February's enews from Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr, Independent Equine Nutritionist. Feed Focus, Q&A, Research snippets and more... 


Welcome to the first issue of my enews. This month I’m very excited to be launching my new logo and refreshed website (, which showcases a brand new horsecare product. I’m passionate about giving you, the horse owner, independent advice that you can rely on, and I’m developing this further with an upcoming range of practical and educational products that will help you provide the very best care to your horse. January was filled with preparation for the launch, with many hours spent pouring over the website, observing, digesting and editing. I’d welcome your constructive feedback! I also had a good number of Consultation visits and Written Consultations, mostly from horse owners who wanted to be sure of the decisions they were making about feeding their horses, with a few clinical cases thrown in. February is the month of the BETA (British Equestrian Trade Association) Fair, the trade show for business and networking opportunities with exhibitors from all over the world. I will be attending to catch up with industry colleagues and friends, and find out about new feed and supplement products being, or due to be launched.  

Research snippet: Geriatric health

A study of two hundred geriatric horses and ponies (> 15 years) published last year in the Equine Veterinary Journal showed some worrying results. Over 95% of the animals had dental abnormalities, but only a quarter (25%) of owners had realised. Half of the animals were lame, and less than a quarter of owners (23%) were aware of this. 80% of animals had hoof abnormalities, and just over a quarter (27%) of owners were aware. The authors concluded that the owners’ lack of recognition of health problems, and/or their lack of reporting problems could lead to a delay in appropriate veterinary treatment. Such a delay indicates a welfare issue. More education about good health might help owners to understand better when veterinary intervention is required. Over a quarter (26%) of animals were overweight (body condition score >3 out of 5), and only 4.5% were underweight. These overweight oldies should not be fed high calorie veteran coarse mixes or nuts.  The results of this study confirms that  horses and ponies should be fed according to their individual needs and not just fed a veteran mix because they happen to be older than 15.
Reference list:
Ireland, J. L. et al (2011a) Comparison of owner-reported health problems with veterinary assessment of geriatric horses in the UK. Equine Veterinary Journal, 44:94-100
Ireland, J. L. et al (2011b) Disease prevalence in geriatric horses in the UK. Veterinary clinical assessment of 200 cases. Equine Veterinary Journal, 44:101-106 

Feed focus
Each month a feed or supplement ingredient will go under the microscope. Let’s start with an age-old favourite for feeding horses – the oat.
 Oats are by far the best choice of cereal for horses, due to their relatively high fibre, and low energy and starch compared to the other cereals. Oats are useful for hard working horse or old horses with high energy requirements. Oats are not necessary for most horses in light work, and should not be fed to overweight horses or ponies, or those affected with metabolic or cushings syndrome or those prone to laminitis.
Oats have a reputation for ‘fizzing’ horses up, or causing excess exuberance, but it is likely that all cereals have the same effect in susceptible animals. Oats probably get the blame most because they were the staple concentrate diet for hard working horses in the past. So fit horses were fed oats and maybe along the way this gave them a reputation for providing excess behavioural energy! Note that they are actually the lowest energy cereal. Neverthless, the starch in oats is probably the most readily available out of all the cereals, which may contribute to their 'fizzy' effect in susceptible animals. Nevertheless, horses that respond to oat starch are likely to do so to all starch, so avoid all cereals including coarse mix if you don’t want the extra ‘go’.
For laid back working horses (of a healthy weight), a pound of oats per day might help give them some extra go, but take care you don’t get reactiveness and spookiness, rather than forward energy! Many horses, however, will not react to dietary starch with excess exuberance, and in this case the energy might just end up being converted to body fat.
Oats are not a balanced concentrate feed for horses, so they do need careful inclusion into the diet. Fed in quantities larger than about 450 g (a pound) per day, they can cause calcium deficiency due to their high content of phosphorus. If you feed oats, ensure you use a balancer, or take the advice of a nutritionist on how to incorporate them correctly.  


If you have any friends who would be interested in Clare's Health and Nutrition enews, please feel free to forward this message onto them. Don't forget to submit your Nutrition and Feeding Questions to Clare ( with 'enews question) in the subject box and it may be picked out of the bag for inclusion in a future enews Q&A. Thank you for your interest.

Quote of the month: 

Nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it” Clare MacLeod 

February's Practical Tip
Weigh tape your horse regularly, and write down a record. In this way you will spot weight changes before you do ‘by eye’ especially if you see your horse every day. You can then adjust your horse’s diet sooner rather than later. Weigh tapes are not always accurate for absolute weight, but they do give you information about changes in weight (due to body fat deposition or loss). For horses prone to weight gain in summer, try to get them as slim as you can (without starving them) before March. For those who are losing weight at this time of year, increase their forage up to ad lib to provide more energy, and adjust what goes into the feed bucket to maximise energy intake. High digestible fibre and oil are safer sources of energy for weight gain than cereal starch. 

Each month Clare will be answering your questions. Please email with ‘Enews question’ in the subject box if you would like to have your question answered. Please note that only one question per month will be answered.

Feeding the pregnant mare in late gestation
Q: My mare is due to foal in May, and I’ve had conflicting advice about what I should be feeding her. She lives out all year round, with shelter and she’s a good doer. She is currently fed hay and half a stubbs scoopful or Stud Cubes with a handful of Hi Fi chaff once daily and she is maintaining condition. Is this right or should I increase it up to May?
A: Your mare is not receiving a balanced diet and her developing foal will not be getting all the nutrients he or she needs. You’ve balanced her diet correctly for energy (calories) by limiting the amount of the Stud Cubes you feed, since more would oversupply energy and cause her to get fatter. But limiting the amount means she will not be receiving all the vitamins and minerals she needs, and nor will her developing foal. Mare’s milk does not supply all the vits and mins a foal needs during his first few months of life, so he relies on body stores built up while in the womb (in utero). You need to feed your mare ad lib hay (so she always has access to some) and a pelleted stud balancer product to add vitamins, minerals and some good quality protein without too many calories. Good products include Spillers Gro N Win and Dodson & Horrell Suregrow. Feed this now and carry on after the foal is born. By that time – when your mare’s requirements are at their highest - she will probably receive enough nutrition from the spring/summer grass, but if not then add Stud Cubes to maintain her condition along with the balancer until she is fed at least three quarters of the full recommended amount or more (which is unlikely, for a good doer). All the best for a health foal come May! 

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