Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Horse Health Care: 7 Little Things That Make a Big Difference

It's often the little things that make a big difference when it comes to horse health care. Have you ever noticed how some horses who have been doing poorly start to thrive when one or two little things are tweaked in their management program? Horses are relatively simple creatures and their needs are not complicated. The devil, as they say, is in the details when it comes to horse health care.

7 Little Things That Matter a Lot in Horse Health Care
As a zen cowgirl who has seen a lot of horses come and go, both performance horses and backyard pleasure horses, I've classified 7 areas of "little things that make a big difference" when it comes to horse health care. Take a gander and see if you agree with me.

#1 - Basic Nutrition
Horses are phenomenal creatures in that a little nutrition goes a very long way. Horses are accustomed to eating lots of food that is high in fiber and low in nutrients, so when you add just a small quantity of power-packed nutrition to their diet, the results are pretty astounding. Don't you think it's amazing that you can change the health of a 1,200 pound creature by just adding 1 liquid ounce of nutritional supplements to your horse's feed?

I feed an ounce of my special horse goo, which I mix up on my kitchen table, to each of my 4 horses and the results are pretty amazing. The goo, which includes this special antioxidant juice plus Simplexity Health's Essentials, is a wonderful maintenance tonic that keeps my horses healthy, happy, and symptom-free. The juice is a wonderful antioxidant and source of trace minerals, while the Essentials have probiotics, enzymes, and blue-green algae. Together the combo significantly contributes to my horses' well-being, even in tiny doses.

Get the recipe for horse "goo" here.

#2 - Plenty of Long-Stem Chewable Food
To stay healthy horses need to chew on something pretty much all day and all night. To keep both mind and body happy, horses need plenty of long-stem chewable material, like hay. They also need to be walking while they eat, as this helps their digestion and keeps them active. Since hay doesn't meet all of a horse's nutritional needs, I view it as entertainment. Chewing on hay all the time keeps a horse occupied and out of trouble. It's tempting to feed soaked beet pulp pellets and a Senior feed instead of hay when hay is in short supply, but this kind of diet doesn't offer the long-stem feeds that horses need to stay healthy. If you must feed beet pulp, choose the shreds over the pellets because the shred are longer-stemmed than the pellets, which are chopped up.

One thing that works very well for horses not on a giant pasture is Jaime Jackson's Paddock Paradise concept, which keeps horses walking and eating all day long. Just Google Paddock Paradise to get the scoop.

#3 - Basic Body Maintenance
Basic body maintenance is an essential part of good horse health care, but doesn't need to be complicated or cost a lot. If you horse has its nutritional needs met and is kept out of trouble by having plenty to chew on, veterinary care boils down to hoof care, dental care, regular de-worming, possible vaccinations, and any bodywork that might be needed.

Depending on how much hands-on work you want to do, you can handle most of the hoof care, de-worming, vaccinations, and body work yourself. I wouldn't recommend taking on the dental care. I do everything but the dental care for my horses. It's possible to learn bodywork (massage, acupressure, Equine Touch) from books or workshops. The same goes for hoof care, especially if you keep your horses barefoot. If you don't want to handle these chores yourself, scheduling one visit per year with your veterinarian should take care of dental work and vaccinations. Then add in visits from the farrier every 6-8 weeks and body work as needed, and you're good to go. Just keep it simple.

#4 - Space to Roam
Wild horses travel up to 25 miles per day in search of food and water. Horses are meant to be on the move, all the time, so if at all possible give your horse plenty of room to run. If you keep your horse in a stall, schedule as much turnout as possible. If you have a choice between keeping your horse in a run or a stall, choose a run. It always amazes me that horse people pay more for a smaller space (stall) than they do for a larger space (a run) or for pasture care. A run or pasture ends up being cheaper boarding options than a stall, not to mention healthier for your horse. If you have limited room or no pasture for grazing, consider Pete Ramey's Pasture Paradise to make the most out of a small space and keep your horse moving.

#5 - Match Your Horse's Job to His Personality
Every horse is a particular personality type, just as people have personality types. Each type wants to be loved in a different way. Veterinarian Madalyn Ward has developed a horse personality typing system that helps you determine your horse's personality type, and understand how best to manage your horse. Check out the Horse Harmony Test. More importantly, once you've figured out your horse's type, see if your horse's job, management, diet, and so forth match his personality type (you can get all the details in her book, Horse Harmony). Tweaking your horse's management program so that it fits his personality can go a long way to keeping your horse healthy and happy.

