Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about horse nutrition, Mad Barn products and our custom formulations. Have a question that is not answered on this page? Contact us and our team of horse nutrition experts will be happy to guide you in the right direction!

Horse Nutrition

Can you recommend a supplement for a spooky horse?2020-01-24T17:13:21-05:00

Magnesium can help, but that’s usually only if it is low in the diet to begin with. Omneity contains high levels of magnesium and a full profile of B-vitamins and will balance the diet for all minerals and vitamins. This is a good starting point to ensure the diet is balanced – imbalances in the diet can cause horses to be more excitable.

Visceral+ also has high levels of magnesium and is used to treat ulcers. If ulcers are an issue, this certainly would be beneficial. Lastly, w-3 Oil contains high levels of DHA, which has been shown to improve focus and calm. Having said all of that, none of these solutions are likely to have a huge impact on spooking, say like giving ACE might, but would be part of a longer-term solution to training and sound nutrition.

Which products would you recommend to maintain horses that have Cushings and are IR?2020-01-24T17:09:19-05:00

Omneity – Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix is a great choice for horses that have Cushings and IR, as it will balance all the mineral and vitamins needs of your horses. There is no point in giving any type of supplement until the whole diet is properly balanced. If your horses are only receiving hay, the feeding rate is 200 grams for a 500 kg horse. If you are feeding a commercial complete feed (Integri-T, High Fat/Fiber etc), then the dose is adjusted based on how much you are feeding. For example, if you were feeding 2.5 kg of a commercial complete feed, you would only need 100 grams of the Omneity to balance out the diet.

For Cushings/IR horses, I would suggest adding MagneChrome on top of Omneity. It boosts levels of magnesium and chromium, as well as providing extra antioxidants to help combat the chronic inflammation accompanied by Cushings/IR. It certainly is not a cure for either, but will help.

Why does my horse need a mineral and vitamin premix?2020-01-24T16:56:50-05:00

Minerals and vitamins are crucial to your horse’s health, they are involved in virtually every metabolic process. They are critically important to the ultimate health and performance of your horse. The hay you feed does contain many of the minerals required by the horse, but certainly not all of them and often not in the correct balance or sufficient quantity. The process of curing and storing hay destroys virtually all of the vitamins that were present in the fresh standing forage, therefore, it is necessary to supplement these. Select one of Mad Barn’s formulations to complement your feeding program or contact us if you are interested in getting a custom mineral and vitamin made to meet your horse’s exact requirements.

Does my horse need a mineral and vitamin premix when on pasture?2020-01-24T16:44:51-05:00

When horses are on fresh grass, they generally do not need any vitamin supplements (A,D,E) as they are abundant in fresh forages and from the sun for vitamin D. Some of the trace minerals may be adequate as well, depending on fertility of the soil, but it will vary widely by region and fertilization program. There are some notable exceptions though, selenium, iodine and cobalt typically need to be supplemented as there will be inadequate levels of these nutrients. A note on selenium. Soil selenium levels vary widely across different geographical locations and due to its narrow range of safety, it is wise to determine the levels in feedstuffs before embarking on a supplementation regime. A soil selenium map is provided at this link, along with a wealth of information on selenium.

For the macro minerals, again it is likely the horse would obtain enough calcium, phosphorus and potassium from the grass, but is likely to be deficient in magnesium and most definitely in sodium.

Therefore, no, your horse does not need a fully fortified mineral and vitamin premix when the majority of the feed intake is from fresh pasture. Having said that, it may be more convenient to use a complete mineral and vitamin premix product like Omneity to supply the deficient nutrients, but it would be less expensive to supplement just the missing nutrients. This can be done by purchasing a trace mineral supplement, such as our Trace Mineral Pak, and adding salt and possibly magnesium oxide to balance out the pasture. Alternatively, Mad Barn can make a custom blend for you to supply the nutrients required. Please contact us to inquire about custom formulations.

How much selenium is safe? Should I be concerned about selenium toxicity?2020-01-24T16:40:28-05:00

The maximum tolerable intake of selenium for a horse (i.e. no long term deleterious effect) has been set at 5 mg/kg DM intake, but usually the literature recommends not exceeding 2 mg/kg of DM (dry matter) as the maximum tolerable intake. At 2 mg/kg of DM this equates to about 20 mg of selenium per day for the average horse (500 kg body weight) which eats about 10 kg of feed as the maximum intake.  It is not advisable to try and reach these levels, as there is no need to feed that much selenium. Furthermore, selenium is regulated in North America not to exceed 0.3 mg/kg of total dry matter intake, equating to 3-4 mg of selenium per day for the average size horse. The daily minimum intake of selenium for a horse should be at least 1 mg, therefore the total diet needs to be at least 0.1 mg/kg of selenium, but not more than 0.3 mg/kg. Please note, that mg/kg is the same as parts per million (ppm).

