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Healthy Environments and Preventive Care: Incorporating the Precautionary Principle

By Dr. Susan Gordon


We acknowledge that all beings deserve to live in a holistic, balanced, healthy environment. This is imperative to preventive health care, both physically and mentally, in humans and horses, and includes the creation of barns and other environments free of toxic compounds.

Imagine what the world would be like if every living being were offered a safe, clean, and healthy environment in which to live. Would we have peace among nations? Satisfaction and understanding among individuals? Balance and reciprocity among neighbours?

Today’s “new normal” is providing opportunities to study a society in transition. While some countries have served their populations well and provided confidence in leadership, others appear to be descending into further chaos by the day, with cultural divisions and mental health crises also on the increase.

If we were to look at humans as if they were a herd of wild horses, some with abundant resources—which is different than monetary wealth—and others suffering in toxic environments, we could probably identify the potential pathway to extinction for the latter, and a much brighter future for the former.

In The Compassionate Equestrian (page 238-239) I tell the story about my large Hanoverian gelding, Willie, who for some strange reason had a penchant for wedging himself into tight spaces. He had me worried more than once, but he always calmly got himself out and actually appeared to enjoy places that made him feel comfortable. Perhaps it was as simple as trying to keep cool in a very hot desert city. If there was a tree, he would be under it.

I even let him choose his own paddock at a boarding stable, as the owner was concerned about the one I thought he would prefer being too small. “No, I assured her, he’ll like the tree taking up most of the space, and there’s enough room for him to lie down. He’ll be happy.”

Sure enough, Willie was offered the choice of several paddocks and the smaller one is where he decided to live. Even when turned loose in the 25-acre field, I would sometimes arrive to find him standing in his own quarters.

Most horses—and often times many people— aren’t afforded the luxury of choices of accommodations. Yet, our health and wellbeing is affected every minute of every day by our environment, and our home space is most important. For those who don’t feel safe where they are, or have clean and healthy homes where food and something as simple as a daily shower are available, the circumstances can be heartbreaking and depressing. At worst, a home can be a dangerous place for some.

Our personal wellbeing also affects a much broader and diverse range than we might think. When we include a horse in our “bubble,” this energetic imprint extends to that sentient being as well. If we are stuck in a state of hyper-arousal for example, we are likely to have that effect on others. If we are feeling peaceful, and have looked after our own health and wellbeing, that will be felt by others too, including our animals.

On a very physical level, this includes the quality of the nutrients we consume, and those we allow into our immediate environment, and that of our horses. Toxins abound in food and waterways, creating a multitude of ailments that cause disease and imbalances (see references in the book throughout Chapter 14).

Many parts of the world now have environmental and sustainability standards in place for those who keep horses and other livestock on their property. Make sure your boarding facility, or even your own backyard, conforms to the highest possible standards of nutrient management strategies and land stewardship.

The equine industry has considerable environmental impact, and with all the available educational resources at our fingertips nowadays, there are many ways to ensure you are providing the healthiest situation for your horses.

As we have learned recently with the pandemic, cleanliness is of utmost importance, but this shouldn’t be a new idea to the most conscientious of horsemen. The industry has become accustomed to quickly enacting quarantines when equine infectious diseases arise.

We have always known that keeping toxins out of pastures and barns, including everything the horse comes in contact with, is just good horsemanship. The more natural the products you use, the better they will be for your health and that of your horses’ too.

When we practice the Precautionary Principle, the changes that have been imposed on us due to COVID-19 would have a degree of familiarity. The Principle denotes a duty to prevent harm, when it is within our power to do so, even when we don’t have all the evidence at the time to ensure we are adhering to best practices. We do the best we can to help ensure the needs of the present are not compromising the abilities of future generations to meet their needs.

It is unfortunate that it has taken a global disaster to bring attention to our need to attend to the health and wellness of our environment and all sentient beings.

Think back to the stories as to how and where the news of the pandemic first emerged. Did the first of the sick animals have a chance to live natural, healthy lives? It would appear not.

Let’s try to do more positive things for this planet, and place our concerns where we can have the most beneficial influence, starting with our selves and our own communities.


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