nutritionist for more practical advice on managing individual horses and ponies. Grazing muzzles have been shown to reduce grass intake by 80% but strip grazing, turnout in bald paddocks or stabling for part of the day may also help. However, be cautious of turning out for short periods un-muzzled. Although turning out for just a few hours per day may seem like a logical way to restrict grass intake, studies have shown that ponies can quickly learn to ‘gorge’ almost 1% of their bodyweight in only 3 hours un-muzzled!

Hard feed will also need a re-think. You may need to reduce or remove the ration you are currently supplying and instead top up or replace with a balancer to provide the correct levels of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins but without the weight gain? So long as you are providing a balanced diet, you could consider adding an energy supplement. There are several available on the market, just be cautious of those containing iron, as providing iron in excess amounts can be toxic. Most horses and ponies will receive sufficient levels of iron from their forage and there is no evidence to suggest that supplementing with additional sources will help improve stamina/energy levels.
All in all if your horse or pony is looking a little squishy round the edges, putting them on a summer diet may just help them get that spring back in their step!

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Balancers...your heroes this spring and summer!!!

Spring is well and truly here and now the grass is coming through thick and fast, many of you are wondering what, if anything at all, to feed your beloved companions. Although many horses and ponies can have their feed significantly reduced as they maintain their weight on the lush spring grass alone, unfortunately you cannot be sure exactly what they are receiving in terms of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins…cue balancer to the rescue! Although often associated with building condition/weight, this is a misconception and in fact a balancer is a small nutrient dense pellet which contains negligible levels of calories, therefore avoiding weight gain. Throughout spring and summer months, many horses and ponies are perfect candidates for a balancer, which will provide them with a concentrated source of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins, without affecting their already expanding waistline. Balancers are also useful for adding to straights, or feeds without added vitamins and minerals to balance the diet and providing to hardworking horses that maintain weight on low energy feeds. In any case where a balancer is used, an alternative option would be to use a broad spectrum, powdered vitamin and mineral supplement, however you will not always be able to tailor this to your horse’s requirements and furthermore you will probably find they do not have the added benefit of added quality protein. An added bonus of using a balancer is cost…a 20kg bag will last a 500kg horse 6weeks which could be as cheap as 56p per day, so although it may seem like a larger pay out initially, in the long run it’s a bargain!!!

With the exception of those designed for stud, when fed alongside a forage only diet balancers are typically fed at a rate of 100g per 100kg bodyweight (500g for a 500kg horse), which can be provided alongside a double handful of low calorie chaff/fibre if you wish, to make their bucket last a little longer. If you are feeding a reduced ration of compound feed however, the full amount of balancer will not be required, for example a half ration of balancer complements a half ration of compound feed.

When it comes to choosing a balancer, the choice can be especially tricky due to wide range now available. Start by thinking about age and workload, for instance do you need a balancer designed for those in light or hard work, or perhaps one formulated for horses under the age of 2 years? Secondly you could consider whether your horse would benefit from added functional ingredients such as glucosamine, probiotics and prebiotics? Remember, all balancers apart from those designed for stud, contain a negligible levels of calories when fed at the recommended ration and therefore those labelled with terms such as ‘Lite’ or ‘Low’ do not necessarily mean that they are the most suited to your horse or pony. If you are unsure which meets your horse’s requirements, speak to a nutritionist.

Overall balancers are your heros this spring/summer, ensuring that your horses and ponies get everything they need without weight gain. Additionally due to the negligible levels of starch and sugar, they are suitable for many of those tricky cases too!

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Managing a Laminitic

Its spring, the grass is coming through and many of us are looking forward to warmer weather, lighter nights and less mucking out. However for some, the prospect of managing a laminitic horse or pony as the grass shoots through isn’t a welcome one. If this sounds familiar, the following tips might be helpful.

