Digestive Enzymes, Hydration and the Gut are key to a happy and healthy horse, with the addation of some seasonal whole foods you can help mainatin a good balance.
Winter months can be a difficult time for feeding our equine friends; we really need to provide proper nutrition and hydration. Winter can often mean colic for many horses this can be from lack of hydration, low gut function, and non digestible foods.
Non digestible foods (devoid of digestive enzymes)
Back at the ranch, your horse is probably dining on popular brands of highly processed, acidic stuff from a bag, with no digestive enzymes present, the main ingredients of which were genetically modified (GMO) starchy by-products of flour and liquor manufacturing. Since there is little taste or nutrition in this sawdust, manufacturers have to heavily disguise it so horses will eat it. They add lots of cheap sugars (from cane molasses), and (inflammatory) fats from GMO soybean and corn oil. In order to call this “nutritionally complete feed” they add doses of indigestible minerals (e.g., calcium from limestone which can lead to painful enterolyths) and a whole mess of synthetic vitamins and sometimes toxic preservatives.
Naturally, only fresh pasture grass & vegetation and fresh raw living wholefoods contain digestive enzymes, digestive enzymes help with better digestion. Any processed feed, whether hay, grains or pellets does not contain the enzymes needed for proper absorption. Forage should be the foundation of your horse’s diet regardless of enzymes being present or not, as horses need continuous high fibre, low starch food flowing through their digestive system constantly. You can incorporate enzyme rich wholefoods into the horse’s diet to help with better digestion, in the form of fodder aka sprouted barley grass or wheatgrass or by using a variety of sprouted seeds I also recommend things in season like kales, Swiss chard, spinach, an assortment of greens, squashes such as acorn, butternut, and pumpkin along with pears, apples, grapes, banana, soaked nuts like almonds and chia seeds or flax seed. When adding new things into your horse’s diet start with small amounts and feed daily.
It Isn’t just about water.
Alkaline is hydrating - Acid is dehydrating.
By alkalizing the system and feeding the foods that are natural to the species, will allow hydration on a cellular level which far exceeds surface hydration, which hydrates on a much lower magnitude sustaining life yet far from a healthy hydration level. Alkalinity will provide a hydration to support healthy digestion, intestinal health, glandular, and cellular which will affect a level of health and vitality well beyond sustaining life. Luckily enough your horse will have access to vegetation and hay which will help keep a good alkaline balance. But with the addition of alkaline foods you can help maintain a better level.
The horses with the best health and (calm) behaviour have a pH the same as ours - around 7. The pH scale goes from 0 – extremely acidic to 14 – extremely alkaline. Neutral is 7. All the metabolic processes can only function properly when this internal pH is EXACTLY 7.365
(list of alkaline foods, some may not be suitable for horses).
When the digestive tract becomes unhealthy, the bacteria are not present in the correct proportions, and incomplete digestion occurs. Part of the key to good nutrition is to keep the bacteria balanced and happy in their proper places in the digestive tract. Just replacing bacteria in the form of a probiotic may not be the answer, since, if the pH is incorrect for the incoming bacteria, they will not be able to repopulate the gut as effectively. Substrates for nourishing the bacteria come from a good natural diet, yet again feeding wholefoods like seasonal vegetables and sprouted seeds can help the gut. The gut environment is a miniature eco-system where each player has a place and a job, and if any little piece of this symphony is out of place or upset, the whole gut is affected.
All of us strive to feed our horses high quality rations that are formulated by talented equine nutritionists using the latest research guidelines. The obvious question is, “How can horses being fed a balanced ration be deficient in trace minerals?” The simple answer is they may be marginally deficient or have a subclinical deficiency.
What is a subclinical deficiency? Our horses on balanced rations look and feel fine, but when we stress them with athletic exercise, their structural support system can’t handle the load and end result is tissue damage. When this occurs we could see a clinically lame horse with tendon, ligament or joint damage. A subclinical trace mineral deficiency is not readily apparent until we exceed the tissues’ ability to respond to stress.
Most horse feeds have more than enough copper, zinc and manganese to meet National Research Council guidelines. However, the absolute key is not how much and most trace minerals in horse feeds are inorganic and poorly absorbed. Organic trace minerals are more bioavailable and supplementation with certain forms has been shown to have significant biological benefits in food animals.
- Synthetic nutrients- less than 10% absorption rate
- Inorganic minerals- 10% absorption rate
- Amino acid chelated minerals 40% absorption rate
- Wholefoods 90% absorption rate
in conculsion, variety is the spice of life, by adding in some wholefoods and seasonal delights into your horses diet you will help increase gut function, help support better digestion and provide an aray of vital wholefood minerals (antioxidants).
Keep it real, Rachel Kelly
For all you need to know about sprouting seeds for your horse go to www.equineherbalist.ie