Thursday, January 28, 2010

Horse Health Care: Three Ways to Build a Horse's Topline

Does your horse have a weak topline?

Some horses just have conformation that promotes a weak topline.

Whether your horse is swaybacked or loses his topline when he isn't in training, a weak topline is never pretty.

Luckily, there are three simple ways that you can help any horse build a stronger, better-looking topline.

#1: Build Your Horse's Topline with Backing
When your horse walks backwards, he has to engage the muscles in his back and hindquarters, especially if he lowers his head while backing. Teaching your horse to back with his head down is a valuable time investment for two reasons:

1. It increases his topline
2. It puts him in a relaxed state because horses relax when their heads are low

At first, your horse may only want to back with his head up high. You may have to spend some time in the beginning teaching him to back with his head down low. Sometimes holding a treat down low can encourage your horse to drop his head.

I sometimes break the exercise into two pieces: dropping the head and backing. To teach my horse to lower his head, I crouch down low and gently tug on the lead rope. Most horses are curious enough to drop their heads and see what I'm doing. I reward that action with a treat. Next, I get teach him to lower his head while I'm standing up, again using a treat as a reward. Finally, I teach him to keep his head low while backing.

This may take several days, as some horses actually don't know how to engage the correct muscles to back with their head low. At first, one of my horses could only take a step or two backward with his head in the correct position. It took several days before he could engage the correct muscles and back 10 steps or more.

Once your horse has learned to back with his head dropped, back him every day for 100 steps. This exercise will build the muscles in his topline, including his neck, back, and hindquarters. The results are actually surprisingly quick. You should see a difference in 2 weeks or so.

#2: Feed Your Horse on the Ground and Use Ground Toys
If you feed your horse in hanging bucket or manger, this may be contributing to his poor topline. To build a strong topline, horses need to stretch the muscles and ligaments in their topline. Feeding them on the ground will definitely help. In addition, consider using a ground toy that dispenses feed. There are a lot of options on the market, including the Nose-It, the Likit Snak-A-Ball, and the Amazing Graze toy.

These toys all roll around on the ground, which encourages your horse to keep his head down for long periods of time, thus stretching his topline muscles. When these muscles are stretched, they develop mass more easily.

I've used all three of the toys mentioned above, plus a few others that are no longer on the market. They work well because the slow dispensing of feed keeps your horse interested for longer than a non-food toy. It also keeps him engaged for longer than his normal hay or grain allotment.

One additional benefit is that having your horse stretch his topline is that this prevents his withers from "getting stuck," which is the case in a lot of horses that are "built downhill." They are not actually built that way, but their withers are stuck so they look downhill. Once their withers are released, they will have a more balanced-looking topline.

#3: Feed Raw Coconut Oil
This works well for horses who are fat all over except over their topline. For some reason, the calories from raw coconut oil go to a horse's topline. Most horses that have this problem of being fat but having no topline have a Shao Yin personality type. These horses can be absolute pudges, yet look swaybacked and ewe-necked. So it's coconut oil to the rescue. If you have this kind of horse, here are the three resources you need:

- Get raw coconut oil here
- Learn more about Shao Yin and other horse personality types here
- Type your horse's personality online for free here if you are not sure about his type

For those of you out there with topline-challenged horses, I hope these recommendations help. They have certainly helped my two horses who have this issue, even during the winter, when they are not in training. Hope these tips help your horse, too!

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, January 26, 2010

Are You or Your Horse a Wacky Whack Job? This Ebook is For You!

I'm definitely a wacko and some of my horses are, at the very least, borderline wacky. I use "lotions and potions," not to mention bodywork and "intention" to heal my horses' various ailments. Yup, lots of my neighbors here in cowboy country think I'm a wee wacky.

My horses? Yeah, they are just a bit wacky, too. Walker, my soon-to-be rope horse, is perfectly happy to have me throw the rope and coil it back in ... as long as he doesn't have to look at rope (ever hear of a blind rope horse?).

One of my mustang mares gets COPD if she doesn't have a consistent job ... even if that "job" is being tied to the trailer for 30 minutes a day. And Fezzywig, my roach-backed gelding, has a giant hump in his back, but at least he's mentally sound.

