MSM for Horses

Methyl Sulphonyl Methane, aka MSM, is a supplement that many horse owners may be familiar with but they may not know all of its benefits.   I’ve fed MSM in the past to maintain joint health in my barrel horse, but like several things I’ve tried over the years, it eventually fell to the wayside.

Last fall however, after doing some research on equine skin allergies,  I decided to supplement MSM again.  Lee Lee had become very itchy last summer and I knew that diet was likely a factor.  I decided to add MSM, ground flaxseed, and for a month or so, organic soybean oil (for it’s ‘cooling’ effect, according to TCM) to her diet.

I can’t be certain if it was just one or a combination of these supplements that made a difference, but something certainly did.  Her coat became shiny once again and she stopped rubbing on every darn thing she could find.

Skin allergies are just one of several issues that MSM is said to benefit.  If your horse is itchy and nothing else has worked, you may want to give it a try.

Here is a little background information on MSM. . .

MSM is a naturally-occurring sulfur compound which contains anti-oxidant properties. It is found in fruits, vegetables, grains, and fresh forage.  It is also found naturally in the horse’s body (as well as in all vertebrates) in small amounts.  In the body, MSM splits into methionine and cysteine, two important amino acids.

The supplement, MSM, is derived from DMSO or dimethylsulfoxide, and is commonly used in the horse industry to combat inflammation.  It’s a white, salt-like substance that horses seem to find palatable and it’s fairly inexpensive as far as supplements go.

While it’s not completely clear how MSM works in the body, it is a great source of dietary sulfur, which plays an important role in maintaining the health of collagen, cartilage, hooves, hair, and joint fluid.

MSM is also said to have the following effects:

  • Prevent/ reducing scar tissue;
  • Promote muscle relaxation;
  • Reduce inflammation and promote circulation;
  • Analgesic (pain-killing);
  • Promote healthy hoof and hair growth;
  • Reduce joint degeneration;
  • Chelate or bind harmful heavy metals in the body; and
  • Boost the immune system.

Some of these effects have been documented in studies, while others are more hearsay among horse folks.  You may just have to try feeding MSM to see if your horse’s issues respond to it.

Dosage

The dosage of MSM will vary depending on the specific supplement you buy –always read the labels.  MSM is also often added to other joint supplements such as chondroitin sulfate so that’s another option if you’re looking specifically for a joint supplement.  This is the one that I am currently feeding and it contains only MSM.

 

msm

 

If your horse is already getting plenty of fresh green grass (or fresh veggies!) in his diet, then you may not need to worry about supplementing MSM.  Horses on all or mostly-hay diet or those in hard work or suffering from skin allergies may just benefit from supplemental MSM though.  It’s worth taking a look at, anyways.

 

Ta-ta,

Casie

 

Sources and Further Reading:

The effect of methyl sulphonyl methane supplementation on biomarkers of oxidative stress in sport horses following jumping exercise (research paper)

MSM Helps Sore Muscles

Methylsulfonylmethane

Horses Living as a Herd

As a child, I grew up on a small acreage which most of my suburban friends referred to as a ‘farm’.  I knew it wasn’t a farm in the real sense of the word, but we did have horses–everyone’s favorite farm animal.  We had a number of different horses over the years, but we always kept them as a herd, with 24/7 turnout.

Herd.  I never really thought much about that word back then.  They were just horses living in a pasture. . .  (And life with horses sure seemed simple then too!)

When my husband and I got married nearly sixteen years ago, it was our dream to buy some land out in the country–maybe even have a real ‘farm’.    I was hoping for maybe ten acres, but we ended up with thirty!  It was bare land when we bought it–no fences, no house, no barns.  As we started our planning, I quickly realized that 30 acres was too much for the two horses I had at the time.  So we fenced off about a five acre section and turned the horses out.

As the years went on, the number of horses grew.  Naturally, with so much land available, I decided I needed two pastures!  I neatly divided my horses up–usually putting the mares in one pasture and the geldings in the other.  This seemed to work well and every horse always had at least one buddy to live with.

