We have very much needed all the rain we received last night.
Grateful horses, plants and people at Dharmahorse today.
Within the past two decades, the phenomenon of Equine Assisted Therapies has brought a profound and realistic way of healing humans through contact with horses. Having worked within the industry in both the psychological and physical therapy aspects, I have seen the astonishing results that are possible.
Sometimes the horses are used merely as tools to facilitate the benefit to the humans. Other times, the well being of the horses is brought into the equation as an actual part of the process. This latter approach can be integral to the most permanent healing as participants experience compassion and empathy, allowing personal growth and healing with respect for all life.
When the dynamic of the Holistic approach is applied, things like children talking who had not in years; releasing of traumatic memories; circulation and feeling improving in legs/hips/back of a rider, etc. become common place. I love what horses can inspire in us.
There was a study done through our University through the observance of a program facilitated by my horses and myself years ago. The conclusion of the study was that horses in therapeutic service built resiliency in humans, especially children. I know that the struggles of my own childhood might have consumed me if not for the healing power of the horses in my young life.
Every horse owner knows that they have a shoulder to lean upon, an ear to listen and a gentle soul who cares in the embodiment of their horse(s).
My personal dream has been to create a space in which people with disabilities (Hippotherapy) and those in need of emotional support (Equine Assisted Learning and Psychotherapy) could commune with the horses in sanctuary at Dharmahorse. We do provide this very thing in a limited way. Our vision is to expand it in a facility supported by compassion and respect. While many programs see the horses as potentially disposable, I think such a protocol sends a mixed message to people who may also feel “expendable” or imperfect.
Horses come in all sizes, shapes and temperaments. Appropriate qualities for the job they will do are, of course, a priority. But the gentlest, best schooled horse in the world can be “untrained” in a matter of days with incongruent handling and confusing expectations. It behooves us to see both the client and the horse (as therapist) as partners in the process and not burden the equine, either physically or mentally, beyond his capabilities. They are individuals, just as we are.
Within the equine assisted therapeutic programs, there exist numerous possibilities for children as young as 3 or 4 years to elder equestrians in their 70’s, 80’s and beyond (I have students in these categories who learn focus and who stay agile thanks to easy, gentle horsemanship). And there are national and international organizations that oversee the facilities, the instructors, the programs and the therapists of their members.
The value of the horses in these settings goes well beyond their contribution as “mounts”, tools or objects. Horses will become ambassadors of kindness and respect; teachers of self control and commitment. If you are passive with a horse, he ignores you. If you are aggressive with a horse, he will fear you. If you are assertive with a horse, he will respect you… if you are trustworthy, he will trust you. We can learn a lot from a horse.
So often we humans see things as either healthy or unhealthy, sound or unsound when it comes to our horses. Truth is, there are so many variations of condition that our horses are often somewhere in between and in the process of healing one thing or another most of the time.
Immune systems are on alert 24/7 and things like stress from weather conditions or travel or training can put additional strain on the body’s defenses. Tissue damage from wounds or strains will call in the resources of cellular support through granulation, inflammation, mineralization and/or fluid fill.
Obvious problems are dealt with promptly through Veterinary intervention or owner care and sometimes the human goes to “out of sight, out of mind” mode. Many times a malady is addressed with the strongest allopathic medicine available which can suppress symptoms to ease the equine, but the condition and its cause are still viable. This makes the horse more vulnerable to further injury or illness because the body has not been given the time needed to actually heal.
Bodies know how to heal. All we do is support that process and reduce further damage while easing discomfort. If we remove the body’s own innate systems of protection (pain, inflammation and edema), then we must rest the horse and not act as if nothing had happened. Flesh, bone and blood need time to heal. Pain keeps the body from reinjuring something; inflammation acts as a natural “splint” to help immobilize a traumatized area. All injuries receive an increased supply of blood to bring healing and detoxifying agents immediately to the site.
