Many factors contribute to a horse’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. These include but are not limited to stress, nutritional imbalances, toxic liver and kidneys, muscle spasms, and imbalanced hooves and teeth. General training and behavior problems are often associated with pain or discomfort. A horse’s level of comfort is related to saddle fit, diet, living conditions, routine, activity, and inactivity.
Perhaps your horse has some training issues–both on the ground and in the saddle. Unfortunately, training aids don’t fix body parts. If a horse can’t physically bend and yield to the rider’s aids, that indicates misalignment and imbalance. This is caused by muscle spasms that shorten the muscle and pull the bone. Additionally, tight muscles inhibit the scapula from moving freely.
The scapula is not attached to the bone in the horse. Humans have a collarbone, but horses do not. Horses carry 70% of their body weight on the front end by muscle alone. When we observe a horse being resistant to picking up their front feet or short striding, this indicates tight muscles. Every time a horse pulls back, the atlas and axis take all of the torque and the poll loses its flexion. As a result, the horse develops a short neck and gets heavy on the forehand.
Sometimes, the horse may have a past head trauma. Years later, it affects the whole body, which shows up as a mysterious lameness. A pulled tendon or suspensory tells us that one leg is working harder than the other leg. If the horse is having trouble picking up the correct canter lead or has sore and turned-in hocks, these are all reasons to have bodywork done on your horse.
Other reasons to consider bodywork on your horse are muscle atrophy or a dropped topline. Short striding or resistance to the farrier picking up the hooves tells us something isn’t quite right. When the rear hooves interfere with the front hooves, this tells us something is off balance. Has your horse ever pulled back while standing tied? Or pulled a front shoe with a hind hoof? Or stepped in a hole while running across the pasture? Any of these instances create an imbalance in the horse. Bodywork rebalances the horses.
What is Equine Bodywork?
Equine bodywork can be one specific modality (such as massage) or a combination of bodywork approaches that provide non-invasive assessment and techniques that promote overall health, healing, and balance. Bodywork releases tension, energy blockages, and stress. These approaches include energy work, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupressure, Reiki, and more.
Equine bodywork results in improved posture and an elongated neck. It opens the scapula while releasing muscle tension and spasms. Bodywork creates an increased range of motion and overall balance. It helps lift the withers and ribs while creating an independently moving pelvis and a lighter front end. For example, the psoas muscle lifts the stifle. When the psoas is tight, the hocks have to work harder and this leads to a horse with sore hocks. Turned-in hocks also indicate a tight groin. When left unmanaged, many horses end up blowing their hocks out, which results in recommended hock injections. Bodywork isn’t about fixing the hock–it’s about fixing why the hock is sore. Do you get the picture?
What is Your Ultimate Goal?
The bottom line is: Do you want your horses to be rideable well into their twenties? Do you want to prevent any unnecessary injuries? Do you want your horses to perform at their best every time you show? Do you want to avoid any unnecessary vet bills? Do you want to achieve balanced health and wellness? Do you want to prevent overloading that can lead to arthritis? Do you want a happy, healthy, and sound horse? If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, bodywork can help your horse!
Sway-backed older horses do not have to be “normal.” Bodywork can be the difference between riding a sound horse well into their 20s or retiring a horse before they reach their teen years. If the whole body isn’t working correctly and together, that is when we see issues. Horses are going to have health issues, but being prepared for one is a choice. If you go into a health crisis with a healthy horse, chances are the horse will come out of it faster, better, and alive!
As you can see, everyday horse behavior from over striding to running around in the turn-out are all reasons why a horse can benefit from equine bodywork modalities. Tight muscles pull the hips forward, put a strain on the cannon bones, and can contribute to overdeveloped forearms. By releasing muscle spasms and balancing the horse, muscles get an appropriate blood supply and gain elasticity. Do you want to create intrinsic self-healing and overall health and wellness for your horse? Then it is imperative to bring him or her back to proper form and function by scheduling an Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding session today!
Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding is an integrative equine bodywork therapy that releases tension from the musculoskeletal body, the fascial body, the emotional body, and the osteopathic body of the horse. Through a combination of several bodywork modalities, the horse’s musculoskeletal body is realigned, rebalanced, and restored. I challenge you to give bodywork a try-your horse will thank you for it!
Despite the increasing popularity of chiropractic and massage for horses, I still experience a lot of pushbacks around alternative and complementary therapies for horses. Many still consider them “woo-woo” or “quacky” and people say there isn’t any “science” to back these integrative modalities. I always have to chuckle to myself because I’m quite certain these people aren’t subscribed to The Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine or are a member of the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association (AHVMA), which publishes the only peer-reviewed scientific journal focusing exclusively on integrative veterinary medicine. In addition, the Association also holds an annual conference that is the leading source of post-graduate integrative veterinary medical continuing education worldwide–sounds credible to me!Emerging complementary therapies (such as acupressure, energy medicine, color therapy, chakra balancing, and herbal therapy–to name a few) have brought awareness to the need for more education, research, and enhanced training in these alternative fields of equine health and healing. In addition to the need for education and training, equine practitioners are bombarded with information from the owner, lay and scientific literature, along with public opinions on philosophies of healing. My intention for this article is to shed some light on Traditional Chinese Medicine (many think of this as acupuncture, but it’s so much more!) so you can make an informed decision about complementary approaches to your horse’s health and wellness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing system that originated in China over 5,000 years ago and has changed little over the centuries. TCM perceives the body as a self-controlled system. This system is connected by a network of meridians that exist throughout the body–blood and vital energy flow also contributes to this network system. TCM looks at how the body works, what causes illness, and how to fix the imbalances that cause the illness.
The basic concept of TCM is that a vital force, called life force energy or Chi, runs through the body. TCM focuses on how Chi flows throughout the body’s meridian system. It determines where the pattern of Chi is disrupted, blocked, or flowing in the body–any imbalance in Chi can cause disease and illness. Utilizing the concepts of yin/yang, the five element theories, and the eight principles of TCM, Chinese herbs, acupressure, and acupuncture are used as the main modalities for balancing Chi.
The meridian system and its associated acupoints are one of several systems of the body that transform and regulate the subtle energetic aspects of the body within its physical structure. Meaning, the meridian system is part of the energetic anatomy that strongly impacts the physical anatomy. Acupressure or acupuncture has powerful effects on restoring strength and mobility, eliminating pain, and increasing vitality. By creating balance in the vital flow of Chi, the central aspect of healing can happen. When I identify where the energy is blocked in a horse, the imbalance correlates with dysfunction, lameness, and illnesses. Once these imbalances are located in the horse’s body, then I can determine how to support the horse’s system and that’s when we start creating health.Chinese medical texts dating back to the 1600s include the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine by Huang Di Nei Jing, which described the locations of acupoints and the channels or meridians on which acupoints are often placed, along with general guidelines for treatment. One early author stated that the practitioner must focus on myriad historical and clinical factors in recognition that “healing comes from within.” Researchers have been standardizing the previously diverse therapy approaches to explain the mechanisms behind acupuncture stimulation and the observed healing. Acupoints, which were previously thought to represent arbitrary anatomic landmarks, indicate larger concentrations of neurovascular components, including mast cells, the proprioceptor Golgi tendon apparatus, and free nerve endings. These findings have been complicated by extrapolation of the human acupoint system (which typically recognizes more than 300 acupoints) to horses, for which Yuan Heng Liaoma Ji described 159 acupoints in the year 1608. In addition, some veterinary acupoints have recently been refined to reflect the neurovascular components, and the use of these acupoints should be encouraged to mold traditional acupuncture into a modern, informed, and physiologically sound treatment modality.
TCM is one of the first alternative therapies to receive widespread recognition in the United States and is very different from the standard western allopathic health approach that treats symptoms and diseases using pharmaceuticals and/or surgery. Justin Shmalberg, DVM, and Huisheng Xie, DVM (2011) stated key facts in Chinese medicine for horses:
Phenomenological research into acupuncture has largely focused on widespread recognition of its perceived benefits in reducing pain, however, I look at it from an integrative, whole-health approach. I want to keep my horses happy, healthy, and sound well into their senior years, so why wouldn't I do what I can to support their bodies physically, emotionally, and energetically?
One of the main things I do to support and balance my horses is through ting-point therapy. It’s simple and doesn’t take long to do AND you can do it yourself! You don’t need to hire a professional to do it for you. The Chinese have a saying, “Would you rather drink from a running brook or a stagnant pond?” The medicine man wouldn’t get paid until the person was healthy and could go back to work. Don’t put your horse back to work until his or her Chi is flowing like a running brook.
Beet pulp (and rice bran too!) is a processed, by-product widely used as a feed supplement for livestock. It is a waste product from the sugar manufacturers loaded with sugar and the chemicals that are used for extracting the sugar along with the chemicals that are sprayed on this herbicide-tolerant crop. I find that a lot of people aren’t aware of exactly how sugar beets are harvested and processed. Most sugar beets are genetically modified to withstand the spraying of chemicals. Do you know where most of those chemicals end up? In the by-product!
The glyphosate from ‘Round-Up Ready’ sugar beets significantly reduces the uptake of minerals which kills bacteria in the hindgut. Glyphosate is a synthetic compound widely used as an herbicide. One animal study, by a group of European researchers and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, found that low levels of the weed-killing chemical glyphosate and the glyphosate-based Roundup product can alter the composition of the gut microbiome in ways that may be linked to adverse health outcomes. The effects of glyphosate on the gut microbiome were found to be caused by the same mechanism of action by which glyphosate acts to kill weeds and other plants, the researchers said. The microbes in the gut include a variety of bacteria and fungi that impact immune functions and other important processes, and a disruption of that system can contribute to a range of diseases.
Dr. Michael Antoniou (head of the Gene Expression and Therapy Group within the Department of Medical and Molecular Genetics at King’s College in London) stated,
“Both the glyphosate and the Roundup did have an effect on gut bacterial population composition.” We know that the gut is inhabited by thousands of different types of bacteria and a balance in the composition and function is crucial for health. Therefore, anything that negatively disturbs the gut microbiome has the potential of causing ill health because we go from balanced functioning that is conducive to health to imbalanced functioning that may lead to a whole array of different health issues and diseases.
In addition to glyphosate, sugar beets are sponges for arsenic which is an issue in the soil near many of the refineries. DisodiumCyanodithioimidocarbonate (DCDID), the chemical that’s used to strip the sugar from the beets, is a toxin banned from use as a pesticide. But for some reason, it’s supposed to be okay to feed it to our horses in beet pulp? Hmmm …
It is not unusual to see beet pulp as a primary ingredient in some senior and performance feeds because of its high digestibility. Dogs can eat some icky things and survive, but horses aren’t so lucky. Beet pulp can be a great fiber source for dogs to help balance the lack of fiber in meat and other dog food ingredients. On the contrary, horses get plenty of fiber in grass hay. In addition, the transit time in a horse’s gut is 24 to 36 hours, which leaves ample time to absorb any potential toxins in a feed–compared to a dog whose food goes through the digestive tract very quickly.
Beet pulp fed for hydration should not be confused with water retention. Water retention is indicative of dehydration. Water weighs eight pounds per gallon. When a horse is taken off of beet pulp they can lose about 50 pounds–of water weight that is. If you stop and think about it, the horse is carrying about 5 gallons of dead weight. It takes four molecules of water for each molecule of sugar for the pancreas to process the sugar. When a horse is toxic, they will drink more water to flush their system, which contributes to water retention.
As an intuitive wellness practitioner, I take into consideration what tests the best for each individual horse. I use the Bio-Energy Analysis Technique™ to create custom wellness plans for devoted horse owners. From my experience, supplements and feeds that contain beet pulp do not test well at all! I would venture to say this is because of the heavy chemical toxicity found in the by-product. Anytime we put toxins in our body or our horse’s body, we weaken the immune system and lower our vitality.
The bottom line is I strive for optimum health with my horses and my client’s horses. I always start by clearing the liver and chemicals are the main culprit for liver congestion. I offer alternatives to conventional and commercial feeds and supplements because I’ve experienced firsthand what it’s like to lose a horse to chemical exposure and toxicity. But at the end of the day, it’s up to YOU to decide what optimal health looks like for your horses. I provide the information so you can make an informed choice!
Some may argue my approach to horse care; however, I believe those who argue are not aspiring for optimal health at the subtle energetic and cellular levels. If you eat fast food most of the time, then you probably won’t mind feeding your horse chemicals. It's a life choice. Ask yourself, “What level of performance do you want and what level of health do you want for your horses?” If you’re dealing with weird lameness issues, allergies or your horse has a history of being hot, irritable, nervous, and/or anxious, you may want to consider reducing the chemicals you put in your horse’s body. Start observing the obvious and be open to exploring chemical-free approaches to horse care. And until next time, enjoy your horse!
One of the most pivotal teachers in my holistic training taught me that health is a three-legged stool: physical, chemical, and emotional. When one of the legs isn’t balanced, the stool tips over. I added a fourth leg to my stool: the spiritual leg. I say it all the time, “The barn is my church, and horses are my spiritual practice.” I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about that true, deep, energetic connection we have with these amazing sentient beings on a soul level. So, it doesn’t matter if my horses are detoxed, free of chemicals, and physically and emotionally balanced–unless my spiritual leg is intact, something is still missing.
The Spiritual Leg
What is my spiritual connection to my horses? It’s my spirit and the spirit of my horse and the energy that flows between us. It’s that feeling of the perfect canter departure, a flawless transition, or when you nail a lead change. It’s not just great timing–it's a connection of spirits. It’s the spirit and energy that I show up with when I’m in the presence of my horses. Some may think of it as our chi or prana; our life-force energy. It is that and so much more on a deeper level.
The Physical Leg
The physical leg on the stool can trump the other legs of the stool. For example, if your horse breaks a leg, it’s going to have emotional stress, and spiritual stress, and detoxing isn’t going to fix the break. Structure controls function. It’s about muscle integrity; the withers, stifles, hocks, etc. Are the hips even? Are the hoof angles and hairline balanced? That’s why teeth, hooves, and vitamin and mineral balance are imperative. Everything needs to be in balance for optimal health and well-being.
The Chemical Leg
I believe that people are unaware of how many chemicals and toxins their horses are being exposed to through chemical fly sprays, fly spray systems, and spraying chemicals around the barn. Agriculture chemicals end up in our horse’s feed including grains, hay cubes, and pellets. Chemical dewormers can stress a horse’s health. Even crappy plastic buckets or rubber feed pans can leach chemicals into our horse’s food. Synthetic ingredients in grains and supplements are not uncommon. Sweet feeds have toxic mold inhibitors and city water has chlorine. All of these chemicals build up in your horse’s system and create physical stress for your horse including a congested liver.
The Emotional Leg
Emotional well-being is the cherry on the cheesecake and is often overlooked. Emotional health is what brings it all together. Does your animal get enough play time? Turnout? Pasture? Grazing? Rubbing, grooming, and positive interactions? When emotions aren't addressed, healing can't exist! When I do a Bio-Energy Analysis on a horse, I test if the emotions belong to the horse or if they have taken on the owner’s emotions. We know horses mirror our emotions, so why wouldn’t they take on our stress and store it in their bodies? What about when you have a bad day at work and you take it out on your horse when he or she doesn’t do something the way you thought it should be done. We’ve all experienced it! If something goes wrong, a person takes it out on the horse–they whip it, jerk it, smack it, and yell a few choice words. But at the heart of our hearts, we know deep down it isn’t the horse’s fault.
Horses (and people too) are going to have health crises. But when we go into a health crisis healthy, we have a better chance of coming out of it quicker, better, and alive. Stress is stress. Sometimes you won’t even notice anything wrong until after the fact. And then we are like, “This weird flaky skin patch showed up on my horse out of the blue.” Or, “My horse just popped up lame overnight.” We never consider what happened two weeks ago, six months ago, or in the past five years. Chemicals build up in the system and the body can process them for a while, but eventually, the chemicals will manifest into allergies, an abscess, or even respiratory problems. The emotional stress from the horse not getting turned out enough or being in a herd with no stability can manifest into physical issues. And the saddle that doesn’t fit took six months before the horse showed signs of a sore back and/or suddenly exhibited lameness.
Health doesn’t happen overnight. It used to. Thirty years ago, health was created quicker by totally switching the feed, balancing the feet, and adding all of the right nutrition by clearing the nutritional reflex points. It used to be a lot easier to clear the liver. But it’s getting more difficult with electromagnetics, more GMO feed products are coming through, and more chemicals are being put in our environment.
There are a lot of feed supplements out there, but they use the allopathic diagnostic system to create a vitamin or herbal supplement. All this approach does is chase symptomatology. It is not about creating health. Not to mention that herbs are only as good as the soil they were grown in.
Creating health might take a couple of weeks. It could take a month, or six months, or it might take a year. I’ve observed horses taking years to detox because they aren’t just detoxing–they are constantly being re-exposed while trying to detox. However, when it happens, it is always a miracle–especially after a lifetime of improper nutrition, power tools to the teeth, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, imbalanced hooves, vaccine injuries, chemical toxicity, and the list goes on and on. A lot of the creating health process is believing in yourself and believing in your horse. Have faith in yourself to facilitate the proper horse care to support your horse in his or her process and faith that your horse can heal, can get better, and will improve. But if you don’t believe in yourself, it won’t happen. And if you don’t have faith in yourself, find someone to help you because your horse doesn’t have the luxury to wait for you to figure it out on your own. Until next time, enjoy your horse!
Extensive evidence exists indicating human companionship has a profound effect on health and longevity. Along with social support, this companionship isn't limited to a human-to-human relationship. Human-animal interactions are just as profound when it comes to connection and support. Human-animal relationships aid in health and sustain human emotional balance.
Besides health, the most important role horses play for humans is unconditional love. No one is too old, ugly, poor, or disabled to win the love of a horse. When it comes to the horse, there is no criticism or reservation. This love has physical benefits to humans in that many illnesses exacerbate loneliness. Illnesses like heart disease and cancer are moderated by the love of an animal. Research has revealed the mortality rate of heart patients with pets is one-third that of patients without pets. Many admit their pets are part of the most intimate areas of their life. This intimacy is parallel with that of a mother and newborn infant. Paradoxically, our society often does not permit us to acknowledge this intimacy. Often, it is criticized as ‘horse crazy,’ anthropomorphic, or just plain ridiculous and stupid.
Touch is important in the process of living. More and more is discovered how touch can help people heal from illness, grief, and loneliness. When people respond to their need for touch, it lifts their spirits immediately. Touch is necessary for survival. Without touch a baby’s growth is stunted, animals become more aggressive and violent, and humans experience more anxiety. Touch acknowledges both shared humanness and a person’s worth. It amplifies a sense of safety and security. Touch heals not only physically but also psychologically. Touch affirms the need for belonging and acceptance. It is normal to seek life-giving touch. This touch is accomplished through hugs, snuggling, holding hands, massages, haircuts, manicures, and of course petting, grooming, and hugging your horse which in turn often reciprocates a nuzzle. As the saying goes, “When you give a hug, you receive a hug.”
Touch triggers the release of brain endorphins. Endorphins are an endogenous analgesic stronger than heroin or morphine. However, touch is more than just a scientific confluence of brain chemicals. Touch can tame a wild animal and makes the body adverse to stress. Touch is documented as a healing therapy for more than 5,000 years. Since the days of ancient Greece and Rome, massage has provided relaxation and healthful benefits. Ancient Egyptian tombs have images of people receiving touch therapy. The Bible refers to the ‘laying on of hands’ to describe touch therapy. This original healing art has endured years of healthcare advancement and is becoming more and more popular.
We know when newborns are given nurturing touch they grow faster and have more improved mental and motor skill development. Children raised with more physical interaction tend to be less aggressive and violent. Partners who cuddle have been shown to have lower stress levels and blood pressure and improved immune function. Elderly people who receive soothing, affirming touch handle the process of aging and passing with dignity. From the moment we are born to the final days of our lives, touch acts as a central aspect of the human experience—impacting our physical, mental, and emotional health and quite literally shaping the way we go through our lives.
Touch is a crucial sense for all babies—human and nonhuman. Studies of animals reveal that when mothers stroke and cuddle their babies or lick them with long tongue strokes, the skin releases chemicals that promote the infant's physical development. Research with premature babies has shown that when nurses provide gentle massages several times a day, those babies gain weight faster and are released from the hospital several days earlier than premature babies that had not been massaged. Further research shows that loving touch massage permits young children to fall asleep faster and more easily.
Horse people know that touch isn’t just limited to humans. Human-animal interactions are just as powerful and therapeutic. Companion animals increase our quality of life. Animals provide warmth, comfort, and show empathy and care—sometimes better than humans. The connection between humans and horses is powerful. It is an unexplainable phenomenon. For example, when an autistic child speaks for the first time in the presence of a horse.
So what exactly makes this human-horse relationship last? I believe it's having the courage to look into your horse’s eyes without blinking while allowing yourself to reflect your image. You must remain faithful and committed even when the world tempts you. It's not about avoiding conflict but about finding a way to balance—giving grace when requested and forgiveness when needed. You must have the ability to see faults as a reminder that your human-horse partnership mirrors you. The horse mirrors ALL of you—the good and the bad. One must invest heartfelt emotion during the most intimate moments and take advantage of opportunities to express your mutual love. Cherish the small things. Celebrate even the smallest of successes and be willing to give it your all because anything worth having takes effort, courage, faith.
Like most things in life, anything worth having takes a little time and energy, commitment, and a dose of faith. I have learned that what makes a good, connected relationship with your horse isn’t shrouded in a secret; it is intentional, deliberate, and requires practice. I have learned that this comes from a place of not just want but a deep, embedded need and desire. I call it my horse medicine. And when I don’t get my medicine, my world is a little off-kilter. Without it, I am not grounded or steady. I feel off-kilter and not quite right. I have learned that this relationship is not about obligation. It is about giving and receiving equally and freely—an ebb and flow, yin and yang or two halves that complete wholeness.
Critics judge my lifestyle with horses, however, I don’t apologize for my life dedicated to the horse. I have been deemed horse crazy and have lost friends who do not understand it. My life with horses is rooted in a simple human truth: horses comfort me. They extend me the grace and space to be myself that I rarely experience from people. I consider my life with horses such a blessing because horses complement the rest of my life—they make me a better person. Even though research supports the power of touch and the human-horse relationship, far more anecdotal stories and experiences support what we as horse lovers have always known—horses are good for the soul.
Pamela L. Maynard, PhD is the "The Passion-Driven Equinologist." I have dedicated my life to the horse by teaching horse owners how to care for themselves and their horse! I wholeheartedly believe that our health is interconnected with the health of our horses. This is my personal invitation for you to join me in my private arena—let's go for a ride down an embodied path of soul-centered horsemanship practices and more at www.conscioushoofbeat.com Listen to the Conscious Hoofbeat Podcast on: https://anchor.fm/conscioushoofbeat Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
Turmeric has been used for hundreds of years as a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant for people with various conditions. Turmeric is a bright yellow powder that is commonly used for the flavouring of food and also as a health supplement. The main active ingredient of turmeric is a compound called curcumin, found to have powerful anti-inflammatory effects in humans. As a strong antioxidant, turmeric is useful in both humans and horses for soothing pain and stiffness, alleviating skin conditions, and maintaining good digestion.
Turmeric is a common spice and is most commonly used in Indian curries. The main component in turmeric is curcumin which helps defend the body from viruses and bacteria. Turmeric is also known for its extremely effective anti-inflammatory properties, therefore, is extremely popular for use in horses and ponies suffering with arthritis, conditions relating to lameness, and skin irritations.
Turmeric has many therapeutic properties and is suitable for horses suffering from stiff joints and itchy skin conditions, as well as providing support for the digestive system. Many horse owners will feed turmeric to horses whose joints are under stress or who need a boost in health.
As a key botanical of the traditional Ayurvedic health practices of India, turmeric root and turmeric essential oil has an extended history that is what inspires modern uses of turmeric today. Steam distilled from the turmeric root, turmeric essential oil has two unique chemical components, Turmerone and ar-Turmerone.
Turmerone and ar-Turmerone are commonly known for their nervous system and emotional benefits. These particular components are why turmeric essential oil is becoming a staple in daily health routines for horses and humans. Due to the feelings of positivity that turmeric promotes, it is beneficial both internally and aromatically. In addition, turmeric is advantageous to the immune system and may have soothing benefits that promote a positive immune response.
While most of the research involving the benefits of turmeric use have been trialled on humans, there have been recent studies in the UK, as well as in Germany, which have revealed that turmeric is extremely beneficial for horses, too.
Turmeric is known for its effectiveness in detoxing the liver in horses. Turmeric is also known for anti-oxidant properties for your horse that occurs when the carbohydrates, fats and proteins that have been consumed by the horse are metabolised into energy sources. Turmeric provides supplementation for a source of antioxidants which may be beneficial to your horse’s health.
Some say that turmeric has a strong taste that isn’t palatable for horses. One of the reasons I use turmeric in a pure, therapeutic grade oil form is because it only takes 2-5 drops for a horse—very easy to disguise in a hay cube or pellet mash with carrots or treats!
Remember that, just like any new feed or supplement, you should introduce turmeric to your horse’s diet slowly and build up the quantity gradually over time. As with anything new, horses generally accept the addition of turmeric to their diets if it is gradually added into their normal feed.
Because turmeric is from a root vegetable, it is generally accepted by most horses without any side effects (other than the guts normal adjustments to a new food). Turmeric has been known to be combined with antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs but if you have any concerns always consult your veterinarian.
If you are looking for a certified, pure therapeutic grade Turmeric essential oil, click the button below or contact Dr. Pamela through our contact page:
Every horse person has a unique reason for riding. Some of us ride for the relaxation of a pleasurable trail ride, while others enjoy the exhilaration of good competition. There are no right or wrong reasons as long as you are enjoying yourself and your horse. Although somewhere along our journey with horses and riding, it is almost certain that we will encounter some challenges, frustrations, and obstacles. And when this happens, we lose sight of why we ride and why we love horses. Many times we end up abandoning our hopes and dreams. And yet something inside of us doesn't allow us to quit horses altogether, so we keep spinning our wheels in discontent and perhaps don’t ride or enjoy our horse as much as we long to.
And when this happens, we lose sight of why we ride and why we love horses. We abandon our hopes and dreams. And yet something inside of us doesn't allow us to quit horses all together. Horses allow us to participate in something much bigger than ourselves. We love to learn from horses and have experiences with our horses. But sometimes those experiences aren't the most positive. That longing that we aren't fulfilling are dreams with our horse ends up taking over and being worse than not doing something about it.
I was first introduced to the Four Square Model from Stacy Westfall. Stacy was the first woman to compete in and win the Road to the Horse competition. But many years before I even knew who Stacy was, I was shopping at the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show and found a book that talked to me by an author ahead of her time. Jill Hassler was writing about these components back in the early 1990s! And so, I began my journey exploring the interconnectedness of my mind-body connection with my horse’s mind-body connection. I say all the time, “If you want a better relationship with your horse, it starts within yourself!” The better understanding we have of our mind and body and our horse’s mind and body, the better we can communicate with each other.
Before I go any further, I want you to ask you, “Why do you ride?” To be honest, what exactly is your motivation? Why is it important to you? Understanding your motivation will give you the ability to withstand any of the challenges and frustrations along your journey with horses. Why you got involved with horses and your expectations play a major role in your lived experiences including the enjoyment and successes that come with horses.
Success can be a huge motivator. But what is success anyway? How do we define success for our individual pursuit? The Dictionary describes success as “the achievement of something desired or attempted or the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.” To feel successful, we as riders must achieve something we desire to accomplish and attempt to do it. It may sound simple, but sometimes we aren’t always in alignment when it comes to this. For example, your desire might be to compete in reining but you have a 16 hand OTTB that is conformationally built uphill. We can teach the maneuvers but the horse probably won’t excel in reining. Or, perhaps you want to go for a 30-mile trail ride but your horse hasn’t been ridden all winter. Is what you are doing benefiting your horse’s mind, body, and spirit?
Many times we get caught up in the bigger picture and the dream but we don’t take the time to celebrate our small successes. You have to learn to walk before you can run! Successes are also very individualized—what might feel like a success to one person may feel like a disappointment for another. For example, someone might be upset they did not place in a class, whereas, another person might be elated that their horse made it through the class without spooking or missing a lead. This isn’t about right/wrong or good/bad. It is about having an awareness that ultimately will be for the highest good of the horse.
I hope this resonates with you and if one of your goals has to do with what is for the highest good of your horse—keep reading! I am including a brief overview of the four squares in this model of horsemanship and at the end, I have a very special invitation for you!
The Rider’s Mind
Many components go into the Four Square Model of Horsemanship. These components include what we are thinking; what our intentions are when working with our horses; the stories we tell ourselves about our relationship with the horse; and so much more. Exploring the Four Square Model of Horsemanship allows us to take a closer look at the Rider’s Mind/Rider’s Body and the Horse’s Mind/Horse’s Body.
I believe that we as horse owners have the responsibility to obtain mental equilibrium. We know that horses mirror our emotions and can sense when we don’t show up for them in the best state of mind. If one is going to work with horses, then one must learn to work with themselves too!
Jill Hassler wrote In Search of Your Image, “The better we understand our mind, develop it, discipline it, learn to give it freedom, and learn to use it, the more our body and spirit can be included in creating better total balance.” When it comes to the rider’s mind, there are five layers to it. These layers include our conscious mind; subconscious awareness; our mind’s mental awareness or pre-conscious memories; the nonconscious processes; and our unconscious. Freud compared personality to a horse and rider. The horse is like the unconscious—it has a mind of its own although the horse submits to the direction of the rider, the conscious. And then sometimes, the horse takes the bit and tries to go in the direction it wants. The rider may not be able to control this and might say something like, “I meant to do that.” Therefore, unconsciously altering his or her understanding of what really happened.
Horse and man perceive things very differently and this is one of the many reasons why it is so important to explore all four squares of this model of horsemanship. Humans tend to be power-hungry and want to be in control. But when it comes to horses, it isn’t about control—it is about leadership with kindness, compassion, balance, and humility. A devoted horse owner will make this their life’s work and create a practice around it. This model is a great first step in finding new awareness where we can improve our horsemanship practice.
The Horse’s Mind
Back in 1997, veterinary surgeon R. H. Smythe wrote about a horse's instincts, learning capabilities, and how to improve your horsemanship through a better understanding of equine mental processes. This took on a controversial and fresh look at the horse. It is about having awareness around things like What makes a horse panic? Does it want to be the boss? What does it look at when it jumps? What does a horse learn? Does a horse have an extra-sensory perception? These are just a few of the questions animal psychology addresses when it comes to the senses and mind of the horse. Learning and understanding the horse’s mental processes is essential to horsemanship. It is essential to know what the horse's instincts as a herd animal are, along with the adjustments we are required to make in carrying out patterns of behavior entirely opposed to its natural impulses. We also need to know that the horse's sensory advantage can sometimes be a disadvantage. Do you know what your horse is feeling and thinking and the emotions that accompany his or her motivations? Is your horse insecure? Confident? Curious? Horses react and respond—they don’t analyze and calculate. The mental characteristics of the horse include leadership, control, routine, social interaction, sensory perception, emotions, intelligence, patience, and expectations. A horse’s mind receives its primary stimulus from its senses, while a person’s mind processes the stimulus. This is why horses live in the present moment and humans have to practice being present.
We can’t expect our horse to understand our expectations, but it is our responsibility to learn how to understand our horse. When we don't, that is when a horse can develop behaviors that are connected to our imbalances that go undetected. These behaviors include boredom and nervousness which turn into vices such as pacing, weaving, cribbing or wind-sucking and more.
The Rider’s Body
Many times the rider’s body is the problem and we tend to blame the horse instead of asking ourselves, “Am I completely balanced?” “Am I giving my horse clear directives with my aids?” How you sit and use your hands, legs, heels, whips, spurs, weight distribution, etc., all affect your horse’s body.
It is essential we take care of our bodies to ride better. Exercise helps strengthen our core for the sitting trot. Stretching allows our legs to stay under our hips and our ankles to stretch down into the stirrups. Cardio workouts give us the endurance to stay in that standing position and half-point while doing an entire jump course. When we don’t take care of ourselves, it transfers to the saddle. Self-care, eating well, and managing our weight help us ride better. It is necessary for a stronger and more balanced ride. In addition, properly toned muscles aid in effective communication with your horse. And don’t forget about stress reduction, because we know our horses sense it when we are stressed out!
The Horse’s Body
The more conformationally correct a horse is will determine how easily he or she can balance him or herself. This balance is assessed by evaluating its conformation, which can vary depending on breed types. However, the correct structure is correct no matter what the horse is bred for or its type. The horse’s center of gravity is closely related to the horse’s physical build along with its gait and way of moving. One can’t love horses and not have an appreciation for a beautiful moving horse!
Is your horse physically capable of what you are asking him or her to do? Unfortunately, not all horses have perfect conformation. This affects balance which can affect physical stiffness and stiffness can turn into lameness. In addition, old age, improper riding, and training can also contribute to body issues. It is important to know why and where horses are having issues and it starts with awareness through educating yourself because the balance of a stiff horse is not the same as the balance of a supple horse.
Putting it all Together
Now that we have a clear understanding of each part of the Four Square Model of Horsemanship, it is time to put all of the parts together! Integrating each part includes all sources of information like your daily rides, taking part or watching lessons and clinics, reading, studying, watching videos, and even everyday activities outside of your horse world. A devoted horse owner is open to inner and outer discovery and will identify and integrate the parallels between life skills and riding skills. It starts by knowing yourself, your horse, and your dreams and goals.
First, determine if you have task goals or ego goals. Both types of goals are valid and legitimate ways to approach any achievement. What is important is that you know the difference and can decide which goal orientations are the most important for you and your horse.
Let your curiosity run free! Listen with an open mind and gather information from every experience you have with your horse. Don’t be afraid to get help and ask questions and expand your learning process. Evaluate new information and relate it to what you already know. And remember, nothing happens overnight.
Are you ready for a challenge? Do you want to take your horsemanship skills to the next level? The Four Square Model of Horsemanship applies to all levels of riders from trail to performance. Consider this your personal invitation to join me for a remote learning opportunity where we will dive into the Four Square Model of Horsemanship and learn how to apply it to your horsemanship practice. During these six live, ‘inside lessons’ (delivered via Zoom) you will:
I challenge you to look deep within yourself and your horse because being a horseman or horsewoman is more than just knowing how to ride. Evaluate what you find and compare it to what you know. And don’t be afraid to ask, “Why?” Practice makes perfect—practice until it becomes second nature to you. And more importantly, enjoy your horse!
Pamela L. Maynard, PhD is the "The Passion-Driven Equinologist." I have dedicated my life to the horse by teaching horse owners how to care for themselves and their horse! I wholeheartedly believe that our health is interconnected with the health of our horses. This is my personal invitation for you to join me in my private arena—let's go for a ride down an embodied path of soul-centered horsemanship practices! Sign up for the Four Square Model of Horsemanship Inside Lessons at: www.conscioushoofbeat.com Listen to the Four Square Model of Horsemanship Podcast Episode on: https://anchor.fm/conscioushoofbeat Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify.
The growing mental health shortage in the United States took on a new awareness in the world of equestrian sport after losing three internationally known trainers to suicide in a month’s time. Mental health awareness and suicide prevention are now topics of discussion among the horse community. Equestrians Steffen Peters, Lauren Sprieser, and Ange Bean opened the dialogue by sharing their stories.
Research now shows that are mental health is significantly been affected by the global pandemic. Therefore, adding even more emotional strain to an already high stress industry—not to mention the economic impact on the horse world. Horse professionals are not able to continue business as usual and we probably haven't totally seen the financial impact this will result in long-term.
We know that access to mental health care in the US has barriers. This is due to cost and lack of insurance coverage. In addition, clinician availability is limited and there is a huge cultural stigma around mental health. I would add that for professional’s in the horse business time restraints also play a key factor in accessing care. Furthermore, finding a therapist that you feel comfortable with and trust is a challenge in itself.
I grew up on a farm in rural North Dakota and remember hearing stories of farmers committing suicide. I also remember my father being a work-a-holic. We never took family vacations or days off for that matter. The livestock had to be fed (even on holidays) and farming is like gambling solely on the unpredictable weather conditions. Agriculture and farm related work not only require long hours and manual labor, it is also emotionally and financially stressful and takes a toll on mental health. This leads to a sense of inadequacy. We keep issues to ourselves because we feel weak or our pride prevents us from seeking a support structure for our mental health.
Farmers face a multitude of unique stressors, such as difficult economic conditions and extreme weather. These challenges have led to a recent increase in the number of farmers taking their own lives. In addition to physical injuries, farmers are also at risk of behavioral and mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, substance use, and death by suicide. Due to environmental, financial, and social factors, there are a number of stressors inherent in farming and farm ownership.
Research from the National Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) shows farming ranks in the top ten most stressful occupations. People working in agriculture related jobs have a higher rate of health concerns such as high blood pressure and heart disease. This study was specific to agriculture farming and ranching. However, I feel confident saying that horse farms, including breeding and show barns, easily fall into this category.
This is paradoxical in that we have all heard the sayings, “Horses are my sanity” and “My horse is my therapist.” Not to mention the popularity in the field of equine-assisted activities and therapies. Although, equine-assisted therapies tend to deal with a totally different demographic and population. For the purpose of this article, I am discussing professionals in the horse farm related industry.
I continue to see discussions regarding mental health awareness. Indeed, awareness is the first step to overcoming our cultural stigma about mental health and psychotherapy. That said, I am not seeing much talk regarding preventive mental health. How do we reduce our frequent mental distress and prevent depression and physical health issues before it leads to thoughts of suicide? Let’s start by examining the definition of stress.
What is stress?
One definition described stress as, “A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) measure frequent mental distress (FMD) by asking, “Now thinking about your mental health, which includes stress, depression, and problems with emotions, for how many days during the past 30 days was your mental health not good?” The CDC stated that mental illnesses are among the most common health conditions in the United States. More than 50% of the population will be diagnosed with a mental illness or disorder at some point in their lifetime. In addition, one in five Americans will experience a mental illness in a given year.
How do you know you are stressed?
It is important to identify common stressors, understand the effects of stress, and how to pursue increased health and wellness. We all have our own personal stress zone. Everyone may react to stress differently, however, recognizing stress is key. What steps can you take to stay out of the high stress zone? The pressure to win, sell a horse, or qualify for the next big show can build up stress. Over time, our maximum tolerance level gets maxed out and we spiral down into a hole of depression, guilt, or shame. As a result, we may experience digestive issues, trouble sleeping, a sense of hopelessness, and other health problems. When we don't feel good physically, it makes our high-stress job even more challenging!
Learn to Recognize Warning Signs
Stress symptoms are warning signals from your body—physical and emotional. Warning signals include, headache tension digestive problems, low energy, difficulty sleeping, overeating or under-eating, difficulty concentrating, irritable behavior, anger, impatience, restlessness, hopelessness, anxiety, depression and more. Just like you maintain your farm equipment and clean and your tack, you need to take care of you.
What can we do?
Good stress management is good farm management. Just like you have tools for training horses and giving lessons, you must have a tool box for your physical and mental health. Practical tools include exercise, organizing your priorities, taking breaks to rest and recharge, eat well, and get enough sleep aka. self-care.
I am not here to emphasize suicide prevention or mental health. I am here to discuss preventive care. We must walk through our pain in order to come out the other side. This process of walking through our pain starts with radical self-acceptance. Allow yourself to feel what you feel with no self-judgment and know that you can and will come out the other side. Self-acceptance and self-care are beginning steps to building your resilience and being proactive in prevention.
Our society teaches us how to numb the pain but not walk through it. Why? Because it hurts. It sucks. And it is hard work. We numb ourselves on junk food, alcohol, prescription and non-prescription drugs, social media, and even being a work-a-holic.
We must have tools in our tool box. These tools include, self-care, mindfulness, and connection. The process includes pushing past the mental health stigma and practicing self-compassion.
Managing your stress should be your number one priority in managing all aspects of your farm and business. The quality of your health is what allows you to function on a day-to-day basis. It determines how you make decisions and run your operation. Your health is what allows you to ride and work several horses in a day, deal with customers, and travel to shows.
Your health is your number one asset to your farm and business. Stress management and the pursuit of overall health and wellness. Reaching out for help with your health is wisdom and strength—not a weakness. Sustaining your business means sustaining yourself along with the relationships around you.
Blue ribbons, high test scores, and selling quality horses are how we measure success in the horse world. However, we know that increased stress levels lead to physical issues and poor mental health. Inherit stresses come with the territory of the business, which is why health management is imperative.
Lastly, I believe that our health is very much interconnected with the health of our animals. When we aren’t healthy, we can’t take the best care of our horses or run our business. We can’t perform our best at shows and we all know that horses mirror our emotions. On the flip side, when our horses are sick, it stresses us out. Managing health isn’t just about exercising and eating right. It is about reducing stress and taking care of our mental and emotional needs. Take the time to take care of yourself—your horse and your business will thank you for it!
I love how the Universe works. This book kept showing up for me so I knew it was a sign. Everything in this book just made sense. I couldn't put it down and read the whole thing in two days. These exercises have been a game changer for my guys and I know they will be a game changer for you too! I am super excited to have the author join me next week on the Conscious Hoofbeat Podcast! Don't wait until summer is over and don't wait to listen to the podcast! Start you Core Conditioning exercises today:
Recently, I am noticing a lot of podcasts, blogs, articles, videos, and emails about loneliness. Many say it is a result of the pandemic’s forced isolation. Some are even referring to it as the ‘loneliness pandemic.’ Yes, studies have shown a decrease in mental health over the past year or more. However, in a culture that is absorbed with the go-go-go lifestyle, we weren’t necessarily healthy before the pandemic. Over 70 percent of the population is overweight and of that 70 percent over 40 percent are considered obese. And we all know the increased health risks of being overweight. The CDC statistics indicate being overweight is related to type 2 diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and even death.
On the flip side, I cannot argue that we as humans are social animals. And as a social species, we are neurobiologically wired to be with each other. When we are not allowed to be with each other, it disrupts our nervous system—just like a horse freaks out when he or she is isolated from the herd. As a result of our forced isolation, many are experiencing increased anxiety and depression. When we are not allowed to be a part of something, we feel lack and deprivation. But even though we are experiencing this pandemic of loneliness, many feel they don’t belong anywhere. In the absence of belonging there is always suffering. I know for me, I have experienced some suffering around belonging in my life but never around loneliness. I wonder if people take the time to contemplate the difference between being alone and being lonely. I also wonder, “If people don’t feel they belong then where do they go to not feel lonely anymore?”
Research professor, Brene Brown, spent a year examining what people who have a strong sense of true belonging have in common. Brown’s research showed that the idea of belonging turned out to be an ideological bunker. Her research found that we aren't really, deeply connected to each other, we just hate the same people! This commonality doesn’t mean squat when it comes to belonging because it doesn’t mean that you can count on those people when you really, truly need something.
This commonality does not mean that you will show up for me when my horse is colicing and I need someone to be there for me and help me in a time of need. It’s not a real connection. It is not a super meaningful, deep connection. And that is why we continue to feel lonely—and loneliness is serious stuff. Professor John Cacioppo studied the effects and causes of loneliness for over 20 years and he discovered just how primal loneliness is for a social species. When we are hungry, our body says we are in danger if we don’t eat. Thirst means you are in actual physical danger if you don’t hydrate. Pain says there is tissue damage somewhere and that you need to heal. And loneliness says you need a social connection or you are in trouble. His research suggested that ‘not lonely’ is like ‘not thirsty’ or ‘not in pain’ and part of a “normal” state. Health and well-being require us to be satisfied and secure in our bonds with other people. The condition of not being lonely is called social connection. Research shows that when we can’t fill this void with human connection animals are the next best thing!
Science considers loneliness a social pain. Functional magnetic resonance imaging shows us that the emotional region of the brain that is activated when we experience rejection or social isolation is the same region of the brain that registers emotional responses to physical pain. That’s fascinating, right? Also, loneliness is a greater predictor of early death than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. Therefore, loneliness kills. It is a huge predictor of mental health, physical health, and early death issues. And yet, we are more disconnected than we have ever been, and not just because of the pandemic. We are lonely in a technologically connected world. And as a result, I believe we are depressed and we choose to numb out on things like social media, Netflix, pharmaceuticals, and junk food, instead of doing the inner work that allows us to walk through the pain of isolation and come out the other side so that we can have even better connections and relationships.
But here is the deal … loneliness is a subjective experience. When I reached out to several of my horsey friends over the past year, most of them told me not much changed in their lives because they continued to ride and had their life with horses—none of that changed. Us horse lovers could still be outside and ride together. Not only were we able to continue our social connections at the barn, we still had a connection with our horses. I would venture to say that people who are suffering from loneliness do not have a horse.
Spiritual teacher and author, Eckhart Tolle, taught that learning to be with yourself and at ease with yourself along with loneliness can be a great thing when it is transformed into acceptance. The acceptance of solitude arises when you accept aloneness and become completely present. On the deepest soul level, Tolle teaches that we don’t need others because our true selves are complete and whole all by ourselves. And even though the human part of us craves socialization, it is the essence of our inner being that accepts aloneness. We have to be okay with being alone with ourselves before we can be okay with someone else. He teaches that it all comes back to being in the present moment. The only place we can find what we are seeking is within ourselves in the present moment. And in that present moment, it doesn’t matter where you are or who you are with.
So what does this have to do with horses? Well, we know that horses bring us into the present moment and I believe horses save us on so many levels. Horses have the power to make sorrow beautiful and make loneliness a shared, lived experience. Horses have the ability to transform despair into hope. They help give our pain and most gut-wrenching emotions validity and acceptance that is recognized and shared on our soul level. The magic of horses is the ability to absorb our pain and deliver us from it. I never feel alone when I am with my horses because being with horses is where I belong. Talking about loneliness has brought us full circle back to the subject of belonging. And belonging is not something I have ever had to negotiate with my horses. But, it is something I have to earn to belong to my herd. And as a result, it is something I cherish and carry in my heart. I find the highest level of belonging in the herd as sacred and something bigger than myself—this is the true essence of being with horses.
Of course, the human part of me longs to be a part of a like-minded, hearted, and spirited community of horse enthusiasts like me. But I still have to stand alone. The choice of trying to fit in over the choice of belonging to myself is far more painful than being alone with my horses. It seems like every poet, theologian and writer talks about navigating the wilderness as the lone journey. But I don’t have to navigate the horse, I become the horse. I am the horse. The horse gives me the strength to stand on my own. I find joy, inner peace, and the truth of what’s between us—the interconnectedness of our unspoken souls and exchange of energy. As a social species, I need horses, nature, and as a crazy cat lady too, I also need my cats. They allow me to find the humanity in myself and others. That is a relationship. That is connection. And that is the horse as teacher. I am never lonely with my animals. Maybe I am alone but I feel alive and accepted when I am with my horses.
I believe this is because I embody my practice with horses. I revere their time and space when I am in their presence. When you truly embody something that is at the core of your inner being, that is when real acceptance can begin. When we have a daily practice of embodiment that we show up to every day, there exists a stage of growth where we are confronted by unprocessed grief, unresolved pain, lingering judgments, orbiting desperation, and insatiable hunger that has kept our conditioning active and in-tact. This stage is referred to as loneliness. We experience the deep inner cry of existential separation from Source that begs us to know its true nature as the One eternal light of all. While it can be daunting to feel and overwhelming to process, loneliness acts as an unsuspecting opportunity to step across the threshold of our most self-defeating patterns, as we enter a new domain of rebirth, inspiration, clarity, strength, and joy. And horses can help carry us through this process!
From the space of embodiment, we are fueled by our light and able to engage in the intimacy of heart-centered relationships. We can do this without giving away our power or needing life to always be one way versus another. This is the heart and soul of true liberation from loneliness. And, liberation from loneliness is a work in progress and it is challenging. It takes courage just like it takes courage for me to stand alone in my truth and share my message when I know I will be judged and criticized—even by my close horse friends. But, the reason why horses are so important to my health and journey to wholeness and my life with horses is that they give me the confidence to stand alone and find the beauty and value in the message I am called to share with the world. So, I challenge you to stop walking through the world looking for confirmation that you don’t belong and that you’re lonely and start looking towards your horse’s wisdom that tells you “you are enough and you are not alone.” And until next time, embrace the truth of your inner horse crazy and more importantly enjoy your horse!
After years of doing equine bodywork, I still get that “deer in the headlights” look from people when I say, “Your horse needs craniosacral.” Craniosacral therapy is not something we hear from our local veterinarians or medical doctors on a regular basis. So what is it?
In simplest terms, cranio means the head and sacral means the base of the spine. Traditionally, craniosacral focused on the core structure of the head with the spine and the sacrum. It is one of the few modalities that address the head and the whole body. It works primarily on the central and autonomic nervous systems and has been proven to help calm and rebalance these systems—especially in the horse.
Just in the last decade or so, craniosacral is a newly adapted bodywork therapy to the equine industry. Craniosacral therapy is a unique and efficient way to keep horses in bio-mechanical balance while maintaining both skeletal and muscular health.
This particular therapy is known for successfully treating specific equine conditions such as head shaking, TMJ imbalances, head traumas, and facial nerve paralysis including both acute and chronic injuries. The uniqueness of this therapy lies in its specific focus on the equine skull and the relationship of the head to the entire body.
Historically speaking, it is known as cranial osteopathy. Craniosacral evolved from the practice of osteopathy. Dr. William Sutherland, an osteopath in the early 1900s, discovered that the bones of the cranium connect to the sacrum through what he referred to as the “core link.” The core link is made up of the skull (or cranium), the spinal cord, and the dura mata (the protective sleeve around the spinal cord) along with the sacrum. Dr. Sutherland noticed that when “pressures” were applied to the various bones of the skull, the sacrum and pelvis were affected. The same principle applied when it came to the sacrum. Eventually, the pressures applied there would affect the bones of the skull.
These structures are connected, not only by muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons on the outside, but more importantly by the tissues from inside the core link. Typical osteopathy focuses on the bones themselves, however, craniosacral focuses on bringing balance throughout the skeletal and muscular systems with a specific focus to the individual bones of the skull, spine, and sacrum.
This type of therapy can help keep the central nervous system operating well by the removal of restrictions in the motion that is found within the nervous system. The craniosacral motion, or pulse-like rhythm, is similar to a heartbeat. Even though it requires training and an awareness to tap into this motion, it can be felt and measured. This rhythm is part of what moves the cerebrospinal fluid through the brain and spinal cord. This slight motion comes from the extension and flexion of the spine and bones of the skull. When the craniosacral pulse-like rhythm is disturbed and not able to completely move, it has the potential to cause a chain effect through the rest of the body, which in turn can affect the central nervous system. Craniosacral therapy aims to use light manual touch to rebalance the cranial rhythm and the nervous system.
The nerves are very important to consider when looking at a horse using craniosacral therapy. The most significant nerves are the cranial nerves that originate from the brain and enter or exit the skull through small openings. There are 12 nerves that help control everything from sensory organs, facial muscles, and the digestive tract. Craniosacral therapy is a non-invasive bodywork modality that implement a light touch that horses tend to enjoy. The objective is to increase the activity in the parasympathetic or “rest and digest” part of the nervous system and decrease activity in the sympathetic or “fight or flight” part. It is through this process that the body can allow healing to occur and relieve internal stressors and or trauma. The central nervous system opens up restrictions in the fascial planes and restores motion to the cranial bones allowing the body to rebalance and restore normal function to the nervous system.
The body is all connected. Craniosacral addresses the head with the whole body because the body is all connected. When something gets distorted in the head, like pulling back or a bonk to the head, the entire body is affected by the head injury or trauma.
How do you know if your horse might need craniosacral therapy?
What can you look for? Symmetry or lack of symmetry is vital. Look at the symmetry on your horse’s face. Are the eyes even? Do you notice any facial structure differences? Are the ears level? Is there a visual or palpatal dent? Look at the relationships within the whole body. All of the body parts work together—there is no separation. For example, if the horse is having problems cantering, cranio compression could be a factor for the compensation behind.
The two major pressure areas on the horse is the head and the back. The head has nerve supply, blood supply, and the brain supply. So, when things get affected, that is when we tend to see issues like head shaking and cribbing. We have their teeth done, but we don’t always look at the head.
Another thing we have a tendency of overlooking is posture issues versus confirmation. This is applicable both on the ground and under saddle. What we perceive as confirmation issues (and have been brainwashed to perceive as breeding issues) are actually out of balance issues. Once a horse has an injury, like being cast in a stall, compensation begins—the horse is out of balance. Musculoskeletal imbalance leads to imbalanced posture which leads to muscle tension and compensation.
Craniosacral is unique in how we address the body as a treatment, but it is also learning the compensation patterns in our horses. These patterns have been deemed confirmation. Out of balance cranial compression can be an element of why the horse is having issues in the hind end.
Cranial is not always looked at and understood. There is a disconnect when a horse pulls back and people disregard it and think it’s no big deal. Other issues we see are head shaking for no reason, behavioral problems, and chomping the bit. Yes, we need to look at the teeth, the feet, saddle fit, and the bones but the long-term solution is soft tissue.
Unless there is a boney change like a spur or fracture, most horses are able to be rehabbed. Invest your time and money in getting your horse in balance before competition or putting them back to work after an injury. More balance equals more power because the horse will move better. When a horse is balanced, they don’t have joint issues and don’t age as fast. They come back from injuries faster. When the bones are decompressed, the eyes move better and they tend to spook less. Over time, it all adds up. It isn’t always just one specific incident. It can be bad dentistry, pulling back, minor head trauma, cast in the stall, getting kicked in the pasture, or a slip in the paddock.
Craniosacral therapy is a great addition to any horse’s health routine and compliments other bodywork modalities like equine massage, energy work, and acupressure. Take the time to observe the simple things. Is your horse spitting out food? Is he or she not performing as good as they did a year ago? Remember, limitation comes from compensation. Keeping your horse balanced is key! Balanced feet, balanced teeth, balanced nutrition, and a balanced body equal optimal health. Craniosacral is one more tool in the tool box of health for creating a happy and balanced horse for years to come!
It may have begun in the 1950’s with two girl friends in high school. Or, it may have begun in the 1990’s with members of the Wyoming Arabian Horse Association, but what is important is what it has become.
Today, in Casper, Wyoming, there exists a vibrant group of horsewomen who love to get together and ride. Members of the group range from age twenty to those in their seventies. This group is known as The Wyoming Range Riders.
On any given Wednesday there is likely to be activity. From November through April the group rents a good sized indoor arena in which to ride. Group size can range from just a few to over 20. We come together to exercise our horses and visit with friends. We have fun dress up days such as “hat day” and this year “mask day.” We decorate our horses for Christmas, or St. Patrick’s Day and of course there are always pictures. There is a total lack of seriousness in this endeavor. Then we usually go out for lunch.
The real passion of this group is trailering our horses up onto Casper Mountain where we trail ride for a couple of hours, then eat lunch, again, on Wednesdays. The day’s pictures of the ride appear on Facebook to document our fun. Husbands and grandchildren sometimes accompany on our rides.
Once in a while members of the group may take this caravan on the road. Campgrounds in South Dakota are a popular place to go for a summer weekend. Other rides are closer to home such as Edness Kimball Wilkins State Park or Ayers Natural Bridge, which are in the next county over.
The ladies in this group love to celebrate each other. We used to have a birthday party each month to celebrate all of the women with birthdays during that month. The group got large enough that practicality dictated we had to modify the fun. Now we have secret sisters for whom we buy a few gifts throughout the year. At the end of the year we have a Christmas Party, reveal the secret sisters and have a wonderful slideshow of the year’s events.
We have also, in the past, contributed to the well-being of others. We have donated to families we do not know, dog and horse rescues and to our friends who just might need a helping hand. Each year members of the group donate to or raise money for the Jason’s Friends Foundation. This charity raises money for families who have a child with cancer. The money raised is used for house payments or electrical bills so the families have less worries about these things.
The trail rides began in 2008 when the Wyoming Arabian Horse Association sought to have a ride each Memorial Day. At first, there were just a few people. Then horses of other breeds were included. Then one of the members decided to have a pasture party, which was a really fun obstacle course for the horses. Of course, we had to eat, so there was a pot luck dinner. Soon people were having so much fun it was decided to have a ride every possible Wednesday.
The backbone of this group are the ladies who are in their 60’s and 70’s. One member arranges for us to lease the riding arena. Another loves to take pictures of us and our horses. She also organizes our social events and truly cares for the ladies in this group.
This group keeps us all young. Other groups of 60 and 70 year olds with whom I am familiar, may get together and have lunch. Some of them report their physical activity as chair aerobics and possibly crafting classes. Many in our group stay active by caring for our horses on a daily basis. That means feeding, cleaning up, and watering. Hay and sacks of feed may need to be hauled. Brushing, cleaning hooves and tacking keep one active. Handling thousand pound animals is not what one would picture a sixty or seventy year old woman doing. Perhaps it’s the fun that keeps us all young.
“I have ridden with some of the ladies in this group for almost forty years,” said one of the members in a recent text. I don’t believe many groups maintain that kind of longevity. As for our picture postings on Facebook, I am told people live vicariously through our adventures. Members in this group are indeed blessed. Our love of our horses, each other and an involvement in the community have made for a unique set of circumstances which, I hope will take us a long way into the future.
If you are considering using essential oils with your horse, it is most likely because you are looking for something natural and safe. Pure, therapeutic grade oils allow you to receive the full benefits that nature has to offer. Plus, you can be confident knowing that they are safe to use to use for your horses. When it comes to quality, you usually get what you pay for—essential oils are no different.
Right now, essential oils seem to be a trend and are all over! I have seen essential oils at the grocery store, online, and even at the gas station! With so many options, how would one know which essential oils are the best choice for their horse?
Some people argue that there is no such thing as clinical grade, certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG), or food grade essential oils. This is because there really is no governing body regulating essential oils. Unfortunately, no regulation means companies can say the oil is pure or therapeutic grade even if the oils are adulterated with synthetic ingredients.
Since there is no organization that oversees the quality of essential oils, therapeutic grade may seem like a marketing term. Any company can say their oils are therapeutic grade. Some companies use other therapeutic grade terms, or other grading or certifying terms, for internal quality standards. However, these terms are often created and used by each individual company and not standard across the industry.
If you want the best essential oils for yourself and your horses, find out if the company you plan to buy from takes the following precautions to ensure the quality of their oils:
Why I Choose doTERRA Essential Oils for My Horses
When I use doTERRA essential oils, I know I am using pure, therapeutic grade oils. DoTERRA assures there are no contaminants, fillers, or adulterations in their oils. The essential oil industry may not have standards to ensure purity, but doTERRA does and that’s why they created their own higher standards.
Every batch of doTERRA essential oils go through a rigorous testing process—well beyond what would be considered the standard. After the initial process, each oil is sent to an independent third party for further testing and validation. IF the oil passes the tests, it’s labeled as CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®. When I see the CPTG® label, I know I am using the purest essential oils on the market. Every single bottle of doTERRA oil comes with a quality ID. If I question the quality, I can use the ID number on the bottom of the bottle to view the third-party test results for that batch of oil.
I don't compromise ingredients when it comes to choosing natural approaches to my horse's health. When I choose doTERRA essential oils for myself and my horses, I consider it a no-brainer. Do you want to experience the purity of doTERRA oils for horse?
Why Horse Owners Need Self-Care and How to Incorporate it into Your Life with Horses By Pamela L. Maynard, PhD
"Taking care of yourself can help you take control of your life."
I believe it is fair to say that horse owners tend to take care of their horses better than themselves. The horses get their teeth done before we go to the dentist. We budget for horse vitamins but not vitamins for ourselves. And we will go without before our horse does. I know for me when one of my horses is sick or not at their best, it stresses me out. However, when we don’t take care of ourselves then we can’t always have the capacity to take the best care of our horses. Our health is interconnected with the health of our horses and it is important to learn the practice of self-care—even if it is just 15 minutes a day. Because when we don’t take the time for self-care and create some balance in our lives, we start to spiral and feel like life is out of control.
When you feel out of control, I am sure the last thing you are thinking about is your own physical and emotional health. It is not uncommon for us horse lovers to put the needs of our horses before our own needs. As life gets progressively crazier, you will probably feel the need to take control of something. You might concentrate on making sure that at least you have not gone over your monthly horse budget. You may console yourself with the knowledge that you are on top of things at the barn. You could take some measure of control back by making sure that your horses are fed on time. When the tides of life have left you running yourself ragged, self-care is probably the last thing on your mind.
Self-care brings images to our mind of relaxing in a giant bubble bath with a glass of wine and chocolate, but the reality is that you feel lucky if you manage a ten-minute shower every day. You tell yourself that you can focus on yourself once you are caught up and have everything else under control. Unfortunately, it is hard to balance your life back into some sort of order when you are exhausted, run-down, unfocused, and low on energy. However, taking time to focus on your own needs can help you regain the motivation and clarity you need to create balance in your life. And part of that balance is having time to ride, show, and care for your horses.
The last I checked we are still having a global pandemic. The wildfires are raging across the US West Coast and times just seem crazy. I can’t think of a better time than now to start implementing self-care into your horse life. So today, I challenge you to start incorporating self-care into your everyday life. It will help you take back your life when things seem out of control. To do this, you have to have some tools in your toolbox to maintain your sanity during these unprecedented times.
No matter how busy your schedule is, I bet you can probably find 15 minutes a day somewhere. Whether you set your alarm to go off a little earlier, take a slightly longer lunch break or pause for a few minutes after dinner. I encourage you to find or create a small gap in your schedule. This is now your “me-time.” Use this little block of time to do something that is just for you—not for your friends or family. Pick something you enjoy doing alone and that you find relaxing and refreshing. Instead of an evening shower, spend 15 minutes soaking in a hot bath. Set your alarm for a few minutes earlier and take a 15- minute walk through the woods or the neighborhood. Do something to refresh your energy and let yourself breathe. Even if those 15 minutes feel like wasted time, remember that in airplane emergencies you have to put your oxygen mask on first! You are not able to help anyone if you are running on an empty tank. Take a few minutes for yourself each day and, when you feel guilty for it, remind yourself of the old saying, “physician heal thyself.”
Unfortunately, stress is a normal part of life and it doesn't just go away. I would take this a step further and remind us that even though for many people horses are our sanity, it can also be stressful. Many have been running a horse business during the pandemic dealing with canceled shows, which results in reduced income. Customers who lost their job were forced to take their horse out of training. In addition, the cost of hay has gone up along with unemployment rates. The list goes on and ignoring it does not help the matter. Neither does bottling it up inside. Internalizing stress just creates anxiety and/or irritability that makes you feel like you're going to explode. You might manage to keep your happy face on for a while, but eventually, it builds up too much and we end up lashing out at someone close when they ask for the simplest of things. This also crosses over to our horses. Horses sense our emotions, tension, and stress. Did you have a bad ride on your horse this week and blame it on the horse? How many times have you said the horse was having a bad hair day or that it woke up on the wrong side of the bed? The reality is that WE were having a bad day and the horse was just reacting to us.
If you have a smartphone or other device, you are virtually carrying around the world in your pocket. You can connect with anyone anywhere in the world at any time. You have access to an overwhelming amount of information via the world wide web. With the explosion of online shopping options, you could comfortably live more or less your entire life without ever having to leave your house. And yet, we were freaking out about having to stay home for a while. The constant exposure to information that comes with technology can leave you feeling like you are on an endless roller coaster ride. You can see every detail of your friend’s lives on social media, and the tragedy of the day follows you around in the news. If you have your work emails synced to your phone, you are never really on vacation, and most apps come with notifications that inform you about updates, status changes, or that someone liked your recent horse meme.
Don’t get me wrong it is fun looking at horses in the sale Facebook groups and watching Olympians ride their freestyle on YouTube. However, when you are tied to your smartphone, iPad, or computer all the time, you are at the mercy of the rest of the world. You struggle to control what you see, and even the best day can be ruined by the latest story on the news or seeing another horse that needs to be rescued from the kill pen. If you want to take back your life, try taking a break from technology and social media on a regular basis. Leave your phone in the barn when you go for a ride or limit yourself to how many horse videos you watch a day on YouTube. You will find that taking control of your own life is much easier once you step back and untangle yourself from other people’s lives and technology. I call it a digital detox. I make it a point to leave my phone in the house or the barn while I am with my horses. I can't be fully present with my horse and have the best ride when I am stopping to answer my phone, respond to a text, or like a post.
Exercise seems to be the remedy for all mental, emotional, or physical health concerns and it is something us horse lovers probably don't do enough of. Yes, we spend a lot of time moving while mucking stalls, moving hay bales, and sweeping barn isles. The good news is that some physical activity is way better than none. Even though riding is great for our thighs and glutes, it is not the same as working out. Regular exercise releases endorphins that help reduce stress and can help you sleep better at night. Exercising a few times a week will also leave you feeling more energized as your health improves and it will get you in even better shape for riding that Grand Prix test! You do not need to become a gym junkie or a workout guru to reap the benefits of exercise. A brisk morning walk around the block can help you feel more focused and 30 minutes on the treadmill can do wonders for your sleep. It’s easy to make excuses for avoiding exercise. “I don’t have time” and “I am too tired” are some common justifications. Spoiler alert! If you have time to watch The Walking Dead or scroll through Facebook, you have time to exercise. You can also do both activities at once. Set up a treadmill or exercise bike in your home where you can see the TV and watch your favorite shows while you work out—just not while you are supposed to be doing your digital detox! LOL!
It is hard to feel in control of your life when you are always feeling tired and need a nap. If you are skimping on sleep, you probably do not have the motivation to take back your life even if you had the energy to do so. As anyone who has stayed up too late knows, lack of sleep will leave you exhausted, irritable, and unable to focus on the things that are most important to you—like your horses! In addition to miserable mornings and a deep longing for the ability to drink straight caffeine (which raises your cortisol levels-the stress hormone), chronic sleep deprivation has been connected to several health issues, including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression.
Getting enough rest will make a world of difference in your life. You will have more energy and motivation to put toward your goals, and life’s little irritants will leave you far less annoyed. Make it a point to get enough sleep each night, and you will find it much easier to take back your life. Because it is pretty hard to enjoy your horse when you are dealing with health issues!
Self-care does not have to take a great deal of time to be extremely effective. Getting enough sleep, watching TV from a treadmill, and spending a few minutes each day on yourself can leave you feeling like a whole new person. Spend some time focusing on yourself, and you will find it much easier to take back your life. After all, you cannot reasonably expect to control the many twists and turns of life if you cannot make time to control your health. Take care of yourself, and you will find it much easier to take back control of your life. Trust me your family, friends, and horses will thank you for it!
Today I want to talk to you about the notion of “Are you a human-BEing or a human DOing?” We are living in a world where everything is go-go-go. Even during the current global pandemic, people are having a hard time sitting down with themselves and just being in the present moment. We are so used to doing something all the time and being connected to the news, information, and technology. If you are feeling like a human-DOing lately and would rather feel more like a human-BEING start implementing the next four things in your life. First,
Be on purpose with your day, what you do and how you show up for yourself, others and the world. Human doings are usually reactive and tend to get caught up in deadlines, the fast-paced drama of the western world, and not living in the here and now. Set your intentions for the day the night before or before you get out of bed. When you start your day with intention, you will be more on purpose. Next,
Know your talents and spend time honing your skills. Stephen Covey calls it “sharpening your saw.” This might mean attending a seminar or simply reading a book on a topic you want to learn more about. Sharpening your saw will help you both personally and professionally. Third is
Time management Time management starts with taking the time to plan and this includes scheduling down time. Sometimes downtime is as simple as taking time to exercise three times a week or maybe taking the weekend off from checking your email. This will help you stay focused and be more efficient with your time. And last,
Spend time outside- And I don’t mean cleaning horse poop or doing yard work. I mean spend time with nature. Go for a leisurely stroll or watch a bird make a nest. Just 15 minutes a day in the sun helps your vitamin D levels. Also, consider spending time outside your box. Sometimes our habits keep us in the box. So get outside! Both literally and figuratively!
As horsewomen, it is easy to let our own self-care take a back seat to our business, our families, and the care of our horses and pets. As women, I feel it is safe to say that most of us are passionate about what we do and easily internalize and take-on the problems of
others which adds to our already established stress. This is why it is so important to recharge your own batteries on a regular basis.
We all know the metaphor from flying that explains how important it is to put your oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else. The point is that if you aren’t getting enough oxygen or in this case getting enough recharge time, you will be in no condition to help anyone else!
Too often, we get our performance mixed up with our identity. When you ask someone, “Who are you?” they answer, “I’m a nurse. I’m a entrepreneur. I’m a horse trainer. An equine bodyworker —you get the gist. But the truth is, that’s what they do—not who they are. When you are grounded, centered, and connected to your higher self that is where you find peace and self-acceptance. That is where your value and your worth might come from. You feel good about WHO you are and not what you do. When you are positive towards yourself you are in agreement with yourself and who you are. It’s time to turn off the mind chatter and join us in Circle. In circle you discover your truth and who you really are. So let me ask you, “Are you ready to be a human-being instead of a human doing?” Go to conscious hoofbeat.com and join me in Circle!
Circle is the place where women gather to be seen, heard, and loved. It is held in the living room of someone’s home or in a room designed specifically for circle. The women sit in a physical circle and go around so that each woman has an opportunity to share. I have found that it is important for every woman to know she has equal time for her voice be heard. There is a facilitator (or two co-facilitators) who make sure there is integrity in the circle by adhering to the circle agreements and guidelines.
Circle is for every woman.
This is not a clique nor a sorority. We are all mirrors of one another and so there is no woman who does not belong. We are not trying to create more separation with circle. We are creating unity, harmony, connection, and collaboration. When we acknowledge our judgments toward one another and see that those judgments are our own shadow, we begin to have more acceptance of ourselves and others. We start to heal the division between humanity.
Circle is a space for all voices to be heard.
No one sits back just to observe and listen. Everyone is an active participant. Everyone’s voice matters.
Circle is like a wheel, not a pyramid.
While there is a facilitator, that woman is not put on a pedestal and treated as separate. There is no hierarchy in circle. Each woman matters. We are each a spoke on the wheel, which means that we must show up and contribute physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally. The wheel cannot turn without everyone understanding and believing that they are equally important in creating the structure of the wheel.
Circle is a place of abundance.
We are giving and receiving in the circle. It is not about always showing up as your best self to give. Sometimes, a woman is down and needing to receive support. This is where we learn that everything we need is in circle because we have everything we need inside of us. The lesson here is in valuing the container and the facilitator and seeing it as a mirror, valuing yourself.
Happy New Years! 2020 isn’t just a new year it’s a new decade! Have you set your 2020 intentions? Made your resolutions? Are you determined to make them stick this year?
Yesterday, I received an email about how if we can go slower day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month, we can end up going faster year-to-year and decade-to-decade.
Every new year, I read several posts and articles about new year’s resolutions and the reason diets, gym memberships, and self improvement plans don’t work is because it is way too much effort for very little gain all at once. I say it’s because we come from an instant gratification society.
We get excited and jump on the New Year’s resolutions band wagon. We sincerely believe we can achieve the new diet, continue going to the gym, and make the changes in our life for self improvement. Unfortunately, shortly into our new endeavors, the struggle becomes real and we don’t have the wear-with-all to push through it. We can't keep up because our food addictions and bad habits take over and it’s easier to give in than to press through.
This is when we start to hear things like, “Rather than seeking radical change, look for the little things to practice. It’s the little things that lead to your end goal. Create a vision for how you want your life to look and then remain patient and empathetic with yourself when you struggle.”
I don’t disagree with this and it may be helpful for many. However, I have spent many years playing small, spinning my wheels, and getting nowhere. In 2018, I buried my father at the young age of 71, another friend at the age of 70, and the older I get the faster life goes. So, this year I am declaring acceleration over my life! Acceleration over my business, my career, my love life, my horse goals, my inner work, my physical and mental health! I am learning to take risks, trust the Universe for support, and listen to my inner guidance system. All my years of baby steps have prepared me for acceleration!
Maybe your not ready to accelerate and that’s okay! Maybe 2020 is about preparing for your acceleration year. What do you want to declare for life in 2020 and the next decade? One of the best things I did to prepare myself for acceleration was being part of the women’s gathering movement called Circle. If you are looking for unconditional love, support, and preparation, then join us in Circle for Horse Women 2020!
Old age is often considered a time of decline, but older adults around the world are filling their golden years with amazing accomplishments. It is a common misconception that once you are 50, you are “over the hill” and you begin an unending decline. Recent research seems to dispel this myth from both a mental and physical standpoint. There are some amazing, almost unbelievable seniors who’ve set ambitious physical goals for themselves and through hard work and dedication have accomplished some incredible feats.
Following are the most adventurous senior athletes who are finding ways to stay active and motivated as they age. Their accomplishments would make much younger athletes quite proud. These athletes, some who have lived through the Great Depression, World War II, and the Civil Rights Movement prove that health and fitness don’t have an age. With purpose and dedication, they’re dismissing boundaries and showing the world that speed, strength, athleticism, and passion don’t have to fade as the years pass.
Take for example, Orville Rogers who is 100 years old and routinely breaks records at track meets around the country. Sure he doesn’t have much competition in his age bracket but that is beside the point. “Some people think I run because I can, but that’s backward, I can because I do.” The world’s centenarian population is expected to grow eightfold by 2050, according to a Pew Research Report Center which shows America leading the pack in the sheer number of citizens age 100 and up.
Then there is Tao Porchon-Lynch who at 98 has practiced yoga for 70 plus years and taught for more than 45. She has earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s oldest yoga instructor. She can still execute a perfect tree pose. Like Orville, Tao’s secret is simple, she can because she does. “The breath of life is in all of us, but most of us don’t use it all the time,” says Porchon-Lynch and “there is nothing you cannot do!”
Meet another runner, Harriette Thompson, the Rockin Runner from Charlotte, North Carolina who at 92 crossed the finish line at the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego becoming the oldest woman to finish a marathon and the second oldest marathon runner in U.S. history. She finished the race in 7 hours and 7 minutes to break the record for the fastest time in her age group. She is a cancer survivor and ran her first marathon at age 76. Her advice for fellow seniors is to keep reaching for their goals. She says, “I think if I can do it, anybody can do it, because I wasn’t trained to be a runner. I have also found that it’s very invigorating. I feel like a million dollars when I’m finished.”
Meet unconventional athlete, Sister Madonna Buder, who started running at age 48 and completed her first triathlon at 52. After that she was hooked. She practiced on a nephew’s bike until she was eventually ready for a full Ironman. She completed the Ironman event in Hawaii in 2005 at age 75, earning her the nickname “Iron Nun.” She is the oldest woman to finish this extremely grueling event, which consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, followed by a marathon of 26.2 miles. Her time was just shy of the 17 hour cut-off. She offers these words of wisdom, “Don’t pay attention to how old you are, only focus on how old you feel; and be patient, I’m still trying to fine-tune it so that I’m able to stop and smell the roses.”
Then there is the amazing octogenarian, Johanna Quaas, the Grandma Gymnast born in 1925. She started doing gymnastics at an early age and participated in her first competition in 1934. Eighty years later, she is still completing and has earned entry in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest gymnast in the world.
Reaching new heights is this unbelievable oldster, Yuchiro Miura the first person to ski on Everest 33 years before his first summit climb. In 2013 Miura became the oldest person to summit Mount Everest. He broke his own world record that he’d set in 2003, despite battling diabetes, undergoing three heart surgeries and recovering from a complicated surgery to repair his shattered pelvis in the decade between the summit attempts. In spite of his physical challenges he persisted, rebuilding his fitness routine until he was ready to tackle the ultimate peak once more. He reflects on his amazing victory, “I had a dream to climb Everest at this age. If you have a dream, never give up. Dreams come true.” Miura continues to train for ambitious skiing descents as well as a fourth Everest bid at 90 years of age.
As I travel through my own aging journey it is so inspiring to hear of these unbelievable “older” athletes. I ponder and marvel at the outstanding accomplishments of these octogenarians and beyond who are vibrant, vital and living their lives with impressive physical and mental attitude. “The thread that binds them is not the year on their birth certificate but the way they live.”
What is the common thread that weaves through these amazing lives? They each have a resolve and a passion that is ignited and burns strong in each of them. They are goal driven and refuse to give up or give in to the aging process that so many people of their generation and younger do. They are rather miraculous role models for all, especially those of us who enjoy physical challenges. Clearly, there is pain and discomfort in what they do, but apparently for them, the sheer joy of achieving their goals supersedes the bodily pain that certainly accompanies their amazing accomplishments.
What can we baby boomers learn from these super seniors as we journey to their advanced decades? Are we all going to run a marathon? Be a triathlete or even climb Everest? Probably not. However, having dreams, setting goals and taking small concrete steps toward those goals can empower, energize and excite us. Progress reinforces behavior, and before you know it, you have realized your dream and find that you are ready for the next one.
Gloria Friedrich was born, raised, and lives in Colorado where she has always enjoyed the outdoor life. She has been married for fifty years and raised two children while pursuing a couple of careers. She worked in retail management, then returned to college to get a BA degree in her 40’s and an MA in her 50’s in order to build a career in teaching. All the while she has followed her dream of an active life. She maintains a regimen of regular aerobic and weight workouts, but also participates in a number of outdoor activities. She loves hiking, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, kayaking, and tennis. In her lifetime, she has run numerous road races and hiked half of Colorado’s 14er’s. She is an avid traveler and reader who enjoys hearing and learning about other’s physical achievements. That’s what keeps her motivated. If others can enjoy the struggles and accomplishments of physical activity, so can she. That’s what spurred her to write this piece on exercise and aging.
When you think of ritual, what comes to your mind? Funerals? Weddings? Religious ceremonies? Yes, rituals are integral parts of religious services but the ritual isn’t always about religion. Ritual is so much more! I love this definition: “Rituals are actions that support the deepening of our spiritual and emotional connections. They bring extra brightness and fulfillment into our lives.” In addition to traditional rituals, everyone has the ability to create practices that they can personalize to the uniqueness of their own lifestyle and relationships. Some people pray together silently or aloud. Others sing, dance, or play instruments. Rituals can take many forms. For me, a ritual is about connection, sweetness, and vitality into my partnership with my horses.
Being with horses is ritualistic and every aspect of my time with them is part of my daily spiritual practice. My morning practices set the tone for my day. They are about setting my intentions for the day, getting grounded, and bringing peace and presence into my day, which rolls over into my everyday life. I start by making the horse’s morning mashes. It makes me feel good knowing that I am giving them the best quality alfalfa/timothy noxious weed-free hay cubes with 100% bioavailable vitamins, digestive support, and organic carrots—exactly how I choose to take care of myself. As I wait for their mashes to soak, I prepare my daily habit of chai tea. I love the smell of spices in my kitchen as the tea steeps. As I walk out my door, I hear the happy neighs of my horses and see their beautiful faces. Their ears are pricked forward greeting me with enthusiastic smiles. I smile back, breathe, and feel myself get centered and grounded for the day.
My everyday practices with my horses connect me to my soul by quieting my mind. Horses bring me into the present moment and ultimately connect me to the Divine. Horses are my inner voice of love—self-love, compassion, and empathy all come from this place. When I drift from this place of being present, that is when my ego takes over and usually ruins my day by allowing fear to kick in. My daily practices and rituals not only connect me to nature but also connects me to my inner nature.
I believe when I am with my horses it is from a place of reverence. This place of reverence increases my capacity for connection and alignment with my soul. When I am aligned with my soul, I am happier, healthier, and I live more on purpose. The more I can step away from my outer life to create my ‘soul space,’ the more I feel and hear my intuition. Isn’t that what we are all craving? To feel peaceful, fully alive, and connected?
Through the practice of ritual, I am grounded and able to create balance in my life. When I don’t take the time for my daily rituals, I feel more anxious and I am less productive during the day. The time I take for my practices yields far greater results than the time I waste from not being grounded. Ritual has the ability to elevate my everyday manure cleaning into contemplative practice.
My friend from Wild Souls Yoga explained it best, “Humans naturally seek connection. Humans are actually wired for connection – to each other, to nature, to ourselves, and to a Higher Power. The Inside, the down deep, the wise inner voice—this is where our soul lives—our human point of contact with the Divine, and ultimately with all of Life. This ‘deep down’ place is not a physical place, but rather a place of awareness, openness, and interconnectedness. When we lack this connection, we live life from an ungrounded, unbalanced state, which gives rise to all the modern ailments which afflict us.”
All aspects of ritual are essential to fulfilling relationships with our horses and the people in our lives. Contentment and peace are a result of ritual. Take the time to notice your everyday activities and start being more aware and intentional as you do them. This will strengthen your appreciation, relationships, and everyday moments that we take for granted. Stop going through the motions of life stagnant and asleep. Wake up! Integrate a daily morning practice or ritual and watch your life become more fulfilling and your afflictions will quietly start to disappear.
I don't ever feel alone when I am with horses. I can spend the entire day in the barn and not talk to another human being and be totally at peace. When I have a bad day, a disagreement, fight, or painful experience, I go to the barn. It is my refuge, solace, and serenity. That said, the fact remains that we as humans are social animals. We need human to human connection as much as horses need to belong to a herd.
In this age of technology, I believe we are lacking intimacy and connection more than ever. I feel like I desire more now than before because I don’t get it the way I used to. This desire for connection has required me to learn yogic practices that train the mind, body, spirit, nervous system, and the breathe system to open my heart and the human spirit. This is not easy. It is very hard and requires commitment, discipline, and desire to serve each other’s spirits and I don’t know how to achieve it if it doesn’t come from both sides. Horses will more often than not want that connection with me. Humans are often too caught up in Facebook to even know what it is. This connection requires vulnerability and spiritual training. I start with meditative awareness and become more in-tune to what I am feeling. By learning awareness of what is happening in my body, it allows me to make choices in how I react. Being mindful when I am with my horses is not only safer than reacting, it yields far more positive results.
When I am in emotional pain, turmoil, or imbalance. My horses show up for me. They lower their heads and touch my heart chakra reminding me that I am loved. Every morning while I clean manure, my pinto gelding follows me around. He likes to touch me with his muzzle. He just wants to feel close to me. He doesn’t say anything and he doesn’t ask for anything in return except that I let him touch me—an exchange of loving energy that needs no words. My connection with horses is only painful when one leaves my life. The rest of the time is the true connection of mind, body, and spirit.
Sometimes, it is the opposite. My horses will remind me that I am not balanced. They tell me with their reactive body language that I need to slow down, breathe, and get grounded. When we aren’t in sync, the horses tell me and I choose to listen. It is not just being in sync with them, it is usually indicative of not being in sync with my life. Not allowing the ebb and flow of life to just happen and trust that it is all in divine order. Sometimes, I resist and when there is resistance I don’t move forward in life. I can’t move and feel stuck. I am reminded that when I try to make things happen it does not work. But when I don’t do anything, I remain stuck right where I am at and that doesn’t feel good.
So, how do I get unstuck? I move. I walk, hike, yoga, dance, or ride my horse. Movement connects me to the divine. It nourishes me. Whether I am hiking, walking, dancing, or riding, movement is a huge part of my health, healing, and it restores my connection. The horses remind me to slow down. I don’t have to always run and move fast. Movement inspires me to spiritual openness which yields great feats of heroic acts such as kindness, love, and connection.
However, when my horses get a little too sassy with their expression, it is up to me to say, “That doesn’t work for me.” I don’t settle for their poor behavior. My horses get reprimanded and are reminded if something is inappropriate or bad behavior. I thank my horses for reminding me that we are each other’s reflection of what is going on in life and when the behavior shifts I reward their good behavior.
Horses are such wonderful teachers. Everyday, they remind me of how good it feels to be touched and loved. I believe that when I show up for other relationships the way horses show up for me, the connection has the potential to be open, painless, and full of love. And who doesn’t want to be loved?
I recently listened to a yoga instructor from Wild Souls Yoga share what has intuitively been coming up for her in regards to intention, ritual, and our soul’s purpose. She feels, that right now on a collective level, courage is showing up for us women. This totally resonated with me! I know that I am in the process of gathering the courage to be who I was born to be.
In essence, isn’t that what we all want? We as women all share the need to gather the courage to face our fears, struggles, feelings of limitations, and the criticism we allow upon ourselves from our negative inner voices and perhaps even some of the people around us. This is why it is so important to practice the art of self-love. It is why I have learned to honor and accept myself as the horse lover that I am—it is why I do horses. It is my gift and I know it is the catalyst of my destiny.
As a women, I know the Universe is asking me to embody my soul’s purpose. I ask myself, “Am I stepping into alignment with my soul?” As I move forward on my journey called life, I can’t help but question why am I here? What I do with my time and energy is so important. How I contribute to raising the vibration of the planet and raising the consciousness of myself is directly related to my soul’s purpose.
What is my soul purpose? I am clear that part of my purpose is to awaken my divine feminine gifts which essentially helps raise consciousness. The divine feminine is the embodiment of heart energy. Heart-centered energy of love. I know that sharing it with the world is how I heal myself and those around me. Love is the most powerful healer and not only did I learn how to love from horses I am loved by horses.
I feel strongly that something is wanting to grow and awaken within me. A part of me that I had to put on hold until I became of age. The age where I learn to be comfortable in my own skin. The age where I learn that the essence of my being is connected and grounded in my own self. I am being invited by the Universe to grow and honor these qualities. My soul’s gift, my genius, and purpose on this planet. My purpose is the essence of my being what am I supposed to be sharing just in my being in my natural presence.
A huge part of this is learning to live with intention. When I live in my purpose and honor my being, my life becomes intentional. My intention is to provide a safe space for horsewomen over 40 where we share our struggles and similar anxieties. A sacred space that transforms our comparable limiting beliefs and helps each other transform common fears into the courage to express our authentic selves.
Horses give me the emotional strength and courage that supports me to fully love and appreciate myself. Every time I start to doubt myself, I go to the barn and breathe. I take in a deep breath. I inhale a deep belly breath through my nose and exhale (through my mouth). After another big inhale, I relax my shoulders, let go of any tension in my body and soften into my purpose. My purpose of loving horses and sharing how this love transforms my life.
Bonus day for my 21-day meditation experience! Day 22, “Achieving Wholeness.” I believe that one of the reasons I am so in love with horses is because of their beauty and this beauty and wonder also live in me. I know I can be as unique and awe-inspiring as these amazing creatures that inspire me every day. Just like people gaze at the night sky and take in the wonder of the Universe or sit by the ocean and take in the rhythm of the waves, I like to watch and be with horses because nothing is questioned and I feel complete. Even though I am constantly changing, aging, and evolving, the real me is constant. I am part of the timelessness of the ever-present moment. My inner light knows no bounds and my inner glory shines. When I am with horses, I am grounded. I pause and breathe into these moments with gratitude and grace. This is when I feel whole.
The Universe is guided by our creator’s infinite wisdom and care. In today’s world, we are skeptical and don’t see the Universe as whole and complete. The Universe is random and I struggle feeling pulled in several directions. Our society does not teach us about wholeness. I have found that I either feel whole or I don’t. Each day is separated into work, obligations, demands, pleasure, commitments, and pains. Wholeness is a process that requires that I learn to perceive something as whole. I find wholeness in horses. They give me unconditional love. Wholeness comes and goes in and out of my existence. However, my constant companion is myself. My true self does not feel whole without my connection to horses. After 22 days of this meditation experience, I have learned that my true self is what I am most grateful for, which I tap into when I am being present with horses.
My ego self has been changing my entire life, however, I am grateful for my true self as timeless awareness. As awareness, I have always been whole, but I allowed external factors and negative voices tell me otherwise. An interesting fact; wholeness, holiness, health and healing all derived from the same root word. As I continue to expand my awareness through gratitude and the practice of meditation, I have the ability to heal myself through my own wholeness. This is when I receive grace. I want my individual self to stop feeling separate and alone. I know I can achieve this when I start feeling thankful for who I am ... the real me. My identity today is temporary. I am always evolving and growing. The real me is my wholeness that I am meant to live with gentleness, love, grace, kindness, and beauty. The gentleness of the 1,200-pound horses who give me love without judgment. The grace of the horse’s way of going as they gallop across the pasture and their feet don’t touch the ground. The kindness my horses extend to me just for showing up for them. And the beauty that I see both on the inside and outside. Where do you find wholeness?
Day 21 of my 21-day meditation experience “Seeing with the eyes of the Soul.” Whew! I feel like I just ran a marathon! Exhausted, exhilarated, and very happy with my commitment to follow-through and complete it. I have learned that there is a sacred connection between gratitude and grace and how that connection creates a foundation for a joyful and awakened life. When I am most open and alive is when I ease into a moment and feel no resistance. This is when I absorb all the beauty around me. My next step is to see everything as alive and accept everyone for who they are more and more until it becomes a way of life. This is when I manifest grace or rather grace has manifested in me. The more I practice the better I will get. I strive to be in a state of the greatest clarity, calmness, and feeling of completeness. As I learn to see with the eye of the soul, this new way of seeing unmasks beauty, truth, and everything that is real. I am awakened to life’s perfection in every moment—especially when I am with horses.
Deepak Chopra taught me that every spiritual tradition has prayers of thanksgiving to the creator. In a secular world, this attitude has fallen away and in its place, we now demand a valid experience. These kinds of experiences try to convince us that we are believing in something real. Grace gives me hints of what is really real. Behind the mask of appearances, there is a realm of spirit that we see with the eyes of the soul. When I am experiencing grace, I can see with the eyes of the soul because I am perceiving the subtle imagery where truth, beauty, and love are undeniable. This comes from my source. Then I feel great happiness of my own being, I feel drawn by an irresistible pull. When my mind and body almost burst with pure joy, that is when I experience the highest state of a gladdened heart. It is that feeling I got when I nailed a lead change for the first time. It was when my first newborn foal ran for the first time. It was that feeling when my abused, rescue horse nuzzled me and nickered at me the first time … pure gladness and love.
In India, this experience is sometimes called, “being mad for God.” But in reality, this is the highest sanity because our perception has become perfectly clear. Probably why we horse lovers say all the time, “horses are our sanity.” When I am being with horses in the present moment, my perception is the clearest. The more I am in a place to see the world permeated by light, the more I experience gratitude. The more I spend time being with horses, the more I become connected to these concepts of higher consciousness.
It is taught that ultimately all gratitude is spiritual. The only difference is how clearly you see the light and know that it is real. For some mystics, this light is as visible as sunlight, but the eyes of the soul see another kind of light which is the vibrancy of creation—the presence of love and the beauty of nature that shines in all things including horses. Meditation has taught me to perceive silence, peace, and the purity of my own being. This meditation experience has assisted me in seeing these things clearer. I am the most clearest when I am being with horses.
I am learning to see others and the rest of the world with the vision of grace and love. This is called "seeing with the eyes of the soul," because when your deepest self recognizes its essence in another person, it experiences love. When your true self sees itself in an object, it experiences beauty. When we see with the eyes of the soul, we find our pure self everywhere even in horses.
Most horse people have heard the saying that looking into the eyes of a horse is the window to the soul. What I know for sure is that horses are definitely the window to my soul and how I receive grace. Today, I bow to you from the divinity of my heart to the divinity or your heart. Now, go to the barn and hug your horse with pure gratitude. Namasté.
It is taught that the highest love is grace. The purest most essential energy is love. Love begins with gratitude and transforms into grace. I am one with the source of creation because I am here on earth. Life loves me. Life gives and takes become blissful. When I love life, life loves me back. This is grace, so simple and yet profound.
Grace is considered divine but comes to us in human ways. When my heart opens to another’s true self, I feel the same divine love. When love flows from my true self to the true self of another—higher consciousness becomes real. Love is the closest experience to the feeling of completeness. When I am on the path of gratitude, that is when I can transfer the responsibility of love from another person to myself. This is no small step and does not happen without awareness. I never learned to give love to someone outside of myself even though it is the key to transformation. I have learned all love is directed to the self, not the ego self, but the shared self which permeates everything. This kind of love is more than an emotion, it is a state of awareness. Not loved by someone outside of myself, but loved for simply being—god consciousness, unity consciousness it is all Unconditional love.
This was deep for me today and some things that showed up for me I am not comfortable putting in my blog. However, the one thing that resonated the most was when it was explained how when love flows from one true self to another true self, higher consciousness becomes real that is when two souls are vibrating on the same level. I experienced that once and I want to experience it again because it is beautiful!
Day 19 of my 21-day meditation, “The Path to Total Transformation.” I love the story Oprah Winfrey shared when Maya Angelou told her to, “Stop crying right now and say thank you because God has put a rainbow in every cloud even if you can’t see it. Be a blessing to somebody.” I am starting to believe in my rainbow even though it hasn’t come to fruition … yet.
It is beautiful out today. Not too hot and not too cold. I am spending the afternoon with my horses and then going to have Friday night dinner with my dear friend. So, today’s blog is going to be a “cheat” day and not very long or in-depth. Because sometimes, being with horses and friends are more important.
This I know for sure. Change is natural and we all want to move in a positive direction. It is easy for me to feel gratitude when my life is going great and things are falling into place, but not every day is as simple as that. That said, the more knowledge and experience I gain, the more my life flows and the better I deal with the not-so-good days. Instead of constantly struggling against the darkness, I choose to see the light—even though sometimes I do end up down the rabbit hole. What is important is that I don’t stay in the rabbit hole. I always manage to bring myself back up and horses are usually there to help me.
No coincidence, I saw a rainbow today! I choose to believe it a sign from the Universe and a little bit of light at the end of my tunnel!
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