Beware of the Bucket

by Linda Chamberlain

Something is desperately wrong with the animal feed industry – it is very ill indeed.

Our horses might happily eat the mass produced food we put in their buckets but there are dire warnings that the ingredients might be seriously harmful to their health.

Unlike food for human consumption, the food we give our animals seems to have little (if any) regulation and, according to Dr Debbie Carley, weedkiller residues are getting into feed in vast amounts.

Dr Carley, who began making her own feeds after her horses became desperately ill, said residues have increased because glyphosate (the main ingredient in most weedkiller) came out of patent 15 years ago and became cheaper. Now, many farmers use it not only to kill weeds but also to desiccate, or dry out, their crops a week before harvesting.

This must affect human as well as animal feed but our wheat flour is at least made from the kernel of the grain. The nutritionally low outer husk with its scandalous burden of chemicals is given to the animals as pelleted wheatfeed and oatfeed and is one the main ingredients of many horse feeds. The straw is used for bedding – bedding that most animals like to eat. Or it might be nutritionally enhanced and end up in your horse’s bucket where it really doesn’t belong.

You might think this doesn’t matter. You might say, ‘My horse is fine.’ But think again. Has your horse suffered from laminitis? Cushings? Colic? Is there some intermittent lameness that you can’t explain? Some unevenness, tenderness by his tummy on the right hand side or difficulty picking up his right hind leg? Is your horse itchy? One of the potential causes might surprise you – just as Dr Carley’s heart-rending story shocked her audience this week at a hall near Guildford, Surrey.

She had a small stud in Wiltshire where she successfully bred Welsh Section D horses. But then she got a job at the Wellcome Trust in Cambridge and moved to Norfolk. The herd came with her to their new home surrounded by some of the most productive arable land in Britain. Land that was intensively farmed…and sprayed. Her own land was also sprayed as it was poor and full of ragwort. Within months all 16 horses became ill. The mares became infertile. They lost a lot of weight, many were uncomfortable, some were laminitic and some appeared to have the long, wiry coat that came with Cushing’s, a dysfunction of the pituitary gland. Tests were carried out but no vet was able to say what was wrong.

‘We were desperate,’ she said. ‘I thought all of them might have to be put to sleep.’


I hope she will forgive me saying this but I’m glad this scenario happened to her and not me. Dr Carley is a research scientist. She didn’t give up on her desperately sick herd but started on the long path of investigation convinced that as 16 horses were affected ‘the cause had to be some external problem.’ She wanted to know what she was feeding her horses so she had it analysed. She wasn’t impressed as it didn’t contain much goodness and worryingly it was laced with chemical residues. She started making her own feed using organic ingredients where possible.

It’s a testament to her skills as a neighbour that she persuaded nearby farmers to alert her if they were spraying their land so she could bring the horses inside and shut all their stable doors. She also managed to convince them not to spray close to their borders with her. Even now, if this alert-system fails two of her mares will suffer a laminitic attack after neighbouring farmers have sprayed their land.

The changes wrought over a number of years gradually had an effect; the horses recovered and Dr Carley set up a small feed company called Thunderbrooks supplying natural feeds to horse owners.

What does she say to people who think glyphosate doesn’t harm humans and animals? It was tested, it’s used all over the world and so surely it’s fine.

‘It was tested on 200 rats for 90 days,’ she explained. ‘It wasn’t enough.’

Her scientific reasoning convinced me. You see, glyphosate is harmful to plants. It also has a detrimental effect on bacteria. Humans, as well as horses and other animals, are predominantly made up of bacteria, she says. Their guts are full of bacteria – good and bad. And that is why it does us no good to be eating the stuff!

Dr Carley is probably one of quietest whistleblowers you could meet. She carefully doesn’t name feed manufacturers or their products. She doesn’t get angry about farmers or pharmaceutical companies even though I can feel my own anger bubbling as she relates her story. She’s the Erin Brockovich of the horse world with exposure and scandal on the tip of her tongue.

Think about it. We buy a bag of horse feed hoping it will do what it says on the tin – namely, feed our horses. If these feeds fail to give nutrition, even worse, if they cause harm, it’s a scandal. Please spread the word as something filthy is going on…

Care about horses? Then follow this campaigning blog and buy the books! My novel The First Vet is based on one of our very-first vets who amazingly proved that horse shoes deform and cripple the animals we love. His work BookCover5_25x8_Color_350_NEW from Amberwas suppressed…until recently. Horse lovers, book lovers are buying it and sharing it. It’s aCover_Barefoot_3 (1) story of love and corruption, full of real history.  Reviewers have described it as ‘brave, witty and romantic.’ The First Vet is on Amazon – UK. Amazon – US – £6.99 for the paperback and £2.24 on Kindle. And just published – A Barefoot Journey – a small-but-perfectly formed account of my fight to go barefoot in which I battle with the farrier, cope with derision from other riders and save a horse from slaughter. Mistakes, falls and triumphs are recorded against the background of a divided equine world which was defending the tradition of shoeing…with prosecutions. Also on Amazon UK and Amazon US. Only £2.84 paperback. 99p for the Kindle edition.

As always, thank you for your support for this blog and my books. Let me have your comments and stories as I love to hear from you all. 

Thunderbrooks feeds – here.

28 thoughts on “Beware of the Bucket

  1. Another brilliant blog. All animal feed must suffer from all sorts being put into it, not only horse feed I guess. All my dogs have lived to ripe old ages, not vaccinated and fed organic, fresh food.


  2. I live in Bulgaria with an imported horse who struggles to maintain appetite through the intense summer heat. For a year now she has been fed thunderbrooks. The difference in coat, temperament and weight started to show after 2 weeks use, she became more ‘vital’ her sense of humour appeared, her socialising with the other horses improved and she had boundless energy, she was 24! My yearlings now have thunderbrooks as well as her for the best possible start in life.