#6 - Other Horses to Play With
Horses are herd animals, which means they are not meant to live alone. Horses feel safe and secure when in a herd. To keep your horse happy, he needs to at least be able to see and hear other horses. Better still would be if your horse could interact with other horses in a herd situation. Of course, your job is to ensure that the herd is composed of suitable companions for your horses so that your horse emerges from a play session injury-free and happily satisfied. If you keep your horse where he cannot see or hear other horses, consider bringing in some kind of companion, even if it's not another horses. Horses often get along with donkeys, mules, goats, or even llamas.

#7 - Time Off to Be a Horse
This is especially true for performance horses who are campaigned heavily all year long. Most horses are more than willing to do their jobs, but they need down-time to just be horses. If you have a performance horse on the circuit, consider turning him out to pasture for a month or two during the winter. While he may lose some of his physical condition, his mental condition will be restored, and he will work all the better for you. This is a case of "less is more," where slightly less work equals more effective showing later in the season.

Horse Health Care - Why the Little Things Matter
These little "tweaks" to your horse's management program can matter a lot because at the end of the day, a horse is a horse, not a motorcycle. Horses are living, breathing creatures who have adapted remarkably well to domestication, but nevertheless have some basic needs that date back to their ancestral roots. You'll be amazed how much happier a horse can be when his basic physiological and psychological needs are met. For instance, many a wood-chewing horse has been restored to normalcy by simply having constant access to long-stemmed feed like hay or beet pulp shreds. Putting a round-bale into your horse's pen is a simple "tweak" that can produce big results (and equal less carpentry work for you)!

Got any other great "tweaks"? Leave a comment so everyone else can benefit!

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

7 Ways to Save Money with Horses That Make You Go Duh!

The words "save money" don't usually go in the same sentence with the word "horses" because horses are expensive hay-burning creatures who are outmoded forms of transportation in the modern age. But, it is nevertheless possible to save money when it comes to caring for and enjoying your horses.

7 Ways to Save Money with Horses

This list comes with a warning, though: it is a list composed by a master of the obvious. You will read this list and say, "Well duh!" to many of the items. Nevertheless, ask yourself how many of these steps you are actually willing to take, especially the steps that seem quite obvious. You ready? Here goes.

#1: Stop Buying or Breeding More Horses
Don't say I didn't warn you that some of these items make you go "Duh!" Yet how many people do you know who own a stud and some mares, and keep churning out colts just because the mares and stud are "there"? How many people are taking in rescue horses or buying more horses just because it's a buyer's market? Every single horse, no matter under what circumstances it was bred or bought, eats and eats and eats. And that equals money running like a hemorrhage out of your bank account. Just stop it ... no really. Don't even go there.

#2: Sell the Horses You Don't Ride
Pasture ornaments are pretty, but is your pasture really a Christmas tree? Does it need decorating? Do you derive joy out of looking at those ornaments, or do you feel guilty every time you see those horses and think, "I've got to start riding them!" No matter how much money you paid for the horse or how much the horse is worth in a good horse market, in a crappy economy when money is tight, that horse represents a total financial liability. Find it a new home, even if it means taking a financial loss compared to what you paid. Moving the horse to a new home means getting some money out of the deal, plus the reduced expense of all the food the horse won't be eating in the future. Suck it up, folks!

#3: Opt for Pasture Board if Possible
If you board your horse rather than keeping him at home, opt to board him in pasture rather than in a stall or run, if possible. Unless he is a total hothouse flower or runs through fences (or is a stud), pasture board is both cheaper and healthier for your horse. Yes, you'll have further to walk to catch your horse and he'll probably be covered in mud, hay, and manure, which means more grooming for you. However, your checkbook will reflect a healthier balance and your horse will probably be more mentally sound.

#4: Supplement Well But Inexpensively
I've written a lot of articles about how most hay and horse feed doesn't cover all your horse's basic nutritional needs, so to have a healthy horse you will probably need to supplement his feed. I've found an inexpensive "cover all bases" formula that does that for about $60 a month. It's called "horse goo" and is a mix of Simplexity Health Essentials (with blue-green algae, enzymes, acidophilus, and bifidus) plus a specific antioxidant juice. Feed 1-2 ounces of this goo daily for healthy results. When I say healthy results, I mean low to no incidence of colic, healthy feet, shiny mane and tail and coat, and high immunity. Amazing how well this stuff works. It's like having champagne even if you're on a beer budget. Get the specifics on mixing up this "goo" here.

