The Four Cornerstones of Equine Wellness

Herbs from Chava Naturals a Component of Equine Health
by Dr. Suzan Seelye, DVM, CVTP, CVA
Northwest Horse Source Cover Story from February 2018

"The body heals with play, the mind heals with laughter, and the spirit heals with joy."– Proverb

Equine health in the United States reflects the downhill spiral and obesity epidemic in the human population. For the first time since 1963, the U.S. human life expectancy dropped for two years in a row in 2016 and 2017. I imagine this will be reflected in the animal world as well. The equine population is currently experiencing an epidemic of disease and chronic illness that we have never seen.

So how do you make sure your equine companion doesn’t be- come a statistic? I would like to share with you four cornerstones of health I have discovered resolve about 90%, if not more, of all equine problems, even those considered incurable in conventional veterinary medicine.

The first and most important pillar is movement. The age-old axiom of 1 acre per horse is a bare minimum. Movement is life, and with this first pillar intact one can get away with a lot of other errors in management. Movement aids, in part, by optimizing all organ systems in the body. By optimizing circulation, oxygen and nutrients are delivered to every cell in the body. Movement enhances the lymphatic system, which removes unwanted toxins from the body, and the neuromuscular system, which is essential for every cell connecting to our brain. 

Correct physical alignment is the second pillar in my foundation of health. Horses are conformed by the life they live. Without correct posture or skeletal alignment, the operating system cannot function normally. Horses are masters of compensation; by the time you actually see a lameness or medical problem, it has been brewing there for some time. They have arrived at a point where they are so out of balance physically, mentally and/or emotionally that something has to give. When your horse gets out of balance, whether they come down with a bowed tendon or colic depends on where the weak link in their genetics is.

My preferred modality to achieve physical balance is Chinese Tui-na, a hands-on art that is simple and easy for anyone to learn. Other modalities that may help are medical massage, energy work, chiropractic, acupuncture, and osteopathy. This pillar also includes correct balance of the foot. No foot, no horse.

Emotional health is next. What is your horse’s happiness fac- tor on a scale of 1 to 10? Do you ever ask your horses what they would like to be doing? Or are you the only dictate in that? Joy, peace, and safety with their surroundings and their “work” is just as important in their health as yours. Does their environment create stress, thereby elevating the flight or fight hormones? These hormones cause inflammation in all parts of the body, promoting ulcers, colic, low immune system, hormonal imbalance, and early aging, to mention a few.

Feeding an anti-inflammatory and genetically appropriate diet is the final cornerstone of a solid foundation of health. Have you read the ingredient list on that bag of supplement or grain you are feeding? Are you feeding a variety of hays that are non-GMO and do you know what chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) have been used on them? We have to remember that the horse feed industry is driven by economics not necessarily what is in the best interest of your horse. Can you pronounce all the ingredients in your supplements, and do you actually know what the names mean? Did you know that soy, corn, canola oil, to list a few, are highly inflammatory? If you aren’t feeding free choice forage you are setting up an ideal environment for ulcers.

We all want to do the right thing for our equine companion, but “more is better” does not apply here! I see far more horses today overfed supplements to the point of creating a toxic soup in the body. Supplements should be used to fill any nutritional gaps and only for a length of time to allow the body to come back to balance. For example, I recommend for all animals a 1 to 2 week detox/ toning of the liver in fall and spring. My favorite is Chava Naturals Milk Thistle Blend, or Daily Health made of whole leaf human grade organic herbs. I actually make a tea of this and take at the same time as my animals.

May all of you enjoy a long, happy, healthy relationship with your horse companion. Applying these four pillars to equine wellness will help get you there! NWHS


Dr. Suzan Seelye, DVM, CVTP, CVA, is an internationally awarded speaker, clinician and consultant with 35 years as a licensed veterinarian including specialty training in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine and Wholistic Medicine. She makes her home in Yelm, WA with three horses, two dogs and one cat.
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