Clean feeds I’d recommend

Clean feeds I’d recommend

Clean feeds I’d recommend

"To use the term 'clean', that's kind of a provocative term, but I think an appropriate one because there's a lot of 'exhaust' associated with burning the wrong food for fuel ... toxicity, free radicals ... that contribute to the metabolic problems we're seeing." Dr. Mercola, Jan 2016

"We're running into a lot of metabolic problems because we're constantly inhibiting the body's ability to burn fuel that it was evolved to burn." Dr. Jeff Volek, Ph.D., Registered Dietitian and Professor, Ohio State University

What feed we choose for our horses is always going to be about personal choice, and of course what works for some won't necessarily work for all.  However, if you’re questioning your horse's feed regime, the information here may be of interest to you.

First off, what we feed our horses should be as appropriate to what horses are meant to eat, and as uncontaminated as possible, to support the natural digestive function, immunity, and behavioural response of horses. 

Secondly, and contrary to what the advertising says, horses don't need additional hard (bagged) feed over and above a forage diet.  What they do need is supplementation of additional nutrients; vitamins, minerals, protein and oil (the beneficial omega-3 oil, not the damaging inflammatory omega-6 oils which you get from the typical supermarket oils, i.e. corn, sunflower, canola etc) to balance the known deficiencies in our horses' forage
, and extra energy, if necessary, for horses in work. 

The best way to get this supplementation into your horse is via a feed carrier, as in a small amount of something clean and natural to get those yukky minerals and vitamins into them.

Personally? Until early 2017, my horses grazed on the usual livery-standard, i.e. diversified ex-dairy farm grazing, rarely any herbage, thankfully never sprayed but sadly never harrowed/rolled, so it was pretty poor grazing (which we all know is no bad thing) and they had hay pretty much all year round. 

Then in Spring 2017 we moved house so had to move the horses, and I finally found the grazing of my dreams - rolling acres of unfertilised, ancient former sheep-grazed moorland pasture – yes I know I'm lucky, but it did take me years to find it ;o)  However, it still comes with the usual micronutrient deficiencies so I need to give my small herd of four a daily feedbowl with an appropriate carrier to add in their minerals etc.

So here's my take on All Things Feed, and how I feed my horses. In brief first, then the Full Monty below if you've got a bit of time; the Full Monty forms a fair chunk of my email reply to an All Things Feed enquiry, so it's a long one.

In brief - my feedbowl
Here's what goes in mine:

  • Stance Equine's Coolstance Copra, an organic sun-dried coconut meal, is my base carrier. My horses each get a mugful (around 200g) of Copra daily, into which goes:
  • Not that it's necessary but I like to add in a handful of chew-factor, and for this I head straight for the Agrobs Pre-Alpin range. Agrobs Leitchgenus chaff for the three natives, the Agrobs Musli for HRH Queen Carmen (my TB). Their range is made from natural ingredients, grown by organic farming methods without pesticides and herbicides, non GMO, no binders, additives, preservatives, mould inhibitors or flavourings, and no soya or molasses.
  • Our EquiVitaMAX forage mineral balancer.
  • Linseed (Micronised) for the balanced omegas , 100g summer/200g winter.
  • Unrefined Salt - I prefer the Salt - Pink Himalayan Salt (Coarse), apx 10g, as in 1-level tablespoon-ish.
  • Their daily detoxing herbs, plus any specifics dependent on their individual needs. 
  • During freezing winters I slosh in a hot herbal tea, usually Green Tea with Peppermint and maybe Lemon Balm or Echinacea.

Now for the Full Monty, so grab a cuppa and here goes, Carol's take on All-Things-Feed.

So how do we keep our horses healthy?
It goes without saying to remove any stressors, or allow time for the memory of traumas to fade. As important as this, we need to keep the beneficial intestinal flora populated by way of a probiotic. If the gut flora population is strong and healthy, with the right nutrients being digested and supporting the health of the whole body, the immune system is then strong enough to kill off – and eliminate - toxins.

