Author Archives: stablewomen

About stablewomen

Dharmahorse Equine Sanctuary is the home of the Stablewomen Program and the permanent place of Peace for unwanted horses, now cherished. Katharine is the founder and president of this non-profit sanctuary where horses and people learn to interact with Compassion not Compulsion. Katharine is a columnist and contributing writer for newspapers and international magazines on the subjects of horses, schooling, therapy, plant therapies (herbs!) and Dressage in the old, humane fashion.

Black and Blue

Bruises are a fact of life for horses and horse people alike. A bruise is an area beneath the skin where trauma, usually from a blow, stresses and breaks vessels allowing blood and serum to leak into the surrounding tissues. Inflammation sets in to supply fresh blood and often, to act as a natural “splint” kind of stabilizing the area. All of these occurrences cause localized pain!

Upon immediate injury, the application of cold will lessen tissue damage and reduce swelling. For horses, bags of frozen vegetables, long “ice pop” frozen sweets or simple cold water from a hose will cool the area of injury. At the time of the bruising, a dose of Homeopathic Arnica orally every 15 minutes for a few hours, then a few times daily can bring the damage to a halt. Arnica gels, ointments and sprays work wonders externally.

The herb comfrey is an amazing healer for bruises. The root, boiled in water, makes a strained liquid that can be applied every hour to an injury (cold for a new bruise, warm for an old injury site). I have used comfrey for catastrophic injuries of horses and had such success that even Veterinarians were impressed.

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The equine hoof has a propensity for bruising because of its small size in relation to the bulk and the weight it carries. A bruise to the hoof can be helped by the oral dosing of Homeopathic Arnica immediately. I carry the pellets on trail rides in case a horse becomes sore-footed on rocks or hardened paths.

A bruised hoof will benefit from soaking in warm epsom salt water. Most of our horses here at Dharmahorse Sanctuary will stand with one hoof in a tub of medicine – Majic will stand with all four hooves in tubs. The epsom salt water will draw pain and inflammation away from the hoof and the magnesium reduces pain. After the soaking, I will cover the bottom structures of the hoof with pure, strong iodine. This is all repeated three times daily until the horse feels relief.

There are pain killers that can be administered to the injured horse (talk with your Veterinarian) and there are herbs that will work in anti-inflammatory and analgesic ways also. These types of herbs that are safe to feed to most horses (do a test with a small amount at first) are: Meadowsweet, White Willow Bark, Devil’s Claw, Yucca Root, Turmeric, Comfrey Leaf in small amounts and Gotu Kola.

When I think a horse might be at risk of hoof bruising, I will put on a hoof boot to provide protection. If a horse has weak hooves, we will feed Methionine, Biotin, Lysine, Kelp and Rose Hips to strengthen the hoof structures. For protecting a horse’s legs, there are an assortment of sports boots and “bell” boots and large shipping boots to cushion any blows that might occur while riding or trailering or when turned out for a run.

And for any of us who receive a bruising blow or injury, the first step is to apply ice; second step is to protect the area from further damage; third step is to provide systemic healing through herbs, Homeopathics and essences that support the body’s healing rather than masking the symptoms.

A Dear friend from India saw me receive a violent bite from a mare that crushed tendons in my arm! He told me that his Mum always made them a cup of hot milk with turmeric for injuries. I made one for myself every day for several days. It helped!

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Don’t Panic

Sometimes waiting is the best of answers. Moderation is the wisest way.

As I wrestled, lately, with thoughts of letting my precious Majic go – the horse who came here with me and started this incarnation of Dharmahorse with me – I felt such despair and sadness. He has helped hundreds of people through the years… helped them learn to ride; helped them overcome fears; helped them feel safe; listened to them and made them laugh…

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Majic has been dealing with his mechanical founder for a few years now. He has had great years where he could give rides and gallop in the turn out with Lung Ta. He has had bad times when his metabolism, the weather and the hooves have all seemed to conspire against him. But, he never stops eating; he never stops “smiling”.

The past couple of weeks have been a struggle for him – in cold weather, to boot. We had put down pea gravel for the other foundered rescue (it is really helping her – a 30 year old mare who was a victim of horse tripping). I thought I was being wise when I put Majic in with her (Damaru) and at first the gravel seemed comfortable for him. Then, he lost his footing getting up from a nap as it made him slide and he fell backwards onto his bum, wrenching his muscles.

