Ration balancer

Dea Rhodes

 Hello, I live in Southern California (High Desert). I have a mare who is an easy keeper with mo EMS or IR the vet said to prevent it to follow this group. I currently feed 10 pounds of teff in the morning and 10 pounds at night. 1 pound of alfalfa cubes for supplement carrier. Supplements are Chia seeds 1/3 cup 2oz table salt one scoop of GUT. I am wanting to add Cal Trace Plus or Mad Barn amino plus or similar . What would be best for my area? With it being one horse testing he is not an option as I do not buy hay in bulk.  Thank you! 

Edelia Rhoades
Southern California

Bobbie Day

Hi Edelia and welcome to the group. 
It's almost impossible to say whether your horse would benefit from CT or MB, I personally have fed CT if I am in an emergency situation and not able to get supplies for my custom mix, but we advocate feeding minerals based on your hay.  I can suggest a few options for you if that's just not doable.
First, I would contact the hay grower and see if they have any test results on their hay, a lot of growers do. You mentioned that "testing is not an option", how much hay at a time do you buy? Do you board?
You may also want to join our sister group Horsekeeping where members in your area may have some tests, it won't be exact, but a regional result is better than nothing at all. 
You can also go to Equi Analytical and look in their regional database for hay in your area. 
Interactive Feed Composition Libraries | Equi-Analytical (dairyoneservices.com)
I will include your welcome message below, it's more geared toward PPID/EMS horses however so I would absolutely encourage you to join the Horsekeeping group as well.
Good luck! Let us know if you have any additional questions.


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. 


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



Eleanor Kellon, VMD

Hi Edelia,

What breed is your horse? Being an easy keeper does not automatically mean EMS. You can't prevent EMS. It's genetic. You can keep it from being a problem with correct management and lots of exercise but some horses will always be at risk because of their breeding and others will never be - unless they develop PPID which can cause IR.

Is your hay from local growers (So Cal)?
Eleanor in PA

www.drkellon.com  BOGO 2 for 1 Course Sale Through End of January
EC Owner 2001
The first step to wisdom is "I don't know."

Cindy M

Hi Edelia,
In addition to what others have said, I will chime in a bit, based on my experience in California. (We used to live in Monterey County, Central Coast, not high desert, but we had several metabolic horses and a PPID horse.)

It was always a struggle and a necessity to get safe, healthy hay. Anyone in California is raising their hand and saying, "Amen," to that, although I suspect conditions have improved.

The last few years we lived in California, we found a source of grass hay from Oregon, at a feed store, where the grower tested the hay. So we were able to go in and purchase a small number of bales, but receive a photocopy of the test results. And that was 10+ years ago. It felt like a miracle just having that option, to be honest.

If you are going to use CA Trace (and it kind of makes sense to use a California-based product, rather than a Canadian product, since you are in California - no disrepect to Canada, Canadians, or Canadian feed supplements!); to me, the MOST critical matter is to guesstimate what the selenium content may be in your hay. This is important because selenium is a "Goldilocks" mineral. It is important, but has a very narrow range of safety. Excess selenium can be very dangerous for ANY horse, and inadequate selenium can create all kinds of problems, as well. You want to be sure you are not giving your horse a product with added selenium if his hay is already giving him enough. I believe CA Trace offers products with and without added selenium. 

(At our current home in Arkansas, we grow and bale our own hay. I test it every year. Frequently, horse people on social media will rave about a certain commercial mineral product, because they heard from others - all over the USA - how great it is. But when I looked at the product, it was developed in a different region of the USA, and has added manganese. Our tested hay, already has more than enough manganese. While manganese is not AS "goldilocks," as selenium, it can compete with absorption of copper and zinc in the diet. So I steer clear of that popular supplement, despite its popularity. Because that is what our local hay and soil dictates. 

Teff was just trickling into the hay supply, when we were in California 10 years ago. But selenium levels are based on the selenium content of the soil where the hay was grown. If the supplier can't give you full mineral content test results, you might ask if they know from what county the Teff hay originated. Once you know, you can look up USGS (US Geological Survey) maps for that county and see if it is a place that has high, low or moderate selenium levels.

This way, you can make a semi-educated guess about which commercial mineral supplement would help complement your hay.

You may find more help over in the Horsekeeping sub-group.
Cindy Martin, KPA CTP
Mad Dog Ranch
Nov 2009
Lincoln, AR (USA)
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