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Articles in Natural Horse Care

Horse nutrition, feeds, training and massage articles are periodically updated,
so book mark this page and allow yourself easy access to professional advise on the management of your horse.

If you wish to read information on a specific natural care topic, just E-Mail me here

    Article Titles -
  1. Seaweed. Do you feed it?
  2. Bach Therapy in Equine Behaviour Management
  3. Bach Flower Therapy - A Case Study
  4. Management of Australian Stringhalt
  5. Biological Basis of Wound Care in the Horse
  6. Does your Horse need Calcium Supplementation?
  7. Is Work Making your Horse Sore?

Enjoy your reading

Seaweed. Do You Feed it?

Wow isn't there some controversy over the use of seaweed in horse feeds? Do you feed it? Do you understand the benefits and risks of this supplement? Lets journey into the world of seaweed….

What is Seaweed? Is it the same as Kelp? Varieties

This term is used to describe many plants found in the ocean, and generally refers to marine algae that live in the shallow regions of the ocean near the shores. There are three major types of seaweed: green, brown and red. The major difference beside colour is the location and depth of sea in which the seaweed are found, and some difference in nutrient content. Giant Kelp is the form most often fed to horses and is a member of the brown seaweed group.

Uses of Seaweed:

Various types of seaweed have been used as human and stock nutritional additives since 600 BC in China and Japan - with little nutritional complications. Seaweed has been used in Ireland, Scotland and Norway since at least the 5th Century. Claims made, both then and now include anthelmintic properties, antacid effects, improved skin and nail condition, increased immunity, increased digestibility of feed, anti-inflammatory, anti cancerous, anti-ulcerous, antibacterial, increased fertility, reduced nervousness, reduced healing time following injury and thyroid gland stabilisation.

Today, Seaweed is used in many products we consume or use each day, such as toothpaste, ice cream, yoghurt, dog food, shampoo and the gel on pate. Extracts of seaweed are added to give viscosity, gel strength and stability in aqueous mixtures, and are considered safe for addition to food by the World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the US Food and Drug Administration.

Investigations into the use of seaweed for animal food supplementation were commenced in France following WW1 when limited fodder forced a search for alternative feeds. The results of these studies were positive and were continued in Ireland during WW2. From this an industry grew to supply seaweed meal to stock. It was concluded that seaweed was valuable as a feed additive, although not nutritious enough to be a major feed source.

So what does Seaweed contain to be so beneficial to both human and animal?

According to Owens & Huntington in "What's in a Label" seaweed contains "lots of Iodine and precious little of anything else" so why has it been used as a feed supplement since 600BC? Seaweed contains 48 minerals, 16 amino acids and 11 vitamins, however as Owens et al states, when you compare nutrient level with horse requirements the amount fed does not provide a high level of nutrients. It seems the reason for Seaweed benefit is in both the combination of nutrients and the content of Algin. Algin is a fibre molecule that has a number of positive effects. The first being that it attracts heavy metals and removes them from the body, Algin has anti oxidant activities and induces a high level of cytokinin type activity (Haas E.M. 2000). (Cytokinins are involved in cell division and as such growth and replacement of cells)

To gain a benefit how much should you feed?

A safe administration of seaweed depends on a number of factors, including the source and type of seaweed, the level iodine in the diet and the form in which it is fed. Seaweed attracts heavy metals thus it is important the seaweed comes from clean waters. A large majority of the seaweed used in Australian stock feeds is harvested from clean waters off Tasmania, and as such the heavy metal content is low. The level of iodine in seaweed products vary significantly, and as such your source should state on the bottle or in their literature the level of iodine present in their product.

I have read varying dosages from 3 g to 150 g of seaweed meal. At 3 g per day you are adding approx 1.5mg of Iodine to the diet based on Natrakelp's analysis of Tasmanian Bull Kelp, while at 150 g or seaweed you may provide 75 mg of Iodine per day. The average horse requires approximately 2mg of Iodine per day with toxicity occurring at 40mg/day (Lewis L.D. 1995), thus the safety margin is wide but at 150gm of seaweed meal per day you may induce toxicity in your horse. Liquid seaweed such as Natrakelp, has a recommended dosage of 10 mls second daily, each dose containing 1.43mg of Iodine - a very safe level of iodine to add to the diet.

The best advise, as with any supplement, is to read the label/literature to assess contents, ascertain nutrient in current diet based on weight of feeds, and decide if your horse needs it.


