Native Grassland as a Main Forage

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March 2019
Heidi Eijgel

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Almost a decade ago, I asked what I thought was a simple question. What exactly is the breakdown of nutrients required to build a healthy horse?  This was quickly followed by a second question.  How do I feed my horses solely on native grassland from August till April every winter, and put them on a more traditional feeding program for May to July, and be confident they are getting the correct nutrients?

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Most over the counter mineral mixes for horses have directions stating to feed with good quality hay.  Many in Southern Alberta have added selenium.  My third question was how much is too much selenium? With so many different supplements and complete feeds out there for horse owners to purchase for their animals, how can we be certain we are not overdoing certain minerals, and under feeding others?  Yeah, that is the fourth question.

My vet recommended I contact Amanda Kroeker, nutritionist and co-owner of ARK Nutrition and she had the answers and more.  But first, Amanda sent me off on a quest to discover the actual nutritional content of my pastures and hay.

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Nutritionist Amanda Kroaker, and Hoof Care Specialist Bob Laye consulting.

That first spring and summer I was sampling grass in all pastures, morning and evening.
I included a soil analysis done a few years ago to the mix, and also included the chemical analysis of our well water for a pretty complete picture of my horses input.  The pasture grass samples (primarily native grass) and the hay samples were sent for a Dairy One nutritional analysis, and that gave us the baseline of nutrient the herd was getting.

Next in this process was a farm visit.  Amanda Kroeker came out on a farm visit and assessed each and every horse in the herd.  She photographed their hooves, measured hoof temperature, looked at their coat quality and even took manure samples.  After synthesizing all the data, she put them in 6 groups; broodmares, developing youngsters, slightly overweight horses, stallion, other riding horses and retired horses.  An individual ration complementing our grassland and locally sourced hay was developed considering the specific workloads and duties of each animal.

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From competition horses to developing youngsters, broodmares and stallions, at Windy Coulee we are always striving to build healthy horses so we can offer the very best of the Canadian breed to our clients no matter what job that horse is going to do.

In the early days, there was no nutritional supplement that offered every component needed for an equine diet primarily made up of native pasture, so I was off buying ingredients and mixing them based on a formula developed by Amanda.   Nowadays, we purchase ARK Nutrition’s Synergy mineral, and complement it with a few extras to complete the ration.

Our horses deserve nothing less than a foundation of healthy food with the correct amount of nutrition, as well as balanced hoof and dental care, a superb vet on call, freedom and a herd environment, topped off with fair and kind horsemanship.

Put that all together and the best practice of Equine Stewardship is your bottom line.

Amanda explains equine nutrition clearly, logically and inspires you to do your best to help your horses health. We came up with some simple guidelines to guide her work at Windy Coulee Canadians:

  1. Use organic and local ingredients as much as possible (this supports Alberta/Canadian farmers who helped the land and the environment)
  2. No animal by-products or processed feed. 
  3. Keep it simple.

Amanda added a fourth guideline: Keep it affordable, and we have found keeping our whole herd on the program is possible.

Windy Coulee Canadian Horses has worked with ARK Nutrition since 2008. Thank you, Amanda, for supporting our ideals and keeping our Canadian horses healthy. www.arknutrition.ca

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For more information on the Canadian Horse:

Canadian Horse Breeders Association 

History of the Canadian Horse

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Unique, beautiful and safe horses for lifelong human partners. Our farm strives to responsibly breed and raise Canadian Horses while also protecting the native grassland that sustains the herd.

Happy 2019!

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For more information on the Canadian Horse:

Canadian Horse Breeders Association 

History of the Canadian Horse