All posts by Tigger Montague

Contaminated Feed and Supplements

Contaminated Feed and Supplements

Recently, the dressage community was shocked to learn that two well-known rider/trainers were suspended by the FEI based on drug testing of two horses who tested positive for the banned substance ractopamine.  Positive FEI drug tests in US dressage horses are extremely rare.  The last positive test was Courtney King-Dye in 2008, which was a result of topical contamination.

In this most recent case, when the riders and owners of the two horses were notified of the test results, they immediately compared information on what their horses were fed.  The common denominator was the feed.

This medication is approved in the US for pigs, turkeys, and cattle to build muscle and size.   Nearly 160 nations ban or restrict the use of this drug during pig production, including the EU, Russia and China.

Ractopamine belongs to a class of drugs called beta agonists that were developed to treat asthma and adapted for animal use when they were shown to boost growth rates by increasing protein synthesis.  The drug clenbuterol, used for COPD and other airway diseases, is also a beta agonist drug.  The FDA has linked ractopamine to nearly a quarter million reported adverse events in pigs — more than any other animal drug.

According to the Cornucopia Institute, the controversial drug is used in as many as 80% of all American pig and cattle operations. In cattle production, the drug is administered during the days leading up to slaughter.  Other drugs used in cattle and hogs require a clearance period of two weeks to ensure the compounds are flushed from the body prior to slaughter.  However, there is no clearance period required for ractopamine.

Other contaminants
While ractopamine was the illegal substance found in the urine samples of the two dressage horses, cases of other contaminated feeds include monensin (sold under the trade name Rumensin) which is a polyether antibiotic classified as an ionophore.  It is promoted to the cattle industry for improving weight gain.  Like ractopamine, monensin is added as a premix to pelleted and bulk feeds.

Monensin is toxic and deadly to horses in trace amounts.  Once a horse has ingested monensin, the damage is irreversible and treatment is supportive.  Symptoms of monensin toxicity include colic, sweating, muscle wasting, bloating, kidney failure, damage to the heart muscle, respiratory distress, stiffness and inability to stand.

Zilpaterol (trade name Zilmax) is another member of the drug family of beta agonists, like ractopamine.  It is used primarily in the beef industry to put more weight on cattle before slaughter.  Zilpaterol is not a health safety issue for horses, but is a banned substance.

How common is feed contamination?
A journey down the rabbit hole illuminated me to the fact that contamination is not as rare as one would hope.  From 2013 to 2016 there has been a total of 221 reported deaths, injuries, and positive drug tests from contaminated equine feeds, not including the positive drug tests from several Canadian provinces whose precise numbers I was unable to locate.  What we don’t know is the number of horses possibly exposed to ractopamine who were never tested.

The US is not the only country that faces feed contamination.  In September, 2015, two Swiss jumper riders were finally declared “No Fault” by the FEI after their horses tested positive for morphine and codeine. The riders were able to establish a case of contamination by feed company Swissfritz.  The feed had been contaminated with poppy seeds.

The Queen of England’s second place Ascot winner, Estimate, tested positive for morphine in 2014.  Poppy seeds contain minute amounts of morphine and codeine.  The contamination came from poppy seeds entering the supply chain during harvesting, processing, transport or storage.  For eight horses that returned a positive test for morphine, contamination was traced back to feed sold by Dodson & Horrell Feed Company.  According to the British Horseracing Authority, no penalty was imposed on the trainers; however, the horses were disqualified.

Here is a list of feed contamination cases made part of the public record in the US from 2013 to 2016:

• Western Milling, a California feed manufacturer, sold monensin-contaminated equine feed that killed or severely injured 50 horses. (2015)
• Lakeland Animal Nutrition, an Alltech company, produced adulterated equine feed (monensin) that killed eleven horses. (2014)
• A class action suit on behalf of over 100 horse-feed purchasers has been brought against Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM) and ADM Alliance Nutrition. The plaintiffs seek damages of over $5 million for fraud, negligent misrepresentation and product liability.  Of the 19 horses that tested positive for monensin poisoning, nine had to be euthanized. (2016)
• An out-of-court settlement was reached between Kalmbach Feeds Inc. (Tribute Equine Nutrition) and the plaintiffs over contamination of Tribute feed that killed the plaintiffs’ Percheron horses. The feed tested positive for monensin. (2016)
• The US Department of Justice filed an enforcement action against Syfrett Feed Company Inc. of Okeechobee, Florida. Seventeen horses died in 2014 from eating the pelleted horse feed. (2017)
• The Canadian Pari-Mutuel Agency issued a warning regarding the drug ractopamine appearing in feeds. Following several positive tests in Ontario, the Ontario Racing Commission undertook an investigation that found ractopamine in batches of horse feed.  Similar findings were reported in Alberta and Quebec.  The standardbred trainers whose horses had tested positive for ractopamine were cleared at their hearings, and not assessed penalities resulting from contamination of the feed. (2014)
• Forty-eight race horses in California tested positive for zilpaterol in a number of Purina Animal Nutrition sweet feed products manufactured in Turlock, California. The feeds affected were Purina Race Ready, Purina Strategy, Purina Omoline-200, Country Acres Horse Feed and Country Acres Sweet-12. (2013)
• Thoroughbred racehorse trainer Kelly Von Hemel was found blameless by the Prairie Meadows Board of Stewards when two of his horses rested positive for ractopamine. He was able to prove the contamination originated from a batch of Triple Crown 14% Racing Performance feed produced at the Consumers’ Supply Distributing mill in North Sioux City, South Dakota.  The mill admitted that it ran cattle feed supplemented with ractopamine prior to the production run of Triple Crown horse feed. (2016)
• Bartlett Milling recalled two of its equine feeds because of possible monensin contamination. The feeds were distributed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. (2014)
• Nutrena Feeds has stated that it is conducting an investigation of contaminated feed made in LeCompte, Louisiana that killed one barrel racing horse and sickened another. As of this writing, no more information has been made available about this investigation. (2016)
• Three horses died at Camelot Farms on St. Helena Island, South Carolina from feed contaminated with monensin. The feed was supplied by ADM Alliance. (2014)

Supplement contamination
While far more rare than feed contamination, supplements can also be contaminated.

British endurance rider Christine Yeoman was suspended by the FEI in 2008 when her horse tested positive for ractopamine.  Traces of the drug were found in her supplement, Neigh-Lox, produced by Kentucky Performance Products.  Yeoman spent over $200,000 dollars to clear her name and win an unprecedented ruling from the FEI.

There’s also the famous 2009 case, where a vitamin/mineral supplement prepared by a compounding pharmacy killed 21 polo ponies because the supplement contained toxic levels of selenium.

How does contamination occur?
One of the most common avenues of contamination comes from running medicated livestock feeds and then equine feeds through the same machinery without proper cleaning of the hopper and the lines.  Without a thorough protocol for cleaning, disinfecting, and decontaminating the machinery between runs, traces of ractopamine and monensin can remain, and even traces can lead to disaster down the line.

Sometimes mills will simply run flour through the hopper and lines to “clean” them before running equine feeds. There is also the unhappy employee, who either intentionally or due to laziness, lack of sleep, or too many drinks the night before doesn’t follow protocol.  Sloppy protocol and human error are both huge contributors to contamination.

Because of the sophisticated testing used by the FEI and racing commissions, ractopine can be detected at levels as low as 0.01 ppm.  Many feed mills, however, only test their products for ractopine levels higher than 0.50 or 0.60 ppm.  This is one of the big challenges facing the feed industry; their “acceptable” levels of contamination are set too high.

Transportation and storage can also contribute to contamination.  To address this, some companies claim to have set up transportation safety protocols including truck pre-load inspections and a feed safety protocol for the transport of bulk feed ingredients.  If a shipping company truck has carried anything not found on the feed mill’s  list of acceptable loads, the truck is not used.  Some companies also have instituted a policy of not shipping finished feeds in bulk, but only in bags, to prevent possible contamination.  However, many ingredients and premixes that mills receive from their suppliers are still shipped in bulk — not in bags.

