A visit from the nutritionist

The boys will be moving again soon – not for any bad reason, but because I’ve gotten an opportunity I can’t pass up. I know, I need to explain the whole story, hopefully tomorrow! But as part of all this, I’ll finally be in charge of every single aspect of their care, including what they eat.


Henry was on Triple Crown for most of the time I’ve owned him – first Complete and then Senior. Presto was on Growth and then Senior (very similar formulas, actually). When they moved to the current barn they switched to the owner’s personal mix, which is along the same lines. But 1) I don’t really want to mix my own grain 2) I don’t love Henry’s topline on this mix 3) I think they both need more fat/calories in general. I’ve been eyeballing Bluebonnet, a brand based in Oklahoma, as I know several friends that have had really good luck with their feeds. While I was relatively satisfied with how the boys looked on Triple Crown, and know that I can always go back to that, I still felt like there was room for improvement, and I’m curious to see if I can find something that suits them even better. So now that I’m about to have full control over what my horses eat, I figure it’s a good time to try the Bluebonnet.

Image result for bluebonnet feeds

Bluebonnet ticks the most required boxes in that it’s a high quality brand with a locked formula that produces all of their feeds in ionophore-free mills, and contains no by-products. Since its a more regional brand it’s not as easy to get if we’re traveling, which is a bit of a “con” in general, but I take feed with me when I travel anyway, so it’s not a dealbreaker for me. They also have a line of supplements, Stride, that Michelle has used on a lot of her horses with fantastic success, especially when Presto was a weanling and still bouncing back from all of his issues. It’s not a particularly cheap brand, but in the same price range as Triple Crown. I have never really minded spending more money on my horse’s food, since I think it’s extremely important. Everything starts with nutrition.

I originally contacted Bluebonnet with some questions, as I was wavering between a couple different formulas that they offer. They put me in touch with my local rep/nutritionist, who lives very close to where the boys are boarded. She offered to come out and take a look at them and talk to me so that she could make her best recommendation, and while part of me was grumbling like “heeeeere we go with the upsell”, the other part of me was like “if you wanna come out here and listen to me tell you the life story of my horses for an hour, more power to you.”.

Image result for its your funeral gif

So the rep came out last night, and as predicted… she listened to me give her way too much information about my horses for an hour. But I did like being able to throw questions at her on the fly, in person, and get a real time response/reaction, and she was able to get a close look at both of them and ask me some questions too. I am naturally very skeptical of anyone who is clearly trying to sell me something, but at the same time I recognize the fact that it certainly doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

The feed she recommended was one of the two that I was wavering between – Intensify Omega Force. It’s a low starch, higher calorie feed, which is a requirement for me. The feed is formulated with Stride’s 101 supplement, all around diet balancer that contains vitamins, chelated minerals, biotin, Vitamin E, etc. Basically, the kind of quality you expect from a higher end feed. The Omega Force in particular has a higher calorie content via “good fats” like flaxseed, rice bran, fish oil, soybean oil, and beet pulp, so you’re typically able to feed it in smaller amounts than many other feeds. That’s one of the main selling points, anyway. One of the big things that I’m looking to get from the changeover is that I want to be able to feed them less grain than I currently have to, so that part certainly makes it appealing. The rep did say that sometimes super picky eaters are put off by the fish oil, but my two would literally eat rocks covered in dog shit (pretty sure Presto has done exactly that), so I’m not worried about it.

5/32" Pellet, 50 lb bag

After we settled on a feed recommendation, we launched into the inevitable upsell side of things with the Stride supplements. I’ve always been reeeeeally on the fence when it comes to supplements anyway, and you’re gonna have a particularly hard time selling me a super expensive one. But I certainly don’t know everything, so I’m willing to hear you out and consider what you have to say. So starting with Henry, she took a closer look and starting asking me more questions. After my initial description, she ran her hands over him and then checked an accupressure point for hindgut inflammation. Honestly, given how sensitive he is about literally everything I thought he would have reacted more, but he just gave a very half-hearted tail swish. Not enough for her to call it a positive reaction.

She explained to me that in her opinion he ticked all the boxes for Leaky Gut Syndrome, but didn’t react as she would expect to acupressure point test. Still, she said, she would send me some literature about it so I could see what I thought since I knew him best. I appreciated that. Due to all of his skin and allergy issues, she did recommend their Immune Health Program for a minimum of 30 days up to 90 days. This is, as you may have guessed, REALLY FREAKING EXPENSIVE, and initially I’m not feeling particularly convinced. I’ll research it more and see what I think. Reading up on it has only given me a lot more questions at this point, so there will be some follow-up conversation with her for sure.

