Everyone and Happy New Year! I hope it is starting out well
for you and your horse partners.
in the middle of preparing my next book proposal, becoming
anti-social and hiding in libraries to get this accomplished.
My next book, if accepted by a publisher, will be about
a woman of 1910. She was a cowgirl, a rodeo star, a dancer,
sharpshooter, archer, world champion lariatist and a horsewoman.
I plan on spending the next two years involved with this
project so I won't be as public or traveling as much as
I usually do.
this past week I had an incident that I think all of you
should know about and be aware of for your own horse's safety.
I came back from vacation with my family on December 29
and checked in on my mare, Anna. She had been fine when
I rode her three days earlier.
a tiny white dot on her left eye and noticed she was tearing
more than usual. I called my vet and she came out the next
morning. The vet put a dye solution in her eye to isolate
the ulcer and get a better look at it through magnified
lenses. Something either punctured her eye, such as a tall
piece of dried grass, or a foreign object had gotten into
her eye from the high winds we had experienced that weekend
and scratched the cornea causing an infection. Either way,
my vet recommended that we treat it with antibiotics and
topical drops and ointments.
out her orders and for one week twice per day we medicated
her and kept a fly mask on her to protect the eye. The white
spot changed and began breaking up and thinning out but
it did not go away. My vet and I agreed to call in an equine
eye specialist. We are so lucky to have specialists and
alternative resources here, I am always grateful for that.
Steve Roberts came on Wednesday, January 7 and cultured
the ulcer. Much to our great surprise, it was a fungal infection
and had to be removed immediately or we would chance loosing
the eye. Out here in the west it is so dry that there is
hardly ever a fungal infection issue. In the eastern part
of the U.S. it is common and the vets know how to handle
it right away. But in our case, my vet told me she has seen
only two other fungal infections in a horse's eye for over
Roberts crew called several surgery clinics in the area
to have Anna scheduled in that afternoon. We got Anna up
to a private clinic in Laporte, Colorado and the surgery
commenced at 3 p.m. Dr. Roberts cut out the infected area
and grafted a piece of conjunctiva tissue back into the
corneal crater the ulcer had caused. He also threaded a
piece of tiny tubing into her upper eyelid, over her ears
and into a bulb pump that is taped to her neck. The pump
sends a constant slow drip of several medications into her
eye alleviating the need for me to medicate her manually
several times per day.
is to wear the pump and tubing for 8-9 days and stay in
her stall and run to let the eye heal. So far, all is going
well but we will not know for sure how the eye is healing
for a few days yet. Otherwise, Anna is happy, healthy and
vets have told me that you never try to take care of a horse's
eye by yourself. Always call a vet or eye specialist in
right away. The cornea of the eye does not have enough tissue
to fight any kind of an infection, especially a fungus,
and ultimately can fail without recovery. You risk loosing
the eye in any case.
want to stress again the importance of recognizing and altering
your horse's nervous system issues. I have written about
this before but I keep coming across people with horses
they don't understand or know what to do with. Consider
the nervous system on a scale of 1-10, 1 being so dull and
malnourished that they are near death to 10 where they are
so high strung and nervous they are dangerous and life threatening
to those around them. Where is your horse living?
it should be around 5-6. If he's sick or not feeling well
he may drop to 3-4, on the other hand if he is scared or
unsure of something he may spike to an 8-9. This is normal
but they should all return to 5-6 on a regular basis. Arabians
and Thoroughbreds are the breeds that normally run the hottest.
They can easily maintain around an 8 but that doesn’t mean
it is safe or healthy. These two breeds and breeds that
share their blood need the most attention to their nervous
system in order to be a fun, safe and reliable riding horse.
They often "leave their body" and go elsewhere with their
focus, when this happens it becomes a dangerous situation
for you as the rider or handler. They are no longer thinking
of their feet, their weight, their place in space and time
or of you. They are focusing on something else. When that
"something else" decides to move or rattle or shake or snap
or bark or flap in the wind, the horse responds reflexively
without a split second of thought first.
a horse into his or her nervous system and teaching them
to "stay in their body" you are teaching safety, responsibility
and focus on you. You always need to have the ability to
bring a horse back to you in any situation, no matter how
are many ways to access and calm the nervous system. First,
however, I must ask that you think about what your horse
is eating because this will have an effect. How much work
is he or she getting in comparison to how much protein and
fiber her or she is getting? Most basic performance horses
do not need a feed containing more than 14% protein and
do well on grass hay and pasture.
you have your feed program balanced with the amount of work
the horse is getting then you can begin on helping the horse
tune in and shift his nervous system. There are mouth massage
techniques, acupressure points above the eyes in the sockets,
around the ears and in the upper part of the neck, massage
techniques throughout the body to find stiff and sore spots
of "holding and tension." Acupuncture and myofascial techniques
can also help with this process, and of course, a chiropractic
alignment is a good idea on occasion.
training, there are a great deal of in-hand exercises that
will work beautifully to begin to access and calm the nervous
system. In most horses, no amount of equipment, "wearing
them down" work or punishment will change or alter behavior.
You have to access the nervous system before any positive
result can be realized.
exercise is described in words and in photos in my book
Fitness, Performance and the Female Equestrian. It is called
"S"ing your horse in hand. With a snug fitting halter, place
your index and middle fingers under the T junction of the
halter or where the noseband meets the cheek piece. This
should be a snug fit. The other hand should be holding the
lead rope. While you are standing by his head start the
S by sending his head slowly away from you and back toward
you with a soft elbow movement. After a few of these he
should start relaxing and lowering his head. Anytime he
shows signs of chemical release and relaxation such as yawning,
chewing, licking, rolling his eyes, snorting, shaking his
head or dropping his head, reward him and tell him how good
he is. Give him a minute or two to think about what just
happened and begin the process again.
he starts demonstrating the signs of release while you are
standing with him you may advance this exercise into motion.
the same way with your two fingers under and grasping the
T joint of the halter with the other hand holding the lead
rope but this time take one step with your movement of sending
the head away from you. If you are standing at his left
side with your right hand under the T joint, then take a
step toward the right (about 2 o'clock on a watch) and send
his head away, then stop and take a step to the left and
bring his head toward you. Once he starts walking with you
do this technique all the way around the arena. Your feet
should be pointing in the direction you are sending his
head. You ultimately are making a long series of "S" shapes
around the arena.
you will ask the horse to S with you for about 10 strides
then give him his head and let him walk with you and think
about what has just happened. Then try it again and remember
to reward him when he shows signs of relaxation. After awhile
you will be able to S the horse a few times and get the
results immediately. This technique is very useful at horse
shows, the racetrack, on trail rides or in the vet box at
an event for getting the horse to focus and listen to you
and himself before you mount.
to continue learning about accessing the horse's nervous
system as much as possible. If you have any questions or
comments please write and I would be glad to share what
might work for you and your horse.
in the process of scheduling a few clinics for 2004 and
will post them as they are contracted. If you are interested
in having a clinic in your area, please write me and we
can discuss dates and the program that will best fit your
Women have a special magic with horses... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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