Motion is lotion!

I heard this from my mentor…then I heard it again from the guys who started the Nokota horse conservancy.

It’s become a slogan of ours.

I have seen so much evidence to prove it and so much that proves the other side of it that restriction is not the way to go.

I posted recently about Kiko’s progress after his devastating (to me) injury. A typical injury to the tendon in the leg which usually takes about 6 months to heal enough to ride. He was able to ride in 2 months because I kept him mobile thorough the whole process which at times KILLED me inside but I had to trust him, trust the healing process and trust that he would be able to judge what was too much just as well as humans can. Knowing what I know of my horse, I can’t assume he’s not as intelligent as I am..in fact, in certain circumstances he’s actually smarter. So logically, there was no reason besides my own human emotions of superiority that could sway me from trusting that he knows his limits and when it hurts too much and that yes, a horse can heal without our intervention because I have seen so much intervention that has become hindrance and I couldn’t do that to my boy.

Long story short, he’s pretty much fully healed. Yes, he does seem to have a bit of scar tissue around the area but I’m told that will probably go away with regular work.

The great news is he’s sound, he’s strong and hasn’t re injured himself since the accident 4 months ago. He can walk, trot and canter without pain either on the ground or with a rider.

The other day I had the Osteopath out, after watching his movements for a while, she did acupuncture on his leg first….to which he responded by getting relaxed, licking and chewing for about 20 minutes and then sleeping. He was way more relaxed about the needles than I was…but he doesn’t have the irrational fear of needles I do apparently.

Then she adjusted him, she was able to crack his hip and both knees! She said he was stuck in his left hip which corresponded with the left front injury.

Then she massaged him….again, sleep was the final result.

It was time to move after all this. It was like watching him on his best day! He was so lose and lively and let us know he was super happy by cantering around on his own accord after we were done watching his movement.

He looked awesome and he felt like he was having fun with it all. Two days later he got his feet trimmed and he responded by playing with Blue at a canter in the indoor arena and rolling like a maniac only to get up again, canter around with Blue then come over to get kisses and treats before doing it all again.

It’s really rewarding to see the more freedom and trust I can give him the more he seems to reciprocate.

He’s not just my horse, he’s a soul I am lucky enough to share my life with that I may not understand but in asking him to teach me, he does. The connection is not something I can explain or even rationalize like a dog or even a cat. I do nothing for him but offer him partnership to the best of my novice ability and offer him logical care to my novice ability and I’m rewarded with having a true soul mate. I can’t say how this is fair to him, but I will say I’m sure as hell happy I have him in my life, both as partner and friend and I only hope I can someway fulfill his inner, unexpected needs as much as he’s fulfilled the ones in my life I didn’t even know I had.

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Steger Mukluks for Equine activity in the Winter

I have gone 6 winters with frozen toes trying all sorts of different boots. 

Last year I just chalked it up to having poor circulation in my feet or something because a lot of boots that have worked for others have not worked for me. 

I was fine with this last year but this year having some exceptionally cold weather I started my search again because there had to be something out there made for people who have colder than normal feet. 

A friend of mine has been saying for 4 years now “Get some Mukluks” ……they were so expensive though, $170 is the going price for these boots and I hadn’t been willing to part with that kinda money over some boots that would get all icky at the barn anyway. 

After asking her about them again and telling her I was afraid of paying that kinda money to have them not work, she told me something that sold me on them. She said regular boots work like a horse shoe on a horse. The non flexible sole just radiates the cold to your foot and doesn’t allow movement, but the mukluks are like having a bare foot on a horse, it allows the normal compression and retraction the foot is designed for and the movement and flex needed to balance when you hit the ground with your foot keeps them warmer. Plus for us humans, we get all the extra wool they put inside the boot. 

This did kind of make sense to me since I notice, when I’m at work, sitting in my chair, my feet are cold even with my heater on in my office, yet if I do yoga, my feet are warm for hours afterwards. 

So I did it, I bought some, but I got the ones designed for real arctic weather, in fact, they are called the Arctic. They are rated at -20 degrees. I wanted some serious boots to match my seriously temperature sensitive feet. 

