All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

What Is The Best Hay You Can Feed Your Horse?

Tip #7

Now that is a loaded question! 


Professionally seeded winter hay is planted with timothy for the great height of the individual plant and for the length of time it keeps it’s seed heads and with red clover for the size of the plant  and it’s bulk.  Over time, it can become weeded with a mixture of grasses including rye, brome, fescue, orchard grasses and others, depending of the region.  With a mixture of timothy and clover, a hay farmer can get more bales from his field.  But is this hay the best hay for your horse?

For many years now, the quality of the hay on the Magdalen Islands has been questioned.  People who have the money swear by importing hay from the mainland or from PEI, is the best thing they can do for their horses.  Because there is a lot of spare money on the islands and only about 200 horses, the hay farmers of the islands are having difficulty selling their hay. 

When the vet visited just before my young Sammy died (See first post) her only real advice was to give Sammy the best hay I had available and I got the feeling that she disdained the Magdalen Islands bales, which in my mind was the best I had.


I receive my hay from two different sources, both from the Islands. I get large 800 lb bales from Amherst Islands, which is mostly timothy and clover, although there is the Canadian thistle in some of the bales.  Occasionally I receive a bale of orchard grass from him.

The second source is from Fatima, on Grindstone Island. This source bales his hay in 40 lbs bales.  I also believe he adds mineral salt to condition his bales while he is in the baling process, probably as a preservative. This farmer cuts only pasture hay or summer hay as some people might choose to call it.  Pasture hay could have any and all of perhaps a hundred different types of plants, some of which could possibly be toxic to a horse.  

So I did a study on the value of the plants in pasture hay vs plants in winter hay. The results were quite astounding.  Here on the islands there are 249 different species of medicinal quality plants, the greatest majority of which grow in the pastures and are plants which the horses eat during the summer. 

Timothy hay on the other hand, though nutritious enough, has no medicinal qualities and clover, which has many medicinal qualities can contribute to colic, if ingested in high enough quantities which could be considered toxic in special cases. It is wise to watch the ratio when planting and while feeding.

The islands has very few toxic plants, all of which grow elsewhere and not in the pastures, excluding occasional magic mushrooms, which don’t become toxic until long have the hay season is finished. I mention them because some farmers spread excess barn manure on their fields. The farmers of my fields do follow this practice.

Some of the grasses included in pasture hay can be…, depending on the region:

couch grass & rhizomes (Willow’s favorite) – unproven herbal soothness on the urinary tract.

dog rose – heals wounds; high in vitamin C

orchard grass – nutricious;

dandelions- promotes bowel regularity; aids in digestive ailments for liver and gallbladder

caraway – calms intestinal gases; 

fescue – nutricious;

wild pea – nutricious in small quantities; legume;

clovers – recommended for colds and congestion; remedy for athletes foot.

Common Valerian – sedative; antispasodic action; relieves migranes, insomnia, digestive problems caused by nervous tension; can irritate stomach acid;

Wild Strawberry – tonic; remedy for diarrhea and sore throats; laxative; (it must be a corrective agent since it remedies both diarrhea and is a laxative);

Lovage – relieves gas pains; diuretic;

Wood Cudweed – natural lithium aids behavioural anomallies; anti-infection; eliminates some parascites;

yarrow – all-heal plant; pain killer; sooths everything from urinary tract to head colds; anti-inflammatory agent;

Shephard’s Purse – vitamins A,C &K (coagulation of blood);diuretic for infections of urine tract; fights fever; relieves rheuatism and irritated skin surfaces;

thistles – antibiotic properties

Stinkweed – natural sulfur, vitamins B2 and C; relieves arthritis and rheumatism; eases breathing; eliminates abdominal gas; heals pulmonary congestion and relieves back pain;

willows – derivative of asprin; pain killer; (Copper woud all but kill for sweet willow, I think)


So,  what is the best hay to feed your horse? I don’t know for sure! That is like asking what food is good for humans.  If the hay has been mowed and cured properly for the particular field and region, then it is probably all good.  But I do know that there are plants in the medicinal range that sooth upset stomachs, help the liver purify the toxins, cleanse the kidneys, are known for sending cancer patients into remission, boost the immune system, increase the metabolism rate, etc. I think I’d prefer to feed my horses a good range of grasses so that they get all kinds of vitamins, minerals, proteins and all the other stuff the body needs to remain healthy.

Note: The farmer in Fatima adds salt to his hay while baling I believe. When we were speaking of the medicinal qualities he brought up the salt in his hay. I didn’t, at the time think too much of it because living on the Magdalen Islands, salt is present everywhere including the air we breathe.

Note 2: I do notice that my horses all drink twice the amount of water when I give them his hay. I don’t see this as a problem unless one of my animals develops high blood pressure or something similar. But I do consider the extra water very beneficial to diluting and draining away any and all toxins that are in their bodies.

