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Monday, April 4, 2011

Bitless Bridle

As with the tradition of horses needing steel shoes, comes metal bits inserted into the horse's mouth.  We all are guilty of this and the practice has not been questioned for hundreds of years until recently with the research of Dr. Cook.    Thanks to his work, more and more horse owners are recognizing that the old school of thought has been outdated and damaging.

When I first introduced Dr. Cook's bitless bridle to my horses, the look on their face was just amazing.  It was one of surprise and relief.  For many years, I struggled with trying different bits on my horse because he clearly showed anxiety when being bridled and became extremely nervous and agitated.  As time went on, this behavior got worse.  Eventually, he began exhibiting lameness only when bridled.   When lungeing with side reins he was a nervous wreck and the entire time of riding, even just standing on a loose rein he was fussing and clucking with the bit as if trying to spit it out.  

The first time bridling him with the bitless bridle, the conditioned behaviors started and as soon he realized there was no bit, he immediately stopped fussing and stood very quiet.  He even lowered his head into the bridle and was completely cooperative.  

From my experiences with Dr. Cook's bitless bridle, the horses respond to it positively.  It is as if they are stripped naked of all the evasions and now they can put their energy into working and traveling straight and correct with no pain.  It takes time to redo the negative behaviors that were created by the bit.  The horse becomes conditioned that the bit causes pain and is something to get away from, therefore the evasions are created out of self preservation.  They bulge their shoulders to either side, plow through your aids, track crooked, run, bolt, grab it and buck, pull the reins out the riders hands, bite down on the bit, curl behind it, break at the poll, cock their head, the list of evasions to the bit is endless.  

The retraining comes naturally as they begin to learn there is no reason to travel crooked, it is safe to move into the bridle and there is no pain.  For years we struggle with trying to teach the horse to get on our seat and leg aids and move forward into the 'bit'.   Steady hands are most important to not inflict pain and cause the horse to evade the contact.   Most of us are not olympic riders and although we do our best with quiet hands and seat, there are still times when we may pull or jerk on the reins, even a little bit, causes the horse to suck behind the aids, curl, tuck their nose, overbend etc.  

With the bitless bridle the horse is more than happy to move forward into the bridle and they will do so in a correct frame because they are allowed to do this without something inhibiting their natural movement.  I have found there is more control and more sensitivity with the bitless bridle.  The horse responds immediately and understands the request.  

A horse that overbends, which is often a difficult problem to correct because they are tucking behind the aids and tucking their nose behind the bit, will easily move up into the bitless bridle and stop overbending.  I have found you can collect, lengthen, leg yield, half pass, etc more correctly with the bitless bridle because it allows the horse the freedom to do so.   

The more I work with the bridle with different horses, the more impressed I am at how natural the response is from the horse and how quickly they catch on.  The aids for the rider remain the same, most importantly coming from the seat and legs and then into the bridle.  Halting is immediate. The signals with the reins are light yet the response is quick and precise.  It improves your communication with the horse.  

There are several companies making bitless bridles as they have become more and more popular.  I have not worked with other brands of  bitless bridles other than Dr. Cook's so I cannot attest to their effectiveness.  I am extremely impressed with Dr. Cook's bitless bridle.  

If you are still sitting on the fence about trying it, afraid you won't have control.   You have more control and  a happy horse.  Give it a try, your horse will love you for it.  

Why Barefoot?

What would happen if you walked around with your foot in a steel unforgiving shoe?  You might be laughing at the thought of how ridiculous this may sound and how obvious the discomfort would be.  Well, this is what horses are expected to do and the shoes never get to come off.   Yet it is an accepted school of thought that horses were meant to wear shoes and the thought of riding your horse barefoot is scorned by those who support steel shoes on their horses.  The extensive research of the natural barefoot hoof is unquestionable

For those of you still sitting on the fence about rehabilitating your horse's hooves and taking those steel shoes off, click to read this article.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Safe Horse Fencing

Not all fencing is suitable for horses.  All too often horses are seen fenced in barb wire, straight wire or some other type of unsafe confinement.  These type of fences are extremely dangerous for horses.  The damage done to a horse from improper fencing can permanently scar, maim, lame or kill a horse.  It causes unnecessary vet bills and stress.

