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Archive for the ‘Equine Nutrition’ Category

You can lead a horse to water…

You can lead a horse to water….

Let’s hope they have a drink! It’s easy to neglect this key element in our health when it comes to considering nutrition and “fuel”. When I feel slightly out of sorts, relief usually comes in the form of a tall glass of water (with ice, warm, cold…your choice!). This is a great piece from Canadian Horse Journal on the importance on hydrating your horse:

Hydrate for a Healthy Horse
By Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne/Canadian Horse Journal Staff

For all the time we spend deliberating about what type of hay to feed, or whether to add this supplement or that, the majority of horse owners tend not to spend a great deal of time thinking about the most important nutrient of all – water.

Water helps maintain the healthy functioning of all the organs and systems in your horse’s body. Among many other things, it is essential to aiding digestion, regulating body temperature, eliminating toxins from the body, and lubricating the joints.

The average 1000-pound horse requires a minimum of five to ten gallons (19 to 38 litres) a day to stay properly hydrated and maintain body functions. Water requirements increase with warmer weather and increased work, and are also affected by management and diet. A horse that is turned out in a dry lot and fed dried forage will consume more water than a horse that is turned out on pasture, as fresh grass has a high water content. Pregnant and lactating mares also have increased water needs.

Without adequate water intake, a horse can become dehydrated very quickly, and dehydration can rapidly lead to colic. Reduced water consumption is sometimes thought to be a concern exclusive to the colder winter months, but the increased traveling, temperature, and workload that accompany spring and summer can also wreak havoc on your horse’s hydration. The most effective way to prevent your horse from becoming dehydrated is to make sure he always has access to fresh, clean water, regardless of the season or weather.

There are two principal ways to check if your horse is dehydrated. The “pinch test” consists of pinching the skin on the neck in front of the shoulder, then releasing it. The skin should return to normal in less than two seconds. You can also check your horse’s capillary refill time by pressing your thumb firmly against his upper gum for two seconds and timing how long it takes the pink colour to return to the area after you release. A capillary refill time of longer than two seconds is a possible indication of dehydration.

If you ever suspect that your horse is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian immediately. He or she will also be able to advise you if you are concerned that your horse’s water consumption is low.


From Holistic Horsekeeping – Pain Explained with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Another great resource is Madalyn Ward’s Holistic Horsekeeping. I highly recommend subscribing to her newsletter…as well as updates from Passion for Horses! 🙂

I’d like to share with you her post on using Traditional Chinese Medicine in assessing your horse’s health. If you’ve ever visited a Chinese pharmacy or herbalist, you’ll be amazed by the results that can be seen just by combining the right and different amounts of herbs and essences. Chinese medicine takes into consideration not only your outward physical symptoms but what your energies are like inside.

Read on for some great insight!


Pain Explained with Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part 1

Ever wonder why the miracle product that works on so many horses does not do a thing for your horse? Or why the wonder cure you found and shared with all your friends did not help their horses one little bit.  The reason is not all pain is the same. Western Medicine tends to lump  all pain symptoms together and treat them the same. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) divides types of pain into 5 types and treats  each type quite differently.

According to TCM, except for acute injury, all pain is the result of an underlying weakness in the immune system. A healthy body should have an abundance of defensive Qi (Wei Qi) circulating through the meridians to protect against external pathogens such as Wind, Cold and Damp. Qi represents the life force of the body and meridians are the pathways through which this energy flows. TCM looks at pathogens and Wind, Cold, Heat, and Damp where Western Medicine looks at viruses, bacteria and parasites. Anyone who has experienced the achy joints and muscles with the flu, a sinus headache or Lymes disease understands how viruses, bacteria and parasites can cause pain.

Pain in TCM is referred to as a Bi Syndrome. Bi means obstruction in the meridians caused by the invasion of Wind, Cold and Damp. Bi
syndrome may show as pain, soreness, numbness, or swelling of the joints, bones, muscles, and connective tissues. Western Medicine would
label these conditions as rheumatism, arthritis, osteoarthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia, sciatica, etc.

The 5 types of pain according to TCM are Wandering Bi(Wind), Painful Bi(Cold), Fixed Bi(Damp), Febrile Bi(Heat) and Bony Bi(long standing Damp).

