Dr Charlyn Belluzo – The Science of Amino Acids – How they work at a cellular level –
The Benefits of Long Term – Belos Cavalos Therapy Farm
John Dowdy: Hello and welcome to another Equinety Podcast. I am so excited for this podcast this week. We’ve been trying to coordinate this for quite a few months now. Before we jump into it, if this is your first time listening in on our podcast, and maybe this is the first time you’ve heard about the Equinety Product, I’m going to give you a quick background on what it is and then we’ll get into our guest today. This product actually started back in 1998 as a anti-aging youth formula for the 50+ crowd. Dr. Philip White, who’s British, Cambridge and Harvard educated family physician, and head of the hospital for 35+ years in Canada, was able to figure out the combination of amino acids to stimulate the pituitary gland. Which then releases the necessary hormones, which help heal the body at a cellular level. That was 1998.
We skipped forward to 2014, and we put the same formula in a tub and called it Equinety, so we could market it to the horse industry. If you’re looking around on Facebook and hearing people talk about it, it’s quite an amazing product. We are definitely blessed. The reason I’m so excited today is our guest today, Dr. Charlyn Belluzo out of California. I’m going to give you an intro here. Grab a cup of coffee because it’s a long intro, but that’s okay because this is so exciting. All right, here we go. Dr. Charlyn, internationally recognized as a global health expert in both business and nonprofit sectors. She has expertise in population wellness, medical research, regulatory affairs, strategic planning, marketing and operational management, just to name a few. Her professional passion has been to promote human health and wellness, strengthen communities, generate economic prosperity, and enrich the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.
She holds doctorate degrees of public health in tropical medicine and preventative health. Holds a masters degree of business administration and completed postgraduate training and a medical fellowship in HIV/AIDS research, managing international clinical trials and authoring new drug applications for regulatory drug approval. To fill in the extra time in her life, and one of the main reasons why we have her on the call today, is because she has an equine therapy nonprofit that does amazing work with among other things, trauma victims. When she first learned about the Equinety product around 2015 timeframe and saw the amino acids, she knew exactly what Dr. White was doing with this, and how it was going to help the body. Without further ado, Dr. Charlyn Belluzo, welcome to the Equinety podcast.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I am delighted to be here. Thank you so much for the invitation.
John Dowdy: Well, we are happy to have you. I know there’s been a lot of questions come in, and so we’re just going to pick your brain if that’s okay with you.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Fabulous. Let’s get started.
John Dowdy: We’re talking about amino acids and we’re going to get into a bit of the science. There seems to be a lot of education that I guess would need to happen with a lot of people out there. They’re just not familiar with amino acids. I thought this would be a great way to help them get educated. We’ve got a lot of educational things on our website, but there’s no better substitute than to have somebody that really understands from a medical standpoint. Although your background is been more on the human side, I think as we get through this, people understand how it can translate right over into the horse world. One of the things that we were talking about, what’s your take on the physiology standpoint, with how complicated humans and horses are and the evolution of all of this? What’s your take on all that?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo This is really an important foundational conversation for this discussion today. Because the world as all of you have experienced, has accelerated at a rate that is astronomical. That technologies and our lifestyle, and just the way that we live, has so accelerated to the point that lots of us are feeling the changes physiologically and emotionally. Those very same things are happening to our horses. One thing that’s to remember is, humans and horses and most mammal creatures evolve very, very slowly. It would take centuries of time for us to physiologically be able to catch up with the demands and the lifestyles that we’ve created for ourselves and for our horses. What I want to emphasize is health is really your cells at the molecular level in perfect balance.
What we’re going to talk about a lot today is how do we, in this world of massive change, and the way that we go about our own lives, as well as the way that we engage with our horses, how can we help through our nutrition, and through our habits to help our bodies and at a cellular level, at that molecular level, be in better balance? When you think about how a horse started in early times of history, and they traveled in herds. They spent days with their heads down, grazing small bites throughout the entire day. They had spaces that when they were stimulated to do so, that they could take off and run without enclosures. That they could move as a herd, and they could work out their own dynamics. Out of love and out of necessity, we’ve brought horses into a realm that is much, much different than it was designed to be.
We’re keeping our horses in contained areas. We feed them in a different way quite often. There are very few horses that get to live engaged with humans, in the lifestyle in which they were designed. The best thing that we can do out of love and necessity to have horses in our lives, is help to balance their nutrition and their lifestyles by giving them what might give them the most optimal health. I think that one thing to consider is, it’s not just what we feed them, but it’s how we’re feeding them. Oftentimes in the situations that our horses must be in, they get fed twice or maybe three times a day, a larger quantity.
They’re not designed necessarily to be that. What can we do from a nutritional basis, to help their systems balance, as if they had those supplies of nutrients throughout the day? Those are some of the things we’re going to talk about little later in this talk. Ways that we can care for ourselves and for our horses in the light of change. Knowing that physiologically we can’t evolve quick enough to keep up with the demands that contemporary life has put on us.
John Dowdy: That makes a perfect sense. Although the topic of full nutrition is a whole topic in and of itself. We’re going to narrow this down just to the importance of what we’re talking about with Equinety and that’s amino acids, which we have found to be so powerful. Now being on the market in the equine industry for a little over four years. Hearing people every single day, and it doesn’t matter what part of the country they’re in, or what caliber per se of horse, whether it’s at a high end dressage jumping barn or a rescue horse or pasture ornament. This particular stack of amino acids, it seems to help all of them. Which we have concluded I mean horses in general seem to be deficient in the right amount of amino acids. What’s your take on that?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo May I give you just a slight primer on amino acids themselves. I know this is on your website, but amino acids are the building blocks of protein. But those proteins are found in plants, animals and people. Amino acids in themselves are a very basic element that has been around since the beginning of animals and man and most creatures. What they do mainly for us that is the most important, and also for our animal friends and particularly our horses in this conversation, is they maintain muscle mass. An example of maintaining muscle mass is the proteins make up all muscle in our body, including our organs. A lot of the connective tissue is protein.
Amino acids are as the building block of proteins, regulate blood sugar. They aid in energy improvement, they heal wounds, they’re for repairing tissue, for memory and concentration, stress alleviation. Like I said, they’re that element that helps the cells to function at the greatest level, being able to metabolize energy and to remove waste. That’s why amino acids really are key to so many functions of our body, when we’re trying to maintain health, recovery from exertion or stress or just stay young. We want to stay as young as we can for as long as we can and as healthy as we can. We want our horses to do the same. We want them to feel useful and be able to perform at their peak, and have a fulfilling full life just like we do. Those types of things are aided by the presence of the right amino acids
John Dowdy: As you just mentioned, amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Some of the questions that we have that come in, “Hey I’m already feeding a high protein diet. Why do I need this particular amino acids in Equinety?” What would you have to say about that? Proteins versus amino acids.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Going back to the physiology of how we utilize and metabolize a protein diet, is quite a bit different from the way that the supplement of Equinety’s amino acids are actually formulated. It has to do with digestion and the metabolic process. Eating a protein is a slow metabolic process. When you eat a protein, it goes into your gut, it starts to break down. It starts to become available for the nutrients to be absorbed. But it takes time to break down. A protein is something very complex to break down. When you’re eating protein, be it plant protein in the horse’s case, it will begin digestion in the stomach. But it really starts the digestion process to become bio available to enter the bloodstream more in the intestine.
By the time it goes through all the loops of intestine, both in humans and horses, it is about to the end of the small intestine before the digestion has occurred to the point of going into the larger bowels, and at that point becoming more compact and ready to eliminate. When you’re talking about Equinety, the eight amino acids that were specifically selected, that trigger or ignite the process that we are seeking to benefit for the horses, that occurs in the stomach, and becomes bio available right away into the bloodstream. Because the molecule itself is crystal and is very small. It allows that absorption to happen very quickly, and get into the bloodstream and make its way up to the brain, where it engages in the pituitary gland. I think, John, maybe we’ll talk about the pituitary gland in a minute because that’s a very important thing.
When you’re feeding your horse proteins, that’s great because they will get the benefit of those proteins breaking down, and getting eventually into the bloodstream. But this is a fast track on particular targeted stack of amino acids, that have a particular function that has been designed to give us the outcomes the effect on the pituitary and thus the effects in the body that we want for recovery, and for muscle development and for easing stress on nerves. Those types of things that John has described. That’s why it’s great to have a high protein diet, but it is also very beneficial to have the supplement due to where the absorption takes place.
John Dowdy: With the combination of the crystallized amino acids and the Equinety, you’re getting super-fast absorption so it can go right to work. Versus the protein, it just takes a lot of time. Not having a medical background myself, with protein, I’m sure some of that’s going to pass through the body because it’s maybe not going to break all of it down.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo That depends on the animal or the human system itself; how well they are able to metabolize protein. Protein is essential in your diet, and I’m not saying that Equinety would replace a protein diet in any way. If your vet has recommended that a high protein diet would be effective, and be useful for this particular horse’s condition, then that’s fabulous and something you really need to follow. It is not contradictory to taking Equinety, because in the bioavailability, you’re not going to be competing. There is a benefit to both that are not in conflict.
John Dowdy: I’ll go ahead and ask you this question. I had this one saved, but since we kind of brought that up, is there any going to have any negative side effects with any other medications or supplements or feeds or anything by giving Equinety?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo First of all, let’s talk about just the effects of amino acids themselves. The side effects of amino acids are almost none. I say almost because where you would risk having side effect with amino acids, is in overdosing. Providing a load that your body cannot manage effectively in its elimination processes. Like we’re saying, the dietary protein will not be in conflict with the Equinety dosing because they metabolize in a different way, and actually in a different area of the gut and hit the bloodstream at much different times. That’s not the concern.
The concern would be more if you were overdosing to the point that the body’s mechanisms couldn’t regulate it. Then if there is a risk of some fatigue or loss of coordination. I would be completely shocked if anyone would ever get to the point of an overdose with Equinety that would have any effect at all, because no one is going to give their horse that high of a dosage, and it’s not in conflict with the protein that they’re eating. Did that answer the question, John? I’m not exactly sure if I fully answered what you were thinking.
John Dowdy: No, that’s perfectly fine, because I guess if somebody had left the tub or dumped the entire tub in the bucket, that could be an overdose or?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo How your body tries to regulate the type of amino acid presence that Equinety would be, is when we were talking about going into the bloodstream, and when it then hits the pituitary. There is a signal when the pituitary signals the hippocampus to release the hormones, the GH, growth hormone particularly, but a number of other hormones that are incredibly important to cellular balance. There will be a shut off when the amount is adequate in the body. The body has that type of regulators. If you’re so overdosed that it’s leaking if you will.
If it’s too much for that shut off mechanism to hold, you could experience such a thing. But I would see that effect because of the way that proteins are metabolized, they’re going to be gone in 23 or 24 hours. If you see an overdose situation go through a full day, then you’ll know it’s pretty much out of their system because that’s the half-life, that’s the scientific word for how quickly we rid any substance from our body in a natural way. That’s 24 four hours would be the only time you should be worrying. You won’t need to worry about it a week later, or even a couple of days later, it will be pretty much gone by that time.
John Dowdy: Right. With the serving size of Equinety which is 5.2 grams, not quite a tablespoon, Dr. White was able to figure out that that is the optimal dosage to stimulate the pituitary ultimately. When you’re talking specifically about overdosing, we have a lot of performance horses that use this product. They swear by two scoops a day. That’s one in the morning, one in the evening. We’ve also found that injured horses or ones that are coming out of a surgery doing two scoops, one in the AM and one in the PM, they seem to really help the recovery process. That wouldn’t technically be overdosing. Overdosing would be like giving three, four, five scoops at a time or. Just to clarify that, what’s your take on that?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I think that’s an incredibly important point about you being in touch and in tune with your horses. With that, you want to give the nutrients and the support that could be needed in the time, depending on how the performance of the horse, the demands that are on the horse. Two scoops particularly split dosing, doing a morning and a night dose, putting a recovery time for the body’s mechanisms to work, is ideal. You’re making enough amino acids of the proper type, available to the system, and you’re in tune enough to notice is this having the positive effect? I think what you’re saying is from the testimonials you’re receiving, that under conditions of extreme performance or stress or health or weather or whatever it may be affecting, that if we are in tune and we’re paying attention, we’re making the proper nutrients, enough amino acids available, and we’re knowing that that’s having a positive effect, and no more is needed and no negative effect is occurring.
I think that’s one of the beautiful things about the relationship we have in the horse-human partnership. That connection we have, that we can’t speak in words to our horses, but that we can be in tune with their health, with their needs. We can see from their coat, from their eyes, from the way they move, from the quality of their hooves, their hair. You can tell if you’re optimally caring for them and giving what they need under the conditions that are demanded of them. I think that’s really a lovely heartfelt thing that people are finding that they are able to optimally dose, and what works best to keep their horse fit and performing and happy and well. I love to hear stories like that, because it does take that type of connection to fine tune health like that. That fine balance of what really works for the specific situation you’re in.
John Dowdy: Absolutely. As we get a little further into this podcast, I’d love to go more in depth with that about your rehabilitation farm, and how you use horses to help with trauma victims. How it actually helps both the horse and the people. That’ll be a neat part of the conversation.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I’d love to talk about that. Thank you for including it.
John Dowdy: Absolutely. One of the questions that we have that come in is, “Hey, my horse is dealing with this particular issue,” whatever it might be. It could be they need a topline filled in, or they’ve got some allergies. Or their hooves are absolutely horrible, or they’ve got laminitis or white liner or thrush, or navicular ringbone, or some gut issues, or they’re stressed. With all of these different things going on, and I know with the things that you’ve talked about so far, how can one little tiny scoop, 5.2 grams, given that daily, how can it have such a tremendous impact on all of these different scenarios with the horse?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo That is like the simplest question of science to answer, because the most basic laws of physics and physiology is elements seek perfect balance. They seek equilibrium. When you think about at what level could we affect all of those things you mentioned, you do have to go down to the molecular unit. How that molecular balance in the cell is in equilibrium. The way to do that is three things. The first one is getting elements into the cell that can have the mechanism of action to produce the energy, to provide really the fuel for the body to run optimally. Amino acids have a huge role in that. They work in the mitochondria to help metabolize the glucose coming in, and balancing that. Then the byproducts taking them out of the cell. We didn’t talk much about glucose, but that is a very important role of amino acids.
As well as regular regulating the human growth hormone, it, I should say growth hormone not human. It also helps to regulate glucose and keep that sugar level low, which minimizes inflammation. Inflammation causes the aging of cells. If you are keeping a cell highly functioning, producing a high level of energy, removing the toxins, keeping the blood sugar level circulating in the blood. That’s important because we do feed horses unless they’re out grazing all day. They eat once in the morning, maybe once midday, and once at night. In that, keeping their blood sugar level is really important. I hope that this makes sense, that if you’re really wanting to find tune health, minimize inflammation. The antioxidant property of amino acids can really help keep cells in their youth or their peak performance across the board.
That’s why it’s simple, that the body wants to work with you and fine tuning that helps. If you think about building. If you were a sculptor and you were going to make a sculpture out of a big piece of stone, you could not necessarily, Rodin could not create The Thinker totally with the jackhammer. He could take off the big pieces of stone with a jackhammer, but what needed to be fine-tuned to make that beautiful piece of art, is small balancing a very small instrument that takes the fine tunes, the beauty of the art. That’s what we’re doing, is with the amino acids, our hope is to fine-tune health at the smallest level, which impacts all aspects of health. It influences the aspect of health if you’re old, if you’re young, if you’re big, if you’re small. That’s why I think it’s so important that Equinety can be used through the life cycle of a horse, because balance is important every day of the horse’s life.
John Dowdy: Now with the example that you just gave, so the jackhammer, or in this case we could say giving the horse a scoop of Equinety could be equivalent to the jackhammer in this example. Because then ultimately we’ve got to fine tune from a molecular level. We’re stimulating the pituitary gland or the amino acids are rapidly absorbed through the bloodstream, stimulate the pituitary. Let’s get into a little bit and we kind of did this, so a little backwards. Let’s talk about the role and the function of the pituitary gland. What these amino acids, when we give it to the horse, now it stimulates the pituitary and then what happens now?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Okay. The pituitary gland is sometimes called the Master Gland. It’s the perfect name for such a teeny tiny thing. The pituitary is about the size of a pea, and it sits at the base of your brain behind the sinuses, about the level of the bridge of your nose. When the amino acids have passed through the blood brain barrier, which Equinety has been formulated to be small enough to make such an entry. Then it ignites or gives a communication to the hippocampus that releases particular hormones that then start traveling throughout the body to do their jobs. To signal releases of certain other elements in body function.
The pituitary really is the one that has an effect on most all body functions. That’s when we’re stimulating the proper and healthful release of HG and other hormones that promote health. Then that’s the way that from a very central control booth, or a central master mind, the master gland, then that signal can be taken by a whole army of different mechanisms throughout the body to maintain health. It’s also in certain timeframes that that first, the first release of hormone then also gets replaced and triggers other releases. It’s a cascading effect that can last throughout the day.
John Dowdy: Being able to get to the pituitary as the fine tuning at the molecular level. Now what Dr. White was able to figure out back in 1998 by triggering this on the human side, and when we came into the horse industry and you kind of made mention of this, but the pituitary about the size of a pea and that’s pretty close in mammals across the board?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo It is ironically. Isn’t that interesting because it’s one of all those glands too that doesn’t grow a lot of size from when you’re a baby till you’re an adult. That’s an interesting thing about the pituitary. It does say name to its importance. In the evolution of people and all animals really, those crucial centers if you will in the body are pretty well developed when you take your first breath or begin functioning in the outside world outside of the room. That’s something that I think is really amazing that any horse of any size or age or breed, the basic dose of one scoop in relationship to the size of the pituitary, is a good place to start. We talked about that you might increase to two scoops for performance or under stressful conditions. But with the one scoop it’s the right dosing in relationship to the size of the pituitary.
John Dowdy: That is very interesting. One of the other questions that we get often are, “There’s something going on with my horse. Do I just need to keep the Equinety product on my horse to fix the issue? Then can I stop or should I keep it on the product long term? Is there any long-term pros and cons with keeping them on product?”
Dr Charlyn Belluzo There is definitely a long-term pro. You’re wanting to keep your horse on a cellular molecular balance, and even highly functioning level their entire lifetime. I think you’re saying like during the off season if you will, when horses are… I was a polo player for years and years. In my case, I didn’t tether my horses to the desert and play all winter. My polo horses really pretty much had the winter off, but their health was critically important to me for two reasons. That you can’t expect a animal or a human to go out in peak performance after they’ve taken a break, or after they’ve had an illness or been off the field for a while. If they haven’t regained their fitness. Wouldn’t it be easier to keep the athlete or keep the horse or keep the human fit, keep them nutritionally fit, as well as keeping their movement and keeping their body, rather than to have to try to recover it later?
Or wouldn’t it be better to help keep a horse or a human healthy in a preventative health type of way, that keep their immune system strong, keep their muscles strong. Being able to keep them healthy for the long-term rather than to have to try to improve health when it gets out of balance. I know for me with 10 horses, the vet bills could be astronomical if I didn’t have healthy, well-balanced horses. It’s important to me that they are balanced, and that they are healthy, and that they do have a common baseline. I know me personally, my vet bills have dramatically reduced, and the general health of my horses, a colic on my farm would be a rare thing.
It really doesn’t happen much anymore. Extreme changes in temperature sometimes happen in California. Right now we’re experiencing a difference of 40 degrees from night to day. Those types of swings in temperature really have an impact on the balance of the horses, and the risk for colic. I am adamant that they get their Equinety every single day. Every single horse. If it’s the minis or the drafts, the big nearly 2000 pound horses. It’s important to all of them to have that balance. In the long run, I think I save a lot of money, and it just makes us all happy to see healthy, strong horses.
John Dowdy: I think that’s very common. People are definitely saving a significant amount of money since they started using the product, the Equinety product. Their horses are healthier, happier. That’s great. We’ve also found just to touch on what you were talking about keeping your horses on 365, especially a lot of people up North that kind of hang their horses up for the winter. We found that those that keep their horses on product, they’re back in shape in two, three, sometimes four weeks ahead of schedule, from years past when they didn’t have the Equinety, or didn’t know it was available. They’re back in shape a lot faster. Their hooves look great. They help hold their weight. It all makes sense to what you’re saying for sure.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I really want to emphasize, I’m basing what I’m saying. I’m not a veterinarian. I’m not an animal research expert. All of my research in my entire career has been in human health. First and foremost, always follow your veterinary advisement. If the veterinarian, your reclaimed horse specialists that you trust and that you employ, has instructed you, that’s the first directive to follow. They have much more history of the horse. They have the background, they have lab tests, they have physical examination to backup what they’re saying.
First and foremost, follow your veterinary advisement. But I have lived with and cared for horses my entire life, and they’re so deeply important to me. I look at their health from the scientific perspective, because in some ways, physiology is physiology. The way that horses function in this particular manner, in the pituitary manner, is very similar to humans. That’s why it just makes sense to me from a scientific perspective that the science I’ve known all my career, applying it to this particular situation is legitimate. It makes sense.
John Dowdy: Absolutely. I’ll tell you it’s been fun for me over the last, well since we’ve been on the market and we’ve been out at different events. In the beginning there were a lot of questions because we were new to the market. I would always know there was something up when somebody would go more in depth with the questioning. I’m like, “Okay, this isn’t your average person just asking questions.” Then after I answered all the questions, the best way I knew from a scientific level, then they would tell me, “Oh, I’m a vet.”
I go, “Oh,” of course, I passed all their questioning tests so that was good. But as you say, this goes back to this simplistic thing of science, and what the amino acids are doing in the body at a cellular level, whether it be on the people side or the horse side. I mean primarily it all works the same once you get in there from a pituitary standpoint
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Just science has been defined in the literature since the 1920s. Amino acid effect on pituitary is not new science. It’s almost been 100 years that it’s been documented in the scientific literature. I think that the basis of how the mechanisms work is quite standard. I believe that it’s brilliant how Dr. White isolated, which of the eight amino acids, the eight amino acids that he did select to go in Equinety. Their qualities and their characteristics. How they affect the pituitary, and which hormones do they stimulate for what purposes? That type of science really has a brilliance that I am impressed with, and that I fully agree with. The theories that the product was based on I think was very, very well thought, and based in a lot of acceptable science. That’s why I’m an endorser, I believe that I can put my reputation on it as well.
John Dowdy: I tell you what Dr. Charlyn, this is really valuable information. I can’t thank you enough for sharing from a scientific standpoint. I know it’s going to be very, very helpful for a lot of those that are tuning in for the first time and learning really the importance of amino acids and what it has for their horse. We’re seeing it on a day to day basis, but it’s being exposed to new people all the time. I think this is going to be a very, very valuable podcast for the information. Thank you so much for your scientific expertise.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Are you getting what you hoped? Are you getting pieces that you wanted?
John Dowdy: Absolutely. I’m sure down the road we can do a follow up. Thank you so much for all of that. As I mentioned in your intro, I also had mentioned that in your spare time, you also have an equine therapy. The name of your farm is Belos Cavalos. Tell us what that means, and tell us all about your equine therapy and your farm there?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Great. Thank you so much for asking because this truly is my heart’s work. In global health, I work in malaria and other tropical diseases all over the world. When I was working with refugees with the United Nations, we were taught a particular model of trauma recovery, which is an experiential model. It’s when tragedy and trauma are so bad that there are not words to discuss or explain what has been experienced. Oftentimes, language barriers are an issue. Being able to address trauma from the inside out, through experiences, through nature, through physical activity, through foods, through music, through dance, through drumming. Those types of things are a way to resolve trauma. When I did leave the UN refugee work and came back to California, I was asked to do that type of trauma recovery work at my farm.
The natural thing to do was to incorporate the horses into the work, because the horses become the most amazing facilitators. Their sensitivity is so keen, that horses by nature, are designed as prey animals. That’s meaning their senses are so much more heightened than ours. Their life depends on being able to use sight, sound, smell, touch, taste to keep alive and to thrive. In that way, it makes them incredible nonverbal communicators, and heart to heart connectors. Right away, I found with those who had survived severe trauma, were particularly open and available to nature and to the horses, animals in general. Just experiencing something without having to talk about it. Thus, we created a curriculum that included resilience, self-regulation, empathy and elements of hope.
Through particular activities and engagements that people who have survived trauma, particularly children, could really accelerate their recovery, and begin to open up and work through their trauma through an experiential way. The horse is so engaged with particularly the children, that we only really needed to hold as a safe space for these types of engagements to occur. That the horses really have the ability to take these people through a lot of their trauma awareness, and to get in touch with it and get back into their bodies and to be able to start to breathe again with some ease. We do breathing with the horses. We do yoga with the horses. A lot of walking and hiking. Things like grooming, for people to be able to touch and feel the softness of a horse’s nose, and the roughness of their hooves.
Those types of things help them get grounded again, and get familiar with their selves again. It’s a very powerful tool. The farm is called Terra De Belos Cavalos, which means Land of Beautiful Horses. My charity is called Belos Cavalos meaning Beautiful Horses. Just because the herd and the horses themselves create that type of metaphor for what we’re trying to do. That the horse-human herd, when you can engage together, is a very healing opportunity when protected. I would very much love to share at a greater length the philosophy of the horse-human connection, and its impact on trauma recovery. It’s something that has really become my heart’s work.
In fact, this coming week I’m going to be training in mind body medicine, and being able to introduce our equine work into a group of physicians from across the country that are all going to be gathering together to study on how to integrate mind-body medicine more into our practice of human healthcare. I’m thrilled to be able to bring the history and the theory of the horse and the herd dynamic to that work. I think that it’s not just a trend or it’s not just a fad that’s coming in and out. I think that it is a way for humans at large to become more engaged. In this world of so much technology and connectivity, to get down to earth again, and to be able to take the aspects and the characteristics of a horse and apply them to our own wellness might be something that goes far beyond just the programs I do in trauma recovery here at my farm.
John Dowdy: Sure. Now, maybe for some of those who aren’t familiar with how this type of thing works, therapy horses and how beneficial that is. Could you give an example? Maybe somebody that has never been around a horse and they might just be terrified of horses. What’s been their experience when they come out to the farm, and how do you connect or how does the horse connect with somebody that might be fearful because they’ve just never been around a horse before? What’s that experience like?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo That describes almost everyone that has survived a severe trauma. I say it’s very few of them that have ever been around a horse or touched a horse. That in itself is a huge gain for someone to feel the confidence to engage and relate to a very, very large animal that they’ve never had contact with. It starts rather slowly, and it starts … we do most of the work that we do at liberty. Meaning that you don’t have a halter or line, and it’s all in relationship. I need to bring Equinety back into the conversation, because I have to say the horses that participate in this work, they have to be healthy and confident to engage in the work, so that they can be at their best. That’s one thing, that’s why Equinety has been so important to me. It’s when horses are at their best, they’re able to engage in this work well.
The one example that I would love to tell you, we work with a great number of youth that are either incarcerated, or they’ve been removed from their living situation by law enforcement or the court. They live in an institution or a group setting. Those children, because of the trauma they’ve been through, they sometimes disassociate, and they’re not fully in their body. What they’ve experienced numbs them, and they are not feeling all of their senses. We have walking with a horse one day, a young man who was extra sensitive to any sound or sudden movement, his fear alarm was set on high volume. He was really jumpy. He’s walking along with one of our mares, [Shalena 00:51:06] who has had numerous falls, and she’s just a gentle, gentle soul. Something banged across the farm, maybe the tractor dropped something or something happened, and she slightly startled.
This boy nearly jumped out of his skin. He looked at me in complete terror, and I said, “What just happened?” He said, “I heard a noise and Shalena jumped.” I said, “Then what happened?” He told me the story of what happened and then I said, “What was happening in you?” He said, “My hands got all sweaty and my heart beat faster, and I thought I was going to cry.” I said, “What did Shalena do?” He goes, “Well Shalena kind of jumped but then she just thought, “Oh, it’s just the tractor. It’s no big deal,” and she just stood by me.” Then I said, “Why don’t we stand,” I said, “Does Shalena seem calm to you?” He said, “Yes, Shalena is calm.” I said, “Then put your hand on Shalena’s side, and let’s just breathe with Shalena. Feel her breath. Feel her hair, feel her warmth, feel her breathe.”
“Let’s match her breathing until you feel calm.” He did and until he was done, as long as it took. When he was done he says, “I feel calm.” I said, “Well, let’s walk on.” We dropped it, and then that’s all the processing that was needed. He was able to recognize his fear, assess it, what’s going on around him. He was able to look inside, what effect did that have on me? What’s happening to my heart? Am I sweating? How am I breathing? He was able to reach out for something of stability. Shalena was the stable thing. He was able to physically connect with her, put his hand on her fur, feel her warmth, feel her breathe. Then in a breathing self-regulation, because her breathing was slow and relaxed, he matched that slow and relaxed breathing, and he was able to regulate himself and feel in relationship.
John Dowdy: Wow, and all without medications.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Yes, and then we let it be. We didn’t over-talk it. We didn’t sit down on a couch and analyze it. We just let that experience be. But later on I heard when he got back to the children’s center, he told one of the staff what happened and he said, he told the story, and then he said, “And I love Shalena.” I thought so he was able to express love. Sometimes it’s hard for these kids to receive love and express it, because it can be dangerous. It allowed him to actually express love knowing that rejection wouldn’t follow that. It was really a powerful experience. Yes, no medicine, it wasn’t a long session. It wasn’t long, and it was just part of the activity.
John Dowdy: Sure. Now, do you have any experience with military, dealing with PTSD? Not that it can’t be in children as well, PTSD, but as far as military goes.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Here at my farm we have not, but I would love to. There are two groups. One are our military veterans, and the second are first responders, the EMTs, ambulance drivers, firemen, policemen. We have done workshops and facilitated sessions with first responders. We even have a program called LEO, Law Enforcement Officers. That whole area of PTSD is very, very important to us. Our capacity has not developed those programs as deeply as we’d like to, because we got targeted by the County where we live to be the center that is the clinical program for the youth particularly, in the situation that I described.
But my heart’s desire is to be able to expand to both those adult groups. Because it’s very impactful for people at any age to be able to heal from the inside out. That’s what the experiential work, the work with nature, the work with horses. The work of incorporating all of those elements, movement and animals and food and music, to be able to do that in one setting. It takes very little talk. I’m talking a lot so you think maybe that’s not the case, but it needs actual recovery sessions. It’s very, very little talk. We don’t need to.
John Dowdy: Now if we go back, I believe a year or two ago, there were fires that were bearing down on your facility, and it seemed like you had a dome of protection. But if memory serves me correctly didn’t you host a lot of the firefighters and they had to set up at your facility?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo That’s exactly right. We’re in the center of the wine country of Northern California. All around me are vineyards. I am the one property that doesn’t have acres and acres and acres of grapes. We do have olive trees and we do produce olive oil for the charity as one of the ways that we raise money, but we have a lot of open space. I also have a private FAA certified airport on the property. In this case, we were actually the nuns fire if you saw any news that identified different fires, we were nuns fire. It actually began right behind our property in State Park. We have 22,000 acres of a public park that run up the mountain side behind me. Since we have so much open space, Cal Fire set up their base camp here. They used the airport, they can stage their large bulldozing equipment, where many of the neighbors all around me burned.
My property was somewhat damaged but not destroyed by any means. All my buildings in some form, stayed intact. The first responders actually had base camp here, 37 port-a-potties if you can imagine. They did protect us and I thanked them one day for keeping my property protected and safe. They said, “Would you let your own home burn if you could help it?” They were actually stationed here. They were quite happy to be here. We’ve had them come after the fire, and we had a gathering and they brought the fire trucks, and we spent time together.