#5: Skip the Shows and Go Play
Whatever your training routine is, stand it on its head. Add some variety to your routine. If you campaign your horse all the time at horse shows, go trail riding or school your horse in a different event. For instance, my jumper mares do really well when I take them to some team penning and sorting events. It gets them out of the jumper ring and chasing some cows, which for them is total fun. And the cost can't be beat: $20 for the day, which ends up being about 6-8 runs. Now that's cheap entertainment. I have friends who have been taking their dressage horses to some sport horse versatility shows, where they do the equivalent of a trail obstacle course. This teaches even the spookiest hothouse flower dressage horse to drag logs, carry raincoats, get the mail, and walk over all manner of obstacles. This is good cheap fun that's also a psychological rest for your horse.

#6: Decide Whether Your Horse Really Needs Shoes
Many horses do needs shoes, I know. But ask yourself, "Does my horse really need shoes all year round?" Maybe not. If you ride your horse in a soft arena all the time, he may not actually need shoes. Many cowboys pull their horses shoes off in the winter to give their hooves a rest. Consider doing the same for your horse. Shoes constrict the hoof and increase shock on all the joints in the body. Even if you want to go trial riding, you can still pull your horse's shoes this winter -- just buy a pair of boots to protect your horse's feet. A good pair of boots runs about the same price as a shoeing job, so you won't be overspending there. Plus, many horses only need boots on their front hooves, since they carry 60% of their weight over their front end. Pulling your horse's shoes for even 3-4 months will save you a pretty good chunk of change, not to mention improving your horse's health.

#7: Figure Stuff Out On Your Own
For a long time when I "schooled" my horse, I just walked, trotted, and loped him in both directions. I had no idea what I was doing except for exercising his muscles. That's because I always had a trainer who told me what to do, step by step. I never asked why we did what we did, I just waited for instructions, like a good little rider. Once I moved out of the big city and into the country, I was clueless because I didn't have an instructor (there were very few jumper instructors in cowboy-land). So I had to start figuring stuff out for myself. I read some books, took the occasional lesson from a trainer who lived 50 miles away, and watched some videos. I rode with people in the neighborhood, some of whom used to train horses. I made a lot of mistakes, and learned that almost no mistake is "unfixable." I became a much better rider and I learned to start my own colts. So instead of spending all your dough on lessons with a trainer, try to figure some stuff out for yourself. This will decrease your costs, and the things you learn will be priceless!

The "Well, Duh!" Factor
Yeah, I know, most of the things on this list are just common sense, but you'd be amazed at how many horse people have NO common sense. When you read this list, don't just say to yourself, "I already knew that." Instead, start planning how you will implement these changes in your daily life. If you plan on taking fewer lessons, figure out how you will tell your trainer about your change in plans. A lot of people are afraid to tell their trainers this. You'd be amazed. Then make a plan on how you will figure things out by yourself. Will you watch videos? Will you go to a clinic or two? Will you try a different event just to get a new perspective on what you need to work on? Be creative ... it's fun!

What about you? Any ideas, obvious or subtle, to have fun for cheap with your horse in this cruddy economy? Do share!

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

An Update on the One-Jump Wonder Project

There are one-trick ponies and then there's me, the wannabe one-jump horse wonder.

I recently wrote about how I was embarking on several projects to have cheap fun with my horses in this cruddy economy. It's become my new passion to offer up as many ideas as possible for horse people to have fun, for cheap, with their horses.

One project I took on involved tearing down some chewed up wooden corrals to create an open space big enough to I could lope my horses (read that post here). In that space, there would be room for exactly one jump. My plan? To school my jumper mares over a single jump all winter long and be prepared to jump full courses come show season in the spring.

The Update
I promised an update and here it is. I am following my three-step plan of
1. Using what I already have
2. Bartering
3. Borrowing

As you can see from the pictures, the corrals have been taken down so I can now make use of a space I already had, but couldn't use before. I bartered with my neighbor Bill for this. He took down my corrals and I'm doing his chores for several weeks while he and his wife go to Africa on safari.

I have also borrowed jumps from my friend Heidi so that I can school my mares (see them all lined up like neat little soldiers?). I have six standards and six poles, so I can either make a vertical jump or an oxer, or even a Swedish oxer if I get really crazy. After all, I've got room for just one jump!

Thus far I have dragged the lumpier parts of the arena using the four-wheeler and have loped in it. The horses don't love the footing, but they are learning to deal with it. The footing is soft, but not totally even. I'll be working on that some more by mixing some old hay, horse manure, and grass clippings into the footing (not to worry, I don't let the horses eat the grass clippings).