Wandering Bi acts like wind with rapid onset of pain that moves around in the body. The soreness and pain can be in the joints or muscles and movement will be limited. Western Medicine would look at this type of pain as fibromyalgia or sciatica. This is the horse that is off but for no apparent reason. Lameness exams can be frustrating in that flexion tests and blocking will not identify the area of pain.

Painful Bi acts like cold with contraction and congealing. The pain is severe and stabbing in nature. It can be in the muscles or joints with limited movement and coldness of the tissues. Bursitis and early stage arthritis would fit the Western Medicine model. This is the horse that starts out very lame and then moves better as he warms up. Flexion tests and joint blocks may identify the area of pain but little will show up on radiographs or ultrasound.

Fixed Bi acts like damp with edema, numbness and stiffness more than pain. Wet weather will aggravate symptoms. Western Medicine would call
this type pain rheumatism. Stocking up in the legs would also be a characteristic of Fixed Bi. This horse will have sound days and lame days depending on the weather. The area of concern may be obvious due to swelling but other times no outward symptoms are seen.

Febrile Bi acts like fire with rapid onset of redness, swelling and severe pain. The pain can be in more than one area and movement will be very restricted. Pressure will increase the pain and the patient may be irritable. Joint infections fit into the category of Febrile Bi. Joint infections can occur from tiny punctures that don’t show up as a wound. If you suspect a joint infection call your vet immediately. Hoof abscesses are another example of Febrile Bi. They are less of an emergency but still require immediate attention to relieve suffering.

Bony Bi is the result of long term invasion of Wind, Cold and Damp. You will see muscle atrophy, joint deformity and joint degeneration. Osteoarthritis is the Western equivalent of Bony Bi. Bony Bi will show up on radiographs but at this stage the condition is very difficult to treat.

Types of TCM Pain:

Wandering Bi(Wind)
Painful Bi(Cold)
Fixed Bi(Damp)
Febrile Bi(Heat)
Bony Bi
Treatment and prevention for all Bi syndromes should begin with a strengthening of the Wei Qi. Overall health and nutrition should be examined. Nutritional products such as Citrus C/Q, Bleeder’s Blend, PrePro and APA blend will support the Lungs(Wandering Bi), Spleen(Fixed Bi) and kidneys(Painful Bi). General supportive accupressure points include, LI 11, GV 14, SP 6, ST 36 BL 11 and GB 39.

Treatment for individual Bi syndromes will be discussed next month.
For further information about accupressure points visit

Please also enjoy all of Dr. Ward’s web resources:
Twitter: @madalynward

From Riva’s Remedies: Holly’s Story

Sharing a story from Marijke van de Water of Riva’s Remedies…

Holly’s Laminitis

Holly is a 6 year old Arab mare from B.C., Canada who was afflicted with severe laminitis in all four hooves in May 2012; she was unable to walk or even stand some days and spent days laying with ice packs on all four feet. By June of the same year both Holly’s progress and prognosis were poor. Thus Holly’s owner Diane Armitage contacted Marijke for help in healing Holly’s very sore hoof condition. This case was of interest to Marijke because while the majority of cases of laminitis are caused by feed imbalances, leaky gut, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, lack of movement and/or poor hoof trims, Holly’s case was more complex and her laminitis was multi-factorial.

In addition, other than a two week overdue trim, Holly’s hoof angles and hoof mechanism were acceptable. Because Holly and Diane live several
hours from the Riva’s Remedies health clinic, I conducted Holly’s health assessment by distance using The Marijke Method™, a specific method of kinesiology to identify underlying health issues and to formulate successful health programs. I found that Holly had three issues directly relating to her laminitis:…

For more, read further on… 


About Marijke:

Marijke works from her naturalhealth clinic in Armstrong, B.C. where she specializes in helping horses and people. She holds a B.Sc. in Clinical Nutrition and a Diploma in Homeopathic Medicine and Science. She blends her vast knowledge of science, health and nutrition with natural medicine, kinesiology and energy healing. She is considered one of the foremost experts in therapeutic nutrition and equine natural medicine with a special interest in digestive disorders, immunity, laminitis, metabolic syndrome, and emotional and spiritual wellness.

Marijke is also the founder, formulator and CEO of Riva’s Remedies, a herbal and homeopathic product line for horses.

