Sunday, January 8, 2017

Topline, muscle and fat in horses


Folks talk about putting weight on or building topline on a horse. First let’s talk about what fat, muscle and topline really mean.

Muscles move bone.  Muscles can be increased by correct exercise to challenge the muscles, combined with proper nutrition to fuel muscle repair and growth.

Fat is entirely different than muscle.  Horses store fat under the skin (subcutaneous) and in the abdominal cavity (visceral fat), as well as in the muscle tissue (think marbling on a steak).  To add fat to a horse, you feed more calories that the horse is burning.  The horse's body stores the extra calories as fat.

Topline refers to the area from the withers to the tail along and on top of the spine.  Topline is mainly formed from muscle development, although fat deposits contribute.

Body condition in horses is most often assessed using the Henneke scale.
Keep in mind also that a horse can be lean yet very fit and well muscled, or can be fat and unfit, or a variety of mixes of muscle development and fat reserves.

This is an excellent 4 minute YouTube presentation about body condition and topline condition.



Adding fat:
The most concentrated calorie sources are grains (carbohydrates) and fats. High-carbohydrate low-fat grains like corn, oats and barley produce an insulin spike while the body digests them, then the body actually spends energy to convert the extra calories into fat stores. Large grain meals also have the potential to create digestion problems. Fatty grains, nuts and oils are digested and used more slowly for energy, and are more easily converted by the body into fat stores. Looking at the diet of wild horses, the diet is generally low in carbohydrates and sugars, and also fairly low in fats, except for seeds and occasionally nuts.

Two important points before we talk about specific foods to fatten up a horse.  First, horses do not have a gall bladder like humans do.  The gall bladder holds bile, and releases the bile to help digest fats.  Bile is made by the liver.  When a human eats a high fat meal the gall bladder can release a large amount of bile to deal with the fat.  Horses have a constant slow drip of bile, as horses are meant to be eating throughout much of their day, and eating a low-fat diet.  So, when feeding fats to horses, the fats should be given in small amounts and spread out over several meals.  Second, not all fats are equal.  Some fats actually create inflammation in the body, and may aggravate conditions like arthritis.  Other fats reduce inflammation.  The omega-6 fats increase inflammation, and omega-3 fats reduce inflammation.  Ideally, the diet should have a ratio of between 1 and 4 parts omega 6 to 1 part omega 3.

Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are about 40% fat. However, the fats in BOSS are mostly omega-6 fats, which can cause inflammation in the body. BOSS is also very high in phosphorus, so a free-choice mineral buffet or very careful ration balancing is necessary.  I have fed horses anywhere from a handful to 4 cups of BOSS daily.  BOSS can be fed dry, soaked or sprouted.

Soybeans are typically around 8% fat, and a moderate fat source. The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio in soybeans is more balanced and less likely to cause inflammation.  I use a cold-extruded soybean pellet and feed just a handful to a couple cups.   My preferred soybean pellets can be fed dry or soaked.  Some people have concerns about using soy.  I addressed this in a separate blog post here.

Chia seeds are about 31% fat and have an excellent omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. (The drawback to chia is the expense.) Chia is fed by the ounce (very roughly 2 tablespoons).  Most horses benefit from just 1/3 cup or roughly 2 ounces daily.  I prefer to feed chia dry, rather than soaked.

Alfalfa and other legume (plants that are able to create their own nitrogen supply) hays, at only 2% fat, are less-efficient calorie sources.

For readers in other countries, if you do not have access to chia or roasted or cold extruded soybeans, look for high-fat seeds safe to feed to horses that have more omega 3 fats than omega 6 fats.  Feed in moderation only, as horses do not have a gall bladder to handle large fat meals.  Increasing carbohydrates by increasing grain will also add fat.  Be aware of the possible side effects of a heavy grain diet, especially causing mineral deficiencies and over-acid body pH.  Both of those set the horse up for arthritis and injuries.