Anyway, so far my cost has been $0. I'll be doing Bill's chores for a few weeks starting soon, so I'll have to invest a little gas money, but $20 ought to cover the entire cost as he lives just up the road from me. I'd ride my horse to his place to do chores but it takes too long to get there and back on horseback, so I won't do it except once or twice. My only other investment has been in poultices that I've had to put on wasp stings. Wasps have built nests in my hay barn (where I put all the old wood) and they are a little territorial. Oh well, a little acidophilus and blue-green algae mixed with spring water and baking soda took care of the stings.

So that's my report on cheap horse activities for a cruddy economy. My focus is on using what I have, bartering for things I need done, and borrowing everything else.

What ideas do you have for horse activities that are fun and cheap? I'd love to hear so please drop me a line or share a comment!

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hay for Horses is Entertainment Not Nutrition

You may think the stuff you throw over the fence, the hay for horses, offers your horses the nutrition they need to stay totally health, but you would probably be wrong. Being a zen cowgirl inquisitive science-type, and having hung around with a major hay producer in my area who actually tests hay for its nutritional value, I'm realizing that hay for horses is basically entertainment, not nutrition.

In other words, the hay I'm throwing, while better quality than the hay in some places, is pretty empty of the vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals that my performance horses need to both perform and stay healthy. If you look around at the performance horse barns in your area, you'll see what I mean.

An Example to Chew On
For instance, around here we have a top cutting horse barn. The horses get fed either straight grass hay or a grass/alfalfa mix. Nothing else. The horses get top-quality care, are glossy and well-groomed, and look good. They perform well. However, the average age at which a horse in that barn is retired because he's used-up or injured is six years old. Does it make sense to you that a six-year-old horse should be "retired" because it's too old, injured, or tired to keep going? Does it make sense that three-year-old horses need hock injections to keep going?

Why Hay Alone Isn't Enough for Performance Horses
The fact that most of these horses need hock injections or are retired at such an early age tells me that their bodies are not getting the nutrition they need from hay alone to stay healthy.

Nutritionist Carol Bennett says, "Aging is the process in which the body loses the ability to defend itself." When performances horses age prematurely and have to be retired at such a young age, I get the message that their bodies are unable to defend themselves against the stresses of training. Add to that this statement from the Surgeon General and you get a more complete picture: "67% of all human diseases are diet-related." Now I know we're talking about horses here, but I interpret this to mean that a poor diet leads to disease, whether in humans or horses.

So if hay for horses doesn't cover the basic nutritional needs, what is it good for? Why, for entertainment, of course. Horses need be walking and eating about 23 out of 24 hours in the day, so having hay constantly in front of them is fairly essential. In fact, if you really want to reproduce the conditions of wild horses, you would not only have to have hay in front of horses all the time (or have them out in pasture), but you would have to keep them walking and chewing. Pete Ramey has discovered a wonderful way to do this with his Pasture Paradise concept (just Google it for more info).

The Good News Hay for Horses
So the bad news is that the hay you throw over the fence for your horses probably isn't enough to meet their full nutritional needs, especially if they are in training or heavy work. The good news is that it doesn't take all that much nutrition to fill in the gaps that feeding hay alone creates. This is because horses are used to eating foods that are low in caloric and nutritional value, so adding just small quantities of high-quality nutrition to their diet will create a big effect.

For instance, I feed my horses 1-2 ounces daily of a special nutritional "goo" that I whip up at my kitchen table. It amazes me that 1-2 ounces of nutrition does the job on a 1,000 pound horse, but the results can't be denied. Adding this small amount of power-packed nutrition results in healthy hooves and coat, no allergies, no colic, and a generally happy outlook on life. In case you want to know, the goo consists of 1 packet of Simplexity Health Essentials (blue green algae, probiotoics, and enzymes) plus 1-2 ounces of a specific antioxidant juice. It works a treat.

So do I grow hay for my horses? Yes. Do I feed plenty of it? Yes. Do I count on its nutritional value? Never. I cover the bases with algae, probiotoics, enzymes, and mangosteen juice. I enjoy watching my horses eat hay, though, because I know it entertains them thoroughly and satisfies their instinctive need to chew continuously on long-stem, low-content food. And when they're happy, I'm happy.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Adrenal Fatigue -- An Explanation of Yin and Yang for the Rest of Us

So adrenal fatigue is big news these days: 80% of people in the U.S. have adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue symptoms include:
  • mild depression
  • low energy and the inability to get "caught up" on sleep
  • allergies and food sensitivities
  • muscle fatigue
  • poor sex drive
  • inability to handle stress
  • dark circles under the eyes that won't go away
  • cravings for sweet or salty foods
Do any of these sound familiar? It does to a lot of workaday people who have to "get up and go" whether they feel like it or not. I've certainly had many of these symptoms, as have my friends, so I decided to do a little research about the "Yin and Yang" of adrenal fatigue. In other words, I interviewed my acupuncturist to get the skinny on this condition from the Chinese Medicine point of view.

