PSSM

Management Partners:

Where I buy chelated calcium, B1, reishi,  pea protein, and some herbs:

Where I buy herbs, seeds, and tinctures:

Feeding Horses: A Promising Dietary Approach To Managing Horses with PSSM and Neurological Issues

Feeding Horses: Bringing a PSSM Horse Back To Healthy: Horse Tack Reviews, Treeless Saddles Reviews

Fat (PSSM1 Staple)

Feeding horses – macronutrients:

Fat has never been a good addition for Jax, especially when provided in oil form. That said, small amounts of chia seeds, which provide high omega 3s and protein levels, along with antioxidants, are wonderful for Jax. They don’t provide high fat amounts – nothing close to the typical PSSM1 recommendations, but they work beautifully for him.

3.5/5

Magnesium Oxide

Minerals for horses – magnesium:

Magnesium never did much for Jax until I raised it to obscene levels – 30-40 grams per day. I then saw improvements in his hooves, but I think keeping him at this elevated level, even for a short time, led to some of our electrolyte issues including head shaking.

Jax has been off magnesium oxide since 2019, and he’s much better without it.

1.5/5

Sodium Chloride

Minerals for horses – salt:

While salt is said to be helpful for many PSSM horses, it never really did much for Jax. Eventually, like magnesium oxide, I believe supplementation led to electrolyte imbalance issues.

I do provide salt licks in the field in multiple forms (plain, sulfur, cobalt/iodine), but I no longer feed salt in his hard feed and haven’t since 2019.

1.5/5

Note: these charts break down different additions for each type of PSSM diet, and how well they worked for Jax (star rating).  Some of these items that didn’t work for him work really well for other horses, so this is a trial and error situation to find the best horse supplements for each individual.

The Traditional PSSM1 Diet:

The chart above contains some of the most supplemented macronutrients and trace minerals for horses in the PSSM1 diet.  These are the basics I started with when trying to manage Jax back in 2016 after his PSSM1 results came back positive.

Unlike others, we didn’t have any luck with this diet; in fact, he went metabolic on additional fat.  I kept the minerals but dumped oils as a fat source and switched to chia seeds, which is when I finally had luck with fat – but he didn’t need nearly the PSSM1 recommended levels of two cups of fat per day. 

In fact, 1 cup of chia seeds at approx. 30% fat was way better than two cups of oil at approx. 99% fat for him (meaning, at most, he needs 1/6 the recommended amount of fat for a PSSM1 horse).

Later Additions Including General Minerals for Horses:

Protein (PSSM2 Staple)

Feeding horses – macronutrients:

Jax did well on a higher protein diet back when he was boarded, but looking back, I don’t think he was fed enough forage back then. Since moving him home and providing good quality ad lib hay at all times, he’s doing well on lower protein amounts. He still does well on protein when also grazing, as he loses weight on grass.

4/5

Calcium Carbonate

Minerals for horses – calcium carbonate:

Calcium Carbonate worked really well for helping signs of big head and anxiety issues early on, but eventually caused excess mineral buildup in Jax’s kidneys and sluggish behavior. His hooves were amazing while on calcium carbonate.

0.5/5

Baking Soda

Minerals for horses – sodium bicarbonate:

Baking soda was amazing for Jax in the beginning, and still does really well for him on occasion. That said, he does so well on chelated calcium that I rarely need baking soda anymore – I usually use it instead of salt for a bit of sodium if he sweats a lot.

4.5/5

The PSSM2 Diet (kinda):

The chart above represents some of the trials and additions back when I was experimenting with the PSSM2 diet.  Jax immediately responded to pea protein isolate when I started feeding it, and it’s still a small part of his diet even though he’s back to easy keeper status (approx. 1 tbsp daily for flavor, and more added if he starts to lose weight on grass).

Calcium carbonate was tried back when he was having signs of big head and anxiety issues back in 2019, but it caused issues and had to be removed. See more about calcium supplementation for horses here.

