Thursday, September 13, 2018

Perfectly Happy!

Navar's training continues to progress and while he is not "perfect" I have a reliable horse I am comfortable taking anywhere. This summer while encouraging him to go through a deep mucky pond, I was met with a lot of resistance. One gal who was riding with us, stated I was being too soft on him and to just give him one good wack. I am not adverse to "going to the bite" when my horse is not respecting my personal space but I have never found it beneficial to force a horse onto or into an obstacle or situation they are truly worried about. For one thing, I don't want my horse to rush over or through an obstacle or situation out of fear but would rather they think their way through it, as it makes things safer for both of us. I also believe this approach increases my horse's confidence in himself and me. Nevertheless, I didn't think Navar should be so resistant about going into the pond so I foolishly took her advice and gave him one good smack on the bum with the end of my rein. He nearly threw me off and could have injured himself in the process because he was deep into the mud at the time.

Thankfully nothing bad happened and I went about "helping" him through the pond by dismounting and sending him through a few times on his own. Going through the pond has not been a problem since.

Why I listened to that other supposedly "experienced" horse person is beyond me. This woman clearly dominated her obviously unhappy horse; and he didn't do all the obstacles perfectly either. This incident gave me pause and made me really think about what kind of experience I want to have with my horse. I am playing with horses for fun, not out of necessity. If it takes us a bit longer to accomplish something; staying safe and maintaining a trusting relationship with my horse is well worth it.

I came away from that seemly inconsequential incident thinking, "Navar may not be perfectly trained, but we are perfectly happy and having fun together"!

Tovie and Navar

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Graceful Healing

I met Ellen Equable several years ago on a flight from Calgary to Toronto. We were seated across the aisle from each other and while I don't remember how we started chatting - chat we did for the entire flight. Since that chance encounter, Ellen has helped us sort out a couple of critter issues by helping our cats, Buster and Mojo, find their way to get along. Then there was the "chat" she had with Magic, only to discover he had a fear of cougars. When he was tied too short and couldn't turn his head to see behind him, he would panic and pull back violently. Since then we now ground tie him or tie him longer and he has not pulled back since then.

Ellen contacted me a couple of months ago to ask if I would host a healing session, with our horses, for folks wanting help to neutralize negative energy in their lives. In June we set up the first session in our outdoor arena using barrels to create a safe zone for folks. The idea was that we would seat ourselves in a circle and the horses would be turned lose in the arena to do as they pleased. The first astounding thing that happened when Ellen sat down was that Magic came straight over to her and seemingly hugged her with his head and neck - a truly touching moment.

The other participants had little to no experience with horses so it was remarkable to see how the horses responded to them. A couple of the horses laid down and allowed complete strangers to approach them. My friend's horse Magnum is a bit of loaner and during one participant's session, he walked over to her and calmly stood beside her the entire time. I asked Ellen to help me clear the shame and grief I was still carrying since Dexter's death so I could allow myself to better connect with Navar. Surprisingly, Navar laid down during my entire session and leaned his body against my lower legs as if grounding me. The other participants stated that not one horse moved a hair until my session was over.

Navar was a horse I bought as a yearling because of his beautiful colour. It was shortly after acquiring Navar that Dexter came into my life and stole my heart. While Navar was loved and well cared for, I just couldn't seem to feel a bond for him. He has always been willing enough and is a sweet, sensible horse but I wanted to develop more of a connection with him. After my healing session with Ellen, I immediately started to notice small changes in my interactions with Navar. He has never been hard to catch but has also not offered to come meet me in the field. Two days after Ellen's visit, he came in from the field to greet me as I came through the gate. In the past, when I was leading him, he would balk and have to be encouraged to come with me. He has not balked once since my healing session. And our rides together have gone from OK to wonderful. We are doing things together with a mutual trust and respect I have experienced with other horses but didn't think it possible with Navar.

In July we conducted another session that was again, truly remarkable. This time I participated as an observer only. It was amazing to witness how different horses responded to different people. The horses are at liberty (free to come and go as they please) and yet they chose to encircle our group. During individual healing sessions, one horse would see their way to stand next to the participant, as tho a sentinel for that person. Magnum, Jack, Magic and Fonzi each chose to be with a particular person during their healing session. Very cool for me was that I felt Navar close to me most of the day, thereby solidifying my bond with him.

Thank you Ellen for your dedication and enthusiasm to help folks find their inner peace.

Tovie, Navar and the rest of the Boys!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Horse Rescuer with Good Intention

Navar’s training is coming along so well that I decided it was time to bring on another horse that needs special help.

