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I'll start by saying the basis for my feeding program is NATURE.  I don't use pelleted feeds for a number of reasons: I've never seen a pellet growing on a tree/vine/stalk; They are created by liquifying/reducing/reminaralizing/adding to, etc. then "formed" .... PROCESSED; They are devoid of any moisture and this must be added back by the horse's system - this starts in the mouth, but let's face it they are so easy to eat most horses spend little time actually chewing them so the remoisturization process really begins in the throat and continues through the digestive tract (we all know a leading cause of colic is lack of hydration); Chewing is not encouraged - obvious digestive implications not to mention dental Scotia Equine Dental Care  and chiropractic; Most have some sugar added - molasses, etc. palatable to the horse, but NOT HEALTHY; Nutritionally faulty - who comes up with these "recommendations" for what a horse needs for each vitamin/mineral?  The same people who came up with the human RDA?  Then even if these recommendations are to be believed who has a horse that you can feed that much to? My horses would explode on that much grain product.... then what - I'm left to go searching for some other form of synthetic vitamins and minerals to "supplement" since I can't be getting my horse all he needs???

1.  I really think that the best thing for all horses is to have access to free-choice hay - for  horses that have good enough teeth and that are not in heavy work that should be quite adequate for their caloric needs.... For older horses you may want to seek 2nd crop to supplement the 1st crop since it has different nutritional values and tends to be finer in consistency... this is often more palatable to the older folks. The best way to deliver hay is through a CONTINUOUS - SLOW - feeding system.  I have watched my horses go from "ravenous attack ponies" to "nonchalant pickers" just by providing them with MORE THAN ENOUGH all the time.... and BONUS - the ones that were looking as if they would birth triplets have slimmed and the ones who looked fine.... still do!  Check out this site
http://paddockparadise.wetpaint.com/page/Small-Mesh+Hay+Nets

Here at Healing Spirit Farm we've been making our own hay nets for about four years.  Through the good ole trial and error process we feel we've come up with a design that's: practical, affordable, time/energy conservative, and beneficial!  You can purchase these hay nets by contacting us.  See our Facebook Page for pictures/details  
 

2.  Horses' stomachs are very small and were not meant to be able to handle large meals, decrease the size of any grain meals to no more than 1qt at a time. And, their stomachs are empty after 2 hours without food, so even if they've had what you think is "enough" to eat for the day.... they truly will be feeling "hungry" after a couple of hours without food.  Think multiple smaller intakes over time is always better and think of how you feel when you're hungry.... tired, lethargic, grumpy, irritable, easily annoyed.

3.  THE BEET INDUSTRY VOTED UNANIMOUSLY TO CONVERT ALL PRODUCTION TO G.M.O -- THIS IS HIGHLY DISTURBING TO ME AND THEREFORE I HAVE CEASED USING BEET PULP AT ALL.  I HAVE FOUND STANDLEE HAY COMPANY'S PRODUCTS WONDERFUL - TIMOTHY PELLETS, TIMOTHY/ALFALFA PELLETS AND CUBES WITH NO FILLERS/ADDITIVES

Use Timothy Pellets as your mainstay instead of grain when needing the "extra". We had a breeding stallion that lived and was used for breeding right to the ripe old age of 37 and I swear we kept him healthy and happy feeding free-choice beet-pulp since he had almost no teeth and couldn't chew hay.   I use it all the time for all my horses (the easy keepers get very little and the harder keepers get more) because it's served damp and since they're all used to it I can add stuff I need to get into them such as the diatomaceous earth - more on this below - for parasites.  Get the pellets (not shreds as this has molasses and we don't want any added sugars in their diets) - mix the pellets so that when they've absorbed all the water it creates a mealy consistency like the feeling of damp shavings (roughly 1 part beet pulp pellets to 2 parts water.).  I've heard people say "my vet says not to feed that because it's dangerous."  Well, I've never had a problem, and I know many people who feed it and have never had a problem... but I have known several people who feed pelleted feeds whose horses have had incidents of "choke" and come close to death.  Below "myths" were taken from the site:  http://www1.agric.gov.ab.ca/$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/hrs3243

Myth: "Beet Pulp is Just A Filler."

