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Friday, December 31, 2010

Side Effects of NSAIDs - BUTE

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs or NSAIDs are used to treat pain and inflammation. The most common NSAIDs used on horses is phenylbutazone or bute. All too often horses are over treated with this drug which is not without side effects. Research has shown that bute causes bowel wall inflammation and stomach ulcers. The most common side effect is mouth ulcerations and GI tract ulcerations. Other side effects are renal damage, bleeding disorders, bone marrow suppression and protein loss.

The body's natural response to injury or infection is inflammation. It is the way the immune system responds to provide an environment around the injury that will protect and repair the injured tissues. Due to this natural response of the immune system, pain and stiffness results. Inflammation therefore has a purpose in the healing process. Bute works by inhibiting a class of enzymes called cyclo-oxygenases also known as COX. These enzymes are needed for normal kidney function and also for the secretion of the protective lining of the intestinal tract and the production of blood cells. COX enzymes are needed not only for these normal functions but also for the normal healing of tissues after injuries.

High doses of bute over a period of time will result in ulcerations of the stomach and GI tract and kidney damage. Recent research has shown that bute slows the production of joint cartilage and bone healing and interferes with normal thyroid function.

There are herbal remedies and enzymes that work without side effects to offer pain relief and assist the body in the healing process. More companies are aware of this need and offer some very effective alternatives such as NoBute, devil's claw, boswellia, white willow bark, tumeric and bromelain in combination with other nutrients to provide relief and comfort during the healing process. These are effective and safe for long term use as an alternative to bute.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Communicating with Horses

There are many ways that horses communicate to us.  You do not have to be psyhic to communicate with them but you do need to learn their language.  They speak to us through actions, body movements, expressions, behavior patterns and sounds. 
Horses respond to different levels of communication. Our tone of voice, the expression of our body carriage, and the way we walk send a message to the horse. Our mood or intentions are first communicated by the way we greet the horse. In the moment that the horse sees you approaching, his eye observes your gait and posture, his ear listens to the tone of your voice, and his mind interprets every body position or movement. The response is immediate. This subtle form of communication happens on a subconscious level of understanding and is received and interpreted on a daily basis during interaction with others. This level of communication can be called automatic acuity.

We automatically perceive and receive information about a horse's state of being.  What is difficult is translating it into information and words that your conscious mind can understand and know as correct.  If a horse does not like something, he may be very animated in his response to it.  He may bite, pin his ears, kick out, back up, rear, bolt etc.  This response is easier to interpret because in most cases there was an object or procedure that triggered it. 

The subtle signals most horses give are often overlooked.  For example; you are tacking up your horse and approaching with the saddle pad.  The horse gets restless acting and may act as if a fly is bothering him.  This  reaction is often misinterpreted because it is so subtle.  Time goes on and the horse continues to give these subtle forms of communication to their owner. Perhaps your horse starts to become girthy and/or grind their teeth when being saddled. All of these hints if left unnoted eventually turn into bigger and bigger signals, such as biting at their sides when saddled, or even trying to bite at you, and maybe kicking out.  The horse is punished for this behavior.  His complaint is not heard.   It continues and eventually you have a lameness show up or a sore back, or ulcers etc.  The horse did warn you.  We must teach ourselves to pay attention to all the signals your horse gives you to prevent future problems.   By honoring your horse and always asking first before doing something you will develop a better communication and relationship with your horse.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ulcers in horses

Horses by nature are grazing animals. They are meant to eat all day long. The modern way that we keep horses does not allow this natural process, therefore the domestic horse suffers many different type of digestive disorders associated with this unnatural feeding process.

One such problem is ulcers. Studies have shown that 60% of horses suffer from ulcers.  A horse that is fed twice a day and stands in the stall all day long without any food is at high risk for developing ulcers. The symptoms of ulcers can vary and usually show as being girthy, picky eaters, nervousness, tucked up gut, back soreness, sensitivity to being groomed, mouthy, biting, hind end lameness, pinning of the ears when being saddled, loose or watery stools, hard keepers, pain and weight loss.

The health of the stomach and hind gut is crucial to your horse's health and soundness. Training issues may be caused from a horse that is in pain as a result of ulcers. Stress is a contributing factor and when a horse travels from barn to barn for shows, is relocated, or pressured to perform, or even losing a horse buddy causes distress and therefore puts your horse more at risk for developing ulcers. Environmental factors play a big role in the health of your horse's digestive system. Nervous horses are at highest risk of developing ulcers.