How can we reduce the risk of feeding contaminated feeds?
Purchase feed from a company whose mills only produce horse feed. Unfortunately, these mills are rare, as most mills that make horse feed also make livestock feed, particularly medicated livestock feed.

  • Buy organic feed; mills that are certified organic cannot run medicated feeds.
  • Non-GMO ingredients are important for overall horse health, but can still come from facilities that make medicated feeds. A mill that provides a dedicated, medication-free production line for their equine feeds is still at risk when there are medications on the premises.
  • Component feeding can reduce risk, as you are buying individual feed components that are often milled in facilities that only mill rice, or oats, or coconut, or wheat or forage. For example, rice bran is milled in rice mills. These mills only mill rice products.
  • Dehydrated foods like coconut meal, timothy pellets/cubes and alfalfa pellets/cubes are available from companies that only mill coconut or forages or certified organic ingredients (Cool Stance, Standlee, New Country Organics).
  • Companies such as Renew Gold have their equine products made in specific facilities: one in California and one in Ohio, neither of which make any medicated feeds or keep any medication on the premises. Renew Gold has their raw ingredients bagged before transport to production, and then bagged immediately after the production run.
  • Check with the feed company about the transportation protocols used for their individual ingredients. Do not underestimate the risk of contamination coming from ingredients transported in bulk, not bags.
  • Remember, mills are testing their own feeds for contamination at much more lenient “acceptable” levels than the testing labs of federations and racing commissions. This means that companies need to start lowering their threshold of acceptable contamination. For those of us in the equine industry, the only acceptable level is zero.

Other contaminants
There are other contaminants to be aware of: mold, mycotoxins, and heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, lead, aluminum) can be found in individual feed components like rice bran (arsenic), corn  (mycotoxins), and seaweeds (arsenic, lead, aluminum).  The use of fertilizers and pesticides in agriculture increases the concentration of heavy metals, including excess iron.

Rice bran is a popular food for horses, but check with the company you purchase rice bran from to find out where the rice bran is grown.  Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Arkansas have the highest arsenic levels.  California has the lowest.  Imported rice from India and China has lower levels of arsenic than rice from the southern US states.  Brown rice, which is the source of rice bran, is more affected than white rice because the bran is where much of the arsenic is absorbed.

Companies that use kelp and seaweeds in their feeds or supplements should have a certificate of analysis (COA) on file that shows the levels of trace elements like arsenic in their product.  As a consumer, it is your right to request copies of a COA if you want verification of a company’s low trace element claim.

Supplement contamination
The good news is that equine supplement contamination via livestock medication is rare.  This is due to the fact that many equine supplements are not made in feed mills that produce medicated feeds.   It is important to check with companies you purchase supplements from and find out if their products are made in feed mills.   Some feed companies also supply supplements, so it is very important to find out if those feed company supplements are made in livestock feed mills.

Supplement companies that outsource their production to contract manufacturers (in other words, they don’t make their products in-house) can have less control over their raw material and the quality of the ingredients than supplement companies who make their own products.

A list of animal and veterinary product recalls and withdrawals from the market can be found on the Food and Drug Administration’s official website here.  The list is updated weekly, and you can also sign up for regular email notifications from this page.

A quick perusal showed that from Jan-April, 2017, there were 11 recalls mostly of dog and cat food, but one for rabbit pellets.  One dog food brand was recalled for the presence of the drug phenobarbital.

Big Agriculture and feed
There was a time not so long ago when livestock and horse feed was simply mixed grains made in local mills, often from locally grown corn, oats, and barley.   The advent of complete feeds added another component: vitamin/mineral premixes.  But the rise in corporate, concentrated animal feeding operations brought the need to medicate thousands of animals kept in confinement. Thus began the era of medicated additives and medicated feeds, as concentrated feeding operations looked to the pharmaceutical industry for medications used to increasing the weight and size of their animals before slaughter.

In 2016, the global medicated feed additives market was estimated at $11.16 billion.  Medicated feed concentrates — substances mixed with other feed materials to form a complete feed or as part of a feed supplement — are now estimated to represent the fastest growing segment of the market.

Another component of Big Ag is size.  Over time, we have lost many of our small local and regional feed companies and mills because they were either swallowed up by Big Ag or unable to compete.  What this has done is condense our feed supply, almost centralizing it to only a few big players.  Think of the Big Ag companies as gigantic aircraft carriers: hard to quickly maneuver and slow to change course, even when a course change is essential.  We consumers have become reliant on convenience, which complete feeds provide.  But we are now beginning to see that the convenience may put our horses, dogs, and ourselves at risk.  Big Ag is not just the producers and purveyors of animal and pet feed; the livestock they feed are the meats we eat.

Too big to fail? Following the bread crumbs…
There once was a company named Ralston Purina, founded in 1894.  Purina Mills was the animal feed division of Ralston Purina that was sold in 1986 to British Petroleum, who then sold it to Sterling Group of Houston in 1993, and then to the Koch Brothers in 1998, and finally to Land O’ Lakes in 2001.  Ralston Purina spun off its international feed business as Agribrands, which Cargill acquired in 2001.  Cargill also owns Nutrena and Progressive Nutrition.

Also in 2001, Ralston Purina (now primarily a pet food company) merged with Swiss food giant Nestlé.  This merger gave Nestlé ownership of the Purina “chow” brand names, which are now licensed to Purina Mills (Land O’ Lakes) by Nestlé.  Outside the US, Nestlé licenses those branding rights for animal feeds to Cargill, Ltd.  In Canada, for example, Purina Dog Chow is a Cargill product.

A brief perusal of recent recalls for livestock feeds yields these instances related to Purina Mills:

  • July 13, 2012: Purina Fish Chow recall (for elevated levels of vitamin E)
  • July 26, 2012: Purina Poultry Feed recall (for a lack of vitamin D)
  • April 16, 2014: Purina Poultry Feed recall (for potential health risks from inadequate vitamin/mineral levels)
  • February 23, 2015: DuMOR (a brand licensed by Purina Mills to Tractor Supply Co.) Sheep Feed Formula recall (for high copper)
  • June 24, 2016: Purina Medicated Sheep Feed recall (for high copper)


Now let’s take a look at Cargill, who has the distinction of being the largest exporter of palm oil from Indonesia and New Guinea (they own the five largest palm oil plantations in those countries).  Cargill is also the largest US importer of palm oil.  They have destroyed 83,000 hectares (205,097.46 acres) of rainforest, causing massive disruption of habitat for elephants, orangutans, and Sumatran tigers.

This is not Cargill’s first deforestation effort. In the Amazon region of Brazil in the early 2000s, they played a large role in the destruction of the rainforest for soy plantations.  The soy was primarily for animal feed.

A brief perusal of Cargill-related recalls yields these instances:

• December 14, 2011: poultry, calf, whole and cracked corn products recalled due to aflatoxin contamination from the Lecompte, Louisana plant (the same plant where the suspected monensin contamination of one of their equine feeds occurred in October, 2016)
• July 16, 2012: recall of WellSolve due to elevated vitamin D levels
• March 7, 2012: recall of goat feed because it was not labeled for the medication decoquinate, which is not approved for lactating goats
• April 10, 2013: recall of S-Series lamb feed because of incorrect sodium molybdate levels
• March 5, 2013: recall of ruminant mineral products that were deficient in vitamins A, D, and E
• December 2, 2013: recall of Nutrena NatureWise Meatbird Feed and NatureWise Chick Starter Grower (manufactured at facilities in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas) due to incorrect levels of calcium
• July 2, 2014: recall of Nutrena NatureWise Meatbird Feed due to excess levels of sodium

These items were all found on the first page of Google search results for Cargill recalls.  I didn’t bother to go to page two.

Where do we go from here?
Despite the speed of the internet and the connectivity it provides, the equine community is largely separated between disciplines.  I spoke recently with a couple of barrel racers who had no idea that ractopamine had shown up in a routine drug test of two dressage horses.  Likewise, I had no idea about the two barrel-race horses who died from monensin contamination last year.  Nor did I know about the Canadian standardbred horses, or the American thoroughbred race horses who tested positive for ractopamine.  Contamination of feed is a problem for all of us in the horse world.  But we need to share facts, not hyperbole.

