Blog Post 12: The Blame-Game & The Witless Wonder - My Horses Journey with Hard Feed
New blog time and I am quite excited this time because this is something quite personal to me, very personal as it involves me – heavily!
I was speaking with a customer a couple weeks ago (maybe more, but my memory is poor at best for things like that!) and I mentioned how I do not appreciate the hard sell. I get the hard sell that retailers and professionals will put on you, I fully understand it. You are driven to make ends meet and are often totally blind sided to what you’re selling.
I also spoke to another client who had me out assess her horses’ diet and she asked my why don’t I do talks, discussions, events etc at other yards and there were two very important reasons;
1) I am not yet fully qualified, something I have made very clear on my Social Medias. I am still learning the Biochemistry that happens inside the horse to make all their cogs turn harmoniously. This process takes about 5yrs total.
2) I do not believe in preaching to people who are not ready. I have been the person who needed to know more but wasn’t ready, it’s a hard place to be in but you must get to the next stage which is; to ask. When you ask a question or two, or when you finding yourself approaching a professional of any sort, that you genuinely gravitate to and click with, and you find yourself interested in hearing – without prejudice, without judgement just a good ol’ chinwag.
So, I will never do the hard sell. I don’t believe in it. I shut down at the idea of someone pointing their finger at me with the blame game. I will always talk, but only when someone wants to listen.
In turn, this blog – is about my own two young boys. Our journey with the blame game, the hard feed companies and the hard sellers. Maybe you’ll find something on my journey that relates, and maybe you’ll think ‘’Are we sure this woman isn’t a novice?!’’. Either way, we will relate to something, I am sure of it!
For some context (if you haven’t seen them on Facebook), my two boys are young (6yrs and 4yrs presently). One is a ‘’Pura Raza Española’’ – the 6yr old. Although his heritage is heavily questionable despite having the proper passport, his conformation is poor. He was bred for colour, and that’s it. Not at all slandering the breeder, he got his money for him but, there was very little thought put into this horses breeding, except to make sure it was a pretty and sellable colour – which he nailed.
He has the nicest personality, a very forgiving horse and really tries to make you happy, regardless of what it costs him. Just today I was asking a little lateral bend on the ground and despite his conformation issues, and how hard he finds that kind of work, he gave it to me no issue.
The 4yr old is a ‘’Pura Sangre Lusitano’’, registered in the stud book. Now, he has very little conformation issues, none in fact, minus a small weakness in his right-hind pastern, although we have balled this down to a field injury he had as a 2yr old (I said nothing about him being clever!). His breeding was thought about, and you can tell. So, a big kudos to the breeder whom I am still very much in touch with! My hats off to you – and she continues to breed cleverly thought out horses!
He ‘’was’’ not as forgiving as my oldest. Temperament was very pushy and could be extremely moody for ‘’no reason’’ whatsoever. I did just put it down to behavioural issues, and lack of manners. How wrong I was! He also suffered with loose stools towards his 3rd year, prior to TopSpec, too often for my liking. He had always been very sensitive to new changes or environments or weather, but it was getting extreme, to the point where we had burns on his backside because of it.
When they were young, I had done the typical at first when they were brought to me at 6 months old – I fed them a foal mix which aids growing bones, teeth, hair, immune system etc etc. I even fed them a supplement which targeted healthy bones to STOP ‘’OCD’’… It was basically an unbalanced ‘’balancer’’ for young horses, targeted to those whom had a hunch their horse may end up with early arthritis, brittle bone, splints or whatever. Needless, I bought it, thinking ‘’What harm can a supplement do!!’’ – remembering back, I believe it was quite expensive too! *Slaps forehead*
As they grew up, I fed them a normal conditioning mix – something from my local store. It said it was good on the label, and the rep said it was good so who am I to argue! They must be right! So, I bought a years’ worth of supply and be done with it. On top of that, I was chucking in whatever hay I thought ‘’looked good’’ and chucked it in, no thought to if it weighed less or more…
Forage, you ask… Ha-ha! – South Spain remember! Forage is sporadic, it comes when it rains and that isn’t often, meaning forage here is near extinct.
Anyway, I kept noticing that I was always struggling with weight gain, and then it’d be ok, and then it’d drop but I’d never struggled with fatness or any type of prolonged weight gain. I never had ‘’Fat’’ horses. (Not saying fat is any better, but I never had a good body with these two, ever!)
