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Women & Horses by Mary D. Midkiff - horseback riding fitness techniques for women

Women & Horses, knowledge for the female equestrian; female equestrian fitness training and riding tips

Make the Best of These Quiet Months
by Mary D. Midkiff

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The Women & Horses Newsletter - January 2007

Happy New Year Everyone! I hope all of you had a joyous holiday season with friends, family, pets and of course, your horses.

Now that the holidays are behind us we can enjoy a couple of quiet months before the Spring season begins. Even if it is difficult to exercise your horses during these cold weather months, go out and give them attention.

Horses need and enjoy healthy circulation and you can help generate blood flow through massage, acupressure, magnet blankets and stretches. You have the ability within your hands to generate energy, circulation and health while your horse is just standing around. Hopefully your horse is able to go outside everyday and has plenty of air, space and light in his or her life. You can add to these grey, wet days by spending time with your horse even if only for a few minutes, they appreciate it and look forward to your visits.

I am currently writing an article for Equine Wellness Magazine on rider confidence. If you haven’t seen this magazine yet be sure to check it out. It is an incredibly comprehensive magazine for the horse, pony and the rider and it covers so many topics of interest to us all.

I had a fascinating experience recently that I wanted to share with you. I was a presenter at the Equine Affaire Expo in West Springfield, Massachusetts and met a fellow presenter named Lydia Hiby. She is a professional animal communicator and I attended one of her clinics. It was amazing to listen to her communication with several different horses and see the amazement on the face of the owners as she revealed so many insights into their horse's behaviors.

I decided to introduce myself to her and asked her about a session with my horse. She told me to go to her website and follow the instructions. I sent her a check for $40, which gets me a 15 minute phone session, plus a photo of my horse and some information including his name, age and how long I had owned him. I called Lydia on the following Wednesday during her session hours and after a few busy signals was able to reach her.

Before I even had a chance to ask Lydia a question she said quickly, "He (my horse Redge) wants you to know right away he thinks it is so cool that you consider him a gift. And, oh, he wants you to introduce him to people as "Sir Redge" not just plain Redge." I was astounded and had to laugh. It sounded so much like his personality. I told Lydia to send a message back that I think the world of him and I would be happy to oblige on the introductions.

Then she asked me what I wanted to know. I asked her about his fussiness about being quiet and content "on the bit." I told her he is a million times better since I have been working with him than he used to be but I haven't had that breakthrough yet of knowing the he is really comfortable and happy about his mouth. I told Lydia he has had the best of dental care every 6 months and has been chiropracted and massaged for alignment. Lydia then told me that Redge had had an undershot jaw as a foal and his TMJ/jaw joint had been sensitive for awhile as he grew up. Even though his jaw had leveled out over time, he never forgot the sensitivity of his jaw and the funny feeling it gave him. She said his TMJ needs to be adjusted by a chiropractor right away and he wants a Full Cheek snaffle bit. Needless to say I was interested in this information and couldn’t wait to try it all out.

She went on to tell me that he had always felt like he was in first grade when everyone else was in fourth and it has taken him a long time to catch up. Lydia noted that his body and mind are fine now but it has taken him a long time to mature. She told me Redge was willing to do anything I wanted and was looking forward to our future together.

I also asked about the puffiness that occurs around his throatlatch when he grazes for several hours. She revealed that there was something sour or not right about his mother's milk that had caused him to have allergic reactions which affected his lymph glands. I told Lydia that I had spent six months de-toxing Redge and hoped that would help him. I shared with her that he is less swollen than he used to be but his glands still slightly swell with lots of grazing. Lydia did not have a solution but at least gave me the source of the issue.

I finished up the session by asking about his food, saddle, environment all of which she said were fine. She said he is a very happy horse now and has a big smile on his face.

The next day I called Dr. Deb Schultz a local veterinarian who specializes in chiropractic and acupuncture. She was able to come out the following Tuesday to give Redge an exam. I told her about my conversation with Lydia and Deb was as curious as I as to what she would find. Sure enough, Redge’s body was out of alignment in many places including his TMJ. Deb worked on him and found painful spots in his head and jaw, Atlas joint at the poll, a couple of ribs and both hips were locked up and tight. She made the needed adjustments then applied acupuncture needles all over his body to increase the healing.

In the meantime, I went to the tack store and bought a full cheek snaffle bit with a copper roller in the center along with keepers to attach to the cheek pieces on his bridle.

I started riding Redge the following day with Deb's instructions but he was really sore from the treatment, so I just hand walked him for about 30 minutes. I walked him under saddle for 45 minutes for the next 4 days until I felt like he was loose and free in his movement. By the end of the first week I started trotting and by the end of the second week I added in canter work. Redge absolutely loves the new feeling that he has in his head and neck and we have finally found the perfect bit for him!

I have tried so many bits I can't mention them all; I have a big pile of steel in my trunk to prove it. He has been happy to go on the bit, to stretch into the bit and to work in self-carriage with the bit now for 4 weeks without fussing or trying to escape from any mouth pressure. I am amazed and delighted to have my horse be so happy in his body, mind and soul and enjoying his dressage work.

He has another check up on January 11 with Deb and we will see how he is doing but from everything he is telling me, he is doing great. I am so appreciative to Lydia for her communication skills and providing me with this helpful information. And I will contact her again when and if I have future questions for her.

