I’ve had so many reminders of balance in the past couple of weeks, from overt errors in well-respected magazine articles, to confused clients, to meeting a fast jet pilot; that I felt compelled to blog about it. The definition of balance (as a noun) is ‘a situation where different elements are equal or in the correct proportions’ and ‘an even distribution of weight, enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady’ (Oxford Dictionary).

Take diet balance. I’ve blogged about this before so if you’re a regular reader, take this as a balanced reminder…. A balanced diet supplies all the essential nutrients per day in the correct amounts: no more, and no less. Horses fed too much grass, horses fed less than the recommended amount of compound (vitamin and mineral fortified hard feed), horses on calorie restriction who are short of protein and racehorses not fed enough salt are all examples of unbalanced diets. The body is excellent at maintaining balance in times of extremes via a process called homeostatis, but, if the diet is unbalanced for long periods, health will be detrimentally affected and dis-ease may result.

Impulsion, or the balance between ‘go’ and ‘whoa’ in a riding horse, can be a rare occurrence these days. All too often we might say that a horse is lazy or whizzy, and leave it at that, or even reach for a calmative or a starchy feed. But instead, we could assess the impulsion and perhaps find some exercises or a way or riding to help the horse find balance between going and stopping. Balance would be being able to gallop our horse out, then easily bring him back to a calm walk with a loose rein.

Of course, finding balance should be a balanced process itself. It seems to be human nature to find something that works, and then overdo it to the point where is doesn’t work so well. Finding balance helps avoid this scenario.

With greater knowledge and understanding of how the horse works and the diseases he is affected by, comes a tendency to get over focused on one aspect, at the expense of another. Take two examples. Horses who are overweight need to lose body fat, but not to the point that they become so nutrient-deficient that they lose muscle mass, especially if they are being asked to work. Feeding low-starch (low grain) diets are essential for horses with health problems like tying up, metabolic syndrome and laminitis, but for hard working performance horses in sprint sports, it could detrimentally affect their performance. Starch isn’t bad for all horses – to the contrary, it is well digested and utilised when fed in controlled amounts, providing the horse doesn’t have an underlying health problem that contraindicates dietary starch.

To sum up, perhaps we’d create better balance if we were to ‘keep calm and carry on’ and try to avoid getting so excited about a new toy that we overdo it and break it.

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About Clare MacLeod

Clare MacLeod MSc RNutr is one of the UK’s few registered independent equine nutritionists who also has expertise in health and fitness. She advises private and commercial clients in all sectors of the horse world and is a hands-on horse owner herself. Clare is passionate about correct nutrition as a foundation for good health, without which peak fitness is not possible. She states “Good nutrition isn’t everything, but there’s nothing without it”.