If you’ve ever found yourself on the end of a leadrope, flying a horse kite…
Or treating your show horse with bute and Previcox after a long week of competition…
Or dosing one on prescribed stall-rest with magnesium…
You may have wistfully longed for the ability to instantly restore their inner Oprah and magically heal what ails them—lest they injure, re-injure or attempt to injure themselves. Or you.
That mythical pill does not exist, of course. But an alternative remedy does. In high performance sport, human athletes are turning to cannabinoids (CBD) to help heal their bodies and settle their minds post competition. (NFL’s Rob Gronkowski, Derrick Morgan, and Eugene Monroe and UFC’s Yair Rodriguez and Nate Diaz to name a few.) Few high quality CBD options exist for horses, however.
Enter CannaHorse’s Equilibrium, an orally-ingested, medical-grade CBD product designed to “support the mental and physical wellness of your horse with a powerful spectrum of naturally occurring phyto-cannabinoids.” And it’s said to have zero side effects.
Now, full disclosure, my CBD knowledge falls within the “six degrees of Kevin Bacon” rule of life. I can’t stand the smell of pot, it makes me nauseous (which is ironic, I suppose), but I know someone who knows someone who knows someone who swears by the stuff. So, I was very interested to chat with Warren Byrne, founder and president of CannaHorse, about his newly launched CBD product that’s already making waves in America and beyond.
Because truth be told I’m a skeptic and I have questions. Many, many questions…
Let’s just jump straight to it, is it fair to say that Equilibrium is horse weed?
Warren Byrne: [Laughs] Not quite. It’s a horse health product formulated with medical grade hemp—there’s no THC in it, which is the component of cannabis that gets people “high.” So, no. It’s not “weed” for horses or otherwise.
Okay, so what exactly is it?
WB: Equilibrium is the first product in the CannaHorse line. It’s a pharmaceutical-grade health product that offers all the benefits one has come to expect of CBD—pain relief, reduced inflammation, improved gut health and sleep quality—but with enhanced calming effects. At CannaHorse, we’re trying to provide all the same things for horses that that CBD and cannabinoid products are being used for in people. Generally, we’re tailoring our products to target four main areas: calming/anti-anxiety/general wellness (ie, Equilibrium); arthritic pain; exercise/surgical recovery, and gut health.
With Equilibrium, we are finding tremendous benefit in the training of young horses. For example, we have a 5* event rider who is having success using it on a four-year-old to reduce some nervous energy and provide focus, which is exactly what human athletes are finding in their training via cannabinoids.
We’re also hearing that it’s helping horses recovering from injury or surgery that are confined to stall rest, for example, without the negative side effects some of the other “calming” products produce (eg, diarrhea, ulcers, colic, etc.) Some of the traditional medicines you won’t ever replace, but we are looking to create healthier, safer alternatives.
Everyone and their brother seems to have a CBD business right now. What makes yours different?
WB: A few things, mainly our method of delivery, which relates directly to efficacy and product quality, and our scientific research to ensure product consistency.
WB: Equilibrium is delivered as an emulsified liquid straight into your horse’s mouth and is largely absorbed through the tongue and cheeks. We do that for a faster onset and more potent effect—the equine stomach is not a great place to absorb cannabinoids.
Generally, CBD that’s fed to a horse in an edible form, such as a pellet, you’re looking at an absorption rate of about 20 percent at best. Research shows that 20 percent absorption of some of these pelleted products would barely have an effect on a human, let alone a horse. We start at 250 milligrams of CBD per dose and we believe our emulsified state gives us an absorption rate closer to 60 percent. That’s a huge difference.
I did some research. Movies, music, and Bill Murray often reference “that good sh*t,” which suggests there is also bad sh*t when it comes to cannabis products. How do you ensure you’re making the good stuff?
