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Ep. 059: What I Wish I Would’ve Known as a First-Time Horse Owner

Co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr reached out to more seasoned horse owners about what they wish they would have known when they first started with horses to discuss their feedback and experiences. The importance of building certain relationships, not overwhelming yourself with too much, nutrition tips that will set you up for success and so much more.

Episode Notes

On this episode, co-hosts Dr. Tania Cubitt and Katy Starr reached out to more seasoned horse owners about what they wish they would have known when they first started with horses to discuss their feedback and experiences. The importance of building certain relationships, not overwhelming yourself with too much, nutrition tips that will set you up for success and so much more.

If you’re a first-time horse owner, download and tune in to this episode to help get you started in the right direction. 

If you’re an experienced horse owner, let us know if we missed anything. This could be a never-ending list, but hearing from some real horse owners who may have learned the hard way and want to help make it easier for others, can make a huge difference. And be sure to share this episode with a friend who could use some encouragement and support!


Have any topics you want to hear more about? Let us know at



Past episodes referenced in this episode - 

~ 4:37 – Episode 58: The Interesting and Curious Life of an Equine Veterinarian You Wouldn't Believe with Dr. Jerry Billquist

~ 24:05 – Episode 56: How to Improve Your Horse's Diet – Including 4 Example Horse Diets Balanced by Dr. Cubitt

~27:49 – Episode 57: How to Prevent and Manage Laminitis

~ 27:52 – Episode 52: Why Your Horse is Overweight, and You Probably Don't Know It

~ 31:50 – Episode 3:Why Horses Need to Eat Fiber

~ 34:28 – Episode 54: What is Leaky Gut in Horses, and Can It Be Prevented

~ 34:39 – Episode 16: Am I Feeding the Wrong Type of Hay?

~ 37:39 – Episode 21: Nutritional Deficiencies in Horses and When You Need to Worry

~ 40:10 – Episode 7 & 8: AlfalfaMisconceptions -MythversusTruthPartOneandTwo

~ 41:30 – Episode 29: How to Feed a Senior Horse and When They Need to Be Fed Differently

~ 43:05 – Episode 37: Navigating When to Soak, Steam, Wet or Leave Hay Dry with Dr. Krishona Martinson

~ 46:55 – Episode 25: How to Plan for Hay Needs and Useful Storage Tips to Avoid Hay Loss

~ 47:02 – Episode 10: What to Do When You Run Out of Hay

~ 52:00 – Episode 50: Top 10 Most Common Feeding Mistakes Horse Owners Make




  • *Views and opinions expressed by guests are their own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Standlee Premium Products, LLC.*

Katy Starr (00:01):

Hi, I'm Katy.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:02):

And I'm Dr. Cubitt. We're going Beyond the Barn. Come join us on this journey as we bust equine and livestock nutrition myths and interview some of the most intriguing experts in the country.


Katy Starr (00:15):

We'll go behind the scenes of how premium Western quality forage is grown and brought to your favorite farm and ranch retail store. We're so glad you're here.


Welcome back to another episode of Beyond the Barn, Dr. Cubitt. It's good to have you in the studio with me today.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (00:34):

I'm excited to be back.


Katy Starr (00:35):

Today's topic is going to be a very, I hope, impactful one. What I wish I would've known as a beginner or first-time horse owner. This is something that I think a lot of people struggle with as they, you know, want to own a horse, get into it. It's stressful, I think, and overwhelming sometimes going into it. And so I think this will be a really fun conversation for us to discuss today.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (01:04):

Absolutely. I think it can be very overwhelming and I'm excited to talk about this.


Katy Starr (01:10):

And so right before we jump into this, I do want to mention that any of the topics that we cover on the Beyond the Barn podcast are more generalized and not specific to any individual horse or any specific situation. Be sure to always work with your veterinarian and nutritionist before making any drastic changes to your horse's feed program. Or you can feel free to reach out to us and talk directly with Dr. Cubitt or Dr. Duren on any specifics that you'd like to know. So the questions that, or I guess that more statements, a lot of them are statements because I actually went out and kind of put out a call on some Facebook groups that I'm in, horse ones and I just wanted to ask people, when you first owned a horse, when you first got into horse ownership, what was something that you wish you had known then that you know now?


Katy Starr (02:01):

And so all of this is coming from real life horse owners who have gone through a lot of these experiences themselves. And so I think as a first-time horse owner or somebody kind of just getting into it, this will be really relevant for them to maybe not even realize that this is something to think about or consider or just kind of get figured out as they work through this process. So something else that I want to mention is I am going to be mentioning some previous episodes that we've talked about where applicable for some of these statements. So if you're going through these and you hear me mention an episode or something like that and you're like, oh, I want to write this down so I can go back and listen to that episode. Don't stress about it, I'm going to put them in the show notes and match them up with the timestamps and everything. So you can feel free to listen to this episode and just take it all in and I think this will be a good conversation today. So Dr. Cubitt, this is something that you say often and I think it's really important, but the first one is find an equine veterinarian that you trust and develop a good relationship with them.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (03:14):

Absolutely. I think that as a first-time horse owner, it's just like having a baby. You don't know, there's so many things that, oh, he seems a little off today, or he's a little bit lame and you spend so much money on a horse. And so having somebody in your corner that you can call and say, Hey, do you need to come out and see this situation? Or they can just put your mind at ease. Having a good equine veterinarian or a good practice that you can call on and trust, I think that the second part of that statement is the most important. There are great veterinarians everywhere, but you have to build a relationship with that veterinarian or that practice so that you feel comfortable with their recommendations and that you can follow through. So I think definitely it might not be the first veterinarian you work with or practice that you work with. Maybe you use a couple of different ones before you find the one that you guys kind of click and they work well with you. But I definitely think that is one of the very first things. It's like finding a pediatrician when you're a first-time parent and you got to find one that you trust. And you can relate to that too, Katy. It's really finding someone that you can trust.