The Yin and Yang of Adrenal Fatigue in Layman's Terms
So after wading through a ton of Chinese Medicine words which flew right over my head, I finally got the layman's explanation about adrenal fatigue. Ready? Here goes.

In order for us to be healthy and feel good, our Yin and Yang energies need to be balanced. Yang energy is radiative, and is the energy that allows us to "get up and go." We are using Yang energy when we are active during the day, whether we are working at the office, exercising at the gym, or thinking our way through a sticky math problem. When we expend too much Yang energy, we get burnout, which happens to a lot of people.

Here's where Yin comes in. Yin energy is supposed to balance the outgoing Yang energy, to "embrace and anchor the Yang," as my acupuncturist put it. Roughly translated, Yin energy is internal and keeps our energies contained. The Yin is what prevents us from expending too much Yang, and what keeps us from burnout. The Yin is responsible for telling us when we need to rest, and for allowing us have restful down time. Yin energy is the quiet little voice that says, "A nap would feel great right about now."

What Happens When Yin and Yang Energies Are Out of Balance
If our Yin and Yang energies were balanced, we would be active during much of the day, but rest when we were close to over-expending our Yang energy. Plus, we would be able to shut down and rest at night, instead of feeling too wired to sleep.

Unfortunately, that kind of balance doesn't really fit our modern lives. Most of us live with too little sleep, too few nutrients and micronutrients, and way too much stimulation. Our schedules dictate that we have to "get up and go," even though our Yin energy is telling us that we are not fully rested and our fuel tank is running on empty. Instead of listening to the Yin message to rest, we override that message by using artificial stimulants. We use caffeine, nicotine, and sugar to push our bodies beyond its limits. This is called stress.

Here's where the adrenal glands kick in. The adrenal glands are responsible for our stress response, and regulate over 50 hormones (including cortisol, adrenaline, testosterone, epinephrine, and estrogen, to name just a few) to do its job. When we stress our bodies by using artificial stimulants, the adrenals respond by kicking the body into overdrive. In overdrive, which is the same as the "fight or flight" response, we are running on sheer Yang energy, energy that we don't really have in reserve. And then at night, we are so wired we can't go to sleep so we take sleep medications to shut our systems down. This artificial shutdown is just as harmful to our body's natural rhythms as drinking coffee all day long.

The Yin Deficiency
After a while our bodies start paying the price, and we start getting some or all of the symptoms listed above … all because we refuse to listen to the quiet small voice that is our Yin telling us to rest. After a longer period of time, our bodies no longer have the ability to balance Yin and Yang energies. We've reached a new internal "set point" that is too Yang and not enough Yin.

In Chinese Medicine, this is called a Yin deficiency. Most Americans are running around with a Yin deficiency, expending energy they don't have, thinking they'll catch up later. Sound familiar? The bad news is that unless you correct the Yin deficiency, you may or may not ever catch up. Worse, the energy you are expending today is being borrowed from the end of your life … you are literally using up your life force from tomorrow so you can keep running today. Yikes!

What to Do About a Yin Deficiency
When I heard this little tidbit about the life-shortening effects of a Yin deficiency, I immediately wanted to know what to do about it. The Chinese Medicine answer is simple: rebalance.

How do you rebalance? You have to do two things:

1. Restore the Yin and Support Adrenals
Acupuncture works well to restore the Yin, though you may need to go for a series of treatments. Herbal support helps restore the Yin on a daily basis. Formulas that work well include Eleviv, which offers most users noticeable effects within about a week. Other herbs that support the adrenals include licorice root, bupleurum, wild yam, Siberian Ginseng, and sarsaparilla.

2. Listen to Your Yin
Slow down and smell the roses, really. Rest more, enjoy life more, laugh more. These are literally prescriptions that both Eastern and Western physicians are giving to their patients with adrenal fatigue. At the end of the day, your lifestyle choices have more effect on your overall Yin and Yang balance than anything else.

So … enjoy and rebalance!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Adrenal Fatigue Tests - Three Self Tests

Dark circles under your eyes, morning fatigue, chronic tiredness, the inability to handle stress, cravings for sweet or salty foods, increased allergy symptoms, mild depression ...

