Disrupters shake things up and disturb the peace causing the people around them discomfort, annoyance, anger, grief and a lot more negative things – usually.  They can also lighten up a party.  They usually have a mission of changing things up.  They have the same effect as air turbulence on an otherwise smooth air flight.

Motivation for disrupters can be narcissistic meaning they just want to draw attention to themselves.  These bores and bullies are everywhere but they are not what I want to discuss today.  Rather the altruistic disrupters are unselfish people that see a problem around them and they offer a solution to make life better for everyone.

What if the problem the altruistic disrupters are solving is in fact bad for everyone?  Worse, what if the solution they offer really is a disguise of something bad made to look good that only benefits a few?

OK Doc, what the heck are you talking about?  Maybe a few good examples will help us understand where we, as horse owners and caregivers, stand in the bountiful field of solved problems.

Mules in Alabama

Questionable Solutions

Some of the solutions established in our cultures have been made to make life easier.  Our smartphones, computers, and the internet are all good examples of ways we have improved the ability to communicate.  Yet there is evidence everywhere that our communication skills are dissolving into bits of incongruent thoughts pasted together on a screen.  Then when we try to communicate with our horses where body language and eye contact are essential, we fail without really understanding why we failed.  When asked how someone can learn to connect with a horse like I can within seconds of meeting a new horse, I ask the person how their skills are in connecting with their spouse, parents, siblings, or the person behind the counter at the local convenience store.  The answer always is that their ability to connect with them is poor.  I reply, “Then start there with our own species.”

Another example of making our lives easier through an apparent “good solution” is seen in our food.  It was only a few decades ago that the idea of growing foods in bulk and distributing them over great distances became a reality with the development of the railroads and the interstate system.  The cattle drives that made the cowboy culture so famous are less than 200 years old.  Electric refrigeration and microwaves are only 70 or so years old.

Agriculture is about 8000 years old yet you and I are homo sapiens that are at least 100,000 years old.  In only a short time we have irrevocably changed the food we eat from genetic modification to eating foods we were never supposed to consume from countries we would never have visited.  Marketers have demanded that we listen to them through false advertising to support the success of their clients.  Foods thought good for us such as margarine are now known to be bad for us.  We are so confused by high-fat versus low-fat diets or vegan versus carnivore that we all find sanctuary by declaring that “balance” is the best.  But look around.  How are the personal health of you and those you know?  Obesity, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, heartburn, autoimmune diseases and generalized aches, pains, brain fog and blahs exist for almost everyone reading this.

The same is true for our horses and other animals we care for.  We feed them what we are told to feed them and still there are more unhealthy and unsound horses than ever.  Cushing‘s disease, insulin resistance, suspensory injury, colic and laminitis are seen at an alarming rate.  EOTRH of the incisor teeth and deep digital tendon desmitis (dropped fetlocks or DSLD) were not even in the textbooks at vet school in 1980.

A Virginia farm

Good Solutions

A well-known disrupter was Galileo who about 500 years ago determined that the sun did NOT circle the earth.  Unfortunately, his theory that the earth was spinning on an axis and this spinning ball also circled the sun was considered heresy punishable by death by burning.  The church really did not want its followers to think that anything but the Earth was the center of our universe.  His sentence was commuted to life of house arrest and his books were burned instead.

It didn’t really matter that Galileo was correct.  It went against the rules and the beliefs of the mass of people in charge.  He was a true disrupter.

Elon Musk is another disrupter with the idea that we need to reduce carbon emissions by driving all-electric cars such as his Tesla.  If his idea is successful, many gas stations and car makers will either be out of business or will change to adapt and survive.  There are now investment firms that will only invest in companies with a low carbon emission impact.  Mainstream car manufacturers are investing in electric car manufacturing and battery production while gas stations are also installing electric vehicle chargers.

Where I see the most disrupters are in the human medical field.  There is now an explosive growth of medical doctors and researchers working hard to answer the question of why, in our enlightened society, is there an increase in illnesses in wealthy nations.  Most of this work is pointing to the same cause – inflammation from the foods we eat.  A few brave men and women with impeccable credentials are taking on the establishment of medicine, agriculture and marketing and using the ways of the internet to bring this new information to the people.