I LOVE these boots and let me tell you, they live up to the hype…totally. 

It feels like I’m wearing a slipper, they are light and comfortable and most of all really flexible, I can feel what’s under my feet. I’m usually pretty clutzy but I haven’t stumbled in these yet…I’m sure I will because I’m just like that but they seem to give me better feel so I don’t trip. If I step on a rock, or more likely a frozen turd, I can feel my foot kinda wrap around it and I can weight myself to stay upright instead of tripping like I normally do. The warmth…let me tell you, I am ecstatic about how warm my feet are in these boots, so comfortable, more comfortable than when I wear my smartwool socks with slippers at home! 

Today I went out to the barn with my Sister who had “warm” boots and two pairs of socks, when she said she was done because she could’t feel her feet (used to be me saying this before she got too cold) I did a check on my own feet and how they felt and I said “HA! I love these boots! If my feet were any warmer, they would be sweating!!” 

They work, I am living, previously Skeptical proof these boots are worth every single penny I spent on them. If they also hold up to the Eleven years people claim they are good for, then I got a STEAL on these well made boots. 

If they didn’t have the ranch on them, I’d probably be wearing them in the house and everywhere else I go. I get excited when I get to put them on, that may make me a geek but I am a warm comfortable and super happy geek that gets to stay out longer now to spend time with my horse because of these Steger Mukluks! 

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Because my horse is awesome.

So I haven’t posted in a while, crazy schedule and holidays and all.

I had to post this though. 

The other day, I was out to spend time with Kiko. He was moved just under a month ago to this new barn. This was his third time in the indoor arena since we got there. 

We had the boys in the arena and they had been in there for about a 1/2 hour, we were just doing a light workout since it was only 1 degree out, we weren’t going to try to work up a sweat, just move them around a bit to encourage the gut to work better and prevent stocking up in the legs. Kiko is a little stocked up so we walk/trotted him around for a bit. 

Kelly was talking to me, I was facing the west wall of the barn, Kiko was due south and Kelly was NW of me which is where all my attention was so I was totally being negligent in paying attention to my horse while carrying on a conversation. Rookie move I know! 

So my left shoulder was directly in line with my horse and my head was almost completely over my right. 

The little friendly black cat that likes to run in and greet people snuck in the barn directly in line behind Kiko. 

Even though it was probably 10 yards away, as any normal horse would do, seeing some little ground predator skulking towards it,  Kiko spooked. 

However, Immediately after spooking which made him propel himself forward even in this panic mode and even though we had less than 10 feet in between us, he had enough reason and sense to stop himself from running me over when he felt my hood under his chin and instead took one step in front of my body and stopped dead before colliding with me! 

I said to Kelly, “Holy crap! Did you see that?” She laughed and said “Yeah” I couldn’t believe I wasn’t run over, I’m convinced had I made that mistake with any other horse I would have been on the ground. He’s incredible, to have that much awareness of me even when my focus is totally off him…I am not only very lucky….but also convinced I have the most awesome horse ever. 

 

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Injury

So I’ve had my first major injury. 

Which is in part why I haven’t posted in such a while, because the injury and dealing with it took so much out of me, not really physically but emotionally and mentally. 

Kiko followed two of the younger Nokota horses over an electric fence into a boggy area that was closed off since it was just that, boggy. No one was there so we can’t say what happened but in the beginning of September, I get a call when I was at the state fair from my big hearted barn owner saying “Kiko’s hurt, I think you have to come out and see him like…now.” 

Totally panicked I rode the fair bus to the parking station and my wonderful husband who couldn’t give a flying shit about horses drove me and my sister way down from St. Paul to Prior Lake to see my boy…he looked bad. 

He wouldn’t put any weight on his left front leg and it was swollen up to about 4 times the girth of the regular size. 

To make a long story shorter, my barn owner put him on bute and we established it was not a break, he had some ligament or tendon damage based on the swelling and heat we were feeling off the site and the feel of the bone under palpitation. 

I’ve freaked out before and ordered a vet and have gotten screwed in the process, they gave me some “hoof strengthener” snake oil basically when it was just a reaction to clover that went away shortly after the symptoms occurred. So I tried really hard NOT to react although I was panicked inside. 