Do any of these symptoms sound familiar to you? If so then you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, which doctors estimate affects 80% of the U.S. population. I hadn't a clue about adrenal fatigue until I realized that I suffered from many of these symptoms, including dark circles under my eyes that would not go away, regardless of how much sleep I got. That's when I got interested in adrenal fatigue tests and further educating myself about this condition.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a strangely paradoxical health problem. The adrenal glands, which are tiny pea-sized glands that rest atop the kidneys, do a mighty job in the body. They control and regulate more than 50 hormones in the body, and are primarily responsible for our "stress response." When we are under stress, the adrenal glands release hormones like cortisol to help us deal with the stress. As you may know, cortisol controls the strength of the immune system, normalizes blood sugar, and regulates blood pressure, among other things. Too much cortisol can trigger autoimmune responses in the body, as well as cause weight gain. Cortisol is also related to our body's primitive "fight or flight" response.

So we rely on our adrenal glands to help us deal with and handle stress, which is a good thing. The bad news is that when we are subject to prolonged stress, the adrenal glands are the first to fail. The adrenal glands can function at high capacity for only so long before they break down. In fact, what most people call a "nervous breakdown" is really adrenal fatigue.

Since about 80% of the current population has adrenal fatigue, it's clear that most of us are subject to prolonged stress. These stressors come from too little sleep, too much caffeine, multi-tasking, poor nutrition, and too much work. Sound familiar?

Adrenal Fatigue Tests - Three Self Tests
So how do you know if you are among the 80% who have adrenal fatigue? Well, examining your lifestyle is one easy way to tell. Plus, if you seem to be unable to catch up on your sleep or are chronically tired and grumpy, you're likely to have this problem. But there are three adrenal fatigue tests you can administer to see if your adrenal glands are screaming for help.

1. Ragland's Test
You'll need a home blood pressure machine for this test (you can buy one for around $10 at any drug store). First, take your blood pressure while sitting down. Then, stand up and take your blood pressure again, right away. Your systolic number (the first or top number) should have increased by 8 or 10 points. If the number dropped, then you probably have adrenal fatigue.

2. Pupil Dilation
For this test you need a flashlight and a mirror. Look into the mirror and shine the flashlight into the pupil of one eye. Your pupil should contract pretty quickly. If your pupil does not contract after 30 seconds, or even dilates, then your adrenals need some help.

3. Pain and Sensitivity
Your adrenal glands sit right on top of your kidneys. If you palpate that area and feel pain, then your adrenal glands are fatigued. You can also try pressing on the reflexology point for the adrenal glands, which is located at the top inside edge of your foot arch. If that area is sensitive, then so are your adrenal glands.

Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
My physician recommended several approaches to dealing with this situation, and I've found three of them help me the most:

1. Herbal Support
I'm taking an herbal formula called Eleviv that works well. It contains four main ingredients that offer adrenal support: citrus sinensis, eurycoma longifolia suntheanine, and camellia sinensis.

2. Order My Life
By focusing on a routine and sticking to it, I reduce the level of over stimulation in my life. I try to check email and voice mail less often, and have more "quiet time" to myself.

3. Rest at 10, 2 and 4
Apparently the adrenal glands tend to become most fatigued at these times, so I stop for short 15-minute power naps at these times. Lying down is recommended, if at all possible, so I do for my power naps.

It can take time to help your adrenals recover -- anywhere from 6 to 24 months, depending on how stressed they are. The good news is that recovery can be taken in baby steps, not radical changes. I like that, don't you?

Learn more about Eleviv here.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Adrenal Fatigue -- What's That Nasty Smell?

Believe it or not, a heightened awareness of nasty smells is one of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. I discovered that little tidbit recently when I found out that I was suffering from adrenal exhaustion ... along with an estimated 80% of the American population. Now you might think it strange that a cowgirl like me might notice more icky smells, being surrounded as I am by horse poop, dirt, male goats, and cows, but I did notice. So it all made sense when I was told by my physician that I had adrenal fatigue.

So what is adrenal fatigue? It's just what it sounds like: it is what happens when your adrenal glands get over-worked and under-nourished, so they become fatigued. Why are adrenal glands important? Well, these little pea-sized glands that sit atop the kidneys secrete hormones that allow us to deal with immediate and long-term stress. The adrenals secrete over 50 different hormones, including adrenaline, estrogen, progesterone, cortisol, and DHEA. You've probably heard of most of these hormones. These hormones are what give us the ability to "get up and go," providing the energy we need to deal with our hectic and over stimulated lives.

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms
Unfortunately, these glands, when over-stressed, eventually stop working, and then we end up with adrenal fatigue symptoms, which include:

- chronic fatigue and tiredness
- depression
- inability to think clearly
- chronic anxiety
- low blood sugar
- decreased metabolism
- changes in skin color
- craving for sweet or salty foods
- joint pain
- decreased immune function
- low body temperature
- allergies and food sensitivities
- dark circles under the eyes

There are other symptoms of adrenal fatigue that could be added to the list, but you get the general idea. Our adrenal glands do a lot for our bodies and when we overuse them, they burnout.

