Tuesdays with Tony
Let’s talk about some of my favorite topics that help horse owners spend money needlessly. I like to call these the Urban Legends of the Horse World. Some have a bit of fact, and I emphasize, a bit, behind them. Some are wild tales meant to scare children around campfires at night. Either way, I watch a lot of horse people spend a lot of money or time on them for no good reason. Don’t worry, Tony’s here to help you out.
Colics and Walking
I’m starting with this one since it’s one of my life’s missions to get humans to stop walking colicky horses! If your horse lays down to roll, it will NOT cause their intestines to twist. In fact, it’s the other way around. Horses become intensely painful and roll because their intestines twisted. I know you’ve heard this one from me before, and I’m saying it again. Do.Not.Walk.Your.Colic! Okay, I’m ambling down from my soapbox now.
I’m prepared to face the wrath of the internet on this one. Hindgut ulcers in the way you are thinking of them aren’t a thing. Yes, my Docs see hindgut ulcers, but it’s rare and is ALWAYS secondary to massive doses of NSAIDs like bute. For the most part these drugs are safe, but if given in too high a dose for too long, they quite literally destroy the hindgut. For some horses, this is one dose at a high level, for some it’s 4-5 days of high dosing, and for some it’s weeks of overdosing. These drugs are easy to use all willy nilly, but it’s important to check in with my Docs about best practices. Horses with hindgut ulcers are incredibly sick, and it can be life-threatening. They don’t experience a vague sense of unease, or balk at your leg, or pick up the canter incorrectly. They try to die.
Okay, now for the tiny kernel of truth behind hindgut ulcers. The more all the amazing gut researchers out there learn about the critters that live in the GI tract, the more they know they don’t know. I think they should ask a cat. We know everything. Just ask us! Anyway, what is very clearly known is that the bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa that live in there are all important, and are all delicate little flowers. Any little thing upsets them. There are a million solutions proposed for managing this upset. There are two that have science behind them: forage and Saccharomyces boulardii. That’s it. Not hindgut buffers, not magical hindgut happiness potion, not vaguely labeled hindgut supporters. Hay and maybe some yeast. Mostly hay. Want to keep your horse’s hindgut happier? Feed them more hay!
What? Are you crazy, Tony? Are you saying stomach ulcers aren’t a thing?? No. I’m not actually saying that. I am saying that a bajillion of the things out there that say they will fix it, won’t. Stomach buffers will help the symptoms temporarily, but not long term. Many of the wonder cures out there are buffers. Treatment is aimed at first knowing what kind of ulcers you’ve got: squamous or glandular, then targeting treatment to the type, then modifying life and diet to avoid recurrence. Wonder cures which involve two pumps or scoops or packets of something random do not factor in here.
Joint Supplements. Okay, Supplements in General.
Let’s evaluate the size of a horse. I’m going to be kind and say the average horse weighs 1100 pounds. Yeah, that’s right, I’m saying most of you humans have overweight horses. Let’s look at the average supplement: 2 ounces. That’s the size of the scoop. That’s 0.00002 pounds per pound of horse body weight. Chances are good that supplement isn’t doing much. For example, when my Docs recommend flax seed for itchy skin, they recommend 1 POUND per day minimum. Think about what is in your supplement, and then the quantity you are feeding before expecting it to do a lot. The other thing about supplements is that they are the wild, wild west of the nutrition world. This is true for human supplements, too. Pretty much as long as you don’t say your supplement treats a medical condition, you can say it. My Docs can help you evaluate supplement choices, but know the answer will be just don’t do it 95% of the time.
There are a whole lot of urban legends out there in the horse world. For 99.999999% of the horses in the world the right answer is a good diet based on 1-2% of their bodyweight as roughage, only enough concentrate to supplement vitamins, minerals, and protein to support workload, clean water, and turnout and/or exercise to keep the body moving. The rest of it separates your money from your wallet. Horses do that well enough already! Talk to my Docs for help sorting out the urban legends from the truth.
Until next week,
P.S. If you are thirsty for knowledge on the things I talked about here, you should go listen to the podcast my humans do. They have a whole lot more to say about this stuff than I do. To be fair, I’m limited to 1,000 words, and they can talk for 30 minutes to an hour. I’m not staying awake that long unless I’m blocking traffic in the Clinic parking lot. Anyway, you can find all 90+ episodes of Straight from the Horse Doctor’s Mouth by clicking here, or subscribing wherever you get your podcasts. You’ll thank me later.
Tuesdays with Tony is the official blog of Tony the Clinic Cat at Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic in Newberry, Florida. If you liked this blog, please subscribe below, and share it with your friends on social media! For more information, please call us at (352) 472-1620, visit our website at SpringhillEquine.com, or follow us on Facebook!