It sounds simple enough, right? Water, hay and grain. Maybe the addition of some supplements depending on where you live and in which type of activities you and your horses participate.
Not so simple given the list of factors impacting today’s world, and that includes complications that have arisen since the start of this year’s pandemic. “Food security” and supply chain issues are now a necessary part of the conversation.
For example, in Canada, labeling and transportation of livestock feed is requiring extensive documentation and updated protocols that could ultimately lead to an uptick in costs that are passed on to the consumer:
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has developed temporary measures and conditions to help the animal feed industry continue to maintain the supply of feed to livestock and protect animal health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The CFIA expects that regulated parties will continue to act responsibly during this period in order to minimize the effects and duration of any non-compliance caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To the extent possible, regulated parties should document the nature and dates of non-compliance, how the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to the non-compliance and the actions taken to prevent or minimize any risk associated with the non-compliance.
In my home province of British Columbia, particularly in the more temperate regions, we are fortunate to have had a stellar growing season that is going to allow for two good cuts of high quality hay. There are still many questions to be answered as to whether or not supplies from out of the country or region will be available in the future however, and as with recent breaks in supply chains for natural health products, will we be able to continue to purchase the best supplements for our horses?
The key point in this chapter is “natural” food sources and supplements, meaning that we are looking for products that are high in nutrient values, but preferably not sprayed with pesticides and not genetically modified. A lot of health problems in animals and people have been traced back to GMO food products. We have put a number of references in the book to this effect. Here is a link to a brief article that provides a good overview of the harm created by modified grains and hay: https://harmanyequine.com/gmo-and-glyphosates/
Ultimately, the best choice of all is a well-kept pasture that is tended regularly for weed removal and manure pick-up. Sadly, many areas that were formerly populated with horses have been reduced or eliminated and sold by the square foot to developers instead of by the acre. This has happened very close to my home and I hate to see the once-open fields crammed with high-density housing.
There are still horses, but of course that means hauling in more feed and storing forage for a longer period of time than was necessary in the past.
Everyone will have to do some extra homework in sourcing feeds and looking ahead to ensure that the supply chain will remain relatively solid into the future. Talk to your suppliers and producers, connecting with resources and familiarizing yourself with the process that ensures your horses have the best possible food. Even if your keep your horse at a livery or boarding stable, have a conversation with the owner/manager to understand how the system works for that facility, and make sure there is enough cash flow to guarantee payment to suppliers.
Most futurists looking at human needs are suggesting that we remain as local as possible and obtain whatever you can from farms closest to home. Easier said than done, of course, if you live, for example, in a desert area as I once did. You might have to look beyond state or country borders for the products you desire, and the rules for getting those products to your area might be restricted or changed.
We are being asked to make some difficult choices as this pandemic stretches onward. This chapter probably has the shortest and simplest description in the entire book… and that would take us back to the aspect of “natural.” In order to enact the most natural lifestyle and feeding regimen for horses, we need to look at the bottom of line of how many horses can be optimally provided for in our home regions without over-taxing the growing, processing and transportation of suitable feed products. In most cases we will see that there are more horses than there are people who can afford to care for them, or have the room to manage them with locally-produced hay and grain.
Think very carefully about the numbers of horses being bred and how many will not have homes once they come of weaning age. Or how many horses have ended up in rescues and auctions when their owners can no longer care for them, or they have aged out and become unwanted. Every rescue I know of is full. They rely on charitable donations and a continual supply of feed products as well.
The global situation is continuing to evolve rapidly and it is my hope that we can rebuild a peaceful, abundant world on a foundation of natural health and welfare for our equine friends, and ultimately our human family too. If we make good choices now, I believe that is a viable option.