Archive for July, 2010

Is Your Horse Balking? Consider This!

FOR ALL US HORSE LOVERS:     I think this particular blog post by my dear friend and holistic equine vet in Texas, Dr. Madalyn Ward, is very important to read and keep in mind. Thank you, Madalyn!

Have you ever heard the phrase:

“Life is movement”?

Well, in fact, life IS dependent on movement, and your horse’s ability to freely move his ribs is critical for his physical well-being.

In fact, your horse’s ribs are so crucial to his freedom of movement that they are actually more important than the spine in terms of flexibility. For instance, ribs that are stuck or tight can irritate the nerves exiting the spine, which will in turn cause organ and musculo-skeletal problems.

Luckily, it is very easy to check for sore ribs. Simply ask your horse to raise his back by placing your fingertips on the midline of his belly (where the girth lays) and exerting sharp upward pressure. In response, your horse should easily raise his back from behind his withers all the way to his lower back. If he is resistant or lifts one area but not another then he has tightness in his ribs.

In addition to flexing and extending, your horse should also be able to move his rib cage sideways in both directions. To test for side-to-side flexibility stand as if you were going to ask your horse to raise his back, but reach your fingers 2 to 3 inches past the midline (further away from your body) and then ask your horse to bend his rib cage towards you. Then go to the other side and ask him to bend his ribcage away from you. As with the first exercise your fingertips should give a sharp, firm thrust — not just a gentle push. You don’t want to startle or poke your horse, but you do want to generate enough energy to motivate him to move his ribs. Watch to make sure the movement is fluid throughout the entire ribcage and that there are no flat spots that could indicate an individual stuck rib.

Other signs of tight ribs include:

  • Irritability during saddling and cinching
  • Unwillingness to stand for mounting
  • Cold-backed behavior such as scooting or bucking when first mounted
  • Erratic behavior such as shying or balking that occurs after your horse has been working long enough to get winded. Horses with tight ribs are not able to take deep breaths and this can be frightening.
  • Poor exercise tolerance due to failure to take in enough air during breathing
  • Recurrent or persistent lung infections due to inability to clean the lungs by coughing

Horses become tight in the ribs for multiple reasons, including:

  • Injuries from falls or kicks
  • Poor fitting saddles and excessively tight girths and cinches
  • Spinal subluxations causing irritation to the nerves supplying signals to the muscles between the ribs
  • Inflammation of the internal lining of the ribcage from lung infections
  • Irritations to the diaphragm from inflamed organs such as the stomach or liver, which lie against it
  • Guarding from internal pain such as ulcers or sore ovaries

A horse with sore or tights ribs is going to be neither happy nor able to perform to his potential. Routine stretching and suppling exercises along with regular massage or bodywork, such as Equine Touch, Bowen or TTeam, should keep your horse’s ribs free and flexible. If tightness or pain persists seek an evaluation from a professional to diagnose and correct the underlying problem.


Comments (1) »

Want to Have a Baby? Just Adopt.

We’ve all known at least one couple who has tried forever to have a child then finally given up and adopted — only to find themselves pregnant shortly thereafter!

I don’t know what this odd sequence of events might be called, and my theory is not based on scientific evidence, but I’m pretty sure this amazing phenomenon applies to chickens too.

Two of the Foreign Adoptees

I have a hen, Blondie, who has been “setting” on the nest for six weeks trying to have a baby.  The normal setting time is 21 days, or 3 weeks, and hens go into a zen-like meditation experience during this time, only getting up occasionally to take a hasty bite and drink in order to survive. I think it’s kind of like hibernation for a bear.

After 6 of Blondie’s 7 eggs suddenly disappeared in the third week  (a snake, we’re sure), she was not deterred. She simply moved her egglet to another spot, added another egg (of her own or someone else’s, I do not know), and went back to setting.

The weather was very hot. I feared for her welfare. But she told me point blank that she was not going to give up. I didn’t even know if her two eggs were fertile, but even if they were I knew they were not due to hatch any time soon.

So after a friend found small batches of baby chicks online for a somewhat reasonable price (some places wanted $95 to ship 5 chicks, the chicks costing about 3 bucks a piece!!!), she and I placed an order for 4 chicks each. Wyandottes, which would be dark fuzzy little things. I knew Blondie wouldn’t care what color they were. After all, adopting children from foreign countries seems to be all the rage these days.

I kept my fingers crossed that Blondie wouldn’t give up after all, which would mean I’d have to raise the chicks myself.

She was true to her word and was still setting when the chicks arrived through the postal service, just 1 or 2 days old, alive and well. It was six weeks to the day since Blondie had taken on this project.

