Diet Recommendations from Dr. Strasser and Sabine Kells

by Yvonne Welz ©2006

The ideal diet: Large grassy pastures with a great diversity of plants and herbs, including trees, shrubs, bushes, etc., growing upon them. If the horse lives on varied terrain, he may also be able to findall the minerals that he needs.

The typical diet: Small, limited pasture and/or replacement feeds in the form of preserved plants (hay). Also, such feeds are often mineral poor, and grown on depleted soils. The worst diets include “meals” for the horse 2-3 times per day (with no access to hay or anything else to munch on at any other time).

Most important of all: provide all horses with access to either free-choice grass hay or pasture at all times, or bushes, weeds, and lower calorie munching (so that a bored horse that doesn't get enough exercise won't get way too fat.) The horse’s digestive system is designed for a constant intake of small amounts of food. Anytime a horse’s gut goes without food for a number of hours, routinely (once in a while, going without food for half a day or more won't cause a serious problem), the bacteria inside the intestine can start to die off. After just several hours of an empty stomach, if this has been a frequent situation, the stomach wall and lining can actually start to ulcerate. Improper feeding leads to colic, ulcers, tying-up syndrome, laminitis, etc. It is vital that all horses have access to roughage 24 hours a day!

To improve the “typical diet,” horses should be provided with an assortment of free choice minerals. These minerals should be plain and unflavored, with no tasty additives. Plain single minerals are good, as long as you know which ones to offer--it is good to have your ground or hay analyzed to find out what minerals are missing in your horses’ diet. By providing several different minerals offered free choice, the horse can then balance his own mineral needs. Minerals can be left out 24 hours per day, or just offered to the horse daily. Always provide free choice plain salt at all times.

Variety is extremely important! Purchase your hay from different areas, add raw fruit and vegetable table scraps, safe branches from fruit trees, herbal mixes made for horses, etc. Be creative in trying to provide as varied as diet as you possibly can.

If a horse moves less than 20 km per day, he should not need any grain, as long as he has access to constant pasture or hay. If a horse does need some grain to keep his condition or energy level, the best choice is whole oats*. Whole oats are preferable to processed feeds. Avoid feeds which are processed and contain lots of additives and sugars, stick to natural food. Grain should be fed at ground level, in small amounts, several times per day.

Worm infestation is a problem of unnatural living conditions, when horses in small areas are forced to live close to their manure piles, and/or when the horse's natural immune system is compromised. It is natural for all mammals to have a small quantity of worms in their body--this is only a problem when the number of worms increase greatly and thus become pathogenic. De-worming should NOT be done as a preventative. Fecals should be taken when a horse is suspected of worm infestation, and then the horse should be dewormed with the appropriate medication. There are homeopathic and herbal worming products, as well as supplement programs that help act as worm preventatives, without chemical exposure.

This information is provided to complement the diet recommendations of Dr. Hiltrud Strasser:

Whole Oats, the Perfect Horse Feed? Part 1

Whole Oats, the Perfect Horse Feed? Part 2

©2000-2014 by The Horse's Hoof. All rights reserved. No part of these publications may be reproduced by any means whatsoever without the written permission of the publisher and/or authors. The information contained within these articles is intended for educational purposes only, and not for diagnosing or medicinally prescribing in any way. Readers are cautioned to seek expert advice from a qualified health professional before pursuing any form of treatment on their animals. Opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.

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