At last. I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime, but a congress of scientists at Cambridge in the UK, have stated unequivocally that animals are also conscious beings. Not that many didn’t already know that from personal experience. But finally it is out there in mainstream science.
I quote from New Scientist:
The upshot of the meeting was the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness, which was publicly proclaimed by three eminent neuroscientists, David Edelman of the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California, Philip Low of Stanford University and Christof Koch of the California Institute of Technology.
The declaration concludes that “non-human animals have the neuroanatomical, neurochemical, and neurophysiological substrates of conscious states along with the capacity to exhibit intentional behaviors. Consequently, the weight of evidence indicates that humans are not unique in possessing the neurological substrates that generate consciousness. Non-human animals, including all mammals and birds, and many other creatures, including octopuses, also possess these neurological substrates.”
Wow. Of course what we do with this information remains to be seen.
For those who want to read more, here are a couple links.
Happy New Year to everyone.
I’m sure you’ve noticed I’ve been quiet for quite a while. Part of the reason was that I was writing a book about my experiences with horses over the years, and the truly amazing things they’ve done. It bothers me how little credit horses get for being intelligent when in fact, they are very intelligent, cooperative, and aware. I learned to ride, appropriately it now seems, on a 5 year old son of Summer Tan. Not only a stallion, but a stud, and a rough horse at the track. Not only did he let me ride him – a young green girl – he showed me how smart horses are, and how they read our minds. Having seen that so early I have never seen horses as dumb animals.
The other reason for my silence has been a lot of soul searching and conflicting emotions. I love horse racing. I love horses. I love horses to be able to show their talents – whatever they may be. Yet on some level I am against racing. And therein was my problem. So I gave up the idea of racing at all. But that didn’t solve the problem, because I still want to race. So I have given up the idea of racing Chance and am going to focus on Zola. That made me feel a lot better so it appears I am currently conflict free!
On another note, I got a call the other day from a TB trainer about trimming. What a pleasant shock! Apparently he’s picked up a horse with very bad feet, and even though he is a farrier, he was doing internet research! Another pleasant shock. We talked for quite a while and he really seemed to understand what I was saying. I emailed him a couple photos to show what I was talking about, along with a pdf version of my trimming book, because I would like nothing better than good trimming to find the racetrack. Well he called me this morning to ask more questions. Yee haw! And – and this is big – he has been watching horses’ feet as they walk around and he’s noticing them. He has come to the conclusion that the ones without the longer toes, etc. appear to be better movers.
What a way to start the new year!
Yes, it’s been quiet here at the Racehorse Experiment.
I confess that money comes first when you have 11 horses to support. I have been busy building my trimming business, and also finishing another book. This one is not on hoof trimming, but is about my life with horses and all the amazing things horses have done over the years – and all they’ve taught me. Finished it yesterday! Now it just needs another review before the galley print and the (hopefully) final review.
Now that the book is out of the way, it’s back to the horses. There will be no racing this year – again. Which is very disappointing, but it does seem the Universe itself is working against me there. Chance was so close to racing in July, only weeks away. Then it was too much time off, and too stiff competition at Churchill.
Time this winter will be spent on getting Zola galloping. Since she won’t have to go fast it should be possible to ride a good part of the winter. It will also be a good time to start Lena under saddle. As for Chance, once hunting season is over, we will be hitting the trails. There are some good big hills down the power lines which will be good for building up his wind and the muscles in his hindquarters.
I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!
I subscribe to the Paulick Report. Yesterday it was reported – shockingly – that the EU (European Union) has now refused to accept any horse meat coming from North America. The slaughterhouses have virtually closed and are not accepting horses shipped from the U.S. for slaughter. The reason? Too many drugs. Named specifically were Phenylbutazone, a carcinogen, and Clenbuterol, a steroid. Evidently drug testing procedures in the EU have improved significantly and they are not willing to risk the health hazard. I find it hard to believe they didn’t realize the horses had drugs in them before – but at least they do now.
It remains to be seen what effect, if any, this will have on the racing industry’s position on drugs. It will certainly have an effect on unwanted horses. Where will they all go? When U.S. slaughterhouses closed there was a jump in unwanted horses, but the bulk of them were then just shipped to Mexico or Canada. With those options now unavailable the results could be catastrophic for horses.
