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Can you make my black horse blacker? Yes! ...Maybe

Often when we are asked to consult on nutrition it’s because an owner wants to improve the colour of their horse. A faded, rusty or dull-looking coat can be a symptom of copper deficiency and we can assist by adding copper, but it’s not so simple.

Copper does more in the body than just make a coat darker.

Copper is one of the most important microminerals for horses. It is essential for proper functioning of enzymes involved in the synthesis and maintenance of elastic tissue, mobilization of iron stores, preservation of the integrity of mitochondria, proper skeletal growth and development, and detoxification of superoxide.

Kentucky Equine Research- Equinews - Microminerals for Horses: Copper

While the rusty coat if the most obvious symptom of the deficiency, it may be affecting your horse in many other important ways – in particular bone health. That being said, copper sulphate is a fungicide, herbicide and pesticide, and can be highly toxic in the wrong amounts.

Coat fading could be from more than one factor.

* A horse in work that sweats a lot, and is washed daily will often fade in colour around the saddle, girth and bridle areas from the sweat-salt.

* Copper interacts with other minerals – zinc and iron specifically. A horse on a property with very high levels of iron in the soil can require more copper and zinc than horses on properties with less iron. While the current diet/supplement maybe be providing enough copper for the average horse, it may be insufficient on this block of land.

* Sometimes horses are given iron supplementation, and then bay horses may appear buckskin, or chestnuts may appear yellow, because iron and copper interact in the diet.

Ideally we will talk to you about your horse’s specific circumstances to figure out why coat-fading is occurring.

So how do we safely and accurately supplement copper in the diet?

When we first started this business we tested many, many batches of pasture from Newcastle, Central Coast, Western Sydney and all across the Hunter Valley. There were outliers, such as a property that had six times the daily requirement of iron in the soil, meaning we had to supply far more copper and zinc than for other samples we had done. Another property had very high levels of nitrates. It had become an urban property development because cattle had never prospered on that land. But, aside from a handful of outliers, we found broadly similar patterns in the requirements for copper and zinc when we had done the maths on those samples.

Enter Trace Mix:

After we had been doing pasture samples for about a year, we produced a ‘typically deficient’ mix that we called Sound Advice Trace Mix. This was an average of the minerals deficient from the pasture samples we had done before. When a new client contacted us, we put them on Trace Mix in the interim while we went through the process of pasture sampling and designing a custom diet, which could be a lengthy process.

Very soon our clients reported that they were seeing a resolution of the symptoms that they had called us in for, just using the Trace Mix. They didn’t want to continue with the pasture sampling and were happy to continue with the Trace Mix.

Changes like this:

Since then we have made some adaptations. The original Trace Mix is the same. It’s salt-based with copper, zinc and iodine (we will talk about the importance of zinc and iodine in different posts). It has no flavours to make it more palatable. It’s still $20/kg and has been for 10 years. It’s 30g per day. So one 3kg bag lasts 6 weeks, or one trim cycle (which is why we packaged it that way – for our trim clients)

Five years ago we added two other Trace Mixes. We made one with chia seeds that we call ‘Sound Advice Optimum Trace’. It’s the same ingredients as salt trace, but with chia which is an excellent source of omega 3s, it tends to put a beautiful gloss on the coat, and aid with anti-inflammatory properties.

The other is ‘Sound Advice Biotin Trace’ which is far more palatable than the other traces, and is perfect for thoroughbreds or other horses with flakey, cracked hooves. Those are both $30/kg and have been for 5 years.

Our Trace Mixes, which blend copper, zinc and iodine, can assist with making a coat darker, however, coat fading is only one symptom of a deficiency which may be affecting many other systems in the body. On our Trace Mixes you may see an easing of a range of symptoms you didn’t expect. For example, many horse owners have reported that their itchy horses had NO ITCH on Trace Mix.

On the other side of the coin, the colour your horse will become is the colour it truly is when given optimum minerals. A palomino may smut, for example. We can’t select the colour it will be, but generally, you will see a richer, darker, more healthy looking coat on Sound Advice Trace Mixes.

We agree that customising a diet by pasture sampling and handcrafting a diet that perfectly balances every mineral for your horse is the gold standard, but it is hard to achieve for most horse owners.

Sound Advice Trace Mixes are highly affordable. They are based on the averages of what is missing from pasture here in Australia – particularly in the Hunter Valley, Central Coast and Sydney Basin. It is easy to administer.

We encourage you to give Sound Advice Trace Mix a try. We call it our ‘quiet achiever’. It has been making a dramatic difference for our clients for well over ten years.

You can find it here:

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