Friday, 26 November 2010

Because it sums it up:

From here:

Sinead Halpin


From Sinead: "I remember growing up and anytime something did not go as I had planned I would go to my Mom, looking for an explanation or sympathy. Pretty much, like clockwork, her response was, "Come on Sinead, this will build character!" Later in the tough times she would joke "Come on Sinead, you have enough character, don't you want to become a librarian!" Not a chance, most of these "character building" experiences have been with a horse, about a horse, or in the quest of a horse.

As a rider by profession, I have experienced frustration and desperation in trying to survive financially in the horse sports, let alone succeed in competition. As a person I have made mistakes and learned lessons the hard way. As an athlete I have broken my body in more ways than I can count. I am so thankful for all of these experiences because they have given me the opportunity to learn, as one can only do through experience and fighting for something that you really want badly. I have had the best moments of my life so far with horses. I wake up every morning and get to share my life with animals that mirror who I am. From each tear cried, each lesson learned, and each victory achieved the picture gets clearer to me. I am a horse trainer by trade but they have taught me far more than I could ever teach them.

I am so thankful for my horses, and for the people and friends they have brought into my life. I am thankful that I have the opportunity to learn lessons from these animals that are more valuable than anything that can be bought, or any ribbon that can be won. Happy Thanksgiving and thanks EN for making me take a few minutes and appreciate how lucky I am!"

I think the same can be said of anyone with a driving passion for anything, whether it be horses, bikes, painting, writing, advocating for others, saving the environment. Some people never acknowledge or recognise their passion. I wonder how life must be for them.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

When a yam just won't do....

And in other news, paleo track cyclist discovers the consequence of inadequate starchy carb intake.

I’ve never really had an issue with grappling to the keep the weight scales on the upside of a particular number, but at the moment I am. Even eating a heap of dark chocolate isn’t working that well. So after  two weeks of feeling like crap, being down, depressed, cranky, unmotivated, and with complete mojo loss while training, I decided to do something radical, and have a bowl of riceflake and buckwheat porridge for breakfast. What a difference timely starchy carb makes. I am sorry strict paleo Ironperson Lady, but sometimes sweet potato/yams just don’t crack it for me. 

After 9  months, I am still finetuning this paleo business, but overall, I currently feel the best physically I have felt in a very long time. It does make me wonder though, how much is also due to a radically reduced, incredibly specific training load, as well as diet. It's about whole body, whole life.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Equitana 2010

The last couple of weekends I have been well entrenched in horseland, not bikeland. (and I am not talking shops either). Around 10 days ago, I sat my final exams for the Equine Myofunctional Therapy (EMT) certificate part of the Diploma of Equine Naturopathy. I am assuming I passed, despite one or two stupid answers provided during exam-mode brain fades. Now I have 30 hrs of log book to complete and I am a qualified EMT, ready for business.

The weekend just passed was the long awaited Equitana. I went with my superpass in hand, allowing me access to EVERYTHING!!!!. Frankly, it was huge. Last time I went was about 8 yrs ago, when it was small enough to be contained by Jeff’s Shed. Now it sprawls across 3 pavilions and an outdoor arena at the Showgrounds. It was a great way to get back up to speed with products, some old acquaintances, and who’s doing what in the dressage scene, after a 5 year hiatus.

The highlight for me was Steffen Peters, who in the flesh is an even better rider than the youtube footage of his bronze medal WEG ride a month ago shows. Sensitive, diplomatic, thoughtful and allowing (“That’s ok, he is entitled to his opinion” as Shiraz Black shies yet again at the boogieman corner). His humour, tact and considered approach in teaching both rider and horse in his masterclass were absolutely delightful. He is now a new addition to my short list of dressage heroes. Later when I rode Mr Moon, I was channelling Steffen,  as in What Would Steffen Do?. I just wish some of our “top” riders did, in particular Lawnmower Lady who absolutely refused to STOP leaning backwards like the proverbial Pisa Tower no matter how many times Steffen politely reminded her that it was preferable to not to stay in that position after applying an aid. In the end, he kept repeating: stop leaning back, stop leaning back. She still didn’t get it. And later that night in the dressage freestyle, it was obvious none of Steffen’s advice had connected with her, as she rode a heavy test, which for some reason, the judges thought was worthy of third place.

One rider who did impress me greatly was young man from Qld: Jayden Brown, riding Furst Freidrich in the Masterclass. Quiet, sympathetic and absolutely responsive to his horse and Steffan's instruction. More like him please, and Australian Dressage is well on it's way to international recognition. With the likes of Jayden as the New Skool, I have strong hopes for horsepersonship and riding in Australia.