I was overly optimistic in thinking I could ride days ago. A quick walk down the road, which is basically the farm driveway, and I was whipped and panting. This recovery process has been quite the experience. At first, doing any kind of activity resulted in a rapid drop in blood sugar. Clearly I had nothing left stored in my system. After that – this was when I thought I was okay – doing any kind of “work” wore me out very quickly. But, finally, this past Friday, I felt good. Not okay, good.
I have truly been taking it easy – with the exception of one trimming day per week – and now it was time to see if I was truly better. The test? A little weed whacking. Since the drought, it has rained quite a bit (thankfully!!) and the grass and weeds have really grown. I limited myself to trimming around the foundation of the house, the horse trailer, and the travel trailer. I forced myself to stop – I felt good and wanted to do more – to avoid doing more than my body was ready for. I was tired, but it was a good tired, not an out of breath, I have to sit down, tired. And I slept good that night!
The next day, I felt good and decided to do a little mowing, just a section along the fence line, between the fence and the road. Again, though I wanted to keep going, I stopped. I don’t want to ever be in the state I was in last month again. It’s hard to overcome the desire to see something finished – for me anyway. The road that runs through the farm (the part I mow) is at least 1,000 feet. To mow both sides is to mow 2,000 feet. And I want it mowed!! As well as the track (3 passes is over 4,500 ft ). But I resisted the temptation to do more.
Sunday I mowed some of the yard.
After all that work I felt good. Better actually, as you can’t really get strong by resting. Yesterday, Monday, I was going to mow some more of the yard, but the track called to me. It’s amazing how much growth there was, it would have been impossible to gallop through the weeds that clustered along the clubhouse turn. I decided to just do the turn, mow it, and reconfigure it in the hope it would ride a little faster. Today, if it doesn’t rain, I’ll do the far turn. Then tomorrow, the stretches.
My thinking was, if I’m not strong enough to mow (some), I’m not strong enough to ride. So now I’ve mowed, I feel good, and I’m truly ready to ride!!
The owner of the property at the end of the road was here on Sunday. The place is just his occasional weekend getaway and hunting property, so he’s only here once a month or so, to mow. Of course he has a ride-on mower, while I have a push mower. Different beast altogether.
While I was talking with his wife, it dawned on me to ask if he minded if I trail rode in his woods (they border mine). He is fine with it, so I can look forward to some good riding!
Though I haven’t ridden Chance, I notice that he’s feeling good. When he walks he does so with some real energy (new), and he often trots along instead of walking (new). I think the exercise he had been getting, followed by a break (my break!) has done him some good. Hopefully, training can now continue and we can actually make it to the races this fall.
And the break actually had an upside for me as well. I was able to get my book published! The title is Natural Barefoot Trimming: The Hoof Guided Method, and it’s for sale on Amazon.
One of the issues I’ve been having with the heart rate monitor is slipping. I only girth up as tight as necessary to keep the saddle in place. What the means is that when I’m actually in the saddle, the girth doesn’t necessarily press against Chance’s skin down in the area where the electrode is attached. I am not going to tighten the girth any more than normal, so was toying with the idea of using a piece of sponge between the electrode and the girth -to press it tighter against Chance’s chest.
Thankfully, a reader from New Zealand emailed me yesterday with a brilliant idea! He told me he uses an elastic surcingle to hold the electrodes in place. How brilliant! I ordered one yesterday and can’t wait to get it. How much easier this should make things. I’ll be able to put everything in place and then put on the saddle and girth up normally.
So many thanks to Phillip.
You’re in a movie theater. On the screen is the silhouette of a man against an alien, silver sky. The light is so strong that all color is drained from the landscape. The heat so overwhelming it can actually be heard sucking the moisture out of plants and the very air. The grass crunches as the man steps forward. It’s only a matter of moments before he’ll succumb to its deadly effects.
Such a dramatic image, but that is exactly how I felt as I walked to the junction of the hose, to flip the switch that shuts off the water. Filling the horse trough had been my last act before driving myself to the hospital. It literally took all my will power to reach down flip that switch.
To make a long story short, for four days I had suffered at home with what was originally a kidney stone, but never got better. Finally, I realized that I was in serious trouble – dehydrated, weak, unable to eat, with frequent dry heaves.
