Il 20 luglio prossimo ci incontreremo a Manziana per discutere di gestione, alimentazione e tecnica per la manutenzione degli zoccoli dei nostri cavalli. Sono consapevole dei nostri limiti in genere, ognuno di noi ha i suoi. Ciò che più importa é la ricerca della consapevolezza del limite e la volontà di superarlo. Non in Podologia, non in Scienza dell’Alimentazione né in qualsiasi altra disciplina coltiviamo, se fine a se stessa. In qualche pagina su questo sito ho scritto che la podologia non é altro che una scusa per esplorare il meraviglioso mondo delle Scienze Naturali. Il 20 ne avremo un’altra senza trascurare la prima. Il filo conduttore lo troveremo in Eleanor Kellon che vi presento con uno scritto introduttivo all’argomento.
Having been fascinated by nutrition and biochemistry all my career, it amazes me that in many circles it is considered “alternative”. What could be more inherently important to the health and function of the body than the nutrients which go into it? Deprived of air, the dire consequences are shortly evident. Being deprived of key nutients isn’t quite as dramatic, but there are still prices to pay.
From the time of conception, the horse’s body depends on a supply of nutrients to build and maintain tissues, fuel exercise, etc. These have to come from the diet. However, making sure the horse takes in enough calories to hold weight does not guarantee adequate intake of key proteins/amino acids, essential fats, minerals and vitamins.
Critics of managed nutrition and supplementing horses may point out that the species has survived for a long time without it. That’s true, but the reasoning is faulty. In their natural habitat, horses roam over a very wide range giving them exposure to different types of plants and soil types, and therefore a very varied diet. Domesticated horses live on much smaller pastures and eat the same meal 24/7 for months or years at a time.
Surviving is also very different from thriving and optimal health. There is always more to be learned, but scientific studies have given us a good basic framework regarding the horse’s nutritional needs. To me, it isn’t about how much you can get away with in a horse’s diet, but how much you can maximize to improve health and performance.
Feeding a horse properly isn’t like building a house or putting together a puzzle. It’s more like baking a cake. If you leave the baking powder out of a cake recipe, the results are catastrophic and you end up with a cracker instead of a cake. This is the equivalent of a full blown nutritional deficiency. However, adding too much also has negative effects. To get the perfect cake, all ingredients need to be balanced. This dynamic approach, focusing just as much on balance as on intake of individual nutrients, is what I have seen to be the most effective – and also efficient – way to build a sound diet.
The horse’s body is equipped with a system of checks and balances that allows it to increase absorption when needed, eliminate excesses. However, these systems have limits. With severe deficiencies, the horse could absorb all the mineral available and still come up short. With minerals like iron where there is no pathway for active excretion, balance is the only way to head off toxicity problems.
Balance between nutrients, especially minerals, is just as important as avoiding deficiencies. On a horse by horse, herd by herd, basis I have seen the difference it can make to get it right nutritionally. Moving forward, I’d like to see services for owners and supplements for their horses move in a direction to better supplement what they need, avoid what they don’t, and bring the body into better balance.
Eleanor Kellon, VMD.