So, let's get to the first tidbit from my nutrition class - I'm changing my vitamin E/Selenium protocol!
We've talked about Selenium and Vitamin E before, so if you need a refresher, go here.
Based on the results of Farley's blood selenium test at the time of the tie up (low end of normal), I started supplementing vitamin E and Selenium (in an organic yeast form since I was told this was the safest and most effective form). Raising the selenium levels was my primary concern, and I starting giving vitamin E because on a dried grass/hay diet, she probably was not getting sufficient levels.
Post-supplementation I've retested Farley several time with the results always reflecting an increase in Se levels - she is now in the top of the "normal" range. Her performance during endurance rides improved dramatically - I get A's on muscle tone, she's no longer as stiff, and I don't get comments from vets that she's moving "funny" on the hind end.
Seems rather simple right? I corrected a Se deficiency and reaped the expected benefits.
Turns out there's more to the story.
Organic Selenium is more bioavailable, HOWEVER the way it absorbs does not push selenium towards the pathway you want - for the muscle type disorders. It goes to an alternate pathway that can use Se, but is not essential (Se is one of several nutrients that can fulfill the requirements of that pathway) and has nothing to do with tye ups.
If you feed organic Se, you will see a blood level increase, just like I did - however, because that Se is not going to the antioxidant/muscle pathway involved in the tye up, the blood level means NOTHING and is NOT helping. Even though inorganic Se forms are less bioavailable, it turns out that the Se that is absorbed in this form is the form that goes towards the pathway involved in muscle/tye ups. As a bonus, the inorganic form is cheaper too.
So what about the changes I saw in Farley? The positive effects I was seeing (less stiffness, better muscle tone) was due to the VITAMIN E supplementation. Exclusively.
Turns out that you can actually replace much of any needed Se supplementation with vitamin E supplementation. And since vitamin E supplementation is much safer than Se supplementation, this is what the nutritionist recommends.
I was so shocked I actually confirmed this during class, and then spoke to her after class, just to make sure I had heard right. And I had. The organic Se wasn't doing a thing, causing a false rise in blood levels and that vitamin E that I had been throwing at her by the handful is solely responsible. Apparently these facts are well known in the nutrition world.
Sometimes you can do the right thing by mistake.
In summary, if you are feeding Se to reap the benefits of it's antioxidant activity in muscle, you have to feed the inorganic form. And there's a good chance you can avoid Se supplementation altogether if you supplement vitamin E instead.
I'm throwing out my selenium and just continuing with the vitamin E. Safer, cheaper, and simpler. Sounds good to me!
(this section below was originally at the beginning of the post, but I cut/pasted it here so that you could read about Selenium and skip all the philosophical stuff if you wanted :))
I love it when nutritionist come and teach our nutrition classes to a bunch of vet students.
Mostly there's a lot of complaining and whining. Some checking facebook and mostly complete silence when asked questions designed to check our understanding.
Since nutrition can be a bit dry (yes, even I, the nutrition
junkie can admit this) with tables and charts and numbers and equations
that may not be intuitive, I don't necessarily blame my classmates (who
will someday treat my horse and most of the time do an excellent job
doing so. ).
But as I looked around, realizing this was
the last nutrition that many of us would have before going into
practice, I wondered how comfortable I was taking nutritional advice
from a vet?
All throughout vet school I've heard how we
(vets) should be the primary source of all things animal related -
whether it's traditional medicine, or behavior, or nutrition - and
there's lots of discussion what place non-vet animal "specialists"
should have if any (behaviorist, non-vet chiropractors, nutritionists,
To be fair, it seems like most of these
discussions take place in the small animal world - with the large animal
world being a more harmonious place where vets, farriers,
nutritionists, trainers etc are expected to get along and use each
other. However, what do you do when the various specialists you employ
disagree on what should be done? Does one profession get to be primary
over the rest? What do you do when your really good farrier insists he
needs to nail on the corrective shoe for your foundered horse when your
vet told him specifically it needed to be glued in order to not
de-stabilize the foot? What about nutrition - a nutritionist is telling
you one thing and your vet is insisting on something else - how do you
decide what you will do for your horse?
At this point, I am more likely to take nutritional advice from a nutritionist than I am my vet, if the two disagree.
a general observation, I see the vets-to-be around me more interested
in fixing broken things. Learning about downed cows and treating
disorders caused by nutritional imbalances is considered "clinically
Gross nutritional disease is certainly
important. If I bring my horse in with equine metabolic syndrome, I want
my vet to know to be knowledgeable about nonstructural carbohydrates
and their effect on the syndrome, what hays tend to lower in NSC, and
what steps can be done to reduce NSC in hays.
But, there's a whole 'nother level of nutrition that goes beyond preventing or treating grossly abnormal clinical disease.
What about optimizing performance now and preventing more subtle
imbalances whose effects perhaps do not show up for another 20 years?
be fair, perhaps a very basic the level of nutritional knowledge is
what clients want and expect from their vet. I've been on the observing
side (as a boarder at a barn) of clients being told by the vet that they
need to change from a 100% California alfalfa diet to something with
more grass in it. "I've fed this way for 20 years without a problem!",
even though they are being faced with issues directly linked to that
100% alfalfa diet. Perhaps nutritional advice from a vet is seen as
unsolicited (fix my horse doc!) and vets are seen as a provider
of things that come the form of pills and bottles and needles.
Management of the animals is a personal subject and an implication that
management of the animals caused this problem can be seen as judgment or
Some vets, like feedlot vets, have a livelihood that is based on
knowing nutrition really really well and they are the exception to the
rule. But most vets seem willing to take what feed and kibble companies
tell them, rely on AAFCO certification, and be content in a basic
understanding of the gross needs of maintenance, growth, lactation to
prevent gross imbalances in the diet.
want to be the vet that is more focused on preventing problems before
they occur, optimizing performance in a working horse, and optimizing
quality and length of life in the geriatric horse from the day it's
born. Which means I want to be that vet who can answer nutrition
questions competently, and be able to have a detailed conversation with
a nutritionists without my eyes glazing over.
And THAT'S why I love when I get a nutrition class taught by a
Welcome to the Boots and Saddles blog. "Boots and saddles" describes a horse of(f) course - my experiences in the endurance world, as a veterinary student, and as a life long student of the horse. This blog is part of a larger endurance information site, which promotes renegade hoof boots and education for riders in their first 1000 endurance miles. I hope that you are entertained, informed, and inspired.
Funder: I swear, endurance is the sport of tying as much random crap on a dirty horse as possible, then riding til you chafe your thighs raw.
Elizabeth Funderburk: You're not tough just because you can destroy your body faster than everybody else around you. That is a ridiculously difficult thing for me to remember...You can be plenty tough without being dumb...
Bethany Faubel: Funder's right: being tough doesn't mean being damaged before you have a chance at senility. Otherwise, we would be calling all professional boxer/wrestlers not only tough but intelligent as well...
"Endurance is a series of small disasters, interspersed with larger disasters. The sport of endurance is your ability to solve and learn and prevent them. (and enjoy the process)"
AareneX on 2010 Goals:
"I will not be discouraged by setbacks in 2010, but will use them as training opportunities for successes in the future."
JB on Revelation 7 "More then just bruised ego's are at stake in endurance, as the horses whole life and well being is on the line".