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!
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.
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.
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 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…
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.
“No hoof, no horse” is a saying that has been around forever for a very good reason. Our horses rely upon the foundation of healthy hooves in the same way that a building relies upon its foundation – without a good one, everything above is compromised.
The hooves, like all body systems, are created from the foods ingested. Certainly external forces are at play as well, but, without the complete nutrition needed the hoof cannot meet these forces with strength and flexibility.
Horse feeds came about at the same time with the same philosophy as livestock feeds which were designed to create muscle and fat for meat production. The goal was not the consumption of horses, it was the feeding of muscles and creation of fat layers and slick coats, along with energy for working in fields and on roads. Horses did not live very long and a preponderance of draft blood made for larger, better equipped hooves as foundations.
Our horses now are family members living longer lives, often with smaller hooves from the breeding of lighter types for sport or show. While proper farriery or trimming are absolutely essential – the creation of the hoof structure, strength and health will be determined by diet.
The horse, being designed as a browser/herbivore requires the high fiber diet filled with herbs and forage that Nature provides (we can provide this, too!). To “feed the feet”, we need to supplement the grassy pastures and/or hays with herbs and foods that support hoof health by providing minerals, amino acids, enzymes and safe lipids (fats).
To process and extract the components then provide them in a bag of “complete feed” can often corrupt the very nutrients that are desired. Heat destroys nutrients and most processed foods are created by steaming or cooking. Chemical extraction is used to isolate many nutrition oils before they are blended into feeds and the result is a less digestible lipid with potential residues of the extracting agent. Just as processed foods leave us feeling hungry because we’ve eaten “empty calories”, the horse will feel undernourished and seek roots, barks even eat dirt in an effort to find what his body craves.
Foods that are grown with chemical fertilizers, pesticides (herbicides or insecticides), or are genetically modified present health problems that may show up dramatically in the hooves. The hoof depends on proper blood circulation and nutrient availability to keep the multiple layers of tissue intact. This laminated structure holds the bones within the hoof and lower leg at precise angles. Since our horses walk on “digits” – their legs corresponding to one of our fingers – anything out of balance degrades the entire structure and creates pain.
Humans will show traces of toxins or deficiencies in the growth, color, shape and structure of their finger nails – the cutaneous structure of the horse’s hooves is the same and serves as an indicator in this same way. The choice of organic foods whenever possible will help lessen the body’s exposure to possible toxins.
My personal belief is in simple solutions and simple, nature based practices with horses. Of course, we need brilliant surgeons for injuries; experienced practitioners for diagnosis and allopathy to assist with overwhelming symptoms – but it is the body itself that knows how to heal and what to do with the nutrients we provide!
Foods that Feed the Feet:
A quality grass hay or pasture source is the base of an equine diet.
To this base, a legume hay or pellet may be added such as alfalfa – Medicago sativa (Lucerne) for gestating, lactating or growing horses. A 10% to 20 % ratio to grass is a safe margin for the addition of the rich legume. It will add protein, calcium, biotin, silica and vitamin A (as well as many trace elements, etc.) to the base diet.
Sea Vegetables are supreme hoof support nutrients. Kelp – Fucus vesiculosis – provides over 30 trace elements and iodine, calcium, magnesium, potassium, silica, sulfur, iron and vitamin K. One tablespoon daily of powdered Kelp can be added to a bucket feed (of water-soaked wheat bran/pellets/beet pulp or specially blended senior feed or grain combination for the hard working equine) to nourish hoof health and growth (use one teaspoon for youngsters under 2 years old).
Rose Hips – Rosa species – are a good source of Rutin, Vitamin C, Selenium and Manganese. While horses do synthesize vitamin C (their milk is the only source of C for Mongolian nomads); it is a water soluble vitamin that can be used up quickly during stress or illness. The bioflavinoids and vitamin C are required by the body to strengthen capillary walls, clear edema and maintain blood circulation – essential things for hoof health, laminar health.
