Owning a horse can be a lot of fun, but it’s a big responsibility too. In this article we’ll look at how taking care of your horse’s gut health can help keep them in tip top condition and we’ll pick out five of the best horse riding trails in the UK for families to enjoy this summer, whether it’s with your own horse or as a trekking experience.
How to take care of your horse’s gut health
There is a lot of research that suggests that the stomach is almost like a second brain, and that digestion and what we feed our bodies, and the bodies of the animals we care for, can have a huge impact on overall health. So what can you do to make sure your horse stays healthy? Here are a few gut health tips to get you started:
Feed them little and often
Even though they are large animals, horses actually have a relatively small stomach and so can’t take on huge meals all in one go. It’s much better for a horse’s gut to have small but regular meals, including plenty of fibre as this is key for keeping the gut healthy. It’s a good idea too to avoid any sudden or regular changes in diet as this can also upset the balance within their gut.
Give access to plenty of water
Alongside food it’s vital that horses always have access to plenty of fresh drinking water. Did you know that a around two thirds of a horse’s body weight is actually water? Dehydration can impact horses quickly, and can be dangerous for their health. Keeping fluid intake up throughout the day helps to maintain a healthy gut balance.
Not all horses will need to have their diet supplemented, but there are a good number of equine health supplements out there designed to support a healthy digestive system. It’s a bit like being a parent – you know your child is getting a good diet, but you want to do anything you can to maximise their health and well-being. Another option worth considering are CBD pellets for horses. Many horse owners use CBD pellets for anxiety, stress, muscle and joint stiffness, swelling, inflammation and pain, so you can see they have a lot of applications.
You can always speak to your vet for more information about supplementation.
Reduce the use of medications and chemicals where possible
Obviously if your horse has an infection that needs treatment with antibiotics then you need to do what’s best for them, but just as for humans, it’s best to limit their use if you can as antibiotics can cause imbalances in the gut and lead to other health issues. The same applies to things like chemical worming treatments – these can create a toxin burden for your horse and even lead to them becoming resistant to their effect. They can contribute to poor gut health by damaging the gut walls and allowing undigested nutrients to pass into the horse’s bloodstream.
Allow them plenty of exercise
Just like humans, exercise is a balancing act for horses – too much as they risk becoming overworked or stressed but too little and you could find their gut health impacted. Gentle movement is great for the gut as it aids digestion and keeps things moving internally. Exercise can also be a good way to keep horses relaxed and calm, again helping digestion.
Talking of exercise leads us nicely into our recommendations for UK horse riding trails! In this country we are blessed with acres and acres of gorgeous countryside, much of it with especially marked bridleways. There really are so many horse riding trails to choose from, but here are a few ideas to get you started:
Is there anything more idyllic than horse riding along the beach? The National Trust issues day permits for horse riding in Studland Bay, which is an absolutely stunning location for trekking. There are local stables you can arrange horses for you too, so you don’t need to be a horse owner to enjoy this fabulous experience. Their website lists horse riding trails across all their locations in the UK.
More Hall and Broomhead reservoir circular
If you can’t make it as far as the beach then how about the next best thing – a circular horse trail around a reservoir? The More Hall and Broomhead reservoir circular is an easy route that should only take a couple of hours to complete, so it’s perfect for families or less experienced riders.
Kings Cliff in Somerset is just one of the many horse riding routes on offer from the Forestry Commission. Their website allows you to search your local areas for horse riding trails and discover more about the routes and facilities. The Forestry Commission has some beautiful woodlands all through the UK so there’s sure to be something near you.
Chilworth, Vale Farm and Leith Hill circular
If you’re an experienced horse rider looking for something more challenging then why not try to Chilworth, Vale Farm and Leith Hill circular? This 40km route through the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty takes in Leith Hill, the highest summit of the Greensand Ridge at 294 m above sea level. Look out for the 18th-century Gothic tower at the summit.
Peddars Way is an ancient footpath, trodden by Romans and their horses, almost 50 miles long. It’s a simple route that takes you through the heart of Norfolk and is easy to follow. Riders will be rewarded with the beautiful moorlands and meadows of and ancient heathland called the Brecks. Here you can find unique fauna and flora including glacial ponds and, if you’re lucky, the rare golden pheasant.