Grass grows more rapidly in spring and contains higher levels of sugar and fructan, which means restricting grazing is crucial. Research has shown ponies with unlimited turnout can consume up to 5% of their bodyweight in grass per day, which for a 350kg pony equates to approximately 1.3kg of simple sugar contributing to a total of 9kg of water soluble carbohydrate (WSC = sugar + fructan) from grass alone. You could therefore consider using a muzzle, which can reduce grass intake by up to 80%, significantly reducing WSC intake also, however muzzles should be well fitted and not left on for 24hrs. Other options include turning out in bare paddocks or strip grazing, but always remember to back fence, ensuring paddocks don’t simply increase in size. Alternatively if stabling to limit turnout time, be mindful that turning out for short periods without muzzles may encourage gorging. In a recent study ponies were seen to consume almost 1% of their bodyweight in just 3hrs! For some horses and ponies, grazing may need to be removed completely and suitable forage supplied. When this is the case consider using ménages and bark paddocks for turn out and remember not to restrict forage intake to less than 1.5% of their bodyweight per day unless under veterinary supervision.

Ideally forage and forage replacers for laminitics should contain less than 10% WSC. Although soaking hay has been shown to reduce WSC by up to 50%, results are variable and some may contain more than 20% to begin with. Soaking for 12-16hours in tepid water (16°C) is the optimum however as temperatures rise, it is recommend to reduce soaking time down to just 6 hours to help prevent bacteria build up. Forage analysis is another option and the only way to determine true WSC content. Alternatively provide a hay replacer approved by the laminitis trust.
Finally maintaining a healthy body condition and providing a balanced supply of vitamins, minerals and quality proteins is vital all year round. If your horse or pony maintains their weight on forage alone, consider a balancer, a small nutrient dense pellet that contains negligible levels of calories therefore avoiding weight gain. Body condition score your horse or pony regularly, always aiming to maintain a score of 4.5-5 on a scale of 1-9. If additional calories are needed, look for fibre based feeds which are low in starch and sugar.

Prevention is always better than cure and although you may still be mucking out whilst others are turning their horse out for the summer, careful management can help to ensure you and your horse still enjoy the arrival of spring and those warm evening rides. If you would like more advice on managing your laminitic horse or pony this spring, please call the SPILLERS® Care-Line on 01908 226626.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Winter Weight Loss

Winter presents a number of challenges, particular for poor-doers and of course their owners! If the recent cold snap and a lack of grazing has left your horse looking a little too lean, the following tips may help you to combat that dreaded winter weight loss.

First and foremost forage is the foundation of every horses diet, so start by ensuring your hay or haylage is of good quality and fed adlib, ideally in the field as well as the stable. Far from being ‘just bulk’, forage provides the lion share of your horse’s energy (calorie) intake and is essential for maintaining gut health. If your horse is a ‘fussy-feeder’ it may be worth monitoring how much forage he is ‘choosing’ to eat, aiming for a minimum of 1.5% bodyweight per day, (7.5-8kg/ day for a 500kg horse). Although grass intake is impossible for horse owners to measure, it can generally be ignored for underweight horses on poor pasture. Haylage is not automatically ‘richer’ as commonly thought and it is important to remember that due to higher moisture content, you need to feed approximately 1.2-1.5 times more haylage than hay by weight.  Forage analysis is the only way to determine the nutritional value of both hay and haylage and may be particularly useful when it comes to calculating haylage rations or choosing the most suitable forage supply for you individual horse. If your horse or pony has poor teeth, look for a short chop hay replacer or a cube that be soaked to make a mash.

Although moving to a ‘conditioning’ feed may seem like the obvious choice, start by checking that you are feeding the recommended ration of your current feed as a simple increase may be all that is needed; even if your feed says ‘low energy’ or ‘low calorie’ on the bag. If this doesn’t achieve the desired result; look for a feed containing higher levels of digestible energy and protein. Choosing fibre and oil rather than cereal based feeds is the most sympathetic option both in terms of digestive health and preventing unwanted excitability. However if your horse is prone to any clinical conditions such as laminitis, colic or tying-up, speak to a nutritionist before changing his feed. Traditionally sugar beet has been a common addition to winter diets and although it is high in calories and fibre, it contains approximately 80% water once soaked, making it easy to overestimate how much of it you are feeding. Whilst a Stubbs scoop of soaked beet pulp may look like a significant contribution to your horse’s bucket, it actually contains limited nutritional value. In fact, just 1 scoop of Horse of Pony Cubes is approximately 5 times higher in calories!

Finally make sure your horse is well rugged to help ensure he isn’t wasting valuable energy from his feed keeping warm. If you are reaching for an extra duvet you may need to think about doing the same for your horse!