Presto, ever the stoic beast, really had no issues other than the fact that he has to eat a lot more than I’d like in order for him to maintain condition. Of course, he’s also a big growing 2yo. Given what he’s eating she felt that his system wasn’t optimizing his feed as well as it should (which I can kind of agree with, honestly) and recommended 30 days of ADR powder. She described the ADR in layman’s terms as sort of a mega-dose of pre and probiotics to help reset or jumpstart a horse’s digestive system. That one is considerably less expensive, and I am a big believer in the power of probiotics, but again… I have more research to do before I decide exactly how I feel about it.

We talked for a while longer, then she sent me lots of links to different information when she got home, and left it in my hands.

In some ways the visit was definitely helpful, and I liked being able to talk to the rep face to face and let her see my horses up close and personal. There’s a lot to be said for real time feedback, and interacting with someone directly. Nothing she said was particularly surprising, and I did get the feed recommendation I was after, which I feel good about. I’m interested to see how the Omega Force works for my horses. I do have a large dose of skepticism about the recommended supplement regimes, but am at least willing to look into it more. I already have another list of questions for the rep just from the brief amount of research I’ve been able to do so far. One of the links she sent was to a presentation their head vet gave on Leaky Gut Syndrome, which was pretty interesting to watch. Definitely some new information there for me, and something to think about. We’ll see how I feel once I start looking into things a bit more.

Have you guys ever had a nutritionist out to consult on your horses? Is anyone else as obsessed with this stuff as I am?


22 thoughts on “A visit from the nutritionist

  1. I haven’t had a nutritionist out…yet. But I just had my soils tested, will be getting my hay tested as soon as the extension agent is free, and plan to take Dr Kellon’s nutrition course this winter. My 3 have been on CA Trace Plus for 45 days…coats look great but it’s too early to tell about much else. I’ve also been diving into Pat Coleby’s Natural Horse Care book which is older and super focused on mineral and vitamin deficiencies and what arises as a result. SUPER interesting. I hope once I have the results of my soil/hay, have taken Kellon’s course, and finished Coleby’s book I’ll be in a solid place and know how to top dress my pasture and what else they may need added/removed from their current diets. I’m super psyched about my deep dive into all of this stuff!


  2. Interesting to be able to try a more regional feed – sometimes I feel the big brands that mass produce aren’t as careful maybe with ingredient consistency/quality… I’ve never had a rep out – for the exact upsell reason you refer to. I am super interested in nutrition/supps, but am skeptical and find that the different types (Senior, etc) within a brand have such similar formulas that there isn’t much difference between them.


  3. I love learning about nutrition and and one point considered going back to school to get my Masters or PhD in equine nutrition. Unfortunately we’re in a bit of a bad spot for options regarding horse feed and hay types, so I just have to do the best I can with what we have available. I’m also very skeptical of any supplements, and usually rely more on first hand experiences of people I trust vs big marketing ploys/popularity of certain supplements.


  4. I’m totally obsessed with equine nutrition… As early as I can remember I loved going into feed rooms to see all the options and the feed section was always my favourite part of horse care books. I spend way too much time on FeedXL. I do envy the options that you guys have in the USA; we are pretty limited here in Canada and a lot of stores won’t order in just for one person.


  5. We are in Iowa where things are pretty strictly nutrena and purina. We had a friend feeding Blue Bonnet a few years ago and it sounded like their Equilene would be an awesome option for the variety of horses that we have in our barn and less high starch than the Ultium I’d previously fed. It’s been a great fit for us. We have to bring in a full pallet at a time since we don’t have a local source so it’s easiest for us to feed that and for the performance horses add something like Super Sport for a little extra topline, but I’ve been thrilled with it! Wish we had a closer source and rep so we could try some of the other products without committing to a full pallet.

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  6. for some reason in my area almost every barn feeds poulin grains. I kinda wish they didn’t have the market cornered, because there’s a lot of other stuff I’d like to try. What I see fed the most is Poulin’s fibre-max, which I think is nothing special but really good marketing upsell. Plus it requires you feed 8-10 lbs a day which I feel like… is just too much. Do you have goal %’s of fiber, fat, protein etc that you want to feed them? what other brands are you considering?


    1. Agh, yeah.. 8-10lbs is a lot! Way more than I want to feed, for sure.

      I’m not considering any other brands at the moment… of the ones I can easily get, TC and Bluebonnet are the only ones I like for my two. NSC is a big consideration for me, along with how/where it’s milled, what else is in it (vit/min/”extras”), and where the fat and calories in the feed are actually coming from within the ingredients.


