"When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
When diet is right, medicine is of no need."
Ancient Ayurvedic Proverb
Here's a quote from a post on the HHO forum I read a few years back: "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."
Does food matter?
More than most of us can imagine. Food, it turns out, is not just calories, but information that radically influences genes, hormones, immune system, brain chemistry and gut flora, with every single bite. What we eat is our body’s fuel, and it affects everything from how we feel, how we sleep, how strong our immune system is; everything we eat shapes our destiny. Thousands of studies consistently point in the same direction which shows that an improved diet can prevent illness and disease. A healthy, quality life starts from the foundation of a healthy diet. This matters for all of us, humans and our horses.
Getting the baseline diet right is essential to keep our horses healthy
For a doctor or vet not to know about nutrition is like a firefighter who doesn’t know about water. Yet how many are actually able to advise us correctly on what feeds to give our horses? Hardly any - nutrition plays virtually no part in their training.
Processed foods are in essence, fake foods made in factories, loaded with artificial ingredients and additives, with unnecessary calories added in by way of something usually unhealthy (i.e. molasses, oatfeed, wheatfeed) to make them tasty. Today’s packaged feeds are often devoid of many of the critical nutrients the body needs, the phytonutrients, flavenoids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that a body needs to survive. Just because something is able to be eaten, chewed and digested doesn’t necessarily make it a feed to provide essential nutrients for the body to thrive.
It’s a minefield out there in our local agri-merchant; all those shiny bags, covered with photos of shiny healthy horses, and slogans promising all sorts of amazing health results and disease prevention. With so many equine conditions that now need 'managing', it’s easy to understand how we're conditioned to believe the advertising spin on the basis of what it promises.
So, let's dump the hype for a second and remind ourselves of what a feedbowl is all about:
The key role of additional feed for our horses is to balance their main fibre source, to add the essential vitamins, minerals, protein and oils that may be lacking from their forage, and to add extra energy, if necessary, for horses in work.
I'm now going to show my age. How many of us remember back in the 60's/70's when the word laminitis, amongst others, had rarely been heard of?
Many moons ago, back in the 1960's, I was a pony-mad teen helping out at the local riding school at weekends. I count myself incredibly lucky - I lived in the glorious Surrey Hills countryside, and you couldn't ask for better riding country. After a long weekend of taking rides out over Leith Hill, every Sunday evening we'd turn the ponies out onto endless acres of meadow grass, where they'd gorge themselves silly for a week until the following Saturday morning, when us teens would bring them all back in again for the weekend's lessons. Not once was there a hint of footiness or laminitis, let alone IR/EMS/Cushings, or having to keep them off the grass … these were all words and labels we'd never heard of. Those truly were the days.
So began the world as we know it today
"When we feed the soil with artificials, it creates artificial plants, which make artificial animals, which make artificial people, and they're all kept alive by artificial medicine."
Sir Albert Howard, the Godfather of Modern SCientific Aerobic Composting, "An Agricultural Testament", 1943
By the turn of the decade, along came pasture improvement programs - the success of the rapidly expanding global meat, crop and dairy industries absolutely depended on it. The name of the game became Profit through Intensive Farming, and the methods used to achieve this new, rich, fertile world meant introducing soil improvers - fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. All made from chemicals.
An all-too familiar sight each Spring
For the crop industry, the emphasis was on improving yield by making the crop resistant to bugs, and killing the surrounding weeds to clear the way for improved crop production. For the meat and dairy industries, the primary focus was on improving the soil to increase the carbohydrate content in pasture to maximise production (fatter animals for meat, increased milk production per cow), and thus more profitability. You can't blame the farmers – it was called Progress, and it was the direction we were all heading in.
I can still remember the day mum took us kids to this strange and exciting new super-shop, Waitrose, where she could buy everything from under one roof, instead of dragging us up and down the High Street. She started cooking us unusual new meals out of boxes, made from dried powders – one of my favourites was Vesta Chicken Curry, followed by powdered Angel Delight blancmange. It was the beginning of the Big Change, but I doubt many of us eat Vesta curries these days.
Cut to today, and all this progress has had an effect, and not necessarily a good one. We live in a toxic world; there’s chlorine and fluoride in our water; irradiation, pasteurization and homogenization of our foods; crop spraying, chemtrails and electro-smog (think cell phones and their towers which emit radiation). Our air and water is contaminated and our soil is sick - you only have to look at the trees to see they’re gradually dying. The list goes on.
For those of us located next to crop growing, the breeze carries the chemical sprays into the air which we all breathe, and for our horses it lands on their grazing pasture which they ingest. For those of us on ex-dairy farms now diversified into providing horse-livery, it’s this same improved, chemically fertilised pasture that many of our horses now graze on. For those of us buying processed feeds you can guarantee that our horses are eating chemically treated, and very likely GMO mass-produced, intensively farmed crop. There’s no question - every-thing has changed.
GMO’s are now very widespread. These are crops which have been engineered to withstand herbicides, i.e. RoundUp and it’s active ingredient Glyphosate, which is sprayed on a field and a GMO crop will withstand it, while the other plants around it die. Never in human history have we eaten herbicides before, yet today we have plants that not only can withstand it but also absorb it, so we’re now consuming large amounts of these herbicides.
Glyphosate was recently classified by the WHO as a probable carcinogen, with a group of 94 scientists publishing a study endorsing that it’s actually not ‘more than likely’ a probable carcinogen – it is a carcinogen. So we’re spraying our crops with a carcinogenic weedkiller, and Monsanto are making $-Billions from it. It’s now being found in umbilical-cord blood, it’s in every human cell, in our environment, our water and our food. And our horses are consuming it as well.
So here's my take on Today's Feed Industry