Sunday, April 14, 2013

My natural nutrition system for horses

People often ask me how I keep my horses so healthy and looking so fine.  Those of you who have seen them will agree that they are full of vitality, have great coats and hooves, and a high resistance to illness and infection. I use a natural feeding program in line with the true nature of the equine species, who happens to be a herbivore.
 
Basically, my horses mainly receive free choice grass forage and quality water, as well as chelated minerals in a balanced formula.  I do not  feed commercial or processed feed.  The horse in nature has not evolved to digest oils, hydrogenated or animal fats or large quantities of sugar, and I have trouble understanding why they would need it and how that would be suited to their metabolism.  Studies have now shown that we must avoid feeding horses large quantities of sugar and starches.  

Alternatively, our cultivated soils are now very poor in minerals due to intensive agriculture, so it is important to give them a mineral supplement that is easily assimilated by their system, because several minerals and trace elements are no longer present or in sufficient quantities in cultivated forage.

My basic recipe
Unlimited access to clean grass hay and/or pasture.
Cubed timothy with some alfalfa in limited quantity, served soaked.
In rare cases, a mix of whole oats and barley, in very small quantities, and only for horses in active training or during extreme cold spells (-40C).

I add:
A balanced daily natural supplement that I have developed over the years of doing research and that is adapted to equines.  It contains balanced quantities of minerals and trace minerals, probiotics, antioxidants and Omega-3 **.
Organic apple cider vinegar, unfiltered and unpasteurised.
Black oil sunflower seeds, unshelled (contain fatty acids and natural plant oils), about 1 cup a day. 

I have eliminated grain from their diets.  Horses on high grain diets may gradually develop digestive and metabolic problems.  The majority of horses, even in training, do not need grain.  Forage must be the largest part of their daily ration.  In fact, 10 to 15% of horses develop intolerance to corn, which is used in many commercial feeds.  

In addition, a feeding system too rich in sugar and in carbohydrates causes a gradual degradation of the laminae of the hoof, which will manifest itself long before any acute phase or founder crisis.  Even if a horse never founders, the most recent studies show that laminitis is not only a condition that can be found in most domesticated horses, but that it can be attributed to an ill-adapted feed, too heavy in grain and sugar-rich forage that are not assimilated by the horse.  Sedentary lifestyles on soft and uniform ground are also a factor in laminitis issues.

Finally, my horses have access to free-choice salts in little feeders installed in their stalls.  They can consume them as needed, according to changes in temperatures or their cycles, because the natural horse instinctively knows what it needs and will search for these minerals in his environment.  Without large spaces to do so, and since we can’t give them 10 000 acres to roam on, free-choice salts replace the bark, moss, leaves and various plants that a natural horse consumes throughout the year to feed himself.

I also avoid most chemical products or remedies for my horses, and I have discovered that there are plenty of natural alternatives to take care of them, including for deworming and fly spray. 

For more information on the natural management of horses, please have a look around this site, you will find a number growing of articles and tips, and subscribe to our newsletter to get the info in your mailbox.

** Note:  I now offer my own daily balanced supplement designed for horse on a grass hay diet.  It contains chelated minerals, is completely natural, contains no preservatives or chemical additives, and has a very high rate of absorption by the body.  This private label supplement is available throughout Canada.
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