In accordance with standard procedure for such things, I waited until after dark, snuck into the hen house, and carefully shoved the 4 little fledglings in under Blondie’s plump body. She pecked at me once, but then seemed to realize a miracle was occurring, so rose up and tucked the youngsters in amongst her feathers.

All went according to plan and the next morning there were four dark, foreign babies hopping all around Blondie, using her body as a jungle gym and pecking at baby food. I checked them twice more during the day and all was well. The other hens were bubbling about, obviously excited about the new arrivals, and Mr. Smarty Pants, our rooster, was keeping a safe distance but clearly guarding the nursery.

Late in the day, at the evening horse feeding, I went in one last time to make sure everyone was all right. I only saw two chicks so was slightly alarmed. I wanted to make sure nothing had gotten the others so I gently prodded Blondie to stand up so I could make sure the rest of the brood were underneath.

You guessed it. Not only were the two missing chicks there, but one other as well — a tiny, few-hours-old, fuzzy yellow sibling, just hatched! I just started laughing!

The New Arrival

I guess Blondie knew what she was about after all, and the arrival of the adoptees just spurred along the natural processes.

Now we’ll see what happens with that last egg. Blondie is taking good care of her brood, but she is still setting ……….

Comments (2) »

Pound Puppies = Problem Poops

This is just another way of saying:

  • Rescue dogs usually have upset tummies. Or . . .
  • Shelter dogs have digestive problems. Or . . .
  • Yuk! What’s wrong with my new dog?!

Any way you want to put it, this fact is usually paramount for the dog or puppy you bring away from a shelter or rescue situation. Same goes for cats, kitties, and horses. Why?

If this looks stressful to you, just think what it feels like to him.

Stress. Poor nutrition, possibly even starvation. Emotional anxiety. Grief. Any or all of the above, and more, often plague the rescue while on the streets or in the shelter. They’ve lost their families, or been abandoned, are totally confused and trying to figure out where in the world they are.

This has recently been brought to my attention once again by the arrival of ‘Bear,’ an unspayed, year-old Great Pyrenees female I rescued from the animal shelter 12 days ago. Meet Bear, my number six (yes count them, SIX) dog:

Bear at the shelter. Stay tuned for a follow-up picture and report soon!

Bear was picked up at the landfill in Taos, NM, pretty bedraggled, and then spent a few weeks behind bars being evaluated for aggression (emotional stress) before being spayed and put up for adoption. I heard about her and did a ‘meet & greet’ with two of my other dogs, and listened to her and to my heart about her disposition. I approved, she approved, and my other dogs approved. So she was immediately spayed and home with me the next day.

All is well, and Bear is the perfect ‘peaceable kingdom’ candidate already, just two weeks in. But she came home ravenously hungry 24/7 and burping all day every day. She was underweight, her stool loose, her coat rough and matted.

Chiweenie Tucker now, hale and hardy.

Ah, yes. Shades of my last rescue experience two years ago — bringing little Chiweenie Tucker home from the shelter. Tucker, who now weighs in at 18 lbs., was only two-thirds of that weight when I got him, and his diarrhea was so bad we feared for the worst.

Or Hank, the 29-year-old Quarter Horse I rescued from starvation several years ago. His was a very extreme case and required a carefully orchestrated re-introduction of food and supplements  into his life.

Some of my particular ways of rehabbing rescues include top quality food (I use Flint River for the pre-prepared part of my dogs’ and cats’ diets), Simplexity’s  Super Blue-Green Algae products, especially probiotics to replenish their depleted natural resources, and the herb powdered Slippery Elm (the inner bark) to soothe their highly irritated digestive tracts. There are different variations of these nutritional elements, and other things I use as well, but everybody who comes in as a rescue gets very, very special food and care until they are back to balance. As an example, you can read about Tucker’s special diet HERE.

Just be prepared if you rescue an animal. Don’t expect them to be the picture of health and perfectly well adjusted the moment they come to their new home. Give them time, love, and attention. Just grit your teeth, start brushing out the mats or bathing out the dirt, and customize your new animal’s diet and exercise program. You can bring them all the way back and make them gloriously beautiful, healthy, and happy. They never forget and are grateful to you forever for it.



Comments (2) »

At Home – Rockin’ in the Desert

The view out my kitchen window

When I moved from Texas to the high desert of Northern New Mexico two years ago, I never dreamed how truly at home I would feel. Not that I didn’t love my old ranch in the magical Texas Hill Country. I did. To be sure. And there are many aspects of it I miss often.

But living here has brought about all kinds of amazing and synchronistic associations and occurrences. And, as it turns out, not only for me, but for my family: my daughter and her husband who migrated back from England and now inhabit the guest house on my property.