Several days ago while browsing Kijiji, I found what I thought would be the perfect project. Whiskey was a lovely, 5 y.o. palomino gelding. In the ad it said he had trust and catching issues – perfect. Over the next few days, I learned she had purchased him and another horse from Bear Valley Rescue over 1½ years ago with the intention of training them to drive. However she also admitted, she had too many horses and life kept getting in her way. She also said he was perfectly healthy and sound and although he was nervous, he had never caused her harm and that he was prone to jump away from his handler than on top of them.

He was located at Duchess, AB - a two hour drive from our place. I asked as many questions as I could to ensure it was worth making the trip on such a beautiful day and with fuel prices soaring. I knew I could help Whiskey so Gord, Lena and I made the trip to go meet him. I was so certain I would be bringing him home that I even decided to rename him Memphis.

When we arrived, the owner had Whiskey in the round pen, haltered and ready to go. Upon closer inspection, I saw that his feet were terribly neglected and in fact she admitted he was not “foot” trained. Based on that, I asked her to move him around so I could detect any lameness issues. At the hurried trot and racing gallop, he seemed fine but when he walked, it was apparent there was something wrong.
Nevertheless, I worked at getting near him which was no easy feat. Just reaching out to stroke his neck caused him to suck wind and tense his entire body. She had told me that once caught, he could be handled. Not sure what her idea of “handled” is. Mine is a horse who is comfortable being touched from top to bottom and in every orifice.

Anyway, we agreed that I would take him and if he didn’t come up sound after proper hoof care, she would take him back, and would even come pick him up if need be. In anticipation of him being hard to load, I had the owner change out the halter to my stiffer Clinton Anderson 4 knot to give me better control. While I was back at the truck, filling out the bill of sale, I heard all hell break loose. The owner had tied the lead rope around his neck using a bowline knot and when she went to slip the halter over his nose, he ploughed her into the panels and bolted away, tearing the halter out of her hand. Now he was flying around the pen in shear panic with the halter dragging (chasing) after him and there was nothing we could do to help him. Every now and then the halter would tangle around his legs, causing him even more distress as he ploughed into the panels trying to kick off the foreign object wrapping around his legs. This went on for quite some time until thankfully, the bowline knot released. I stood in the middle of the pen throughout the entire ordeal because I didn’t trust walking into his path to escape the pen – he was running blind with fear.

Since it was already getting late and there was going to be very little chance of getting another halter on him, not to mention trying to load him, I made the very difficult decision to walk away.

There is no question this lady was in over her head with him, and I also learned she had a foal coming any day. It absolutely broke my heart to see a horse so mishandled (or neglected) with such good intention.

When we take on the responsibility of horse ownership, it is incumbent on us to create a good equine citizen even if that means getting help to do so. That is the only way to ensure the horse won’t end up in the slaughter pens. It made me so angry to see beautiful Whiskey in such emotional and physical distress – I didn’t sleep very well thinking about him last night.

I'm sorry I couldn't take you with us Whiskey - my heart goes out to you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Vickie Keam to the Rescue

Last fall Navar picked up a cough that we attributed to mulch we brought in for the shelters. He started coughing 3 days after we spread the mulch and I can tell you, the mulch came out of the shelters faster than it went in.

We thought the cough would pass but it only seemed to get worse and when I started my weekly riding sessions with Marian Stav again, it became apparent that Navar needed help. At Moore Equine he was scoped and a minor amount of mucous was detected. We made the decision to go one step further and conduct a bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL) to determine the severity of the infection. Dr. Ashley Whitehead advised last year was particularly bad for lung problems and was likely due to the wild fires that raged throughout Western Canada last summer.

Navar was prescribed 40 shots of a steroid called dexamethasone. I was definitely not looking forward to giving him that many needles but Navar took the treatment in stride. Every morning he came in for a treat and a shot which I rotated around his entire body.

The treatment got rid of his cough but despite additional feed, he was underweight and lethargic and also had a tucked up appearance. I was going to run a blood panel on him to see what else could be wrong but instead I scheduled another treatment with Vickie Keam. She discovered his spleen was not functioning well and said it wouldn't have mattered how much extra feed he was getting, the blood flow wasn't allowing his body to process the feed well. She also found a displaced rib near his flank. Within half an hour of Vickie starting his treatment, the change in Navar's appearance was quite astounding. I sure wish I had taken before and after photos.

The following week after Vickie's ministering, I took Navar to my weekly riding session. Marian noticed the change in his physical appearance immediately but what struck us most was his improved energy level. Prior to Vickie's treatment, Navar was lethargic and completely pooped out before our hour session was over. After his treatment he moved forward willingly and energetically (keeping in mind Navar is an energy conservationist) and he had plenty of stamina to last the entire hour.

Now that the snow has finally melted and we can actually practice our "moves", Navar gets better under saddle every week.