Let’s not forget that antibiotics also wreak havoc by destroying bacteria in the body indiscriminately – the word ‘antibiotic’ literally means ‘kill all’. The gut flora are temporarily eliminated until they are re-introduced and given the chance to repopulate again. Unfortunately, the microflora and microbial balance in a horse can be upset far quicker than it can be restored, and once damaged, it also alters the pH of the gut environment, further affecting digestion and the horse's overall health and well-being. 

Finally, we need to feed the right nutrition to nourish – and balance - the system, by way of micronutrients, aka chemicals, aka minerals.  A mammalian body is made of chemicals, whether horse or human, and all body activities are chemical in nature – a body needs the right chemicals, in the right measures, to keep itself alive and thriving.

Which means ...

What we feed has to be right
A healthy, quality life starts from the foundation of a healthy diet - it matters more than we can imagine.  It’s not just about calories, but the chemical information from the micronutrients in feed that radically influences genes, hormones, immune system, central nervous system, brain chemistry, skeletal and soft tissue structure ... you name it, the whole organism (body), at cellular level, with every single bite.

Thirty years ago a horse grazing in a typical paddock would have had the choice of approximately 30-40 different plants and grasses, each bringing its own specific nutrients essential for a balanced diet, and at the same time containing natural sources of digestive enzymes and naturally occurring beneficial bacteria.

These days, in that same paddock, because of selective seeding, intensive farming, chemical fertiliser spraying, etc etc., the grazing is limited to sometimes as few as four varieties of grasses, and very often over-grazed as well.

Nutrients are the body’s fuel, and they literally affect everything.  From how our horses feel, how they rest and sleep, how strong their immune system is, how healthy the body is; food shapes our destiny, whether horse or human – this is a cast-iron mammalian trait. 

Bottom line, the key to good health is a nutrient-rich diet. Vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids and other active components – all essential to incorporate in the diet.

Just a quick anatomy heads-up and back to those vits/mins etc., us mammals, both horse and human, are one big engine of chemistry, so we’re talking trillions of chemicals and minerals like iron, calcium and magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, zinc and copper. We’re also talking vitamins, amino acids, fats and proteins, and so on and so on.

More importantly, these chemicals have to be in the correct ratios to work in harmony with each other.  It’s all well and good adding in one extra mineral such as magnesium, which seems to be the most popular independently fed mineral.  However, because the whole organism is that big engine of incredibly complex chemical actions all interacting with each other, it means that if we add in extra of one chemical, this will unbalance all the others. 

This is why we need balanced mineral supplementation, appropriate to the equine metabolism, in line with what their daily requirements are, as per the NRC guidelines.

A horse’s natural diet of fresh grass and/or hay provides most of what they need, but not all – these days it’s now well-known that grass, and especially hay, is significantly deficient in the equine-essential micronutrients, i.e.

  • Minerals; the important four:
    • Magnesium - at least 10g/day deficient
    • Phosphorous - at least 5g/day deficient
    • Copper - at least 400mg/day deficient – in SE England, considerably more
    • Zinc - at least 1200mg/day deficient – again in the SE, considerably more
  • Vitamins, specifically the B’s, C & E; grass provides most others in reasonably balanced quantities.
  • Essential fatty acids (EFA’s) – the Omegas 3/6/9. The omegas are called ‘essential’ because we have to add them into the diet as the body can’t make them itself.
  • Amino acids, the building blocks for protein, i.e. lysine and methionine, with lysine at least 10g/day deficient.

We also need to allow for the fact that the drying/curing process of grass to hay further depletes the mineral/vitamin/omega values as well, with winter bringing even further denaturing of the vitamins C & E, as well as omega-3.

Pulling all this together, we need to add in the missing nuts and bolts to the forage our horses eat, and especially if there’s dried forage, i.e. hay/haylage, in the diet, which is usually the case for most horses here in the UK.

Feed and supplement recommendations
First off, Minerals. Depending on the weather/season/area/soil type/grass type, the changes in the chemistry of grass are many-fold, and these directly cause changes in the chemistry of the horse, which directly and adversely affects the horse's central nervous system (CNS) and muscles.

