Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Achievement


May 2009 be the year in which you make your dreams come true.



To achieve great things, two things are needed:
A plan, and not quite enough time.

~ Leonard Bernstein

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Related Posts
Applied Physics
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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log

I'd venture a guess that most endurance riders keep track of their conditioning efforts by one means or another. Some hang large calendars in their garages and record distances, weather, and recoveries in the spaces. Others keep notebooks or planners in their tack rooms.

Personally, I use Excel spreadsheets to not only to record actual workouts, but also to map in advance my entire year's conditioning and training schedules for eight horses. This method enables me to progress through an intentional series of workouts designed to train and condition each horse at an appropriate pace.


Thanks to my Endurance Conditioning Log, I know today exactly how far and fast I'll be riding Consolation on August 22nd next -- 20 miles at 7.5 mph, thank you very much. (Yes, I'm sure Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with me. Why do you ask?) Obviously, a plan is only that. The beauty of an electronic log is that it can be easily updated to accommodate a horse's changing needs or a rider's shifting schedule.

Several individuals have contacted me of late requesting a copy of my spreadsheets, so I've decided to make them available to you all. To download a copy of my 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log, follow the link to Box.net and log in as follows:

Email: TBWReaders [at] gmail [dot] com
Password: TBWReaders

Under the My Files tab, you'll find a folder labeled Endurance Riding Tools. In the folder, you'll find the Endurance Conditioning Log, as well as my Endurance Conversions Chart.

When you open your newly downloaded 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log, you'll find an Introduction tab at the bottom left side of your screen; click there for instructions on how to use the Log. If you aren't an Excel expert, never fear; the worksheets are protected so you can't possibly screw up the formulas. If you are an Excel expert (unlike me), feel free to unlock the cells and go to town. I'd be pleased to hear your ideas for improving the Log.

In addition to a blank template, the 2009 Endurance Conditioning Log includes sample data -- my conditioning plans for Aaruba and Consolation. Thanks to our winter weather, you'll need to scroll down to view these plans, which won't spring into action until March. Of course, you're welcome to overwrite the sample data with plans for your own horses.

Enjoy!
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Related Posts
Rider Resources: Endurance Conversions Chart
How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources
Log On: Sample Endurance Horse Conditioning Schedules
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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Blessings


It is, perhaps, the surest proof of God's wisdom,
that He chose to be born in a stable.

~ Tamara Baysinger

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Many Christmas blessings to you and yours, from the whole herd at In the Night Farm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

You Better Watch Out...

I spent a few minutes this morning preparing the horses for Santa's arrival. Acey was a bit suspicious...


...but Ripple took it in stride.


I think I'll send her out to greet the reindeer. Santa might be inspired to leave extra presents for the ponies!

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

On the Wings of a Storm

I paid less than $400 for Aaruba. His breeder wanted quiet Arabians and Pintabians, and Aaruba wasn't. No, Aaruba was the plain gray, high-headed, wide-eyed, last straw that sent his sire to the vet for gelding.

I first saw him on the kind of windy, muddy day that whipped his mind to wildness. Still a leggy four-year-old, he flashed about the makeshift corral as if the storm were inside him, no buck but plenty of air, a whirl flat knees, good hooves, and that indefinable something that trumpets, "I'm the one!"

We made the deal.

Aaruba came home friendly but troubled, ravaged by a sea of emotions, in desperate need of a captain. Together we navigated the straits of training -- he the ship and I the sail -- to open waters and sunny days.

Nearly three years later, I can sometimes offer a bit of the captaincy to him. Yesterday, fresh from two weeks of bad weather and little work, he seemed nevertheless in a mental state to chart our course. And so, I settled into my new Stonewall and handed him the wheel.

He ran.

For most of sixteen miles, he ran, and a winter storm gave chase. A frozen landscape streamed past, pulled tears from my eyes and sweat from his neck. We cantered free as water, free as wind, our bodies long and loose as the reins between us.

I scarcely touched his face or sides but listened instead to his language pure as breathing. Our path looped wide, spun at last on a gust toward home. Winter nipped his flying heels. Naked tree limbs shuddered and the bellies of the clouds grew pregnant with snow.

And I? I clung astride that plain gray, high-headed, wild-eyed, will-o-the-wisp whose size and strength far outstripped my own, a creature more emotion than logic, more motion than matter, more worth than gold, and I was not afraid.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Rider Resource: Endurance Conversions Chart

I already opened my big Christmas box. Now, it's your turn. I've left a gift for you at Box.net. Just follow the link, then log in as follows:

Email: TBWReaders [at] gmail [dot] com
Password: TBWReaders

Under the My Files tab, you'll find a folder labeled Endurance Riding Tools. In the folder, you'll find a little Christmas present from my farm to yours.

It's [drumroll, please!]...a spreadsheet!

Whoopee.

Okay, okay. I'm a nerd. But hear me out. I created this little tool to help me pace Aaruba during rides. I keep a copy posted in my horse trailer and another copy in my saddlebag, where it can spare me those simple mathematical conversions that seem to grow more difficult under conditions of stress and exhaustion.

The Endurance Conversions spreadsheet consists of four mini-charts:
  1. Speed/Pace Conversions -- This chart simply converts minutes per mile (which is what you'll get if you time your ride using a regular wristwatch) to miles per hour (which I find more useful for comparisons to other people's conditioning programs and such).
  2. Average Speed Conversions -- This chart works in conjunction with the Speed/Pace Conversions chart to tell you how long a particular distance (in miles) will take (in minutes) at a given speed (miles per hour) or pace (minutes per mile).
  3. Pulse Conversions -- This chart converts beats per minute to beats per 10 seconds, making it easier for a brain-dead rider to take a quick pulse using a stethoscope.
  4. Time Conversions -- This chart simply converts time in minutes to time in hours. I find it useful on those occasions when I feel too weary to mentally convert 380 minutes to 6 hours, 20 minutes. The reverse conversion will make the Average Speed Conversions chart easier to read.

