The use of herbs as a source of compounds beneficial in promoting good health dates back many (many) thousands of years. In the age before ‘synthetic’ drugs, herbs were the only available source of potentially health enhancing compounds and as such they were used extensively.
About Dr Nerida Richards
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Entries by Dr Nerida Richards
Ask any zoo based nutritionist and they will tell you that understanding a particular animal’s gastrointestinal physiology is the key to understanding what and how to feed them. The shape, size and structure of an animal’s gut reflects what their natural diet consists of, and horses are no exception.
After energy, protein is the most important nutrient in a horse’s diet. Protein is needed to build good quality hoof, hair, skin, organ tissue, muscles, eyes, blood and bones. Protein is also a crucial part of enzymes and hormones. Protein is an absolutely essential nutrient in a horse’s diet and after water, is the most plentiful substance in a horse’s body.
‘Omega 3’ is a term used to describe a group of fatty acids that cannot be made by an animal. They are therefore classified as essential fatty acids because they must be consumed in the diet. There are three ‘Omega 3’ fatty acids; the ‘short chain’ alpha-linoleic acid (derived from plants) and the ‘long chain’ eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docohexaeonic acid (DHA) (available almost exclusively from oily fish). Alpha-linoleic acid is the only form of Omega 3 present in a horse’s natural diet. This form of Omega 3 can be transformed (elongated) into EPA and DHA via a metabolic pathway in the horse’s body. EPA and DHA are the two biologically active forms of Omega 3.
Following on from Newsletter Number 24 that looked at how to identify grasses that could cause mycotoxin problems for horses, this newsletter will help you to identify grasses that have the potential to cause Nutritional Secondary Hyperparathyroidism, also known as ‘Bighead Disease’. Bighead occurs due to a severe calcium deficiency and one way this is caused is by grazing sub-tropical or C4-type pastures (for more on Bighead, read FeedXL Newsletter # 25 – Bighead).
With literally hundreds of feeds available for all of us to choose from for our horses the choice can be a bit overwhelming. While FeedXL is a brilliant tool in helping you see which feeds deliver the nutrients your horse needs and which don’t, what FeedXL can’t help you with is determining the actual quality of the feed. Nutrient profile and balance is one thing, but the ingredients used to make the feed are another thing entirely, and it is this aspect of feeding that you need to stay fully in control of.
Herbs have been used in some cultures as remedies for disease and illness for more than 5000 years and their effectiveness as part of an ‘integrated system of primary health care’ is well recognised. Given the benefits we see in humans, it is becoming more and more commonplace for herbs to be used for horses. However, in many cases for horses, herbs are used not as part of a holistic approach to health care, but rather as a nutritional supplement.
Bighead is a disease resulting from long term calcium deficiency in the diet. Bighead has severe effects on your horse, making movement painful and lameness a constant issue. Luckily though, it is a condition that is easily avoided by carefully balancing your horse’s diet.
Pasture is an ideal feed base for any horse’s diet. It is an economical feed ingredient that provides an excellent source of energy, protein, vitamins and some minerals. Added to this is the benefit of the physical and mental stimulation grazing provides. Horses are born to graze.
However, some pastures can cause serious problems for horses. In Part 1 of this series, we will look at pasture plants that can cause endophyte toxicity. The two most common pasture species that can lead to endophyte toxicity are ryegrass and tall fescue.
Tying up is a painful condition for a horse and a frustrating one for you as an owner. Symptoms can range from severe muscle pain and distress, apparent colic, excessive sweating, elevated heart and respiration rates, a stiff gait, muscle tremors and a reluctance to move to more mild and elusive symptoms that just involve the horse feeling stiff, lazy or slightly lame.
Whether your horse suffers with severe tying up or a mild form, it will limit your horse’s performance and sense of well being, so the more you do to reduce the frequency and severity of bouts of tying up, the better your horse’s performance and health will be.