Sometimes, after a horse has not fully recovered “quickly enough”, alternative treatments are considered. At Dharmahorse, the “alternatives” of herbs, Homeopathy, hydrotherapy, oils and nutrition are our first choices as we endeavor to enhance healing while determining the underlying cause of disease or disorders. The pharmaceuticals that the Vet prescribes are in addition to our support of the body. We believe that relieving only the symptoms prolongs healing time.
As stewards of our horses, we need to take a “Whole Horse” approach and we must recognize that when the body is healing an injury or a malady it is at work! Rest is the great equalizer. “Tincture of Time” is the powerful remedy.
Since we have had horses here with skull fractures, cancers, laminitis, founder, split open hooves, COPD, ulcers, severed tendons, contracted tendons, heart murmurs, enteroliths, Uveitis, Cushing’s syndrome, arthritis, abscesses, hypothyroidism, no teeth, hives, bowed tendons, knocked down hips, upward fixation of the patella, pelvic misalignment and more… we have learned the lessons of patience. And we have learned that bodies really do know how to heal – given time, support, nourishment and love. Everyone at Dharmahorse is in one phase or another of healing, not only the horses, but the humans as well.
And that is the incredible symbiosis of horse/human relationships. We support each others’ healing with positive experiences, compassion, touch contact and empathy. When we can see the big picture of ongoing healthy choices and practices, we can heal each other.
All animals are affected by the changes of season. Their “internal clocks” are moved by the changes of light as the earth tilts and the hemispheres have more and less daylight. Our horses are beings of Nature and their systems are ruled by these rhythms. Mares will cycle as the light increases. Horses start shedding their winter coats as the days get longer (more a factor than warmer weather!). It is the degree of the cold, day in, day out that determines the thickness of the winter coat.
Yet, changes in temperature, air pressure and moisture have a huge impact. Going from a warm climate to a cold climate is usually easier on the healthy horse’s metabolism than going from cold to hot. In all cases, they adjust, but more consideration is necessary for the horse who arrives at the desert or tropics with a heavy coat and circulatory system adjusted to keeping his core warm. This horse might need to be body clipped and might require fans in his shelter to help his sweat evaporate. We had this very thing at our Sanctuary when a horse arrived from Maine.
The horse arriving at a frigid location after leaving the heat will need shelter and probably need his water warmed a bit, but he will grow a proper long coat quickly and instinctively stay in motion to create body heat.
Water consumption can be influenced by the weather and with horses, the results can be life threatening. It is inadequate water intake that can set a horse on a downward spiral. While this can cause dehydration, overheating, kidney stress and mineral imbalances; it is the digestive disturbance that can become a matter of life and death in mere hours.
This “upset stomach” is called colic and it can be caused by toxins, rich or unfamiliar foods, gas, parasites, constipation or ulcers. The constipation is a result from low water consumption. It can very quickly turn into an “impaction colic” that can require surgery to alleviate.
Horses have long, twisting digestive tracts with a small stomach and an inability to vomit! All foods ingested have a massive, narrow path to negotiate and this requires a large amount of moisture. Horses on pastures have the advantage of eating food with moisture included. Horses on hay need fresh, clean drinking water available at all times. Horses that eat pellets or cubes need those soaked well in water before being fed.
If the weather turns cold suddenly, horses tend to drink less. If the weather turns hot suddenly, horses need to drink more than they are used to drinking. It’s a real balancing act. We feed regular sopping wet wheat bran mashes at our stable. The bran provides needed phosphorus for horses in our area of the country and is a base to which we add their healing herbs. And, best of all, it carries precious moisture into their guts every day. We have a tribe member who brings appropriate fresh, moist foods to the horses which also maintain “gut motility”.
Our 2017 “Owner Empowerment Workshop Series” starts off March 4th at Dharmahorse with an afternoon about Colic. These are workshops on “Prevent”, “First Response” and “Return to Health”. These three aspects are the foundation of care for horses who face any disease or disorder.
While none of us can control the weather, we can adapt our equine care protocols to support good health and soundness no matter what blows down the mountain. We can keep waterproof blankets handy; fly/dust masks, fans and clippers at hand; electrolytes to feed for excessive sweating; milk of magnesia to dose for hard dry stool and we can consult with Veterinarians, equine specialists and teaching stables to add to our knowledge tool kits.
