Can you feed for immunity?

Your horse's immune system protects him 24/7, but can his feed boost his immunity? Kate Hore RNutr (Animal), senior nutritionist at NAF explains. 

Vitamins, minerals, trace elements and amino acids have their own roles to play, as do the other elements such as energy, protein and fibre.

Only by feeding a balanced diet, appropriate to your horse and his level of work, can you maintain health and help his immune system to do its job.

Kate advises a high-fibre diet, with minimal cereal and starchy elements, balanced with broad spectrum micronutrients. 

Feeding your horse herbs

Traditionally, certain herbs are used in equine diets for day-to-day health and immunity.

Garlic has been fed since the 18th century where it was commonly used in the diet of hardworking racehorse, but there's little research in horses to suggest is has benefits. 

Research into fish nutrition suggests feeding mint could offer immunity benefits, but the work has yet to be repeated in horses.

For specific immune support, the herb echinacea is well-researched.

Feeding echinacea not only works to stimulate equine immune-competence, resulting in more numbers of, and more effective, immune cells within the system; but also has hematinic properties, improving the quality of the blood.

There's also advice for supporting the immune system found in the gut. In the horse, gut-based immunity is particularly important. Any compromised immunity will result in compromised gut immune function.

Following any infection, disease or injury a course of pre and probiotics to help get the gut back into a stable environment would be recommended.