First appeared in Saddle Up Magazine (March 2016)

As horse owners, I’m sure we can all agree that sometimes what we want to do to help our horses can add up so quickly that it soon becomes downright unaffordable. I’ve decided to compile a list of things I do regularly that help improve and maintain health, and prevent imbalances in my horse. Everything on this list is something anybody can do and I hope it will be helpful for everyone—especially those on a budget!

  1. Apple Cider Vinegar is your best friend. I add apple cider vinegar to my horse’s daily grain and/or water. It provides a plethora of health benefits including helping the body restore and maintain PH balance, it’s great for the lymph system and breaks down mucus, and is antibacterial (just to name a few!). I could rave for days about how much ACV has improved the condition of so many horses I’ve worked with. Added bonus: they love it, so it’s not a fight to get them to eat or drink it, and you can use it to mask the flavour of any other supplements they might not like as much. 
  2. Turmeric is your other best friend.  Rather than spending tons of money on anti-inflammatory medications, add some turmeric powder to your horse’s grain on a daily basis. Its natural anti-inflammatory properties help support joints that are under a lot of pressure from work. Add a little bit of black pepper to help absorption. 
  3. Massage your horse where he shows you he needs it.  Horses are typically very clear with what they like and want. If your horse is pushing into you when you brush him, he’s probably telling you that he would like some extra attention in that area. Even if you’re not a trained masseuse, rubbing and massaging an area, while paying attention to how your horse reacts, can be very helpful and a good way to prove support between treatments. 
  4. Be aware of your own body’s position and structural health. I know, speaking for myself, that I’d have my horse see a chiropractor or massage therapist before I’d do the same for myself. But I’ve learned that if my body isn’t balanced, all of the imbalances will be transferred to my horse. Now I pay close attention to how I feel like the saddle: is my pelvis sitting evening?  Are my legs the same length on both sides? Are my shoulders even? Etc. Taking care of my own body (and mind, but that’s another article!) has had a massive impact on my horses’s body.
  5. Listen to your horse. What I mean by this is noticing discomfort, inability to relax, tight muscles, stressed eyes, etc., and respecting that something isn’t working. Our goals as riders and competitors may not line up with our horses’ abilities, fitness, condition, or goals. Forcing our horses in any way isn’t respectful and leads to injuries of body and mind. I believe that if a program isn’t working, change the program not the horse.