The Natural Solutions Ebook
In any case, I wrote up a little ebook of 4 case studies on whacked-out wacky horses, humans, and dogs. If you, your horse, your dog, or any member of your "family" is just a little wacky, you might want to check out this ebook. It's got lots of fun tips and natural solutions, and will, at the very least, bring a smile to your face.

Specifically, this ebook addresses how to heal physical ailments that we (or our horses) develop which also have an emotional component.

That applies to most people in the world right now. As for horses, even the happiest horse living in the happiest home can suffer from a little wackiness if he isn't in quite the right job or being managed in a certain way. And for those of you who rescue Chihuahuas, there's a case study for how to heal that endless nervous shivering these little dogs are so prone to.

In any case, this ebook is free so please go ahead and download it to check it out. If you feel inclined, please share your thoughts with me as well ... I love hearing from other whack-jobs out there!

Download the Ebook Here
Natural Solutions for Out of Whack, Whacked Out, or Plain Wacky Humans, Horses, and Critters

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!

Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Horse Training: Blink Blink Equals Think Think

Did you know that in horse speak blinking equals thinking? It does. So do ear twitching, trembling lips, and faster breathing.

Horses can't speak to us in words so they use body language, and you can read a horse like a book if you know their language. There are lots of horse training manuals out there by big-name horse trainers who detail all of this, and yet it's always so much clearer when it happens to you and your horse.

A Horse Training Example of Blinking and Thinking
I've been slowly preparing my quarter horse gelding, Walker, for a roping clinic that is starting soon. Every clinic participant was sent a "how to prep your horse for roping" manual. This manual, provided by Mary Duke and Dusty Healy of Stirrup Cup Farm, offers step by step instructions on how to accustom your horse to the rope.

The manual features really simple instructions, big pictures, and lots of explanation. All of this should have been easy to do with Walker, except for one vital fact: Walker had been roped to be caught as a three-year-old. He had to be roped because his former owner had dropped him off at the reining trainer's place without bothering to halter break him.

The trainer had to rope Walker to catch him. Once caught, Walker was gelded, shod, and put into intense training. It's no wonder Walker associates a rope, or lariat, with "bad news"!

Well, Walker and I did fine on the groundwork preparatory exercises, but when I got in the saddle and lifted the rope off the saddle horn, Walker lost it. He ran like a bat out of hell and only skidded to a 10-foot sliding stop when he encountered a panel he couldn't jump. Yikes.

Off we went to Mary and Dusty's for some help. We started back at the groundwork level. Walker let me touch him all over with the rope, but when I started to swing the whole lariat gently at my side, he got upset and threw his head up. Mary told me to keep swinging my rope in the same rhythm and look for "signs" that Walker was thinking. These included:

- blinking - faster breathing - twitching his ears - trembling lips

Whenever Walker showed these signs of thinking, I would stop swinging the rope and praise him. Within a few cycles of thinking, praising, and resuming my exercises, Walker would offer a release, which included any of the following behaviors:

- moving his feet - licking and chewing - snorting - yawning - taking a deep breath - shaking his head and/or whole body - dropping his head

The whole process was fascinating. When I tuned into these signs of thinking and released the pressure as soon as I saw one of the signs, he would process the information much more quickly and give a "release." A release indicated that he had accepted the exercise and was ready for me to either repeat it or move on to another exercise. If I repeated the exercise, he would offer a release more quickly than the previous time.

Using this approach, we proceeded from groundwork to work in the saddle quite quickly. Only once while in the saddle did he "lose it." It was a brain fart more than anything else. We had been doing the exercises in the saddle quietly for 15-20 minutes when he suddenly bolted. I immediately dropped the rope and we started over with the saddle exercise, looking for the same signs of thinking and release.

After that, Walker was fine. I was impressed with how subtle his signals of "thinking" were, and how much I had to focus my attention on him see those signals. Once I did, though, he rewarded me with a lot of fast learning and releases.

Without a doubt, Walker associates the lariat with trauma, but by tuning into his body language I can help him more quickly overcome that. All in all, it's been a whole lot of fun and a very interesting experience all the way 'round!

