If it Quacks Like a Horse

Mrs Canard Noir has been looking after a friend’s horse for the last few weeks while the owners were on holiday. So, I too have been up at the yard pretending to help out, whilst actually being a bit scared by the big buggers.

Not actually riding, and preferring mine with frites, I had a little time to ponder what was going on around me. One thing I noticed was that owners were mixing up food and adding in this powder. What was that? Turns out it was a magnesium and herb food supplement that is supposed to calm stressed horses. Good grief! I had stumbled into a horse nutritionist’s lair.

Called Magic Magnesium Calmer, this supplement is,

important for the maintenance of healthy, relaxed muscle tissue, combined with herbs known to help stress and tension. Designed to be given on a daily basis to tense, highly-strung horses.

Looking at the web site of the manufacturer, NAF, it is impossible to tell this site apart from any human quack nutritionist selling food supplements -the same sort of claims about the need for supplementing diet, talk of research without sound references and talk of ‘naturalness’. Now, horses may well be calmed by a mix of magnesium, hops and passion flower, but I would be deeply suspicious of this claim and I would really like to see some good evidence. My guess is that this is just one more way horse owners are burning money.

Talking around, I hear that one of the visitors to the yard can perform Reiki on horses. Now, we are without doubt into ‘mad as a box of frogs’ territory. It got me thinking. Owning a horse requires a huge amount of spare cash if you are in full time work, or a lot of spare cash and a lot of spare time if you want to look after the beast yourself. Having that spare cash probably is a good indicator that you have even more spare cash. You are probably also constantly beset with health concerns about the ‘investment’ you call ‘Rosie’. And that is what quacks like: health concerns and spare cash. You could then predict that horse ownership should be saturated with quackery. So, I did a quick ten minute web review:

Reiki
Alison Hastie offers to ‘channel the Reiki energy’ for horses. We find from her site that this technique has been proven by NASA. Apparently, Alison can also dowse a horses’ chakras.

Homeopathy
This looks quite widespread. Apparently, according to the Alternative Horse Society, you have to treat the whole horse and not just their symptoms. The British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons has no trouble with its conscience when treating sick animals with magic pixie pills.

Magnetic Therapy
You can pick up magic healing magnets in many tack shops. The same old fruit loops, Bioflow, are in on the act with making a range of horse products.

Bach Flower Remedies
Now for nags too. Identify your horses emotion and pick the right label on the tiny bottle of cheap brandy. Keep a bottle of Rescue Remedy in your horse first aid kit.

Bioresonance
An electronic box to restore homeopathic energy balances to your animal’s vital force, or something.

Aromatherapy
Andy Barson tells us about using essential oils on horses. If you don’t have a horse, find a friend’s and practice on theirs.

and finally,

The Equine QLink
Those unrelenting scammers at qlink produce a lovely leather and brass fastening version to attach to your horse. Apparently, it improves its golf game no end.

And according to one owner at the yard, if the horse is too difficult/old/ill/expensive then the ‘alternative’ approach of ‘lead therapy’ is the route to go. This is an option not yet available on the NHS for humans.

After ten minutes work it looks as if horse ownership and quackery could form a whole blog in its own right. There is something particularly disturbing about animal quackery. Undoubtedly placebo and delusional forces are at work, but it is the owners getting the benefits of their own sloppy and wishful thinking. Somehow it feels especially disturbing to think about vets that dabble in homeopathy. Perhaps it is wrong to think so, but because the horse has no chance of reasoning its way out of being fooled and conned that the crime appears even worse. The horse is not complicit in its own suffering or loss. What does this say about our attitude to human quackery?

On this theme…

12 Comments on If it Quacks Like a Horse

  1. “mad as a box of frogs”
    Actually had me laughing out loud, thanks.

    Before you even got to this bit:
    Somehow it feels especially disturbing to think about vets that dabble in homeopathy. Perhaps it is wrong to think so, but because the horse has no chance of reasoning its way out of being fooled and conned that the crime appears even worse.” that’s what I was thinking. The poor sods can’t make an informed choice about what they’re taking.

  2. Jesus wept, it’s an unstoppable tide of nonsense, I tell thee.

    Though in my mind there seems to be a strong correlation between wealth and susceptibility to nonsense. we should investigate.

