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Caught Eating Junk Food

Published: 3/1/2012
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By Maddy Butcher

What do Fried Dough and Horse Blankets and Colorado State University have in common? I'll tell you. But first let me share a little something about myself:

I’d rather feel right than be right.
After all, having a bunch of people tell me I’m right is way better than being told I’m wrong.

According to Clay Johnson, author of The Information Diet, I’d prefer people agree with me even when I'm Dead Wrong. And you'd prefer that too, he writes.

Johnson draws parallels between what we consume for food and what we consume for information in today's world:
“Our bodies are wired to love, salt, fat, and sugar…Our minds are really wired to be affirmed and be told that we’re right.”

Junk food can give you an unhealthy body; junk information can give you an ignorant, misinformed mind.

That phenomenon hit me full force when I was doing some research for the book, Evidence-Based Horsemanship:

As NickerNews blog readers may know, I’m not much for horse blankets. Despite the Maine cold, I limit blanketing to a few times a year, when the temperatures dip below zero. In Evidence-Based Horsemanship, I know that Dr. Peters and Martin Black advocate sticking as close to natural as possible, so I felt my practice was validated.
Imagine then how excited I was when I came across an Internet post:

“Results of a multi-year study by Colorado State University, one of the top equine veterinary schools in the country:
  • Blanketing horses is one of the worst things you can do in the winter.
  • Horses have the ability to loft and lower their coats… it's like exchanging different blankets all day and night.
…It turns out that blanketing is done more for pleasing the human...The horse blanket industry has done a great job of making us think that their product is a necessary part of good horsekeeping -- when it is actually very seldom needed.”

I’d hit a Gold Mine!
I went to the Colorado State website and delved into their research archives to confirm my exciting findings. Aside from it being my habit as a journalist, getting to the original source is emphasized in Evidence-Based Horsemanship, too.

When I came up empty, I wrote to their Equine Science department.

The director, Dr. Jerry B. Black responded:

“We have investigated all departments and found that no study was conducted here at CSU in any part of the Equine Science program.

I am afraid someone has used our name to promote their
own opinion. In our investigation, we could not find ANY evidence that there has been a scientific study done on this subject at ANY institution.”

Gold Mine?
How 'bout Fool's Gold?

I’d been juked by someone on my own team.

Johnson, the author, says the Internet has given us “the ability to misinform ourselves in all kinds of new ways.”

It was a jolting reminder to always double-check my facts and stick as close to the raw data as possible.
In The Information Diet, Johnson borrows from Michael Pollan (best-selling author of The Omnivore's Dilemma and others) who recommended: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
When it comes to information, said Johnson in an interview: “Seek. Not too much. Mostly facts.”

What's the take-away?
Don't treat your facebook newsfeed as gospel.
Like fried dough -- it might taste good going down. But I doubt it sits right later.

View Reader Comments:

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3/2/2012 Catalina
Maddy, You are sooo right, we really want our opinions to be cheered and supported so that we can feel right. But it gets in the way of the truth. thanks for articulating this in such an entertaining way.
3/3/2012 susan miller
I don't blanket my horse in the winter unless it is 0 or below - or they are wet or shivering - I change their diet in october before it gets real cold - alfalfa cubes, an dash of corn oil & extra meal does just fine - their coats are great this time of year - thick like a bears - never heard of them lofting their coats - maybe the study was for chickerdees or soemthing - good work maddy!
3/3/2012 Sally
Great job Maddy
3/5/2012 A. Gem
I have a rescue horse that came with blanket and raincoat. I was told not to expect him to gain weight or live very long. Have not used either. It is now 4 years later. He can only eat grain and treats. Keeps chewing the hay but very little or none at all is ingested. Great coat on him and my other horses. They are all free range horses with all the hay and pasture they want.
3/5/2012 Julie
Wonderful reporting Maddy! I too feel that keeping the horses in their most natural state possible is the key to healthy animals, and I too feel that blanketing is, for the most part, an unnecessary aspect to horse care....although I have an older mare who needs a bit of help every so often. But I find that your discovery into what sounded like a tremendous article to substantiate your own beliefs, was in fact bogus. What causes folks to do that I wonder? Definitely a good moral to this story.... check your facts and then check what those facts are based upon. Dig deeper as some would say!
11/8/2012 Marcy
We DON'T blanket our horses...if it is below zero,, we put extra hay out. We believe that so long as horses have food, they are warm. If it is really cold and raining, we break down and bring them in the barn. We also own land in the Dakotas...our Indian friends who lease from us never blanket either.
6/3/2013 marti
thanks for confirming what I was coming up with - no real study done on blanketing. Better go break the date I made with the French model I met on the internet... :)
10/5/2013 Nicki
Thanks for the reminder Maddy-always check for facts! So much info out there!

"My horses are my friends, not my slaves" - Dr. Reiner Klimke