Natural Feeding And Diet Requirements
Through domesticating horses we have changed their feeding patterns. What the horse eats should provide them with all the nutritional components that are necessary for all organs and systems resulting in a healthy body that performs in harmonious unison. A properly functioning body does an amazing job of preventing dis-ease and healing itself. To do this the body requires a well-balanced diet. Good nutrition can both prevent and cure dis-ease.
Our soil, plants and especially the commercial feeds available are woefully deficient in key nutrients. Feeding essential vitamins and minerals helps to strengthen the immune system and aid cell regeneration. This supplementation gives them better health, quicker recovery (from stresses and high performance demands), stronger and improved hooves, improved coat condition, clearer eyes, improved attitude, healthier breeding and foal health. Horses are herbivores and have very small stomachs. Their digestive tracts are amazingly well adapted to ingesting and digesting forages. They require bulk in order to digest properly. Saliva is an important source of fluid to moisten the food to facilitate swallowing. The chewing of long chopped chaff and hay promotes a natural stomach buffering action assisting in preventing gastric ulcers. It is far better to feed them whole grain feeds rather than the synthetic pelleted feeds that are available as these feeds are unnatural and highly processed. Horses were not designed to eat pellets, cubes or nuts. They are designed to eat grasses, shooting leaves of hedges, trees and seeds. One of the vital roles which these natural feeds play in the gut is to give a ‘friendly sweeping’ on a regular basis. Many of these feeds are also vermicides and vermifuges. The vermicides kill worms and creeping parasites in the gut, while vermifuges expel worms and creeping parasites from the body. In an ideal world all the horses on a farm, from broodmares to weanlings to horses in heavy work, could be fed the same feed out of the same bag. The nutritional needs of horses in different life stages vary tremendously. So it is impossible to design a ‘one bag fits all’ feed. The basis of any equine diet should be forage from pasture, chaff or hay. Any concentrates that are fed, for example sweet feeds, pellets or grain should compensate for the deficiencies in the forage. While one forage may provide an acceptable complete diet for a pleasure horse, the same forage may have inadequate levels of protein for a weanling or even deficient levels of energy required by a performance horse. This is where the statement ‘Different Feeds for Different Needs’ comes in. The simplest way of keeping our friends free of dis-ease and curing them of dis-eases is to feed natural diets and herbal treatments. These diets are never destructive to body tissues. We should use ‘Mother Nature’s Miracle Cures’ that have been available to both man and animal for centuries. This is not new information as Socrates and Aristotle told their students ‘Make your medicine your food and your food your medicine’. The horse's genetic evolution has produced an extremely efficient machine that simply does not need, nor does well on, the huge amounts of concentrated feeds and chemical supplements. Feeding a selection of natural feeds and supplements has so many benefits. The only small disadvantage is it takes a little longer to prepare their feeds. Those horse owners who have chosen to feed the natural way are happy with the results and they never go back to commercial feeds. You will save in vet bills, your farrier will notice the growth and quality of your horses' hooves and people around you will notice how good your horse looks. When considering the costs of feeding natural food, you need to remember that your horse will stay healthier and have less sicknesses, inflammatory diseases and allergies. The cost savings on medications and veterinary expenses, more often than not, counteracts the costs involved. Of course if you can get organic supplements they are much better again. The addition of other supplements depends on the condition of the horse and if there are specific ailments that need addressing, for example competition, pregnancy, breeding, etc. As always, if you provide a balanced diet for your horse, you will enhance nutrient absorption and their bodily systems. A balanced diet means better health and performance for your horse, plus lowered costs of supplementation and veterinary intervention throughout your horses' life. Benefits of a Natural Diet
o Decreased digestive disturbances and increased disease resistance
o Increased overall performance
o Improved temperament
o Improved metabolism and increased stamina
o Improved hoof health and coat condition
o Easier to cater for individual needs
o Easier to control the quality and freshness
o You are not feeding possibly stale and old food
o No synthetically manufactured minerals and vitamins which are very difficult or even sometimes impossible for the body to assimilate
o You can ensure you are not doubling up on ingredients which is wasteful, expensive, overloads the liver and kidneys and can be harmful to the health of your horse Horses are all individuals and this means they require individual care and understanding of their nature, habits, likes and dislikes. This will assist you to receive the best from them. There are many variables, which affect the condition of horses, and it is essential to consider these when working out amounts and types of rations. These include breed, size, age, colour, occupation, season and shelter, access to pasture, individual feed conversion ratio, teeth, worming status, temperament and behavioural patterns. Author:
Hetty Tapper is a Clinical Herbalist, Aroma therapist, and Energy Healer who has been practicing for over 10 years. She lives on a property in Gunning NSW with her husband, horses, cats, and dogs. She is still breeding, saving, rehabilitating, starting, training, and healing horses. Hetty also makes natural herbal creams and is currently developing a healing training course for horse owners Author of Equine Lore Healthy Horses Holistically and Herbal Horse Health.