How to Help Your Horse Stay Warm this Winter
Providing circulatory support to horses during the winter months is beneficial on many levels, as is maintaining good “digestive fire,” an Ayurvedic term for healthy absorption and digestion of food and nutrients.
In this article:
Improving circulatory health
Horses need movement. By nature, horses are herd animals who are constantly moving and continually foraging for food. Horses maintained in a herd or turned out 24/7 get basic circulatory support by simply walking and eating. Yet horses who spend eight hours a day or more in a stall may need additional circulatory support to help reduce stiffness in their joints and body.
Even younger horses feel the demands cold weather makes on their bodies: joints become stiffer and it’s harder to stay warm, even under blankets.
With improved circulation, horses can move more comfortably even in cold weather. Increased circulation improves blood flow throughout the body, which also plays a key role in tissue healing and repair.
Keep the blood flowing
Nitric oxide, as the master circulatory molecule in the body, acts as a vasodilator, relaxing and expanding blood vessels for increased blood flow.
- At the skin level, vasodilation is experienced as warmth, like the feeling we get when we take a hot bath.
- Vasodilation is an important component in healing. When we increase circulation with shockwave therapy, for example, it helps the body send more nutrients and support to the area needing healing and can help move inflammation.
- Increased circulation helps muscles and joints, reducing lactic acid in muscles and driving the body’s own glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) to joints and other structures.
- Good circulation is also important for horses’ feet, and many problems in feet are the result of poor circulation. Isoxsuprine is a well-known medication for increasing vasodilation for horses.
Nitric oxide: The key to circulation
Nitric oxide helps move blood from the heart to the feet and back to the heart. The heart is the key organ of the circulatory system. As it beats, blood is sent throughout the body, and the feet are responsible for sending blood upward and back to the heart. Any inflammatory imbalances in the foot will reduce return-circulation to the rest of the body and the heart.
Recirculation is helped with nitric oxide relaxing the smooth muscles, allowing for more blood flow. This is especially important to maintain healthy feet, and to help with foot issues such as navicular syndrome, bursa, bruising, and laminitis.
One of the key nutrients for nitric oxide production is the amino acid L-arginine. The body converts L-arginine to nitric oxide.
In nature, L-arginine is always found with L-lysine, another amino acid. Some plants and foods are high in arginine and low in lysine, others are high in lysine and low in arginine, but these amino acids are always together.
Supplements for circulation that only include isolated arginine, not in its whole-food form, may not be as effective as supplements containing both arginine and lysine. This isolated use has led to varying results, with some researchers debating the benefits of short and long-term supplementation with arginine that is not food-derived.
Plants and foods for circulation
For horses, the plant ingredients containing high amounts of arginine include: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brewer’s yeast, oranges, oats, and spirulina.
Indian Gooseberry (Amalaki or Amla in Ayurvedic medicine) is a potent rejuvenating adaptogen. In Sanskrit it is known as “mother,” “nurse,” and “immortality.”
Western science has illuminated Amalaki’s promotion of circulation by increasing nitric oxide production in the body.1 Studies have shown that a patented extract of Amalaki called Capros® increased nitric oxide production by 41.89%-50.7% in people with metabolic syndrome.2, 3
Other circulatory-supportive plants for horses:
Turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and hawthorn berry do not directly increase nitric oxide, but they do assist in vasodilation, helping to widen and relax the smooth muscle cells within the blood vessel walls.
BioStar’s Circuvate EQ
Circuvate EQ is an advanced circulatory support formula with Capros® (patented Indian gooseberry extract), organic pumpkin seeds, organic sesame seeds, chia seeds, yeast flakes, organic oranges, and organic ginger. For a lot of horses, it’s a game-changer.
Circuvate EQ helps your horse stay warmer in the cold weather. Circulation can be improved with supplementation that supports better blood flow. The warming aspects of increased circulation also helps keep them supple and more comfortable.
With increased nitric oxide levels through Circuvate’s high-arginine plant ingredients, improved circulation helps to remove damaging waste products, balance the inflammatory response, and support muscles and connective tissues.
Supporting “digestive fire” with active probiotic yeasts
In Ayurvedic medicine, foods, plants, fungi, and yeasts are categorized into one of three categories: cooling, warming, or neutral.
Active yeasts (colonizing live yeasts) are categorized as warming. Yeast increases digestive fire, and helps to move stagnation in the body, thereby increasing circulation and supporting the GI tract’s digestion and utilization of food. Yeasts are especially beneficial for horses in winter for maintaining weight and supporting circulation, particularly for senior horses.
Active yeast strains like Saccharomyces boulardii and Saccharomyces cerevisiae also support the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) in the hindgut, including butyrate. SCFAs modulate health through energy metabolism, gut barrier function, and immunomodulation. Boosting SCFAs is especially beneficial to easy keepers and insulin-resistant horses, who tend toward stagnation and need more digestive fire.
BioStar’s Bio Yeast EQ
Bio Yeast EQ combines two active yeast strains (S. boulardii and S.cerevisiae) for a combined strength of 100 billion CFUs per serving (one teaspoon). These active yeasts provide both probiotic and prebiotic support. Only active yeasts can do both.
The small serving size is an advantage for many horses who may be averse to finding large doses of powder in their feed buckets.
Digestive warming for hard keepers
Chaffhaye is a non-GMO, chopped, fermented alfalfa with yeast. It is a fantastic supplemental hay for winter. I feed it using ground feeders to augment the hay the horses are already getting.
The yeasts in Chaffhaye will provide the warming and digestive fire support the hard keepers need. The fact that the alfalfa is fermented makes it easy for horses to digest.
About the Author: With over 30 years experience in the equine and human supplement industry, Tigger Montague knows nutrition from the synthetic side as well as the whole food side. She started BioStar US in 2006 with formulas she created in her kitchen. Before she started the company, she was an avid rider and competitor with eventing and show jumping, until she got hooked on dressage in the late 1980’s. She has competed on horses she’s owned and trained all the way from training level to Grand Prix.