V13I5 (Oct/Nov 2018)

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exercises for better posture


Back Health!

How to develop a

FOLLOWING SEAT How to ďŹ nesse your



Why gastric ulcers are more complex than we thought

MUST-KNOW TIPS for you and your horse The truth about




$5.95 USA/Canada


October/November 2018


Display until November 26 , 2018


Equine Wellness

October/November 2018 EDITORIAL DEPARTMENT EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: Dana Cox EDITOR: Cindy MacDonald ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Sariana Burnet ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Emily Watson EDITOR: Ann Brightman SENIOR GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Dawn Cumby-Dallin GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Anna Dezsi WEB DESIGN & DEVELOPMENT: Brad Vader SOCIAL/DIGITAL MEDIA MANAGER: Theresa Gannon COVER PHOTOGRAPHY: Javier Cabrio COLUMNISTS & CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Laura Batts Sariana Burnet Kayla Christopherson Natalie Cooper, DVM Melanie Falls Karen Gellman, DVM, PhD Beth Glosten, MD Joyce Harman, DVM Michael I. Lindinger, PhD Wendy Murdoch Heidi Potter April Reeves Karen Rohlf Liz Mitten Ryan Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSE, SCFT Amy Snow Patrick Warczak Jr. Lillian Tepera Daryl Anne Wilga ADMINISTRATION PUBLISHER: Redstone Media Group Inc. PRESIDENT/C.E.O.: Tim Hockley CIRCULATION & OFFICE MANAGER: Libby Sinden ACCOUNTING: Susan Smith SUBSCRIPTION SERVICES MANAGER: Brittany Sillaots SUBMISSIONS Please email all editorial material to Cindy MacDonald, Editor, at Cindy@RedstoneMediaGroup.com. We welcome previously unpublished articles and color pictures either in jpeg, tif or disc form at 300 dpi. We cannot guarantee that either articles or pictures will be used or that they will be returned. We reserve the right to publish all letters received. You can also mail submissions to: Equine Wellness Magazine, 160 Charlotte St., Suite 202, Peterborough, ON, Canada K9J 2T8. Please direct other correspondence to info@RedstoneMediaGroup.com.

DEALER OR GROUP INQUIRIES WELCOME Equine Wellness Magazine is available at a discount for resale in retail shops and through various organizations. Call Libby at 1-866-764-1212 ext 100 or fax us at 705-742-4596 or e-mail Libby@RedstoneMediaGroup.com. ADVERTISING SALES National Sales Manager: Kat Shaw (866) 764-1212 ext. 315 KatShaw@RedstoneMediaGroup.com Western Regional Manager: Becky Starr, (866) 764-1212 ext. 221 Becky@RedstoneMediaGroup.com Editorial & Multimedia Specialist: Carlisle Froese, (866) 764-1212 ext. 224 carlisle@redstonemediagroup.com CLASSIFIED ADVERTISING Classified@EquineWellnessMagazine.com TO SUBSCRIBE Subscription price at time of this issue in the U.S. and Canada is $24.00 including taxes for six issues shipped via surface mail. Subscriptions can be processed by: Website: EquineWellnessMagazine.com Phone: 1-866-764-1212 ext. 115 US MAIL Equine Wellness Magazine 6834 S University Blvd PMB 155 Centennial, CO 80122 CDN MAIL Equine Wellness Magazine 202-160 Charlotte St., Peterborough, ON Canada K9J 2T8

ON THE COVER Photo by: Javier Cabrio

Subscriptions are payable by VISA, MasterCard, American Express, check or money order. The material in this magazine is not intended to replace the care of veterinary practitioners. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editor, and different views may appear in other issues. Refund policy: call or write our customer service department and we will refund unmailed issues.

EquineWellnessMagazine.com Equine Wellness Magazine (ISSN 1718-5793) is published six times a year by Redstone Media Group Inc. Publications Mail Agreement #40884047. Entire contents copyright© 2018. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, without prior written permission of the publisher. Publication date: September 2018.


This horse is showing us her best “over the shoulder” pose. Back health is critical to your horse’s overall well being. In this issue, we show you how to care for both your horse’s back and your own! Proper nutrition, rider posture, and safe exercise will keep horse and caretaker flexible and pain-free. Equine Wellness






44 YUCCA AND EQUINE AND POULTICES FOR YOUR HEALTH This desert-dwelling plant has remarkable medicinal properties. HORSE’S BACK Topical liniments

For horse caretakers and their veterinarians, gastric ulcers are all too familiar, yet not very well understood. Recent research has revealed they’re more complicated than they seem.

and poultices can make an inexpensive and healthy contribution to your horse’s back health.

Learn how Yucca schidigera may be beneficial for your horse.



GROUND POLES! Ground poles are often underutilized, but these versatile tools can play a major role in turning your horse into an athlete.


Use these exercises to become mindful of your body’s movements and to better co-ordinate with your horse’s motion when riding.

HORSES Herd dynamics are




is healthy for humans, but did you know it offers the same benefits to your horse?



How can horses support their own weight, let alone ours? Discover the important role that biomechanics play in the rider/horse relationship.


Equine Wellness

fascinating to observe. Read about herd hierarchy and how you can find your own place within your equine family.

– BACK EXERCISES FOR RIDERS Understanding the factors that

contribute to back pain, and learning exercises and strategies to prevent problems, may save you “down the road”.


SYNDROME – PART 3 In the third part of this article we examine the role of the intestinal microbiome and how probiotics and prebiotics help maintain barrier function and improve your horse’s health.



This sweet true tale was the winner of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s first-ever short story contest.


OPTIONS Planning and constructing a grazing or work space for your horse? Here are some guidelines to help you finesse your fencing.





8 Neighborhood news

6 Editorial

33 Herb blurb

25 Product picks

38 Natural horsemanship

43 Heads up

54 Saddle fit

53 Business profile: LiteCure

56 To the rescue

57 Equine Wellness resource guide

60 Acupressure at-a-glance

61 Events

62 Green Acres

64 Marketplace

66 Rider Fitness

65 Classifieds



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Back on



ave you ever suffered from back pain? I do, so I’m a longtime fan of alternative modalities for both acute care and chronic management. And I have endless empathy for our equine friends who bear a big burden on their backs – us!

As for our horses, we owe it to them to cover all the angles necessary to keep their backs strong and pain-free – prevention, being mindful in the moment to signs something’s awry, and addressing problems that arise in a timely manner.

Once upon a time I had a bad riding accident. I was in a field on a runaway horse that was headed home to the barn. It was terrifying, especially because I knew we had to cross a road to get there. Should I hope there’d be no cars, or bail before the road? My view of the road was blocked and time was running out to decide. I figured hitting the ground at high velocity, rather than being hit by a car, would be the lesser of the evils. So, as my horse turned left at full speed in the home stretch to the barn, with the road only 50 yards away, I self-ejected to the right. I flew like a cannonball, landed on my upper right back, and rolled several times before stalling out in a crumpled heap.

It is important to understand the effect our weight has on the backs of our equine riding partners, who have carried us through the ages. Turn to page 20 for an introduction to rider biomechanics. We can also do our part, as riders, by being mindful of our position when riding. Learn to develop a following seat on page 14.

I picked myself up and made it to the barn, where my horse had arrived safe and sound, fortunately. My chiropractor found I’d popped the “handles” of three ribs out in my back. I couldn’t lie down flat for two months. I also used homeopathy (three cheers for Arnica!), magnetics, far infrared, Bowen therapy, and ate a lot of anti-inflammatory foods. Hard lesson learned. It’s a chronic injury that acts up, so I’m very careful how I lift and turn when doing chores, just as Dr. Beth Glosten advises on page 34.


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It has always been a joy for me to watch horses communicate with one another. They have such unique personalities that really shine when they are among their herd. In this issue, Liz Mitten Ryan, author, artist and expert animal communicator, offers us a glimpse into the social lives of horses and the dynamics of the herd. Go to page 30 for #squadgoals. We hope you enjoy this issue, and the beautiful colors and temperatures that autumn brings. Until next time, do what you can to ensure health and happiness for your equine companions – and don’t look back! Naturally,

Cindy MacDonald

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SINGLE GENE MUTATION RESPONSIBLE FOR AMBLING GAITS How are some horses able to “amble” without special training? Why are these smooth gaits more common in certain breeds like the Icelandic, Paso Fino and the Tennessee Walking Horse? Scientists in Sweden have discovered a particular gene mutation they believe is responsible. Leif Anderson, from the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science, led a research team examining the genetic components connected to a horse’s gait. They studied the genomes of 70 Icelandic horses, and discovered that 40 could pace – a lateral, two-beat gait where two legs on the same side of the horse move forward together, unlike the trot. The remaining 30 could perform other alternate gaits. A single mutation in a gene labelled DMRT3 was determined to be the common factor. “Horses without this mutation cannot move their right hindleg and right foreleg at the same time,” Anderson explains. “But with the mutation, the movement is not regulated so strictly and becomes more flexible.” The researchers suspect the mutation likely originated over 1,000 years ago, and was preserved when horses that gave a smoother ride were kept and bred. equinescienceupdate.com/articles/smahg.html

AMISH MAN STARTS HORSE AND BUGGY “UBER” An entrepreneur from Colon, Michigan has put a creative spin on the modern taxi service. Timothy Hochstedler and his trusted horse are giving people a new way to tour the village and get to where they’re going. Though not associated with the company, he calls his service an “Amish Uber” – and it has become widely popular among both locals and tourists. “Most aren’t from Colon, but the local people have given me a few options such as, ‘Would you give me a ride to Curly’s?’ or ‘Would you go to my house?’ And, yeah I’d do that!” Tim told WWMT. He charges a $5 flat rate, no matter the distance or time. The catch? You will have to flag him down the old-fashioned way, as this

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Through working with various equine-related organizations, the American Horse Council (AHC) has identified a need for a universal look-up tool for equine microchips. Earlier this year, they partnered with the Jockey Club Technology Services to build it. The hope is that by creating a single source for the public, emergency response teams, and equine organizations to identify a horse and its associated registration, it will incentivize Americans to microchip their horses, among other benefits. “Technology and public opinion have finally aligned to allow microchipping to become an efficient aid when identifying horses,” says AHC President Julie Broadway. “Microchips are a safe and effective form of identity for sale, competition, or emergency response.”

modern idea does not embrace

The launch of this

modern technology.






scheduled for the end of this year. horsecouncil.org


$40,000 IN GRANTS GO TO EQUINE NON-PROFITS In support of the development of equine-related projects, the USA Equestrian Trust has chosen four equine non-profits to receive $40,000. This private foundation has awarded over $2.1 million in grants since its launch in 1917. Here are this year’s selected programs: • Asbury University – Funding scholarships for students in the university’s service mount program, which trains horses for service with police, military and national park rangers. • Memorial Hospital at Gulfport Foundation – Providing helmets and safety education to young riders. • Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory – Examining the effects of weight on the hooves and legs of show horses. A comparison of flat-shod horses to those with corrective and performance shoeing will also be researched. • Sacramento Area Hunter Jumper Association – Offering free training clinics to its entry level exhibitors and low budget owners. The Trust’s 2019 grant application period will begin early in the year. Fill out an application form online. trusthorses.org

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ulcers By Natalie Cooper, DVM and Patrick Warczak Jr.

What do we really know about equine gastric ulcers? For horse caretakers and their veterinarians, gastric ulcers are all too familiar, yet not very well understood. Recent research has revealed they’re more complicated than they seem.


astric ulcers are very common, especially among performance horses. As riders and trainers, we know that gastric ulcers — and gut health in general — significantly impact our horses’ training and performance, behavior and attitude, and overall health and well-being. So it is in our best interests to learn as much as possible about equine gastric ulcers.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF EQUINE GASTRIC ULCERS For years, it was widely believed that stomach acid, which is constantly present in the horse’s stomach, causes gastric ulcers. More recently, the scientific community has learned that this perspective may be too simplistic. The horse’s stomach is divided into two regions. The lower two-thirds is known as the “glandular” region (after the glands that exist there to secrete acid and enzymes for digestion). The glandular region of the stomach is coated with a thick layer of mucus that protects it from stomach acid. The upper one-third, called the “squamous” region, is less protected. The two sections of the stomach are divided by a visible line called the margo plicatus, and it’s here that ulcers are often found. Although ulcers are more common in the upper squamous portion of the stomach, they do also appear in the lower glandular region. Research published in the last few years proves that ulcers in these two regions are different and reflect different disease processes. In light of this, an article published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Sykes, et al, 2015) proposed different nomenclature — Equine Squamous Gastric Disease (ESGD) and Equine Glandular Gastric Disease (EGGD) — to recognize them as two distinct and different conditions. While we lack a complete understanding of the true cause of gastric ulcers in horses, it is widely accepted that horses used in performance face a significantly higher risk of developing the condition. Research shows that competition and training aren’t 10

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necessarily factors in the development of ulcers. Horses that travel and are kept in stalls, and are intermittently fed diets rich in grain and/or with limited access to forage, are more likely to suffer from gastric ulcers.

DIAGNOSING GASTRIC ULCERS In practice, many horse caretakers and their veterinarians rely on clinical signs or symptoms for diagnosing gastric ulcers. These include poor appetite, dull coat, wind-sucking or cribbing, lack of energy and/or decreased performance, irritability, listlessness or other changes in attitude, and poor body condition. The problem with using symptoms to guide a diagnosis is their vague nature; many can be associated with other conditions. Some horses show no clear symptoms at all. Further, there is no distinction between the clinical signs for squamous and glandular gastric ulcers. The only sure way to diagnose gastric ulcers is to visually identify them, which Changes veterinarians can do through the use to your feed and of a 3m gastric endoscope. Though management program gastroscopy is fairly reliable, it’s may benefit your horse’s certainly not perfect. It’s also digestive health and somewhat invasive, requiring up minimize ulcer risk. to 12 hours of fasting, a withdrawal of water for four hours, and sedation during the procedure.

What are gastric ulcers…really? Gastric ulcers are simply lesions (damaged areas) on the inside surface of the stomach. Technically speaking, this condition is more accurately described as “Equine Gastric Ulcer Syndrome” or EGUS. The key word is “syndrome”— in this case, a set of health issues that cause stomach lesions. Put another way, ulcers themselves are really a symptom of an underlying pathology. It’s this underlying disease that remains more of a mystery.

TREATMENT FOR GASTRIC ULCERS Determining the best course of treatment for horses with ulcers depends on a clear diagnosis. Recent research shows that squamous ulceration and glandular ulcers require entirely different treatment approaches. • For squamous ulcers, the generally accepted therapy is to suppress acid production in the stomach. In conventional medicine, this is accomplished through the use of pharmaceuticals, including proton pump inhibitors such as omeprazole, or H2 antihistamines like ranitidine or cimetidine. Omeprazole, in the form marketed commercially as GastroGard®, is the only product approved by both Health Canada and the FDA in the United States for treating equine gastric ulcers. Continued on page 12.

