apple cider vinegar

Do you have apple cider vinegar in your kitchen cabinet? It’s also something that can do double duty in the barn.

“As sour as vinegar.” This old cliché may be true, but there’s a lot more to vinegar than its strong flavor. It offers some amazing health benefits and has been used and revered since ancient times.

The earliest vinegar was likely formed when wine was exposed to air, and wild yeasts caused it to ferment. Vinegar can be made from any plant that contains enough sugar to ferment into the alcohol needed to make acetic acid. The microorganisms (bacteria) that produce this fermentation are called acetobacter. These bacteria are the “glop” we see floating in natural vinegar, and are often called the “mother”. The bacteria change and grow continuously, forming enzymes and producing beneficial bacteria that help digest foods, support the immune system and crowd out harmful bacteria such as e coli, salmonella, staph and clostridium.

Why Apple Cider Vinegar?

The most beneficial vinegar is natural and unpasteurized and made from organic whole produce. Since the vinegar will contain particles of the plant it’s made from, it’s important that it be pesticide and herbicide-free. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is most commonly used in equine and human health. It’s the only type of vinegar to contain malic acid, in addition to the acetic acid found in all vinegars.

Be warned that much of the apple cider vinegar on the market, even many of the natural ones, are made from apple juice or cider rather than from the whole apple, and may even contain apple juice concentrate from China. It’s important to use the natural, unpasteurized cloudy vinegar rather than the distilled pasteurized form.

An economical way to obtain this healthy natural form is to “inoculate” a gallon of distilled vinegar with a cup or so of natural vinegar containing the “mother”. The “starter” will instill the healing properties into the distilled vinegar, yielding a healthier version. Natural vinegar will keep for five years or more, and actually has the ability to destroy many germs and pathogens on contact.

Around the Barn

Here are some ways to use apple cider vinegar in horse care:

• As a nutritional supplement in feed and/or water, ACV shines. For general use, ¼ cup daily on feed is plenty, and can be diluted with an equal amount of water. ACV can help disguise the taste of unfamiliar water when traveling or competing, but one caution – ACV will leach minerals from metal or galvanized tanks, so use a hard plastic watering container.

The acidifying effect of ACV also helps prevent and dissolve enteroliths (intestinal stones), which can form in horses that live in areas with hard water, or that eat a diet high in alfalfa hay. Stomach acid is the horse’s first line of defense against bacteria, parasite eggs and food or water-borne diseases. Apple cider vinegar helps acidify the stomach for optimum digestion. Horses with arthritis also often benefit from ACV; it is also a time-tested folk remedy for human arthritis.

• As an natural insect control, ACV causes thiamine (vitamin B1) to be excreted through the skin, repelling flies and mosquitoes. Optimum levels of B vitamins (particularly B1) in the body seem to discourage bugs. For this to work, it’s important to make sure your horse has a diet containing high levels of B vitamins. Horses that eat any significant amount of grain (which ferments into sugars in the body) or are on commercial molasses based sweet feeds are often B-deficient, as sugar uses up extra B vitamins in order to be metabolized.

As an interesting aside, people who are sugar junkies or bread-aholics are usually mosquito magnets for this very reason. Remember that healthy non-toxic horses are not attractive to flies. And since ACV helps with protein digestion, there will be less undigested protein (indoles and skatoles) in the manure to attract flies. You can even make a natural flytrap by poking holes in the lid of a mason jar and adding water, some ACV and sugar. The flies will crawl in, and can’t get back out. Way better than chemicals.

• Thrush and other hoof problems can be addressed with soaks or poultices of natural ACV. A little undiluted ACV can be sprayed or dripped right into the commissures of the frog, or ¼ cup of vinegar can be added to a gallon of water and used as a soak or poultice for hoof fungus and abscesses.

• Fungus, burns, wounds and skin infections often respond well to a spritz of diluted ACV. Try a little on the mane and tail, too. A final rinse with vinegar-laced water after bathing will cut right through leftover soap film and hard water residues, leaving your horse super shiny. This works on people, too – when I was a child, I remember my mom rinsing my hair with ACV after shampooing. Though I didn’t much like the smell, it made my hair shiny and swishy – just the way we want manes and tails.

• Metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance can be helped with vinegar. Studies on human subjects at Arizona State University, as reported in the scientific journal Diabetes Care in 2004, showed a reduction in the usual rise in blood sugar after a high-carb meal when a little ACV was taken first. An unexpected side effect of this study was that the subjects gradually lost weight when taking two teaspoons of ACV before each meal. When combined with a low NSC diet, slow feeding and proper mineral support, ACV may be a valuable tool in the management of easy-keeping, metabolically challenged horses.

• An all-natural weed killer is as near as your ACV bottle. Use it around horse areas instead of resorting to harmful chemicals. Simply spray on the young weeds early in the season, and watch them die. For this higher volume use, you may want to inoculate cheaper distilled vinegar with the “good stuff”.

• Add some apple cider vinegar to the rinse water when washing stable bandages and horse blankets. The soap residue will be gone, along with the odor.

Apple cider vinegar is an amazing tool and can enhance natural horse health in many ways. I personally prefer Super ACV from Dynamite Marketing, which is made from organic whole apples. It contains 7% acetic acid, compared to the 5% more commonly found. Try some apple cider vinegar this spring and summer – I know you will be amazed!

Judy Sinner is a lifetime horsewoman, as an owner, breeder, trainer and exhibitor. She has bred and raised Arabians and National Show Horses since the 1970s, and has produced two National Champions as well as many Regional and Class A winning horses. Affiliated wi th Dynamite Specialty Products for 25 years, she also served as Communications Director for the company for 17 years, and teaches holistic nutrition for all species in seminars and newsletters. 1-800-677-0919,