Very Picky Eater


I have a pony that is a very picky eater. He eats timothy hay cubes, but prefers his hay and often leaves some behind. The problem is that I'm using the hay cubes as a carrier for his supplements and he's not getting it all. I also tried him on vermont blend, but didn't like that (wet his hay and put the vb on his wet hay). He honestly doesn't like any feed to be wet.

Is there a safe hay balancer that you've used for very picky eaters that you can recommend?

Aiken, SC 2022

Sherry Morse

Hi Robin,

If you haven't had your hay balanced for minerals that's probably where you want to start - you can contact anyone on the balancer list in the files for help:


Have you taken Dr Kellon’s NRCPlus course? You need to do careful math when feeding a balancer to a small miniature horse being fed a combination diet of ODTBC and hay. 

If you know how to balance the diet yourself, request samples from California Trace. You’ll find the sample menu here:  California Trace Plus pellets are popular here. When you first receive the sample, I suggest pouring it into another container for a few days to dilute any strong odors. 

Cass, Sonoma Co., CA 2012
ECIR Group Moderator
Cayuse and Diamond Case History Folder                
Cayuse Photos                Diamond Photos


I feed Rusty's supplement mix before hay and before soaked TCTBCs and stand there to make sure he eats it. He's a full sized horse but his supplement mix is about a cup in volume. Dr. Kellon had suggested making alfalfa tea from some pellets and using that as enticing flavoring. That is working well. Maybe something like that for your pony? That doesn't address what you use for balancing your hay, but might help with his interest in eating it.

Lasell (luh-SELL) ~ Virginia USA ~ September 2022
Fairlane Rusty
Sam - likely IR, Case History to come

Starshine Ranch

This doesn't address balancing either but my horses started getting funny about finishing their supplements and somehow I figured out that they really like it better when I stir in a fistful of hay/hayfines.  My donkeys do better with it also.
Linda in Grass Valley, CA  2020  Midnight and Ostara

Brooke Groskopf

Hi Robin,

I have the same problem with my two PPID mares. (If breed matters, one is an Icelandic and the other is a mini horse.) I have tried several Uckele products as well as a couple different Mad Barn supplements. They don't like beet pulp and they don't like any supplements, so I've tried to make their bowls with as little as necessary. Currently, I am giving them an appropriate small amount of Timothy pellets for their size, a few Alfalfa pellets, the Uckele Equi-Base Grass pellets (which smell good to me!), and Uckele's Vitamin E oil. Some days they eat more of it, somedays less, but never all of it and if I try sneaking in a Vitamin E capsule, they manage to avoid it. 

I know it's important to balance before choosing a supplement, but at this point I just want them to get some of their trace minerals, even if it doesn't exactly match my hay. 

Anyway, if you figure anything out, please share! :)
Brooke G - in Wisc - 2021

Lesley Fraser

Hi Brooke

As this is your first post it triggers our lengthy welcome message, which contains all sorts of useful ECIR-related information.  There's a lot to take in, but what might not seem important now may well turn out to be later on so it's well worth keeping it handy, and delving further via the blue links for more information when you can.

Thank you so much for already setting up your signature - that's great.  If you haven't already done so, the next step is to set up a Case History file for each of your mares.  It's a handy way of keeping all of their information in one place, and it will be a very useful tool for us to help you further along the line if you have any questions.   To do this you'll need to join the Case History sub-group   If you have the lab result print-outs of your girls' ACTH (and any other results - have they been tested for EMS/IR?), you can add them to their Case History as a pdf, or upload them as photos on to your ECIR Photos file.  The Wiki has helpful information on doing all of this, but if you get stuck at any point just post a message and we can help.

Regarding your picky eaters, if you haven't come across it already there's a Picky Eaters article in the Files section with suggestions.  Other members have had success with Stabul treats as a carrier for supplements - perhaps Fenugreek or Pina Colada flavours might tempt the girls?

I was wondering if you've been able to have your hay tested for ESC + starch?  If so, one of the ECIR volunteers trained in mineral balancing could work out a custom mineral mix that fits your particular hay.

Here's the ECIR welcome letter I mentioned.  It will probably generate a few questions, so please don't hesitate to ask.


Welcome to the group! 

The ECIR Group provides the best, most up to date information on Cushing's (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). Please explore our website where you'll find tons of great information that will help you to quickly understand the main things you need to know to start helping your horse. Also open any of the links below (in blue font) for more information/instructions that will save you time.

