Posts Tagged With: horses

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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Categories: healing, Horse Training, Relax, Saving Horses | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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.

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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

Falling…

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!

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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……….”

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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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The Well of Experiences….

The Well of Our Experiences

AWARENESS

The first step in awareness is to examine the external world. We learn to cherish all that surrounds us. We learn to observe without judgment. We strive to not only preserve life, but to honor and enhance life. Horses do these things effortlessly when they live a natural life. We can learn from their example and we can support their natural awareness.

Horses need to feel that they are participating in life.

“The way horses live their lives is a metaphor for life’s priorities. It’s not always about winning or losing, it’s also about the quality of the experience, the journey itself, and putting your heart into what you do.” -Diane Lane actress, Secretariat

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Horses start their lives in one of three ways:

  1. Born into the wild with no initial contact with humans
  2. Born into a farm situation with human contact & other horses
  3. Orphaned early or at birth & raised by humans

Each situation creates unique perspectives and expectations in the horse. His language will be formed by the horses that raise him (#1), the horses & people that raise him (#2) or the humans that raise him (#3). This “language” becomes the first series of “drops” in the Well of Experiences for each horse.

We can add positive “drops”/experiences or negative ones to the lives of those around us.

As he matures, the horse’s experiences are positive and negative in nature and begin to fill that “Well”. According to the predominant type of experiences he has, he will learn to expect something positive or something negative with every new situation – if we wish to change this for him in some way, we must provide consistency in the things we bring to his awareness… we must flood a well of negativity with so many clear and compassionate positive experiences that the well no longer holds anything else.

The whole idea of struggle brings you

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Trail Riding clears out the cobwebs!

 

My beautiful picture

Andy Alee me

Malie First Trail Ride 2

 

My beautiful picture

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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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Subluxation & Saponification

Years back, I took a course in Equine Chiropractic techniques in Albuquerque. At the same time, I took a soap making class. I loved both experiences! At the hotel in Albuquerque, I made notes as fast as I could, watched demonstrations, felt my perspectives open and my ideas expand. I learned the simple “Logan Basic” adjustment that continuously saved my Arabian gelding who continuously pulled his hamstrings. I learned about the tilting or “subluxation” of spinous processes and gentle ways to heal them.

I learned stretching techniques for the horses and dogs. I stayed in a motel with a dear friend and we set our fingernails against the floor to ceiling mirror, trying to remember if the fingernail touching its reflection or having a gap between them meant the mirror was “two way”! We went to “Cracker Barrel” where I ordered plates of vegetables and coffee and iced tea. I won an Equissage video and watched it for hours, even though my hands (from injuries) were not strong enough to do massage.

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At the Dona Ana Branch of NMSU, I took the class for soapmaking. With rich oils and lye, we set into motion the “saponification” that created, weeks later, the most awesome soap I’ve ever used. We melted the oils in large pots on the stove while our water-activated lye cooled – bringing the two ingredients to the same temperature when they were combined and stirred until the magic occurred.The liquid pre-soap was poured into waxed milk cartons, wrapped in layers of paper and thick towels; then taken home and kept warm until ready for the cutting into bars. The soap bars were lined up to cure on cookie sheets… I made frankincense soap and used my bars for over a year.

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There was something so satisfying about making and using my own soap – which I have continued to do ever since. The goggles and scary lye mixing; keeping vinegar near by in case of skin contact; the process of streaking and shininess as the soponification happens under the constant stirring by wooden spoon and the unmistakable smell of soap happening are exciting to me.

AND, to be able to immediately help my horses with safe adjustments and knowing how to protect them (by mounting them from each side equally and from mounting blocks to protect their spines) is a most valuable thing learned. Subluxation and saponification were indeed great additions to my life.

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