Whether you are a skeptic or not, I have found animal communicators to be a valuable tool when we are just not quite sure how to pinpoint the origin of an issue. If I had called Lydia a long time ago I could have saved a lot of money that I spent on bits. Oh well, live and learn.

Lydia’s website is www.lydiahiby.com and her book is Conversations with Animals.

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I thought you would find the information below educational and enjoyable. I received this from my vet, Dr. Nancy Loving, and with her permission I am passing it along to you.

A few highlights from the 2006 American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Annual Conference:

1. On the subject of oral joint supplements, everyone agrees that you want to get the best value for your money. Careful scientific studies evaluated bioavailability of oral glucosamine products, and found that in the best case, it is only at 6%. And of that small amount of uptake, the concentration of glucosamine in the joints is less than 10% of the level in the blood. This means that any glucosamine that gets absorbed does not readily diffuse from the circulation into the synovial fluid of the joints. And, there is concern that even if glucosamine makes it into the joint fluid, cartilage cells cannot use it as substrate for producing glycosaminoglycans, whereas cartilage cells may be able to form glucosamine from normally available glucose in the joints. Not only that, there is concern that not all glucosamine manufacturers have scientific evidence to support their products, and in many cases (14 of 23) the amount of product listed on the label was not in fact present, at times containing less than 30 % of the expected amount. These products are poorly regulated by the FDA. The conclusion: Be wary of which glucosamine products you buy, and do not rely solely on glucosamines to manage joint problems. Its efficacy has not been proven while other joint therapies (intra-articular injection, Adequan, and Legend) may yield far better results.

2. It is becoming more obvious that overly judicious use of antibiotics, particularly when not absolutely necessary, is spawning more resistant strains of prevalent bacteria. This has become one of the greatest public health issues facing human medicine, and antibiotic use in veterinary medicine contributes to the problem. I will be working on an article for The Horse Magazine next year discussing the rational and ethical use of antibiotics, so stay tuned. In the meantime, keep in mind that antibiotics should not be used indiscriminately, and only used with careful selection of appropriate antibiotics to address a bacterial problem.

3. Normally, Staphylococcus aureus resides on skin and nasal passages in people, but it can invade and infect soft tissue, or elicit overwhelming, life-threatening systemic infections. This bacteria has now mutated to be resistant to the most potent antibiotics, and represents a major cause of illness and death in human hospitals. There is on-going concern about methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA) bacterial infections as an occupational risk for veterinary professionals, as well as being a concern for horse owners, particularly on breeding farms or farms with large herds. Regionally, it appears that horses are showing more colonization with this bacteria. This pathogen of domestic animals can be transmitted between animals and humans even if a horse or person shows no clinical signs. Excellent hygiene measures (hand washing, cleanliness) should be followed by everyone when handling horses.

4. Equine viral arteritis (EVA) has become seriously important as a rapidly emerging infectious disease in horses in the United States. A mare bred with infected semen then sheds the virus and can spread it to others. In non-breeding horses it causes a fever and limb edema, but can be catastrophic to the breeding industry by its abortion rate of about 50%. Currently, all states are formulating control measures to restrict transmission of this disease. Stay tuned for another article I am writing in The Horse Magazine about EVA. At this time, only breeding mares and stallions should be tested and immunized. I will update you as more information becomes available about the logistics of immunizing and the rationale for doing so.

5. Immunization with any of the West Nile vaccines results in 100 percent survival of exposed horses. A new vaccine is also now available that combines portions of the human yellow fever virus with West Nile virus to produce a "chimera." It is reported that this vaccine provides fairly rapid onset of immunity with a single injection, with immunity lasting up to 12 months in 95% of horses.

6. The focus of this year's conference was on the equine foot, and most of the information corroborated the trimming and shoeing recommendations you've heard me suggest for a long time: Back up the toes, maintain a cup to the sole, maintain sufficient sole depth, balance each hoof, align the hoof and the pastern axis, and provide ample heel support if shod. Very importantly, it is now recognized that there is a period of several years in the life of a young horse that the foot, particularly the complex structures in the heels, has the opportunity to mature and develop provided a horse is allowed regular turnout and exercise. Couple these strategies with good genetics, and you're on the right track to lasting hoof soundness!

7. One in-depth lecture of the conference was on Colic, presented by Dr. Nat White reviewing risk factors, the physiology of intestinal injury, and appropriate medical and surgical treatment. Dr. White confirmed all those prevention points I have been recommending in regards to feeding:

  • Change feed slowly over 7 – 10 days
  • Minimize feeding of grains and supplements
  • Feed at least 60 % of the diet in the form of roughage
  • If supplements are necessary, use high fat and high fiber and low starch feed when possible, avoiding grain
  • Test different diets for recurrent colic cases
  • Provide free choice forage to minimize gastric ulcers
  • Provide free choice water at all times
  • Check regularly for sand, and use psyllium as preventive strategy
  • Implement routine parasite control measures
  • Minimize use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like bute or Banamine
  • Maintain a rigid feeding schedule, keeping to routine
  • Provide plenty of exercise and turn out

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Keep doing your stretches, Pilates and Yoga work during January and February in preparation for more focused riding in the Spring. It will pay off and your horse will greatly appreciate it!

I will be presenting seminars and demonstrations at the Equine Affaire in Pomona, California January 31-February 3. I will also be a presenter at the Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio in April. Go to www.equineaffaire.com for more information.

Hope to see you at one of my presentations soon.

Happy Riding,

Mary D. Midkiff

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