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"A horse gallops with his lungs and wins with his character, but perseveres with his heart."

The Centre for Equine Health, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine

Principal Body System: Cardiovascular

Definition: Blood, heart and blood vessels.

Function: Distributes oxygen and nutrients to cells; carries carbon dioxide and wastes from cells; maintains the acid-base balance of the body; protects against disease; prevents haemorrhage by forming blood clots; helps regulate body temperature.

The horse’s heart is quite simply the lifeline to a horse's optimum health.

An extremely effective organ, the horse's heart fortunately rarely experiences problems. Which is just as well because it has to pump a healthy blood supply to one of the largest mammals on the planet.

The equine cardiovascular system comprises of a pump (heart), a distribution system (arteries), exchange areas (capillary beds), and a return and collect system (veins) - in the human body alone, there's around 100,000 miles of blood vessels, enough to go around the earth about 2.5 times!

Collectively, the cardiovascular system has one major job to perform - to transport oxygenated blood (around 40-litres of blood in a 500kg horse), as well as nutrients, lymph and hormones, to vital organs and tissues, and remove waste products to where they can be eliminated.

A disruption can cause anything from a mild to a more serious problem - anaemia, laminitis, bruising and colic being just some of the more recognised disorders that can affect the circulatory system.

In naturopathy speak, and falling in with the cyclical circadiam rhythm, summer is the time for the highest energy levels - with the longer days, and all the light and energy from the sun, our horses' energy levels are now at their highest, thriving at this time of year. To support the energy demands, summer is a useful time to focus on toning the heart, purifying the blood and stimulating circulation. Otherwise, with our horses standing or working in the heat for a prolonged period of time, this can result in heat exhaustion. The circulatory system literally collapses and the venous system gives way, preventing a regular supply of blood to return to the heart and brain.

Vitamin C, an essential antioxidant, is also a very useful preventative for heat exhaustion, as it helps maintain the elasticity of the arteries. The horse's liver plays a vital part in cardio health as horses synthesise their own vitamin C from glucose in the liver, making about 72 grams each day. Equally, rosehips are an amazing cardio-protective phytonutrient as feeding just 5g per day yields around 200mg of natural Vit.C, as well as supporting the absorption of iron, helping to produce neurotransmitters, and serving as a beneficial gut and kidney tonic, immunity, circulatory and joint supporter, and collagen producer.