Adding muscle: Proteins are used to build muscle. Proteins are chains of amino acids. Of the 22 amino acids, 10 are important for muscle building, with lysine, threonine and arginine being most important. Lysine is highest in soybeans and alfalfa, making those feeds the best way to bring up the protein level and build muscle. Soybean is 26% protein minimum and alfalfa can range from 15-25% protein depending on maturity. Black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS) are about 22% protein, but are low in lysine and the other muscle-building amino acids, so BOSS is not the best muscle building option. Chia seeds are 23% protein and high in lysine and would be great for adding muscle.  Rice bran and rice bran pellets are high in lysine.  However, rice bran may have solvent residue from the oil extraction process and rice is the most polluted grain crop right now.  Rice is heavily irrigated, and picks up the pollutants in the irrigation water and from the soils, including heavy metals like lead and cadmium.  All rice has been found to have arsenic (horse dealers used to feed arsenic to make the horses fat and shiny, and the horses would then quickly lose weight and die after being sold).  Another good source of muscle-building proteins are supplements with high amino acid content, like regular formula horse Dynamite.

Building topline:
Healthy topline involves all the principles of adding muscle, plus correct exercise and ruling out medical issues.  There are many possible ways to exercise a horse to increase topline.  In general, the horse must be traveling round, with his back lifted, his neck arched, his poll the highest point of his neck, and his hind hooves stepping well up underneath him.  Exercising on moderate hills can be very useful.  I have some older blog posts about conditioning my senior horses.  Horses that fail to develop topline in spite of correct diet and exercise should have their teeth checked, their saddle fit checked, their hoof trims evaluated, and finally be checked for Cushing's disease.

Further considerations about grains, fats and hay:
In the USA, not all grains, fats and hay are equal.  The quality of soybeans, alfalfa, BOSS and grains can vary considerably. In the case of soybeans, the majority of soybeans sold in the US today are genetically modified, also called GMO. GMOs are a controversial topic, and each goat person must do their own research and make their own decision. For myself, I feel there are enough studies available now showing the harm GMOs can cause, especially to the very important gut organisms, that I will not feed any GMO products. Soybeans need to be heat treated before feeding as well, to a fairly specific temperature. Too hot, and you reduce the nutritional value. Too cool and the trypsin inhibitors are still active, which makes the soybean toxic. Additionally, most soybean in livestock feed these days is soybean meal, which means the oils have been solvent-extracted. This reduces the fat content and potentially leaves behind a solvent residue.

Alfalfa has also recently become available as a GMO crop and has the same potential drawbacks as other GMO crops.

BOSS is sometimes treated to inhibit sprouting, either by cooking or with chemical sprays. If in doubt, soak a handful and see if they sprout in a couple days. Healthy BOSS suitable for feeding should sprout.

Among the grains, oats and barley are still fairly chemical-free and not yet available as GMOs. Barley does need to be rolled to remove the pointy awn at the end of the seed. The quality of barley and oats depends on the health of the soil they are grown in. Look for large, heavy plump grains, and if possible, check with the local farmer to see what sort of fertilizer program is followed. The standard N-P-K approach to fertilizer does not put sufficient minerals back into the soil.

Corn is almost entirely GMO at this point. ‘Nuff said. Look for organic corn, or heirloom corn varieties.

So, what do I feed to my own horses to build muscle or add body fat?

I use a combination of a pelleted grain ration and cold-extruded soybean pellets. The grain ration contains corn, oats and barley. The company avoids GMOs, and their grain mill is entirely chemical-free and certified organic. The whole extruded non-GMO soybean pellets are cooked to the correct temperature. I also feed locally-grown non-GMO alfalfa, and BOSS. The pelleted grain ration also contains montmorrillonite clay as a pellet binder, which helps absorb any environmental toxins and also repels internal parasites. I also offer my horses my favorite regular vitamin/mineral  pellets, which is high in amino acids.

