Chiron

Chiron is a centaur… “the Wounded Healer”. When I did my first Vision Quest, a centaur came to me. Usually, one communes with a more “normal” animal or nature spirit.

The Vision Quest is simply being alone in Nature for a period of time to “cry” for your vision. I sat on a mountain after the death of several animals I cherished. I was feeling as if I needed to join them. I wanted to leave this life. I needed my vision. When, at night with a bright but not full moon, a being of human and equine merging appeared to me, I knew. I saw my vision as a calling to merge our worlds and our spirits – horses and humans. And to heal. To be healed and assist the healing of others.

To talk about it is difficult because it is a supremely personal experience. Yet, what I gleaned from that experience was something to share.

I had always taught gentle horsemanship and classical Dressage (NOT the kind of “Dressage” being practiced these days), but to become the centaur was a new way to see the relationships. First, I felt a need to abandon all the “let him know who’s boss”; “be the leader”; “you have to win” (and the horse loses?) rhetoric. Yet, we could not have horses walking over and through us and galloping off at will… so, I practiced my connection with my horses and taught a more integrated handling system of compassion and gentleness with enough assertive behavior to maintain safety. It worked. While I was aware that the wild Mustang needed to be approached with a kind of “morphed” horse/herd language expressed by the human – the horse who had grown up with us strange beings had a pretty good handle on what human language was all about.

And the healing, well I had been taught by the best. Herbalists and Reiki Masters and Travelers had honored me with their methods and knowledge. Horses would show me what they needed. As I studied modalities from Ayurveda to using Zeolites, I found that no one system applies in every situation. Simple was always best. Flexibility was imperative.

Chiron… I think all healers are wounded. We are wounded by loss. We are wounded by life, even wounded by love. What makes a healer rise from the devastation a wound can inflict is an awareness of things much larger than ourselves. Voices calling us to task from our own heart, singing us across the pain to see through new eyes. We become the merging of life and death, recognizing the bound relationship between the two and the truth that neither need be feared.

I am grateful for the times I was (and will be) guided by forces of Light and Love. It is truly the only way to live a life full of reason and, ultimately, joy.

Onward.

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The Special Needs Horse

The horse who is blind or losing his sight feels so very vulnerable. He must never be startled by a silent approach followed by a touch. We must talk to him in soothing tones and touch him on the neck or shoulder in a direct and comforting manner.

He should be led wearing a halter with lead shank and you keep your hand touching the cheek piece of the halter and his cheek. In this way, holding the lead in your other hand, you can direct him with a light, steady pull toward you or gentle push away to have him know to go left or right. If the ground rises, raise his head with halter and slow him while speaking to him. If the ground drops, stop him and take one slow step at a time so he can keep his footing. You may need to keep your other hand on his neck also to support him.

When grooming or massaging him, always keep a hand on his body so he knows where you are (starting at his shoulder). Leave his whiskers and feeler hairs on his face long so he can feel before he bumps his face on fences or trees and the like (we do this for ALL horses!). Remove objects he could stumble over, bump into or fall onto. Wrap pipe fences with spongy insulating foam to cushion a bump.

LOOK where you are leading him! Think ahead and prevent trouble.

equine eye

The horse who has foundered starts out with a lot of pain and even when healing well will be tender in his hooves for a long time. It is imperative that the coffin bone is supported and there are many pads available for use inside of boots or to be taped on the bottom of the hooves. In a sudden hoof crisis, I will cut a thick styrofoam cooler into a frog shaped piece that goes right on the frog and a circle that covers the bottom of the hoof (placed over the frog cover) that I duct tape in place to support the internal structures.

The foundered or Laminitic horse should be led on straight lines with huge curves to turn around – any stepping sideways can be extremely painful as the stretched laminae tear even more as the hoof rocks sideways! Therapy includes diet details, supplementation to maintain good circulation and many methods to restore the energy flow in the legs; restructuring of the hoof capsule. Hard ground, rough and uneven footing and going downhill can all be torturous for the foundered horse. Protect him.

The horse with back or hip trouble needs a large stall or pen that allows lots of room for lying down and getting up. Deep bedding helps prevent injury for the horse that must “plop” down or throw himself sideways to get up. Unless using it for therapy in healing, backing the horse up is to be avoided since it can stress the haunches and the spine.

Tendon problems need support wraps and spongy, firm ground rather than deep footing.