That’s what really hit me, how important this issue of post-traumatic shock really is. If we get really serious about it, there’s not a person on the planet that hasn’t experienced forms of trauma, and loss and pain or abuse, or losing someone that they deeply love, and feeling that trauma gap. I think that this is something that we as those who own and love horses, we understand how powerful that nature and that connection to animals and particularly horses can be. It’s something that we can share in a very simple way that has maybe a far greater reach than we might imagine.
John Dowdy: Yeah, absolutely. What have you experienced with, because we’re talking about the animals helping people, have you seen the opposite happen? Where the horses have actually changed in a way? Because some of them may come from trauma situations themselves.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Probably about half of our horses are severe trauma survivors themselves. One of my horses I flew him from Brazil, he was a bullfighter and he was injured. This particular horse is I would say that he probably had PTSD when he came to America. He was so sensitive that a feather would blow by, and he’d shoot up like a rocket. He began working in the trauma recovery work probably about six years ago. He has become so engaged with people and so interested in relationship. He still has the sensitivities, he still has the energy. He’s still [Secreto 01:01:53], he’s still very much the head of the herd. But his tenderness and his gentleness … he can run an obstacle course and jump jumps and weave cones with a child at liberty, because he chooses to be in relationship. It’s so beautiful as we brought a [Marion 01:02:14] that had suffered one stillborn and then one miscarriage three months before delivery.
She was probably in the eighth month when she lost the last foal. They brought her here, and I have seen her she was quite shut down and not really interested in people. Now, I drive up, and she trots over to the edge of her paddock to the fence and greets me. It sees a way that he engages she’ll walk from her paddock into the stable, into her stall at liberty. Now she just walks side by side. They have come into enjoying that type of engagement. I truly feel that humans and horses are learning and growing and healing together. It’s trust. It’s feeling safe. It’s having a job to do that they enjoy. I had a 38 year old horse that was on Equinety every single day that I had him, who just passed away.
He was a national champion polo player. He just passed away in July at age 38. His name is Bearcat. He worked with the children in the charity the day before. He was completely engaged, and loving, and participated. Then the next day he was not looking quite right. I called the vet and he said, “Bearcat’s ready to go. He’s done.” It was so amazing because someone that knew him from the polo circuit came to visit within the last year of Bearcat’s life. They said, “We have never seen Bearcat so happy, that the last five years have been the best years of his life, being engaged in the charity work. He so loves his job.” I feel like keeping his health in balance, and keeping his mind active and sharp, allowed him to enjoy all the days of his 38 years until the end.
John Dowdy: That’s incredible.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Just like humans. If our health is good, and we’ve got relationships and we’ve got something to do that has purpose and meaning, then what more could we ask for? That’s a fulfilling rich life.
John Dowdy: That’s right. Well, Dr. Charlyn, I can’t thank you enough for your time. This is probably, well it is our longest podcast we’ve had. It’s pack full of information, and thank you so much for your expertise from a scientific level, and for sharing about your farm and your rehabilitation work. That’s absolutely fascinating. If somebody wanted to look you up online where would be the best place to find you?
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Our website is BelosCavalos.org. B-E-L-O-S C-A-V-A-L-O-S.org. The same on Instagram. You can get a beautiful look at what our farm is, and what we do and how we engage from our Instagram. We are also on Facebook, BelosCavalos.org. I would want to say a lot of, well all of the children that we work with are at a high level of security. Just so that you know, the children that you see on the website are other children that have come and done activities and engaged with the horses in similar things that the charity kids do. But it is unlawful for us to post any image. Some of these children have experienced sex trafficking and abduction and some things. Just so that you know we’re not at not exposing the children that are actually under security that are in the charity on the websites. Those children are doing the same engagements with the horses, but we have permission from their parents.
John Dowdy: Right. Some of the work that you’re doing, high profile people that probably may or may not have been on the news, things like this that all of their…
Dr Charlyn Belluzo That’s right. Or that they’re at risk because they have escaped a terrible situation, and their whereabouts need to be protected.
John Dowdy: I can’t thank you enough for doing that kind of work. I know I’ve been out to your place. It’s a beautiful place, and didn’t get to spend enough time with my travels, but I’ve got to come back out there and visit some time.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo You’re always welcome.
John Dowdy: Thank you.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I hope you do.
John Dowdy: I will definitely do that.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo I want to thank everyone that listened. I’m incredibly grateful that you took the time to hear my stories of the charity, and also to learn more about Equinety because John and the Equinety product are very, very important to me. I appreciate you generously giving your time to listen and hope that it was useful to you.
John Dowdy: Absolutely. Well, Dr. Charlyn from California, thank you so much for taking the time to be on the Equinety podcast.
Dr Charlyn Belluzo Thank you. Bye-bye.
John Dowdy: Bye-bye.