In their natural environment, horses tend to lead relatively uncomplicated lives. They roam freely in a herd, graze most of the day, and might not undergo the same consistent physical exertion as a performance horse in training. In today’s world, many modern horses are dealing with a more challenging lifestyle, and if not managed well, this might increase their risk for numerous health problems.
“As much as we love our horses, it’s important to realize that domestic horsekeeping can be inherently ‘unnatural’ and stressful for them,” said Jessica Normand, SmartPak’s Senior Director of Equine Health. “SmartPak is committed to educating horse owners and professionals about the management practices that put horses’ health at risk, and how we can be smarter about their care.”
Even on farms with the most conscientious level of care, there are several common practices that are at odds with what nature intended, and may be putting horses at risk.
What nature intended: Horses evolved to spend most of their day (10-17 hours) grazing on a variety of pastures, so their gastrointestinal systems are built to digest small amounts of forage frequently throughout the day.
The hidden dangers of modern horse-keeping: Acres and acres of fresh pasture can be hard to come by, so many horse owners must resort to feeding hay and grain two or three times a day. However, hay often lacks key vitamins and fatty acids that are naturally found in pasture, potentially leaving the diet coming up short. Even worse, large, infrequent grain meals and limited foraging can contribute to both gastric ulcers and colic, two painful conditions that can impact a horse’s performance, and in the case of colic, may even be fatal. And the dietary problems don’t end there. Changes in the type or amount of grain and hay provided can increase a horse’s risk of colic five to tenfold!
What nature intended: Left to their own devices, horses spend most of their time slowly walking as they graze, only occasionally running from a competitor or for play.
The hidden dangers of modern horse-keeping: Exercise, including riding, can contribute to unnatural wear and tear on a horse’s joints and soft tissues, leading to long-term soundness and performance problems. Additionally, if a horse is working on an empty stomach, excess acid can slosh around, splashing the sensitive upper lining and leading to gastric ulcers.
What nature intended: As prey animals, horses naturally find safety in numbers. Herds are consistent, with few new adult horses joining, and a steady hierarchy of dominance.
The hidden dangers of modern horse-keeping: As horses are bought and sold, and horse owners move, modern horses are exposed to frequent and dramatic shifts in their herd dynamics, which can be stressful. Even traveling for short time periods, such as competitions, can put stress on a horse’s immune system as he’s exposed to new horses and environments.
Stressed by all this stress? Have no fear — you can help your horse!
Stresses and health risks aren’t the result of bad management; they’re unavoidable parts of modern horsekeeping. Luckily, there are ways to provide the support your horse’s body needs to cope. Along with working closely with your veterinarian, supplements are a smart way to help support your horse in the areas he needs it most. Due to the hidden dangers listed above, many horse owners sleep better knowing they’re providing their horse with support for healthy joints, digestion, and immune function. Go to www.SmartPak.com/Wizard or call SmartPak’s Supplement Experts at 1-800-461-8898 to build the perfect supplement plan for your horse.
From the feed room to the tack room, SmartPak offers innovative solutions to help riders take great care of their horses. SmartPak was founded in 1999 with the introduction of the patented SmartPak supplement feeding system. The revolutionary, daily dose SmartPaks are custom-made for your horse, individually labeled and sealed for freshness. With the success of this simple and convenient feeding system, SmartPak has continued to expand its offering of quality products, including its own line of more than 55 supplement formulas called SmartSupplements, and a wide variety of tack, equipment, and supplies. The company has grown rapidly each year and is now the largest retailer of equestrian products in the United States. SmartPak’s success has been powered by a passion for delivering an unbeatable customer experience, and the company has been recognized with a Bizrate Circle of Excellence award five years in a row, as well as receiving an “Elite” rating from STELLAService. A nine-time Inc. 500/5000 honoree, SmartPak is the only equine company ever named to the Inc. 500 list.