Feed & Nutrition

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While we have become increasingly aware of the special needs of horses with sensitivities to starch and sugar, there remains a large population of our performance horses that can benefit from moderate inclusion of NSC (non-structural carbohydrates: starch and sugar) in the diet. Non-structural carbohydrates are found in varying amounts in all feed ingredients, with the exception of ingredients that are solely comprised of fat. The largest source of NSC in most horses’ diets is forage. Hay and pasture particularly can be very high in sugars depending on the variety and growing conditions.

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In recent years, the popularity of hemp as a feed supplement for horses has been growing remarkably. Although it belongs to the cannabis family, hemp is most commonly known as an industrial plant for textiles, rope, clothes, paper, plastics, biofuels, animal bedding, and sail canvases. Its seeds, oil, and leaves are all food and feed options, and hemp has found its way into the equine industry as an excellent nutritional supplement.

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Topline is the term used to describe the muscle coverage over the top of the horse’s neck, withers, back, loin, and croup. Because topline is muscle, a horse with a good topline will be stronger and more athletic, and will present a more pleasing appearance. What should we feed to develop the perfect topline? First we must understand that the shape of the back can vary greatly from one individual to another, and so the topline will vary in length and in curvature, with some relationship between the two. Horses with toplines that are sunken in over their withers, concave along the back and loin, or dished in around their hip bones and hindquarters will have diminished strength in those areas.

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Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin that is an essential nutrient in equine diets. Vitamin E functions largely as a biological antioxidant in the equine body, protecting tissues from the oxidative effects of free radicals. Free radicals are a natural outcome of cell metabolism but they can become excessive during conditions of hard work or injury.

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Whether or not to give supplements to horses has always been the topic of lively and enduring conversation. But, there is a growing community of riders and horse owners who choose to provide their horses with the supplemental balance of vitamins, minerals, and trace elements to help with health issues and augment the well-being of their animals.

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Sooner or later, most horse owners have the unfortunate experience of dealing with an injured horse. It’s common sense to have a veterinarian assess what’s wrong as soon as your horse becomes injured, but a vet will also help create a rehabilitation plan, advise how long the recovery period will be, and provide post-recovery expectations.

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Given the extreme weather in many parts of Canada in the summer of 2017 – hot and extremely dry in the west; rain and flooding in other areas - hay supply for the coming winter has been a top-of-mind concern for many horse owners.

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