    I have recommended this feed producer over and over because there is simply nothing out there to rival them in terms of knowledge/sense and product quality


  3. Very interesting indeed. Could I ask why difficulty picking up a hind leg may be due to external influences? I have a filly doing just that.


    • From memory, difficultly picking up one particular leg indicated pain in the gut region. It is often undetected. Again from memory, the horse’s gut is not central to the body and so it’s one leg in particular you need to watch for. Phone Thunderbrooks for more information as they are very helpful.


      • I am experiencing this issue with my stallion (now a gelding) for almost a year now he would not lift his offside hind. I took him to a vet, he was 99% sure it was behavioural. I had a chiropractor to him, a natural barefoot trimmer look at him, a professional instructor look at him and got nowhere. Swapped farriers in case he developed a distaste for my normal farrier and we still have difficulty however I have found a farrier who can lift his leg using a soft rope. I also had him gelded as I was worried it was an attitude trait or he was in pain having them still in. However I moved him off my property to a friends place and she feeds a lot of feed different to me. He is still difficult after being at her place for 5 months however a few days ago he lifted his leg with very little annoyance (still used a rope but managed to ask later without it). I never thought the feed could be a factor. I have already emailed my stockfeeder a copy of this article to see if this effects them. Look forward to their reply. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.


  4. Of course, a part of the problem is feeding commercial feeds in the first place but as the article demonstrates, it is also very much the grazing land that is affected


  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is becoming more and more frustrating to find safe feeds for equines because most people just put up with what’s available….


  6. Pingback: Interesting read » Sabots Libres

  7. I fed my horses wonderfully smelling I think it was molasses feed so good I could have had it for breakfast plus all the other stuff, sugar beet etc, she got diabetes, I had never heard of a horse getting this ailment, but apparently not uncommon especially in ponies…my theory is that’s why some suffer from laminitis, it’s worth having your equine tested if they have a tender foot. It stands to reason, that too much sugar in feed is totally unnatural in a wild horses diet, what give it to yours….just saying.


    • If you can eliminate the molasses (and any other sugars and high starches) the laminitis should clear up and not return. Sugar and laminitis go hand in hand.


      • Important things for barefoot (and shod probably) success are diet, lots of movement and good regular trim. Probably in that order, too! Diet is so crucial and difficult to get right because where do most horses live? In a farmer’s field – something that has been planted with rich grasses to produce food as quickly as possible. Mass produced horse feeds are easier to avoid, once you know.


  8. I would like to suggest “Cool Stance” feed, from Stance Equine. It is 100% GMO free, USDA certified organic. It only contains one ingredient – copra meal (made from the meat of the coconut which is dried and ground up). I have 6 horses, 5 of which are rescues, and found this feed 2 years ago when I was in a desperate search to find something that would be safe for my recently (then) diagnosed EMS horse who had foundered and was suffering from acute laminitis – not able to even get up and walk around. He was on all sorts of Rx meds, supplements, acupuncture, cold laser therapy, chiropractic – you name it, we were trying it. I was at the point of having to consider putting him down, but took a chance on not only this feed, but also suggestion from the distributor to put him on a combination of Turmeric, powdered coconut oil and ground black pepper, as an anti-inflammatory. Within 10 days of starting Cool Stance, and the Turmeric regimen, (and changing NOTHING WHATSOEVER ELSE in his diet or treatment plan), he got up and began moving around, and has improved ever since. I was so astounded, I put all 5 of my other horses on this feed (and I was, up to that point, feeding the highest quality feed I could buy) – and the change in each of them was really amazing. I thought they seemed/looked healthy before, but the difference in their skin, coat, feet, digestion, focus and attitude was incredible. Anyone interested can find out (in the US) if there is a dealer within a reasonable distance by going to and inputting their zip code into the dealer locator. The feed comes from Australia – always a leader in innovation with regards to anything equine – it is actually manufactured in Papua, New Guinea. There is no added anything – and it has the lowest non-structural (sugar/starch) content of ANY commercial feed available – less than 11%. If your horse has any physical issues or conditions, it will benefit from this feed, but truly, any horse, healthy or not, will only do better.


  9. Excellent blog, thank you! I shared it on my Facebook page, “The Healthier Horse.”

    Glyphosate (and any other chemical from Monsanto, Dow and Syngenta) are EVIL, TOXIC, CANCER-CAUSING KILLERS to humans and animals. I’ve been trying to spread the word here in the US for years.

    One of the problems, in addition to what you’ve already mentioned, is that none of the crops that are doused with Roundup (90% glyphosate) are washed or even rinsed when they’re harvested. The alfalfa, soybeans, corn, etc go straight from the fields to the processors where they’re ground for flour or chopped for forage or, in the case of alfalfa, baled and sold to beef and dairy farms and horse owners. We might as well spray our dinner plates with Roundup, and spray it on our horses’ feed, as well.

    Something else to consider: MOST (not all) processed horse feeds, at least here in the United States, are mostly non-nutritious fillers like wheat and soy “middlings,” and beet pulp. Middlings and beet pulp are the byproducts, or whatever is left over after all the good stuff has been removed. Stems, peels, hulls, beet pulp, etc, are, in essence, swept up off the floors and sent to horse feed manufacturers, where it’s cooked, ground up, and extruded into pellet shapes, and bagged and sold as feed. Decades ago, we learned in science class that heat and water remove nutrients. For those who buy standard, off-the-shelf horse feed, you’re not getting even close to what you pay for, and neither are the horses.

    Not all horse feed is bad. It’s up to us to research everything we feed our animals (and ourselves). Chemicals and GMOs are dangerous and have no place in food!

    Articles like this one help tremendously. Again, thank you!


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