Horses need appropriate Forage/Nutrition as well as Appropriate Movement/Social Interaction with other horses and an appropriate, safe environment.
The horse’s predominant forage is that which he spends the majority of his day consuming, so his health and longevity are largely dependent on what his human provides for him. Often this is whatever grass ‘happens to be there’ which is not always ideal for the horses. There are many different views on what exactly appropriate forage is.
If you have a track or ‘dry lot’ system, you are in a position where you could take on horses with all manner of metabolic problems – EMS, Laminitis, Head-Shaking, ‘PSSM’, digestive, staggers - the list goes on – and, unless there is an underlying complication getting in the way, the likelihood is that they will improve and eventually become problem free.
We have observed this multiple times ourselves (our Calm Healthy Horses ‘herd’ consists of ex-head-shakers, ex EMS/laminitis sufferers, ex ‘sacro-iliac’ and other problems) plus we have witnessed numerous other amazing transformations over the years.
On the other hand people who only have GREEN forage available in the form of short, long or fertilised grass especially if it is rye grass & clover can find the opposite happens.
They acquire perfectly good healthy horses and it isn’t long before they have developed one or more of the issues listed above. Even when they have the company of other horses and complete freedom of movement in good sized fields.
‘Breeze’ in the photos below was on death’s door when she was rescued from such totally
unsuitable rich, green pasture.
When horses are healthy – their entire metabolism including all their organ systems are functioning normally. Maintaining homeostasis (internal equilibrium) is a ‘walk in the park’.
The nutrient composition of actively growing pasture is too rich for equines. Its concurrent excesses and deficiencies cause disturbances to various metabolic pathways and you will observe/experience all the ‘outward signs’ in their health, movement and behaviour. Turning this around is about giving their metabolism a REST.
This is achieved by feeding more and more hay as access to grass is removed (no sudden changes from an all green grass diet to an all hay one) thereby turning their forage (gradually over 7-10 days) from predominantly green to brown. The metabolism of feral/wild horses has such a rest annually over long, harsh winters.