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What Lies Beneath?

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

In 2010, I had a 2 yr old Welsh Section A filly that I relocated to Newmarket in Suffolk for the summer, I was working there at the time, and it was easier to set up a base than to travel from Wales. She was and still is a ‘good doer’, the yard I moved her to was a typical Rest and Recuperation for thoroughbreds, with good stable facilities but only small (back yard sized) well-fenced areas of controlled turn out, which was suitable for horses with tendon injuries needing fresh air and a bit of socialising without a chance of re-injury.

Within a couple of weeks of being there, the filly went from being well-covered to ‘footy’, hard-crested and obese (no extra hard feed or hay) and only turned out one of the TB small areas which rapidly became a bald patch. I couldn’t even then turn her out into a grassier patch as she would become instantly more footy, in the end, we went on long hedgerow grazing sessions which were well tolerated.

Getting fat on fresh air certainly described her condition, I knew only the basics of natural nutrition as at the time we had just started investigating a whole range of phytonutrients in collaboration with Bangor University (organic chemistry). Back in 2010, I had no real understanding of the science or its impact on horse health.

In many long conversations with the lead scientist, who is also an environmentalist, we both felt the soil/environment (high agrichemicals and borehole water) was the likely problem together with the lack of her usual wide array of phytonutrients (natural nutrition) which marked the tipping point into the disaster zone.

After 3-weeks and being concerned that she would soon develop laminitis, I gave up and took her home. I turned her straight out of the box, to join the rest of the herd, onto 10 acres of wild Welsh hillside, with her water supply filtered through the granite of Snowdon. The change (to my relief) was almost instant and quite remarkable, in that over the next 3/4 days she returned to her pre-Newmarket state and has remained healthy for the last 12 years.

As regulars to these posts know, we are still investigating the power of plants together with the Welsh Universities, in 2018 we added the interaction with the gut microbiome (7th year of research). Using AI, we have become increasingly aware that the microbiome profiles of horses with EMS and headshaking have an environmental element i.e., loss of good bacteria, increase in pathogens, and an increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. As at least 20% of the gut bacteria are transient i.e., coming in from the environment, and with the experience of my own filly, it seems sensible now to include soil and water testing in the Equi-Biome analysis.

Full genomic sequencing of soil is difficult to achieve, but we use the world-leading research facilities of the institute of Biological, Environmental, and Rural Science and they are confident of success. There are also methods to improve the soil, once the rhizosphere has been identified and profiled.

Due to the high levels of anaerobic bacteria in soil, we need to use a different preserving method, and to test the whole new process I’m looking for some volunteers.

If possible I need at least six, I’d like 2 to be from livery yards and 2 to be from areas with high usage of agrichemicals, please leave a message below or email me, including a photo if possible and the location (doesn't have to be exact, nearest town is fine), if you want to remain anonymous happy to oblige. Thank you!

Image By Mon Oo Yee, Peter Kim, Yifan Li, Anup K. Singh, Trent R. Northen and Romy Chakraborty - [1]doi:10.3389/fmicb.2021.625752, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=122582573


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3 Comments


I have three on a livery yard in wimblington Cambs

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Yes please Carol, would love to help. We have five on "livery yard" ground on clay soil in Northamptonshire. I can get a photo or two if you are interested? Jo

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Jeanette Dezart
Jeanette Dezart
Dec 02, 2022

Hi Carol. Always happy to help with your research if my boys' environment falls within your criteria. They are in the ’winter paddock’ in Neuville, Forest-Montiers, France : 3 000 m2 of rough grazing, with ad lib hay from a neighbouring farmer and tap water from local catchement area.  It is a rural farming area, mainly cattle breeding (milk and meat), cereal/forage and root crops (wheat, corn, alfalfa, sugar beet, potatoes, carrots and flax). Will join map and photos. Let me know if I can help :-) Jeanette



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