Helping Hormonal Mares

We are back! After a few weeks of technical problems with the blog all is resolved and we are back to bringing you articles every week…Enjoy! 🙂

This article was featured in Riva’s Remedies March 2012 Newsletter and I wanted to share it with all of you. I’m sure we have all, at some point dealt with a moody mare! We have a very hormonal mare that greatly benefits from these herbal treatments. Hope this helps you too!


Helping Hormonal Mares

By Marijke van de Water, B.Sc., DHMS

Many mares exhibit hormonal problems through mood and behaviour changes. This is often seen during a mare’s cycling days, however many mare owners report this behaviour even when they are not cycling. Unfortunately, too many times we have simply attributed this to “mares being mares”, and have not recognized that these horses are not feeling well and that they can suffer from the same anxiety, irritability, aggression, sadness and depression as women do during PMS or an unhealthy menopause. These emotional symptoms can make it very hard for mares to tolerate being handled or ridden, or to cooperate with other horses. And, unfortunately it often gets dismissed as a training problem.

Hormones are powerful chemicals that have a profound effect on the neurotransmitters of the brain: estrogen has an excitatory effect on the brain, increasing serotonin and acetylcholine levels whereas progesterone has a more calming effect. Serotonin is responsible for creating positive moods and acetylcholine is necessary for focus and memory.

As with humans, diet can be an important factor – high-sugar feed such as oats or sweet feed will exacerbate hormonal symptoms. Horse owners also report that high quantities of alfalfa can negatively affect behaviour as well. (For humans, caffeine and dairy products are the most common culprits with PMS and menopausal symptoms.)

For a hormone balancer and calmer the Riva’s Herbal Blend for Mares is an effective remedy. It contains Blue Cohosh, Black Cohosh, Licorice Root and Chamomile to tone the ovaries and sooth the nerves. This blend will also help to regulate erratic cycles, ease uterine cramping and/or to increase fertility – although it is not advisable to feed it during pregnancy.

The best nutritional supplements are Vitamin B6 (800 to 1,000 mg daily) and Riva’s Primrose Oil (4,000 mg daily).

Vitamin B6 is essential for the synthesis of both hormones and neurotransmitters and has the added benefit of regulating blood sugar levels. It will also support pituitary and thyroid function.

Riva’s Primrose Oil also helps to synthesize hormones, and is a natural anti-inflammatory and immune stimulant. Both of these nutrients can be used with the Herbal Blend for Mares and are also safe to feed during pregnancy.

If the thyroid or pituitary glands need extra support, use Riva’s Hormone+Boost to stimulate and tone the entire glandular system, to optimize metabolism, improve immunity, relieve stress, and enhance mental and emotional well-being. It contains Ashwaghanda, Chaste Berry, Kelp, Licorice Root and Raspberry Leaf.

Once the hormones are stabilized but a mare is still uncooperative then the training program should be assessed. Some horse owners have allowed their behaviour to become a pattern, in which case competent but compassionate handling will help them re-learn a healthier attitude. And don’t put food down in front of “cranky” mares until their ears come forward – this might take time at first but they will learn to “smile” to get fed. In fact, don’t let them eat at any time during handling or riding as many horses will consider this as dominance. With good food, supplements and common-sense handling most mares will become happy and healthy partners.

Some moody mares are simply trying to express that they want to have a baby, after which their hormones “settle down”. There are no guarantees though…and if you choose to breed make sure that you can provide the foal with a permanent home for life; we already have too many unwanted horses that end up in situations of neglect and/or abuse.

Click here to see this article in its entirety on Riva’s Rememdies Website:

Marijke van de Water, B.Sc., DHMS

Equine Health & Nutrition Specialist
Homeopathic Practitioner
Medical Intuitive & Healer
Author of two books:
Healing Horses: Their Way!
Healing People: The Marijke Method

Minerals and Horses

Minerals are necessary for most chemical reactions occurring within your horse’s body.  Calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium and sulfur are the main minerals needed by your horse.  Common salt blocks usually only contain very small amounts of minerals, and are in fact mostly sodium. 

Although your horse will get some of these other minerals from his hay and grain, it is sometimes necessary to feed a supplement.  If you have concerns that your horse’s diet may be lacking in this area, check with your veterinarian.  Minerals are very important parts of your horse’s diet, and deficiencies can cause such Read the rest of this entry »

Horses and Salt Blocks

By Scott Hansen

Salt is one of the things that all animals need in one form or another.  It’s been around for as long as man has been in existence and has been a staple of his diet.  While man has learned to mine salt from the ground and turn it into a variety of products, animals have always relied on obtaining it from natural sources.  Animals, including man, can not live without some salt and without minerals. 

