Roadtrip Edition: Can I Stop Thinking About Horses for 2 Seconds!

Carrot for Reading: A list of recommended podcast episodes that apply what researchers are learning about human metabolism, gut dysbiosis, and the microbiome to our four legged friends. I’m pedaling my mountain bike up the 5.1 mile 1,500 vertical feet of Spence Mountain Trail thinking about how each switchback could improve the balance of my show jumping turns, how the little half halts on the bike correspond to preparation for the turn up center line, and how zipping up my core to climb the rock slab is equivalent to cross country galloping.


I‘m on a non-horsey road trip with my husband and I can not stop thinking about horses- riding them, buying them and feeding them. You could call it a horse detox trip after a busy spring prepping for horse show season, but all of my calls over the last two days have been to horse people- the farrier, the horse sitter, horse sellers, riding buddies and client calls. I bought a new bit while driving through the gorgeous Oregon landscape. I also can not listen to a podcast and NOT apply all the learning to horses! (Not sure if the double negative works there, but you get my drift.)

The 17+ hours of driving time between Missoula, MT and Stinson Beach, California allows for A LOT of prime podcasting. My husband and I both enjoy nutrition focused podcasts. We love science and new ideas and nerding out about how to improve our own diets, but of course I’m also applying it to equine nutrition and my equestrian clients. We’ve been podcasting for days about human metabolism, microbiomes, Cushings disease and leaky gut syndrome. It appears that our collective understanding of the human microbiome and chronic dysbiosis is just as unsophisticated as our equine understanding, but new discoveries about human metabolism and microbiomes are redefining how we treat diseases. This lack of sophistication in our understanding is due to an enormously complex system of interactions between what we eat and our own unique digestive, immune, and endocrine systems. I find this fascinating. Let me tell you a bit about what I learned- from an equine nutritionist lens of course- and offer some reading recommendations if you're into this nerdy stuff too!


1. "Can I speed up my metabolism" by BODY STUFF with Dr. Jen Gunter (May 18, 2022)- This podcast was a shocker! Dr. Jen Gunter explains what exactly our metabolism IS and the myths surrounding IT such as the ability to "speed it up or slow it down". She discusses with Dr. Kevin Hall, a metabolism expert with the NIH, some shocking new information gleaned from the TV reality show "The Biggest Loser". Dr. Hall tells us what he found when he measured the metabolism of the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" and it's NOT what you might think. This podcast episode made me ponder the plight of the cresty necked, insulin resistant horse that gives their owner an enormous amount of anxiety trying to decrease body condition score and prevent another round of laminitis. It's not as simple as "energy in = energy out" due to evolution's affinity for homogeneity. What I learned is that WHAT a horse or human eats and how that food is processed is controlled by our hormones (the endocrine system) and our hormones are controlled by genetics. I first started to wrap by head around this idea when I happened to pick up a book several years ago (also on a road trip) called "Why We Get Fat: and what to do about it" by Gary Taubes. I highly recommend this book to any human or horse owner struggling with weight loss. Turns out, our metabolism is a seriously complex consumer of energy; its sources and byproducts interact with every part of the body. Anyone who has ever had to memorize the basic elements of the Krebs cycle has some insight into this complexity. Our consumption of calories is certainly not a linear line to output, and it's certainly not as well understood as supplement companies and weight loss instructors would like us to think. This was a buyer beware podcast, and I couldn't agree more!

2. "Excuse Me, Your Gut is Leaking" by Dr. Michael Gregor, MD FACLM and host of The Nutrition Facts Podcast- Did you know that humans can have leaky gut syndrome too? Researchers have measured the "leakiness" of the human digestive tract by tracking digesta with blue food dye! How cool is that? What I learned from this podcast is that many things can contribute to gut leakiness which is probably why it's so ubiquitous in the equine world. Medications, poor diets, and even exercise can increase the permeability of our digestive tract. It made me think, "can the simple act of riding our horses 4-6 days per week contribute to what we call hindgut ulcers?“ What about a combination of inappriopriate forage choices, poorly understood scoops of supplements PLUS exercise? The agreed anecdote to leaky gut syndrome in humans is diet change. Dr. Gregor and I share a passion for "forage first decisions"! Ok, maybe he doesn't call it that, but he's all about humans eating loads of plants and solving problems with fiber first. It's how I think about equine nutrition- solve with fibrous forage first! So, moving forward, I will continue basing my hindgut ulcer recommendations on fiber first decisions, not supplementation.


3. "Dr. Will Bulsiewicz On All Things Microbiome: Heal Your Gut, Sidestep Disease, and Thrive" The Rich Roll Podcast (May 16, 2022). This was a fascinating, yet 3 hour long podcast, so let me boil it down for you! The world's leading gastroenterologists do NOT have a formula for treating and preventing dysbiosis in humans except to lower stress and increase fiber! Sound familiar? He says it's a "trial and error" ordeal for many humans suffering from chronic gut dysbiosis. People, THIS IS WHAT I've always said about horses and the troubles caused by diarrhea, colic, ulcers (gastric and hindgut). This is another example of experimental "forage first approach"- NOT a ticket to try another supplement. Turns out that most of the supplement products on the market today for people don't work either! Check out Dr. Bulsiewicz book called "Fiber Fueled: The Plant Based gut Health Program for Losing Weight, Restoring Your Health, and Optimizing Your Microbiome," or his three hour long discussion on The Rich Roll podcast. I think that your mind will be blown as well!


All told, I had a great time mountain biking with my hubby, cheering on the newly weds on the beach side wedding, plunging into the Pacific ocean, and exploring the remaining great redwood forests. It was a great non-horsey vacation, but I'll be glad to get back to a saddle with stirrups. Enjoy your new reading list!


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