Honoring Pancho.

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The place reminded me of a used car lot.

Horses of all makes, models and sizes mulled around the dirt pen.  Long and lanky generic looking sorrel cow ponies blended with horses of every color.  Lean mustang-like horses had long fallow mane and hips that peeked from taut hide.  Their lineage was anyone’s guess and their stories were mysteries.

They had two things in common: the dirt beneath their hooves and a price tag. Hopefully their price wasn’t by the pound.  It’d be a bargain for the buyer but an insult to the horse.  I guessed that many came from forage challenged habitats within the deep south Texas brush country.

All were being fed and watered generously here at the trader’s. They seemed calm, actually relieved was more accurate.  The seller appeared to take pride in his herd.  Everyone was groomed and his tack was clean.

It was the last chance corral.

Stiff old horses hunted for their redemption by scouting the horizon for jobs toting grandkids.  Sorry-eyed brood mares dreamt of landing in someone’s pasture to spend their last barren years.  The beloved “Mexican Ponies” were a regional specialty.  They were humble “Heinz 57s” and could do anything. They had grit like no other horse.  Their feet and soundness rivaled those of mules.  They didn’t need anything special and always had a grateful kind of expression and attitude.

 

And then there was Pancho.

His mischievous eyes and punchy expression drew me closer but kept most horses at bay.  Both ears sort of flopped to the sides a little.  It was as if his ear hair weighed them down.  He marched up to full-sized horses and bit them. No warning and equally sparse remorse. They never provoked him, either.  Pancho never missed the opportunity to express his role in the herd. Self-expression was not his wound to heal.

He had “Little Horse Syndrome.” 

At barely fourteen hands high before his feet were trimmed, meant the ground wasn’t too far.  His stout stud-like neck meant he could have been gelded late or incompletely.  He never shared which was the case. His toughness was that of a survivor; one who had swam the Rio Grande and found a human to care for him.

Pancho was an expert at manifestation!

I’m not sure what kind of karma Pancho had. It was fortunate enough not to drown while crossing the Rio Grande. It was solid enough not to starve in the sparse border lands before he was spotted.  Though he’d not  landed at The Ritz right off the bat, he did find a person who gave him a job.

His employment was most unique.

He was the tick inspector’s mount. The two of them roped and herded feral Mexican cattle into quarantine pens to check for different kinds of ticks that could be dangerous to livestock in the US.  From that point, they’d herd the cattle into parasite dip tanks.

How could this pony do all of that with a full sized man on his back?   The border was rough country, too.  My respect for Pancho started right at that moment. I could not imagine his eight hundred pound frame

Nippy, opinionated and as tough as the terrain described him well.  He could probably eat cactus, maybe even yucca. His bare hooves were like rocks. His frogs were as tough as petrified wood and huge.  His cannon bones were solid and thick with old bumpy splints.

HIs spine rose from his torso.  It was narrow and bony.  White hairs covered each vertebrae’s deep scar tissue, the result of ungodly saddles and a heavy rider.  If he had ever experienced comfortable tack, it wasn’t in this lifetime.

Passing muster.

My dad’s standards weren’t too high.   Most of all, he was interested in an easy landing, not just for the kids. The seller said he was sound.  That was enough. If I weren’t twelve years old at the time, I’d have argued. I probably tried with the little ammo I had. All of my horse books emphasized the pre-purchase exam. This felt like a huge risk!  My dad told me, “Lizzy, never spend more than you can afford to lose on a horse.”

Pancho was $750 and negotiable.

If Pancho could somehow manage to sustain the forces of roping, carrying a heavy rider, traversing the unforgiving borderlands and be here today in one piece, that was enough. Should Pancho land at our ranch, he’d become a free-ranging pasture horse with a small herd on hundreds of acres.  Anything could happen, though the foreman checked the horses regularly.  Pancho would fit right into that lifestyle.

The seller jumped on his back to show us his “training.”

I stand corrected. He didn’t quite “jump.” It looked more like stepping into the stirrup sans mounting block.  The pony swayed to the left and caught his balance.  He let out a desperate groan as the large man swung his right leg over his back. I cringed. We had to take this pony home!  That guy was too big!

His large belly dodged the saddle horn.  That was fortunate.  Misbehaving wasn’t an option for ole’ Pancho.  Had he wanted to buck or express his opinion, I do not think it was physically possible.   His hind legs couldn’t leave the ground as the man was about a third of his size. Little Pancho Pony had a nice walk, a gaited-looking trot and a canter so smooth a rocking horse would have been jealous.  He was an efficient mover and functional.

He was mostly PERFECT!

The other horses didn’t think so.  He ate first. He went through gates first. He hogged the hay.  Above all, he always assumed he was the most important equine.  Heaven forbid the pony be out-walked on a trail ride. That was an action worthy of a bitter nip to the foreleg or neck. His teeth were unforgiving and driven by his competition.

He was a plumber’s worst nightmare. He held an advanced degree in water tank menacing.  Destroying automatic water trough pumps and hoses kept hm entertained. He had to do something to keep his pony brain busy when it was over a hundred degrees and too hot to walk or eat.

His bright white blaze and fluffy pony ears seemed to light up when he met his new friend, Julio (on the right).  No doubt he felt right at home at La Brasada ranch, just forty five minutes from the Mexican border.  They bonded quickly and did everything together.

Pancho carried every beginner rider who came to visit.

He cheerfully volunteered to go for rides and was the easiest to catch.  He was a spicy version of perfect. He’d do whatever we asked but he’d add his little bit of input as he obliged. I loved that part of him because it made him interesting.

He knew when not to go very fast.  That proved to be valuable when “expert riders” who had ridden maybe a few times at summer camp came to visit.  Pancho didn’t like to see his person on the ground.  That made him look bad.  Ego was everything for the Little Man.

The Ritz finally manifested.

When the ranch sold, Pancho’s ship came in.  My aunt Debbie and uncle Kenny adopted him and his two ranch horse friends, Julio and T.  Pancho was close to forty.  He got the royal treatment compared to the rough La Brasada mustang-esque lifestyle.  Two square meals per day and endless pasture time with green grass instead of brown crunchy forage made his days sweet.

In his last two years, he rubbed off on most of my young nieces and nephews.  He showed them all what a gentle and sweet pony really was.   He gave them a positive experience that wasn’t scary.

He loved lead line lessons. They didn’t last more than a few minutes. This was the easiest job he’d ever had. Likely, it was the most appreciation he’d felt.  Hooves down.  To seal the deal, he got paid in carrots and giggles.

He appreciated simple things.

I venture to say there were two highlights in his life.  The first was being retired from tick inspecting. Period.  The second was being loved by little girls.  I was one of them.

Introducing him to my niece, Frances was one of the highlights of my life.

She may have been about four at the time. Teaching her to read Pancho’s body language and to be sensitive to his needs helped me to feel that I was teaching her a little about empathy.  Pancho shared his calmness and curiosity with Frances. He’d found a new purpose.

He was too old to be ridden by anyone but the smallest and only for a few minutes.  He inspired confidence in each of his young students.  He gave them the gift of learning to be present with another animal as an equal in that moment.  That was more important than riding.

Pancho, my friend, you will be missed.

Enjoy horse heaven and send hoofbeats to your friends  You had quite the life and I am glad that you were one of my early sage teachers.

Have a story about a special equine who has crossed the Bridge?  I’d love to hear about them.  What was the biggest lesson they taught you? Send me an email and tell me about your experience: Lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com

 

Horse Healing from Elto

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Elto is my wise man of sorts who has taught me so much about healing! He’s a 26 year young Nevada mustang who has been in my life as an extraordinary teacher since 2004.  He’s earned “Master Teacher” status in my book!

The biggest gift Elto has shared with me this far has been about perspective. He’s changed how I see things with regards to healing and animals.  His lesson has formed the foundation of my current perception of how to support animals in their healing.

He taught me how to “show up.”

Time travel back to 2005, I was an Equine Touch student and was practicing the sequences of the bodywork method.  I had each step memorized and not a whole lot of “feel” at that stage. Evaluating horses and finding their painful areas was my favorite part because I learned to see through the lameness. The fascia and muscle had their own way of communicating to my very beginner hands. My brain had the process in a semi-congealed state and I needed practice!

Elto stood in the cross ties as I stood back with my hands on my hips.  My right hand pressed against my chin as my brow furrowed in the depths of concentration. Where should I start?

Analysis paralysis. 

He was a high mileage teenage ranch horse at the time. His trail-tired body had lots of “jewelry” and imperfections that caught my eye. I found everything “wrong.”  The rest of the horse attached to the issues didn’t enter my mind.

I studied his stance and thought…

I wonder how I can help him to be more sound. His left hip is cocked in a funny way. Does he need the chiropractor? His right front is pointed slightly forward.  Is his ringbone flaring up? His back seems tense and a bit hollow. Am I trimming his feet correctly? They seem maybe a bit off. Is my saddle causing back trouble? Is he metabolic? He sure is overweight.”

In that zone of a total lack of awareness, I put my hand on Elto’s shoulder. No, I didn’t even ask for permission! My inner critic is cringing as I write this. How rude was that to assume I could touch him and evaluate him like this? We all start somewhere.

I recall saying something like, “You poor thing, you look so uncomfortable! Am I not doing enough for you to stay sound? What’s going on? Are you really this lame?  This body work is really going to help.”

Elto bit me!

And he didn’t let go. HIs incisors held a generous roll of flesh just above my belt line. He was always so gentle and certainly, he’d never nipped me before. I thought we were friends. What was going on?

I was too shocked to yelp or push him away. My muffin top was at the mercy of his jaws. He twisted his neck enough to torque his grip a bit more. Like a kid being grabbed by the ear, I was a receptive listener. Anything to get out of his jaws.

If I wriggled away, the bite became more insistent, but he never chomped down.  The pressure never increased over about two minutes. My face had no color in it, I’m sure and I was eager to see what this was all about.

“Elto, what’s going on?”

After a long pause, I realized something big. I didn’t ask Elto how he was doing. I assumed he was in pain. I found everything wrong with him and I did not ask what was working for him.  I wanted to fix the problems my limited vision could see. I never even asked permission to approach him, never mind do an assessment or bodywork!

I had clearly assumed too much and apologized for my very limited perspective and asked him to show me what I needed to learn.

He released at that moment.

I stopped looking for what was “wrong” and stopped trying to “fix” Elto.

I chose not to give energy to his “broken-ness.” Instead, I stayed in a neutral frame of mind and simply acknowledged what he was showing me through his stance, body language, energy and how I felt around him.

My brain jumped in frequently. I so badly wanted to identify what was wrong! Prove my learning! It made me feel right when I could find something wrong.  My ego was satisfied because it validated what I knew in my brain.

The problem was, this limited my heart’s receptivity to Elto’s voice. And it muted my hand’s ability to listen to his body. Without his engagement, how far could healing go? Never mind our relationship.  It meant the horse did not engage in the process and did not grant permission for me to do anything with him.

The respectful alternative.

If I could wait and ask Elto to show me what was working for him, I had a willing participant.  He knew I was listening and that I was interested in HIS perspective.  After all, it was HIS body and he knew better than anyone what was working and what was in need of balance.

It made him softer, more engaged and able to receive me in his world. He was wide open and our bond grew. Over time, he would show me how well he was doing. I stopped seeing faults and started seeing little things that amazed me. The issues that needed help were always brought to my attention when he was ready. When he needed something, he came to me, showed me the area that was of concern and the invitation to help was set. I had permission and it was on his terms.

Animals are so willing to teach us if we respect them. 

They’re in the driver’s seat. After all, it’s their body and they’re on their own path just as we are. Finding a balance within the relationship means being willing to see the whole picture. Then, asking permission to approach, touch, address the issue, carries us a long way in that relationship.

Contrast this option to what I did with Elto back in 2005 when he made me see his point of view. It’s quite the difference!

Yes, there are times we need to help them sooner than later, like in an emergency. Taking a second to see what’s working and the bigger picture pays off. Horses are very willing to work with us in those uncomfortable situations. The same ideas apply and we can be respectful while still listening to them and asking permission.

We are the stewards and have the honor of caring for them.

With respect and trust they always show us their beauty and their wounds. They ask for help very willingly once they know we do not see it as a fault or weakness.  Horses and most other animals seek wholeness, balance, ease and the option that feels “better.”

If we are willing to be just a little bit patient and ask permission to see from their perspective, I find that it eases the whole situation between human and horse.

I’ve partnered with the Animal Wellness Summit and am presenting this Saturday, November 18th on the topic of healing with animals.  I’m sharing what the animals have taught me so you can apply it to your own fur family. Would you be my guest?

Here’s the link to sign up and yes, there are free options to listen in:  www.animalwellnesssummit.com/lmeyer

special thanks to Kate Zimmerman Photography for these lovely images of Elto and Gaia

Cooling the Hot Horse.

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Cooling Summer Mash for Hot-Blooded Memphis

Memphis is one of those hot horses with thin skin and a reactive brain.  I mean that without any judgment.  Being equal parts Holsteiner and Thoroughbred means that he’s wired for work; even when he can’t do it. The wings on his hooves haven’t stopped flapping since he retired as an ex-jumper who has continued to live on overdrive.

He shows his short fuse during the hottest part of summer.

He can be more reactive and at times, a bit cantankerous towards his herd. Confinement or a moment of not seeing his entire herd drive his internal heat into orbit.  The equation it takes for Memphis to go into zen mode is:  a cool breeze+darkness+quiet nights+living in a herd+cooling foods = calm horse.

Supporting him with cooling foods is something I CAN do! 

During moments of kitchen alchemy, I combine foods that are mineral-rich, grounding, earthy and mostly cooling.  The key players this time are: chia, kelp, rosehips, spirulina, blueberries, green cabbage, apple, Redmond salt and garlic (yes, it’s hot but he needs it for the bugs).

Stirring everything in to his hydrating base mix of soaked alfalfa and Renew Gold (copra+stabilized rice bran) makes my heart slow down and my cheeks stretch. My feet feel heavy and sink into the floor as I mix up his groceries.  It just feels good when the combination is right.

Click here to watch this video of Memphis enjoying his yummy mash.

He licks a clean track (over and over again) around his feed pan.

The foods create magic in Memphis’s belly and reset his thermostat.  Ultimately, it sends his nervous system on a vacation and puts him into the “zone.”  Good things happen there, like healing of mind/body/spirit.  He’s more tolerant of the heat and is able to relax. That means I can, too. By the way, the whole herd is in support of a well-balanced version of Memphis because it means less drama for them.

Feeling his velvety tongue lick my legs, his breath blowing on my hair and nuzzle painting my cheeks with garlicky smelling green slime feels great!   This is how he says we’ve got it just right. Watching him meander peacefully among the herd in turtle gear feels endlessly satisfying.  Seeing him move with more ease and confidence confirms the food combination is a keeper.

Mud is cooling, too. This was taken in the spring when he was already feeling too hot.

No time to concoct cooling combos? Do you need the “Easy Button?”

Here’s a whole food supplement specifically geared to cool your horse.  It can be fed dry as a topper on your horse’s normal feed.  Letting it soak for a few seconds in water makes it even better.  Just click here to get Cool Star EQ from Biostar US.

Let me know!

Do you feed your horses seasonally? What’s their favorite summer food?  Have you noticed they seem cooler with certain foods than others?  Please leave your comments in the section below if you’d like to share what cools down your horse.  Maybe your finding will help someone else with a hot horse!

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.

Horse Lessons from Bo

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I love diving deeply into the World of Horse.

Sitting on my porch this rainy morning with Stewie purring on my lap, I’m asking for clarity about what drew me into the web of horses.  At what point did I become a “Friend of Horses?”

Somehow I didn’t stick with the normal stuff like showing, training, etc. It felt like there was so much more to these animals.

Where was the fork in my path?  What is it about the relationship between me and a horse that is so attractive? How did the bond or the connection become so vital?

A rainy morning exploration with Stewie.


Going back to the feeling when I’m near horses, my senses are pleasantly overwhelmed!  My heart pumps blood full of warm peace, fueling my recollections.  My hands are sticky with sweat and horse hair and grime; the kind that sort of rolls off when you rub your fingers together.   The grassy air drifts from the horse’s muzzle and wafts into my nose.  The dirt melts into the soles of my feet, creating a bond between me and the Earth supporting both of us.

A huge 16-hand chestnut Tennessee Walking horse with a wide white blaze flashed in my mind’s eye. It’s Bo!

I was four years old at my grandparents’ farm, also Bo’s home.  My feet crunched the dry grass underneath them as they dodged fire ants and sticker burrs.  Grasshoppers tickled me behind my knees.  Sticky sweat between my skin and T-shirt reminded me of that summer.

Bo came into my life long before my parents gave me my first horse.  Choking up, I’m seeing the gifts that Bo gave me; my earliest foundation with horses.

Alligator tears stream down my cheeks.

Gratitude imbedded in saline forges a waterway down my face.   Flooded with thanks, I see that Bo started it all.  He offered a bond with his heart, sharing our love-language in common.  His gift was my earliest reference point for connecting with a horse.  Belonging to my Aunt Debbie and my grandmother, Bo always felt like my very own.

What do 5 year old girls talk to horses about? Bo never leaked my secrets.

Horses are a gift.

Most weekends my two younger brothers and I went to my grandparent’s Whippoorwill Hill Farm in Roundtop, TX, population 81. Even if the rest of the family couldn’t go, I went with my grandparents.  Being around horses was my medicine as a city kid.  Completely horse-crazy, but not in pink pony kind of way, Bo and I studied each other.

His head was longer than half my body.

My first love at age 4.  My brother Charlie is getting something good from Bo, too.

When I first saw Bo…

I was four years old.  It felt like he “knew” me. He did.  In utero. My parents visited the farm most weekends. long before my two feet were on the ground. Did we recognize each other’s energy from the very beginning at some karmic level?

Too nervous to touch him, I stood stock still in the humid air thick with mosquitoes. Shocked by his gargantuan stature and purposeful approach, my eyeballs rolled skyward and my neck bent backwards to get a full view.  I was in the presence of something VERY big.

He touched me first.

Bo sifted through my short brunette hair and tickled my sunburned cheeks with his coarse peach fuzz muzzle. I stroked his sticky sweaty neck towards his chest and watched his head drop and eyes glaze.  I rubbed the stray white hairs off of the margins of his blaze and breathed his breath.

They’ve always been my equals.

My dad taught me about the Golden Rule as a kid. Applying it to animals made my heart sing.  Lots of people do this as it isn’t anything new!

Recalling riding lessons, I remember loving just BEING with the horse. Riding was icing. I wanted to go deeper into the relationship with the horse as my friend and teacher.  I thought everyone felt this way.

Anything that could be uncomfortable to a horse made me nauseous.  I didn’t even like squeezing with my legs to ask the horse to move forward. I did it though because everyone told me that I needed to be “the boss” and that the horse had a job to do.  Talking to the horse about going forward as if he were my best friend always worked.

I slowed horses down by singing “Amazing Grace,” rather than pulling on the reins.  It calmed both of us down and led to a successful halt. Anything but pulling on the reins!

Horses gave me my early training as: a negotiator, a partner, a student, a listener and a ultimately as a communicator. Everything I did resulted in the horse and I remaining friends.

While there are people who spend the time to deeply bond with their horses, just because they love the relationship, it’s not as common as I once thought.

I wanted to bask in the horse’s presence and bring them the peace that they brought me.

More than anything I wanted to know what the world looked like from their eyes.  Later, I learned that I was studying the inner garden of their heart.  Funny enough, that’s the core of my current work; the basement layer of connection. Learning what made horses tick became my life-long project.

Totally content grooming them, watching them eat, taking care of them, nothing else mattered.  I felt what they felt. They wanted to feel as good as I did.

Anyone CAN do this!

I don’t recall the first time someone perched me atop Bo’s back.  What shines is the FEELING that Bo gave me over three decades ago while we were just BEING together.  I still get choked up while feeling those moments, before I knew anything else. I honestly didn’t even know what to do with a horse at that time in my life other than to just love and adore them.

Bo gave me the earliest kinesthetic memory with horses.  As if branded into my nervous system, it returns each time I connect with them.

Their purpose is greater than simply serving us. 

Many horses are happy to be of service and that includes being ridden. Taking the time to form a genuine connection with them so that they feel respected and appreciated for what they offer is the minimum agreement in my world.  Showing the horse that you care and that you’re willing to do your best to listen to him matters.

Intention trumps technique, even if you don’t get it right! 

Loving the adventure of it all, I realize that the relationship is more important than whatever job they can do.   Riding?  No riding?  I couldn’t care less.  Having a horse as my teacher, friend, equal and to help guide me?  Priceless.

Horses have such gifts to give if our eyes are open to see them!  Each horse carries their own “medicine.”  They generously share it  if our hearts are receptive.  It’s not about them working for us.  Top riders, horsemen and women know this.

I absolutely love helping people gain this type of relationship with their horses. No horsemanship. No tricks. Just creating understanding and compassion for the connection.

I’m inviting you to visit your early experiences with horses before you knew they could be “used” in some way.  Remember the time when you believed in your heart of hearts that this horse was your friend, your equal?  Has that changed?  Do you want a more heart-centered relationship with your horse?

As adults it’s easy to lose touch with the parts of horses that bring us so much joy.

If you’re looking to rekindle the core of your bond with your horse, I’d love to help you in that process.   Email me at: Lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com and it’d be my honor to assist you.  Thanks for your thoughts on this topic and for your feedback left in the comments section below.

What is a healer?

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Natural forces within us are the healers of disease.”

~ Hippocrates

I am NOT a healer!

It’s my own festering wound to lick.  With the intention of mending this once and for all, I’m addressing the horse on the porch.

The common assumption among the general population is that a healer does the healing for someone else.

As defined by The Oxford Dictionary, a healer is:  “A person who claims to be able to cure a disease or injury using special powers.”  It seems this healer must be incredibly powerful to preform that sort of magic for someone else! The idea makes my hackles go up; we are not independently this powerful.

I define my role in healing as the facilitator.

I’m a conduit or a “hollow bone” hosting the energy from Source.  Energy flows through my body and into the recipient where it serves as fuel to stoke their own healing process.  The facilitator serves as a sort of midwife as the recipient does the actual healing work.

The recipient grants permission to the facilitator to support the process.  Everything is intended to be in the Highest Good of all involved, without attachment to the outcome. Each facilitator has different tools and specialties as well as wisdom-bases.

My job includes: sensing the vital force of the recipient, asking permission to assist, setting and maintaining a safe energetic space, inviting Source energy to flow through me for the Highest Good of all, using vibrational tools (like drums, tuning forks, other instruments) to serve the healing process, balancing energy, raising vibration, and closing the space.

Here’s a vitally important phrase: “The recipient is the healer!”

I gained this concept while apprenticing with holistic veterinarian, Dr. Heather Mack, thirteen years ago. I recall the discomfort of completely uprooting my thoughts about healing.  Realizing now that Heather was a key player at precisely the right time gives me chills.  It’s hard to thank a teacher too often and it’s never too late.

At twenty-three, I was a pin-feathered fledgling tip-toeing in the deep forest looking for bread crumbs.  Heather swooped me up and helped me sprout my flight feathers on the wings that’d carry me into my true calling.  I had no idea at the time and only felt the challenges as they constantly stubbed my toes.

Watching horses heal under her hands gave me a generous reference point as to what was possible.  The horses were doing the healing.  She consistently “showed up” completely grounded, focused, totally present and took impeccable care of herself as a conduit.  Her tools were always primed and she offered her best to each horse.

Bottom line: the horses were the healers.  

I’ll illustrate the terms healer and facilitator by sharing Sage’s story.  He’s the epitome of a healer.

Hop on the fast track four years back with me and meet Sage, the miniature red mule who I’m just getting to know.  A less than wise moment results in a kick to his head by a drafty pasture-mate, four times his size.  My dear friend Bev and I happen to notice the distant red heap planted lifelessly into the earth.  We’re both in shock as we dash to Sage’s side.  He’s been down at least ten minutes.  

We prepare ourselves for what looks to be a dead mule.  Herd members snort and spook as they take turns sniffing the limp body.  Horses sometimes respond to a deceased herd-mate like this.

Truth be told.

Sage’s right eye eerily stares into the glaring mid-day Texas sun. His turgid glassy-looking cornea doesn’t respond to the touch of my right index finger. He’s supposed to blink.  His rib cage occasionally raises as much as a fairy’s breath. With a pulse as thin as a fly-fishing leader, Sage is negotiating entry at the Pearly Gates with his already white gums.

A half-inch long graze of a wound is half-way between the edge of the corner of his right eye and the knobby joint just below his ear.   A firm swelling rears its head head from the thin-boned area.  Beyond the thickness of a tulle veil, the angels pant down my neck. 

Heaven is very near for Long Ears. 

I call in MAJOR guidance and accept that Sage is making his exit. The vet can’t get here fast enough to put him down.  A breath from death, my rational mind says there’s no way he’ll recover and to let him go.

Bev stands silently behind us with her arms outstretched, palms up. She’s doing a fine job, quite literally holding space in every possible way.  Grateful for her support, I feel less alone.   Assuming he’s dying feels like a pound of ice in my stomach.

A better-feeling thought leaps into my lap.  Could I support him?  Could I assume nothing, ignore my scientific side, ditch the vet tech in me and completely detach?  Taking a one minute dash to the barn, I grab a couple of remedies and I ground myself with each stride towards Sage.

Tossing a dose of Arnica 1M on both of our gums with a swig of Rescue Remedy sets the stage for whatever is about to happen.  Guidance came in the form of a voice: “GET TO WORK! YOU DON’T HAVE MUCH TIME!”  

We’re both breathless; one more than another.

Summoning Sage’s inner healer is a 911 wake-up call!  His innate wisdom knows far more than I do. Offering energy from Source, Sage sucks it up as fast as it flows through my hot hands. I feel a big ball of a bouncy warmth in my palms.  Sage’s vital force is alive! Yes!

The swelling between his eye and ear is like a bulging hot lemon.  Sage uses the energy to tame the chaos around his brain, melting it like butter. Dripping nourishment on the surrounding tissues gets the process started.

As if someone is holding my hands, I brush the shape of a bubble around Sage.  I see it as a tight container splinting his life force as his cells repair. 

Everything in me completely believes Sage is capable of healing.

Visualizing a “blueprint for perfect health,” in the words of Dr. Heather Mack are flashing in bold text. I remind Sage that it’s his choice to step into this option. If he gives me permission, I’ll use my tools to support him as he does the work.  My gut feeling says give me a gre.   

Onward and upward!

I paint the picture of his body returning to homeostasis. He repairs the bleeding in his brain.  His heart beats with evermore increasing force.  His lungs remember how to draw life inward.

Like marching orders married to a mantra, my guidance repeats: “Support him, keep the energy flowing from Source, stay receptive, keep your connection, hold the space, meet his vibration, stay with him, show him health, remind him of his spark.”

Hang in there Sage.

Clearing the energy around his head reveals an arterial bleed, visible in my mind’s eye.  Imagining hands suturing the torn vessel together with golden thread, Sage stops the bleeding.

His brain is surrounded with swelling.  He’s literally between the worlds as his glassy bulging eyes stare; one looking into the grass and the other through the blue sky. Still no blinking.

Pulling the energy of the fluid downward from his head to his heart, his circulation improves and his eyes are less turgid with pressure.  Slightly pink gums peek out when I lift his lip.

He’s taking shallow breaths, moving his ribs about half-inch high. This goes on for at least thirty minutes while the rest of him is completely unresponsive.  Continuing to clear his energy field and provide nourishment for his vital force, I sit at his side with my hands on his heart.  While he’s on energetic life-support he’s doing massive healing.

Gasp! 

Consuming a deeply nourishing breath, he captures a rhythm. He’s blinking! Tears run down my sweaty cheeks as he lifts his head. Supporting his heart energy with green light, his pulse pounds my fingertips with a high-five!

Regular respiration takes over and Sage props himself up. The swelling is shrinking on the right side of his head.  Staring at each other for at least ten minutes, we’re both stunned.

He pops up effortlessly and takes a walk.  A full body shake clears his trauma.  Gulping down water and eating hay, Sage joins the herd.  Bev and I sit under a grove of trees in shock. 

Minus a tiny nick and small bruise at the kick site, he’s fine.  A few more doses of Arnica over the next couple of days make me feel better. The vet only wanted to check him if he shows abnormal neurological symptoms.

Who’s the healer?

Sage! Do you see what’s possible when the healer gives the facilitator permission to actively support their process?  I am not in charge of how things turn out, nor do I have control over the process.  I follow Divine guidance, use my tools when they’re called for and serve as an active witness. 

What helps me most is the unflappable belief that any animal can step into a high vibration that supports their vital force.  I thank Sage for giving me permission to share his story.  Experiences like this give me a deeper reference point as to what is possible.  This gives my mind an invitation to stretch to the next level regardless of what things look like externally.

I’m deeply honored to have such animal teachers and healers in my life.  They give me the opportunity to serve and continue to inspire me.  If you’d like to learn more about working with your animals in this way, please send a note to: lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com or leave a note in the comments section below. 

Artist with Animals

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“Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” Brené Brown 

Our animals are always seen for who they are.  We may not like their expression sometimes, but they’re authentic!  In the name of being as “on purpose” as the animals are, I’d like to share some insight along my path to being fully “on purpose.”

People all over the world are answering the collective call to put our true purpose into action.  In doing so, we not only help ourselves, but our animals and our Earth home also benefit. Here goes nothing on my venture to be at 100%!

I’m the only daughter of two artists.

My mother paints sacred landscapes as an artist of land, water and Earth.  My father is an artist with people, business, land and wildlife photography.

Could I be an “artist with animals?”

My tag line is “Holistic animal care husbandry education and consultation.” Is that the most comprehensive use of my abilities?  Definitely not!  It represents one aspect.

Here are the “juicy bits” that got me here.

My forever prayer has been:  “To help people and animals for their Highest Good as well as my own.” My heart’s desire has been to be of service in whatever way the Creator sees fit.

Letting go of that exact definition and trusting that I’d be guided along the way has been the only way through this rabbit hole.  I’ve spent a lot of time searching for breadcrumbs in the maze. I’ve replaced a lot of batteries in my headlight and my night vision has gotten to be pretty good!

Over the last couple of years, I have asked myself if I am living my TOTAL purpose.  Plagued with an uncomfortable “No!” felt awful.  Unhappy with offering singular aspects of holistic animal care education left me feeling unsatisfied.  I took the deep dive inside and discovered my truth.

Distance energy work for the human-animal pair.  There.  I said it.   

That’s my other half!  It’s the part of me and my work that’s been dying to break out of the closet!  I’ve kept it locked up and well-contained until my innards showed me their great disharmony and drained my energy.

I’ve suppressed that niggling pain for too long.  The constant degree of conflict made me physically ill more than a few times in the last two years.  Should I put it out there?  Should I not?  A mental tug of war made from a rope knotted with “shoulds”  wore me out.  I was exhausted.  All the time.

Fear of being seen held me back.

As a result of my own soul-stirring conflict, I’m inspired to share my process.  I’m not the only one in this boat.  Our animals push us to be at our best.   How can we ask them to bounce back to health if we are not working on healing ourselves?

Marianne Williamson said, “You playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightening about shrinking so others won’t feel insecure around you. As you let your own light shine, you indirectly give others permission to do the same.”

Knowing that I can help people, animals, and the world in a deeper way and choosing to not do so because of my own discomfort in how to present my own magic left me with a gaping wound of clarity.

To stop the bleeding, I called in a courage transfusion from super-hero, Brené Brown.  “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?”

Working on my inner landscape, turning up stones and pulling out thorny bushes left me in a different state of mind. Working in a “parts and pieces” mode to figure out management issues solved my clients’ problems.  Boring!  I didn’t empower them to make further changes in the grand scheme-as much as I thought I was.

The WHOLE picture includes: human, animal, land, food, energetics and the bond.

“Fixing” one piece of this network of variables isn’t what my work is about.  Feeling drained and in a constant state of conflict was not fun. Helping others to see the whole and how everything is connected makes me feel that I am doing my best work.

Often times that work is done energetically with the client. We work together with their land, their animals, and themselves. I engage them in the process and invite them to work with me and with their beloved animal.

 Could I replace being afraid with being brave? 

Putting my WHOLE self out there to the world to help the collective spider web of inhabitants and environment is my intention.  Could I do more and still be safe but find some of that feel-good stretch? Absolutely!

The idea of marketing my most nurtured and coddled gift to the world for the last ten years is being birthed RIGHT NOW.

The timing is perfect. I’ve polished this skill set for the last ten years with countless animals and people.  It’s ready to debut. My intention is no longer limited to only helping an animal and a person at a time.  It is also benefit the greater net of Creation.  Energy flows where attention goes.

I’m braiding my gifts, knowledge and abilities into a service offering.  

What if I took the risk and told you that the part of my work that gives me the most joy and sense of purpose is something that isn’t nested on my website?

It’s not on my cards, brochures or anywhere!  Why not?  Artists are a funny type.  They go deep into the womb of creativity and work on themselves. They clean up the stuff that’s held them back.  They take the time to buff tarnished treasures within the deepest recesses of their heart.  Somewhere within, they know that their art will be stronger and more beautiful if they work on the conduit from which their inspiration flows.

It’s time to take a chance!

I am an “animal artist.”  Trying to figure out a way to deliver this news has kept me in metaphorical labor for the last two years.  I was trying to control every aspect of its delivery and make it perfect and painless. Ludicrous!  Flooded with debate and fear, I felt waterlogged and unable to take the next step .

When a baby’s ready to come OUT, it doesn’t stop and ask if it’s a good time!   Our world is calling all of us to do our soul’s work, without fear of the risk of failure.

Here goes: I facilitate healing for animals, the people who love them, and the land that supports them.  

For ten years, I’ve quietly served human-animal pairs via long distance or in-person energy work with the intention of assisting them to restoring their vitality. It’s officially a full-fledged offering, fueled by your word of mouth referrals.

There are messages and opportunities within each session. I share all of those insights with you.

There are huge opportunities for growth when working this way.  The understanding alone causes incredible peace and clarity to wash over people who are struggling with their animals.  Part animal communicator, part healer, part intuitive and part experience drives me forward to offer customized sessions.

I provide the voice for those who are struggling to be heard. 

Seeing the truth of situations between people and animals is something that comes naturally for me.  Relieving the owner’s stress creates a sort of freedom for the animal to restore their own energetic systems. That’s when they do their best healing.

As an artist with animals, I create the space for well-being between people, animals and the Earth. 

With the permission of the person and invitation from the animal, I use my gifts to facilitate long-distance or in-person energetic healing. I involve the client, the land, and the animal.  I use my tools and skills to sense where there’s balance and where there’s a need for change. Making sure everyone has clarity and confidence in the animal’s ability to be whole is the most vital aspect of my work as an artist.

 Let me know your thoughts and needs.  I’m here to help. You can reach me by emailing: Lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com     

Maestro Part Two

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I’ve got to get to the bottom of this!  Maestro’s muscles are slowly melting away and he’s lethargic. I need to know WHY.  The vet and the blood tests say he’s fine.

Studying Maestro one evening, “EPSM” comes to mind.  Equine Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy is a genetic, progressive, neuromuscular disease. There are two types. Type II is what applies here.  Type II manifests later in life than Type I. Maestro is thirteen, which seems to be the sweet-spot for most Type II horses (average age at diagnosis is between eight and early teens).   Dutch Warmbloods (when compared to other warmblood breeds) are well-represented in the Type II category but rarely with Type I.

Maestro before any MAJOR symptoms, albeit overweight…

In veterinary technician school we were taught about equine neuromuscular disorders, briefly.  EPSM was just a mysterious acronym for my classmates. Thankfully, I’d been out in the horse world my whole life and had managed Type I horses.

Type I affects many breeds especially drafts and Quarter horses.

Both Type I, and Type II symptoms can include muscle wasting. Type I usually occurs earlier in life and often manifests by the horse “tying up,” in the most severe form.  Here, the horse stands camped out, outstretched with a tense back and painfully hard hindquarter muscles. The horse is unwilling to move. During an episode, the horse’s urine may be coffee-colored.  This is from the muscle pigment, myoglobin, being released from the dying muscle fibers after being filtered by the kidneys.  There are more subtle symptoms of Type I as well and it’s easy to diagnose with an inexpensive genetic hair test.

My local vet and her colleague had no awareness of the second type of this syndrome and little experience with the first.  One acquaintance, a board-certified equine surgeon, had only diagnosed a couple of horses with EPSM.

Although everyone who saw Maestro believed he looked “fine,” he’s shown consistent symptoms of Type II recently.

Recalling a severe stent of kidney colic and tying up eleven months ago, everything added up.  He recovered brilliantly with the help of intensive supportive care, homeopathy, a gifted holistic vet and energy medicine. Maestro’s main symptoms after this acute episode have been:

  • progressive muscle wasting throughout body
  • exercise & heat intolerance
  • occasional mild tying up episodes
  • standing camped out (outstretched)
  • unwillingness to move forward when working
  • “stickiness” in the hindquarters
  • lethargy & lying down often
  • occasional cough

Recalling other horses in my life, I started to see that this is not an uncommon disease.

In fact, I’ve likely worked with many “problem” horses who have been undiagnosed but symptomatic of EPSM.  Discomfort caused by this disease may have been the reason for much of their behavior challenges and physical symptoms.  These signs sound familiar to many horse owners.  The problem is that they’re generalized and could mean MANY things.  It takes time and persistence to put the puzzle together and discover what may be the cause.  Of course, horses never lie…

Studying his bloodlines, his records and talking with his previous owner revealed that Maestro has had seemingly random symptoms during the time she had him.

Top veterinarians never suggested EPSM as a possibility.  They did their absolute best to help Maestro.  Vets attributed each problem to a variety of lameness issues, hoof pain, chronic colic, compensatory pain, etc. His owner lovingly treated him to the very best veterinary care and holistic management, but to no avail.

Given his multiple soundness issues and lack of suitability for upper level dressage, my dear friend could no longer keep him. He had a different purpose in life.  Since I love rehabilitating horses and could care less about riding, she gifted him to me.  The teacher had appeared; quite literally.  I decided to learn from “The Maestro.”  To understand his his lineage, I talk with warmblood breeders and learn about his bloodlines.  Learning of the possibility of genetic proclivity to EPSM made me want to dig deeper.

The journey begins by going straight to the horse’s mouth.

I find one of the world’s experts on EPSM.  Dr. Stephanie Valberg, DVM, PhD is a researcher at Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and is also board certified in internal medicine.   She’s been a respected pioneer in equine neuromuscular diseases for many years the Equine Neuromuscular Disease Laboratory.

During our conversation, she agreed based on my description of Maestro’s history, breed, age and symptoms, that he may have Type II.  She requested that he have small muscle biopsy from his hamstring.   That sample would be sent to her team in Michigan for microscopic evaluation and diagnosis.

Considering that his surgical site would have several stitches, he’d need to be confined to a smaller turnout area for a couple of days.  No big deal for most horses.  However, Maestro becomes stressed in any kind of confinement and his body becomes acutely painful.  Taking him out of his herd creates tremendous distress on top of it. For now, it’s not worth it.

Recognizing how nice it would be to have a definitive diagnosis, I feel confident it’s not in Maestro’s best interest at this time. 

Plus, I am not excited about having Maestro undergo a minor, but nonetheless invasive standing surgery at this point.  His condition is in a precarious state and it doesn’t feel right to proceed.  If we need more clarity at any point, it’ll be done. Trusting that the time will be right and Maestro will be well-prepared leaves me feeling relieved.

Dr. Valberg generously shares other strategies that may help him.  She suggests a feeding trial including a very high protein commercial feed, moderate-low starch and whey protein for amino acids.  The objective is to provide ample building blocks for muscle repair and development.  Stopping the muscle wasting is the main target.   Should he need to gain weight, he could have additional calories from fiber and fat but not from starch.   She stressed progressive walking exercise to help his muscles. Depending on his response, we’d have a better idea of his status.

Talking with EPSM researcher, Dr. Beth Valentine, DVM, PhD at Oregon State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine gave me more information.

She’s been studying the disease for 25 years.  Her recommendation for all types of EPSM is a high fat, low starch and high protein diet.  Exercise and full-time turnout without rich grass is critical.  Maestro’s response to this diet could take four months.  Dr. Valentine cautioned me there would be good days and bad days during his metabolic shift and to focus on the good ones. Feeding fat from a vegetable source was absolutely key, regardless of type, in her experience.  Calculating 20-25% of Maestro’s daily calories coming from fat meant feeding him well over two cups of oil per day!  I feel apprehensive about feeding that much of any oil to Maestro.

Everyone has a strategy to manage this disease, but it’s defined as incurable.

In talking with other people with Type II horses, it seems that these horses are a challenge.  The idea of treating the horse who is manifesting symptoms of the disease on a more “constitutional” level hasn’t yet come up, except with my holistic vet. What Maestro is expressing is actually a collection of symptoms that could be labeled as EPSM.  The diagnosis is not the answer.

Homeopathy is something we are using in Maestro’s case to help the whole horse recover.  Regardless of a diagnosis, he needs the right foods, exercise, low-stress and unlimited turnout.  My intention is for the “Whole Maestro” to bounce back into a state of health

Meanwhile, Maestro’s genetic hair test is negative for Type I.

That’s no surprise.  I insisted we check muscle enzymes (AST and CK), vitamin E and Selenium.  All were normal. Muscle enzymes are often normal in Type II horses.  Low vitamin E and Selenium can cause muscle pain and tying up in any horse and are an easy fix.

I sent more mane samples off for a brand new Type II genetic test.  It’s not yet recognized by many vets, as it just became available.  The science behind it makes sense and others have obtained consistently accurate results.  It will at least tell me if he has the genes for EPSM and which type. It’s something I can do.

I have nothing to lose in changing his diet.

Carefully preparing Maestro’s dinner gives me hope!  Not relying on a bag of pellets means I can see that what he eats and feel it with my hands.  He’s always eaten a whole food diet but this one is further customized to support his healing efforts.  Feeding the whole horse, not managing a disease, is my mantra.  No processed foods, no soy, no GMOs, nothing artificial and no pro-inflammatory food will EVER cross his lips.

To reduce starch, I eliminated the tiny amount of oats he was eating. Adding just a cup per day of organic coconut oil gives him medium chain triglycerides, one of the most rapidly used muscle fuels.  I’m not using the typical vet recommended vegetable oils such as corn, canola and soy.  The majority are GMO, hexane (a carcinogen) extracted, deodorized and are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6.  I add chia seeds into his recipe for critical omega-3 and other nutrients.  I’ll add a bit of hemp oil and camelina oil for their specific properties soon.  Doubling his organic alfalfa pellets raises the protein.   Tossing in a small amount of un-denatured, grass-fed whey gives him a full spectrum of amino acids for muscle repair.  His low starch hay is always free choice along with grazing on sparse native pasture.  A variety of super green foods like AFA algae, spirulina, kelp, and nutritive herbs provide his vitamins and minerals.

The King LOVES his Green Mash!

Green Mash is food for health, not disease. Watching Maestro savor his dinner feels amazing and lowers my stress. Within twenty-four hours, I’m shocked!  His eyes are soft and he’s moving well.  Each day I make notes on his condition, attitude, any changes and whatever we did that day.

 The physical shifts are slight at this stage, but everything else is clear!

3/1/17
3/29/17

Here are the changes I’ve noticed in about four weeks since implementing his new diet & exercise program:

  • standing more square (happened in 48 hours of new diet)
  • improving condition
  • not urinating just before feeding time
  • playing with herd mates
  • more energetic & napping less
  • eager to walk in hand
  • no “stickiness” or hesitation when asked to move forward
  • not grumpy
  • overall calmness
  • loves to be touched & groomed
  • stands quietly for hoof trimming
  • muscle development behind withers and between hip and stifle
  • soft muscles along lower back and hindquarters

Stay tuned to learn about his progress, what I learn about this dis-ease and my conclusions/opinion about this all too common but often under-considered syndrome.  As always, your feedback is welcome.  Please respond in the comments section of the blog or send a note to Lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com.

 

Restoring Connection

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Connection and disconnection is the foundation of the relationship with our horses. Few things feel better than a horse-human bond which is absolutely synchronized, when you both can read each other’s minds and body language. This bond is the lifeblood behind every aspect of our partnership with horses.  It’s what inspires us and motivates to progress through the inevitable challenges.

A disconnection provides an uncomfortable contrast. Did I do something “wrong”? Maybe the horse is having a bad day or we’re not in tune with ourselves. It’s nothing personal and horses are forgiving.

But something juicy lurks in the space between a connected time and a disconnection; the phase during actively seeking re-connection.  Patience yields clarity and fertile ground.  Disconnections become opportunities for growth, although it won’t feel that way at the time.

I’ve recently gone though a disconnection with Maestro.  He is a horse who OWNS his human, and in the best of ways.  Some might call him demanding, but I know him as my true love.  For six years, Maestro has been my equal and my teacher.  You can imagine how confused and sad I’ve been feeling since our bond dismantled in progressively less-subtle ways over the last few months.  Something was underneath this feeling. Maestro was trying to communicate with me that something wasn’t right.

Rather suddenly, Maestro didn’t want to be groomed. He was grumpy.  He kept “asking” to work in-hand except shortly after starting the work, he’d shut down.  Learning the origin of this pattern is where the adventure started.

I started by trying to understand Maestro’s point of view.  I don’t believe in horses being labeled as stubborn, too smart, lazy, obstinate, or with training issues.  Neither do I believe in dominance or submission theories. I handle my herd differently by asking them, “show me your truth.”

Maestro did show me his symptoms, in high definition, in everything we did together. We’ve been practicing Connected Groundwork, a type of in-hand work designed to help build his core strength and self-carriage.  Recently, he was having trouble with his focus and he had little energy.  His back legs were like concrete.  He got frustrated and finally, we simply stopped trying.  Just asking Maestro to go forward felt heavy.  His eyes showed unhappiness. The tension around his nostrils and the wrinkles in his lips illustrated his discomfort.   Was I not being light enough?  Was my own self-carriage off? I checked every box and made sure I wasn’t creating an unwilling horse.  Maestro was always so willing.

I encouraged him to move forward in a variety of humane ways.  Treats didn’t work.

One step, lurch… one more step, stop…. bull doze forward, stop.  Both of us were discouraged. Thanking him for trying and putting him back in the pasture felt like a cop-out.  A vet friend of mine came out and watched him move, did an exam and took blood. Everything was normal.  She thought he looked great other than being out of condition and therefore lacking muscle. I talked with another vet about his symptoms and she said a similar thing.

But something was just not right. Maestro was still the herd leader, moving well, eating, drinking, eliminating normally, etc.  but he his fitness had been been diminishing ever so slightly for the past few months.  I just could not get muscle on him.  Maybe it was our low protein, albeit organic hay.  I supplemented with a higher protein grass hay and added additional alfalfa.  I increased his groceries and tweaked his vitamins/minerals.  I gave him a prebiotic liquid and aloe juice for good measure. Given his stress, he needed digestive tract support.  I couldn’t describe what I was seeing,  It was just a feeling I had;  something is not right.

I suspected my feeling was similar to a mother’s instinct about her child when something’s amiss but the doctor says “fine.”  I wanted to trust the vets, but Maestro was showing me otherwise, and I trusted him.

First, I removed the excuse, “he always does that” which gave me the freedom to see patterns and imbalances.  I went through old notes and interviewed his past owner.  I studied his veterinary records learned about his lineage.

Horses show us only to what depth we are able to see, if we are persistent and continue to listen.  Maestro magnified his symptoms and made sure I saw them.  The details became vivid, bold and highlighted.  I took notes and told him what I saw.  My list included: 1. not right since kidney colic 11 months ago 2. dislikes being groomed 3.muscle tension in back and hindquarters 4.stands camped out 5. muscle atrophy 6.depression 7. muscle tension worse with confinement  8. exercise intolerance 9. weakness in hind end 10. grumpiness 11. symptoms worse when fed too much starch.

Maestro was being crystal clear.  His voice came through his patterns. He looked at me when each symptom had been acknowledged.  The wrinkles in his eyelids, the way he held his head, the way he stood, the way he relieved himself, the way he ate and drank, the way he held his feet for trimming, all meant something.  Through the details, I saw his truth.

I didn’t have an answer but i had a lot of notes.  All I could do was continue to listen and learn. The vets and the blood work had said he was fine, after all.

“Hearing” Maestro made him peaceful and it relieved some of his symptoms.  He became more engaged and interactive during this process, which encouraged me to keep getting to the root of whatever this was. I thanked him for continuing to work with me and guide me through this maze.  My notes became voluminous as more questions popped up.  I promised  I’d keep digging.

Part Two; What does Maestro reveal?  What ended up helping him?  He is horse who is actively finding a way to help me understand his perspective. Clues are all along the way if only we take the time to observe and listen.

Do you have a similar story to share?  I’d love to hear it.  Please send an email to me at: Lizzy@wholehorseconsulting.com

 

 

The Guts of Connection (part two)

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The guts of connection.

Connection between human and horse is simple.  Together we have love, trust, and mutual respect for eachother.  I believe that each horse is perfectly healthy for their divine purpose.  When all of these aspects are bundled up, I call it acceptance.  It means I’m not trying to fix anything “wrong” with the horse.

Letting go of what I WANT the horse to be is therapeutic for the horse’s soul.  It dissolves stress for both of us.  Stepping back and receiving whatever medicine our horses offer us is is quite an experience.  Trying so hard to give them something we think they “need” quickly loses, by all comparison.  Staying in a receptive mode is the only way I’ve been able to work with horses and witness their healing and feel shifts in myself.

Let me take you though a sample of my routine.

It goes like this: observe horses from a distance, approach carefully with consideration to their personal space, stand back once our energetic space integrates, breathe with the horse, ask for permission to approach further and to be touched, ask how his day is going, see how his body feels, ask him what he’d like to do,  hang out in the pasture as he eats, maybe walk together.

Having no expectations of the horse is where the magic is!  I’m interested in what’s important to him.  This says to the horse, “I care about your world, help me learn about you!” Can you imagine what a great relationship this could be?

Learning to drop my own agenda was hard!

Every horse I’ve been given to work with has inadvertently suffered due to someone else’s goal. I hold no judgement or towards these people. In my heart, I know we are all doing our best.  Nevertheless, there’s always mental, emotional, energetic, and physical baggage to sift and sort.  It’s all the same. Being invited into the hearts of these horses has always meant doing the opposite of what others had already done.

Schooling and conditioning plans went out the window.  There was no structure.   All I could do was read the horse via their behavior, energy, and body language.  My ego was upset and my mind was flooded with doubt.

The horses became my structure and my guide.  I learned to be flexible and to carefully listen with my heart and hands.  The horses quickly confirmed we were on the right track. Their movement and expression gave me all the information I needed to move forward.

Being totally present with each horse and treating them as my equal gave me more results than any other thing.  I thank my mom for drilling, “Patience is a virtue” into me as a kid. Horse time is not linear!

Horses have always schooled me-not the other way around!

Loving every horse that was given to me as a “project,” I learned that investing time in forming a true friendship was our foundation.  I promised them that I’d not engage in any method that used fear, force, intimidation, or pressure.  Anything that took advantage of the horse’s flight mechanism was also off the docket. My intention was to be with horses who genuinely were my friends.

Blown away by the relationships they gave me, the healing events that I witnessed, and their willingness to teach, my whole perspective as an equine professional and lover of hoses changed. I was keenly interested in their perspective and in their world.

I gave up riding for years to learn more about their hearts, minds, bodies, and ability to connect in a variety of ways.

Forever a learning nerd, I experimented with different ideas and approaches.  The horse’s feedback gave me the ok to keep going on whatever track or re-direct my energies.  Surrendering has never felt so good.

Being a student of the horse became my life.  I asked them to teach me how to see from their perspective. I wanted to know what to do differently. It intrigued me to know if things were making sense to them.  And I received as much healing as they could give me without trying to heal them in return-unless they made it clear they needed help.

I began to get a body-sense of what connection with a horse felt like.

It was an unmistakably solid feeling in my solar plexus.  Nothing could push me away from that sensation because it was the truth and the most valuable guidance.  Seeing the peace in the horse’s eyes and relaxation in their body was all I needed.  Any iota of doubt meant to stop and check in with myself and the horse. There was a message.  Ignoring it NEVER served me or the horse well!

I help horse lovers to develop a sense of true connection with their horses.

The kind of relationship and friendship with horses that I am talking about is a feeling.  It can be taught!  It’s my heart’s delight to help other people obtain this sensation and deep knowingness of truth with their horse. Horses are asking us to see them not just as an equal, but as teachers, healers and guides.

It’s a sacred opportunity when a person is drawn into the inner world of the Horse.  It’s an equally deep chance for the horse to form a bond with a person. I’d love to hear your special stories of relating with your horses.  Reply in the comments section below and I’ll have part three of this series ready for you soon!

 

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