We need to stand up for changes to Big Ag which require: a zero- tolerance stance toward medication residue in feeds; that equine feeds be made in medication-free facilities; that non-bagged bulk ingredients be tested for medication residue and other contaminants by load when they arrive at the mill before being blended into complete feed formulas.

We need to demand fixed-formula feeds, which list the ingredients specifically.  One of the challenges of assessing feeds is that variable formulas don’t list ingredients on company websites, and that variable formulas change —weekly or even daily — according to the cheapest combination of ingredients available.  The guaranteed analysis doesn’t change, but the ingredient combinations do. If ingredients on the bag of feed are listed generally as “processed grain products,” this can mean a number of different grain byproducts.

We need to demand organics, particularly of the feed ingredients most susceptible to glyphosate exposure: soy, alfalfa, corn, rice, sunflower seeds, flax, sugar beets, wheat, and molasses.

We need to stop accepting contamination as “business as usual.”  There are so many recalls on the FDA site for food in general that it boggles the mind. Admittedly, some of the infractions are labeling issues such as undeclared soy in a chocolate product or undeclared milk in a marinara sauce.  But many other infractions include Listeria and E. coli contamination in human food products.

The Big Ag facilities process huge amounts of food products and animal feeds, increasing exponentially the chances for contamination, whether it be beef thyroid hormone or pentobarbital in dog food or ractopamine or monensin in horse feed.

It’s time to demand more of the feed industry.  We cannot accept the status quo.

References to help you stay on top of the feed industry:


Team BioStar Welcomes Kelly Soleau-Millar!

Welcome Kelly Soleau-Millar, new member of the Biostar Team of riders!

Kelly Soleau-Millar started her horses on a whole food diet with BioStar supplements eight years ago.  I have watched as she has taken two young horses, Centre Ice and Itty Bitty, up through the jumper ranks to the grand prix.  I have watched her schooling, and I have watched her in the warmup and in the competition ring. What has always struck me about her as a rider is not simply her classic equitation and effective, soft riding, but the flow of her horses.  She is one with them.  What has always impressed me about Kelly is that she is a consummate horse woman; the horses come first and no detail is overlooked in the management and well-being of the horses in her care.

In August, 2014, Kelly won her first grand prix (the Grand Prix in Caledon, Ontario) on Centre Ice.  Only two riders qualified for the jump-off that day: Kelly and her soon-to-be husband Jonathon Millar, whom she then married in December, 2015.

Kelly is an integral member of Ian Millar’s Millar Brooke Farm team of Perth, Ontario. The team includes: Ian, one of the legends in international show jumping who has competed in more Olympic Games than any other athlete in history; his daughter Amy Millar, who has more than 25 grand prix wins to date; and his son Jonathon Millar, who has been a member of the Canadian Show Jumping Team for 20 years.  Kelly has over 30 years in the saddle, beginning in lead line and short stirrup to pony hunters, children’s hunters, junior hunters, equitation, children jumpers, junior jumpers, amateur owner jumpers and now grand prix and world cup qualifiers.

Recently Kelly turned professional, which allowed BioStar to sponsor her.  Given a choice of BioStar products, she chooses Circuvate EQ.  She has been a long-time user of BioStar’s Furnace EQ because she understands the importance of healthy circulation — not only for healing, but for the oxygen benefits needed by performance horses.  Circuvate is the next generation of circulation enhancers that can increase the master molecule of circulation, nitric oxide, by as much as 50%.

Beyond all her talents as a rider and a horsewoman, Kelly is a warm, compassionate, humble, strong woman whose inner light radiates.  For the person she is, and her great skills and horsemanship, I am proud to welcome her to Team Biostar.


Team BioStar Kelly Soleau-Millar

Bovine Colostrum Ethics and industry by BioStar US

The Industry and Ethics of Bovine Colostrum

Bovine colostrum is an important therapeutic food for horses and dogs.  It provides over 70 different growth factors for tissue repair, and over 80 immune factors.  These immune factors include the immunoglobulins and the proline-rich peptides (PRPs).  PRPs regulate the thymus — the master gland of the immune system.   Regulation of the immune system is important, as the body is constantly seeking homeostasis, or balance.  An immune system that is already stimulated, as in the case with allergic reactions, does not need more stimulation.  Likewise, an immune system not fully responding to an invading virus may need to be stimulated.  The PRPs in bovine colostrum help modulate and balance the immune system according to the body’s needs.

Colostrum production
Dairy cows produce more colostrum than their calves require.  Mature dairy cows can produce 80-100 pounds of colostrum in four days and calves consume a third of that amount.  China, the US, and Europe are the three main human-use markets, particularly in the area of sports nutrition.  The Chinese have been using colostrum for human wellness for generations and are far ahead of the Americans and Europeans in using this food.

Grades of colostrum
Similar to how viable probiotics are measured in colony-forming units (CFUs), bovine colostrum is measured in terms of the percentage of antibodies—or immunoglobulins—that it contains.  The specific immunoglobulin measured in bovine colostrum is called immunoglobulin G, or IgG for short.

Bovine colostrum used as milk replacement for foals provides the highest IgG level at 40% or more.  The most common colostrum supplements available typically provide 15% IgG content.  BioStar’s Colostrum-38 EQ and Colostrum-38 K9 formulations both provide 38% IgG content.

Additives to colostrum
Some companies add soy, silicon dioxide (or silica), marine coral and, if in capsule form, gelatin and magnesium stearate.  Some colostrum supplements for dogs and horses also include hydrogen peroxide as a preservative.  BioStar does not use any additives.  Our colostrum is 100% colostrum.

The ethics of bovine colostrum: Where is it coming from?
With the growing popularity of bovine colostrum supplements for humans as well as for animals, companies are free to add colostrum to a product without revealing much about the strength of their colostrum, its source, or the ethics of collecting it.  This is where consumers have to do a little digging to find out more about the colostrum they are purchasing.

Few companies reveal how their colostrum is collected.   Across the spectrum of bovine colostrum supplements for humans, horses, cows and dogs, many companies don’t know how their colostrum is collected, or the care and condition of the cows and calves.  Colostrum, for some companies, is simply a commodity ingredient.

When I first started studying bovine colostrum eight years ago, the ethics of taking colostrum from cows was deeply disturbing.  How could I take away the important first milk of a newborn calf?  I also was deeply concerned about the care of the cows and calves.  Were these animals treated like cows in the corporate agriculture dairy industry?

During my research I could not find one US source of colostrum that fit my ethics.  I broadened my search to New Zealand,  India, and Canada.  New Zealand has very high standards of animal welfare, much higher than the US.  In India, of course, cows are treated like family; there are Hindu festivals honoring the animals.  Canada has banned the popular rGBH growth hormone for dairy cows, as has the EU and New Zealand.

Some companies collect the colostrum within the first six hours of birth, potentially robbing the calf of the important first milk of the mother.  That is not a practice I personally can live with.  Some dairy companies take the calf away from its mother 24 hours after birth — a practice I personally find inhumane and traumatizing.

What are the living conditions of the cows?
Colostrum is an important therapeutic food whose quality depends on the quality of the cows’ lifestyle.  It was of utmost importance to me that I find a source of bovine colostrum that came from cows that are grass-fed, pasture-raised, and fed a GMO-free diet.   The cows had to be rBGH-free and antibiotic-free. It was imperative that the cows not live in a factory animal facility, so I sought out small dairy cooperatives, searching for a sustainable and ethical source of colostrum.

Biostar’s colostrum
There are different methods of processing colostrum, including freezing or high temperature processing, and spray drying.  The small company BioStar works with in Canada collects colostrum after the first 24 hours of calving and processes the colostrum the same day without having to use rapid freezing and rapid thawing techniques, which can cause damage to protein molecules and compromise the biological activity of the ingredients in colostrum.  This low temperature collection method used by our Canadian supplier is the same technique used in New Zealand.  The colostrum is then flash-pasteurized and freeze-dried using low temperatures to maintain the bioavailability of the colostrum.

BioStar Colostrum K9

BioStar’s colostrum is collected from several small organic dairy cooperatives in eastern Canada.  These dairy cows are pasture-raised, grass-fed, rBGH-free and antibiotic-free. The calves stay with their mothers, because cows produce better milk when they can keep their calves. A stressed cow produces stressed milk.