You'll see that some lines on the chart are highlighted in yellow; others in blue. The yellow indicates my ideal ranges for the last 50-miler I rode on Aaruba; the blue indicates what I deemed to be an acceptable margin. The grey areas mean "I don't want to be in this range."

The spreadsheet is not locked, so feel free to make any changes suitable to your personal use. If you have ideas for its improvement, let me know and I'll be happy to consider them.

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Related Posts
Log On: Sample Endurace Horse Conditioning Schedules
How to Condition a Horse for Endurance: A Collection of Resources
Rider Resource: Endurance Conditioning Log

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Comes Early: My Stonewall Sponsorship Saddle has Arrived!

Here it is! The Stonewall Saddles logo...


...on my new sponsorship saddle, complete with unique water bottle holders, saddle bags, and wool pad...


...custom-built for Aaruba, with the help of the Dennis Lane equine back measuring system...


...beautiful and comfortable enough to coax me out for a ride despite the windy, 15 degree weather. The saddle fit Aaruba as though molded to his back (which is, after all, exactly what the conformal foam lining the custom tree is designed to do) and felt perfectly secure and familiar to me as we cruised across the frozen countryside.

I haven't had a new saddle since I was fourteen years old. It was an all-purpose Wintec, the best I could afford on my stall-cleaning wages. Sixteen years later, I still have it. I can see myself riding in a Stonewall even longer.

Dear Jackie, owner of Stonewall, Aaruba says "thank you."


And so do I.
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Related Posts
Upward in the Night
It's Here!: Dennis Lane Equine Back Profiling System
Speed and Special Delivery: Stonewall Saddle Pads are Here!
Back in the Fitting Room: Endurance Tack and Rider Gear
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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What's in the Box?


The dogs couldn't guess. Can you? I'll tell you tomorrow. ;-)
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Christmas Comes Early
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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Vigilance


The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone.
It is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.

~ Patrick Henry
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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bringing it Home: Equine Gastric Ulcer Management at In the Night Farm

I started this series on Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome in an effort to help my ulcer-prone endurance horse.

Diagnosed over the summer with multiple, bleeding ulcers (probably the result of an impaction colic that kept him off feed for several days last fall, combined with his highly emotional nature), Aaruba has benefited from two, 30-day courses of GastroGard and the attentions of a team of excellent vets who are very experienced not only with regard to internal medicine, but in the sport of endurance as well.

Four months after diagnosis, Aaruba's condition is dramatically improved. He has put on weight and cleans up an astonishing quantity of feed. He has plenty of energy, a healthy coat, and a gleam in his eye. His bare feet are healthier than ever, his post-workout recoveries excellent, and our endurance goals for 2009 look achievable indeed.

All the same, I'm not about to let down my guard. Gastric ulcers have no respect for the thousands of dollars horse owners pour into Merial's pockets. GastroGard may allow ulcers to heal, but it doesn't prevent them from recurring...unless you can continue to administer a small, daily, $8.00 dose. Considering that the effect of long-term omeprazole use is unknown, and that omeprazole is listed by the AERC as a banned substance, endless GastroGard treatment isn't a practical option in Aaruba's case, price tag notwithstanding.

I've explored my options and settled upon the following routines for preventing EGUS here at In the Night Farm:

  • I keep feed in front of the horses as much as possible. Constant access to feed appears to be the single, most important factor for prevention of EGUS.
  • All horses receive some alfalfa in their diet, as it is believed that alfalfa's calcium content has a buffering effect on gastric acid.
  • Horses are never worked on an empty stomach. If the horse I plan to ride hasn't finished a meal recently, I offer half a flake of alfalfa to munch while grooming and tacking up. There was a time when I would never have considered doing this, fearing it would encourage poor manners. However, there is an undeniable advantage to making endurance prospects comfortable with eating during saddling -- and expectation of imminent snacks makes the horses even happier about being caught than they were before.
Having proved himself prone to EGUS, Aaruba enjoys some additional, preventative measures:

  • He has grass hay in front of him 100% of the time, except during workouts that total approximately 5-6 hours per week.
  • He receives daily probiotics to promote general intestinal health. Right now, I'm using GUT, which is sold as an ulcer preventative containing probiotics. When the GUT runs out, however, I'll be switching to Fastrack because it contains a broader spectrum of pre- and probiotics.
  • About 40 minutes before tacking up for a workout, I give Aaruba a large flake of alfalfa. 10 minutes before tacking up, he receives a pound of beet pulp (soaked) mixed with an ounce of U-Guard, a powdered antacid product. This ensures that his stomach is full and buffered when we begin work.
  • Every hour during workouts, I dismount to administer a 1-ounce dose of Pro CMC, a liquid antacid, to keep Aaruba's stomach buffered.
  • During long rides, we pause halfway for five or ten minutes of grazing, as a full stomach is less likely to be damaged by sloshing acid.
  • To deal with the high-strung mentality that contributes to Aaruba's tendency to develop ulcers, I also have him on a maintenance dose of a product called Focus Equine. Neither drug nor herb, this powder is a vitamin/mineral blend that simply quiets Aaruba's emotions without tranquilizing or dulling him. I know, I know. It sounds like snake oil...but it works, and the company is fantastic to work with. Talking to the owner is like calling an old horsey friend. I haven't encountered such personal service in years. (By the way, if you check it out and decide to try Focus Equine, be sure to say I sent you. After buying all that GastroGard, I could really use the referral discount!)
So, is my ulcer prevention routine working?

Mostly. Though Aaruba's appetite and energy level have returned to normal, he does sometimes show reluctance to canter and a tendency to shy at objects that normally wouldn't faze him -- both possible ulcer symptoms on which I'm keeping a careful eye.

