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This is a diet I recommend for all horses but especially for horses that are not ‘doing well’ or ‘tying up’ or having ‘problems’ in the kidney area, showing dietary problems like spots or ‘sweet itch’ or just simply being ‘hyper’. It suits all horses and is much more cost effective as well as healthier.

Oats are classed as both a herb and a food, they are a strength-giving cereal, low in starch but high in minerals. Also rich in Vit. B they contain alkaloids, glycosides and fixed oils which are an important source of Vit. E. They are a nerve tonic and bone building and contrary to modern day thinking are the best possible feed for horses that are in work. The best way to feed them is soaked as explained here.

Soaked whole oats, soaked for approx. 24 hours in cold water, this makes the oats a living enzyme again, which enables the horse to digest them more easily. Because they are now a living enzyme and easier digested the energy is released into the system quicker and without any build up of lactic acid, so less chance of tying up, and also they do not affect the temperament due to no starch build up in the hind gut. The other benefits of soaking include the fact that any chemical residue from sprays etc., are washed away, but not the goodness of the oat. The Vit E is in the outer husk of the oat, after soaking it becomes easier to assimilate. The oats should be drained if possible for at least an hour before feeding, and enough can be put up to last a whole day or 2 depending on ambient temperature. All you need is a hessian or woven sack or large colander and a spare large tub with lid or dustbin. Put the oats in the sack or colander in a tub, cover with water, keep weighted down with a clean brick or stone. After 12hrs for crushed or rolled oats, 24 hrs for whole oats, remove from the water and drain. Discard the water, never re-use the same water, always use fresh. The soaked oats will keep for up to 48 hrs in a lidded bucket and if they sprout they are even more nutritious with more enzymes. (But over 48hrs or in very hot weather, if they have gone sour, rancid, smelly they must be thrown away).

In light work I would suggest approx. 2lbs - 3lbs of oats twice a day with alfalfa chaff or other non molassed(weigh soaked oats not dry) and of course good hay. The amount can then be increased gradually if and when the work increases. A horse in hard work, ie. eventing or racing should be able to eat 12 - 14lbs of soaked oats a day, and for high energy add Maize, either crushed, kibbled, flaked or whole, Maize is very high energy, and also helps keep weight on as it is fattening as well. 1lb of maize added to a 3-4lb feed of oats should be sufficient. The best supplement to feed is seaweed, it is high in minerals and trace elements. The iodine content, which is a supreme gland builder and conditioner, reduces excess fatty tissue and removes toxic elements, along with iron which is of premier importance to the blood, promoting oxygen absorption and building red corpuscles. Carrots are excellent for the liver and digestive system and full of calcium and some amino acids. Alfalfa is classed as a herb and is very deep rooting, a rich source of calcium and also contains chlorine, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sodium and sulphur, it is also rich in vitamins. Alfalfa is a natural source of and high in protein; also a diuretic, and more importantly has 8 digestive enzymes in it which stimulates the digestive system, enabling the proper assimilation of the nutrients provided. It is a very good ‘balancer’ to be fed with oats, (calcium /magnesium balance ) although it is a complete feed in its own right.

A bran mash once or twice a week with a small handful of Epsom salts, to keep their system clean, this has become unfashionable due to modern day nutritionists, however it is as good for horses nowadays as it was in the past.

Other feeds that can be added, sugar beet, preferably un-molassed helps keep condition on, it is also good for keeping the bowels working, and is very good for lactating mares. It is also high in calcium.

Cider Vinegar internally, is good for them an egg cupful daily, this is also excellent used externally for any sore or inflamed joints. Corn (Maize) oil is also a good additive, only an egg cupful 2 or 3 times weekly mixed into the feed, do not over feed any oil as horses have no gall bladder. Linseed oil /meal is best not given more than once or twice a week maximum.

Salt should also be available, and the best source is Rock Salt, not the man made licks but the rock salt that is pure and dug out of the ground and many feed merchants do sell it. It comes in large chunks, which can be broken down to put in the stable or one large chunk in the field for horses grazing. Table salt is processed.

For those horses that need to put on weight or hold condition boiled barley and boiled linseed are all good ‘fattening’ foods. Boiled barley can be given once a day in the evening feed, ¼ of a scoop of boiled barley per horse, whereas linseed oil, meal, or boiled whole, only given once or twice a week maximum as it can be toxic in larger doses and overload the liver.

And finally but very important good quality hay, if you have to feed horsehage or haylage for some reason then make sure it is low protein and not too wet and acidic as the acid content can contribute to ulcers, also the fact that if it is very high protein it can’t be fed in large quantities, therefore the stomach has long periods of being empty, and because the horse is a browser, continually grazing, only stopping for short periods to sleep, this causes an acid build up which again can causes gastric ulcers, this is why it is helpful to sometimes feed extra chaff or good clean oat straw as non fattening forage bulk.

I realise that this diet is ‘old fashioned’ and that the modern day diets are far easier, 'convenient', however that does not mean they are better and although modern day nutritionists say that the old diets were bad for horses, it was all that horses were fed in the past, and the horses were far fitter, healthier, less colics, ulcers, hardly any sweet itch, fewer cases of tying -up, fewer cases of fractures and bursting, far less cases of laminitis, I think the evidence speaks for itself, and I am confident that you will be delighted with the results, and the reduction in your feed bills. ​

updated 14-03-19

For Seaweed contact:
Available from www.collinsonherbs.com ​

Dengie- Have now introduced a very good Alfala chaff with no added sugar or molasses, but had mint and fenugreek, they are also doing a HiFi Lite the same, no molasses, no added sugars but mint and fenugreek, I have been using this and find it very good, I personally wish they would add Garlic and fennel instead for France and Spain etc where the flies and ticks are intense and those two herbs in the feed would make a big difference.

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