Guiry M. (2001) Seaweeds as Human Food. Seaweed Site. Guiry M. (2001) Seaweed Meal. Seaweed Site.
Haas E.M. (2000) Vegetables. The complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine.
Lambert D. (1999) The Benefits of Seaweed. Green cuisine. Lewis D.L. (1995) Equine Clinical Nutrition. Lea & Febiger USA.
National Aquarium in Baltimore (1997) Seaweed, Marine Algae.
Natrakelp (1997) Typical Analysis of Sth Tasmainian Bull Kelp. Information Sheet.
Owens E. Huntington P. What's in a label? Equine Nutrition Ridley Ag Products, Newsletters.

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

Bach Therapy in Equine Behaviour Management

Bach Therapy is a system of healing utilising flower essences. One commonly known mixture of these essences is Rescue Remedy, which is a mixture of 5 flowers to treat fear and shock. This system of healing focuses on the personality traits of the horse or pony being treated.

Dr Edward Bach, who discovered the effects of the flowers, believed particular mental and emotional patterns predisposed people to disease. He used the flowers to turn negative emotional traits into positives and to assist in solving/significantly reducing major health issues in people. This system is easy to use on animals.

The flower essence system is simple and very effective when used for horses and their riders! It consists of 38 flower essences divided into the following seven groups 1. For those who have fear 2. For those over concerned with others 3. Despondency and despair 4. Loneliness 5. Insufficient interest in the present 6. Uncertainty 7. Over sensitivity. Given that there are 5 - 7 remedies in each group, the Bach Therapist is able to be very specific in treatment. One or more remedies are selected for an individual and when chosen correctly result in some amazing outcomes. Bach flower essences have no side effects and will not swab.

The following examples give you some idea of the use and outcomes of Bach Therapy:

1. 2 day old miniature pony presenting with neonatal maladjustment syndrome (Dummy Foal). This foal was very difficult to rouse and unable to remain awake enough to suckle effectively, as with many dummy foals his nervous system was over reactive. We commenced Bach Therapy to treat the lack of interest in the present, complete physical and mental exhaustion, extreme fear and self denial. With administration of the remedies the foals attitude and alertness picked up dramatically. We combined this therapy with tissue salts and intensive nursing care and the foal is now well if not a tad cheeky!

2. 16 year old Arab x, presented with muscle tension, high level anxiety, he often pulled back for no apparent reason, and displayed a high level of nervousness when being ridden. This horse was also very selective about who could catch him. Massage and Bach flowers were used to address his fear of the unknown, lack of self confidence and indecision. Following one week of two doses per day, this gelding became more accepting of less known people catching him and the incidence of pulling back reduced. After 3 - 4 weeks on the remedy, a riding instructor phoned asking what I had done as she had not seen this horse so calm in the four years she had known him.

3. 7 year old T/B x QH, domineering horse with a high level of energy, he had changeable moods and was described as a "defiant teenager". Following 3 days of a Bach Flower therapy the domineering behaviour reduced significantly. Within 1 week he was willing to work without an issue and his moods remained relatively stable. We kept this horse on the remedies for approximately 2 months with no recurrence of the before seen behaviours.

4. 8 year old T/B who had a badly neglected wound to the coronet band. This horse was exhausted, reluctant to move, showing signs of depression. The owner said she thought he "had given up". In conjunction with good wound care we used Bach remedies for hopelessness, exhaustion, and to cleanse his system. In less than 24 hours he began whinnying when he saw us, he began to try and walk/hobble around, plus the swelling in his leg reduced significantly. From here on this horse got better every day. The remedies were continued for approx 4 weeks, although his wound had still not fully healed, his mind was alert and happy and wound healing was now progressing quickly.

Bach Remedies are available at Health Food Stores, or from your Equine Natural Therapist. If you obtain the stock strength from the health food store, to achieve the best effect, ensure you dilute it as per the directions. Using an Equine Natural Therapist is often best, as you will benefit from their experience in prescribing the remedies.

Do your equine friend a favour, search for the cause of the negative behaviour, reach for Bach Therapy and strive to remove the issue rather than covering symptoms with sedatives/relaxants.

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

Bach Flower Therapy - A Case Study

Name : Jess

Age: 8 year old

Breed: Anglo arab mare

Activity: Dressage With current owner three years

Reason for Consultation

Rider getting frustrated having tried a number of supplements and training techniques to remove the following issues in her horses' behaviour -

Jess is a nervous horse who gets worked up easily, and her rider feels like Jess' brain is rushing ahead at 100 miles an hour. Jess often lost connection with the rider and stopped listening, and suffered severe separation anxiety when her mates were taken out of the paddock. The rider expressed that unless she could find an effective remedy, she didn't know that she want to continue with the mare.