Katy Starr (04:32):

Absolutely. And this episode, episode 58, right before this one is “The Interesting and Curious Life of an Equine Veterinarian You Wouldn't Believe with Dr. Jerry Billquist.” A lot of what we talk about in his episode is just his personal experiences, but he talks about things like, like one of the reasons why it would be important to develop a good relationship with your veterinarian is what happens if your horse colics in the middle of the night, who are you going to call and what vet is going to come and see you if you don't have one that you know and they know you. Sometimes when you're in sticky situations like that, it's really good to have that built and trusted relationship there also.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (05:15):

Absolutely. So funny story, I have cattle, you know, I talk about it all the time. My little black Angus herd and that was something that we did before we, cause we have moms and babies and they have calves every year, was that we found a veterinarian that would help us with the cows before we even got cows. Cause we thought, oh my gosh, if it's the middle of the night and one of these cows is having a calf and we don't know what to do, who are we going to call on? So that is a really good, you want to make that relationship before you need it.


Katy Starr (05:51):

And I will say also too, and this is something that I really learned from doing that episode, is particularly in rural America, there's actually a shortage of equine veterinarians and like food animal veterinarians. And so it's a tough industry to be in right now. And so I think that is even more so a struggle when you do need to get somebody, when you have an emergency, it doesn't matter if it's day or night, you might struggle if you're in an area that is limited with vet resources because there's just not as many as there are animals unfortunately right now. So, and then a follow up question kind of to this first question because yes, like veterinarian is important, but you always talk about building a good team, right? A veterinarian, a knowledgeable nutritionist, a farrier, you know, even a trainer that you can trust. These I think are all incredibly important. But from your perspective, what traits, like how do we look for good individuals in these areas? If you were kind of looking for like a veterinarian or like a trainer or a farrier, what kind of traits would you look for in these individuals? I mean obviously we have to think about how well we work with that person individually, but what would you say?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (07:09):

Well, and we keep using the word trust and as I'm sitting here listening to us say it, I'm like, oh this is really sounding bad. Like, oh that many people out there that you can trust. When you think about the term trust, and I would actually rephrase it to say, I mean I'll go back to an analogy of me as a first-time parent, I'm a very relaxed low-key. I don't get phased by a lot of things with the kids. And so I found a pediatrician that was also, had that same demeanor. He wasn't going to get me all worried about kid having a bit of a snotty nose. But then there are other parents that are a little bit more anxious and need somebody that's going to kind of take their concerns a little bit more seriously or...


Katy Starr (07:55):

Help put their mind at ease. Maybe not as big of a deal as they think.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (07:59):

Exactly. And it's the same thing. It's not that you can't trust these people, it's more find a veterinarian that has a similar personality or meshes well with your personality. If you're pretty low-key cool, calm, collected, then you want to find a veterinarian that is the same. You want to find a nutritionist if you like things simple, then you want to find people that also like to keep things simple that aren't going to have you feeding 50 different supplements and 20 different hays and mixing all the grain cause that's just never going to mesh with you. And you are always going to be kind of at loggerheads and competing with that person. Farrier as well. The farrier is really, really critical and a farrier I think doesn't get as much airtime as they should. So much of your horse's health is shown in the hooves and the farrier, a good farrier that is taking their time and is going to communicate well with you is going to tell you a a lot about your horse's health just from the way a horse will stand, the hoof quality.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (09:11):

So building a good relationship there. And then again with a trainer, you're not going to go and find, if you want to be a weekend trail rider and you just want to learn the basics of riding, you're not going to go to a hyper, crazy kind of stable where it's all very elite level hunters, jumpers, dressage. That's not going to be a good fit for you. So when we use the word trust, it's really more finding the right fit, building a team that you all mesh well together. And in a lot of really good teams. I'm the nutritionist, I work with the veterinarian, I will talk to the farrier, I've even talked with the trainer before because sometimes as a new horse owner you aren't quite sure of certain behavior that your horse might be doing when you're riding it. And the trainer might be able to say, huh, when she puts her leg on, he's really pushing back from that.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (10:10):

I've seen that in other horses that I've trained and it turned out to be ulcers. So you know, a good trainer that picks up on those things can also be really valuable. And I think it's good that they all talk together that there is communication. You know, the trainer, the farrier, oh there was some issue in the hoof and we had to trim a little shorter, or we made some corrections, they might be a little hoof sore. It's good to know, good for the trainer to know that, good for the veterinarian to know that. So yeah, I think finding people that fit what your desires are as a horse owner and I know that's the one of the questions that come up is really important.


