Over the past several years as the number of metabolic horses has increased to almost epidemic proportions, I have been diligently studying, testing, and experimenting with plants and foods to see what can help bring balance to the metabolic horse’s system.
Every time a new supplement comes out for insulin resistant or Cushings horses, I immediately go read the labeled ingredients. Sometimes I think to myself, “Hmm, I need to do some research on that ingredient,” or often, when I’m familiar with the ingredient, ask myself, “Why would a company include that?”
Of course the basics for maintaining a healthy horse with metabolic issues, or one that could become metabolic begins with food and lifestyle.
Food and Lifestyle:
While low carbohydrate feeds and ration balancers have become popular, I have found that simplicity, combined with real whole food, is be the best course for most metabolic horses. Real food does not stress the GI tract as highly processed feeds do, and real food provides the matrix of nutritional factors which food by-products don’t.
I don’t think there is much doubt that rich pastures contribute to metabolic diseases and overweight horses. The grass seeds commonly available for horse pastures are designed to fatten cows. The chemical fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), which are petroleum based, end up stripping the soil of its health and contaminating ground water. There is growing evidence that these synthetic chemical fertilizers seriously deplete the nutritional content of foods.
Having a good long term plan for restoration of native grasses and herbs and some old-fashioned manure-spreading is a good start to returning health to the soil and health to our horses. Avoid chemical fertilizers, and the herbicides glyphosate and 2-4D.
Exercise and movement:
The horses on my farm live predominately in a herd situation. They move from one end of a very large pasture to the other, up and down hills, into creeks, occasionally kicking up their heels for a race to the pond. They may be retired from competition, but they are still active.
Metabolic horses kept in stalls with limited turn-out pose a challenge, because movement and exercise is critically important in the management of this disease. The dilemma is that horses need to eat 20 hours a day…but just as importantly, they need to move around.
The Ayurvedic Approach:
In Ayurvedic and TCM (traditional Chinese medicine) the focus on wellness is a focus on balance: balancing the body system at large. A metabolic imbalance, for instance, can cause a cascade of other imbalances: liver, GI tract, immune system, as well as increased inflammation.
In Ayurvedic medicine there are three energetic principles that govern physiological activity. Ayurveda refers to these principles as doshas. The word dosha literally means: “that which changes.” The doshas govern movement and blood flow, metabolism, digestion, heat, structure, vitality, and fluid balance in the body.
Specific foods and herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine are called tridoshic, meaning balancing for all three doshas. These distinct plants and foods help to re-calibrate and re-harmonize the body system.
Applying the Ayurvedic principles to metabolic horses:
We know that one body system out of balance causes other body system imbalances. We know when we try to re-balance one element, we frequently cause something else to go out of whack. The Ayurvedic approach is to focus on the whole horse.
In the spirit of Ayurveda I have been working on a tridoshic formula that encompasses cortisol reduction, liver support, immune support, fat metabolism, and reduced inflammation.
Tri Dosha EQ:
I have named Biostar’s new metabolic formula: Tri Dosha EQ, honoring the principles of re-balancing and re-harmonizing the body. This formula has gone through a genesis of changes, tweaks, adjustments, multiple laboratory analyses, a variety of test horses, and unexpectedly a few Australian Shepherds who, by the way, thought it tasted awesome.
Formulating is part science, part intuition, and part what the horses have to say and show me in terms of how an ingredient or a formula is working.
East Meets West:
Complimentary foods and minerals based on what we know of Western medicine provide important support to metabolic horses and easy keepers. BioStar’s Tri Dosha is a true blend of East and West including amino acid chelated magnesium, which is a more bioavailable form than magnesium found in oxides or sulfates. Carnitine, a dipeptide, is important for energy metabolism due to its fat-burning capabilities. There is also gamma–linolenic acid (GLA) that provides the body with what it needs to regulate inflammation.
Organic Amalaki (Indian Gooseberry), Organic Holy Basil, Organic Chasteberry, Organic Schisandra, Amino Acid Chelated Magnesium, Organic Milk Thistle, Organic Fenugreek seeds, Organic Hemp seed fines, Almond flour, Organic Spirulina.
Chia seeds are a very important food for metabolic horses. I did not include chia in this formula because it needs to be fed in addition to Tri Dosha.
Chromium is also not in this formula because Biostar’s Optimum line of multi-mineral supplements contain one of the richest sources of chromium, and in particular glucose-tolerance factor (GTF) chromium: brewers yeast and nutritional yeast. Horses on Optimum are already getting a bioavailable form of chromium.
Non-Structural Carbohydrates (NSC):
There are two ways to determine the NSC value of the feed, hay, and supplements given to metabolic horses. One way that is most commonly used by feed companies and some veterinarians, is to take the ESC (ethanol soluble carbohydrates number) and add the starch number to get the NSC. Note that the ESC does not include fructans — only simple sugars. Using this math, the NSC should be 10 or below.
Plant scientists, some veterinarians, and some nutritionists take the WSC value (water soluble carbohydrates), which includes the ESC and the fructans, then add the starch number to get a total NSC. For metabolic horses, this needs to be 14 or below.
Biostar’s Tri Dosha has an NSC of 12.6, using the WSC plus starch calculation. We have chosen to use this method because we think fructans need to be included as a more total accurate measure of sugar and carbohydrate content.
Laboratory analysis of Tri Dosha:
(Be sure to read our article about Non-Structural and Structural Carbohydrates)
I am very excited to report that Tri Dosha EQ will be available October 1, 2015. Tri Dosha is for metabolic horses but can also be used for the easy keepers, to assist in maintaining a healthy metabolism.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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