Causes of Adrenal Fatigue
In general, our modern lifestyle is a recipe for adrenal exhaustion and burnout. Our adrenal glands suffer when we demand too much of them. Our minds are active and full of ideas, but our bodies can't keep up. Specifically, lifestyle habits that overstress the adrenals include:

- too little sleep
- poor diet
- use of caffeine or other stimulants
- use of medication to get to sleep at night
- use of medication to treat anxiety or depression
- perfectionism
- constant physical, mental, or emotional stress
- over stimulation from cell phones, music, traffic, pagers, and email

You get the picture ... it's nothing out of the ordinary in our modern lives. For most people, it's just a snapshot of everyday life. But it's hell on the adrenal glands. In fact, modern life has such a strong negative effect on the adrenals that some women suffering from adrenal fatigue are showing signs of menopause as early as their mid-30s. Yikes! You read it right: adrenal burnout can cause early aging.

Adrenal Fatigue Treatment
Luckily, treatment is possible for this condition. The treatments fall into three basic categories:

1) Herbal and nutritional support (I like Eleviv)
2) Lifestyle changes
3) Reenergizing practices

This article is the first in a series on regaining health after adrenal fatigue, and future articles will cover specific strategies for doing so. The prognosis for coming out of adrenal fatigue is generally quite positive, and many physicians offer the following time frame for recovery:

- 6 to 9 months for minor fatigue
- 12 to 18 months for moderate fatigue
- Up to 24 months for severe fatigue

As you can see, the road back to energetic and vital health isn't a short one ... but then again, most people don't achieve adrenal fatigue overnight either! Stay tuned for more information on adrenal fatigue treatment, or browse the Zen Cowgirl blog to read more.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Horse Health Care: A Nutritional "Goo" That Covers All Bases

There's nothing this zen cowgirl likes better than mixing up home remedies at the kitchen table, especially when it comes to my horses. At the same time, though, I'm a busy gal and my holistic horse health care is usually centered around nutrition that "covers all the bases." This is especially true if I'm going to be out of town and need someone else to do my chores for me. I find my neighbors get less and less willing to do my horse chores if I make it too difficult for them. Hence, I've created a nutritional "goo" that works for just about any horse.

Horse Health Care = Good Nutrition

One of the "shortcuts" I've found for keeping my variety of horses healthy (and I have a bunch) is to mix up a nutritional "goo" at the kitchen table. This goo is made of whole food supplements that have proven to build horse health while remaining inexpensive. I calculate that it costs about $30-$40 per month to feed, per horse ... not bad when you consider the benefits, which I'll define in a moment.

But first, what is this strange goo ... or is it a strange brew? I have to warn you that this goo does not look appetizing (see the picture in this post) but smells great, and the horses love the taste. I mix:

- 1 bottle of this antioxidant fruit juice (750 ml) - click the link to read more about the juice
- 7 packets Simplexity Essentials (each packet has 1 each acidophilus, bifidus, alpha sun enzyme, omega sun enzyme, and 2 enzymes)

To mix the goo is simple:

1. Drop the capsules from the 7 packets of Essentials into some spring water, enough to cover all the capsules (do not use chlorinated water as this will kill the nutrition in the capsules). I put it all in a large Mason jar to make the next step easier.

2. Allow the capsules to melt. When melted, shake the mixture thoroughly.

3. Add 1 bottle of the antioxidant juice.

4. Store in the refrigerator. Shake before feeding. Add 15-30 ml of this mixture to your horse's feed, or syringe into the mouth. Give extra at horse shows, when trailering your horse, or when your horse is working hard.

The Horse Health Benefits of This "Strange Brew" Goo
As strange as this goo ends up looking (kind of brown and soupy), the horses love it and the results are quite impressive. Over the years, I have found that this nutritional mixture to have the following effects:
  • provides antioxidant protection when a horse is working hard (because of the algae and juice, both of which are antioxidants)
  • builds healthy gut bacteria (thanks to the acidophilus and bifidus) and decreases the incidence of colic
  • improves digestion for horses that are "hard keepers" (thanks to the enzymes, acidophilis, and bifidus)
  • supports healthy skin, along with promoting mane, tail, and hoof growth (since the probiotics promote biotin production)
  • reduces the reaction to fly bites and other skin irritations
  • increases stamina and daily energy during heavy work (thanks to the algae)
I adjust my horses' diets accordingly during the different seasons and depending on working conditions, but this "goo" forms the base of my horses' holistic nutritional program. I feel the cost is inexpensive compared to the cost of dealing with illness, colic, inflammation, and low energy. The best testimonial for this goo, though, is the fact that my horses are progressively healthier, happier, and more competitive than when I brought them home.