Katy Starr (10:52):

And you're talking about that trust, I think the key there is that whole developing relationships, right? So like if you're going and trying to find somebody last minute on something, it's hard to trust that person because you don't know them. So yeah, I think that's an important part is developing those relationships and making sure that they're in good standing for you. So another one that we do actually talk about often, and I don't think this is necessarily always a bad thing because right, what we're getting from this episode is kind of related to this, but I think it's important to be careful about who you ask for advice or you know, I know often we like to hear relatable stories, right? Our horse has, you know, gastric ulcers and so we, you know, make a post about it. We ask other people, we want to hear what other people's experiences have been going through this, what did their veterinarian tell them, you know, things like that. Which I get why people do that. But at the same time you got to take it with a grain of salt because your horse is different than their horse. Your situation's different than their situation. So I think that's the one is take advice with a grain of salt.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (12:04):

Yeah. And I would almost change it. You can ask as many people you want for all the advice. It's be careful what you do with said advice. And what I do when I give presentations to horse owners is I try always to give people the basics. This is how the digestive system's supposed to work. This is how the muscles are supposed to work, this is how the horses are supposed to move or recover from exercise. If they then have the basics, they know how it's supposed to work, then they know, when we're trying to fix a problem what we're trying to go back to. So, and we even say it in our podcast, we talk about lots of different scenarios, but we're not talking about individual horses or individual, occasionally we talk about individual cases, but that may not be your exact situation. It may not be your exact horse with that set of problems.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:03):

And it's not even just the horse, it's what management that you have available or finances you have available to fix that problem. So I know that when I ask people how do they make buying decisions, nobody ever likes to read the literature from the company selling said products. They like to read the reviews. So we always like to ask other people, but you have to take all of that information and then apply it to your particular, you got to know your situation well and be able to apply bits of it and build your own story. So


Katy Starr (13:45):

That's a great way to put it wherever you want.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (13:46):

You can ask whatever you want, but you've got to, it's what you do with the advice that you get. And again, I think that feeds into the question prior, if you have built a good team of a veterinarian, nutritionist, farrier, trainer, there's really no reason for you to ask Dr. Google anything because you should be able to ask those. Or if you did, like, I'm not quite sure about this and you asked a Facebook group or you Googled it, at least then I say to all my clients, you can do all the research, come to me and I'll help you.


Katy Starr (14:24):

You vet it a little bit between


Dr. Tania Cubitt (14:26):

Edit. Exactly. I can be your editor and sift through that information because unfortunately the bad stuff on the internet still looks pretty fancy and looks very scientific.


Katy Starr (14:36):

Definitely can be very deceiving. That's great. This one is like key. I feel like it totally hits on like this entire episode, but don't overwhelm yourself with too much at one time. Horse ownership is a process and a journey.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (14:54):

Yeah, 100%. And I think this doesn't just go for first-time horse owners. I think every year every horse owner should re-evaluate, have that moment and sit down. We do it in business, we do it with our family, we should do it with our horses as well and say, what am I doing this for? Why do I have horses? Why do I have a farm? Why do I have this business? And then am I getting what I wanted out of it? And so I think that, you know, if you say I'd love to get a horse, I always wanted a horse when I was a child, our family's finances, management, whatever, didn't align with me having a horse. But now I've got the finances and I would like to get a horse for myself and what do you want to do? Okay, I just want to have a horse.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (15:53):

I've bought a small farm, I've got a barn on my property, I want to enjoy going on trail rides on the weekend and just have fun. But I don't really know a lot about horse ownership, but I just want to have fun. And then that's the story that you want. And then you go and end up rescuing a horse because it's done with the best of intentions that's got 50,000 different problems that you don't actually know how to fix or cure. Whether they can be, but you thought, oh well I'm helping this horse so I'm going to get this horse. And then they call me, they call and talk to their veterinarian, I end up having crying phone calls. They're very upset because they're not enjoying this at all. This has become a burden. It's hard, but you know, they deeply feel like they want to help this animal, but it just wasn't the right fit for them.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (16:55):

It didn't fulfill the purpose of having the horse. So I think oftentimes we always have to reflect back on why do I have horses? Is it, it's my business and I want to train the next generation to ride horses, dressage rider and I'd love to impart my wisdom and teach, or I'm a breeding operation or I want to race horses or I'm just a boarding stable for the local community to help, you know, be a facility where they can have horses or I just want to have a horse myself to compete, to not compete. I think you have to be very honest with what you want to get out of the horse and don't be afraid to not take on a project that is just too much.


Katy Starr (17:40):

Well and maybe that's something that they can do later down the road if it's really exactly, you know, on their heart to do something like that. But maybe first start off with something that they know they can probably handle. Yeah,


Dr. Tania Cubitt (17:51):

Exactly. Again, with your team, they can help you. If maybe you've been taking lessons and now I'm taking the step and I'm going to buy a horse. If you've got a team in place or you've got some people that you can talk to, then bounce ideas off them. They will also help you source a horse that is going to fit what you want. But you have to develop that in your mind first of what you want. And don't be afraid of saying no, that wouldn't be a good fit for me.


Katy Starr (18:24):

Right. Absolutely. And it's okay. It's okay to do that. It's okay to say no. I learned that the older I get Katy, it's okay to say no . It can be very good sometimes .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (18:35):

Mm-hmm. . Yes.


Katy Starr (18:36):

One comment that somebody made in regards to this statement was, and I thought this was really good, she didn't know that this was really relevant to what I was asking, but I thought it was great. She said, I wish before owning horses I was good at failing. I used to take quote unquote failing really, really hard. It was difficult for me to wait to see progress and slow down. I wish I really took it slower with my first horses. I learned the hard way. But now we are learning from mistakes with my herd now. Horses will teach you patience if you do not have it. 