Using colostrum
Having studied and used colostrum for eight years has not made me a bovine colostrum expert, but has given me knowledge and experience in how to use this amazing food for the best results. Some key applications and points to consider:

  • Colostrum is therapeutic. For the immune system, it should be used to support homeostasis.  We want the body system to maintain its own homeostasis; however, sometimes the body needs the help of colostrum therapy before it is able to maintain a healthy balance on its own. Once homeostasis has been achieved, colostrum is not required or needed.  If a horse or dog has ongoing autoimmune issues, immune system compromises, or chronic immune challenges then colostrum is needed every day.
  • With conditions such as equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM) or Lyme disease, colostrum is beneficial in supporting the immune system during treatment. Horses and dogs that experience stress-related immune issues benefit from colostrum during periods of stress.
  • For tissue repair, wound healing, and cellular GI tract healing, colostrum provides the important growth factors for cellular repair. Once the healing is completed, colostrum is no longer needed.
  • For muscle restoration from training stress, colostrum helps with the important recovery period. But on days that the horse is worked lightly or completely rested, there is no need to give colostrum.
  • When horses are fighting viruses, colostrum is an important food to help the antibodies fight the invader. Once the horse or dog has recovered, you can stop the colostrum.
  • The amount of colostrum needed for efficacy depends on the IgG percentage. The higher the IgG content, the more potent the colostrum is.
  • Some senior horses and senior dogs can benefit from daily colostrum if they have ongoing issues. But a healthy horse or dog does not need daily colostrum until an issue arises. If your horse or dog has no ongoing or chronic issues, giving colostrum is of little benefit.  Colostrum is food support to the body system when the body needs additional support and balancing.


Trees, Mice and Lyme Disease

Two researchers in the Hudson River Valley* have identified an early warning system for Lyme disease; they can predict how many cases there will be a year in advance by looking at one key measurement: the number of white-footed mice.

Mice are highly efficient transmitters of Lyme. They infect up to 95% of the ticks that feed on them, and are responsible for infecting the majority of ticks carrying Lyme in the Northeast.  As one of the researchers, Dr. Rick Ostfeld, points out, “Ticks love mice.  An individual mouse might have 50, 60, even 100 ticks covering its ears and face.”

Lyme disease cases in humans in the US more than doubled from 2001 to 2015.  One of the reasons for this Lyme explosion, according to Ostfelt, is climate change and the associated surge in mice populations. But another huge factor, he says, is something that happened 200 years ago.

Clear-cutting the forest
When Europeans came to this continent they clear-cut nearly all the forests to plant crops and raise livestock.  They also cleared trees for commercial use including ship-building,  housing, and firewood. In her book Barkskins, Annie Proulx highlights the destruction of North American old-growth forests by the French and English colonists. Building one English ship took 20 acres of pine trees.

Although the forest has come back in places, it is not what it was 200 years ago.  Today the forest is broken into little pieces by roads, farms, and housing developments.  Areas of patchy woods, common in cities and suburban areas, are not the forests that support predators such as foxes, hawks, and owls who need big forests to survive. These areas are now known as fragmented forests, which have become a boon for the mice.

According to the researchers, “all these little patches of forest dotting the Northeast have basically turned into Lyme factories, spilling over with infected ticks.”

Forests patches smaller than three acres had an average of three times more ticks than larger fragments, and seven times more infected ticks. According to the National Science Foundation, as many as 80% of the ticks in the smallest patches were infected—the highest rate scientists have seen.  The ticks may also be infected with other emerging diseases: babesiosis, anaplasmosis and Powassan encephalitis.

One study suggests that increasing the size of forests and avoiding fragments smaller than five acres could help reduce the spread of Lyme.

The mouse and tick connection
Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi.  Ticks get infected with B. burgdorferi through a host. The most prolific hosts are eastern chipmunks, shrews, and especially white-footed mice—the principle natural reservoirs for Lyme disease bacteria.  They infect between 40% and 90% of tick feeding larvae.  Ticks have three life stages: larva, nymph, and adult.  When ticks hatch into larvae, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is not present.  But for the larva to grow into a nymph, it needs blood.  If it gets its blood meal from a mouse, the larva picks up the bacteria.  The larva grows into a nymph and waits for its next host so it can get the blood meal it needs to grow into an adult.  Interestingly, larva that feed on mice are more likely to survive, and are capable of transmitting Lyme bacteria one year later. So while we often blame the deer for ticks and spreading Lyme disease, the white-footed mouse is the major carrier of the bacterium B. burgdorferi.

2017 Lyme forecast
According to researchers, this past autumn was a big year for acorns, one of the foundation foods of the white-footed mouse population. This means that 2017 will see a rise in Lyme-infected mice, which translates into more ticks spreading the disease.

Foxes and coyotes
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Levi, Taal et al. “Deer, predators, and the emergence of Lyme disease.” May, 2012. ) looked at four states with a high prevalence of the disease: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennyslvania, and Virginia. Where there were fewer foxes, there were more instances of Lyme disease.  The researchers also looked at coyotes, who have tended to displace foxes.  Where there are more coyotes, the fox population falls, which means an increase in white-footed mice.

Deer and the “deer tick”
What was once called the deer tick is now known as the black-legged tick.  When the tick was called a deer tick it perpetuated a false belief that deer alone are responsible for Lyme disease.  Scientist have warned that in areas where deer have been hunted, larger numbers of ticks are looking for a new host in their absence.  This leaves humans and dogs and horses more vulnerable.  When the deer population is reduced by as much as 86%, or as low as nine deer per square mile, the tick numbers do not decline.  Remember, deer don’t transmit the Lyme bacterium to ticks; the white-footed mice do.

Protecting horses from ticks
I have found chickens to be excellent tick eaters.  Guinea hens are even better, but they are very noisy birds and ridiculously independent.  Chickens, though, do attract foxes when the foxes get tired of eating white-footed mice.  😉

Springtime, Inc. is a company that claims its Bug Off Garlic products will provide protection against ticks as well as flies, mosquitos, and gnats.  Some BioStar customers have reported good success with this product in keeping flies and ticks away.

Check your horse’s mane and tail daily as well as head, throatlatch, belly, fetlocks, and under the tail.

Protecting dogs from ticks
I tried the Seresto flea and tick collar last year and it worked well for about four months. My dogs are in and out of water all summer, so it’s not surprising that the collar, which is supposed to last eight months, only worked for half that time on my dogs. I have found that Frontline no longer works on my dogs, and evidently this is true for a lot of dogs in New England as well.  Other customers have told me that Advantix II works well as a topical.

Dogs Naturally Magazine suggests adding apple cider vinegar to the dogs’ water bowl during tick season. Some believe that apple cider vinegar lowers the pH of the blood (increasing its acidity), making it less attractive to both fleas and ticks.  Add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (Bragg’s brand, “with the mother” label) once or twice per day.

Of course, de-ticking your dog daily is essential!

Supplement support for dogs and horses
If your dog or horse is getting treated for Lyme disease with antibiotics (doxycycline or minocycline) it is important to support  the immune system and the GI tract.

Bovine colostrum contains PRPs that regulate the thymus gland, the master of the immune system.  Immune support is very important for animals and humans who contact Lyme.

Bio Flora EQ probiotic prebiotic for horses

Providing active, live probiotics is essential in maintaining a balance of healthy, beneficial microorganisms in the GI tract. Make sure you don’t give probiotics at the same time you give antibiotics.  Separate the probiotics by several hours from the administration of the antibiotics.  When the course of antibiotics is over, give an additional two weeks of probiotics.  BioStar’s BioFlora EQ for horses and Terra Biota K9 for dogs are good choices for probiotics that are strong enough to colonize the GI tract.

Don’t forget the bananas!
Bananas are wonderful prebiotic foods for the gut microorganisms.  Giving a couple of slices of banana to your dog daily when the dog is being treated for Lyme is a great way to support the existing colonies in the GI tract.  For horses, give one whole banana without the peel.