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: / CC BY 2.0

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Horse Health Care: Feeding Horses in the Dark

It's kinda like "Singing in the Rain." My new mantra is, "I'm feeding in the dark …"

And you might be wondering why I'm feeding horses in the dark. Good question. I'm feeding my horses early in the morning and late at night for two reasons:

1. Evenly spaced feedings more closely mimics a horse's natural feeding patterns

2. This feeding schedule keeps my horses healthier, and lowers the horse feed bill

Wild horses spend 20-22 hours per day walking and eating. In other words, they graze. The rhythm of walking a bit, eating a bit, walking a bit, and eating a bit helps them digest their food. They don't eat too much at any one time, and the walking keeps their digestive systems active.

Plus, the constant food intake prevents ulcers, since the fiber they eat forms a "mat" in the upper stomach, which prevents the acid from the lower part of the stomach from eating through the stomach wall. The lower stomach wall is protected from the acid, but the upper stomach is not. Without the fibrous mat formed by the constant intake of fibrous foods, horses develop ulcers in their upper stomach.

Horse Feed: Throwing Hay in the Dark
In the deep dark of winter, most people feed their horses breakfast around 7 am, and dinner at 5 pm. This is convenient for us humans because it's a little warmer, plus the sun is usually up by then. The bad news is that it's not such great horse health care. When fed only twice a day, horses tend to gorge, upsetting the natural rhythm of their digestive cycle. They don't digest their food as well or as thoroughly as they should, which can lead to ulcers, mild colic, or internal adhesions.

Of course, changing this schedule isn't an option for most people, since work often dictates their schedules or they board their horses at stables that only feed twice daily. If this is the case for you, there are several ways you can solve this horse feed problem:

Horse Feed Solution #1: Pay Someone to Feed for You
I have several friends who use this option. One friend boards her horse at a stable where the horses are only fed twice a day. She pays one of the grooms an extra monthly fee to throw extra hay to her horse for lunch and for a late-night snack. She also pays the stable for the extra hay. My other friend keeps her horses at home, but works all day. She pays a neighbor's daughter to toss hay over the fence twice a day, at lunch and at dinner. Late in the evening, my friend goes out in the dark to give her horses a little horse feed for a snack.

Horse Feed Solution #2: Offer Free Choice Hay
If your horse doesn't have a tendency to get too fat, offering free choice hay is another option to the horse feed dilemma. I used to do this, even when I boarded my horses at a stable. I would buy one large round hay bale per month, and deliver it personally to my horses' paddock. They were fed regular meals of breakfast and dinner, and snacked on the round bale whenever they felt the need. This kept their bellies full … and their little naughty minds out of trouble.

Horse Feed Solution #3: Use Small-Hole Hay Nets and Other Feed Dispensers
Small-hole hay nets, as the name implies, are hay nets that have very small holes. This allows horses to eat only a few pieces of hay at a time, which means they can't gorge, plus they stay occupied for longer. This also more closely mimics the slow grazing pattern of wild horses. They can be difficult to fill, not to mention time-consuming, but it does tend to keep horses occupied for twice as long.

I also use this great new horse toy called the Nose-It. It's a plastic polyhedron that has a tiny hole in it. You can fill it with horse pellets, hay cubes, or any other healthy horse feed. Your horse has to tip it in just the right direction before feed comes out, which means he has to "play" with the Nose-It for a long time before he gets his full dinner. Again, like the hay net, this toy provides a way to feed your horse over a longer period of time. The only caveat with this toy is if your horse lives in a sandy environment. To prevent him from eating sand, put the toy in a large feed tub and let him play with it in there. This keeps his horse feed clean and prevents sand colic.

Horse Feed Solution #4: Feed in the Dark
This is possibly the least attractive solution if you are afraid of the dark or dislike the cold. I'm not fond of either, but I don't find it too difficult. I work at home, online, so I have a flexible schedule. I prep the horses' early morning hay portions the night before so I don't have to do anything other than chuck it over the fence. Ditto with the late night dinner. Lunch, which includes a combination of beet pulp, senior feed, and hay cubes, all soaked, is prepped and fed during the day. My horses are fed around 5 am (I'm an early riser), 12 pm, and 8 pm. This spaces their meals out fairly evenly around the clock. If I'm going to be gone during the day, I use small-hole hay nets and the Nose-It toys to keep my horses occupied. This works well.