When I decided to move to the Santa Fe area 3 or 4 years ago, my brother, who had lived here for 25 years or so, cautioned me:  “Leta, are you SURE you want to do this? Santa Fe is an odd place.  I’ve seen it chew people up and spit them out. It either loves you or hates you.”

I paid him no heed. I was Santa Fe bound, come hell or high water.

And, sure enough, for me and mine it has been truly magical. Everything from day one has gone perfectly. I am part of a wonderfully close community out in the Galisteo Basin where I live; I’m on the board of the Santa Fe Humane Society, my closest neighbor teaches yoga in the nearby town of Cerrillos, only a mile away (AND does massage), I take weekly Spanish lessons with another neighbor in her home for 3 hours each week, speaking only Spanish . . . muchas gracias muy mucho!

The same has been true for my precious daughter, Hannah, and her husband,

A band pic of my rockin' daughter, Hannah. Yikes! Who woulda ever thought?!

James, who have a rock band called Venus Bogardus that originated in the UK. They have not only been well received here but have gotten rave reviews from every quarter, East Coast to West Coast, with the Glastonbury Festival included.  And besides their band, their businesses have boomed and James now has a book contract on his first novel.

So my brother was right. The Santa Fe area either eats you alive or blesses you and fulfills you. Thank God, me and mine are among the latter. We love it here. I feel I am home at last. Pretty weird, huh, having been a born and bred Texan?

And then there’s something about the Native Americans ……….. maybe it’s just a past life thing for me.

Comments (1) »

What Makes a Horse Mean?

If you’ve been around horses much at all in your life, then you’ve seen those horses who flatten their ears when you go to feed them, or who take the first opportunity to cow kick you with a hind leg when you’re doing nothing more than trying to clean their stall, . . . or who employ numerous other dangerous actions seemingly for no reason at all.

There can be lots of reasons for these behaviors. Plus, horses are like people — they have different personalities and so some are just grumpier than others. But usually a horse who is mean has had a bad experience and is holding the memory so is reacting out of fear or expectation that something bad will happen again. Usually, with the right handling, they can get over it.

But there are exceptions.

I talked to a horse this week who was the most mean-spirited I have ever encountered. I was asked to talk to and reason with him because he overtly tries to hurt people. He strikes with his front feet, and he bites with a vengeance. If you’ve ever watched a horse do this, or kick with his rear feet for that matter, you know what deadly aim they have and how vicious they can be.

Most horses use these defensive techniques as a warning, so they don’t really aim to connect. I’ve seen my own horses in the past give a very gentle kick to one of my pups who didn’t yet have barn etiquette down — just enough to roll the pup and scare him into a little more respect. The horse could easily have killed the puppy if he had wanted to. So most of the time an offer to bite or kick is simply a warning that you are pulling the cinch up too tight and too fast or that you’re forgetting how one leg has to be handled differently because of an old injury.

But not the dude I talked to a few days ago, Gus. Given a description of his behavior, I expected him to be scattered in his thinking and unwilling to communicate. But instead he was clear as a bell and was happy to let me know, over and over again, that he had no intention of changing his behavior or trying to get along.

So what was going on here? Well first, the horse was born with an attitude. He was very haughty from the get-go. Second, he was left a stud until he was a year and a half old which certainly would not help an I’m-king-of-the-world stance. Third, he had a bad accident shortly after being gelded that required months of painful rehab. And fourth (at least to my way of thinking), he had received many rabies shots* in his short four years.

The horse was pissed. He had been in pain for much of his life (and still was, he showed me), and he had learned early on that he could easily intimidate the humans around him. So why not?

I don’t know what will happen to this horse, but if he cannot be rehabbed he is truly a danger to all humans. A horse in this shape has very special needs — physical and mental — and there are few people truly equipped to satisfy them. Patience and love can help a lot, but finding the right combination of feed, activity, supplements, and meds is key as well.

As we all well know from our over-crowded prisons, shifting a mean streak in a hardened criminal is not easy.  Sometimes it cannot be done at all. The bottom line seems to lie in the individual’s nature itself. Some horses, and people, can experience tons of abuse and still be forgiving, loving individuals. Others can suffer the smallest insult and never let it go. I hope Gus can be rehabbed eventually, but if not I sure hope the people around him don’t allow themselves to be victimized or maimed by his mean spirit.


* Over-vaccinating can be very detrimental to animal or human. The rabies vaccine in particular can affect the nervous system in deleterious ways, including exacerbating aggression. To read more about how vaccines really work, go HERE.

Leave a comment »