*  Two Researchers in the Hudson River Valley (link)

BioStar US Aloe Vera and TumEase

Aloe Vera: The Healing Plant for Horses & Humans Alike

Aloe vera has a long history of use as an important and highly beneficial medicinal plant.  The Egyptians used aloe topically, and to embalm their dead. It was known as the “plant of eternity”.  Alexander the Great used aloe juice to heal war wounds among his army.  It is said that Aristotle convinced Alexander to capture the island of Socotra specifically to gain possession of the precious aloe groves that could provide enough medication to treat his large battalions.

The ancient Chinese and Japanese consumed juice of the aloe plant.  In Japan it was known as “the royal plant” and was highly valued by the samurai as an elixir.  The Chinese referred to aloe as the “method of harmony”.

In Ayurvedic medicine—sometimes called the “mother of all healing systems”—aloe is considered one of the most important rejuvenating plants.

How does aloe work?
Aloe vera contains several powerful nutritional factors: glycoproteins, polysaccharides, and glucomannan. Glycoproteins can help control the inflammatory response, while polysaccharides can increase cellular movement leading to faster and more efficient tissue regrowth. Glucomannan (also a kind of polysaccharide) is a type of dietary fiber that has been shown to stimulate the fibroblast cells that help build new collagen and tissue.

For topical use
Aloe has been used for centuries for burns, scrapes, skin irritations, sunburn, and abrasions.  I keep tubes of aloe gel in the barn and the house.  I also have two large aloe plants in very large pots in order to have fresh leaf gel. Aloe can be used for acne, psoriasis, frostbite, and to reduce scarring.  I don’t use aloe on big open wounds but do apply it to the tissues surrounding the wound, as well as to scrapes, nicks, small cuts and abrasions on the horses, myself, and the dogs.  A time or two, when I’ve burned myself, the aloe has taken the pain away immediately.

For ulcer horses
Aloe can be a wonderful addition to the equine diet for horses struggling with gastric issues and ulcers.  Since it is mucilaginous, it will soothe the gastrointestinal tract.  It is high in digestible fiber and can support the regulation of healthy colonic bacteria.  Due to the fact that aloe can relieve irritation of the mucous membranes, it becomes an important food for ulcer-sensitive horses.

For immune system support
The gastrointestinal tract plays a significant role in immune system function, and Aloe vera contains some antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties to support it.  A published 2011 study identified that aloe reduced the number of E. coli colonies in the gut while increasing the number of beneficial Lactobacillus colonies.  Furthermore, the study identified significantly higher levels of humoral and cellular immunity. (Darabighane, B et al. “The effects of different levels of Aloe vera gel on ileum microflora population and immune response”. Journal of Applied Animal Research. 2012, 40(1).)

What kind of aloe to use?
When it comes to topical application, I use the 99% pure gel or simply break off a leaf from the plant and rub it on the burn or cut.  For internal use, whether for the horses or myself, I use distilled aloe.  Distilled Aloe vera is not diluted, does not contain preservatives or additives, and is 100% pure aloe.  It tastes like spring water, so it’s very palatable even to the pickiest equines.

Protecting the equine GI tract during riding and training
One of the challenges, particularly with ulcer-sensitive or ulcer-recurrent horses, is protecting the delicate intestinal mucosa when the horse is worked.  The horses’ biology requires them to eat 20 hours a day, producing bicarbonate from saliva, which helps reduce the acid in the stomach.  When we ride and train, the gut is mostly unprotected, and the acid is constantly being produced.

In response to my own ulcer-sensitive horse, I formulated BioStar’s Tum-Ease EQ.  This formula is made into bars (to be fed by hand) that help heal the intestinal mucosa by providing a unique and specialized aloe along with organic cabbage for added glutamine.

Tum-Ease EQ by BioStar EQ to support equine gastro-intestinal healthWhat makes Tum-Ease unique, is that we use a highly concentrated, micro-crystalized aloe that is stronger and more bioactive than the gelled or distilled versions.  Because it’s so bioactive, it comes with a big price tag: $200 per pound.  This is not your average Costco or Trader Joe’s bulk aloe!  Because it’s so powerful, it goes to work to coat the GI tract and protect it from potential gastric acid burn, particularly in the stomach.  I often think of it as a plant version of the drug sucralfate.

Whether you grow some aloe in a pot or have the gel and distillate on hand, aloe is, in my opinion, a must-have for home and barn.

Tum-Ease is to be given before the horse works, so it’s best to give it while the horse is being tacked up, allowing the aloe to get to work coating and protecting the GI tract before the exertion starts.

You can give Tum-Ease during any period of stress for horses — trailering, showing, changing barns, losing a pasture mate, farrier work, or a change to the routine — in order to lessen the chance of gastric irritation.

Other notes

  • I recommend ¼ cup George’s Aloe per feeding for horses. Just add to the feed.
  • For the ulcer-sensitive horse under saddle, give two bars of Tum-Ease EQ half an hour before riding.
  • Be aware: there are toxic substances in the rind of the aloe leaf, so don’t grab a leaf and put it in the blender to feed your horse or dog!


Tigger Montague in BioStar Labs

Tweaking Formulas: Thera Calm EQ Adds Haritaki for GI Support

Admittedly, I have a compulsion to tweak, adjust, and mess with everything — kitchen recipes, my GPS’s opinion on directions, and BioStar formulas.  I have this nagging little voice in my head that says this can be better, and I have to act on it.

Everyone at BioStar has become accustomed to my bouts of tweaking.  Rick, our general manager, now just sighs when I burst into his office with a great new ingredient, or one of my “outside-the-box solutions”.  I don’t doubt that the production team probably grits their collective teeth when I’m out of the room, but it seems everyone at BioStar accepts the fact that no formula or procedure is written in stone.

Recently I reviewed the recipe for Thera Calm EQ.  As I went down the list of ingredients, I began to question the inclusion of holy basil when the formula already provided ashwagandha, another adaptogenic plant.  Both plants are fundamentally circulatory, endocrine and glandular body balancers, and both can reduce cortisol, but only ashwaganda can help increase serotonin in the brain.  Did Thera Calm EQ really need both?

One voice in my brain said don’t mess with success, and I might have abandoned the tweaking at that point, but I kept feeling that, instead of the added holy basil, Thera Calm EQ needed more gut support.  Then I came across an interesting Ayurvedic plant being used in some horse feeds in England called haritaki.

HaritakiHaritaki (Terminalia chebula) is a tree that grows in the sub-Himalayan regions, and  in all deciduous forests in India.  The fruits of the haritaki tree have been used in various Ayurvedic, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and Tibetan herbal formulations for thousands of years.

In Tibetan medicine haritaki is known as “The King of Medicine”, with nearly all Tibetan herbal formulas containing the plant.  In Ayurvedic medicine, it is described as a “remover of diseases”, and is considered the best plant for the digestive system and the lungs.

Haritaki is one of the tridoshic plants in Ayurveda, meaning that it is balancing to the three different body/mind types known as doshas.  Its long history of use in animals and humans includes the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders — particularly ulcers — as well as respiratory disorders.

The research on haritaki for ulcers
One of the recently studied phenolic compounds of haritaki is chebulic acid, a component of the larger molecule chebulinic acid, which accounts for up to 30% of haritaki fruit extracts.

Published research from 2010 demonstrates the cytoprotective effects of haritaki on the gastric mucosa  (“Preventive effects of chebulic acid isolated from Terminalia chebula on advanced glycation endproduct-induced endothelial cell dysfunction.” Hyun-Sun Lee, Yoon-Chang Koo, et al.  J. Ethnopharmacology, 2010 Oct 5; 131(3):567-74).

But the “wow moment” for me came after reading a study comparing the effects of haritaki versus sucralfate and omeprazole in rats (“Anti-secretory and cytoprotective effects of chebulinic acid isolated from the fruits of Terminalia chebula on gastric ulcers.” Vaibhav Misdhra, Manali Agrawal, et al. Phytomedicine, 2013, 20, (6), 505-511).