I take the same kind of care with any supplements I feed, which are syringed directly into each horse's mouth to ensure that every horse gets what he or she needs. Some of my horses, who have been through trauma or have health issues, get Eleviv, a bitter herb supplement that helps them stay in a relaxed, healing mode. Others get my regulation Horse Goo, which includes antioxidant fruit juice and Simplexity Essentials (algae, probiotics, enzymes). This system ensures that every horse gets the right feed and supplements.

To learn more about Horse Goo and how these supplements offer an inexpensive "cover all bases" nutritional solution for horses, check out my new fun ebook:

Natural Solutions for Out of Whack, Whacked Out, or Plain Wacky Humans, Horses, and Critters

The Good News About Horse Feed Solutions
If you use any of these solutions, especially during the winter, you'll notice that your horse feed bill will probably go down. Horses fed more frequently or are fed over a longer period of time (as with the small-hole hay nets) tend to hold their weight more easily. Plus, they stay occupied for longer, which helps if you have "Mr. Destructo" in your herd. Finally, feeding this way helps prevent digestive health issues like colic and ulcers.

So while these horse feed solutions may not be the most convenient in the world for us humans, if they prevent a giant vet bill or reduce the feed bill, they may be worth all the hassle. I know it's worth it to me … plus my horses love me for 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, holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!
Photo credit: / CC BY 2.0

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Horse Training: Fight or Flight and the Seventh Cervical Vertebra

Believe it or not a horse's fight or flight reflex is triggered by the position of his seventh, or last, cervical vertebra. You can see the logic of this when you think about the position of your horse's head and neck when he is relaxed versus when he is ready to flee.

When a horse is alarmed, his head flies up and his neck becomes more vertical. A relaxed horse keeps his head lower, and his neck is more horizontal. Makes sense, right?

Now think about the "hinge point" of the neck. The hinge point on the horse's spine, in layman's terms, is where his neck joins the rest of his body. In more specific terms, this hinge point is the seventh cervical vertebra, or the last vertebrae in the horse's neck. This unique vertebra is shaped like a bear claw. Depending on this position of this vertebra, your horse will either be relaxed or ready to fight or flee. This knowledge can be very useful when it comes to horse training.

Using the Seventh Cervical Vertebra in Horse Training
So your horse changes the position of this crucial vertebra when he is alarmed by throwing his head up. By doing so, he flips over into his sympathetic nervous system, the one wild horses use to get going when faced with predators. When your horse relaxes again, he changes the position that vertebra again, and flips back into the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with rest, relaxation, healing, and rejuvenation.

Many people already use this in their horse training program by teaching their horses to put their heads down on command. That is because they know that by changing the position of this vertebra, they can deliberately cause a horse to relax and to operate from the parasympathetic nervous system.

In fact, one reining trainer I know trains all of his horses to become "dirtologists." That is, he teaches his horses to put their nose all the way down to the ground, in the dirt, on command. He then asks all of horses to do this while standing on the "X" in the center of the round, before the reining round begins. His horses are among the most relaxed reiners in any given competition. It works.

Making Sure You Have the Right Hinge Point

In most horse training programs, there is an emphasis on the placement of the horse's head, either because the discipline calls for the horse to be "on the bit" or because the trainer truly understands the role of the seventh cervical vertebra.

Now here's where it gets really interesting. Often times you will see a horse "on the bit" and think that you've got that seventh vertebra in the relaxed position. However, if the horse is breaking at the poll, meaning his nose is pointing down but his neck is still mostly vertical, then the seventh vertebra can still be in the "fight or flight" position. The poll has become the hinge point instead of the last cervical vertebra.

It really doesn't matter where the horse's head is. What IS important is where the horse's hinge point is. Some others will break over further down the neck, say halfway or three-quarters of the way down the neck. However, the horse's neck is still vertical from the base of the neck, where the seventh vertebra is, to wherever his neck breaks over. Again, like the horse who breaks at the poll, the last cervical vertebra is still not in the relaxed position.