Have you started your Case History? If you haven't done so yet, please join our case history sub-group. We appreciate you following the uploading instructions so your folder is properly set up with the documents inside. Go to this CH message with info on how to use various devices and forms. If you have any trouble, just post a message to let us know where you are stuck.

Orienting information, such as how the different ECIR sections relate to each other, message etiquettewhat goes where and many how-to pages are in the Wiki. There is also an FAQs on our website that will help answer the most common and important questions new members have. 

Below is a general summary of our DDT/E philosophy which is short for Diagnosis, Diet, Trim and Exercise.


DIAGNOSIS: There are two conditions dealt with here: Cushings (PPID) and Equine Metabolic Syndrome (EMS)/Insulin Resistance (IR). These are two separate issues that share some overlapping symptoms. An equine may be either PPID or EMS/IR, neither or both. While increasing age is the greatest risk factor for developing PPID, IR can appear at any age and may have a genetic component. Blood work is used for diagnosis as well as monitoring the level of control of each.

PPID is diagnosed using the Endogenous ACTH test, while EMS/IR is diagnosed by testing non-fasting insulin and glucose.

The fat-derived hormone leptin is also usually abnormally elevated in insulin resistance but because there are many other things which can lower or increase leptin ECIR is not recommending routine testing for this hormone. Leptin is the hormone that says "stop eating".

In Europe, adiponectin is tested instead of leptin. Adiponectin helps regulate glucose and fat burning, and maintain insulin sensitivity. Low levels are associated with EMS. It has come to be preferred over leptin because it is not influenced by things like weight or exercise, and also because it was the only factor other than insulin levels that predicted laminitis risk

*Before calling your vet to draw blood for tests, we suggest saving time and wasted money by reading these details and then sharing them with your vet so that everyone is on the same page regarding correct testing and protocols.

*Please remember to request copies of the results of all the tests done rather than just relying on verbal information. Your vet should be able to email these to you. If you have previous test results, please include those as well. All should go in your CH, but if you are having any trouble with the CH, just post in the messages for now. 

Treatment: EMS is a metabolic type - not a disease - that is managed with a low sugar+starch diet and exercise (as able). The super-efficient easy keeper type breeds such as minis, ponies, Morgans, Arabs, Rockies are some of the classic examples. PPID is a progressive disease that is treated with the medication pergolide. Some, but not all, individuals may experience a temporary loss of appetite, lethargy and/or depression when first starting the medication. To avoid this "pergolide veil" (scroll down for side effects), we recommend weaning onto the drug slowly and the use of the product APF. The best long term results are seen when the ACTH is maintained in the middle of the normal range at all times, including during the annual seasonal rise. To accomplish this, the amount of medication may need to increase over time. Neither condition is ever "cured", only properly controlled for the remainder of the equine's life. If your partner is both PPID and IR then both medication and diet management will be needed. 

DIET: Almost all commercial feeds are not suitable - no matter what it says on the bag. Please see the International Safe Feeds List for the safest suggestions.

No hay is "safe" until proven so by chemical analysis. The diet that works for IR is:

  • low carb (less than 10% sugar+starch)
  • low fat (4% or less) 
  • mineral balanced  

We use grass hay, tested to be under 10% ESC + starch, with minerals added to balance the excesses and deficiencies in the hay, plus salt, and to replace the fragile ingredients that are lost when grass is cured into hay, we add ground flax seed and Vitamin E. This diet is crucial for an EMS/IR horse, but also supports the delicate immune system of a PPID horse. 

*Until you can get your hay tested and balanced we recommend that you soak your hay and use the emergency diet (scroll down for it).  The emergency diet is not intended for long term use, but addresses some of the most common major deficiencies. Testing your hay and getting the minerals balanced to its excesses and deficiencies is the best way to feed any equine (look under the Hay Balancing file if you want professional help balancing). If you absolutely cannot test your hay and balance the minerals to it, or would like to use a "stop gap" product until you get your hay balanced, here's a list of "acceptable" ration balancers

There is a lot of helpful information in the start here folder so it is important you read all the documents found there. The emergency diet involves soaking your untested hay for an hour in cold water or 30 minutes in hot water. This removes up to 30% of the sugar content, but no starch. Starch is worse than sugar since it converts 100% to glucose while sugar only converts 50%, so starch causes a bigger insulin spike. Make sure you dump the soaking water where the equine(s) can't get to it. 