Fast forwarding a year or so, I met a woman who claimed to be into the nutrition, had devised her own feed or recipe and collaborated with a known brand in the UK. Sounded fantastic, and probably would have been however, after purchasing two bags and having to travel a fair way to get these two bags, I felt I hadn’t gained anything and nor had they (I obviously finished the two bags before-hand!). I wasn’t told any amount to give, or what to look for, what we may have to change etc. I felt as if I got the same service from this woman as if I just walked into my feed store moaning that ‘’It’s not working!!’’ ‘’Oh! Here then, try this one’’. On top of that, I felt a bit guilty. This was in no way this woman’s fault per se, but I felt a failure for going all that way (a 2hr round trip drive!) and asking questions just to be told that I am the idiot, I’ve compromised their health, all feed companies except this one is rubbish and yada yada yada. She was partially right. I had compromised their health, but after going out of my way to try and fix it, I didn’t want to hear that I was still a looser, still loosing full stop. I wanted to hear positive things, things that I know now, like ‘’The gut CAN and WILL repair itself with the right nutrition’’ or ‘’Hind gut issues can re-establish growth of ‘’good bacteria’’ within 48hrs of a changed diet, rich in fibre!’’.
So, I don’t slate the woman, at all. But that method of preaching, of finger pointing, makes us owners who are trying, feel like crap. It doesn’t work. Because, with that and the lack of after care that I felt I needed – handholding if you will, I still felt as lost. I still felt like I had gotten nowhere. If I could remember the name of the feed, I would see if it was well balanced or not, but I can’t, so I shan’t.
So, after that, I began selling Spillers to my customers in my shop because I was asked and semi-pushed to (all during this, I had set up the shop somewhere!). I spoke to the reps and said I wanted to use it for my boys, what were their recommendations, I gave them my requirements (mine were on sporadic work, turned out all day, so basically semi-retired youngsters as I was terrified to work them harder/longer if they had no meat on their bones!). They gave me the Spillers Conditioning Mix (Muesli based again) and Spillers Speedy Mash.
Now, I am not an unreasonable person – I am fully aware that what doesn’t work for one, will work for another. Spillers unfortunately, didn’t work and nor did Dengie – as we switched the Speedy Mash Fibre to the AlfaBeet by Dengie. We played with the feed for over a year, and I was sticking to a hay-weight system where their hay meals were weighed out according to what their goal weight was, but I had NO idea that horses can only take 2kg of hard feed at a time and was most likely feeding about 3kgs by the time I had wet the mash – clever girl (NOT!)
I was at whit’s end – I had had enough and was ready to just say ‘’Here, have 10kgs of this bloody muesli per day and see what happens!’’ – so glad I didn’t!
Still reading? Good, I’m nearly finished!
After all of that, I get approached by TopSpec – originally just to sell their feed and blah blah, and I was bored. Bored of being sold by companies with miracle cures and them never working, with no after support for a witless wonder of an owner. They had to approach me twice before I opened my ears a bit, and it was only because they said something that will always stick with me:
‘’Why are you feeding a food which you cannot understand yourself?’’
I couldn’t really answer, because I had no answers. So, I began listening, listening because I was nosy and I wanted to know what I had been missing out on, or what my boys had been missing out on.
I asked them about my boys and from there they gave me a diet plan, and my feed was added to my initial order. I started slow but did notice a difference within a week to their tummies - not realising that it was due to the hind gut recovering! Eventually I began noticing behavioural differences, calmer demeanour, controlled energy, muscle condition was improving and finally, increased weight gain.
After a year this month, they are looking phenomenal. We have begun proper work, groundwork first and despite the new changes with their work regime, their tummies are not affected. I am finding that despite giving them 2 to 3 rest days per week, they bounce back immensely quick. I am also not struggling with loose stools for my 4yr old - at all. I do have to keep my eye on the 6yr old more than the 4yr old, he is not 100% in his weight yet. With his conformation, the lack of support in his nutrition did take its toll on him a little, and he is naturally finer than his brother. But, he should hit his goal weight by Christmas – along with some much needed muscle now that we have been working properly again!
I often had to take ‘’clever’’ photos of them for my social medias to make them look a little fatter than they were, at one point, I couldn’t find any angle that benefited them whatsoever, so I do have a period where no photos were taken at all.
Horses do not ask you to spend a fortune on hard feed, I for one couldn’t afford it if I had to. Cost does play a part in it all, anyone or any company who denies this, is short of a brain cell (IMO). Sometimes feed that appears to be expensive, may work out cheaper, as is my case.
My horses are on the ‘’Comprehensive Balancer’’ and ‘’Linseed Mash’’ and it costs me €1.47 a day per horse.
Horses only ask that we keep them healthy. That we provide everything they need to live a fulfilling life, a happy life.
It’s just my mission, to help you do that.