Food Therapy for Horses: Q&A with Dr. Fenton, Part 2

This is Part 2 of the Q & A series with holistic veterinarian, Dr. Rhiannon Fenton. This series will focus on food therapy for horses from a holistic veterinary standpoint. Please check back weekly to read the rest of the posts in this informative series!

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Rhiannon Fenton, DVM of Vital Equine Veterinary Services, is based in Calabasas, California. Dr. Fenton earned her doctorate of veterinary medicine from Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine. She is also certified in Animal Chiropractic, Veterinary Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Food Therapy, and Reiki Energy Healing.

Dr. Fenton specializes in custom-tailored specialty treatments for horses and other species and believes in unlocking the body’s own potential to heal itself through holistic modalities.

Q & A with Dr. Fenton (Part 2)

Q: Can you explain how food therapy is viewed from a Traditional Chinese Medicine standpoint? 

(continued answer from Part 1)

The Eight Principles

The Eight Principles help holistic veterinarians classify disease patterns. It ensures the most specific and effective treatment strategies. Essentially, diseases according to TCVM are classified according to the following:

  • Yang or Yin
  • Excess (Acute Disease) or Deficiency (Chronic Disease)
  • Exterior (Musculoskeletal/Skin) or Interior (Internal Organs)
  • Hot or Cold

The TCVM practitioner is familiar with how each of the Eight Principles applies to an animal as well as how it is affecting him or her. A TCVM exam provides the holistic practitioner with information that ultimately leads to determination of the disease pattern. A thorough look at how the animal is functioning externally and internally takes place according to the following TCVM considerations:

  • Color, shape, size and coating of the tongue
  • Quality of jugular pulses on both sides of the neck
  • Ears, back and distal extremity temperatures
  • Muscle tone, lack thereof, obesity
  • Quality of the hooves (cracked, chipping, strong, tough…)
  • Hair/skin coat quality (shiny vs. dry vs. small dandruff vs. large dandruff…)
  • Discharges coming from any of the orifices (color, consistency, amount, time of day or year)
  • Behavior (still, quiet, excited, hyperactive, scared, aggressive, pushy, time of day or year)
  • Does the horse eat fast, slow, is picky, or will eat everything
  • Likes to stand in the sun vs. the shade
  • Seeks warmth vs. cooling environments
  • Quality and quantity of defecation and urination (color, consistency, amount, time of day)
  • Strength or weakness of vocalization and coughing plus time of day this occurs most often
  • And the list goes on…

By gathering all the information between a conventional physical exam and/or diagnostics plus a TCVM exam, the holistic practitioner is well equipped to form a specific diagnosis unique to that horse’s TCVM disease pattern. Case in point:

Download (PDF, 55KB)

This example of Horse A and Horse B serves to illustrate that Food Therapy from a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine standpoint truly is an art and science. Healing is brought into the body safely, effectively and in alignment with what each individual horse needs. Using selected food ingredients and/or superior herbs based on all the environmental and constitutional factors, TCVM theories, and current disharmony or TCVM disease patterns helps obtain this goal.

 

Q: Can you tell us a little about how specific foods are used in food therapy? (for example warm vs. cool foods)

Specific foods are used in Food Therapy based on their energetics. Energetics refers to the effect of a food on digestive, metabolic, and physiological processes in the body. We call it Xing in TCVM or Thermal Nature which is essentially the post-ingestive effect on the body.¹ We pair the food energetic properties with the animal’s constitution, TCVM Theories and TCVM disease pattern(s) as previously discussed.

Let’s revisit Horse A and Horse B above. When both of these horses were presented to me, here is what I explained to the owner(s):

Horse A has too much Heat in his body. He needs foods, herbs and acupuncture treatments that will help cool him down. He is a Fire constitution living in a hot climate during a hot time of the year. However, too much cold foods for too long can cause problems.

