We have very much needed all the rain we received last night.
Grateful horses, plants and people at Dharmahorse today.
In radio, you have transmitters and receivers and transceivers – horsewomen have to become “transceivers” to effectively connect with a horse.
Riding and teaching lessons yesterday and turning horses out today, I have been thinking about how we communicate our desires and directions to horses through the reins, lead, line, etc.
We must become light, consistent, clear and immediate with our language of the aids through these lines… we will really miss out, though, if we neglect to “hear the horses” through these same lines of communication. When I am leading a horse to the field, I don’t just pull him along like a red wagon, nor leave him floating in the breeze like a bobbing balloon at the end of a string. No. I keep a light feel of the lead rope and listen to every signal and pre-signal he communicates to me as we walk down the lane. This is why I prefer all cotton, long lead ropes with trigger snaps – they just feel right in my hands.
When riding, I stretch my outside rein, feeling what the horse is saying to me. I keep an elastic, massaging inside rein (barely perceptible, the nuance of a tiny vibration…), allowing the horse to ask me questions and tell me how he feels about his balance and his pace.
On the longe, I’m not sending the horse out on a circle like a model airplane to zoom about and possibly crash – I am “riding” with my body language and listening through that longe line to every signal conveyed by my equine partner.
It is more about a conversation than it is about a performance, and, if we think and act this way, our horses sigh a sigh of relief about finally being heard.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.