Natalie and Paris
When Paris, a 27-year-old Selle Français gelding wasn’t enjoying his work anymore and looked bloated, his owner Natalie decided to take a holistic approach and one step at a time make improvements to his diet, healthcare and routine.
Around this time, Natalie was following a page on Facebook called ‘Affluent Malnutrition’ and took a real interest in the posts about the lack of biodiversity having a negative effect on grazing equines.
Natalie said: “When I started to think about Paris and how sensitive he was to grass, always hungry and angry if his grazing was restricted to try and manage his weight, it all made sense. I never had these problems years ago when I kept horses as a child and fields had a variety of plants and hedgerows in them.
“I decided to research what horses need in their natural diet and when self-selecting what they would choose to eat. This resulted in me pinching lots of things from hedgerows and returning with a large bucket full of plants and leaves for Paris to munch through.
“My vet suggested I try Agnus Castus powder for Cushings which i hoped would also help regulate his hormones which control appetite and to also possibly delay any Cushings symptoms. At this point his test results for Cushings were borderline and have remained stable at his annual blood tests ever since.”
Despite these changes, Natalie still felt like it was all guesswork so when she saw a post about the EquiBiome test kit which would hopefully give her a clear picture of what was going on inside Paris’ gut she decided to have him tested in October 2018.
The results showed that Paris had a high population of ‘bad bacteria’ (13% over the recommended level for Spirochaetes and over 25% the recommended level for Bacteriodetes). To reduce the levels of bad bacteria changes to the diet were advised, including an increase of antimicrobial herbs.
Natalie said: “I was advised to use the Biome Food No.5, followed by Biome Food No.4, to help support the gut by reducing the bad bacteria and increasing good bacteria. Paris was already on to a more grass and forage based natural diet to avoid refined sugars. This included herbs and a natural gut mash feed. I had also introduced a grass track system in his field to encourage more movement, restrict how much grass he could stuff in and give him access along the hedgerows.
“He began to look less bloated across his flanks and I made a promise to him that he would never be hungry again and run out of anything to eat; I didn’t want to severely restrict his intake and now his diet was varied he wasn’t blowing up on grass.
“The EquiBiome test really marked the start of a journey to improve Paris’ wellbeing. He has had several massage sessions to help with his posture and to relieve tension in some muscles particularly over the lumbar/sacral area and the hind end and I switched to a total contact saddle which he is much happier in than his previous traditional saddle.
“Now when I ride him his ears are pricked and he is striding out and enjoying himself again. Previously when he was bloated he was reluctant to go forwards and was clearly not comfortable.”
Since Natalie took the test for Paris she really feels like the resulting changes have made a big difference. The additions of new plants and herbs in Paris’ diet have left him looking much better and he has maintained a constant weight rather than fluctuating, although he is and probably will remain a good doer.
Natalie added: “I am always stopping the car now to collect seeds if I see a horse friendly plant or flower. I am starting my own wild flower patch and plan to have Paris retested soon.
“I believe the changes made to his diet were the first most important step and his bloat is drastically reduced; now we can work on posture, to tighten his belly muscles and strengthen his back. His feet have improved enormously too and he no longer gets thrush. The track system is keeping him active when he is out in the field and I am so pleased to keep him in light work as he really enjoys it.”