Diversity. It offers some spice to the daily doldrum of life. It also allows for an individual to become better and more well-rounded in his or her skills. For one equine competitor and trainer, that diversity has played a part in her ability to coach, train and make a livelihood out of her passion.
Growing up in Southern New Jersey, Amanda Cousins has been riding and competing since the time she was 5 years old. Her love for the industry found her earning a bachelor’s degree in Equine Studies at Virginia Intermont College, where she was a member of the Hunt-seat Equitation Team. Today, she is the owner and trainer at ACE Equestrian in Hume, Virginia, a multidiscipline facility where she emphasizes the correct use of position that can take a rider to any discipline they want to compete in.
“I’m a self-proclaimed discipline gypsy and I have a healthy respect for all of them. I had a blast last year learning about ranch work and working cows and all the ins and outs of cow work. I don’t have a horse right now suited for that. That was about the most fun and challenging thing I’ve ever done,” Cousins said.
She has spent the four previous years training OTTB and competing in the Thoroughbred Makeover through the Retired Racehorse Project. In 2019, she and her horse “Artie” placed ninth in Ranch Work, her first time competing in the category. Although she no longer owns Artie or has a horse suited for Western disciplines, understanding and showing a variety of disciplines has helped her become a stronger coach.
She currently instructs about 25 students at her facility. Her primary focus is teaching the student rather than the horse. Part of that training is pure technique and part is preparing them mentally. However, she said if the rider positions him or herself correctly, everything else falls into place.
“Whether your horse is green or seasoned, the better we do our job, the easier it is for them to do their job correctly,” Cousins said. “Nine times out of 10 the horse actually speeds up because they are out of balance, and they are actually trying to pick themselves back up. Nine times out of 10 the reason the horse got imbalanced is because the rider became imbalanced and the horse started following them and the rider didn’t know they had that negative effect on the horse. We don’t need to address the speed; we need to address putting the horse back on its hind end. When we are using our bodies incorrectly, we can negatively affect them.”
Although she focuses on training the rider, she knows that taking care of her horses, especially their health, is paramount to having success, regardless of discipline. That’s why she started using Vitalize® equine supplements. She started with Vitalize® Alimend® on Artie, while training him for the Thoroughbred Makeover. With an ulcer-prone appearance, she was hesitant to start Artie on an ulcer medication since many horses on ulcer treatments have to stay on daily medication to keep their gut working.
That is when she discovered Vitalize Alimend. Vitalize Alimend is a unique blend of MHB3® Hyaluronan, H. erinaceous (Lion’s mane) extract, and AO-Biotics® that supports gastric health and GI tissue in horses. This natural product is safe for continuous use and does not alter stomach pH. AO-Biotics® is a precision prebiotic designed to boost animal resilience to challenges and is research-proven to improve gut integrity and immune response.
“Since using Alimend on some of my horses I think are ulcer prone, they are calmer, which I think is from the healing of the ulcers to begin with. I also think it’s really great for their coat. They tend to be a little shinier than my horses that aren’t on Alimend,” Cousins said.
Since her success with the Vitalize Alimend, she has started using two additional Vitalize supplements to help her horses get that good gut feeling. Vitalize Equine Digest More® Plus is a pelleted top-dress that contains Amaferm® for increased digestibility, MOS for sequestering pathogens, and biotin and zinc for coat and hoof health. Amaferm is a precision prebiotic designed to enhance digestibility by amplifying nutrient supply for maximum performance. It is research-proven to significantly increase intake, digestion and absorption improving gut health.
Cousins started using the Digest More Plus over the winter as a supplement when the grass was dead, and hay was not plentiful. She said she had an easier time keeping weight on her lesson horses that live outside than she had in the past winters when they have had grain and hay.
“Interestingly, I got one of my boarders to try the Digest More Plus. One of her horses is ulcer prone, and after a week on the Digest More Plus, she said he was more pleasant to be around. She felt like his gut was healthier from starting the Digest More Plus,” Cousins said.
The final product she uses after shows and when she is traveling is Vitalize Equine Recovery Gel. She likes to use it to get something in her horses to encourage them to drink and rehydrate. She said she knows the gel is effective and has faith in the Vitalize brand because she’s seen both the Alimend and Digest More Plus work.
Regardless if she’s training a rider or keeping her horses their healthiest, Cousins knows that variety is indeed the spice of life. She will continue to train, ride and show any discipline that comes her way. However, she does have her favorite.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie, so I’d probably have to say Eventing is my favorite. You get the flatwork in your dressage, the most challenging for me. Then you have to leave the poles up for stadium, and then you get a huge rush from galloping cross-country,” she said.
Variety is good. But so is a simple gut health product from Vitalize. Give your equine companions the good gut feeling they deserve so they can compete at the top of their game.