Yes, good fencing costs more but the initial investment pays for itself and then some.  There is no substitute for proper fencing.  It provides peace of mind, knowing that your horse or horses are safe from harm.  An example of safe fencing is one that is highly visible to horses.  A grazing horse appears calm and it may seem to never go near the fence.  If that same horses is frightened and bolts, and the fencing is not visible, such as a wire fence, the horse will have a collision and may end up severely injured.  

The fence needs to be secure but also have some give so that should a horse bolt and collide with it, the damage to the fence and the horse is minimal.  It should be high enough to discourage the horse from jumping it and strong enough so the horse cannot push it over.  It should have no openings that can trap a hoof or a head and no sharp points for the horse to injure itself on.

With that said, there are many safe fencing options available that are specifically designed for the horse.  Do the research and plan well for the type of fence that will fit your needs and your budget.  Your horse's welfare depends on it.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Training Pyramid

There are no shortcuts to train a horse properly. There is a proven formula for success.  It is known as the training pyramid or training scale.  Visualize a pyramid with the base of support being rhythm.  This is the first step on the scale to be followed by suppleness, contact, impulsion, straightness and collection at the apex of the pyramid.

The rhythm of the horse is the foundation.  This is established when the horse can maintain a rhythmic, steady tempo within its natural four gaits.  The walk is a 4 beat, the trot is a 2 beat and the canter is a 3 beat.  The horse needs to be neither to fast or to slow and moving through the back to the front in a relaxed, supple way.  The rhythm must be established first. Each step of the pyramid builds on the one before it.

Suppleness is the looseness and flexibility of the horse's body.  It can be longitudinal and lateral.  Longitudinal suppleness is the ability of the horse to stretch his top line forward in a relaxed manner reaching into the bit. Lateral suppleness is the amount of sidewards flexibility to make a round circle or move sideways. 

Contact is the horse's acceptance of the rider's aids which include the seat, legs and hand.  Good contact is shown as a happy horse moving freely forward on the aids and willing to accept the bit.  The poll will be at the highest point, the back will be swinging and supple, the jaw relaxed and the nose slightly in front of the vertical.  

Impulsion is seen by the amount of thrust the horse has coming from the haunches to the front.  The hind end engages and the horse has the desire to move forward energetically reaching well under his body with his hind legs.  Impulsion is accomplished naturally when the first three stages of training are solid.  It is light and forward.

Straightness is an important phase of the training scale.  A horse is straight when the hind foot tracks in the hoofprint of the front or slightly beyond.  To achieve straightness the horse must be equally developed and trained on both sides of its body which means going in both directions, right and left.  All horses have a stiff side and a flexible side.  They will tend to do things better when traveling on the flexible side.  It is like us, we are either right handed or left handed and are awkward trying to do things with the off side.  A straight horse is a happy horse.  It has the ability to do what you are asking with less chance of injury or evasion.  

Collection: the ultimate goal of classical dressage. This happens when all parts of the training scale have come together and are solid.  It happens naturally.  A forced collection is not fluid.   When the horse has the strength to collect, the forehand lightens and you have self carriage.  The horse is not leaning on you and is truly carrying its rider in harmony.  You now have all phases of the training pyramid working as one unit.

What is Dressage?

Dressage is a french word which means "training".  Dressage evolved from calvary training for the battlefield, growing into Classical Dressage.   The goal of dressage training is to allow the horse to perform what it does naturally but with a rider.  The systematic training of the horse preserves the natural gaits and strengthens the horse so the weight of the rider is not a hindrance to the beauty and fluidity of the horse's natural movements.

All horses should be started with the fundamental basics of dressage regardless of whether the horse is to be a jumper or a trail horse.  These basics teach the horse how to carry the rider and remain in it's own natural balance.  The horse learns how to bend, flex and move forward properly while listening to aids of the rider.  It is a language that the horse understands.  The outcome is a safe, trustworthy horse that is willing to perform for its rider.  It becomes a partnership.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Think like a Horse

Horses are prey animals.  What this means is they are always on the lookout for predators in the their environment.  They are highly evolved in this way.  If you move a bucket from one place to another, they will notice it and immediately have to decide if this object is a predator.  They are not thinking it is a bucket that was moved, they only know that it was not there before so this is cause for alarm.  Once they are allowed to see that it is harmless they feel safe with it again.  They have to trust their handler for them to be brave enough to explore these scary things.  The more trust they have the easier it is for them to recognize the object and move on.  The same thing applies under saddle.  The more trust they have in the rider the easier it is to get them through those obstacles that may cause them alarm.

