Feed Your Horse The Best: Whole Food For Horses
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.