(above photo is the early morning skyline of Manhattan over Newark, NJ airport)
It is legal for me to be coming to farms as veterinarians are listed as essential workers. We have been asked to limit our visits to procedures that cannot be postponed without adversely affecting the health of the horses. My take on this is different but it is based on something I see every day that the average bureaucrat won’t acknowledge. Prevention of disease, illness and discomfort is an essential part of caring for horses living in confinement. This includes vaccinations, hoof care, clipping long hair coats and dentistry because without these, illness, pain and discomfort will shortly become evident.
Every person attending to the care of horses is following the protocol of distancing and washing our hands. Working out in open air where dilution and air drying occurs more rapidly than in an office cubicle is an advantage. Face masks are optional when working alone with a horse but might be effective when 2 people need to be close while working on a horse. But if this encounter is brief such as handing a horse off from a groom to a practitioner, holding your breath has been recommended by health experts. It goes without saying that if anyone is coughing and has a fever then they should not be in the barn.
We must also be aware of the psychological injury happening when our lives are disrupted. For some, not being allowed to visit and touch their horses is traumatic. Adding to this is having spouses and children constantly home or being unable to visit elder family members. Losing a job or your business is a large cause of suicides in America (approximately 16% of suicides are money related).
Countering this is the attempt to keep a sense of normalcy and this appears when a vet, farrier or other horse professional continues to provide the care to your horses. These people are risking their health to do this but in reality, this also helps them. They are also affected psychologically.
Making It Work
The secret to making this work is simple. Respect each other. If there is a known health issue such as those listed as “co-morbidity” diseases that make the virus more deadly, then let everyone know and take steps to avoid contact with visitors to the barn. These include obesity, heart disease, diabetes and asthma. I would add alcoholism and drug addiction to this list. If you have these then stay away and let the professionals do their job maintaining and caring for your horses. The same goes for the professionals – stay home.
The world has changed much like it did right after the attacks on 9-11 or the financial crisis of 2008. When outside forces greater than we can imagine force themselves on us the natural reaction is to be scared. This is actually based on something we share with our horses. There is a portion of our brain called the amygdala that is responsible to recognize a threat and attach an emotion to it such as death. It then connects directly to the motor cortex to make us move – or in this case, stay at home. This is exactly how fear works both in humans and in our horses. An emotion, supported or enhanced by the 24 hour news cycle, drives us to actions and thoughts without any thinking to dampen this reaction.
Thinking is the result of action in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This is where rational thoughts (some call this adult thoughts) come from and can supersede the reactive actions driven from the amygdala. If you want to know how Melissa and I connect with fearful horses, we connect with them through their prefrontal cortex. But there is more to this.
Research has shown that if there is inflammation in the gut or any other organ, the chemicals of this inflammation block the ability to access the rational thoughts formed in the prefrontal cortex. The more inflamed we are the less rational thoughts we have and the more emotionally reactive we become. Does this sound familiar?
I have said this before, grain and daily intake of sugar throughout the year causes inflammation. With the majority of our immune system in the gut, this inflammation can overwhelm our immunity. We now also know that it can make our horses and ourselves more emotional and reactive. Many horse owners and trainers call this getting the horse “hot.” In humans we call it “road rage.” Now you know why.
Take Away Message
Being worried or even fearful is probably due to our gut inflammation blocking our ability to access rational thought. There are a few things we can all do right now. I am doing it.
- Laugh more. Watch or listen to things that distract you from fear. Meditate.
- Avoid negative things constantly entering your life. 24 hour news, negative people, negative social feeds.
- Try reducing the time you eat to only 6 hours in a day. This has been proven countless times to reduce cellular inflammation as well as clean up the body of broken cells and cell parts (hormesis, autophagy and apoptosis). It is FREE! And it will reduce your feed bill, improve your health and prevent or diminish severity of illness.
- Remove inflammation causing foods from your diet. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are the most important followed by high starch foods such as grains and root vegetables. Also remove all oils other than pure extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil or macadamia nut oil.
I heard someone say that it is not the courage to do the right things but the I heard someone say that it is not the courage to do the right things but the courage to NOT DO the WRONG things that helps us achieve our goals. The above list are the things to do but when you feel hungry and the cookies, soda or pasta and the constant news feeds and social media feeds are in front of you, it is the courage you must find NOT to succumb to them.
I hope this helps you in these difficult times. Attached are some images of Newark airport I took this morning. It was a virtual ghost town. How can this country continue like this? I want you on your rural farms to actually see the effect of this shutdown in the urban areas. It is unnerving.. As my plane lands back home in Florida I have signed a document acknowledging my understanding that I am self-isolating along with my wife in my house for 14 days. But I’ll be back supporting you and your horses after this. You can count on it. Thank you for helping all the horse professionals and for placing the care of your horses predominately in your thoughts. We all are grateful.