THE BACK STORY
I fell in love. It was that simple, the day that I met my 18.2 Dutch warmblood 6 year old. Those eyes, that scar below his left eye, just him really and I knew I had to rescue him. Against all advice, I wasn’t listening, he was bought and we welcomed home Mr Stretch.
Like everyone with a new horse or any horse for that matter, I wanted to feed him the very best. I set about calling all the feed companies to come up with the optimum diet for my new beloved pony. My horsey friends gave me plenty of their advice too and I finally came up with a plan and put it into action.
Within 6 months I was at my wits end. I was told I had bought a very big problem. In fact such was the problem that I was probably better off putting my beautiful boy out of his misery. Apparently he wasn’t wired correctly and there is no cure for that!
The problem was simple, at any time I could be hacking or schooling or worse, at a competition a red mist would descend. Stretch changed from a gentle giant into a whirling, broncing lunatic with no sense of self-preservation. Backing into barbed wired, throwing himself into ditches, the biggest broncs ever and for many metres. Sticky jods were the order of the day. You couldn’t get through to him and the safest place was on the ground and just to hang on to the reins for dear life until it subsided and my boy came back.
I refused to accept that my horse had a screw loose. I was convinced it was something else and despite veterinary advice to the contrary I started down the feed and supplement route. In all honesty my feed room looked like a tack shop. I had a gazillion tubs from pretty much every supplement company in the country and sacks from all the feed providers but nothing worked despite the promises from the many nutritionists I had had long and involved conversations with.
Despite my gut feeling I was beginning to believe that maybe the vet was right and there was something wired incorrectly in Mr Stretch’s head.
Then I met Antoinette Foster. She was in the UK on holiday, a nutritionist from Australia who owned a company called Hi Form that had been introduced to me by my now business partner, Alice.
She told me that she thought that she could help me. I have to admit to my eyes rolling in the back of my head, just one more in the long line of “experts” who were going to help and never did despite the thousand of £’s spent on their products.
She came to visit me. She met Mr Stretch and the first thing she did was ask to see my feed room. Embarrassed as there were so many sacks in there, I furtively said ok. She looked at each bag and said “Well I think your problem is sitting right here!”
I was transfixed for the next couple of hours.
As horse owners we are trying to do the very best for our horses, we love them usually beyond words and want only the very best. That is where they get us – every time.
I had never thought to question ingredients or to be honest to even look and if I had I probably would have just glanced over it not recognising the issues involved with many of the ingredients that are encompassed in each bag.
The first truth is our horses are strict herbivores – that means grasses, plants and herbs – anything outside of that is alien to their digestive system and it has been so for 2 million years. When you apply that logic to feed sacks you begin to realise that there is so much in there that does not adhere to what we should be feeding despite the marketing rhetoric.
Realisation dawned and I felt rather guilty and pretty stupid. Antoinette looked at me and said you are not the first and you will not be the last.
Once you are educated and in my case by a great and knowledgeable teacher then the world suddenly looks far less confusing and you are able to have the confidence to do what you know is right from an evolutionary perspective and have the guts to put it into action.
Yes I was laughed at, told I was completely bonkers, didn’t know what I was doing and I would cause Mr Stretch even more problems than he already had.
Over the next 10 days I transitioned my boy from processed food in bags back to a diet specifically for a herbivore. We had a bit of stomping hooves as the sugar he was addicted to was reduced but overall he was mostly accepting of the new regime.
I was going back to the old days, straights, the way my Dad taught me to feed that I had moved on from in the face of “nutritional progress”!! Allowing me to feed my boy to his workload and make the tweaks I needed to make as we upped workload, or reduce it as he was having a holiday.
I had always fed ad lib hay and this continued when he wasn’t turned out.
Having never really seen supplements do the miracles they were supposed to perform I wasn’t really up for adding them. Antoinette took me into great detail as to why we need to supplement our horses on a daily basis.
I look at 2 as essentials to the welfare and management of my horses. To me they are not supplemental but a necessity for life after all that I am asking my horses to do for me. Like any athlete they need to be supported correctly.
Oxydane entered my management regime. Just a scoop a day to provide Mr Stretch with all the vitamins, minerals, amino acids and base electrolytes he requires every day of his life. ProflamAid Plus too to assist in the support of his entire (and very large) musculoskeletal system. We event and I need to support him through everything I am asking him to do for my enjoyment (and his to be fair).
In the last 9 years I have never had a reoccurrence of the very frightening episodes that I had been subjected to on a weekly and often daily basis. My beautiful, sweet gentle giant remains that way every day though like any flight animal there occasions where something frightens or spooks him, a quick pat to remind him Mum is here and it evaporates, not like before.
Yes, Mr Stretch was highly sensitive to many of the ingredients in those bags. His microbiome was completely out of kilter, we simply corrected the balance and my horse changed beyond all recognition. Not all horses are as sensitive it is true but we do believe that feeding ingredients to our equines that they have not evolved to eat is neither correct or right.
If I reflect it back to myself, I do eat fairly healthily but I can fall off the rails occasionally by grabbing a quick bit of junk food (I usually wish a few hours later that I hadn’t!) but the difference is I can choose to do so. Our horses are completely reliant on us to make the right choices for them.
I was so horrified by what actions I had been contemplating through sheer ignorance, education and lack of understanding that I changed my life. It sounds very dramatic when you write it but it is true.
Out went the globe trotting high flying corporate job in the Tech industry.
In came the birth of Hi Form UK and a little embryonic business with my new business partner Alice.
Her story is very similar, Antoinette saved her horse’s life too. MooMoo had impaction colic every year resulting in massive vets bills until Alice took Antoinette’s advice and made the switch.
Not only did Antoinette life the veil from our eyes with regards to feeding but also to the world of supplements. We were educated and if you speak to us we will always pass on our education to you.
There is a huge difference between tech grade ingredients and pharma grade (human grade) ingredients, vast numbers of horse supplements use fillers and bulking agents to disguise cheap ingredients, the knowledge of formulation and how ingredients work together, the list is endless.
With Hi Form the checks and balances are all there for you to see. HACCP certification means that the product is a made in a human facility – you can’t do that if you aren’t using ALL human grade ingredients. FEEDSAFE is the Australian Equivalent to our UK Scheme but is very stringent indeed.
My journey changed my life completely. Alice and I are passionate about what we do having both come from where we have come. We set out to assist a few horses and it has grown from there but the ethos is solid, we want to help and we will if you will let us.
We cannot do magic, we don’t do miracle, quick fixes don’t exist but we can provide you with solid, logical nutritional advice from some of the best nutritionists, medical herbalists and clinical nutritionists in the business, our Australian colleagues.
By nourishing our horses in the way nature intended, providing them with the essential nutrients they need daily to flourish and be healthy, we are already on a much better path to longevity and long happy lives. Mr Stretch would agree.