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Continued from page 11. • Horses diagnosed with glandular ulcers have fewer clear treatment options. Research published in 2014 in Equine Veterinary Journal (Sykes, et al, 2014) showed that ulcers in the glandular portion of the stomach did not respond as well to treatment with omeprazole as ulcers in the squamous portion. In their 2015 article in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, Sykes and others proposed that bacteria may play a role in the development of glandular ulceration, but the effective use of antimicrobials in treatment lacks evidence at this point. Currently, protection of the glandular mucosa with the use of sucralfate, in conjunction with omeprazole administration, is the most widely accepted course of action.

PREVENTION MAY BE THE BEST APPROACH As is often the case, prevention may be the best approach to gastric ulcers. By minimizing the risk factors associated with ulceration, caretakers give their horses the best chance of avoiding the problem in the first place. Changes to your feed and management program may benefit your horse’s digestive health and minimize ulcer risk. These include: • Providing maximum turnout • Offering free access to forage (quality hay or grass) and using a hay net or slow feeder • Feeding a low starch/low carbohydrate diet • Offering multiple small meals throughout the day • Adding chaff or soaked beet pulp to the feed to increase chewing and slow intake • Adding oil as a fat source for horses with higher caloric needs

GASTRIC OR COLONIC ULCERS Keep in mind that horses can suffer from ulcers in the colon as well as in the stomach. This condition is not limited to Right Dorsal Colitis, commonly associated with the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs like phenylbutazone, commonly known as Bute). In the last ten to 15 years, researchers have found ulcers in all sections of the equine colon. Even with a definitive diagnosis of gastric ulcers, veterinarians cannot rule out the possibility that a horse also has colonic ulcers. Research shows that gastric and colonic ulcers frequently go hand-inhand. One study (Pellegrini, 2005) published in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science, found that 54% of horses had both gastric and colonic ulcers. Further, the symptoms of colonic ulcers are often the same as those associated with gastric ulcers.

THE EQUINE STOMACH The stomach of a horse is divided into two distinct regions. Recent research has shown important differences between the ulcers that appear in each area, and that they require different treatment approaches. ©2018, Freedom Health LLC

It may also be useful to supplement your horse’s diet with nutritional support for digestive tract health. This includes nutrients to help strengthen and preserve the integrity of the gut wall (stomach and hindgut), feeding beneficial bacteria and other digestive flora (prebiotics), and enhancing immune health. While gastric ulcers are a common and recognized condition in horses, it seems the more we learn about them, the more our beliefs are challenged. Much remains to be studied before we truly understand this issue. In the meantime, taking steps to mitigate the risks of ulcers may be the best you can do to protect your horse.

In leisure horses ©2018 Freedom Health LLC Research published in 2005 showed that horses suffer from ulcers in the colon as well as in the stomach, and the incidence among performance horses is significantly higher than in the general horse population.

Dr. Natalie Cooper is a graduate of Louisiana State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She was a Veterinary Medical Officer with the USDA where she was responsible for oversight regarding the welfare needs of agricultural animals used in research settings. She currently co-owns a mixed animal practice in central Arkansas and oversees veterinary education and research endeavors for Freedom Health LLC as the VP of Veterinary Medicine; she joined the company team in 2016. In her free time, Natalie enjoys riding and showing her reining horse. Patrick Warczak, Jr. holds a BS in graphic design and an MBA in marketing, both from the University of Wisconsin. Prior to joining Freedom Health LLC, where he is VP of Marketing, Patrick spent his entire career in marketing communications and advertising, holding management positions with The Hiebing Group in Madison, Wisconsin, and with S.B.C. Advertising in Columbus, Ohio. He joined Freedom Health at the inception of the business in early 2004, and manages all marketing and communications for the company. 12

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Photo courtesy of Carrie Andersonv


Most riders dream about riding in perfect balance, rhythm and harmony with their horses. Use these exercises to become mindful of your body’s movements and to better co-ordinate with your horse’s motion. By Heidi Potter

A following seat begins with balancing the pelvis. Here, Heidi helps her student become more aware of her position.


hen developing a following seat, the goal is to ride comfortably, communicate effectively and allow for the horse’s natural movement to flow freely beneath you. Sally Swift, the founder of Centered Riding®, has created many exercises to help riders achieve that goal.

TO GET STARTED, TRY THIS SITTING EXERCISE 1. Slide forward on your chair, so your back is not resting against it. 2. Sit up tall and scan your body from the top down for tension. 3. Does your neck feel stiff? 4. Are your shoulders tense and raised?

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5. Is your upper body tipped left, right, forward or back? 6. Is your lower back arched or tight? 7. Is one seat bone heavier than the other? Tightness, tension and imbalance restrict your body’s ability to follow your horse’s movement. The common postural misalignments you may observe during this exercise are prohibiting you from achieving the desired “following seat” on your horse.

A BREATHING EXERCISE TO HELP RELEASE TENSION AND BECOME BETTER BALANCED 1. Place an open hand just below your belly button and take a deep breath in through your nose. Feel that area expand as you inhale. This deep, correct method of breathing is referred to as “diaphragmatic” breathing. 2. Exhale through your mouth and allow the breath to travel down your body releasing tension as it goes. 3. Allow your shoulders to drop away from your ears and your elbows to hang heavily by your sides. 4. Now bring awareness to your pelvis and lower back. Upon exhaling your next breath you will feel your belly soften, allowing your lower back to lengthen. Your pelvis will tilt back slightly into what I refer to as a “neutral” position. Riding with your pelvis in neutral frees up your body to follow the horse’s movement. 5. Lastly, allow your body to melt down around your seat bones while still keeping your upper body tall and long.

FOR COMPARISON, TRY THIS EXERCISE: 1. Arch your back and try to take a big, deep breath. 2. Tighten and raise your shoulders, then try another deep breath. 3. Clench your hands out in front of you, as if you were holding the reins tightly, and again try to breathe deeply. You probably noticed that you couldn’t actually breathe deeply while holding any of these postures. This is proof that when we hold tension in our bodies (as most adults do), we are unable to breathe properly, making relaxation impossible.

TENSION HAPPENS Riding horses can sometimes bring up feelings of anxiety, fear, nervousness or excitability. These feelings exacerbate the problem of tension and inhibit us from reaching our goal of riding with a balanced, relaxed, following seat. Breathing and releasing tension is the gateway to improving our riding. It clears our minds, creates awareness and rebalances us mentally, physically and emotionally. Once you have discovered your following seat at the walk, then give it a try at the higher gaits. The same principles will apply, though the rhythm and footfalls are different. In the words of Equine Wellness


FINDING YOUR FOLLOWING SEAT – SYNCHRONIZING WITH YOUR HORSE. Pre-ride check The steps below lay out an effective, mindful approach to helping you achieve the desired following seat, resulting in a more pleasurable ride for both you and your horse. 1. Take a deep, cleansing breath before you mount up. Scan your body and release any tension you discover. Repeat it again once you are seated on the horse. This will help prepare both you and your horse for riding. 2. Upon exhaling, allow your breath to travel down your body, releasing tension wherever needed, just like you did in the chair. 3. Feel your lower back soften and your pelvis fall into a neutral balanced position. 4. Keep your torso lifted, lengthen your spine and be sure your lower back remains soft. 5. Prick your ears like a horse to rebalance your head and lengthen your cervical spine. 6. Now that you’ve taken care of yourself, you are ready to go.

Sally Swift, “If you don’t have it at the walk, it won’t be there at the trot.” So take your time and remember that your goal is to remain safe, relaxed, balanced and centered.

READY TO RIDE 1. Quietly ask your horse to walk off, becoming aware of the rippling effect of muscles in motion. 2. As you follow the motion of his back with your seat, imagine creating space for those muscles to move more freely beneath you. 3. Try to follow the back-to-front movement of the walk instead of the side–to-side motion. This will prevent you both from wobbling or swaying sideways. 4. Become aware of feeling for each and every footfall. 5. Check in with your hips and seat bones. Allow them to be lifted, slid forward and dropped down, one at a time, in rhythm with your horse’s hind legs. 6. Allow your thighs to drop down and follow the movement of each shoulder. Imagine you are walking on your knees as you follow the rhythm. This will allow your lower leg to fall back into its proper place below your hips, helping you achieve proper alignment so you can carry yourself. 7. Receive and follow the horse’s motion with your seat while remaining tall, balanced and relaxed in your upper body. Allow your head to “float” as if suspended by a string on the back of your helmet. 8. Riding bareback is a great way to develop a following seat. It improves your balance and sense of feel and offers you a chance to experiment with how subtle seat and weight aids affect your horse’s movement. You can also benefit from dropping your stirrups if bareback riding isn’t for you.

Heidi and her Cheval Canadien, Riley. 16

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Heidi Potter is an internationally recognized and respected Centered Riding© Clinician, CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association) Master Instructor/Clinician, Accredited Horse Agility Trainer and Horse Speak apprentice. She is the author of Open Heart, Open Mind – A Pathway to Rediscovering Horsemanship. Heidi teaches a wide variety of training and riding clinics at her Southern Vermont facility, The New England Center for Horsemanship, and abroad. To learn more visit heidipotter.com

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THE FACTS ON By Kayla Christopherson

FLAX – the value of flaxseed in your horse’s diet

Flaxseed is healthy for humans, but did you know it offers the same benefits to your horse? Flax is a versatile plant that humans have been using since ancient times. It grows in flowered stalks up to four feet tall. The inner cellulose fibers found in flax stalks are woven into textile products, such as linen. Oil (known as linseed) is derived from the plant’s seeds. The nutritious seeds themselves are produced in small brown pods. Humans consume flaxseed for its health benefits – and it’s also commonly fed to horses because of its nutritional content.


1. Fat and fiber Flaxseed is known for its high fat and digestible fiber content, and increases the caloric value in equine feed. According to Dr. Wendy Pearson, Assistant Professor of Equine Physiology at the University of Guelph, “Flax is over 40% total fat and almost 30% fiber.” 2. Omega fatty acids (in proper ratio) In addition to its rich caloric content, flax has one of the best natural ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. Omega fatty acids offer countless benefits to the equine body, such as aiding the immune system, protecting joints, supporting gastric health, reducing airway inflammation, reducing excitability, and aiding skin and coat health and shine. 18

Equine Wellness

It is important that Omega fatty acids are fed in the proper ratio. Omega-6s cause swelling, which is an integral part of injury recovery and immune function, but which can become harmful if Omega-6s are fed in too high a ratio as compared to Omega-3s. “Flax is more than 70% polyunsaturated fat, with a 1 to 0.3 Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio,” says Dr. Pearson. “There are other oilseeds with high fat content, but flax is unique in its excellent fatty acid profile. High Omega-3 promotes a less inflammatory environment in the body, and maintains fluidity of cell membranes.” Unlike flax, soybean oil registers a 1 to 7.5 imbalance of Omega 3 to 6, and corn oil has a startling 1 to 46.1 ratio! 3. Alpha linolenic acid While fresh grass is a good source of Omega fatty acids, hay is a very poor source and often requires supplementation. There is one Omega-3 fatty acid horses cannot make by themselves – alpha linolenic acid (ALA), which Dr. Pearson considers the “parent” Omega-3 fatty acid. Higher quantities of ALA are found in flaxseed than in two other popular Omega-3 sources – chia seed and fish oil.

FEEDING YOUR HORSE FLAXSEED Horses, as hindgut fermenters, process fats in their foreguts and fiber in their hindguts. As grazing animals, horses derive most of their energy (30% to 70%) from fiber. Interestingly, horses cannot digest fiber alone; their healthy gut bacteria does it for them. The results are nutrients and volatile fatty acids (VFAs), which become slowrelease energy for the horse. Flax, naturally high in fiber, is an excellent supplement for working horses, who are likely not getting adequate nutrition from dry forage alone. Flaxseed is best fed ground; when the seeds are fed whole, the hard coating restricts accessibility to the nutritional content, namely the fatty acids. A word of caution – ground flaxseed oxidizes quickly, leading to rancidity and greatly diminishing the nutritional content. It’s best to grind flax immediately before it is consumed, or to buy a stabilized flax product. Flax can also be fed in the form of oil, which increases the fat percentage, though many find this a costly option when used in quantities necessary for a horse. The healthiest diet for any horse, and his gut bacteria, is constant access to high quality forage. “Flax can be an excellent addition to the diet of a horse that needs an increase in body condition,” says Dr. Pearson. Consider flax as a nutritional and natural supplement for horses that are aging, in hard work, or in need of joint support or an immune system boost.

Kayla Christopherson began riding at the age of eight and soon after found employment cleaning barns, spending lunchtimes sitting on hay bales and watching horses interact. She spent a summer after high school working on a ranch in Banff, Alberta, and it was there that she decided to build a future in the horse world. Kayla is a University of Guelph graduate, aspiring farrier, and animal nutrition enthusiast. When not studying equine anatomy, she can be found on the trail astride her trusty paint gelding Tiiko, with her dog, Buck, in tow.

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How can horses support their own weight, let alone ours? Discover the important role that biomechanics play in the rider/horse relationship. By Karen Gellman, DVM, PhD

Riding in perfect – the biomechanics between horse and rider


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For millennia, horses have worked as our partners in the advancement of civilization. Until the rise of the internal combustion engine, our ability to partner with horses was necessary for survival. A successful partnership brought better crops, carried you long distances, and even brought you home from war. This symbiosis has its roots in the sharing of intention between horse and human, to develop and maintain a cooperative and beneficial relationship. And biomechanics is what makes this relationship possible in the first place.

HORSE AND RIDER INTERACTION A human riding a horse is the quintessential demonstration of this relationship, and at its best, expresses a profound joining across species. But we don’t often stop to think about the basis of this connection. Let’s examine the components of horse and rider interaction. The horse needs to physically carry the rider, the rider needs to communicate her intention, and both need to cooperatively accomplish the task. All this, while maintaining continuous feedback, moment by moment, and reacting to changing conditions that might require new choices. While the complexity and difficulty of each activity varies based on the physicality, experience and skill of each team member, all three elements are constant in ridden work.

WEIGHT BEARING, BALANCE AND THE EQUINE SPINE The physical act of carrying a rider is both simple and enormously challenging for a horse. Horses are one of the largest and fastest land animals. Carrying their own weight requires significant mechanical and physiologic adaptations. Equine spines, as with all quadrupeds, are positioned horizontally like a beam, not vertically like our own spinal “columns”. Four legs and a horizontal spine make it easier for horses to balance their bodies; foals don’t need two years to learn how to walk, like human babies do. However, gravity would cause a horse’s trunk to sag down in the middle without special anatomical adaptations for support (see Figure 1 on page 22). These include strong top-line ligaments, a robust rib cage, and the ability to stiffen the thoracolumbar region into a hydrostatic tube by maintaining abdominal muscle tone. By using these passive and semi-passive mechanisms, horses (and other large animals) are able to support their weight with respect to gravity, while maintaining the flexibility needed to move in the world and “make a living”. Before accommodating a rider, a horse must be able to manage his own body competently. Horses stand for up to 23 hours each day, only lying down for brief periods of REM sleep. Continued on page 22.

