Carly Hillier explains what Zoopharmacognosy is and how it can help your horse.
Zoopharmacognosy - now, that’s a word you won’t see on the back of a Cornflakes packet when you sit down to breakfast. Whilst a bit of a mouthful, broken down the word translates as animals (zoo) + drugs (pharma) + cognitive knowing (cognosy), and describes the process by which animals self-medicate in the wild on plants, clays, algae and insects in order to restore and maintain health. Extensive studies have shown us that chimpanzees select certain plants as de-wormers, feral New Forest ponies chew charred furze bushes to detoxify, and elephants trek miles to mine for ancient sub-soils containing clay.
Given the opportunity, the domesticated horse will also employ this innate ability in order to restore and maintain health. Here at Whitethorn Equine Health, Ireland, this is our area of expertise, having helped many horses restore emotional and physical health by providing them access to medicinal plants in varying types of preparation. We offer - they select. This method of ‘offering and selecting’ is called Applied Zoopharmacognosy, and is becoming more commonplace in the equine industry as owners, trainers, breeders and professionals are experiencing the benefits of this new science. In fact, you may well see it on the back of the cornflakes packet sooner than you think!
So how can we use this innate ability to help our horses?
Have you ever started a new training method with your horse and found that initial spark of communication has petered out? In October's magazine, Phillippa Christie helps us find our way through these sticking points. In this follow on article Phillippa provides some helpful case studies.
CASE STUDY EXAMPLES
So, all the science sounds great and maybe a bit technical, but what does it look like in reality when we apply it? Here are a few scenarios you may relate to. Names have been changed, but these are real-life client examples.
EXAMPLE 2 – JUMPING OUT DILLAN
Sherri loves to jump her OTTB Dillan, but Dillan has been building up a habit of running out of fences. All the pain checks have been made, and his tack is fitting him well. I ask Sherri to warm up and show me some jumps. I notice on approach to every jump that Sherri uses a lot of leg pressure and sometimes Dillan jumps and other times he runs out. Sherri tells me her jumping coach encourages her to put her leg on coming up to every jump.
Buck Brannaman needs little introduction. A gifted teacher and horseman, we were lucky enough to have him visit with us again in June, at Aintree International Arena. Riders of all ages, on a variety of horses, spent three days learning from Buck, in what can only be considered horsemanship nirvana. I was fortunate enough to spend some time talking with Buck after the first day of the clinic. Candid, warm and humble, Buck shares his thoughts with me about life and horses.
Welcome, it is fantastic to have you back in the UK. This is your third visit now, how are you finding things upon your return this time?
Well you know, like anywhere that I have been a few times, I start to accumulate a few more friends each time I go, so for me that’s what makes me come back, because for me once I’ve seen somewhere, I don’t come back for the scenery. I live in Wyoming, people go there for the scenery, but I go for the horses and for the people and that’s what keeps me coming back.