Whole Food 4: Herbs and More
In our final month of whole foods, let’s talk about a few herbs and “other” foods that are packed full of nutrition.
Hawthorn Berries are high in antioxidants. They contain the flavonoids such as quercitin, and oligomeric procyanidins (OPCs)- the same antioxidants found in grapes. In Europe, they are used as a heart tonic and to treat circulatory and heart disorders.
Red Raspberry Leaf is high in vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, iron and vitamin B. Most horse people are familiar with raspberry leaf as a uterine relaxant and it’s suggested use for mares when “in heat”. Some horse owners have reported limited success with using raspberry for those reasons. I advise horse owners to tailor a herbal prescription to their individual horse’s needs and not just rely on over the counter preparations.
Bee Pollen is another excellent source of amino acids. Bee pollen is considered a super food that interestingly we can’t artificially produce. It is full of vitamin and minerals and many have acclaimed it’s super powers. My only concern is the plight of the honey bee. They are dying out fast and while scientist know of multiple causes, there seems to be little hope for these great pollinators.
So that completes our list, although I wouldn’t say it’s complete. I just wanted to give you a sample of the many foods available that pack a punch in nutrition. Supplementing our horses doesn’t require synthetic or man made vitamins and minerals that congest and clog our horses systems up. Not only do we over supplement our horses with vitamins and minerals but many of the synthetics are not utilized by the body and are actually harmful. Hopefully this list gave you a place to start in providing a rich source of vitamins and minerals to your horse without having to pay the expensive price tag on processed supplements.
Remember this information is not to replace veterinary advice or care. Always consult a equine nutritionist when changing your horses diet.
Don’t forget to contact me if you’d like a topic covered in a future blog. Until next time,
Why Your Horse Has Ulcers
Candace Pert reminded me of an important fact. Animals just don’t get ulcers from stress, they get ulcers from a certain kind of stress. The stress involved with the feeling of no control over their environment. It’s no wonder horses have such a prevalence of ulcers. Not only do we put them in the most unnatural environments but then we take all control away from them.
They don’t get to say when they go out, whom they get to go out with, when they get ridden or when they get to eat. It’s all controlled and then on top of it all we change their environment without warning. For instance, we take them to races, shows and competitions, add or take away pasture mates or change their daily schedule. This kind of life is nothing like their wild counterparts.
So what should we do about it? Realize that life for the domestic horse can be stressful and they get ulcers.
In fact, up to 60% of show horses have ulcers and up to 90% of race horses have ulcers.
Even when diagnosed and treated properly, ulcers lesions can take over a month to heal thoroughly. To complicate matters worse, many horses get recurring ulcers.
Signs & Symptoms
The usual signs of ulcers include:
- Poor appetite
- Acting hungry but not wanting to eat
- Weight loss and/or poor body condition
- Poor hair coat
- Mild colic
- Mental dullness or attitude changes
- Poor performance
- Lying down more than normal
- Nervousness and anxiety
- Teeth grinding (especially when ridden)
- Touchy sides for both riding and/or grooming
How To Treat Ulcers
For starters, there are general management issues that can be addressed to both treat and prevent ulcers.
- Increasing the amount of roughage in the diet.
- Increasing the number of feedings and increase the amount of time the horse is actually eating.
- Don’t let the horse’s stomach get empty.
- Have the horse on pasture 24 hours a day. The more the horse is out walking around and grazing the better.
- Avoid stressful situations if possible.
- Avoid feed changes.
In addition, there are medicines to treat ulcers. Those medicine are:
- Omeprazole: the ingredient in Gastrogard and Ulcergard. Omeprazole is a proton pump inhibitor meaning that it blocks the glandular cells in the stomach from producing hydrochloric acid.
- Ranitidine: an H2 antagonist known to be good for stomach and hindgut ulcers. This medication must be given 3 times per day.
- Cimetidine: also an H2 antagonist. Cimetidine is best as a temporary solution and relief from the ulcers but has not been shown to aid in healing.
- Sucralfate: a viscous compound that will coat the ulcers like a bandage to facilitate healing. This should also be given 3 times per day and is usually given with ranitidine.
