I'm often asked for tips on fussy eaters, and especially when horses are starting out on minerals, because let's face it - I wouldn't want to eat a raw spoonful 😉
A quick digress though - a horse may be being fussy for a very good reason, as going off their food can be a classic sign of SIBO/leaky gut, plus it could very well be that there's a risk of squamous ulcers kicking in – these are the ulcers at the front of the stomach/foregut, caused by poor-quality junk food.
One of the many things we know about the gut microbiome is that it trains the immune system – it’s able to tell the immune system what it needs to be worried about, and what it doesn’t. If the microbiome’s disrupted, it creates inflammation in the SI, which begins to break down that fragile gut wall membrane that’s responsible for letting the good compounds and nutrients into the bloodstream to fuel the body, and for keeping the bad guys out of the body.
When it breaks down, that’s leaky gut. And now the immune cells start to see proteins that haven’t been completely broken down to the peptide levels they’re accustomed to, so they start making antibodies against commonly eaten foods. Cue a gut crisis! Cue bloat, gas, wonky poos, and miserable pain. The gut becomes sensitive to the regular foods it sees every day, so now the horse is either not eating, or they're so uncomfortable that they don’t know what to eat, because everything they eat exacerbates the symptoms and the pain, which can be crippling.
We've got a relevant Blog post explaining this - The misery of SIBO - another case of everything's connected - so if your horse has gone off his food and is miserable/depressed/in pain with it, this Blog may help.
However, if you're sure that it's just that your horse being sniffy about his feedbowl, and having myself seriously acquired a very worn T-shirt on all things fussy, here are my Top Tips for cunning feed disguises, along with client suggestions as well:
- First off, my personal go-to, and that's Mint – my lot will eat anything if I stick mint into the feedbowl.
- Next up, Fenugreek. This is an almost fail-safe to disguise feedbowl nasties - horses seem to love fenugreek.
- If you're trying to get minerals down them, could be worth considering splitting them into lower doses into two feeds, not forever of course, but to continue the ‘getting used to the taste and texture’ until eventually it’s second nature, then back to one feed. Or, maybe go back to a smaller measure, just for a while, and build it up again.
- Also, not that I’ve had to try this (because mint works for me!) but I hear very good reports on curry powder as a cunning disguise – just cheapo supermarket stuff, a spoonful into feed, stir and hey presto. NB - fenugreek is an integral ingredient of most 'curry powders'.
- Unless you’re already feeding it, adding micronized linseed can be both beneficial and useful as it’s very palatable for horses, with a light nutty taste. You don't really need to feed it in summer unless a horse is on a partial hay diet, in which case add 50g daily in summer, and 100g daily in winter, or if your horse is on a strict no-grass/hay-only diet.
- What I also like to do come colder weather is slosh in a herbal tea for warmth and extra herbal support, and it's great for palatability as well. I make up a litre of Green Tea and Mint, and usually bung something else in there, such as Chamomile, Echinacea or Lemon Balm. Green Tea is just about the best whole-body detoxers there is, plus mint always helps, and anything else is a bonus. Doesn’t touch the sides.
- Courtesy of Katharina and her mare; "Hi there I messaged you a while ago as my mare wouldn’t eat her minerals. I have found the secret weapon - Agrobs mash! She’s licking the bowl clean :-)"
TaDah! Hope some of the above helps.