The horse is a herd animal.  In this social structure, there is always a leader, an alpha in charge.  That alpha is responsible for keeping the herd safe.   As long as the horse considers you, their rider, handler, trainer etc as their leader, you can build a strong healthy relationship built on trust and the horse will do just about anything for you.   If this connection is not established right away then you end up with horses that bully their way around people.  Horses must be treated like horses.   They are happiest when they know who is in charge of the herd.

If you think like a horse you will understand why they respond or react a certain way and know what to do to help them understand your request.  They are governed by fight or flight instincts.  If they are in pain, they will fight to avoid the pain.  If they are afraid, they will run away from the fear.  If they emotionally cannot handle or understand what you are asking of them they will shut down.

If you are having a training issue, check to make sure you are being clear with your aids, the saddle fits properly and your horse is not in any pain.  It is your responsibility to be precise with your request.  This helps the horse to remain calm and want to perform for you.  Keep your emotions out of your riding.  Your horse will feel your tension and respond accordingly.  Learn to ride well so you are not banging on your horse's back or hanging onto the reins.   Think like a horse when you ride.  This will help you to read what your horse may be thinking of before they have time to react in a negative way.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Dangers of Vaccinations

Animals have become the test tubes for the pharmaceutical giants and no one questions the practice of injecting poisons into your otherwise healthy happy pet. It is time to start questioning and educating yourself about the serious side effects and how damaging this practice can be.  These articles are informative and give alternatives and will allow you to make educated choices in regard to the welfare of your pet, whether, cat, dog, rabbit, horse or any other species.    Dangers of Vaccinations  and Truth about Vaccinations

Toxic Flyspray

If you have horses you have flies.  Horses are sprayed daily to keep the pests from biting them and to keep them comfortable.  One problem with this is unless you are using a non-toxic, natural flyspray, you are constantly bombarding your horse and yourself with toxic chemicals.  This suppresses the immune system, can cause respiratory problems and even cancer.  If you read the warning label on the bottle of flyspray many of them will say toxic to the environment, do not contaminate water.  Remember these are pesticides that you are spraying on your horse and yourself.

I have seen horses sprayed with flyspray and within minutes go into a seizure and then shake all over for about 15 minutes.  I have seen others fall asleep after being sprayed and when brought to the attention of the owner, they simply write it off and say, "oh they always do that".   Well, of course they always do that, because they are always being sprayed with pesticides.

There are many natural flysprays that work well and do not contribute to polluting the environment or your horse.  One of my favorites is called "Finally Something that Works", or Extreme Shield.  Cedarcide provides not only natural flysprays but natural treatments for controlling insects around the stable.  These are very effective. Another option is to make your own using essential oils.  Think before reaching for the bottle of toxic flyspray.

Subtle Abuse

The generosity of a horse predisposes it for abuse.   It is the subtle forms of abuse usually having the best intentions that causes the worst damage, emotionally and physically. The first time horse owner who spoils them by feeding grains and sweet feeds, the backyard pet scenario with inadequate shelter and fencing and no training, harsh bits, saddles that don't fit properly, improperly trimmed or shod feet or lack of, being kept in fields fenced with barb wire, pressured to perform when they are not conditioned properly, poor riding and handling are all forms of abuse.

The damage done includes lameness, death, pain, a variety of health issues and emotional suffering.   As a horse owner it is your responsibility to learn all you can on a regular basis in regards to caring, keeping and training horses.  With access to the internet, there is no excuse to not be informed and learn constantly about these magnificent animals.  Consult with professionals in the horse world who are concerned about the well-fare of the horse.  If you cannot afford to keep a horse, DO NOT GET ONE!  If you do not have the knowledge or horsemanship skills, DO NOT GET A HORSE.  Take the time to train with a professional before purchasing your own horse.  If you are a first time horse owner, do not get a young green horse.  Have a trusted trainer help you find a good horse suitable to your level of skills and type of riding.  Both you and your new horse will be happier.   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hind Gut Acidosis

Horses are hindgut digesters and what this means is that most of the food they eat gets processed in the hindgut. They require a large amount of fiber which is converted to energy during this digestion process.

