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File 4 - Article 13 Previous Index Next
Author: Jimmy Baxter
Title: Straight from the Vet Student's Mouth

Horses are designed for grazing. They have large grinding teeth and a large fermenting hindgut containing micro-organisms to digest forages. Horses will naturally spend around 16-17 hours a day grazing in the wild. They will not stand still but will move around covering large areas of land.

In captivity it is very important that we try to recreate their natural situation as much as possible.

Giving a natural diet will give the horse all that it requires and will effectively work with the body to achieve a good level of health.

Mismanagement of a horse in a stable can be compared to a human not looking after their body. A crucial element in good horse nutrition is allowing it access to fresh pasture. This equates to humans getting fresh food. If the horse is given access to fresh pasture it will get the correct minerals and vitamins that it needs (provided that the pasture is managed well, or for humans, that the food is grown well). Grass provides fibre which is essential for gut motility in horses. Humans can get fibre and vitamins from fresh vegetables and fruits.

It is important also that the horse gets access to fresh water. Naturally it will get all of its water from the grass it eats (which is only ~ 18% dry matter), but horses fed on conserved forage should be given a large bucket of water to drink. Adequate hydration is essential for almost everything in the body, from good circulation to good digestion and kidney function - toxin excretion.

Good horse nutrition goes hand in hand with a good lifestyle. Horses naturally spend most of the day grazing. If a horse is kept in a stable all day it will soon become bored and restless. This can lead to the development of behavioural abnormalities. Or worse it can lead to excessive eating. A horse will not hesitate to enjoy a rich carbohydrate treat. If given access to excessive amounts of such high energy food it will eat until it can't eat anymore. This can lead to immediate health problems such as laminitis and colic, and if prolonged cause obesity and diabetes. These in turn lead to a range of problems developing such as high blood pressure, and coronary disease.

If we manage our own lives to be active and have plenty of exercise and strictly control what we eat, the temptation to eat through boredom can be eliminated. We can also ensure that we get a good proportion of natural foods in our diet. With the help and support of a Nature Cure practitioner this can be achieved.