More About the Importance of Minerals

We did a series of posts on minerals - are we feeding too much? How much should we be feeding and why do we need to feed them etc - here are some of those posts....


In the picture a chilled out Persil is caught mid-roll during the moulting season!







Can you feed TOO much Magnesium?

Put it this way if your horse was on the perfect diet: roaming over hundreds of acres of a variety of grasses, bushes and trees then you wouldn’t have to add any extra magnesium because this diet doesn’t cause imbalances that have to be corrected.

However most of us have our horses confined behind fences on small acreages which means most of the year they are eating regrowth stressed grass all the time and consists of very little variety and often includes clovers. If this grass is a ‘monoculture’ like rye-grass and has been fertilised then it causes even more extreme imbalances.

It is important to understand that the magnesium deficiency is primarily the result of the high potassium and nitrogen in the grass. Potassium not only competes for absorption with magnesium but in the body’s efforts to excrete the excess potassium via the urine, precious magnesium is lost too. Excreting excess nitrogen robs the body of even more magnesium.

So sometimes a lot of magnesium is required just to replace what is lost and get the horse to ‘square one’.
Since magnesium isn’t stored in the body like calcium then if you were to feed too much then any excess is simply excreted and does not normally cause a problem.
For this very reason magnesium is best fed daily as it is constantly used up and needs to be replenished often. Feeding once a week means the horse is subjected to highs and lows. It is by far best fed with boron which reduces loss of magnesium via the urine by up to 40%.
Alleviate, Alleviate C, Graze Ezy and Premium/Supreme all contain boron for this reason.

Potassium in the Diet

Potassium is one of the vital electrolytes that keep life going – so it is not that it is ‘bad’ or that we need none in the diet – we all need appropriate amounts to stay alive and healthy.

Potassium is the second most abundant mineral on earth, and is readily available in the diet of herbivores like horses. The trouble is it is far too available in legumes such as clover and Lucerne and green, growing or stressed plants – plants can be stressed by many factors including over grazing, frosts, lack of adequate sunshine as in consecutive cloudy days. Hence the incidence of serious issues like laminitis and head flicking which tend to spike after these conditions have occurred.

So what I would like to clarify here, is that it is not that horses should have a zero potassium diet, but that they should not have a chronically high one. Even horses who are stabled 24/7, or kept in ‘dry lots’, get sufficient amounts of potassium from their hay.

It is the constant over supply of potassium due to the way we graze them – on not exactly ideal pasture – with the addition of more potassium from other sources like hard feeds, which stress the horses self-regulating mechanisms involving the adrenal glands and kidneys.



What does the term ‘GRASS AFFECTED’ actually mean?

DEFINITION: There is one or more aspects of your horse’s pasture that is adversely affecting his health and behaviour.
These aspects include…
· Mineral imbalances (which trump everything)
· Sugar/fructan content
· Toxins
· Phyto-estrogens (affect hormones)
· Fluorescing (Photodynamic) pigments(cause mud-fever/sunburn)

There are three approaches to these problems.

1. Remove the horse from grass temporarily or even entirely
2. Feed products to counteract the problems or
3. A combination of 1 & 2

