So, what’s out there that’s equine-appropriate, equine-essential, nutrient-rich and balanced, and 100% free of toxins and chemicals? (And if like me you've got metabolic natives ...)
Here's what I like to feed, in summary. Further on I go into the detail as to Why 😉
Feedbowl Base Carrier
Remembering that the horse is a hindgut fibre-fermenter with an absolute need for forage fibre, there is none finer, in my humble opinion, than the Agrobs Pre-Alpin organic, all-natural fibre-based range. Because I have 3.5 metabolics in our herd (Murphy, Cookie, MacAttack and with Pops as a possible - even Carms, my TB gets it) I give all of them the Agrobs Leitchgenus chaff, which is a combo of super-low starch grasses coming in at just under 2%. I always include a chaff in the feedbowl because (a) it's a forage fibre, (b) it lengthens the chew time, and (c) chewing creates saliva which helps buffer foregut acidity.
None of our local feed merchants sell it so I get mine direct from Red Rufus, Agrobs' UK distributor: https://www.red-rufus.co.uk/online-store/LEICHTGENUSS-FATTIES-CHAFF-p98671392. Their Online Shop is quite busy so allow up to 5-days for delivery. You can also get it online via EquiSupermarket - https://www.equisupermarket.co.uk/nutrition-horse-feed.irc?brand=6000518 who usually deliver within 2-3 days but it costs more.
To the chaff I add in the Agrobs Weisencobs: https://www.red-rufus.co.uk/online-store/PRE-ALPIN-WIESENCOBS-MEADOW-COBS-p77676031- they're also great in a treat ball. Agrobs also do their Weisenflakes, which are their 'cobs' but sliced up so less soak time: https://www.red-rufus.co.uk/online-store/Pre-Alpin-Wiesenflakes-Meadow-flakes-p98450112
I also keep a bag of Coolstance Copra handy. It's specially good for sensitive gut systems - Murf does very well on it - and also for horses that drop weight or need condition; Carms sometimes needs a bit extra during the winter and Copra rises to the occasion here for her. It's available pretty much everywhere, but otherwise Chandlers are about the cheapest online: https://www.4dobbin.com/p-Copra-Meal-Stance-Equine.html
This combo makes makes up my base feedbowl carrier. Now for the essential nutrients.
Back to the reminder that a horse is a hindgut fibre-fermenter with an absolute requirement for forage fibre - they also need their body's chemistry balanced by correct mineral ratios. It’s all about the chemical information from the micronutrients in feed that radically influences genes, hormones, immune system, central nervous system, brain chemistry, skeletal and soft tissue structure; you name it – everything from mood, energy and physical health of the whole organism (body), at cellular level, with every single bite.
The above is what I consider essential, then I add in some extras, just my own personal choice:
Now to their herbs. Murf & Cookie get our MetaTonic; MacAttack gets a combo mix of our MetaTonic and SkinTonic for his chronic sweetitch in summer, just the MetaTonic during the winter months; Pops gets a combo of our MetaTonic and our MellowMare, as, although it took me a while to realise, she badly needs seasonal/hormonal balancing; Carms gets our JSTTonic with a jar of DuoBute on standby for when she's stiffer than usual.
Each feed is dampened, before stirring through and serving.
So there we have it: Agrobs Chaff & Weisencobs/Flakes, Copra when needed, EquiVita/VitaComplete forage-balanced minerals, micronised Linseed and salt.
Now here's the Why
There really is no finer natural, organic, grass fibre brand than Agrobs Pre-Alpin. The historic paddock of 30-years plus ago would have 30-40 different plants and grasses, growing long and intermingling with meadow herbs - I remember the days back in the late 1960s/early 1970s, where we'd turn out the riding school ponies onto those lush, untouched pastures every Sunday night for the week before bringing them back in the following Saturday morning for the weekend's work. Laminitis? Cushings? Metabolic Syndrome? Unheard of ...
Agrobs blend over 50 organic different grasses and natural herbage from the Bavarian hillsides, and include everything in their range from meadow grass cobs, a gorgous Musli which looks good enough for humans to eat, an excellent gut-supporting Mash which I recommend often, a cobs range for the pregnant/nursing mare and youngstock, a PreAlpin Senior chaff, plus numerous other chaffs to name just a few.
Most people initially meet the Agrobs Musli, their flagship blend – it looks amazing, smells amazing, and I defy any horse not to like it. For our metabolic horses Agrobs have a dedicated chaff, their Leitchgenus, composed of untreated wheat straw and green oat grass, so super-low on the starch front at less than 2%. This makes it ideal for any EMS/IR equine, which our native horses predominantly tend to be on our rich UK grass. The Leitchgenus is also very popular with many of my PPID clients. It’s also the lowest in their range of naturally occurring iron/manganese.
Copra is basically sun-dried coconut, and it's a fact that the humble coconut is actually one of the most incredible super-foods on the planet. It’s been used for centuries as a food source for the coconut meat and the water, but it also contains something else - coconuts are the best source on the planet for the healthiest type of fat, medium chain triglyceride oil (MCT).
Medium-chain triglycerides, or MCTs, are a special type of fat that get their name from their chemical structure, specifically their length or chain of carbon molecules. They’re mostly extracted from coconut oil but small amounts of MCTs can be found in grass-fed butter and other dairy products.
