Calcium is one of the most well known minerals in the equine diet. Horses are more likely to suffer from lack of calcium, phosphorus or magnesium then any other minerals.
One of the first things to know is that the calcium intake should always be higher than the phosphorus intake. The reason for this is that phosphorus will bind up calcium. The ideal calcium to phosphorus ratio is 1 to 1.5 parts calcium to 1 part phosphorus. The normal ratio in a horses diet can fall between 1:1 and 2:1. Studies have shown up to a 6:1 ratio not having ill effects on a horse.
Magnesium is a underrated, virtually ignored mineral in most horse diets. Calcium may be one of the most well known minerals but without magnesium, calciums synthesis into the bones is impaired. The ideal calcium to magnesium ratio is 2 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium (half as much magnesium as calcium). Magnesium plays a very important part in nerve and muscle function. Horses who are deficient in magnesium may show signs of nervousness, flightiness, stress, muscle tremors, in-coordination and unsteadiness. These signs can be diagnosed as tieing up, string halt or neurological. Futher more magnesium helps protect against inflammation and free-radical damage and is also important for maintaining normal insulin sensitivity.
Bee pollen. When horses have the option to graze, they are able to eat flowers which contain pollen. When sufficient amounts cannot be found naturally, bee pollen makes a good supplement. It contains carotenoids, antioxidants, trace minerals & live enzymes that offer immune support. It can also help over all increase endurance, aid in stressful situations and help to heal the gut/ulcers. Suggested feed: 1 tablespoon AM and PM.
Coltsfoot (know as the cough plant), Liquorice root, Mullien, Thyme, Plantain... these are just a few of the wonderful herbs that help expel sticky mucus from the lungs and help reduce inflammation and irritation of the mucus membranes.
Fenugreek. Fenugreek seeds are a useful supplement that contain essential oils, proteins and amino acids. Also, vitamins, selenium, silica, iron, antioxidants and more. It can be fed as seed or as powder but it is best absorbed as powder. Fenugreek is NOT for pregnant mares. Aside from its use in respiratory health, Fenugreek is used to support digestive health and boost appetite. Suggested feed: 2 tbs Fenugreek powder.
Garlic. While I have never noticed feeding garlic to be a cure to pesky flies as many people suggest, there are health benefits to feeding it. There is a debate as to how much garlic horses should be fed however, garlic is known as for its anti-septic, antibiotic, anti-inflammatory properties & improving the respiratory system in horses. The list of bacteria that is sensitive to garlic is extraordinary! Many claim that garlic is better than penicillin because it contains over 25 germ-killing compounds. We have used just a five day treatment of garlic for everything from chronic coughing horses to seasonal allergies and have been pleasantly surprised each time.
Ginger root. Effectively removes congestion from the lungs and boosts the immune system. Other supplements that eliminate mucus: sage, cinnamon, comfrey, mullien.
Green tea. An anti-viral, anti-inflammatory that is loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C & E. Suggested feed: 1 tablespoon daily.
Raw honey. Honey has been used for medicinal purposes, all around the world, for many years. It is rich in vitamins and minerals A, B, C, D & E as well as enzymes & has powerful antioxidant properties. An excellent choice to promote over all health and well being. Honey is useful in healing external wounds, the treatment of ulcers and aiding the body when ill.
Glucosamine/chondroitin. Glucosamine and chondroitin are naturally found chemicals in the body that aid in the production of cartilage. As the horse begins to age the cartilage between the bones may begin to thin causing pain as the bones rub together. Increasing the amount of glucosamine chondroitin can improve the cartilage - thus relieving the pain caused by osteoarthritis. This is one of the most popular joint supplements on the horse market.
MSM. MSM contains sulfer which is necessary for the production of collagen, gluclosamine and chondroitin - these are the building block of cartilage. MSM is promoted as an excellent natural solution to inflammation and pain. MSM is another one of the most popular joint supplements marketed to horses.
Silica. Aiding in the development of new bone, Silica is found in soil, plants and grass. Horses will naturally ingest this as a part of their diet when out to pasture and because of this it is unlikely that a horse will have a silica deficiency. Millet is also high in silica and can be used to supplement when necessary.
Turmeric. Beneficial as an anti inflammatory and anti arthritic supplement. As an added bonus turmeric also supports a positive environment for good bacteria in the gut and is a good choice for horses prone to colic as it balances the lower GI track. Suggested feed: 2 tablespoons daily.
Yucca. This is a well known herb for its use to naturally support joint health and promote comfort. Traditionally used to reduce inflammation, help with arthritis and support a healthy gut. Yucca is readily available marketed to horses.
Magnesium. Magnesium plays a very important part in nerve and muscle function. Horses who are deficient in magnesium may show signs of nervousness, flightiness, stress, muscle tremors, in-coordination and unsteadiness. These signs can be diagnosed as tieing up, string halt or even neurological.
Epsom salt. Epsom salt is an excellent source of magnesium sulfate however, it is known as a laxative and if you give to much your horse will end up with diarrhea. You are better off feeding magnesium oxide (available at feed stores), magnesium aspartate, or even magnesium tablets from the local grocery store. There are many supplements available for horses as well.