If I did not have access to these specific products, I would feed local organic roasted soybeans or chia seeds (to build muscle) and BOSS (for the fats), and add oats, barley and/or organic or heirloom feed corn as needed. I would mill in or topdress montmorrillonite clay. I would also make 10% of their daily hay ration non-gmo alfalfa or a similar legume hay for the amino acids and to offset the phosphorus in the BOSS. If I still needed to build more muscle, I would also add a multivitamin mineral supplement with lysine, threonine and arginine.

www.dynamitemarketing.com/carrieeastman
www.equinechia.com

Want to learn more about equine nutrition?
Confused about how to transition your horse to a chemical-free lifestyle?
Interested in more information about feed label interpretation?

Join me for convenient international teleclasses this month!
Details at http://www.carrieeastman.com/Teleclasses---Video-Classes.html











Copyright ©2017 Carrie Eastman.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Healthy Soils = Healthy Animal Feed

September already!  There is a slight chill at night and the leaves are starting to change.  With these early hints that winter is approaching, my thoughts turn to next year's pasture and browse.  Soils fed in fall have all winter to rest, rebalance and rebuild.

The soil in pastures is alive with various organisms, including the forage or crop growing on/in it. These complex living systems have biological processes very similar to human or animal bodies, right down to the preferred pH.   I find it fascinating that as the soil becomes more mineralized the pH of the soil becomes more alkaline, just as it would in a healthy human body.  The soil has circulation, nutrients, waste products, life cycles - all the functions of a body.  All the components are interconnected, and there are synergistic (enhancing) and antagonistic (supressing) relationships between the components.

If you can view your land as a living organism, you can enhance health and increase production. Please, avoid the conventional N-P-K model.  This approach to soils leads to nitrogen-addicted imbalanced soils and low-nutrient pastures.

There are many ways to make soil healthier.  I have gathered up various tidbits and tips and links to give you some starting points for your research.  I encourage you to muscle test or dowse your possible approaches to find what best suits your land.

If you only invest in one book about soils, I highly recommend Eco Farm by Charles Walters.
If you are going to buy 2 books, add Weeds, Control Without Poisons by Charles Walters.
I also suggest learning all you can about the Albrecht Model of soil fertility.  Here is a simple starting article.  Albrecht's papers and talks are available on Amazon and from Acres USA.

I also encourage you to look into radionics and broadcast towers.  I did a brief summary of both, with related links, here.  The government cracked down on these a few years back, so information can be tricky to find.

Your first step, before applying any fertilizer, is to analyze your soil.
http://www.turfdiag.com/InterpretSoilTestReport.htm How To Interpret A Soil Test by Steve Frack. This is a fairly conventional discussion with good descriptions of the various components of a soil test

An excellent soil test service is Western Laboratories in Idaho.   Contact me please for their phone number.

There are many foods for soils.  In general, I believe fertilizers should be plant-based or contain chelated minerals for the best results.  There are many many sources of healthy fertilizer.

Fertilizers can be made from sea vegetation.   Wachters sells seaweed-based fertilizer that can also be used to bring up sodium and iodine levels in soils.  You can do an internet search to find other sea vegetation fertilizers.

www.seaagri.com has some interesting information about seawater and sea salt fertilizer. There are lots of great links on this website, and information about how seawater works on soil.  Keep in mind that seawater these days can be very polluted, so please muscle test or dowse any product you are considering.
[At Oak Hill, natural trace mineral salt applied at 2 pounds/acre tested well]

http://www.albionplantnutrition.com/  has a lot of information about chelated minerals. Albion and their founder, Ashmead, are the original chelate innovators, and a great place to learn the basics.

Composted manure is another fertilizer option.  Generally, if you are applying composted manure, the best application time is early fall.  You may want to consult The Old Farmer's Almanac for more precise spreading dates.  Check your manure source.  Manure from farms that use chemical wormers or herbicides may contaminate your soil.

Zeolite is a possible addition to a fertilizer program.  It holds moisture and also traps toxins.  Here are some zeolite resources:
http://midwestzeolite.com/AGRICULTURE.html
http://www.bearriverzeolite.com/agricultural_uses.htm

An important note about green (fresh uncomposted) manure:  Green manure is very high in potassium.  If you use green manure you may need to add a bit of sodium (sea salt or mined mineral salt) to your soils to balance the potassium.  Epsom salts/magnesium chloride are commonly suggested as a remedy.  However, magnesium can harden soils.