The Way of the Horse Competition was the antithesis of this however, with three trainers selected to take a young stockhorse each, from unhandled paddock condition to a display of riding through an obstacle course with 2 or so hours of work only. Way of the Horse is a major misnomer, and the competition lends itself to be called The Way of the Ego. Chad Brady managed to beat his baby steed into submission on Day 1, using a swimming pool noodle and some blue tarp. Apparently that kind of work looks impressive. He  managed to stress his horse out majorly, and no wonder the baby humped his way around the pen with Chad on board,  whilst Steve Halfpenny and Adam Sutton quietly went about introducing their babies to the halter. In the end, Adam Sutton "won" for which I am relieved and pleased. I didn't see the second half of this comp on the final day, the entertainment of the first round was bad enough.  I don't see any value in this event, particularly not for the horses involved, not for the trainers involved, and it should be dropped from the program. It cannot showcase the good work that all three trainers are very capable of. How can it with such time constraints? Horse training is not formulaic. I am yet to hear or read any favourable comments about it, so why the Equitana programmers continue with it I have no idea. It's rather ironic when there were many posters around stating "Cruelty to horses will not be tolerated". Unless of course, you include a competition in the program that sanctions it.

I came away from Equitana with 6 pages of notes from Steffen’s masterclass, some new clothes, some goodies for the ponies, and a whole lot of motivation, ideas, opinions, thoughts and impressions about our local horse industry. Will I go again in two years time? It depends on who is the Masterclass presenter....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Horses can have Metabolic Syndrome Too

It’s funny how the world collides in on itself, when you go looking hard enough. Or else it’s just self- projection, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Alongside my no gluten no wheat no lactose low sugars journey this year, I have also been studying the latest in horse management, including, of course, nutrition. This has been further sparked by ongoing intermittent lameness in my mare, and obvious insulin resistance/cushings symptoms in my loaner schoolmaster gelding.

Whilst on the surface, the two horses are very different, and have very different issues, I believe they are actually marks on a spectrum of insulin resistance, with Moonie being obvious to the point of clinical, thanks in part to his age, and Maz being at the opposite end of the spectrum, with her symptoms so vague and very specific (abscesses).

Both animals are good doers, and don’t need mountains of feed to keep condition on, and sometimes need restrictions on their dietary intakes. Moonie has classic insulin resistant fat deposits over his body and neck, Maz is simply in very good condition. Moonie doesn’t have feet issues, although his feet are not in prime condition with flat soles and contracted heels due to a lifetime of shoeing. Maz has been barefoot all her life, apart from a 2month period just after breaking in, when she had front shoes only.

One of the prime “symptoms”/repercussions of insulin resistance is laminitis or founder, where the bonds between the laminae (layers of horn) in the hoof, and the hoof and the horse,  are destroyed, usually by an overproduction of MMP, a remodelling enzyme. This enzyme is overproduced as a direct outcome of leaky gut, cause by over ingestion of sugars, fructans and starches, or non-structural carbohydrates. This is of course an oversimplified explanation. Sounding familiar???

Traditionally, this overload of carbs was thought to occur on lush spring pastures, and from a horse raiding the grain bin in the feed shed. Whilst this is often the case, the situation is far more complex than that.  And when one gets one’s brain around the complexity, it follows that most surburban and semi-rurally kept horses in Australia (ie in high density situations) have some grade of insulin resistance and therefore are quietly experiencing undiagnosed levels of hoof wall damage that is called laminitis.

Most recreational horses are kept in paddocks of less than acre, and are hand fed, supplemented by improved pasture (think of improved pasture as fortified white bread. It’s great for growing meat and milk, compromised for growing healthy, living beings). Hand feeding consists of prepackaged, cooked (yes, cooked) grains and other feeds, fortified with vitamins and minerals, and sold by a number of feedmills, nicely packaged like bags of dog kibble. Each brand has its own special mix of nutrients, so no two brands are quite the same. This makes it difficult to compare prices, and results, because the ingredients are not quite the same. This bagged feed is mixed with chaff, and supplemented with hay (often from specialised farms, so heavily beefed up in the sugars department thanks to superphosphates and other fertilizers).

It’s the equivalent of packaged processed foods and take aways for humans, with the same result: metabolic syndromes and diseases.