Then, about a year and a half ago, after reading Joe Camp’s book, The Soul of a Horse, I was once again reminded of that term I’d thought very little about in recent years–herd.  I wondered, why couldn’t my horses live all together as a herd?

Of course, I knew the real reason this word made me nervous–Hershey.  He hasn’t always been known for being a friendly fellow (with other horses, anyways).  Would the other horses be safe living with Hershey?  I wanted to at least give it a try though.

I didn’t throw them together all at once–it was a slow process– but as it turned out, I had worried for nothing.  My two mares and two geldings got along perfectly fine.

They all seemed quite happy about their new living arrangements and it became a joy to watch my little herd move and play together out in the pasture.

 

DSC04305

 

When I lost Bob in December of 2013, I worried how the rest of the herd would react.  It was now just Hershey and the two mares, Lee Lee and Kady.  They banded together though and continued to live happily as a herd of three.  (I do know that Hershey would likely have been terribly distraught if Bob had died when it was just the two of them pastured together.)

And of course, as many of you know, I bought a new horse in the fall of last year.  I was careful to introduce McCoy slowly (over a period of about 2 weeks), but the others accepted her without much commotion. I now have a happy herd of four once again!

 

horses

Hershey and his mares

 

When keeping horses as a herd, many of their natural instincts take over. There is, of course, a natural pecking order.  Hershey is the dominant horse (no surprise there!) He’s followed by Lee Lee, McCoy, and then Kady (my eldest).  I find it fascinating to watch them interact though.

To some of you, keeping horses in a herd is just a no-brainer, I’m sure.  It’s how many old-times have always kept their horses.  But this may be a foreign concept to others and I know it’s not always possible in boarding situations.  But if it’s within your means, and you haven’t thought of keeping your horses as a herd, here are some good reasons to reconsider.  . .

Movement:  When living in a group, horses tend to  move more.  The dominant horse will usually set the pace for movement and the others will either be herded or will move to keep up with him or her.  (I’ve observed this to be true both in a paddock paradise track system and in the pasture.) When I had just two horses living together in a pasture, they moved some, but not nearly as much as they do now.

 

horse-419738_640

 

Security: We know that horses are prey animals.  This is why they naturally live in groups in the wild.  Even though our domestic horses may not face the same dangers that a feral herd would, all horses feel more secure in a group.  A horse that doesn’t feel secure in his environment will be stressed (and have elevated cortisol levels).  This has been documented in numerous studies.  And stressed horses are more prone to health issues such as ulcers and colic, not to mention stable vices such as cribbing (which leads to my next topic–health).

 

ponies-534637_640

 

Health:  A few years ago, I wrote an article about stabled horses being more likely to experience colic.  As stated before, horses living outside in a herd tend to move more and they also eat in a more natural fashion–so again, they are less likely to suffer from some of the same issues that plague their stabled counterparts.  Even on large pastures, I believe herd dynamics help to prevent problems such as laminitis.  This is not to say it never happens–there can be other factors involved,  but here are just a couple of examples of healthy horse herds that back up this theory:

 

Natural Sleeping Patterns: Horses only need about 2 or 3 hours of sleep per day. They often ‘doze’ while standing for short periods throughout the day, but in order to reach REM sleep, they must lie down.  A horse will only lie down if it feels safe–and again, this goes back to security.  In a herd, you may often notice that all the horses will lie down together except one.  This, too, is a natural behavior and that horse who is standing acts as a ‘sentinel’ horse, keeping guard.  

 

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Of course, all of the topics I’ve listed above are really intertwined and they all ultimately lead back to health.  I really feel that letting our horses live as a herd is an important component in keeping them healthy and happy.

I know there will be arguments against allowing domesticated horses to live as a herd.  Many people don’t have the space and others worry that their performance horse will get injured if allowed to live this way.  Still some don’t have enough horses to make a herd!  It’s a personal choice.  But it’s one I think deserves consideration, especially if you are interested in giving your horses the most natural lifestyle that you can.  

