In the world in which we horse owner’s live, we want to make sure that our horses are getting what they need nutritionally, and not just throw them a flake of hay per day and think that is enough. However, as we have all become aware of late, with the help of the media and the internet, cheap feed ingredients are being imported from other countries, those ingredients are not being inspected at our ports, and the people who are selling/exporting them are either knowingly adding chemicals that may be legal in their country, but not here, or doing things that are unethical in order to make more money, without any regard to the end users which are our pets and our horses.
Did you consider for one moment that the melamine from China that found its way in to the small pet food market may also be finding its way in the in to the very competitive “bag feed” market for our horses? Read the labels, educate yourself as to the ingredients that are being used in processed feed stuffs, and look at all the artificial colorants, synthetic vitamins and minerals, and fillers. Just as those ingredients that found their way in to the small pet food market are being shown to be unsafe for our small pets they may also in time be shown unsafe for our horses as well.
Your horse’s nutrition is about educating yourself as a horse owner on the nutritional needs of your horse, your particular area of the country, then finding natural sources, including herbs, minerals, salts, clays, dolomite, high quality rice bran from a US source (i.e. Natural Glo from No. California), organic flax seed from Canada, or organic re-cleaned un-processed oats &/or barley, making up your own feeds which are low in sugars, have essential fatty acids, and with all natural ingredients that will support your horse’s health. As many small pet owners are now making their own pet food these days, or changing them to a raw food diet, so must we do the same for our horses.
As not only consumers but also horse and pet owner’s are becoming aware of all of the artificial and chemical additives that are in not only our own diets but that of our animals, typically found in bag feeds, from artificial colorants, un-natural synthetic vitamin complexes, and artificial preservatives added, along with highly processed and un-natural as well as un-necessary oil, more horse owner’s are seeking out more natural sources or ways of providing valuable natural vitamins, natural occurring essential fatty acids and mineral supplements for their horses.
I for one, for years, use whole oats, stabilized flax, and stabilized rice bran as a nutrient dense delivery system for other natural ingredients that I feed my horses, as a source of “natural supplementation”. I also use Dolomite and Bentonite clay for trace minerals, rose hips for vitamin C and kelp which is a natural source of iodine.
Horses will, if given the opportunity, naturally seek out things they need in a “natural” pasture, if available to them. However, especially in Southern California, we do not have natural pastures available, only dry lots. When horses are lacking something in their diets or lacking in vitamins and minerals typically they will eat dirt, clay, or manure in order to try to replenish what they need. For example, wild horses have been observed eating natural clay’s by stream beds and other types of soil or dirt if they need minerals, stalled horses would eat manure if they needed more enzymes which would come from tree bark, branches and leaves.
Some of the things you may have seen your horse eat if they enjoy a natural pasture are spring greens, including dandelions. Following are some of the items that can be supplemented in your horse’s diets for additional natural vitamins and minerals:
Dandelions come to life in the early spring and is the great liver cleanser and tonic herb. You can also buy the herbs dried and feed sparingly. Over history dandelion has long been used for human conditions such as liver or kidney disorders, including jaundice. It has a powerful diuretic action and is rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium. It is naturally rich in vitamins A, B, C & D, and actually contains higher levels of vitamin A then carrots. It is also high in choline, iron, silica, and sulfur. I pull them up and feed them to my horses this time of year, and they love them! Or you can buy the dried leafy herb or the herb in powder form and feed them to your horses all year for their benefit! When using the dried herb form of Dandelion, I recommend about 2 heaping teaspoons per day for a week or two at a time, but no more then a rounded tablespoonful, and for no more then 14 days at a time.
Rose hips are one of the richest sources of Vitamin C and also contain Vitamin A in beta carotene form, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin K. Rose hips will help any horse to fight off infections. What most people do not realize is that Rose Hips also help to encourage hoof growth due to the naturally occurring biotin content coupled with its naturally occurring flavonoids. Adding a heaping tablespoon of rose hips to a young horse’s diet has also been beneficial and helpful in preventing scouring. For young foals during the mares heat cycles when scouring is more prevalent, at these times you can use rose hip powder, a teaspoonful or two; for yearlings you can use either the powder at the rate of 1 tablespoon, or the cut and sifted rose hips at 2 tablespoons per day, and for the mature horse 2 tablespoons of the rose hip powder or a handful of either cut and sifted or whole rose hip.