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Hydrostatic pressure Compression Tension Supraspinatus


Rectus sling

Figure 1

Body weight

Continued from page 21. If they lie down for longer periods, their weight would crush their muscles and depress their respiration. Their unconscious postural control system enables them to have “standing sleep”, and maintains upright support, whether they’re sleeping, playing or doing a piaffe. After all, gravity never takes time off! A four-legged table best supports weight right in the middle of its four supports. The horse, however, has a heavy head and neck protruding out from his front end, away from his four-legged supports. This shifts his center of mass (COM) forward (see sidebar below). This means the best and most balanced weight-bearing area is just behind his withers. When a saddle rests behind the withers, it places the rider right above the horse’s center of mass. When all is perfect, the rider’s weight will increase the load of the horse’s own body weight in a predictable way that is easy to manage.

What’s easier to carry – a sack of flour, a toddler having a tantrum, or your baby on your hip? The first is just a load. It will increase your muscle work but you are still carrying dead weight. The second – controlling a strong, determined and illogical creature, while doing your best to prevent harm to your load or yourself – is a nightmare. Carrying a baby (who wants to be carried) is another thing entirely. A baby cuddles close to your body (and may even hang on), and moves with you, not against you, so you can focus on other things. How can we translate this knowledge to the riding experience? The best riding experiences happen when you and the horse move as one. This comes from perfect balance and communication. It is interesting to note that when humans and horses become a dyad (something that consists of two elements or parts), their spines form a right angle. The rider must keep her trunk balanced above her own COM, which in turn is balanced above the horse’s COM. What happens when you lean off to the side? Either you fall off, or the horse compensates for your balance change. This explains why some horses can show issues with an amateur rider that disappear when a professional gets on – there is a problem with the amateur they can’t compensate for. It takes a long time to learn to ride skillfully because balance is very much a learned skill. A rider will never be like a sack of flour, because the rider has a dynamic nervous system that is continuously compensating for minute changes in her own balance. Even breathing requires active postural compensation! The “busier” a rider is, the more compensation is needed from both her and the horse. Horses are generous creatures. Most will work very hard to stay underneath their riders, even though this distracts from their own athletic performance.

CONNECTING TWO MINDS AND BODIES Beyond the mechanics of horse and rider managing their individual and combined weight bearing, there is also a neurologic interaction between their conscious and unconscious nervous systems – and that’s where the magic lies! Both horse and rider possess a conscious intent, which hopefully aligns when a difficult task lies ahead. Let’s take a very simple example – trotting along a straight line. The rider visualizes the intended path because the horse, with his eyes set on the sides of his head, does not have convergent vision. The rider can signal the desired speed and direction in a number of ways: voice, legs, hands and body. While some horses are trained to voice command, we can all agree that verbal instructions are the least reliable way to communicate with most horses. What other tools are more effective? 22

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Continued on page 24.

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Continued from page 22.

THE IMPORTANCE OF POSTURAL BALANCE Your postural balance is by far the best way to get a horse to pay attention, because human and equine nervous systems both make remaining upright, at all costs, a very high priority. But how often do riders give their horses conflicting information? If a beginner rider fears falling at the trot, for example, she may lean forward and grab the mane. Moving her weight forward is the clearest possible signal for the horse to increase speed. The horse is dynamically trying to keep the rider’s weight beneath his legs. Unfortunately, faster is exactly what the rider did not want! Your hands on the reins can also convey erroneous communications through another neurologic mechanism. Did you know that the jaw joint (TMJ) is closely aligned with posture and movement? Try this: stand up straight, with your eyes ahead and hands down at your side. Now, stick your jaw out as far as you can. Did you feel how your upright posture shifted forward to match the jaw’s position? Now try backwards and side to side. This is an automatic mechanism, built into our nervous systems to keep the brain safe. So if a rider is unconsciously pulling on one side, she will literally be turning the horse by shifting his balance towards his jaw. Similarly, if a rider tries using her legs to influence the horse, but cannot do so without changing her own balance, the horse will likely choose to respond to the most compelling information – the rider’s balance. Why? Because a rider’s balance can seriously impede a horse’s own support system; and most horses, in their generosity, try to protect the humans on their backs! We can’t fight gravity. But, with skill and awareness, and a basic understanding of biomechanics, we can make the most of the beautiful interaction between horse and rider.

Dr. Karen Gellman holds DVM and PhD degrees in animal locomotion biomechanics from Cornell University. She has advanced training and certification in veterinary acupuncture and veterinary chiropractic, and has practiced these and other holistic modalities since 1995. She teaches posture, biomechanics and holistic therapies to veterinarians worldwide. Dr. Gellman is the research director of Maximum Horsepower Research and practices holistic veterinary medicine in New York State. She also teaches summer programs in biological research and health professions for high school seniors – training the next generation of scientists.


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– moving as one When all aligns perfectly, we can become centaurs. Our bodies are one with the horse. Alignment of mind and intent is best accomplished by alignment of bodies.

It shouldn’t be surprising that a superb rider’s limbs are often mirroring the horse’s limbs when they are in perfect balance. Look at the pirouette pictured at right. Limb for limb, the rider and horse are completely relaxed and in unison. This is the joy and connection we all want with our horses! There is no doubt that this horse knows exactly what his rider wants. See how the rider’s alignment and weight travel vertically down with gravity to the supporting hind legs, as the horse’s trunk is raised off the ground. Both spines are dynamically responding to the movement, and are in calm anticipation of future movement by looking in the direction of the pirouette turn.

Eaglewood Equestrian Supplies has it all. We especially love their PFIFF breeches, jodhpurs, and tights. Available in many fashionable designs and colors, their line of riding apparel reflects a high quality of design and materials, including full seat, knee patch, and silicon grip options. Most styles are available in both adult and children’s sizes, with regular and tall specifications. They also offer free shipping to Canada and the US on orders over $100.

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The preferred choice in pasture management

We all know horses rely heavily on their owners to keep pastures and stables clean. Doing so helps prevent worms and flies from spreading life-threatening diseases. USA made, Greystone’s paddock vacuums are powered by easy to start Honda 4 stroke motors. They are reliable, efficient and will save you time and effort in the never-ending task of manure collection. Their vacuums work in grass that is long, short, wet or dry. Simply tow behind a riding mower or fourwheeler. This multipurpose tool can be used all over the farm - to empty water troughs, gather leaves and stable shavings, the possibilities are endless!


Ride in style


Multipurpose medicated shampoo

The trusted brand Banixx has introduced a new product - a veterinarian-strength medicated shampoo that’s enriched with marine collagen (a soothing agent for infection). Formulated for horses and dogs, its antifungal and antibacterial properties relieve conditions such as scratches, fungus, ringworm, rain rot, mane/tail itch, red irritated skin and dermatitis. It can be used for spot treatment or as an all-over cleanser. In addition to treating common skin conditions, it also leaves your horse glossy and vibrant from mane to tail!



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and poultices for your horse’s back Topical liniments and poultices have been part of the horse world for centuries, and are routinely used on the legs. But they can also make an inexpensive and healthy contribution to your horse’s back health. By Joyce Harman, DVM


n the past, veterinarians used herbal medicines for topical treatments because little else existed. That’s not the case today. In fact, the typical “standby” liniments commonly found in barns everywhere often contain harsh ingredients or chemicals. Most commercial liniments may feel great on our hands because of our thin skin, but they do not sufficiently penetrate a horse’s skin. Products made with herbs or essential oils, on the other hand, penetrate the skin much more effectively, soothing the muscles and ligaments – without the chemicals. Let’s look at the difference between liniments and poultices and how they can help heal your horse’s back.

LINIMENTS A liniment is a liquid or slightly thickened gel blend composed of plant extracts, essential oils and other compounds. The base liquid is usually vinegar, rubbing alcohol, aloe vera, witch hazel, or Everclear/grain alcohol. Liniments can be made from many combinations of herbal extracts. Chinese liniments have been developed over centuries 26

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and often contain a greater number of herbs than a formula designed with Western herbs. The ingredients in Chinese formulas are balanced according to Chinese patterns of diagnosis, in which practitioners consider pain a stagnation of energy. Most Western herbal liniments are designed as either “warming” or “cooling”. The formulas are simpler than their Chinese counterparts, and easy to create yourself.

USING LINIMENTS TO TREAT YOUR HORSE’S BACK Commonly used as part of the cooling process after work, liniments also help when back pain is present. The watery nature of a liniment makes it easy to sponge over the horse’s back. In cold weather, use warm water and limit the amount of cold liquid used. Avoid soaking the back. The most common back conditions treated by liniments are related to musculoskeletal issues. The top of the spine down the center of the back is often thought of as the bone of the spine.

In reality, we’re feeling a ligament that covers the top of the tall spinous processes in the horse’s back. Falls, saddles that do not fit, or trauma from an attack by another horse can damage that ligament, and this doesn’t include any of the other creative ways a horse may injure his back. You can treat your horse with warming or cooling liniments, depending on his condition.

• Cinnamon: Warming, increases circulation


• Arnica: Warming, known for its use topically for sore or overworked muscles, as well as bruising

Warming: Liniments made with warming herbs work well for all forms of chronic muscle pain, muscle spasms, ligamentous damage and back pain from poor saddle fit. Warming liniments may also benefit the sacroiliac area (the joint that attaches the pelvis to the spine). The joint is deep inside so liniments may not reach it, but many herbs absorbed through the skin do have a systemic or deeper effect. Warming liniments are also useful after a hard workout to help relax the muscles and improve the circulation, much as humans enjoy a hot bath. Cooling: Cooling liniments are indicated after damage and fresh inflammation, usually within the first few days to a week after an injury. If a hard work session generated inflammation or activated some injured areas, or if the weather is very hot, cooling liniments can prove beneficial.

HERBS FOR A LINIMENT • Witch Hazel: Should be used in a quality extract, rather than the common version found in pharmacies; warming, relieves sore muscles, very commonly used as a liniment base, and is safe for the skin

• Cayenne pepper: Stimulating, relieves pain (note – can test positive in the show ring) • Ginger: Increases circulation

POULTICES A poultice is a thick preparation applied topically to the skin. Common poultices are made from a clay base (mixed with essential oils, herbs or other compounds). Poultices are usually applied to the lower legs to decrease inflammation and swelling, or to draw out infection. For the back, poultices can be made from plant material steeped in hot water, and applied to the body. Fresh or dried herbs are crushed, pressed or soaked until they form a paste. More commonly used on the legs, they are a little more challenging to use on the back since you’ll need to bandage it to keep it in place. If left uncovered, the horse may roll and remove it. If you do use a poultice on your horse’s back, wash it thoroughly before riding. Leftover ingredients can be irritating under a saddle. Continued on page 28.

• Valerian: Relaxes muscles, warming, calming

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DIY LINIMENTS AND POULTICES: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW • People often use rubbing alcohol as the base of a cooling liniment because it evaporates quickly, but it can also dry out the skin and irritate tender-skinned horses, especially if used regularly. If you have a sensitiveskinned horse, try vinegar, aloe, or make a tea (called an infusion).

• Camphor is an excellent essential oil to help stimulate the circulatory system and decrease swelling. It also works as an antispasmodic and has antibacterial properties, among many other effects. Camphor is often added to liniments to help with penetration and for its cooling effects but sensitive-skinned horses may react to it. If you think you have a reactive horse, test a small area first. Be cautious when using it on body parts where the horse might rub and get it in his eye. It’s very painful and can damage the eye.

• If you use laser or some form of light therapy as part of your routine, check with the company to be sure it’s safe to use over a liniment. In many cases, it’s best to use the machine before you apply a liniment. Many machines will not be able to work through a thick poultice.

Learn to make your own liniment: 1. Making herbal liniments (Mountain Rose Herbs): youtube.com/watch?v=IDVzYK96l4Y 2. Step-by-step recipe and instructions for making Kloss’s Liniment: learningherbs.com/remedies-recipes/jethro-kloss/

Continued from page 27.

HERBS FOR A POULTICE • Plantain: Grows in most pastures, is soothing and cooling to the skin, helps drain the lymphatic system • Dandelion leaves: Anti-inflammatory, helps relieve arthritic symptoms • Burdock root: Anti-inflammatory, cool, moistening • Calendula flowers: Neutral to a bit warm, excellent for skin lesions and rain rot • Chickweed roots and stems: Anti-inflammatory, soothes dry skin • Comfrey leaves: Easy to grow and you can use the whole leaf mashed up; treats injuries, broken bones (it’s also known as “knit-bone”), skin lesions, arthritis discomfort, and bruises

ESSENTIAL OILS FOR LINIMENTS AND POULTICES Essential oils are the concentrated extracts of herbs. They can be added to a formula in small amounts, or the formula can be based entirely around them. Learn about using essential oils before applying them to your horse’s back. They are wonderfully powerful, but can be irritating. If your horse has sensitive skin, start with a small area when using essential oil-based products. Popular choices include: • Copaiba: Anti-inflammatory, mild and soothing • Lavender: Relaxes muscles, decreases stress, and soothes skin irritations • Peppermint: Cooling and refreshing • Basil: Relaxes sore muscles Herbal liniments and poultices offer a natural and inexpensive alternative to harsh and ineffective commercial products. You can choose specific herbs and essential oils based on your horse’s needs and create a custom compound that’s sure to soothe and heal.

Joyce Harman graduated in 1984 from Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. Her practice is 100% holistic, using acupuncture, chiropractic, herbal medicine and homeopathy to treat horses and enhance performance for those with a variety of chronic conditions. Her publications include the Pain Free Back and Saddle Fit books, the only ones written independently of a saddle company. She maintains an informative website at harmanyequine.com and harmanymuzzle.com 28

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All photos courtesy of Liz Mitten Ryan

Lives of Horses

Herd dynamics are fascinating to observe. Read about herd hierarchy and how you can find your own place within your equine family. By Liz Mitten Ryan

Horses commune with the author, the human member of their herd.


e are lucky to be able to connect and communicate with a one-family herd of horses here at Equinisity Retreats. I have lived among them for 23 years and have witnessed their huge capacity for love, joy, passion and grief — emotions no different from what

we experience as humans. The horses in our herd descend from four sisters and have each been “welcomed to the world” using

The herd order – everyone has a part to play

A year ago, we lost our first herd member, Limited Edition, the grandmother and lead mare of our herd. She was 23. Her daughter is now filling her position. In a natural herd, the lead mare is the wise elder. Gentle, calm and loving, she supports the well-being of the herd. She leads them to food and water and makes wise choices to protect their safety.

non-invasive imprinting. The herd has the ultimate freedom to experience life as they would in the wild, while also experiencing a loving and supportive association with their humans. 30

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Next is the dominant mare, usually the lead mare’s younger sister. In our case, that’s Diva, who is still with us at age 23.

The dominant mare is in charge of herd order and discipline. She is often confused with the lead mare, but they are uniquely different positions. In her youth, Diva was quick to discipline any herd member who did not respect her directive. What would start as a look quickly became a bite, charge or kick, whatever punishment she thought fit the crime. I have had many “discussions” with Diva over the years, reinforcing that in a safe family herd, an order of discipline is not really necessary. Our geldings, too, are there to teach and guide rather than discipline. Like stallions, they serve as partners to our mares and protectors of the young. I believe we have much to learn from horses, and they too can learn important lessons from us.

Bridging the gap – encouraging empathy and respect between ranks

Empathy and compassion are two of the biggest human qualities that may not always be readily apparent in horses. This is particularly true in situations where herd safety is important. One of my meaningful “discussions” with Diva illustrates this. Epona, our blonde goddess who is often picked on for being another color, had injured her leg. After she was stitched up, I put a blanket on her as she was in shock. Blankets are a rare occasion in a wild herd and anything that could draw a predator’s attention is a concern. As a result, Diva began charging her and keeping her on the outskirts of the herd. At first, I tried to talk to Diva, explaining that Epona was not endangering the herd. This was to no avail, so I thought of another plan. I found a blanket and gave our angry, stomping, but beloved mare a chance to “walk a mile in Epona’s shoes”. It didn’t take long before she indicated to me that she fully understood. I took the blanket off and she has never displayed that behavior again. As the human lead mare of our herd, I have acted as a mediator on behalf of submissive members that seem to be pushed around more than necessary. When the lead mare offers extra attention by grooming a fellow herd member, or chooses him or her for company, it raises that horse’s status within the herd. In order to encourage this connection between the lead mare and the more submissive members of the herd, I take them out to share a mutually rewarding exercise together. This fosters stronger relationships between higher and lower ranks, and unites the herd.

Earn respect, not obedience

The herd and I interact with mind pictures, words and body language. These shared tools of communication are learned primarily from the lead mare, as she is the wisest and most loving in her teachings. She walks through the herd with clear focus and intent, and so the “waters part”. A herd Equine Wellness


Program participant Jennifer Pethely with Crystal.

Liz practices gentle imprinting.

member would have to be completely disrespectful to receive a nip from a lead mare. When instructing on human/horse connection and communication, we teach invitation and reward using focus and intent -- the language of the herd. Humans often place themselves in the position of the dominant mare while “training”. This often translates to “I tell you what to do and you obey…or else.” The response this receives is based on fear rather than love and respect. Horses choose to follow a human who displays lead mare behavior, moving body parts when asked and joining in mutually rewarding activities at liberty. They seek out the human and enjoy sharing time with him or her. They often show us things we would never think to ask for. Our herd has coined this “natural horsefriendship” as opposed to “manship”.

horses live in stalls (which is like keeping a human in a bathroom) and are only occasionally taken out. It is completely unconscionable to treat an animal as if he or she has no emotions. Among all living things, there exists a shared consciousness. An awareness by the mind of itself and the world around it. When we allow our animal family members to live naturally, as they choose, and enjoy a quality of life that affords them love, family, freedom and the right to happiness, we access the highest levels of connection and community. Sharing in this enlarges all our hearts and enriches our relationships with joy, understanding and love.

TWO STEERS SHARE THE HERD When we allow our horses to live together in a family (whether biological or Our herd also has two steers. They are wonderful adopted), there are peaceful beings that would long ago have become many health benefits, meat if we hadn’t taken them in. They have known only both emotional and love and show us a level of intelligence and affection physical. Having that rivals our horses’. the freedom and choice to be in or They follow at liberty. They do agility, touching cones or out of shelter, to putting their feet in hula-hoops for praise or food rewards, run, role play and just as the others do. I have found it to be a group mind develop friendships activity that somehow all our members understand. is as important to any animal as it is to Our newest addition, Thor, was only two weeks old humans. When horses when he first visited the playground with his mom, are kept in paddocks Micah. He went straight over, touched a cone alone, without the ability with his nose, and then put his feet in a hulato share activities with other hoop as though he had been doing horses, they develop behaviors it forever! similar to humans who live in isolation. There are still places where Liz Mitten Ryan is a clear channel for the ALL (or God), sharing the pure outpouring of inspiration as a diverse rainbow of creativity. As a child, she was clearly aware of her purpose to bring forth an understanding that not just humans, but all life, is an interface with God, source, or as the animals have shared, the ALL. On a secluded 320-acre plot of sacred land in the hills of BC ranch country, the “Herd” and Liz offer connection and interface with horses and nature in an off-grid retreat center. Visitors experience the higher vibrational energies of the land and the herd, consisting of 14 horses, two pet steers, dogs, cats and local wildlife that make it their home. Liz and the “Herd” have written five award-winning books and been the subject of two award-winning documentaries. Visit equinisityretreats.com to learn more.


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HERB BLURB By Melanie Falls

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) A staple of natural skincare, witch hazel can benefit both you and your horse.

Found in your local drugstore, witch hazel is famous for being an affordable, effective treatment for human skin. But did you know this wonderful plant also has many uses around the barn? Witch hazel is not named for its ghoulish roots. The word “witch” is from the Old English word “wice”, meaning flexible. The Native Americans commonly used the extract from this lovely, decorative shrub for skin irritations and tumors.

PLANT PARTS AND USES Indigineous to North America, the American witch hazel shrub is often found near bodies of water. The medicinal benefits of the plant are extracted from the bark and twigs, usually by boiling in water to make a decoction, or by steam distillation. Traditionally, witch hazel was steam distilled as a treatment for skin irritations, inflammation and tumors. The first commercial sales were recorded in Connecticut in the mid-1800s. Today, witch hazel is used as an astringent, household cleaner and skin care agent. You can also apply it to clean and heal minor cuts and abrasions, thanks to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits.

gleam! While witch hazel has many topical uses, you should never administer it internally. Many drugstore formulas include alcohol that is not safe to ingest. Also, be sure to test a small area of your horse’s skin before application. Due to its astringent properties, it can dry out his skin.

HOME GROW AND CULTIVATE YOUR WITCH HAZEL Once established, witch hazel is a hardy low-maintenance plant. It needs cool weather and partial shade. This plant typically grows in Hardiness Zones 3 to 8, in rich soils that require a lot of moisture — so be sure to mulch and water regularly. The witch hazel shrub has beautiful red or white flowers that bloom in the fall. The best time to harvest the bark is in the spring or fall. Cut the small branches near the base of the larger branch. When stripping the bark, make sure to catch the moist underlay beneath to reap its maximum benefits. You can use the cuttings right away, or dry them for later use.

USING WITCH HAZEL ON YOUR HORSE Witch hazel is a popular base ingredient for liniments, due to its soothing and cooling effects on the skin. You can make your own liniment by mixing witch hazel extract with water and spraying your horse after an intense workout. You can also dab some onto a cotton ball to clean minor wounds and skin irritations, including itchy spots created by insect bites and midges. Witch hazel is also an effective all-natural stain remover. Spray some onto your horse’s white socks to clean them up and make them

Melanie Falls is a holistic health aficionado and advocate, inspired by healing her own horse, 23-year-old Desario, using natural methods. She writes articles for various equine publications and online blogs and is the owner of Whole Equine, an online store featuring a large catalog of top quality all-natural horse care products including supplements, fly sprays, first aid and much more. She offers free nutritional consultations to all her customers and is passionate about improving the lives and health of our large four-legged friends. wholeequine.com, info@wholeequine.com, 844-946-5378

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Back pain seems fairly common in riders, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Understanding the factors that contribute to back pain, and learning exercises and strategies to prevent problems, may save you “down the road”. By Beth Glosten, MD


n estimated 85% of adults will experience back pain at some time in their lives. For over half of them, the pain will recur. I speak from experience. About 20 years ago, my riding passion was put on hold due to severe back problems that required surgery. A practicing physician at the time, I had to figure out how to ride and take care of my horses. So I donned my “scientific” hat and learned the “backfriendly” way to ride. What I found is that riding in a back-friendly manner is the same as riding well. Before I address preventative options any further, though, let’s take a closer look at the causes of back pain.

THE SPINE – THE BACKBONE OF GOOD HEALTH The spine consists of a series of stacked vertebrae (Figure 1), each separated from the other by an intervertebral disc. The disc allows a small amount of movement between each vertebrae. Excessive movement and malalignment at the intervertebral and other joints of the spine are important contributors to back pain (see sidebar on page 37 for other risk factors).

1 ure


Illustrations courtesy of Sandy Johnson


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Good posture is the natural alignment of your vertebrae. Preserving good posture requires an awareness of spine alignment and the muscular support of this alignment. The following exercises can help you become aware – and supportive – of your posture.

EXERCISE FOR SPINAL AWARENESS 1. Supine pelvic rocking

Small movements of the pelvis and lower back improve awareness of spine alignment. 1. Lie on the floor or a mat, knees bent, feet flat on the floor hip-joint width apart, in neutral alignment. 2. Take an easy inhale breath. 3. Posterior pelvic tilt or pelvic tuck – On the exhale, scoop in your abdominal muscles to move the top of your pelvis toward the floor, flattening your low back. 4. Anterior pelvic tilt – On the next inhale, move the top of your pelvis away from the floor, arching your back slightly so your lower back comes off the floor. 5. Slowly alternate flattening and arching your lower back six to eight times, inhaling as you arch your spine, and exhaling as you flatten your spine onto the floor. Try to use abdominal and back muscles for this movement, not your gluteal or leg muscles. 6. Gradually decrease your range of motion until, like a pendulum moving slower and slower, your lower back comes to rest. This position is

likely very close to your neutral spine alignment. 7. When your spine is in neutral alignment, the plane defined by three points – your pubic bone, and the prominent bones on the right and left sides of the front of your pelvis – will be parallel to the floor. When you stand, or sit in the saddle, this plane is perpendicular to the floor.

EXERCISES FOR POSTURAL SUPPORT Once you have found correct spine alignment, you need to keep your spine in this position…despite being on a moving horse! Supporting good posture


Figure 2: Spine Extension

on horseback not only keeps your spine in a healthy position, but also provides the most efficient position from which to achieve balance.

2. Spine extension This exercise strengthens the muscles of your back. 1. Lie on the floor on your stomach (Figure 2). Rest your forehead on a towel for comfort, if required. 2. Place your arms by your sides with your palms up. 3. Take an easy inhale breath. Exhale, and pull your abdominal wall up off


We know to be mindful of our posture while in the saddle. However, back injuries can also occur while working around your horse. Pay attention to body alignment and mechanics during your barn chores. Remember the following: • Avoid twisting while lifting. • Lift objects by bending your legs, not your spine. Remember, “align your nose with your toes” to prevent twisting and strain. • Move your feet to fork manure into the wheelbarrow – avoid rotating your torso. • Keep heavy objects close to the front of your body. • Split heavy loads into several lighter loads, or get help. • Use a tractor or wheelbarrow whenever possible. • Use a step stool to groom a large horse. Don’t reach and twist to get at his back. • Finally, avoid fatigue! Just as with horses, injuries are more likely to occur when you’re tired.

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4. On the next inhale, bring your shoulder blades together and slowly lift your upper body off the floor. The muscles to lift your upper body should be the deep mid and upper back muscles. 5. Exhale as you rest your upper body back down. 6. Repeat four to six times. Initiate the movement with your shoulder blades coming down your back toward the center of your body, and not from your neck. Feel that you keep your head and neck in alignment with the rest of your spine. Feel as if your back is getting longer, reaching away from your pelvis. If this exercise causes low back pain, reduce the range of motion and seek support from your scooped-in deep

abdominal muscles, or avoid the exercise until you can get expert feedback. Follow this exercise set with a back stretch.

5. Walk your hands over to your left side, stretching the right side of your rib cage.

3. Back stretch

4. Plank on mat: knees

1. Start on your hands and knees. Sit back toward your heels and lower your forehead toward the mat (Figure 3).

Plank is a fantastic integrating exercise for core muscles function and shoulder and leg support.

2. Either reach your arms overhead, resting your hands on the floor, or keep them by your sides.

1. Lie on your stomach on a mat.

3. Use your breath to stretch your back muscles. As you breathe in, feel how expanding your rib cage stretches your back muscles. As you exhale, focus on scooping in the abdominal muscles to support the stretch of your lower back muscles. Hold for several breaths. 4. Walk your hands over to your right side, stretching the left side of your body. Breathe into the left rib cage two to three times to facilitate the stretch.

2. B end your elbows and keep them by your sides and place your forearms on the mat. Bend your knees so your lower legs are off the floor (Figure 4). 3. While keeping your shoulders stable, lift yourself onto your knees and forearms into a suspended plank position (Figure 4). Seek a long and neutral spine position and avoid pulling your shoulders up around your ears. Try to keep your pelvis level, not pushed up to the ceiling.

3. Figure 3: Back stretch


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Photographs courtesy of Audrey Guidi.

the floor. This should not be a visible movement, just a pulling in of your abdomen to support your lower back.

What I found is that riding in a back-friendly manner is the same as riding well.


Figure 4: Plank on mat, knees

4. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. Plank exercises help integrate abdominal and back muscles, as well as the shoulder girdle and leg muscles. They encourage body stability and balance. When I see a rider being pulled or tossed around by her horse, I say: “Think plank!” Maintaining a healthy back involves lifestyle choices and attention to biomechanics both on and off your horse. Riding with good posture in a manner that supports your spine also creates body balance and control – essential to good riding!

Plank on mat, variation

RISK FACTORS FOR BACK PAIN There are many risk factors for back pain, including cigarette smoking, depression, stress, jobs that require heavy lifting, twisting and bending, and even sedentary work, which can prove stressful to your back. Back health begins with examining your lifestyle. Are there aspects of your daily life that could be modified to limit the aforementioned risk factors?

Ride in balance, ride in support, and ride in good health.

Dr. Beth Glosten is retired from medical practice. She created her RiderPilates program to help riders develop balance and proficiency in the saddle. Beth offers both on-horse rider position-focused riding lessons, and off-horse private and small group Pilates classes. She travels to teach RiderPilates riding clinics. Beth received her Pilates training through the PhysicalMind Institute and is certified through the Pilates Method Alliance. She earned her medical degree from the University of Washington School of Medicine and had a career as an academic anesthesiologist. Beth also teaches mindfulness and is a certified instructor for Mindfulness Northwest. A dressage rider, she has earned her USDF bronze, silver and gold medals, and is a graduate of the USDF “L” judge training program. Learn more at riderpilates.com, and explore Beth’s book, The Riding Doctor: A Prescription for Healthy, Balanced, Beautiful Riding Now and for Years to Come, from which this article was adapted.

