If there is one thing I have learned about horse health care during my career as an equine veterinarian, it is this:
You can pay for horse health care now … or you can pay for it later.
In short, caring for any single horse requires a certain sum of money, and that money can be spent up front, when the horse is relatively young and healthy, or later on, when the horse is old or ill.
While it seems counterintuitive to spend money on horse health care above the usual regimen of horse feed, worming, and hoof care, it is nevertheless money well spent, even on a horse who looks perfectly healthy. I’m talking about money spent on items like feed supplements, dental floats, and regular bodywork.
Why should you spend money on these items? Because even a horse who looks good on the outside may have a compromised immune system on the inside, invisible to the eye.
Horse Health Care: The Immune System as a Bank Account
A horse’s immune system can be compared to a bank account, with deposits and withdrawals. The larger your horse’s immune system bank account, the healthier he will be, both now and in the long term.
Certain factors affect your horse’s immune system. In the beginning, genetics play a big role. Your horse is either born with a strong constitution, which equals a large bank account, or a weak one, which means a small account.
Later in life, other factors affect your horse’s immune system bank balance. For instance, the physical and emotional stress of a hard training regimen can deplete a large chunk from that bank account. Poor nutrition, over time, can also chip away your horse’s immune system. Physical or emotional burnout can completely drain the account, so that horses end up with chronic conditions like laminitis and Cushing’s.
Factors that contribute positively to your horse’s immune system bank account include:
– solid nutrition through supplementation and individualized feeding
– regular bodywork
– regular physical checkups and dental floats
– avoidance of excessive vaccination
– matching your horse with a career that suits his personality type (learn more about horse personality types here)
The bottom line is this: for your horse to thrive and do the “job” you want him to, he needs to have a strong immune system, which means he has to have a rich bank account.
Strengthening Your Horse’s Immune System
The whole “immune system as a bank account” analogy brings us back to the original point that it takes a certain amount of money to care for a horse during his lifetime. The question becomes whether you want to spend that money by making small regular deposits to his immune system bank account or whether you want to spend that money later on, when his immune system is depleted and he is no longer healthy.
The answer, of course, is pretty obvious: it would be better to spend a little money weekly or monthly keeping your horse healthy and happy than to make a balloon payment to the vet when your horse is ill.
But as obvious as the answer may seem, many horse owners are reluctant to spend even a little more money on their horse’s health on a monthly basis. For one, the current economy has everyone tightening their wallets. For another, many horse owners take the ostrich approach, and simply hope that their horses won’t suffer any serious illnesses. And lastly, many horse owners simply sell or find other homes for horses who become unusable because of a compromised immune system.
But do you really want to do that, especially if you have already put a lot of time and money into the horse? I wouldn’t, especially since paying into your horse’s immune system bank account can be both simple and not very expensive.
The Basics of Maintaining Your Horse’s Immune System
Every horse is an individual, so no single recipe of supplements will keep every horse healthy. However, the basic foundations for maintaining your horse’s immune system are simple. Assuming that your horse is currently healthy, in addition to ensuring that your horse gets enough calories and long-stem forage (like hay and alfalfa) to keep him at an ideal weight, you also need to provide:
– additional sources of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals
– enzymes and probiotics to enhance digestion and prevent ulcers and other digestive issues
– antioxidants to help his body ward off infections and other pre-cursors of chronic infections
All of these things boost your horse’s immune system, and they all come in a couple simple forms that are easy to feed. You can give all of the above supplements using two products:
Bluegreen algae, probiotics, enzymes packets: These daily packets include blue-green algae, probiotics (acidophilus and bifidus), and enzymes
XanGo Mangosteen Juice: One ounce of this juice fed daily supports your horse’s immune system, as well as reducing inflammation
That sounds pretty simple, right? Dump a single packet of Essentials and pour one ounce of mangosteen juice on your horse’s feed once a day. The cost?
About $87 per month per horse
Now that may sound like a lot, especially if you have more than one horse, but think about it this way: $87 is relatively little compared to a visit from your vet, which can anywhere from $250-$500, and that’s without complications. Even if you fed half that amount, your horse would reap huge benefits in terms of his immune system.
A Couple of Examples for Skeptics
Still not sure? I don’t blame you, so here are a couple of examples that might convince you. One gelding I treated regularly had been on the Essentials as a regular part of his diet. When the economy got tight, his owner pulled him off the Essentials and fed him just a regular diet of hay and grain. Within a few months, he developed a crack in his hoof. When the owner inquired about how his hoof should be treated, I suggested he be put back on the Essentials. Within a short period of time, not only were his hooves back in good shape, but his hair coat and general immunity had improved as well.
Another mare I treated was on the Essentials and mangosteen juice. When her owner went out of town for a month, the mare was fed only hay and grain. She immediately reverted to her old pattern of coughing when eating hay. When her owner returned and started her back on the combination of Essentials and mangosteen juice, the symptoms disappeared.
While the symptoms in these cases were not life-threatening to the horses, they were signals that the horse’s immune systems were compromised. Had these owners continued to feed just hay and grain, the hoof crack could have deteriorated into chronic hoof weaknesses, and the cough could have developed into a full-blown case of COPD. In other words, minor horse health issues could have evolved into chronic conditions that would have eventually rendered these horses unridable.
So the question remains:
Do you want to make regular deposits to your horse’s immune system bank account now, or try to shore up his immune system when it is already bankrupt?
It’s the same amount of money, but the first option contains a lot less suffering for both you and your horse than the second option! At the end of the day, the first option is like health insurance for your horse while the second option is more likely to end up in hospitalization. Me? I’ll take health insurance any day for my horses. What about you?
Want Some Good Stuff for Your Horse?
You can order the basic ingredients mentioned above here:
Bluegreen Algae Products
Other Great Holistic Horse Health Products
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