I have a stock of high-quality aloe and human-grade MSM on hand, too, should I determine Aaruba needs some extra support to fend of ulcer recurrance. Yes, it's an alternative therapy...but if 60 days of GastroGard didn't fully resolve the ulcers, I'm ready to try something else.

I also have my eye on Stomach Soother, a papaya puree reputed to have great benefit in relieving EGUS symptoms. Because traditional antacids usually contain AERC banned substances and have some undesirable side effects when used long-term, I will try replacing Aaruba's U-Guard and Pro CMC with Stomach Soother in the near future.

EGUS prevention is a long-term chore requiring careful observation, ongoing research, and experimentation to determine what works for each, individual horse. I'm certainly not done tweaking my routines -- but my hopes are high that when the 2009 endurance season rolls around, Aaruba's stomach will be ready for it.
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Related Posts

Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for EGUS
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Butterflies in December

A new award has alighted on The Barb Wire. My humble thanks to Lori, who posts many striking photos of her own at The Skoog Farm Journal.

I'm delighted to send the Butterfly Award winging along to one of the coolest blogs I know. Equine Ink offers an array of well-written posts on all things equine. I particularly enjoyed the video in this recent post.

Along with the award go these instructions:

  • Add the award logo to your blog, as well as a link to the person who bequeathed it to you.

  • Nominate at least one other blog for the award, explain why you like the blog(s), and provide link(s).

  • Leave a comment notifying your nominee(s) that the butterfly has landed.

Thanks again, Lori -- I don't know whether I deserve it, but I really appreciate it! _________________________________________________________

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Wii Fit for Riding? "Mii"thinks Maybe So.

It all started on Thanksgiving Day.

Travis and I arrived at my mom's house to find a pack of relatives clustered around the flat-screen TV, cheering and groaning as they took turns playing with the latest in video game technology.

The Wii and Wii Fit were an early Christmas gift to my mom (!) from my grandparents (!!). Just as Nintendo marketers envisioned, it provided us all with an afternoon of uproarious entertainment.

It also got me thinking.

The Wii uses a gyroscope controller to translate a player's physical movements into activities of an on-screen "Mii." The Wii Fit game goes even further by adding a Balance Board, which is rather like an miniature step aerobics bench equipped with sensors that enable the board to register the shifting balance of a player standing on the board. Wii Fit offers a set of aerobic and strength exercises, as well as yoga instruction and a series of balance mini-games.

I'm not much of a gamer, myself. I prefer the real world to a digital environment and count most time spent in front of a computer as wasted, unless I'm using the machine to either learn or teach. All the same, as I sweated off a slice of pumpkin pie on the Wii Fit, struggling to balance despite the hilarity of my family's endless commentary, I couldn't help but wonder...

What if Wii Fit really does improve balance and strengthen a person's core? Could this machine possibly offer a fun, social, effective means of bolstering my riding ability, even during the bitter winter months?

After several hours of practice on the Wii Balance Board, I concluded that the answer was likely to be yes. Core strength and precise body control are keystones of good riding, after all. It makes sense that efforts to hone these via Wii Fit balance games could, in fact, pay off in the saddle.

Travis, who is an enthusiastic gamer (and not the biggest fan of rote exercise) was all for it. Although Wii Fit exercises reportedly burn only about half as many calories as do their real-world counterparts, you must admit that some physical activity, even if its benefit is muted by the fact that it is done in place, is far better than sitting around tapping a keyboard to exterminate digital aliens.

So it was that Travis and I drove to the local Game Crazy and forked over the cash for a Wii and Wii Fit. The system got a good workout yesterday...and so did we. My own two hours of shadow boxing, step aerobics, jogging, hula hooping, yoga, and balance games resulted in some minor sore muscles and, surprisingly, the kind of post-workout satisfaction that compares favorably with a glass of nice wine.

Of course, nothing can improve your riding better than actually riding. So, after 45 minutes of buffing up my Mii this morning, I did 20 miles of that, too.

And now, if you'll excuse Mii, I'm due in digital yoga.
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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Kindness
















One kind word
can warm
three winter months.

~ Japanese Proverb


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Monday, December 1, 2008

Dirty Dancing

I spent Thanksgiving week absorbed with cooking, cleaning, and company. Meanwhile, Aaruba stood in his paddock, gathering dust. Literally. He missed two workouts, and by Saturday afternoon he was pacing the fence line in obvious frustration. So, my houseful of relatives flooded out to the round corral to watch while Aaruba and I burned off steam.

First, I tried to clean him up for the various cameras in the vicinity. The difference was almost detectable at close range.


Then, we danced.


And he was lovely. (Grime notwithstanding.)


It was an unseasonably warm, if cloudy, day. Twenty minutes of tango had both of us dripping sweat. We settled down to walk and talk in the kind of silence only friends can hear. And the relatives scuttled back to the cozy house.


Methinks Aaruba and I got the best end of the deal -- dirt and all.
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Shot in the Dark: Friendship
Shall We Dance?
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The World in White

I've always loved fog. You have to, if you're going to enjoy life in Oregon's Willamette Valley, where I spent most of twenty years. Then, as now, I lived atop a hill. Autumn mornings often found our house perched upon a sunlit island with a sea of mist spread out below, pierced here and there by a shark fin of towering evergreen.

Our latest fog at In the Night Farm was accompanied by freezing temperatures that lingered for days and turned the world white with hoarfrost. Every branch and wire bristled with shards of ice, and seedheads drooped beneath the added weight.

I rode twenty miles on Sunday, shrouded in goretex and fleece and stillness. Aaruba's boots muffled his hoofbeats on the gravel. An occasional train whistle echoed weirdly. Unseen dogs barked from afar. Hardly a car passed. No one stirred outside the farmhouses whose yellow interiors glowed like nebulas in the mist.

I've lately been enraptured by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series. It was easy, out there on the lonesome roads, to squint into the pale diffusion of daylight and believe in English soldiers on the moor near Culloden; to grip the reins, afraid; to take a ragged breath and canter on with ghosts in chill pursuit.