Horses fed high starch/sugar diets such as grains of all types, senior feeds, processed feeds, etc. are at high risk of developing hind gut acidosis. The starch quickly ferments in the hind gut which turns to acid therefore creating an acidic condition in the gut.   This disrupts the microflora of the intestinal tract and has been linked to laminitis and founder.

This has become a widespread problem with the modern domesticated horse.  They are confined and fed large starch meals twice a day instead of having access to grass throughout the day.  The symptoms can manifest in many different ways, such as cribbing, weaving, diarrhea, poor appetite, poor performance, hot and excitable behavior.

One way to check to see if this is the problem is to feed a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with 1 ounce of coconut oil in a syringe.  If there is improvement, chances are your horse's gut was too acid.  The baking soda mixture works well but it doesn't heal the gut.  To do this, it is important to make the correct dietary changes by feeding only grass hays and supplementing with a good vitamin B supplement such as Ex-stress and following the Succeed Digestive conditioning protocol.  This is highly effective in healing the hind gut.

Also read my post on ulcers (dec 2010 post).

Monday, January 10, 2011

My Horse, Zeus

I'd like to tell you about my horse Zeus.  He is  magnificent.  I found him in California from Blue Fountain Farms.  He was two years old.  When I met him, I knew right away he was to be my teacher.  He flew from California to Hawaii to get to his new home.  He traveled like a champion.  He was 16.2H at the age of two and growing fast.  Over the next 10 years, I have been on an amazing journey with him.  He is now 13 years old and stands 19H high.

Standing in his presence is awe inspiring.  He is extremely sensitive and very psychic.  I started him and trained him up to third level Dressage.  Each step of the way has been and still is educational.  I had to learn to ride his large gaits without interfering with what he does naturally.  Having never ridden a horse this large and I am only 5'1", the first time I sat on him and asked for a walk was overwhelming.  I had to remind myself, he is only walking, just let him walk forward, naturally and ride it.  All went well and we were eventually flying everywhere.  Five of his strides is equal to about ten of a 15H horse.  Not only is the stride bigger, every aspect of his care and training is dramatically different than handling a smaller horse. I had to learn to walk big when leading him so I could stay with him.

Riding large horses well is an education in itself . I have seen too many of these gorgeous animals choked up in their gaits because the rider is intimidated by the movement and can't ride it.  I can fully understand how this can happen.  It is the rider's responsibility to learn to ride them properly.  The best way I can explain the difference is think of driving an 18 wheeler semi truck and what it takes to stop that truck and maneuver it safely versus driving a small compact car.  The compact car you can turn and stop on a dime, but you will not do that with a semi.   Riding a 19h horse is like driving a semi.  Everything you do has to be planned ahead to give them time to shorten up their gait so they can halt or do what you are asking for.  You must prepare them a few strides earlier than what you would have to do with a smaller horse.

Not only has Zeus taught me how to ride him and improved my skills exponentially, but he has shown me what  it takes to keep horses sound and healthy.   At age 8, our training came to a halt with an unexplained hind end lameness.  It started at around the age of 5 when I begin to feel something very, very subtle in his gait on the right side.  Having him thoroughly checked, nothing was found. As time went on, the problem became more pronounced.   I was devastated.   My partner and friend could no longer carry me.
Over the course of the next five years, he had at least a dozen veterinarians examine him.   None of them had any answers and just shook their head.

Most of his life he has been barefoot but when he was four years old a farrier convinced me to put shoes on him. Trusting his expertise I had him shod for about two years with this farrier.  It was then when I saw a dramatic change in the shape of his feet.  They had become narrow, constricted and upright.  I had the shoes taken off.  I consulted at least a dozen farriers and none of them saw any problem with them yet I knew they were not right and when I would point out the areas of concern they agreed but did make the corrections.  His left front had a very high heel and looked like a club foot yet he was not clubfooted.

It wasn't until I met Susanella Noble, a holistic lameness specialist from the Big Island did the full picture of his problem show itself to me.  Everything she said made sense and I began to understand how the change in his front feet resulted in his back and hind end problems by causing the misalignment of his shoulders and traveling down the spine to the pelvic.

We are currently working to reshape his feet and allow the frog and contracted heels to expand.  It has about another year of growing and reshaping but the results so far have been very positive and for the first time in five years he is showing improvement.  I am optimistic and perhaps one day in the future I will be able to ride him once again.  