During the winter, I have the greatest amount of trouble getting my horses to drink enough water.   The vet says to give the horses 5 gallons of water per day per horse at least.  I’ve always tried for ten gallons before I was happy.   During the summer, my horses drink approximately 15 gallons each per day.  I monitor their water closely and make certain it is of the highest quality.

Water makes the horse look fatter by filling him out in the hip or loin region of his body. More on water and it’s benefits in another post.

One last note : The hay here on the islands is guaranteed not to have chemical sprays that drifted or seeped in from the potato or veggie field next door, nor atmospheric drifting pesticides that are widely used to keep the bug population down on the mainland. We don’t use any kinds of sprays anywhere on the islands. In saying that, how many horse owners in North America can honestly say that?

February 23, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

When I Am Old – What Will I Be?

willow-breeze1When I Am Old……

I shall wear diamonds

And a wide brimmed straw hat

With ribbons and flowers on it

And I shall spend my social security

On white wine and carrots

And sit in the alley of my barn

And listen to my horses breathe.

I will sneak out in the middle of a summer’s night

And ride the dappled mare

Across the moonstruck meadow,

If my old bones will allow.

And when people come to call, I will smile and nod,

As I walk them past the gardens to the barn

And show, instead, the flowers growing there

In stalls fresh-lined with straw.

I will learn to shovel and sweat and

Wear hay in my hair as if it were a jewel.

And I will be an embarrassment to all

Who look down on me

Who have not yet found the peace in being free

To love a horse as a friend.

A friend who waits at midnight hour

With muzzle and nicker and patient eyes

For the kind of woman I will be


When I am Old.

 I figured it all out that I’m a strange creature, very different then those who surround me. My neighbours, family and friends don’t really understand me.  It is inconcievable to them that I would spend thousands of dollars on horse feed for the winter and not have the money to buy a stitch of new clothes for myself. And, I’m getting stranger everyday….   

February 21, 2009 Posted by | horsing around | , | Leave a comment

Do Rider’s Need Prayers?


A Rider’s Prayer


Dearest Creator in Heaven, 

Give me strength to guide my horse. 

Make my hands soft and my head clear. 

Let my horse understand me and I him.


My heart you have blessed with a special love of these animals. 

Let me never lose sight of it. 

My soul you have gifted with a deep need for them. 

Let that need never lessen.


Always let my breath catch as the sun gleams on an elegant head. 

Always may my throat tighten at the sound of a gentle nicker. 

Let the scent of fresh hay and a new bag of grain be sweet to me. 

Let the touch of a warm nose on my hand always bring a smile.


I adore the joy of a warm day on the farm. 

The grace and splendor of a running horse, 

The thunder of its hooves makes my eyes burn and my heart soar. 

Let it always be so.


Dearest Creator grant me patience, 

For horses are harnessed wind, and wind can be flighty. 

Let me not frighten or harm them. 

Instead show me ways to understand them.


Above all, dear Creator, fill my life with them. 

When I pass from this world, Send my soul to no heaven without them. 

For this love you have given me graces my existence 

And I shall cherish it and praise You for it for all time.


Author Unknown


This guy is a beautiful example of the Canadian Horse!



February 16, 2009 Posted by | horsing around | , , | Leave a comment


Tip # 6

Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew….

Cute!!! I loved this scene from the Lord of the Rings – The Twin Towers! Of course, I loved the entire show, even though the Twin Towers deviated from Tolkien’s book.

Potatoes is my favorite cure-all treatment for horses!   I mean it!  If one of my horses is displaying any kind of imbalance or limp, I feed him/her potatoes – raw, cleaned, and as straight from the ground, as is possible.  But then, I feed all my horses one or two medium-size potatoes everyday as a preventative measure.

With potatoes, I’ve relieved the stress of arthritis, laminitis, post-legs, rheumatism, colic, pulled tendons and probably a number of maladies, that I didn’t even know they had.  I never wormed Copper the whole time I had him here on the islands (14 years) and he never had his teeth floated in his life (about thirty-one years now).  Different vets agreed that it wasn’t necessary with Copper because he kept his weight throughout the year. 

The Story of Copper:

Copper came to me because he was very sick and the veterinarian had given up all hope of saving the young horse’s life. He had laminitis/sunstroke/bummed up front knee/thrush/a touch of colic/ and probably a whole bunch of other things too.  He was off his feet, neither eating or drinking and lying out flat on the ground.   It was a hot day in July, but the vet didn’t put him down because the children were crying and totally upset and quite frankly wouldn’t let him.

After the vet left, his owner and more importantly, the crying children called me because they knew I had gone to university to study to become a veterinarian (I changed my major) and asked me to help.  I didn’t know about potatoes at that time.  I threw sheets that had been soaked in water, over the horse, head and all. That was to help get him through the day.  Late in the afternoon, he rose and drank some luke warm water.  In the evening, I walked him to my home, about 1500 yards away.  He walked on three legs and it took approximately two hours to go the distance, which was up hill.  When I got him home, I tethered him under the spruce, until I roped the trees off and he had his own small, branch-covered paddock. I had already trimmed the branches high enough up, so that he would not hurt himself.  He spent three years in that paddock, coming out only after the sun was low enough and going for an evening ride.  