  3. I don’t know about the wealth-susceptibility link as I’ve sometimes been surprised at the number of people that I’ve met who don’t have much money but are happy to fork out for a telephone call to a spiritualist or faith healer…

  4. I am not sure if your wealth makes any difference to you susceptibility to quackery. I would guess though that it makes a difference to the quacks that target you.

  5. My GF rides and through her I see so much quackery it is unbelievable. I haven’t tried stopping her from using all of the supplements yet and that is the sensible end of the spectrum- her horses owner is so far out on the woo spectrum she makes the atlantis woman from the dawkins program look sane. Hair analysis (not scientific- dowsing hair samples)emotional freedom technique and knock off flower remedies are all regularly touted by her.

    Bioflow are regular stall holders at the horse shows, so if anyone fancies a good laugh i’d reccomend an hour or two at a show- you can laso chuckle at the sight of stroppy rich kids falling off thier horses.

  6. YOU CAN SAY WHAT YOU WANT, BUT REIKI IS VERY,VERY REAL. IT COMES FROM BUDHISM, PREDATING ALL OTHER RELIGIONS. I’VE MADE LOTS OF SKEPTICS INTO BELIEVERS, ESPECIALLY AT MY MASONIC LODGE AND THE ANIMAL SHELTER I VOLUNTEER AT.
    YOU SAY IT’S BULLSHIT, BUT PEOPLE HAVE ASKED ME TO STOP BECAUSE IT WAS TOO INTENSE/HOT FOR THEM. BEFORE YOU BASH SOMETHING PERHAPS YOU SHOULD TRY IT. IT IS ALSO ODD THAT YOU BASH BACH’S F.E.,WHEN LOTS OD DRUGS ARE DERIVED FROM LOTS OF PLANTS. DOCTORS ARE THE 3RD LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH IN THE U.S., I DON’T SEE THAT MENTIONED ANYWHERE ON YOUR SITE.

  7. @Lee,
    It has already been tried. Professor. Edzard Ernst who is probably the world’s leading expert on alternative medicine analyzed over 200 studies into Reiki. His conclusion:

    ” evidence is insufficient to suggest that reiki is an effective treatment for any condition. Therefore the value of reiki remains unproven.”

  8. Lee – You are an idiot.

    Reiki was invented in 1922 (according to the Miasmic Herald) so hardly predates all other religions.

    Certainly not the Buddhist religion – which you managed to spell incorrectly by the way.

    It was invented by some nutter who starved himself on top of a mountain for three weeks and presumably hallucinated it into existence.

    I dislike remote diagnossis of genuine medical problems but you are unbalanced if you think that doctors are the third major cause of death in the US.

    Did you realise that in the US firemen are one of the major causes of houses burning down and are involved in nearly 100% of all fires.

    Or is the causality wrong in both cases ?

    Do you actually realise that doctors tend to get involved with people who are ill, sick or injured – to varying degrees of severity. Of course some of them die – it is difficult to re-attach a severed head.

    And as for HY woo with respect to animals let me contribute my tuppenyha’penny worth.

    My partner and me breed pedigree Maine Coon cats. There is a lot of woo in the cat world – most of it relating to HY.

    The assumption on the part of the woo merchants is that cat owners will spend virtually any amount of money on Tiddles. This asumption is pretty much valid.

    I even know a breeder and judge (of cat competitions, not people) who actually works for a pharma and yet who gives her cats HY “remedies”.

    The reason for this is that the HY remedies cure the illness (usually arse/liquid poo related) within 72 hours. Doing nothing apparently cures it within 3 days. How about that for a well quantified paradigm of medical efficaciousness.

    I am not sure that all the vets who engage in HY hokum necessarily believe in it. I think some of them do it cynically because the pet owners want it.

    I looked around at vets for our cattery (because we spend a load of money with the vet)and asked them if they used HY treatments. Some said yes, some said “no, but we could do if you wished” (bit cynical that one). One laughed at me as if I was an idiot and told me I must be joking.

    Guess which one gets all my vets fees ?

    Good post Canard. Once again you have pinpointed one of the many rollers in the incoming tide of mumbo-jumbo and quackery.

    And shame on the morons who inflict this totally unfounded hokum on their animals.
    surf

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