Flaxseeds – Linum usitatissimum – are full of valuable Omega fatty acids. It is the Omega 3’s that are most nourishing and abundant in Flax (Omega 6 is often inflammatory and can be detrimental especially during injury or laminitis – corn oil has Omega 6 fatty acids). Flaxseeds should not be fed whole – they can be gas producing in the gut. Ground into meal, pressed into oil (not chemical solvent extracted) or boiled into jelly; flaxseeds will increase the strength and suppleness of the hoof wall, nourish collagen production, maintain moist shock absorbing properties of the hoof capsule and add multi amino acid proteins to repair the wear and tear of the entire hoof. You can feed up to one ounce of oil daily; mix the meal with water into a mud like consistency (building up to 8 to 12 ounces of meal over a 10 day period) with wet wheat bran (when phosphorus is needed) or soaked pellets or beet pulp; or use one handful of seeds to a pot of water, soaked overnight then boiled for one hour to make a thick jelly. These ratios would be per horse, per day except for the jelly which can be fed 3 to 4 times a week.
Nettles – Urtica diolica – when dried (the herb leaves are dangerous fresh as they “sting” the skin and cause histamine reactions!) can be fed, one handful dried leaves to the bucket feed or made into a tea, per day per horse. They are full of silica which holds intact the structure of all skin, nails, hair, hooves and claws. Nettles are rich in iron which creates hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying property of blood. This iron is organic – an inorganic iron supplement has been proven toxic to fatal. Copper is also present in nettles and required along with the iron for support of circulation and nerve/muscle fiber functioning. Nettles aid hoof health by also strengthening nerve endings and receptivity.
Fenugreek seeds – Tigonella foenum-graecum – are rich in Lysine (amino acid that maintains normal cell growth, regulates pineal gland and is necessary for formation of collagen in connective tissue – lysine is necessary for all amino acid assimilation; the building blocks of protein!), vitamin A and vitamin D (it compares to fish liver oil, an animal source not recommended for herbivores). Fenugreek internally and externally aids in the release of abscesses.
Black oil sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are rich in oils, vitamin E and minerals as well as the amino acid Methionine (essential to hoof health, it is sulfur based to protect and maintain the integrity of skin, coat and hoof). Sunflower seeds with hulls can be fed from 1 to 2 cups daily; hulled – feed ½ cup. Raw, dried pumpkin seeds can be fed up to ½ cup daily. They also have anti-parasite properties and are prostate “friendly” (male horses do have prostates!).
The horse on fresh pasture receives abundant enzymes. A horse with no fresh foods in the ration will need supplementation of enzymes for proper digestion of all the other good foods provided. Enzyme rich, fresh additions can be yams, carrots, bananas, oranges, fresh parsley, peppermint, garlic and/or papaya flesh. If your horse is lamanitic, IR or Cushinoid, avoid the fruits and roots with sugar content.
“Feed the feet” and your horse will reap the rewards with better health and soundness.
Whenever horses are transported, for competition, to get medical care or even in an evacuation; we can prepare ahead for safe travels with a few guidelines and good habits.
The fact that a horse will get into a trailer to be driven from one place to another is a testimonial to that horse’s trust. We must honor such trust by making the trailer itself as safe as possible and by driving the horse around in a sane and aware fashion. We need to have schooled our horse to calmly load into the trailer and it is advisable to show different types of trailers and vans to a horse so that unfamiliar rigs won’t be frightening in an emergency.
Loading into a trailer can be enhanced by opening light sources, hauling with a trusted equine companion, staying calm (by giving plenty of extra time before needing to be on the road), having hay or a mash in the feeder, shavings on the floor to muffle sounds and teaching in-hand skills ahead of time (horse will walk over tarps, plywood and rubber mats; he will walk forward from verbal cues and can be touched all over with a wand/whip that can ask him to move sideways).
The floor of the trailer may well be the most important part. If the floor the horse stands on has any weaknesses, tragedy can result. I always take a strong pocketknife and jab it into the floor boards at several locations. If the knife slides easily into the wood, that floorboard is not safe (it is probably rotten). Any wood rot means the entire floor should be replaced. By cleaning out the trailer stalls after every trip and washing the floor, then drying it, we can make the floor last longer.
The next inspection point needs to be for any protuberances, sharp edges or gaps (that a hoof or head could get stuck within) that could cause bodily harm or panic. I also always look for wasp nests, spider webs and the like where a venomous creature might hide! Those must be removed before a horse or human gets into the trailer.
Hitches, balls and electrical connections should be working properly. Tires need to be inspected and tire pressure checked. A spare is a necessity and jacks/wheel chocks, lug nut wrenches, even flat fix should be handy. I carry extra halters and leads, first aid kits, water (in an Aquatainer), buckets, flashlights, lavender essential oil and Bach Flower Essences’ Rescue Remedy.
