Lucy Prior


 Horses have been a large part of my life since quite an early age. The first horse my parents bought was so badly affected my two other sisters virtually gave up riding for many years as a result of him constantly bolting and bucking. He obviously didn't suit the riding school he had come from. The only plus was I learnt very quickly to ride very badly behaved horses, but not without many crashes along the way.


My family was not well off, so for the first ten years of my riding career I had quite a few horses on free lease. I now believe this is where a lot of these horses end up - free leased or dumped in a paddock somewhere because they are quite often unsalable or people don't feel right selling a horse they know is dangerous or has something wrong with it that they can't fix. The unfortunate ones will be put down through no fault of their own.


As you read through my web site it's a good idea to list all your horses names (past and present) on a pad, then list next to their names the symptoms they have (or had). It can be quite a revelation to be able to finally work out what's been wrong with them. This is the list of my horses over the years and how much they have taught me:


  • Creamy: bucked, bolted and couldn't tie up (would constantly pull back)
  • Bluey: couldn't move, very lethargic and stiff and didn't want to canter
  • Atlantic: big bloated belly and couldn't keep his top line on
  • Hamish: bucking fits, photosensitivity on the nose and bloated belly
  • Scotty: skipped in the canter (cross fired), very stiff behind, had trouble getting up off the ground in autumn and would collapse in float (travel tetany)
  • Sussy: so girth shy she would flip over backwards or drop to the ground with her front end, double time in trot, very nervous and skittish and very touchy around the ears and head, and tripped a lot
  • Paziful: bucking fits, bolt off in short burst, photosensitivity (sun burn on nose and mud fever on legs), swollen tendon sheath, very swollen gut, extremely herd bound, bad colic attacks, head flicking and wind galls
  • Folly: very skittish, would leap sideways at the slightest thing, extremely nervous, short stepping behind and mild colic after breaking rains (autumn), muscle tremors when on lush green grass.


All of these horses were kept predominantly on grass as their main diet with no vitamin or mineral supplementation. Paz and Folly had quite high Lucerne levels plus tropical and oxalate grasses, as they were in Queensland where grass hay is difficult to find (but not impossible).


After going through all the horses listed above, I decided to breed my next riding horse because at the time I was of the belief that all of these problems had stemmed back to previous owners and mistreatment in their past. I had been given excuses by very knowledgeable horse men and women for a large number of problems and they all sounded very convincing at the time. As you would imagine, all of these problems had a huge affect on my riding career and constantly interrupted or stopped my riding for periods of time. I was sure if I bred my own horse this would put a stop to all this, wrong!


I bred a stunning Warmblood cross filly, named Jezan. Unbeknown to me I was about to go on a ten year journey of clinical issues that can arise from chronic mineral imbalances, myco-toxins and the wrong diet. In her first two years Jezan lived in Queensland where she was given some supplementation for oxalate grasses. But from my recent research I have discovered that what horse owners are told to feed for oxalates in one state can be the complete opposite in the adjoining state. They both can't be right. So I now suspect that her mineral imbalances started right back as a growing, young horse.


Jezan later moved to Victoria where there are no warnings about oxalate grasses, which I found out the hard way. This is a major oversight in Victoria (most other states don't post any warnings either, only Qld and Northern NSW). Kikuyu, particularly in drought periods can be quite a dominant grass in Victorian pastures and contains the second highest levels of oxalates in Australian grasses. Jezan went from getting a very ad hock supplementation for oxalates to no supplementation at all and she was still growing, big mistake!


Worn ToeThe first signs that things where not right was she developed patella lock out at about eighteen months of age and had this right up to the age of five. She had some behavioural issues earlier on, but they seemed to stop around four to five years of age. At one stage she started to behave like a stallion and was very aggressive. She 'clamped' me between her chest with her jaw which at the time was quite unnerving.


I broke her in myself quite late as I was waiting for the patella lock out to stop. Soon after breaking her in I noticed her lovely big trot was no longer there. Determined to not hold her in and to let her move out freely as much as possible in her early training this was quite a blow. Over the years that followed this got gradually worse and worse. She would suck back and was reluctant to move forward. Eventually it was so bad she just refused to strike off into canter and was dragging her back legs so badly in walk and trot that she even scrubbed out the toes on her hind feet.


White Flex and SpotsNot knowing it was all connected (I had my suspicions but no proof), she also would have very glazed eyes, would stand with her back legs stretched out behind her (camped out) and developed photosensitivity on one back leg. She was very sensitive around her ears and hated the fly veil being taken off, even the noise of the velcro being undone would greatly upset her.


Every summer the hair on her face would fall out and she would get large, flat, round swellings on her cheeks. She also developed white flecks and spots in her coat. I later observed these started to disappear once she was given a highly absorbable organic vitamin and mineral supplement. Another symptom I noticed was that she laid down a lot (as do a lot of affected horses).


In 2005, Jezan started to have colic attacks after working her, so riding her had to stop. Then she started to stack on the weight and developed clinical laminitis. There was no rotation of the pedal bone but she was clearly uncomfortable in her front feet as she would stand rocking from one front foot to the other.


I was giving her a herbal vitamin and mineral mix thinking at the time this was giving her all she needed in that area plus a truck load of other herbal product to try and help the colic attacks. I had ten different vets see her in a period of two years and none of them could tell me what was wrong with her. She also had started ovulating all year round and it took me quite a while to work this out as she was also getting some pain from worms. One vet suggested that I put all my horses on a long term wormer which I've since found out can contribute to worm resistance.