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NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP By Karen Rohlf of Dressage Naturally

A holistic view for creating a healthy back


When improving your horse’s posture, less is more. Allowing energy to flow without resistance is the key to pain-free movement.

he health of your horse’s back is vital to his performance. Achieving healthy back movement requires a holistic solution that takes into account every aspect of your horse’s experience. It is a mistake to think of the back in isolation from the whole horse. A healthy back is a result of healthy posture... and posture is affected by everything. To illustrate this point, think about what your posture would be like if you were unhappy with your life, wearing uncomfortable clothes, and then put in a class with a teacher you feared. This teacher tries to force you into a healthy-looking posture by strapping your head up and continually holding your body in a certain position. But the underlying causes of your poor posture are never addressed. Does this sound like fun? Unfortunately, horses often experience this scenario. While the example above may seem like an exaggeration, it illustrates the mistake of focusing on the symptoms of poor posture instead of the causes. Pay attention to your horse’s subtleties. Make sure you explore every area where you can improve the dynamic between you and your horse.

WHAT IS A HEALTHY BACK? A healthy back is one that is loose, supple, and free from strain and compression. The muscles are free to contract and relax, allowing for freedom of movement. Known as “round” posture, this allows the horse to softly extend his neck forward, lift through the withers, and swing his hind legs under his body. It’s healthy because the energy flows smoothly through his body, and any shock or pressure is absorbed and distributed more evenly.

THE TWO CATEGORIES OF UNHEALTHY BACK BIOMECHANICS I put unhealthy biomechanics into two main categories: active and inactive. 38

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Active: Active unhealthy biomechanics occur when the back actively contracts, causing undue strain on the legs and spine. This discomfort often creates a defensive posture and perpetuates a cycle of brace and strain. Inactive: Inactive unhealthy biomechanics happen when the horse’s back is not athletically activated. This causes him to overload the forehand with undue concussion on the front limbs. This perpetuates a cycle of reluctance to athleticism.

HOW DO WE ACHIEVE HEALTHY BIOMECHANICS? Creating a healthy back is not about “driving them under” or “making them round”. It is not about fixing your horse’s shape. The shape will appear more easily and naturally when you address the root problems first. Here are five things to remember when improving your horse’s posture:

q Shape is a result of Balance. w Balance is the result of Movement. e Movement is the result of Communication. r Communication is a result of Partnership. t Partnership is possible with Happiness. Make it your first goal to have a happy horse who feels open to your suggestions. Make sure he’s happy to see you.

Causes of unhealthy posture Fear Crookedness Pain Mistrust Desensitization Force

Exhaustion Boredom Lack of motivation Confusion Defensiveness Imbalance

Frustration Unbalanced Hooves Past trauma Poor riding Poorly fitted tack

Graphic illustration courtesy of Karen Rohlf

Be trustworthy. Remember -- a relaxed, stretched top line is a vulnerable posture for your horse. Be aware of defensive behaviors and eliminate their source. Motivate and inspire your horse by being a brilliant communicator and rewarding him well. When you look at your horse’s posture in this way, you will be able to implement small improvements that will bring you giant steps closer to healthy movement. Your horse will thank you for it!

Photos courtesy of Dana Rasmussen

To see a video comparing the biomechanics of a happy versus unhappy athlete, go to dressagenaturally.net/happy.

Top: Ovation’s excellent posture through inspired play. Right: Karen Rohlf and Ovation (Holsteiner/Paint).

Karen Rohlf, creator of the Dressage Naturally program, is an internationally recognized clinician who is changing the equestrian educational paradigm. She is well known for doing dressage with a priority of partnership, her student-empowering approach to teaching, her virtual courses, and her positive and balanced point of view. For more about Karen and her methods, go to DressageNaturally.net.

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By Michael I. Lindinger, PhD



gut SYNDROME – part 3

In the third part of this article investigating equine leaky gut syndrome (lgs), we examine the role of the intestinal microbiome and how probiotics and prebiotics help maintain barrier function and improve your horse’s health. The microbiome plays an important role in modifying how a horse’s gastrointestinal tract (GIT) functions and responds to pathogenic challenges. In the third part of this article on equine leaky gut syndrome (LGS), we’ll look at how the intestinal microbiome (see sidebar on page 42) may be manipulated, through diet and use of probiotics and prebiotics, to improve GIT health and barrier function.

FEEDING THE GIT Bacteria and yeasts are used as microbial feed additives. If these additives are dead or inactivated, they are considered prebiotic and not probiotic. The most commonly-used genera for probiotics are Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium and Enterococci. We will also consider a strain of Bacillus subtilis. The equine GIT does not naturally contain high levels of these genera. However, probiotics are not required to colonize the GIT in order to obtain beneficial effects. In many animals, the ability of probiotics to colonize the GIT is not host-specific. Therefore, strains are selected on the basis of their beneficial effects, and not their origin. 40

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Good evidence-based research supports the positive effects of probiotics and prebiotics on intestinal barrier function and health in laboratory and production animals, but results obtained to date in healthy and diseased horses remain inconclusive – additional and improved research is needed.

Bifidobacterium, Lactobacillus and Bacillus subtilis Different species of live Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus have had positive effects on animal models with intestinal infection and inflammation. In several studies using mice, Bifidobacteria showed a range of beneficial effects, including enhanced intestinal immune system support, improved survival against pathogens, improved intestinal histology, and reduced inflammation and leakiness. Bacillus subtilis is a naturally-occurring species of bacteria commonly found in soil, but also present in the GIT of many animals, including horses. In horses, the Bacillus species represent less than 1% of the microbiome, but they may play a larger role than their numbers indicate. The PB6 strain of B. subtilis was

identified in the GIT of stressed poultry nearly 20 years ago, when found to be associated with increased survival rates of poultry suffering from the GIT disease necrotic enteritis. This strain has been developed and extensively tested for function and safety. PB6’s mechanism of action appears to operate through its ability to produce and secrete an active molecule into the GIT that hinders the proliferation of Clostridium and other pathogenic species. PB6 has been used in research studies using poultry and pigs. The results included improved feed utilization, reduced number of pathogenic bacteria, improved IEC morphology, and improved tight junctions between IECs. PB6 was therefore tested against strains of pathogenic bacteria common to horses. In many animals, Clostridium species are associated with gastrointestinal distress. C. difficile is common, and one of the most important causes of diarrhea and enterocolitis in foals and adult horses. These species produce toxins that break down the structural integrity of the mucosal barrier and IECs, resulting in LGS. In a lab study of five common equine pathogenic bacteria (C. difficile, C. perfringens, R. equi, S. equi, Salmonella typhimurium), PB6 resulted in the inhibition of growth of all pathogenic species. Routinely providing the PB6 strain of B. subtilis as part of the horse’s diet may help prevent the occurrence of leaky gut, or reduce its severity.

PROBIOTIC AND PREBIOTIC YEASTS Nonpathogenic Saccharomyces cerevisiae and S. boulardii of various strains are the primary probiotic and prebiotic yeasts used. Some inactivated yeast products also used as prebiotics include those that are rich in mannan oligosaccharides and/or beta glucans – both of which are associated with nutraceutical benefits in animals. Research under controlled conditions using laboratory animals provides good evidence for the efficacy of probiotic and prebiotic yeast supplements – including preservation of intestinal barrier integrity, improved intestinal morphology, reduced intestinal damage, stimulation of IgA production, improved inflammatory profile, reduced weight loss, and enhanced survival. These positive results led to research in healthy horses and in those with gastrointestinal disease. In a randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled clinical trial, horses with acute colitis – but supplemented with S. boulardii – had a shorter duration of diarrhea compared to non-supplemented horses, although the duration of loose feces was similar in both groups. In other studies, a seeming lack of efficacy was attributed to difficulty in standardizing treatment, and a possible lack of colonization by S. boulardii in the GIT. It appears the beneficial effects of these yeasts may only

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From Ericsson et al. (2016) PLoS ONE 11(11): e0166523.

A microbiome map of the phyla resident in the healthy equine GIT. The horse’s GIT contains as many as 500 different species of microbiota from 27 different phyla.

The equine


The microbiome refers to the microbes living within the gastrointestinal tract (GIT). These living organisms include bacteria, yeasts, fungi and archaea. The microbiome within each horse is unique, but healthy horses show similar trends. Bacteroidetes, Proteobacteria, Verrucomicrobia, Actinobacteria and Spirochaetes contribute up to 15% each to the microbiome. With gastrointestinal diseases, however, microbiota dysbiosis (a microbial imbalance) is characterized by substantial shifts in the phyla. Many GIT diseases are characterized by an increased abundance of Fusobacteria, with little or no difference in the abundance of Lactobacillales. In a healthy GIT, the populations of beneficial microbiota are high, which keeps the populations of pathogenic microbiota in check. These latter microbiota are called “pathogenic” because some of the products of their metabolism are toxic to IECs, immune cells, and to beneficial microbiota. High-starch diets, sudden changes in diet, medications, excessive stress and ingested pathogens can all result in increased populations of pathogenic microbiota and LGS.

One nutritional strategy, therefore, is to ensure the GIT is regularly provided with the kind of probiotics and prebiotics that can support the populations of beneficial microbiota, while suppressing the population of pathogenic microbiota. Probiotics (pro = good, biotic = alive) are simply living biological organisms, mainly bacteria and yeasts, that are good for GIT health. Prebiotics are compounds that provide nutritional substrates to support beneficial microbiota, resulting in the increased growth, proliferation and metabolism of beneficial microbiota. Beneficial microbiota will also produce molecules that combat pathogenic microbiota. Balance is key – it’s not desirable for all pathogenic microbiota to be destroyed. 42

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persist during the period of administration, and therefore consideration needs to be given to long-term feeding.

IN CONCLUSION… Probiotics and prebiotics can be supplemented in a horse’s normal diet with the goal of better maintaining or repairing GIT barrier functions. While more research in horses is needed, use is indicated from animal studies of intestinal disease. The safety of commercially-available probiotics and prebiotics is high, and large amounts and repeated dosing do not appear to have harmful effects. Most are considered safe by regulatory authorities when used as intended in horses and other animals.

Michael Lindinger (PhD) is the president of the Nutraceutical Alliance. A former professor at the University of Guelph, he is involved in animal health research and nutraceutical product development. Correspondence: Dr. Mike Lindinger, email: michael@ nutraceuticalalliance.ca

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AnsurSaddle.com Equine Wellness


YUCCA and equine health By Daryl Anne Wilga

THIS DESERT-DWELLING PLANT HAS REMARKABLE MEDICINAL PROPERTIES. LEARN HOW YUCCA SCHIDIGERA MAY BE BENEFICIAL FOR YOUR HORSE. A beloved medicinal plant, Yucca schidigera is indigenous to the deserts of southwestern America and Mexico. Also known as Mojave yucca, this flowering evergreen succulent is a hardy plant that thrives in sun and requires little water. Historically, Native Americans found many uses for the yucca plant, including fabric dyes, soap, shampoos and diet. Yucca’s herbal extract has been trusted for centuries thanks to its many compelling health benefits, and it can also offer a lot to your horse.

cholesterol, and more. Additionally, yucca is antimicrobial and contains vitamins and minerals that help reduce stress and anxiety, balance blood pressure and boost the immune system.

EXPERTS WEIGH IN ON YUCCA SUPPLEMENTS FOR EQUINE HEALTH Yucca works in a number of ways. “When considering alternative treatments for your horse’s health and recovery needs, yucca is a safe, effective and trusted choice,” says herbalist Jenn Arruda.

HOW CAN YOUR HORSE BENEFIT FROM YUCCA? One of the richest sources of steroidal saponins (among nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatories), yucca can reduce inflammation and pain in horses as effectively as conventional medicines – without gastric side effects or organ toxicity. Yucca also serves to cleanse the liver, kidneys, blood and lymphatic system. It increases circulation, encourages tissue repair and restores cartilage, making it an excellent healer of internal and external wounds. Yucca’s resveratrol content acts as an antioxidant that gently detoxes the body, expels free radicals, reduces oxidative stress, protects against organ degeneration and helps prevent cancer. As if that isn’t exciting enough, yucca also detoxifies the intestinal track, reduces IBS and colitis, and aids in repairing perforations of the gut wall, popularly known as leaky gut. In turn, this helps the equine body absorb nutrients more efficiently and become less susceptible to allergies. Yucca also helps prevent colic, and works as a digestive aid, with beneficial effects on intestinal flora and pH. It is commonly used to treat arthritis, ulcers and skin conditions. It also helps balance blood sugar, provide cardiovascular support, reduce LDL (bad) 44

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Bethany Videto-Smith, an equine massage therapist, explains the benefits yucca has on equine back health: “Horses can easily become restricted and sore from tension in their backs and hind ends. Back tension can cause short striding, stiffness, a lack of willingness to stretch or round under saddle, and in some cases acting out to avoid painful work. Yucca helps the muscles by reducing swelling and increasing tissue repair rates. Proper consistent exercise and stretching, combined with supplementing yucca on a regular basis, would logically result in a stronger healthier top line, increased limberness and striding up out of the hind end due to an improved range of motion.” Yucca has been used successfully for hundreds of years, and its benefits as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant are supported by modern peer-reviewed studies. Whether you’re seeking a non-toxic alternative remedy, pain relief, or something to simply boost your horse’s overall well-being, Yucca schidigera is an excellent option. Daryl Anne Wilga, a New England native and graduate of Gordon College, has combined her equestrian background with her passion for nutrition and natural remedies in her journey as an entrepreneur. Daryl Anne is the founder and owner of Yucc’ It Up! Equine Supplements in Douglas, Massachusetts. Yucc’ It Up! uses certified organic ingredients, wild-crafted herbs, medicinal spices and high quality essential oils in their Yucca schidigera-based formulas (yuccitup.com)



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Dust off those

GROUND POLES! By April Reeves

Ground poles are often underutilized but they can play a major role in turning your horse into an athlete. A little imagination combined with this versatile tool will make the most of your time in the arena.


nderused and under-loved, the lowly ground pole has the capacity to transform any horse into a powerful athlete. Ground poles help with balance, structure, straightness, engagement, muscle and mind-building, and can improve and change the quality of a horse’s gait. By incorporating ground poles into arena work, horses with behavioral issues also benefit by having to focus on the job at hand. And riders enjoy this addition to flat work. Whether you have a reining horse or a stadium jumper, ground pole exercises are almost unlimited, with each one serving a specific function. The following is a guide to basic ground and raised pole setting, to get you started on building that super athlete you’ve always wanted. Just remember to be mindful of your horse’s condition and don’t overdo pole work.


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As your horse builds stamina and becomes comfortable and eager using ground poles, you may move onto raised trot poles, the first progression in pole training Raised trot poles require various muscles to engage differently than they would during daily riding. The pole height changes the “lift” on a horse. It causes the back to round and hind end to coil. In the neck, the muscles will engage in front of the withers, helping him develop a classic, correct neck. Try adding a few canter lines, at a maximum distance of 12’,

Image A

Ground Poles


Ground poles encourage stretch and lengthening. They engage your horse’s back and stomach muscles, rounding his topline. This is the basis of true connection and collection.

Ground Poles

Introductory line To start, lay 12’ ground poles at a distance of four feet apart (Image A). This will suit the average 1,000 lb horse at a working trot. Begin with one pole and add another each time your horse progresses. Make sure the poles are straight and the gaps even.

At three poles, your horse will let you know if the spacing is too much or too little. Use your foot to adjust the pole one-quarter roll at a time.

shortening the gap as needed. Shortening canter poles teaches a horse to “kangaroo”, a term that means lifting the front and coiling the loins over the raised poles.

CREATING AN ARC You can also lunge over poles laid in an arc. This helps increase suppleness through the bend, especially as you raise the poles. To create an arc, lay three poles next to each other (Image B). Roll them out, leaving a minimum of 1’ in the middle (Image C). Holding one end of the pole in position, walk the other end out 5’ to 6’ (Image D). Repeat for every pole. To increase the circumference, add more distance to the inside width. Continue to add poles to your arc. When you reach around eight, you can begin to lift them. Lifting the pole on the outside end only will help the handler gauge the middle of the pole. As your horse develops, you can raise the outside edge to 8” (Image E). You can also build arcs moving from one direction to the other. Continued on page 48.




E Images B–E (above), Image F (below)

You can make rail risers from 2x4s or 2x6s. Add height as needed. They can be stacked.

F Equine Wellness


Continued from page 47.

CREATING GYMNASTICS COURSES WITH GROUND POLES As you make even more progress, you can begin gymnastics. Move trot poles around your arena, adding them to circles, diagonal lines and serpentines. You can use ground and raised poles together, slowly adding more height as the horse strengthens. Design courses that are fun for you and your horse. Elastic exercises teach a horse to control his stride. Try creating one pole line at normal stride; set another at a shorter distance; and a third with a stretch. Alternating between line sets that stretch and shorten helps with obedience and focus. However, the spacing between each pole in a set should be even. Some things to keep in mind while arranging your poles are:

Tips for

SUCCESS 1. Listen to your horse. Overworking with ground poles can cause joint and muscle stress. 2. Look where you are going and the horse will follow (see photo below).

• Stretching them adds length to the horse • Shortening adds lift and mindfulness • Adding height teaches rounding of the back and helps strengthen tendons and ligaments.

3. You cannot force low heads -- it leads to stiffening and tightening. Your horse must use the muscles in front of his withers and lift his front while stretching through his back, lowering his neck and transferring his weight behind.


4. Ground poles can shift if a horse lands on them, causing potential injury. Try to build or buy pole holders (Image F).

• Using ground poles encourages rhythm and relaxation. This is the foundation of all training. • Suppleness and balance come together faster. This is especially beneficial for western and reining horses, not just English disciplines. • It increases rider education, especially through the hands. • Ground pole work lifts the back by engaging and strengthening the stomach muscles, and teaching the horse to use those muscles. Stretching the back helps maintain muscle during the aging process, and develops correct connection and collection. Ground poles are handy and adaptable tools to use while exercising your horse. They can be used to build strength, demand focus and entertain creativity. So, dust them off and have some fun!

5. Uneven pole spacing leads to a horse tightening as opposed to relaxing and stretching. 6. Build gradually. Teach each exercise with clarity, and focus on the desired result. 7. Learn to pace lines by laying down measuring tape. Do not leave it to guesswork.

Don’t ride the poles: ride the line. Look where you are going and the horse will follow.

Canter poles need to be high enough for the horse to assume correct jumping position. April Reeves began teaching in 1971. Today, she owns Horseman’s Park Alberta where she teaches clinics and private lessons to students in western Canada. She also lectures, writes, shows and breeds warmbloods and quarter horses. She is a multi-discipline rider and CHA Level 3 instructor for English, Western and Jumping. 48

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Equine Wellness Wellness Equine


The Story of This sweet true tale was the winner of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition’s firstever short story contest. By Lillian Tepera


es co


y of L illian Tepe ra



ate felt her muscles tense as she followed Lillian up the hill toward the barn. She tried very hard to be brave and calm, but the usually peaceful barn was in turmoil. Horses who had been brought in from the paddock called loudly to their friends who were still outside. Those who normally did not live in the barn at all were confined to stalls in the middle of the day. And there were extra people in the barn as well. Kate thought she’d seen these extra humans before. Were they good or bad? She couldn’t be sure. All the commotion reminded her of that other barn. The big one with all the metal pens full of terrified horses. Some of those horses she had known from home – her old home, where she had been born. Others she’d never seen before. There were so many humans there, and so much noise. All the horses were crying for each other, looking for a bit of comfort from a horse or human they recognized, but getting none. She kept hearing the word “auction”, but didn’t know what it meant.

One by one the horses had been taken away. Little squares of paper with numbers on them were glued to each horse’s hips. Kate had them too. What did it all mean? After they were taken away, some of the horses came back to the same pen they’d started from. Some did not, but she could eventually see them in another part of the expansive building, in a huge 50

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pen, more scared than ever as they were crowded in with horses they had never met before. Some bit and kicked for fear and self-defense. Some tried to escape the crowding, cowering head down in corners. Sometimes one would slip and fall on the filthy floor. No one seemed to care. Eventually they were loaded onto big trailers where the screaming and thrashing intensified as they were jammed in too close together. The sound of hooves and bodies slamming into the trailers’ metal sides could still be heard after they disappeared from view. Others, like Kate, left in smaller trailers that only held two horses. Her trailer even had a bag of hay to munch on. The Sanctuary’s barn was usually a quiet place, and Kate had not minded living in it when she’d first arrived. The humans said she needed to stay inside until she put on weight and grew stronger. She tried to be calm and well-behaved, but it was better once she was allowed to go outside during the day. Now she lived outside all the time and she liked that best of all. Her big herd had lots of horses in it, some of whom she knew from her home farm; some she’d never met before. But they all got on well together and they always had enough to eat. Usually Kate didn’t mind coming inside. Most of the time it meant a relaxing grooming session and some treats. But on days like this – when the noise and commotion seemed too much like that other place – Kate couldn’t help herself. She felt the fear in every muscle. Her heart beat fast. Her nostrils flared wide to suck in air as she prepared to run from danger. But she was trying hard to be good. She followed at the end of her lead rope, through the double doors into the barn, then

into one of the stalls. The extra people – the people she now recognized – had one of the big mares from Kate’s old farm tied in the aisle with her foot lifted up. They were using some kind of tool to cut away parts of the mare’s hoof. The big mare, Naomi, didn’t seem to care at all. Maybe this would be okay. Kate remembered now that this had been done to her a few times already since she’d come here. It didn’t hurt – not really – but it was very strange and a little scary. Kate didn’t know why they’d all been taken from their home farm and sent to that strange place before she and some friends ended up here at the Sanctuary. She remembered lots of things from her home farm, like the first summer of her life she’d spent lazing in the sunshine with her mother, who protected her and introduced her to the other mares and foals. Then she remembered being taken from her mother and locked in a pen with lots of other babies – ten or more, all running frantically, calling for their mothers. They could hear the mares’ voices somewhere too far away to see. After a while they got used to having only each other for company. There were cold days and warm ones, days when it rained, and days when the world turned white under a blanket of snow. The babies had grown thick winter coats and didn’t mind the cold. They had a big open shelter to hide inside when the wind blew and rain pelted sideways from the sky. Kate remembered that – but mostly she remembered hunger. It hadn’t started right away. Kate and her young friends had lived together over a year before the hunger set in. Once there had been big bales of hay – enough for everyone – and buckets full of grain. But the grain stopped appearing, and then the hay began to run out. The youngsters were put into a large paddock with the older horses, and that made things worse. When hay was put out, the big horses rarely left until it was all gone. The youngsters could only pick at scraps and the dirty moldy bits the older horses left behind. They strained and stretched to reach into the big metal feeder the hay had been put into. Lillian slid a stall door open and led Kate inside to wait her turn to have her feet trimmed. There was hay on the ground and a couple of carrots in the rubber feed tub. Kate loved carrots. Kate’s first few days in the Sanctuary stall had been quite pleasant, especially once more of the horses from her old farm arrived and filled the stalls around her. Kate was given small feedings of hay all day long, but never enough to make her sick. There was lots of water to drink and the bedding was soft and inviting. After a few days she felt confident enough to lie down in it to rest, but then found she could not get up again. Where strong muscles had once rippled beneath her skin, now there were hollows. Her once-round rump was now caved in and skeletal, her hip bones clearly visible under her shaggy winter coat. Equine Wellness


She’d used up her muscles trying to stay alive. Now, when she needed them to hoist herself to her feet, she found herself helpless. Again and again she tried, what little strength she’d had ebbing away with every new effort. And as she thrashed, she opened bloody cuts above her eyes, her gums bleeding where her soft muzzle hit the wall. Robert found her that first time and ran to get help, returning with Lillian and their son, Christopher. They quieted Kate, urging her to lie still so she could gain some strength back, stroking her neck and speaking to her quietly. When it was time to try again, they rolled Kate onto her belly and her chest, propping her up with a bale of hay, and stretching her long front legs in front of her. Lillian took hold of Kate’s halter, urging her up and forward, while Christopher and Robert pushed and heaved and A heal th lifted, then steadied her rear end upon r ier, happier eceivin lookin g the as she wobbled to her feet. care s g Kate h

e deser ves


“She looks like Rocky,” Robert said. Kate didn’t know who that was, but she remembered how gently they’d cleaned and treated her cuts. For three weeks the humans had to come and lift her to her feet. After a day or two, they’d dressed her in a warm blanket and moved her to the indoor riding arena with food and water. When she thrashed there, trying to stand on her own and failing, she had more room and no longer smashed her head into the walls. When it was her turn with the farrier, Kate stood quietly in the aisle. When the woman lifted up her foot, Kate pulled it back and slammed it to the ground. She couldn’t help herself. It was hard to stay calm while a human trapped her leg so she couldn’t get away. The woman stroked her neck and spoke quiet words, waiting until Kate’s heart slowed and she relaxed a little. Then she lifted the foot again and trimmed it. Kate tried so hard to be good. Once the ordeal was over, the humans fed Kate more carrots and Lillian led her back to the paddock. Kate felt the sunshine warm on her back as she cropped green grass.

As a broke and horse-addicted kid, Lillian Tepera cleaned stalls in exchange for riding. She would ride any horse offered to her, and has interesting stories to tell as a result. Now that she bounces less well and has had more sense knocked into her, she is devoted to her small herd of Friesians, and to the 14 rescue horses who share the farm with them. Lillian and her husband Robert bought Stonegate Farm in 2007 to offer therapeutic riding programs, adding a horse rescue in 2012. The Horse Sanctuary at Stonegate Farm is a registered charity, located in Oro-Medonte, Ontario. Its mission is: People Helping Horses Helping People. Editor’s note: This story has been condensed for space. To read the full story, visit: https:// equinewellnessmagazine.com/short-story-kate/. Reprinted here with permission. 52

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Business Profile

LiteCure By Sariana Burnet

DEVELOPING PRODUCTS TO TREAT HUMANS AND HORSES ALIKE, THIS MULTIFACETED COMPANY IS ON THE CUTTING EDGE OF HEALTH AND LASER TECHNOLOGY. LiteCure’s patented deep tissue applicator allows more photons to reach the target tissue by minimizing light loss through reflection off the skin’s surface.


asers have come a long way since their invention in 1960. Today, lasers are the force behind some of technology’s most incredible advancements and can make what seems impossible, possible. In 2006, physical chemist Brian A. Pryor founded LiteCure, LLC. This innovative company designs and manufactures high quality medical devices for both veterinary and medical use, catering to both two-legged and four-legged patients across the nation. A parent company to three medical divisions – LightForce Therapy Lasers (human), Companion Animal Health (veterinary) and Pegasus Therapy (equine/large animal specific), LiteCure is dedicated to providing healthcare professionals with the most advanced therapeutic technology available. After studying mathematics and chemistry at Salve Regina University, Pryor earned his PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. Ten years of building lasers and studying how light interacts with tissue taught Dr. Pryor a great deal, but it also alerted him to one major problem. “I realized that many laser products were just extrapolating results from petri dish studies and not considering the parameters of the patients, such as size, color, etc.,” he explains. “The insight my partner and I had for the need for higher powered lasers in the therapeutic field was the concept that started LiteCure, LLC.” In short, the lasers that existed didn’t allow enough light to penetrate tissue, and the results reflected this. As is the case with most brilliant inventions, LiteCure started out as the solution to a problem. But it’s grown into so much more than that. Pegasus Therapy, the division of LiteCure dedicated to equine and larger animals, offers a drug-free and non-invasive alternative

to traditional therapies. They help equine athletes by preventing injuries from occurring, when possible, and accelerate healing when they do occur. “Our lasers administer a therapeutic dose of light to impaired or dysfunctional tissue, which reduces pain and inflammation,” says Pryor. “Our product is unique to the equine industry because it is a compact, portable and battery powered unit allowing for ease of use in a veterinary clinic, barn or field.” Besides convenience and effective results, Pegasus Therapy also delivers education to current and future caregivers. They proudly sponsor the University of Tennessee’s Equine Rehabilitation Certificate Program, which promotes the art and science of equine physical rehabilitation by educating professionals in the principles and practical application of equine physical rehabilitation. They also promote and support research that will advance the knowledge, skill and treatment of equine rehab, and work to spread the word about its importance to the veterinary industry and human industry alike. LiteCure’s technology and goals might be multifaceted, but their mission is simple: to improve the well-being of horses. “What makes my heart whole and brings a big smile to my face is being able to work with top veterinarians and equestrians in all disciplines with the shared goal of making horses feel better,” says product specialist Trista Zink. “Horses are truly magnificent creatures that put all their trust in us to care for them. Being able to provide laser therapy that not only helps horses heal faster naturally and relieves pain, but also helps safeguard them from injury, is definitely my dream job!”

Equine Wellness


SADDLE FIT By Jochen Schleese, CMS, CSE, CSFT


SADDLE TREE DESIGNS History shows us that saddle trees looked almost the same for 4,300 years. Once horses began to participate in sports, saddle tree design changed to accommodate English and western disciplines. Find out why saddle tree construction changes based on the task at hand.

Photo courtesy Christoph Rieser – used with permission.