Horses should not be kept on ulcer medications for long term. Decreasing the acid in the stomach can lead to B12 deficiency, poor digestion, hind gut issues plus calcium and magnesium imbalances.
While scientific evidence is usually lacking with alternative medicines and supplements, I think they are important to mention here because they are safe for long term use. Most can be used to prevent ulcers once they are cleared with medication. Here are some suggestions for daily prevention.
- Probiotics and digestive enzymes to aid digestion.
- Herbs such as slippery elm bark and marshmallow to coat the lining of the GI tract.
- Papaya puree (such as found in Stomach Soother). Papaya is also used for people with upset stomach.
- Supplements like Succeed that help digestion in general.
- Aloe Vera juice.
- Organic apple cider vinegar.
It’s important to remember that treating ulcers and healing them takes time. Ulcers can be very painful and can flare up under the slightest bit of stress. This is one condition that should not be ignored. Ulcers can cause long term health problems not just because of the pain and increased risk of colic but also because of the immune system that relies on a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Chronic immune problems are so prevalent in horses today, make sure that ulcers aren’t one of the reasons why. Get your horse treated today!
Whole Foods 2: Fresh Foods
Last time we talked about why whole foods are so great for your horse and the downsides of feeding processed foods. If you haven’t read that article, you can find it here. Today, let’s review some edible fresh foods for horses and what nutrients they have in them. While some of these you may already give to your horse, I bet some you never thought of. I want to mention that when introducing new foods proceed slowly as to not upset your horses digestive system. In addition, realize that not all foods will be palatable to your individual horse.
Carrots are rich in beta carotene which converts into retinol, the most usable vitamin A for the body. It is recommended that horses get between 24,000 & 50,000 IU per day. 1 cup of carrots has about 18,000 IU. Green grass has vitamin A but in winter horses can easily become deficient because stored hay looses it’s vitamin content pretty quickly. Carrots also contain vitamin K, C, E, B1,, B2, B3, B6, potassium, folate, copper, phosphorous, pantothenic acid and manganese.
Apples contain polyphenols which are not only a great source of antioxidants but also have been shown to reduce blood sugar. Apparently, the apple slows down carbohydrate digestion and reduces glucose absorption. In human research, apples are good for the cardiovascular system, anti-cancer and anti-asthma. Apples are a good source of vitamin C.
Pumpkin reportedly safe to offer your horses. I’ve never tried it but might this coming fall and see what they do. I do feed pumpkin seeds and that we will cover in the future under seeds and such. Pumpkin is high in vitamin A, B, antioxidants and many minerals. Might be worth a try!
Mango pieces can be fed to your horse but NOT the pit/seed. Mangos are another good source of vitamin C and A.
Wheat Grass is like a horse superfood. I grow this indoors during the winter or early spring to give my horses a special treat. It’s full of minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sodium and selenium. Vitamins in wheatgrass include A, C, E, and several B vitamins. The most prevalent vitamin in wheatgrass is pantothenic acid.
Fresh herbs are a great addition to your horses diet. Again these can be grown inside and offered during the winter months when it’s hard for horses to get anything fresh. Although the discussion of herbs for your horse is beyond this blog here is a list of some herbs you can try: chamomile, red clover, calendula or thyme.
There are other vegetables and fruit (without pits) that supposedly are safe to feed your horse, I’ve just never tried them. Obviously this information is not to replace veterinary care and I cannot be held liable for this information. Just saying…
What is “Whole Live Nutritious Food”?
Eating a diet of live food has long been considered the supreme type of food consumption. This is even true of our horses’ diet. A live food diet consists of food eaten in it’s natural state without being cooked or processed so that it maintains the vitamin, mineral and enzyme content. When most people think of live food they think of raw food. Raw food is the way to go especially for our equine friends. Their natural diet in the wild would be of raw and unprocessed grasses, seeds etc. The next best type of food would be that which was dried or dehydrated with a temperature not exceeding 118 degrees. Above this temperature, enzymes and vitamins are destroyed.
When we talk of whole foods, we mean consuming the real food, not a processed facsimile.