For more information on the importance of the horse herd, I recommend this article.

 

Ta-ta,

Casie

 

 

Horse Hay Statistics

And finally, here is the third and final part of this informative series entitled ‘Feeding Horses on a Tight Budget’ by Dr. Christine King.  (Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the series, if you missed them.) This post will focus on hay–including nutritional information, planning for your purchase, and additional feeding tips.  For more information or to contact Dr. King, please visit her website.  

 

king1

Feeding Horses on a Tight Budget (Part 2)
(on economising without compromising)
by Dr. Christine King

Hay stats

Good quality grass hay is much more than fibre or filler. It is food for herbivores such 
as horses. The simple carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals it contains are digested and absorbed in the upper part of the digestive tract. And then the fibre component is processed by the constellation of microbes in the large intestine.

The byproducts of this microbial breakdown of fibre further supply the horse with nutrients, most notably volatile fatty acids (VFAs), but also some vitamins, minerals, 
amino acids, and other nutrients.

The VFAs are an important energy source for horses, as VFAs are converted in the liver 
to glucose (which may then be stored as glycogen) and fats. Most adult horses should get 
at least 70% of their daily calorie needs from these VFAs – i.e. from the fibre component 
of their diets.

Also of importance in the colder months, the microbial breakdown of fibre in the large intestine produces heat, which helps the horse maintain his body temperature. In fact, more heat is generated by feeding hay than by feeding grain-based feeds.

Daily maintenance needs

When fed at a rate of around 2% of body weight per day (~20 lbs/day for the average 1,000-lb horse), good quality grass hay ably meets the adult horse’s basic daily needs 
for the primary nutrients. Here’s proof:

The table below notes some of the daily nutrient requirements for the average, non-pregnant adult horse in good body condition and weighing 1,000 lbs. The horse’s daily maintenance requirements (the amount needed to maintain body condition in an inactive horse) are given along with the amount of each nutrient provided by 20 lbs of good quality grass hay (in this case, timothy).

Nutrient

Maintenance requirement

20 lbs grass hay

calories

15.0 Mcal/day

15.7 Mcal

protein

567 grams/day

655 grams

calcium

18 grams/day

34.6 grams

phosphorus

12.6 grams/day

16.4 grams

(Mcal = megacalories)

Now take a look at the daily nutrient requirements for the same adult horse who is in light work (e.g. pleasure riding, showing in equitation classes). Note that 20 lbs of good quality grass hay meets all of the horse’s needs for protein, calcium, and phosphorus, and there 
is only a small shortfall in calories.

Nutrient

Light work

20 lbs grass hay

shortfall

calories

18.0 Mcal/day

15.7 Mcal

2.3 Mcal

protein

629 grams/day

655 grams

none

calcium

27 grams/day

34.6 grams

none

phosphorus

16.2 grams/day

16.4 grams

none

That calorie shortfall can be made up by increasing the amount of grass hay by as little 
as 3 lbs per day, by adding a little alfalfa hay instead (a good idea anyway), or by adding 
a little grain (e.g. oats or barley).

However…

However, a hay-based diet will be lacking in certain essential nutrients, including some trace minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids. These nutrients must be supplied in some other way. (More on this back in Part 2.)

I simply wanted to point out here that good quality grass hay can meet the horse’s primary needs for calories, protein, fibre, and the major minerals – as long as the hay is fed in sufficient quantity.

For adult horses, “sufficient quantity” ranges from 1.5% of bodyweight per day (15 lbs 
of hay for a 1,000-lb horse) for the easy keepers and horses with some pasture access, 
to as much as 3% bodyweight per day (30 lbs of hay for a 1,000-lb horse) for the hard keepers or those with higher calorie needs.

