Over the years we have put a lot of research nto a natural, no cereal, low sugar diet for all our horses, trying to ensure that they have minimum sugars and carbohydrates in their diets, but still maintaining energy and fitness to work the hills of over 1000ft on a daily basis. To ensure sufficient energy we add additional micronised linseed to their diet, which is high in protein and natural fat, even though it is already included in the commercial feed that we use.
Our main feed is Primero Total Feed which has no grain, reduced sugars, and is high in vitamins, minerals and digestible fibre. Since the horses have been on this feed (currently 18 months) they have stopped their sweet itch, mites, reduced worm count, have shiny glassy coats and are going exceedingly well! We would now use no other feed - it has completely changed the life of our older miniature shetlands - Hamish used to suffer from terrible sweet itch, and Dula was very poorly for some time before going onto Total feed, and for them nothing else has changed in their diet or management.
As with all horses the main problem we need to cope with when managing their diet is the grass! When the grass is fast growing in warm damp conditions especially when it is grazed short, the night-times produce high potassium spikes, which strips the calcium from the bones and produces all kinds of problems and ailments.
Our supplements include:
50gms per day sodium bicarbonate to help neutralise the stomach acids, and to assist in alleviating the aches and pains in their joints, as socium bicarbonate helps to neutralise the pH of the body, essential particularly at time of high nitrogen on rich grass. Socium bicarbonate has been proven to help all manner of problems within the major organs of the body, including cancer.
50gm calmag: a cheap way of adding magnesium into your horses diet (also essential for healthy feet. This article from Pro Equine Nutrition explains the necessity of magnesium very clearly. Magnesium supplementation has also helped our older horses to overcome any arthiritc problems, such as with Rosie's feet. When there is not enought magnesium to move the calium around the body, the calcium settles in the joints and causes mobility problems. This too is an excellent website from calmhealthyhorses. Grass is not a natural diet for horses and the less they can have the better! They do need to feast on constant forage, but the rougher the grazing the healthier the horse, and the more natural herbs (wild flowers) they can get to the better - avoiding any toxic plants of course.
Some people believe that calmag is only absorbed into the hind gut, so to assist with greater magnesium in the stomach we also add 25gms magnesium chloride to their diet. Both calmag and magnesium chloride are readily available from your agricultural merchant as these are both supplements commonly used for cattle, particularly in the spring and autumn grazing.
Multimite (diatomaceous earth) is yet another naturally occurring mineral that is useful to the horses diet in controlling worms and other parasites both internally and externally. Multimite can be used for all your animals in their diet and in the housing or bedding of chickens, poultry, dogs, cats and other birds. It is non-toxic and a great natural insecticide as well.
Sea salt is an essential naturally occurring mineral for horses, especially when they are in medium to full work. We give our horses 25gms per feed in their feed, helping to replace essential salts which the horses sweat out, especially during the summer. natural salts are essential to replace various elements in the body, and to provide the correct pH for the body to function efficiently. Even though we use MgCl, sea salt, sodium bicarbonate, calmag and a Himalyan salt block we still suspect that one or two of our horses do not get sufficient salt!
When Mizse arrived he broke open bags of sea salt next to his stall and constantly eats this and licks his salt blocks - he has consumed two large blocks of Himalayan salt in 4 months, and we would suspect that he has never had additional salt in his diet so he is making up for 12 years of lost time! Tom has also developed his own technique of enjoying his salt block - he takes a mouthful of water, splashes it over the salt block to keep it moist and licks the block for long periods of time! Pebbles shows many signs of an inbalance of salts in her diet such as head shaking, bucking, nervousness, stress, shyness, stiff back, nervous twitches, and bad temper, and even though she has been on the same supplements as the other horses she is having further addition of natural and herbal supplements to help her overcome these problems. Rosie and Dandy, even though they are both over 20 years of age, are still working the Exmoor hills of over 1000ft climb per day, and have both lost their stiffness and discomfort (rheumatism and arthritis?) with the help of additional salts in their diets. Sirrus, also over 20 years of age, still goes like a little bomb!
Twice a year we give them a course of copper (Horse First Cuppra for Horses) which helps to repel worms and improves the quality of their coat. Since using the copper, all fence chewing has stopped as well!
Our worming routine follows the plan for homeopathy and herbal Four Seasons formula for horses, which is keeping the worm count for all our horse at an all time low. This is not permitted to be called a 'wormer', but all the herbal formulas are now branded as 'intestinal calmers'!. The Four Seasons one, produced by The Neem Team, is the most economical formula that I have found, and also works exceptionally well with our dogs.