What you don't feed on the EMS/IR diet is every bit as, if not more important than, what you do feed! No grass. No grain. No sugary treats, including apples and carrots. No brown/red salt blocks which contain iron (and sometimes molasses) which interferes with mineral balancing, so white salt blocks only. 

No products containing molasses. No bagged feeds with a combined sugar and starch of over 10% or starch over about 4%, or fat over about 4%. Unfortunately, even bagged feeds that say they are designed for IR and/or PPID equines are usually too high in sugar, starch and/or fat. It’s really important to know the actual analysis and not be fooled by a name that says it is suitable for EMS/IR individuals.

We do not recommend feeding alfalfa hay to EMS/IR equines as it makes many of them laminitic. Although it tends to be low in sugar, many times the starch is higher and does not soak out. Additionally, protein and calcium are quite high, which can contribute to sore footedness and make mineral balancing very difficult.

TRIM: A proper trim is toes backed and heels lowered so that the hoof capsule closely hugs and supports the internal structures of the foot. Though important for all equines, it's essential for IR and/or PPID equines to have a proper trim in place since they are at increased risk for laminitis. After any potential triggers are removed from the diet, and in PPID individuals, the ACTH is under control, the realigning trim is often the missing link in getting a laminitic equine comfortable. In general, laminitic hooves require more frequent trim adjustments to maintain the proper alignment so we recommend the use of padded boots rather than fixed appliances (i.e. shoes, clogs), at least during the initial phases of treatment.

Sometimes subclinical laminitis can be misdiagnosed as arthritis, navicular, or a host of other problems as the animal attempts to compensate for sore feet. 

You are encouraged to make an album and post hoof pictures and any radiographs you might have so we can to look to see if you have an optimal trim in place. Read this section of the wiki for how to get a hoof evaluation, what photos are needed, and how to get the best hoof shots and radiographs.

EXERCISEThe best IR buster there is, but only if the equine is comfortable and non-laminitic. An individual that has had laminitis needs 6-9 months of correct realigning trims before any serious exercise can begin. Once the equine is moving around comfortably at liberty, hand walking can begin in long straight lines with no tight turns. Do not force a laminitic individual to move, or allow its other companions to do so. It will begin to move once the pain begins to subside. Resting its fragile feet is needed for healing to take place so if the animal wants to lay down, do not encourage it to get up. Place feed and water where it can be reached easily without having to move any more than necessary. Be extremely careful about movement while using NSAIDs (bute, banamine, previcox, etc.) as it masks pain and encourages more movement than these fragile feet are actually able to withstand. Additionally, NSAIDs (and icing) do not work on metabolic laminitis and long term NSAID use interferes with healing. Therefore, we recommend tapering off NSAIDs after the first week or so of use. If after a week's time your equine's comfort level has not increased, then the cause of the laminitis has not been removed and keeping up the NSAIDs isn't the answer - you need to address the underlying cause.


There is lots more information in our files and archived messages and also on our website. It is a lot of information, so take some time to go over it and feel free to ask any questions. If you are feeling overwhelmed, don't worry, you will catch on, and we are always here to help you! Once you have your case history uploaded, we can help you help your equine partner even better.

For members outside North America, there are country specific folders in the files and many international lists in the wiki to help you find local resources.

If you have any technical difficulties, please let us know so we can help you. 

Lesley and over the bridge Omar,
ECIR Group Primary Response,
Highland, UK

Omar - Case History

Bobbie Day

You can try some cocosoya from Uckele, also peppermint tea, anise extract and Dr.K’s mentioned making a tea from alfalfa to temp them as well.
Also try taking everything out and slowly reintroducing sups back in. I mix my own and put fenugreek powder, and  replicate Uckele gut, I have never had a horse turn their nose up.
It can be a challenge for sure it takes a lot of trial and error and a huge dose of patience. Are you adding a lot of phosphorus or some other unpalatable supplement?


Bobbie and Maggie 
Desi (over the rainbow bridge 7/21) 
Utah, Nov 2018
ECIR Group Primary Response


Regarding using Stabul treats as a supplement carrier/enhancement--does anyone have a suggested method for crushing them in bulk?  I've always found them very hard to break up when trying to make them an appropriate size for a treat (ie, they make them too big).  Thanks in advance for any ideas!
October 2018
Island County, Washington, USA
Cadet Case History:
Ruger Case History:

Cadet Photo Album: