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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Convention Day 1 - Heart Seminar

Just how brain dead was I yesterday?  After I got out of school I remembered that I needed to fill up my car, since I ran it almost to empty to get to school.  I pull up to a pump, get out, and realize that the card reader isn’t working on the pump.  I run inside, hand the card to the cashier and then say: “wait a minute - I can’t remember if I need gas or not, I may have filled up this morning….”.  Run back out to the car, look at the gas gauge and sure enough…..I had filled up that morning and forgotten.  And apparently forgotten to look at my gas gauge before pulling into the station. 

So, I decided I had no business writing blogs or doing anything else “important” and proceeded to take a nap, eat cookie dough, and watch an episode of Castle.  And enjoy my evening of no studying and homework as it was the last day of the neuro block (except for a week of behavior that starts today, that is technically part of the block, BUT is separate in structure, separate test etc.).

Anyways.  The convention. 

It was fabulous.

You all should go. 

Convention day 1

At the used tack swap I found 2 pairs of tropical riders!!!!  $15 each.  Size small - I’m between a size small and a medium, so I decided that I could afford to buy one pair for my “skinny” days.  Lots of other good stuff - including a dressage length mohair girth for 30 bucks - my choice of several different sizes.  I sold all my short mohair girths because my solstice was a short billet saddle, but the saddles I’m using now are all long billets…….if the rain ever stops and I DO get to an endurance ride (it’s the type of raining this week that has the sidewalks covered with bloated, dying worms…..) I’ll have a good girth for Farley, and not my synthetic wintec girth that looks suspiciously like it was designed specifically to gall thin-skinned arabs. 

Moving on from the used tack swap (and trust me, it was hard……) I went into the vendor section.  More specifics on who was there and what products I’m trying later - but needless to say I didn’t attend a single seminar that morning, nor did I get ANY studying done. 

I FINALLY dragged myself away to attend two afternoon seminars……after which I went up to my room and studied.  which is a good thing since that’s the ONLY studying I got done ALL weekend. 

Seminar notes - Day one.

Unfortunately I came unprepared for how fabulous the seminars were going to be.  I guess I had some vague notion that I would be able to retell the gist of the talks from scattered memories of facts and figures that somehow would stick in my brain. 

Half way through the first seminar I realized I was in real trouble - there was NO way that I was going to be able to remember all the cool stuff to tell you guys, so I started taking notes as a text on my phone. 

That I promptly deleted.  CRAP. 

So, for this first day, here’s my best recollection of what was interesting, what was intriguing, and what made me go “really?”. 

The heart talk

In this study funded by AERC, they looked at whether heart size/function mattered for endurance horses, and whether you could predict a horse’s performance capabilities based on heart parameters.  Apparently there is some precedence in other horse sports and on the human side. 

I thought the most yawn worthy thing about the study was that their hypothesis was borne out - heart function and size DOES matter and correlates with performance.  Eventually we may have a model that accurately predicts the horses performance based on their heart parameters. 

What was REALLY interesting was the other stuff they found during the study……

Did you know that murmurs are normal as you train and the horse gets more fit?  These “physiological” murmurs (as opposed to pathological) are the result of the heart getting bigger and stronger as you train - although the “heart muscle” gets bigger, the valves don’t, causing some leaking of the valves and thus murmurs!!!!  They do not think that these physiological murmurs affect performance or are meaningful.  Note to self: if in the future Farley develops a murmur after being in training and is super fit, do not have a freak out. 

Resting heart rate doesn’t necessarily improve with fitness.  Considering how many times I’ve seen advice on various forums and in magazines that you should monitor your horses heart rate and use a falling resting heart rate as an indication that your horses’s fitness is improving, this apparently does NOT hold true!  Perhaps because horses already have a very low resting heart rate, unlike humans, a low resting heart rate isn’t necessarily indicative of fitness. 

The subjects of the study were all 100 mile finishers that were evaluated within a month of finishing a 100.  The horses were divided up into “elite” and “non elite” groups.  Elite horses were defined as winning a 100, or coming in within 2 hours of the winner.  The non-elite horses were the rest of the pack.  I’ve always thought about 100 mile horses as all being elite and very fit, and really didn’t think there were significant differences beyond how hard the rider was willing to push the horse to that “edge” of training and racing.  It’s also been my belief that a horse with any serious issues isn’t going to finish a 100 miler, and completing a 100 on a sound and happy horse that still looks great a month later is “proof” of that horse’s health and fitness. 

I was proved wrong on both counts. 

TWO non elite horses were ELIMINATED from the study because they had such serious heart disease.  ONE horse’s heart disease was so serious that the vet doing study recommended that the horse not be ridden because it was putting the rider in real danger.  Keep in mind that these were competing 100 mile horses that had finished a 100 mile race in the last month.  All together 4 horses in the non elite group had serious heart disease, while none of the horses in the elite group had heart disease.  The results were statistically significant - The elite horses had “better” hearts and heart function than the non elite horses. (even when the nonelite horses that had significant heart problems were eliminated from the data). 

The vet presenting (no I don’t remember her name….) suggested it might be worthwhile to test a horses’s heart function if its an older horse (over 15 years) and/or if you notice a change in the horse’s behavior/perceived fitness - seems more tired after a ride etc. 

The study isn’t completely done yet, but I expect that the results will be published once the study is completed.  Dr. Meg Sleeper’s name should be on the paper - keep an eye out for it in the literature. 

And now….I have to go to class.  And learn about behavior.  And stare out the window at the rain.  The convention posts shall continue!!!!!!  Later.  After I have more caffeine - which is my drug of choice.


  1. Sounds like your convention was at least as interesting as mine (and your vendors a whole lot better!).

    I agree with the "duh" part of the research. I recall reading an article in Equus a few years ago regarding heart size and that Secrateriat had a huge heart.


  2. I actually think you may enjoy the AERC convention if you are interested next year. I haven't gotten to the dehyradtion seminar yet, but they talked about trailering, how to keep your horse from getting dehydrated etc. - might be worthwhile if you keep going on long cross country trips!

  3. Was it Meg Sleeper who did the heart tack? She spoke at the UMECRA convention and that was her topic.

  4. Ooops, I meant "heart TALK" obviously....

  5. It was one of the other 2 vets on the study that did it here. I didn't recognize her name and since I lost all my notes....*sigh*. The third vet that was a part of the study - I recognized his name on the slide, but not well enough to recall what it was. Just looked through the trash on my computer and can't find the convention flyer. Oh well.


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