Bone problems need cushioned footing, no concussion, and a balanced diet (especially minerals).
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Reduce Scarring…

I saw that on a jar of ointment yesterday. It is a blend of Chinese herbs in beeswax and oils to use on burns and wounds. It got me thinking about scars. I have a few! So have most of my horses.

The funny thing about scars, they are made of tissue that is stronger (after they are set) than the original skin, muscle or bone. Physical scars make the body stronger if allowed to “do their thing”. Emotional scars can be strengthening if we see them through the eyes of a student. A student of Life.

My beautiful picture

There is no way we get through this unscathed. Life is a full spectrum. It is gentle and rough. It is great fun and it is scary. It holds us up and it knocks us down… but we have to get up again. Each time. The wound to our bum or our ego or our soul will form a scar. That scar will make us stronger if we see that spectrum of experiences through eyes of compassion. We become empathetic and compassionate when we experience this life fully. If you have never stubbed your toe, you do not wince in awareness when a friend tells you that she ran her little toe into the corner of a cabinet in the dark last night. Without experiences, we have no empathy. And paper cuts… well, just thinking about them and I can hear the sizzle of sheets through skin (I used to run printing presses!!).

If we look deeply into our pain as it is on us, we can sense the way through it. Scars will be physical and emotional and mental, but they will always make us stronger if we accept them, even honor them. Dear friends, be compassionate with yourselves!
Love is what matters.

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Deep Breath… thinking in simple solutions first, holding the form!

release

 

Years ago, I took my Lipizzaner mare, my friend Judy and my little Iberian bay mare to a Maj. Gen. Jonathan R Burton Dressage Clinic at Ft. Bliss in El Paso, Texas. We were joined by a student of mine, Pam, driving her own truck and trailer while I took us over in my big horse van.

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As I pulled off the highway and made my way to the base, the van suddenly began groaning and making scraping sounds that were every bit as scary as the startling sound of a blow-out! I still had control, so I pushed onward to the stables and leaped out of the cab as soon as I could park.

We pulled down the ramp and sides and got our mares out quickly. They both had strange expressions across their faces.

I walked around the van, smelling a hot but not smokey odor… I looked under the box, but didn’t really know what I was looking at. So, I went over to Pam’s pick up and looked under it. I saw that her drive shaft was held up by a little cushioned bracket (I came to know as a “pillow block”). I observed that my van’s drive shaft was tilted downward and there was no similar object supporting it.

We all rode in the Clinic and worked with our horses. Then I started searching through my boxes and bags in the cab of the truck. I found a hugely thick leather strap with a clunky buckle, a can of hoof dressing and a big piece of wire that I figured might serve me.

I pulled the drive shaft up with the wire and secured it to another shaft running along the length of the van’s box. Then I covered the inside of the strap with hoof dressing and fastened it also to lift and hold the turning drive shaft. Then I started the engine, pulled forward and back a few times… it all held, seemed to be balanced… so Judy and I loaded the mares and set off for Las Cruces!

We made it!!

A few years later I was backing my old (very old!) Suburban out of my driveway when it made a hideous sound reminiscent of that horse van – drive shaft episode. I figured I was in real trouble (financially). I called my friend Judy (same Judy). Her husband immediately came out to try and fix my Suburban. Judy and I went in the cottage for tea and biscuits while he crawled under…
He walked in with a tiny stone in his hand, smiling. That stone had gotten itself into my brake pad or shoe or whatever and had made the sound that stopped my breathing for that awful moment.

My car was fixed. No big repairs. No bills. No problems. I taped the stone to the metal glove box as a reminder to think of the simple things first!

And to take a Deep Breath!

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What scares horsewomen most

The school and boarding stable I had here in Las Cruces (started in 1982 at the Briarwood Dressage facility built around the dome house I bought north of town) was at the back of a long field of alfalfa. My turn out for my own horses was the arena and boarders went out in the field that was fenced with black rubber fencing. The arena was made of 1 by 12 boards on 4×4 posts with one strand of electric fence on top that was only turned on when horses were loose inside.
I had all the school horses out one very windy day – 10 horses of varying ages, sizes and temperaments. I was mucking when the wind actually blew the top boards off of one line of fence, breaking the electric tape as well. One of my school horses was a retired open jumper named Smokie (Holy Smoke) who was the only equine that did not jump the lower boards and gallop off across the country side! He looked at me as if he knew he wasn’t supposed to leave – I yelled at him to “stay” and took off after my disappearing herd of 9! One of those wildly galloping bay geldings was Halftone – the babysitter who could barely do a one mile an hour jog in a lesson… now leading the whole group, full speed down the road and through a large mobile home park set within an orchard. Zigzagging through trees and fenced yards, my herd stayed together and parents were grabbing their children from the swings and slides, holding tight to them. I was gasping for air, legs cramping as I tried to keep up (foolishly) with my horses.
They made their way around and turned back toward home. When I finally got to the barn – my neighbor (a young girl who took lessons from me and knew each of the horses) had put Smokie in his stall and was slowly catching the exhausted, sweating, just a bit too pleased with themselves school string. We pulled their water and started rubbing them down, offering small drinks until they had all cooled. The wind kept howling. I thanked my neighbor profusely and never charged her for a lesson after that day.

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And the winner is…

A “Win – Win” situation… I hear that often. It is a truly profound statement when it is used. Most times our society is equating winning with being higher, better, stronger, smarter than others who must, therefor, lose.

And it is dramatic when a rider is told to “show him who’s boss”; “you must win the battle with your horse”; etc.

Battle? If a battle ensues within a relationship with a horse, the human is 99% of the time the instigator. A battle can demoralize one of the parties and it invariably ends up being the horse.

snookie jump

So, this “Win – Win” situation sounds like the best way to approach relationships and dialog with horses… heck, with all beings! I have personally found my way there through decades of experience and relationships with Appaloosas. Oh, I have owned and schooled Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Warmbloods, Mules, Quarter Horses… you name it! But the time I have spent with Appaloosas has honed my skills as a proponent of “The Middle Way” and brought me to a place of thoughtful consideration of the other party in each relationship. Appaloosas have an acute sense of what is fair and the ability to know if you are honest and mean what you “say”. They will hold you to task. And I appreciate that.

If we seek that “Middle Way” of partnership with our horses (and family and coworkers and neighbors, etc.), with respect for the other’s feelings – knowing that there are always reasons for how we all respond to life – we will All Be Winners. No One has to lose!

 

I once was told that my ideas were too “simplistic”; that the way I lived was “idealistic”. How COOL! I will gladly fly the SIMPLE flag and hold myself to the idealistic standards of compassion and trust. If we all just cave in to the idea that struggle, brutality and force are the normal aspects of life and relationships… well, what sort of life and relationships will we experience?
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Yes and No

When you run a Sanctuary for horses, every day is unique… sometimes every hour! When you live in harmony with Nature (especially in the high desert), you have to cultivate an attitude of flexibility when it comes to weather, finances, social interactions, relationships and goal setting.

My beautiful picture

We are up with sun, we are online into the night, we are juggling bits of money to be spread across payments that grow exponentially. We see the shining stars every night with barn checks and we fall into bed having missed a bath or a shower 4 days in a row…

Then we wake to gentle rain and the scent of suppressed dust in the paddocks, soft nickers wanting breakfast and a stillness on the stable yard that gifts us a day of introspection and rest.

My beautiful picture

New volunteers often say they don’t know how we do it, day in, day out… old students remark about the changes in the past couple of years that leave us all spellbound. Visitors ask if this was what I had always wanted to do…

Yes… and no.

I had wanted to live in Australia when I was young. I had wanted to raise half Thoroughbred show ponies when I was a teenager. I had wanted to operate a school of gentle, classical horsemanship paired with dance when I was in my twenties. In my thirties, I wanted to write novels. All my life I wanted to grow my own medicines for my family… all my life I wanted to be cherished, just as all beings do.

This Sanctuary, here in the New Mexico high desert, in the middle of a winter rain, warm and drenching; this is a huge YES. The “no” part is that I did not realize in my youth how important this life would be.

A mentor of mine when I was young, Mr. Charles deKunffy, wrote a note to me decades ago. It said, “Kathy, out of great dedication grow fine things. YOU will contribute to the equestrian arts”. No kidding!! THAT motivated me to push on when I was exhausted or discouraged. THAT made me push on when my hand(s) couldn’t even lift a coffee cup. THAT made me push past the mental whiplash inflicted by an alcoholic father and the degradation of molestation. A simple declaration of one’s worth by an admired teacher can be the difference between life and not living.