A horse with the seventh cervical vertebra in the relaxed position will look like he's breaking over at the withers, regardless of where his head is or its position relative to the vertical. Here are some examples.

Horse 1: Breaking at the poll, 7th cervical vertebrae up

Photo credit:

Horse 2: Breaking lower down the neck, but 7th cervical vertebrae still up

Photo credit:

Horse #3: Breaking over at the 7th cervical vertebrae, despite head position

Photo credit:

The bottom line is this: if you want a relaxed horse, you have to ensure that the seventh cervical vertebra is in the down or relaxed position. That's the only way to be sure he is operating from his parasympathetic nervous system, rather than his "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous system.

A Little Horse Training Experiment
If you don't believe all of this hooey, I don't blame you. It does sound a little fantastical to be true. However, here's a little experiment for you to try. Take the exercise of backing and try it two different ways.

#1: Back Your Horse Any Old Way
Put a halter on your horse. Now just get him to back. Allow his to position his head and neck in anywhere he wants. If you don't do his exercise with him often, chances are that he will have his head up and his neck fairly vertical. Back him 10-20 steps. Notice the expression on his face and the look in his eye. He will probably be resistant as you try to back him, although he may lick and chew after you are done. You are moving his feet with this exercise so he may acknowledge that at the end with a lick and chew. Now try it the second way.

#2: Back Your Horse with His Head Down Low

This time, squat down on the ground and ask your horse to drop his head. If your horse will drop his head on command, you don't have to squat. Now, from whatever position you can manage, ask your horse to back a few steps with his head down low, with his neck at least parallel to the ground or lower. Now observe his expression. I'm betting that if he manages at least 3 steps with his head down, you'll get an immediate lick and chew release. He will most likely also have a very soft, almost sleepy expression on his face. That tells you he is very relaxed, and operating from his parasympathetic nervous system.

I've tried this experiment with each of my five horses now, and gotten the same results each and every time. That tells me that the position of my horse's seventh cervical vertebra is crucial to his state of relaxation.

A Good Horse Training Exercise for Horse Shows

Now take this one step further. What if you teach your horses backing exercise, first on the ground and then from the saddle? This gives you a way to immediately put your horse in a relaxed state at a horse show or any other event where he might be alarmed or stressed.

Suppose your horse keeps spooking at a golf cart parked outside the arena at a horse show. Wouldn't it be helpful if you could back your horse past it several times with his neck down low? Allowing him to walk past the "scary object" while relaxed prevents a lot of fighting and fussing.

My big mustang mare, Valentine, is the perfect example. She's a great jumper and can do her job with ease, but she gets unusually uptight at horse shows, especially when we first start schooling. I have found that if I get her to trot circles with her nose close to the ground, she relaxes immediately, and stays that way throughout the show. It's taken quite a few shows to get her to do this with ease, but now she does it almost automatically. I also back her past scary objects with her head down. She licks and chews, and then gets on with her job.

All of this, of course, is a working supposition based on anecdotal evidence from my own horses, lore from horse trainers, and tidbits picked up from my veterinarian. So, consider this a hypothesis and try it for yourself. And, if you have any experiences, I'd love to hear about 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, holler at me if you want to know how I fund my horse addiction ... and you can, too!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Horse Health Care: When the Back Off from Bodywork

Horses are amazing self-healers, given just a little help.

I just encountered another example of that.

I have been doing almost daily bodywork on Fezzywig, a recently acquired gelding with a roached back, and until recently, he was a very willing participant.

Then I added backing into the equation. Having consulted with Dr. Madalyn Ward on what to do about the "spiny ridges" that form the roach in Fezzywig's back, I was told to back him (walk him backwards) daily.

Apparently Fezzywig's roached back kept him from properly using the muscles in his back and hindquarters, causing the vertebrae in the roached part of his back to stick up and out.

So we began thrice-daily backing sessions. Fezzywig licks and chews the whole time, and relaxes his back. But, he also refuses to let me do any bodywork at this time.

When to Back Off from Bodywork for Better Horse Health Care
While Fezzywig likes the backing exercise, and is clearly benefiting by it, he avoids me like a mad man when I try to do bodywork on him. So I stopped and had a little chat with him to ask him why. His answer?