Remember that the goal is to balance the body back to harmony between Cold and Hot, Yin and Yang. This is why it’s important to have a holistic practitioner certified in Food Therapy evaluate your horse for correct TCVM Pattern Diagnosis and do follow-up exams periodically to see how your horse is responding to treatment. It is inevitable that the Food Therapy Protocol will need to be changed at some point in time in order to keep from going from one end of the spectrum (too Cold) to the other (too Hot). We want to avoid creating any disharmonies!

The types of foods Horse A could benefit from are:

  • Grass Hays, Coastal Hays—Clears Heat and has cool energetic property. Good for general Heat Pattern or Yin Deficiency. Try to use Organic hay whenever possible.
  • Peanut Hay—Neutral in thermal temperature. Tonifies Qi. Good for Diarrhea, EMS, PSSM.
  • Barley—Cooling energetic. Indicated for Fire/Wood Constitution, summer or hot environment. Tonifies Blood and Yin. Use Organic.
  • Rice Bran—Neutral energetic property, Nourishes Spleen, Harmonizes Stomach, also helps with Vitamin B1 deficiency. Use Organic.
  • Beet Pulp—Neutral energetic property. Tonifies Spleen Qi and moistens Large Intestine. Make sure to get Organic with the molasses removed. Organic is important to help minimize exposure to pesticides, heavy metal contaminants, chemicals etc. Speedi Beet is a great product that provides pure unmolassed sugar beet pulp. Otherwise avoid using regular beet pulp with horses that have obesity, metabolic diseases or laminitis.
  • Apples—Neutral energetics. Tonifies Yin, regulates GI and Liver. Avoid with any metabolic diseases due to high sugar content.
  • Watermelon Rind (one to two pieces/day) – Cold and sweet energetic. Indication is for anhidrosis, Summer Heat, general Excess Heat, or Yin Deficiency, Wood or Fire Constitution. Avoid with horses that have metabolic diseases or laminitis due to high sugar content.
  • Lotus Leaf—Neutral food energetic property. Indicated for clearing Summer Heat, diarrhea and fecal incontinence.
  • Chrysanthemum flower (4-5 flowers daily)—Cool energetic food property. Indicated for Uveitis, Influenza, General Liver Yin Deficiency, Genera Heat and Heat Toxins.
  • Peanut Oil or Rice Bran Oil (2 tbsp twice daily)—Neutral energetic property. Harmonizes GI and indicated for GI disorders.
  • Flax Seed Oil (2 tbsp twice daily)—Cool energetic property. Good for Damp Heat skin, Lung Heat, Liver Heat and Yin Deficiency. Clears Heat.

General rules to consider:

  1. Use Organic, non -GMO for all ingredients above whenever possible!
  2. Avoid using any feeds that are known to be allergenic to the horse in question.
  3. Avoid using any foods high in sugar on any horses with EMS, Laminitis, Insulin resistance or other Metabolic Diseases.
  4. Avoid as many pelleted foods for Horse A as possible. The more processed a feed is, the higher its level of energetic heat.
  5. Avoid using any sweet feeds (commercial feeds with corn, sugar, sweeteners, or high carbohydrates)!!! This creates Dampness in the body. Dampness is the worst enemy of the Spleen.  (Sweet feeds create Damp in the body. This can slowly lead to Phlegm including fat deposits, lipomas, polysaccharide storage disorders, gastric ulcers, thyroid impairment, increased bouts of laminitis and flare up any other Metabolic Issues occurring within the body. )
  6. You do not need to use every ingredient above. Choose some and mix them around.       See which your horse likes. Most of the time, they will choose what they inherently know will heal them.
  7. Moderation is key.

 

Horse B has Spleen Qi Deficiency and may have a little Excess Cold. In addition, Horse B is an Earth Constitution. We want to feed sweeter type foods (not processed sugars) to abide by the Five Element Theory. Because of having a Deficiency, tonifying the mother (Fire Constitution) will also be helpful (review The Five Element Theory chart and bubble diagram).

