How to Supplement Your Hawaiʻi Horse

by | Jun 9, 2020

I have owned a horse for most of my life, first, when I was only eight years old, then again when I turned 34 and had two small kiddos in tow. I thought I knew everything. Truth be told, it is a constant learning experience, especially when you move to Hawaii.

What I learned during Smoke’s year of rehab changed my care of horses permanently!

All horses need supplements

I learned the art and the need to supplement my horse when Smoke, then 28, suffered a life-altering coffin bone rotation. (link to article in THH) After three weeks at the vet hospital, $8,000 in bills, and no reason as to why this happened, my farrier’s wife directed me to the IR/Cushings website – ecirhorse.org. Turns out, after a specific blood draw was done, he was Insulin Resistant, referred to as IR, a form of diabetes in horses. And, he also had Cushings Disease – a benign tumor in his pituitary gland. “Put him down!” was the prognosis. I had enjoyed Smoke for over 21 years and felt it was my responsibility to try to rehab him…as long as I could get him from the suffering stage to the recovery stage within a reasonable amount of time. So, I quickly jumped into a whole new world of equine rehabilitation and maintenance.

Digesting all the changes that had to immediately occur sent my brain into a tailspin. But, the support and encouragement was there, people I could talk with who had already been there done that and could help walk me through the process. The key was to start immediately, to be consistent, and for me…to pray!

A full year later, after changing Smoke’s hay from alfalfa* to a grass hay, following the simple supplement regime, removing the metal shoes and consistently giving him a correct barefoot trim, I was able to ride him off our Big Bear property with tears in my eyes! A year later, we flew him to Hawaii, and I enjoyed him for another six years until his last breath, just ten days shy of his 36th birthday!

What I learned during Smoke’s year of rehab changed my care of horses permanently! No longer do I spend/waste money on supplements that are far too general, and usually contain unnecessary, even harmful amounts of sugar, a major cause of Insulin Resistance. Instead, I feed my new horse, Palmer, 4-way grass hay and six easy to acquire and very affordable elements once a day, with complete confidence that he is getting what he needs to maintain optimum health and hopefully a very long life.

The Miracle mixture

  • One cup of Timothy Pellets (Never use alfalfa*)
  • One cup of ground flax seed
  • 2,000 IU’s of Vitamin E (gel caps)
  • One tablespoon course sea salt
  • Two splashes of Apple Cider Vinegar (Must include the “mother”)
  • Splash of water to mix everything
Once every two weeks I set up these elements on my table near Palmer’s stall, filling 14 Ziplock baggies (minus the apple cider vinegar and water). At his PM feeding time I grab one baggie, dump the contents it into a small pan, mix in the vinegar and water, then watch as Palmer licks the bowl clean. He devours it, Vitamin E capsules and all! He then gets his flake of 4-way grass hay, and boom, we are done for the night. Horses in Hawaii, actually horses anywhere, need supplementation to maintain optimal health. When horses are left to only graze the grasses, they can develop large bellies which lead to sway backs. They are also deficient in basic vitamins and minerals. Horses need salt. It encourages them to drink plenty of water, and the natural iodine is important. The vinegar is necessary for proper gut function. The Timothy pellets are safe and, along with the splash of water help to hold the mixture together. Once a day, consistently, is all it takes!

Horses on the mainland can never free-graze! 

Why not use commercial supplements?

They are expensive. They contain ingredients that will kill your IR horse, especially any type of sugar, to include molasses. And, they do not fill the dietary void for horses living on the Big Island. For all intents and purposes, Smoke should not have survived his coffin bone rotation or the IR/Cushings that led up to it. But, with a radical dietary change, ie: no more alfalfa hay, only Timothy, Orchard or grass hay, safe hawaii grazing**, proper supplements and correct barefoot trimming, he lived another seven happy, healthy years, six of them with his lips in the lush grasses of the Hamakua Coast!

Palmer arrived in September 2019. The first things I did were remove his metal shoes, start him on a regular trimming program, and begin my supplement and hay regime. During the day he grazes! He is a very happy and healthy equine, and I expect him to live well into his 30’s! I consider this a privilege and responsibility..

NOTE: I re-use the Ziplock baggies until they no longer zip shut! I hate plastic…

How to get what you need

  • Four-way grass hay: Paauilo Feed Store 808.776.1920 (Manny will deliver for a minimal fee)
  • Sea Salt: Costco, CostULess (Hilo), general grocery stores – but you will pay more
  • Ground Flax Seed: https://horsetech.com
  • Vitamin D gelcaps: https://www.puritan.com (I order 1000 IU gel caps, 100 to a bottle)
  • Timothy Pellets: Tractor Supply in Hilo 808.959.3000
  • Apple cider vinegar: Available in most grocery stores. Costco often has 3 bottles for under $8.00.

*Alfalfa was indicated as the cause of 10 lbs of stones found in Smoke’s gut when he was 16 years old. Thankfully, he survived that operation and had a full recovery. I loosened up on my feeding years later but when he had his coffin bone rotation, it was highly recommended that I give him NO alfalfa hay!

**IR horses on the mainland can never free graze grass! Why? Because the grasses are not safe for them. But, interestingly enough, the various grasses on the Big Island were safe for Smoke. How did I know? I had them tested!!! Coincidence? I don’t think so!

Jen McGeehan

JEN MCGEEHAN, RS-80881
Phone: 808.747.2365
[email protected]

I am an adventurer by heart, never letting too much dust settle under my feet. But, I am also a nester, a woman who loves her home, garden, animals, family, and whatever career I happen to be in. In my latest adventure, I’ve successfully merged over 46 years of varied work and life experience into a real estate career that focuses on the goals and dreams of my clients. Are you interested in moving to the Big Island of Hawaiʻi? I’d love to talk with you about your dream goal, and help you achieve it!

Integrity is the cornerstone of my business! 

Coldwell Banker | Island Properties

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