Kidz Korner


Alternative Therapies Made Simple, Part 2
The second in a series of articles about alternative therapies

In Part 1, we introduced you to alternative therapies, its terms and meanings, and what it is all about. There are many kinds of alternative therapies and medicines, and they work together with natural living and care. In fact, the need for therapy and medicine can often be avoided if your horse is allowed to live as naturally as possible and if his care needs are met. This article is about the horse's need for a natural living environment, and in the next issue, Part 3, we will explain about his hoof and dental care needs.

Natural Living Environment

Nature provides a warm protective winter coat for horses. When given the choice, a healthy horse usually prefers to be outside in the open, and he will seek shelter only when he needs it.

Make your horse's surroundings as natural as possible. Horses have different needs from ours and what seems comfortable and nice to us may not be so healthy for the horse. Horses have been around for millions of years (MUCH longer than humans) and they have survived this long because they do what they do and are the way they are. The relatively short time they have been with mankind has not changed their instincts or needs.

*Avoid keeping your horse in a stall.
-Horses are by nature claustrophobic (they fear small enclosed spaces), so being locked in is stressful, even if they seem to have become used to it. Horses do not huddle into corners or hide in caves if they are threatened by a predator. (Have you seen excited horses get silent and hide in the corner, or do they run circles in their stalls?) They need to be in the open where they can see when a possible threat is coming and can run from it. If they are locked in a stall, it is instinctively frightening for them. Bad habits can develop, such as cribbing, wood chewing, and weaving (constantly leaning or pacing back and forth).
-Horses are meant to move. Movement is needed for proper digestion and circulation; it is also very important for healthy hooves, legs, muscles, tendons, and bones - for the whole body, inside and out.
-Fresh air is needed for a healthy respiratory system. Ammonia in stables is at a toxic level before we can even smell it. Dusty and damp conditions are not healthy either.
-The lack of sunshine in stables allows for more germs and bacteria to thrive. Sunshine is needed for healthy bodies; it provides important vitamin D, which is important for healthy bones.
-The temperature inside a stable might cause a problem. In the summer, heat can build up inside and your horse could dehydrate from excessive sweating, and/or overheat. In the winter, the stalled horse cannot run around to keep warm. NOTE: Blankets may seem helpful, but they confuse the horse's temperature-regulating ability. Blankets can overheat horses' bodies while their exposed bellies and legs freeze. A horse that has to wear a blanket, even a clipped horse, spends extra energy just trying to adjust his own temperature. This is hard on his system and can make him more susceptible to getting sick. Clipping and blanketing work against the horse. Nature provides horses with a coat of hair for a reason - its hairs can lie flat, stand up, and turn sideways to keep the horse warm or cool as he needs. Sweat runs off to the ends of the hair where it can drip away or dry. Oils in the coat repel rain and snow. Manes and tails are for swatting flies; whiskers and eyebrows are for feeling; and fetlock feathers are for wicking water or sweat away.

If your horse has a stall, adopt an open-door policy. Let him be turned out 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He will come into his stall for shelter when he wants to. Colic, respiratory, and hoof problems happen in stalled horses much more often than in pasture-kept horses. Let him keep the hair, whiskers, mane and tail that he grows. They are there for a reason.

*Feed your horse what he needs.
-Grasses and hay are the horse's basic natural foods, along with many weeds, herbs, brush, grains and seeds, fruits, roots, vines, and trees (branches, leaves, barks, nuts and berries). Healthy horses have a natural sense of what they need to eat.
-Grains are too often fed to horses who don't really need them. Avoid grains unless the horse is working hard. Many horses are overfed this way, and fat horses are no healthier than bony horses.
-Feed enough hay (and often enough) that the horse has hay in front of him at all times. Empty stomachs cause ulcers, so don't ever let him go without hay. If he seems to eat too much or too little, he may have nutritional problems, so consult your holistic veterinarian.
-Grass hay is best. Feed hay on the ground outside, in a few different places, so the horses can move around from pile to pile and eat in a natural posture (head down, back up). Be sure to clean up the manure from these areas.
-Keep your pasture healthy. Divide it into areas so your horse can be changed from place to place (called rotational grazing). This allows the pasture to grow and rest, and it helps keep your horse from getting worms. Feed the soil with wholesome, well-balanced fertilizers for your type of soil (get a soil test). Avoid chemical fertilizers; they are very unfriendly to the good microorganisms and helpful critters in the soil. The healthier your pasture, the healthier your horse.
-Provide fresh, clean water. Natural, clean water sources like creeks, springs, and ponds are convenient and allow horses to drink when they want and drink with a natural posture - head down (for normal throat position when swallowing) and feet in the water (healthy for the hooves). Water sources should be checked for drinkability because chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides can wash into the water supply and make the water toxic.

Once these basic needs of the horse are met, your horse will already be on the road to better health, minimizing the need for medicines and therapies of any kind. In the next issue of NHM we will introduce you to important hoof and dental care.
To be continued…


"A Lifetime of Soundness", by Hiltrud Strasser, Dr.Vet.Med. (
"Natural Horse Care", by Pat Coleby - 800-355-5313 (
"Quality Pasture", by Allan Nation - 800-355-5313 (
Acres USA book catalog - 800-355-5313 (

"If Your Horse Could Talk - Natural Horse Care through Knowledge"
KMYL Arizona station, 1190AM Gold. Every Sunday, 3 to 4 PM Mountain time - a call-in show. Call in with your questions - 602-995-9555 - from wherever you are!
Rebroadcasts are available on our website using Realplayer!