Baking soda is something I found fairly quickly in our management strategy, and it was immediately a good addition for him.  Knowing what I know now, it’s really good at dumping excess minerals from the kidneys, and helps keep RER horses from tying up.  I needed 2 tbsp daily the first few years he was on baking soda, but he no longer needs it daily; now he only gets it if there’s signs of kidney stress (dark urine) – see more about baking soda supplementation here, and why I limit this very effective mineral and only use as needed.

The Beginnings of a Perfect Dietary Management for Jax:

Fiber (Carbohydrates)

Feeding horses – macronutrients:

On top of worrying about which vitamins and minerals for horses you should be feeding, the base for those vitamins and minerals is also important.  While feeding horses a high carb diet is the opposite of what you want for a PSSM1 horse, there is one exception: fiber is a type of carbohydrate (but not part of the NSC calculation), and is extremely useful in the management of many PSSM horses. Jax is now on a forage only (thereby high fiber), low NSC diet from both hay and old growth meadow grass, and this is doing really well for him.

5/5

Calcium Gluconate

Minerals for horses – chelated calcium:

Chelated calcium has been the single most important mineral addition to Jax’s diet. We started with EquiFeast’s Lam Essentials (which in my view is one of the best horse supplements around if you’re looking for an all around supplement) but it takes too much food to hide, and everything triggers Jax (including flax and hay pellets) – so I can only hide a small amount of supplements now – forcing a change to straight calcium gluconate from Bulk Supplements. With feed triggers, it doesn’t work as well as Lam Essentials – but without feed triggers it works beautifully for him.

5/5

Other Daily Additions

Other vitamins and minerals for horses that work amazing for Jax:

Jax gets 1 tbsp of chia seeds for fat and antioxidants, 1 tbsp of pea protein for flavor and protein, various herbs on occasion and baking soda as needed.

Vitamin B1 has been a wonderful addition for him since the beginning, and he still gets around 1,000mg daily.  Reishi is fairly new (less than a year as of writing this), but doing really well for him.

See Jax’s diet for specifics on what he’s fed!

As of early 2023, Jax has been on some rendition of a high fiber with chelated calcium diet for over two years – and it’s amazing for him.  His muscles are much looser, his gut is much healthier, and he’s practically his old self again except for his excessive need for blanketing.  See my notes from when I first started chelated calcium with Jax.

The best vitamins and minerals for horses with neurological issues are those that support the central nervous system, and Jax seems to need several of these.  Vitamin B1, chelated calcium, and reishi are the CNS helpers he’s currently on, and I got the hint he needed CNS support back when trialing ImmuBiome products and finding Spine & Nerve to be a huge help for him.

I’m not sure if this points to him also having an underlying neurological issue, or if the CNS is a major player in PSSM.  Since this same diet is currently helping a known neurological horse in a dramatic way, either is possible!

This dietary approach to feeding horses isn’t just for PSSM, this diet is good for neurological horses, horses with gut sensitivities, and normal horses as well.  For more on the specifics of my grain free, forage only approach to feeding horses see Jax’s Diet.
Feeding Horses: Bringing a PSSM Horse Back To Healthy: Horse Tack Reviews, Treeless Saddles Reviews

Jax on the PSSM2 diet – he was really improving here, but we still had some dietary issues to work through at this point.  Look closely at his left shoulder – bunchy muscles and small muscle divots, coupled with the tight string of muscle in his hip/stifle area, show that we still had some work to do!  Chelated calcium has been the addition that really loosened these areas up.

For more info on chelated calcium and the affects of magnesium, check out EquiFeast’s blog articles.  While there’s a lot of argument on whether the claims made on this site are credible, I think it’s worth a read and a fair shot, as my horse seems to align with their theories fairly significantly!

More Research:

Calcium gluconate is a medication used to manage hypocalcemia, cardiac arrest, and cardiotoxicity due to hyperkalemia or hypermagnesemia. It is classified as a calcium salt. This activity outlines the indications, action, and contraindications for calcium gluconate as a valuable agent in managing hypocalcemia, cardiac arrest, cardiotoxicity due to hyperkalemia or hypermagnesemia, and other disorders as applicable. This activity will highlight the mechanism of action, adverse events, and other key factors (e.g., off-label uses, dosing, pharmacodynamics, monitoring, relevant interactions).

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