Calculating how much hay to buy

Probably the most basic guideline is to buy as much hay as you have room to store properly —i.e. out of the elements. That means under cover, off the ground, and out of direct sun-light. If you have enough space and you want to be sure you have enough hay to last 
for at least 6 months, here are some guidelines for figuring out how much hay to buy:

Use a feeding rate of 2% body weight (bwt) per day per horse

  • for the average nonpregnant adult 1,000-lb horse in good body condition, 
that means
    ~ 20 lbs of hay per day if the horse has little or no pasture access 
and is not in regular work
  • for easy keepers and for horses who have some pasture available, use a rate 
of
    1.5% bwt/day, or 15 lbs of hay per day for a 1,000-lb horse
  • for hard keepers and for horses in regular work, use a rate of 3% bwt/day, 
or 30 lbs of hay per day for a 1,000-lb horse with little or no pasture access

1 US ton = 2,000 lbs

  • 1 ton of hay = 100 days’ supply (a little over 3 months) for one 1,000-lb horse 
when fed at 2% bwt/day
  • 2 tons = 200 days (6-7 months) for one horse, and so on
  • multiply by the number of horses to be fed
  • there’s a simple formula at the bottom of the page to help you calculate your hay needs

Buy both grass hays and alfalfa hay

  • it’s generally best to buy grass hays and alfalfa hay separately (i.e. in separate bales), rather than buying hay that is a mix of grass and alfalfa
  • grasses and alfalfa have somewhat different growing requirements, so what benefits one may not be as good for the other
  • to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, it’s usually best to buy alfalfa 
that was grown separately, and buy the premium grade

Plan on feeding these hays in a ratio of ~ 80:20

  • i.e. 80% grasses and 20% alfalfa
  • or, to put it another way, feed 1 lb alfalfa for every 4 lbs grass hay
  • I’ll often advise feeding less alfalfa than that, but not less than ~10% of the total 
hay ration (2 lbs of alfalfa per day for the average 1000-lb horse)
  • also look into buying the alfalfa component as pellets; it may be more cost-effective than buying alfalfa by the bale, as you can literally measure out the alfalfa pellets by 
the pound (1 lb = a little over 2 cups)

Quick calculation for one horse:

(rate x bwt x days) ÷ 2,000 = _______ tons

rate = feeding rate, e.g. 1.5% (0.015), 2% (0.02), 3% (0.03); use the decimal number rather than the percentage (i.e. use 0.02 instead of 2%)

bwt = the horse’s estimated bodyweight, in pounds

days = the number of days’ supply of hay you want to buy 
(to keep it simple, round out 1 month to be 30 days)

Multiply those three numbers and then divide the total by 2,000 to get the number of tons of hay you’ll need to buy.

For example, for a 6-months supply (180 days) of hay to feed the average-size adult horse (1,000 lbs) at a rate of 2% bwt/day (0.02), you’ll need to buy about 2 tons of hay:

(0.02 x 1,000 lbs x 180 days) ÷ 2,000 = 1.8 tons

For multiple horses with approximately the same needs, simply multiply the number 
of tons by the number of horses you’re feeding.

For multiple horses being fed different amounts, you may want to consider doing separate calculations if the horses’ needs are very different (e.g. small ponies, large horses, very easy keepers, very hard keepers).

And then pad the total a bit. Just as when you’re giving a party, it’s better to have some leftovers than to run out of food!

Other feeding tips

Here are some other recommendations for optimizing your horse’s health and well-being, while ensuring that you spend wisely:

Feed some fresh plant material every day, as much as is available or advisable.

Factor in the content of simple carbs (starches and simple sugars) for all foods when dealing with a horse or pony who is overweight, laminitis-prone, or otherwise carb-sensitive.

Fresh plant material can safely be fed to carb-sensitive individuals; in fact, in my opinion 
it is essential to their recovery and long-term health. However, it must be done carefully. Contact me or your primary-care veterinarian for specific recommendations.

Also factor in good pasture management. That includes preventing your pastures from being cut up by horses’ hooves when the ground is very wet or the grass is very dry 
or frozen.

Feed primarily raw foods.

Highly processed and refined foods, especially those in which heat was used (including most pelleted feeds), generally are less nutritious than the constituent foods in their raw state. They can also be less safe.