I had to say to myself repeatedly and call my friends often to get assurance: 

It’s a common injury

There’s really not much a vet can do about it since you have to sit and wait to see the extent

Wild horses recover from this all the time

Horses can heal themselves just as well as humans can. 

I’ve seen wild horses recover from conditions such as this on their own, So I made the unpopular decision to NOT stall my horse since I know if he feels pent up, he WILL kick the boards which could further injure him, I wouldn’t confine him in a small area because he couldn’t move (since we don’t have stalls anyway) because he will just jump the line. and because of the fact I believe “motion is lotion”, 

I told my barn owner, again against popular treatment to stop the bute after a week. He seemed to be weighting it even though it was gingerly and I asked her to stop the meds because I wanted HIM to regulate his movement himself, because he was running down the fence line since he was cut off from the other horses and totally ignoring that he had another horse in his pasture. I told her I wanted him to feel the pain since he was fine weighting the leg so he could decide what was too much for that leg, so he could decide his limitations. 

BOY, did I receive a lot of flack for that….not to my face of course just from friends telling friends who would tell me.

It was slow progress at first….painstakingly slow, agonizing….wondering if I’d ever be able to ride my horse again kind of slow….but the progress came. 

I decided to deal with it in a scientific manner instead of emotional since I was BROKEN emotionally…I know horses now, I’ve had many experiences on other horses, I’ve trained wild horses, I’ve met and dealt with many horses and I KNOW my horse is special…YA, I know EVERYONE says that about their horse but they are talking about timelines, I’ve dealt with dozens of horses all the while having Kiko to come home to and even though I can appreciate every horse I’ve ever worked with, my boy is so far above and beyond even the “best” horses people have introduced me to not because he’s mine and I need to deal with him but truly because he is the best most bombproof horse that hasn’t lost his personality because he’s been raised naturally (left alone till he was 5 in a mixed herd) and taught right being raised in natural horsemanship (at first Parelli and then later with me Jack Lieser Horsemanship). So the personality is still there on his sleeve and he tries his heart out for me just because we have a connection….I was broken because I was afraid facing the facts that he could never recover, he may never be able to be ridden again factually speaking. My partner could have been forever damaged….It’s a reality most of us can’t face. 

I made a decision, if he couldn’t be ridden again, I was still going to keep him. I can’t in good conscious toss away my faithful and abnormally close partner just because he had something wrong with him.

I started measuring his leg every time I was out, at first…that was daily, then it was a few times a week then it was weekly, slowly the inflammation went down.  I still never had him stalled, never had him confined, he had full mobility, the only thing I did was wrap his leg in a sea scrub salt the vet gave me. I’d spread the goop on him, cover it in saran wrap, then cotton batting I got from fleet farm that I would dip in water and then heat up in the microwave, then vet wrap him, I’d start in the middle then wrap UPWARDS, most people want to push it out the hoof but the amazing vet we have said sure, you can do that if you want to deal with abcesses, it’s better to wrap up, so the fluid moves up the knee to the body and let the body disperse the fluid naturally and non painfully to the horse. It would stay on for about 4 hours than be taken off overnight. 

The leg would swell up overnight when he wasn’t using it, but during the day, you could see the measurements getting smaller so the movement he did in the day was obviously helping his situation! 

In one month which actually felt like NINE, the amazing vet said he was ready for gentle work in straight lines at the walk since the hoof acts like a pump and would work the excess built up fluid out of his body….it did (my horse IS barefoot which is important to remark since a shoe would interfere with this type of treatment) a bare hoof allows the natural flex and compression that happens that acts like a pump to shoot the blood back up the leg. 

The more work we did, the less swelling he had. I’m talking REALLY light work, walk mostly on straight lines, light trotting when he was showing no signs of pain. We were at the full 12 feet of the line if we went in a circle because the one thing my vet warned me about was with this type of injury most people assume the injury is healed until they ask for something complicated and then bam! It’s back. 

So month 1 to 2 we did very light work that caused visually no stress to my boy. Month 2……

Well, both the vet, the osteopath and the barefoot trimmer I use and her mentor said I should start riding him again…bareback of course to eliminate any weight that I could. 