This is what I love about fog: It is imagination made tangible, vapor cupped in gentle hands, the world concealed, the mind released.
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Friday, November 21, 2008

For the Love of a Horse

As a sophomore in high school, I wrote a short story entitled For the Love of a Horse. It was the kind of romantic tripe that only a teenager can write, something about a girl who dies to save the horse she loves. I think she falls off a cliff in the end. It was a terrible story, but I have to admit that occasionally, when I'm in a sappy mood, I still like the title.

Do you remember being eight years old, surrounded by model horses and dreams? Do you remember being twelve, working all summer in trade for your first mare? Do you remember being sixteen and understanding that horses are better than boys?


Do you remember being twenty and falling in love, and marrying, and selling your horse to move to the city?

Most of us wander, at least for a while, from the passion of our youth. Marriages. Careers. Births. Divorces. Finances. Travels. Deaths. Mistakes. Life carries us far enough to almost forget. We pretend we don't mind, that stolen hours in the stable don't matter any more, that we would rather be secure in townhouses, insulated from vet bills, never called out on rainy nights to see to a colic or a founder or a foal.

And yet they draw our eyes, the horses grazing at roadsides. We guess breeds, gauge height, critique conformation. We remember the magic behind their eyes, the heat beneath their skins, the trace of sweat upon their racing flanks. We look until they are out of sight, and in that moment, we forget to pretend.

One day, we finally confess. The affair is not over. What but a lover or a horse can move like sea beneath us, dance scarcely touching, speak without sound? The ember flares. We leap into the blaze, and so we live or die again...for the love of a horse.
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Related Posts
Timing Isn't Everything
Shall We Dance?
Home Is Where the Horse Is
Shot in the Dark: Friendship
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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Buying Time

Every day that passes as we steam along toward winter deepens my awareness of the fleeting calendar. It is almost inevitable that the day will come when Aaruba's conditioning must be put on hold due to inclement weather.

I'm up for workouts in some pretty nasty conditions, but I also remember last winter. We saw more snow than anyone in our corner of Idaho can remember. It stayed on the ground for over a month, crusted with ice and riddled with unseen hazards. If this winter is like the last, Aaruba will get at least a month off.

A month's rest isn't too bad, in terms of conditioning. Horses retain their fitness far better than do humans, and four weeks of rest will result in only minimal loss of cardiovascular training. After that, though, aerobic fitness begins to slip, followed by muscular strength. Too long a break will result in detraining of the horse's supporting structures -- bone, ligaments, cartilage, tendons -- that were so carefully built by hours upon hours of long, slow distance training. Two months off will generally require a month of conditioning to get back to the previous level of fitness; three months off will require two months' remediation, and so on.

I am determined to minimize this winter's impact on Aaruba's level of conditioning so we can get an early start in the 2009 endurance season. "Early" in the northwest region means April, which means I need to keep Aaruba in the best condition possible until January strikes, because by the time February releases its hold, I won't have much time in which to rebuild.

Unfortunately, winter is already rattling its sabre here at In the Night Farm. I nearly froze to death getting the photos for last Sunday's post (my own fault -- I didn't dress for full-on freezing weather!) Autumn is rife with rain and wind. When all is still, morning paints our hillside white with frost. Winter comes, it whispers, and soon.

And so, each ride I take these days is weighty. It prolongs Aaruba's season of fitness and propels us a few miles more toward our first 50-mile race in 2009. It assures me that, despite the cold, Aaruba is still all heart and strength and wind. It postpones the inevitable.
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Related Posts
Oh Wind, if Winter Comes
The Best Laid Plans
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Monday, November 17, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

Endurance! Just thinking about the 2009 season makes my pulse jump.

I've renewed my AERC membership and added Consolation as a second mount. I've created new and improved templates for my conditioning logs. And, I've formulated my goals for 2009.

One of my favorite things about this sport is the endless challenge it offers. Riders like me, who are just starting out, can set goals for number of miles to complete or new (but reasonable!) speeds to achieve. Experienced riders whose horses have several years of conditioning under their girths can think about actually racing, or riding all five days of a pioneer ride, or attempting a first 100.


Me, I'm going for miles next year -- sound, steady miles that will build my horses' bodies and minds in preparation for faster efforts in the future. I hope to attend every ride in Idaho, but even if I don't, I should be able to achieve the following:

Aaruba: Reach the 500 AERC endurance mile mark. He currently has 105 miles, so we have just 395 to go. I think this is quite attainable; we might even manage 500 miles next year alone. I'd also like to increase our speed a little, from end-of-the-line to mid-pack. Of course, all this depends on our ability to keep his ulcer-prone tummy content. More on that in an upcoming post.

Consolation: Earn 200 AERC miles, LD and endurance combined. This is a touch ambitious as it might require her to do two 50's with one rest day between them at the last ride of the season, but if all goes well, I think we can do it. Obviously, training is more important than conditioning at this point in her career, and I'll gladly sacrifice this mileage goal in favor of spending more time on the basics if necessary.

Myself: Expand my understanding of equine nutrition and exercise physiology. Learn to trim hooves so I can touch them up when Travis is unavailable. Be less shy, so I can make more friends at rides.

By spring, you can bet I'll have a much longer list of goals. Acey will be on it, as will Sandstorm and Tuetano and Insider and Ripple and CJ.

By fall, I will be very tired. And content. And busy planning for 2010. _________________________________________________________

Related Posts

Applied Physics

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Horseback Church

This morning at sunrise, Aaruba and I left home for a walk among the fields. The frozen countryside, still and solemn as stained glass, gave breadth to thought. It offered the sweetest kind of silence. It quieted my soul.

Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.



Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me,
for I am meek and lowly in heart;



and ye shall find rest unto your souls,


for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.