While each individual mineral has its own actions, there are thousands of reactions occurring at any given moment in time in the horse’s body, which involve many complex interactions with other minerals, vitamins, protein and energy sources. 

Yes it’s a minefield, but that’s what I’m here for - it's all about getting everything in balance
(my favourite word!).  There’s a ton more info on this in our Mineral Solutions page –

Pulling it all together here, supplementing the deficient minerals to balance our UK forage and hay is essential, especially when hay plays a major part in the diet.  If you added only one supplement into the feedbowl, it should be a balanced mineral supplement.

Now to the feedbowl
Of course, nothing’s going to balance a system and sustain health if we’re feeding all this nutrition on a feedbowl diet of donuts.  There are good feeds, there are questionable feeds that really don’t nourish the horse at all, and then there are bad feeds with inappropriate – and often health damaging – fillers and by-products. 

So long as you’ve got the base feed in the feedbowl right, you don’t need much - just something healthy and species-appropriate for the equine gut to add in the nutrient nuts and bolts, to aid palatability, ease of digestion and transit.   

However, the feedbowl is where it so often goes very wrong, because all those shiny bags at our local agri-merchants make it very confusing, promising allsorts yet often delivering very little if anything.  And as if it wasn’t confusing enough, as important as what to feed is also what NOT to feed, especially for the gut-sensitive or metabolic equine, which sadly so many of our domesticated horses are these days.

For example, no grains, no by-products or fillers, no salt blocks (they weather with weather and denature, as well as creating a haven for moulds and bacteria): obviously no molasses (although you’d be amazed at how many feeds still list some form of molasses as an ingredient), no sugary treats, and ... alfalfa, as mentioned above, which so many of our feed manufacturers use.

A quick digress on alfalfa - many metabolic horses do not tolerate alfalfa well - it can trigger gut and skin sensitivies, and can also be a source of ongoing foot pain for them. Although it generally tests below 10% sugar/starch, the starch percentage is quite high, as are the protein and calcium levels, the latter upsetting the ca:mg:p ratios.

Agreed that some horses have no issues with it, but as it’s an unknown, the very informative ECIR group (Equine Cushings Insulin Resistant) cautions against feeding it. 

Back to general feeds, and sadly many of our well known brands include some or all of these ingredients, which actively feed the bad intestinal bacteria who thrive on junk and sugar, allowing them to multiply in their trillions, which in turn kill off the beneficial flora and gut lining, through which the toxins leak into the bloodstream, and so imbalance of homeostasis begins.  It’s a cyclical whirlpool to illness, doing nothing to nourish our horses at all.

I’d definitely recommend you check the ingredients on your feedbags. They’re quite sneaky, our feed brand manufacturers – they don’t tend to list the ingredients on the bag itself, but on the analysis which is usually a fairly insignificant scrappy white label sewn into the top of the bag. 

Typical ingredients to avoid are along the lines of :

  • Nutritionally Improved Straw (NIS) - straw soaked in caustic soda to soften it for eating.  Seriously.  Who would knowingly feed caustic soda to their horse?
  • Wheatfeed / Oatfeed – both by-products, simply fillers that serve no nutritional purpose at all, basically the dusty remains after the nutritional part of the grain has been extracted. Why the feed companies call it a ‘feed’ is beyond me, as there’s no resemblance to any ‘food’ in these two.
  • Cane molasses – a byproduct of sugar beet, an ingredient known to avoid, renowned for raising blood glucose levels. Sugar beet itself is highly sprayed with chemical pesticides and herbicides during the growth period.
  • Soya –here’s a product I could write a book on about the perils of its effects, not only on horses health but humans as well. It’s such a bad ingredient that I’ve written a separate chapter on it on the website in the Feeding Your Horse page. But as a brief intro, the soya bean is rich in long-chain fatty acids containing predominantly polyunsaturated fatty acids which are inflammatory fats, so before you even get to the continuing horror list, feeding soya creates an inflammatory state in the body just for starters.
  • Pellets – many feeds come in pellet form, or include pellets, which means that unless it’s stated that they’re ‘mechanically pressed’, means they’ll be stuck together with cane molasses to form the pellet. 
  • Anything ‘Expelled’ – the waste product from the actual ingredient. ‘Expelled linseed’ is a common one. Why not just add micronized linseed?
  • Vitamin & Mineral Premix - many compound feeds also tend to have a very low, almost token measure of vitamins and minerals which don’t come anywhere close to balancing the deficiencies in our UK grazing. Thing is, unless you see the words ‘naturally occurring’, they’re going to be made-in-a-lab synthetic, and they’re definitely synthetic if you see the word ‘premix’.  So fake, not real.
  • Iron & Manganese - many feed companies also add in iron and manganese, neither of which should ever be added to equine feedstuffs as they’re both already way too high in our UK grasslands to near-toxic levels, acting as antagonists which prevent the uptake of the important micronutrients the equine body needs.
  • Calcium carbonate/dicalcium-phosphate - our UK forage is also overly high in calcium, yet you’ll probably see these two appear on the ingredients list; too much calcium seriously offsets the magnesium ratio, causing our horses to become fizzy like Tigger, but not in a good way.