Essential fatty acids are found in flax seeds, and they are one of the necessary ingredients in a healthy horse diet. Many biological processes in the horses body need EFA’s as they are essential for production of hormones, as well as absorption of vitamins A, D, E & K. Essential Fatty Acids are components of very important regulatory substances called prostaglandins which are responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues, controlling inflammation, synthesizing hormones and maintaining cellular tissues.
EFA’s have also been found to assist in producing anti-inflammatory substances in the body, which are necessary for proper immune function, collagen formation, and the prevention of some arthritic conditions; some studies have shown supplementation of EFA’s will enhance the integrity of joint and connective tissues as well as bone density.
Although most of out horses do not naturally come upon kelp it is one of the supplemental ingredients horse owners have recently become aware of to feed as a preventative as well as a supportive feed supplement. Kelp is the original source of Iodine,and comes from the “brown algae” family of plants. Kelp has been used for the natural treatment of an under-active thyroid in both horses and humans.
Garlic is also not something that most horses would naturally come in contact with in the wild, as it was native to Central Asia. However, Garlic has been shown to, and may also have some, anti-parasitic properties against the roundworm, Ascaris lumbricoides, which is the most common type of intestinal parasite.
As a horse owner, you may use garlic to help repel flies and gnats, as the sulfur in the garlic granules leaves a scent on the horse’s skin which we cannot smell but that insects do not like. I know I use it along with Apple Cider Vinegar to not only repel flying insects but to provide more naturally occurring minerals and as a natural parasite control. I feed approximately 1 Tablespoon of dried garlic granules per horse per day.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple Cider Vinegar is a natural source of potassium, and also contains other naturally occurring minerals. When used along with Garlic it is a natural internal fly and gnat repellent as well as a digestive aide. I feed this at the rate of ¼ cup per horse, or more, per day. Please note: Read the label, as some of the Apple Cider Vinegar being sold is “flavored” only and not Apple Cider Vinegar, and does not work the same! The best is the Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar.
Dolomite is actually a mineral containing calcium and magnesium carbonate, it is a double salt made up of approximately 60% calcium carbonate (equivalent to 24% calcium) and 40% magnesium carbonate (equivalent to 12% magnesium). Dolomite is also known as magnesium limestone and contains many naturally occurring trace minerals that are easily absorbed by our horses. Use only good quality dolomite with calcium levels above 60% and magnesium around 35% or higher. Add one to two tablespoons daily to feed.
Bentonite Clay is renowned to have many uses in promoting health in animals and humans. Studies show that the use of “volcanic ash clay” or Bentonite Clay dates back to some of the early Indians of the Andes Mountains, as well as tribes in Central Africa and the Aborigines found in Australia.
Bentonite Clay’s unique structure assists it in attracting and soaking up poisons and toxins on its exterior wall and then slowly draw them into the interior center of the clay where it is held until safely passed through the intestinal track. Bentonite, is known to be one of the most powerful of the healing clay’s used to treat both internal and external disorders.
Along with its cleansing properties it also contains many rich and naturally occurring micro and trace minerals, as well as calcium, while providing the added benefit of removing toxins from the horses gut. I feed 1 Tablespoon at a time to my horses, mixed in their supplements with water a couple times per week. A good quality Bentonite should be a grey/cream color, has a very fine, velveteen feel and is odorless and non-staining in its pure state.
Sea Salt or Natural Salt
Sea Salt or Sodium chloride is essential in the nutrition and physiological processes of all animals including horses. Salt plays a big part in helping the horse’s body digest foods and turn them into living tissues, as well as helping to transmit nerve impulses that contract the muscles, and is as essential to life as the air we breathe and the water we drink, and so it also goes for our horses. In order for the cells of the body to function normally, a salt/water balance must be maintained, especially in or during hot weather.
I purchase naturally dehydrated Sea Salt with no additives from the local health food store and feed it at the rate of 1 tablespoon per day to the horses in their supplement feed, especially in hot weather which encourages them to drink more water.
There are a lot of natural ingredients you can find to supplement your horses, you just have to do your research, know what is lacking in your area of the country in your soils or well water, or have your hay tested so that you know what to supplement in the way of natural trace minerals, minerals, and vitamins, and other supplemental ingredients for your horses. With tests in hand you will also know what not to supplement if you have an over abundance of any minerals from your hay or water source. You can supplement your horses by adding herbs, or free fed trace mineral salts, or some of the above supplemental ingredients to meet your horse’s daily nutritional needs. It all comes down to a balance, and a less is more approach to supplementation!
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