Psyllium: To Wet Or Not To Wet

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I have an Arabian mare that I just moved to a farm that has very sandy pastures. She’s not brought into her stall much so she is fed her hay and grain outside, and we also have some grass that she grazes on. I’m worried about how much sand she may be eating, and want to try adding a supplement that will help clear that out. I feed her a pelleted grain and wet it down a little to make one of her supplements stick. Someone at my barn told me it’s not ok to add water to sand-clearing supplements, but I can’t get her to eat her other supplement without adding a little water. Is that right? I’ve never had a problem wetting down other supplements before, why wouldn’t it be ok to add water to just that type of supplement? – JD, Connecticut

Dear JD,
First of all, way to recognize that eating sand can be a serious problem in horses! I’ve included a link to another blog entry on this topic as well as a health article on sand colic below, if you or others want to read more about this issue.

Next, I want to make sure that you’re using the sand-clearing psyllium supplement (try saying that three times fast!) properly. Fed in small amounts daily, psyllium acts as more of a prebiotic, or source of food for the beneficial bacteria that live in the hindgut. However, when fed in larger amounts a few days in a row each month it acts as more of a sand purge. Since your goal is sand removal, I assume then that you’re just giving psyllium to your mare seven or so days at a time to help move any sand out of her system that may have accumulated over the past month.

Your friend was correct about it not being a good idea to add water to psyllium-based products before feeding as it not only poses a choking risk but also causes this type of supplement not to work as well. That’s because psyllium is a soluble fiber that forms a sticky gel when it gets wet. That “sticky gel” is what physically traps and carries out of the body any sand that has built up in the colon. So we want the psyllium to get wet within the GI tract and not before.

I have a couple of ideas for you to encourage your mare to eat her regular supplements as well as her monthly psyllium sand purge. Instead of wetting her grain to get powdered supplements to stick to it, why not try feeding pelleted supplements that are usually tastier and whose texture is better accepted by most horses. Also, some psyllium-containing supplements have smells and flavors that horses really like, so experiment with some different brands until you find one that she gobbles up greedily! You shouldn’t have to worry about your horse eating her supplements, especially not when they’re as important to her health as sand-clearing ones.

More information on sand colic

Lydia F. Gray, DVM, MA SmartPak Staff Veterinarian and Medical Director Dr. Lydia Gray has earned a Bachelor of Science in agriculture, a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), and a Master of Arts focusing on interpersonal and organizational communication. After “retiring” from private practice, she put her experience and education to work as the American Association of Equine Practitioner’s first-ever Director of Owner Education. Dr. Gray continues to provide health and nutrition information to horse owners through her position at SmartPak, through publication in more than a dozen general and trade publications, and through presentations around the country. She is the very proud owner of a Trakehner named Newman that she actively competes with in dressage and combined driving. In addition to memberships in the USDF and USEF, Dr. Gray is also a member of the Illinois Dressage and Combined Training Association (IDCTA). She is a USDF “L” Program Graduate and is currently working on her Bronze Medal. Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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2 comments on “Psyllium: To Wet Or Not To Wet
  1. Rosemary Puig says:

    My mare won’t touch this stuff and I spent a small fortune. The information given about “how to get your horse to eat it” is completely useless. Isn’t there anything within reason that can help our picky horses eat this?

  2. Stephanie says:

    The problem I am finding feeding this is I have a few horses who will swish their feed onto their stall mats because their grain isn’t wet. Two horses in particular are very opinionated when they do it…if I have shavings in their stall, they will waste all that feed that blended in with the shavings (which can amount to 3 to 5 pounds of their supplements sometimes).

    Vet recommended of what I been doing now. Wetting their feed first to give that soaked moisture. A good 10min for typical grain or 15 min for alfalfa pellets. Then I will add additional supplements on top of it (their joint, weight builder, electrolytes etc) that will blend the flavor. Got 8 horse with 8 different “taste”.

    The moisture won’t completely soak it, but won’t be dry as recommended either. Due to this weather, moisture feed is ideal to help aid the horse in staying hydrated instead of running into issues such as impaction colic.

    Only other way I found is split supplements in two feedings where the first feeding is pretty much a small amount of supplement with it mixed with other treats like apples and carrots diced up. This is going to most likely be my way more and more as my draft mare is showing sand on xrays with salmonella positive off and on as well.

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