Equine Balanced Nutrition
Your horse doesn’t run on air any more than your automobile does. Correctly fueling your horse is at the heart of good nutrition, but it doesn’t stop there. If your car is “injured”, you just replace parts. Your horse needs to repair tissues stressed by exercise or disease through nutrition, build and strengthen bones, joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments through nutrition, manufacture red cells, fight infections, produce sweat and carry out the billions of biochemical reactions needed to burn fuel and build or repair tissues through nutrition
The human diet typically contains a wide array of different foods, each with a different nutritional profile. This helps guarantee requirements for protein, amino acids, vitamins and minerals are met. In contrast, many horses eat precisely the same meal day in and day out. When you buy dog food, cat food, fish food or bird food, you are buying a nutritionally balanced package. Same thing for bagged horse feed but bagged feeds are only part of the horse’s diet. Most of your horse’s nutrition comes from hay or pasture
Livestock producers, whether dairy, beef, hogs or chickens, invest considerable time and money into balancing their diets. Why? Because it pays off in their bottom line. Balanced nutrition means more milk, more meat, less disease – in short, the healthiest, most robust animals. Calories alone won’t get you there. Quality protein, adequate vitamins and carefully balanced minerals make the difference.
The equine marketplace is flooded with supplements, each designed to put this or that “patch” onto a problem that has its roots in inadequate nutrition. If your diet is correctly balanced in the first place, supplying supplemental nutrients based on what is missing or excessive in the base diet, you can throw all of those away and discover what livestock producers have known for a very long time, correct feeding doesn’t have to be expensive and it more than pays for itself.
It’s even more important for horses under stress, be it pregnancy, lactation, growth, exercise, injury, infection. Sound nutrition isn’t a cure-all or an “alternative” approach to health. It’s much more than that. It’s essential. Every function in your horse’s body depends on it.
Poor nutrition can actually cause disease but the role of nutrition goes far beyond this. Your horse’s body is made of water and “matter”. Building the body is not a once and done thing. To maintain tissues, protect from infections, repair illnesses all requires more “matter”. Your horse cannot manufacture the amino acids, fats, minerals and vitamins he needs out of thin air. They have to come from the diet.
Dr. Linus Pauling coined the term orthomolecular in the 1960s. It literally means the right (correct)molecule. With a strong background in physics, Dr. Pauling entered the field of chemistry where he was productive for the next 70 years. He worked in both organic and inorganic chemistry, becoming most interested in nutrition in the later part of his career. Dr. Pauling’s work literally brought biochemistry to life, as a 3 dimensional active and interactive system.
At the heart of molecular medicine is the concept that disease occurs when there is a
disruption of all the complicated cellular machinery and processes. Sometimes it’s a glitch in the DNA that the organism was born with, i.e. a genetically programmed-in disease. Sometimes it’s caused by an infectious organism
disrupting cellular processes. Nutritional deficiencies or excesses, and toxic substances, can also produce disease, as does trauma or the wear and tear of aging.
Also at the heart of orthomolecular medicine is that you can only maintain robust health with the “right molecules” – foods – in the correct amounts, and central to orthomolecular medicine is that the concept of taking in nutrients in amounts sufficient to prevent full blown deficiency diseases is not necessarily
the same thing as dosages needed for optimal health.
If your horse has an infection and you give antibiotics, you correct the disease by killing the cause, the bacteria. However, very few drugs actually treat disease. Instead, they treat symptoms. The symptoms of a disease are caused by the body, not something that happens to it. When you block a symptom with a drug, you are interfering with the body, not restoring it to normal function.
Are Drugs “Bad”?
Drugs are not inherently bad. They serve a purpose, and are often literally life-saving. What they are not is cure-alls. Because most drugs interfere with or block body chemistry, they all carry the risk of side-effects. If an effective drug is available and truly needed, you should not hesitate to use it but drugs should never be used lightly.
It has been suggested that when you megadose (any dose above the minimum required to prevent deficiency states is considered a megadose), the nutrient is actually working like a drug. e.g. Selenium overdosing, with toxic doses, that may be true. However, responses at less than toxic doses are not necessarily having drug effects. A few examples will probably help illustrate what I mean.
One example is vitamin E treatment for equine motor neuron disease (EMND). Equine motor neuron disease is a degenerative condition of the nervous system similar to Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Vitamin E levels are very low in these horses and EMND was thought to be a vitamin E deficiency for a long time, but it has now been found even in horses that are on pasture, which rules out inadequate intake since fresh grass is a very rich source of vitamin E. The progression of EMND can be stopped, symptoms of severe muscle wasting and gait changes sometimes even reversed, with high doses of vitamin E, 5000 to 10,000 IU/day.ue.
The horse’s body isn’t quite as rigidly all or nothing but guaranteeing all critical nutrients are present in the needed amounts and correct balance is the starting point for both health and therapy. The balanced diet is your horse’s “floor” for health. It’s the foundation, the structure upon which you build any special need solutions.. Without it, you’re trying to build in quick sand, or on water.