Your guide to sustainable horsekeeping

The Green Horse section provides practical information on managing environmentally sustainable horse properties, readers stories and tips, as well as advice and articles from equestrian experts in their fields.

April May 2018
Vol 39 No 6

In this issue of The Green Horse you will find the following articles:

What do you recycle on your horse property?

Information Exchange -
What you feed and what you use as bedding can make a difference to the smells in your stable.

by Dr John Kohnke
As the water levels decrease, incidents of colic increase

by Water Quality Solutions

How biological control and aeration can improve the overall qulaity of your horse's water source.

Mark Brown -Envirapest
Consider energy consumption on the horse property and farm and how good design and a bit of thought to create an energy efficient, low carbon property.

Plan-IT Rural
The last in our series by Plan-IT Rural, covers bringing all the elements together and making a plan for your WHOLE PROPERTY

Global interest in finding simple, natural remedies for disease and disorders in people and animals sees constant expeerimentation and new discoveries.

share your equine related recycling ideas or property management tips and each issue one reader will win.

Send ideas to -
The Green Horse Support <>




by Wendy Elks

Charcoal has been identified as a potential new weapon in the fight against equine deaths from toxicity, arising from poisoning through the ingestion of seeds or as a result of toxic infection related to clinical illness.

Researchers have investigated how activated charcoal (a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption or chemical reactions) works in the presence of these particular Atypical myopathy (AM) toxins when inside the equine intestine by applying an established laboratory technique to fresh, healthy samples of horse intestine.

“Our study showed for the first time that the toxic amino acid can be bound to activated charcoal,” said Jessika-Maximiliane Cavalleri, DrMedVet, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, head of Equine Internal Medicine at the Equine Veterinary Clinic, University of Veterinary Medicine, in Vienna, Austria.

Activated (oxygenated) charcoal is highly porous, allowing liquids and gases to seep into it, essentially ‘trapping’ certain molecules as they pass through. Once trapped, they cannot enter the bloodstream during the digestive process. In the case of atypical myopathy (AM) - a mysterious yet often fatal illness, usually found in grazing horses (mostly in the autumn and spring), that weakens the muscles of the body and can present with sudden stiffness, muscle tremors, collapse and colic-like signs - the culprit toxins are Hypoglycin A (HGA) and methylenecyclopropyl acetic acid (MCPA)-carnitine and MCPA-glycine.

At a natural pH for the equine small intestine, activated charcoal is highly effective at absorbing HGA. As a result, it limits its release through the intestinal walls into the bloodstream, potentially reducing or even stopping the toxin’s capasity.

“This finding could help veterinarians react in a goal-oriented manner early in the disease course,” Cavalleri said. “By using activated charcoal to hinder toxin absorption, horses might not develop the severe signs if given early enough,” she said.

Once these toxins have already entered the system and led to severe symptoms, it might be too late for charcoal therapy to be effective. But activated charcoal is potentially a preventative measure for ‘co-grazers,’ or horses on the same pasture as clinically ill horses. Such horses might have ingested the same seeds and toxins, but are not yet showing clinical signs. Activated charcoal administration could help save their lives.

“If further studies confirm our findings, activated charcoal should be given as early as possible in cases where horses have ingested or possibly ingested the seeds (or leaves) responsible for AM,” Cavalleri said.

However, that doesn’t mean owners should start feeding charcoal to their pastured horses ‘just in case’.

Activated charcoal is a therapeutic product developed in a laboratory, a modified form of the charcoal used for building a fire. Additionally, charcoal binds not only toxins but also ‘good’ molecules, such as certain nutrients.

Administration of charcoal would need to be balanced, as, due to its high capacity for absorption, frequent treatment could result in deficiencies of trace elements over time.

Furthermore, unless the charcoal is suspended in liquid there is a risk of inhalation by the person administering the treatment. Since horses don’t like the taste of charcoal, nasal tubing by a veterinarian would be the mode of delivery, also reducing the dangers of inhalation for both horses and humans.
The signs are that activated charcoal could save horses’ lives in the future. Before giving concrete treatment recommendations, researchers will test the results of studies performed in live horses.




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