Friday, January 7, 2011

Lungeing the Horse

The process of lungeing is often misunderstood and done incorrectly therefore the benefits are not recognized and is often disregarded.  Yet it is one of the most crucial parts to training the horse.  Training starts from the ground up.  First step is the horse should know the simple voice commands, whoa, walk, trot, canter.  These can be taught in a round pen with or without a lunge line.

Your lungeing equipment should be a good quality surcingle, side reins, a long lunge whip and lunge line.  I prefer the Rebalance sliding side reins.  These side reins allow the horse to stretch and travel through the topline and come up into the contact in a balanced way.

The purpose of lungeing your horse is to warm up, connect them, and get them traveling properly before mounting.  It is the precursor to riding.  Everything that you do on the lunge line mimics what happens under saddle.  If your horse cannot lunge properly, making a round circle, traveling forward from the hind end to the front and connecting to the contact in the bit and lunge line then under saddle you will have the same difficulties.

Stand in the center of your circle.  Your horse is to go around you, you are not to walk around in a circle with your horse.  Then the horse is lungeing you.  The horse is not to blast around on the line, they are to travel in balance on the contact in each gait.  If you are riding them and they are not forward, in front of your leg, the response is to use your seat and legs to get them more forward.  On the lunge line, you snap the whip behind them. This is the same thing as using your legs and seat to drive them up.

Think of your circle as a pie.  When you slice a pie it makes a triangle with the crust at one end and the apex in the center of the pie.  You are the apex and your horse is the crust.  This should remain this way the entire time  you are lungeing.  This position places you at the girth.  If the horse is lazy and not in this pie section, you will no longer be the apex, they are behind you.  This is the same as being behind the leg when under saddle.  You would ask them to come up in front of your leg by using your seat and leg. On the lunge line, you will use the whip to do this.  Once they are in the proper place on you pie, you no longer use the whip.

You must maintain the positioning of the horse and yourself in the slice of pie during the lunge session. If they are too quick and get ahead, you need to half halt on the line the same way you would under saddle.  They also must be bending around the inside leg, but you are not on them so how do you do this?  Stay at the apex of the slice of pie, this makes the horse have to bend and make a circle around you instead of traveling crooked while you move all around the place.   If they fall in, you push them out by pointing the whip at the girth.  This again is the same thing you would do under saddle, by using your leg.  This will move them out on the circle.

If done correctly, when you mount and begin your ride, the horse will already be forward and on your aids and you can progress faster and with less effort in your training.  The horse develops a nice connection with you as you earn their respect.  If you have a horse with training issues, this is a safe and effective way to make corrections and eventually the bad habits get replaced with positive ones.

If you do not know how to lunge, don't do it.  Instead get someone who is knowledgeable to do it for you or teach you.  Done the wrong way instills the wrong habits and can turn into problems, such as the horse turning in on you, rearing, reversing direction etc.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Equine Healing

The progression of equine healing takes place in stages. If you have an unexplained lameness issue, start from the feet and work up.  Be sure the hoof is trimmed properly, preferably barefoot and the frog is healthy,and free of infections.  Inspect all parts of the foot to be sure the foot shape is balanced and the frog is spread and able to function properly.  If any part of the foot is away from it's true form, this can be the origin of lameness showing up in the hind end or back.  Ill-fitted tack must also be considered as a possible cause of lameness and poor work attitude. 

Once the correction is made on the feet, the next phase reveals another aspect to the healing.  The misaligned spine caused by the improper foot, can cause any of the following misalignments; one shoulder higher, one hip higher, pelvic misalignments, tail con-strictures, thorasic misalignments, TMJ, etc.  It all begins to show itself one at a time, like peeling the layers of an onion.  These are all areas of compensation.  Find a good equine massage therapist, chiropractor, equine osteopath or other therapist who specializes in releasing these compensations.  If you focus on the back without adjusting the feet, the fix will only be temporary.  Like the old saying, no hoof, no horse.  It rings true in so many more ways than perhaps thought many years ago.  

Remember there is no quick fix.  The healing process is just that a process that can take up to several years depending on the severity of the condition and the treatments.  