According to this study, “Chebulinic acid exerted better protective effect against ethanol-induced gastric lesions in comparison to reference drug, sucralfate.”  In addition, the study highlighted chebulinic acid influence via inhibition of the proton pump, showing that “…chebulinic acid  inhibited the H+K+-ATPase [proton pump] activity [with an effect] comparable to the reference drug omeprazole.”

The study also explored the cytoprotective ability of chebulinic acid by testing its effect against NSAIDs-induced ulcers.  Chebulinic acid increased mucin content and demonstrated 55.53% protection in aspirin-induced gastric ulcers, versus the 58.30% protection offered by omeprazole. The study concluded that “chebulinic acid… inhibits the formation of gastric lesions in rats by inhibiting acid secretion and through cytoprotective effects.”

Haritaki and Thera Calm EQ
Now Thera Calm EQ includes this important traditional fruit to support the equine GI tract.  The addition of haritaki is particularly beneficial to horses that are ulcer-sensitive and ulcer-recurrent.  With its cytoprotective properties, haritaki can increase mucosal protection and reduce gastric mucosal injury and necrosis.

Optimum Healthy Weight from BioStar US

New from BioStar: Optimum Healthy Weight

One of the most common equine health challenges is maintaining a healthy weight: not too fat, not too thin.  Horses with issues such as Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome can pose an even greater management problem for horse owners.

As we know, diet and exercise are critical to maintaining healthy weight in horses.  With the caretaking of easy keepers and those with metabolic imbalances, being vigilant about the sugar and starch content of hays, forages and feed (referred to as NSC — non-structural carbohydrates) is of primary importance.  A decade ago, very few people had their hay tested for an NSC percentage. Now it’s almost a requirement in the management of easy keepers and metabolic horses.

Obesity in horses: contributing factors
Long ago, the grasses horses ate were not the high-calorie grasses of today, but mediocre to poor-quality prairie grasses and native grasses.  To keep themselves nourished, horses evolved to graze, moving miles a day in search of food.  Even today, the wild horse bands in Nevada travel up to 15 miles a day browsing for food. Meanwhile, our stall-bound and pasture-bound horses eat much richer grasses and hays, and don’t have to cover 15 miles a day for sustenance. The reduced physical activity can be a contributing factor to obesity.

Although no research specific to equines has been done yet, a multinational collaborative team of researchers from Norway, Austria, Hungary, Ireland, Turkey, and Australia conducted experimental feeding studies over a ten-year period with genetically modified soy and corn.  The rats, mice, salmon and pigs that were fed these GMO products got fatter quicker compared to animals fed a non-genetically engineered diet.  The findings, published July 11, 2012 by (an online news source devoted to Norwegian and international research), showed that animals fed genetically engineered food ate more, got fatter and were less able to digest proteins due to alterations in the micro-structure of their intestines.

Genetically modified soy, soy oils, and soy byproducts are among the most common ingredients in commercial horse feeds.

Another compelling and possible contributor to obesity in equines is the herbicide glyphosate (famously known as Roundup)Ten independent, published research studies on animals demonstrate that glyphosate interferes with the biochemistry of bacteria in the GI tract, depleting the essential amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan, and phenylalanine.  The disruption of bacteria in the gut can contribute not only to obesity, but also inflammatory bowel disease and other immune challenges.

Interestingly, research showed that the most beneficial bacteria in the gut (primarily Lactobacillus, Bacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Enterococcus) are the most adversely affected by glyphosate.  The more harmful bacteria such as Salmonella actually increased when exposed to the same levels of glyphosate in the gut.

Vascular dysfunction in metabolic horses
In addition to the weight concerns involved with metabolic syndrome and Cushing’s disease, a study published September 29, 2016 (“Vascular dysfunction in horses with endocrinopathic laminitis”) showed that endothelial dysfunction associated with these disorders affects the laminar vessels and facial skin arteries of the horse.  What this means is that the inner lining of blood vessels do not dilate fully, causing constriction and the reduction of healthy circulation.

Metabolic supplements: What’s really in them?
If you are managing an easy keeper or a metabolic horse, you know how diligent you must be when choosing ingredients.  Even feeds labeled “low starch” may not show the actual NSC percentage of the feed.  Reading through the labels of popular metabolic supplements for horses can be a bit of a shock; ingredients like corn, wheat, and rice are included in the formulas.  Genetically engineered soy is also a common ingredient, and not a beneficial one for metabolic horses.  Other surprising ingredients can include maltodextrin (a food additive produced from corn starch, whose glycemic index is higher than table sugar), the preservatives calcium propionate and sodium propionate, and the popular “natural and artificial flavorings.”

To address all of the above — the obesity and vascular dysfunction afflicting horses with Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome, and the questionable ingredients found in the commercial supplements meant to help them — BioStar has formulated Optimum Healthy Weight.

Advanced whole food nutrition for metabolic horses
Optimum HW
Optimum Healthy Weight is the first supplement of its kind: a whole-food multivitamin/mineral supplement for easy keepers and metabolic horses that has been tested for NSC (9.8%) and includes the most advanced Ayurvedic extracts for the management of weight, healthy blood glucose levels, healthy endothelial function, and reduced inflammation.

Optimum Healthy Weight combines super whole foods such as organic spirulina for its superior plant-chelated mineral content, organic kelp for additional minerals and thyroid support, and organic kale for the sulfur that’s essential to tissue elasticity, antioxidant production, and regulation of metabolism.

The addition of Crominex

Optimum Healthy Weight is also unique in that it contains the patented ingredient Crominex® 3+.  This ingredient is a complex of trivalent chromium with Ayurveda’s Indian gooseberry extract Capros®, and the ancient Ayurvedic resin from the Himalayans known as shilajit.

Crominex has seven published studies behind it, including one on horses (“Therapeutic efficacy and safety evaluation of a novel chromium supplement in…horses”. Kristi May, Ramesh C Gupta et al. Jacobs Journal of Veterinary Science Research. 2015, 2 (1); 014).

Crominex brings several benefits to Optimum Healthy Weight:

  • Supports healthy endothelial function, dilating the inner lining of blood vessels to improve circulation.
  • Provides shilajit, a nutrient and mineral biomass found in the Himalayans that contains fulvic and humic acids, along with over 80 ionic minerals. Fulvic acids have been recently studied for their ability to improve gut health by closing the tight junctions of the gut — the same junctions that glyphosate exposure will, over time, prevent from closing properly. Research has shown that shilajit also improves the bioavailability of CoQ10 and can help regulate genes for collagen synthesis.  Shilajit increases the efficiency of cellular mitochondria, helping in the production of ATP and thus increasing energy and stamina.
  • Provides trivalent chromium, an important mineral for carbohydrate and lipid metabolism. Trivalent chromium was identified in 1959 as the active component of the “glucose tolerance factor” (GTF) molecule.
  • Can help control blood glucose levels and improve the lipid profile (“Effect of shilajit on blood glucose and lipid profile…” Trivedi NA, Mazumdar B, et al. Indian Journal of Pharmacology. 2004;36:373-6).
  • Significantly increases levels of antioxidants in the body, including vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione, and superoxide dismutase.
  • Provides mucosal protection to the GI tract and, in a 2012 study, showed antiulcer, regenerative and repairing effects on induced ulcers in rats. (“Anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-ulcerogenic effects of Shilajit on gastric ulcer in rats.” Mohamed, I. Kotb El-Sayed, et al. American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology. 8 (1(: 25-37, 2012).

Nutrient support
Biostar’s Optimum Healthy Weight provides:

Organic spirulina, with its plant-chelated multi-mineral complex and full spectrum of amino acids.


Yeast for horsesOrganic yeast flakes, which provide the B-complex including B-12, plus magnesium and copper.


KelpOrganic kelp harvested from Northwest Iceland, which provides bioavailable minerals including calcium, manganese, boron, zinc, iodine, and magnesium, plus vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate. Kelp can improve thyroid function.

KaleOrganic kale, containing vitamins A, C, K, along with sulfur, which is a critical element required for biological activation of enzymes, synthesizing specific antioxidants, proper insulin function, and is an important component in the body’s production of glucosamine sulfate.

Almond powder, one of the richest sources of vitamin E, providing both alpha and gamma tocopherols.


selenium yeastSelenium yeast, providing an important antioxidant that is lacking in many pastures and hays.