~ Matthew 11:28-30, King James Version of the Bible ~
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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Limited Distance Day

The skies over In the Night Farm cleared overnight to reveal a landscape newly rinsed by a week of rain, lightly frosted with morning chill. Aaruba and I took advantage of the crystalline day by holding our own, private Limited Distance race. We covered just over 22 miles of countryside in 2 hours and 42 minutes, averaging 8.25 miles per hour and feeling great.

Was it only 14 months ago that I hadn't a single horse to ride? Before that, did I really spend 7 years outside the equestrian world? May I never live without an endurance horse again! This is purest bliss.


Photo by East End Portrait Photography, Old Selam Endurance Ride 2008

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Friday, November 14, 2008

Shot in the Dark: Intimacy


It is the most precious thing, to know exactly where you belong.

~ Tessie Naranjo


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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Don't Look Down!

My second riding instructor, the one I knew longest, was named Mona. I can still hear her voice as it echoed to the corner of the arena, where I balanced astride a bay gelding, begging for a canter. "Don't look down!"

Alas, I still look down sometimes. I occasionally forget that it's "elbow, not wrist," too. See?

But, in the years since I attended weekly lessons, I have learned something Mona never mentioned during all those don't-look-down moments: It's remarkably easy to tell which lead you're on without looking down.

Next time you ride a canter, pay attention to which of your knees shifts naturally forward. That's the lead your horse is on. Every time. Even if you're in 2-point.

That's how I tell, anyway. What's your trick?
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Deworming Dance

Yesterday was deworming day at In the Night Farm. One by one, I pulled horses from their paddocks for a little grooming, followed by a shot of pyrantel pamoate.

Acey is my only horse who objects to this ritual. I think it's the sensation of the tube in her mouth she hates, more than the actual paste. Either way, her eyes turn glossy and her chin tucks when she sees the tube coming. That, however, is the extent of her protest.

Not so long ago, deworming Acey was more of a project. Before she was gentled, I dewormed her by mixing the paste with a mash of beet pulp and oats. That worked well, but once she understood basic in-hand work, it was time to administer the dewormer properly.

The first time I tried, Acey raced backward in an effort to escape. Pulling on her would have done no good; in fact, it would have made her feel even more desperate to evade me. So I went with her -- and when she wanted to stop, I asked her to keep backing.

I asked calmly, just as though we were in the middle of a lesson on giving to pressure rather than attempting routine health maintenance. My goal was not to punish, but to show her that she had a choice: Stay and be dewormed in peace, or escape by working hard.

You want to practice backing up? What a good idea! Let's back up...more...keep going...good girl! Now, how about that dewormer?

I raised the tube. She backed away.

No? Okay, we can back some more. Let's go clear around the corral this time...good...very nice...ready to stop? How 'bout that dewormer?

Acey was blowing by now. Backing, even calmly, is hard work. I approached with the tube again. She eyed it and stepped back.

Really? Huh. Well, we can practice backing some more, if you insist. Let's go around twice this time...keep going...goodness, it's a long way...whew!

This time, when I slipped the tube between her lips, Acey didn't move. I dosed her, then scratched her withers while she swallowed.

There, wasn't that easier? Good girl!

Had Acey's deworming issue been more severe -- particularly if it had been result of a long and dismal course of oral medications -- I would have dosed her with something tasty, like applesauce or molasses, several times throughout a series of training sessions before administering the dewormer.

In Acey's case, however, that ten-minute lesson conveyed the message that will save us both a lifetime of headaches. Six weeks later, she backed only once -- quite a bit further than she'd planned -- before accepting her ivermectin. Six weeks after that, I watched the thought cross her mind, then vanish in the wake of a wise decision.

* * *
I wrote the above post an hour ago, and it's been bothering me ever since. Why? Because at deworming time, Acey's eyes still glaze over with the rainbow sheen that signals stress and resistance. I'm going to buy some applesauce for her, after all.

Also, the above method is one I would probably avoid using with a horse that has a tendency to rear. Backing can be frustrating for a horse, and the act of backing "gathers" him into his hindquarters, which makes rearing -- an extremely dangerous behavior -- all too easy. Turning a horse like this in tight circles instead of backing would accomplish the same objective; circling would also be a good alternative for a horse that isn't yet trained to back politely.
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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Kessira!

Congrat- ulations on your new Halter Bosal Combo from Crazy Ropes by Debbie! I hope you and Fritha enjoy it as much as Acey and I enjoy ours.

Thanks so much to all who entered The Best of the Barb Wire contest. I was warm-fuzzied and humbled by all your kind comments, which went far beyond the simple "why you selected this post" for which I asked in the rules. I didn't expect that, and it means more to me than I can say that what I post here has actually mattered to you. I'll do my best to keep it up!

And, thanks again to Debbie Hanson for sponsoring this contest. Be sure to stop by the Crazy Ropes website to check out Debbie's rope tack, which is very reasonably priced and custom made to fit your horse and even your color scheme.

Finally, remember to check out the new Best of the Barb Wire section of the sidebar to enjoy your fellow readers' selections (and a personal favorite that I sneaked in)!
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Monday, November 10, 2008

A Cowboy for You

In a recent comment, Susan at The Pony Expression referred to me as a "old horse soul." I confess I was flattered. It's time now to pass along the compliment.

Existentially speaking, I don't believe in "old souls" -- that is, the concept of reincarnated beings or even angels incarnate -- but if I did, my friend Spartacus Jones would be one of them.

He is a singer, a songwriter, a horseman who claims that equines saved him from being someone none of us would care to know. I've heard just enough of his story to believe him. How much can horses change a man? I'll just say this: he's one of the few I'd trust with my horses. (Don't panic, SJ, I haven't written you into my will. Yet.)

Anyway, he just sent me a copy of his new CD. A set of "horse inspired songs for horse inspired people," Many Ponies contains some songs I'd already laughed and cried to as I listened via Spartacus Jones' MySpace page, plus nine or ten new ones. It's all I've listened to since Saturday morning.