If your soils test as acidic or low in calcium, you may be told to add lime.  Before adding lime, consider your soil type.  Calcium can be added as dolomitic lime (magnesium carbonate), calcium carbonate, or gypsum (calcium sulfate dihydrate).  Choosing the wrong calcium can harden your soils or create a mineral imbalance.  Gypsum raises calcium and sulfur levels without affecting pH. http://www.gypsoil.com/news-and-events/gypsum-and-lime
http://onpasture.com/2014/06/02/when-to-use-lime-gypsum-and-elemental-sulfur/
[Oak Hill does best with gypsum, as we have low calcium, high iron, high clay soil]

Now that you have a sense of direction for your soil-wellness research, go forth and learn!  Your land will thank you.


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Humility & Horses

In my experience, there is no better teacher of humility than a horse.

IF you have a heart open to hearing.

This point was driven home for me the other day by my mare Sugar.

Sugar (Miss Doc Alena) is a wonderful cutting mare who came into my life around the time I was first learning to hear the horses speak to me.  She and I had bonded well, and on the ground, she is very much my friend and companion.

On her back, well, that was another matter.  I just haven't quite been "clicking" with her.  And I was a bit stumped about why.

She has loads of training in her background.  She was super smooth and super sensitive when I rode her before bringing her home.

My first clue that maybe I was missing something, was her reaction to the bitless bridle compared to wearing a bit.  I figured she would enjoy going without a bit.  I mean, after all, who wouldn't, right???
Wrong.

Sugar likes her bit.  Her whole expression softens.  Put a hackamore on her, and she is tense, no matter how padded the nose.  I just wasn't listening, because I had made my mind up that I knew best.


I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that it took me this long to figure out what was wrong.  I was still getting on her with an attitude of "I'm the teacher, you are the student."  Even knowing that Lucky, my Arabian, had already insisted on giving me lessons about how to use my seat, somehow I just didn't stop and think that maybe Lucky was pointing out that my skills aren't quite as good as I thought they were.  

So I was getting on Sugar, and thinking, I'll do some basic bending, and some yields, and start to show her the different types of rein (direct, indirect).  Maybe ask her to yield her hindquarters or open her shoulders.

Sugar was not amused.

So a couple days ago, I had my new-to-me Bob Marshall treeless to try out (this one has the setback stirrups) and my new-to-me SaddleRight pad (I had been using a Skito).  I tacked her up, mounted, and as soon as I started asking for some movement I started to get attitude from her. Nothing mean, nothing strong enough to dump me, just unhappy and cranky.

I started to cue Sugar for a move - maybe it was opening her shoulder? - and suddenly we were spinning. After finding my balance again, I thought, "well gee, she didn't understand" so I changed my cue a bit.  And I got a quick light sidepass.  I almost fell off.  Then I started laughing, and I'm still grinning as I type this.  She was trying to tell me all along, she already knows this stuff, and more.  It's me that needs to learn how to ride her.  
Taken at that moment that I finally understood her message
The instant that thought crossed my mind and settled in my heart, her attitude changed.  She calmed. She softened.  I felt a clear sense of relief from her that finally her person is getting "it".  She's got it covered.  She knows what to do.  My job is to learn to stay with her, and learn to lend her confidence and courage when faced with something scary.

Since that ride, our relationship has deepened.  She comes to me more often.  She comes to me and relaxes and sighs.  And chews.  And falls asleep.

I'm very excited, and perhaps a bit daunted as well, to see what she will teach me about riding a highly-trained sensitive cutting horse.

So, if you are ever feeling a bit overconfident and need a dose of humility, open your heart and listen to your horse.  Amazing things can result!

PS - If you are wondering how we liked the new style of Bob Marshall, for riding her, my more forward-set stirrups on my other Bob Marshall seem to suit us both better.  The SaddleRight pad we both like.






