Thursday, July 8, 2010

Colorado Zen Cowgirl Moves to California - Yikes!

Having put down deep roots in Olathe, Colorado for more than a decade, this zen cowgirl is now looking at ripping those roots out and moving to the big bad state of California currently governed by ex-Terminator dude ("I'll be back!") Arnold.

Wow ... that's a lot to swallow.

If you have ever owned a farm, even a small 5-acre spread like we have, then you know that pulling up roots and moving 1,100 miles across the country is pretty close to insane. You see farms, even micro-farms, have tons of outbuildings, and after a decade most of those outbuildings are overflowing with stuff (mostly known as junk).

The thought of going through all that dusty, dirty, cobwebby stuff is about as appealing as swallowing a spider whole. Ick! And yet it's got to be done, and in 60 days, no less. That's the stressful news.

The good news is that we are moving out to a fabulous four-acre horse property in Redwood Valley, CA with quick access to trails, roping, hunter/jumper, and possibly even some ranch sorting and team penning.

Animals Gone Wild
Our two horses, one cat, and five horses have, of course, picked up on the fact that something is up. One dog has gone lame and is hobbling around on three legs. The horses are stressed and showing it; I recently took Walker, my good rope horse, to a team sorting event and he totally fried his brains. Reyacita knows she isn't going to California with me and has started coughing a bit as a result of her stress and uncertainty. I keep telling her I will find her a good home, but she is taking this abandonment personally. So here's what I'm doing to keep the "stress vibe" at a minimum during our packing and moving:

Dogs: Both dogs are getting double-doses of Simplexity Essentials daily, plus Stemplex and ImmuSun. The probiotics in the Essentials will keep them calm, while the blue-green algae will provide a strong nutritional foundation. The Stemplex will help the three-legged dog heal while preventing further injury. Finally, the ImmuSun will kick-start the dogs' immune system in preparation for entering the flea-ridden state of California. We don't have fleas here in the high country of Colorado so the dogs will definitely need more protection.

Cat: Ditto the dog's program, just without the Stemplex because she doesn't like the taste.

Horses: Every horses is getting double doses of the horse goo. Reyacita is back on a regimen of 2 Eleviv of day to relieve the cough. She will also be getting the homeopathic remedy Ignatia to help her adjust emotionally to the changes of having a new home. During the actual hauling from Colorado to California, the horses who are going will get extra horse goo, enzymes and probiotics, plus Eleviv to help them handle the stress.

No doubt the entire journey, from packing to moving to finally arriving in California will be a real adventure. But with the strong nutritional support and occasional homeopathic assists I believe all the animals will settle into their new homes, whether here in Colorado or off in California, in fine fashion. This has always worked well for me in the past, and I don't see why it shouldn't offer the same great results this time.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Photo credit: Mapquest

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Zen Cowgirl: Neither Old nor Young but Stuck in the Middle

They say that youth is wasted on the young, and in many ways I have to agree. The young are bursting with health, vitality, and enthusiasm ... all traits that they seem to take for granted with nary a second thought.

Those of us with a few years under our belt (not to mention a few colt-training "incidents") view such carefree physical exuberance with a bit of envy. We think to ourselves, "If only I had that much energy ... if only I so easily stacked 50 hay bales while barely breaking a sweat!" The "if onlys" could go on forever ... our bodies do not.

A Young Brain Stuck in a Questionable Bod
Lately I've been pondering the strange juxtaposition in which I find myself: I seem strangely ensnared between the mental callowness of youth and the lesser physical fitness of age. Mentally and emotionally, I am the same crazy impatient cowgirl I have always been--forever chomping on the bit that "things" are not getting done fast enough; colts are not progressing well enough under my care; my roping training is lagging somewhere between "sucky" and pre-novice.

And while my mental and emotional state currently reflect the that of a seven-year-old, my physical state shows every year of my almost four decades of physical exertion. Starting with swimming, gymnastics, and progressing to horseback riding along with a passion for starting raunchy colts, my body is feeling, well, just plain tired. I look at the horse's hooves and think, "Uggh, they really need to be trimmed but am I really up for this?" I look at the foxtail in my pasture (see the pic for an example of this gnarly weed!) and know I need to pull them out ... but some days I don't seem to have the physical reserves to get out there and do it ... right now!

Nike's famous "Just do it!" slogan just ain't doing it for this zen cowgirl anymore. I can no longer rely on sheer physical force to just do it.

Zen Cowgirl and Time Travel
So this zen cowgirl is off on a new time-travel adventure. My goal? To draw my seven-year-old mental and emotional state toward my thirty-something body. Hopefully both sides of me will meet somewhere in the middle.

It's gonna be a challenge. How will I do it? I have a few clues but no definite ideas. The clues involve taking the mind-bending and emotionally-relaxing supplement Eleviv, which keeps me somewhat sane despite my schizophrenic age split, as well as realizing that the world is a little messed up right now, all the way around. That means I'm crazy but I'm not alone. Somehow that's comforting in the wee hours of the night (which it is right now). It's not much but it's a place to start ...

Stay tuned for more crazy experiments in zen cowgirl time travel! And puleeze let me know if you have any great ideas!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Horse Temperament typing: Do you know your horse’s love language?

Guest Post by Madalyn Ward, DVM

Reading The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman was a real eye opener for me.

The five love languages of people are:

Words of Affirmation
Quality Time
Receiving Gifts
Acts of Service
Physical Touch

This book explained how good intentions do not replace giving a person what they want in relationships. This certainly helped explain to me why I am still single.

It also got me thinking about what the love language of a certain horse temperament, based on Five Element typing , would be.

Here is what I came up with:

Fire – Quality Time. The Fire horse temperament is all about relationship so spend lots of time grooming and hanging out with him.

Earth – Food. The Earth horse temperament is all about food so extra grazing time after a ride and the occasional treat will go a long way.

Metal – Respect. The Metal horse temperament wants to be respected and will not work for someone he does not respect.

Water – Safety. The Water horse temperament has to feel safe. An example of helping the Water horse to feel safe would be working at home with lots of obstacles and set up “scary” events to teach him to respond rather than react. Building his trust in you in his home area will prepare him for new environments.

Wood – A challenging job. The Wood horse temperament loves competing so give him lots of variety and difficulty in his work so he does not get bored.

So, good intentions are not the same as getting to know your horse’s love language and building a solid relationship. Madalyn

For more information about Five Element Horse Temperaments check out Horse Harmony

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Horse Body Language: Develop the Try in You and Your Horse

Guest Post by Jeannie Choate

When we talk about the try in a horse, we are looking for a response to a request we have made. A change in the horse, where he is looking, where his ears are pointed can be a response to an idea.

We are asking the horse to let an idea we have become his idea. You have to ask, not make the horse. The horse learns by searching for the answer and when he has a thought or movement in the direction we want we have to recognize that change with a release. We need to break down our big picture and look for a subtle response and build on that “TRY

1. As a student of the buckaroo way do you read to find answers and then do what you have read? This is recognizing the try in yourself. When you and your horse have an area where you don’t seem to communicate, then you need to stop and think about that situation and try to figure out what is going on or maybe what is not going on.

2. Do you watch good horse and rider partners and then go and practice to learn what you have seen?

3. Do you give your horse the chance to learn what you want him to do?

4. Are you consistent with how you handle your horse every day, every moment you are around him, so he knows what he can expect from you and is comfortable around you?

Students of the buckaroo way know signs of a horse try can be very very subtle. Paying attention to this small detail every second you are around your horse, until you don’t have to think about it, will pay big dividends for your horse and rider relationship.

You will know you are developing the horse and rider partnership you seek when you are in the saddle and ready to head to the right and you notice the horse has his right ear tipped back at you, he is feeling of you and knows which way you are asking him to go before you ask.

As Ray Hunt would say “Practice does not make perfect, Perfect practice makes perfect”.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Horse Temperament: Tai Yin horses

Guest post by Brenda Edmondson

Looking for a good, solid performer? I found one several years ago and didn’t realize what I had at the time.

Two Bits is my barrel racing horse, and his horse temperament is a Tai Yin. He is a consistent hard worker, easy keeper, likes order and will do anything for a cookie.

When I first got him he seemed dull and not overly ambitious. He would always perform but more out of duty than desire. This was before I took the time to get to know him.

I contemplated selling him a couple of years ago, because as a barrel racing horse his career was going nowhere. Another horse I own started me down the natural horsemanship path, and in the process I discovered who Two Bits really is.

While not true for all horses of this type, Two Bits is pretty much a one person horse. I occasionally put other people on him for a trail ride, but he is never really happy about it.

Respect is huge for him; if he feels he’s not getting it he will shut down and become stiff, depressed and out of balance. He lived in that state for many years.

Food is high on his priority list. He is the one in the pasture with his head down eating while the others are looking around, trying to find the source of some disturbance.

Getting to know him, appreciate and respect him for who he is has made a huge difference in our relationship. He likes me now, and I like him too, even when getting him out of 1st gear is tough.

He is not a horse you can pull out of the pasture, take to a barrel race and expect to win. He will get in the trailer, but that’s about it for effort. But when I have put in the training time he can find another gear that I never see at home.

He is who he is, and to ask him to act and perform like my other horses just didn’t work. He strained a tendon a couple of months ago, but he is doing fine now, thanks to a good nutrition program and a daily rehab program.

He is 14 now, and as a Tai Yin is prone to arthritis in his knees and hocks. He is calm and relaxed at home but barrel racing and travel stress him. I support these health challenges with Cosequin for joint support, Xango juice for the antioxidants, xanthones and anti-inflammatory properties, Eleviv for the stress and Simplexity Essentials for vitamin, mineral and amino acid needs.

Natural horsemanship has given me a true partner, and when he comes up to me in the pasture and bumps me with his nose, he’s just saying thanks.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction … and you can, too!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Horse Health Care: Roach-Backed Horse Tests the Waters at his First Show

This past Sunday Fezzywig and I attended our first hunter/jumper show. Being that Fezzywig just started jumping, we attended this show just to test the waters and see how this big guy liked the show ring. The plan was that if he liked it, I would continue him in jumper training. If not, I would need a new plan.

We entered in the ... wait for it ... cross-rail division! Oh don't worry. I was prepared for the laughter as I entered the arena on my giant 16.2 roach-backed whale of a horse, going up against a bunch of kids on ponies.

The Results of Fezzywig's First Show
As you can probably already see, Fezzywig did great. He and I ended up with a first and two second-place ribbons, plus the Championship for the cross-rail division. Too hilarious, since he bucked in the flat class.

No matter. He LIKED jumping and was quite willing to trot over teensy-tiny cross-rails. He was also quite amenable for a Wood horse personality type, which tends to be very competitive in my mustang mare, Valentine. Apparently, when you put a Wood in a warmblood, it turns out to be a lot mellower!

What I Brought with Me to the Show
Although Fezzy and I did not hop over any jumps taller than 15", which was a total no-brainer for a 16.2 hand horse, he does have a history of back problems. So here's what I brought to the show, in addition to all the normal gear:
  • Eleviv: To keep Fezzywig in his normal healing parasympathetic nervous system
  • Homeopathic Arnica: In case he hurt something trotting over these teensy poles
  • Horse Goo: To keep everything from his gut to his mind functioning normally (it has mangosteen juice, blue-green algae, probiotics, enzymes)
I gave Fezzy a double dose of the Horse Goo plus 2 Eleviv capsules starting the day before the show, and also the day of the show. Being a Wood horse personality type, Fezzywig was not fearful, but he did occasionally get a little goofy on me (like spooking at the same jump over and over again). Wood horses love mischief. But, between the Eleviv and the Horse Goo I think we more or less kept his mischief under control!

See? Even the most chronically hump-backed horse CAN be healed. For more thoughts on healing, click here.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

My Mustang's COPD or Horse Heaves: All in Her Head, Literally

Reyacita, my 5-year-old mustang mare, came to me more than a year ago with a pretty good case of horse heaves. Since I adopted her during the winter, I had to feed her hay. Unfortunately, she couldn't eat hay without heaving. She developed a heave line, breathed heavy, and had this horrible rattle in her throat or chest.

I turned her out to pasture, fed her soaked feed, and gave her an herbal supplement called Eleviv. That seemed to take care of the problem until the grass returned in the spring.

Horse Heaves - The Problem that Wouldn't Go Away
Only, the problem didn't really go away. Whenever I tacked up Reyacita or tried to do any training with her, she would start to rattle when she breathed. The rattle was so loud that people could hear it all the way across the arena. But the rattle wasn't a straight case of COPD, it was a case of nerves.

Reyacita is a Metal horse personality, and this type of horse likes, no needs, to know exactly her job description. Unless and until she knows that, she's concerned that whatever we are about to do might be a surprise. This type of horse HATES surprises. They LOVE routine and doing their job well.

So all spring and summer, Reyacita rattled until I actually got into the saddle, and we started on some familiar training exercises. As soon as we started doing something familiar, she stopped rattling. Then she would spend a few minutes with her head down coughing up this giant green loogie that looked like some sort of science experiment. After that, no rattle, no heaves, no COPD.

If I wanted to introduce a new horse training element, then I had to do it after we did some exercises with which she was already comfortable. Otherwise the rattle would kick into high gear.

Giving Reyacita 2-4 capsules of Eleviv about 30 minutes before I tacked her up helped quite a bit, but didn't totally eliminate the rattle. That rattle continued to puzzle me because it seemed to have more to do with what was going in her head (or with her nerves) than with anything physical.

Horse Heaves: Where it Starts with Reyacita
With Reyacita, the horse heaves start in her head, meaning she rattles when she feels nervous or uncertain about something. I checked in with my vet, and it turns out that, when nervous, Metal horse personality types often suck their tongues into the back of the mouth against the soft palate. This sucking action can cause a pool of saliva to gather back there, irritating the soft palate … and causing that horrible rattling sound!

The reason the Eleviv helps to lessen the rattle is because it helps Reyacita feel more secure and less nervous about her situation. But it never totally got rid of the rattle. So I got curious about how to alleviate that problem.

My vet, Dr. Madalyn Ward, suggested I reach up under Reyacita's jawbone and do a slight adjustment on the hyoid bone. The first time I did this, Reyacita was standing at the trailer, tacked up, and rattling away as usual. I adjusted her hyoid bone, and an interesting thing happened. She dropped her head, coughed a few times, and popped out this oogie-green-loogie. Then she licked and chewed for about 3 minutes, and shook herself.

The rattling had stopped! Wow!

The rattling didn't start again until I led her away from the trailer. She wasn't sure about the day's training agenda so she started rattling again. I adjust her hyoid bone again, she coughed, and stopped rattling. That first day, I had to adjust her hyoid bone about 6 times during our training session. But it got to so familiar that she would stop rattling almost as soon as I touched her hyoid bone.

The second and third days, she rattled progressively less and less. I'm excited to see what happens as I continue to practice this adjustment on her. It is obviously very soothing to her, and she feels reassured when I do it.

Horse Heaves: Confirming My Suspicions
Almost everyone who hears Reyacita rattle becomes mildly alarmed and immediately asks me whether she has a lung condition. They also want to know what I am doing to treat the condition. I tell them about the Eleviv, of course, but because she still rattles when nervous, even with the Eleviv, some people insist that I should put her on some lung herbs or even drugs for lung conditions.

The problem is that the rattling is actually in her throat … and the horse heaves start in her brain, not her lungs.

I decided to test this out by doing a horse training session that looked like this
  1. Tie to trailer, feed 4 capsules of Eleviv. Stand for 30 minutes to allow the Eleviv to take effect. (rattling)
  2. Load into trailer, drive 10 miles to a friend's arena.
  3. Unload at arena and tack up (rattling)
  4. Walk into arena and stand next to RoboSteer (no rattling)
  5. Walk around perimeter of arena (rattling)
  6. Begin doing familiar stretching and warm-up circles at walk, trot, and lope (no rattling).
  7. Finish circles and walk around arena on loose rein (rattling).
  8. Stand in the heeler's box in the roping area (no rattling).
  9. Walk out to center of arena and stand while talking to friend (rattling).
  10. Lope fast circles (no rattling).
I don't know if you can see a pattern here, but it was as clear as day to me that Reyacita's horse heaves show up whenever she is uncertain about her job. Any familiar exercise or landmark, like the RoboSteer or loping circles, makes her feel secure. When she is secure, she doesn't suck her tongue into her mouth or rattle.

On the flip side of the coin, any unfamiliar action or location is cause for insecurity, and hence rattling. For example, standing next to the RoboSteer is OK because that matches her job description of "chase the steer." Standing and chatting with my friend while standing in the center of the arena matches nothing in her job description, so she begins to rattle.

But the true test, for me, was the fact that she never rattled or ran out of air when we loped fast circles. If Reyacita truly had a lung condition like COPD or asthma, then she would have limited lung function. However, she is as happy as clam when loping circles and never short of breath. She also doesn't rattle when she lopes. Also, I have tried several lung herbal tonics on her, all to no avail. They made absolutely no difference whatsoever!

Conclusion? Reyacita's condition is ALL IN HER HEAD!

At least, it starts there. The Eleviv is her saving grace because it ensures that she can eat hay without heaving, whether I'm watching over her or not. But when it comes to horse training, I'm realizing that until Reyacita totally trusts me AND fully learns all facets of "her job" she'll probably continue rattle, on and off, for a while.

I'll continue to give her Eleviv and adjust her hyoid bone. I do repetitive tasks with her, and incorporate ever more new tasks to her job description until she feels comfortable. At the point, I'm sure her rattling will disappear forever.

Is This True of All Horses?
Could lessons learned from Reyacita be applied to all horses with heaves or COPD. No. But the lessons could be adapted. For instance, if a horse has COPD, you might try to figure why the horse has COPD. Is the cause mental, emotional, or purely physical? Once you figure out the cause, then you can develop a horse health care and horse training regimen to address the problem. But if you don't address the cause, you probably can't do more than palliate the symptoms.

Do you agree?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Horse Addiction: A Picture Perfect Bright Spot!

I get teased by my friends all the time because I "collect" horses. Other people collect rare coins, stamps, or other valuable items.

Me? I collect horses.

I got teased worse than ever this past week because I had two people make offers on my two best horses: Walker and Samantha.

Walker is a gelding I bought for reining, but ended up being my heel horse for team roping. He's just now getting healthy and happy, having overcome a bunch of health issues not to mention a total phobia of ropes and lariats. Nope, not selling him 'cause I'm having too much fun learning to rope on him.

Samantha is both my best jumper and my hubby's babysitter horse. She's also come through numerous issues, including horse ulcers and a major fear of things "touching her." Hubby won't sell her.

What's that leave me with? Three horses who aren't quite "there" yet.

Three "In Progress" Horses
That leaves me with three horses who are still "works in progress," sort of. That is to say, Valentine, my big grulla mustang mare, is very well trained. She jumps (when she wants to), team pens, does ranch sorting, and is learning to rope. Only, she's a way out there competitive opinionated mare ... and she doesn't get along with very many people. She's a Wood horse personality type, and they can be difficult to ride. I've given up jumping her, but my neighbor is learning to rope on her.

That leaves Fezzywig, my warmblood roach-backed horse, and Reyacita, the buckskin mustang mare with COPD. Neither of those are ready to move into new homes because they still need lots of training and lots of horse health care.

So our horse herd still has five horses. Oh well ... as I look out my kitchen window (pictured above) I always see horses. To me, they are a "picture perfect" bright spot in otherwise chaotic times.

Sure, they eat like maniacs and cost a lot to keep around, but they sure keep my spirits high and keep me busy. I'm too busy trimming hooves, throwing hay, mixing up their food, training them, and keeping them out of trouble to get upset about all the crazy things happening in the world.

Plus, these five equines are also my walking advertisements for holistic horse care. They show the world, like no humans can, how healthy fruit juice and Eleviv, plus blue-green algae products, can create vibrant health naturally. And since I make my living in large part from marketing these products, I gotta say that the herd earns its keep!

If you want to learn how to turn your equine companion into a walking advertisement, shoot me an email and I'll tell ya. It sure goes a long way toward supporting a horse addiction!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Horse Health Care: Roach-Backed Horse Scores First Win

Fezzywig, my roach-backed adopted warmblood, has scored a big first win in his journey toward horse health:

He jumped his first cross rail today!

Granted, the jump was about 12 inches tall, which isn't very high considering that Fezzywig is about 16.2 hands tall. He's a big boy.

However, having suffered from a roached back for the last several years of his life (he's now coming four), he has:
  • had multiple adhesions all over his body
  • not been very coordinated
  • suffered from multiple sore spots on his body, including his spine and stifles
  • had trouble getting into the canter
  • not been aware of where his feet are
  • had poorly developed muscles over his topline
So for him to successfully jump a small jump, about 10 times in a row, is a major first win for this big boy!

Fezzywig's Horse Health Care Program
Since he came home with me, Fezzywig has been on daily doses of my special home-made "horse goo," which includes an antioxidant juice, blue-green algae, probiotics (acidophilus and bifidus), and enzymes. He gets 1-3 ounces of goo per day and the benefits are definitely noticeable.

The antioxidant mangosteen juice has been key to his horse health care program. The antioxidants help deal with the toxins released by the bodywork he gets on a regular basis.

The probiotics and enzymes help Fezzywig assimilate all the nutrients that I pour down his throat. I believe they also help to release stomach adhesions and soothe any ulcers that he may have.

The blue-green algae gives Fezzywig a dense source of nutrients that he needs to not only re-mold his body, but also to build muscle mass, especially along his topline.

Finally, these last few weeks I have bumped up Fezzywig's Eleviv, an herbal supplement that keeps horses (and humans) in the healing parasympathetic nervous system. I feel that Fezzywig has been stuck in his survival "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system, since the accident that caused his roached back.

Because I have been pushing Fezzywig's training program a lot harder these last few weeks, I felt he might need the Eleviv to help him over the hump. I've been long trotting him up and down hills, as well as putting him through his paces in the arena. That's a lot of work for a horse who has been stuck in a roach-backed posture for several years. With the Eleviv, Fezzywig has had a great attitude, not to mention making a huge jump in his postural changes.

In any case, I am thrilled that Fezzywig has come so far in such a short time ... and I hope that his story gives hope to those who are trying to rehabilitate other roach-backed horses.

If you are working with a roach-backed horse and have questions or feedback, please feel free to comment. I'll share any information I have, and I would love to learn more from others who are dealing with this same situation.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Spooking Horse? The One Type You Can't Desensitize

Got a spooking horse?

Well, for every way that your horse can find to spook, there is a cowboy way to fix that spooking horse ... and some of them are downright scary.

The milder versions, which involve sacking out the horse with a burlap bag, often work just fine. It's the wilder versions that involve tying a horse under a set of train tracks for a day that scare me. These methods can be dangerous or life-threatening to the horse.

And then there's the spooking horse that you literally can't calm down by using desensitizing techniques. Which horse is that?

The Shao Yang personality type horse.

Forget trying to de-spook a horse of this personality (learn more about horse personalities here). Trust me. I have a Shao Yang, a lovely mare named Sammie Joe (that's her picture). My neighbor has a Shao Yang mare, too. De-spooking doesn't work.

Why You Can't Sack Out the Shao Yang Spooking Horse
Shao Yang horses are, according to the horse personality typing system developed by Dr. Madalyn Ward, a combination of Fire and Wood. The Fire aspect of this horse personality type makes this horse sensitive, flashy, and demanding of their human. The Wood part of this horse is competitive, athletic, and often bossy. Put the Fire and the Wood together and you get a horse who often spooks or jumps at the most unexpected moments.

And you can't "fix" this spooking horse with any of the traditional methods because they won't work. For instance, when I first adopted Sammie Joe, a mustang mare, she was spooky as heck. I tried sacking her out, which took a couple hours per session. The next day, I'd go to check the results of the previous day's session, only to discover that it was a whole new day for Sammie Joe. She reacted as if she had never seen the sack before. This happened over and over and over again.

Lesson learned: Every day is a new day for a spooky Shao Yang horse.

My neighbor's mare is the same way. She spooks at the RoboSteer we use for practice in our roping clinics. At the end of the day, she will accept the RoboSteer, but the next day she'll act as if she's never seen it before. Then she goes into the same spooking horse routine as the day before.

How to Deal with a Shao Yang Spooking Horse
The one and only way I have found to channel all that spooky energy, since sacking out doesn't really work, is to give the Shao Yang a job she likes. For Sammie Joe, that job is jumping. Put her in an arena filled with jumps and she stops spooking.

During warm up, she might still spook at all kinds of things, but when she is in the arena by herself, during the actual competition, she's all business. When I ride her in a jumper class, I feel like I'm riding a guided rocket. She'll wait for me to point her to a jump, then she literally "locks on" and starts counting strides to the jump ... and her math is NEVER wrong. She likes to do a challenging job (the Wood part of her personality), and she likes to do it perfectly (the Fire part of her personality). She never touches a single jump with her feet and she never meets a fence wrong. And she never spooks.

The same is true of my neighbor's mare. On the RoboSteer, she's spooky as heck, but put her on a live steer and all of sudden she can focus. She doesn't spook or jig. She goes for the steer. The Wood part of her personality, which really likes to push and chase things, steps up and she suddenly does her job without spooking.

Do You Have a Shao Yang Horse?
If you have a spooking horse you just can't desensitize, chances are that you have a Shao Yang horse. Some other characteristics of Shao Yang horses include:
  • extreme athleticism
  • tough feet when healthy
  • strong opinions
  • more likely to run than buck when troubled
  • love of speed
Sound familiar? If so, then don't bother trying to de-spook your horse. Instead, put him to work in a job he loves. Once he learns his job, he'll do it with style, dependability, and no spooking!

If you're not sure what your horse's personality type is, check out these horse personality testing resources:

Horse Harmony Website
Horse Harmony Test
Horse Harmony Audios

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Photo credit: Barb Young Photography

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Depression and Healing: A Story of a Cowgirl and Her Cowboy

Depression and healing ... those are two words that don't belong in the same sentence because when you are depressed, you can't heal.

How do I know this? Because I'm a cowgirl and I just watched my cowboy (hubby) go through a bout of depression after a long illness.

And you know what?

As long as he was depressed, he stayed ill.

Like I said, depression and healing don't go together.

The Story of Depression and Healing, Part I
The first part of this story is about a cowboy who had a mild stroke. After spending a night in the hospital, he came home loaded to the hilt with prescriptions he didn't want to take. His doctor finally convinced him to take a statin medication to lower his cholesterol in hopes of preventing another stroke.

The cowboy (hubby) took the statin for a few days, and then suffered major side effects. His muscles twitched by themselves, plus it caused a major flare-up of his irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). For a month, he could not recover from these side effects, including constipation, cramping, bloating, gas ... basically ick! For a month, he was completely depressed. No amount of holistic healing worked, and he sure wasn't willing to go back to the doctor for more medication.

If he were a horse, he would be operating from his sympathetic, or "fight or flight," mechanism. He was totally depressed. He had the blue meanies. Everything sucked!

So part one of this story is all about depression. The healing happens in part two, so read on!

The Story of Healing, Part II
In this part of the story the cowgirl (yours truly) gets really really tired of watching her cowboy walk around in a blue funk. She's tried everything she can think of in terms of holistic healing for humans, but to no avail.

So she gets this brilliant idea to start treating him like a horse. She calls up her holistic horse vet who is treating a horse with similar symptoms. She asks for the "recipe" being used on the horse, which is a combination of herbs and homeopathics.

Fabulous. Back at the ranch, she pulls out Nux Vomica 6c and the herbal combination called Eleviv. She doses the cowboy every 2 hours with Nux plus 2 capsules of a mood food. She does this religiously, ignoring his complaints.

Amazingly, by the end of the first day, the cowboy is feeling more upbeat, more hopeful. His symptoms are still there but he doesn't feel as uncomfortable. By the end of the second day, his symptoms have improved by 30%, and he's definitely much happier. By the end of the week, his bowels are working normally again, his muscles are no longer twitching like crazy, and he has returned to his usual sunny disposition.

The cowgirl is stunned by this rapid progress after a month a depression. She does more research and discovers that IBS is caused by a problem in communication between the brain and gut. When the gut digests food, it sends signals to the brain, which the brain interprets as pain. So then the brain begins to interpret any digestive process as a painful process, which tends to shut down digestion, causing cramping and all the other side effects.

It turn out that cowboys with this condition don't have enough serotonin in their brains. The herbal supplement Eleviv helps the brain produce more serotonin, which alleviates the symptoms not only of IBS, but also of depression. Serotonin is one of the hormones produced during "runner's high," and who can be depressed when they have the equivalent of runner's high?

So the cowgirl and cowboy remain amazed at the cowboy's rapid recovery, and file away all the information they have learned in case they need to use it on each other or the horses.

Hmmm ... it really gives one food for thought, doesn't it?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Increasing Horse Try: "Hold My Face, Hold My Hand!"

Horse try--or the willingness of your horse to perform for you--varies widely according to the horse you're riding and the task at hand. Believe me, I know! I have 3 mustangs, a QH, and a warmblood. I jump, rope, rein, trail ride, and start colts.

Mixing and matching these horses to the right career to maximize "horse try" is a little complicated at times!

But I have figured out some stuff along the way ...

Increasing Horse Try by Holding a Horse's Face

This is a horse training technique I have come to over time, by riding a bunch of horses who range from pushy types to insecure types. I've discovered that many horses feel more secure if I can establish light contact with their mouth, and then just hold that contact through my ride ... or at least through the scary part of the ride.

Having said that, the words "hold the horse's" face can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, so let me clarify. Usually, when I teach a horse to allow contact with his mouth, I'm riding him in a simple snaffle bit-no shanks, no fancy stuff.

The snaffle allows direct contact without exerting poll pressure. This is important because a lot of horses will "disappear" by tucking their head behind the vertical, thus disallowing the contact. A snaffle, on the other hand, exerts pressure on the bars and tongue, and does not encourage this disappearing act.

To teach a horse to accept contact, I generally simply walk a circle. At first, I take up no contact, and just allow the horse to put his head and neck wherever he wants. Gradually, I increase my contact with the horse's mouth by taking up the slack in the reins. I encourage him to reach down and out as he walks, alternating between medium contact, when I'm asking for more stretch, and light contact when he is stretching. I am using my legs to squeeze him forward into the contact.

Once a horse accepts contact and learns to stretch down and out, his seventh cervical vertebrae, which I've written about quite a bit, is positioned for calmness and relaxation. In turn, the feel of "contact" then becomes a reassuring thing to the horse. The next time the horse is in a dicey situation, then I take up a little contact, and all is well again. I have increased the level of "horse try" even situations are scary.

Three Examples of Increased Horse Try
Here are some cases in point to show you what I mean.

Example One of Horse Try - Neighbor's Horse
I was recently swapped horses with my neighbor on a trail ride. My neighbor's mare is all about speed, didn't know how to walk, and had a Gumby-neck. She could also put herself into a sweat just walking. She's always amped. Her head and neck constantly "disappeared" when she tucked her chin to her chest, and she had no idea how to move away from my leg. Any leg pressure always meant "go faster!"

During the trail ride all I did was pick up and put down contact, sit heavy in the saddle, and constantly encourage her to walk instead of jig. The more I did this, the more the mare stretched out and "looked" for my hands and contact. After a while, we were able to walk peacefully down the trail with me "holding her face" with about 2 ounces of pressure. She LOVED light contact and would walk with a long stretchy neck. I felt like I was holding a child's hand for reassurance, only I was holding the mare's face instead! The mare developed a lot of horse try with this technique.

Example Two of Horse Try - Walker
The second example is Walker, my rope horse. We were at Mary and Dusty's working a bunch of new cattle, and teaching the cattle to run straight out of the chute and down to the stripping chute. We "scored" our horses, which means we made them stay in the boxes until we asked them to leave. We would watch 5 or 6 steers leave the chute before ambling out after them at a walk.

Walker got so excited by the steers he started rearing because I would not let him chase the steers right out of the chute. He's got a lot of cow in his breeding so I'm not surprised. I thought about giving him a couple of doses of Eleviv to help him handle the stress, but decided that he wasn't actually stressed, just excited!

When I finally got him settled again, I tried holding his face lightly while I talked to him. That worked great. He dropped his head low and held it there. He knew, from our previous work, that when I had contact with his face, he was secure. He then waited patiently until I told him he could chase the steers by releasing my contact. This is a case where Walker had too much "horse try" and I simply had to redirect it.

Example Three of Horse Try - Reyacita
Reyacita has also been roping. She's got plenty of horse try, but often feels stressed when new elements are introduced into our training regimen. Being a Metal horse personality type, fond of routine, this isn't surprising. The steers, the chute, and the "scoring" were all new, so she went into her stress response of having COPD and heaves.

I haven't spent as much time with Reyacita in training as I have with Walker, so I did two things: I gave her some Eleviv, which always calms her COPD symptoms right away, and then I backed her into the box and took up some contact. Like Walker, Reyacita responded my breathing deeply, relaxing her neck, and simply waiting for me. In this relaxed position, she was able to take in the new elements in the environment without stressing out.

At the End of the Day ...
My conclusions are that horses, like humans, feel better when they know their boundaries. Holding a horse's face with light contact is one way to give a horse a feeling of a boundary. The contact is so light that it is in no way a punishment or correction, but merely a statement of, "Here I am. I've got you. Don't worry." It's a boundary they can feel, lean on if they must, and definitely trust.

Because of what I have learned about the value of holding a horse's face, and how it helps a horse try harder, I now would far rather ride a horse who takes up too much contact than a horse who won't accept contact. And for the horses who won't accept contact, that's all I work on until they will accept contact.

Pretty cool and simple, really... don't you think?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Horse Health Care: Rough Terrain Benefits Young Horses

In my horse health care regimen, I've been using the horse trailer recently as a means of adjusting my two geldings, one of whom is roach-backed and one of whom is sway-backed.

It turns out that using the horse trailer to elevate the horse's hind end by leaving the horse's back feet in the trailer while placing his front feet on the ground, releases back tension for both horses.

This stretch helps release tension in the withers, spine, sternum, and scapula. The reverse stretch, where the horse's front feet are in the trailer and his back feet are on the ground, is also effective. Both positions help the horse to stretch his top line.

In both positions, it's important to keep the horse's neck down low to maximize the stretch. This trailer exercise allows the horse to stretch his back and neck without me holding the brunt of his weight. Perfect!

Rough Terrain as Natural Horse Health Care
Having done these exercises with my two geldings, Fezzywig and Walker, both of whom are domesticated horses, I suddenly realized something: my mustang mares automatically assume these uneven poses out in pasture. Instead of the trailer, they use the raised banks of the irrigation ditch in the pasture to stand either with their front end or hind end elevated. In fact, they often rest in either posture for an hour or more at a time.

What's interesting about this is that even though both geldings have been turned out in this same pasture before, they have never assumed these poses ... it's as if they don't know to stretch their own bodies. That got me thinking about body awareness and muscle memory.

Here's what I came up with. Because all of my mustang mares had spent at least a year in the wild before being gathered, chances are that they had to move around rough terrain all the time, traveling up to 25 miles per day. This constant climbing up and down over such rough terrain helped them develop a body awareness that my domesticated geldings don't have. My mares learned to be aware of where their feet were at all times, and to use the terrain as a natural form of stretching and bodywork.

What's really cool about this is that my mares require far less bodywork than my geldings. Of course, natural selection in the wild (such as it is these days) has a lot to do with why wild horses can be more resilient and healthy than domesticated horses. Hmmm ...

Rough Terrain as Horse Health Care for Young Ones
The next conclusion I arrived at was that based on the wild horse model, rough and varied terrain is probably a horse health care asset for young horses. If, as in the wild, domesticated young horses learned to use their bodies with greater awareness and variance, might they be healthier and need less bodywork as they grow into adulthood? Might they develop a far wider range of motion, as well as use the natural contours of the terrain (like the ditch bank) to adjust their own bodies?

I think that it has to be true. I obviously haven't had time to test this theory with a bunch of my own young colts, but I do have two pieces of data to throw into the mix.

1. Body Awareness Work Works
If you look at the body awareness work taught by horse trainers like Linda Tellington-Jones in which you walk horses backward and forward through various obstacles, you see that even adult horses can develop new body awareness and retrain muscle memory. This being the case for adult horses, how much more readily would a young horse with the same kind of awareness be able to use this "body knowledge" for his own health and adjustment?

2. The Kitten Experiment
In "Quantum Healing," Deepak Chopra talks about the kitten experiment, which involved three sets of kittens, all of whom were young enough to still have their eyes closed. The first set of kittens was placed in an environment comprised entirely of vertical lines. The second group of kittens grew up in an opposite sort of environment, with only horizontal lines. The third set of kittens, the control group, was placed in a normal environment that had both vertical and horizontal lines.

So can you guess what happened? When the kittens from the first group were released into a normal environment, they could not see any horizontal lines, having been conditioned to see only vertical ones. The second group of kittens had the opposite problem, and could only see horizontal lines (they would literally bump into vertical obstacles, unable to see them). The third set of kittens turned out entirely normal.

So what does this tell us? That certain bodily functions in animals develop based on the environment in which they are raised. So if a young horse grows up in a totally flat environment, wouldn't that limit his ability to move his body up, down, and around in a flexible manner? Whereas a young horse who grew up climbing hills, running down slopes, and generally scrambling around rough terrain would develop an entirely different body awareness.

So my hypothesis at the moment is that rough terrain serves as an excellent horse health care, or horse self-care, asset for young horses. Teach a horse to move his body in all kinds of different ways as a youngster, and he'll keep doing so as he grows into adulthood.

So whaddya think? Bull pucky or possible truth?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Horse Training: What Your Horse's Rear End Can Tell You about His Head

A while back I wrote a blog post about how your horse's tail can tell tales. In short, the flexibility of your horse's tail tells you something about the flexibility of his personality ... or of his ability to transition easily from one activity or career to another.

Now I have a follow up chapter to that story. As I mentioned in that previous post, Walker's tail was unbending, and he very much disliked me "playing" with it. It's now a few months later, life has changed for Walker, he has a new career ... and his tail reflects a fundamental change in his personality.

What's Been Happening with Walker?
Since my first post about the tails a few months ago, Walker has continued to grow and learn in his new career as a roping horse. You might recall that when we first started in roping training, Walker was terrified of the lariat because he had been roped as a 3-year-old, much to his terror.

Several horse training sessions with very slow rope work, along with very regular doses of the herbal supplement Eleviv, have changed Walker. I would give Walker 2 capsules of Eleviv daily, and then 2-4 capsules of Eleviv before we went for roping practice. It worked wonders. He went from bolting at top speed to get away from the rope to simply accepting the rope.

He has also become a thinking horse. Being a heeling horse, it's important for Walker to stop in his tracks the moment he sees me throw my rope. Otherwise, the chances of him getting a front leg caught in the loop are high. Earlier in his roping training, we had not been as careful about stopping as soon as I threw the rope. Sure enough, I caught his front foot with my loop.

What was really cool is that instead of bolting, Walker just stopped. He froze, and waited for Dusty, our instructor, to release him from the loop. That's the reaction of a thinking horse who is operating from his healthy parasympathetic nervous system, not the reactive bolt of a horse coming from his "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system. I was impressed. What was even cooler was that thereafter, Walker always stopped when he saw the lariat leave my hand. He "learned" rather than "reacted."

What's Up with Walker's Tail
A few days ago, I took Walker to another roping clinic. This was the first time we worked outdoors. We worked on standing quietly in the boxes while watching the chute open and close. The chute is pneumatic so it makes a hissing sound every time it opens or closes. It also clangs like a son of a gun! A lot of horses at the clinic hated the thing on sight!

Since this scenario contained a ton of new horse training elements (including steers at the far end of the arena), I wondered how Walker would be. I tried to give him his Eleviv before we left, but he refused to take it. When I finally forced it into his mouth, he spit and spit and spit. I trust his instincts so I simply loaded him into the trailer and away we went.

I was concerned that with so many new elements in the outdoor arena and no Eleviv, Walker would be a basket case. He wasn't. In fact, it was just the opposite. He was the star of the clinic. He was one of only two horses who would stand quietly and correctly in the box, then move quietly out of the box to chase the Robosteer, and get into position for me to toss the rope. This was the case even when the wind started kicking at gale force winds.

I was amazed ... practically agog with surprise. I had to find out what was going on.

As soon as I had him unloaded at home, I tied him to the trailer and messed with his tail. To my surprise, his previously inflexible "stiff as a board tail" was now soft and flexible. He didn't mind me bending it, swiveling it, or gently twisting it.

I thought maybe it was a fluke so I tried it again the next day. Same deal. Soft tail. So now, I'm beginning to think that with the help of our "going slow is faster" horse training methods, along with the months of Eleviv, Walker has fundamentally changed in character. No longer is he a reactive and fearful horse. He is now a thinking, accepting, and trusting horse.

He was able to accept all the elements of the outdoor arena with ease and grace, and he NEVER lost his cool. How cool is that?

So now I believe that I can "read" more about what's going in my horse's brain by "feeling" the flexibility of his tail. His tail does tell me tales! I love it. Now, of course, I have to go play with all the horses in the pasture to see if this is true, but I am like a bloodhound who is onto a scent ... I won't let go of this topic until I verify my hypothesis.

What about y'all? Have you played with this? Tried it? Gotten any results other than a pile of poop at your feet?

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Horse Training: The Extreme Mustang Makeover is Aptly Named

I love reading about, hearing about, and watching the Extreme Mustang Makeovers because I love mustangs.

I've adopted 5 mustangs now, and I still have 3 of them. They are the most versatile, tough, loyal and amazing horses I've ever had the honor to support.

Mustangs are also very, very extreme!

That's why I think the name "Extreme Mustang Makeover" is such a perfect name. Mustangs are like the mules of the horse world. They give new meaning to words like:
  • stubborn
  • opinionated
  • survivor
  • tough
  • heart
If a mustang has an opinion about something (and most mustangs have opinions about everything under the sun) you will know, and quickly!

An Example of an Extreme Mustang with a Strong Opinion
A few days ago I took Reyacita, my 5-year-old buckskin mustang mare (pictured above) to a roping practice. Reyacita and I had had a couple of private lessons with the Robosteer, during which we tracked the steer positioned at its left hip. When you first start teaching a heeling horse her position, you position them at the steer's left hip, because this is the position from which you will ultimately throw the rope.

Reyacita, being a Metal horse personality type, instantly locked onto her position. Metal horses want desperately to learn their jobs, and then do their jobs without further interruption. Reyacita "got it" that her position was by the steer's left hip.

Unfortunately, when you start roping as a team, with another horse and rider in the heading position, the heel horse has to start at the steer's right hip. The head horse starts at the steer's left hip, ropes the steer, then turns the steer. That's when the heel horse turns and steps into position at the steer's left hip.

Reyacita did NOT like this concept at all. When she saw my buddy Heidi and her horse Shady step into position at the steer's left hip, she got upset. She perceived that another horse was in "her position." To correct what she thought was a mistake, she simply side-passed over and tried to bump Heidi and Shady out of position.

It took me quite a while to convince Reyacita that we were now in the next phase of training, and that now we were supposed to start on the steer's right side. She didn't like it, thought very hard about bucking me off, but trusted me enough to try this new position. Once Heidi had roped the steer's horns and turned, then I allowed Reyacita to step into "her position" at the steer's left hip. She was much happier. She also understood this new arrangement, and allowed Heidi and Shady to take up the position at the steer's left hip with no further trouble.

Mustangs are So Extreme!
What cracks me up is that most horses would have simply followed their person's guidance without question. Not mustangs, especially Metal mustangs. When they think they KNOW what their job is, heaven help you if you get in their way. Metal horse types don't like interference at the best times. Metal mustangs really don't want to hear from their riders once they think they know their job.

One thing that has helped Reyacita become less rigid and more allowing is the herbal supplement Eleviv. Although this herbal supplement is usually given as remedy for horses who have been traumatized or who have physical problems as a result of emotional trauma, it also works will with horses who are mentally rigid. Of all the types, Fire and Metal horse personality types can be the most mentally rigid. If they don't understand "why" something should be done, don't count on getting it done anytime soon.

Test your horse's personality type here.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Taking Horses Barefoot: From Ow to Wow

Taking some horses barefoot is a simple process: you just pull off the shoes and do a regular barefoot trim, as taught by the likes of Jaime Jackson or Pete Ramey.

Taking other horses barefoot is a complete nightmare. You yank off the shoes, do a barefoot trim, and your horse is completely lame. Watching a newly barefoot horse hobble around the pasture is a scary sight, one that is likely to make you cringe.

Luckily, if you have the patience to "wait it out," and are willing to supplement your horse's diet while he goes through the transition, chances are that you can emerge with sound barefoot horse.

Taking Horses Barefoot: Some Tips to go from Ow to Wow

If you yank your horse's shoes and he screams, "Ow!" don't panic. A lot of horses, depending on their pain tolerance, find being barefoot a bit strange. Some horses feel uncomfortable while others in so much pain that they literally can't walk. So here are some tips to help your horse go from "Ow!" to "Wow!"

1. Proper Footing for the Barefoot Hoof
The easiest footing for a newly-barefoot horse to negotiate is sand. Sand is soft, yet provides support and contact for all parts of the hoof. This support and contact is important because the hoof needs stimulation to grow strong and thick. Studies have shown that hooves that are in constant contact with the ground, not lifted by the shoe, have far more blood vessels, which equals much better circulation. The more circulation a hoof gets, the faster, stronger, and healthier it will grow.

If you can't fill your horse's entire pen with sand, at least put sand in a certain area of his enclosure. That way he has an area where he can stand and rest his feet. Horses that are in pain during the early stages of being barefoot find sand relieves their pain.

2. Barefoot Trim: Do it Right
You can definitely learn how to do a correct barefoot trim from books and DVDs, but if you are new to trimming or unsure of your skills, you might want to seek professional help for the first few barefoot trims. I had my farrier teach my how to do a correct barefoot trim, then read almost every book available on the subject. Over the years (more than 11) my barefoot trim has gotten better and faster. So will yours, if you elect to trim your horse yourself. If you choose to have a professional do the barefoot trim, be sure to choose one who has studied barefoot trimming, rather than one who simply pulls shoes and levels off the bottom of the hoof.

One way to check if a barefoot trim is done correctly is to watch your horse's reaction after each foot is trimmed. If the trim feels right to your horse, most of the time he will lick and chew, or yawn, to indicate that the hoof feels right. If he does not give any of these signals, or even goes so far as to pick his hoof up off the ground, then he farrier probably needs to level out an uneven spot or two.

Every horse is different, so you have to learn his quirks. For instance, I have one mare who likes her quarters hollowed out and her bars to be perfectly straight. If these conditions are not met, she won't leave her hoof on the ground. She'll hold it up until I "fix" my errors!

Finally, the more frequently you can do little barefoot trims, the faster and better the hoof will grow. It's like getting your hair cut. Getting regular trims makes your hair grow faster. Doing regular maintenance barefoot trims, every couple weeks or so, will not only encourage hoof growth but will keep that growth going in the right direction.

3. Feeding Strong Nutrition while Taking Horses Barefoot
If your horse has been wearing shoes for a while, chances are that his hoof wall and sole are not as strong and thick as they should be to withstand the barefoot lifestyle. So while you are waiting for his hoof to grow out, you should give your horse the right nutrition to encourage proper hoof growth.

I love my "horse goo" for this ... it's a little recipe that I mix up at the kitchen table. The goo includes an antioxidant juice and Simplexity Essentials (blue-green algae, enzymes, and probiotics). The reason this mixture works is that the blue-green algae, especially the form that has had the cell wall removed (called Omega Sun), seems to "feed" the hoof in ways that make it grow stronger and faster. The probiotics, beneficial bacteria like acidophilus and bifidus that live in your horse's gut, are also very useful because they produce bioton, the substance that makes the hooves tough yet flexible. Finally, the mangosteen juice as well as the enzymes both have anti-inflammatory effects, which helps reduce your horse's level of hoof pain and inflammation.

The really good news is that your horse's whole body will benefit from this "horse goo." All of this nutrition will contribute to a better hair coat, clear eyes and nose, and a strong immune system. Just compare Walker's look today to his picture from 8 months ago (see above)!

4. Booting the Barefoot Hoof

Barefoot horses need to keep moving to increase the stimulation on their hooves. If your horse is in pain after his first barefoot trim, chances are that he won't want to move ... and that's bad. He needs to keep moving to get his hooves accustomed to the barefoot trim, and to increase circulation.

To help these horses, try booting them. You might have to try several boots before you find the perfect kind for your horse, but it is well worth the effort. Look for boots that will stay on in pasture because nothing sucks worse than walking over a dozen acres looking for a lost boot. I've had good success with Old Macs and Cavallo Simple Boots. Other people seem to like the Easyboot Glove. You can also look for boots that come with gaiters, which are simply straps that attach the boot to your horse's leg. That way, if the boot comes off your horse's hoof, the gaiter will at least keep it attached to his leg.

Depending on whether you live in a damp climate, you may have to put the boot on during the day and take it off at night to keep dampness from accumulating on the hoof. Dampness softens the hoof, which will make it more painful for your horse to walk when the boot is off. Look for the perfect balance where the hoof boot is on for long enough to keep your horse moving, but is off for enough time to prevent the hoof from becoming soft. Normally you want the hardness of your horse's hoof to match the hardness of the terrain on which you expect to ride him.

5. Patience, Patience, Patience!
Ultimately, patience is the name of the game. It's taken me a whole year to transition Walker, my QH gelding whom I affectionately refer to as my "hot house flower," to a barefoot lifestyle. He's been getting my "horse goo" every single day for over a year, and he has finally achieved a strong enough hoof to go out on gravel, rocks, and road base without missing a step. This is a horse who used to wince when walking around a grass pasture ... now I call that improvement! But the process has required a huge amount of patience on my part, and I've lost and found more boots than I care to disclose!

However, I do strongly believe in the barefoot hoof ... I believe it is the healthiest and most natural for horses, and so these days I'm willing to wait it out, feed the right supplements, and trim, trim, and trim until one day, voila! Barefoot horse!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Horse Training: How Well Does Your Horse Try for You? Getting More Try

I hear horse trainers talk all the time about the level of a horse's "try." Most trainers like horses with a lot of try. In fact, one trainer I know will choose a horse with a poor comformation but a lot of try over a horse with super talent and very little try.

A lot of "horse try" can overcome many obstacles ... including lack of innate talent or poor comformation.

This is all well and good for the horse with a lot of try, but what about the horse who doesn't try? How do you get more try out of that horse?

Horse Try: Finding the Right "Hot Button" or Motivation
For the equine with little or no "horse try," the horse owner's job is to figure out why the horse has no try. The reasons could include:
  • fear of punishment or pain
  • fear of new things or concepts
  • boredom
  • dislike of his current career
  • physical inability to do his job
  • sheer laziness
  • a competitive streak
  • lack of understanding of the task
Lack of Horse Try: Some Examples
I have three horses in roping training now (I'm learning with Mary Duke and Dusty Healey of Stirrup Cup Farm), and each horse has experienced at least one bump in the road ... a place where he or she had no "try." The interesting thing was that, knowing each horse personality type, I was able to figure out the reason behind the lack of try, and solve the problem. (Learn more about horse personality types here and test your horse's personality type here.)

Lack of Horse Try Because of Fear
Walker, the gelding I've written so much about (and pictured above), lacked try because he had been roped as youngster, and was traumatized by the lariat. As a Shao Yin horse personality type, his main goal is to please his human, but his fear kept him from doing so. He would try and try to bear the rope exercises until he just couldn't. Then he would bolt at Mach-1.

Solution: Because Walker was still suffering from the trauma of being roped earlier, that meant he was stuck in his "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system and literally could not think rationally. My solution was to start feeding him Eleviv, an herbal supplement that shifts horses (and humans) back into the normal parasympathetic nervous system. From this nervous system, horses can think rather than react. Another herbal supplement that works well is RelaxBlend from Equilite. Feeding probiotics can also help, since probiotics like acidophilus and bifidus produce B-vitamins, which can keep a horse calm.

Now Walker gets 2 capsules of Eleviv before roping practice, and has all the horse try in the world. He is, in fact, one of the star students of our little beginning roping clinic.

Lack of Horse Try Because of Misunderstanding
The second horse I introduced to roping training was Reyacita, a five-year-old mustang mare. Being a Metal horse personality type, Reyacita's primary goal in life is to understand her job clearly, and do it well. Once she understands her job, she will do it unfailingly. If her job description changes, she will demonstrate a lack of try.

When I first introduced Reyacita to roping, she lacked try because until then, her job had been "trail horse." Roping was not part of her resume.

Solution: To integrate roping into Reyacita's job description without having her buck me off, I started out slow. By introducing roping to her in several logical "chunks," she was able to understand her new job relatively quickly. For instance, we took it in these small steps:
  • practice the rope exercises (created by Stirrup Cup Farm) at home
  • introduce Reyacita to the Robosteer
  • have her follow the Robosteer in the correct position, rewarding her each time she does
  • practice throwing the lariat with the Robosteer at a standstill
  • practice throwing the lariat at the moving Robosteer
These small steps, introduced over several sessions, allowed Reyacita to add roping to her job description. She also demonstrated much more horse try than she had before. I also gave her Eleviv before each session because Metal horses are among the slowest learners of all the horse personality types (but once they learning something, they never forget!). Eleviv helps Metal horses learn new tasks more quickly while being less resistant.

Lack of Horse Try Because of Boredom
The final horse I put into roping training was my big mustang jumper mare, Valentine. Valentine is the prototypical Wood horse personality type: super talented, super competitive, and easily bored. Valentine has the talent to jump around super big jumper courses ... but getting her to do it consistently is another story. Jumping bored her to tears. After 2 seasons in the jumper ring, I was exhausted by Valentine's lack of horse try ... and I had the bruises to show for it.

Solution: Since Valentine does enjoy chasing things, like cows, I decided to try her at roping. She loves to do ranch sorting and team penning, but once she cuts her cow out of the herd, she just likes to run, whether she keeps the cow in control or not. Thus, I don't take her penning much.

But roping doesn't require rolling back on the fence line and going back after the cow if you lose it, so I thought roping might just be the perfect niche for her. She has never been afraid of the lariat, having pulled steers, posts, and all manner of other items with the lariat, but when I started working with the lariat at Stirrup Cup Farm, Valentine was a mess! Talk about lack of horse try! She spun in circles, she snorted, she acted silly. She wasn't afraid, just bored and acting out.

Dusty came up with the brilliant idea of moving the Robosteer, which she liked to follow, while I swung my rope. As soon as Valentine saw the Robosteer move, her competitive instinct kicked in. She flattened her ears and went after the steer like crazy. The lariat became of no importance. Suddenly, we had horse try. I was able to easily position her in the heeling position, and rope both hind feet. Presto! Horse try, at last.

What Will Increase Your Horse's Level of Try?
Every horse has plenty of "try" if you find the right motivation to awaken the horse's desire to try. The lazy horse with a sweet tooth may have more try when offered treats. The competitive horse, like Valentine, may need to redirect her competitive nature toward the steer instead of toward her rider. The fearful horse may need plenty of reassurance and slow introductions to new things. He may also need herbs like Eleviv or RelaxBlend to help him deal with stress.

Your horse's personality type often says a lot about why he won't try. Here's a short rundown of the types and the reasons they won't try.

Fire Horse: lack of attention from their human, knowing they can't do the job for physical reasons

Wood Horse: competes against the rider or trainer rather than against the clock or the steer

Earth Horse: too lazy; needs to be motivated by food treats or rewarded for effort with short workouts

Water Horse: fearful; needs slow introductions to new lessons in a safe environment, and lots of praise

Metal Horse: needs consistency and routine in training until he knows his job; if his job description changes, the change needs to be introduced slowly, in small chunks

I hope that helps you understand why the horse try may be lacking in your equine friend. To type your horse, visit the Horse Harmony Test website. To learn more about each type, read more or buy the book on the Horse Harmony website.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader. Also, check out my ebook for wacky horses and humans, or holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Photo credit: Mary Duke of Stirrup Cup Farm

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Horse Health Care: Sunflower Seeds and More ...

Here's a guest comment/post from Garth, one of my readers in response to my blog post about hay testing.

It was so good that I just had to post it! I so dig great new information, especially about horse health care, nutrition, bodywork, and horsemanship.


Here's what Garth says:

I liked the blog. It's a good introduction to hay analysis. You could expand on it in the next issue.

I've been asking and getting a hay analysis for as long as I can remember, Our fields up here can vary so much from one farm to the next, and even one field to the next. I of course get my hay from the same farmer all the time and the same field: 15% to 20% alfalfa the rest orchard grass since my horses don't do to much but stand in the field all day.

It's to icy this year to ride cause we're having such a mild winter and very little snow.

The hay I get is deficient in selenium, always has been, so I buy a 5 pound bag and feed about a teaspoon a day per horse. Most supplements advertise they have selenium in their feed but the quantities are not adequate. You would have to feed 20 pounds of supplement a day to get an adequate amount of the mineral. Besides 5 pounds is cheap and it lasts for years. This is always a problem with supplements, the quantities are so benign almost to the point of making them ineffective because they have to cover such a broad spectrum of feeding situations. The base ingredient in supplements is grain so I have a bag of grain that I only feed if the horse works hard for a day and then not more than a cup.

Sunflower Seeds
The most important feed I give my horses is one cup or sometime two cups of sunflower seeds. They are cheap and the horses gobble them up like candy. Johnny Cash (pictured above) gets right upset if he doesn't get his seeds. This will supplement your carbo-deficiency. I feed 1/3 of a 70 lb. bale of hay per day per horse and if they get any fatter I'm going to cut that back. You will find that the seeds will make a huge difference in their coats. My horses never get blankets. Actually I don't own blankets and they have such lush coats their starting to shed already. It's going to be an early spring.

According to an equine nutritionist friend of mine there is everything in sunflower seeds that a horse needs in the way of supplements. I think so to, at least both my horse's have always been health and happy.

The last time I bought sunflower seeds the feed store was out of the straight sunflower seeds so I bought a big bag of the bird seed mostly sunflower but has some other seeds in there to. Johnny thinks he's getting an extra treat with this bag.

Looking forward to your next blog



Thanks for your feedback about horse feed, Garth. Sounds like you've got your horse health care and feeding program down pat. I love to learn about different feeds, their nutritional value, and how to feed them.

I appreciate you taking the time to write and share your information! Stephanie