Tuesday, November 24, 2009

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.

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