Holistic Horse Care

 
  Holistic Horse Care
Anna Maria Scholey MA Vet.MB MRCVS

DIET

Horses just like any other animal or human benefit from more natural care. The best place to 
start is the diet, as this is the main foundation of any natural health care system. Firstly, it is 
essential to avoid any artificial additives in the feed. The main ones to look out for are 
ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT, as well as artificial colorings and flavorings. Try and put the horse on 
a pasture which is organically grown and not treated with any chemicals such as artificial 
fertilizers and pesticides. All these chemicals act as toxins to the body and contribute to the 
formation of chronic disease and poor health. The best hay to feed is organic alfalfa as this 
provides more energy and nutrients than grass and timothy hay. Obviously make sure it is made 
naturally and is not dusty and full of weeds and molds. It should smell sweet and not musty or 
damp. A lot more farmers are turning to Organic farming and it is a lot safer and more productive.

As far as grains go it is far better to feed organic wholegrain feed, rather than synthetic pelleted 
diets, which are unnatural and highly processed. Synthetic vitamins added to commercial feeds 
are not well utilized by the body and natural enzymes are destroyed in the manufacturing process. 
Wholegrains are healthier, natural and more easily digested than pelleted food. The main grains 
to consider feeding are barley, oats and corn. The exact ratio's depend on the type of horse, the 
work that they are expected to do and individual preferences. Some horses just do better on one 
particular type of grain. As with all dietary changes for horses it is best to do it gradually. Horses 
are so susceptible to colic if the food is suddenly changed so just start adding a little of the new 
food daily, and slowly increase the amounts, and decrease the old food over several days. Corn is 
a highly energizing food and is therefore concentrated nutrition, as well as being good for the 
digestion. Oats are digested rapidly in the stomach, are less energy forming and are warming in 
nature. Barley is more cooling and is in between corn and oats as far as the energy value.

ACUPUNCTURE

Acupuncture in animals has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese. Horses respond 
well, just like cats and dogs and nowadays acupuncture is often used in performance horses in the 
USA. Most racetracks have veterinarians who regularly perform acupuncture on horses. 
Acupuncture balances the body and in highly competitive race horses this can often make a big 
difference in achieving peak performance. Even if your horse is not a racehorse acupuncture can 
help, especially with orthopedic problems and lameness of various types. Acupuncture in horses is 
similar to that used in dogs and cats, which has been covered in a previous article in this website. 
Needles are inserted into various acupuncture points, depending on the problem that has been 
diagnosed. Sometimes in horses substances such as vitamin B 12 are actually injected into the 
acupuncture points to give a longer lasting effect, and this is often makes things easier to handle 
than having to wait for ten or twenty minutes while the needles remain in place. Acupuncture can 
treat many different conditions apart from lameness, such as dermatitis, liver or kidney problems 
and other miscellaneous diseases. Chronic lameness that has not responded to conventional 
treatment methods often responds well to acupuncture, and sometimes expensive and lengthy 
surgeries can even be prevented. As such acupuncture has become much more widely accepted 
for the treatment of horses, than it has for cats and dogs. It is now recognized by the American 
Veterinary Medical Association as a valid treatment modality.

TELLINGTON-TOUCH

Tellington touch is a form of therapeutic touch used on many kinds of animals, and was developed 
by Linda Tellington-Jones. Basically small circles or other movements are made on the skin of 
the animal, so as to calm or stimulate the body, depending what the problem requires. It is used to 
calm anxious or fearful horses or to build confidence and body awareness in shy animals. 
Aggressive or difficult to manage horses also respond beautifully, and become much easier to 
work with. There is an extensive training program which is available to train horses and this 
accelerates the learning process and actually trains the horses mind and body to be much more 
integrated. There are several different specific T-Touches that can be used, and just learning the 
basic touches and using them on your horse will help them to perform better and also calm them in 
stressful situations, such as when the veterinarian comes to visit. This works well on cats and 
dogs or any other animal or person. The most useful T-Touch is called the clouded leopard 
T-Touch. It is a small clockwise circle made on the skin with the fingers, so as to move the 
underlying tissue. The circle should be one and a fourth turns and should be done firmly but 
gently. What the touch does is connect the animal with the person touching them and this seems 
to allow some form of communication to occur. Animals become much calmer and easier to handle 
and this is a very useful technique to learn and practice on your horse. It is not massage but 
works in a similar manner to bring about relaxation. Massage also works well for horses and 
conditions and tones the muscles, improves circulation, stimulates the immune system and 
detoxifies the body. Learning to massage your horse will also strengthen your connection with 
them and help you to understand them better and they definitely appreciate a good massage.

CHIROPRACTIC

Most people do not think of taking their horse to see a chiropractor, but just like people regular 
chiropractic adjustments help horses too. Just like athletes they need to keep their body in as 
healthy a state as possible and rely on their body structure being in correct alignment to be able 
to carry people, race, jump obstacles, go on endurance rides, compete in rodeo's, produce healthy 
foals as well as all the other important tasks they are called on to perform. When we consider 
these diverse requirements and the potential stresses they may have on the body it is no wonder 
that chiropractic adjustments can help. Chiropractic is usually carried out by a veterinarian 
trained in this skill, or in some states by a human chiropractor working under the supervision of a 
veterinarian. There are approximately two hundred joints in the neck, back and tail of an average 
horse and just one of these joints being incorrectly positioned results in what is known as a 
sub-luxation and can cause problems. Imagine having a bad back then having to carry a heavy 
saddle and rider and even jump over things and run as fast as you can. In addition the spinal 
column carries nerves for all the vital organs and if one of these nerves is pinched will result in 
slightly decreased function of that organ. This may not be detectable with the usual blood tests 
but will result in less than optimal overall performance. Horses that resent being saddled or do 
not want to go forward or turn are possibly suffering from a subluxated spinal joint and would 
benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Other indications include head shyness, refusal to jump, 
nipping or biting and general stiffness and lack of coordination, as well as obvious lameness. All 
the joints can be adjusted and this can help treat numerous forms of lameness and orthopedic 
problems. Prevention of sub-luxations is important and keeping your horse fit and in good 
condition will help the spine be stronger. The saddle must fit properly and the be positioned in the 
correct position with even distribution of weight, and avoid pulling on the head and neck with the 
reins. Regular exercise and running and rolling in a paddock will also help keep the spine healthy 
and your horse happy.

USEFUL READING
Healing Your Horse by Meredith Snader, Howell Book House
The Natural Horse by Jaime Jackson, Northland Press
The Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method by Linda Tellington-Jones
 

 

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