If your horse has severe problems, as in Laminitis, head flicking or dangerous behaviour, then option 1 is strongly advised at least until the horse has recovered or come back to normal.
Otherwise depending on your access to a dry lot or a grass free area, you can use options 2 & 3, in which case you would use:
· Premium NZ Horse Minerals or Supreme Vit & Min for Australian horses - these ensure that your horse stays in optimal health regardless of the quality of your pasture and hay. They are full of organic minerals, anti-oxidants, B vitamins, everything your horse needs for his every day health including selenium. They are formulated specifically for NZ and Australia respectively. These should be fed every day regardless and the dose rate doesn’t vary from day to day.
The following products complement these multi vit/min, and the dose rates should be adjusted according to need as follows...
· GrazeEzy
up to the amount either ‘that works’, or, with the help of the litmus strips, that brings your horses urine pH down to 7. GrazeEzy is used to neutralize the effects of high potassium & nitrogen in the pasture.
There is no other product on the market that does what GrazeEzy does. It is a revolutionary new approach and is enabling more horses to stay out on grass.
· Alleviate
(which is a blend of organic magnesiums and boron) really works well on the central nervous system. It also works extremely quickly hence can be used to relieve anxiety very effectively before any stressful event. It can be dissolved in water and syringed in.
NB There is absolutely no difference in absorbability between Alleviate and liquid magnesium. With liquid products, you are paying to have water shipped around the country.
A lot of people keep Alleviate on hand for stressful situations eg: Horse dentist, Farrier, Travelling, Events.
· AlleviateC
also contains (along with the dose of Alleviate) organic calcium which helps rectify the potassium to calcium ratio in the blood serum so it is better for long term use.
AlleviateC is extremely popular for riding and competition horses.
· ToxDefy
is specifically to bind toxins produced by fungi at certain times of the year like spring and autumn. They are especially prevalent in the more humid areas. This should be used alongside the other products NOT instead of.
Toxins are not usually the cause of ‘bad behaviour’ – an overload of toxins eventually compromises the liver and therefore is more likely to cause the horse to go off his food and lose condition.
The behavioural issues, in our experience, almost always stem from mineral imbalances rather than (as previously thought) toxin overload.
· Salt
It goes without saying that salt should be added to the horses feed everyday.
See The Importance of Salt

Salt & the Adrenal Glands

I know we always come back to the importance of feeding SALT and because this is so controversial and still frowned upon in some circles, I feel it needs more explanation.
It has been established that it is not only a lack of magnesium but also a chronic lack of sodium (from salt) which causes (Grass Affected/tetany) problems.

All green pasture is way too high in potassium, compared to sodium. There should never be more than 5X (absolute maximum 8X) as much potassium as sodium. Yet in forage tests we have personally conducted, ratios were never that low, they are consistently up over 20X Potassium to sodium! As mentioned last night, regarding the horse who was repeatedly ‘colicking’ the ratio was 54X!
What such a scenario does, is put enormous stress on the Adrenal Glands and the kidneys, whose job it is to excrete excess potassium and conserve sodium.

When any gland is over-worked, it enlarges and this (enlargement of the adrenal gland) is what has been found in cattle who have died of Grass Tetany.

The following extract is from Andre Voisin from
Severe hypertrophy of the adrenal glands in cows that have died of grass tetany
The mineral imbalance of the ration, particularly too high a potassium : sodium ratio, will be seen to lead to hypertrophy of certain layers of the adrenal cortex. This "adaptation" syndrome may be succeeded by an "exhaustion" syndrome, that is, by degeneration of the adrenal cortex’

Now he is talking about cattle but the symptoms we are seeing in our horses are too similar to think it could be anything different.

So how can we reduce susceptibility in our own horses?

1. NEVER use the following fertilisers -
Potash (potassium), NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphate, Potassium), Super-phosphate, Urea (Dried Nitrogen), DAP (Nitrogen, Phosphorous, Sulphur) & most other commercial fertilisers
*All of these fertilisers are to increase YIELD but there is absolutely NO correlation between yield and biological QUALITY of the grass. In other words; what is the use of producing prolific grass that is minerally imbalanced to the point of being grossly unsuitable for keeping livestock healthy?
This is why most farmers and various people involved in the agricultural industry think we are ‘nuts’ and don’t know what we are doing. We are more interested in biological quality than yield.
2. Have as long a paddock rotation as possible in order for the grass to be as mature (high in fibre and more minerally balanced) as possible.
3. Don’t rely on salt licks or other mineral licks to supply your horse with the salt & minerals he needs.
4. Give all your horses (even the ones you are not riding) a small feed every day containing Salt and quality minerals (IE Premium/Supreme). Some will need Alleviate/AlleviateC, GrazeEzy and ToxDefy depending on the time of the year, growth stage of the grass, and how sensitive to the grass they are.