Most old-timers will tell you beet pulp has no nutrition, "it's just a filler." Again, science has proved otherwise. Beet pulp is the fibrous material left over after the sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It's an excellent source of digestible fibre for the horse and can be fed in addition to, or instead of, hay. Recent research has shown that the fibre in beet pulp is easier to digest than the fibre in hays. In fact, horses may derive as much energy from beet pulp as they do from oats (Table 4). In other words, a pound of (dry) beet pulp has almost the same amount of calories as a pound of oats. Because beet pulp provides these calories as fibre (as opposed to the starch in grains), it can be safely fed in larger amounts without the risk of colic or laminitis associated with feeding a large amount of grain. Furthermore, the protein content of beet pulp (averaging 8 to 12%) is comparable to most grains and good-quality grass hays (Table 4). And, beet pulp also provides a reasonable source of calcium, intermediate between the high calcium in alfalfa and the lower calcium content of grass hays, but much higher than grains (Table 4).

Whether used as a source of forage or as a replacement for oats, beet pulp is a useful addition to the diet of many types of horses. Beet pulp has been successfully fed at levels up to 50% of the horse's total ration (approximately 10 lbs for a 1000 lb horse). More commonly, owners choose to feed 2 to 5 lbs of beet pulp per day. The high digestibility of beet pulp makes it a good choice for horses that are "hard keepers" (it's very good for encouraging weight gain), as well as horses with dental problems, or older horses who have trouble chewing or digesting other types of forage. Beet pulp is also used as a grain replacement in the diets of horses that suffer from tying up (providing calories as fibre rather than starch). And the low potassium content of beet pulp makes it an ideal forage replacement for horses with HYPP. Finally, endurance riders favour beet pulp because its high water holding capacity provides the horse with a larger reservoir of fluid in the digestive tract that can be used to help prevent dehydration.


Table 4: Comparison of the nutrients in beet pulp with the nutrients in other common feeds.*
Feed                       Fibre(%)     Energy (Mcal/kg)     Protein (%)        Calcium(%)
Beet pulp                   20                       3.15                10 - 12                  0.70
Oats                          11                       3.30                   12                     0.09
Barley                         6                        3.70                  13                      0.05
Alfalfa hay                  28                       2.30                15 - 18                  1.30
Timothy hay                35                      1.95                  6 - 9                    0.35


*Please note these are average nutrient values and are presented on a 100% dry matter basis..


Myth: "Beet Pulp Must be Soaked Before You Feed It."

"If you don't soak beet pulp before feeding it, it'll swell up and rupture the horse's stomach." "Beet pulp will swell up in your horse's esophagus and cause choke if you don't soak it first." These are just a couple of the diabolical warnings surrounding the feeding of beet pulp. Because beet pulp seems to "grow" when water is added, somebody surmised that it could be a hazard if fed dry because it would absorb saliva and gastric juices, swell up, and block the esophagus or cause the stomach to burst. Although inaccurate, these evil predictions deter many horse owners from even trying beet pulp.

Beet pulp may soak up water like a sponge, but it cannot soak up saliva quickly enough to expand in the esophagus and cause choke. Instead, choke associated with beet pulp (particularly the pelleted form) is often in response to the particle size and the horse's aggressive feeding behaviour, rather than the actual feed itself. Horses that bolt their feed without sufficient chewing, or do not have adequate access to water, are far more likely to choke, regardless of the type of feed, compared to horses that eat at a more leisurely rate.

Nor is it likely that dry beet pulp will rupture the horse's stomach. The equine stomach holds 2 to 4 gallons. This volume is equivalent to 4.5 to 9.5 pounds of dry beet pulp, which is more than most horses receive in a single meal. Likewise, most food that enters the stomach passes on to the small intestine within 15 minutes or less—and for those of you who have timed how long it takes beet pulp to expand, it's longer than 15 minutes. Assuming free access to water, horses will voluntarily drink enough water to adequately process any amount of beet pulp consumed (1.5 to 2 litres per pound of beet pulp). Along with this drinking water, fluid is constantly entering the digestive tract, so beet pulp will not "suck the horse dry." Ultimately, the 40 to 50 gallon capacity of the equine digestive tract is more than sufficient to contain even a very large meal of beet pulp. The only horse in danger of a gastric rupture is one suffering from impaction or other severe lack of normal peristaltic movement.

So, contrary to popular belief, you don't have to soak beet pulp (either the pelleted or shredded form) in water to feed it safely to horses. Research at several universities, including some of my own studies, have fed dry beet pulp in amounts up to 50% of the total diet without choke or other adverse reactions. Likewise, many, many tons of dry beet pulp-based feeds are fed annually without incidence. For example, most commercial feeds designed for geriatric horses contain large amounts of beet pulp and are fed straight out of the bag without being soaked first. If you choose not to soak the beet pulp before feeding it, make sure your horse has access to as much good, clean water as he wants (which should be the case no matter what you feed).

