Bad nutrition won’t kill your horse but it will impact significantly on its health including low immunity, allergies, wounds that are not healing, fertility problems , hoof & skin issues, tendon & ligaments healing , gastrointestinal issues and just about everything else.
Getting a handle on what you are feeding
The foundation of your horse’s diet should be forage your horse should have access to forage 18-24 hours a day whether it is pasture or hay will probably depend on the time of year. Let’s say its hay because this time of year it more than likely will be, lets also say your horse is doing some work so may require extra feed in the form of a balancer.
So it looks like all your bases are covered but what is the balancer actually balancing? Your horse’s diet? When I speak to people about this there is always a light bulb moment, until you know what is deficient in your hay you cannot balance your horse’s diet correctly, so test your hay.
Kathleen Crandell, PhD, equine nutritionist at Kentucky Equine Research, explains that most horse owners in the United States have access to good-quality forages, and North American horses live fairly healthy lives. However, we shouldn't take these things for granted. "Nutrient deficiencies in the U.S. tend to be subclinical rather than clinical," she says. "Clinical means there are obvious signs. Subclinical means symptoms are vague. If the horse is not taking in enough nutrients, the problems may show in subtle ways. For example, a front-end lameness could be the result of an imbalance of calcium and phosphorus in the diet. We might put the blame on exercise or an accident, and not relate it to nutrient deficiencies." (1)
Minerals compete for absorption they can be crowded out by other minerals enough to cause a deficiency so if your hay is excessively high or low in something it will be affecting the uptake of certain minerals. If testing your hay is not an option asking local farmers about mineral deficiencies in their hay this can help point you in the right direction or checking out regional figures for your area.
You may also be buying expensive hoof or coat supplements because of issues your horse is having, to let you in on a secret the supplement companies are honing in on deficiencies in hay and making expensive supplements for you to buy
Hay will be deficient in a few things
Salt (add loose salt and let your horse adjust his requirements).
Certain trace minerals like zinc, copper, selenium (but you won’t really know until hay is tested.) Your horses health can give clues to deficenciens things like on-going thrush and skin infections can point to zinc deficencies.
Some vitamins like vitamin E which is lost during drying (wheatgrass, alfalfa, soaked almonds and green sprouts are all sources)
And essential fatty acids (add chia or flax)