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Re: Thumps

Hi Sandy,

Sorry your horse thumped, but glad he recovered okay afterwards.

I agree that your horse's electrolytes were disrupted by the change in feed,
however, I would not suggest you go back to the old feed---or at least would
not suggest you "increase his calcium".  Here's why---

Calcium is one of the most highly regulated minerals in the body and the
body has several hormones which specifically either put excess calcium into
storage, or remove it from storage to make it available during times of
increased need.  However, how many molecules of each of these "put it into
storage" hormones and "get them out of storage" hormones are around is
dependent on how much calcium is in the diet.  Look at it this way---you
were regularly feeding alfalfa, which provides alot of calcium, every day.
The body responds to all this calcium by producing a lot of the hormones
which store this excess calcium away in the bones.  However, there is hardly
any of the hormones which remove calcium from the bones and put it back into
circulation.  Why should there be?  You're feeding lots of calcium everyday,
so there's little reason to spend energy on maintaining those hormones which
aren't being used.  Basically, the body gets very efficient at storing
excess calcium away, but very inefficient at making calcium quickly
available again.

So here's what probably happened to you last weekend.  You had been feeding
lots of alfalfa (lots of calcium) and your horse's body was happily storing
it away.  Then you removed the alfalfa and replaced it with oat hay, a hay
which supplies much LESS calcium---and then went out and rode an endurance
ride which required more calcium than was available in the blood.  The only
place the horse can mobilize more calcium from during exercise is the bone,
but remember?  He now not only doesn't have a supply of calcium coming from
the alfalfa, he's also gotten very inefficient at mobilizing calcium from
his storage depots in the bone---so no calcium in the blood and voila!

I wouldn't suggest that you increase his calcium intake in between rides (as
a matter of fact, would suggest advise against it).  By feeding more calcium
in between rides, you're just exacerbating the calcium-inefficiency effect.
What you want to do is increase his efficiency at mobilizing calcium during
rides, and to slightly increase his calcium intake DURING the ride.  See the
difference?  To increase his efficiency, you need to not supply so much
calcium on a daily basis---thereby making his body work a little harder to
maintain plasma calcium levels and increasing the numbers of those hormones
that move the calcium out of storage and into the bloodstream.

So here's what my suggestion to you would be.  If you can get a continuous
supply of the oat hay (or any other grass or grain hay without alfalfa in
it), then continue to feed some of that---if not entirely, then to "dilute"
the alfalfa you've been feeding.  You were on the right track feeding some
oat hay, your timing was just a little off (don't beat yourself up, it's an
easy mistake to make, and you've learned something valuable from it about
making changes before a ride).

Ideally, I'd suggest that alfalfa make up no more than 25% of his hay
ration.  It just has too much protein, and produces that
inefficient-at-mobilizing-calcium effect just described.  If you minimize
the alfalfa, he'll still get plenty of what he needs and his body is going
to get better at moving calcium in and out of storage (which will in turn,
prevent the thumps).  Don't expect this to happen overnight---it will take
several weeks for his body to adjust and become more efficient.  Once you're
actually at the ride, you can increase his calcium intake just a bit, either
by providing him with just a little alfalfa at vet checks, or by giving him
electrolytes with calcium in them, or by adding some calcium carbonate
(crushed limestone) to some mash at checks.  Whatever works for you.  After
the ride, go back to his regular diet of low-to-moderate calcium intake, so
that he continues to remain efficient at storing and mobilizing his calcium

As for next week at Camp Far West, it's up to you as to how you wwant to
implement changes.  You can still go ahead and ride, but keep in mind that
he's still inefficient at mobilizing the calcium he'll need during the ride.
Don't try going for the win this particular time out (if that's where you
ride) and put a little more effort into getting some extra calcium to him
during the ride, to make up for his inefficiency.  A handful or two of
alfalfa throughout the day every few hours should be sufficient.  Don't try
"pre-loading" him with calcium the night before---there's only so much that
can be carried in the blood and you're better off providing it in small
meals through out the day of the ride.

If you want to read a little more about alfalfa and endurance horses,
there's an article on my website at:

that you might find interesting.  Hope this helped a bit.  Good luck next
weekend at Camp Far West---you'll do fine!

Susan Garlinghouse
-----Original Message-----
From: <>
To: <>
Date: Monday, May 24, 1999 9:39 AM
Subject: RC: Thumps

Sandy Rovane
At the Wine Country ride this weekend, which by the way was an excellent
ride, beautiful country, well ran and overall an A + ride, my six year old
thumped at the third vet check.  He has never done this before, but I did do
a stupid thing just before the ride and changed his feed.  I found some
beautiful oat hay and thought it was time for the herd to have some candy
after a long winter of just plain old grassy alfalfa hay.  Any way for some
reason he thumped at the check but did recover.  He finished the ride and
again was thumping at the end.  The vet's helped me with electrolytes and
trying to get him right but his pulse never recovered in  time and hung at
80.  We trailered him home as he was eating well, had good gut sounds and
overall looked really good.  He ate his ususal dinner and was his old self
in the morning. Any suggestions of what I can do.  Any one have horses that
repeat this?   I will go back to his old diet, increase his calcium intake
as well as change the brand and type of electrolytes I give him. I am
planning on taking him to Camp Far West this weekend.  Is this smart?  Thank
you Jamie and Melissa for all of your help and laughs at my electrolytes.
Still learning after all these years.   Thank you Jessica for the fun,
challenging ride.  Everyone should put this on their list for next year.  Be
sure to bring a conditioned horse thought.  It was not an easy ride.

Sandy Rovane
Mr. Man
Flash Rabba's Tom Tom Man.

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