For as long as I have been writing about horse health issues I’ve been told people just want to know what to do, not why. I know this isn’t 100% true, and hope it’s actually much less than that. To be fair though, there are certainly times I will start to read about a topic only to find my brain turn off and the words run together. If you are someone who responds like that to medical/scientific descriptions, it’s my job to present it in a way that does not cause that to happen.
Why not just skip to the bottom line? That’s certainly one approach but you short change yourself. Knowledge really is power, including the power to prevent you from being sucked into buying worthless supplements. Worthless here includes both ineffective and things your horse doesn’t need. Knowledge also directs you toward what is needed and what does work.
For example, poor magnesium intake and low magnesium status in the body has been linked to risk of insulin resistance and poor IR control in several species. If you find out a study was done that gave magnesium (among other things) to IR horses and found no change would you conclude it is not a factor for IR horses? If you find out the study did not look at magnesium already in the diet or magnesium levels in the horses would your opinion change? It should.
For one thing, minerals in the body are like gasoline in a tank. Once it’s full, if you keep pumping it’s just going to spill over and be waste. No further benefit.
The persistent obsession with fructan levels as a risk for laminitis is another example. Yes, massive amounts of chickory root fructan dumped into the horse by stomach tube can cause laminitis. However, it does this by damaging the lining of the bowel so that harmful bacterial products can get in.
Normally, the bowel activity is like a teeming underground city of shadowy characters sealed off from the rest of body. If that bowel barrier is intact, the body is totally unaware of the fluxes that occur all the time due to changes in populations of organisms. It is only when conditions reach a critical point with damage the barrier that the invasion can happen like zombies breaking into a safe encampment. Unless that breach in security occurs, it doesn’t matter if you have one zombie or a million. We just don’t see that critical level of fructan in our North American hays.
This is a good place to sign off with a high five, job well done, to the 2015 No Laminitis Conference just completed in beautiful central Texas. It’s a fairly unique coming together of owners, veterinarians, other equine professionals and researchers to share both real life experiences and insight into how stuff works. Everyone moves forward from these conferences better armed to tackle their jobs. Kudos!
Eleanor Kellon, VMD