Unfortunately, man seems to have overstepped his boundaries when it comes to salt.  Salt in its natural form is often bound with other minerals.  This salt is usually a light grey or pink in color.  Minerals and salt go together in their natural environment. 

Salt is an electrolyte and one of its primary purposes is to attract and retain water as well as to balance our cell fluids.  This is why athletes were often given salt tablets during training in hot weather.  You and your horse will likely need more salt if you’re riding in hot weather. 

However, today all salts are not created equally.  The problem with most salt today is that Read the rest of this entry »

How to Feed a Starving Horse

We have recently taken an older horse into our care who was retired from work due to his declining health. He was unable to live in a herd enviroment and fend for himself anymore and so he has come to us so that he can recieve personalized care and feeding.  

Although this horse came from a good home and was by no means a ‘rescue’ it did make me think about all the rescue horses that we have nursed back to health and what a difficult and long journey it can be.

Taking in and bringing a starving horse back to health should always be approached with adequate information and preperation for the task ahead and this article helps you to understand a little of what this involves…


If a malnourished horse has come under your care, it is important you know that feeding him is delicate. The horse’s stomach is a fragile organ, prone to distension and colic and other problems, so you have to carefully monitor the feed a malnourished horse receives, and make adjustments accordingly.


ONE—-It is a sight that is far too common these days–horses starved to the point of death or near death. If you are kind enough to try and help, remember that no good deed is easy, and often you will find yourself wondering why on earth you got yourself into this mess. Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: My Natural Horses

As Natural Horsecare becomes more and more understood and more widely implemented it is important that we re-educate our children as well as adults in the new and yet age-old practice of natural horse care.


My Natural Horses  (by Anne Louise MacDonald) is a unique introduction to creating exceptionally healthy, happy horses.

This full-color photo-illustrated book is the first to show young readers the principles of Natural Horse Care, taking an entirely positive approach by following two horses, Isabelle and Prince, through all four seasons of the year.

Designed for ages seven and up, this book includes 150 exceptional photographs to delight everyone from the child who dreams of ponies to the active equine owner.

Larger text allows younger readers to get a basic understanding of Natural Horse Care, while smaller text gives more details to entertain and inform an older audience.

My Natural Horses is a joy just to look through, and an eye opener to an option in horse care that many horse people know little about.

Here is a Video Preview of Anne Louise’s book. Anne lives in Eastern Canada.


My Natural Horses is available on AMAZON. Click here: My Natural Horses

Pasture Sugars- Part 2

by: Heather Smith Thomas


Testing Grass

Some grasses are more problematic than others, and this can vary greatly. “There are many species that have a wide variance in sugar levels (under the same weather conditions and time of day),” says Ralston.

“For instance, there are hundreds of subtypes of fescue, and some are very high in sugar and some are not,” she notes. “Kentucky bluegrass tends to be lower in sugar than the fescues, but this is a very vague generalization. Testing the grass won’t help you determine if a certain grass is high or low in sugar because it will all depend on the time of day you take the sample. Read the rest of this entry »

Pasture Sugars

This is an intro article for the next few articles which will be specifically about ‘Pature management’. We are now nearing the beginning of summer and no doubt your horses have been out grazing on the lush spring grass. There are 2 things we need to keep in mind:

1.The high sugar content in the grass 

2.Being sure  not to overgrazing and to practice good pasture management.



by: Heather Smith Thomas

Understanding how grass grows and how horses use sugars in grass and hay can help you better manage your equine charges.

Grass is grass, right? Wrong! That lovely green pasture you’ve diligently watered and kept weed-free can be like Jekyll and Hyde. If your horse is at risk for grass founder or has a low tolerance for high levels of sugar, a pasture that might be perfect feed in the morning can be his biggest enemy in the afternoon.

Sugars are building blocks for plant growth. Grasses create sugar during daylight hours by using carbon dioxide, water, and energy from the sun via photosynthesis. The sugar made by day is then turned into fiber for cell walls and energy for other necessary life processes. During the night sugar sources are generally depleted. Thus, the safest time of day for horses at risk for grass founder to graze is early in the morning. Read the rest of this entry »