A Whole Dog Approach for the “Hot Dog” in the summer. Part One

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A Cooling Approach for the WHOLE DOG.

Part one: Learning who you are dealing with.

Who’s in this dog suit?

Having a “Hot Dog” and living in Texas means that I’m perpetually learning how to cool The Mighty Finn.  Despite my best efforts over the last seven years, Finn “runs hot” physically, mentally and emotionally.

My intention here is to illustrate who Finn is in the most joie de vivre way.  Knowing Finn is vital before learning how to cool him down since there are so many aspects to this whole concept.  If you can feel the heat from this description, told from Finn’s point of view, we’ll move on in part two and three and go over how I keep him cool in mind, body, and spirit.

Dog trainers, behavior experts, mental health professionals; close your eyes!  I’m honestly illustrating the full expression of Finn and our relationship.This is his raw nature before I did much positive reinforcement training!  Take consolation in knowing that Finn is now an excellently mannered dog.  While still full of joyful fire that runneth over, he keeps his balance quite nicely.

Not the greatest photo but Finn is ALWAYS at my side.  He loves going for late-night walks, even in the winter.  It’s his BEST time of year.

Lizzy asked me to describe myself.

She calls me “Wild Man Finn.”  I love cuddling and she calls me her  “Sweet Pea.”  I give her kisses and make her laugh! She rubs my neck and tells me how shiny my tuxedo coat is.  Even if she’s just gone for a minute I’m SO happy to see her when she opens the door.

Me and leashes don’t mix unless we are going to the dog store.  If I get a whiff of the the v-e-t or a b-a-t-h, I put on the brakes.

I can do anything without strings attached like off leash obedience and tracking. I’m pretty perfect except if we’re going somewhere.  It’s EXCITING!

Whining inside Hi Ho Silver (my truck) makes her drive faster.  She can’t wait to get to wherever we’re going either!  She’s SO excited, too!  She calls my singing something else. Can’t recall what, but my yapping makes her fiery.  Like me.  We are one.

I howl at the top of my lungs should she dare roll down the windows. Pure joy from the wind in my ears and the scents of deer flowing past my muzzle. Windows go up.  Enya comes on the speaker. Calms her down nicely.  When she’s calm, I try it too.  Nice, but boring.

My radar skills are award winning and on par with my counter surfing.  Once I ate 4 bars of soap and 2 pounds of cold butter but not on the same day.  I was 100% fine.

The number of left turns and lane changes make me yip in her ear that I know where we’re going. Somewhere good!  Then I lick her ear.  Sorry.  So excited! Somewhere’s getting closer!  I NEVER get in the front. Dangerous.  I’m trained.

Resting with my head on the console from the back seat, I don’t take my eyes off of her.  Sometimes they close.  I’m Lizzy’s guardian angel, except I lost my St. Francis collar tag that said that.

Lizzy asks St. Francis to help her, a lot. Maybe I need to find my collar tag to give her?

I hate it when she leaves the house.  She comes back; I’m good.  I used to keep her at home all the time because I was scared she might not come back.  Someone else did that and left me at a shelter when I was a tiny puppy.

I cried like a trapped monkey and then we had to move to the country.  That’s how I got Lizzy out of the apartment.  Yep, I did that.  Helped our whole family get out of Dodge. Fast!

I’ve eaten a whole jar of this before. She wasn’t mad. I slept really well.

I work frozen peanut butter out of a Kong in ten minutes flat.

She hated leaving me at home so she took me to work.  A whole bag of stuff came with her like my favorite frozen red Kongs!  Mind reader.  Hanging out at the vet clinic and watching her take care of sick animals was boring.  I wanted to DO something.  The farm where her horses lived was fun because I got to RUN.

RUNNING is what I live for. Good days, bad days, rainy days, sunny days, I love to run! I have no off switch. Lizzy has to stop me. Not sure why.

I have perfect manners outside. That’s how I learned obedience when I was little.  Off leash in the big wide open Colorado fields.  She trusts me.  I never run away.  I watch her face and read her hand signals.  Smiling and having a party are the BEST when I come flying to her on a recall.

