Holistic Horse Care


Horses just like any other animal or human benefit from more natural care. The best place to start is the diet, as this is the main foundation of any natural health care system. Firstly, it is essential to avoid any artificial additives in the feed. The main ones to look out for are ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT, as well as artificial colorings and flavorings. Try and put the horse on a pasture which is organically grown and not treated with any chemicals such as artificial fertilizers and pesticides. All these chemicals act as toxins to the body and contribute to the formation of chronic disease and poor health. The best hay to feed is organic where possible, as this provides more energy and nutrients and is free of chemicals, the type of hay depends on quality, availability, the horse itself, and is not set in stone. Obviously make sure it is made naturally and is not dusty and full of weeds and molds. It should smell sweet and not musty or damp. A lot more farmers are turning to organic farming and it is a lot safer and more productive.

As far as grains go it is far better to feed organic wholegrain feed, rather than synthetic pelleted diets, which are unnatural and highly processed. Synthetic vitamins added to commercial feeds are not well utilized by the body and natural enzymes are destroyed in the manufacturing process. Wholegrains are healthier, natural and more easily digested than pelleted food. The main grains to consider feeding are barley, oats and corn. The exact ratio’s depend on the type of horse, the work that they are expected to do and individual preferences. Some horses just do better on one particular type of grain. As with all dietary changes for horses it is best to do it gradually. Horses are so susceptible to colic if the food is suddenly changed so just start adding a little of the new food daily, and slowly increase the amounts, and decrease the old food over several days. Corn is a highly energizing food and is therefore concentrated nutrition, as well as being good for the digestion. Oats are digested rapidly in the stomach, are less energy forming and are warming in nature. Barley is more cooling and is in between corn and oats as far as the energy value.

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Acupuncture in animals has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese. Horses respond well, just like cats and dogs and nowadays acupuncture is often used in performance horses in the USA. Most racetracks have veterinarians who regularly perform acupuncture on horses. Acupuncture balances the body and in highly competitive race horses this can often make a big difference in achieving peak performance. Even if your horse is not a racehorse acupuncture can help, especially with orthopedic problems and lameness of various types. Acupuncture in horses is similar to that used in dogs and cats, which has been covered in a previous article in this website. Needles are inserted into various acupuncture points, depending on the problem that has been diagnosed. Sometimes in horses substances such as vitamin B 12 are actually injected into the acupuncture points to give a longer lasting effect, and this is often makes things easier to handle than having to wait for ten or twenty minutes while the needles remain in place. Acupuncture can treat many different conditions apart from lameness, such as dermatitis, liver or kidney problems and other miscellaneous diseases. Chronic lameness that has not responded to conventional treatment methods often responds well to acupuncture, and sometimes expensive and lengthy surgeries can even be prevented. As such acupuncture has become much more widely accepted for the treatment of horses, than it has for cats and dogs. It is now recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association as a valid treatment modality.


Tellington touch is a form of therapeutic touch used on many kinds of animals, and was developed by Linda Tellington-Jones. Basically small circles or other movements are made on the skin of the animal, so as to calm or stimulate the body, depending what the problem requires. It is used to calm anxious or fearful horses or to build confidence and body awareness in shy animals. Aggressive or difficult to manage horses also respond beautifully, and become much easier to work with. There is an extensive training program which is available to train horses and this accelerates the learning process and actually trains the horses mind and body to be much more integrated. There are several different specific T-Touches that can be used, and just learning the basic touches and using them on your horse will help them to perform better and also calm them in stressful situations, such as when the veterinarian comes to visit. This works well on cats and dogs or any other animal or person. The most useful T-Touch is called the clouded leopard T-Touch. It is a small clockwise circle made on the skin with the fingers, so as to move the underlying tissue. The circle should be one and a fourth turns and should be done firmly but gently. What the touch does is connect the animal with the person touching them and this seems to allow some form of communication to occur. Animals become much calmer and easier to handle and this is a very useful technique to learn and practice on your horse. It is not massage but works in a similar manner to bring about relaxation. Massage also works well for horses and conditions and tones the muscles, improves circulation, stimulates the immune system and detoxifies the body. Learning to massage your horse will also strengthen your connection with them and help you to understand them better and they definitely appreciate a good massage.


Most people do not think of taking their horse to see a chiropractor, but just like people regular chiropractic adjustments help horses too. Just like athletes they need to keep their body in as healthy a state as possible and rely on their body structure being in correct alignment to be able to carry people, race, jump obstacles, go on endurance rides, compete in rodeo’s, produce healthy foals as well as all the other important tasks they are called on to perform. When we consider these diverse requirements and the potential stresses they may have on the body it is no wonder that chiropractic adjustments can help. Chiropractic is usually carried out by a veterinarian trained in this skill, or in some states by a human chiropractor working under the supervision of a veterinarian. There are approximately two hundred joints in the neck, back and tail of an average horse and just one of these joints being incorrectly positioned results in what is known as a sub-luxation and can cause problems. Imagine having a bad back then having to carry a heavy saddle and rider and even jump over things and run as fast as you can. In addition the spinal column carries nerves for all the vital organs and if one of these nerves is pinched will result in slightly decreased function of that organ. This may not be detectable with the usual blood tests but will result in less than optimal overall performance. Horses that resent being saddled or do not want to go forward or turn are possibly suffering from a subluxated spinal joint and would benefit from chiropractic adjustments. Other indications include head shyness, refusal to jump, nipping or biting and general stiffness and lack of coordination, as well as obvious lameness. All the joints can be adjusted and this can help treat numerous forms of lameness and orthopedic problems. Prevention of sub-luxations is important and keeping your horse fit and in good condition will help the spine be stronger. The saddle must fit properly and the be positioned in the correct position with even distribution of weight, and avoid pulling on the head and neck with the reins. Regular exercise and running and rolling in a paddock will also help keep the spine healthy and your horse happy.


Click on the link above to go to the article with some interesting equine facts!


  • Healing Your Horse by Meredith Snader, Howell Book House
  • The Natural Horse by Jaime Jackson, Northland Press
  • The Tellington Touch Equine Awareness Method by Linda Tellington-Jones
Dr. Anna Maria Gardner is a holistic veterinarian, based in Washington State, and is certified in acupuncture and homeopathy. She lives in Washington with her daughter, two dogs, seven cats, sixteen chickens, two goats, a donkey, a horse, two ducks, a pair of geese and one bossy parrot.