Omneity Equine Mineral and Vitamin Premix contains 20 mg/kg of selenium, which is all in the organic form, which is 5 to 10 times safer than inorganic selenium. The maximum tolerable intakes were established based on inorganic selenium. When feeding 4 scoops/day (120 g), that would supply 2.4 mg of selenium or 1.2 mg of selenium if you’re feeding only 2 scoops (60 g).

Given that concentration of selenium, you would have to feed 1 kg of Omneity per day to be at the maximum tolerable intake of selenium – i.e. you shouldn’t see any long term effects and you would have to feed in excess of 2 kg/day long term to start to see negative impact of selenium. To have an acute toxicity case, it takes a dose of about 1.5 g of selenium.  That dose equates to feeding 75 kg of Omneity – clearly this level could never be consumed. It is very unlikely any horse would voluntarily consume even 1 kg of the product, so toxicity is not a concern.

Toxicity is usually only a concern if you are using a specific selenium supplement that has a very high concentration of selenium – the polo horses in Florida come to mind, this was a case of someone making their own selenium supplement, and they obviously calculated or mixed it wrong. That is why it is advisable to only deal with reputable companies and people. It is a relatively straight forward calculation working out selenium concentrations, but there is always the chance for error if someone confuses the units or misplaces the decimal point, which was obviously the case in Florida.

Mad Barn has rigorous QC/QA procedures in place that ensure that all our products are made to specification and mixing or formulation errors do not occur.

A Note on Injectable Selenium for Horses

The above-mentioned case of selenium toxicity in Florida was from an improperly prepared injectable supplement, with selenium mixed at 10 times the desired concentration. Selenium toxicity from injection has a much lower threshold than oral administration, 15 times lower in fact. 0.2 mg of selenium per kg of body weight is acutely toxic when injected, which correlates to 100 milligrams of selenium for the average size horse. Oral acute toxicity levels are 3 mg of selenium per kilogram of body weight or 1.5 grams (1,500 milligrams) of selenium for the average size horse. Personally, I do not like the use of injectable selenium, for several reasons, but if a product containing selenium is to be injected, it should be done under the supervision of a veterinarian.

How do digestive enzymes work for horses?2019-08-12T07:45:04-04:00

Enzymes are necessary to catalyze or speed up metabolic reactions, which can either synthesize products or break them down. In the gut of the horse, the enzymes are primarily involved in processes to break down the food so that it may be absorbed and assimilated in the body. The horse naturally produces their own enzymes, but supplemental enzymes can aid in the digestion of feed, ensuring increased digestion and less flow of rapidly digestible nutrients to the hindgut where they can compromise hindgut pH and ultimately negatively impact the hindgut microflora. Also, additional enzymes can help break down products that the horse does not have natural enzymes for. An example would be phytic acid, which is normally indigestible, but supplemental enzymes can help release minerals from phytic acid, reducing the need to purchase supplemental minerals. Research indicates that hindgut health is crucial to avoiding colic, laminitis and proliferation of clostridia.

Are Omega-3 supplements necessary for my horse?2020-01-24T16:29:37-05:00

Alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid are required by the horse, they are considered essential fatty acids (EFA’s). NRC suggests a dietary minimum for linoleic acid of 0.5 percent of total dry matter intake. For a horse weighing 450 kg, this represents approximately 50 grams of linoleic acid, which is likely to be supplied in most normal equine diets. However, there appears to be poor conversion of the EFA’s to the longer chain fatty acids like EPA and DHA, which have extensive research in other species showing numerous health benefits and being generally anti-inflammatory. For this reason, if your horse is unthrift or suffering from inflammation, it may be worth supplementing some extra fatty acids, specifically alpha-linolenic acid and DHA. Typically, providing DHA had to be done through feeding fish oil, but with large scale micro-algae facilities, it is now possible to provide supplemental DHA without feeding fish oil. To get all the benefits of extra DHA without the fishy smell and fussiness associated with trying to feed it, see our w-3 Oil and IR Supplement.

What are the best types of oats to give to horses?2019-10-31T10:56:19-04:00

Your traditional oat has stripped its hull and is now naked! The net effect of the oat breeding program was to grow an oat with no hull, which is the portion of oat that is high in fiber and low in energy.  Therefore, what you get is an oat with a much higher starch and fat content per kilogram than traditional oats.  The advantage of these oats, is that it vastly reduces the amount of processing that oats traditionally went through for human food consumption.  It wasn’t specifically bred for horses.