Thank you so much Vickie for what you do!
Navar and Tovie

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Clinic Woes...

Navar and I attended a Natural Horsemanship clinic last October and I have been ruminating over the experience ever since.

Over the years I have attended several clinics and feel quite proficient with my groundwork. I am now looking for more opportunities to transfer the natural horsemanship principles to create a better connection in the saddle.

There were a couple of reasons I wanted to attend this clinic; it was advertised as an advanced clinic with an unquestionably skilled horseman; and two of my favourite people were also participating. While I recognize I am nowhere close to being the horse person this fellow is, we have had some similar influences in our past. We both rode at the first Craig Cameron Extreme Cowboy Clinic at the Calgary Stampede, we both attended a Ray Hunt clinic, and he competed at the Road to the Horse colt starting in the U.S. the year after we had gone as spectators. Yet try as I might to connect with this fellow, it became apparent that his primary focus throughout the weekend was himself.

His program offers 8 levels of achievement which can be evaluated on-line. I overheard one of his loyal followers state that this was their fourth clinic and they were resigned to staying at Level 1 forever; or another person asking which would come first – passing Level 1 or Heaven. The journey toward exceptional horsemanship undoubtedly takes commitment to practice but I found these statements very discouraging for folks who are starting their journey later in life.

I did my best to practice the techniques being taught at this clinic which were somewhat different than how I do things. However, even with years of practice and success handling hundreds of horses, I would have been hard pressed to pass his Level 1.

It was discouraging to hear his response to folks who were asking questions; "that he had previously answered their question “many” times". Clearly, they had either not heard or understood his response and were seeking more clarification. Nobody should be treated in a condescending manner when they are eager to learn. I truly believe it is incumbent on the instructor to reiterate and demonstrate until the answer becomes clear.

There was much time spent standing around while the clinician “fixed” a confused or worried horse. However, it was especially frustrating when it was the clinician’s daughter’s horse. He insisted that everyone watch what he was doing rather than continue practicing with their own horses. Unfortunately some of what I “had” to watch was rather unpleasant and I remember thinking – this man is not touching my horse. In fact when I heard him asking for an introverted horse and an extroverted horse for a trailer loading demo, I excused myself to the biffy to ensure Navar was not chosen.

I even found it difficult to watch him ride and handle his own horse as the horse seemed overly reactive and nervous. It made me think of a recent article I read in my Linda Tellington Jones newsletter about being an advocate for your horse when others are handling them – whether it is a clinician, boarding facility staff, farrier, or veterinarian.

I have no qualms about increasing pressure when a horse is not being respectful but whacking a confused or worried horse across the head with a stick is not the kind of pressure I would encourage unless the situation became life threatening to the handler. There were folks in this clinic that were new to horses and/or Natural Horsemanship methods and if they were to go home and apply that much pressure without knowing why or when to release, they would undoubtedly cause more harm than good. Folks need to learn methods they can take home and work on to improve their confidence, not erode it further. It is for this reason I have spent much time studying a variety of philosophies and techniques. This allows me to offer my students solutions that will help a wide range of folks and horses progress safely and with joy.

Interestingly – most of the Ah! Ha! moments came during the group talks given first thing in the morning rather than during the time spent with my horse. At least there were a few things I will be able to share with others and I thoroughly enjoyed spending 4 days with Navar away from home. However, for the money spent, I would have liked to come away with more enthusiasm and inspiration and not have to listen to hubby say "I told you so".

Tovie and Navar

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Equine Osteopathy for The Boys

Earlier this spring I heard very good things, from a couple of unrelated sources, about an equine Osteopath fairly new to our area. Lena and Lisa were both excited about how their horses had responded to this therapy so when I discovered they were talking about the same person, I just had to have Vickie Keam out to work on our horses.

Although this year has been thankfully uneventful with regard to the well being of our horses, I had Vickie check out Gord's horse Magic, who is 21 this year; and Navar, because of the catastrophic hock injury he sustained last year. Sherri's horse Magnum is also a senior and so she had him checked over as well. There were a few things Vickie was able to detect; and it was rewarding to see the horses respond so well to her therapeutic touch. Since none of our horses has any serious issues, we considered this visit to be more of a preventative measure.

Vickie is also a saddle maker who mentored under renowned saddle maker, Andy Knight; as well as a knowledgeable saddle fitter. When I mentioned that Navar had shown some unusual twitchiness under saddle recently, she asked to see my saddle. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous that she would find something glaringly wrong with my beautiful new saddle. Over the years, I have bought and sold so many saddles trying to find a good saddle that would work for me and my horse and certainly didn't want to head down that path again. My fears were unfounded as she reassured me that if she were making a saddle, it would be very similar to the saddle I am using.