Having grown up to the soundtrack of my dad's LP's, I was easy prey for Spartacus Jones' style. It's Elvis. It's Marty Robbins. It's country and blues and Spanish and more. It's lyrical. It's funny and sweet and deeply honest.

Many Ponies contains the song I wish had been written for me ("A Cowboy for You") and the one that could have been written about me ("Everything That I Love Best"). All 15 tracks are the songs of a horseman's heart. Want proof? All profit from sales of the CD will be donated to horse rescues, including Meadowgate Equine Rescue in New York state. Want more proof? Read this.

Follow the links and give Many Ponies a listen. If you like what you hear, pick up an extra copy. Christmas is coming, and nothing looks as good in a stocking as a cowboy.
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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Home Is Where the Horse Is

I spent all last week out of town on business.

I don't mind traveling. It's nice to run on other cities' greenbelts, explore new sights, listen in to homogenized conversations over the roar of espresso machines at Starbucks. I enjoy the quiet of a hotel room in the evening, where I can be alone with a book and a glass of wine and no worries about what my greyhounds might be chewing up in the next room.

But, I do miss the horses. Mornings are incomplete without their wickers in the dark, evenings lonesome without fuzzy muzzles wreathed in steam. I am always glad to return to my farm, cast off high heels in favor of muck boots and jeans and a baseball cap, breathe in the hay and sweat and mud.

This time, I brought home a nasty flu that held me captive all night in the throes of a headache, sore throat, chills, aches, and fever such as I can't remember experiencing in years. I wasted a Saturday of perfectly decent weather huddled on the couch with a mug of my Magic Tea (2 Tbs lemon juice, 2 tsp honey, 2 slices fresh ginger, a dash of cayenne, and hot water -- try it next time you're sick), a novel, and two snoozing hounds.

By evening, I couldn't bear it any longer. I pulled on boots and a coat, grabbed a carrot, and met Aaruba at his paddock gate. I led him to the round corral with a hand on his jaw, released him to trot the perimeter.

For twenty minutes he trotted around me. I stood with hands in pockets, turning him occasionally with tiny step and tilt of shoulder. Dusk crept over us like fog, obscuring the valley where a farmer tilled sable swaths across his golden field. Bats swirled overhead. Cold settled like a moist blanket tucked into the edges of night.

At last I turned my back and moved to the rail, drawing Aaruba with me as though by a spell. We walked then, side by side as his breathing slowed, and I felt truly home.
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Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers

In response to yesterday's post regarding EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC, Lori at The Skoog Farm Journal courageously posted the following:

I'm sure that this comment won't be very popular, but if people know that there is a good chance of horses suffering from this gastric problem, why are these animals pushed to that extent? They are living things, not machines. What is wrong with moderation? I have watched many people in the Dressage World push their horses until they break down...and dump them. All for the glory of the person at the expense of the animal. Why do we do this?

In other words, is it morally acceptable to engage our equine partners in rigorous athletic competition, such as endurance riding, knowing full well that doing so adds a risk factor for EGUS?

It's a fair question, one I've considered at length throughout my research on Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome (EGUS). I believe it's worthy of further discussion.

Note that Lori includes sports other than endurance in her question. She is right to do so; in fact, 60% - 90% of performance horse across all disciplines appear to be affected by gastric ulcers. Endurance seems to fall on the lower end of this range; all the same, 67% represents a lot of horses.

The question grows more complex when we consider that not only performance horses are affected. In fact, nearly all domestic horses are at risk, and as little as an hour's training per day can result in ulcer formation. Furthermore, a great many ulcer cases are asymptomatic, apparently causing no distress to the horse.

Moderation is, as Lori suggests, an option...but it still won't solve the problem. Simply stalling a horse, or failing to keep hay in front of him, or administering frequent doses of bute to relieve pain from other medical problems, can result in EGUS (and a host of other ailments). Equines ranging from old schoolies to greenies just starting under saddle are at risk.

To eliminate EGUS, we would have us give up horsekeeping altogether. However, turning our horses loose in the Nevada desert to be rounded up by the BLM and sent to slaughter seems an imperfect solution. (Ahem. Shall we avoid a slaughter debate, please? If you want to discuss that issue, make tracks to the nearest online horse forum and knock yourself out.)

So, should we compete in equine sports? Should only those individuals who can provide 20 acres of quality pasture per horse be allowed to keep them...and ride them only lightly, if at all? Is there an acceptable middle ground? Where do you draw the line, and why?

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Related Posts
Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines
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Friday, November 7, 2008

EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC

Intense physical conditioning. Consumption of feed concentrates. Long trailer rides. Frequent change of venue and companions. Is it any wonder that equine endurance athletes are prone to the development of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome?

Obviously, the stress of travel and competition can scarcely be avoided in the life of an endurance horse. Furthermore, although exercise is known to promote beneficial intestinal motility, prolonged exercise -- particularly at a canter and/or on an empty stomach -- can result in ulceration due to splashing of gastric acid onto the non-glandular portion of the stomach. Prolonged exercise also draws blood circulation away from the stomach and stimulates acid production, further increasing risk of ulcer formation, and the electrolytes many endurance riders administer to ward off metabolic problems may exacerbate existing ulcers [Holbrook, et al, 2005].

It is possible that many of the mild colics experienced in association with endurance racing are actually caused by gastric ulcer pain, not impactions or gas. Fortunately, no major blood loss seems to occur as a result of EGUS in endurance horses, and I found no evidence that gastric ulcers may perforate the wall of the stomach or otherwise result in equine fatality.

Little research exists on EGUS in endurance horses because race day isn’t conducive to endoscopy, which requires 12-18 hours of fasting followed by sedation. However, a 2003 Pride Project research study of 140 endurance horses indicated that 51.09% of the participating horses had gastric ulcers. A study by J.E. Neito, published in 2004, found that 67% of the endurance horses tested suffered from EGUS. Both studies concluded that endurance horses tend to have milder cases of EGUS than are commonly suffered by Thoroughbred racehorses. Neither study indicates a percentage of afflicted horses that is dramatically out of line with the 60% incidence of EGUS in performance horses across the spectrum of disciplines.

