Why go natural? September 03, 2015 18:40
The horses’ stomach, for the size, and power of the horse is a very delicate system. Too much or too little as well as the wrong feed can upset that balance.
When looking at feeding a horse, we must look at what the horse was designed to do. The horse is a natural grazer, and a lot of them do not do well on a diet that is fed twice per day. The actual gut of a horse is fairly small, and designed to process food constantly, which is why horses graze the majority out of 24 hours if given the chance.
In a “Natural” environment the horse will travel and graze, travel and graze all at the whim of the dominant mare in the herd. Watching this in the wild, the dominant mare dictates everything to do with the herd. She will choose the best grasses for herself and let the rest of the herd fan out around her for other pickings. She will lead them to water, sometimes traveling many, many miles once per day. Their hooves, which have never been filed or shod are strong, as well as their teeth, which have never been floated. Nor have their bodies been injected with vaccines or wormers.
When looking at this picture, we need to look at our own horses and how we keep them. Are they on a dry lot being fed twice per day? A large pasture with free grazing? Either way, there are a lot of things you need to consider. The horse is no longer “natural”, as in; he’s been moved from what he was designed for and put into a place where we, the humans, provide what we believe they need. Good green grass? This may seem great for horses, but too rich grass can cause colic or other gastrointestinal issues. Weedy grass? This is great for horses but to lean of grass can cause colic or other gastrointestinal issues…. Do you see a pattern here?
A horse will naturally gravitate if it can, to what it needs. How often have you seen a patch of lush grass, and you put your horse there to munch, but yet he moves to a patch that looks less than healthy? Or starts eating the dandelions that people think of us as merely weeds? The horse knows, and if given the choice, he will naturally regulate his own body. So, lets be realistic here, horses are gluttons and if allowed into a bag of grain, they will eat themselves sick, but that is because we’ve programmed them to eat that sweet grain and love the taste of it. Children are the same way. Those children who have never been given sweets except natural ones like apples or other sweet fruits will naturally gravitate to that before cookies or something that is sweetened with processed sugar. It’s the same concept. My own son prefers water to soda, simply because he was never allowed to have soda, so water is what he knows and what he prefers.
In thinking naturally, we must be thinking of the horse at all times. What the horse was designed for and what nutrients does the horse need. Do they need all these chemical products that are on the markets? If you’re thinking natural, then no they don’t. Vitamins and minerals? Of course, they are the building blocks of life and everyone needs them, including our horses, but where is the limit here. If you do not take a multi. Vitamin and mineral supplement, why don’t you? Because the obvious answer is you probably get plenty from food sources. It is the same with the horse. The majority of horses do not need any vitamin and mineral supplements if they are well rationed in their feed. Add a supplement to that and you are seriously running a risk of toxic levels. Vitamin and mineral toxicity is a big deal and can cause many health problems. Therefore I suggest if you feel you must give one, get an analysis done on what your horse is eating and then compare that to what the analysis is on the supplement. Are they over the limits of what is considered safe? If your horse is deficient in one area, it is much safer to get that one vitamin or mineral and add that, instead of a multi one.
Further on you have herbal products. Everybody needs herbs. We eat them all the time. They are in salads, spices, tea’s, all of which carry properties that every human body needs for proper function. Going back to the “natural” scenario we began, if you look at that dominate mare again, she will pick those stocks of dandelion or that plantain…. Why? Because her body instinctively knows that it needs it. Chlorophyll, which is in every plant that needs the sun to grow, helps our bodies convert glycogen to glucose. Glycogen is the body’s energy storage. In times of need, glycogen is converted to glucose, which feeds our muscles or internal organs. Plant matter helps this process. Not only do herbs help this, but they also provide trace minerals and essential vitamins, that grasses may not have, without overloading the body or causing any toxicity. Still think you need that vitamin and mineral supplement?
Not only that, but herbs have additional benefit that’s been around for thousands of years. They have the ability if used correctly, to heal internally. The properties of herbal remedies have been around forever and many of our modern chemical drugs were founded thanks to the properties of herbs. A chemist who wanted to know why the willow tree bark helped with pain, took it into his lab and found that properties in the bark shut down our body’s pain receptors in the brain, which is what gives us pain relief. Most of the early drugs were founded on this principle. Of course its all much more scientific, but the details are not needed here.
Most horses will naturally eat herbs, but some, who have been spoiled with sweet feed and sugary treats, will not. The reason being is that they are not as good tasting as something sugary sweet. But after a week or so, most horses that rejected herbs at first will readily eat them directly out of your hand, especially if you stop feeding them a filler of grain. Herbs boost the immune system and help to balance things out. They have pain-relieving qualities and can help the horse pass roughage through that delicate gut. There are herbs that have properties for just about any ailment out there, but not just ailments, general health.
- Vitamin A is an essential antioxidant and is abundant in Dandelion, Chamomile and Peppermint.
- Vitamin B2 which is very useful in times of stress and also considered the most deficent vitamin in humans can be found again in Dandelion as well as Red clover and Alfalfa.
- Niacin or B3, again found in Dandelion and Red clover and Alfalfa.
- B6 is essential in pregnancy also found in Dandelion, Red Clover and Alfalfa
- Vitamin K is essential for blood clotting and the production of prothrombin can be found in Alfalfa and Yarrow
- Calcium can be found in our ever favorite Dandelion, Red Raspberry and Chamomile
- Copper? Again Dandelion, as well as Chickweed and Red Clover
- Iron is found in Dandelion, Alfalfa, Garlic and Red Clover
- Magnesium? Dandelion again. Alfalfa, Peppermint, Red Clover and Chamomile
- Potassium helps to balance the body fluids and also found in Dandelion, Red Raspberry and Chamomile.
- Zinc? Dandelion, Chickweed and Rosemary.
There are a lot more herbs that belong in these categories, and a lot more vitamins and minerals that I could list but I just listed a few to show that there are other ways to get your horse the nutrients it needs. Dandelion alone is one of the most well rounded herbs that you can find, but most people consider it a weed and will do anything to get rid of it.
Natural does not have to be hard. It can be as difficult or easy as you make it. By feeding your horse the best way you can and spreading out its feedings or limiting the lush pasture grass and feeding handfuls of herbs daily, you can get back to “natural” the best you can for our domestic horses.