I LOVE dog parks.  Play bows with Maltese and Chihuahuas make me giggle so much that my tail slings back and forth. Intercepting a great game of frisbee is a blast.  Leaping straight up exempts me from being monkey in the middle.  Landing with their slimy yellow frisbee in my mouth and doing a victory lap puts these Type A agility dogs to shame!

I’m faster than the Greyhounds and out swim the Labs.  Fetching not one, but three balls for total strangers makes them clap.  Air under my feet and wind in my ears make my wings come out as I steal abandoned toys.  Just nabbed a fuzzy one that smells like a can of tennis balls.  Sorry pretty black Lab, I have yours, too!

In the early days, when we lived in the mountains.

I ran the skin right off of my big pad. That didn’t stop me.  Lizzy carried me to the truck and wrapped my paw with a red bandage.  She said we HAD to stop.  I barked until I couldn’t see my pack anymore. Bummer.

I painted the back seat with blood and got that yucky bandage off. Pronto.  Had to keep my paw clean.  She wasn’t mad at all! She made me special dinner (she loves doing that) and put some yummy soothing salve on my sore foot.  I got to wear her socks on my bum foot and she gave me a massage.

Never let this day be over. I love my bones!

I had to learn how to relax. Big knuckle bones helped.  Old dogs helped. Being tired helped. So did cookies that she made for me. Lavenderrrrrr….oh I like it on my chest.  I slept wherever I wanted, preferably at her feet.  Even now, if she gets up, I do too.  It’s my job to stay with Lizzy.

This is my favorite toy. Squirrels and I have a thing. Lizzy stopped getting me the fake ones because I liked to take them apart.

She stopped getting me fancy toys like six years ago.  I do squeaker surgery.  Gripping it with my claws and isolating the noise then using my remaining, incisors I aggressively excise it.  Lizzy cleans up the white stuff and I take a nap. Relaxing.

I can’t help it! They BUG Me!!

Remaining incisors?  Yes, I am a fly catcher.  I crashed my nose into the floor and once into a ceramic bowl.  Both times I broke teeth.  I killed two flies.

Oh it hurt! Ducking my head, I found Lizzy. Soothing me with sweet nothings I weakly wagged my tail. Oh my whole body hurt.  I need a doctor.  Oh no…the very thought. Tucking my tail and trotting to her bed, I hide.  Darkness helps.  We went to the vet to fix my mouth the next morning.  I hate vets AND showing people my teeth.

I had to go to a surgeon two times in two months for two teeth.  Lizzy stayed with me the whole time because I was growling a lot and I am so afraid of vets. Bad puppyhood story we’ll go into later.  Vets feel the same about me. I talk A LOT. Do NOT look me in the eye if you’re a stinky human trying to help me!

I wouldn’t let that guy mess with me without Lizzy.   Oh, the drugs; my world was spinning.  Butterflies, steaks, trees and waking up like I was on a boat was a trip.  Dizzy, Fizzy, Finny. Lizzy always has to help me wake up with little white homeo-something pills.

Minus a couple teeth, I’m Lizzy’s protector.  I bark a lot if someone hugs her, even if it’s one of her human pack. I hear EVERYTHING.  I bark and jump and draw attention to ME.  Works like a charm.

The story of my life!

My favorite game is fetch and I just can’t stop. Can’t do too much. Lizzy said I have to be careful. What?  Hurt my leg?  That’s another story.  I’m a good tri-pod if it hurts. Makes Lizzy cringe and we have to STOP. More white pills and herbal teas for pain and rest.  Lots of rest.  Then I’m fine.  Every day’s a new one and ready for fetch!

Twelve steps didn’t help.

I got stuck on number one: Admitting I’m powerless and that my life is unmanageable.  I am NOT powerless an my life IS manageable.  End of story. I’m just being ME!  Maybe Lizzy needs help managing herself so she can hang with me?

Lizzy finished plucking out they gray hairs that I gave her and learned the Serenity Prayer.  She held my paw as she recited: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can; and the wisdom to know the difference…”  That’s all I remember.

