[While the occasion for this post is horse-related, these comments relate to all of the animals in our care.]
Here in Northern Illinois, a barn has been quarantined because of an outbreak of the Equine Herpes Virus (EHV), which is highly contagious and can be fatal. Two of the horses have already been put down.
Whenever disease sweeps through these large, commercial barns, my heart breaks a little.
While there is no vaccine for the herpes virus, more than one large veterinary practice in the area has urged horse caregivers to be sure to stay current on all shots (and they recommend a boatload of them) in order to strengthen their horses’ immune systems. When I read this advice, my head nearly exploded.
How does vaccination for other diseases boost your immunity against a disease for which there is no vaccine? This makes no sense. Further, much has been written by holistic veterinarians and researchers to support the view that vaccination, especially over-vaccination, can actually damage the immune system.
So what can we do?
While we cannot protect our beloved equines from all harm, we need to be more mindful of their natures, what they require for both physical and emotional health.
We need to feed our horses clean, healthy feed with properly balanced nutrients; make sure their water is free from contaminants; carefully detox their systems with professional guidance; allow them to experience the seasons and the rhythms of day and night–to walk and run in the sunshine and the snow, in the light and in the dark; to share the company of other horses; and to reduce the stress-producing practice of confining them to stalls.
With equines as with humans, immune system health begins in the gut. And so, perhaps most importantly, we need to reduce and manage gut acidity, which contributes hugely to ill health. This acidity is caused by the nitrates, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, and countless other pollutants in our air, water, and soil; by overly processed and sugar-laden feeds; by feeding large, concentrated meals instead of small amounts throughout the day and night; and by the stress caused by confinement.
While these are just some of the ways we can boost the immune systems of our beloved equines, I think they all boil down to one core principle: We must allow our horses to be horses by honoring their natures and their needs, and we must assist them with overcoming the environmental degradation that humans have allowed the greedy few among us to perpetuate.
I hope you will be moved to share your thoughts.
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