Arnica. Use Arnica topically for kicks and bruises, as a liniment, a rub, to soak a bruised or sore lamanitic hoof or in a bath after a long work out. Arnica is available in lotions, liniments and gels at your local health food store. Or buy the bulk dried herb and make your own solution! Poor 2 cups of witch hazel in a glass jar and add 1/4 cup of the dried Arnica flowers. Store in a cool, dark place and after about two weeks its ready to use. Keeps well for the whole year. External use only. Avoid open wounds.
Devils claw. Herb used for inflammation and pain control.
Grapeseed powder. Powerful anti-inflammatory that can help reduce pain and swelling of injured tissues.
White willow bark powder. Herb used for inflammation and pain control.
Red raspberry leaf. These leaves have been used for many years for females of all species, including the horse. This is the main ingredient in many supplements for mares, such as mare magic. 1/2 cup of red raspberry leaf may offer your pissy mare some relief!
Valerian root. Commonly used to decrease nervous conditions in horses, valerian root is a calmative and anti-spasmatic. The standard does is about 15 grams.
Elm flower essence. Depression. Overwhelmed by responsibilities. Despondent. Exhausted.
Holly flower essence. Jealousy of other animals, jealousy over possessions.
Honeysuckle essence. A remedy for those who live in the past. Nostalgia.
Pine flower essence. For those who blame themselves. Un-worthy/un-deserving. An animal may feel shame or guilt over something that it cannot control.
Red chestnut flower essence. This remedy helps those who are excessively anxious and worried for others.
Vervain flower essence. Fixed ideas and confident that they are right. Always wanting to be involved. High strung.
Vine flower essence. Certain of their own ability, assertive and dominant over even humans.
Walnut flower essence. For any period of change.
Water violet flower essence. A remedy for those who like to be alone. Anti-social. Un-friendly, stand-off, does not invite or welcome obvious attention.
Willow flower essence. For those who have suffered misfortune and find it difficult to except. Also, irritable, bitterness, complain, self pity. Lack of energy, submissive, dis-interested.
Di-Gize. While you wait for your veterinarian try twenty drops of DiGize oil + twenty drops of Peppermint oil. Mix together in a little bit of a carrier oil such as corn oil, mineral oil or even a little apple sauce. Syringe this into your horses mouth just like a de-wormer.
Thieves oil. You can purchase Thieves oil or make your own with essential oils. Mix 200 drops of clove, 175 drops of lemon, 100 drops of cinnamon, 75 drops of eucalyptus, 50 drops of rosemary. Store in a dark, glass container. Apply oil directly to the hoof.
Apple cider vinegar & tea tree. Mix 1/4 cup of ACV with about ten drops of tea tree oil. Apply to the affected hoof twice daily.
Looking for skin health, a shiny coat or stronger hooves?
Apple cider vinegar. 1/4 cup can be added to your horses feed.
Black oil sunflower seeds. 1 cup can be added to your horses feed.
Chia seed. 1/4 cup can be added to your horses feed.
Flax seed. 1/4 cup can be added to your horses feed.
For thin horses, weight gain and hard keepers nothing will ever replace the importance of quality free choice hay. Horses are designed to graze which means that they eat almost constantly. Be sure that the hay you are offering is free from any dust, mold and major weeds.
Horses are creatures of habit, especially when it comes to their feed. To minimize digestive upset, make all feed changes gradually.
Choose a grain that is low in starches and sugars. Diets low in non-structural carbohydrates are better and a much more natural choice for horses. A good across the board number seems to be feed one pound of grain per every 100 pounds of horse (along with your hay). I would advise feeding according to what the feed bag indicates if you do not have an experienced horse person or equine nutritionist to seek advice from. Many things will play into the amount of feed that a horse will require. Weight, body condition, work level, breed, seasonal temperature etc. What is enough for some is way to much for others and not enough altogether for another horse.
In addition to free choice hay & a quality low sugar feed alfalfa can be added. You can feed baled alfalfa, alfalfa cubes or alfalfa pellets. If you choose to feed cubes or pellets, they are best fed soaked. Remember to weigh/measure out the feed when it is dry. Two pounds of dry feed does not weigh nearly as much as the same two pounds of feed after it has been soaked.
Beet pulp is another good old stand by for weight gain. I have often let my horses choose between soaked alfalfa cubes or soaked beet pulp. Some horses prefer one over the other and either is an excellent choice. Beet pulp comes in pelleted form or shredded and is also best when fed soaked. You can soak the morning feeding the night before and the evening feeding can begin soaking in the morning or I find that 30 minutes in hot water does just as good.
Rice bran is high in fat and is another good way to add extra healthy calories to your horses diet.
Black oil sunflower seeds. You can feed a few for the added benefit of the vitamins and minerals that they contain or at 2500 calories per pound you can add them to your horses weight gaining fed plan.
And if you need more, the old stand by of poring on a cup of soybean oil still works.
If you have an easy keeper or overweight horse, feeding free choice hay or offering constant pasture and/or excess grain is not ideal. There are often more health related risks for an obese horse than there are for the underweight (not meaning starved or emaciated) horse. It is best to keep your easy keepers on a smaller field and bring them their hay rations. Since horses are designed to eat so often, still offering three meals a day, just less at a time, while feeding the hay in a hay net or wire top box will give you the most control over how much a easy keeping horse eats (the hay net slows them down) - while accommodating for the "feed little and often" rule.