By India Thomson, SPILLERS Care-Line Nutritionist
When I was asked if I wanted to attend the European Workshop of Equine Nutrition (EWEN) in Uppsala, Sweden I was really excited and a little apprehensive but jumped at the chance. Having come from a practical background I was looking forward to continuing my learning and understanding of what is an ever evolving subject and just hoped I wouldn’t struggle too much with being back in a class room as it’s certainly been a few years since school!
What happens at EWEN
EWEN brings together many passionate experts from the equine industry from vets and feed companies to scientists and students who all share a common goal of continuing to research the nutrition and management of the equine. At EWEN we heard an overview of the results of various studies and research projects including a paper on the effects and force caused by eating hay from a haynet that was conducted in collaboration with SPILLERS. It became clear that research is so important in shaping the future of how we care for our horses, however carrying out this research is expensive and often just scratches the surface of some complex subjects.
I love to explore new places and I was really looking forward to seeing what Sweden had to offer, I think it’s fair to say it didn’t disappoint! The organisers of EWEN ensured our trip was not only memorable but left us with a great insight into the Swedish equine history. We had a wonderful demonstration of the North Swedish draught horse that is used to cut grass during the summer months and for logging in the forests during the winter. We saw a Gotlandruss pony that is native to Sweden and believed to be one of the first breeds in Europe to be domesticated plus a jousting display! Our hosts had thought of everything, from a performance by the Uppsala Choir during dinner to afternoon coffee breaks filled with carrot cake on the first day and Swedish chocolate oat balls on the second day chosen for their main ingredient’s relevance to the equine diet! It also goes without saying that Sweden boasts some memorable music talents as well – ABBA and Avicci, does it get any better?!
It was brilliant to have an insight into the ongoing research being carried out and to hear the discussions and questions posed from each paper. I particularly enjoyed presentations by the key note speakers that were not directly related to the equine but gave some really interesting food for thought from research carried out in other animals and humans relating to nutrition and its effect on health and well-being. Lina Tingö from Linköping University, Sweden gave a fascinating talk on her research into the Gut-Brain Axis. I could have listened to Lina all day and there certainly seemed to be some very conclusive research to suggest that there is a strong link between the bacteria (the microbiome) in the gut and the messages sent to the brain.
I found my first equine nutrition conference really interesting and it was very motivating to see that in these environments everyone shares the same goal. In our business, making a better world for horses is the ethos behind our work and investing in continuous research is so important. I came away feeling inspired to keep up with the latest research and proud to be associated with a company that takes research so seriously. It also made me appreciate that there is no quick or single answer to the issues that we face such as metabolic issues, however there is a huge amount that still needs to be and continues to be researched. I was very grateful for the opportunity to attend such a prestigious equine nutrition conference and have certainly come away with plenty to think about. Equine nutrition and management has many variables and is a subject that is ever evolving.