Saturday, May 14, 2016

Fencing at Oak Hill

I'm in the process of updating all the fencing, so this is a great time to revisit the principles and materials.  For those new to this blog, we are fencing in goats and horses and a livestock guardian dog, and fencing out stray dogs and predators.

There are five types of fences at Oak Hill:
The perimeter  fence is permanent and keeps all the animals from leaving the property, and keeps predators from entering.  This fence must be goat and horse proof, and strong.
The fence that divides the runways and pastures  must be horse and goat proof but does not have to contain the livestock dog and keep predators out. The goats are not allowed in the same encloser with the horses, as they could get trampled by a horse by accident.
The third type of fence surrounds the goat pens and must be goat and predator proof.
The fourth type of fence encloses the horse corrals.
The fifth type of fence is used for intensive rotation grazing.  It must be portable and goat proof.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Week 3 of the Chair Challenge from Carolyn Resnick




Third week of Carolyn Resnick's Chair Challenge!

I'm taking an online class with Carolyn Resnick called the Chair Challenge.  I have used her methods before a bit with the herd, and love learning more from her.  She's my favorite conscious horsemanship teacher. When the special offer showed up in my Inbox to do the Chair Challenge, I jumped at the opportunity. Carolyn talks more about the importance of sitting with horses here.  I suggest reading about the weeks in order, starting with week 1.

Day 10 - Day 13
Rather than write each day separately, I'm recording overall impressions, results, and changes.  Both in me and in the horse herd.  Some particular quotes and insights particularly struck me this week.

From Carolyn herself  "I found the formula into the horses' world. It was simple; it was my job to wait for the horses to respond and acknowledge my presence. I had to be in a proper state of bliss..."

Bliss.  How often have I felt bliss?  And when/where/why?  This thought really got me pondering.  I realized that bliss for me is timeless.  It is present time only.  It has happened most often outdoors.  Most often when there were no distractions, just an appreciation for the moment.  And the bliss was ecstatic.  Sometimes just peaceful.  A knowing.  If this is how horses live every moment, wow.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Tea time for the goats - bye bye parasites

I am using a new approach to herbal deworming for my goat herd this spring.

We are having a daily tea party.

Kristie Miller at Land of Havilah gave me the idea, as she has been using it successfully with her herd of dairy goats, and sells the herbal blend that can be brewed into goat tea.

You can read more about Kristie's tea here.

I currently have 19 adults plus all the kids, so while I CAN do individual doses at tie stations, having an approach that addresses the entire herd at once is a real time-saver.  Also, I only deworm when they have parasite stress.  In my herd, that is typically once or twice a year at most.   I will add that using a stainless steel or glass container to steep would be even better, and using distilled water is better than spring or tap.  I used what I had on hand.

So, here is how I have been hosting the tea parties at Oak Hill.  I waited until it was 2 days before the full moon to start.  Every morning I bring water almost to a boil, and pour about a teakettle worth of water over 1 cup of the herbal blend.  I let it steep in a small feed bucket while I start my other chores.

Steeping.  
After 15 minutes of steeping I stir it up and divide it evenly between three 5 gallon buckets.  I then add plain cold water to fill each of those buckets.  I put one bucket in the bucks' trough, and 2 buckets in the does' trough. Then I add another 5 gallons of plain water to the bucks, and another 10 to the does.

Doe trough.  20 gallons of water, including the steeped tea slurry.
In the mid afternoon, I check to see that they have drunk most or all of it.  Then I add more cold water right into the trough stirring back up the herbal slurry from that morning.  The next morning, I dump the trough out, and start fresh with that morning's new brew.
Truffle having her tea

After some wrinkled noses and funny faces, everyone seems to have adjusted to the taste.  Some love it, and gulp it right down.  Others are a bit more reluctant.  Everyone is getting a share though, even the very young kids.

Once we finish all 5 days, I will wait a week or so, then muscle test to see if anyone needs some individual dosing to finish the process.  If I do any individual dosing, I will switch to my favorite herbal blend, which is different that the Land Of Havilah tea blend.

Want to learn how to muscle test or dowse for what best addresses parasites in your goats?
Interested in more parasite prevention strategies?




These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.