Hydroponic farming gives your horse 24/7 access to healthy green forage.
You want your horse to be as healthy as possible. Equine nutrition is an essential part of that. The quality of food a horse eats is reflected in his performance, appearance and demeanor. However, much of what horses are fed nowadays has been roasted, steamed, extruded (pressure cooked) and force dried. Through processing, beneficial enzymes and bacteria are destroyed.
Cuts of hay, meanwhile, can be inconsistent depending on climate conditions, harvest and supplier, and hay intake depends on the digestibility of the forage. A horse may feel full even if the forage is inferior; but if it is not quickly passed, it actually inhibits nutrient absorption because he does not continue to eat.
To get back to a natural, effective feeding program, you need to give your horse live green food.
Creating A Natural Diet
A horse’s digestive system utilizes small quantities of food eaten over long periods. In the wild, horses are migratory. They graze a little, walk a little, graze a little, walk a little. While they are walking, they are also digesting. This process is difficult to simulate with domesticated horses because they are generally fed large portions of hay morning and evening.
What if your horse had a pasture of fresh homegrown sprouts to graze on throughout the day? This green food would be packed with vitamins, minerals and enzymes and formulated to be naturally balanced and highly nutritious. This is where hydroponic farming comes in.
A new feeding system offers livestock owners “acres in a box”. It uses a portable hydroponic biomass chamber to force-sprout dry grains and seeds such as barley, flax, soy and wheat. Two quarts of seed produce a 15-pound mat of fresh sprouts called a “biscuit”. There is no dirt, herbicides or pesticides. The setup promises “seed to feed in six days”. It also promises increased vitality, reduced recovery time after work, anti-inflammatory properties, no ulcers, colic or laminitis, and improvements in behavior, appearance and coat gloss as well as stronger hooves.
Three case studies In January 2010, a 90-day Equine Observational Study was done at Fieldstone Riding Club, a show barn in Moorpark, California, using Fodder Solutions green feed. Three performance horses were fed barley and flax seed sprout biscuits. Each horse was chosen because of various infirmities. The chosen horses also represented a cross-section of breeds.
1 Rubicon is a 14-year-old Oldenburg jumper. He had been a champion performance horse but his jumping career was over. He had acute ringbone in both front hooves, sore feet, swollen legs, an old suspensory injury, anemia and arthritis. He had not been in training for months.
2 Dixie is a Quarter horse mare. She had a hormone imbalance that was making her mean and extremely aggressive toward other horses. She was not on hormone therapy. She had been nerved in the front hooves three years before because of navicular. Now, inflamed neuromas were causing lameness. She also had a tendency toward obesity.
3 Pippin is a ten-year-old Thoroughbred gelding. He had ulcers, a bad attitude and could not gain weight. He was sulky under saddle, his ears were constantly pinned and he did not get along with his neighbors in the barn.
All three horses were taken off their regular feed regimen of orchard grass and alfalfa hay. Additional supplements of rice bran, senior pellets, oats and molasses, coat and hoof conditioners were also stopped. The only supplement they were allowed was a trace mineral block.
The feeding program involved half a barley and flax seed sprout biscuit in the morning and half a biscuit in the evening. With that the horses were given a ten-pound flake of oat hay.
The philosophy behind this was to simulate grazing. The horses would eat the biscuit as a main course and graze on the forage hay until their next feeding. This made them salivate more, creating more beneficial flora in their intestines and better nutrient absorption. It also made the horses feel full. Once ingested, the seed husks worked on the intestinal tract in the same manner as psyllium, and the water-soaked root mat provided good fiber and hydration.
A veterinarian monitored the horses’ progress throughout the study, and blood tests were performed every 30 days.
Back to wellness Within the first 30 days, all the horses in the study showed a marked improvement, especially in their hooves. Their coats acquired a blush and started to dapple. They had more energy without being crazy. None showed any difficulty adjusting to the fresh food.
1 For Rubicon, the green sprouts were like water to dry land. Within the first two weeks, he became active and energetic. The light returned to his eyes. Always a smart horse, he turned into a prankster. The ringbone cooled off. The soreness in his hooves and the swelling in his front legs were gone. Within 60 days, his anemia was resolved without medication. His muscle mass increased by four inches. He started back in full training. At 90 days on the biscuits, Rubicon had found his form again and was happily jumping a three-foot course.
2 Dixie’s sore hooves stopped hurting within the first month. Within two months, there was no evidence of lameness from inflamed neuromas. She immediately started to lose weight without sacrificing endurance. She portrayed a good attitude toward work. Her bucking fits during lessons and her inclination to attack other horses were gone. By the end of the study, she was sleek, calm and sound.
3 Pippin’s ulcers diminished within 60 days. He was given no medication. Stimulating the salivation process did exactly what it was supposed to do. Pippin had no symptoms of any gastrointestinal problems. Gone was his malaise toward work. His ears went up. He became bright, attentive, energetic and even started to get along with his neighbors. While he initially dropped weight, he quickly started putting it back on. After 90 days on fresh sprouts, he was well toned and exhibited a higher level of performance and endurance.
This study clearly shows that your horse becomes what you feed him. A natural diet of fresh sprouts offers greater health benefits than any combination of processed or dried feeds. Equine nutrition can seem complex, but when it is broken down into a fundamental, natural way of feeding, the results can be amazing.
Katie is the author of two middle-grade readers about horses; Little Freddie at the Kentucky Derby and Little Freddie’s Legacy. She has worked at Santa Anita and Del Mar Racetracks and rides jumpers. katiecocquyt.com