Although soaking beet pulp is not necessary, there are several good reasons for wetting it down before you feed it. Soaking beet pulp may make the feed easier to chew, particularly for older horses with bad teeth. Soaked beet pulp may also be more tasty and it provides a useful method for hiding minerals or medications. If your horse gobbles down his feed or is prone to choke, it might be a good idea to soak your beet pulp. And while horses will drink water on their own, pre-soaked beet pulp is a good way to get some water into your horses, particularly in the winter when they may not be as inclined to drink what they need. So, if soaking beet pulp fits into your feeding management, by all means, do it. You don't have to soak beet pulp overnight-most of the expansion takes place within the first 3 to 4 hours.

4. To the beet pulp you can add some oats, black-oil sunflower seeds (BOSS), barley, olive oil, coconut oil - Fats are a much more efficient calorie source than protein (oats) especially for horses that are not in work. But - grain has its place, it does create heat.  A note on this - I have a TB mare that came back to me recently a bit underweight.  I was giving her a quart of mixed beetpulp, 1/2 qt oats, and a qt of BOSS daily along with all the hay/grass she'd eat.  In 2 wks she was in good weight.

5.  Free choice loose salt  - Horses are CHEWERS not LICKERS as most of us horse owners can attest to by looking forlornly at various horizontal wooden surfaces on our property.  Because of this they have a very difficult time getting their requirement of salt from LICKS which were created for.... COWS whose tongues are VERY different from horses.  I use the Sola Salt that is sold for use in water softeners - it's just cleaned rock salt.  I will likely alter my choice for this at some point as I don't like the idea that the salt has been "cleaned" with bleaching processes -- but there's only so many things I can change in a day!  I choose to feed just plain salt without minerals in it as I feed minerals in kelp form as seen below.

6.  Free Choice Kelp Meal - I've been doing this for 2 years with all my horses - they eat what they need - in spring it's more than any other time of year - but it cycles and sometimes they eat a lot and other times almost none... When they're eating lost of kelp the don't each much plain salt and when they don't seem to need as much kelp the salt goes faster.  I get it at RT farms in Winthrop on RT 202 (roughly $38 per 50lbs) the number is 395-8118.  I'm also informed that many other places are carrying it now also.  For instance Long Horn Feed at junction of rt 114 and 202 -- In Buxton area I think?

8.  Green Clay
Most horse owners are aware of the benefits of clay poultices for reducing soreness and inflammation in the lower extremities of horses. Clay poultices have the ability to draw toxins out of the tissues so they are routinely applied to the legs of performance horses to prevent swelling after hard workouts. Bentonite or French green clay can also be used internally as a periodic cleanse of the digestive tract. The clay is feed at the rate of one tablespoon twice a day for a period of 2 to 3 weeks. As the clay moves through the digestive system it mechanically absorbs material from the lining of the GI tract, possibly even trapping pathogenic bacteria and parasites so that they are passed in the manure, leaving a healthier overall intestinal environment. I find the clay most helpful for horses that have had a significant parasite load and have been recently dewormed. It also appears to help the horses that have developed ulcers due to pain from an injury or following short-lived emotional stress, such as trailering to new barn or weaning. Water should be added to the feed along with the clay to prevent impactions. Because the clay can also absorb nutrients such as vitamins and minerals it should not be fed long term. Clay may also have a short term buffering effect on stomach acid but its beneficial effects on the health of the digestive lining make it a safe product to use periodically.  I get mine from the holistic horse at http://www.theholistichorse.com

9.  ChiaSeeds       http://www.equinechia.com/about

These are great.  Chia seeds contain 32-39% oil.  We use them for ourselves, our dogs and now our horses!  They're awesome and they are STABLE - no need to grind and no need to worry about them going rancid!!

10. I don't vaccinate my animals. Dr. Christina Chambreau, DVM - "Routine vaccinations are probably the worst thing that we do for our animals. They cause all types of illnesses but not directly to where we would relate them definitely to be caused by the vaccine. Repeating vaccinations on a yearly basis undermines the whole energetic well-being of our animals. Animals do not seem to be decimated by one or two vaccines when they are young and veterinary immunologists tell us that viral vaccines need only be given once or twice in an animal's life. First, there is no need for annual vaccinations and, second, they definitely cause chronic disease. As a homoeopath, it is almost impossible to cure an animal without first addressing the problems that vaccines have caused to the animal, no matter what the species." 