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So, I contribute; in ways I hadn’t realized would be my destiny. I have my connection to Australia that I now realize was a deep song in my heart. I have taught thousands of students, owned hundreds of horses, schooled hundreds more and stood by another hundred as they passed over… knowing that someone loved them, even though it was only me. I have healed and nourished and held more horses than I can count. Charles was correct… I was and am dedicated. I care.

And the horses here, a jumbled up group of almost every breed and age and background that one can imagine, these horses are the story to be told. Their stories. Colliding with humans, dancing with humans, fearing and respecting and loving humans they know us on levels we don’t know ourselves. I hope they know that I love them. Totally.

Am I pleased with direction this life of mine has taken? Yes. Just yes.

 

 

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Smelly Things

equine eye

I have a notebook from the 99cent store that says on its cover, “REFINDLY MADE FOR THE SUCCESS OF YOUR OUTSTANDING CAUSE”, just like that all in caps and with two strawberries (I think they’re berries…) to the left. I found it the other day trying to reorganize the office. Three pages in, I had written “Smelly Things” and listed, with bullet points, things that smell.

And, just a couple of days ago, a friend had her dog at the Veterinarian. Her young dog had been vomiting and had loose bowels; the Tech asked her wait outside, that it might be Parvo (it was not).

Yesterday, we had the equine dentist here floating teeth. He stopped a few times to smell the saliva on his hands for infection (I do that, too). I’ve been smelling LungTa’s (the Irish Draft horse) hoof with the abscess and finding the exudate to stink less and less.

All of these things have pointed me toward writing something about odors and their markers, so I decided to do so here. Most of us probably do a lot of discernment through our olfactory observations. I find myself to be quite sensitive to aromas… except perhaps the glorious smell of horses that others comment upon when arriving at the stable yard! Or the scent of Patchouli oil that I use making my own deodorant (apparently, I’ve gone nose numb to patchouli and must be reminded by others when I start adding too much).

I had a wonderful Vet named Skip who was also a friend. He has retired, but he often diagnosed firstly by scent. He and I could definitely smell Paro Virus (I learned it from years of Teching at an animal hospital and then when raising English Setters). He knew that cancer had a scent (there are dogs who can smell cancer, they say). I learned that particular marker, unfortunately, through the decades of rehabilitating horses.

Necrosis in wounds has a marker – the smell is probably familiar to most. And it is not host specific… people, dogs, cows, etc. as well as horses will have that similar stench when a wound goes septic.

My beautiful picture

That first whiff of stink can help us get to better treatment quickly, before the systemic infection sets in and the animal spikes a fever.

I am fully aware that this topic is not one to peruse over breakfast or share with a squeamish young daughter, but it is a subject worth noting because there are some life saving possibilities tied to the ability to denote subtle smells around us.

The horse’s poo can give us valuable insight into his health and the condition of his digestion. Beyond just the look and consistency (which, mind you, are vitally important), the odor from a bowel movement will have volumes to say. If the odor is sour and pungent, the horse likely needs probiotics. If it is a “meaty” smell, the diet should be checked and activated charcoal fed to detox the gut (there could be animal products in the feed or digestion is slowed or the gut has become permeable to the horse’s own blood). A sulfur smell can point to hind gut motility changes or simply come from sulfur rich herbs being fed (or MSM supplements).

Urine odor has its own story to tell. The stronger it smells, the more likely it is that the horse is not drinking enough water.

The horse’s sweat odor can have markers we should be attentive about. A stinky, urine-like smell can actually be tied to the kidneys not filtering properly. A sweet odor can be a warning about other organs and a foamy, thick sweat that smells like manure can signal dehydration’s arrival. This can indicate the need of electrolytes or even just salt deprivation (horses need free choice plain salt year round).

If the horse’s breath smells sweet and like a meadow, he probably has a healthy mouth. If there is any sour, foul or fermented smell; infection, improper mastication of food or injury could be present. These observations serve us, not so much as diagnostic tools, but as a pre-signal, a warning that we need to pursue a diagnosis. Catching a malady early can reduce damage, make treatment simpler and sometimes, save a life.

I have a whole detailed analysis of my own perspective about smells (with bullet points!). It is useful for me as a reminder to stay aware and I was so pleased to discover that I had not thrown it away. And the opportunity to chat on about the topic here just might help someone who is thinking, “Crikey, what’s that smell?” It is a message. Indeed it is.

