I want to talk about sea sponges today. I'm convinced that sponges are the "lucky number 7" in terms of horse care. I'll tell you why, and once you have reached the end of the article you will know whether sponges are plants or animals, and where our sponges are coming from.
Our sea sponges originate from the Mediterranean Sea, Greece to be precise. When I had the idea to start Kikolily, I was looking for an alternative to industrially produced sponges. I remembered that when living in Greece I saw those sponges everywhere, and I even knew some sponge divers.
Dimitris lives on the island of Lemnos, and he is the descendant of a long line of sponge divers. Every day, he and his colleagues dive and cut the sponges at the bottom of the sea. In order for them to re-grow, you have to know exactly where to cut them off. It's an art and I love that sponges are a natural resource that regrows!
He proudly shows me some of his most beautiful catches. He grabs one and squeezes it lightly. I can still hear the soft sound of sand and seashells hitting the ground. He then puts it in a bucket full of water, pulls it out again and looks at me expectantly: "No dripping", he says simply. I was impressed by the great water absorption and specifically the no dripping part.
Sea sponges are amazing:
They absorb up to 20-35 times of their body weight in liquid.
They are yellow, ocher, gray or brown and have a fine-pored surface or fairly big holes.
They have been around for 500 million years, one of the most primitive multicellular animals.
They can live several thousand years.
Worldwide more than 9000 species are documented.
Sponges are perfectly adapted to their environment, using their own organic chemicals:
Glycoproteins as an anti-freeze, toxins against hungry enemies or natural antibiotics which prevent bacteria from getting too comfortable on their surface.
Fascinating, right? In the ancient world, people have been using them to wash themselves. If the sponges are wet, they have a super nice feel on the skin but also have a light peeling effect. All natural!
My horses like to be washed with them, too. They seem to love the tangy freshness of them, they smell a bit like a summer sea breeze. Apparently, the massaging effect of a natural sponge is better than a normal one.
I can definitely confirm that: Our test horse, Amadeus, who is usually quite impatient and delicate, was just standing there dozing while I was washing him with the natural sponge and Kikolily Horsewash. It almost seemed to me that he was begging for more massage, even in the most sensitive areas between his hind legs.
My mare Kalena gave me a bit of a funny scare: She ate the sponge! Well, chewing on it. It's probably not dangerous, but maybe keep the sponges out of the reach of your horse's hungry mouth :-).
Sponges: Filters of the sea
They stick to the ground of the sea or reefs and have only one task: Filtering. One kilogram of sponge pumps and filters a ton of water a day. A single milliliter of water contains up to 100.000 bacteria, including a huge amount of potentially harmful germs. An organism can only survive the attacks of such a vast amount of bacteria if it can defend itself. For example, scientists know today, that many of the complex biomolecules in a sponge prevent inflammation.
Spongy: Plant or animal?
Simply put: Animal. But this answer doesn't cover the whole picture. Even vegans use sponges sometimes, an indicator that many people don't officially classify sponges as animals or animal products.
Fact is, Sponges don't have a brain and neither a digestive nor nervous system. Zoologists, however, still classify them as animals. The sea sponge that you can buy is basically the skeleton of the sea creature because living sponges are surrounded by tissue. Once sponges get out of the water into the air, they die. They get squished, washed, pressed and dried. Then the cells decompose, and the soft, porous skeleton remains.
Good to know:
We only sell the unbleached variation of the Mediterranean "honeycomb" and "silk fine" natural sponge in our shop. The honeycomb is called "Hippospongia Equina", the horse sponge. They are larger and to be used on the body.
The silk fine variety is a small and fine sponge for the head and genitals. They absorb big amounts of liquid, don't drip and pamper the horse's coat and skin. They are not only hypoallergenic, they are also naturally anti-bacterial and won't get mouldy. If you take good care of your sponge, they easily last up to five years,
Cool, right? Until next week, Nicole