And the winner is…

A “Win – Win” situation… I hear that often. It is a truly profound statement when it is used. Most times our society is equating winning with being higher, better, stronger, smarter than others who must, therefor, lose.

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.

snookie jump

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 once was told that my ideas were too “simplistic”; that the way I lived was “idealistic”. How COOL! I will gladly fly the SIMPLE flag and hold myself to the idealistic standards of compassion and trust. If we all just cave in to the idea that struggle, brutality and force are the normal aspects of life and relationships… well, what sort of life and relationships will we experience?
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Yes and No

When you run a Sanctuary for horses, every day is unique… sometimes every hour! When you live in harmony with Nature (especially in the high desert), you have to cultivate an attitude of flexibility when it comes to weather, finances, social interactions, relationships and goal setting.

My beautiful picture

We are up with sun, we are online into the night, we are juggling bits of money to be spread across payments that grow exponentially. We see the shining stars every night with barn checks and we fall into bed having missed a bath or a shower 4 days in a row…

Then we wake to gentle rain and the scent of suppressed dust in the paddocks, soft nickers wanting breakfast and a stillness on the stable yard that gifts us a day of introspection and rest.

My beautiful picture

New volunteers often say they don’t know how we do it, day in, day out… old students remark about the changes in the past couple of years that leave us all spellbound. Visitors ask if this was what I had always wanted to do…

Yes… and no.

I had wanted to live in Australia when I was young. I had wanted to raise half Thoroughbred show ponies when I was a teenager. I had wanted to operate a school of gentle, classical horsemanship paired with dance when I was in my twenties. In my thirties, I wanted to write novels. All my life I wanted to grow my own medicines for my family… all my life I wanted to be cherished, just as all beings do.

This Sanctuary, here in the New Mexico high desert, in the middle of a winter rain, warm and drenching; this is a huge YES. The “no” part is that I did not realize in my youth how important this life would be.

A mentor of mine when I was young, Mr. Charles deKunffy, wrote a note to me decades ago. It said, “Kathy, out of great dedication grow fine things. YOU will contribute to the equestrian arts”. No kidding!! THAT motivated me to push on when I was exhausted or discouraged. THAT made me push on when my hand(s) couldn’t even lift a coffee cup. THAT made me push past the mental whiplash inflicted by an alcoholic father and the degradation of molestation. A simple declaration of one’s worth by an admired teacher can be the difference between life and not living.


So, I contribute; in ways I hadn’t realized would be my destiny. I have my connection to Australia that I now realize was a deep song in my heart. I have taught thousands of students, owned hundreds of horses, schooled hundreds more and stood by another hundred as they passed over… knowing that someone loved them, even though it was only me. I have healed and nourished and held more horses than I can count. Charles was correct… I was and am dedicated. I care.

And the horses here, a jumbled up group of almost every breed and age and background that one can imagine, these horses are the story to be told. Their stories. Colliding with humans, dancing with humans, fearing and respecting and loving humans they know us on levels we don’t know ourselves. I hope they know that I love them. Totally.

Am I pleased with direction this life of mine has taken? Yes. Just yes.



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Smelly Things

equine eye

I have a notebook from the 99cent store that says on its cover, “REFINDLY MADE FOR THE SUCCESS OF YOUR OUTSTANDING CAUSE”, just like that all in caps and with two strawberries (I think they’re berries…) to the left. I found it the other day trying to reorganize the office. Three pages in, I had written “Smelly Things” and listed, with bullet points, things that smell.

And, just a couple of days ago, a friend had her dog at the Veterinarian. Her young dog had been vomiting and had loose bowels; the Tech asked her wait outside, that it might be Parvo (it was not).

Yesterday, we had the equine dentist here floating teeth. He stopped a few times to smell the saliva on his hands for infection (I do that, too). I’ve been smelling LungTa’s (the Irish Draft horse) hoof with the abscess and finding the exudate to stink less and less.

All of these things have pointed me toward writing something about odors and their markers, so I decided to do so here. Most of us probably do a lot of discernment through our olfactory observations. I find myself to be quite sensitive to aromas… except perhaps the glorious smell of horses that others comment upon when arriving at the stable yard! Or the scent of Patchouli oil that I use making my own deodorant (apparently, I’ve gone nose numb to patchouli and must be reminded by others when I start adding too much).

I had a wonderful Vet named Skip who was also a friend. He has retired, but he often diagnosed firstly by scent. He and I could definitely smell Paro Virus (I learned it from years of Teching at an animal hospital and then when raising English Setters). He knew that cancer had a scent (there are dogs who can smell cancer, they say). I learned that particular marker, unfortunately, through the decades of rehabilitating horses.

Necrosis in wounds has a marker – the smell is probably familiar to most. And it is not host specific… people, dogs, cows, etc. as well as horses will have that similar stench when a wound goes septic.

My beautiful picture

That first whiff of stink can help us get to better treatment quickly, before the systemic infection sets in and the animal spikes a fever.

I am fully aware that this topic is not one to peruse over breakfast or share with a squeamish young daughter, but it is a subject worth noting because there are some life saving possibilities tied to the ability to denote subtle smells around us.

The horse’s poo can give us valuable insight into his health and the condition of his digestion. Beyond just the look and consistency (which, mind you, are vitally important), the odor from a bowel movement will have volumes to say. If the odor is sour and pungent, the horse likely needs probiotics. If it is a “meaty” smell, the diet should be checked and activated charcoal fed to detox the gut (there could be animal products in the feed or digestion is slowed or the gut has become permeable to the horse’s own blood). A sulfur smell can point to hind gut motility changes or simply come from sulfur rich herbs being fed (or MSM supplements).

Urine odor has its own story to tell. The stronger it smells, the more likely it is that the horse is not drinking enough water.

The horse’s sweat odor can have markers we should be attentive about. A stinky, urine-like smell can actually be tied to the kidneys not filtering properly. A sweet odor can be a warning about other organs and a foamy, thick sweat that smells like manure can signal dehydration’s arrival. This can indicate the need of electrolytes or even just salt deprivation (horses need free choice plain salt year round).

If the horse’s breath smells sweet and like a meadow, he probably has a healthy mouth. If there is any sour, foul or fermented smell; infection, improper mastication of food or injury could be present. These observations serve us, not so much as diagnostic tools, but as a pre-signal, a warning that we need to pursue a diagnosis. Catching a malady early can reduce damage, make treatment simpler and sometimes, save a life.

I have a whole detailed analysis of my own perspective about smells (with bullet points!). It is useful for me as a reminder to stay aware and I was so pleased to discover that I had not thrown it away. And the opportunity to chat on about the topic here just might help someone who is thinking, “Crikey, what’s that smell?” It is a message. Indeed it is.


Categories: healing, Saving Horses | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Being Conservative – this isn’t what you think….


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.

Rock on

Katharine Chrisley-Schreiber!



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Being Fully Present

A long while back we harnessed our pony, Andy, hooked him up to the cart and taught some driving lessons at Dharmahorse. It was a great day for doing this since our earliest student could not make her lesson and it gave me the chance to take our late morning student on a brief drive around the property just for fun.

The lessons on driving went well and when my young student arrived early, we just popped on her helmet and sat her beside me in the cart. What happened next was so interesting to me! She had never ridden in a pony cart. She was thrilled to do so, but she talked the entire time. I realized that she would never remember the look of Andy’s cute little bottom swinging with his stride as we rolled along. She will not someday think, “wow, I know what breeching and a crupper look like” or “the pony wears blinkers to keep his attention forward” – No, she was never fully present in that cart and I’m certain that years in the future, should someone ask if she has ever ridden in a horse drawn cart, her answer will be “no”.

It really was that disconnected. Now, sometimes we disconnect out of fear or anxiety about a situation. That is me on a roller coaster; just hurry and get me off of the bloody thing. Sometimes our mind is chattering so much that our focus is unclear or distorted. Often, we are just in the habit of being scattered.

So, like my young student, I know that I can hold myself separate from my experiences if I forget to focus and be fully present in the moment. Often, I have too many things on my mind. I have to know how each horse is feeling and what each student needs and match riders to horses for the benefit of both – while remembering to check on my brother and soak the food for the dogs and pay the water bill and move hay up for supper and get the dumpster out for the truck, and, and, and… you get the picture. It is something we all do.

I think of this series of mind checks and balances as a kind of lack of trust. As if I do not trust myself to remember what needs to be done, I constantly review and often chastise myself for any daydreaming or simple useless conversations. My, my… it is harder to release yourself from your own authority than it is to slip away from the domination of another. Just to relax is priceless and it is the foundation of being fully present in the moment. One must relax.

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Feed the Feet

“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.

My beautiful picture

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.

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Moving Horses Safely



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.

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Running on the bottom of the tank

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.

Artist Complex

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!).

Tower Studio, Tubac

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.

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We “fall” in love, we fall off of horses, we can “fall” into a situation, we are often falling for something that isn’t as it appears.

