Posts Tagged With: healing

Black and Blue

Bruises are a fact of life for horses and horse people alike. A bruise is an area beneath the skin where trauma, usually from a blow, stresses and breaks vessels allowing blood and serum to leak into the surrounding tissues. Inflammation sets in to supply fresh blood and often, to act as a natural “splint” kind of stabilizing the area. All of these occurrences cause localized pain!

Upon immediate injury, the application of cold will lessen tissue damage and reduce swelling. For horses, bags of frozen vegetables, long “ice pop” frozen sweets or simple cold water from a hose will cool the area of injury. At the time of the bruising, a dose of Homeopathic Arnica orally every 15 minutes for a few hours, then a few times daily can bring the damage to a halt. Arnica gels, ointments and sprays work wonders externally.

The herb comfrey is an amazing healer for bruises. The root, boiled in water, makes a strained liquid that can be applied every hour to an injury (cold for a new bruise, warm for an old injury site). I have used comfrey for catastrophic injuries of horses and had such success that even Veterinarians were impressed.

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The equine hoof has a propensity for bruising because of its small size in relation to the bulk and the weight it carries. A bruise to the hoof can be helped by the oral dosing of Homeopathic Arnica immediately. I carry the pellets on trail rides in case a horse becomes sore-footed on rocks or hardened paths.

A bruised hoof will benefit from soaking in warm epsom salt water. Most of our horses here at Dharmahorse Sanctuary will stand with one hoof in a tub of medicine – Majic will stand with all four hooves in tubs. The epsom salt water will draw pain and inflammation away from the hoof and the magnesium reduces pain. After the soaking, I will cover the bottom structures of the hoof with pure, strong iodine. This is all repeated three times daily until the horse feels relief.

There are pain killers that can be administered to the injured horse (talk with your Veterinarian) and there are herbs that will work in anti-inflammatory and analgesic ways also. These types of herbs that are safe to feed to most horses (do a test with a small amount at first) are: Meadowsweet, White Willow Bark, Devil’s Claw, Yucca Root, Turmeric, Comfrey Leaf in small amounts and Gotu Kola.

When I think a horse might be at risk of hoof bruising, I will put on a hoof boot to provide protection. If a horse has weak hooves, we will feed Methionine, Biotin, Lysine, Kelp and Rose Hips to strengthen the hoof structures. For protecting a horse’s legs, there are an assortment of sports boots and “bell” boots and large shipping boots to cushion any blows that might occur while riding or trailering or when turned out for a run.

And for any of us who receive a bruising blow or injury, the first step is to apply ice; second step is to protect the area from further damage; third step is to provide systemic healing through herbs, Homeopathics and essences that support the body’s healing rather than masking the symptoms.

A Dear friend from India saw me receive a violent bite from a mare that crushed tendons in my arm! He told me that his Mum always made them a cup of hot milk with turmeric for injuries. I made one for myself every day for several days. It helped!

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Don’t Panic

Sometimes waiting is the best of answers. Moderation is the wisest way.

As I wrestled, lately, with thoughts of letting my precious Majic go – the horse who came here with me and started this incarnation of Dharmahorse with me – I felt such despair and sadness. He has helped hundreds of people through the years… helped them learn to ride; helped them overcome fears; helped them feel safe; listened to them and made them laugh…

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Majic has been dealing with his mechanical founder for a few years now. He has had great years where he could give rides and gallop in the turn out with Lung Ta. He has had bad times when his metabolism, the weather and the hooves have all seemed to conspire against him. But, he never stops eating; he never stops “smiling”.

The past couple of weeks have been a struggle for him – in cold weather, to boot. We had put down pea gravel for the other foundered rescue (it is really helping her – a 30 year old mare who was a victim of horse tripping). I thought I was being wise when I put Majic in with her (Damaru) and at first the gravel seemed comfortable for him. Then, he lost his footing getting up from a nap as it made him slide and he fell backwards onto his bum, wrenching his muscles.

Back in his old pen with his stall full of shavings, he needed assistance to get up each time from a lie down. To do that, I had to lift him with a longe line around his hind end. Soon, I was in trouble, wrenching the neck and back muscles I had hurt four years ago from lifting my Mum when I cared for her in her last years.

Suddenly, as if he knew I was in trouble, Majic started getting up on his own! His strength is slowly returning… I ordered the Cetyl M supplement that healed my 18 year old dog of hip and back injuries (she lived, mobile, till 21) in the equine formula and can’t wait for its arrival. I am glad I didn’t give up. I am glad I didn’t panic.

A year ago, our precious “Vega” ( a retired Eventer who will be 40 years old next year) was injured when a young hoof trimmer brutalized him for trying to pull a hind hoof away. This brutality consisted of lifting his leg high enough to break ancient bones while fighting with and yelling at him (the most mannered horse I’ve ever known!). Elderly Vega was being trimmed too short and just couldn’t bear it – I yelled “STOP!” but was too late to prevent the damage – by now, I feel sure no bones broke – but we thought for almost 3 months that he wouldn’t survive. Vega was in constant pain, limping on all 4 hooves. We put 4 hoof boots with pads on him. He got pain killers, herbs and homeopathics daily. I cried every night.

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His body was and is strong from a lifetime of being an athlete – thank goodness. He recovered, pretty much. One hip (the one that was brutalized) still gives him some trouble… and I will never forgive myself for allowing it to happen – but Vega forgives me. And I did not panic while he was healing… I took it one day at a time. So did Vega.

So now, when Vega gallops full tilt in his pen (like tonight as Mark is mixing his chopped hay to soak), I thank all the forces in the Universe for his recovery.

I won’t let the young man touch any of our horses again. And I have come to believe that many barefoot trimming practices just take too much hoof… in an attempt to make hooves “look” a certain way, how the horse feels can be forgotten. A horse should feel better after his hooves are trimmed, not worse. Majic’s founder, way back, was the result of being trimmed WAY too short… and I will forever blame myself for that, too; for allowing it to happen.

And, I’m not criticizing anyone or anything tonight. No one is perfect and we all learn from mistakes and miscalculations. I learn stuff every day! And, if I take a deep breath; consult my “gut”; refuse to panic; remember past foibles; follow my heart and use what I have in my “tool kit” for horse care and self care… I can sleep at night and rise each morning ready to do whatever needs to be done. And, as a Buddhist, follow the “Middle Way”, all things in moderation…

Life is good. No panic needed.

 

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The Well of Experiences

Our lives – and those of our horses are filled with experiences. You can think of these as drops like water that fill a “well”. Of a positive or negative nature; these “drops” determine what we expect from current circumstances and experiences!

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Become Trustworthy
This is the main way in which we can support the trust of our horses. We must be the source of positive experiences in their lives and through repetition and building of the confident, pleasant encounters – we actually “crowd out” the negative memories in time.

This is a Natural Path of simple, mutual respect that brings Harmony to our relationship with Horses.

If your horse has mostly negative experiences in his “Well”, with every new experience he faces, his expectation will be something negative! Only by patiently and consistently adding positive “drops”/experiences, can you overcome the initial response of fear, anger or apprehension that is generated by negativity.

And a being whose experiences have been mostly positive will be open and often eager to face a new experience.

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Chiron

Chiron is a centaur… “the Wounded Healer”. When I did my first Vision Quest, a centaur came to me. Usually, one communes with a more “normal” animal or nature spirit.

The Vision Quest is simply being alone in Nature for a period of time to “cry” for your vision. I sat on a mountain after the death of several animals I cherished. I was feeling as if I needed to join them. I wanted to leave this life. I needed my vision. When, at night with a bright but not full moon, a being of human and equine merging appeared to me, I knew. I saw my vision as a calling to merge our worlds and our spirits – horses and humans. And to heal. To be healed and assist the healing of others.

To talk about it is difficult because it is a supremely personal experience. Yet, what I gleaned from that experience was something to share.

I had always taught gentle horsemanship and classical Dressage (NOT the kind of “Dressage” being practiced these days), but to become the centaur was a new way to see the relationships. First, I felt a need to abandon all the “let him know who’s boss”; “be the leader”; “you have to win” (and the horse loses?) rhetoric. Yet, we could not have horses walking over and through us and galloping off at will… so, I practiced my connection with my horses and taught a more integrated handling system of compassion and gentleness with enough assertive behavior to maintain safety. It worked. While I was aware that the wild Mustang needed to be approached with a kind of “morphed” horse/herd language expressed by the human – the horse who had grown up with us strange beings had a pretty good handle on what human language was all about.

And the healing, well I had been taught by the best. Herbalists and Reiki Masters and Travelers had honored me with their methods and knowledge. Horses would show me what they needed. As I studied modalities from Ayurveda to using Zeolites, I found that no one system applies in every situation. Simple was always best. Flexibility was imperative.

Chiron… I think all healers are wounded. We are wounded by loss. We are wounded by life, even wounded by love. What makes a healer rise from the devastation a wound can inflict is an awareness of things much larger than ourselves. Voices calling us to task from our own heart, singing us across the pain to see through new eyes. We become the merging of life and death, recognizing the bound relationship between the two and the truth that neither need be feared.

I am grateful for the times I was (and will be) guided by forces of Light and Love. It is truly the only way to live a life full of reason and, ultimately, joy.

Onward.

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Reduce Scarring…

I saw that on a jar of ointment yesterday. It is a blend of Chinese herbs in beeswax and oils to use on burns and wounds. It got me thinking about scars. I have a few! So have most of my horses.

The funny thing about scars, they are made of tissue that is stronger (after they are set) than the original skin, muscle or bone. Physical scars make the body stronger if allowed to “do their thing”. Emotional scars can be strengthening if we see them through the eyes of a student. A student of Life.

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There is no way we get through this unscathed. Life is a full spectrum. It is gentle and rough. It is great fun and it is scary. It holds us up and it knocks us down… but we have to get up again. Each time. The wound to our bum or our ego or our soul will form a scar. That scar will make us stronger if we see that spectrum of experiences through eyes of compassion. We become empathetic and compassionate when we experience this life fully. If you have never stubbed your toe, you do not wince in awareness when a friend tells you that she ran her little toe into the corner of a cabinet in the dark last night. Without experiences, we have no empathy. And paper cuts… well, just thinking about them and I can hear the sizzle of sheets through skin (I used to run printing presses!!).

If we look deeply into our pain as it is on us, we can sense the way through it. Scars will be physical and emotional and mental, but they will always make us stronger if we accept them, even honor them. Dear friends, be compassionate with yourselves!
Love is what matters.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Healthy “Neglect”

That was something my Mum used to talk about a lot… She watched people over water their house plants, over water gardens, over feed pets and buy everything their children wanted. She always let me know I would have everything that I needed. She would support my dreams. But, she would not submit to whining, begging or tantrums when I felt “deprived”.

Now, neglecting any being’s basic needs or health requirements is criminal. Caving in on whims or trying to win over someone else with bribery and indulgence is just poor judgement. These things end up biting us back in the bum because there will never be an end to the demands!

Our own minds and emotions can lead us astray… I’ve done it. When a starved horse arrives, the temptation is to just pour out delicious food and comfort them (and ourselves) with abundance. We all know that’s wrong. To swing the pendulum to the opposite side is equally detrimental to health, especially for horses. But, I have watched health and “flesh” return over the proper months’ time and just not quite backed off early enough… ending up with a chubby equine.

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Now, that’s not dangerous in our barn because we feed only hays and pelleted hay. For a horse getting hard feeds, the consequences can be debilitating. The middle way best serves the equine metabolism!

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Hooves of horses are another realm where “less is more” when it comes to manipulation. The unshod hoof has the best potential for long-term health while an injured or badly wearing hoof could best be served by applying boots or shoes. The problem for horses is when “how the hoof looks” becomes a priority over how the horse feels. If it takes 2 or 3 weeks for the horse to recover from a hoof trimming, something’s not right! If all hooves are shaped to a static and singular standard, something is very wrong. I have always found that leaving the hooves to find their own best shape over a 3 to 4 week period can often change much for the better.

All things with horses are best changed or rearranged over a gradual, calculated period of time. That “healthy neglect” factor can temper intentions and emotions with the common sense of  actual well-being. Horses like to get dirty. They like to interact with each other. They like to be horses.

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I remember showing my Morgan and Arabian geldings Saddle Seat as a youngster. I knew a girl whose grooming of her mare was so important that she used “Nair” hair removal creme on her horse’s inner ears. She trimmed “split ends” on her main with a special razor… she shaved the mare’s muzzle and saved rain water to rinse away sweat (I’m not kidding!).

That mare lived in a box stall. She was beautiful, I’ll admit it. She was not happy, that was easy to perceive by all of us except for her owner/rider.

I want our horses to be happy as well as healthy and calm. I want the same things for them that I want for myself. We will never neglect a horse at Dharmahorse! We also will pause for thought in any situation where extremes are suggested, recommended or required. A little bit of restraint can be the difference between long-term damage and slowly correcting a situation. Patience is easy here.

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Water Therapies: H2 Ohhhh

 
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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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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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