Why did the Lobster Blush? ...

Because the sea weed!

Ahhh who doesn't appreciate a good cheesy joke every now and again! Hehehe 

Since being a little surprised and a little let down by the garlic debate a few posts back I've been checking out some other natural products and herbs that may be beneficial to horses. One of the first I stumbled across was seaweed.

The seaweed in question is called Bladderwrack or Fucus vesiculosus for all you Latin fans! You probably know it to see from trips to the beach, its the seaweed with small round bladders that pop when you squeeze them!

Seaweed is a good source of beta-Carotene (a chemical which can go on to form Vitamin A - important for the immune system and good vision!), as well as bromine, potassium, volatile oils and many different minerals, but these are generally in low quantities. It's most important property is that it is fantastic source of iodine.

Generally horses and ponies require between 0.1 and 0.2 mg of iodine/kg of dry matter. This means that a 500kg horse will need between 1 and 2.5 mg of iodine per day. Iodine toxicity is something to be careful and watch out for. This can happen at just 5 mg / kg of dry matter (or between 40 - 50 mg of iodine per 500kg horse).

Shiney, healthy coat thanks to seaweed!

But there is light at the end of the tunnel! Seaweed can be a really useful and beneficial once you figure out the correct feeding doses. The iodine content has been found to speed up the shedding of the winter coat. A bit of a showing secret is that chestnuts and bays seem to do particularly well on it as it makes them alot shinier and glossier! It is a diuretic so does cause horses to pee more, so it can't be used in horses and ponies with cushings disease. It also cannot be given to pregnant or lactating mares due to it being passed through the placenta and via the milk.

It is best to collect it fresh from the sea rather then when it has washed up on the beach. However, you wont know the exact iodine content and it will vary from plant to plant so I would air on the cautious side and feed very little. Of course a better, and much more convenient method, would be to feed powdered seaweed. Some such powders are available from Essentially Equestrian (and at a superb price too!), TRI Equestrian and NAF even do a seaweed powder.

Unfortunately seaweed acts as an water purifier so it catches and filters out alot of the pollution in our oceans which also means that heavy (poisonous!) metals can be found in some of the seaweed sources ... So just be extra careful if you do decide to collect your own fresh from the beach.

I've never tried or considered using seaweed in the past but it has definitely caught my attention. It seems to have pretty good properties and benefits and the only flaw is that you have to keep an eye on the iodine content when feeding it. If you've got a pretty chestnut or bay who needs an extra sparkle when out showing or competing then I'd say it's worth giving seaweed a chance and see how you get on. :)

What do you think? Would you consider feeding seaweed in the future?

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