Dr. Tania Cubitt (19:08):

Is she describing horses or is she describing agriculture in general? I feel like that's the life of a farmer. It will teach you patience. It will teach you to fail. It will teach you to get back up again and continue on. And she's right. I mean if you have a rabbit, I mean they turn over so quickly, things happen so quickly. But horses, there's so much money invested and that's what we've got to come back to is so much money is invested, time, financial, there's a lot of investment and nothing happens quickly. I mean, for example, hoof quality, I need to fix my horse's hooves. They've got bad quality hooves. We're looking at six months to a year to see a hoof fully grow out. So I say, today I get the phone call and I say, well you should change this, this and this in your diet and should add these things. But you're not going to see any significant changes for six months to a year. That is hard. Especially for the person who wrote that. I say at least 30 days to see improvements in, you know, physical condition. Whether you're putting weight on a horse or trying to change their body weight, whether it's training, it's just like yourself. You don't go to the gym today and tomorrow you've lost 50 pounds and you're in perfect shape. Everything takes time.


Katy Starr (20:37):

Know that you're going to fail at times and it's okay. It's okay. Because I think failure is looked at too often as something that is so negative.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (20:47):

Yes, it certainly has that negative.


Katy Starr (20:48):

Yeah, I think people should look at failure as being like, okay, I didn't do this right this time, but you know what, now I know not to do that again. I'm going to go at this in a different direction. I think it's so important for growth.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:01):

All parents can tell you there's some kids that everything comes natural to them when they're little, they learn to read really well. They're just, sports. Everything is easy. And then there's the other kid that really has to work hard to be good at soccer or to read or to learn math. They learn from a very young age how to really work. And it's that kid in the long run that, failure teaches you how to get back up. I think that's how we learn. We don't learn anything by just automatically it working. Right?


Katy Starr (21:41):

I would totally agree with that.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (21:43):

You learn when you fall and you’ve got to get back up. It didn't work, I’ve got to try something else because that's the other thing with horses, every single horse is different. And so what worked for you the first time with the first horse is probably, I guarantee 99% not going to work with the second horse. And also within that same horse, what worked when he was five, is now not working when he's 15.


Katy Starr (22:09):

Okay, next one. You don't need all the supplements. And I think this is obviously along the lines of the fact that sometimes people get into horse ownership. They think they have to feed their horse, all of these things. There's a time and place for everything, right, for each horse.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (22:28):

Absolutely. And I don't want to pick on supplements. Look, I work with a supplement company, but what I'll say is you don't need all the things period. You don't need all the gadgets when it comes to tack. You don't need all the gadgets when it comes to your riding attire. You don't need all the bling, all the different kinds of feeds, all the different supplements. What you need is what your horse requires. And so I think that we're going to keep coming back to the first two points. A good veterinarian and a good team and understanding what your goal is. They can then tell you - as a nutritionist I tell people this is what your horse needs, to do what you want it to do. This is what your horse needs. And I know that there are some clients that just love to mix things and I can mix a few different products together and they'll be fine.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (23:24):

And then I have other clients that they don't have the time, the bandwidth for that. They just want to keep it simple. And so I always say there's 50 different ways to get from point A to point B. You’ve just got to find the one that works for you but you don't need all the things. Just because so and so on Facebook was feeding this to her horse. Again, it doesn't mean that it is right for your horse. So having that team that you can ask, oh so-and-so's feeding this, what do you think about it for my horse? And they might say, oh actually that would be really good. We should give it a try. Or no, that's not, your horse has nothing wrong with it. Don't worry about that.


Katy Starr (24:00):

For more information on this like feeding diets in general. Episode 56 we talked about “How to Improve Your Horse's Diet.” And this was one including four example horse diets that were balanced by Dr. Cubitt. And so we kind of went through a bunch of different scenarios there with different feeding situations and things like that. So that would be a good one to reference along the lines of feeding if you would like to learn more and haven't listened to that episode yet. Next one, how to recognize early signs of an illness, injury or even specifically laminitis before it becomes an emergency.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (24:40):

This is a good one and it comes back to, I was talking earlier how I give my presentations and I tell people what is normal for a horse. And then when we have a problem we know, ooh, that's not normal. But we also know what we're trying to go back to. I said that every horse is different. So there are generalized, kind of guidelines for the horse's body, heart rate, temperature, respiration rate, pulse, that kind of thing. But what is really important is that you understand your horse. You know, my horse drinks this much water in a day. I know that when I exercise him, his respiration is x. I know that his pulse when he's just standing in a stall doing nothing, is this. His temperature. You need to know the baseline because every horse is slightly different. One horse, he just may not drink a lot of water, he's just on the lower spectrum of drinking water.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (25:40):

But compared to another horse who drinks a lot of water, upper end of normal, if he then drinks the amount that the other horse drank, it might mean that he's sick. But for a horse "A” that doesn't drink a lot of water, it might mean he's just fine. So I think in order to recognize early signs of anything going wrong, you need to know what is normal for your horse. And you should have that printed on a card on the stall door, especially if you bought a horse somewhere else. And then the veterinarian, and maybe it's a new vet that comes, they can say, okay, respiration rate, heart rate, this is what's normal for this particular horse. And then if it's outside of that above or below, then we can call the vet and we can say, hey it's, he's got a temperature. It's usually this, it's this now.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (26:33):

Do you need to come? Whatever. Well when it comes to laminitis though, you know it's inflammation in the hoof. It causes severe pain. And one of the classic signs is that the horse will lean back to try and take pressure off those front hooves cause it typically happens in the front hooves first. But ultimately, again, if we were knowing early signs, one of the other early signs that most people don't know is that a horse that is developing laminitis will have a higher, more pounding, they call it a pounding digital pulse. So you take the pulse just below the fetlock of the horse and you will feel it pounding in your hand. And so that's a lot of blood flow going to that hoof. That can be an indicator of early laminitis. Also if the hoof is hot. Now of course if your horses stood out in the sun all day, the hoof is going to be hot. But if it's early in the morning and everything else is cool and the horse's feet are hot, that is a sign, an early, early sign of laminitis too.