For millennia, humans needed horses for transportation and hunting, so it was important to keep them healthy and sound. Saddle trees were designed to help with that. As horses entered more disciplines, saddle trees changed to enhance performance in those sports. All trees, however, should have common goals: to bridge the withers, distribute the weight, and balance the rider. Most horses have a 4”x16” saddle support area on each side of the spinal column, which can be evenly divided into three parts: the front, rear and middle. The front and rear fields should each carry 30% of the saddle and rider’s weight, while the middle carries 40%.

ARMY AND WESTERN SADDLE TREES Army and western trees are big. They distribute the rider’s weight over a large surface, as the rider sits for a long time on a horse’s back. These types of trees have longer bars in the front and back, to bear the load of extra weight or gear for the job that needs doing. The rider sits in the middle or to the rear. 54

Equine Wellness

Antique saddles show that even the earliest saddle makers recognized the need for properly constructed trees with large weight-bearing surfaces in the middle.

The longer the rider needs to sit in the saddle, the wider the tree needs to be in the middle. This is so the horse is able to accomplish a “tree lift”. This happens when the horse raises his back in the middle, and the saddle tree lifts from the middle, to the front of the shoulders and rear parts of the tree, situated on the horse’s loins.

The SSA (saddle support area).


The army/western tree.

Western bars flare in the back.

The racing tree is the complete opposite of the western tree, as there is a very small weight-bearing surface. Because the jockey never really sits on the horse’s back, the tree is very narrow and ends in the middle. The stirrup leathers are hung on the stirrup bar/gullet plate, and the jockey basically stands in the saddle.


A modern racing saddle tree.

A proper English tree design with ‘rock’.

Proper freedom in the shoulder area with the correct tree point angle.

Proper freedom at the loin (left), allows the the back to engage with enough support in the center (right). This is necessary for the ‘tree lift’.

Here, the tree is too straight and hollow in the middle, preventing the necessary 'tree lift' during movement.

The English tree allows the rider to remove weight from the forehand of the horse by engaging the horse’s back. The rider requires skill to lightly contact the seat, while allowing the horse to lift his back, so his hind leg can step under and closer to his center of gravity, decreasing the weight and pressure placed on his front legs. The top of the horse’s back (where the saddle tree sits) is relatively straight, while many English trees are somewhat curved. The wider the tree is in the middle, the less pressure will be exerted on the horse’s loin or shoulders. If the tree is narrow in the middle, or straighter on the bottom, there will be excess heat and pressure in the shoulder and loin area. Saddle trees have specific designs to suit the saddle and its intended use. So, when choosing a saddle, it’s important you select one that is properly suited for your riding needs. Consult with a saddle fitter to ensure the comfort of both you and your horse.

Certified Master Saddler Jochen Schleese came to Canada in 1986 as Official Saddler for the World Dressage Cup. Schleese is the world-leading manufacturer of saddles designed for women, specializing in the unique anatomical requirements of female riders. His team has worked with over 150,000 horses over the past 35+ years. Jochen is the author of the bestselling Suffering in Silence: The Saddle Fit Link to Physical and Psychological Trauma in Horses. saddlesforwomen.com

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Equine Wellness will donate 25% of each subscription purchased using promo code ERLF to the Equine Rescue League.

YEAR ESTABLISHED: 1990 LOCATION: Lovettsville, VA TYPES OF ANIMALS THEY WORK WITH: Horses, minis, ponies, mules and donkeys

NUMBER OF STAFF/VOLUNTEERS/OR FOSTER HOMES: “Equine Rescue League (ERL) has five part-time staff and one full-time farm manager,” says ERL’s assistant farm manager, Julie Wycoff. “We have the best volunteers – so dedicated to the animals, the cause and the farm. Thirty to 40 regular volunteers help us help the animals.”

FUNDRAISING PROJECTS: The organization’s main fundraiser is

Above: Rowan, when he first arrived at Promise Kept Farm.

a bi-annual open house, which attracts hundreds of people to the farm. ERL also publishes a bi-annual newsletter, in addition to their website and social media outlets. “Our volunteers help us man informational booths at shows and expos throughout the year, including the ASPCA’s Help A Horse Day,” says Julie. “Back at the farm, we offer educational tours to individuals and groups. In 2016, Bubba’s Tack Shack was established at the farm, and we sell new and used donated equipment and tack.”

FAVORITE RESCUE STORY: Over 2,000 equines have found help and health at the Equine Rescue League before moving on to better lives, so it was hard for Julie to choose a favorite rescue story. In the spring of 2014, Prince William County Animal Control turned over 2½-year-old Rowan to the ERL. Upon arrival at Promise Kept Farm (the league’s farm shelter), he was suffering from malnutrition, parasite infestation and neglect. Rowan was a two (very thin) on the Henneke body condition scale. The Rescue League provided Rowan with a thorough vet evaluation and lots of TLC. Several hundred pounds later, Rowan developed into a beautiful young horse brimming with promise. “This handsome gelding showed us so much potential that we decided to invest in his future by sending him off to a professional trainer. It is with the donations of so many kind people that we were able to accomplish this.” Rowan spent four months at “college”, where he was started under saddle using classical dressage training. “This little horse surpassed everyone’s expectations with his tenacious spirit and natural ability,” says Julie. In December of that year Rowan was adopted by one of ERL’s staff members. He received the best gift any rescue horse could want – a home! A welcome addition to the family, Rowan is treasured as a lifelong partner and friend. “At ERL, we are often told we end up rescuing people as much as we rescue horses.”

Above: Rowan is a treasured member of his new family. 56

Equine Wellness

Follow ERL on Facebook! facebook.com/equinerescueleagueofvirginia/

RESOURCE GUIDE ASSOCIATIONS Canadian Barefoot Hoof Association - CBHA Renfrew, ON Canada Phone: (613) 432-3620 Email: info@cdnbha.ca Website: www.cdnbha.ca Association for the Advancement of Natural Hoof Care Practices - AANHCP Lompoc, CA USA Phone: (805) 735-8480 Email: info@aanhcp.net Website: www.aanhcp.net Pacific Hoof Care Practioners - PHCP Ventura, CA USA Email: sossity@wildheartshoofcare.com Website: www.pacifichoofcare.org Equine Science Academy - ESA Catawissa, MO USA Phone: (636) 274-3401 Email: info@equinesciencesacademy.com Website: www.equinesciencesacademy.com

BAREFOOT HOOF TRIMMING Anne Riddell - AHA Barrie, ON Canada Phone: (705) 427-1682 Email: ariddell@csolve.net Website: www.barefoothorsecanada.com Barefoot Hoofcare Specialist Kate Romanenko Woodville ON Canada Phone: (705) 374-5456

Natural Barefoot Trimming Emma Everly, AANHCP CP Columbiana, OH USA Phone: (330) 482-6027 Email: emmanaturalhoofcare@comcast.net Website: www.barefoottrimming.com The Veterinary Hospital Nancy Johnson Eugene, OR USA Phone: (541) 688-1835 Email: thevethosp@aol.com Horsense Natural Hoof Care Cori Brennan Sharon, SC USA Phone: (803) 927-0018 Email: brombie1@yahoo.com Kel Manning, CP, Field Instructor, NTW Clinician Knoxville, TN USA Phone: (865) 765-9632 Email: naturalhoofcare@me.com Mary Ann Kennedy Fairview, TN USA Phone: (615) 412-4222 Email: info@maryannkennedy.com Website: www.maryannkennedy.com Icicle Equine Services Katie Garrett Leavenworth, WA USA Phone: (425) 422-4799 Email: Kegarrett88@yahoo.com


Natural Horse, Natural Hoof Sarah Graves Boone, CO USA Phone: (719) 557-0052 Email: msbarefootequine@yahoo.com Cynthia Niemela - Barefoot Hoof Trimming Minneapolis, MN USA Phone: (612) 481-3036 Website: www.liberatedhorsemanship.com Better Be Barefoot Lockport, NY USA Phone: (716) 432-2218 Email: sherri@betterbebarefoot.com Website: www.betterbebarefoot.com


NATURE’S RUN EQUESTRIAN Lessons, training and camp for all ages. Specializing in confidence building for horse and rider in all disciplines - from the ground to the saddle.

Jesse Cassidy-Skof Port Perry, ON • (226)236-8510 Jesse@naturesrunequestrian.com

NaturesRunEquestrian.com Make good choices, play with horses! The Masterson Method®, Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork Weekend Seminars, Advanced, and Certification Courses Worldwide Phone: 641-472-1312 Email: seminars@mastersonmethod.com Website: www.MastersonMethod.com Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis Larkspur, CO USA Phone: (303) 681-3033 Email: acupressure4all@earthlink.net Website: www.animalacupressure.com Virginia Natural Horsemanship Training Center Blacksburg, VA USA Phone: (540) 953-3360 Email: sylvia@NaturalHorseTraining.com Website: www.NaturalHorseTraining.com

Equinology, Inc. & Caninology Gualala, CA USA Phone: (707) 884-9963 Email: office@equinology.com Website: www.equinology.com

Jeannean Mercuri - The Hoof Fairy, LLC Long Island, NY USA Phone: (631) 434-5032 Email: neanpiggy@me.com Website: www.neanpiggy.com, PHCP Mentor & Clinician, AHA Certified Member, Area Served.

57 Equine Wellness View theWellness Wellness ResourceGuide Guideonline onlineat: at:EquineWellnessMagazine.com EquineWellnessMagazine.com View the Resource

Healing Touch for Animals Drea Robertson Highlands Ranch, CO USA Phone: (303) 470-6572 Email: drea@healingtouchforanimals.com Website: www.healingtouchforanimals.com

THERMOGRAPHY Equine IR Bonsall, CA USA (888) 762-2547 Phone: info@equineIR.com Website: www.equineIR.com Email: info@thermalequine.com Website: www.thermalequine.com

Equine Wellness 57 Equine Wellness 57

equine fencing

options By Sariana Burnet

When planning and constructing a grazing or Fencing materials work space for your horse, remember that you Wooden rail fencing — the classic are building fencing for your horse — your horse Wooden rail fencing is traditional, natural and inexpensive. It’s is not built for fencing! Here are some guidelines what you see when you envision the picturesque landscape to help you finesse your fencing. of a rolling pasture, brimming with rural tranquility. Its visual


ime, weather, nature and nurture all factor into your fencing’s longevity, structural integrity and overall cost and maintenance. Before you begin exploring your options for equine fencing, consider your long-term needs. Are you reconstructing, or creating a structure from scratch? Will your enclosure be temporary, or do you hope to create your own permanent pastoral paradise? You also need to consider affordability and material availability. Here are some things to think about when considering equine fencing.

Picking a fence post Wood posts – Widely available and commonly used. Can be installed using a technique that compacts the soil around the post rather than loosening it through digging. Driving posts in this way will add strength and durability. Wood posts require maintenance for rot, splintering and weathering. They can be used in combination with both organic and inorganic fencing materials. Treated wood posts – Will not rot, are uniform in shape and natural in appearance. However, they are chemically treated — these chemicals will seep into the soil and your horse’s grazing. Metal T posts – Simple to install with either a driver or sledgehammer, and can be easily moved. Metal T posts require additional materials such as clips, caps and insulators in order to be safe for equine use. Locust posts – Locust posts are a renewable and rustic wooden post choice. They are naturally resistant to rot, making them more durable. They are heavy, and require a deep hole for installation. Locust posts can be cost prohibitive, unless you live in an area where they can be reclaimed. They are not uniform in size and shape, giving them a charmingly natural look. 58

Equine Wellness

appeal, however, involves significant upkeep and maintenance, especially if your fence is painted. The wood must be inspected regularly for splinters, loose nails and boards. Rail fencing is also especially tempting for cribbers and leaners, so remember your horse’s habits. Woven wire These fences are made of steel wires woven horizontally and vertically. The wires are connected by either a knot or welding at their junctions. This type of fencing requires proper spacing between knots to prevent injury, and you must include added visibility, such as a top board. The fence will stretch as your horse leans, so it is often used with electric fencing as a deterrent. V-Mesh is an exceptional fencing medium, the choice of many veterinarians, horse owners and breeders. Composed of wires woven diagonally and horizontally to create a V-shaped mesh weave, it gives the material flexibility, strength and safety. A triangle is, after all, the strongest shape. It can absorb a horse’s impact, while the no-cut wires prevent injury in the event of a fall. The spacing between the wires is small enough that it will prevent your horse from stepping into the fence — it will also stop uninvited critters from doing the same. Vinyl/PVC Vinyl, also known as PVC, is strong but not flexible enough to withstand significant impact — it shatters easily. While aesthetically appealing, it should be used in conjunction with electric fencing. New materials, such as polymer, are being used in place of wood and PVC. High-tension wire coated in polymer (with or without rails) gives this fencing a traditional or modern look that is both strong and flexible. Electric Electric fencing is versatile and economical. It is also available for both long- and short-term fencing needs. It can also help protect and preserve other fencing mediums when used in

conjunction with them. Though it may seem intimidating, the shock from an electric fence is on par with a nip from a fellow horse – a stern but gentle enforcement of boundaries. It is not cruel or painful. Visibility is an issue with electric fencing, so choose a fence with wider braids or ribbons. Proper installation is also essential. Steel Highly visible, strong, and resistant to rot and rust, steel pipe is a sturdy, reliable choice for fencing. Its solidity means it will be less forgiving if encountered, but also better equipped to withstand leaning and normal wear and tear. Whatever materials you choose to build your fencing, the most important thing is safety and maintenance. It may be tempting to opt for lower cost materials or labor, but an improperly installed fence that damages easily will ultimately cost you more. Don’t hesitate to consult a contractor or fellow equine enthusiast for assistance and advice. Shop around, explore your options, and create a space both you and your horse will love!

Start horsin’ around! Envisioning things from a horse’s perspective may help you make decisions around your fencing needs, and avoid a few hurdles along the way. Considering visibility: “I’m a horse! What could I run into when it comes to fencing?” Well, for starters, the fence! It must be easy to see. Wooden and pipe fences are great for this. Wire fencing is less visible, but you can include a top board. Making friends: If you’re designing a fence to divide neighboring pastures, corners present difficulties for horses that may not run in the same social circles. Fence corners that curve may prevent a horse from feeling cornered and reduce playground antics. Feeling peckish: From chewing wood to cribbing, if your horse has a tendency to nibble, you will want to consider this when choosing a fence material, possibly opting for pipe over wood. Having a look around: As they say, “the grass is always greener”, and your horses will test the boundaries of your fence. How they test them depends on the temperaments and personalities of the horses. Most will at least dip a hoof (or a head!) into the fencing. The spacing of wire fences should account for this, so neither feet or heads get caught. Is your mare cunning and clever? Some fences and posts are easier to disassemble than others. Planning discourages jailbreaks. Is your stallion brave and brazen? If your fence is charged or breached, make sure the material is one that can safely absorb impact. If broken, it may splinter or shatter.

