How can diet and nutrition support a healthy immune system
Winter can be a challenging time for the immune system, both for humans and horses. Wet conditions, varying temperatures, the never-ending question of what rug shall my horse wear tonight cause us to constantly worry about our horses. Whilst for our equine friends, longer hours in their very cosy stable and limited turn out can also be stressful for them.
Any stress whether physical or mental, can weaken a horse’s immune system. This, coupled with potentially increased exposure to viruses, bacteria and moulds, can mean that your horse’s immune and respiratory systems are placed under extra pressure during the colder winter months. So, what can you do to help support your horse and keep them healthy this winter?
A Balanced Diet
Feeding a well-balanced diet will support a strong immune system. All Connolly’s RED MILLS feeds contain high quality protein, a source of essential amino acids such as lysine. Protein is not only essential for muscle building and repair, but it is also crucial to the immune system and helps to form immunoglobulins, aka antibodies, that protect the body from disease. All our feeds also contain our Pro Balance Vitamin and Mineral package, which includes the powerful antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, to support for the immune system. However, for horses that are struggling, boosting their intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, can be beneficial. The quickest and easiest way to do this, without changing your feed, is to add a multivitamin and mineral supplement to your horse’s feed.
Foran Equine Chevinal is the ideal solution. This high specification supplement contains a comprehensive blend of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Chevinal provides your horse with vitamins A, D and B-vitamins, all of which are essential for daily metabolism, growth and maintaining immune function. Trace minerals such as iron, copper, biotin and zinc, which support a wide variety of bodily functions, ranging from red blood cell formation to promoting hoof growth and skin condition, are also included. Chevinal also contains the powerful antioxidants vitamin E and selenium, as well as the essential amino acids lysine and methionine, to help support the immune system.
Omega Fatty Acids
Horse diets are plentiful in omega 3 when they are eating green and growing grass in spring and summer. However, during the winter a diet of conserved forage and hard feed will provide significantly lower levels of omega 3 fatty acids. This is important to note as these essential fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories and play an important role in supporting the immune system. Therefore, we recommend adding Foran Equine Kentucky Karron Oil, an emulsified flaxseed oil, to your horse’s diet. Kentucky Karron Oil is not only an excellent source of beneficial omega fatty acids, it’s also a great source of calories to help your horse maintain condition during the winter, plus it’s fantastic for skin and coat condition.
Although horses do make their own vitamin C in their liver, supplementation can be beneficial in times of stress. This important antioxidant also helps to support optimal respiratory health, which is a particular concern during the winter when many horses spend more time in their stables, with often poor ventilation and increased exposure to harmful pathogens. Where additional vitamin C is needed, or you want to support your horse’s general respiratory health, we recommend Foran Equine Honey+C.
This palatable, soothing syrup contains vitamin C, honey, thyme, liquorice and horehound and is ideal for horses who may require extra support for respiratory health. Alternatively, if your horse is suffering from a respiratory condition, we recommend supplementing the diet with Foran Equine Airvent. Airvent is available in a syrup or a convenient gel syringe and contains soothing honey and immune boosting vitamin C, as well as a powerful blend of the decongesting aromatic oils peppermint and eucalyptus, which can help to clear airways and ease breathing. It is suitable for all horses and ponies including youngstock and those competing regularly.