It took a long time to bring Copper back, but it was worth it.  In those three years, I research and I learned everything I could about using natural healing products.  In that time, I wrote a book on medicinal plants and spoke with many elderly folk on what their parents did, when they weren’t feeling well.  

In one such conversation, an elderly lady was using raw potatoes to control her arthritis.  This made me very curious, because I knew that Copper was a candidate for arthritis.  I started giving him a potato every day.  After a day, I noticed he was more sprightly, feeling good in comparison to the weeks before.  After two days, his limp was noticable better.  After a week, he had no limp or swellings around his front knees or hocks.  

This was totally strange for me. I did more research, specifically on potatoes and found that they contained a natural, mild antibiotic. I had been giving him butezone, a steroid (from the vet who still swore he wouldn’t live two more months) which causes all kinds of stomach problems.  I stopped the bute treatements completely.  But even I never thought Copper would live a long life.  Personally, I gave him five years before having to put him down.  That was sixteen years ago.

Copper lived a very active life, after he got better.  He went on to learn how to jump and easily cleared four foot barrels with a rider.  I put him into a five foot boarded fence paddock, he made one turn around and jumped out.  All the children enjoyed his company and enjoyed their evening rides.  After a few years, his owner asked me to keep him or he would send him to Entry Island, where I had no contact with him. I kept him because Copper made me feel good.

A couple years later, I send him to the Giddy Up Pony Camp for one summer, to help teach youngsters how to ride.  A couple years later I send there for good. He was getting older and I had no facilities for him.  Eventually, he was retired to a farmer who’s mother wanted a horse to look after.  Copper has been there for years now. He is over 31 years old.

Since I learned about potatoes, I use them for preventative medicine because the horses love them.  It’s like giving candy to a child…, and it is cheaper than apples and carrots treats.  

Since I started using potatoes, I’ve told many people of the successes I’ve had and suggested they try them.  Everyone has said the same thing – that there is a notice improvement in their equine friends.

The Story of Topper:

But the most astonishing story I’ve heard of,  is the treatment of a thirty-year-old palomino gelding called Topper, who had broke his stifle a couple years previously and had diarrhea for months.  The owner was in a terrible state of mind.  She wasn’t ready to lose her friend.  I met her in the social networks and she explained the problem, the veternarian was coming on Monday to put him down.  It was Friday evening.  She was really stressed and it was coming over the computer loud and clear.

I suggested that she put the horse on a macrobiotic diet of plain oatmeal (porridge) and give him potatoes. Then I asked her how old the horse was…. She never told me. But she took two cut up raw potatoes out to her friend who to her surprise, gobbled them down. 

I met her the next day, on the net and asked how Topper was.  She said he seems to be standing straighter and his stools were thicker, but she still didn’t have much hope and was devastated.  She continued with the potatoes but not the macrobiotic diet.  I asked her again, how old her horse was and again she never answered.  

Sunday evening I spoke with her again and she was estatic.  She said Topper was walking around and then trotted and even cantered after his donkey companion. The diahhrea was gone and he had no limp. It was like the last five years never existed. Again I asked her how old Topper and for the third time she didn’t answer me.  The vet came on Monday and agreed there was an incredible change in the horse. He left after giving the horse a vitimin shot.

Like all good stories, this one has to come to an end.  This past fall, the lady decided it was time to put her horse to sleep.  The veterinarian came and administered the shots and the horse fell into a peaceful sleep.  I finally found out how old the horse was, 30 years.  I was stunned!!!  But the lady had six extra months to say good bye to her equine friend. That was six months to prepare for the inevitable.  Six months she wouldn’t have had without POTATOES!

Scientifically Speaking:

In a quick internet search, I found that medicinally speaking, it has been proven, scientifically that raw potatoes are good to relieve the stress of rheumatism. 

“To carry a raw potato in the pocket was an old-fashioned remedy against rheumatism that modern research has proved to have a scientific basis. Ladies in former times had special bags or pockets made in their dresses in which to carry one or more small raw potatoes for the purpose of avoiding rheumatism if predisposed thereto. Successful experiments in the treatment of rheumatism and gout have in the last few years been made with preparations of raw potato juice. In cases of gout, rheumatism and lumbago the acute pain is much relieved by fomentations of the prepared juice followed by an application of liniment and ointment. Sprains and bruises have also been successfully treated by the Potato-juice preparations, and in cases of synovitis rapid absorption of the fluid has resulted. Although it is not claimed that the treatment in acute gout will cure the constitutional symptoms, local treatment by its means relieves the pain more quickly than other treatment.”

Not all horses like potatoes at first  

Frilly for example, wouldn’t eat potatoes for the first few months I had her home here.  However, after seeing the other horses gobbling them away from her, she decided to try them.  Now she eats her share, but she is such a Princess and delicately nibbles at them, even still.  I wanted her eating them just in case I needed her to eat potatoes in the future for its medicinal qualities.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments