“What symptoms would I see if my horse was mineral deficient?” ‘Anita’ asks me.
“That’s a really good question”… the actual answer is the reason why so many of us don’t have ‘problems’ with our horses, we have ‘disasters’!
One of the things I love about being out and about at horse events is having real conversations with ‘real’ horse people about nutrition. I can sometimes forget that what is obvious to me is often not so obvious to others. So these types of questions really make me stop and focus on things from YOUR perspective.
Anita’s question was particularly brilliant because it highlights one of the HUGE issues in horse nutrition. And that is that ‘chronic long-term mineral deficiencies’ tend to go UNNOTICED until something truly goes horribly wrong.
The best analogy I can give you is it is like white ants… often the presence of white ants goes unnoticed until they have done so much damage to the structure of a building that things literally start to fall apart. Once you can SEE the damage, the issue is serious.
It’s like this with minerals (and vitamins) for horses. Once you can SEE a mineral deficiency, you can be sure that issue has been there for a long time and that the damage is now extensive.
Just because you CAN’T SEE a mineral deficiency doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist.
And in fact if you are not supplementing your horse correctly, either with carefully chosen fortified feeds or vitamin/minerals supplements I would say with 99.9% certainty that your horse will be deficient in something that will eventually cause a health issue.
And here is the thing… all of these nutrition related deficiency issues are so easily avoided. Instead of spending several months (and often several thousand dollars) fixing the problems caused by deficiency… you can just prevent the deficiency and therefore prevent the issue.
Let me answer Anita’s question a bit more first, and then I’ll come back to how you can prevent the problems!
Here are some symptoms of mineral (and vitamin) deficiency…
And remember these are symptoms of LONG TERM deficiency, they tend to take several months to several years to show up… listed in no particular order:
- Dull coat that lacks shine and richness of colour
- Cracked, weak hooves-Joints that start to deteriorate at a young age
- Poor immune response, taking a long time to recover from immune challenges
- Changes in behaviour, often toward more anxious, spooky behaviour
- Loss of muscle or inability to gain muscle
- Weight loss or inability to gain weight
- Low energy or reaching fatigue earlier than they should for their level of fitness
- Gut issues, including poor digestion, poor absorption and an increased risk of gastric ulcers
- Uterine artery rupture in foaling mares
- Flexure limb deformity and OCD in foals and young horses
- Broken bones including legs, ribs, pelvis (unfortunately often the first symptom that is recognised in chronically calcium deficient horses)
This list could go on (and on, and on) but this will cover many of the issues many of you will see.
Unfortunately we also often try to treat the symptom before we treat the underlying cause. So good nutrition must (ALWAYS) go hand in hand with any treatments given to these horses. For example it’s virtually no use using a joint supplement when a diet is chronically copper and zinc deficient.
So I guess what I really want to convey here is that EVERY horse’s diet, almost without exception, needs some sort of vitamin and mineral support. And if they don’t receive that support, one (if you are lucky) or many of these issues will start to show in your horse.
And this is where FeedXL comes in… FeedXL helps you figure out exactly which vitamins and minerals are missing from the diet, and exactly which feeds or supplements (of the literally thousands of options you have) can be used to best meet those needs.
AND it stops us doing that thing where we overfeed or oversupplement Just. In. Case. Which at best leads to wasting money. At worst ends in equally disastrous vitamin or mineral toxicity.
The moral of the story? Just because you can’t see a problem doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem!
The sooner you look at your horse’s diet and fix any vitamin or mineral deficiencies, the better!