I am not a veterinarian or suggesting that anyone reading this should discount their
veterinarians information. I am simply an owner who wanted more answers than I was getting,
and set out to find them. This search for information led me to Dr. Eleanor Kellon. She has been
researching, writing and teaching equine nutrition for years. What she was teaching totally
resounded with the questions that I had and the issues that my horses were dealing with. I began
taking classes, learning what all those other figures on my hay analysis meant and implementing
changes to my horses diets accordingly. The results have been amazing.
Below is the information I uncovered and used to help Shadow become the healthy horse she
Shadow is a 2006 Mustang/Arab/Draft cross mare. She was born here on my ranch to her wild
mustang/arab mother, Layla. Layla was in reasonable shape when I adopted her in late 2005.
She gave birth to Shadow on April 14, 2006. Shadow was huge at birth and in very good
condition. The first two years of her life were picture perfect. She looked great, she felt
great, everything was as it should be. Link to Layla & Shadows story.
In early 2008 I began to notice her coat texture and color changing and she started to
develop some skin allergies. On an intuitive level I understood that Shadows newly
developing issues had to be based in some sort of deficiency or overload, but I couldn't
pinpoint what it was exactly.
The photos below are from June & August 2007. Her coat was jet black at that time but her
mane and tail were beginning to get rusty colored tips. She had no skin allergies at that time.
She was also still living with her mother Layla who you can see in the back ground. You can
see from Laylas coat that it was very washed out looking. In August she should have been
the picture of health.
What I learned over this past winter has changed how I feed my horses significantly. I learned that
even though it seemed I was providing them with all they needed, I really was not. My nutritional
information up until this past year has been flawed. I was only seeing small parts of the nutritional
puzzle. For my whole horse career, I had been feeding based on the idea of getting everything into
them it seemed that they needed, rather than really understanding what I was putting into them and
understanding the effects each nutritional supplement had on the other. I had no real
understanding of how minerals, both major and trace worked in the body, nor did I understand how
those minerals worked with each other. I did not know that an overage or deficiency of one can lead
to an overage or deficiency of another. I understand this concept in the human diet, but as most
horse owners, I did not apply this information to my horses diets. I just fed what was the norm.
Below is a video of Shadow from early spring of 2009. You can clearly see her rust tinged coat and
then she comes in for a close up and you can see the rust tipped hairs on her mane. No signs of
any skin issues at this point.
By summer of 2008 Shadow had completely rubbed out her mane, she had a very itchy belly, her coat
really didn't look very good. It was fine in places and rough and discolored in other places, it was
also had the appearance of being bleached out. Her mane, forelock and tail all had extensive red
tips. She had very itchy skin on her face and neck. She was not happy. She couldn't tolerate having
the top of her neck touched, even for scratches.
I had a vet from Cotati Large Animal hospital out to see what we could do to at least make her more
comfortable. He looked her over, and diagnosed sweet itch, of course I wanted to know why she
had sweet itch. She had been so healthy up until this year. He didn't have the answer, he said that it
happens for a variety of reasons and the best course of action for now was relief both topical and
internal. For those that know me personally, they know this in not the kind of answer I like. There
is always some kind of reason. And why was her coat looking so poor, sweet itch doesn't do that?
I began working backwards, looking at photos, going over diet and noting the changes that had
occurred over the last few years. One of the big changes being that Shadow had been nursing on
her mom, far past what we (humans) would consider acceptable. The only reason I made the choice
to separate them (stop the nursing) was because it was taking to great a tole on her mothers body.
Shadows problems began showing up shortly after she stopped nursing. I knew this was part of the
key to the problem, but still didn't understand exactly in what way it contributed, beyond she
obviously was no longer getting something that she had been getting from her mother.
The diet Shadow was on seemed adequate at the time. Each day Shadow got good quality low sugar
grass hay, two different types, a small amount of grass pellets as a medium for her vitamin
supplement. She also got a daily probiotic and a calcium/Phosphorous mix as well as a trace mineral
mix and of course she had access to a white salt block. At the time, this all seemed very adequate.
The photo below is from the day that the vet came out to see Shadow. At that appointment she had
no mane left, most of her body itched, she was cranky and did not want to be touched. The vet
prescribed a strong antihistamine which I gladly gave her. I hated to see her so miserable. The
drugs gave her enough relief for me to be able to touch the areas that were causing her so much
misery and stress. For the remainder of the summer I treated her issues topically, it was all I could
do while I researched and looked for the answer to her problems.
I knew that I basically had a winter to figure this out. I was acutely aware that the allergic reaction
would probably be twice as bad the following year. I began taking classes, reading, talking to
anyone I could about skin issues, coat issues, etc.