Oats were/are a popular feed for horses because they contain much less starch than corn (45% vs 75% respectively) and the prececal starch digestion of oats is higher than corn.  These 2 factors combined make the likelihood of excessive cecal fermentation (can be a cause of founder and laminitis) from oats much less likely than when feeding corn.  Oats also tend to be more palatable, although naked oats were shown to be less palatable than whole oats.  To say naked oats would have a lower glycemic index than traditional oats or corn is wrong, it would be higher because the starch availability in the small intestine is higher.  And if you don’t believe me, here’s a direct quote from the Merck Veterinary Manual:

“Oats, one of the most traditional grains for horses, may be fed whole, rolled, or crimped, which increases the bulk 20–30% and improves digestibility by ~10%. “Hulled” or “naked” oats are more energy dense than regular oats and should be introduced slowly to reduce the risk of founder or colic.”

I realize people think of corn as being the hot grain, so the above comments on starch digestion might seem off, but I think some of the misconceptions between corn and oats come from feeding by the coffee can or scoop and not by weight.  For example, if you fed 1 coffee can of each grain, you would be feeding 20% less oats than corn by weight, therefore, 50% less total starch when feeding the same volume of oats as compared to corn.  On top of that, because the oat starch is more digestible, the flow of starch to the hind gut would be much less with oats – vastly reducing the risk of digestive upset. Horses becoming hot from being fed corn is more likely a function of digestive discomfort from excessive hindgut fermentation than from the grain providing too much energy or hot energy.

Are soybeans safe to feed to horses?2019-10-23T16:21:34-04:00

There are 3 main processing methods for raw soybeans that are used in animal feeds:

1) Solvent extracted soymeal. This is the most common form of soybean. The soybean is crushed and separated, and the outer hull (which is high in fiber) from the inner germ and the oil extracted with solvents.  This provides the most complete removal of oil from the soybean itself, leaving the soybean meal with approximately 2-3% fat.  Some of the outer hull is then added back in to standardize the protein content to 44-48% crude protein.

2) Roasted soybeans. This is pretty self-explanatory; the whole soybeans are roasted, which helps to destroy the anti-nutritional factors in the soybeans and also makes them very palatable. These beans will contain approximately 38% protein and 16-17% fat.

3) Extruded soybean meal/mechanically extracted soymeal.  Instead of using solvents to extract the fat from whole soybeans, they use mechanical extrusion to remove the fat.  This is far less efficient and thus, the remaining soymeal has much more fat than solvent extracted soymeal (6-15%) depending on how efficient the mechanical extraction is. Mechanical extraction may leave more of the anti-nutritional factors intact, but they should not present an issue when fed in small amounts.

I certainly have no issues feeding soybean meal/roasted soybeans to horses.  The higher fat content in the extracted or whole roasted soy can certainly put a shine on a horse.  Of all the plant protein sources readily available, they also have one of the best amino acid profiles, no question.

In terms of how much to feed, it largely depends on the quality of hay being fed, specifically the protein content.  Almost all classes of mature horses only need 10-12% crude protein for the total diet (the exception being late gestation and lactating mares).  Horses exercising hard do require more total protein per day than a horse at maintenance, but this extra protein is acquired by a higher rate of feed intake, so the percent protein in the diet remains the same.  How to figure out how much to feed:

Your average horse (weighing 450-500 kg) will consume approximately 10-12 kg of feed per day.  If the diet should be 12% protein, that means they consume (.12*11=1.32) 1.3 kg of protein per day.  If the hay is 10% crude protein, an additional 200-300 grams of protein will be needed.  The extruded soy is around 38% protein, therefore, need to feed (0.200/0.38=0.53 kg).  If the hay is over 13% crude protein, then technically you don’t need any of the soy, but could feed 100-200 grams to get the fat and a bit of extra high quality protein.  If the protein is too high in the diet, you just end up with a smelly barn (excess ammonia being excreted).

Raw or unprocessed soybeans should be avoided due to enzymes and anti-nutritional factors present.

How much protein does my horse require? Does my horse require more protein when exercising?2019-08-12T07:44:52-04:00

Horses at maintenance do not require a lot of protein – NRC gives a range of 540 grams to 720 grams of protein per day for a 500 kg horse, which is equivalent to a diet of only 5 to 7 percent crude protein.  It is difficult to get feedstuffs that are that low in