The floor of the trailer needs rubber mats to provide traction for the horse. The movement of the towing vehicle and trailer is extreme for the standing equine and any slick surface is dangerous (I once linseed oiled the trailer floor boards to preserve them and the rubber mat slid out from under my mare!).
Ventilation in the trailer is essential for the horse’s health, no matter what time of year. Horses exhale and sweat a lot of moisture into an enclosed space and can make it oppressive quickly. In winter, leg bandages and blankets can keep the horse warm. In summer, open every single vent there is and be sure to provide drinking water as often as possible. If you use a slant trailer and leave windows open (never leave them folded down, horses can try to crawl through openings), put fly masks on horses to protect their eyes.
There are many articles of protective clothing for the traveling horse. Tall horses can wear “head bumpers” which are cushioned helmets that protect the very vulnerable “poll” at the top of the equine head. Shipping boots or bandages protect the legs and “bell boots” protect the hoof and heels in case the horse steps on himself. Rubber hoof boots can add more traction and a bungee or “safety” tie to secure the horse by the halter is a practical method. Always tie horses with a quick release knot that can be untied with one swift tug.
Providing hay (we soak it in some water just before) to munch can be calming for the horse and keeping his gut working is a healthy choice.
Drive your rig with awareness of the animal trying to balance inside. Pull out and stop gradually; go slowly around turns and corners. A horse can become difficult to load and haul if every time he rides in a trailer he is miserable or terrified.
Use common sense when traveling. Never unload horses beside a busy highway. Do not let a horse graze (nor pick grasses) from the side of roads where pesticides are likely to have been applied. If you are on the road and the horses become upset in the trailer, pull over and let some traffic go by. Some vehicles (and often motorcycles) can have the little high pitched sound “whistles” mounted that serve to chase deer away from the road. These sounds can overwhelm a horse.
Load and unload him in the trailer with awareness of his feelings and according to the type of rig. If he is tied in the stall of a “straight” load trailer, always untie him from the front before opening the rear door and butt guard to unload him!
When you have to back up your trailer, hold the bottom of the steering wheel and move your hand slowly in the direction you want the trailer to go. Back up very slowly, making corrections slowly. If the rig tries to jack knife, pull forward to straighten up and start over.
Hauling horses can be a “snap” if you think ahead, prepare and stay focused on safety.
Several years ago, I had an art studio in Tubac, Arizona. Across the courtyard from my place in “The Tower” was another artist, Linda. She and I both drove Jeeps.
Linda kept her gas tank full all the time (back then, gas had climbed to over $5.00 a gallon there!) by filling it each time it got down to 3/4 of a tank. I frantically, holding my breath, made it to the gas station as the gauge read empty and put in 1/4 of a tank’s worth each time… we were spending the same amount of money, but I was in a constant hyper-vigilant state, living in limitation and fear (as far as the petrol was concerned!).
I was running on the bottom of my gas tank. In doing so, I created misery for myself (all through that part of Arizona are long stretches with no gas stations) when a simple solution, obvious but ignored, would have given me peace of mind. I could have filled my gas tank to the brim when a painting sold and adopted Linda’s practice of keeping the darn thing full!
I see this situation unfold in other strange ways in my life now. I was letting dishes gather in the sink to be washed because I “had no time”, but I did have to make time eventually to wash them. My solution now is to unload clean dishes from the dishwasher the moment they are done and place the dirty dishes as they are dirtied into the dishwasher immediately. Now, I’ve not had a working dishwasher until this home, so my appreciation for this is great.
What may seem so simply obvious can become overlooked and unknown when a person (especially a horse person) crams 24 hours worth of work and projects into 12 hours! Yet, I think about Linda a lot.
What would Linda do? I have asked myself – about laundry piled beside the full hamper; the full trash cans and it is cold and dark outside (to take them to the dumpster); the empty toilet paper rolls, dust bunnies in the corners, houseplants wilting, nose prints on the storm door (canine) – would she walk by and intend to address these later. I think she would just do what she saw needed to be done. And, unless it interferes with a lesson I have to teach, I just do what I see needs to be done now, too.
I remember being more like Linda in my past. I was organized and focused and had a great deal of confidence. I now remind myself (and am reminding you) that – if I can do something once, I can do it a hundred times – if you can trot one twenty meter circle, you can trot a hundred of ’em!
And, if you are feeling overwhelmed or disorganized, think, “What would Linda do?” It’s working for me.