Hemp for Horses


How would you like to give your horse a super food that can ease joint pain and inflammation, support cardiovascular health, improve the condition of his skin, coat, hooves, and tail, and act as a digestive aid? You don’t have to look any further than hemp.

Until recent years, the idea of feeding hemp treats to horses was unknown. Thanks to movies such as Up in Smoke, featuring Cheech and Chong, “Hemp is Hip” had a completely different meaning than it does today. But you might be surprised to learn that before it became an outlaw in 1938, hemp was cultivated for fiber and food, and had a varied cultural history.

In 1606, French botanist Louis Hebert planted the very first hemp crop in North America. Hemp was cultivated for its fiber well into the 20th century, and many immigrants from Eastern Europe brought hemp seeds to their new homes, planting them for their oil and using them in a variety of baked dishes.

Botanically, hemp is classified as Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae). Cannabis is a diverse plant species, with over 500 different varieties, of which marijuana is a distant cousin. Regulations dictate that hemp be defined as having less than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. This very low level makes hemp unsuitable for drug and therapeutic purposes. In any case, THC is actually produced by the plant’s epidermal glands, not in the hemp seed.

Despite this, it was 1994 before Health Canada began issuing hemp research licenses again. In March 1998, it began to allow the production of hemp under a special licensing system. Finally, in 2004, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration determined that hemp seeds could be “used” as a healthy food alternative, but the seeds themselves had to be imported from Canada’s prairie provinces.

When it comes to hemp production, Manitoba’s Harvest Hemp Foods and Oils (www.manitobaharvest.com) has led the way both in Canada and the United States, with products like hemp seed oil, shelled hemp seed butter, hemp protein powder, and even “hempmilk,” the very first line of organic hempmilk products in North America.

What’s so good about it?
So, what’s all the hype about feeding hemp to horses? Well, how would you like to give your horse a super food that can ease joint pain and inflammation, support cardiovascular health, improve the condition of his skin, coat, hooves, and tail, and act as a digestive aid? You don’t have to look any further than hemp.

Hemp oil is a very rich source of essential fatty acids and is recognized as the most balanced vegetable oil in the marketplace today. Both Dr. Andrew Weil and Dr. Udo Erasmus are fans of hemp seed oil.

Hemp contains Omega 3 in the form of alpha linolenic acid, Omega 6 in the form of linolenic acid and gamma linoleic acid, and Omega 9 in the form of oleic acid. Its fatty acid profile is closer to fish oil than any other vegetable oil; in fact, it provides a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to fish oil. It is also a valuable source of gluten-free protein, is high in vitamin C, vitamin E, and chlorophyll, and has an excellent amino acid profile. Unlike soy and other legumes, hemp does not contain trypsin inhibitors and oligosaccharides, the gas-producing substances found in many legumes. It is never genetically modified.

I incorporate hemp oil, seeds and flour into my animals’ daily nutrition program, and they love the taste. Try making these special treats for your equine companion this holiday season, or any time of year!

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More on the ingredients
are a strength-giving cereal. They are high in mineral content, particularly potassium and phosphorus. Oats also contain magnesium, calcium, and vitamins B, E, and G, which helps prevent skin lesions and weight loss, and is considered a “tonic” for the nerves, blood, digestive system, and hair. Their high silicon content supports the development and maintenance of strong hooves, teeth and connective tissues.

Carob has a long history. The seeds and beans were used as fodder for British cavalry horses during the Spanish Campaign in 1811 and 1812. Carob is rich in natural sugars and contains all of the principle minerals and vitamins, including calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium, silicon, magnesium, vitamins B1 and B2, niacin, vitamin A, and protein. Carob supports the gastrointestinal system. It acts as a thickener to absorb water, helping eliminate loose stools or diarrhea, while the tannins in carob bind to toxins and inactivate them. Animals love the taste of carob.

Cinnamon has been used medicinally for millennia. Ancient Chinese herbal references cite its use as early as 2700 BC, when it was recommended for the treatment of nausea, fever, and diarrhea. Cinnamon is widely recognized as an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It also acts as a carminative and is used as a digestive tonic. Some research has demonstrated that horses with Equine Metabolic Syndrome, also called Peripheral Cushing’s Syndrome, benefit from the addition of cinnamon to their diet (4 teaspoons per 1,000 pounds).

Cranberries contain bioactive components, including antioxidant proanthocyanidins and anthocyanidins, ellagic acid, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. They have the strongest antioxidant power of 150 different flavonoids, including vitamin E. Proanthocanidins belong to the bioflavonoid family and help strengthen blood vessels and improve the delivery of oxygen to cell membranes. Ellagic acid has been found to cause apoptosis or “cell death” in cancer cells. Cranberries also contain dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin K, vitamin C, and tannins, which help prevent bacteria like E.coli from adhering to the walls of the bladder.

Goat milk contains more vitamin B1, B2, B6, B12, biotin, folic acid and pantothenic acid than cow’s milk and is easier to digest, due to its protein make-up. Goat milk contains a higher percentage of fatty acids than any other milk.

Kelp is a rich source of iodine and helps support the thyroid gland, which has a strong influence on overall health and metabolism. Manuka honey is often referred to as “healing honey”. Different types of honey can vary by as much as 100 times in their antibacterial power.

Manuka honey is used to treat wounds, leg ulcers, eye infections, and even antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It has been particularly useful against Helicobactor pyloria bacteria, which is known to cause stomach ulcers. This bacteria seems to be five to ten times more sensitive to Manuka honey than to any other honey.

Parsley has a long history of use with horses. It supports the lungs, stomach, bladder, and liver. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and C; in fact, there is more vitamin C in parsley than oranges. Parsley also contains chlorophyll, iron, calcium, potassium, thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin. Ancient Greek soldiers fed parsley to their horses so they could run faster. Parsley aids the body in expelling tapeworms and other parasites, helps to flush the kidneys, and also acts as a carminative, releasing cramp-producing gas. Italian parsley is a great addition to the garden for its culinary and medicinal properties.

Pumpkin is a mineral and vitamin-rich tonic food that helps strengthen the blood and soothes delicate stomachs.

Unsulphured black strap molasses contains calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6. It should be stored in a tightly sealed container in your refrigerator or a cool dry place. Opened containers should be used within six months. Always look for “unsulphured” black strap molasses.

Audi Donamor has been successfully creating special needs diets for animals for over twelve years. She is the founder of the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund and the only two-time recipient of the Golden Retriever Club of Canada’s Silmaril Kennel Trophy for the Human-Animal Bond.