And finally … all these ingredients, unless stated organic (which few of them are), are chemically sprayed during the growth – and post harvesting – period, with a final treatment of chemical mould inhibitor before packaging to stop the feed getting mouldy.  In other words, there’s a fair cocktail of toxic chemicals included in the feedbag, as well as the majority of the ingredients grown as GMO, other than Allen&Page who at least claim to steer away from GM foodstuffs but don’t use organically grown product.

Here's what I like to feed
So, what’s out there that’s clean, safe, nutritious, and chemical free? My personal base feed carrier of choice is Stance Equine's Coolstance Copra – this is especially good for sensitive guts and/or horses that drop weight or need condition. And for a quality fibre feed such as chaff/cobs, there is none finer than the Agrobs Pre-Alpin organic, natural fibre-based range.

Then, we need to add Linseed (the micronized seed for the added nutrients, not just the oil) to add in the missing omegas (EFA’s - essential fatty acids) from our grass/hay; a minimum 1-tablespoon of Salt as a natural electrolyte (unrefined, not table salt, more on this below), and your choice of mineral balancer, i.e. one of the EquiVita range, preferably the ProB (probiotic) version.

So there we have it - Copra, and/or Agrobs, Linseed & Salt – the perfect feedbowl, as follows. 

  • Copra is rich in natural coconut oil, which means it’s highly beneficial in MCT’s (medium chain triglycerides), the ‘good’ fats, not ‘fat’ calories (long-chain triglycerides/PUFA’s/polyunsaturated fats).  Stance Equine’s Coolstance Copra provides coconut oil in its natural form as an equine feed, alongside a good source of fibre and nutrients. 

    Copra is made very naturally by coconut farmers in the Philippines. The coconuts are harvested, the meal removed and manually shredded, and left to naturally dry in the sun.  You can’t get more organic and unprocessed!

    Coconut meal and oil is also naturally antimicrobial so overall it’s extremely useful for a struggling digestive system and sensitive gut system. 

    I feed Copra for several reasons; first off, my connie, Murphy, acquired the metabolic label when he was 7 (he’s now 24), so the MCT’s are very soothing and kind to his gut.  It’s also low in digestible NSC - less than 11% starch so a ‘cool’ feed, with no carb overload into the hindgut, so low risk of acidosis.  It’s also high in digestible fibre and has a natural electrolyte content. For example, if ever us humans are overseas and get delhi-belly, the best remedy is to drink neat coconut juice from a freshly opened coconut as it replaces all the lost nutrients and electrolytes.

  • If you like to add a bit of extra fibre by way of a chaff or cobs, or would prefer to use fibre as the base feed, then look no further than the Agrobs Pre-Alpin range. There really is no finer brand than the Agrobs – remember the paddock of thirty-years or so ago with 30-40 different plants and grasses? Agrobs blend over 50 different grasses and natural herbage, and include everything in their range from meadow grass cobs, a lovely Musli, mashes, a cobs range for the pregnant/nursing mare and youngstock, a PreAlpin Senior chaff plus numerous other chaffs, and all of them grown organically.

