The Wall Street Journal often has some really good articles. For example, this weekend’s issue (Feb 22, 2020) had an article on bias in the media (“Detecting Fake News Takes Time” by Alison Gopnik). It had a different point of view that I had not realized. Let me quote:
“David Rand of MIT and Gordon Pennycook of the University of Regina have suggested that “cognitive laziness” may be a bigger problem than bias. It’s not that people can’t tell or don’t care whether a story is true; it’s just that they don’t put in the effort to find out.”
My zoology professor in 1971 predicted this discovery when he said to our class, “Man is basically lazy.” Back then, the term “man” was short for HU-man, so ladies, you’re not off the hook. Most people are lazy, regurgitating what they have memorized without putting effort into thinking. But it’s worse because most people don’t understand the words they are speaking, so they look for validation or advice from others who are also regurgitating what they don’t understand. So if two or more people say it’s true, it must be!
Dr. Daniel Amen, the well-known psychologist with hundreds of books, articles and TV shows, was asked by Tom Bilyeu on his Feb 27 podcast, “What is the number one thing society does that is eroding health span right now?” His answer included being “oblivious” in that “we are not reading food labels” and “that we are just not thinking about our brains and our bodies. Get your brain right, and your body will be there.”
By extension, get your brain right, get your horse right.
I was cognitively lazy for many years. It’s easier not to think but to trust what you were taught or believe in the experts around you. That is how my school (and all medical schools) taught me. See this disease? Do this. See that disease? Do that. It was like the Whack-A-Mole game where a mole would pop out of the ground, and you would try to hit it on the head with a hammer before it ducked back down. I’m sure there is a YouTube video of the game. I also need to credit this expression to David Sinclair, Ph.D. from his book “Lifespan.”
Doctors depend on people trusting them blindly. So do auto mechanics. But now, I find that thinking is fun, especially with what we know now. Putting together the pieces and getting answers covering many medical issues is exciting. It’s like doing something that prevents all the moles from popping their heads out. What if doing one thing solved equine metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and Cushing’s disease and made your horse more comfortable and sound? You are correct! Many vets would be looking for another way to make an income.
I’ve stuck my neck out there in the material of these blogs, nutrition and dentistry courses, and my private Facebook page, “The Horse’s Advocate.” There are a lot of thinking people who have commented or have led discussions in the group, and I am grateful for them. Many ask thought-provoking questions that lead everyone to a deeper understanding of a topic. However, on most days, I spend an abundant amount of time looking at many words written by people who subscribe to “cognitive laziness.” There is no evidence of any effort on their part to read the material and dig for answers. Rather the opposite occurs. They conclude from old misunderstandings still being held on to by horse owners and professionals. Yes, many of my colleagues are usually too busy to dig in to question what school taught, so they perpetuate the whack-a-mole approach to their practice.
The Filter Of Agendas
Misunderstandings may be an understatement. Propaganda, false advertising and calculated misdirection may be more accurate. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) is the world’s largest association of horse veterinarians. The largest financial support of the AAEP comes from feed companies, pharmaceutical companies and nutritional supplement companies. Magazines proclaiming their authority about horses stuff the pages with advertisements from the same supporters of the AAEP. The agenda-driven dissemination of quality information for horse owners is so prevalent that I can’t be put on a podcast or asked for a magazine interview, as this would upset the advertisers. So instead, I write here and on my social media. I gain nothing from this other than receiving remarkable acknowledgments from people who have decided to dig in, learn and apply what they have learned to their horses. The results have been spectacular in many cases. I am not selling anything except for a course filled with information to help pay the expenses. My nights are filled with learning, conveying what I have learned to you for the benefit of your horses. If you don’t believe in what I say, either move on or question me. Both are OK.
I am challenging everything taught to me because, from my almost 50 years of working with horses, I am seeing epidemics of illness and unsoundness in every state I visit in this country. I see at least five things that were not in the textbooks when I went to vet school: EOTRH (teeth), dropped fetlocks (DSLD), white line disease, kissing spine and anhidrosis (only 1 paragraph on that). I also see epidemics of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS), insulin resistance (IR) and Cushing’s disease (PPID and other names). Why? This rapid development of disease and unsoundness is driving me to keep learning about things that were unheard of even a few years ago.
The latest information is that lab animals can convert glucose (starch) into fructose. Fruit, when ripe, converts glucose into much sweeter fructose. We also were taught that fructose’s purpose is to add body fat for the upcoming winter. But now they are finding out that we are reacting to the high glucose diets (grains for horses and soda for humans) by creating an enzyme that converts glucose to fructose. This conversion in humans leads to fatty liver disease, increased triglycerides in the blood, increased body fat, increased blood sugar and an increased appetite through leptin suppression. It also causes the mitochondrial exhaustion I have discussed in the past, increased uric acid with inflammation of the kidneys and a subsequent rise in blood pressure. Believe it or not, an increase in salt intake in a dehydrated state in humans and other animals will also convert glucose into fructose. Eating salted fried potatoes (starch plus salt) and washing them down with cola is a recipe for early death from human metabolic syndrome and heart disease. No one has tested this in horses, but horses on a grain diet with abundant starch-filled hay or grass have metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and other diseases I have associated with a chronic protein deficiency secondary to mitochondrial dysfunction. And could the mystery of laminitis be explained by an increased blood uric acid causing inflammation in some way to the laminae?
This past year, the World Health Organization (WHO) listed “aging” as a disease for the first time. And the number one reason for aging in all animals tested is mitochondrial dysfunction, exhaustion and cellular death. Aging seems to bring many diseases in all species, including horses. And what we are feeding them is at the root of almost every disease we see in horses. Preventing these from happening is in the best interest of our horses but not in the best interest of veterinarians, feed dealers and all the others in the feed chain. No wonder veterinarians oppose the no-grain diet and the feeding of protein. No wonder they draw more blood to confirm their diagnosis and treatment plan rather than monitor for improved health.
There is no place for cognitive laziness in advocating for our horses. Instead, we must invest our time in learning and pass what we have learned on to others. It is by teaching, that we solidify what we know. Then we must dig in and challenge ourselves again by looking for the results we want and, if not getting them, ask better questions. I plan to do that for the next 50 years with horses.