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Dare to be Different!

Due to a very successful talk given by Dr Debbie Carley, founder of Thunderbrook yesterday, we have been inundated with enquiries as to why we are different from other feed companies, and what led to the formation of Thunderbrook Equestrian, and why did Dr.Debbie Carley give up a very high powered job ( working as a director for what at the time was the largest medical research charity in the world) in order to start a horse feed business. Well in truth, she didn’t, she took a 6-month sabbatical when her own horses became ill, and well, she never returned, as they say, ‘the rest is history’

For over 70 years, our family have kept horses and never once in that time had a problem with laminitis, or related metabolic problems – that was until 2008. Within the space of 2 years, two mares developed acute laminitis, then a couple of others developed foot soreness and had to be restricted when already on poor grazing.

In 2001, following my move to a new research job in Cambridge, we moved our small family run stud from a Wiltshire farm surrounded by cattle and sheep farming, to Norfolk, on the edge of Thetford Forest, surrounded by arable farming. In all the years we lived in Wiltshire, our horses were overall healthy with veterinary call-outs very few. But all that was about to change. Our first setback occurred within a few months of moving to Norfolk. Our Welsh Sec D mare Abi suffered from impaction colic and had to be rushed to Newmarket for surgery. Once there, she was opened up and a full bucket of SAND was removed from her large intestines. It turned out that in our move from a clay-based soil in Wiltshire to a very sandy-based soil in Norfolk, Abi was unable to clear the sand building up in her gut each time she grazed in the paddocks, and eventually it led to impaction colic. Back in 2001, that was my first introduction to using herbal products.

There were (and still are) no veterinary drugs available to treat or prevent sand colic. Determined to save Abi suffering this fate again (and not wishing to have the expense of moving again) I researched and found out about Psyllium Husk, which is used in sandy places such as Australia and parts of America to help keep the horse’s gut clear of sand. From there, I researched with my own little herd of horses and found ways to enable the Psyllium husk to work more effectively by including other herbs, botanicals and products from the beehive, to help soothe the inflammation from the irritating sand particles, protect the gut membranes and help with moving the sand particles out. The resulting herbal product is what we now sell as Gut Cleanse.

Over the next few years, other problems started to occur with our small herd of horses including persistent mane and tail rubbing, ventral midline dermatitis (itching under the belly), summer COPD, allergies, runny eyes and noses, infertility and then bang! We had major problems.

In 2007 we had two mares develop acute laminitis requiring remedial farrier work. A couple of other horses developed foot soreness, despite already being on poor grazing. Feed and exercise regimes hadn’t changed over the years, the horses carried ‘summer condition’ as usual but were not obese, so the sudden onslaught of lamintis was most peculiar. Why had we gone from a position of never having had laminitis in over 70 years, to suddenly having 4 mares afflicted with it?

Then Harlequin, our 16.2hh ex-eventer Welsh Cob gelding who had never been overweight, began to drastically lose condition and developed laminitis in all four feet, with pedal bone rotation. This proved to be the beginning of a number of findings and life changing events that came our way over the following two years…..and led to the formation, in 2009, of a family run business – Thunderbrook Equestrian and Equine Pure Essential horse feeds.

Dr Deborah Carley
Dr Deborah Carley BSc (Hons) Biochemistry, PhD Biological & Nutritional Sciences, is the proprietor of Thunderbrook Equestrian. Her specialist areas are equine nutrition, feeding the metabolic syndrome horse, feeding horses with ulcers or compromised digestion.

Professional track record
Dr Carley gained a first degree in Biochemistry from Sheffield University. She then went on to study for a PhD and post-doctoral research at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, on ‘Molecular Analysis of Plant Cell Wall Hydrolases of Bacterial Origin’. This work involved the detailed genetics, molecular and cell biology of enzymes which break down cellulose and xylan – components of the grasses and grains that horses eat. Dr Carley then widened her research perspective working for a medical research charity, running the facilities to support genomics research and facilitating many high level international biomedical research conferences, training kit courses and workshops on areas such as diabetes, other metabolic diseases, plant genomics, genomics of common diseases, etc.

Throughout most of this time, Dr Carley has kept a stable herd of a dozen or so horses, with little change in ownership. Applying her research principles to the practical and day-to-day care and maintenance of these horses has led to a new way of feeding – a programme designed to follow the way nature intended, but taking into account the changing environment of the 21st century.

Why we are different
We don’t want to just sell you a bag of ‘ready-made’ horse feed. We want you to understand what ingredients go into feed, what their actions are, and enable you to optimise your horse’s health and avoid problems.

We are more than a feed company, we advise on how best to manage your horse’s environment, and continue to do our own research into the effects of pesticides and GMO on horse’s health.

We are the only feed company in the UK that all of the following apply to –

*We use No waste by-products, no cheap alternative ingredients, no fillers, no binders, no pelleting agents, no preservatives or synthetic micronutrients.

**We include high levels of active ingredients. When we include probiotics, prebiotics and herbs for example, we include them in generous amounts that really do work. Not just a pinch to say it’s been included!

***We use ingredients that have undergone minimal processing to bring you active functional foods, with fewer toxic by-products

Wherever possible organic, or as close to organic, ingredients are used. For example, our organic seed oats and our organic wheat bran are soil association approved. Some of our ingredients are chosen for minimal pesticide and herbicide usage, but it would be financially prohibitive to include them as totally organic.

****Our feeds and supplements are formulated by an expert biochemist and nutritionist with many years’ experience of horse husbandry. We also use the services of some of the best analytical laboratories in the UK and we have access to the finest feed formulation software, enabling us to formulate feeds and supplements for custom and specialist needs.

*****Thunderbrook Equestrian partake in a continuing programme of research and feeding trials with the objective of producing a range of feeds and supplements to be sold on the quality of product, in excess of 90% of our new customers come to us via recommendations from existing customers or equine professionals, rather than purely through the efforts of a sales team.

******All our feeds and supplements are formulated to the best specification for their use, and up to the declared analysis, not the minimum permitted tolerances.

This blog is part of an archived library.  These blogs were originally written from 2009 through to 2014, so some are over a decade old (apologies the exact dates have been lost on website updates).  Research and informed opinions are a constantly evolving stream of work, so there will always be updates required to any older blog post, research paper, etc.  For the latest information, please email info@thunderbrook.co.uk or telephone 01953 797050 for nutritional advice.  Thank you. 

© Thunderbrook Equestrian Ltd 2022. All Rights Reserved. Registered in England and Wales No. 09000072, Registered office address: Horizon House , Fred Castle Way, Rougham Industrial Estate, Rougham, Bury St. Edmunds, United Kingdom, IP30 9ND. VAT Registration No. GB 194007415