Autumn scenes at a farm in WA.

Horses and Humans

We must remember that while the raw materials placed into the mouth are different for horses and humans, what happens at the gut and cellular levels are virtually the same.  Therefore it is valid to suggest that the results from human research may be relevant for horses.  In the two years that I have been suggesting this concept of gut inflammation as being the root of most illnesses and lamenesses to horse owners, I have had hundreds of horses convert to non-inflammatory diets with amazingly positive results.

I consider myself to be an altruistic disrupter because I have no financial benefit now for suggesting we move away from all grains, grain and sugar beet byproducts, oils from seeds and endless supplements in our horses.  I also suggest we replace the protein insidiously lost over time from the effects of feeding carbohydrates daily year-round (carbohydrate dependency).  This approach is being heralded by more and more medical doctors as being the solution to human illnesses.  The results I am seeing and hearing from horse owners around the world who try the no-grain diet are eye-popping.  I am also finding in my own personal food choices that I feel good every day I don’t cheat with cookies or bread.  They do taste so good!  But as I progress with discipline, my body responds positively to the overall loss of inflammation.

This blog is out just at the New Year when we take the time to make resolutions.  I personally resolve to start to eat like my ancestors and to teach horse owners about feeding their horses as their ancestors ate.  It is a difficult task for me because of the limited availability of ancestral food for me on the road traveling and for horses kept within a limited pasture.  So my resolution will be to personally avoid all sugar (except for the insoluble sugar in limited true vegetables), avoid all oils extracted from seeds (only consume extra virgin olive oil, MCT oil from coconuts, avocado oil and macadamia oil) and avoid all grains (“plant babies” with high sugar and lectins).  I will also recommend the same for any horse owner asking how to make their horses’ lives better.

I risk being burned at the stake by farmers, grain distributors, truckers, railroad operators, tractor manufacturers, feed stores, veterinarians, nutritionists, supplement manufacturers and others affected by the elimination of these foods from the diet of horses.  I risk being negatively questioned by colleagues and by skeptics.  In my travels from Florida to New York to Louisiana to Washington seeing thousands of horses every year, I keep asking “Why are so many horses ill, lame, ill-behaved or just plain miserable?”  It all keeps coming back to gut inflammation from the poor food choices horses are given.

Are you ready to resolve to learn more and become an advocate for your horses?

Autumn leaves against a clear blue sky.

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  1. Just started my 3 horses on the NO-Grain yesterday, they live on 12 acres, use the barn when they want. I have been (almost grain free) for 20 years. Until I read all your Nutrition articles I was not aware of the lectins in beans. Although I only eat them once or twice a month, guess I will be cutting back on those as well. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge.

  2. I’m addicted to sugar. It’s a real addiction ! I’m going to try to replace store bought garbage with homemade keto desserts when and if I have time.

    How can you do that? Is there a lab test for that?

    1. I have limited my carb intake to about 100 grams per day though I failed yesterday (carrot cake). But when you stay in a low carb focus, an occasional burst is not as devastating on the system.

      I’m not sure what you are asking about a test. The best way is to know what is being fed and add up the numbers of that food in a day of eating. If the grams of sugar (not fiber) is 100 or less then you will get into the veto zone. For some it may be less but the lower you go, the morse difficult it becomes to stay.

  3. I need support for diarrhea on and off with my mare–fiber is suggested but fiber in the form of beet pulp, which you do not recommend. She gets plenty of fresh water, local grass hay, and mineral salt lick. She maintains a healthy weight and is active and her poop is fairly formed but also loose and sometimes a bit mucousy
    Thanks so much!
    Connie Funk

    1. Fiber is digested by the hind gut microbes and if they are not doing their job then diarrhea or squirts will be the result. Anything can disrupt the microbes including having the wrong food for the genetic material of the horse and the microbe. See – it’s confusing with thousands of different reasons.

      What you need to do is look at each ingredient and do a trial. For example, many red mineral salt licks have corn syrup and molasses which can be inflammatory. Start by removing that and wait a week. Next at the hay for weeds or foreign material. Have you considered adding protein in the form of alfalfa and / or soy bean meal? I’ve written a lot about this. Try limiting the pasture for a week or two. Try changing the hay to something grown elsewhere.