Suggested treatment:

Gain practitioner assistance to rule out any pain or musculo - skeletal issues, If pain ruled out commence the following Bach Therapy.

Vervain for Jess' extreme mental energy and racing mind, and fretfulness when separated,.

Heather for her dislike of being alone, constant vocalisation, plus the effect of sapping her riders' energy.

plus Impatiens, as Jess is quick in mind and action and has fast build up of emotions.

A practitioner ruled out the presence of pain, and Jess was started on the Bach Remedies in December 2000. Jess was returning to work after a 2 week break.

Normally Jess would have been a "mental case" in the first session - this time she was calm and relaxed moving with a "cadence that had never been in her gait before".

Treatment Outcome:

Jess is no longer running in anxiety, she remains very aware of her surroundings, but listens to her rider and returns easily to working as a relaxed member of a partnership. Jess is also settled when her paddock mates leave and is showing her talents in her work. In March the rider stated "Now Jess is relaxed I can also relax - which has done wonders for our partnership!

Equine Holistic Health can provide you with advice and supply of Bach Flower Essences.

A.C.A.T.T.offer a one day certificate course in Bach Flowers for use in Horse Care.

Click here for information on short courses offered by A.C.A.T.T.

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

Management of Australian Stringhalt

Australian Stringhalt is a condition that affects the peripheral nerves resulting in a spasmodic over flexion of the joints. This condition usually affects the hind legs with the sciatic, peroneal or tibial nerves most often being involved resulting in the characteristic flexion of the hock often seen.

The exact cause of Australian Stringhalt is unknown, however there are many theories. Some theories are:

1. Ingestion of broad leaf weeds such as dandelion, capeweed, cats ear.

2. Ingestion of a fungus that grows under the leaves of pasture plants during certain climatic conditions.

3. Mineral Deficiency.

Plant species are often the same in paddocks of both affected and unaffected horses, thus I tend toward a combination of the second and third theories. Nutritional imbalances often lead to animals having a higher susceptibility to the effects of toxins, it could be that horses that contract stringhalt are in a slightly compromised nutrient status and as such are more susceptible to being affected by an ingested toxin.

Whether the cause be plant or fungal toxin the requirements of management are similar:

1. Removing the horse from the offending pasture area: this is the most important step to reduce the continued ingestion of the causative factor.

2. Avoiding grazing the affected pasture during the risky seasons

3. Provide a balanced natural diet to assist the provision of adequate nutrients thus enhancing the horses' healing ability.

4. Reduce the effects of the ingested toxin through the use of protectants and absorbent compounds such as slippery elm or anise seeds, marshmallow, plantain..

5. Return the digestive system to full function thus enhancing nutrient absorption. Garlic and Fenugreek are two of the herbs traditionally used here.

6. Reduce the excitability of nerves and assist their healing, some of the following herbs may be of assistance: chamomile, cowslip, Lemon Verbena, parsley, poppy seeds, vervain or skull cap.

7. Cleanse the lymphatic system, and liver, assisting immune function and the ability to fight and deactivate toxins. Clivers, calendula, nettles, burdock root or dandelion being traditionally used.

8. Tissue Salts to rebalance the body

9. Homoeopathy may be of assistance.

10. Tactile therapies and specific gentle activity to encourage blood supply and thus enhance healing of the affected muscles and nerves.

Many people recommend that horses with stringhalt not eat lucerne, over feeding lucerne may create nutritional imbalances, however lucerne provides a good level of protein, which is essential in healing plus a high level of calcium, a mineral involved in, among other things, nerve and muscle function. Thus cut lucerne out if you wish, but first ensure that the diet you provide contains adequate nutritional content for your horse.

If given adequate management, most cases of stringhalt resolve with little or no deficit. Ensure you consult your vet to gain a diagnosis, and then plan your management and gain advise from professionals in nutrition, horse management. If you wish to treat the condition naturally, contact a Animal Natural Therapist, Homoeopathist or Herbalist. I am sure your horse would thank you for doing so.
Christine Scully

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

The Biological Basis of Wound Care in the Horse
Many horse owners are at one time or another met with a wound requiring some degree of attention. There are many theories on wound care, however after many years involvement with both human and horse wound management, I believe the basic premise must be to reduce the risk of infection, encourage the growth of healthy tissue, minimise scaring and promote a return to full function.

So what does the body do in response to injury?

1. Superficial Wounds: Here the skin cells enlarge and move across the wound until they come in contact with another skin cell, they then change direction until another cell is touched, and so on until the cell is surrounded by cells. At the same time other cells are dividing to replace those that have moved. This migration and division continues until the wound is resurfaced. The relocated cells then divide to thicken the new area of skin.