      1. It’s the worst. Indy’s ulcers were completely out of control on it. I would never feed it again.

        How do you determine where/how it’s milled? I’ve never thought about that.


  7. I haven’t had a nutritionist out, but I still have my giant textbook from my college nutrition class lol. It’s probably pretty old by now, but I really like delving into nutrition. It’s really fascinating, and I sure did as much research as I could when dealing with Whisper’s insulin sensitivity and Amber’s laminitis. Which was also really interesting to see how UC Davis’ results differed from what I feel people generally tend to believe. I just love all the new info about it. I’ll have to take a look at Blue Bonnet’s stuff!


  8. I’ve sat through a nutrition lecture/pitch from Bluebonnet and was really impressed with what they were saying–especially the fact that their horse feed is made in an ionophore free facility! Looking forward to hearing how the boys do on it.

    I love equine nutrition and if I had a horse I would absolutely be 1000% obsessed. As it is, I spent a couple hours this morning trying to ID the weeds over-running my lesson barn’s paddocks and noodling on how I can talk to the barn owner about improving the grazing there, heh.


  9. I feed regional specialty feed here in NC—it’s called Aterak Nutrition. It’s excellent feed, well researched and all the ingredients are sourced from the same old farms by the owner of the company and all produced at a mill here in the area. It’s expensive but equivalent to Seminole or TC in price. It’s specifically formulated to closely mimic forage in the way it’s consumed and digested, allowing more absorption of the nutrients. I’m really impressed with it and I’m really impressed with the personal service provided by the owner of the company.


  10. We have two amazing independent nutritionists from the feed merchant in town. They have a ton of different brands in stock, and they’re just amazing. There’s so many different brands they can recommend. I have them out anytime I have the slightest trouble!


  11. I’m like you and super skeptical of oral supplements. Here in N California we have a wet season with good grass turnout (if you can get it!) and a dry season with no grass at all and hay mostly shipped in from Oregon, so balancing feed against those 2 very different types of foraging can be tricky. Have you ever considered a hair mineral test analysis? I’ve been contemplating doing it – it’s just so expensive! But if it gives good feedback then I would be into it. (See the one I’ve been looking at below).



  12. I am super skeptical about oral supplements. Mostly I look at them as money which is eventually excreted in the urine. I would only go to a nutritionist who has a PhD in animal nutrition. There’s just too much snake oil out there


  13. This was really interesting. I’ve never had a nutritionist, but my boys’ diets consist of a handful of balancer pellets (aka cardboard) and platinum.


  14. I spewed a mouthful of coffee when I got to Presto eating rocks covered with dog shit. Because my dogs will eat exactly that – well, more dog shit, fewer rocks. And they would for sure eat rocks covered with horse shit if I ever took them to the stable. Used chewing gum, used cat food (both presentations), used pee pads, used dog poo, used undies – I don’t know why I bother buying dog food!


  15. Asking just out of curiosity–im in Floria and while good Timothy and alfalfa hay is real expensive it is fairly easy to come by. My TB is grain free (unless you consider a ration balancer and high fat top dress grain–i dont) and unlimited hay 80% timothy, 20% alfalfa. Our pasture is overgrazed so even though FL has some really lush areas our pasture isnt one of them. Just wondering if you considered tryin an mostly forage diet or is that not feasible due to hay quality/access? I remember once you talked about buying good quality round bales for them..just curious is all..


    1. Unfortunately all we can really get here is coastal (and alfalfa) which is not great hay. It’s pretty hard to sustain a TB or working horse on that. There’s definitely no way that would work for mine, who already get a lot of forage.


  16. I do like that her supplement suggestions were for a specific time period, and not the usual “you must keep them on this forever and ever until death do you part”. I’m not huge on supplements, either, but I’d be more willing to try something for 30 days.


  17. Admittedly, I’ve always been kind reliant on my vet for feed recommendations. Right up until Jampy foundered and then I dove down that rabbit hole. I’m not sure what I’m feeding at the moment is the most economical but my horses look amazing, so I’m sticking with it for now! (Except Eros, who I have zero control really over what he eats. I would love to have him on my feed plan though.. some day!) I wouldn’t be against having a nutritionist out, but like you am skeptical of sales people. Would rather look for someone not working for a particular brand.
    What I’ve been really frustrated with is my pony. I literally can’t feed her because she looks at food and gets fat. But as a result, she never has hay in front of her. Makes me angsty. I want them to eat hay all the time. She gets her one flake three times a day and inhales it. Obviously a slow feed haynet would slow her down, but only so much given the small amount she gets. I talked to my vet and we decided to add a metabolic supplement. I’m hoping that controls the weight gain some. Just started it though, so have to wait and see.


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