I was always a fan of the hot water bottle… placed at my feet beneath the covers on winter nights, sometimes living in places with no heat. If I could warm my feet properly and had sufficient blankets, I could weather any situation. Tonight is our coldest night of this season. It will only be in the 30’s F, and my house is warm enough, but I dug out the real down comforters and made a pot of Kukicha tea. It is kind of fun to “play winter” right now.
Dogs make great body warmers in a bed on a cold night. I remember 2011 here with 80 mph wind gusts, 17 degrees below zero and rolling blackouts of power to be sure we had some electricity through the days and nights. That winter was hellish! I sequestered the dogs in the bedroom with me and kept a huge pot of water simmering on the (propane) stove. I drank hot tea, chocolate and soups to stay warmed. We stayed covered up, hung blankets over the curtains and I took hot water to make bran mashes for the horses every 3 hours (when the power would come on – on for 2 hours, off for 3). They had bales of hay in front of them and each wore two blankets. That handful of days felt like an eternity.
Now, I have big clay flower pots, bread pans, foil and tea light candles to make an emergency heater… and even though we have more horses here at DH, there are enough blankets to double rug everyone if need be. I’m really hoping for a mild winter.
When I went to the pharmacy last year to get a hot water bottle, the clerk looked at me like I was from Neptune (you’ve heard me say this before…). She had no idea what I meant. So I thought about it, “enema bag?”, she showed me the Fleet syringes… then I saw a mature fellow behind a counter and he knew immediately what I needed.
I’ve been through this with: Epsom Salts, styptic pencil, Icthammol, tannic acid, gention violet, zinc oxide, many items that no longer exist or are so esoteric that the young have no connection to them. The young…. when I think about it, I stump people older than I am! Maybe it’s more about advertising. People only know about products that are in ads these days?
I remember colic drugs like Jenatone ($12.00 for the big 120cc vial), now we have Banamine ($50.00 for the 50 cc vial)… we have complicated pharmaceuticals where we once had herbal based remedies. I had packets of Senna based colic drench from my Veterinarian that solved every tummy upset I had with my herd in the ’70’s.
So tonight I’m thinking about herbs and caretaking and staying warm and staying safe… in the middle of the very scary storms of 2011, I would never have thought I would be here, content, thriving and so full of joy about my life and its possibilities. All I thought then was, “Get us out of this alive!” We all just face each day, each night with our best courage and our hearts full of love. At least, that’s what I do. I finally quit trying to anticipate every possible situation. I told myself that I had survived everything so far… I should be okay with whatever shows up in my life. And lately, an ocean of joy has washed over me.
I just got a phone call from a pleasant man asking for a donation for a worthy cause. I told him, “certainly, if you will match my donation with one to our Equine Sanctuary”. He thanked me and hung up. It made me smile.
This night feels so full of possibilities. “Just show up, be brave, be kind, rest, try again”.
When I discovered the HOT WATER leak under my house months ago, I realized that the burning up of most of the propane in the tank would catch up with me come cold weather. It has. The sheer waste notwithstanding, it was an opportunity to witness the kindness of my neighbor who crawled under my house to kneel in (hot, arrgghhh) mud and cap off the leak. I love my neighbors.
I wish I had been quicker to realize that the immediacy of hot water’s arrival to the faucets was signalling me about the mishap. Dang, I had too much going on, I suppose. It was a series of days (arrrggghhhh) of subliminal prodding by something in my psyche that lit the bulb of awareness. Of course, when I opened the covering to the crawl space and heard the trickle, smelled the dampness and felt the heat (arrgghhh), the urgency became a panic! I guess I might have not realized until the gas had totally drained from the storage tank… need to be grateful for that.
So, the autumn has arrived with soppy, plopping dark clouds spilling over the mountain. Days of repeating rain and hail storms… temperatures requiring some blanketing of horses and… now… the electric oil filled radiators to ease the chill all speak of my folly. I am bathing less to conserve the propane for hot water. I am using my toaster oven and microwave. No worries. No suffering. This is easy…. but annoying since it is my own doing or lack thereof.
The gradually emptying propane tank is catching up with me!
I’m also trying with a bit of desperation to catch up on donation receipts. With an old, old computer affectionately named “HAL”, I have managed to lose, find, lose and recover the templates for my eReceipts and the ones already compiled and sent to the beloved persons who support the horses and good work we do here. My pile to send grows (which is so good!) almost daily and now, by the grace of a beloved one in my personal life, a new computer is on its way. Maybe, I will “catch up” soon (certainly I will!). And the awareness and compassion surrounding this gift has also provided me with speech recognition software to ease this process of putting words to “screen”. You see, with my injured hands, what someone else does without a second thought and within minutes can sometimes take hours for me to accomplish.
No complaints here. No disability here, just different abilities!!
So, I’ve worked on keeping the horses sound in the squish mud; worked on healing Penny with my “right” and “left” hands (Deb & Patty) and struggled with the changing light to get meals to the horses around a tighter schedule. It is simply the “catching up” with the natural rhythms… the pulse of the planet. I think about spring arriving in Australia. I think about my friends there rejoicing in the longer light and warmer weather promised by the season… I think about the consistency of Hawaii and my beloved cousin there. My world expands here on this screen and in my daily practice and deep in my heart.
I will make a cuppa Kukicha twig tea in a bit and have a proper visit with my dogs who have felt ignored all day. The air is so heavy and wet, the condensation drops from the ceiling of my porch at night like raindrops! Blessings in the high desert.
I envision being able to catch up on the Dharmahorse bookkeeping, to write more (and with more ease), to have time to play my didges and to actually ride perhaps! I have secret plans of the heart and hopefulness of soul. We’ll see. The main thing now is to just follow our mantra:
“Just show up, be brave, be kind, rest, try again.”
I sat in the Moongate Cafe’ today, talking with a friend, eating bean tacos and just having a couple of hours away from responsibility, authority and computers!
I never want to be away from my horses or dogs, but I don’t mind being away when I need to recharge a bit. My friend and I started talking about hot flashes. I’ve had them. I left for Arizona in a new relationship a few years back to work on an Equine Rescue facility… when I got to Arizona menopause hit me. Now, I’m an herbal person just like my horses are herbal horses and I got through the changes rather well. But I remember actually enjoying the hot flashes through that winter! Then, as I recall, when I had to leave that rescue because of such differences in perspectives – the summer hot flashes were pure misery.
In Tubac, AZ during fire season (there were spring, summer, fall, winter and fire seasons…), working in my art studio in the Tower in Old Tubac, I absolutely melted. I painted more snow scenes that year than in my whole life before. I would not be able to tell if I was having a hot flash or if the world had just turned on convection “mode”.
When I needed to return to New Mexico to help my Mum, I rejoiced. After my return to the state I love, my flashes stopped. It was a short menopause. And, since my hair turned white when I was in my 20’s, I figured I was just wired differently than other peeps.
Today, I was reminded of that cyclical nature of being a woman. We spiral. We become. We change. It is really quite wonderful. A new friend called me resilient recently – I worked for an Equine Assisted Psychotherapy program that was the focus of an English study that found being around horses makes humans more resilient. Then I must be especially so! There are only a handful of days in my entire life that did not include equine contact.
And being a woman makes me somehow upsetting to some peeps because I play didgeridoos – I have read that it is taboo (in OZ) and I have read that it was accepted in certain parts of the country; then I read that it was not taboo until this century… then a friend in the UK said it is good luck in this northern hemisphere for a woman to play a didge.
All I know is: I breathe better when I play, I sleep better when I play; I relax when I play… and I did the circular breath well (even have it on a video) until a bit of bronchitis last winter… all this tells me is that I need to play more! I could not take a didge to Hawaii, but I found a PVC pipe in my cousin’s garage that worked reasonably well! And that’s another aspect of being a horsewoman – we have to think beyond the box.