Once upon a time, in a country that didn’t run itself, a horse supplement company invented a cure for laminitis.
This cure, let’s call it LamiSafe, was like the holy grail of horse-care products because when administered to ponies who previously went lame on lush summer grass, LamiSafe prevented lameness and the pony was suddenly once again able to graze safely.
I bought this miracle product after my farrier recommended it and, though sceptical at first, for I have rarely found a supplement of any kind that did what it said on the tin, I was amazed to find that it worked.
Gracie, the skewbald pony, was suddenly as sound as a pound in a limited grazing paddock even though she is the greediest little pony in the west and can stuff her face until she’s lame on the smallest amount of grass.
‘Hallelujah! Behold a miracle,’ I told my farrier when he next came to shoe her and found her tip-top. I bought bottle after bottle of the stuff, administering a dose each morning in her feed and Gracie thrived in her paddock for the first summer I could remember — and as difficult conditions of sun and rain produced ever more fresh grass.
I told all my horsey friends about the miracle: a cure for laminitis that didn’t involve stabling the pony had been found at last.
In fact, I would go further. I think the product cured the underlying systemic malfunction that is increasingly thought to be behind a lot of laminitis, namely equine metabolic syndrome. This baffling condition stops some ponies from metabolising sugar to the extent that even if they are not overweight, the sugar in grass still accumulates and inflames the soft laminae in their feet. Even though Gracie is as fit as a fiddle, she develops strange fat pockets round her rump and in her neck. It really is most perplexing.
But now the summers of stabling, stuffing haynets and fretting were over. Gracie roamed free.
One day, however, my miracle supplement arrived on the doorstep and it had changed colour. It was now not brown, like molasses, but yellow. And it no longer smelt earthy and sweet but sharp, like cough medicine. I put the dose in the feed and Gracie turned her nose up. ‘Yuck, Mummy!’ she said, and refused to eat.
I coaxed the stuff down her by hiding it in more food, which wasn’t ideal, but I made sure the food was sugar-free. A few days later, she was lame. I went on their website and messaged the company. ‘What has happened to your laminitis product? It’s not working any more.’
Promptly, I received a reply. Several of the active ingredients, certain phytochemicals, had been banned by the European Union. This was on the grounds of insufficient ‘safety and efficacy data’, which in turn means they do not comply with eventing rules. I pointed out that Gracie doesn’t compete in anything, except perhaps an ongoing contest with my thoroughbred Darcy to see who can stuff the most grass in their face.
What’s more, I’m not sure many ponies do compete at international level. Eventers are usually stabled warmblood horses. Surely you could produce a non-competing supplement for leisure ponies living in fields?
The answer came back: no. Their market was European, so they were only making the EU-approved version, without the banned enzymes. However, the lady said I might be pleased to learn that, instead of these chemicals, the company had put some wonderful natural ingredients into the new formula, producing marvellous results. These ingredients were grapeseed and cinnamon.
Cinnamon? You’re telling me cinnamon? It’s a pony not a hot-cross bun! She replied that cinnamon contains chromium, which manages blood glucose. In that case, I said, I think I’ll just go down the cash and carry and buy a catering pack of spice. I’m not going to give anyone £29.99 to package up some cinnamon in a fancy container.
She tried her best but the bottom line was the EU had banned the cure for laminitis, just in case a chubby pony tries to pass itself off as a showjumper and enter the Olympics. Gracie thinks this is stupid, by the way. I asked her and she said she can’t be bothered to leap over poles. She said she is looking forward to 31 October when we will be free of this nonsense.
I am toying with the idea of making the old formula myself and selling one of the first products in the UK that you can’t buy in Europe. ‘Not Available In The EU’ will be my tag line.
I could start with Original LamiSafe and branch out from there. There must be dozens of products banned by Brussels with which we Brits would love to endanger ourselves again.