Back in his old pen with his stall full of shavings, he needed assistance to get up each time from a lie down. To do that, I had to lift him with a longe line around his hind end. Soon, I was in trouble, wrenching the neck and back muscles I had hurt four years ago from lifting my Mum when I cared for her in her last years.

Suddenly, as if he knew I was in trouble, Majic started getting up on his own! His strength is slowly returning… I ordered the Cetyl M supplement that healed my 18 year old dog of hip and back injuries (she lived, mobile, till 21) in the equine formula and can’t wait for its arrival. I am glad I didn’t give up. I am glad I didn’t panic.

A year ago, our precious “Vega” ( a retired Eventer who will be 40 years old next year) was injured when a young hoof trimmer brutalized him for trying to pull a hind hoof away. This brutality consisted of lifting his leg high enough to break ancient bones while fighting with and yelling at him (the most mannered horse I’ve ever known!). Elderly Vega was being trimmed too short and just couldn’t bear it – I yelled “STOP!” but was too late to prevent the damage – by now, I feel sure no bones broke – but we thought for almost 3 months that he wouldn’t survive. Vega was in constant pain, limping on all 4 hooves. We put 4 hoof boots with pads on him. He got pain killers, herbs and homeopathics daily. I cried every night.

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His body was and is strong from a lifetime of being an athlete – thank goodness. He recovered, pretty much. One hip (the one that was brutalized) still gives him some trouble… and I will never forgive myself for allowing it to happen – but Vega forgives me. And I did not panic while he was healing… I took it one day at a time. So did Vega.

So now, when Vega gallops full tilt in his pen (like tonight as Mark is mixing his chopped hay to soak), I thank all the forces in the Universe for his recovery.

I won’t let the young man touch any of our horses again. And I have come to believe that many barefoot trimming practices just take too much hoof… in an attempt to make hooves “look” a certain way, how the horse feels can be forgotten. A horse should feel better after his hooves are trimmed, not worse. Majic’s founder, way back, was the result of being trimmed WAY too short… and I will forever blame myself for that, too; for allowing it to happen.

And, I’m not criticizing anyone or anything tonight. No one is perfect and we all learn from mistakes and miscalculations. I learn stuff every day! And, if I take a deep breath; consult my “gut”; refuse to panic; remember past foibles; follow my heart and use what I have in my “tool kit” for horse care and self care… I can sleep at night and rise each morning ready to do whatever needs to be done. And, as a Buddhist, follow the “Middle Way”, all things in moderation…

Life is good. No panic needed.

 

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The Well of Experiences

Our lives – and those of our horses are filled with experiences. You can think of these as drops like water that fill a “well”. Of a positive or negative nature; these “drops” determine what we expect from current circumstances and experiences!

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Become Trustworthy
This is the main way in which we can support the trust of our horses. We must be the source of positive experiences in their lives and through repetition and building of the confident, pleasant encounters – we actually “crowd out” the negative memories in time.

This is a Natural Path of simple, mutual respect that brings Harmony to our relationship with Horses.

If your horse has mostly negative experiences in his “Well”, with every new experience he faces, his expectation will be something negative! Only by patiently and consistently adding positive “drops”/experiences, can you overcome the initial response of fear, anger or apprehension that is generated by negativity.

And a being whose experiences have been mostly positive will be open and often eager to face a new experience.

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Energy beyond aggression

In all of our relationships, the light of integrity is held by Compassion. If we consider something other than our own motives and agendas, we can open to living a real life outside of the world of illusion. With animals, we will establish communication instead of domination. With loved ones, we will share our very souls. With humanity, we will become beacons of reason and unconditional love. We will shift ourselves and those who resonate with Nature to a higher kind of love and life where the demoralizing of others is simply not accepted. ~ Katharine Chrisley Schreiber
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Living in the Past

Happy… and I’m smiling… with apologies to Ian Anderson, I find myself reviewing so much of my life with horses and the lessons they have taught.
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As a riding instructor, I often quote old instructors from my own past and even more often, tell the tales of horses (also teachers) from my past experiences.

When working in Equine Assisted Psychotherapy, I saw the deep learning that occurred with equine contact and felt it myself, as well. The past might be, at times, a lingering vision of dreams not realized or a small voice drawing one into regret – but it need not be. Just as we choose our focus in the moment, we can choose the things remembered.

I have had riding instructors ask me to dismount and tell me that I had “no idea how to put a horse on the aids”. What I chose at that moment was to learn how to do so!

I have had instructors teach me how to breathe properly; how to understand gravity; how to calm and center myself and how to raise my energy and my vibration. These things have served me well beyond the riding – they have kept me safe in bus stations; helped me find strength when I needed it (when loading hay or changing a tire) and allowed me to feel grace and peace most of the time. I draw these positives from my past.

The horses set examples beyond my expectations year after year by being the greatest friends anyone could have. They always have shown me the energy I was projecting by reflecting it honestly back to me. That has been a valuable gift.

When I talk and teach about the “Well of Experiences”, those drops that have filled it (both positive and negative) actually are subjective in a way. At least for us as humans – we can choose to learn from every experience and therefore make them positive in their end results.

My beautiful picture

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Damned if you do….

damned if you don’t. Running a Sanctuary for horses can feel like that often.

Yesterday, we were preparing for a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Star Party at Dharmahorse. A woman dropped by without an appointment. She was nice enough, I always need to show people around and tell the horses’ stories and explain our mission… so scheduling a visit is important. But, yesterday, I gave her an hour of my (limited and valuable) time. You never know, it could benefit the horses, and that is the focus at all times here. The horses.

We have everything equine here, really. Two foundered and recovering, older horses. A gelding turning 40 years old next year. A mare recovering from a skull fracture. Several horses with limited eyesight in one eye (not terrible, just something to be aware of). A Draft horse with an old jaw fracture and scars on his eyes. A big gelding whose hooves were never sound until we got him and pulled his shoes. A mare who had the worse necrotic tooth we’d ever seen…. and on and on.

We have horses who were starved nearly to death; horses who were saved from slaughter; a horse who was a victim of horse tripping… and all the horses here now are shiny, slick, plump-ish and beautiful. And that’s often a problem. People see them and think that everything is flowing beautifully at Dharmahorse, the horses have all their needs met, the world is soft and easy here.

Old photos and back stories do touch the hearts of those who help us in the support and healing of the horses. People who visit get the back stories because we want them to know how far this herd has come… we are not a zoo! We are a testimonial to love and herbal care…

And, I suppose we must look like we are sailing along because I’ve seen some people start to ask for donations for their horses and calling themselves a Rescue, actually using the words from my own campaigns for donations for our 501 (c) (3), state licensed Rescue!

Let me point out here – Dharmahorse has been struggling. We don’t know where the money or hay for next month will come from! Every donation goes directly into the Dharmahorse account to be used only for feed and horse care. The improvements here (including every fence for pens, arenas, etc.) come out of Mark and my pockets entirely. He and I pay the bills for utilities. He and I cover our own needs and pay the mortgage! We post all of the financial information on the website so donors know exactly how that money is used. That is how it should be done.

So, yesterday, after a tour of the place and hearing the horses’ stories, the visitor said to me that the horses seemed friendly and happy. “And healthy”, I said. “Oh, they’re not healthy”, she said. “They are very healthy”, I responded. She continues on about how they all have such problems…. they are not healthy. I refused to let that stand. I told her they are are all healthy now. “well, they are shiny”, she said.

As I walked her to the gate, I thought about how people see things. I guess horses with some age on them, overcoming brutality and starvation are probably not going to be “usable” in a competitive sense… although our Sage, after four months wearing his hooves how he needed them, competed in the Las Cruces Horse Trials and took second in his division. This was after being unable to walk from the driveway to his paddock when he arrived….

So some people see our shiny, happy, healthy horses and think we’ve got it all under control – and some people see these horses as having no value because they have special needs – and some people can’t bear to hear about the abuse some have suffered nor see photos of their battered, starved bodies. But, some wonderful people truly see these horses and make donations and volunteer to help care for them and become a part of a tribe filled with genuine compassion for this life.

And because of these people, we had a Volunteer Appreciation Dinner and Star Party last night!! Not everyone could come; it had to be after dark, so driving home was an issue for some. I had lost contact with others who I wished could have been with us (but, we’ll do it again!).

And Mother Nature participated in the Love with clear skies, no wind, chilly (not frigid) temps and perfect viewing. We couldn’t have asked for more!

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Beyond Aggression

In my favorite book, “Shambala, sacred path of the warrior”, Trungpa Rinpoche talks about the true warrior attaining a  state of gentleness. About the Dralas, energy beyond aggression and how our true natures are fearless.

“It is not just an arbitrary idea that the world is good. but it is good because we can experience its goodness.” He says, “Shambala vision is tuning in to our ability to wake ourselves up and recognize that goodness can happen to us. In fact, it is happening already.”

In her book, “Excuse me, your life is waiting”, Lynn Grabhorn says about Joy and Fear:
“When we’re experiencing anything that Joy isn’t, such as fear, worry, guilt or even mild concern, those emotions are sending out low frequency vibrations. Since low frequencies are every bit as magnetic as high frequencies, they’re going to attract only cruddy stuff back to us, meaning anything of that same low frequency that will cause us to feel (and vibrate) as lousy as what we’re sending out”.
While some fears can keep us from driving fast on icy roads or walking down dark alleys at night (and I tend to call those wise discretion…), attaching to any fear by giving it more than a fleeting consideration is to allow its invasion and influence within your very soul.
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Many years ago a teacher told me that horses are only afraid of two things, “Things that
move and things that don’t move”. I was speechless, having not heard it before.
Tonight, I’m thinking about how very clearly we hold ourselves hostage if we connect to fear…
Some fears come from a “what if” dialog about the health and well being of our horses – often generated by drug companies and a medical system that sees through eyes of aggression:
“Attack” dis-ease, Vaccinate to make immunity (the body does have an immune system), use chemistry to rid a body of what’s not wanted, synthesize properties from nature for supplements and medicines without regard for all the other subtle properties that prevent side effects – it is an aggressive system that, on specific instances, can be useful temporarily. But, as a philosophy, the fear based protocols can be devastating.
Energy Beyond Aggression
That’s how I want to be.
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Simple horses

There is this strange “sophistication”, a consistent “polished” look and way about the horses these days. I was looking through old photographs and papers, smiling at the memories of old competition days and the work we did preparing. Old boots shined up and well-worn… bridles that were both “at home school tack” and “show tack”… saddles polished well the night before and that one fancy saddle pad kept clean and spiffy just for the shows.

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I know riders these days whose Spanish top, zippered, posh black boots cost more than the horses I rode in my youth. And that’s okay. Times change. People have different priorities. People have more money (or so it seems).

Now, I grew up in wealth, actually! Yet, my absolute adoration of all things equine left the rest of my family cold. It wasn’t until I fell through a window (beside the entry door at my grandfather’s estate here), severed most of my hand from my arm and died in surgery, then was resuscitated that my parents decided they might ought to get a horse for me… it was worth it 😉

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My father chose a shiny, fancy young gelding over the older, plain, “bomb-proof” gelding I really should have had and the adventure began. Even with my new horse, in 1968, his presence was nowhere near the impression made by the modern mount these days!

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I look at old photos and feel that deep pang of loss… a loss of the simplicity of just loving and bonding and struggling with horses. While I left the competitive world years ago, I watch the “horse world” around me now and wonder about what satisfaction there could be in the purchase of a made show horse, the repetition of drilled coaching, the need for extravagant clothing and equipment just to able to ride into the ring in the first place.

Do the current horse persons find that same tingle of butterflies in the tummy at midnight before leaving for the horse show while they clean tack on the living room floor? Do they laugh out loud with friends at the in gate, nervous laughter to make it easier to face the strangely complex course of fences painted in colors their horses have never seen before?

Do parents sit in the bleachers, as mine did, beaming smiles and offering words of encouragement? Or was it just that my parents were so very glad that I was even alive?

horse van at show

I feel particularly blessed to have known the “old days” of simple horsemanship; of wanting a horse so badly that I “cantered” all over the place on my two legs with such abandon that I slid across the slate entryway and through a plate glass wall… hand first, thank goodness, not head first!

I love that my Mum and Dad came on board with the whole horse thing and got us a horse van, built a barn (with their own hands) and helped me establish my own stable yard.

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Horses. They healed me (and there was so very much to be healed). They made a life for me. And now I make their lives better, hopefully, as best I can. Since that dynamic childhood, I’ve been homeless. I have lived as a caretaker for a friend’s farm as she died of cancer. I have found a way to buy my own place in 2010, after driving home to New Mexico with everything I owned stuffed into my Jeep. And that home has now become a Sanctuary for horses in need and the people who who love them.

My favorite definition of love is:

“Love is the active promotion of the well-being of the love object” ~ E. Fromm

I love horses.

