I was working on a horse with no one around. We were connected and our communication was clear. I gave the horse some moments to check out his smoothed edges and then something happened in the quiet moment. I became clear about something troubling me with horses that I see throughout this country.
Up until about two years ago I was living the life of a successful veterinarian with a practice limited to traditional dentistry on horses. My biggest concern was defending my belief that horsemanship in equine dentistry was essential. I was becoming used to the fact that this belief was not accepted by the powers to be in my veterinary profession. More importantly, I was becoming confident in the results I was getting AND was also realizing that the other side of the story was really a marketing strategy based on an agenda not in the best interest of the horse.
Christmas cookies from an appreciative client.
I have always thought that every person in the horse industry did what they did to enhance the life of horses. But then I started to open my eyes and what I saw were horses everywhere leading quiet lives of desperation. I kept asking “Why?” Why is there an epidemic of suspensory injuries. Why do so many horses have insulin resistance? Why does it seem every horse has a diagnosis of Cushing’s disease. Why were dropped fetlocks and EOTRH of the incisors not even in the veterinary text books in 1980? There were no answers found at the veterinary meetings I attended.
Fortunately human medical doctors and researchers were asking similar questions and answers are coming from their work over the past 10 years. Diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, heart disease, cancer, cognitive dysfunction and more have been closely looked at and answers are now becoming clear. If you have been following me for the past two years you know that I believe that improper nutrition is at the root of almost every illness we see in humans and horses.
On this quiet Sunday morning I gently connected again with the horse who had been snoozing in bliss while his mouth no longer felt the painful sharp edges of his teeth. It became clear that almost every one working on horses for a living has an agenda based on themselves. They do not have the best interest of the horse in mind. Vets won’t survive if all horses became healthy. More horses could live without shoeing if their hooves become stronger. Feed stores would be out of business if no one bought the inflammatory grains. Supplement makers would disappear if we all stopped purchasing them. In essence horse owners have fallen pray to marketing aimed at their feelings and not reality. People have been trained to add missing ingredients to make ourselves or our horses bigger, stronger, faster, healthier and more complete. This makes us feel better but from what I am seeing, it isn’t working for the horse.
Ask yourself this question. With all that you are doing, how’s it working? Then ask “Why?” to everything and realize that someone has made a pill for that. For example, did you know that your brain is made mostly of fat and cholesterol? Did you know how essential cholesterol is in your survival? Your doctor will test you and based on the results you may be started on a medicine to control your cholesterol. But no one will tell you why your cholesterol numbers are “off” or how to get them back to normal. In horses, the Cushing’s story is similar. They test your horse and then prescribe a neurotransmitter replacement (pergolide). Wait, what? You thought it was a pituitary problem but at the latest AAEP meeting they are now calling it a neurodegenerative disease. About time! Researchers at this recent meeting also suggested that we are probably testing too much for Cushing’s disease though they still are not looking at how to prevent this new epidemic in horses. Why should they when they can prescribe a pill?
Published research shows that there are at least 700 individual species of bacteria within the oral cavity of the horse. They measured this before and after ONE DOSE of a popular NSAID (an anti inflammatory drug) and found that one whole family of bacteria were wiped out. In human medicine they are also realizing that ANYTHING placed into the body including food and medicine, especially antibiotics, has a dramatic effect on the normal bacteria found in, on and around the body. More disease is actually occurring from the use of hand sanitizers outside of hospitals. Some researchers are suggesting not using body soap or shampoo, or at least reduce their use a lot.
Finally many are looking at food as chemical messengers that can turn on and off certain gene expressions. Let me state this another way. You and your horse have the potential to have any and all disease based in the genetic code of your cells. This code has thousands of “switches” that are either “on” or “off.” The combination of “on” and “off” selections of thousands of switches gives a huge possibility of gene expression. Researchers now know that foods can throw switches via a signaling system. If you or your horse eats foods that causes these switches to be thrown in a certain combination then you will become ill.
A more simple way to state this is that you are what you eat. And what we and our horses eat have been drastically changed in very little time from what we have eaten over the millions of years we have existed. How we eat and what we feed our horses is influenced by what we read in magazines, what advertising we look at and what the professionals teach us.
Christmas cookies from an appreciative client. (Yes, I ate them ;-p )
In the stall this quiet Sunday morning I realized that everywhere I go I see horses and humans buying into what they are told by “experts” and marketing campaigns but they are not taking the time to understand the damage being done. From this I decided to make a 2018 Christmas wish.
Horses count on you to do the right thing as long as they are in your care but you need to learn what that is. Start by asking if what you are doing is really helping your horse thrive.
My Christmas wish is that every horse owner understands the reliance of their horses on people to give them what they need. I also wish that more horse professionals look deeply into the reasons disease and soundness issues occur and they become the advocate for horses and their owners to correct and prevent disease.
Merry Christmas and a joyous holiday season. Doc T