Katy Starr (27:39):

That's great. Some extra references in case you want to go back and listen to these episodes, um, on this that are related to this statement, episode 57, "How to Prevent and Manage Laminitis” and episode 52, “Why Your Horse is Overweight, and You Probably Don't Know It.” So those are two great episodes that you could go back and and learn a little bit more about that. This next one made me laugh, because it's true. It really is. Horse personalities just, they can be so funny. But this person said how toxic horse to horse relationships can seem, I would never stay with a man who treated me the way my gelding treats my mare, but that's her man .


Dr. Tania Cubitt (28:24):

. That's funny. This is when we start to have more than one horse that we own. And I think that in order to own multiple horses, just like owning multiple dogs or cats, then you're obviously not a first time horse owner at that point. And yeah, you have a little bit more understanding of equine behavior and whether they can tolerate each other and whether you can tolerate the behavior.


Katy Starr (28:49):

Right. Well and you never know once you get two animals together, their personalities can change when they're with another.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (28:56):

Oh yes.


Katy Starr (28:56):

So you just never really know. But I mean it just goes into, you know, also you start seeing pecking order of herds, right? And certain horses are more dominant than others. And some of those things you kind of just got to work out and figure out too because if some of them are more dominant than others and prevent others from eating or things like that it's kind of just something to learn to balance. And like you said before, if something is not working out, don't be afraid to maybe find a better home for a horse that maybe isn't working out in your situation. Cause the last thing you want is for something to really kind of take a negative tone and just be bad for both or all horses, you know, or for yourself.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (29:42):

And then you end up not enjoying having the horses.


Katy Starr (29:44):

Yeah. So anyway, a horse personality is definitely something to think about if you end up getting into having more than one horse. So this one I thought was interesting, I actually heard this from a few different people was how to properly fit a saddle for a horse.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (30:01):

And I will say I am no expert on that, but I know there are experts out there. So again, that's put a good person on your team.


Katy Starr (30:11):

Right. And just thinking about that and reason why is like sometimes people can think about, you know, maybe their horses having some issues and they don't know why. I mean, if you don't have a properly fit saddle or maybe like a bit that's just not working for your horse.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (30:30):

Equipment in general.


Katy Starr (30:30):

Yeah. You know what I mean? So there's just like all these little things, all these little signs, working with people who do know this well is going to be very beneficial for you because you never know if there's like a behavioral issue going on with your horse that could be very much related to something as simple as fixing something like that. So next one, how important forage or hay is in the horse's diet.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (30:54):

I mean next to water it's the second most important thing that you will ever feed your horse, is the forage component. They don't need anything else. I mean obviously they need vitamins and minerals, but this is the most important part of their diet. So, and that's when you understand basic digestion, you look at their digestive system, you understand why that that is so. It's how their digestive system is built. So make sure when you go into horse ownership or horse care that you have the appropriate space to store hay, to buy hay or you have pastures. But it is do not at all put this as a secondary. This has got to be one of the priorities on your list when it comes to horse ownership.


Katy Starr (31:46):

And another great episode to reference on this one is episode three, “Why Horses Need to Eat Fiber.” Huge part of their diet. So I think it's something really, really good to go back in listen to if you haven't listened to that one before. Another one that somebody said was the value of feeding a variety of different types of hay.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (32:06):

Hmm. And you know I talk about this all the time because horses in the wild eat a variety of different hay types and fiber types. They don't actually eat hay but they eat a variety of different plants and that helps to support gut health and all the different microbes living in the hindgut. But again, if your horse is healthy and doesn't have any problem in the management system that you're in, then don't overwhelm yourself and get all flustered by trying to find lots of different varieties of hay to feed your horse. I often bring this up as one of the treatments or therapies for horses that are not doing well. Chronic diarrhea, losing weight, leaky gut syndrome. Then one of the natural kind of management tools that we can use to remedy that is adding a variety of different hay types. But don't overwhelm yourself. If your horse is doing fine, then leave it alone.


Katy Starr (33:03):

And that might be something to even consider, maybe not initially right at the beginning of your horse journey, but as you kind of get into your horse ownership, you know, in your thinking of ways of how can I improve things and you know, slowly progress. That might be something to look at.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (33:21):

And the other thing is, you know that some people have horses at their own farm or facility and they control everything. Other people have to board a horse or choose to board a horse at a stable where they either have some control or all control or no control over what the horse is being fed and the management. So again, if you are at a facility where this is the hay we feed, these are the, this is the grain we feed, this is the supplements that we provide. And you go in and start saying, well I want you to feed lots of different types of hay and it becomes an uncomfortable situation because they're not set up to do that or they can't source that, then again, why do you have a horse? To enjoy it. And if you're not enjoying it then don't pursue things that don't bring you joy, as Marie Kondo said.


