Food Therapy for Horses: Q&A with Dr. Fenton, Part 3

This is Part 3 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!

If you missed it, here are Parts 1 and 2.

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.



Food Therapy for Horses: Part 3

Q&A with Dr. Rhiannon Fenton

Why is the use of whole foods important to you?

Whole foods are what all living beings are meant to be eating. This is where we get real, live and raw nutrients the body can actually utilize in an unadulterated manner. Furthermore, these nutrients are what sustain a healthy body, allow it to thrive and also allow it to heal. There is nothing better than a fresh, organic, raw vegetable, fruit, grain or legume given to a horse. Think of all the minerals, vitamins, amino acids, proteins, fats, essential fatty acids and other nutrient-rich properties inherently imparted to that food. That is what the horse will absorb and use to power its entire body and mind.

In my professional opinion, mass-produced low-quality supplements, pesticide-laden hay, and commercially processed grains should be removed from the horse’s diet. Most supplements and commercially prepared feeds are full of fillers, genetically modified (GMO) ingredients, artificial flavors, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, stabilizers and harmful preservatives. I encourage you to look at the ingredient labels on the bags of feed at your local horse stores. Compare as many different labels as possible. Google what you find. I guarantee you will be surprised if not appalled by what is put in many products. It doesn’t matter whether you have brand loyalty, paid top dollar for a product or thought their advertisement was promising. Most of them will share the same harmful ingredients.

Fillers such as wheat middlings, ground oat hulls, dehulled soybean meal, soybean hulls (mostly GMO) and others provide minimal to no nutritional value for the horse whatsoever. They also make the internal organs work harder to process and eliminate it from the body. This causes unnecessary stress upon the delicate organ systems. GMO constituents are far too common in commercially prepared feeds. Some of the most common GMO products are soy, corn, canola oil (vegetable oils are pro-inflammatory), sugar beets (think beet pulp), and alfalfa hay. To make matters worse, labeling is not required on all GMO products. If it doesn’t say “Certified Non-GMO,” the product likely has GMO ingredients in it.

GMO foods cause intestinal gridlock leading to colic, generalized inflammation, arthritis and the list goes on. The gridlock caused by the GMO’s binds many minerals which renders them non-absorbable by the body. This creates nutritionally deficient animals that have the onset of disease(s) which most traditional veterinarians are unable to determine the origin.

The most common scenario is the horse on commercially processed grain which suffers some ailment (i.e. gastric ulcers, thyroid issues and more) and is placed on some type of pharmaceutical drug (Gastroguard, Thyro-L etc). The symptoms are simply masked instead of resolving the underlying issue. It was poor choice of food that caused the problem in the first place and better choices of food can cure the problem if used correctly. Mineral hair analysis can pick up many nutritional deficiencies/imbalances far before the symptoms are ever seen by the owner. A good holistic veterinarian will offer this as a form of preventative medicine since it provides such deep insight to the animal’s well-being and optimal level of functioning.

Artificial dyes, flavors, sugars, chemicals you can’t even pronounce, stabilizers and harmful preservatives (BHA, BHT) are absolutely unwarranted in the horse’s body. These additives contribute to inflammation, allergies, arthritis, toxic build up in the tissues, stressed organs, decreased immunity, suppressed energy levels and a body system that is struggling to cleanse itself constantly. Talk about exhaustion and a depleted immune system! I followed my own advice I give to my clients and recently went to a local feed store in my town. There was not one single commercially prepared feed that was pure, organic or devoid of these harmful ingredients.

With all of that being said, better options do exist! I recommend Genesis Organic Horse Grain or Jim’s Organic Grain with GRP (glyphosphate remediation program.) Both of these grains are pure, organic, non-GMO and provide whole food nutrition. Jim’s Organic Grain with GRP helps repair the body from the harmful effects of any GMO feeds previously used in the horse’s diet. Most horses will exhibit a greater level of overall well-being as a result of feeding these products. Keep in mind that every horse is an individual and improvement in health often depends on many factors. Both products are a safer choice than most feeds for insulin resistant horses³, however, moderation and consulting with a holistic veterinarian trained in Food Therapy is best practice.

Most medicinal products and supplements I prescribe are USDA Certified Organic, non-GMO, based on whole food science or herbal medicine and pass rigorous testing and quality control processing standards. I work very closely with companies such as The Holistic Horse, Standard Process and Dr. Xie’s Jing Tang Chinese Veterinary Herbal. I trust these companies’ products, ethics and philosophy. I know that what I am getting is pure and the animals respond to these medications without the adverse affects of many pharmaceutical drugs or mainstream supplements.

Depending on what part of the country you are in, getting organic hay can be easy or difficult. My advice is to just do the best you can. Perfect may be unobtainable; and that’s ok. After reading all of this information, you are now more informed and can make improvements for your horse(s) one step at a time.

As a holistic veterinarian, I evaluate each horse based on Conventional Western and Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine before recommending any type of Food Therapy protocol. The information contained within this interview is in no way intended to diagnose, treat or cure any animal with which I have not formed a Doctor-Client-Patient relationship. Each horse is a unique individual and must be treated as such. I recommend having a holistic veterinarian who is certified in TCVM evaluate your horse for the most correct, safe and effective food therapy protocol.


For which equine conditions would you be most likely to prescribe food therapy?

All of them! Food is our medicine. Food therapy should be our first approach for prevention of disease and promotion of general health. It can be used to cure skin conditions, is a great adjunct therapy for diarrhea, colic, heaves, coughing, infertility, cancer, equine metabolic syndrome, obesity and sports performance injuries. In short, every disease or traumatic injury can be alleviated, improved or oftentimes cured with food therapy. We can eat fresh, live foods or we can eat McDonalds. Same for our pets! The quality of what goes in is the quality of what comes out.



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


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

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