My mare is the first horse I raised fully on a premixed, cooked (extruded) grain based feed, plus chaff and hay. She had her first abscess within 6 weeks of arriving at my place, as a yearling. I’d never encountered an abscess before, and now, 9 years later, I’ve seen so many, if the mare was to have fractured a leg, or blown a tendon, I’d fob it off as an abscess. This year I have changed the way her feet are trimmed, to a barefoot style that allows the hoof to function correctly, which then facilitates better blood flow through the hoof capsule, and results in a heathier hoof. She’s had more abscesses continuously since doing this. But now I am not so sure we are dealing with traditional abscesses.

Abscesses are, I believe, on the same continuum as laminitis. An abscess is an inflammatory reaction to necrotic tissue or introduced pathogens. Laminitis is inflammatory of the same hoof area. They are absolutely related. Once I released this, I also realised I had to stop looking at abscesses like pimples: painful and problematic but that’s about it. Now I think of them as a warning bell, a bit like IBS, acne and unexplained joint pain and muscle fatigue in humans. Something is going wrong inside, metabolically. It’s time for my ponies to go paleo again!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Babe on Board

I love the logic of safety and risk management in high risk sports at times. Today's news is that the Equestrian Federation Australia has implemented new rules for making stallions more "visible" (and in some kind of bent logic, therefore making them "safer") in public ie at shows. Official plastic discs, attached to both sides of their head wear, magnetic signs for trucks and floats, stickers for stables, indicating that yes, this horse is an entire male.

The logic behind this intrigues me. The display of the stallion indicators is for competition purposes. Most stallions at competitions are well trained and behaved enough to be able to compete and perform in the midst of distractions such as silly mares in season, bored geldings wanting to pick a fight, the horse illiterate general public who are attracted to your hunk of a horse, who is a hunk of a horse by the very nature of his testicles, wanting to feed him half their gluten laden lunch. The stallion identifiers won't change a stallion's behaviour. If a stallion is so ill-mannered as to be a danger to all and sundry, then he quite simply should be banned from the competiton and sent packing home, with his negligent owner in tow. Most likely, such a naughty boy didn't make it onto the float to get to the competition in the first place, to be able to wear his markers of ballsiness.

Most horse people don't need a plastic disc to tell them the horse in the queue in front of them, or the stall next to them, or the float beside them is a stallion (nope that huge crest is not an implant!). One would hope that most horse people would be aware of their own actions in handling themselves and their own horses around stallions. And if not, one would hope they would ask the stallion owner for advice and guidance if they find themselves based beside an entire. But as I said, most competition stallions are very well behaved, and need little special consideration from others. This regulation suggests to me how much "commonsense" knowledge has been lost in horse management in the last 20 years or so, and how risk management policies and procedures are currently perceived.

 from here

Two rides, one arse.

It's hard work being a track princess AND a dressage princess. But that's the way I like it.

This week I was voted off Schoolboy BikeIsland, and it is with much glee that I am enjoying the thought of less stress in my life; no more worrying about who said what to whom and why someone else got upset about it. Or something like that ;-) Frankly I also feel like ditching the whole bag of CSV/bike responsibilities I have, but I'll recover and get back into it.

The Hon.Schoolmaster Mr Moonie has settled in well, smooching and caroosing and increasing membership to his fanclub on a daily basis. He'd kiss babies if it would help. Dressage Queen Mazarella is not impressed, and now I find I am in high demand from two horses both wanting attention NOW!!!! Thank god they are not in the same paddock, or I'd be in traction in hospital, being squished in a horsecake love sandwich.

So I am juggling my time between the bike and the horses. It's been challenging, particularly with the recent heavy rains and a body that really didn't want any more of that hurtie stuff on the bike please. I decided that the best laid plans do not go astray when they are documented, so today I've written myself out a weekly schedule of which beast gets my arse on it, when. Now I am officially un-enduro, scheduling in ponyrides is a lot easier. Anything more than 2 hours at a time on the bike is really just not do-able, and no longer in my body's vocabulary.

And in other news, it looks like the 2011 World Masters Track Champs will be in Manchester, birth place of both my grandmothers. That's my goal for next year, so getting up for my first pre-dawn training session this morning, a first for many many months, was not as hard as it has been in the last week (so hard it didn't happen). One goal, one race (done three times, in three locations) and 3 PBs. Ka-ching!

My first pony ride in >3yrs. His first ride being a dressage pony in about 5 yrs!
I just realised: I am literally double his age!