I do show a couple of my horses and that requires rabies, but most clubs allow Titer results which is a bit more costly up front, but I believe the overall effect of over vaccination leads to many of the issues that become more costly over time i.e. impaction colics, ulcers, and worse.  I'd especially caution against them for older horses and frankly I don't use any more chemical wormers - I've seen the discomfort they can cause... You can have a vet run a fecal sample and check for parasites once or twice a year and go from there.  Diatomaceous Earth is a natural wormer that mixes well into the beet pulp.  Make sure you get FOOD GRADE not commercial grade as that's bad.

Horses may from time to time end up carrying a load of parasites that may be too heavy for their greatest well being. I think it is best to be conservative with chemical dewormers so a yearly (or more frequent) schedule of fecal sampling should show when worming may be needed.  The exception to this may be Tapeworm as these seldom show up in fecal (at the right time).  See the following for some excellent food for thought on this topic:  http://www.midamericaagresearch.net/documents/Equine%20Parasitology%20with%20pictures.pdf  

OKAY - having said all this - I am not a vet (thank god) - and if you ask most vets about any of this they'll look at you as though you have 3 heads - I promise :)   I read a lot and I talk to many who are doing things naturally - it works for us and them.... why wouldn't it work for others? 

Some magazines I like a lot:

Natual Horse

Equine Wellness

The Holistic Horse

These next sites have some interesting information


http://www.naturalhorsetalk.com/consult.html

http://www.holistichorsekeeping.com/resources/articles/index.html

This site has some great products for horses, dogs people...

http://www.theholistichorse.com/Horses.shtml


The following information was copied from the Natural Horse Magazine website - please check this site out as there are hundreds of wonderful articles on natural horsecare available to subscribers.

Are There Effective Alternatives to Chemical Dewormers? How do horses in the wild survive without being dewormed?

Overall health and resistance are strong in the wild, free-roaming, undomesticated animals of the world. Wild horses and other animals are continuously exposed to parasites, but they develop a natural resistance to parasites and their harmful effects. Wild horses, unlike domesticated horses, have a choice of grazing areas, and nature has taught them that areas contaminated with fresh manure should be avoided - at least for a time.

The wild horses of Shackleford Banks, North Carolina roam on a 3,000-acre island and are the subjects of much study. One study shows that parasites are abundant on the island and the horses can become heavily parasitized by intestinal worms when they come into contact with parasite-infected manure while grazing. These horses are known to instinctively practice parasite-avoidance behavior - they defecate significantly more in non-grazing areas than in grazing areas, and they wait.

In the island environment, the parasites eventually succumb to the elements if they are not ingested. The level of infective parasites in the manure drops to a safe amount if they are not ingested after fifteen to seventeen days. The horses in the majority of the herds wait until after this time has passed before returning to the area to graze. Other factors influence where and when wild horses graze and defecate, but this study demonstrated that parasite avoidance is a factor in their foraging choices.

Also available to wild horses are the plants that have anti-parasitic properties. Selecting wild herbs such as southernwood, wormwood, mint and rosemary are an instinctive behavior for wild animals of many species. Nature has taught them how to sustain themselves nutritionally and medicinally by seeking out what they need from what is available. Nature obviously does not intend for an absolute zero parasite count or parasites would not exist. Resistance to them and their ill-effects is possible; otherwise wild horses and other wild animals would have died off long ago.

Is there a parasite problem?

In captivity, there usually is a parasite problem. The horse is limited to certain areas of grazing, thus limiting his ability to select uninfected grazing areas or to wait 17 days. Also, helpful herbs and other forage are often inaccessible. To reduce the level of parasites in pastures, regular dragging with a harrow or a weighted piece of chain-link fencing serves to break up the manure and expose the parasites to the elements, reducing the length of time they remain infective. Rotating pastures is another important practice. One can also plant an herb strip or patch in the pasture to allow the horses to pick and choose helpful herbs.

To determine if there is a parasite problem, regular fecal exams or other diagnostic tests are needed to verify the presence of parasites, and also to assess the efficiency of any method of deworming. The price of a fecal exam is approximately the same as a tube of chemical dewormer so it is worth checking a fecal sample to avoid introducing toxins to the system unnecessarily. Unfortunately, no tests are 100 percent accurate when determining the number and presence of parasites.