Herbal support

astralagus rootOptimum Healthy Weight includes astragalus root, a member of the legume family that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine to reduce stress.  This plant has demonstrated action to protect pancreatic beta cells — the cells that produce and release insulin.

Antioxidant support

Astaxanthin is a lipid-soluble carotenoid from microalgae that is considered a super-antioxidant because it can neutralize multiple free radicals (unlike other antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, which can bind only one free radical molecule at a time).  On the ORAC scale of antioxidant values, Astaxanthin places higher than vitamin E, vitamin C, beta carotene, green tee, and resveratrol.

Other supportive foods in Optimum Healthy Weight

black pepperOrganic black pepper, used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of diabetes. Black pepper contains piperine, which studies have shown increases the bioavailability and effectiveness of other nutrients.

Sunflower lecithin (non-GMO), an important co-factor for the absorption of astaxanthin, sunflower lecithin also provides phosphatidylcholine, another important antioxidant and brain food.

fennel seedsOrganic fennel seed, traditionally used for supporting digestion and balancing blood sugar.
Designed to address an array of issues involved with Cushing’s and metabolic syndrome horses, Optimum Healthy Weight by BioStar is a whole food multi-nutrient supplement for easy keepers and metabolic horses that provides the science and efficacy of ingredients to effectively assist in their management.

The ingredients in Optimum Healthy Weight will not interfere with thyroid medicine (Thyro-L) or pergolide mesylate (Prascend).

Optimum HW will be available from BioStar on February 15, 2017.


Circuvate EQ: advanced circulatory support for horses from BioStar US

Introducing BioStar’s Circuvate EQ: Whole Food Circulation Supplement

BioStar introduces Circuvate EQ, a brand-new circulation supplement in February, 2017, specifically designed for the equine circulatory system — the system responsible for sending blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body.  When blood flow is reduced, the body’s ability to heal and repair is diminished.  Increased blood flow is a significant benefit that allows the vascular highways to deliver oxygen and nutrients more efficiently.  Increased circulation can help reduce inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress.

Benefits of increased blood flow encouraged by a circulation supplement

  • improved oxygenation of the tissues
  • more efficient removal of toxins and metabolic waste
  • enhanced healing process
  • reduced inflammation and oxidative stress

The role of nitric oxide
Nitric oxide is a key signaling molecule in the body, and a powerful vasodilator (a substance that widens blood vessels).  The endothelium, which is the inner lining of blood vessels, uses nitric oxide to signal the surrounding smooth muscles to relax, resulting in increased blood flow.  The amino acid arginine is a substrate for nitric oxide production.  Specific foods such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, oranges, and nutritional yeast provide high amounts of arginine for nitric oxide production.

Circuvate EQ Whole Food Circulation Supplement

Recent research: Indian gooseberry and circulation
One of the widely used in plants in Ayurvedic medicine is amla, also known as Indian gooseberry.  It has been used with animals and humans for thousands of year.  Eight recently published studies on a specific, patented extract from Indian gooseberry called Capros have demonstrated this plant’s remarkable ability to increase nitric oxide production by 54%, and increase the super antioxidant glutathione by 50%.   Glutathione is known as the “mother of all antioxidants.”  It supports the regulation of cell growth and division, protects DNA from oxidative stress, helps with amino acid transport in and out of the cell, and supports the humoral immune function.

Circuvate EQ Whole Food Circulation Supplement

Indian Gooseberry

Vascular dysfunction in metabolic horses
Research has also shown that Capros reduces levels of inflammatory biomarkers and improves endothelial function.  This is important because a study published September 29, 2016 (“Vascular Dysfunction in Horses with Endocrinopathic Laminitis”) showed that endothelial dysfunction associated with hormonal conditions such as metabolic syndrome or Cushing’s disease affects the laminar vessels and facial skin arteries of the horse.  By improving endothelial function by relaxation via nitric oxide, there is increased blood flow and circulation. Providing the precursor amino acid arginine via a whole-food circulation supplement is a great first step to improving endothelial function in this way.

Performance horses
When horses exercise, nitric oxide is released, which increases blood flow to muscles and organs, to the heart, and to the lungs.  Nitric oxide is a short-lived molecule, so the longer it circulates the greater the benefit to the cells, heart, lungs, nervous system and muscles.

Providing horses with a circulation supplement containing foods and plants that increase nitric oxide can improve daily training and performance results by reducing muscle fatigue, removing lactic acid, increasing oxygenation of muscles, and delivering more nutrients to the cells.  Because nitric oxide plays an important role in healing via increased circulation, repair of muscles and connective tissues can be enhanced.

The Indian gooseberry extract Capros increases glutathione, a critical antioxidant important in the production of ATP.  Lower amounts of glutathione in the cells can slow down ATP production, resulting in fatigue.  Furthermore, the recovery phase of training requires glutathione to mop up free radicals — highly reactive molecules that can create inflammation unless regulated by potent antioxidants such as glutathione.

Nitric oxide can modulate the release of various inflammatory mediators (leukocytes, macrophages, mast cells, endothelial cells and platelets).  In relaxing the blood vessels, more nutrients are delivered to the area of the body that needs them.  This is especially important for ligament and tendon injuries, muscle and joint injuries, and support for these tissues.

Hoof and heart
The heart is the key organ of the circulatory system.  As the heart beats, blood is sent throughout the body.  Muscle movement in the feet is also responsible for pumping blood up and back to the heart.  Inflammation in the foot will therefore reduce the amount of circulation returning to the rest of the body and the heart.

Nitric oxide helps re-circulate by relaxing the smooth muscles, allowing for more blood flow.  This is especially important to maintain healthy feet, and to help with foot issues such as navicular syndrome, bursa inflammation, bruising and laminitis.

Coming in February
After testing the Indian gooseberry extract Capros last year on a variety of horses, including performance horses, metabolic horses, horses on layup for ligament strains, older horses who get stiff and achy, and horses needing to grow more hoof, it was time to make it available to all horses.

Circuvate EQ Jar: Advanced Circulation Supplement for Horses, from BioStar US

BioStar’s Circuvate EQ: the first equine circulation supplement to use the patented Indian gooseberry extract Capros.   This extract has been approved by the FDA as “GRAS” (Generally Regarded as Safe) due in part to Indian gooseberry’s long history of use in animals and humans.  Capros has been intensively researched for efficacy including seven published studies and four additional studies pending publication.

Capros is derived from freshly harvested Indian gooseberry fruits, which are washed in purified water.  Maximum yield of the bioactives is ensured by the selection of specific chemotypes of the plant and harvesting the fruit at the proper age.  No pesticides or solvents are used in the growing or extraction process.

BioStar’s Circuvate combines the arginine-rich foods for nitric oxide production: pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nutritional yeast, organic freeze-dried orange powder with additional vasodilation from organic ginger, and the powerful Indian gooseberry extract Capros.

What about BioStar’s Furnace supplement for circulation?
I consider Circuvate to be Furnace 2.0.  It’s the next generation of circulatory support.  It’s stronger than Furnace because of the inclusion of Capros.  However, unlike Furnace, Circuvate is not in bar form—it’s a powder.

We tested several of our horses for foot growth, putting them on Circuvate for two months, and then maintaining them on Furnace. Circuvate passed our palatability tests with flying colors, and the improvement in many of the test horses was beyond expectations.

In conclusion
As a circulation supplement, BioStar’s Circuvate  provides circulatory support on a level not seen before in an equine supplement.  And it’s completely free of additives, petroleum extracts, flavorings, preservatives, and sweeteners.

Look for Circuvate EQ on our website on February 1, 2017.

Circulation supplement-related studies  and sources:

1. Effects of Phyllanthus emblica extract on endothelial dysfunction andbiomarkers of oxidative stress in patients with type 2 diabetes: arandomized, double-blind, controlled study. Pingali Usharani, Nishat Fatima, et al; Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity: Targets and Therapy 2013: 6 1-10

2. Pilot study evaluating the use of Emblica officnalis standardized fruit extract in cardio respiratory improvement and antioxidant status. Tuhin Kanti Bisweas, Shrabana Chakrabarti, et al; Journal of Herbal Medicine, 4 (2014) 188-194.

