What is an ‘Allergy’?
There seems to be a lot of cases where horses are suffering from ‘allergies’ at the moment. These can be distressing and frustrating so here are some points that may help those who are battling because it is vital to understand there is an UNDERLYING cause so you don’t fall into the trap of spending a fortune trying to identify and eliminate the potential allergens.
An allergy is a hypersensitivity or over-reaction by the immune system to substances that are normally harmless in the environment.
Irritants (allergens) can be air-borne or associated with certain foods. When inhaled or absorbed through the skin, respiratory tract, or gastrointestinal tract, they stimulate histamine production, leading to inflammation and mucus production. Allergic reactions can sometimes be triggered by medications or vaccinations.
Symptoms in horses usually include hives, rashes, itchiness, swellings, inflammation, rhinitis, respiratory issues (asthma/heaves/COPD) including coughing and mucus production.
It is so easy to think ‘Allergies’ are caused by EXTERNAL irritants in the environment eg pollens. But are they really?
We have learned from experience over the years that it is a mistake to think that ‘allergies’ are only caused by external factors when the UNDERLYING cause is a disturbance to the bio-chemistry of the horse's metabolism.
Treatment usually involves extensive and expensive investigations to identify the allergens, then:
Going to great lengths to avoid those allergens.
This can be virtually impossible as often there is a very long list of items and is not the long term answer
Use of corticosteroids to control the inflammatory reaction.
These can provide temporary relief but come into the category of treating the symptoms rather than the cause. For horses administering steroids can be risky because they can cause a laminitis episode.
The word ‘metabolism’ encompasses the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. Ultimately minerals & vitamins run every metabolic process in the body. When they are out of balance all sorts of metabolic processes are disturbed.
When you keep the horse’s diet very basic (ie to things they DO need and leave out things they DON'T need) you will be amazed at the issues that resolve all on their own.
Especially while the horse’s metabolism is compromised, in our experience, it is vital to supply the macro and micro-nutrients WITHOUT the ‘anti-nutrient’ factors that are an integral part of plants like legumes/herbs.
(eg tannins, goitrogens, phytates, lectins, saponins, oxalates, nitrates) - all can reduce the digestibility of proteins and affect mineral and vitamin absorption as can any products or medications that affect the production or acidity of the stomach acids.
It is easy to think of allergies when really there is an underlying disturbance to the horse’s metabolism. It is hard to believe this is the same horse - meet Poker, before and 2 months after diet changes
The very simple principles that we advocate focus on providing nutrients to the horse within parameters that allow the horse to balance his own minerals. We are not trying to do it for him - so no forage analyses, computer programmes or mathematics involved.
This is not just about ‘topping up’ what is lacking. It is about looking at the total picture and understanding what has gone wrong.
Like us, many people come full circle and realise that good hay is ‘gold’ for their horses. Hay made from a variety of native or old-fashioned grasses off land that hasn’t been fertilised. No clover!
When horses are supplied with a comprehensive broad spectrum supplement (Premium or Premium MVA are formulated for this purpose) and have a high hay diet, the hind-gut flora thrive and SO DOES THE HORSE!