Equine Hair Analysis by Karen Eddings: Hershey’s Results
Last year, as I was doing research for a post on TMJ, I came across an article written by a lady named Karen Eddings, aka the ‘Equine Nurse’. I later looked through Karen’s website and asked if she would be interested in doing in interview for the blog. (You can read her interview here.) Karen specializes in animal and human biofeedback and hair analysis, among other things.
I was curious about doing the equine hair analysis–as Karen does it differently than most labs or vets do. Instead of analyzing the hair for specific mineral levels, Karen uses a biofeedback machine to assess the hair follicle. The result is a computerized list of imbalances within the horse (unless, of course, the horse is perfectly healthy!).
So late last summer, I decided to give the hair analysis a try with Hershey. As you long-time followers probably know, Hershey is the reason I became interested in acupressure, barefoot trimming, and natural horse health in the first place. The issues he’s had for a number of years now have kept me questioning many things and have also inspired me to continue to learn as much as I can about horse health.
Last summer, I had two main concerns with him though. One, he had recently lost some weight, and two, his hooves continued to be plagued by problems– despite being supplemented with custom minerals balanced according to my hay/ pasture analyses and receiving a natural trim every 3-4 weeks.
I thought by doing the hair analysis, I just might learn something that I hadn’t thought of yet — although I couldn’t possibly imagine what that might be!
I followed the directions on Karen’s website and mailed in the hair sample from Hershey’s tail. She e-mailed me about a week later with the results. This was also followed by a phone consultation a few days later.
Even though I was expecting some sort of issues to show up from the hair analysis, I was not expecting the list that I received. According to the analysis, Hershey had a number of imbalances, including in many minerals. He also had several disorders according to the biofeedback machine–three of which were ligament disorder, hormone disorder, and malabsorption syndrome.
The ligament disorder immediately made sense to me because in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the hooves are viewed an extension of the ligaments. So an imbalance within the ligaments could easily show up in the hooves.
The malabsorption syndrome was something that I’d heard of before (it’s common with older horses), but hadn’t considered as a possibility with Hershey. However, I began to see how this could, indeed, be one of Hershey’s major issues. Despite 24/7 access to pasture or hay, he’s always been a ‘hard keeper’. At age 22 now, I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise that the problem has gotten worse. I also thought about his feet again and why the cracks and poor hoof wall quality had remained after everything I’d done. If he wasn’t absorbing the custom supplements I was feeding, then of course his feet weren’t going to improve!
(by the way, when Pete Ramey trimmed Hershey at my workshop in January, he even wondered if Hershey weren’t absorbing the minerals I was feeding. . .)
The hair analysis results also showed a ‘perverse energy overload’–in particular from power tools and cell phone radiation. I found this interesting because my husband’s workshop is right next to the pasture. There is also a cell phone tower not far from our house. Of course, there’s not much I can do about these things though. . .
I did, however, want to focus on the things that I could possibly help with– the mineral imbalances and malabsorption syndrome. Karen suggested I first put Hershey on a zeolite/ silica supplement (Enviromin) for a gentle detox and then switch to free-choice mineral–specifically a brand called Big Sky–so that he could balance himself out.
I have to say that this was my biggest hang-up with all the results and advice she gave me. After all, I’d spent years learning about and preaching hay/pasture analyses and customizing minerals according to specific deficiencies in the forage. I was very leery about trying free choice minerals.
I did the detox supplement right away and reluctantly agreed to try the free-choice minerals. But after doing some research, I decided to go with a different (and fairly pricey) mineral because it had no added iron (ABC’s Rush Creek Mineral). My horses loved this mineral and I might have had good results with it, but I simply could not afford to keep feeding it. My four horses went through three 25 pound bags in about three weeks.
So after that, I went back to top-dressing minerals as I had previously done. But I still wasn’t getting anywhere with Hershey. . .
So finally, about two months ago, I said this to myself–you know, Casie–you’ve tried everything else under the sun and nothing has really worked. Why not take Karen’s advice and try the Big Sky Minerals? Could it really hurt?
So I decided to bite the bullet and order my first bag.
My horses have now been on Big Sky Minerals for about a month and a half and believe it or not, I am actually seeing some positive changes in Hershey’s feet for the first time! The mild but chronic thrush we’d constantly been battling has seemingly disappeared. (Lee Lee also suffered from mild thrush and it has cleared up as well.)
Hershey still has the vertical cracks in his feet, but I am daring to hope that the free choice minerals will help with those too. Only time will tell, I guess.
Hershey is also finally putting some weight back on and I’m very happy about that.
I promised Karen I would do this review when she did the hair analysis for me. I just wished I’d taken her advice sooner. The biofeedback analysis was definitely worth it and I’m also becoming a big fan of free choice minerals and Big Sky. As always though, I will keep you updated!
My favorite piece of advice from Karen was this though: Keep it simple. That’s what I’m now learning to do. Who knows, maybe my horses don’t need a micro-manager after all. . . 🙂
P.S.–if you’re interested in learning more about free choice minerals, I recommend reading this post.
Also, if you are interested in learning more about Karen and the hair analyses she does, please visit her website.