Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How you know your horse has a mineral deficiency

Remember I mentioned that we think Saga's issues with a thin sole and the event lines are diet-related? I now know he's definitely got some sort of mineral deficiency, or else he wouldn't be doing this:

Mmmmmdiiiiirt. I know it doesn't look like much here, but he was actually scraping the ground with his teeth and licking it up. Um?

Anyway, he found this particularly tasty spot on one of our hand walks on the trails behind the house. I've never seen him eat dirt in the pasture, so maybe this spot had something extra delicious? The soil was quite red, so I'm wondering if he was after the iron. The soil here is also rich in calcium (we're on a prehistoric deposit of tiny sea critters, which form limestone), but I doubt he was after that, since he gets both alfalfa and beet pulp which are both high in calcium. If I can find the spot again, I may get the soil tested just to see.

Then just a few days later, JD (who comes out to help sometimes and I love her!) sent me this picture, taken while she was mucking Taran's stall:

I shall leeeck your eyeball!

Taran has been known to lick Saga before, so maybe he just likes to do it. However, he usually goes after sweaty/salty spots, so I suspect that he's sodium deficient.

The odd thing is that during the summer, the boys get 1 tbsp of salt per day in their feed. They also have a mineral block, which they never touch (?!?!?). So, what gives?

I'm working with my vet to schedule a blood draw to do a mineral analysis on Saga. In the meantime, I've started providing free-choice loose salt... and there are suspicious nose prints in it every time I check (2x daily), so I know they're making use of it. Yay! Magnesium is apparently another mineral that horses are often deficient in, and their bodies can get rid of any excess. So I purchased a feed-grade bag of Magnesium Oxide, and each of the boys gets 3 tbsp (~45 g) per day mixed in with their feed. There is some indication that magnesium-deficient horses (or just horses with mineral imbalances in general) are more susceptible to changes in diet, which in turn affects their feet. So it will be interesting to see if these changes in feeding habits affect Saga's feet in a positive way.


  1. Horses are like a giant science lab, aren't they? Experiments for everyone!! I'll be anxious to hear about the results.

  2. Some horses don't know what to do with a mineral block, or it's not what they are looking for. 1Tbsp of salt per day isn't much if they're sweating a lot.

    We always started the new horses off with out mineral mix and salt rocks by having some broken up in a container that was in front of their tie post when we were grooming before and after a ride. They're play with it out of curiosity first, then decide if they wanted it.

    Also some horses are a bit fussy about how their mix tastes, so you have to find what they like.

    Oh - make sure they check selenium, and cobalt too - if horses are chewing on treated timber they are often after cobalt.

  3. I'd definitely check calcium:phosphorus to start with, and I agree with Deered- check Selenium and Cobalt too.
    I've found that hardly any of the horses touch the mineral blocks we have... so they get a general mineral mix in their feeds.

  4. Deered, Leeshy-Lou, what mineral mix do you use, or do you make your own? If you make your own, what's in it?

    in2paints, I wish it were a little LESS of a science experiment. Argh!

  5. Hey JenJ-Andrea from Gogo told me to read your blog as I'm rehabbing my OTTB and on one of his hooves (RH) his soles are THIN THIN THIN. He's been barefoot since March 2009 and I just recently put him on a balance of vitamins/minerals, etc etc to hopefully help hoof growth BUT like your Saga, Laz was eating, chewing at wood...another sign of something lacking. For a full 1.5 yr, I had him on barely anything (grass hay and small amounts of Triple Crown L/S but after our IR test came back negative, I've been slowly adding things he's been lacking) I've seen a HUGE improvement in coat/skin....now I'm waiting and hoping for hooves to show positive growth. I'd love to be able to bounce ideas back and forth :)