Horse owners take their animal’s health very seriously. Designing the right diet, adding feed supplements and providing exercise – none of these are easy tasks, but they’re all necessary to keep your horse in prime condition. Yet how many horse enthusiasts can say they treat themselves with the same level of care? As it turns out, horses and humans have similar nutritional needs. Here are four health tips we can learn from our equine companions:
1. Eat mostly plants
There are a lot of fad diets that extol the benefits of eating only plant-based food or raw meals. Anecdotes aside, both horses and humans should rely on plants for the bulk of their diet, Health Fitness Revolution notes. According to the World Health Organization, a healthy diet for a human adult includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and legumes. Meanwhile, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion reports that diets low in meat and poultry reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. The nutritional benefits of meat – protein, for the most part – can be found in various plant sources.
Still, horses don’t get all the vitamins and minerals they need from such a simple diet. That is why owners often add equine supplements to their feed. This does not mean humans need to eat a boring mix of plain oats with fish oil capsules for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but you should eat a wide variety of foods to meet your nutritional needs.
2. Drink lots of water
The average horse needs between five and seven gallons of water per day, Dr. Nancy Loving told TheHorse.com. In hot weather, horses can drink up to 20 gallons. These numbers may seem like a lot, but they make sense when the large size of a horse is considered. Like people, their bodies are full of liquid, and they lose a lot of it during hot days and physical activity.
Doctors recommend adult humans consume two to three liters of liquid per day, depending on gender. Again, this looks like a lot, but keep in mind the size and mechanics of the human body. Don’t worry – one can certainly enjoy a can of soda every now and then, but making sugary drinks a habit could lead to serious health issues.
“Sodium helps transmit nerve impulses and relaxes your muscles.”
3. Salt is good for humans, but don’t go overboard
Neither humans nor horses can live without sodium. It is an electrolyte that helps transmit nerve impulses and relaxes muscles – without it, people experience headaches, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, muscle weakness or confusion.
Unfortunately, due to the rapid rise of processed foods, most people eat far too much salt. The World Health Organization (WHO) found the majority of the population consumes nine to 12 grams daily. Consider how much sodium horses need – Horse and Rider recommends about 10 grams per day. Based on size alone, it is clear humans should n0t eat as much salt as they do. WHO recommends no more than 5 grams per day.
4. Do not neglect oral hygiene
Both humans and horses only get two sets of teeth during their lifetime. This makes proper dental care essential. Poor oral hygiene makes it harder for horses to grind their food into digestible pieces and could lead to other health issues, the American Association of Equine Practitioners says. Horses that cannot properly digest their food miss vital nutrients and become weaker over time.
The same is true for humans. According to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, research shows periodontal disease is a risk factor for diabetes, premature birth, low birth weight, heart and lung disease and more.
Horses need a lot of attention to remain healthy, and their owners treat themselves to a similar amount of care. Drinking water, eating a plant-filled diet, taking care of teeth and consuming the right amount of salt helps both partners live strong, healthy lives.