This means warming foods and foods that are yellow, orange or reddish in color can help. The Excess Cold (possibly from living in Michigan, winter time, etc) can be resolved with some warming foods. Qi Tonics and warm foods can go together very well. Overall, Horse B needs to have his Spleen Qi tonified or strengthened with food, herbs and acupuncture treatments.

The types of foods Horse B would benefit from are:

  • Oat Hay—Tends to be warmer energetically than other types of hay. Some horses can get diarrhea from oat hay because of the sugars in it. Can also flare up skin conditions due to warm energetics.
  • Oats— Sweet and warm energetic. Tonifies Spleen Qi and Blood. Great for Cold watery diarrhea, weight loss or anorexia. Cooked oats will impart even more warmth. Do not use oats if the horse has Heat Excess, Yin Deficiency, is a Fire Constitution or has severe metabolic diseases/laminitis.
  • Rice Bran—Neutral food energetic property, Nourishes Spleen, Harmonizes Stomach, also helps with Vitamin B1 deficiency. Use Organic.
  • Beet Pulp—Neutral energetic. Tonifies Spleen Qi and moistens Large Intestine. Make sure to get Organic with the sugar removed. Speedi Beet is a great product. Otherwise avoid using Beet Pulp with horses that have metabolic diseases or laminitis.
  • Steamed sweet potato—Sweet and neutral energetic. Reinforces Spleen/Stomach, assists bowel movements, good for constipation or loose stool, and absorbs water and toxins. Steaming causes a warming effect which makes it even better for Spleen Qi Deficiency. Do not use in metabolic/IR/Cushing horses as this can be too high in sugar.
  • Corn silk and husk (not the cob or kernels!)—Neutral energetic. Promotes water metabolism and reduces edema. Drains Damp.
  • Peanut Oil (2 tbsp twice daily)—Sweet, neutral energetic. Harmonizes the GI tract. Indicated for GI disorders.
  • Olive oil (2 tbsp twice daily)—Sour, sweet and warm energetic. Promotes appetite. Good for Qi or Yang Deficiency.
  • Ginger powder (1 tbsp twice daily)—Warm, pungent and hot energetic. Warms the middle part of the body (stomach, intestines, colon, spleen etc.) to help dispel coldness. Restores Yang (warming). Indicated for excessive salivation, colic, diarrhea due to Spleen Qi/Yang Deficiency, and coldness in the middle of the body due to Spleen Qi/Yang Deficiency.

Again some general rules to consider:

  1. Use Organic, non -GMO for all ingredients above whenever possible!
  2. Avoid using any feeds that are known to be allergenic to the horse in question.
  3. Avoid using any foods high in sugar on any horses with EMS, Laminitis, Insulin resistance or other Metabolic Diseases.
  4. Do not feed any corn. Only use the corn husk or silks! Remember moderation!
  5. Avoid using any sweet feeds (commercial feeds with corn, sugar, sweeteners, or high carbohydrates)!!! This creates Dampness in the body. Dampness is the worst enemy of the Spleen.
  6. Sweet feeds create Damp in the body. This can slowly lead to Phlegm including fat deposits, lipomas, polysaccharide storage disorders, gastric ulcers, thyroid impairment, increased bouts of laminitis and flare up any other Metabolic Issues occurring within the body.
  7. You do not need to use every ingredient above. Choose some and mix them around. See which your horse likes. Most of the time, they will choose what they inherently know will heal them.
  8. Moderation is key.

 

 

References

 

¹ The Chi Institute TCVM Food Therapy Course, 2014
² Xie, H., Preast, V. Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine Fundamental Principles. Chi Institute 2007
³ Advanced Biological Concepts 2014

 

Stay tuned for more posts in this Q & A series on Food Therapy for Horses with Dr. Fenton! 

Casie

Hi! My name is Casie Bazay. I'm a mom, a freelance writer, and a certified equine acupressure practitioner.

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