Now that you know who Finn is, cooling him down will make more sense.  Stay tuned for part two.  Until then, chill out with your dog and see who they are. Can you imagine what life might be like from their perspective? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Texas Sheet Cake recipe (for dogs)!

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The Amazing Texas Sheet Cake – for dogs…

Recently, I posted some pictures of a REALLY EASY, healthy, creative version of everything my dogs would want in a Texas Sheet Cake.  You can see the original pictures by clicking my Whole Horse Consulting Instagram account.  I concocted it for my dog friends this Christmas.  It’ll be amazing if I have enough left for their dogs!

Finn’s been on the counter a couple of times making sure there are NO crumbs.  Loma guarded the oven for HOURS while Finn monitored my every move and did lots of howling.  Tristan just drooled profusely and watched in pure awe. There’ve been so many private requests, that I’m posting it here as a gift to your dogs!  Plus, what a great way to get some health food into your pup’s diet (sneaky)!


  • 2 pounds of liver (the cleanest you can find is the best)
  • just enough water to help it blend
  • 1/3 cup crumbled pecans
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
  • 4 tablespoons of chia seed
  • 2-4 tablespoons  Spirulina/Alfalfa/Wheat grass powder – OR- Optimum Canine powdered multivitamin (www.biostarus.com)

To make these really Christmasy, sprinkle your choice of green powders listed above and a little organic beet root powder on the cubes when they come out of the oven.  If you apply these before the cake goes into the oven, the color will fade.  The dogs don’t care!!!

Here’s how to make your dogs howl with glee, step by step:

1.) Preheat oven to 250 degrees.

2.) Line a large sheet pan or deep cookie sheet with parchment paper (don’t skip this part!)

3.) Cut the thawed liver into cubes (I used grass-fed beef, but you can use any type) in a food processor or a Vitamix® blender. If needed, add JUST enough water so your processor can puree the liver.   The mixture will be like thick brownie batter.  Too much water means a longer cooking time.

4.) Pour the mixture into the lined pan until it’s about 1/2 inch deep.  You might need two pans depending on how thick your mixture is.

5.) Top the cake with coconut, pecans, chia and choice of green powder. Be creative-use what your dog loves.  Give the pan a gentle jiggle to help these settle the toppings into the mixture.

6.) Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350.  Then turn the oven down to 200.   Let it dehydrate for another couple of hours at this low temperature.  Keep an eye on it though.

7.) Remove the parchment paper containing the cooked cake.  Cut it into small cubes and spread around the sheet a little.

8.) Turn the oven off. Put the sheet back into the oven to let the cubes dry.  Mine dried for several hours. Once finished, the cubes will be slightly flexible and mostly dry.

These little chunks of liver love need to be stored in the refrigerator since they have some moisture.  They keep for 3-4 days this way.  Otherwise, put them in the freezer and thaw in the refrigerator as needed. As a quick note: if your dog is not used to liver don’t feed too many of these at once.

Merry Christmas from my pack to yours!

Feeding Horses

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Originally published on August 31, 2014 on VitalAnimal.com

The best diet for a VITAL HORSE is something I have been working on with my own horses and horses in my care since about 2004. I have tried all kinds of different feeds, supplements, individual ingredients and approaches. I do not go by the NRC guidelines, but common sense and what works for each individual horse.

This has been a passion of mine so hold on tight! You can get as minimal or as fancy as your heart desires!

Horse Feed Model? The Wild Horse, Of Course!

Think of what horses are designed to eat: forage, forage, forage! Mimicking the wild horses’ grazing habits, feeding small amounts of forage often is the best practice. As a grazing herbivore, the horse is accustomed to nibbling forage constantly. Their stomach secretes acid continuously. As they chew, they secrete about 10 gallons of bicarbonate-rich, acid-buffering saliva everyday. This is excellent protection for their gut.

My advice is to set your horses up for minimal stress and feed forage of some kind free choice or with slow-feeders. Horses really cannot go more than 4-6 hours without forage. Fasting longer than this time sets them up for gastric ulcers.