Overuse of Antibiotics

Nowadays it seems that no matter what ails your horse they are prescribed antibiotics.  It is common practice not only for horses, but small animals as well.  The problem with this is that antibiotics are just what the name implies; against life.  The medication does not save the good and get rid of the bad, it gets rid of it all and at the same time compromises the immune system.

Antibiotics work on bacteria, not viruses yet they are prescribed for viruses under the assumption that it is a preventive measure should it become worse.   Yet that is contradictory because the damage that is done to the intestinal flora actually sets the stage for bacterial infections.  This strategy is destructive instead of productive.  Over use of antibiotics causes yeast and fungal infections making horses more prone to an array of hoof infections and respiratory infections. The cycle of re-infection repeats itself due to the compromised immune system and until the proper balance of microflora is re-established.

When the intestinal flora is disturbed by antibiotics, a horse can colic, have diarrhea, go off feed, develop ulcers, have front feet lameness, hives, breathing difficulties, laminitis, and founder in more severe cases. These symptoms do not always show up on the first dose of antibiotics.  In many cases, it is after the antibiotics have stopped that the unexplained lameness in the feet show up.  The problem eventually clears up and the horse owner never understands why this happened.  I have seen this happen not only with antibiotics but with wormers.  Anything that throws off the intestinal flora can trigger this type of response.  If your horse's immune system is already stressed, chances are they will experience some side effect to this type of treatment.

Unless it is life threatening, there are other options to treating infections of a bacterial nature.  The first and foremost is to support the immune system by using herbal remedies. This allows the body to do it's job more effectively.   Healing is a part of the natural processes of the body and it does this on a regular basis.  When we interfere with this process is when problems occur.

I have never used antibiotics or bute on any horses in over 30 years.  I prefer to support the body by honoring the healing process.

Herbal Formulas

Horses are grass eaters and in nature they will forage for other nutrients such as wild herbs and flowers. In a confined environment with limited access to grazing your horse can benefit from herbal remedies designed to replace what they cannot get in nature.  I have put together a combination of helpful healing herbs that provide the nutrients needed for your horse to stay healthy.

Kidney Formula:  Barberry, Cornsilk, Dandelion, Marshmellow, Juniper, Nettle, Chamomile and Uva Ursi.  These herbs have a general tonic effect.  The kidneys are under constant stress and are responsible for filtering the blood.  A horse that is given bute on a routine basis can benefit from kidney support herbs.  Other symptoms that can benefit from these medicinal herbs are stocking up (fluid retention), joint problems, back soreness especially right behind the saddle, tight muscles, uptight attitude, sour when ridden and other kidney issues.

Liver Formula: Burdock, Rosehips, Milk Thistle, Oregon Grape, Chamomile, Dandelion and Barberry.  The liver is another way the body filters the toxins from the blood.  The liver plays a major role in the detoxification process.  When we chemical worm our horses, fly spray them with pesticides, tranquilize them, etc, we are introducing toxins into their system that overload the liver.  When your horse shows signs of laziness, has problems bending to the right, eyesight issues, skin issues, and exposed to chemicals such as pesticides, herbacides, preservatives, artificial flavors in feed etc, these herbs can help support a healthy liver function.

Hoof Formula: Butchers Broom, Comfrey, Dandelion, White Willow Bark, Yucca, Yarrow and Oregon Grape.  I designed this formula to help my horse Zeus eliminate toxins from his feet during his rehab.  These herbs help to strengthen hoof walls, dissolve calcium deposits, provide pain relief , increases circulation, and strengthen tendons and ligaments.

Joint Formula: Rosehips, Ginger, Burdock, Celery Seed, Uva Ursi, Yarrow, Yucca, White Willow Bark, Comfrey and Butchers Broom.   The joints of our horses take a beating with what we ask of them.  Supporting the joints safeguards them.  This formula is good for any joint issues, creaking or popping joints and inflammation.

Digestion Formula: Pumpkin Seed, Fenugreek, Cabbage, Marshmellow, Meadowsweet, Peppermint, Chamomile, Gotu Kola and Slippery Elm.  The digestive system is one of the most important systems in keeping your horse healthy and sound.  This formula helps to protect the hind gut and insure proper digestive functioning.  It is beneficial for horses who are prone to colic, have back soreness, girthy, and general digestive disorders.