Katy Starr (34:18):

Right. . And we are going to be talking more about the topic of like the horse's gut microbiome and stuff more this year, but some good episodes to reference on this episode 54 “What is Leaky Gut in Horses, and Can It Be Prevented?” And then another one I think that can be actually kind of relevant with this one is episode 16, “Am I Feeding the Wrong Type of Hay?” And this is just, you know, in the sense that, you know, maybe my horse like doesn't do well on alfalfa, so maybe I should be feeding a grass it doesn't need as many calories or you know, something like that. That episode I think would be good for people just to kind of get a good understanding of the different types of hays that are available and what type of horses or situations they work well for. Again, every horse and situation different but that one would be a good one to reference to at least point you in the right direction if you're trying to figure out what should I be feeding my horse. Another one that somebody said was weighing hay versus throwing out flakes and scooping grain or concentrate versus weighing before feeding.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (35:26):

Yes. I mean when you look at any feeding direction on any bag of grain or supplement or even when you look at the kind of scientific requirements for horses, it's all based on a horse's body weight and as a percentage of that and it's pounds or it's grams or it's ounces, it's not flakes or scoops. Depending on, out there in Idaho where you are a flake of hay, I'm not sure I could pick up one of those giant bales of hay.


Katy Starr (35:55):

No you cannot.


Katy Starr (35:57):

You need a pitchfork.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (36:01):

Or a tractor. And then out here I got my little 50 pound bale of hay that wasn't baled very tightly and one flake could be three pounds. So you know, we really want to feed by weight, not by volume and scoops. I mean that is a crazy one. In Australia, the ice cream, the container, it's a plastic tub that your ice cream comes in. So we call the, you know how many dippers.


Katy Starr (36:25):

And then Folgers coffee cans in the U.S.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (36:26):

And then we've got in the coffee cans in America, then we've got one quart scoops versus three quart scoops or cups. So everybody's scoop is different. So do you need to weigh the feed and the hay every single time you feed it? No, you need to get your scoop and you need to work out how much it weighs of the feed. I usually say write a little sharpie line on there, maybe quarterly or every six months you reweigh all the feed and if there's multiple people feeding the horses, they all do it themselves as well. And I encourage people to get a good idea of what a pound feels like or five pounds so that when you're weighing out hay, sometimes the hay comes and it's a little looser. Oh I'm still feeding two flakes. Oh well you've actually just said five pounds less of hay a day to that horse because those flakes were a little looser. If you look on any kind of livestock website, the handheld scales, they're like a sling scale for a baby goat, calf or lamb. They're great for weighing hay as well.


Katy Starr (37:36):

Good episode to reference on this one is episode 21 "Nutritional Deficiencies in Horses and When You Need to Worry,” and I say that because if you haven't weighed it, your hay or your concentrate or anything like that, you could be underfeeding your horse what they need and then they wouldn't be getting, especially out of a concentrate, right? Like you say that a lot of, some of those bagged feeds, particularly for like senior horses and things like that, the feeding directions on there are there to fulfill the nutrient requirements for that horse if it's fed in that capacity. So you could overfeed right?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (38:13):

Yeah, which is just straight up wasting money.


Katy Starr (38:15):

Yeah. And then you're wasting money and that's a huge pain point for horse owners is the cost of owning horses. So just things to think about, you know when you're starting out with all of this, but the next one, alfalfa is not bad. It's not out to get you. We've all heard alfalfa makes horses hyper, has too much protein, your horse will founder. What's the story here with alfalfa?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (38:40):

Hmm. I will tell you alfalfa is a rich source of calories and protein. It's not bad but it's not perfect for every horse. Right? Avocados, great source of fat, antioxidants. Are they good for everybody? No they're not. If you're trying to lose weight, you don't want to eat a lot of avocados cause healthy fat, but it's still fat, right? Alfalfa, it's good. A lot of protein, a lot of calories. But if you got a fat horse that you're trying to get some weight off, feeding lots of alfalfa is not a great idea. Now everything in moderation too. Maybe we want to feed some alfalfa pellets because we know that the horse had some stomach ulcers and so alfalfa's high in calcium, will help buffer that stomach acid. So feeding a pound or so of alfalfa pellets cause we're just trying to buffer that stomach acid. So no alfalfa is not bad. It has roles in equine nutrition, there are places to use it, places not to use it. And then in varying levels as well.


Katy Starr (39:54):

And this is a huge point to hit on with it doesn't work for every horse but it can be great for a lot of horses. So you just got to know what situation. Yeah. Good episodes to reference here. A lot of people have enjoyed these episodes. Episodes seven and eight, “Alfalfa Misconceptions - Myth versus Truth Part One and Two,” go back and listen to those if you haven't had a chance to yet. The next one, the right way to feed your horse a senior feed if they need it. And we kind of briefly touched on this before, but I think this is important for people to think about.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (40:31):

I would hope that your first horse is not an aged elderly horse that has a lot of extra needs, but senior feeds are designed really to be fed at large quantities because they provide a lot of fiber to the horse because a true senior horse has very poor dentition and can't chew long stem hay or grass very well. So we have to provide them that fiber in a form physical form that they can actually consume. So the senior feeds generally have a very high feeding rate when fed correctly and most people don't feed that larger quantity because a horse truly isn't a senior. Senior horse isn't dictated by age, it's more dictated by dentition and their ability to consume regular food and maintain their body weight.


Katy Starr (41:27):

Good episode to reference on this one is episode 29, “How to Feed a Senior Horse and When They Need to Be Fed Differently.” Key wording right there because like you said, they're not always senior horses but people think that they are.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (41:41):

Just cause he's over 20 doesn't mean he is a senior.


Katy Starr (41:42):

Yeah, right. This one I thought was a good one, especially for a beginning horse owner because they would have a really hard time recognizing this. But how to identify mold in hay.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (41:54):

It generally, we all know that moldy smell, you can smell it. If you see it, it's everywhere. And don't think, oh I'll just pick the mold off and I'll feed the rest of it. No, no you can't do that with horses because if you can see it then I guarantee you it is through the rest of that bale. It's typically, you can smell it though, it just has that kind of musty smell.