When hunting for hay, I look for mature grass that is not too rich, not too high protein, and with more than one species of grass. Variety of grasses is key to ensure nutritional variety.

Find a variety of grass hays and feed them all (introduce gradually). Avoid the ones super high in sugar like rye, also known as “founder fodder.” Beware of the super-green hays or the ones that seem a bit moist. Find out if your hay is GMO and if it has been sprayed. Most crops will be fertilized and sprayed, but some are not so bad. Others contain hay preservatives or drying agents and horses may find this hay non-palatable. Do the best you can and make friends with people who have access to non-sprayed native grass hay. Learn to be a hay connoisseur.

Try your best to find native or naturalized grasses, as they are often a great choice. Native grasses are typically lower in sugar and offer nutritional variety since they are not cultivated as single-species. For instance, feeding single-species like Coastal Bermuda, Timothy, Orchard grass, for example does not provide much variety in forages. Many of these grasses were bred for weight gain in cattle, not what we want for horses. Sometimes these native/local grass mixes are called meadow mixes, grass-mix, wild grasses, or local grasses.

Most alfalfa is now GMO, unless otherwise stated by the grower. Alfalfa is a rich mineral source and a fine fodder. I prefer to feed under about 20% of total diet. I treat it as a supplement to my local Texas grass hay that can be quite low protein. Alfalfa is rich in calcium, which buffers stomach acid and is great for horses prone to ulcers. In TCM it is considered a kidney-tonic herb, to be used in small quantities to provide nutrition to the kidneys.

Another popular forage is beet pulp. It is a fabulous food for horses as it functions as a pre-biotic, which feeds the horses’ beneficial bacteria already in their cecum (fermentation vat of large intestine). It’s straight fiber, but beware of brands using molasses as dust control.  Always soak it!

The biggest reason I don’t feed it is because non-GMO forms are only available from the UK and by special order. Speedi-Beet is the brand that is distributed by Emerald Valley Equine. If I could find it, I would feed it.  The pesticides and chemicals from GMO farming is one of the main reasons I do not use the commonly available beet pulp.

The one other reason I do not feed it is due to the possible aluminum content in the beet pulp in the US. This can come from the processing equipment that is in contact with the pulp. From what I have experienced, it can be problematic for any horse with endocrine issues, especially non-sweaters.

The next forage possibility includes: Timothy pellets, alfalfa pellets, orchard grass pellets. These are all fine options to soak with water and to add variety and excellent fiber to your horse’s diet without adding much sugar. Easy keepers love these non-grain options.  This is an economical way to increase the overall nutritional value of your entire feed program.

Wet It!

Whatever forage you use requires water for digestion.  In addition to providing clean fresh water free choice, I soak all of these hay pellet and beet pulp options prior to feeding. By eating a nice mash every feeding, horses become very well hydrated which of course optimizes digestion and health.

Finally, allow your horse to eat weeds that he self-selects! Let him pick what he needs. Country roadsides (non-sprayed) can be full of medicinal weeds/herbs. If that’s not an option, plant horse-safe herb gardens if your. You can get creative and plant them along your pasture edges. Some ideas are: nettle, dandelion, chamomile, chickweed, peppermint, cleavers, and rosehips.

Grain: Yea or Neigh?

The grain portion of a horse’s diet is always overrated, in my opinion. If you feed the average horse correctly, as an herbivore who eats 95% forage, the need for grain in their total diet is often unnecessary. I like to feed it as a supplement to provide nutritional variety.

I consider grains if the horse is working, senior, or if it is underweight. Of course, easy keepers and metabolic horses do not get grain.

My favorite grain is the whole oat. For the working horse who needs a bit more pep or weight, I add a little rolled barley in small amounts (under a couple cups). But feeding grain always takes consideration in regards to the horse’s temperament, energy needs, and work level.

Good Fats are Good Guys

In my opinion, fats should be used conservatively given that horses don’t have a gallbladder. To add energy, fats are safer than starch. Yes, horses do digest fats in the small intestine, but their natural diet contains very little, and it is seasonally available from seeds.

