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Let’s talk about the thin horse! It’s true that an underweight horse is always a cause for concern among horse owners but holistic nutrition (or nutrition that supports the health of the body as a whole) is a great focus point when it comes to weight gain and overall wellness as this approach offers a natural and comprehensive way to help your equine companion regain lost weight as well as maintain a healthy weight moving forward. In this article, we'll explore the benefits of a holistic approach towards the underweight horse and provide you with valuable insights into nourishing your horse naturally in order to facilitate a healthy weight gain as well as achieve optimal health.
Understanding The Causes of Weight Loss
Horses can become underweight due to an almost endless array of possibilities, however there are some common causes such as dental issues, illness, stress, parasites or simply not getting enough of the right nutrients from their diet. It's crucial to identify the underlying cause of your horse's weight loss to provide effective care. The very first recommended steps would be contacting your veterinarian and asking them to complete a thorough examination of your horse, including their mouth. From there, submitting a fecal sample for parasite egg count and sediment accumulation analysis is advised. Regardless of the cause, dialing in your horse’s diet will be the key in gaining the weight back after any underlying health concerns have been properly addressed and/or treated.
The Benefits of a Holistic Approach and Holistic Nutrition
Whole-Body Approach: Holistic nutrition addresses the root causes of weight loss, such as digestive health, stress, and overall well-being, rather than merely increasing calorie intake with subpar feeds full of fillers or ingredients that may promote inflammation.
Natural Ingredients: Holistic nutrition focuses on natural and real food ingredients that are rich in natural vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants which benefit the overall health of the horse as a whole. Additionally, the bioavailability of nutrients from whole food sources is significantly higher as they are from sources that horses have evolved to consume.
Reduced Risk of Digestive Issues: Holistic feeding practices can improve digestion and reduce the risk of digestive problems, such as colic.
Stress Reduction: Holistic approaches may incorporate stress-reduction techniques, such as pasture turnout and herbal supplements, to address the emotional well-being of your horse.
Holistic Nutrition Options for Underweight Horses:
High-Quality Forage: Source forage from quality distributors. The quality of the provided forage is incredibly important as it is quite literally a foundation for the health of the horse. If possible, have your hay tested or ask your hay supplier for a test so that you can identify if there are any nutritional gaps within the forage being fed.
Natural Supplements & Herbal Remedies: Incorporate natural supplements such as trace minerals or whole foods like chia seeds, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, to support overall health, weight gain and muscle integrity as well as prevent ulcers. Herbs like fennel and nettle can help reduce stress and promote digestion, aiding in weight gain. Supplements such as the Inner Glow Omega Booster from Twenty Four Carrots is a prime example of a whole food, holistic, anti-inflammatory daily goodness.
Pasture Turnout: When possible, allow your horse access to pasture turnout, which is an enrichment that can reduce stress as well as provide natural grazing opportunities and movement. It can be very physically and emotionally stressful to keep a horse in a stall or dry pen.
Probiotics and Prebiotics: These can improve digestion and help your horse absorb nutrients more efficiently contributing to the overall health of the horse.
Slow Feeding: Slow-feeding methods, such as using a hay net or a slow feeder, can prevent overeating and promote healthy digestion. and deny them access to forage for extended periods of time and ideally, a horse should never go more than 3 hours without hay.
Regular Dental Care: Ensure that your horse receives regular dental check-ups and maintenance to ensure proper chewing and digestion. Properly chewed food with healthy teeth and a gut full of healthy intestinal flora equals prime nutrient absorption.
In conclusion, holistic nutrition is about taking the whole horse into consideration versus just looking at fundamental parts. When applying this thought process to feeding for weight gain and overall health, it is important to consider the physiology, mental health and anatomy of the horse when coming up with a feeding plan. Happy horses gain weight easily and are easier to ride, train and handle. By focusing on whole-body well-being, natural ingredients and balanced nutrition, you can help your horse regain a healthy weight and maintain it naturally. This is why it’s equally as important to find products which identify with the same cause, such as Twenty Four Carrots who’s supplements are all holistic, whole food and safe for metabolic horses. And remember, always consult with experts to create a holistic nutrition plan tailored to your horse's unique requirements.
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