CASE STUDY: Optimizing Performance in the Senior Athlete

Sometimes it is not one major event that derails a high-performing athlete — instead it is a series of small challenges that accumulate until a critical mass is reached. These situations are difficult to navigate because there is no single clear diagnosis to address.

This is what happened to Chocolate Delight — better known as Cruiser. Cruiser was a high-performing thoroughbred who had competed for years successfully. Until he couldn’t. And didn’t want to anymore. Owners Reba Merritt and Lisa Merritt wisely stopped competition in 2020 so we could take the time needed to restore him to vibrant health.

In these situations using food and nutrients and nutraceuticals to support the body’s inherent capacity to heal itself is critical.

Cruiser presented with diffuse body discomfort that was not related to any arthritic changes or injuries. His postures and gaits suggested patterns of long-term compensation that were now causing him pain. He also is a chronic Lyme horse; even low grade Lyme infection can produce full body inflammation.

He was transitioned to a forage-based anti-inflammatory diet with supplements to control inflammation and immune boost so that his immune system could manage the Lyme effectively. His protocol evolved as he moved through a healing process, showing us with his symptoms where he needed deeper support. In addition, he had several different types of body work, aqua therapy, and changes in shoeing to help him balance his posture.

His enthusiasm returned as his body healed and he went back to work. But not just back to work — back to winning. And not just winning here and there — but winning in nearly every arena where he left footfalls.

Meet Cruiser. At age 17 with chronic Lyme he swept the 2022 Thoroughbred Incentive Program competition, placing first across an incredible diversity of event types — English Pleasure, Halter, Hunter, Western, Barrels, Pleasure, Games, Trail, and Ranch Riding.

He continues to compete, place, and win in 2024 — now 19 years old. The pictures below are his recent achievements at the New Vocations Charity All Thoroughbred Show in Aiken, SC and at a local 4H series. In many of these classes he is competing against horses who are one-half to one-third of his age and he continues to demonstrate his incredible athletic diversity by placing and winning in Western as well as English events. We continually adjust his supplements based on how he looks and feels and have increased the frequency of body work as he finishes his second decade.

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