Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Stress occurs when the demand exceeds the ablity to perform . In horse terms, the horse becomes stressed when it is asked to do something beyond its mental and physical ability, . Horses with an good temprament, conformation and scopey movement will not be unduly stressed by ever increasing demands provided it is introduced to new levels progressively.
There is a threshold of stress for each that must not be exceeded for any horse and you the rider must be sensitve to that. Remember that dresssage is a highly disciplined sport of utter containment. You, the rider becomes the cognitive centre of the horse and that is a huge privilige and responsiblity. If you respect that threshold, the horse will respond by being more submissive and reward you with its full repertoire of movement(remember its cerebellum % is larger than ours) This is an opportunity for the ultimate partnership so lets respect that.
Written by Everdien van Eerten 24-11-09 Copy right©

By now we are all aware of how stress can affect us, our mental performance, and general well-being but few of us are really aware of the fact that modern training and agricultural practices create stress in our horses . This will be the first of a number of articles I will write on how stress (excess cortisol ) affects the dressage horse in particular.
I will attempt to provide you with natural solutions to what I like to call an endrocinological onslaught caused by modern day practices. For further information, specific remedies and recipes contact us on hiralabs@clear.net.nz or visit our web site www.hiralabs.co.nz

Why are our Horses so Stressed?
Our horses no longer live according to their natural state, browzing on a range of plants, covering many miles on a daily basis. On top of this our horses are:
  • Expected to perform beyond its natural limitations ie prolonged dressage training to aquire the desired outline and level of collection.
  • Provided a diet lacking in soluble and insoluble fibre, essential minerals and vitamins.
  • Exposed to modern farming practices, chemical toxins, allergens, bio-toxins.
  • Exposed to training methods that compromise the integrity of the muscles over topline leading to micro-inflammation, tension and a raising of the cortisol set point.
  • Beginning to show signs of a new phenomenon, hyperventilation, through stress which affects oxygen supply to muscles and bronchial tissue.
  • Demonstrating an ever increasing sensitivity to allergens, myco-toxins and infections.
  • Now moreprone to degenerative conditions that cause pain and an increase in the stress hormone production

All of the above and more conspire to create Cortisol overload.

Taining Methods and the Cortisol Connection

Horse’s main memory centre, cerebellum, is primarily for movement and the memory is kinetic. Memories are visual, auditory and kinetic.
Ambiguous aids lead to confusion leads to minor cortisol rise, tension in horse and rider, this leads to a reaction, then increased aids, more stress and cortisol and so it goes on.
As the horse becomes more sensitive to stimuli real or imagined, the switch off point where the body tells the body nothing to fear fails to work at lower levels and the ‘set point’ is raised. This leads to arousal and the continual over production of cortisol.
This means shorter rest periods and triggers a reaction on smaller issues.

The differences between human and Horse Brain
Our brains differ from the horse in that the cerebellum ( responsible for movement) in a horse is proportionally larger than the human brain where the neocortex(cognitive skills) is larger.

Here are a few intersting facts about the brain which apply to both man and beast alike

  1. The brain uses 25% of the blood pumped by heart.
  2. The brain requires oxygen, glucose and nero-petides (We will cover those later.
  3. The limbic system is the nexus between mind and body
  4. Brain able to renew dendrites
  5. Levels of DHEA and cortisol in direct inverse proportion. Low levels of DHEA high levels of cortisol
  6. Alcohol deactivates the blood brain barrier allows entry of toxins to death of neurons and destroys myelin sheath.
  7. 60% of the brain is fat. Hence the need to protect from lipid pre-oxidation.

My next article will describe how cortisol affects the horse and rider and some simple things you can do, plant ingredients that will improve glucose utilisation, dopamine levels, etc.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Herbs as Banned substances

Picture of cleavers a natural diuretic.

Written by Everdien van Eerten 18-11-09 Copy right©


So much speculation has been bandied about regarding which herbs are banned and which are not. While it is easy, simply to add a given herb to the ever-increasing list of banned substances, it is far harder to accurately test for a given metabolite.

Unless you have a degree in plant science, it is alomost impossible to isolate a phytochemical naturally found in the plant kingdom.
Let me put it in plain language. Firstly the plant kingdom consists of orders, families, genus, species, varieties and cultivars. Now within all those categories each plant has what is known as a phyto-chemical profile, somewhat similar to the botanical classification originally discovered by Linnaeus. So already you have made exponential combinations of not only plants but also their phyto-chemicals. To complicate matters further you will have similar phyto-chemicals not only between genus but also from genus to species of different groups.
OK lets look at Devil’s Claw, its main ingredients are: Beta sisterols, Iridoid Glycosides (harpogoside, harpagide, procumbine) Some of these names can be seen in the botanical classification but wait it gets better there is a very common herb that also has harpogosides as well, the very chemical that is the marker for devil’s claw.
Essentially anything that affects performance. In other words something that may provide one competitor an edge over another.

I will list a few categories of prohibited physiological and behavioural effects and I am able to demonstrate that each one of these can be achieved using plant substances. They are as follows:

  • Bronchodilators ( a huge number of plants act as bronchodilators)

  • Vasodiltors Valerian is a highly effective one and yes it is able to be tested for but rosemary also contains valerinic acid so there is one example of a cross-over phtyo-chemical)

  • Sedatives We all know about valerian but there are a very large group of plant sedatives. We have one that directly affects the heart rate and is effective in case of hyperthyroidism.

  • Blood thinners Again a huge list of plants to include Garlic and omega oils

  • Ergogenics (performance enhancer delaying the onset of fatigue) Besides its well known immune effects, echinacae is an effective ergogneic becuas it increases red blood cell levels and oxygen delivery to muscle fibre.
  • Anti-inflammatories Devil’s Claw is one of many. Others in this list are white willow bark, yarrow, birch, meadowsweet.

  • Anti-histamines a naturally occurring plant with anti histamine effects is stinging nettle. Another little known secondary effect of chamomile is its anti histamine effect.

  • Behavioural modifiers One well known one is St John’s Wort. Which increases available serotonin. Now a banned substance. However the physiological effect remain in the system well after the metabolic evidence can be detected. There are herbs that act on the dopamine levels those responsible for fluid movement and still others that are anti-seratonic to combat the effects of headshaking syndrome. A newly burgeoning industry is capitalising on endocrine problems.
  • Diuretics I will supply at the end of this article a handy tip for the day of the show to get an effective diuretic into your horse by simply adding a ‘green’ tea to your horse’s feed. It can be made at home and taken to the show in a thermos flask. This ‘tea’ is common field herb and one horses could ingest as a ‘contaminant’

    I have just skimmed the surface of a complex subject that is fraught with misinformation. What next, are we going to be told that we cannot allow ‘weedy contaminants ’ to grow in our pastures?

    Remember nature will only reveal her secrets to those who have pledged not to exploit her.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


We are researchers and manufacturers of herbal and natural products. Our main focus is the equine market with a special focus on the dressage end user. I post regularly on the New Zealand Horse Talk page and it has been suggested that I start a 'blog page' on natural remedies and to publish some of our previous articles as well as new ones.
I would welcome any requests for topics that I could write on ie: creating a pasture that will help combat the effects of mycotoxins in horses, what can be given to improve and soften the horse's topline, news on swabbable herbs etc.