At the hospital I was informed (after blood tests) that I was technically in kidney failure, dehydrated, and had a severe urinary tract infection. I had imagined I would go to the emergency room, be treated and go home. Instead, I found myself being kept overnight for observation, while receiving IV fluids.
The next morning, at 7, I was taken for a CT, to confirm kidney stones. I really was miserable, and so weak that it shifted me to a state of mind somewhat removed from emotions and concern. So it was that it was after 2 in the afternoon before it occurred to me to ask about the results of the CT. The nurse I questioned told me that it had confirmed I had kidney stones, but there were other issues she wasn’t able to discuss.
I am not normally an imagery person, but a feeling person. News I don’t want to hear is like a kick in the stomach, etc. But instead of that, I had the immediate experience of being in the cockpit of a plane and smashing into the ground, feeling tremendous shock and bitter disappointment at crashing so close to my goal (racing Chance). After absorbing that, my next concern was trying to think of how to find homes for the horses before I died. I knew they wouldn’t be able to stay together, and that thought was terribly painful.
A couple hours later the doctor came in. I asked him what the CT had shown and received the reply that my kidneys were not normal. Instead, I had one small kidney and one large kidney. Immediately I was relieved. Undoubtedly I’d had them since birth. I was fine! The doctor went on to explain that normal kidneys each have one urine channel, while one of mine had two. Which I think is a great demonstration of nature’s wisdom at work, adjusting for less than perfect kidneys. While the doctor seemed to think it something of a miracle that I had survived this long, I was back to normal in my own mind. With the exception of this incident, I normally feel great. In fact, I feel stronger now than I did in my 20’s and 30’s.
Enthralled with my “severe kidney problem”, the doctor asked if I had children. I told him I had three. He asked if I’d had any problems, and was mind boggled when I answered no. If this had been a movie, he would have been the mad scientist ready to cut me open to see those kidneys!
Not long after the doctor left I realized how lucky I was that no one had discovered my kidneys when I was young. There is no doubt in my mind that some kind of “fixing” would have been recommended and I would have ended up on dialysis waiting for a kidney transplant. Or that I would probably not be alive now.
Relieved that I needn’t find homes for the horses in the immediate future, it began to dawn on me that I had done this to myself. Thinking back, I could see that when the heat wave started, I had lost my appetite and started not only eating less, but eating more sugar and less nutritious food. I had worked too hard, picking up manure, mowing (with a push mower), weed whacking, trimming up to 13 horses in 100 degree heat. It had taken weeks of my mind pushing my body beyond its limits for my body to push back and finally say F*** You!
I was released after 4 days in the hospital. Thankfully, a friend had driven down from Cincinnati (a 5 hour round trip) to take care of my Chihuahua, Cynthiana, and my son, on his way back to CA, had been in Nebraska visiting friends and turned around to come back to take care of the horses , cats, and Cynthiana.
I was still very weak after I got home, having depleted all my body’s reserves, and am grateful that my son, Mike, stayed for another 3 days.
I am still amazed at how branded into my mind that last act of turning off the water is. The sun just sucking the life out of me – still vivid. As I lay in the hammock in those early days back home – in the shade, resting – every time the sun would hit my skin it was almost unbearable. To this day, 18 days after my release, it’s still hard to walk over to the hose and turn the water on or off.
It’s hard to believe I pushed my body so far that even now, though I get stronger every day, I am far from at my best.
Needless to say, Chance has been idle all this time, so we will not be ready in time to race at Kentucky Downs in early September. Thankfully, this is KY and there is always racing.
Several weeks ago – not too long before the heat wave – I was riding Chance and suddenly realized I was thinking about racing him at Kentucky Downs. I couldn’t believe it. I was day dreaming while riding!
Since then I have been so much more relaxed, especially on Zola. Not that I was tense, but I didn’t have the naturalness and lack of concern that I had years ago when I rode regularly. I guess it could be called trust – not just in the horses, but in myself. Being comfortable in the saddle, no matter what I was doing.
