In both Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine, a variety of foods and herbs are used throughout the year to balance the body system. Specific foods, herbs, and spices are used depending on the season — a dietary practice to keep in mind when feeding horses in autumn.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, fall is associated with the “Metal Element”. It is characterized by expansion, contraction, and transformation. The Metal Element is associated with lungs, and the large intestine as well as the skin, nose, and throat. During autumn, the lungs are most easily out of balance and the body system is susceptible to colds and immune system deficiencies; the large intestine can become dry, thus slowing the digestive process.
In Ayurvedic Medicine, autumn it is the time of Vata (known as the cool wind) that increases dryness in the body system which can produce anxiety, constipation, dry skin, and cracking joints.
Best Choices for Feeding Horses in Autumn: There are specific foods that support a balancing of the Metal Element, and the balancing of Vata.
- Increase oil in the diet: best oils are the warming oils like
sunflower or flax seed oil. Hemp oil is also a good choice as it is neutral (can be used in all seasons). Ghee, which is clarified butter, and found in most health food stores is a warming food, and horses love it. You don’t need much: 1 Tablespoon once or twice per day.
2. Pears: a moistening food; Almonds: reinforce the strength of the lungs. You don’t need to feed a lot: a handful of sliced almonds or a chopped pear (with seeds removed) once a day can support the body’s need to overcome dryness during the autumn season.
3. Spices: Turmeric and Ginger are very warming . This helps overcome the cool and dryness of autumn. A ¼ teaspoon of dried turmeric, or ginger powder in the feed can assist in balancing the seasonal affects of coolness and dryness.
4. Grains: oats, rice bran, amaranth and quinoa are especially beneficial as protective foods in autumn. Traditional Chinese Medicine points to these grains as being supportive for both the lungs and the digestive system.
5. Kale and Carrots: both of these foods are warming and supportive. Feed ¼ ounce of chopped kale per day, and or 1-2 carrots. If your horse is metabolic, soak the carrots to remove some sugars and only feed ½ carrot per day.
6. Yeast: a warming food that can help overcome sluggishness in the intestines. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is highly recommended for horses because studies indicate it appears to limit the extent of undesirable changes in the intestinal system. Good choices include Brewers Yeast, and active dry yeast with a high CFU count.
Other Warming Foods:
Pumpkins: either cooked or fed raw, many horses will eat the rind as well as the meat. And pumpkin seeds are very beneficial because they provide the amino acid Arginine, which the body uses as a substrate for Nitric Oxide, the master circulatory molecule in the body.
Tangerines: part of the lung yin supporting foods for coughs that are persistant.
Apples: help to reduce lung dryness associated with dry skin, and itchiness.
For wet feeds, fall is a good time to use warm or hot water in the mix; feeding horses in autumn simply means acknowledging a time when the body needs warmer, moister food to balance the dryness of season.