There are many natural supplements and beneficial ingredients for your horse. You just have to do your research, know what is lacking in your area both in the soil and water, or have your hay tested so you know what to supplement.
More animal guardians are becoming conscious of the artificial and chemical additives not only in our own diets but that of our animals. Some additives compromise immune health, and some create toxicity like colorants, preservatives, synthetic vitamin complexes and highly processed oils. Artificial feed additives that we can’t even pronounce, Round Up ready hay crops, drying agents and GMO seeds are adding to the noxious brew. Many owners are seeking a more natural way to supplement their horses with vitamins, minerals and necessary essential fatty acids.
Once you’ve educated yourself on the nutritional needs of your horse – individualized to your region – and the type of hay you feed, it’s time to look at the natural resources in your area. Here are just a few of nature’s gifts available to your horse:
- Rose hips are one of the richest sources of vitamin C and also contain vitamin A in beta carotene form. They offer thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, and vitamin K as well. Rose hips help horses fight off infections, and encourage hoof growth, thanks to their biotin content coupled with flavonoids. For yearlings, use either the powder at the rate of one to two tablespoons per day, or cut and sift rose hips at two tablespoons per day. For mature horses, give two to four tablespoons of rose hip powder or a handful of cut and sifted rose hips. I don’t give the whole rose hip unless they’ve been soaked and softened.
- Dandelions come to life in the early spring and are a great kidney and liver cleanser, as well as a tonic herb. This medicinal plant has been used throughout history for human conditions such as liver or kidney disorders, including jaundice. They are rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, choline, iron, silica, sulfur, and vitamins A, B, C and D. Dandelions actually contain more vitamin A than carrots! I get organic dandelion greens at my local grocery store all year long so don’t have to wait for spring. When using the dried herb form, provide about two heaping teaspoons per day for a week or two at a time. Use no more than a rounded tablespoonful, and for no longer than fourteen consecutive days. You can also feed your horse small handfuls of fresh dandelions while they’re in season. I like to also follow up the dandelions with two weeks of milk thistle seed powder for its liver detoxifying properties. I feed 2 tablespoons per day to my Arabian and 1 tablespoon per day to my minis for two weeks, twice a year.
- Flax seed contains essential fatty acids (EFAs), which are vital for hormone production and the absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K. EFAs are also components of very important regulatory substances called prostaglandins, which are responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues, controlling inflammation, synthesizing hormones and maintaining cellular tissues. They have been found to help produce anti-inflammatory substances in the body necessary for proper immune function, collagen formation, and the prevention of some arthritic conditions. Some studies have shown EFAs will enhance the integrity of joint and connective tissues as well as bone density. Research has found that the insoluble fiber in flax slows down the release of sugar into the blood and reduces blood sugar levels.
- Chia is also an excellent source of omega fatty acids and I always feed along with flax. I recommend 2 parts flax to 1 part chia. Chia contains omega 3 fatty acids which help to reduce inflammation, even slowing arthritis. It has also been shown to help convert carbohydrates into simple sugars and may help control insulin resistance in some cases.
- Kelp is the original source of iodine and comes from the “brown algae” family of plants. It has been used for the natural treatment of under-active thyroid in both horses and humans. A tablespoon four or five times a week is sufficient. Supplementing with kelp also provides micronutrients that horses do not get elsewhere and is excellent for hoof and coat.
- Apple cider vinegar is a natural source of potassium and also contains other important minerals. Feed at the rate of ¼ to ½ cup per day. Be sure to read the label as some of the apple cider vinegar being sold is only “flavored” and not the real thing. It doesn’t work the same way!
- Bentonite clay, also referred to as montmorillonite clay, is known as one of the most powerful healing clays for treating both internal and external disorders in humans and animals. Studies show that this “volcanic ash clay” was used centuries ago by some of the early indigenous people of Andes Mountain tribes, and Australia. Bentonite clay’s unique structure helps it attract and soak up poisons and toxins on its exterior wall. It then slowly draws them into the interior of the clay where they are held until safely passed through the intestinal tract. Along with its cleansing properties and its ability to remove toxins from the horse’s gut, bentonite also contains calcium and many naturally occurring micro and trace minerals. Feed one tablespoon mixed in the supplements with water a couple of times a week.
- Zeolite clay is also something that can be used to detox your horse a few times a year, especially in spring and fall.
- Sea or natural salt, aka sodium chloride, is essential for the nutritional and physiological processes of all animals, including horses. It plays a big part in helping the horse’s body digest foods as well as transmitting nerve impulses that contract the muscles. Sodium is as essential to life as the air we breathe and the water we drink. In order for the cells of the body to function normally, a salt to water ratio must be maintained, especially during hot or cold weather.
You can purchase naturally additive-free dehydrated sea salt from health food stores. Offer it free-choice and feed at the rate of at least one tablespoon per day in supplement feed, especially in hot weather when horses drink more water. It’s not necessary to continue daily in temperate weather.
There are many natural supplements and beneficial ingredients readily available for your horse. You just have to do a little research. It all comes down to balance and a less is more approach!