Like bike riding, horseback riding is something you never forget, but if you stop bike riding for 10 or 15 years, you lose the naturalness you had years before. When I was in my early teens, I practically lived on my bike in the summer. I could ride with no hands for a very long way (miles). I could stop in a skid without thinking about it, I could coast in to a stop while standing up, on one side of the bike, standing on one pedal with one foot, while the other leg hung free. I never gave it a thought it just happened one day, naturally, and became part of my my muscle memory.
When I bought a bike in 2001 (at the age of 50) it was a very different story. I felt awkward. Turning was unnatural, stopping was unnatural. I had to think and plan. Then one day several weeks later, I realized I was riding with no hands. Just like that, it was back. Without a thought, without trying.
That’s what’s happened with my riding. Suddenly I feel just like I did when I rode all the time. At home in the saddle. Natural, comfortable, unconcerned. I don’t know when it happened, just when I noticed it. And what a great feeling it is!!
Last night, when the alarm on the HR computer went off, and I brought Chance to a walk, I didn’t feel he didn’t want to do anything, but like me, he didn’t really want to go around the track. Booooring. So I turned to the right and as soon as I did, Chance’s ears perked up. We rode toward the hill to the outside of the track – fairly steep but not long – and headed up. Chance broke into a trot, and then a canter. We turned left at the top and came down the slope (at a walk) that runs in the same direction as the track, then turned left again into a circle that led us back up the hill a second time. We came down again and headed back up the track the “wrong” way. Chance was trotting and I figured he was eager to be done and get his grain. But no, when we got to the spot where I normally dismount, he resisted stopping, so we just continued the wrong way down the stretch. We kept going straight, ignoring the turn, and headed to the road. Deciding to see how hard it would be – or if it would even be possible – to get to the big hill, we crossed the road and continued further down to an open area.
Turning left into the open area, we found it quickly narrowed into what might have been a path years ago. Chance was a little concerned, but much better than I expected. We plowed our way through thick weeds, crossed big flat rocks, went down into a little gulley, then back up the other side. Crossed fallen trees and twisted our way through undergrowth and woods. I know I was having fun and I think Chance was too.
We did make it to the hill! And we headed up. This part of the hill is wide open and just long grass. Last year it was mowed, so I know what the ground is like, and had no concerns about hidden holes or rocks. We walked for a short while, then Chance wanted to trot. I was amazed what a smooth, airy trot it was. He didn’t seem to be working hard at all. Eventually, he broke into a canter which felt just as good, answering the question,”is he fit enough to gallop up the hill?” I would say a definite yes!
At the top, I decided I didn’t want to try to find our way back through the woods, so opened the gate that leads into the horse enclosure and headed back that way. This of course required getting off and then getting back on – which was again, not pretty, but Chance was a trooper and didn’t move a muscle.
What a blast!
Interestingly, though we were out for quite a while altogether, the max heart rate remained 174, and the average HR for the entire ride – including the hill climbings was 159.
Below are some shots of the hill. In the first one, taken partway up and looking back down, you can see the hill in the field where the track is (sunny area to the right). All these photos were taken late last September. It looks very different now. The grass on the hill is over waist high, and if you look to the right of the fence, where all the weeds are, that is all now grazed down. Behind the clump of trees is a barn, and that tree that stands alone is huge and is in front of the barn. The power lines are about halfway up.
Click on images to view larger version.
At the end of the ride, I took off the monitor and realized why I can’t consistently get the HR monitor to report a heart rate. I do not girth up as tight as necessary to keep the electrode pressed against his skin. I’m not going to girth up any tighter, so will have to work out another solution. Maybe a pad between the sensor and the girth – to keep it closer to the skin. As for the GPS – it really does require a battery fresh out of the charger only minutes before use. That is extremely annoying, but easily solved.
Later, after I fed Chance his grain, I walked down to the end of the road to check something. On the other side of the fence, Zola whinnied and followed along. I took that to mean, “what about me?” “What about me?” I ducked in and gave her some scratches – how can you resist a horse who’s so clearly asking for attention? Makes me feel good that she wanted her turn.
I had ridden Zola the day before. It was hot and humid, so I kept it short. She was very good. We trotted and walked, stopped and started, cut across the center of the track for the heck of it, and to practice steering. She did everything I asked and was a good girl!