Though a substantial percentage of equine endurance athletes suffer from EGUS, omeprazole -- the drug most recommended and proven to cure and prevent gastric ulcers -- is banned by the AERC. Considering that omeprazole is not considered to be performance enhancing, and that the AERC actively promotes the welfare of horses participating in the sport of endurance, omeprazole's presence on the prohibited substances list may seem incongruous.

In 2005, the AERC issued a letter expressing its reasons for prohibiting the use of omeprazole during endurance competition. The letter is included in its entirely in the minutes from the June 27, 2005 meeting of the AERC’s Board of Directors. An excerpt is quoted below:

After much discussion of the benefits and drawbacks of such a modification, the veterinary committee has come to the decision not to recommend a modification of the current drug rules to allow the use of omeprazole while competing.

This decision is based on several factors:

1) Allowing the use of a testable drug during competition is a far deviation from AERC’s long-standing policy of absolutely opposing the presence of drugs during endurance ride competition.

2) The reasoning for allowing omeprazole during competition could, and we anticipate will, be used for other existing drugs such as anti-inflammatory agents. For example, flunixin (Banamine) certainly has beneficial, protective effects in the horse and is not considered performance enhancing in the normal horse.

3) The affects of long-term use of omeprazole are not known and the veterinary committee will not recommend nor endorse off label (very long term) use of the drug.

4) Horses symptomatic for gastric ulcers should not be competing.

An article by Marcia Smith, DVM, published in the October 2008 issue of Endurance News, the AERC's monthly publication, included a recommendation that horses be given maintenance doses of GastroGard (omeprazole) for four days preceding a competition. The last dose must be administered at least 24 hours prior to the start of the competition to comply with recommended withdrawal times in Appendix E of the AERC's drug rule.

According to its manufacturer, Merial, GastroGard's beta blocking effect lasts only 24 hours. Because an endurance competition officially begins upon pre-ride vetting, which usually takes place the evening before the ride itself, it seems unlikely that Smith's recommendation would benefit an endurance horse during a race, though of course there is value in lowering stomach acidity during travel to the ride venue.

AERC publications recommend that horses with gastric ulcers (at least, those that are symptomatic) be voluntarily suspended from competition. Preventative measures such as frequent feeding of roughage and application of antacids during stressful circumstances are encouraged, though the ingredients in some antacid products marketed for use in horses are also on the AERC's prohibited substances list. Sucralfate is specifically listed as a permitted substance in Appendix C of the AERC's drug rule, and may be beneficial in easing the discomfort of an endurance horse suspected of having gastric ulcers.

It seems that, if we wish to participate in endurance riding (or almost any equine sport), our horses are more likely than not to suffer some degree of gastric ulceration. We must, therefore, either choose not to participate -- perhaps even to avoid domestic horse keeping altogether! -- or else commit to doing our best to prevent the onset of EGUS, cure it when possible, and manage symptoms as necessary to keep our equine partners comfortable and content.

The final post of this series will cover the specifics of how I have chosen to deal with the subject of EGUS right here at In the Night Farm.
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Related Posts
Introduction: Equine Gastric Ulcer Series

Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for EGUS

Equine Ulcer Supplement Options
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm

Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines
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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Feed Me!

One of the nice things about horses is that you don't have to be technology savvy to enjoy them.

If you want to enjoy horse blogs, however, you have to crank your knowledge up a bit. You've obviously gotten that far.

If you want to make blog reading really easy, though, you have to learn to subscribe.

Okay, okay. A lot of you already know this. But since I learned about blog subscriptions just a few months ago (and I shall be eternally grateful to the friend who taught me), I'm going to assume some others out there could use an explanation about feeds.

"Feeds?" you say, "As in beet pulp and Equine Senior?" Not exactly. I'm talking about RSS feeds. It stands for Really Simple Syndication Feeds. I haven't figured out yet what that means. Fortunately, those of us who still think "booting up" means lacing our Ariats can take advantage of RSS feeds without understanding them.

Basically, an RSS feed transfers content from its website of origin to a central location of your choosing. There, you can peruse it at your leisure. You never have to worry about forgetting to visit your favorite blogs, and you never have to type in web addresses or scan your "bookmarks" list. It's rather like having a magazine made to order and updated automatically.

For example, I use Google Reader to follow about 30 blogs. As each blogger updates his or her site, my password-access Google Reader page alerts me to the new post. I can either read the post right there in Google Reader, or else click on a link to view the post in its original context.

Those who don't read scads of blogs may find it more practical to have a few favorites delivered straight to an email inbox. This method is highly convenient but may result in occasional formatting blips. In the event of a formatting problem, just follow the link in your email message straight to the originating blog, where you can see the post as it was intended to appear.

Both options -- RSS Subscriptions and Email Subscriptions -- are available from The Barb Wire. Subscribe now by clicking on the links in below, or take advantage of the links in the sidebar anytime.

Subscribe in a reader

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Subscribe to The Barb Wire by Email

Either option will walk you through a quick, easy set-up, and you'll never miss another post. Happy reading!

P.S. Don't forget to get yourself entered in the drawing for that Indian bosal from Crazy Ropes! See The Best of the Barb Wire Contest for details.

P.P.S. No, I haven't been holding out on you -- that photo was taken on July 1, 2006, when Ripple Effect was two hours old.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Equine Ulcer Supplement Options

Next time you’re in the mood for a challenge, try selecting an ulcer supplement for your horse. Scores of products litter the marketplace, many boasting glowing testimonials and some backed by a bit of research. Anecdotal evidence suggests that what works for one horse may not work for another. Therefore, if you seek to control ulcer symptoms in your horse or prevent the development of EGUS, you may be doomed to a long treasure hunt. This post will provide a map to help you get the lay of the land.