 

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Being Conservative – this isn’t what you think….

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I was raised to be conservative. To conserve water… the land, food, trees, petrol, propane, toothpaste, toilet paper. I grew up with the mantra “save some for tomorrow”. My grandfather, Charles Hodel, was a famous conservationist. He fought strip mining. He made our family legacy one of awareness that too many humans would plunder this world and that “less is more”.

I also grew up running printing presses. The real kind. Lithography… I even learned some Letterpress… but with the lithographic process, you are mixing water and ink. The ink sticks to the places on the printing plate that have an image and the water coats the blank parts of the plate with no image.

So, the pressman is constantly balancing that ink/water ratio with dials that release each onto rollers inside the machine. When the image starts getting too dark, some operators add more water. When the image lightens, more ink. You see where I’m going with this!

I had to learn to balance that ratio. Every good pressman learned that. I thought about these things this morning in the shower. The water started cooling as I washed my hair and I instinctively turned down the cold tap (instead of turning up the hot). I thought about a step daughter who I took care of during a teen pregnancy who took long, hot showers twice daily. I swore that she took the shampoo & conditioner instructions literally; “wash – repeat – apply conditioner – leave conditioner 5 minutes – rinse thoroughly”… my conservationist self squirmed!

I fed her and myself with a garden I started in February under cloches (I wrote about them for Organic Gardening Magazine, called it “Cloche Encounters”). I hope that I taught her ways to conserve; ways to live well with little. I have not heard from her in decades…

cloche

So, I sit here on this New Years Eve contemplating my lovely new life. My new name. My new dream. My new focus. My new horse!

One thing that will never change for me is my deeply rooted practice of conserving. That Middle Way of balancing the things of life and Earth is ingrained into the cells of my body… it is genetically encoded into me. Granddad Hodel was born of Swiss immigrant parents. He was entered into the Congressional record upon his passing and they called him the “Albert Schweitzer” on crutches… I’m so proud to be the daughter of his daughter!

My Australian husband is making me some toast. He is chilling Celtic cider for tonight. I am starting potato, beet, parsnip and kale soup for tonight in the crockpot and have the black-eyed peas cooked already. We will trim Dream Cat’s hooves in a few minutes and I have one lesson to teach before noon. I now have stepsons on the other side of the planet… life is such an adventure!

We must step into this New Year, into 2018 with dreams intact. With a focus upon simple, logical, compassionate themes and a bit of that “save some for tomorrow” mentality… truly, LESS IS MORE.

Rock on

Katharine Chrisley-Schreiber!

 

 

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Being Fully Present

A long while back we harnessed our pony, Andy, hooked him up to the cart and taught some driving lessons at Dharmahorse. It was a great day for doing this since our earliest student could not make her lesson and it gave me the chance to take our late morning student on a brief drive around the property just for fun.
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The lessons on driving went well and when my young student arrived early, we just popped on her helmet and sat her beside me in the cart. What happened next was so interesting to me! She had never ridden in a pony cart. She was thrilled to do so, but she talked the entire time. I realized that she would never remember the look of Andy’s cute little bottom swinging with his stride as we rolled along. She will not someday think, “wow, I know what breeching and a crupper look like” or “the pony wears blinkers to keep his attention forward” – No, she was never fully present in that cart and I’m certain that years in the future, should someone ask if she has ever ridden in a horse drawn cart, her answer will be “no”.

It really was that disconnected. Now, sometimes we disconnect out of fear or anxiety about a situation. That is me on a roller coaster; just hurry and get me off of the bloody thing. Sometimes our mind is chattering so much that our focus is unclear or distorted. Often, we are just in the habit of being scattered.

So, like my young student, I know that I can hold myself separate from my experiences if I forget to focus and be fully present in the moment. Often, I have too many things on my mind. I have to know how each horse is feeling and what each student needs and match riders to horses for the benefit of both – while remembering to check on my brother and soak the food for the dogs and pay the water bill and move hay up for supper and get the dumpster out for the truck, and, and, and… you get the picture. It is something we all do.

I think of this series of mind checks and balances as a kind of lack of trust. As if I do not trust myself to remember what needs to be done, I constantly review and often chastise myself for any daydreaming or simple useless conversations. My, my… it is harder to release yourself from your own authority than it is to slip away from the domination of another. Just to relax is priceless and it is the foundation of being fully present in the moment. One must relax.

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