An Excellent Addition to my Library
When I say there is a lot of information in this book, it is still an understatement. I recommend this book to anyone who owns a horse (donkey, or mule) and I wish for all veterinarians, farriers, and barefoot hoofcare specialists to read Feet First: Barefoot Performance and Hoof Rehabilitation.
Feet First made me think about many aspects of my horse's care.
Here are three important themes that stand out in my mind:
- Trimming is only 10% of the healthy hoof pyramid suggested by Barker and Braithwaite. Diet (65%) and environment/exercise (25%) are mostly responsible for the success of a hard-working, domestic horse going bare (p.128).
- Paddock design, including food and water placement, should foster movement on a variety of surfaces as pioneered by Jamie Jackson (114-119).
- The importance of a high fiber/low nonstructural carbohydrate diet with mineral supplementation (Chapter 7, p. 82-106)
I have read about calcium and phosphorus ratios before (2:1), but calcium and magnesium (also 2:1) was a new one for me when I read this book. If the horse does not have enough magnesium, his body may not be able to use calcium properly. Magnesium will be leeched from the bones, like calcium, if the diet is not meeting the needs of the nervous and muscular systems. The hooves will also suffer if the horse is magnesium deficient, the first of the symptoms being sole sensitivity. Magnesium is also required for basically all enzymes to function properly and the use of ATP, the energy transfer molecule of living organisms. In addition, a magnesium deficiency may be tied to insulin resistance. If that is not enough, magnesium is so important in photosynthetic organisms that it is the central atom in the chlorophyll molecule! The central atom!
I really should not be surprised, since magnesium is very reactive chemically. Pure magnesium bubbles in water forming hydrogen gas. A bright white light is emitted when burned, which produces magnesium oxide as the metal reacts with oxygen in the presence of heat. Have you seen sparklers or stunning white fireworks? That is the beauty and reactivity of magnesium in action. Now I appreciate this mineral on a whole new level!
|Um. Harley is not a picky eater.|
Magnificent Magnesium And My Horse
I evaluated Harley's diet and supplementation and discovered that magnesium is not supplied in quantities which even approach a 2:1 ratio with calcium. In addition, he consumes wet beet pulp at each meal, which is high in calcium. This was recommended by our vet to help him maintain weight. For all the calcium he is taking in, it is possible that his body is not able to utilize this mineral due to a lack of magnesium. Phosphorus uptake can also be affected by high levels of calcium. Is your head spinning yet? Mine is. And this is only the tip of the iceberg regarding the importance of minerals.
A mineral analysis of our hay would be required to determine the nutritional content of his forage, but I board at a small farm which probably receives shipments of hay too often to make hay analysis practical. I could be testing the hay and adjusting his supplements every month! We recently changed to the same hay supplier as our veterinarian, which makes me very happy, so hopefully we are in a good place forage-wise.
Magnesium deficiency is tied to nervousness and muscle tension in horses. I wish that I had read about this when I first bought Harley. He was a serious ball of tension especially for canter work. His diet is very different now than it was in the early days and he has years of training under his "girth", but I still cannot help wondering if I was trying to train away a mineral deficiency. He is very sensitive, but I would not call him a tense horse now. He comes down from excitement pretty readily, however, this was not the case four years ago.
So I have decided to supplement Harley's diet with magnesium oxide. His current behavior and lovely feet do not make me think that he is seriously magnesium deficient, but he is a hardkeeper. If magnesium may help him maintain condition and improve his overall health, I would like to give it a try. The levels that he will be receiving are low. In fact, I am not sure if he will be getting enough to show a difference, but I like to approach diet changes with caution. I will be looking at his hooves, movement, overall condition, and behavior for any changes. Of course, he is under the care of a fantastic veterinarian who is aware of his diet and lean body type.
I am so glad that I ordered and read Feet First. A book that makes you think is always a success!
Feeding the Hoof by Pete Ramey
Balanced Equine Nutrition: Mineral Ratios and Deficiencies/Excesses
Natural Barefoot Hoof Trimming: Feeding for Strong Hooves
The Feed Room blog
Feeding Magnesium to Horses
Chemistry Comes Alive!
The Importance of Magnesium to Human Nutrition