I was scared but I put the bareback pad on him one day, made sure he knew what I was doing and when he showed no signs of resistance, I got on….

He was fine! So totally fine he wanted to walk off and do something right away, he was asking me should we go this way? Should we try the rail? Should we do a shoulder in? Maybe a haunches out?…..I just thought Oh my lord I love my horse, he is f*ing amazing. 

So we rode a little, the next day we rode a little longer…then longer after that. 

I posted my progress on facebook and per my friends MORE criticism! Even though the progress! Even though he wasn’t showing any signs of pain!!!!

Today, I rode for an hour…no signs of pain, there was a 1/2 inch of swelling when we started, there was less than a 1/4th of an inch when we were done. He was happy as a clam after I got off with no physical signs of discomfort. 

This injury normally from what you can read up on takes 6+ months of recovery before you can ride. BUT, because I never stalled or confined him, because I let him regulate what he thought he could do or couldn’t do based on what he felt and because I trusted him and his natural healing capabilities, I’m able to ride him in only 2 months from injury. 

I’m having the osteopath come out because he’s kind of hingy feeling in his knee, when she fixes that, I think he will be ready for a trail ride…not that I’d suggest that for others as soon as I’m doing it. I’d suggest the treatment 100% but just because Kiko is who he is and has so little spook in him, I think we will be trail riding within the month! 

I’ve learned so much from this injury and honestly the best advice I could give anyone going through a tendon or ligament injury is exactly what I’ve stated before, help with a painkiller in the first few days but DO NOT restrict the movement or mobility…if you restrict that, you are dealing with a whole lot of stretching and conditioning issues that can set you behind, let the horse feel the pain after the acute period so they are able to regulate and determine how much is too much for them and know when they have over done it ( I know it’s hard, but trust them to know) . Trust that the horse will know the difference and that their bodies WILL heal an injury naturally. When there’s no signs of pain, direct the movement in straight lines to encourage the pump action. Make sure you aren’t doing too much but push them just enough to get the movement strong enough to start being able to work in directions in very small increments towards doing what you naturally do with your horse so you can build strength yet not tweak the injury until it’s fully recovered from. 

 

 

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Feeding time

Today, I ended up at our barn at the very tail end of feeding time and I was able to observe behaviors that suddenly became interesting to me. 

The scenario was all the “fat boys” who are the top horses at our 9 horse place…were hogging the last little piles of food not allowing the lesser horses to eat at all. 

I’ve seen them at various times through feeding, at all stages and this is what I’ve seen. The big boys get first pick…and if they decide to want another position they take it which happens in a rotation…then they munch munch munch until it’s gone allowing the lesser horses to feed while they are preoccupied and food is plentiful, YET, when it gets down to the scraps, they again bogart the entire scene pushing the lesser horses off feed all together. The big guys are big both in status and stature, they are grossly overweight, easy keepers as we call it in our world…the two biggest are like couches even through summer because the fat pads are so big on their sides. 

It got me thinking of all these interesting questions! In the wild, I’ve never seen a horse that’s super fat unless they are pregnant. Even the herd leaders, the stallions, they may be bigger and rounder in belly but they are not “un-fit” I suppose in the wild being un-fit would not allow them to be in top position. They need their leaders to be alert and have the ability to defend or lead the herd in a run away. Being fat may hinder that…yet we seem to have an abundance of easy keepers and horses that food hoard in our domestic world. I couldn’t help but wonder why that is??? 

I’ve seen the horses eating and attempt to eat everything in site pushing the lesser horses away even when they don’t really seem all that hungry. I wonder if it’s boredom? 

The reason I say this is because even when we have 12 horses together in a relatively small pasture, at least to the horses since they are used to being out on a few hundred acres…all studs, all jockeying for status…when it comes to feeding off one large bale, every SINGLE horse has a place on that bale, no one is kicked out entirely, they may be pushed away by another higher status stud but they aren’t pushed off the bale entirely to just not eat. Same thing goes for watering, the lead horses drink first but then mill around for the other horses to finish and then they take off. They seem to be acutely aware of their herd and the needs of said herd. 