Where this is most important is in our horses consumption of phyto-nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Scientific research clearly shows that when consuming these vital nutrients from a whole food source they are more readily bio-available and more easily absorbed then when they come from a man made supplement. Commonly, it is the interaction between the nutrients in a balanced way that benefits the body the greatest. These combinations are only found in mother nature. Synthetically processed or isolated nutrients are NOT as good for your horse as the “real thing”. That’s why it’s important to offer a wide variety of whole live foods to your horse and not rely on a man-made synthetic supplement.
Where has horse feeding and supplementation gone wrong?
I believe we have done a real disservice and harm to our horses health by feeding processed food, supplementing with synthetic vitamins and treating their food with chemicals (including preservative and pesticides). I truly believe that’s why we are seeing an increase in metabolic disorders, cancer and a whole host of equine disease. Just like in humans, garbage in, garbage out!
What are processed feeds?
Well, if you get really picky almost all feeds are processed in some way. However, what you really want to avoid is the commercial feeds that have fillers and cheap products that aren’t whole foods. Examples are ingredients like wheat middlings and grain by products. Contrast that to a feed label that lists whole oats or barley which are whole foods. Now it can be argued that grains of any sort aren’t the best food for your horse but many competition horses cannot live on just grass or hay alone. If you really want to know about the pros and cons of individual grains read Healing Horses: Their Way! by Marijke van de Water.
Secondly, you need to look at the sources of vitamins and minerals. Most commercially available vitamins and minerals whether sold as a supplement or included in your horses premixed grain are synthetically made. Unfortunately these are cheaper, hence why they are used. To complicate matters more, it is EXTREMELY hard to tell on the labels what vitamins and minerals may be from natural sources and which ones are man made. Labels are deceptive as we have seen in the human food industry.
To drive this point home, let’s look at Selenium. Selenium is not readily available in the soil here in the eastern half of the US. Therefore, many people supplement with it. Inorganic selenium (aka sodium selenate) is poorly processed by the body, less available for use by the body and more prone to toxicity at high levels. However, it is cheaper and many supplements have this type of selenium in them. The better choice is organic selenium and comes from selenium yeast. This is easily utilized and stored in the horses body just as if the horse ate selenium rich grasses. Which one is in your feed or supplement? Sometimes it requires some investigation. Think about it, this is just one of the many minerals listed on the feed label! What about all the others? There are similar arguments with natural vitamin A vs synthetic vitamin A, natural vitamin E vs synthetic vitamin E and a whole host of other vitamins and minerals. Again, it’s extremely hard to determine which ones you are feeding when the source is a processed source.
This is why people are turning to whole live food supplementation for their horse.
Why not supply carrots instead of synthetic vitamin A? The hard part is understanding what foods to supply to our horses to ensure they get everything they need. The first recommendation (if possible) is to allow your horse to graze on a very large pasture that contains a variety of plant materials to choose from. This simulates how they would choose different foods in their environment in the wild. I know. I know, this isn’t always possible but it’s a start. The second recommendation would be to supplement with a whole food source like BioStar Optimum EQ. (No, I didn’t get paid anything to recommend this.) The third recommendation would be to take a list of whole foods and make your own supplement. Better yet, let your horse choose which ones it wants to consume!
Let’s review the benefits of feeding your horse live whole foods.
- Nutrients from the food are easily absorbed, bio-available for the body to use and completely natural.
- No ingredient is synthetic, man made, chemical laden or processed.
- Helps prevent disease by supplying the best nutrition possible.
- Helps treat disease and lameness by strengthening the very foundation of the horse.
- Helps treat disease and lameness by balancing nutritional deficiencies.
- Supplies the right amount of nutrients to help combat metabolic disorder.
What about whole live food treats?
Many of you know that I have a secret recipe for horse treats that are not only delicious but also packed full of nutritious whole foods that supply many vitamins and minerals. You too can make these for your horse and they don’t require any cooking. After we go over some great superfoods for horses in the next couple months, get creative with the list above and start experimenting.
JULY/ NEXT ISSUE: We talk about fresh foods that are great for horses.
AUGUST: We learn about seeds that are packed full of nutrition
SEPTEMBER: We cover herbs that are great for their nutrient content.