Katy Starr (42:18):

And can you mention, because cattle can obviously handle some mold in hay, but why can't horses for people who maybe aren't aware?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (42:27):

Horses are just so sensitive to anything in their diet changing and they're just really, really susceptible to the mycotoxins that are created by those mold spores. And in a cow, the kind of bacteria in the rumen just crush those mycotoxins early on. I mean cows still can't eat a lot of mold but in the horse they're just a lot more sensitive to those mycotoxins.


Katy Starr (42:53):

And they can get rid of stuff that's not settling well for them if they need to. Horses can't really. So good episode on this great discussion that we had. Episode 37, “Navigating When to Soak, Steam, Wet or Leave Hay Dry with Dr. Krishona Martinson.” Not a ton on mold, but we actually did talk about mold when we were talking about steaming. It was a very interesting conversation with Dr. Martinson on that one. Okay, this one was one of my favorites that we received because I think it's something that is overlooked. People have no idea until they're stuck in this situation. This person said if I were just starting out I would be surprised at how complex it can be to secure good hay supply every single year. Making connections with people who will get good hay to you reliably is important but can be difficult. Weather issues and people choosing to leave the business have been struggles I've dealt with in the last few years. Every year can bring an unexpected issue.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (43:53):

And this may not be for every new horse owner, right? If you're boarding at a stable where they take care of this, then you won't have that. But maybe even if you've had horses several years and now you're deciding that you want to start a boarding stable or bring your horses home and have them at your own facility, then this is certainly something that you will run into. I think it's good for all horse owners though to be aware of this dilemma because you know, some people running boarding stables get chastised by the borders for not having the best hay or not having enough hay. And I don't think they realize sometimes the stress and the difficulty of getting good hay and getting reliable sources of hay. So I would say the first place that I would start in any community, if you aren't aware of hay growers, is to ask your local extension agent.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (44:50):

They should be able to point you in the direction of some hay growers or some hay brokers. You can even ask your feed store, a lot of times they will know of some hay growers as well. So that's places to start. But no, it can be very challenging and with any agriculture, patience, maybe you didn't get any rain when those plants needed the rain. Not a great hay year. Know that horses all need certain levels. You know, we usually say a minimum of one and a half to 2% of their body weight in dry fiber per day. There are ways that they just need to get that hay. We would love it if it was great quality, great nutritional value hay. As long as it doesn't have dirt, dust, rats, mold, sticks, you know, contaminants in it, we can always add additional fiber sources, whether it be from bagged pellets or cubes or chopped to improve the nutritional value. But always make sure you have enough hay to feed the horse at least one and a half to 2% of their body weight.


Katy Starr (45:57):

And make sure whatever you're using too, whether you're stocking up like you have a situation where you have place to store a large amount of hay or anything like that. Or if you're going and getting a regular supply every so often, making sure that you don't run out of it and then be like, oh I need to go find some or pick some up and then just start feeding them that whatever you found to eat.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (46:21):

Getting that transition slowly.


Katy Starr (46:23):

Yeah, pay your attention ahead of time before you run out of that.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (46:26):

It is a classic. Doesn't matter whether you've had horses one year or 50 years, horse owners always are squeaking to the last minute, whether it be hay or their supplement or their concentrate and always running out. And we need to do better about buying before we run out.


Katy Starr (46:46):

Yes, absolutely prevent some major issues for you.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (46:51):

Oh yes,


Katy Starr (46:52):

Good episode to reference for this one, episode 25, “How to Plan for Hay Needs and Useful Storage Tips to Avoid Hay Loss.” And another one, episode 10, “What to Do When You Run Out of Hay.” Not a situation that you want to find yourself in. So if you plan ahead and prepare, you'll be sitting a lot better for that. And then just knowing where you can find some consistent supply too, at your feed store, like Standlee for example, is a consistent product that you can often find around the country. Same consistency throughout. A bag of Timothy pellets in Oregon is going to be the same as a bag of Timothy pellets in Maryland. So just thinking about some of those things. This one I thought was a really good one. Run your own race. Don't compare your horse to another horse because they are all different. And this goes for nutrition needs, it goes for health, genes or genetics, you know, activity, levels of training. Each horse is different. And I say this because one gal had mentioned that going on like trail rides with friends and things like that and them expecting her to do these things but she knows her horse is not ready and it could put her in a kind of more dangerous situation. But then she knows that there's certain areas where her horse is better at, you know, certain things. And we do this in our daily lives with everything, right? We're so bad at this.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (48:19):

Oh we're constantly comparing ourselves.


Katy Starr (48:20):

Yes, don't be hard on yourself and compare yourself in that way. Cause if your horse is not ready for something, don't put your pressure on yourself to do that.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (48:29):

Again, it comes back to what are you doing this for? You're doing it to have fun to enjoy yourself. Now sometimes you want to push yourself and other times, like Katy said, you just, you know the limitations of yourself and your horse. Whether it be riding, training, owning a stable, owning a horse, know what your goals are and stay true to your goals.


Katy Starr (48:53):

This is a big one. I think a lot of people talk about it and a lot of people know it's coming, but the cost of owning a horse, right? Feed, land if you have it and you're not boarding. But then of course if you don't have land, then you are boarding, right? Vet care and emergency vet care, competitions, tack, competition fees, things like that. I think you're not ever going to feel real prepared to have a horse. But I think one important thing would be before owning a horse is at least have a good emergency fund together before making the leap to get a horse because you just never know what could happen.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (49:31):

Oh they're always going to hurt themselves or the fence is going to break. Or terrible things like you know, the hay got ruined.