Immune Formula: Barberry, Olive Leaf, Red Clover, Astragalus, Plaintain, Milk Thistle, Rosehips and Elderberry.   A healthy immune system filters at a cellular level the toxins that are introduced by vaccinations, chemical wormers, pesticides, food preservatives and antibiotics,etc.  In order to work efficiently, the liver, kidneys, blood, lymphatic system and skin all play a role in assisting this process of elimination.  If your horse exhibits fluid retention, lethargy, bacterial infections, fungal infections, yeast infections, sores that won't heal, lumps under the tail, high stress levels, and nasal discharge these herbs can help.

Anti-fungal Formula: Pau D'Arco, Barberry, Olive Leaf, Cinnamon, Lemongrass and Tumeric.  Fungal and yeast infections plague the modern domesticated horse.  Fungal infections can affect the lungs, digestive system, skin, hooves and many other areas of the horse's body.  Horses given antibiotics (read my post on overuse of antibiotics) can benefit from this formula.  Systemic fungal and yeast infections should be treated to assure complete healing of chronic hoof infections.  The herbs in this formula have potent anti- fungal and anti-bacterial properties, yet are gentle in their action. 

As a certified equine iridologist and herbalist, I have worked personally with these herbal formulas and have found them to be effective. There are many herbs that have similar healing properties.  I have chosen herbs that are complimentary and the horses love them.

Herbs work slowly but in most cases results can be seen within 3 months.  The recommended dosage is one teaspoon twice a day for the average size horse and up to one  tablespoon twice a day for larger horses 16h and above or for more chronic health issues.   All formulas are $60 per pound plus shipping.  To order contact me.

Hoof Remodeling

The hoof is an amazing part of the horse.  It plays such an important role to the health and well being of your horse.  If you have an unexplained lameness look to the feet.  It may show up in the back or hind end and be a mystery to your vet but in many cases, the origin is the feet.  A hind end lameness can originate in the front feet.  The hoof is easily remodeled by improper trimming and shoes.

When a horse wears a metal shoe, the hoof is peripheral loaded, meaning the weight of the horse is placed on the exterior hoof wall.  There is much controversy to this subject but if you look to nature, the horse's hoof was meant to walk on the ground.  When we place a shoe on the hoof, it interferes with the natural foot function and now the horse is not walking as intended.  The frog must touch the ground in order to work properly.  Shoes prevent this from happening.

Over time the hoof remodels itself to the metal shoe.  In many cases, the heels become high, the toes long and the joints become stiff and painful.  This changes the break over placing it too far out in front therefore altering the way your horse travels which puts extra stress on the joints and spine.  When you remove the shoe, the horse is sore footed.  The shoe goes back on to keep the horse comfortable yet the shoe is reason why the horse is tender-footed.   The horse appears more comfortable with the shoe on because the horse cannot feel the ground the foot is supposed to be walking on.  Without the shoes, now all of a sudden the horse can feel the ground as a result they are sore because the hoof mechanisms have been damaged.

It takes time and proper trimming to re-shape the hoof and restore the proper circulation so it can start to perform as nature intended. During this remodeling stage the horse will have periods of discomfort and perhaps cannot be ridden.  Most of us don't want to miss our days of riding so we keep the shoes on the horse and continue to ride them.  If you choose this path, eventually your horse will experience some disability such as ringbone, arthritis, back and joint problems.   These problems could mean the end of your horses' soundness.

To avoid reaching a point of destruction, please consult with a hoof care practitioner who can help you to rule out possible problems.  Finding the right person can be as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack.  There are so many differences of opinion in regards to how the hoof should be trimmed or treated that as a horse owner it is easy to be confused, not knowing who to trust.  The more you can educate yourself about the hoof, the easier this job can be.

What I find fascinating is the hoof responds much like a plant.  If you put a plant in a pot that is too small for it,  eventually it becomes root bound and grows funny, or parts of it start to die since it can no longer receive the nutrients it needs to grow strong.  The same thing happens to the hoof if it is trimmed wrong or forced to walk on metal shoes.  The change does not show up right away, but it will within a year or longer if not corrected.

On the positive note with correct trimming, exercise and diet, the hoof can grow out and be reshaped within the limitations of the natural conformation and the extent of permanent damage.  During the growth process, the circulation is slowly restored to the hoof and all of it's inner workings.  This slowly allows for a detoxification process or healing to take place.  Give it time.  It can take over a year to remodel the hoof, depending on the severity of the problem.