This whole process takes only 24 - 48 hours without the presence of infection and interruption.

2. Deep Wound Healing:

Here the process becomes a little more involved, and in most cases there is some scar formation.

The body's first response to a deep injury is inflammation. This influx of fluid and blood, aids to clean the wound removing both bacteria and foreign material, it provides white blood cells to arrest the entry of bacteria and to aid the formation of scar tissue. This prepares the injured tissue for repair. A blood clot then forms to unite the wound edges. Skin cells then migrate under the clot to join the edges of the wound, collagen fibres begin to be laid down in a random fashion, and there is an increase in blood vessels. This helps to fill the wound with an actively growing tissue called granulation tissue. Granulation tissue secretes a fluid that kills bacteria, and is vital to support the incoming cells. Both skin cells and small blood vessels now show prolific growth to fill the area. From here the healing process enters the maturation phase when any scab will slough off, the randomly laid fibres are reorganised, the skin resumes its normal thickness and the blood vessels are restored to normal.

The major conditions affecting repair are nutrition, blood circulation, age, and wound management.

Lets look at these individually:

1. Nutrition:

Efficient healing requires a high level of protein, vitamins and other nutrients from bodily stores. Protein is a major component of all cells, thus it is vital for the cell production during wound healing. Vitamin A is required for replacement of skin cells, Vitamin B for cell division and for in pain relief, Vitamin C aids in production of collagen and in the formation and strengthening of new blood vessels. Vitamin E promotes healing of injured tissue and Vitamin K is important in the production of proteins and blood clotting. You can provide these requirements with a balanced diet and supplemental herbs.

2. Blood Circulation:

Blood brings healing agents such as oxygen and antibacterial cells to the wound, and removes excess fluid, bacteria and foreign bodies thus enhancing healing.

3. Age:

As the horse ages the rate of cell division and nutrient synthesis slows. Thus the older horse requires more support in healing and has an increased likelihood of scarring.

4. Wound Management:

Rule Number One: Encourage and care for the fragile granulation tissue: How often have you heard people say " the vet told me to leave the wound wrapped for 7 days, I'm not doing that, vets do not know anything about wound care" lets think again. Ensuring a wound is clean, covering it with a healing agent and wrapping the wound up to allow the body to do the rest is the best advise anyone can give you. The more you fiddle with the wound or pick off hard scabs, the more you put on agents that excite the wound tissues and/or encourage the formation of scabs, the more likely you are to encourage the formation of proud flesh or over granulation.

Why does this happen? Every time you disturb the surface of the healing tissue you remove some of the newly laid down collagen fibres and skin cells and so healing has to start again. Eventually there is an over production of granulation tissue. We all know how easily a horse forms proud flesh so why encourage it?

Juliette de Bairacli Levy (1991) writes that a "famed gypsy remedy was to first…stem the bleeding…The open area is then sprinkled with black pepper, which acts as a powerful disinfectant and also stimulates healing. The wound is then sewn up and left to heal naturally". We use different healing agents but the premise is the same, give some assistance but then let the body do its job.

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

Does your Horse need Calcium Supplementation?

It is becoming common for people to supplement their horses diet with Calcium, and in many cases Dolomite is the supplement of choice. I constantly question if this is needed? Horses gain better absorption from plant mineral sources, and in many cases plants will provide a more balanced supply of nutrients than any supplement, thus is supplementation wise?

Lets look at the level of calcium in one kilogram of commonly fed hays and chaff

Lucerne: Hay/Chaff 10 - 13 g

Clover: Fresh 2 - 5 g Hay 11 - 12 g

Ryegrass : fresh 1 - 6 g Hay 5 - 6 g

Approximate weight of commonly fed amounts of these feeds Lucerne Hay 1 Biscuit 1.5 - 2 kg Clover hay 1 biscuit 1.5 kg Clover and Rye 30% clover 1.5 kg Lucerne Chaff 1 dipper 0.4 kg

If we assume you feed your 500 kg horse 2 biscuits of lucerne hay, and 1 dipper of lucerne chaff per day you will be providing your horse with approximately 38 g of calcium. In a 500 kg horse requiring approximately 20 gram of calcium per day (NRC recommendations), this is way over their requirement. If you add to this the calcium contained in the concentrate portion of your horses' diet, and the clover in the pasture you will find the calcium provision is very high, making your dolomite addition unnecessary.

Let us now look at the horse being fed 2 biscuits of clover and rye hay plus 1 dipper of lucerne chaff, in this case the horse is gaining approximately 18g of calcium, when the concentrate and pasture are added to this we are easily providing the daily requirement and more.