Good fats that I love to use are hemp oil and unrefined coconut oil.  Hemp is great for ulcer horses since it contains GLA and helps to protect the mucus lining of the intestine. It’s also great to help horses build muscle. Coconut oil is my favorite when I need to strengthen a horse’s immune system, thanks to the lauric acid it contains.  An ounce or two might be all that many horses need.  Performance or infirmed horses may need more.

Other foods you might add for variety or treats in small amounts: peanuts (unsalted and shelled), almonds, papaya, sesame seeds, banana (no peel), pumpkin seeds, grapes, oranges, squash, celery, pomegranate, basil, sprouts, blueberries, strawberries, pumpkin, the list goes on.

Good omega 3′s are either chia seed or flax seed. Chia contains twice the omega 3’s as flax and is better for the connective tissue and bone. It is rich in minerals such as boron and strontium and also absorbs up to 9 times its weight in water! Chia is amazing to reduce the carbohydrate absorption in the gut.  Because of the mucilage it creates in the gut, it keeps blood sugar more stable in these individuals. If you cannot feed chia, flax is great for omega 3’s too, and used to be the gold standard before chia.  It’s still a great food for horses in small amounts and much less expensive than chia.

Vitamins, Minerals and Coal Tar, Oh My!

When feeding a whole-food diet, vitamins and minerals are a MUST. I try to feed those from non-synthetic sources. I like to either make my own homemade version from herbs, use a pre-made herbal mixture like Maintenance mix from Silver Lining Herbs, or use a pre-made whole food supplement, like Optimum EQ from Biostar EQ. I rotate between these options so that my horses get a variety of nutrients and foods.

Thanks to the horses’ amazing fermentation vat called the cecum, (a 14-inch diameter portion of the large intestine chock full of life-sustaining microbes), horses are able to extract everything from plants! When plants are digested, minerals are naturally chelated. This means they are bound to an amino acid, which enhances digestibility. When horses are fed their vitamins/minerals in the form of food (versus lab-made synthetic supplements or pre-mixes) their body instantly digests them without stress on their internal organs.

My pet peeve is synthetic vitamins and minerals. If you research how they are made, it is pretty awful. Here are some classic examples: B-vitamins are from coal-tar, vitamin C is from sugar hydrogenated with acetone, and vitamin D is from irradiated cattle brains.

Even worse, feed companies (and supplement companies) regularly add much more than the horse actually needs since well, they are not well digested. They have to ensure a certain percentage of absorption, which is only possible with a “mega-dose.” The horse absorbs roughly 10% of a synthetic (made in lab of chemicals). The rest is detoxified from the body, daily. This means stress to the gut, liver, and other organs.

THAT takes up a lot of energy over the life of your horse. That’s energy that could have been used for healing a micro-tear in a tendon, growing healthier hooves, or healing that itchy skin.  I prefer to feed my horses in a way that produces optimal health and soundness.

As far as minerals go, there are some good free choice loose powdered ones on the market, like ABC’s Rush Creek Mineral, or The Natural Vet’s Red Cal.  Even these mixes have some synthetics but are the best I have found. Watch out for sugar and flavoring agents! Unrefined sea salt is a nice additive in times of need such as winter to ensure hydration and summer to replace electrolytes lost in sweat. This can be offered free choice or added to feed (maximum of 1 tbsp per feeding).

Healthy Treats for Healing

Once your basics are covered, you can use foods to support your horse in healing from any illness. For example, a horse with chronic inflammation, I use foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.

I put the following in the blender and feed about a cup a day: blueberries, pomegranate juice (no added sugar), Fuji apple, whole orange or half a lemon, and strawberries. Food is medicine and the body knows exactly what to do with it.

There are endless combinations of food to help horses heal, but I’d recommend you stick to the basic diet for now. Try not to get overwhelmed! I have just given you a lot of information, but it is not rocket science. Do your best to learn to identify synthetics, avoid processed foods and chemical supplements.  Think about properties of foods as medicine and invite your horse to show you what works for them. Feed your horse like the trickle-feeding herbivore he has always been, and you cannot go wrong.