Always being one to question tradition when it comes to management, training, or handling of our horses, I was ecstatic to learn something new with regard to cinching a double rigged saddle. We have all been taught to do up our front cinch snugly first; and then our rear cinch so it just touches the horse but is NEVER as tight as the front cinch. In fact, you more often than not, see 6 inches of daylight between the rear cinch and the horse. I was astounded to learn the exact opposite - the rear cinch is done up first, very tightly and the front cinch is snug but not tight, tight, tight. Vickie had me place my hand into the gullet, under the saddle pad while she tightened the front cinch. I could feel my hand being squeezed as she tightened. She then had the horse flex its neck to each side and I could feel a definite pinch. She then loosened the front cinch and tightened the rear cinch - moving the horse around with each hole to ensure the horse was not worried by the new sensation. As she tightened the rear cinch, she had me place my hand in the gullet, under the saddle pad and it was remarkable how roomy the saddle now felt. We then snugged up the front cinch. Vickie proved to me that by setting the saddle in place with a tight rear cinch, it is not necessary to have the front cinch so tight, thereby minimizing any pinching around the scapula.

Navar is all the proof I need - no more twitchiness.

Thank you Vickie for your knowledge and experience!
Tovie, Sherri, Navar, Magic and Magnum

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Divine Intervention for Beauty

Last Saturday I arrived at Lisa & Todd's for our weekly lesson with their horses Beauty and Calista. Experience has shown me that the horses will always show us what we need to work on, so I rarely arrive with a lesson plan. Beauty definitely showed us what we needed to work on because we found her in full colic that morning. Some of the symptoms she presented were sweating over the loin area on her back, panting, frequent flehman which left her mouth dry and tacky, and persistently trying to roll. Her discomfort was also very apparent in her stilted gait at the walk.

Lisa and I have both taken an extensive equine first aid course so she had all the tools we needed to check her vitals, and listen for gut sounds. When no gut sounds were detected Lisa phoned in an emergency call to the vet; only to be told the vet was at least an hour and a half away.

While we waited, I was able to share my knowledge of TTouch with Lisa. Linda Tellington-Jones has developed a series of TTouches that influence and promote healing at a cellular level. The following TTouches are specifically recommended for assisting a colicky horse:

Belly Lifts - using a towel folded to approximately 6"-8", Lisa and I gently performed belly lifts along the entire barrel. Beauty consistently indicated to us she was most happy with one particular area near the flank.

Ear Work - gently taking hold and firmly sliding down the entire length of the ear; paying particular attention to firm TTouch circles on the tips of the ears. There are many acupressure points in the ear that are activated by doing this.

Mouth Work - Beauty's mouth was dry and tacky so I wet my hand in the water trough first and then proceeded to work the gums directly under the upper lip to release endorphins. Once Beauty was certain we weren't up to anything sneaky, she happily accepted the mouth work.

Tail Work - gently working the tail from the base in circles and then using both hands give a gentle pull and push to the tail. Beauty gently rocked back and forth during this process.

Pelvic Rocking - place both fists on either side of the tail and gently press until the horse performs a mini pelvic tilt.

Mane, Forelock and Tail Hair Slides - imagine if you weren't feeling well and someone came along and gently slid their fingers along chunks of your hair. Not sure if it had any benefit, other than feeling wonderful, but Beauty seemed to enjoy it.

I think we were both surprised how quickly Beauty started to relax and become obviously more comfortable. She stopped trying roll, stopped sweating, stopped the flehmen, and started licking and chewing and even relaxed with a cocked hind leg. After an hour or so we started to detect faint gut sounds. Lisa even questioned whether or not to cancel the vet call but aside from a couple small farts, still no glorious poop - which is a sure sign the worst is over.

When the vet arrived, she administered the colic treatment protocol and when she and I left, Beauty was on a wait and see - still waiting for that glorious poop.

Lisa sent me this photo around 5:45 that day titled, "the most beautiful thing in her pasture that day", a glorious poop that actually looked as if it could have been dropped by an elephant. She also attributed my knowledge of TTouch as the reason Beauty survived. I have absolutely no doubt that the vet's treatment protocol was vital to Beauty's full recovery; but I also know that performing TTouch, while waiting for the vet, made a significant contribution to Beauty's comfort and allowed us to feel useful and calm during the long wait. I always say, TTouch may not be a cure all but it absolutely causes no harm.

Colic is the primary cause of death in seemingly healthy horses and depending on the severity, it can be a long and excruciatingly painful end.

Divine Intervention allowed us to be there for Beauty with the knowledge and skills required to ease her discomfort and get her help quickly.

You can visit Linda Tellington-Jones' web-site to learn more about how TTouch can help any person or animal in your life

Tovie, Lisa and Beauty