    Most people I know feed the Musli which is their flagship blend – looks amazing, smells amazing, and I defy any horse not to like it - my TB, Carmen, has the Musli.  I feed my other 3 – all natives – the Agrobs Leitchgenus as it’s made from untreated wheat straw and green oat grass, so super-low on the starch front. This makes it ideal for metabolics, which our native horses predominantly tend to be on our rich UK grass; the Leitchgenus is also very popular with many of my PPID clients. It’s also the lowest in their range of naturally occurring iron/manganese.

  • Linseed (micronized) is a staple in my feedroom - I can’t recommend it highly enough for its high-nutrient benefits for condition, coat shine, joint comfort, hooves and itchy skin to name a few.

    It’s also a gut system superstar. Thanks to its high soluble-fibre level (around 27%) this makes it high in mucilage, so super-lubricating for sensitive guts. Another of the many benefits of micronization is that it beneficially changes the structure of the seed’s grain which greatly increases digestibility in the small intestine by up to 90%.  This reduces the burden on the large intestine and can reduce the risk of overloading the GI tract and hence reduce the risk of colic, laminitis and acidosis.

    However, linseed is best known for its high omega fatty-acid content, with the low-heat micronization process preserving them. There are two classes of fatty acids (the building blocks of fats) that must be in the diet for optimal immune function, omega-3 and omega-6, with omega-3 contributing to normal homeostatic balancing of inflammation, as well as supporting vision, the nervous system and cellular membrane integrity. Linseed comes in at around 30%+ fat, with the same high omega-3 profile as fresh grass. 

    It’s also an excellent protein supplement at around 25%, with key amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) in its profile, including the most commonly deficient amino acid, lysine, and even higher levels of leucine, the most common amino acid in skeletal muscle. It’s also a good source of methionine, the sulphur-containing amino acid beneficial for strong hooves.

    The general rule of thumb is to feed 20g/100kg bodyweight summer, and double this in winter, so for an average 500kg horse you’re looking at 100g/day summer and 200g/day winter - for horses with loss of weight/condition you can easily double this.  If there’s high hay content in the diet, the omegas naturally denature during the curing process, so feed as per winter rations.
  • Now to Salt - an absolute essential, as apart from keeping body fluids in balance and providing essential natural electrolytes, which play a key role in normal nerve/muscle function and blood sodium levels, sodium is needed to balance potassium levels in the grass, with rye grass and clover particularly high in potassium. 

    However, the biochemists at Alltech tell me there’s an issue with blending salt into a mineral mix, in that sodium denatures vitamins over a period of time, so any mineral blend which includes salt will be less effective than one without it.  Which means … we have to add salt separately into the feedbowl.  At least a tablespoon daily, and double this if your horse is in hard work or sweating. 

    Adding salt into the diet can also nip in the bud so many frustrating symptoms, i.e. chewing wood – if I had a shiny £1 coin for every enquiry I get saying “my horse chews wood”, I’d have a new 4x4!  Which I don’t, by the way ...

    Salt is so important that I’ve written a page on “The Important of Feeding Salt” on the website,  We also sell a range of unrefined sea and rock salts in bulk at great rates.

So there’s Feed done.  You’ll now have the perfect base feedbowl carrier into which we can then add the phytonutrient magic of herbs if needed.

To finish as we started
Getting the baseline diet right is absolutely essential to keeping our horses healthy.  We have total control over how, when and what our horse's eat - they have no say in it whatsoever.  If we as their carers don't get it right, continued degeneration is inevitable if we continue to feed them industrially processed foods made from proven inferior, chemically-treated ingredients.

We have more knowledge and resources today than at any time in recent history to help us adopt a diet for our horses that ensures good health, generation after generation.  And it's so simple - feed real nutritious food,just as we did in the good old days.

And if you want to try your horses on the Copra, or even with the mineral combo, i.e. EquiVita, linseed and salt, have a look at our
Starter Bundles page or our ONLINE SHOP which has a full range of trial samples of pretty much everything we do for you to try before you buy in bulk. 

Here's wishing you horse the very best of health.