Once again, Kentucky Equine Research is guilty of misleading the horse-owning public with another “research” article, thinly veiled as a supplement sales pitch.
Yes, those quotation marks are intentional. Moreover, we might suggest KER rebrand itself as KERDS, Kentucky Equine Research Dedicated to Sales.
Earlier this year, we called out KER for the egregious headline “Radios Cause Gastric Ulcers” and the associated article that suggested turning off the radio, not letting horses live together and out of stalls, would mitigate ulcer concerns.
In this article, “Possible Link Between Selenium and Cribbing Horses,” KER reported that researchers had found decreased levels of selenium in horses with that stereotypy. To solve that, KER nutritionist Kathleen Crandell states:
“Micronutrient imbalances can affect many physiological processes, which is one reason why KER nutrition advisors are available for free consultation. They can help with feed analysis, recommend ration fortifiers containing vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants such as Nano-E, a water-soluble, natural-source of vitamin E.”
We took a look at the research, led by a team in Iran. Yes, Iran! Just 20 horses (10 cribbers and 10 non-cribbers) were assessed. Yes, just 10 cribbers assessed! All the horses were kept in single stalls and most were stallions. Read the research here.
Yes, blood tests did indicate that cribbers had lower selenium levels. But, in fact, all 20 horses had selenium levels below recommended levels. And, get this: cribbers had lower cortisol levels than non-cribbers, a result not mentioned in the paper’s abstract nor in the KER post. Cortisol is the hormone associated with stress.
We take issue with the myopathy of the study and KER’s interpretation of it. Selenium and Vitamin E supplements are indeed recommended when pasture or hay lacks these nutrients. This Maryland study of over 200 horses found that most had adequate selenium levels.
But anyway, the Kentucky company message was as subtle as a brick to the head:
Quick, all owners of cribbing horses! Order your horses not one but three suggested supplements.
Here’s what we DO know about cribbing:
- It is most often the result of poor management practices, like keeping a horse stalled, isolated, and/or giving it grain, and
- Once a cribbing horse, always a cribbing horse. Supplements won’t change that.
- Cribbers are not more susceptible to digestive problems. Aside from marking up fences and stalls with their incisors and wearing down their incisors prematurely, nothing terrible will come from cribbing.
- As this review of cribbing research stated: “Increasing opportunities for horses to engage in natural foraging and social behavior is probably the best approach in attempting to prevent the development of crib-biting behavior and shows some promise for reducing frequency and duration of the behavior in established cribbers.”
To their credit, in the article’s last paragraph, KER mentions better management as a possible strategy to reduce cribbing. But from this reader’s perspective, it felt more like a weak disclaimer, a bit like SmartPak’s campaign for its own supplements. To paraphrase this Massachusetts company:
Yes, we acknowledge that letting horses move, be part of a herd, and eat just hay and/or grass is probably best, but you, dear customer, wouldn’t want to do that. Feel better about what you do for your horse by spending money on our supplements, blankets, and tack.
‘Cuz spending money always makes us feel as if we were better, more loving horse owners.