      The detective work needed to solve most horse issues is not that hard but occasionally, there are a handful of horses that the investigation will take months. During this time the season changes which adds confusion.

      I still am not a fan of the byproduct called sugar beet pulp, but if it works for your horse then we all will need to hear about it. Thanks, Doc T

        1. Probiotics are bacteria placed in the food and consumed. Most bacteria are digested / destroyed by the stomach acid. This is normal and is the way it is supposed to be. Most consider probiotics as ineffective. There are researchers who analyze the bacteria found in the feces and there they usually do not find any of the commercially available probiotic bacteria.

          This said, if my stomach feels upset (which is rare now that I am grain and almost sugar free) a cup of yogurt seemed to make me feel better. But did the probiotic bacteria do that?

          There are several prescription strength probiotics favored by some functional medical doctors such as Robynne Chutkan, MD who also favors fecal transplants. There is abundant evidence that transplanting microbes from a healthy gut into an unhealthy gut is very effective with almost immediate cessation of life threatening diarrhea. “Pass the honey pot please!” But enemas are impossible in the large colon of the horse. They have tried transfer via a stomach tube with poor results mainly because of the stomach acid but also because of the distance to the colon.

          The bottom line is that I do not endorse the use of probiotics in horses but I really wish there was one to help some of these horses with stubborn diarrhea.

          1. I assume you are talking about pre and pro bionics. Sorry but these comments come as a list within the admin page and it is hard to get context when out of the line of communication.

            Depending on who you read. Some say yes (Dr Chutkan) but in prescription strength. Most functional medical doctors are saying that probiotics do not work. Prebiotics are unrelated to probiotics and is wrongly associated. They are resistant starches that actually feed the hind gut bacteria. There are other supplements that help to digest sugars in the small intestine to prevent them from getting to the colon. Many prebiotics and digestive enzymes are natural and some are developed into a supplement.

            There may not be any real conclusive evidence that any of these supplements work. As an opposing thought, is there a complication with adding ANY supplement? When one thing is added, does it also have negative effects on other chemicals or processes in the body? My belief is that we were all developed over hundreds of thousands of years and our ancestors millions of years. We have made it this far without supplementations but with eating a limited assortment of foods found in our natural habitat. Even sailing from Europe and establishing a new home in America disrupted our natural balance. Then we added onto this fast food. Today we all want to get a pill to correct something that is well beyond the limits of a pill. Add to this the trillions of bacteria struggling to keep up with where our feet go and our hands put into our mouth.

            Are they good for people or not? I don’t know. Every person is different. Define what is “good” and then adjust what you eat (or feed your horse) according top the results you get. Less is more especially as you go back to what has worked for millions of years.

      1. Thanks so much for all of this good info I will try alfafa pellets as they would love a mash this time of year….
        The salt lick I use is just natural salts with no additives
        I am grateful for your time and expertise!

  4. Simplicity..patience..observation & listening. Coming up on 2 years I think for Madrid [29 Arab gelding] on no grain. I have taken it slow due to his age. Getting him on high quality local [thankfully] alfalfa hay, supplemented with semi-local alfalfa/Timothy pellets [unfortunately w/ added rice bran & beet pulp] some vitex herbs [thought he had cushings, weaning off this] and tri-amino powder, water, salt lick. And 4 visits from you to float his teeth. Once thin, boney, no top line…now a nicely rounded rump. And yes, he eats less pellets, weaning off them & just the alfalfa & some grass hay & cruising the pasture [nothing great to eat there, just exercise]. Listening to my mule eat has guided me to listen to Madrid when eating. What a joy to hear. Thanks Doc T. Hope to remove pellets by summer. As they say, patience is a virtue. See you this summer. Again many thanks.Patrice

    And forgot to mention with Madrid. His blood shot eyes are diminshing.. also he’s had a bump/small ulcer? on his eyelid for years. Also decreased in size . Good all around!

