Water Therapies: H2 Ohhhh


Flowing water moves Lymph and stimulates circulation of Chi (Qi or Ki), the energy that moves through the Meridians of the body. These meridians are channels where the acupoints are found (for acupressure and acupuncture).

A cold, moving sheet of water over the body has another profound effect when the water is stopped and the area is wrapped properly or a light blanket used.

The circulation of blood increases and great warmth is produced.

This effectively creates lymph drainage where the capillaries ooze serum through their walls. This lymph nourishes tissues and takes up worn out materials and toxins which then are separated out by the glands to be excreted.

In hot weather, an overheated horse should be covered with tepid water that is then immediately scraped off to pull that body heat out and away. The senior horse needs to warm up slowly and cool down slowly when exercised, with gentle aftercare as needed.

Hoof soaking is a traditional way of treating disease and injury. Dissolving Epsom salts into very hot water will make a soaking bath to draw out abscesses, imbedded objects and pain. Use two cups of Epsom salts to each gallon of hot water. Test until you can just hold your hand in the water, then soak the hoof by placing it into a tub of the hot salt bath. Linger until the water has cooled, then immediately dry and wrap the hoof with cotton and a bandage; placing duct tape across the bottom of the hoof for support.

Essential oil of tea tree can be added to the soaking bath (one teaspoon per gallon) if there is fungus present.

Essential oil of lavender (up to 2 tablespoons per gallon) will help fight infection and pain. It is also very calming for the horse’s mental body and soothing to inflamed tissue. Lavender oil is indicated whenever there have been external parasites irritating the skin.

After soaking, the skin can be rubbed with half olive oil, half sesame oil to prevent chapping.

Fomentations are large towels soaked in hot water; often with the addition of herbal infusions for specific treatments.

It is the penetrating heat from the wet towel that causes extra circulation. This movement of blood helps to carry away the fluids of edema, toxins within tissues from injury or disease and relaxes the muscle fibers.

Boil water and keep it in an insulated container to maintain the heat. Because you will wring out the soaked towel with your hands, scalding of the horse is prevented (you can tell how hot it is by your touch – be cautious, for your sake, too).

You can add Epsom salts for drawing properties and the magnesium in them relaxes muscles.

Calming and healing herbs can be added as the water is boiled, then strained out before the water is used.

Soak the towel in the liquid, wring out to just wet, not dripping. Apply to the horse’s body where needed (especially for chronic, old injuries and deep soreness – acute conditions respond to cold). As the towel cools, soak it again and repeat until the water is no longer hot.

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Fuzzy Therapists

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.

Love is

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.

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Trail Riding

One of our most edifying things is taking a girl on her first trail ride!! After many lessons at the stable, in the little arena; then to the large arena – to head out into the high desert beneath the beautiful Organ mountains is a unique accomplishment!

The horses love it, too!

Malie First Trail Ride 1

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Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing

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Healing Takes Time

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.

herb properties

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Changes in the Weather

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.

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The Best of Us…..

A long time ago, I was married to a man who actually was old enough to be my father. While our relationship did not work out, there were some experiences I am so pleased to have had during my time with Bob.

He could not swim. Not that he flailed around in deep water – he dropped like a rock! Many of the things most of us have been able to do were impossible for Bob. Like going to the Water Park.

One of my favorite things used to be water parks. So…. with friends in tow who had children (often necessary for a day at the water park, justification, you see), I took Bob to Wet and Wild Water World.

His super pale skinny legs in shorts, wearing flip flops and a Harley T shirt, Bob looked as uncomfortable as he must have felt. At first.

I convinced him to trust me on some small slides with shallow landing pools where I rode down ahead of him, leaped off of my tube and stood by to catch him when he landed. And catch him it was! When he dropped from the slide into the 3 foot high water, he disappeared beneath it and I grabbed under his arms and pulled him immediately up to gasp some air.

Life guards stared and signaled at me and I told them, “he can’t swim” as he laughed and grabbed his tube to go again. “I’ve got him!” I told them and they stayed alert just in case.

Bob eyed the longer, scarier slides and soon found the courage to try them. I told him to count to 20 after I went down so I could get ready to catch him in the deeper water. The entire day was one of adventure for him and I was delighted to be his “catcher”! He never got buoyant, never was able to land on his feet, but he trusted me and had so much fun.

Our only casualty that day was the top of Bob’s feet – badly sunburned they were, having never seen the sun as far as I knew.

When we love, it becomes about that well being of those we love. When we love, it does not turn on and off like a switch. If we cannot live with someone, it does not mean something is wrong with them or with us. Instead of thinking about things that did not work out (in any relationship), I try to remember the times when the best of me found its way to the situation.