Equine Wellness


ACUPRESSURE AT-A-GLANCE By Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis

ACUPRESSURE FOR PAIN MANAGEMENT IN HORSES Horses are hard-wired to cover up pain. It’s inherent to the species. In the wild, if horses show signs of pain or weakness, they could be risking their lives, and the safety of the entire herd. Horses will do anything possible to avoid displaying evidence of pain or injury because they don’t want to be left behind, cut off from the herd. A compromised horse is most likely a dead horse, and both the horse and herd, deep in their shared psyche, know this. As horse guardians, we have to pay attention to the subtle signs of pain or discomfort. By the time a horse is showing evidence of pain, it is most likely already debilitating. Excluding an obvious injury or the rapid onset of a specific issue like colic, there is no way to know how long the horse has been suffering. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the longer the horse has been in a compromised condition, the longer and more difficult he is to heal. The sooner we detect pain, the sooner we can address it.

Remember to gently stimulate the acupressure points on both sides of your horse. Perform the point work on one side, then repeat the same procedure on the other.

Common indicators of equine pain There are many indicators of equine pain, and some are more obvious than others. Look for signs such as: • Dull eyes • Withdrawn behavior • Reduced mobility or locomotion • Any abnormal swelling • Flinching when tacking up or mounting • Bucking • Lameness • Resistance to taking a lead • Hesitation in changing gait • Faults at jumps • Difficulty flexing neck • Not eating • Difficulty urinating or defecating • Biting at flank • “Pawing” the ground • Lying down, with difficulty getting up • Sudden onset of aggression • Elevated heart rate If you notice any of these pain indicators, or even if you just have a hunch your horse is “off”, it’s a good idea to have your holistic veterinarian assess his condition. Follow any recommendations your vet may have, and with his/her approval, offer your horse an acupressure session. Refer to the accompanying acupressure chart for points that


Equine Wellness

can help with pain. The intent is to mitigate pain anywhere in the horse’s body, and provide comfort. Horses are in tune with their energy and know when you are doing your best to help them resolve their discomfort. This general pain management session can offer your horse a sense of wellbeing, while reducing the effects of his current pain.

Acupressure session for pain

General Pain Acupressure Session: These acupressure points are known to help generally mitigate pain throughout the horse’s body.

Amy Snow and Nancy Zidonis are the authors of Acu-Horse: A Guide to Equine Acupressure, Acu-Dog: A Guide to Canine Acupressure and Acu-Cat: A Guide to Feline Acupressure. They founded Tallgrass, offering books, manuals, DVDs, apps and meridian charts. Tallgrass also provides a 300-hour hands-on and online training program worldwide. It is an approved school for the Department of Higher Education Vocational Schools through the State of Colorado, and an approved provider of NCCAOM (#1181) Continuing Education courses. 303-681-3030, animalacupressure.com, tallgrass@animalacupressure.com


EMAIL YOUR EVENT TO: info@EquineWellnessMagazine.com The Mane Event: Chilliwack October 19–21, 2018 – Chilliwack, BC Some of North America’s top clinicians provide quality information on a variety of different disciplines at the largest indoor equine trade show in Canada! Explore the best selection of equine products and services available from bits to boots and tack to trailers. For more information: info@maneeventexpo.com https://chilliwack.maneeventexpo.com/

Creating Harmony with Horses October 27–28, 2018 – Ramona, CA Improve your overall understanding of horses and enhance your ability to communicate with them with this clinic designed for anyone who interacts with horses. You will observe and learn how to recognize the meaning behind a horses’ movements and improve your awareness. This clinic includes workshops, in theory, interactive exercises with humans and groundwork with horses. Horses are provided! For more information: Heidi Potter heidi@heidipotter.com www.heidipotter.com

National Horse Show 2018 October 27–November 4, 2018 – Lexington, KY This prestigious show returns to the Alltech Arena at the Kentucky Horse Park to feature a full array of Junior Hunters, Amateur-Owner Hunters, and the High-Performance Hunters, Green and Regular Working Hunters and the Conformation Divisions. Each year, the top hunters from around the country are invited to compete during the National Horse Show, America’s oldest indoor horse show. For more information: (859) 608-3709 cindy@nhs.org www.nhs.org

EQ100: Equinology Equine Body Worker Certification Course November 1–9, 2018 – Calgary, AB

this field but is also regularly attended by veterinarians, physical therapists, human massage therapists, equine massage therapists, trainers, barn managers, and chiropractors who would like to enhance their skills. The course is taught in such a comprehensive, logical layered format, that those with little or no complementary equine care and science background will find themselves up to speed with the other professional participants. For more information: (707) 377-4313 equinologyoffice@gmail.com www.equinology.com

AQHA World Show 2018 November 1–17, 2018 – Oklahoma City, OK American Quarter Horse owners and exhibitors will not want to miss this amazing event! Featuring exhibitors from around the world who must qualify for the event by earning a number of points to compete in each of the classes representing halter, English and Western disciplines. More than $2.5 million in awards and prizes is up for grabs at this year’s event. The show will feature a variety of new events and activities in and out of the arena for competitors, friends, family, and spectators. For more information: (806) 376-4811 www.aqha.com/worldshow

The Royal Winter Fair November 2–11, 2018 – Toronto, ON The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair is the largest combined indoor agricultural fair and international equestrian competition in the world. This is a Canadian event where international breeders, growers, and exhibitors are declared champions and where hundreds of thousands of attendees come to learn, compete, shop and have a great time with friends and family.

Healing Touch for Animals® Level 1 Course November 9–11, 2018 — Denver, CO Introduction to Healing Touch: Friday / 6:00pm – 10:00pm This class is a prerequisite of the Small Animal Class. Small Animal Class: Saturday / 9:00am – 6:00pm This class is a prerequisite for the Large Animal Class. Large Animal Class: Sunday / 9:00am – 6:00pm This class is required in order to apply to become a Healing Touch for Animals® Certified Practitioner. Working with the horses’ large energy systems benefits students with greater energetic awareness and a wellrounded experience. For more information: Darla Dayer (314) 566-4559 denver@healingtouchforanimals.com www.healingtouchforanimals.com

Equine Affaire November 9–11, 2018 – West Springfield, MA Equine Affaire’s legendary educational program forms the cornerstone of this event. Soak up information and advice at more than 230 clinics, seminars, and demonstrations on a wide variety of equestrian sports and horse training, management, health, and business topics. Enjoy one-stop shopping at Equine Affaire’s huge trade show with more than 475 of the nation’s leading equinerelated retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and organizations. For more information: (740) 845-0085 info@equineaffaire.com www.equineaffaire.com

For more information: (416) 263-3400 info@royalfair.org www.royalfair.org

The course is specifically designed for students wishing to pursue a career in

Equine Wellness



GREEN ACRES By Laura Batts

How to

treat your horse’s


Treating your horse’s sore back without using harmful chemicals may seem impossible. Luckily, there are a number of natural options you can try to ease her pain – and they’re environmentally friendlier too!

Proper equine back health means keeping the supportive structures healthy. Consider the following: • Proper diet – Protein repairs muscle, so make sure there is enough protein in your horse’s diet. • No overwork – Be mindful of your horse’s current condition and age. • Saddle fit – Always get a saddle evaluation, and remember – as your horse’s body changes so will her saddle fit. • Proper shoeing – Improper shoeing will cause your horse to carry herself differently and put stress on her joints. • Proper weight – Obesity puts an incredible strain on equine joints. If your horse continues to experience back pain after addressing the above factors, you might want to add natural supplements to your program. They can help support healthy connective tissue, maintain joint mobility, support the normal production of healthy synovial fluid and reduce free radical formation.

NATURAL NUTRITIONAL SUPPLEMENTS FOR EQUINE BACK PAIN When I say “natural”, I mean plant-based. This includes herbs, essential oils, other whole foods and vitamins and minerals. 62

Equine Wellness

As herbivores, it is natural for horses to seek out and eat herbs. Herbs have healing properties in their seeds, flowers, roots, stems or leaves. Generally speaking, herbs are used for chronic longstanding problems and can often reduce the amount of pharmaceutical drugs your vet administers to your horse. Remember, when using herbs for your horse, you should only buy products designed for horses (unless you are working with an herbalist). There are many great products made just for horses that often include blends of the following herbs: Meadowsweet – contains an aspirinlike compound and has valuable anti-inflammatory properties. Comfrey – has a reputation for healing bone damage, such as sore shins, chipped knees, stress fractures and arthritis, as well as tendon strains. Burdock – an anti-inflammatory; reduces excess fluid. Devil’s claw – this anti-inflammatory (known as “herbal bute”) is well known for its analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Do not use if gastric ulcers are present.

White willow – contains salicylic acid, similar to aspirin, in the bark. Yarrow – good for navicular syndrome, as it improves blood circulation to peripheral blood vessels.

THE BENEFITS OF ESSENTIAL OILS Essential oils are another way to help your horse’s back pain. Horses are great at telling us which oils they need. Before you use a particular oil, hold the open bottle (or some oil dabbed on a cotton ball) close to your horse’s nose so he can sniff it. His reaction to the oil will let you know whether you should use it or not. There are two basic ways you can use essential oils with your horse: aromatherapy and topical application. Make sure you use 100% pure oils and not perfume grade oils. Perfume quality oils contain chemicals and solvents and can cause more harm than good. Always dilute with a carrier oil such as coconut, avocado, or sweet almond oil. For a less greasy effect, try aloe vera gel.

Safety tip

Some joint supplement ingredients, such as glucosamine and MSM, can worsen symptoms of insulin resistance, equine metabolic syndrome, or Cushing’s disease. Be sure to consult your vet if you have any concerns.

Essential oils good for muscle spasms include basil, lavender and marjoram. Oils for sore or overused muscles include eucalyptus, balsam fir and lavender.

WHOLE FOODS, VITAMINS AND MINERALS I look for help with the equine musculoskeletal system from whole foods, vitamins and minerals. Many of you may already be using some of these, as they are the most common type of supplement for joint and tendon issues. The most common in this category are glucosamine sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride.

• Glucosamine is a natural substance found in the coverings of shellfish. It is an amino sugar, normally combined with sulfate and hydrochloride salts. • Chondroitin is another component of cartilage (as well as bone and some connective tissues) and is also commonly used in joint supplements. Chondroitin sulfate is usually manufactured from animal sources, such as shark and cow cartilage. • Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a great source of dietary sulfur – a mineral involved in the health and maintenance of collagen, cartilage and hooves, as well as joint fluid and many important enzymes.

Less common but still beneficial additions to your horse’s diet, include:

Kelp (seaweed) – generates natural products known as honaucins that have potent anti-inflammatory and bacteria-controlling properties.

Apple cider vinegar – reduces calcification in joints and arteries.

Yucca – contains steroid saponins. These chemicals are related to the steroids. In the animal’s body, they decrease pain and inflammation. (See page 44 to learn more about yucca)

If your goal is eco-friendly horse care, but you’re dealing with back issues in your equine, consider adding natural supplements to his care program.

Laura Batts is the owner of Horse Hippie, an environmentally-conscious lifestyle brand that embraces horses, Mother Earth and good vibes. HorseHippie.com

Equine Wellness




Equine Wellness

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TACK SHOPS EAGLEWOOD EQUESTRIAN SUPPLIES – Located in the GTA, our showroom is open by appointment only. Please contact us to make an appointment. In addition to our location, we also travel to horse shows and events across Ontario. We hand pick high-quality products which are available for English disciplines (Dressage, Hunter, Jumper, Endurance, Trekking, and Gaited), and are starting to branch into Western discipline products. (416) 708-1898; www.eaglewoodequestrian.ca

Equine Wellness





Maintaining proper position while riding allows your body’s natural shock absorbers to function. Most people experience back pain at some point in their lives. For some riders, sitting on a horse is very therapeutic and alleviates the pain. For others, however, riding can actually cause pain. This can be due to poorly-fitting equipment and/ or a faulty riding position, which is exacerbated by the horse’s movement. If you experience pain while riding, consider the following tips.

Hollow, round or flat?

By Wendy Murdoch

Breathing into your back Here’s a simple exercise* you can do to alleviate back discomfort and learn to flatten your lower back — all while improving your breathing during a few short minutes a day. 1. Lie down on a flat surface with your knees bent. Place something under your head that allows your neck to be comfortable, long and free. Place a book on your abdomen.

Riders are taught to “sit up straight, shoulders back, chest out” in order to avoid slumping. Instead, they end up hollowing the lower backs. Others are taught to “sit on your pockets”, which rounds the back. These two extremes put pressure on your lower back (and your horse’s), and restrict your hips, preventing them from effectively absorbing the motion.

2. Breathe into your abdomen filling it like a balloon. This will cause the book to rise. Gently press your back toward the floor.

A flat back position aligns your head over your seat bones. It frees your hips and positions your back so your muscles can stabilize the spine, while maintaining the spaces between the vertebrae. A flat back position is best for a stable pain-free ride.

4. Breathe so that your chest expands when you breathe in.

Braced or absorbing legs?

3. On the exhalation, let all the air go out of your lungs. See if you can get the book to go below your starting point, while your back again presses into the floor.

5. Your abdomen expands as you breathe out. 6. Reverse the pattern. Breathe in, expanding your abdominal area…and out, expanding your chest. Return to normal breathing. How much flatter is your back to the floor? Is it easier to breathe now?

Bracing against the stirrups and forcing your heels down stiffens the shock-absorbing joints in your hips, knees and ankles. When these joints no longer absorb movement, your spine takes a beating. The shock travels up your leg to your lower back, which is not designed to absorb that amount of movement. Lift your heels slightly to soften the hip, Look at your saddle. If the seat is too wide, or the knee and ankle. Allow these stirrups are angled and/or hung too far forward, it will joints to feel “jiggly” and force you into a poorly-aligned position that will cause move with the horse. Do pain. It’s important to correct these issues by shimming the this while flattening your stirrups. There are no simple solutions for narrowing the seat, but doing so can make lower back to stabilize the all the difference to back comfort. Try riding on a pair of Franklin balls to see if it spine. When your shock reduces your back pain. Franklin balls placed under your seat bones raise you up so absorbers are working (just as in your car), the ride is your hip joints are no longer restricted. Once you feel what you have been fighting, much smoother. you can then come up with a more permanent solution.

Still having trouble?

Wendy Murdoch has been recognized internationally for over 30 years as an equestrian instructor and clinician. Author of several books and DVDs, creator of the Ride Like A Natural®, SURE FOOT® Equine Stability Program and Effortless Rider® courses, she is an innovator in her field. Wendy’s desire to understand the function of both horse and human, along with her curiosity and love of teaching, capitalized on the most current learning theories in order to show riders how to exceed their own expectations. *Exercise from Simplify Your Riding by Wendy Murdoch 66

Equine Wellness

Equine Wellness



Equine Wellness