Ulcers occur in the stomach and the hind gut. The hind gut is often overlooked. It consists of the cecum and the colon and is vital to the health of the digestive system. Horses are hind gut fermenters. What this means is most of its energy and nutrients are obtained by the fermenting process in the hind gut.

Extensive research has been done to confirm that ulcers of the hind gut do exist. How does a horse get hind gut ulcers? The most common cause is the use of NSAIDs like the common anti-inflammatory phenylbutazone, or Bute. NSAIDs work to reduce pain and inflammation by blocking certain chemicals called prostaglandins. Damaged tissue and healthy tissue both have prostaglandins and NSAIDs do not differentiate. The healthy tissues of the hind gut are responsible for the mucus production and blood flow, when the prostaglandins are blocked by the use of bute, ulcers develop in the right dorsal colon due the destruction of the mucus lining of the intestinal tract. A horse with ulcers in the right dorsal colon will be more sensitive on the right side below or around the loins and flank area and can exhibit an off beat with the right hind leg. Medications such as NSAIDs, antibiotics, wormers and other prescribed medicines can interrupt the natural friendly microbial population of the hind gut and create a myriad of digestive upsets including ulcers.

Hindgut Acidosis can cause hind gut ulcers. The overload of starch and sugar and processed feeds in the modern equine diet causes the bacteria to produce lactic acid. This raises the acidity of the hind gut by lowering the pH. This condition allows the bad bacteria to multiply leading to ulcers. Hindgut acidosis is caused by modern feeding practices and can be prevented by eliminating sweet feeds and other processed grains from the diet.

Parasites are another cause of ulcers although with a good worming program this is not usually a problem. Using natural wormers such as Wormcheck and getting fecal counts on a regular basis so you do not overworm is a good practice.

Exercising a horse on an empty stomach can also contribute to gastric ulcers. It has been discovered that during exercise the stomach acids will splash onto the upper 1/3 of the stomach which causes irritation and can cause ulcers. Your horse should never be ridden on an empty stomach. Give them a handful of cubes or pellets before tacking up. It absorbs the acids and makes your horse more willing to work.

There are many products on the market today to help prevent or heal ulcers. Most of them address gastric ulcers which are of the stomach. Colonic or hind gut ulcers are equally as important. I have used just about every product out there in regards to digestive health. Most of them did nothing. There are some that worked with great results. Some the things I found that work well are listed below.

1. Oat Bran or Oat Flour. Feed 1/2 cup of oat bran or oat flour mixing it with some pellets and adding water. The oat bran coats and heals the hind gut and provides beta glucans which support the immune system. This can be given before riding.

2. Cabbage powder. 1/2 tablespoon 2 - 3 times a day. Cabbage is high in the amino acid L-Glutamine. This amino acid has been proven to heal the lining of the stomach and intestinal tract.

3. Pumpkin Seeds. Feed 2 ounces a day. These little miraculous seeds are high in nitric oxide which is what the body needs to heal and repair anything that needs to be healed. They have anti-inflammatory properties and are useful with arthritis and other joint discomforts. They are high in minerals that help to increase bone density. They support the immune system and are an anti-parasitic.

4. Fenugreek seed powder. 1/2 tablespoon twice a day. Fenugreek improves digestion, reduces inflammation, lowers blood glucose levels making it good for diabetic conditions, soothes and heals the intestinal tract and has cardiovascular benefits.

5. Hemp Seed Oil. 1/2 to 1 ounce daily. Hemp seed Oil is a source of both LA (Omega 6) and LNA (Omega 3) essential fatty acids and essential amino acids in balanced proportions. Benefits include increased stamina, speeds healing, calmness, reduces inflammation, enhances immune functions, reduces the pain and swelling of arthritis, improve concentration and increases the availability of nutrients.

6. Braggs Raw Apple Cider Vinegar. 2 ounces daily. Raw unpasturized apple cider vinegar is high in enzymes which help to flush toxins from the body. Enzymes are responsible for all cellular functions. Apple cider vinegar promotes healthy joints, boosts the immune system, helps dissolve calcium deposits, improves urinary tract health, stimulates proper digestion, helps the horse improve resistance to parasites. It must be raw and unpasturized to get the benefits.

7. Probiotics. Fed according to manufacturer directions. These are extremely important to maintain the proper intestinal flora. Should be used after any type of stress or medications, including worming. It is safe to use on a daily basis. Probiotics help populate the friendly microflora to support a healthy digestive system and immune system. There are many on the market. The best ones I have found are Advanced Biological Concepts Pro-bi and ABC, Earthsong Ranch,  Vitaflex Micro Balance, Bio Mos and Yea-Sacc from Oak Creek services

8. Rapid Response. This product is packed full of glyconutrients, is fast acting and works extremely well. Contains Anti-inflammatories, antioxidants, glucosamines and glyconutrients. Speeds recovery of injuries, excellent for joint pain, arthritis, ulcers, and more. Recommended by veterinarians to provide advanced nutritional support for the special dietary needs of animals in maintaining the health of skeletal structure, tendons and soft tissues particularly following trauma induced injuries. Visit website

9. Herbal blends such as Ulcerase from Advanced Biological concepts.

10. Chamomile. This herb aids digestion, is calming to the digestive system and soothes the intestinal lining. It has anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

11. Succeed Digestive Conditioning program.  This program works very extremely well.   It is well worth it.

12. Lecithin granules.  Lecithin is derived from soy and is a naturally occurring group of phospholipids that's found in nearly every living cell.   Research has shown that lecithin cures equine gastric ulcers.  It does this by making the stomach lining stronger at the cellular membrane level and enhances the rest of the digestive system as well.  

13. Apple Pectin.   Pectin is a fiber found in all plant cell walls and tissue.  Apples contain a high amount of pectin providing a soluble fiber which means it can disperse or spread in water .  It's use as natural remedy for digestive disorders is well documented.  The latest research indicates that when given with Lecithin acts to stabilize the lecithin making it more effective.  It is recommended to give 1/2 cup of lecithin granules with 1 tablespoon of apple pectin for best results.   There is a product called Starting Gate that offers stabilized lecithin in this form.  

To keep your horse healthy, sound and free of ulcers the correct feeding program is of utmost importance. A horse who has gastric ulcers will not eat that well despite being give hay 24/7. This is because their stomach hurts. You must first address the ulcers and then your horse will enjoy eating and you will find they will not be as finicky. If your horse is stabled and does not have access to pastures, good quality grass hays should be available for them all day long. A small amount of alfalfa is acceptable because it is higher in calcium. The calcium helps absorb the excess acids. It doesn't matter whether your horse has ulcers or is ulcer prone, they should have access to free choice hay all day.

If you treat the symptom without making dietary changes by giving antacids this disturbs the natural digestive process and actually causes the stomach to produce more acid.  You get results, it appears that your horse is better but in a few weeks or even a few days, the symptoms return again.  You treat again and the cycle continues on.  It is important to heal the stomach and/or hind gut ulcers for a complete and healthy recovery. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Frog Infections

The photo above is of a healthy frog.
Most often overlooked is the health of the frog on the horse's hoof.  Frog infections are easily missed by owners and vets.  A horse can pass a vet check and have a serious deep frog infection.  I have seen farrier's overlook bad frog infections.  The horse is usually labeled as having navicular or some other cause of lameness.  In most cases, none of these horses have navicular, they have a deep infection of the central sulcus.  This type of infection presents itself with closed bulbs, contracted heels,  a slit for the central sulcus or decayed frog in place of the sulcus, and/or curved bars which pinch off the frog corium preventing proper circulation and function of the frog.

For healing to take place, the horse must be barefoot and trimmed in a natural balanced way.  Disinfectants and anti-fungal ointments must be applied on a regular basis and the foot must be kept clean and dry.  The hoof needs to be scrubbed clean with an anti-fungal shampoo and then treated on a daily basis.   The best treatments I  have used that work are Thrush Magic, Well Horse Thrush Off, No Thrush and my own mixture of oregano oil and grapefruit seed extract equal parts.  These must be injected into the central sulcus.  There are many products on the market that work well such as White Lightning.  Finding the right one that works for your horse and it's environment is important.

The horse's environment must be clean and dry.   You will not be able to clear the infection if the horse is constantly in an environment that is damp, and wet and is the breeding ground for yeast infections and fungal infections.  Sanitize rubber mats and other areas in which your horse stands.  If you board your horse, there are many different horses that may use the same cross tie, wash rack etc.  These areas are perfect breeding grounds for these infections.  You don't know if the horse before you has an infection.  If they do, it can easily be transferred to your horse in these areas.  These areas can be sanitized using bleach and then hosed off.

The photo at the top of the page is the left front present day. The photo below is the left front a year ago with the infection.  Under that one is the right front with infection and under that is the right front one year later.  This horse passed a thorough vet check with this serious infection.  Take note of how the bulbs in the photo above are opened and spread and compare that to the one below, where the central sulcus is a slit and the bulbs have folded in closing off the area, creating a perfect breeding ground.  The frog in the infected foot is compressed and narrow, and the frog in the healthy foot is spread and plump.  These photos present an obvious difference.

Please check your horses frogs.  If you see slits where there should be a central sulcus you have an infection.  If your horse never seems quite right, something off but you can't pinpoint it or are a little tenderfooted, check the frog.  It is essential to their soundness.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Energy Centers of the Horse

Your horse has an energy system, both physical and etheric. The system encompasses the chakra centers.  These centers hold the memory of the past  and present emotional traumas. Any aspect of emotional energy that has not been healed or released affects the health and mental state of the entire being. 

There are many reasons for the energy system of the equine to become sluggish, blocked or broken.  Chronic pain, poorly fitted tack, improper hoof maintenance, unbalanced riding, poor nutrition, stress or an emotional habit creates a blockage in the energy system.  If left unattended, eventually lameness or other physical discomforts manifest. Symptoms may include but are not limited to; uneven gait, pain, lack of enthusiasm, evasions and spooking. 

The horse naturally is wired for flight or fight.  If he is in pain or discomfort or a frustrating situation, he will choose one of the two options or both. This will manifest in the form of evasions such as shying, stopping, bolting, bucking, and much more.  The evasions are whatever the horse feels it needs for self-preservation at the present moment.

Color codes for Chakras:
              • Crown: White
              • Third Eye: Purple
              • Throat: Blue
              • Heart: Pink & Green
              • Solar Plexus: Yellow
              • Navel: Orange
              • Root: Black & Red

Energy-Meridian therapy or Pranic healing can help to locate areas of distress in the body as well as recharge the cellular structure.  It is a slow release of trapped emotional energy associated with trauma or discomfort.   Think of it as an electrical current running through the body.  You cannot see these currents but if the current hits a frayed or broken wire, the current becomes weak or dispersed.  It manifests itself physically by symptoms of fatigue, weakness or illness. Energy balancing mends the frays and restores a complete circuit of the life force allowing the body to heal itself.

If the cause of the imbalance is not corrected, it is only a temporary relief.  In most cases, poorly fitted tack, improperly shod or trimmed hooves, and poor riding, training and miscommunications are the major causes of these imbalances.   

With a holistic approach to riding and training your horse, these imbalances can correct itself over time if the cause is recognized and corrected.  The more you ride in balance with your horse and allow the horse to carry itself in balance with the rider, the less you as a rider interfere with what the horse knows how to do naturally.  The result is a release of trapped emotional energy, pain and discomfort for both the horse and the rider.  Riding and communicating with your horse becomes effortless. Both horse and rider are happy.

Zen Horsemanship

Zen horsemanship communicates with your horse in a language he can understand. This ensures a good emotional attitude and healthy environment that keeps the horse of sound mind and body.

Zen Horsemanship is a holistic approach and takes riding into a realm of deeper spiritual awareness and growth where it becomes an art form. It incorporates all the systems of the horse holistically. This includes body, mind and spirit of both horse and rider/owner.

Each individual handling and riding a horse has a responsibility. This is one of nurturing, training and communicating. It is a mutual understanding based on trust and respect. Communication is precise and the results are happy horses willing to work for their owners/riders.

Many of the problems associated with riding horses originate from the rider. As long as the horse is sound, the position of the rider is utmost important to allow optimum control and communication. The rider communicates through the seat, leg, hand and voice aids. If these are not in harmony with the rhythm of the horse, the communication is not clear and you have a frustrated horse and rider.

Riding is about balance and feel. If you are out of balance you can’t feel the rhythm of the horse, thus, you can’t time the aids. You cannot interpret what the horse is telling you. When you are in balance, meaning sitting in your center as well as the horse’s center of gravity, the energy running through the spine aligns and connects from heaven's energy to earth's energy. This opens a channel and allows clarity of mind or empty mind. This state of mind nurtures a reception center for receiving communication from your horse and the environment. You are better able to sense or read what the horse is thinking about before he has a chance to respond or react in a negative way. This creates a safer atmosphere for you and your horse. Riding in balance allows you to apply proper leg and hand aids in time with the stride of your horse and to recognize any abnormalities in the gait of the horse.