Jezan also had an enlarged thyroid gland (just back from the throat lash) as a result of the parathyroid constantly overworking to keep the calcium levels in her blood (homeostasis). It was so enlarged that a few years later once she was on a highly absorbable organic vitamin and mineral supplement, the swelling went down so quickly she was left with three roles of loose skin.


Jezan - Before and After


2006 saw her colic attacks getting worse, plus her hormonal imbalances were very bad. She lactated over the summer and couldn't cope with the heat. She was now walking like an old woman, her head carriage was low and she looked depressed and even though she was on very little hard feed she still did not lose any weight. In 2007, the colic attacks got worse and I nearly lost her on one occasion. She was given as much pain relief as she could have and she pulled through it.


I contacted Leanne Wigginton at Healthy Horses, Rockhampton who gave me a list of things such as slippery elm and licorice root that seemed to help but still no cure. I noticed that her colic attacks seemed to be around feed time so I tried her on a tube of Gastrazole for stomach ulcers. She did pick up so I tried two full ulcer treatments but unfortunately this still did not work. She was also scoped and we found two low grade ulcers. The vet suspected there could have been more in the hind gut where he couldn't reach. This was consequently found later to not be the case. I did discover though that if Jezan had a colic attack and I could get some Gastrazole or Omoguard into her within the first half an hour of it starting she would stop colicing. 20ml of probiotic paste was also very helpful.


Late in 2007, I discovered that there were myco-toxins in feed and the environment that could make horses very ill, so I started to investigate and trial toxin-binders for horses.I extensively researched the affects of myco-toxins and the affects of grass on horses health and behaviour. I commenced working full time on the project and Gotcha Equine was born. 

I began importing a range of vitamin and mineral supplements. Due to product inconsistency and customer complaints, I was forced to review my strategy. I was absolutely committed to the best product quality and refused to settle for an inferior product.
To assist with achieving the goal of creating the highest quality supplements I employed the services of an extremely knowledgeable local consultant. My consultant, equipped with qualifications in agriculture and animal nutrition from Massey University New Zealand plus extensive experience with all types of livestock, dairy, sheep/cattle and horses in Australia. Including working with various horse trainers to help solve nutritional problems. He specialised in working on all aspects of pasture grazing issues such as tetany, mineral deficiencies, lameness, energy levels and other behavioral/nutrient problems associated with diet and grazing symptoms often associated with lush green grass. This extensive knowledge has helped validate the work I have been doing. Together we have developed a fantastic range of products containing extremely high quality ingredients that are optimally formulated to suit Australia’s wide range of varying conditions.


After further research I realised the Rye, Kikuyu, and Paspalum Grasses plus Rye Grass and Clover hay and Jezan's current diet were causing major problems. Jezan also quite possibly had insulin resistance, so I promptly put her on a track system (other wise know as 'Paddock Paradise') in her paddock with soaked 'horse safe' (brown top) grass hay. I soaked the hay for twelve hours in cold water to get rid of all the sugar and did this for some months. The track system enabled me to control what she ate as well as getting her off the bad grasses.  

I've since designed a much easier way of keeping horses now rather than on the 'track system', which I found over time had many short comings as also did taking horses off grass 24/7. Founder cases and chronic head flickers will need their time out on grass reduced right back, but no grass at all long term could easily create more serious issues than the one you are trying to solve. (Email me for a copy of my full feed plan which covers this)


Jezan - Before and After


Within a few months of Jezan being on the track system, plus added vitamins and minerals and a toxin-binder, she improved out of sight. Six months later she looked like a different horse with not one colic attack during that time. Then disaster struck. I was away for five days in November and thought to make life easier for the person looking after my horses to not bother grazing Jezan on the safe grass I had started her on half an hour night and morning.


As I was to later learn that any drastic change to a horse's diet can kill off the good bacteria (flora) in their gut. By day four Jezan was in trouble and had a colic attack. She had another colic attack in January but mysteriously recovered instantaneously (five minutes before the vet arrived) after getting up from trying to roll. A final colic attack occurred in April, 2009 that she didn't recover from and had to be put to sleep. A full post mortem, histopathology, haematology and peritoneal fluid test were performed by The University of Melbourne and revealed that she had some inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) and possible Equine Cushing's Syndrome. Previous blood tests had come up with anaemia, but no known cause.


Lucy Prior riding JezanIn my opinion, I believe the high sugar diet (Rye Grass, lots of green grass, molasses, grains), myco-toxins coupled with the massive mineral imbalance, in particular the lack of absorbable calcium (which is vital for good gut function) all contributed to her eventual demise. Jezan is still sorely missed and once again due to many unexplained symptoms I had to put my riding on hold.


You've probably worked out by now that I'm one of those people that seems to find everything out the hard way. I hope by sharing my story that other people with similar problems can avoid the same loss that I have experienced. Others are also sharing their stories on this site in the hope of helping other horses in similar situations. Please feel free to send your story through at any time.


My aim is to inform as many horse owners as possible of this invaluable information in the hope to reduce the waste of perfectly good horses that could be in their prime, through simple diet changes that the Gotcha Equine Feed Plan outlines, plus help to reduce the amount of accidents and injuries inflicted on many riders by 'grass affected' horses. Email me for a copy of the latest updated Feed Plan.


Please take the time to email our website link to other horse owners so they may benefit from this information as well. Often owners of very grass affected and mineral imbalanced horses are not in contact with clubs and associations that may be aware of this information. Purely because their horse is incapable of being taken out due to behavioural or health issues.

I never tire of hearing peoples stories, such as 'It was this horse's last chance" or "He was going to be put down or retired but now he's back in full work and about to start competing again."


Keep riding and smiling.


Ms Lucy Prior.


Return to Top