Life in the host's body is just one part of a parasite's life cycle, but it is a very important part. They do not remain in one part of the body at all times because they migrate throughout the host, feeding and developing as they go. Some parasites can reproduce plentifully inside the body if conditions are favorable, which is why they can become a problem. The parasites are well fed, but the body is only getting a fraction of the nutrients. Not only do parasites reduce the amount of food available to the horse, they also produce their own excrement. They can attach themselves to the delicate linings of the digestive tract, causing irritation, tearing, and the formation of scar tissue further inhibiting digestion and utilization of feed, and increasing the risk of infection.Making conditions unfavorable to parasitesWhat do parasites like and dislike? They like a warm, moist, pH balanced, dark environment. They like certain foods and dislike others. They like an accommodating host without the ability to resist them. They dislike chemical dewormers, but they can become resistant to them.

Chemical dewormers are highly effective in killing parasites - for a time. Resistance to chemical dewormers, flea products and other anti-parasitic products, and even antibiotics, is an increasing problem. All these drugs seem to breed tougher enemies whereas natural remedies have been in use for centuries and are still effective today. There is now evidence that daily deworming has the same problem of building resistance.

Also a problem with the chemical dewormers is the problem of toxicity. The system has to eliminate the toxins efficiently, and if dewormers are given too often, the drug residue can build up and cause toxicity problems. Dewormers that are so effective must be used cautiously in heavily infested horses, because the sudden death of all the parasites at once could cause an intestinal blockage and kill the horse.

Horses that have a higher incidence of worm infestation have an underlying problem to begin with, and giving excessive amounts of toxins can only compound the problem. Approaching this type of horse holistically, with the complete picture in mind, and helping him to overcome the susceptibility by improving his overall health will have much greater benefit in the long run than repeatedly burdening the system with toxins.

Nutritionally, much can be done to minimize parasites. Proper nutrition is a most basic need for any living thing and plays an essential role in parasite control. A sound nutritional program that includes wholesome, fresh feed, vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients - while excluding chemical preservatives, sweeteners, and processed feedstuffs - is a necessity for a properly functioning system and a healthy, resistant horse. All that goes in needs to be either used or discarded; what can't be readily utilized creates more work in the process of elimination.

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is "fossil shell flour", the remains of trillions of single celled algae called diatoms, whose shells are made from silica. When the diatoms die, their shells settle on the sea and lake floors and fossilize into a soft, chalky, rock-like substance. The DE particles are irregularly shaped with spiny, sharp edges.

DE is a fine, powdery dust that may be irritating to the respiratory lining so care should be taken to avoid breathing it in. Simply moistening the feed is a way to prevent it from irritating the horse. DE's action against parasites is mechanical rather than chemical. When ingested, DE's microscopic sharp edges pierce the protective outer layer of the parasites, causing them to die. It literally shreds all parasites nesting within intestinal walls. Tests have revealed it is harmless to the host's internal organs, even when fed in excess. DE is not hazardous to the host, but Crystalline Silica, which is a form of finely ground DE made for pool filters, is known to be an irritant, so make sure the DE you use is Codex Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth.DE has FDA approval for internal and external use. It has been used for many years by the agricultural industry on pastures, in stored grain, and on plants and trees and even on the skin for insect control. DE is considered a digestive aid and a colon cleanser because its structure allows it to collect and carry out hard intestinal scale and debris without causing problems to the intestinal walls. Digestion is more efficient as a result. DE also contains trace minerals.

Several studies on animals, including horses, have shown both the effectiveness and the safety of DE, as evidenced by the absence of internal parasites and various other overall improvements. DE is basically a natural, non-chemical substance with the ability to control a wide variety of parasites. DE is a compatible natural compound of organic origin that works in harmony with the body. For internal use, 2 oz. by measure twice daily for one month (if you miss a day, you should start over again) to allow parasites returning to the intestines to be introduced to the DE; repeat 4 times yearly.

Deworming has been a common practice for thousands of years. Since man and horse got together, horse caretakers have used natural, safe and effective deworming practices until about 25 years ago, when toxic dewormers came to the market. However, these toxic dewormers, which effectively kill parasites, have been problematic in that they have killed more than just the parasites, parasites build immunity to them, and they do not contribute to the overall health of the horse. Nature still provides us with various gentle, effective, health-enhancing means of accomplishing the same goal, deworming, without causing harm. It is our responsibility as conscientious horse owners and caretakers to make the choice for better overall health, for the welfare of our horses. 

From Natural Horse Magazine - Vol 2 Issue 2 - 2000