Most commercial concentrate horse feeds provide a good level of calcium, thus if you feed commercial rations plus lucerne or clover it is highly unlikely you need to supplement. Save your money and enhance your horses' health and throw that dolomite onto your pasture.

If you still feel the need to supplement, a word on dolomite. Dolomite is a mixture of calcium and magnesium. Magnesium is present in adequate amounts in normal horse feeds and pasture, as such I question the need for its addition to the diet. Further to this, excess magnesium blocks the uptake of calcium. Thus in many cases, the calcium in dolomite cannot be utilised by the horse due to the presence of excess magnesium. If you must supplement, I recommend that you use di-cal phosphate, you will then provide both calcium and phosphorous which work together in absorption of both minerals and in bone and muscular health.. (Calcium and phosphorous are required in equine diets at a ratio of not less than 1.5:1, there is no known ratio between calcium and magnesium)

Excess calcium supplementation can cause excessive thirst, over excretion of phosphorous, resulting in a negative effect on bone density, kidney stones, manganese deficiency, magnesium deficiency and can also reduce the bodily stores of copper, iron and zinc. Thus think twice before providing any calcium supplementation to a horse that is not in late pregnancy or lactating.

As always, if you provide a balanced diet for your horse, you will enhance nutrient absorption and use within bodily systems. A balanced diet means better health and performance from your horse, plus lowered costs of supplementation and veterinary intervention throughout your horses' life.

Until next time take care of yourselves and your equine friends. Christine.

For Computer analysis of your horse's diet and rebalancing of nutrients contact Equine Holistic Health

Click here to Email Christine at Equine Holistic Health and rebalance your horse's diet.

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home

Is Work Making your Horse Sore?

Sports injury is not always an instant obvious problem. Horses may show no obvious lameness or swelling at the time of injury, nor may you see a change in attitude. However as time goes by you slowly notice changes in exercise tolerance, gait or attitude and do not know why. It is at this time many people call for help from such practitioners as Vets and Tactile Therapists. In many cases you can avoid the need to travel this path through careful observation of your horse and a routine measurement of vital signs.

Feel your horses' entire body regularly: To note variations in shape, texture, temperature and tension in your horses' body, you need to know the norm for your horse. So every day you see your horse, run your hands over the entire body, noting all variations from place to place. Making this a habit before and after work will allow you to pick up changes related to work such as heat and swelling. These areas may only be the size of a 50c coin, but with rest, identification and removal of the cause, they are likely to resolve. If left unnoticed, and continually assaulted, changes in gait and further problems may occur.

Take your horses temperature regularly: A rise in temperature may indicate a number of conditions including infection or sports injury. It can also help you assess the response of the horse to exercise. In a number of training stables in Europe, a rise of 0.5 degree gives the horse a day off! So get into the habit of taking your horses temperature regularly and recognise a change when it occurs.

Take your horses pulse regularly including before and after work, and if possible during work: The heart rate of the horse varies considerably at rest dependent on the surroundings, however if you take it regularly you will ascertain the norm for your horse. Following work the pulse reduces as the horse recovers. An extension in the normal rate of recovery indicates a reduced exercise tolerance and that it is time to investigate the source of the problem. Know how to assess saddle fit and re-check regularly as your horse changes shape: Pressure points from saddles will eventually affect performance and willingness to work. In your daily routine of feeling the horse, thoroughly investigate any changes along the back and compare these to the saddle. Addressing any issues will help to avoid changes in performance let alone reduce any pain for the horse. Locating and treating problems early is one of the major keys to success with injury management.

If the problem is small and managed correctly the likelihood to further problems is significantly reduced. Continual aggravation of small injuries can lead to significant pain and/or lameness. Such an ongoing problem often requires a large change in routine, costing valuable time in training and competing, plus the added costs of vets, tactile therapists, masseurs and other practitioners trying to locate and remove the issue.

A couple of minutes checking each day you ride is good insurance for yourself and your horse.

Enjoy finding pulses and taking temperatures

Until Next time take care of yourselves and your equine friends! Christine

For Further Advise on Equine Care, Treatment of Sports Injuries and Rehabilitation contact Christine at the Email link below or ring Equine Holistic Health in Australia on (03) 9752 1688

Click the following Links
to take you to your article of choice:
1. Seaweed 2. Australian Stringhalt 3. Wound Care
4. Behaviour & Bach Therapy 5. Bach Therapy 6. Work & Muscle Pain in Horses
7. Calcium Supplementation Top Home