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Spring, horses, and magnesium

The farm in spring

It's spring, and this year, this horse owner's thoughts lightly turn toward thoughts of . . . magnesium.
One of the great pleasures of writing horse books is how much I learn. Fiction and poetry ask me to go deep and explore things I know that I'm not aware of yet. Nonfiction sends me outward—especially, revising Storey's Horselover's Encyclopedia, which requires my knowledge to become, briefly, encyclopedic. (Later I'll have a book to rely on.)
Magnesium has been on my personal radar for awhile, recommended by my acupuncturist for various ills. Magnesium plays a role in many bodily functions—and bodies are bodies, horses are our cousins, so why should I be surprised that it is important for them too? I had assumed, though, that since they eat a natural diet, grass and hay, their needs were being met.
Apparently that's not so. According to Melyni Worth's HORSE NUTRITION HANDBOOK, hypomagnesemia (low blood-magnesium levels) is prevalent up and down both coasts, and anywhere with clay or granite-based soils. (Limestone or alkaline soils create fewer problems with magnesium.) Problems are created by modern acid fertilizers and acid rain, which makes it harder for plants to pull magnesium out of the soil. Issues for us, I'm sure—but it's spring, I want to ride, and so I'm thinking more about my horse than myself.
Spring, to a Vermont horseman without access to an indoor ring, means it's time to ride after a 6-month lay-off. Horses are frisky, riders are out of shape, skills are rusty for both partners, and magnesium has proven calming abilities. Magnesium is involved in muscle and nerve function; deficiency often results in nervousness, inability to concentrate, or inability to relax muscles—sounds like a Morgan in spring to me!
Spring, to a Vermont horse, means good green grass. But early spring grass is low in minerals and high in sugar, and is often associated with laminitis and founder. Magnesium deficiency also results in problems metabolizing carbohydrates. Supplementation is important insulin-resistant horses and easy-keepers—i.e., Morgans.
Melyni Worth recommends giving 4 to 8 grams of magnesium to a 1,000 pound horse, along with chromium, zinc, and copper. I've taken the easiest route, Quiessence in SmartPaks. Robin has been on it for a about a week and a half, and I honestly think I saw an immediate result; a calmer, sweeter girl, who works with fewer jitters under saddle.
I'd been planning to just use magnesium for the month of transition onto grass—but why would I give up the training gains? It's certainly easier to work with this horse, and I think it must be easier to be this horse. So I think I'll keep her on magnesium for awhile longer.

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