This holistic approach opens a doorway into understanding and connecting with the horse at a level of oneness. All living things are influenced by a life force that flows in and around us. When a balanced rider synchronizes their “Ki” or life force with that of the horse, harmony and a clear line of communication is the result. Both are working towards the same goal instead of in opposition. Applied awareness to all that we do nurtures an atmosphere of growth.

Groundwork is essential to establish your lines of communication and position in the herd. Proper lungeing techniques allow you to prepare your horse for when he is mounted by teaching him to respond to voice cues, leg and hand aids and most important to go forward.

Everytime you handle and/or ride your horse you are training him. The more you become aware of how this process works, you begin to notice the little things you may have been allowing that creates a negative response or behavior and the correction is made to instill only those positive attributes you would like to encourage. It begins with the mind of the rider/trainer or handler.

The horse needs to know who is in charge of the herd. If it is not established, he will become confused or try to take charge. This is established the moment you approach him continuing through to grooming, tacking, and riding. If the horse understands his place and knows what is expected of him, he responds with obedience and willingness to please. If the owner/rider/ trainer is not clear in establishing this simple means of communication, the horse will develop bad habits and vices and possibly become unsafe to ride or handle.

Zen and the Horse

I am the author of Zen and the Horse.  I started this book back in 1990 while studying marital arts and riding horses.   Over the course of 10 years it has evolved into Zen and the Horse.  The book was reviewed by Writer's Digest and USDF Connection.  Below are the reviews:

"This is a very interesting and intelligent little book; the author takes a unique approach to teaching centered, balanced riding, using Eastern philosophy as a context for mastering the art of equitation.  The author writes with credible authority and conveys ideas and concepts clearly and vividly.  Most important, the book delivers what it promises. It does provide specific advice for equestrians hoping to achieve this zen state in their riding." As reviewed by Writer's Digest, 2004.

"Several modern dressage writers, such as the well-known trainer Paul Belasik (Riding Towards the Light;Dressage for the 21st Century), have gone beyond the mere mechanics of riding to compare the study of dressage with the pursuit of a higher consciousness or even a religious quest of sorts.  In this vein comesZen and the HorseBody, Mind and Spiritual Unity, Through the Art of Equitation, by trainer, karate black belt and spiritual advisor, Pamela Au.

Zen and the Horse is not a how-to book; rather it strives to marry the principles of Zen Buddhism to riding and to our relationships with horses, with the goal of helping the reader to re-think those activities with heightened consciousness.  Some of Au's concepts may be lost on the beginner rider, for whom the basics of "whoa and go" may be quite challenge enough; but they may spark some insights and new understandings in the more accomplished equestrian of any discipline, as this is not a dressage book per se.  The principles that Au presents are simple and by no means new -love, passion, trust, and self-respect, to name just a few- but they're lovely when applied to riding. In an equestrian age in which winning trumps all and more than a few egomaniacs pepper our world, I particularly like the use of the word humbleness." Reviewed by Jennifer O. Bryant, Editor, USDF Connection, October 2003 issue.

Welcome to My World of the Horse

Welcome to my world of the horse. My two gorgeous horses Zeus and Fergus are on my header. Zeus is the grey one. He is a Hanoverian, stands 19H tall and is one noble being. Zeus has been with me since he was 2 years old. I have started him and trained him up to 3rd level Dressage. Fergus, the bay, is an Oldenburg, 16.3H and is as loveable as a puppy dog. Fergus has only been with me for one year. We are still getting to know each other. It is a discovery process. I am blessed to have them in my life.

My passion is horses. I have been involved with training, riding, caring and communicating with these magnificent animals for over 30 years. The wisdom gained from those years of experience and devotion is what I bring to you.

The horse is our teacher and as long as we remember this, we will continue to learn from them. They are intuitive, sensitive, intelligent animals who by nature want to please us. Their social structure promotes this. Sadly, in the wrong hands they can become dangerous and sour and suffer needlessly. More on this later.

I have trained with several top trainers and clinicians. My background is dressage. I am a certified equine iridologist, herbalist, barefoot technician, author of Zen and the Horse and healer. I was born under the sun sign of Sagittarius and in the year of the Horse. Communication with the horse is second nature for me.

If you have any horse related questions please feel free to contact me. Visit my website

Disclaimer:  I am not a veterinarian.  Always consult with your vet in regards to your animals welfare.  What I offer is information so that you can make educated decisions in regards to your horse's health, care and training.