Ulcer supplements tend to fall into three categories: antacids, digestive aids, and natural alternatives. Supplements are available in a variety of forms. Pastes and liquids may be administered even to a horse that is off feed, while powers, pellets, and granules are easily mixed with mashes or concentrates.

Antacids
Antacids reduce the pain that occurs when stomach acid irritates nerves in the stomach lining by “buffering,” or raising the pH of the stomach environment to reduce its acidity. Most antacids employ calcium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, or aluminum hydroxide as their active ingredients.

Although antacids do effectively reduce stomach acidity, their effect appears to be very short term (an hour or less) unless the dosage is higher than 240 milliliters, or approximately 8 ounces. The standard, recommended dose of equine antacids is 1-2 ounces.

Antacids are most effective when administered frequently (at least 4 times daily) and immediately preceding exercise. Their true benefit may be in relieving ulcer pain long enough to allow a horse to eat in comfort. The natural reduction in stomach acidity as a result of forage consumption then promotes additional eating, beginning an upward spiral.

Unfortunately, long term antacid use is not without risk. Many antacid supplements include magnesium, which retards calcium absorption. Because calcium deficiency can cause bone and muscle weakness and even aberrations in heart rhythm, this possibility bears particular consideration for equine athletes. Additionally, antacids may reduce the effectiveness of other oral medications by interfering with absorption; they may also affect normal urinary excretion of certain drugs.

Below are notes on several of the most common equine antacids:

U-Guard – Available in powder or pellet form. Mixed anecdotal reviews on effectiveness and palatability. Approximate cost: $15/month for powder or $30/month for pellets.

NeighLox – Available in pellet form. Mixed anecdotal reviews on effectiveness and palatability. Approximate cost: $95/month.

Pro CMC – Available in liquid form. Limited but positive anecdotal reviews on effectiveness when administered by oral syringe before exercise. Approximate cost: $30/month.

Digestive Aids
“Digestive aids” is a catch-all term for products reputed to improve general intestinal health. Some of these products claim to reduce ulcer symptoms or prevent ulcers; others are not labeled as ulcer supplements but boast anecdotal support for their positive impact on EGUS.

Probiotics – Probiotics are live microbes that exist naturally in the digestive tract. As beneficial bacteria, they are thought to promote health by suppressing the growth of unfriendly bacteria, improving the immune function, and enhancing the protective barrier of the digestive tract. Daily stressors, particularly in an emotional or hardworking horse, can upset the natural, bacterial balance of the gut. Probiotic supplementation attempts to stabilize friendly microbe populations through frequent ingestion of live or freeze-dried organisms. Clinical proof of the effectiveness of probiotic supplementation in soothing equine gastric ulcers is limited, though anecdotal evidence abounds.

L-Glutamine – L-Glutamine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks from which proteins are constructed, and among its primary functions is the nourishment of cells in the protective lining of the digestive tract. Although L-Glutamine is generally considered non-essential, that is, a normal body produces it in sufficient quantity, evidence suggests that an equine under stress (including travel, illness, athletic conditioning, disrupted social environment, etc.) may require dietary supplementation.

Digestive Conditioners – A variety of products market themselves as digestive conditioners. Most of these products combine fiber, probiotics, and amino acids in an effort to improve overall digestive health, including, in some cases, the easing or prevention of EGUS. Other ingredients may include polar lipids (fats that protect intestinal lining), threonine (an essential amino acid necessary for the production of protective mucus), and various immune system stimulants.

Below are notes on two of the most common equine digestive aids:

G.U.T –Ulcer supplement containing L-Glutamine, probiotics, and more. Available in powder and paste form. Mostly positive anecdotal reviews on effectiveness and palatability. Approximate cost: $20/month.

Succeed – Digestive conditioner containing L-Glutamine, probiotics, soluble fiber, and more. Advertised as all natural. Available in granular and paste form. Mostly positive anecdotal reviews on effectiveness; mixed anecdotal reviews on palatability. Approximate cost: $100/month.

Natural Alternatives
Gastric ulcers are nothing new, and many natural substances have been used for centuries to soothe and protect ulcerated stomach lining. Research on the effectiveness of these substances is limited, just as with antacids and digestive conditioners, but a great many individuals swear by them.

Below are notes on some of the most common natural ulcer supplements:

Seabuckthorn berries – Reportedly provides benefits including improved mental focus, enhanced digestive health, and bolstered immune system. The equine product Seabuck Complete is available in liquid form. Approximate cost: $80/month.

Papaya juice – Reportedly increases production of protective mucous in the gut, resulting in improved appetite and reduction of ulcer pain, diarrhea, and cribbing behavior. The equine product Stomach Soother is available in liquid form. Approximate cost $50/month.

Slippery elm bark, aloe, MSM, okra, and chamomile, previously discussed in this post, may also be used as natural ulcer supplements.

The Conclusion
There is no simple answer to the question of which ulcer supplement will work for any given horse. Research on the subject is limited and inconclusive, and results are so highly individualized that your only recourse is likely to be trial and error. I recommend testing one supplement at a time and taking careful notes on your horse’s attitude, appetite, and behavior as you determine the most appropriate regime for his well-being.

As you make your selections, bear in mind that some ulcer supplements contain substances banned by various sanctioning bodies, including the American Endurance Ride Conference (click here to view the AERC’s prohibited substances list). The next post in this series will further explore the AREC’s position on EGUS in endurance horses.
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Related Posts


Strategies for Prevention of Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome
Pharmaceutical and Alternative Treatment Options for EGUS

EGUS, Endurance, and the AERC
A Fair Question: Equine Athletes, Equine Ulcers
Bringing it Home: EGUS Prevention at In the Night Farm
Sheer Brilliance: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
Q & A: Aloe and MSM as Alternative Therapy for EGUS
The Good Bad News: Gastric Ulcers in Equines ______________________________________________

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