"I need to process all the work you have already done on my body. I can't stand anymore right now. Stop already!"

I've always known when to back off of bodywork during an actual bodywork session. Either the horse offer a release (like licking and chewing, yawning, or sometimes even farting), or he walks away from my hands.

I have not had a horse refuse bodywork entirely until now. But now that I think about it, I have been doing bodywork on Fezzywig almost everyday since I brought him home. That's about the equivalent of visiting a chiropractor, masseuse, and acupuncturist every single day for a month. I guess that would be a bit much!

Luckily, Fezzywig has a strong enough personality to tell me that, though gently. He hasn't tried to kick my head off and only tries to nibble on my coat, not bite me.

Horse Health Care and Horse Self-Healing

All of this data reaffirms my theory that horses are their own channels of self-healing. Although they sometimes need some extra assistance from us, such as us laying our hands on their bodies or providing good nutrition (such as my special horse goo and Eleviv), they can pretty much do a lot of their own healing.

We, their caretakers, mostly just have to provide the right conditions. And, of course, we have to listen when they try to tell what's working and what's not. So thanks to Fezzywig, I now have some more guidance for his healing: more backing, less bodywork, at least for now.

Want to know more? Check out my new free fun ebook:

Natural Solutions for Out of Whack, Whacked Out, or Plain Wacky Humans, Horses, and Critters

It's a fun read with lots of practical tips ... and will bring at least one smile to your face. Promise!

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, January 7, 2010

Horse Health Care: Bodywork and the 10 Percent Solution

When it comes to horse health care and bodywork, do you go for the major power of an equine chiropractor or osteopath, or do are you more of a do it yourself kind of horse lover?

Which works better?

In my experience, both work well, and each has a place in any good horse health care regimen. For instance, if you horse has a major lameness issue caused by a spinal misalignment (or subluxation) but you want to show him this coming year, then calling in a professional equine chiropractor or bodyworker may be just the ticket. This kind of bodyworker may need only a few sessions to realign your horse's spine, and may get you back in the saddle again quickly.

On the other hand, if your horse is older and little swaybacked, but still doing his job great, doing your own bodywork as part of a horse health care maintenance program may be perfectly adequate. Or, even if your horse has a more major problem and money is tight, as long as your horse isn't in major pain doing your own bodywork works great, too. After all, the more you practice doing bodywork yourself, the better you will become.

Equine Bodywork and the Ten Percent Horse Health Care Solution
I've been doing bodywork for almost a decade now, and I'm always amazed at how much improvement I can create in my horse's health just by doing a little bit at a time. While people like you and me, who do our own bodywork, definitely are not going to achieve as much in a single session as a professional bodyworker, we have the advantage of seeing our horses quite often. That means we can do bodywork on our horses much more often, even if each session achieves somewhat lesser results.

I call this the ten percent solution. It could also be the two percent solution or the twenty percent solution, depending on the effectiveness of your bodywork. The point is, no matter the level of your bodywork, if you work on your horse two to three times a week, he's bound to improve. Really. I've seen it happen. I have seen beginner bodyworkers work absolute miracles on horses that had chronic health problems.

Think about it like an equation:

If your bodywork is ten percent as effective as the equine chiropractor's work, then ten sessions of your bodywork is equal to one session of his.

Now that may sound a little discouraging because it means you have to work ten times harder than the chiropractor, but there are huge advantages:

- You build a better relationship with your horse every time you work on him.
- You get better at bodywork every time you do a session.
- Your horse appreciates you every time you ease his discomfort.
- Not to be forgotten is the fact that you didn't pay the call fee for the equine chiropractor to come work on your horse.

Need I go on? Of course, if you are going to do bodywork, I suggest you do two things:

- Continue to learn about bodywork by attending workshops, reading books, or watching DVDs to improve your work and keep adding new techniques to your toolbox
- Never doubt yourself. Doubt is the strongest force that will interfere with your bodywork. Faith, hope, trust, and belief in your ability to be an agent of healing for your horse is much more useful.