3. Study of pharmacodynamics interaction of Phyllanthus emblica extract with clopidogrel and ecosprin in patients with type II diabetes mellitus; Nishat Fatima, Usharani Pingali, et al. Phytomedicine. J.phymed.2013.10.024

4. Supplementation of a standardized extract from Phyllanthus emblica improves cardio risk factors and platelet aggregation in overweight/class-1 Obese adults; Savita Khanna, Amitava Das, et al; J Med Food 18 (4) 2015, 415-420.

5. Evaluation of Phyllanthus emblica extract on cold pressor induced cardiovascular changes in healthy human subjects. Nishat Fatima, Usharani Pingali, et al; Pharmacognosy Research/ Jan-March 2014/Vol 6/Issue 1.

6. A comparative study to evaluate the effect of highly standardized aqueous extracts of Phyllanthus emblica with type II diabetes mellitus. P. Usharani, P.V. Kishan, et al. IJPSR, 2014; Vol 5 (7): 2687-2697

7. Beneficial Effect of Phyllanthus emblica fruit extract on cigarette smoke induced impaired antioxidant status in rats. Aminul Islam, Biswajit Auddy, et al. Pharmacologyonline 2: 255-264 (2008)

Does My Horse Need a Multivitamin / Mineral Supplement

Does My Horse Need a Multivitamin / Mineral Supplement?

“Does my horse need a multivitamin / mineral supplement?”

This question comes across my desk via emails and texts several times a week.  I see it often on internet horse bulletin boards, and it appears among commonly asked questions on commercial feed company websites.

The feed companies maintain that if you feed their recommended amount per day, you do not need an additional multivitamin / mineral supplement.  On paper this makes sense.  Most feeds these days are “complete” feeds, or ration balancers fortified with vitamins and minerals so that the horse owner doesn’t have to add another supplement.  But when we look deeper into the fortification of processed feeds, we see that the vitamins they contain are petroleum byproducts (vitamin A and the B-complex vitamins, as well as d-alpha tocopherol acetate which is a common form of vitamin E).  Also, the minerals in these feeds come primarily in their inorganic forms: carbonates and oxides (ground-up rock) that provide low bioavailability.

Many owners ignore the advice of the commercial feed companies and add an additional multivitamin / mineral supplement, either on intuition or on the belief that more is better.  However, most of the supplements they add are made from the exact same petroleum-derived ingredients and inorganic minerals used by the feed companies.

There are some exceptions. A select group of companies use minerals that are chelated (pronounced “KEY-lated”).  This means the mineral is bound to an organic substance such as protein, thus increasing the bioavailability.  A protein-bound mineral is called an “amino acid chelate”.  Plants do this on their own, with the minerals delivered to them by fungi and microorganisms in the soil.  The plants pull the minerals up through their roots and bind them to free amino acids in a process called “plant mineral chelation”.

Why are chelated minerals better for horses and humans? It all comes back to the question you should always ask when reading the ingredients on any feed or supplement: will this decrease stress on the GI tract, or increase stress?

For example, vitamin B1 (thiamine) is commonly made from coal tar, which is a petroleum derivative.  Under laboratory analysis, it looks the same as the thiamine found in food sources such as nutritional yeast and rice.  But the GI tract is not a lab bench.  It’s a sensitive series of organs that readily identify nutrients from food, because nutrients are meant to be digested and absorbed within the matrix of real food.  It is this matrix that provides the co-enzymes, food enzymes, co-vitamins and minerals and other nutritional factors such as antioxidants that all contribute toward reduction of stress on the GI tract.

This is why wild horses can live without commercial feeds and supplements, maintaining their health just from eating plants.  When we add a whole-food multivitamin/mineral, we are providing real nutrition from plants.  After all, is nutrition really nutrition when it comes from petroleum?

So, to answer the question, “does my horse need a multivitamin / mineral supplement,” my answer is… it depends on the supplement:

  • If your horse is currently on commercial feed and your supplement does not contain real, whole food, then no — you don’t need that supplement, since it’s made with the same non-food-based ingredients that are already provided in the feed.  Petroleum-derived nutrients and ground-up rocks do not provide the same nutrition or bioavailability supplied by real, whole-food nutrients, nor do they reduce stress on the GI tract.
  • If your multivitamin / mineral supplement contains nutrients in their real, whole-food form, then yes — supplement your horse’s feed with this in the amount recommended by the manufacturer.  Real food nutrition is far friendlier to your horse’s GI tract, and just happens to be the best nutrition on earth.

BioStar’s Optimum multivitamin and mineral supplements provide real nutrition from 100% whole food:
• Optimum EQ in bars or powder,
• Optimum Senior EQ – powder for Senior Horses
• Optimum JS – multivitamin with joint support
• Optimum JS Senior – multivitamin joint support for Senior Horses
• Optimum K9 – bars and powder for dogs
• Optimum K9 Senior – powder for Senior Dogs

Thermal EQ Warming Foods Supplement for Horses by BioStar EQ

BioStar’s Thermal EQ: The Warming Foods Supplement for Winter

Several years ago on a cold December day, I was setting up feed in the barn and adding ingredients from among the warming foods: hawthorn berry powder, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, dehydrated butternut squash, active yeast, sesame seeds, holy basil and some soaked lentils to each horse’s bucket, and I thought to myself, there has got to be an easier way!

Adding specific warming foods to your horse’s diet in the winter can help older horses maintain good circulation, provide a good variety of foods for the widely diverse population of microorganisms in the gut, support digestion of fiber in the hind gut, reduce stress, and support the immune system.  BioStar’s Thermal EQ was born of a need to provide these important, therapeutic warming foods for my horses, and yet  make feeding in winter easier at the same time.

A recipe for warmth

warming foods: pumpkin seedsOrganic pumpkin seeds provide the amino acid arginine, the substrate for nitric oxide production in the body.  Nitric oxide is the master circulatory molecule, and increased circulation helps keep horses warm.

warming foods: hawthorn berryHawthorn berry is a peripheral vasodilator which slightly widens the coronary artery to enhance blood flow.  In England, it is common for horses to eat the new, young leaves from hawthorn trees in the spring.  It is a wonderful plant for older horses because it helps with circulation and strengthens the heart.

warming foods: Yeast for horsesYeast is considered a warming food in Ayurvedic medicine. The probiotic Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Saccharomyces boulardii yeasts in BioStar’s Thermal work in the hindgut to digest fiber and maintain a proper pH of the hindgut.

warming foods: cinnamonCinnamon is a warming spice, which improves circulation and digestion.  It is used traditionally in the treatment of respiratory and sinus congestion.  Human studies have pointed to cinnamon’s role in regulating blood sugar.  Cinnamon does provide some antibacterial as well as antifungal properties.

warming foods: holy basilHoly basil is recognized as one of Ayurvedic medicine’s rasayana (“path of essence”) herbs, promoting health and longevity.  In Western herbalism, holy basil is classified as an adaptogen — a plant that can help the body respond to stress and provide balance.  It is known for its actions as an immunomodulator, and its ability to stimulate circulation.

warming foods: Colostrum PowderBovine colostrum supports the immune system with over 80 different immune and growth factors.  Bovine colostrum plays an important role in tissue repair at the cellular level.

warming foods: Organic sesame seeds, organic yellow lentils, butternut squash, and organic orange powder
Organic sesame seeds, organic yellow lentils, butternut squash, and organic orange powder are all warming foods that help support a diverse colony of beneficial bacteria in the gut, increase circulation, and maintain body warmth.  The orange powder is made from whole organic oranges freeze dried and then powdered for their high vitamin C and bioflavonoid content.

warming foods: BioStar's Thermal EQ Topper

Thermal EQ
With this recent onslaught of cold air from Siberia, it is great to make up feed and add Thermal EQ to the feed buckets, as it helps the horses stay warmer, supports better circulation, and provides a variety of prebiotic foods for the microorganisms in the gut.  But be forewarned…horses love it, and on a day that you decide not to feed it, you may get some snarky looks when they realize there’s no Thermal EQ in their feed.