I hear this all the time from regular visitors, clinic participants and followers “your horses are NEVER sick, what’s your secret?” Dare I tempt fate with a statement like this? Oh boy, well I figure it’s more important to share my horse care program risking criticism and industry snubbing in the hopes I resonate with a new horse owner who is confused and feeling overwhelmed, or a long time horse owner who is facing new issues of illness. With that said here’s my disclaimer: Missy Wryn is not a veterinarian and does not make any claims of health or cures for horses. Missy’s program as outlined below is solely her personal experience. Any action taken on your part is at your own risk. Ok that’s out of the way, so here’s my experience:
The last time I had a vet out for one of my horses was over seven years ago. Benny was a rescue horse who had been locked in a stall for two years that we know of and was on his 6th home in 9 months before I agreed to take him. A month after he moved into my barn Benny became gravely ill with a gas colic scaring me half to death as his vitals were bottoming out due to his pain. During the exam the gas was relieved and Benny quickly recovered once the sedation and pain medication wore off. No vet calls since!!! So what’s my secret? SIMPICITY……….
My program is very simple but not for everyone. When I say simple my motto is “less is best”. Below I have outlined my care program and how it supports a healthy happy horse who gives me an enchanted relationship that meets my deepest soulful desires of connection with a horse and nature overall:
- Depending on where you live if you can purchase local grass hay that is low in protein and sugar go for it. Since my horses are not in horseshows or racing they don’t work hard therefore they don’t need high protein and caloric feed. High sugar hay is like giving a child a candy bar for breakfast, would you do that? Once you switch to a low sugar and protein hay you’ll probably notice a huge difference in behavior. I found my horses responded to the local hay by losing their bloated hay bellies while putting on weight in all the right places like across their topline. It makes sense to me that my horses have acclimated to their environment therefore their bodies have responded positively to the local hay. When I have brought in hay from the Eastern part of Oregon my horses put on hay bellies, have loose stool and are hotter in behavior due to the higher protein, and sugar which local hay does not have because of the climate. And speaking of hotter behavior, Alfalfa is made for lactating cows, not for horses. BUT I understand in drought conditions and some areas of the country there is only so much hay available. Therefore some horse owners are feeding alfalfa and supplementing with straw so their horses have something in their stomachs. Which brings me to the next point:
- Feed your horse four (4) times a day if pasture is not available. Horses have small stomachs and large guts so smaller amounts of hay four times a day instead of two big feedings will reduce the incidence of colic, illness and stress. In a perfect environment horses are grazing all day, but in our domestic environment many of us do not have access to pasture so we must emulate as close to nature as possible. When feeding only twice a day you are asking your horse to fast 8-10 hours which they are not physically designed to do. If boarding your horse with someone else and they only feed twice a day gently educate them about extra feeding as it reduces the incidence of colic and stress that can lead to illnesses. Also feed from the ground not a hay basket or bin. The horse is physically designed to eat with its head down off the ground, they are not like deer; they don’t glean from trees unless they are starving. Horses get various nutrients from dirt too just be careful to remove sand and bedding if you are feeding in a stall. Otherwise feed your horse from the ground and outside on good weather days.
- Supplements – oh boy this is always a big debate. I’m just going to tell you what I use and you can decide for yourself. I feed supplements five (5) days a week taking weekends off. My horses and those in training and board get a scoop of a multi-vitamin, a scoop of broad spectrum pro-biotic along with Natural Trace Mineral “loose” salt. I won’t mention brands, but it’s important to read the labels avoiding sugars, sweeteners, and corn, wheat, soy and petroleum bi-products. If you are not sure about an ingredient write it down and investigate. There are so many great resources now, and I keep in mind the manufacturer is trying to make a sale so I look for other resources beyond the manufacturer to get my information. I do not feed processed mixes, grain, wheat or oats etc. Remember my horses are pleasure horses that do not work hard physically so they do not need bulking up and I absolutely do not give them vegetable oil. Have you ever felt the coat of a horse that gets vegetable oil? Think about what vegetable oil does to our arteries, why would we think that’s healthy for your horses, it’s not!! There are healthier ways to put on weight for working horses and hard keepers, but that is another article. Call me for brand names 888-406-7689 or email Info@MissyWryn.com
- Good digestible absorbable Vitamins
- Natural Trace Mineral Loose Salt
- Rice Bran pellets as a carrier – 1 cup
- Water: 24/7 access to clean water, an absolute must. Clean your horse’s trough regularly. During the summer the troughs get dirty quicker with mosquito larvae and algae so keep your eye on this. Just dump it out, give it a scrub and refill. I use the cheap livestock floaters from the hardware store with low to the ground 35 gallon troughs that are easy to dump over (I bucket out as much water as I can to lighten the lift). I learned to install simple plumbing so I plumbed right into my faucet by the barn, buried the PVC and used a bending hose to attach the floater to the pipe by way of advice from the guys at the hardware store. Voila I had auto-waterers without buying an expensive system.
I think that covers it on feed – yes it’s that simple. You may have to tweak for your area, but once you’ve got the right combination you’ll know by your horse’s physical appearance, behavior and fecal matter.
Stay tuned for Part II which includes Hoof Care & Horse Keeping from pasture to paddock, dental to blanketing.