Coolstance Copra is rich in natural coconut oil. MCTs are a super-healthy, natural, stable fat, as opposed to an unnatural (processed), unstable, fragile vegetable fat (polyunsaturated fats, aka PUFAs). MCT's have really hit the headlines recently, especially if you've heard of, or are following, the ketogenic diet method. However, MCT is not just a buzzword; MCT stands for medium-chain triglycerides and it’s one of the best, most bioavailable forms of energy, as it bypasses digestion being absorbed straight into the blood portal to the liver. This is what makes Stance Equine’s Coolstance Copra so beneficial as an equine feed as it provides coconut oil in its natural form, alongside a good source of fibre and nutrients.
Coolstance Copra is also made completely naturally by coconut farmers in the Philippines. The coconuts are harvested, the meal removed, manually shredded and left to naturally dry in the sun. You can’t get more organic and unprocessed. Coconut meal and oil is also naturally antimicrobial so overall it’s extremely beneficial for a struggling digestive system and sensitive gut system.
I feed Copra for several reasons; first off, my connie, Murphy, acquired the metabolic label when he was 7 (he’s now 26), so the MCT’s are very soothing and kind to his gut. It’s also low in digestible NSC - less than 11% starch so a ‘cool’ feed, with no carb overload into the hindgut, so low risk of acidosis.
It’s also high in digestible fibre and has a natural electrolyte content. For example, if us humans are overseas and have the misfortunate of getting a local gut-bug, the best remedy is to drink neat coconut juice from a freshly opened coconut as it not only rehydrates but replaces all the lost nutrients and electrolytes.
Linseed (micronized) is a staple in my feedroom - I can’t recommend it highly enough for its high-nutrient benefits for condition, coat shine, joint comfort, hooves and itchy skin to name a few. It’s also a gut system superstar. Thanks to its high soluble-fibre level (around 27%) this makes it high in mucilage, so super-lubricating for sensitive guts. Another of the many benefits of micronization is that it beneficially changes the structure of the seed’s grain which greatly increases digestibility in the small intestine by up to 90%. This reduces the burden on the large intestine and can reduce the risk of overloading the GI tract and hence reduce the risk of colic, laminitis and acidosis.
However, linseed is best known for its high omega fatty-acid content, with the low-heat micronization process preserving them. There are two classes of fatty acids (the building blocks of fats) that must be in the diet for optimal immune function, omega-3 and omega-6, with omega-3 contributing to normal homeostatic balancing of inflammation, as well as supporting vision, the nervous system and cellular membrane integrity. Linseed comes in at around 30%+ fat, with the same high omega-3 profile as fresh grass.
It’s also an excellent protein supplement at around 25%, with key amino-acids (the building blocks of protein) in its profile, including the most commonly deficient amino acid, lysine, and even higher levels of leucine, the most common amino acid in skeletal muscle. It’s also a good source of methionine, the sulphur-containing amino acid beneficial for strong hooves.
The general rule of thumb is to feed 20g/100kg bodyweight summer, and double this in winter, so for an average 500kg horse you’re looking at 100g/day summer and 200g/day winter - for horses with loss of weight/condition you can easily double this. If there’s high hay content in the diet, the omegas naturally denature during the curing process, so feed as per winter rations.
NB. A regular FAQ I get asked about linseed is people's concerns that linseed will add weight, so here's the thing - not all calories are equal, and there are good fats, questionable fats and sadly, bad fats. For clarity on this, have a look at our Feeding our Horses section above, and specifically The Truth About Fats page.
Now to Salt - an absolute essential for so many reasons, i.e. the body requires a specific sodium-to-potassium ratio to normalise blood pressure; it keeps body fluids in balance, it provides essential natural electrolytes which play a key role in normal nerve/muscle function and blood sodium levels. But - sodium is also needed to balance potassium levels in the grass, with rye grass and clover particularly high in potassium.
However, the biochemists at Alltech tell me there’s an issue with blending salt into a mineral mix, in that sodium denatures vitamins over a period of time, so any mineral blend which includes salt will be less effective than one without it. Which means … we have to add salt separately into the feedbowl. At least a tablespoon daily, and double this if your horse is in hard work or sweating.
Adding salt into the diet can also nip in the bud so many frustrating symptoms, i.e. chewing wood – if I had a shiny £1 coin for every enquiry I get saying “my horse chews wood”, I’d have a new 4x4! Which I don’t, by the way ...
We sell a range of unrefined sea and rock salts, both coarse and fine, in bulk at great rates in our Online Shop / Salts.
So there’s Feed done. You’ll now have the perfect base feedbowl carrier into which we can then add the phytonutrient magic of herbs if needed.
Top Tip: As I mentioned above, I know only too well that having lots of different items on the shelf to spoon into the feedbowl is a right old faff, and wouldn't it be easier just to have it all-in-one, but ... don't lose heart - we've got this covered. While of course we have our individual EquiVita mineral balancers, as well as linseed and a range of certified salts as separate items, we've also combined all three together as a convenient 3-in-1.
Have a look at our VitaComplete range - it blends our EquiVita minerals with the daily RDA of linseed and salt, so that's three separate items down to just one.
To finish as we started
Getting the baseline diet right is absolutely essential to keeping our horses healthy. We have total control over how, when and what our horse's eat - they have no say in it whatsoever. If we as their carers don't get it right, continued degeneration is inevitable if we continue to feed them industrially processed foods made from proven inferior, chemically-treated ingredients.
We have more knowledge and resources today than at any time in recent history to help us adopt a diet for our horses that ensures good health, generation after generation. And it's so simple - feed real nutritious food,just as we did in the good old days. Here's wishing you horse the very best of health.