Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Horse Feed and Supplements: Trusting Native Instinct

Have you ever been surprised at how your horse instinctively knows what to eat and what not to eat? I have. I've done a lot of research and study into what and how to feed my horses, and although I know a lot about horse feed, my horses know a lot more about what is healthiest for them.

Reyacita and Walker: Two Case Studies
My two younger horses, Reyacita and Walker, provide excellent case studies attesting to a horse's instinctive wisdom about horse feed and supplements. Both of these horses, brought home early this year, arrived with health issues that I immediately set about treating with supplements and nutrition. In both cases, the horses clearly "chose" which supplements and horse feeds they wanted, and rejected others.

For instance, when Walker, the quarter horse gelding I jokingly refer to as my "hot house flower," lost a lot of weight this summer due to detoxification, abscesses, and stomach ulcers, I immediately thought to put him on Eleviv, which had done wonders for me.

Eleviv is a new combination of herbs that has just come on the market that provides adrenal and kidney support. It is known for helping horses who have undergone some kind of trauma shift into a healing and relaxing mode (also called the parasympathetic nervous system). I thought it would be perfect for Walker.

Walker didn't think Eleviv was right for him at all. He spit out the little green capsules no matter how I tried to feed them. I offered them free choice from my hand ... forget it! I put it on his feed, so he carefully ate everything but the Eleviv. I tried syringing it into his mouth, which he bore, but spat out as soon as I was done. So I ended up giving no Eleviv to Walker.

However, Walker did indicate, by eating any sort of dried stalk or weed on the property, that he had a hankering for hay. I finally (duh!) got the message and started bringing him into a stall during the day for several flakes of hay. He regained almost his full weight within a few short weeks, something he could not seem to do on a full free-choice pasture. I was stunned at how much smarter he was than me when it came to his horse feed.

Reyacita's case was even more pronounced. She suffered from heaves, or COPD, so I started her on Eleviv as well. She ate the Eleviv willingly for about 3 weeks, after which her symptoms disappeared. About that time, she also started refusing to eat the Eleviv. She would leave the two capsules in her feed bucket every single time, while cleaning up every other morsel of feed. She refused to eat the Eleviv for a couple of months until the COPD symptoms returned. At that point, she gulped down the Eleviv herbal supplement again for two weeks. Once the symptoms cleared up again, she no longer wanted the herbs.

Horse Feed: Today Versus "Back Then"
When I think about how much my horses know about what they need nutritionally, I am horrified at the way I used to feed. Of course, back then I kept my horses in a general boarding facility rather than at home at liberty in pasture. Every horse got dished the same kind of feed: Equine Senior. Having no choice, my horses ate whatever they was given.

These days, I understand that my horses know more about what kind of horse feed works for them than I do, so I offer up what I think is right and let them choose. That system works much better, and there's much less chasing 'round the pasture to try to syringe some unwanted supplements down a horse's throat.

Do you have the same kinds of experiences with your horses or are my horses just smarter than the average bear?

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1 comment:

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