Horses are designed to live on plant materials in their unadulterated state—raw and, depending on the season, fresh or dried. In my experience, feeding domestic horses following the same principle yields the best results.

Add calorie-dense foods only if needed.

Base the horse’s diet on forages (pasture, hay) and add the more calorie-dense foods only 
if needed for work, pregnancy, lactation, growth, or recovery from serious debility. As an equine nutritionist and vet once said to me, “Grain should be fed only as a supplement.”

In case you missed it earlier, when fed at a rate of ~2% of body weight per day, good quality grass hay easily meets the average adult horse’s basic calorie, protein, and major mineral requirements. [see above]

For horses in work, feeding as much hay as the horse will eat and adding a little grain 
(e.g. plain oats or barley) usually is enough to meet the calorie shortfall in all but intensively exercising horses.

Because it is the healthiest way to feed any horse, the best strategy I’ve found is to base the horse’s diet on good quality forages (pasture and/or hays) and feed anything else only as a supplement: only when necessary, only as much as necessary, and for only as long as necessary.

Minimize wastage and satisfy hunger—and reduce boredom—by feeding the total daily hay ration divided over at least 3 feedings.

By nature, horses are grazing animals; they spend much of the day and night browsing for food. Domesticated horses with limited pasture access do best when we aim to simulate grazing with our feeding strategies – as the old adage goes, “feed little and often.”

Follow appropriate parasite control and dental care programs so that the horse gets the most out of the food he eats.

Minimize competition for food by managing group-fed horses appropriately. If necessary, feed underweight horses and those “low on the pecking order” separately.

 

Copyright 2010 Christine M. King. All rights reserved.

The Horse’s Natural Diet

This is Part 2 of Dr. Christine King’s article, ‘Feeding Horses on a Budget’, which focuses on the horse’s natural diet.   To see Part 1 of this series, click here.  For more articles or to contact Dr. King, please visit her website.

Feeding Horses on a Tight Budget (Part 2)
(on economising without compromising)
by Dr. Christine King

king1

The horse’s natural diet

No matter what the age, breed, occupation, or health status, horses do best when fed a diet that is as close as possible to what nature has provided for them. “As close as possible” will mean different things for different horses, but the fundamentals are the same for all. The basis of the horse’s natural diet is a wide variety of plants that changes with the season:

* mostly grasses
* some legumes (clover, alfalfa, other little trefoils)
* various other meadow and woodland plants

Horses grazing in a natural setting have been observed to select from over 40 different species of plants. The variety comes not just from the great range of plant species available, but also from the variations in plant types, parts (roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds), and nutrients (phytonutrients) with the different seasons.

In contrast, the typical domestic horse’s diet is very limited in variety, particularly if the horse has little or no access to natural pastures, woodlands, or other uncultivated areas.
Most horses are fed a single type of hay (e.g. orchard grass or timothy), day in, day out. While there may be a few other plants mixed in, the hay is predominantly a monoculture
—a single species.

Not only is variety of phytonutrients lacking, so too is their quality and quantity, as processing and storage cause a decline in vital nutrients, particularly some vitamins 
and various other antioxidants.

Furthermore, even if the horse has access to pasture, many pastures are overgrazed, seeded with just a few human-selected plant species, or treated with herbicides, so 
they provide little variety of plant nutrients.

Why is variety so important?

Horses are designed to get all of their nutrient needs from plants and the soils in which they grow. But the twin keys here are quality and variety. The more variety of fresh, minimally processed foods from well-tended soils you feed, the less you’ll need to rely 
on supplements to meet your horse’s needs, and the healthier s/he will be.

That’s because providing a variety of high quality foods makes it more likely that the horse will get all that her body needs in the way of primary nutrients and beneficial cofactors, such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds, just from her food. All of these nutrients are essential for health, tissue repair, vitality, and longevity.

(Variety also has a protective influence in the diets of horses needing more calories than can be provided by the natural forage-based diet. For example, feeding a mix of whole grains, some oily seeds [e.g sunflower seeds], and perhaps a little beet pulp if needed, lessens the risks of feeding a high-carb diet in performance horses, youngsters, and broodmares.)