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Courage Willow

That’s what I often think, while remembering the scene in the movie, “Willow”. He is a tiny being standing before a frightening situation. He whispers to himself, “Courage, Willow”.

Life as a horse trainer and instructor requires courage. Life as anything these days requires courage! I think perhaps it always has.

Courage for me, as a stablewoman, means taking on another horse for our stable when needed….  it takes courage to decide to be responsible for one more. I think it’s because I take these responsibilities seriously. Horses are my family and each family member is not a possession, but a friend. It takes courage to have so many friends!


I see courage all around me. I had a student who had suffered a severe head injury in a car accident (and had been in a coma). She used her riding to regain motor skills and balance. She would call herself “wimp”, “chicken” and so on. I thought she was the bravest woman I knew. I know a man who broke his hip and was up, back to work in weeks and facing limited funds with an animal family to care for. He found a beautiful place to live where he could keep his horses and dogs and, by staying courageous, created a new, happy life.


I know a man who cares for a large herd of horses and runs an organization almost single handed. He has had a shattered ankle, broken hip (and replacement), a heart attack, had a branch embedded into his eye, the list is long of his “battles” and yet, he is still the strongest man I know. I can’t keep up with him loading hay! Courage is his mantra, I believe.

And I watch friends who rise every day to care for an elderly parent or an infirm child or who go to school while holding down a job (or two!). They practice great courage daily.

I dig the post holes for railroad ties for the fence to hold a new horse that is coming and soak in epsom salt baths each night. I remember looking at my shriveled arm as a child, after a devastating injury, and proclaiming that I would still ride. “Courage, Willow.”


We cannot presume to judge the courage of another. It may take more of it for someone to drive at night or to climb a ladder than it does for others to ride a bull. We are all facing different battles, different paths. But we all know what courage is! We all conjure it up on a daily basis and we need to pat ourselves on the back every time we take a deep breath and push onward.

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Managing Pain

The obvious fact that makes the management of pain in an animal so difficult is the inability of the animal to actually tell us in words what is happening. We can certainly speculate with injuries and illness and know that a horse is hurting; even likely pinpoint the location of the pain. And having a clear guideline is profoundly helpful.
In cases where we do not have clarity or certainty, we can observe the horse for “pain indicators”. These include, but are not limited to, increased heart rate, rapid respiration, sweating and shaking. A horse in pain might drop to the ground and roll violently or press himself against walls or fences. He might throw his head about or kick out in anguish. It is important for us to stay safe and alert when evaluating and treating horses that hurt.
A Veterinary exam can rule out some causes of symptoms and pinpoint areas of trauma or imbalance. Medications that suppress the symptoms are necessary, but equally important is discovery of the cause of those symptoms. Relief is realized by addressing the actual cause of pain after that pain is lessened.
In general: cold is applied to new, acute injuries and heat is applied to old, chronic injuries. In cold weather, application of blankets to the body and deep bedding in a proper pen with shelter will aid in comforting the horse and speed up healing. Leg injuries will usually require some type of support through bandages and/or boots to the leg and the hoof. If a single leg is injured, support of the remaining three legs will aid healing by keeping them from becoming stressed and injured. The horse is walking on “digits” – each leg is the equivalent of one of our fingers, so extra loading of uninjured parts can escalate to increasing injuries and pain.
Internal pain can be the result of digestive disturbances, even ulcers. A Veterinarian can properly assess the horse’s condition and supply the medications that relieve immediate suffering. The reasons for internal distress can be determined and any future reoccurrences prevented with proper diet, abundant water, an anti-parasite program and a stress free environment.
Inflammation can be a common cause of pain and anti-inflammatory drugs help short term in the beginning. Herbs that can prevent inflammation over long term use (ingested) are: white willow bark, celery seed, turmeric root, meadowsweet, yucca root, boswellia and devil’s claw. Herbs for external use as infusions are: arnica, comfery, peppermint and rosemary. Essential oils for pain are peppermint, lavender and anise seed. Do not use any drug or herb on pregnant or lactating mares without professional guidance.
Pain in a horse’s hoof can often be caused by bruising which can lead to abscesses that can be excruciating! Soaking the hoof in very warm epsom salt water for 30 minutes 3 times daily will draw out pain and abscesses. If you suspect a horse’s hoof sole has been bruised on a ride, dose him with homeopathic arnica or belles remedies as soon as possible. This can prevent or reduce the bruising.
Pain can be like a ghost that appears and disappears in a horse’s life. Tracking it down, identifying causes and choosing treatments can be challenging but rewarding. In the end, we must always see the horse as a whole and support the body’s good health at all times.

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Hot water bottles, hot tea, warm dogs and cold nights

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.

dogs on couch

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.

snow brahman

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.

Katharine with Hank

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”.


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