We are falling. (Tom Petty & “Free Falling” is now in my head!)

So falling has really good and really not so good implications. I recently had a student, who is a friend I care very much about, take a fall from one of the horses. It was no one’s fault. It was a series of circumstances that set the situation into motion too quickly. She was not harmed, but it hurt! And I know her confidence was shaken. It happens to each of us who ride horses. Sometimes we fall. But we hope fervently that those we instruct can be spared the experience. They cannot. And it isn’t fair to believe that not falling will build their confidence. Sometimes, it needs to happen to allow the student to move forward and let go of the dread – the wondering what it will be like. With helmets, safety stirrups and constant attention to the footing (soft place to land), I hope to set my students up for a protected ride and even a protected fall should it happen. That is common sense.

I know of horsemen and horsewomen who choose not to wear helmets when riding – I even used to be one! In the old days the “standard” was: riders under 18 years of age had to wear helmets, anyone jumping had to wear a helmet. I adhered to it in my schools. Now, no one rides at all at Dharmahorse without a proper helmet (all ages, all types of riding). Still there are gurus of horsemanship who even jump horses sans head protection and encourage others to choose that “freedom”. I don’t get it. When I see a precious student come off of a horse, I can at least know their brain is safe! There may be “road rash”, bruises, aches and pains – but a protected head means they will still be thinking and functioning – to be blunt.

Now, falling in love can be just as startling as falling off a horse! Loving another human is its own world – loving an animal, well, that is a gift and an honor that can expand into deep love for an entire species. I feel such love and admiration for each of these horses! They work so hard to help people and try so hard to understand the students who do not yet have control of their bodies and the signals they give! It is all a journey we take together. We just want to find rapport and be cherished – no matter our species.

Falling into a situation denotes something good has happened without effort or focus. I often find that, when people say “she just fell into that good fortune”, no one is aware of the work and attention that it took to “fall”! I firmly believe that the good stuff is attracted to us when we put our attention on it. It is a disciplined way of thinking and acting in life that creates the energy of the situation that manifests. Falling into it may happen, but the landing pad was likely being prepared well ahead of time.

And falling for something holds the image of being deceived or manipulated. “I can’t believe he fell for that!” is often the judgment leveled. We’ve all believed something we later found to be false or misrepresented – the best way to look at these experiences is as learning opportunities. And for me, a negative outcome strengthens my resolve – I hate the feeling of “I knew better” than to do something! No one ever gets me to agree to anything over the phone. I no longer give my power away to others to make them feel better.

So, falling asleep is good! Falling all over someone probably isn’t good. Falling through the cracks could go either way. Tonight, I’m thinking about all the beings I’ve fallen in love with so far in my life and I do not regret a single one. I’m thinking about all the falls I’ve had from horses… those I do regret to a degree, but I learned so much each time. And to all who read this, I strongly suggest that, if you ride horses, you wear a helmet. If you fall in love, I salute you! Love holds the world together, love heals us. My life is now more filled with love than it has ever been!


At Dharmahorse tonight we are getting ready for sleep with little solar lights that look like stars sprinkled about the stable yard. Our weather has been odd, but this day was pleasant and I had the honor of bringing people and horses together to love and delight in each other. This is a good life. The love of my lives sits nearby, sharing this simple, joy filled time. I think I’m falling in love with this new, good life! “Free falling……….”

Categories: healing, joy | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

In the presence of horses…

Time spent with horses is always time well spent. I remember my own childhood with horses and even when things went “wrong” for me and I was frustrated or angry – the horses taught me how totally nonproductive that was! As I work with new and young students in Horsemanship, I see how it takes them a while after first arriving, to settle and connect deeply not only with the horses, but with their own feelings and needs.

There is a great deal more to our Horsemanship than just riding. Being in the presence of horses helps us see our own issues in a new light. We can process problems while cleaning hooves and the horse will tell us if we are congruent or not – if he feels safe lifting a hoof for us; if he feels that we are clear and assertive; if he feels that we care or just do not!

Darj and Katharine

Our relationship with a horse is like a dance. It is based upon communication and mutual concern for the other. “Love is the active promotion of the well being of the love object” (E. Fromm) When we learn how to love a horse, we learn how to love. When we learn how to communicate with a horse, we are more clear in our communications with other people.

Horses need to know when they are successful and are pleasing us. We often let them know when they are “wrong”, but forget to tell them when they are “right”…

Categories: healing, Horse Training, Saving Horses | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

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