A guest blog from Carol Hughes of Equi-Biome
New Year’s Resolution – Reduce the bagged feed and balancer, replace with wild plants and herbs!
Gut bacteria provide important functions, especially in early life, providing training of the immune system, metabolism and synthesis of vitamins. The relationship between the gut bacteria and the host has been in place for as long as the horse has existed. The gut microbes evolving together for mutual benefit. A disruption to this vital relationship will certainly have major implications for the health of the host.
The biggest change to the microbiome of the horse has happened in the last 30 years with the introduction of mono-culture food and hay, soya hulls and perennial rye grass. These will not and cannot ever provide the complex diversity needed to keep the horse healthy. Using the EquiBiome analysis, a reduction of diversity is especially noticeable in the bacteria that are linked to the immune system and to metabolism.
In humans research has linked poor diversity with many diseases such as obesity, Insulin resistance, high cholesterol, inflammation, diabetes 1 and 2 , Cancer, Crohn’s, Ulcerative colitis, Celiac disease, Allergies, Chronic fatigue syndrome and Polycystic ovary syndrome.
The take home message is poor diversity can make you and your horse ill. Good horse health starts in the gut! Above all else, provide a diverse diet! Below are some of the plants that can help increase the health of horses.
‘There is more to willow than aspirin and cricket bats’
‘Modern chemistry’s unravelling of willow promises enough new medicines and materials to make even Hippocrates gasp. There is more to willow than aspirin and cricket bats’ (Rothamsted Research Institute, custodians of the National Willow Collection).
There are over 450 different species of willow, some ground hugging, some shrubs (good for hedging) and some trees. Willow contains 13% anti-inflammatory agents that aren’t salicin (aspirin) the average anti -inflammatory compounds of all other shrubs and trees is calculated to be around 1%, making this an extremely important horse hedge plant.
How does willow contribute to gut health?
Adding willow to the diet increases the oscillospira. These bacteria produce butyrate. Butyrate has been shown to be important for prevention of inflammation. Butyrate also has a role in strengthening the gut wall and increasing insulin sensitivity. Anti-biotics and anthelmintics reduce or totally wipe out oscillospira, making willow an important additive to horses that have received either worming or anti-biotics.
Horse food and fencing
Is hazel the oldest and most ecofriendly horse fencing in the world? Evidence indicates it’s been around in use as fencing for over 5,000 years.
Recent scientific analysis has hazel leaves contain 8 big hitting antimicrobials active against pathogenic bacteria and fungi such as Pseudomonas, E-coli and candida. The leaves are also high in managanese, copper, vitamin E, thiamine and magnesium. Exceptionally high in antioxidants that support gut health, including analgesics that provide pain relief and that help repair the gut wall. The best is always fresh and free….
Let them eat gorse…..
Gorse contains valuable antioxidants that are strongly anti-inflammatory anti-inflammatory, anti-tumour and with neuroprotective effects. The flowers help to reduce glucose levels in EMS and insulin resistant horses. It used to be fed as equine fodder, highly nutritious with 100’s of years of tried and trusted history…. more than can be said for soya hulls?
Our conservation grazing animals across Wales are benefiting from a varied herb and species-rich diet, helping to keep them healthy.