  5. I got my horse on track, and I am working on getting myself on track. Not feeding my horse grain is like a night and day difference. It just so amazing!!

  6. Now I have been a firm believer in eating healthy waybefore it became fashionable. Personally I am a lard eater, and unpasteurized fresh butter is always in my diet, the human body knows how to process animal fats. I also eat bread, cookies and sugar… But I don’t use bleached or refined grains or sugars. And don’t forget the salt!! Millions of seniors are told no salt… Then end up in the hospital because they are dehydrated sooo they pump the saline to them. SMH! This I also consume in natural salt not the pretty white stuff. But eating healthy is still a crap shoot at the grocery store because the pesticides and weed killers will probably get you before the food does. All that being said I am on the right side of 60 and still not taking any medications. It’s really common sense with ourselves and our horses or any pet.

    1. Actually butter is not lard. Butter from grass fed cows (not grained) create short chain fatty acids (butyrate, pyruvate) which are directly converted into ketones which are 20+ times more efficient as a fuel in creating energy in the mitochondria than glucose. Lard on the other hand is animal fat. When cooked it can actually become inflammatory and may not be converted into fuel as easily. Pork rinds are NOT good for you. Eating grains for some people is not a problem. If you eat bread or cereal and feel gassy or bloated then you may have a gut that is sensitive to these things.

      My wife and I just received our test kit to analyze our gut microbes as well as other inhabitants to determine which foods will “work” in our systems. She and I eat a lot of similar things but then there are things she eats I won’t.

      Eating “healthy” is an individual thing for you and your horses. This said there are some rules that apply to all. Genetics of our bodies and the microbes in our guts fine tune things. The secret is to become aware of how we respond to the foods we eat.

    2. I avoid eating meat and dairy because of my compassion for the animals and for the environment. I one meat that I still eat is fish.

      1. Religion and personal feelings aside, we are meat eaters. Just because a plant can’t scream doesn’t mean it doesn’t like to be killed and eaten. And all grains are PLANT BABIES! If you are compassionate for animal life, consider the thought of eating plant babies next time you eat cereal. But don’t think too hard. Apparently the way the world is set up, all things eat someone else. It is really confusing from a religion aspect but EVERYONE eats SOMEONE. Luckily we don’t need to look up to watch for a bird swooping down to eat us, but don’t swim in the canals down here in FL. Just yesterday Melissa and I saw too many 12 foot alligators to count.

        1. I think we were meat eaters a long time ago. But we’re not meat eaters anymore and it’s not necessary. There are several cultures that don’t eat meat and we can do just fine eating only plants. It’s not worth it to put animals through the horrible suffering and torture they go through so we can have some meat on out plates. Most people eat way too much meat as it is.

          1. I respect that Elaine. Remember we are feeding our gut bacteria. Testing what I have as gut bacteria is the only way I will know what they should=d be fed and what they should not. My results should be back in about a month. I’ll write about it then.

    1. Read my blog about lectins. All soft seeds have lectins that cause leaky gut. I avoid these and other grains and so far, after 2 years, am doing fine without them. So are the horses.

      1. What symptoms can I expect to have as a human from eating grains sometimes. I don’t appear to have any problems with it so far. However, maybe it’s causing problems that I’m not aware of.

        1. The best answer involves giving you the title of this book: The Plant Paradox by Steven Gundry, MD. Grains affect people in different ways from subtle to overt. For example you could have less energy and brain fog up to 2 days after eating pasta or pizza. Farting and feeling bloated are common. For some joint stiffness can occur or flare up of autoimmune diseases such as eczema.

          Read the book and others like it and then listen to your body after eating grains. It is surprising what you will feel.

        1. Simple sugars, once you get used to not eating them, actually become too sweet to eat. But discipline is essential. Stay tuned because in Feb or March my wife and I will be reporting on our adventure of measuring exactly what is in our gut microbiome.

          1. When you read the labels it seems like everything in the grocery stores have some sugar in it. How do you avoid it?

          2. I also read the labels. I eat lots of salads. In the convenient stores I buy water, pistachios and hard boiled eggs. But my morning coffee with MCT oil, butter and collagen protein keeps me satisfied until noon to 3 pm