The day before, I rode Chance. I didn’t feel well, as I’d done too much mowing in the heat, but I wanted to work on getting the HR monitor and GPS down. We didn’t go far, 1.02 miles, we did gallop, with a max speed of 18.7 mph, and a max heart rate of only 115. And the HR monitor and GPS were both working. So I was pleased.
I’m still working on mastering the computer and the data on the web to get the data in graphical format. Quite a challenge, especially as the manual is terrible. Googling for better instructions revealed I am not alone in finding the manual lacking. Apparently the manual for a similar product is much better – so I have downloaded it and will read it later. I can only hope it clears some things up for me.
I have heard the squeaky noise many times. It appears to be something only male horses do.
None of my horses did it all the time, and I always noticed when they did. My first thought has always been that perhaps the bladder is full, or something. I have never believed the commonly accepted reasons for it – that the sheath needs cleaning or that air is trapped in there. I just did a google search in hope of finding a veterinary answer, but only found the usual.
However, in one response I read the person said their gelding only did it when he was agitated. I of course believe it’s more likely to be the other way around – it causes him to be agitated.
It doesn’t make sense to me that it’s related to a dirty sheath – then the horse would do it continually. Ditto air. But then why is it males only??
Oh if only horse researchers were as curious about the whys as computer scientists!!! How often do computer geniuses just throw out and accept off the cuff excuses?
My youngest son visited last week and together we dug and hauled dirt from the hill to the dip in the track. The dip was not a big problem while I was just trotting Chance, but now that we’ve started galloping, it has become a real issue. It took 7 wheelbarrows worth of dirt to bring the ditch level with the track. (See photo below.)
We got the dirt in the night before rain was expected, and it was my hope that the rain would settle the dirt and help it compact a little, as it was deep and powdery. Well, we got more rain than expected – 2 days worth – and though the dirt did settle it has not exactly compacted. When I walk on it, it feels very hard and the photo below shows my boot prints, as it holds my weight easily. Unfortunately, even three days after the last rain, it hasn’t dried, and is sort of similar to Play Doh or modeling clay. It sort of oozes in a very slow, heavy way. And worst, Chance makes deep hoof prints just walking on it. (See photo below.)
As a result, I haven’t ridden him since the dirt went down. Thankfully, the weather is calling for no rain for the next several days. However, as a backup plan I am hacking a detour which will bypass the ditch and create a curve in the track. Hopefully that will work.
Galloping Chance raised another issue. The clubhouse turn was not rideable at the gallop, one corner being too sharp. I have weed whacked the turn into a new configuration which should ride well. I also reconfigured the far turn – just making the cleared area larger, so that there are options for taking different angles.
Curious about how fast I can go around the turns, I tried to mentally compare them to those of a small track I rode on in the 70′s. In my memory, the track was not large and the turns were tighter than mine. But it was over 30 years ago. Then it dawned on me to use Google Earth! The farm was still there, as was the track and I used the ruler tool to measure the turns. One turn was 179 feet and the other was 120 feet. The distance (cutting through the center of the track) was less than 400 feet. So not very big.
Using my wrist GPS I measured the clubhouse turn this morning. Walking the center line of the turn measured 224 feet – so it is definitely a longer turn. Which is good.
Was very busy the last ten days. Three full and exhausting trimming days totaling over 1,000 miles of driving and 32 horses. My son visited, and I had a trimming student for 3 days (days only, she didn’t stay over). Anyway, no one got ridden, although four horses did get trimmed.
Chance and Zola are fine. Sweet Tea has the exact same swollen knee that Chance had a few weeks ago. Lena is dead lame on her left front – due to her hoof cracks growing out. I have to say she does walk much faster if grain is in the offing! In addition, she has become quite friendly and seeks affection. Unlike many horses, she doesn’t mind kisses to her face and actually seems to like them, as she presents her face. I have been letting her loose in the big field with the other horses – since she is lame – though I have to admit, she comes over to the gate when she’s ready to come back in. Sweet Tea is also now free to be loose in the big field. In fact, every morning I turn them all loose with the exception of Bettina, who has proven time and again that she cannot be trusted if Huey is out. She will graze for a while, then, when sated, lures Huey (and anyone else willing to go!) into exploring.
Hopefully, I’ll get my track detour done today – it’s no easy feat cutting through four foot tall grass, clover, and weeds. Especially after the rain, which seems to have made them much tougher.