Free Equine Diet Advice Online Is Worth What You Pay for It

With people staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, more horse owners seem to be seeking nutrition advice online.
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Free Equine Diet Advice Online Is Worth What You Pay for It
Your horse’s veterinarian or a qualified equine nutritionist will know the questions to ask to gather the information needed to make an informed decision. | Photo: iStock
With many people staying home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, folks have more time than ever to hang out in online forums, Facebook groups, and other internet locations seeking advice on any range of horse-related questions. I admit I’m guilty as charged. I’ve listened to a number of educational webinars and Facebook live events that have challenged me to think about how I interact with my horse in different ways. I’ve also learned some new things I’m sure will be helpful now and in the future.

This, though, is a cautionary tale because now, as always, I see owners seeking nutrition-related advice online, and as I read the responses my heart sinks. The posts start off something like “I have a 15.1-hand Quarter Horse gelding that needs to gain weight, and I’m wondering what I should feed him?” Or, “My 16.2-hand Thoroughbred mare has become tense and jumpy when I ride outside the arena. Is there anything I could feed that would help her be more ridable?”

What typically follows is often 10s if not hundreds of responses: “Feed him senior … feed him some rice bran and beet pulp … feed him more hay … add some soybean meal … feed her oil … feed her beet pulp … feed her A-B-C herbal supplement for mares … feed her X-Y-Z calming supplement … stop feeding her grain,” and the posts go on.

Some of this advice might work. But here’s my problem: The original posts don’t include nearly enough information for responders to be able to provide any sort of informed recommendations. Therefore, much of the advice given is possibly way off-base

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Clair Thunes, PhD, is an equine nutritionist who owns Clarity Equine Nutrition, based in Gilbert, Arizona. She works as a consultant with owners/trainers and veterinarians across the United States and globally to take the guesswork out of feeding horses and provides services to select companies. As a nutritionist she works with all equids, from WEG competitors to Miniature donkeys and everything in between. Born in England, she earned her undergraduate degree at Edinburgh University, in Scotland, and her master’s and doctorate in nutrition at the University of California, Davis. Growing up, she competed in a wide array of disciplines and was an active member of the U.K. Pony Club. Today, she serves as the district commissioner for the Salt River Pony Club.

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