I've had a lot of experience with this mixture, along with whole food nutrition, so feel free to drop me a line if you have questions!

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cheap Horse Activities in a Cruddy Economy: Focusing on Cure for My Hothouse Flower Horse

I've recently been writing about how to have fun with your horse in a cruddy economy because, well, we all need to have fun, whether or not the checkbook looks healthy. In two previous posts, I wrote about how I was determined to become the one-jump wonder (a project that's bound to be cheap but very interesting) and I'm rediscovering the fun of riding in the desert. I have one more project in mind to keep this zen cowgirl occupied in the coming fall, winter, and spring: focusing on cure for my hothouse flower, a gelding named Walker (see picture).

When it comes to horse health care, the idea of focusing on cure may not sound cheap; palliating or suppressing symptoms with bandaids sounds cheaper. In reality, it's not. Over the years of buying, starting, training, and selling horses, I've discovered that really focusing on curing a horse's health problems, permanently, is ultimately cheaper than just fixing the symptoms. Walker is a perfect example. Take a gander at his case study and see if you agree with me by the end.

Walker -- The Hothouse Flower
For the most part, I ride mustangs. I've adopted five of them over the years and still have three of them: Valentine, Samantha, and Reyacita. These three mares are as tough as nails and as versatile as the quintessential little black dress.

And then I have Walker, the only gelding of the bunch, a quarter horse who is a total hothouse flower. Walker is my sensitive child of a horse, originally bought to be a reiner. He may still become a reining horse one day, but for now Walker has a lot of health issues to overcome.

Walker's Case History
Walker, now four years old, remained unbroke and a stud until late in his three-year-old year. That year, his previous owners ran him into a trailer and dropped him off at the reining trainer's barn. There, the trainer proceeded to rope him, geld him, and saddle break him. He was put through 90 days of intense reining training, in which he showed great promise as a big stopper and an big turner. And then I bought him.

A few months after I brought him home, I pulled his shoes and proceeded to put him on a natural whole food supplement program that included blue-green algae, a specific antioxidant juice, enzymes, probiotics, and wheat sprouts. Walker proceeded to detoxify his system faster than proved good for his health. He lost weight, developed an abscess in his right front hoof, developed an abscess in his jaw, suffered from colic, and generally looked pitiful. He also developed "crunchy" shoulders, proceeded to grow an inch, and develop a high hind end and jammed withers.

My vet suggested I take him off all supplements for a few weeks to allow his body to catch up with his healing crisis. Following her advice, I then gave him the Panacur Power Pack series, and am now starting him on an herbal rebalancing product called Eleviv. The goal of the Eleviv is to help Walker's system restore itself to healthy balance without going into a healing crisis. He is now back on the same whole food supplements, but in reduced quantity. He also gets body work to release his withers and spine every couple of days.

The Long Road to Cure
It's probably going to be a long road to cure for Walker, since his health obviously suffered from his experiences of being grabbed, gelded, and trained. While I could easily palliate or suppress his symptoms by giving him Bute, Banamine, and a host of other wonder drugs, I prefer to see Walker move into total foundational health, even if that takes another six months to a year.

Walker: Not an Unusual Case
Walker isn't by any means an unusual case, especially when a horse is brought from a conventionally-managed environment to a holistically-managed one. That he survived being roped, gelded, shod in sliders, vaccinated, dewormed, and trained intensively for 90 days shows that he has heart. Now he just needs health.

I am not at all surprised that Walker is going through such a healing crisis. The whole food nutrition and herbal supplements are supporting Walker's own immune system, which is responding by detoxifying the effects of his mental, emotional, and physical stress. With horses like Walker, as long as we continue to support the immune system, he should eventually turn the corner and become solidly healthy. Stay tuned for more on Walker's case in the near future.

Is Cure Really Cheaper than Fixing Symptoms?
So now that you've read Walker's case, what do you think? Is cure really cheaper? It is. Dr. Madalyn Ward, my veterinarian, has actually calculated the cost of managing a horse either conventionally or holistically, and it turns out the holistic management, which really focuses on cure, ends up costing slightly less in dollars. The bonus is that you end up with a much healthier horse you can ride and enjoy more of the time. Read this fascinating comparison on the Holistic Horsekeeping website.

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