 

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Without Pain…

“The whole idea of struggle brings you to a point of conflict, the antithesis of horsemanship.”  If things seem to be going wrong in your training, first look to the possibility of confusion.  The horse wants to please.  It is his nature to yield and to avoid conflict.  If he seems unwilling to comply with your wishes/requests/demands, consider the possibility that he is confused and does not understand your aids.  First look to fixing yourself.  Make your language clearer, your communication more basic.  Go to a simpler task, a slower gait, a smaller jump, use a milder bit, remove force, and concentrate upon influence.  If your hose is acting out of character, consider that he feels poorly or that something is hurting him.  Check your equipment, his body, his hooves.  Give your horse a chance to tell you why he is not cooperating before you decide to attack him.

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Consider how often he is ridden.  If you work him hard every day, be sure to vary your routine.  Drilling him over and over with the same patterns of schooling will either bore him into quiet, dull submission or drive him to rebellion.  Neither is appealing.  If you can only get to him once a week, the excitement and newness of your contact with him many be overly stimulating.  He may have trouble concentrating for the first hour you are together, so do not make any demands upon him in the beginning of your time together beyond simple safety.  After the freshness has worn off, begin a schooling session that takes into account the time that has passed since your last contact.  Much improvement can be had with a review of old skills, a lesson on new, logical movements, finishing with a session of easy, well-honed skills that allows the horse to feel successful.

 

This building of successes for both of you can eliminate the use of pain as a training tool.  Equipment that inflicts pain is unnecessary if you take the time to school every small detail consistently from the most basic to the most complex.  It is important that your horse feels successful and be rewarded for his cooperation.  His desire to repeat the experience will be increased.  If he feels that he can never please you or that he is never quite food enough, he will lose all desire to participate with you either under saddle or in the stable.

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Find Yourself

Every morning when we wake up, we face ourselves. While our thoughts may be of work to be done, plans to be made or people to please; our first awareness each day is of our own embodiment. I have found that if I wake up to chaos – a jumbled bedroom, a messy bathroom, a kitchen in disarray – my awareness is naturally negative. If we begin each morning defeated by circumstances and our own thoughts, how can we expect to grow and accomplish things?

Simplicity can free you. I had a riding student whose business was teaching people to un-clutter their lives. When offered a brochure, she would read it and hand it back, making a note if necessary in her own little book. She did not even take on, momentarily, the objects that would become clutter in her life. Her car was clean, neat, simple inside and out. I can only imagine how her home would be! Her life, truly, must have been (and is, she is just no longer my student) filled with clarity.
After knowing her, I took a long look at my own “feng shui”, the energy of our home and stable. I found that I had, once again, accumulated tons of things I did not need, but felt compelled to hang onto… just in case. Now, I must quickly say that you have always been able to walk freely throughout my home and see every wall, window, piece of furniture, etc. But, the clutter was there on the surface and, with the picture of my former student’s probable abode in my head, I decided to find myself under the accumulation.

A roll of trash bags in hand, I started at one end of the house and worked my way through… I only partially filled one large trash can, but I had opened up my world and the morning after, I faced a lovely bit of simple neatness. With wonderful dogs sharing our home, I know it will never be spotless – but organized it must remain so I do not lose myself again under the insulation of clutter.

And insulation it can be. If you want to disappear and be “comfortably numb”, nothing works quite as well as just not caring, not cleaning and being a victim. Slipping quietly into the cocoon of the “setting sun world” where you do not have to shower, shave, dress or be productive. It can happen. Then, when your senses return, you see the sadness of it and look to the “great eastern sun”, the sun rising on your world and shining light into all the corners.

You take a deep breath, then another, clearing the “mind” and “soul” clutter with each exhalation. You begin to see everything around you, the trees, the earth, the horses and dogs and the world you create as sacred. Then you see yourself as a genuine, good human being and you find the joy of a day spent in meditation with a pot of tea and a cheese sandwich and it hits you – life is its own answer.

As I walked about the stable yard this evening, I felt a deeper connection to my past. I was remembering past stables, past horses – but not in a regretful or comparing way – I felt a keen sense of it all being linked. As if the energy of all the things I have done, seen and been were just as real and immediate as what I was doing tonight. I felt more real. more valid, more present than I have felt in years. It reminded of my childhood when I would spin head over heels under water in my grandfather’s pool with a swim mask on; churning thousands of bubbles, then release and let myself float to the surface with those bubbles… watching them… being them. In those moments, I felt connected to all the water on the planet. It was as if all water everywhere was dancing with me.

Tonight, I want you to feel deep connections to the important things in your life. I found the clarity and inspiration of my meditation to be my catalyst. It never hurts to relax. It never hurts to just breathe. It is powerful to take a penetrating look directly at yourself and allow that vision to become something awesome.

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