Supplements from Nature cont

In fact there is nothing new about horses eating eggs, and years back eggs were one of the most commonly used feed supplements. Nowadays there are a huge variety of excellent, advanced and easy to use supplements available for the horse owner. Horse feeds are also formulated to meet all the nutritional needs of the horse and the abundant variety means that it is also easy to buy the correct feed for the individual horse specific to its breed and work regime. These products are all conveniently packaged and fit our lifestyle in many ways. But have you ever wondered what horse owners did 100 years or so ago? There were no easy to use feeds and supplements readily available, and horses back then usually had to work a lot harder as they were a means of transport to most that owned them. Most farmers or even town folk kept a few chickens and it was common practice to “build a horse up” before hard work, a show or special event by adding raw eggs to its diet. When I was a kid hanging around and helping with horses at Spring Valley in Tarkastad I remember “Grandpa John” telling me about the Boer soldiers feeding eggs to their horses during the Boer war. In fact I wish I had listened more to what he had to share back then as he was a wealth of equine knowledge. But his egg trick to pick up a horse’s condition is one that I have used many times over the last 20 years, especially when feeding up horses that have been in poor condition or horses that need to travel long distances. Eggs are really good for muscle building and muscle conditioning. This old farmer’s secret trick besides just conditioning horses was renowned for helping skinny horses quickly gain weight as well as creating shinny coats. Feeding 1 egg a day for about 3 weeks is the usual feed rate; horses working hard or in poor condition can start off on 6 eggs a day for the first 3 or 4 days.

A word of caution is that only good quality eggs that are free from salmonella should be fed, so basically if its fit for you to eat it is safe for your horse. Eggs also contain what’s known as an anti-vitamin so shouldn’t be fed constantly. But if you have bored stabled horses another idea is to put a whole egg in the feed container or hay net for some stimulation and enrichment, some will learn to eat them others will carefully lick them clean without breaking them. If they eat the shells it also okay and won’t do them any harm.

Another natural supplement and one that horses do need is salt, normal course salt or even household salt. Most prepared feeds already contain salt but we do not always feed horses the recommended amounts of the feed to supply all the salt they require. Under normal conditions an average horse will need about 2 level tablespoons of salt per day, this increases to about double that when the horse is working or the weather is hot and humid causing the horse to perspire. Salt can also be provided as rock salt, lick blocks or simply added to the feed.

Honey is another gift of nature and 2 tablespoons can be added to the horses feed if it needs a little pick me up before or after working hard. Once they have learned to enjoy the honey it can also be useful to mask the taste of medications or supplements when needed. Honey should be used as a treat though and not continuously. It can also be drizzled over the hay net to add some excitement in the stable, but be warned it makes everything sticky!