"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is right, medicine is of no need."
Ancient Ayurvedic proverb
When I was first taking my horses barefoot, and was learning all about how what I fed my horses significantly affected their hoof health, I spent a ton of time on Dr Google and many forums. This was a post I came across on the HHO forum, around 2006/7:
"I worked for a feed company for a couple of years. We were encouraged to sell their feed of course and diss other brands. What went into them was whatever was cheap and laced with molasses, add a few aromatic herbs and Bob's your uncle, top spec feed. I don't do that anymore."
So what do we need to do, as a horse carer, to ensure our horses are happy?To make sure they live their lives comfortably, healthily, stress-free, fit and sound? To make sure their basic nutrition needs are covered and their gut system functions as it should?
Beyond that, is there anything unique to our horse’s genetic diversity that we could add in? What can we do to go beyond the standard nutrition that's available to us in our feed merchants, to really transform our horse's health and achieve optimal performance?
It's all about nutrition, but what's it all really about? Put simply, whether horse or human, food can either hurt us or heal us. The quality of the food we eat (or feed) will either create inflammation, or not. Horse or human, what we put inside our bodies impacts everything - mood, energy and physicality; emotional health, relationships, movement, immunity and gene expression all depend on what we eat or feed.
I'm now going to show my age. How many of us are old enough to remember back to the 60's/70's? I know there's a few of us out there based on the many comments I get from clients saying that back in the day, things seemed so much simpler. I seem to remember that life was sunnier as well, but that may be because I have so many awesome childhood memories of sunny days with the ponies.
Anyhow, many moons ago, back in the late 1960's, I was a pony-mad teen helping out at the local riding school at weekends. I was so lucky - I lived in the glorious Surrey Hills countryside, and you couldn't ask for better trail-riding country. After a long weekend of helping taking rides out over Leith Hill, every Sunday evening we'd ride the ponies bareback through the forest to turn them out onto endless acres of lush meadow grass, where they'd have a lovely week off until the following Saturday morning, when us teen helpers would bring them all back again for the weekend's lessons.
Not once was there a hint of footiness or lameness; I don't recall any of those ponies being unsound in any way. And as for laminitis, let alone any of the all-too-familiar metabolic labels we have today, or the all-too-common practice today of having to keep horses off grass … these were all words and labels we'd never heard of back then. Those truly were the days.
So what went wrong? Could today's horse feed industry have something to do with it? Food for thought maybe ... Let's head to the next chapter, Does food matter? Because it really does.