WB: The first difference between us and any of the other horse products we’ve found is that we take isolated versions of each of the ingredients in Equilibrium, and combine them down to the 100th of a milligram. If you look at a strain grown by two different growers, they will be similar but not exactly the same. We’re looking for absolute predictability and consistency of specific ingredients—we want the product you order today to be absolutely identical to the product you order a year from now. Horses can’t tell you how they feel, so consistency is a very important aspect to creating a new health product category.
All of the cannabinoids and terpenes used in Equilibrium have highly supported medical benefits and we’ve blended them to enhance those effects. CBD on its own is not actually very useful. With cannabinoids, it’s very much “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”—it’s the Entourage Effect.
The second difference is that our products come in individually dosed packets that 1) allows for consistent, reliable and precise dosing and 2) protects the potency of the dose. One of our research partners was given pellets for some trials. The pellets were left in their office [like you would in your feed room] and when they tested the pellets after being exposed to air, they had degraded tremendously. Cannabinoids do not do well with oxygen. Any product or supplement that can be open to air is going to degrade.
Okay, let’s assume Equilibrium is the “bomb” (pun intended). Who is going to use it? WADA dropped CBD from its list of banned substances for humans in 2019, but the FEI, USEF and racing still have a zero tolerance policy for horses.
WB: First and foremost, we’re not at all trying to subvert clean sport. I believe all horse sport should be drug-free. We’re focused on making sure people stay within the lines of USEF, FEI and racing commissions by looking at longer-term applications where we think we can provide an alternative to some products that have negative side effects, such as bute, Previcox, magnesium, reserpine, Ace, Dormosedan and even treatments like bisphosphonates. Breaking the cycle of using a secondary medicine to treat the side effects of the primary medicine is something we believe will benefit equine health.
We’ve just finished an initial study in Prague, which was able to give us some basic safety information on how our emulsified, water-based solution affects horses. We had no side effects in terms of heart rate, blood pressure or gastric behavior—at this point that was what we were looking for. We have additional studies planned for this summer.
In terms of sport, CBD can be a useful a recovery aid. If you look at human athletics, there are boxers and major football players using CBD immediately after a big fight or game rather than taking unsustainable NSAIDS, narcotics or even opioids for pain relief. They feel their bodies can recover better and faster with CBD, and then in order to follow the rules, they will stop taking CBD to allow for the ‘clearance’ window before their next competition.
For horses, we feel that our emulsified format will shorten that clearance window because we’re using less of it [given the higher rate of absorption]. We think Equilibrium will also be useful for horses on the off-season to promote physical and mental equilibrium while they’re taking a break from competition, before they need to gear back up again. It’s suitable for all breeds and ages and can be used for daily maintenance or for an acute response to a physically or mentally stressful situation.
You mentioned horses on stall rest, too.
WB: Yes! If you think about it, stall rest for a horse is not dissimilar to the COVID lockdown. You’re away from your friends. You don’t know why you can’t just do all the normal things and have fun. If you can make life just a little easier and take away some of the stress, you will produce a happier, healthier horse.
Again, we’re not trying to replace drugs that have proven effects but rather provide a better, healthier alternative that has fewer undesirable side effects.
Any other words of wisdom for those of us who didn’t wake ’n bake their way through high school?
WB: Don’t buy your CBD from the gas station! Please buy a good, reliable product. In our preliminary research, 84% of people surveyed would consider trying a medical cannabis product on their horses, make sure you’re not just feeding them garbage. There are a lot of mediocre products out there, and there are also a lot of really dodgy products out there.
Think about where you’re buying it. If you’re buying it from a website that will only let you pay by an e-transfer, for example, take that as a red flag. If it looks like used motor oil, you probably shouldn’t feed it to your horse.
We produce Equilibrium in a facility that is also approved to produce human-grade products. We’ve invested in research and development and in the science of creating a quality product and I think that shows—and will show in the results for your horses as well.
Equilibrium is available now at www.cannahorse.com in bags of 5 and 15 packets. (Shipping not available to Canada, the United Kingdom or California.)