Friday, December 29, 2017

It's C-c-c-cold! Making the Most of your Mash

Do you make warm mashes for your horses when the temperatures drop? If not, your horses are really missing out!

A warm mash is a combination of warm water and horse-friendly ingredients, usually fed to them in times of cold weather or other distress (colic, injury, etc.) This sloshy goop can help your horse get some much-needed additional hydration, fiber and supplements any time they might be out of sorts!

The usual base-ingredients for warm mash are brans (such as oat, wheat or rice), hay pellets (such as alfalfa or timothy) and beet pulp. Some people just make a mash with their horse's usual feed, and many people add oils or supplements! As with all nutrition, each ingredient has its own pros and cons.

Here are four ways you can improve your warm mash:
  • Add salt or electrolytes to the mash to improve your horse's hydration!
    I add sea salt to my horses' feed daily when the weather is cold, but adding a bit more to their mash will encourage them to hydrate even more.
  • Make a hot pot of your favorite horse-friendly herbal tea and use that for your mash!
    My favorite herbs for this are: Chamomile, Peppermint, Cleavers, Rose hips and Nettles, but you can try any number of herbs. Just make sure they're safe for equine consumption before feeding them. 
  • Add sources of omega-3 fatty acids to your mash, without going too heavy on the omega-6's.
    My favorites for this are flax seed and chia seed, but there are others. There are even companies that make fish oil for equine consumption; I've used Kentucky Performance Product's "Contribute" oil for rehab horses with great success. I do occasionally give my horses a handful of black oil sunflower seeds because they are high in vitamin E, but they are also high in omega-6, so I keep it to a handful or so.
    Here is a great wikipedia article containing information on Omega 3 and 6 ratios in common foods:
  • Do a bit of reading on the ingredients in your mash.
    A few of my school horses have tummy troubles, so I make their mash out of organic alfalfa pellets (no glyphosates as with the GMO alfalfa) with a handful of Oat Bran (available by special order in 50lb bags from my local bulk store) because it has soothing properties on the foregut. The oat bran can upset the hindgut if used in high quantities, so I do tend to add some chia and a pre/probiotic supplement with yeasts to help support the hindgut. 
Feeding your horses mash is a great way to improve their morale (and yours) in this cold, cold, cold weather.

What are some other ways you use to stay positive during the winter doldrums? 

Monday, November 6, 2017

Having Faith in the Horse Beneath You

This past weekend I was working on flying changes with my young gelding, Bertie. I had an introduction to them earlier this year, under the supervision of a talented clinician, and have felt a bit nervous to get to work on them. I can become so paralyzed by the fear of messing up a nice young horse, at times, so I admit I've been sticking to my comfort zone a bit. Flying changes, with grace, are still a bit of a "big kid" move, and I feel like I mentally set myself at the little kids table all too often.

Warm up went smoothly, and I felt we had really synced up for the ride so I decided this was it; it was time to really get down to business on the changes.

The first time I asked for it I expected some difficulty, as we hadn't touched them in nearly 2 months. I took him across the diagonal, felt no change, and started to do a fairly strong half halt on the outside rein as I swung my outside leg back with all the tact of a neanderthal.

Just as I committed to my ridiculously loud aides, I glanced down and my darling boy had actually switched his lead cleanly and so nicely that I hadn't even felt it. Oh. My. Gosh.

Of course by then I had committed to my barbaric aides and could not stop them. My ever-patient partner's only response was to swish his tail and lay his ears back briefly as if to say "I've already done it, dummy!" I apologized and praised and went on with my ride to get two more clean changes (and a couple of fumbles on my part) but since then I have had the phrase "YOU NEED TO HAVE MORE FAITH IN YOUR HORSE" bouncing around in my head in bold type.

Pardon the language, but Hell-Yes I need to have more faith in my horse! He's a star, as are so many horses in our lives. We just need to figure out how to stay out of their way and let them get on with being the incredible, nobel beasties they are. And so, I am going to make "have more faith in your horse" my mantra, this week and try to remember:

A good horse can handle himself, even under a fool of a rider.

--- The Mindful Rider, November 2017 ---