In short, even if you don't know anything about equine bodywork (and the DVDs you ordered from Amazon have not yet arrived), you do know your horse. If you do nothing more than lay your hands lovingly on your horse's source of pain every single day, you WILL be an agent of healing for your horse ... one percent, two percent, ten percent at a time.

Make sense? For more info and inspiration, check out a couple of my other posts related to bodywork on my blog here:

There is Nothing That Cannot be Healed
Can a Roach Backed Horse be Fixed?

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!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Horse Training: Does Your Horse's Tail Tell Tales?

Here is an interesting experiment you can try on your horse: hold the base of your horse's tail in one hand and use your other hand to shape the tail into a question mark.

Now try rotating your horse's tale in a circle in either direction.

Was your horse's tail flexible or stiff as a board? The results of this tail test tell a tale!

What Tales Does Your Horse's Tail Tell?
I originally learned this bodywork technique when I was studying with a TTouch practitioner, so I believe it comes from the material created by Linda Tellington-Jones. According to this practitioner, the flexibility of a horse's tail tells you how flexible his personality is ... or how open he is to change.

Back then, I only had one horse and didn't think much of this test. I was more interested in showing and winning, so my horse basically had to do what I asked, flexible tail or not.

These days, I have a herd of five horses, each with a very distinctive horse personality. I suddenly remembered this little test, and tried it on each horse. Guess what? The results were very "telling," and matched each horse's personality to a tee.

The Results of the Tail Test
So the results are both surprising and predictable. Here's a list of my horses as well as each horse's personality type (based on the Horse Harmony personality typing system developed by Dr. Madalyn Ward).

Valentine: Wood (one who wants to win, also playful)
Samantha: Fire/Wood or Shao Yang (an ultimate competitor with speed)
Reyacita: Metal (needs to know her job, loves routine)
Walker: Fire/Water or Shao Yin (very smart, not very tough)
Fezzywig: Not sure

So the results of the tail test were:

Valentine: Fairly flexible
Samantha: Stiff as a board
Reyacita: Stiff as a board
Walker: Stiff as a board
Fezzywig: Flexible as a rubber hose

These results were very interesting to me. I could not have predicted some of these results. Here's why.

I would have predicted that her personality, being fairly competitive and sometimes aggressive, would fairly stiff because she doesn't always agree with my training program. However, the playful side of the Wood personality means she is open to anything that might be fun or interesting (or get her in trouble, which she doesn't mind in the least). So that side of her makes her tail fairly flexible.

The fact that her tail was stiff was no big surprise. Samantha has always been a "my way or the highway" kind of gal, willing to cooperate only to win. The Fire aspect of her personality makes her unbending, as Fire-type horses can be very rigid in their mental processes as well as their bodies.

Metal horses love routine and have to "know" their job description to feel comfortable. Messing around with the tail was not part of Reyacita's job description, so her tail was stiff. Also, anything "out of the ordinary" makes a Metal horse resist, so her stiff tail was also no surprise.

His tail was a big surprise. Normally Shoa Yin horses are all about "getting along." In fact, many Shao Yin horses will be so intent on pleasing their owner that they will literally go until they drop, all in the name of being pleasing. However, being that Walker has Fire in his temperament, he is also rigid in certain respects (as he has recently shown me). I had mistaken his easygoing temperament for that of a marshmallow, but his tail stiffness and recent clear demands to me tells me he's not a total softie. In fact, I'm discovering that many a Shao Yin horse will demand his way or literally die trying. They can be surprisingly rigid.

I haven't yet figured out Fezzy's horse personality type, but his tail is as flexible as a rubber hose, so I'm guessing he has no Fire in him. He seems quite easygoing, fun-loving, and fearless. He also has a sweet tooth so I'm guessing he's either Earth or one of the Earth combination types. More will be revealed ...

Wintertime Tail Tales
I hope you enjoyed this little article, and maybe it will inspire you to go out and find out what tales your horse's tail tells you. After all, it's wintertime (at least here in Colorado) and there's not much riding to be done, so this might help keep cabin fever at bay ... at least for a day or two!

Enjoy ... oh, and please share your results if you get any. I'd love to know. If you want to personality type your horse (or yourself) or learn more about horse personality types, click the links below:

Horse Harmony Test

Horse Harmony Resources

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