Katy Starr (49:40):

Feed prices go up or something.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (49:40):

It's always something. And you know, over the last three years, the most common question I get is, how do I decrease the cost of owning a horse? And really for me, how do they decrease the feed costs of owning a horse? And I think when you step back and you take it all into consideration, you know, vet care increases when you don't have good management and good hay and a good farrier the land, if you overwhelm the land and you've got five acres and you decide to bring 50 horses onto those five acres, you're going to have a lot more land management and you're going to have to feed a lot more. If you employ somebody to come and help you, people aren't working for minimum wage these days. So let's, let's say the going rate is 20 bucks an hour, one hour every day for 365 days a year at $20 an hour is $7,300.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (50:38):

So you decide to get all complicated with your feeding program and you're paying somebody to feed your horses for you, even if you're only paying them when you go out of town. And it doesn't take them 30 minutes, it takes them two hours because your feeding program is so incredibly complicated, mixing, matching, throwing this there, that there, cause you thought you were trying to save money, but actually you were spending a lot more money cause you're paying that person extra time to stay there when they could be cleaning stalls or mending fences or whatever else you're employing them to do. So when you try to cut corners and do it on the cheap is when you end up costing yourself a lot of money. I think that's life in general, but it certainly is with horses.


Katy Starr (51:21):

No, I think that's really important. Prevention - it's so important for you if you can kind of head off some of those issues that could arise. Absolutely. So yes, cost of owning a horse, that one's a huge one. Okay, we're starting to kind of wind down this episode. This one isn't really so much of a statement as much as it's an episode that we had a lot of people enjoy. It's been one of our most popular episodes so far, and I think it's really relevant for beginning horse owners. Obviously, Dr. Cubitt, this is based off of your experience as a nutritionist. You helped us rank the most common feeding mistakes that horse owners tend to make. That's episode 50. So if you have not listened to that episode yet, great episode to reference.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (52:08):

I can't remember all of them off the top of my head. So you have to go listen to it.


Katy Starr (52:12):



Dr. Tania Cubitt (52:13):

But there's always a new one that I think, oh, that should be added to the list.


Katy Starr (52:15):

It's hard sometimes when you build these lists, especially this one. I mean, we were already talking about today is as a beginning horse owner, there's so many things we could talk about. I think it was great to kind of get feedback from actual horse owners on some of the things that they wish that they had known. So the last one that I want to mention is, someone commented when I asked this question about, you know, what do you wish you had known. “That it's so overwhelming. I've only had my first horse eight weeks now though.” So obviously there's so much to learn when it comes to earning horses and even the most seasoned horse owners can learn something new. And I hope people have that attitude that there's always something new to be learning. But Dr. Cubitt, if you could sum up just a few tips for those that are wanting to get their own horse, what would you tell them?


Dr. Tania Cubitt (53:09):

I think you need to go into it with an honest, clear conscience of why you want to own a horse and try and build your whole program around that and keep coming back to that. You'll get, get caught in the weeds and especially, you know, my part of that is the feeding of the horse and you can get very convoluted and very confused and overwhelmed and then you're like, why do I have this horse again? I'm not enjoying this at all. It's expensive and all I do is feed it and I never actually get to enjoy it. So I think don't get caught up in the weeds. Always know what you want to get out of it and stay with that. Having a good team that will help you do that. You know, so they would be my two main, kind of take homes as to how not to get overwhelmed.


Katy Starr (54:03):

Okay. I kind of mentioned this, but something I think also to consider from all of this is, to be honest, I don't feel like just, it's kind of honestly like if you're getting married or having kids or you never actually truly feel ready. There's always going to be something more to do and to learn. And obviously you do need to have some preparation in place like financing and some things like that. But I think if you do the best that you can, plan ahead, you're going to be just fine. And you know, if your dream is to own a horse, don't let that deter you from your dream. All of the things that might seem overwhelming to you, baby steps, you know, build your team. So okay, review time. I would like to share one of our reviews again, the little username for this is lillihakim, I think. She says about the Beyond the Barn podcast. “Awesome. Absolutely love listening to the podcast. It's very informative and teaches you a lot. I've played a few episodes for my friends and they all love it and listen to it all the time. 10 out of 10.”


Dr. Tania Cubitt (55:07):

We just love to get those reviews.


Katy Starr (55:08):

Yeah, it's great. It's so great to hear. And if you feel the same way, please go over to Apple Podcast and leave us a review. Honestly, if this information helps you, it's going to help other horse owners. And so that's our goal with this, is to just be able to be a resource, a trusting resource that you guys feel like you can get valuable educational information from to better your care and nutrition for your horses.


Dr. Tania Cubitt (55:37):

So yeah, and I know I'm the absolute worst. I usually only leave a review when I didn't like something, but leaving a review of the things you did like, it helps us guide the podcast and make sure that we continue to provide you with the things that you liked about it. So they're actually really, really useful.


Katy Starr (55:58):

Right, absolutely. So Dr. Cubitt, thank you so much for having this conversation with me today. I really enjoyed this one. I feel like we had a chance to kind of talk through some things in a different way than we normally do. And if you guys enjoyed this episode, please let us know. Reach out to me at We'd love to hear your feedback on your thoughts. And then also if you have some topic ideas that you'd like us to discuss in the future, please reach out and let us know. So Dr. Cubitt, thanks again.


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