A Case of Equine Mineral Toxicosis
By Tanya Nolte

The following shortened case study illustrates how a mineral disturbance can manifest in the horse not only by physical signs, but in the mental/emotional sphere too.

‘Brionny’, 4 yo, chocolate bay, Thoroughbred mare. Presenting with a sudden onset of nervous behavioural changes.
The owner had bred the horse himself and described her as being originally very placid with no vices. She took things calmly in her stride without getting into a flap, was a joy to break in, easy to load in floats, not fizzy in the company of other horses when ridden, not upset by windy weather, etc. She had always been pleasant natured, not overly friendly but certainly not difficult or flighty.

Brionny is a lean horse with a tendency to pick slowly at her feed but is not underweight. Isn’t very happy to be hosed and can become quite irritable and threaten to bite if hosed with water that is too cold. Must be something about water as she is not an overly big drinker either. She is generally about half way in the ranks when out with the herd, being neither too bossy nor too easily pushed around. Her stool and urinary habits are usually normal but it had been observed that there were occasional loose stools in the past couple of months.

Recently she began spooking at every inconsequential thing on the trail. She had taken to bucking under saddle, something she had never done previously or at the time she was broken in. She was becoming increasingly moody and difficult to manage. What also worried the owner considerably was that after an episode of spooking, bucking, or general nervous behaviour, Brionny seemed slightly uncoordinated in her action behind. Despite the increase in nervous energy she didn’t have her usual stamina either. The hot weather was taking a greater toll on her than the other horses.

The owner had taken the care to have her teeth checked by a dental technician; ensure that bridle/bit and saddle fit was not causing the problem; have her evaluated for musculoskeletal issues by a vet and chiropractor; decrease her feed grain levels; and generally investigate any reasons for this sudden change in behaviour. Hormonal imbalances had been entertained but not thoroughly looked into.

The owner researched for a genetic link but this came up blank and there had been no previous neurological, behavioural, or other associated health issues with other youngsters he had bred from the same dam and sire lines. Vaccination had been kept to a bare minimum as the owner adopts as natural a management plan as possible. No earlier health incidents had required any conventional drug treatment.

The only change in lifestyle, environment, equipment, feeding, etc. that the owner could relate was a shift from another region to the current property. The owner had moved all his stock and domestic pets about 15 months ago and felt they had all adjusted fairly quickly and without incident. However, Brionny having not quite reached 3 years of age, was still a growing girl. After the first 6 months on the new property the owner had noted that her coat and hoof condition had been declining and that she didn’t seem to be blossoming quite as she should. The owner had been concerned that the young filly may require additional mineral supplementation due to what he considered to be mineral deficient land and acted accordingly by adding a commercial mineral formula to her daily feed.

Interestingly, the owner had noticed that two of his working dogs were acting erratically and that he himself had been feeling irritable and depressed lately. He had wondered if perhaps his own mood had been influencing his animal’s behaviour. Training methods and handling were discussed but although the owner’s moods may have been taking some effect there seemed little here being done incorrectly to justify such a strong negative reaction.

I suggested to him that he have a hair analysis done to check on any mineral discrepancies. The results came back as quite a surprise to him! High values of nickel, arsenic, cobalt, iron, copper, and especially aluminium and lead were found. The high values indicated that there was principally a toxic effect occurring on the brain and nervous system. Furthermore, the ratios of these minerals were very disturbed. The analysis demanded a closer look at how this could have arisen.

I quizzed the owner about his land as it lay within a mining belt. Though the land looked poor in regards to someone used to lush green pastures I felt that he had gotten the wrong impression in thinking it was depleted in minerals. As it turned out, testing of the soil was made and though it was rich in mineral content it was not alarmingly high. I had also urged for the water to be tested too. The water proved to be the seat of trouble. The chief supply of water to the yard animals and the house was from an old, long-time established well. The current drought in the region had concentrated the levels of leached minerals and chemical farming residues in the water in the well. Add to this finding the extra supplementation the mare was receiving and it is not difficult to see how she arrived at her disturbance.

A homoeopathic remedy was first prescribed upon the mare’s presenting symptom picture, the physical symptoms, as well as the mental/emotional characteristics. This remedy helped stabilise her nervous system and temperament somewhat to her former self and allow easier administration of further treatment. A remedy will be often seen to work at the mental emotional level before pathology is addressed.

Having removed this layer Brionny then received the next remedy, one of several homoeopathics that were used, which more directly addressed the toxic overload of minerals to encourage excretion. Naturally, full recovery could not be made unless the maintaining cause was removed. The additional supplements were removed from her feed, no commercial feeds were used, and she was initially given rainwater as her only water source. Later she was able to resume drinking from a dam or creek in outlying pastures.

It took several weeks to get Brionny back on track. For a short time, after her second remedy, she experienced a few minor bouts of diarrhoea alternating with slight constipation while the remedy encouraged elimination of toxins. Urinary output also increased and it was stressed to the owner to ensure that Brionny kept drinking sufficient amounts of water. She did have periodical recurrences of anxiety but these became less and less over the first few weeks. Intriguing to the owner was the return of an old itchy site in the creases of skin over Brionny’s right eye, not as prominent as when she had first had it 2-3 months ago, and only evident for several days before disappearing of its own accord. This was a good sign that health was being restored in the right direction as remedies can produce a temporary ‘return of old symptoms’ as part of the healing process.

Brionny is doing well, her attitude remains bright but calm, she has regained her stamina and steadfastness, bowel and urinary are back to normal function, she holds weight easier than in the past, her bloom has returned, and she is happy and more sociable than before. The hooves are perhaps the slowest in the healing process but are well on the road to recovery. The owner and his two dogs were also treated but all received different remedies according to their individualised characteristics and not chiefly on the knowledge that they too had been susceptible to the effects of the polluted well.

I have chosen to not disclose Brionny’s remedies. The remedies that were given in Brionny’s case do not make them the correct remedies to select for each and every other horse in the same situation or with the same condition. Each case should be taken in its entirety and a remedy selected on the totality of symptoms displayed for that particular horse. A remedy chosen simply on a labelled condition, such as mineral toxicosis, will only be a shot in the dark to attain the desired result. There are many remedies that have mineral toxicosis within their symptom profile. Remember that not all suitable remedies are even made from minerals. In order to differentiate between applicable remedies, one needs the individual characteristics of the patient and what they are experiencing to choose the most appropriate match. Your professional homoeopath, or homoeopathic veterinarian, is the best person to guide you in cases that you feel are beyond your knowledge and expertise.

Please see the “At Home with Homeopathy” section in this issue for a related article.

About the author:
Tanya Nolte lives in NSW, Australia where she keeps a number of horses and also an interesting array of other furry animal companions. She has educated horses and competed successfully in a number of equine disciplines for more than 35 years. Tan operates equine holistic health and horsemanship workshops in what she describes as “EquiPotential”. Being a registered classical homoeopath and a practicing veterinary nurse has given her the capacity to conduct consultations at several veterinary clinics, a human/ animal homoeopathic practice, and privately at her home office. Tan is a professional member of the Australian Homoeopathic Association, the official Australian Register of Homoeopaths, and the Holistic Animal Therapy Association of Australia for which she is also a committee member. Although specialising in equine health, Tan also happily works with all our other animal companions and their human counterparts. She is available for distance consultations via phone, regular mail or E-mail correspondence.