Obviously, horses can survive on the limited variety provided by the typical diet, but they do not thrive on this diet. Over time, various chronic health problems develop that we take for granted are simply caused by aging.

The truth is that these conditions are largely preventable with good management, which includes good nutrition. The same can be said for other common ailments, such as colic, heaves, laminitis, and exercise-related muscle disorders.

Most processed horse feeds are fortified with vitamins and minerals, and some products these days even contain extra antioxidant substances. However, in the vast majority of cases these processed foods and supplements use synthetic vitamins and inorganic or, at best, chelated minerals, for which bioavailability (absorption and utilization by the body) 
is poor to moderate. In contrast, the vitamins and minerals in plants generally are much more bioavailable.

While vitamins and minerals, and even antioxidants, can be added to the ration, the remarkable variety, complexity, and synergy of the substances contained in whole foods cannot be matched in a laboratory or factory.

For example, natural vitamin E is far more complex than just a mix of isolated tocopherols. And natural vitamin C is way more than just ascorbic acid. There are several cofactors associated with each of these apparently simple vitamins in their natural forms. These cofactors play essential roles in how the vitamin is taken in and functions in the body. Same, too, with minerals incorporated into plant molecules or suspended in plant cells 
in ionic or colloidal form.

Nature has already figured all of this out for the horse, and we would be wise to follow 
her lead. Time and time again in my practice I have seen chronic medical, performance, 
and even behavioral problems spontaneously resolve just by putting the horse onto a 
more natural diet. It’s as Hippocrates is reported to have said: “Let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine thy food.”

(These concepts are explored further in the first chapter of the anima Herbal Recipe Book.)

 

Copyright 2010 Christine M. King. All rights reserved.

 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series which will focus on hay statistics!

Feeding Horses on a Budget (Part 1)

The following article (which I will break into 3 separate blog posts) is written by Dr. Christine King, an Australian vet now based in North Carolina.  I have been a fan of Dr. King’s for a while now and always enjoy reading her holistic-based articles on horse health.  I think you will find the following information very useful.  For more articles or to contact Dr. King, please visit her website.

Feeding Horses on a Tight Budget
(on economising without compromising)
by Dr. Christine King

king1

For me, there has been at least one silver lining to this latest economic collapse: It has prompted me to live more simply, tread more lightly on the earth, live more in balance 
with the natural flow and order of things.

Along these lines, there has never been a better time to review your horse’s diet and see where you can improve on quality as well as on economy. Feeding your horse during these tough times need not compromise goodness for the sake of thriftiness.

“Eat simply, live well” is the central theme here. This article is about feeding a great, nature-inspired diet that fits the budget without short-changing the horse. To get right down to it, here is where your money is best spent:

1. Spend first and most on good quality grass hays.

Here’s why: Horses do best when fed a diet that is as close as possible to what nature 
has provided for them. That means a wide variety of plants that changes with the season; mostly grasses but also some legumes and various other meadow and woodland plants.
 [More info. on the natural diet in Part 2]

Hay is much more than fibre or filler. For herbivores such as horses, hay is food. And the truth is that good quality forages alone can meet almost all of the daily nutrient needs of the average non-pregnant adult horse—provided that enough is fed. 
[More info. on hay in Part 3]

When buying hay:

* buy the best quality available

Be sure to buy the best quality hay you can find. Buying inferior quality hay is false economy. The horse will need to eat more of it to meet even his basic needs for calories and protein, yet he’ll still not get all that he needs in the way of other nutrients. Also, there tends to be more wastage than with good quality hay. Furthermore, feeding inferior quality hay increases the risk for colic.

It is far better overall to buy the best quality hay available and tailor the amount fed to the individual horse’s needs: more for the thin ones, less for the fat ones. For carb-sensitive horses, either have the hay analyzed for its nonstructural carbohydrate (NSC) content 
or soak the hay well before feeding. (Contact me or your primary-care vet for more info.)

* buy as much variety as available

Buy as many different types of hay as you can. The more variety there is in the horse’s diet, the more likely it is that these forages will meet the horse’s nutrient needs, and the less you’ll need to spend on supplements. After all, one of the characteristics of the horse’s natural diet is variety.

Along those lines, buy some alfalfa while you’re at it. Not only does it add to the “variety quotient,” it is rich in nutrients, particularly digestible fiber, protein, and minerals. A general guideline for most nonpregnant adult horses is to feed a ratio of 80:20 grass to alfalfa, or 80% grass hay and 20% alfalfa hay.
[See Part 3 for tips on calculating how much hay to buy.]

However, no matter how good the hay and how many varieties you buy, any hay-based 
diet will be deficient in four things: salt, some trace minerals, some vitamins, and essential fatty acids.

The first one is easily addressed by making sure the horse has free access to a natural salt, such as Himalayan pink salt (my favorite), Redmond salt, or unprocessed sea salt. These natural salts are easy to find at natural food stores and on-line. The other three items are addressed below.

2. Spend next on a good quality, natural-source trace mineral supplement.

Here’s why: Although needed in only tiny (trace) amounts, these minerals are essential for health. A hay-based diet will be marginal or frankly deficient in some trace minerals, unless the hay was grown in very well-tended soil. The same goes for a pasture-based diet, unless the soil has been regularly tended to replenish the minerals depleted through plant growth and grazing.

There are literally dozens of trace mineral supplements on the market. For the most part, they are man-made and comprise inorganic or, at best, chelated minerals. In general, the bioavailability of these forms of minerals is poor to moderate, which means that more may be pooped out than gets absorbed and used by the horse’s body.

My preference is to feed a natural-source trace mineral supplement in which the minerals are primarily supplied in ionic, colloidal, or colloid-possible form. Here are two options:

* powdered clays

These natural mineral deposits contain trace minerals in concentrations and forms that appear to be highly bioavailable and well utilized by both plants and animals. (I suspect, but have yet to confirm, that they also benefit horses by feeding their gut microbes.)
Options include azomite, bentonite, montmorillonite, and zeolite, to name just a few. 
My preference is micronized (finely powdered) azomite.

* mineral-rich herbs

Plants are meant to be the primary source of readily available minerals for horses and other herbivores, so feeding supplemental minerals in plant-form makes the most sense 
to me. (In fact, that is the basis for several of the herbal blends I make.)

Both of these trace mineral sources (clays and herbs) are natural, inexpensive, and well received by horses. But if you have a commercial trace mineral supplement already on hand, then use it up first. “Waste not, want not,” as my mother would say.

3. Add a natural source of vitamins and essential fatty acids (EFAs) if the horse has little 
or no access to pasture.

Here’s why: These essential yet sensitive nutrients are found in abundance in fresh plant material, but they are progressively lost or inactivated during hay making and storage. 
The antioxidant nutrients, in particular, are oxidized over time.

Here are my preferences for supplementing these nutrients:

* fresh plants from uncultivated meadows and/or woodlands

This is the best, and least expensive, option. If your horse cannot be turned out to graze, then hand-graze him among the “weeds” each day. Even in built-up areas, you should be able to find some uncultivated places where your horse can browse. Note: for carb-sensitive individuals, time spent browsing may need to be limited.
 [More feeding tips in Part 3]

* sunflower seeds (organic if possible)

Flax and hemp seeds are both excellent sources of EFAs for horses, as are walnuts. However, they are more expensive and less practical to feed than sunflower seeds.

* a variety-rich blend of dried herbs

Once again, plants are the best source of nutrients for horses. I make various herbal blends for this purpose, such as the Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter Meadow Blends, and a powdered micronutrient blend called Vitality. The recipes for these blends are now available in my herbal recipe book, so you can make them yourself if you feel so inclined.

Copyright 2010 Christine M. King. All rights reserved.

 

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will focus on the horse’s natural diet, and Part 3, which will discuss hay statistics, coming very soon.