It doesn’t seem to be the same with our domestic horses though so I can’t get the question out of my head as to why? Because they have never been tested? Because they are babied? Because they are just plain bored? That’s all I can come up with…horses unlike humans have little use for the kinds of emotions we have, a lot of them are just useless to them but they do seem to care for and at least in the wild take pride in their herd making sure every member is taken care of…yet in our domestic horses it doesn’t seem to be the same. 

So that’s my big question of today..I have no answers I just thought it was very interesting and I’d love to hear feedback about it just because I have no answers. It was an exciting thought for me so I thought I’d share. 

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Nokota Horses in need

So I debated on the way to get this out best……

Honestly, it’s hard for me asking people for money for any reason…even when my kids were selling candy bars for some fundraiser or other at school…I was kind of like, Whatever….who cares.

Until now….I actually care. The Nokota Horse Conservancy is in dire need of funding to keep the herd through the winter. I would not post something such as this if I didn’t know this for a certainty. We need help.

I am not willing personally, to lose this breed of historical horse. Even if this pisses others off! To preface my comment to follow, I HAVE a domestic horse, I LOVE my domestic horse and I wouldn’t trade him in for anything because of the connection I have with him. BUT…what I have learned with “regular” domestic horses, they are not the same as the Nokota’s.

The Nokota horse is on average, is the most willing, the smartest, the quickest learner and the calmest breed I have ever met. Once they truly bond with their human, they are pretty much bomb proof. Strong bodied, strong boned and intelligent, what horse person in their right mind wouldn’t want a Nokota. Please understand too, I’m not saying our domestic breeds can’t be like this…my horse is. He’s the closest domestic to a Nokota wild horse that I’ve ever met, but in saying that, looking at all my friends horses that they LOVE dearly and all the horses placed on like craigslist or any of the facebook resources, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be looking there if I was in the position of replacing my horse. I’d be looking for something more like him, I’d be looking at a Nokota.

This breed is in danger due to lack of funding, but the Nokota Horse Conservancy has come up with a way for everyone to help. They have the Nokota Circle of Life…it’s a membership for $25 to sponsor the Nokota’s for 1 year with a complimentary edition of the Nokota newsletter.  Please, anyone who cares for preserving history, preserving a breed that’s worth being sustained and supported consider pledging a $25 dollar donation to support the NHC in keeping their herd and allowing these magnificent horses a chance to survive and be as free as they were meant to be in nature yet meet their life partners in the best relationships of their lives. For them and us, please consider a small $25 donation to the NHC to help the horses, and us… and people yet to become aware of this amazing breed.

Visit http://www.nokotahorse.org/cms/nokota-circle-of-life.html to contribute to the future of this breed.

Thank you.

Jen McLaughlin-Perez

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Horse people and the craziness

I’m not sure what everyone out there sees with other horse people, but I honestly have to say, some of the people I meet in my horsemanship journey are just kind of…well…are a little “off”.

I don’t really mean by saying this that I think they are not good people, that’s not the case at all, some of them are great people with really good intentions…but it’s more like dealing with people and their religious beliefs than anything I’ve ever experienced in any other aspect of my life.

I’ve noticed that if you question religion, people tend to get very defensive, so they can tend to get louder and more pointed in the way they speak to you on that issue, more heated and possibly hostile which I believe all has to do with fear. Usually it has to do more with them wanting to believe what they believe and are very resistant and defensive to anything that may threaten that. I’ve learned from personal experience that even though I never want it to threaten their values it often does.

What I’ve noticed with horse people, is much of the same. Not all horse people but a good enough number to make mention of it.

I recently posted on my facebook, sharing an article that called into question the safety of the Wishek, ND auction sales site which they are herding the wild horses from Theodore Roosevelt National Park into very soon. The question of safety comes from having steel guard rails in place to guide the horses into the pens, even as they say one of the primary goals is safety. I posted this because I myself have seen injuries from the edges and sides of these guard rails which are sharp and dangerous so I thought it important to repost. I received comments even from some of my own friends saying how the Wishek sales goal is supposed to be positive and focused on being more safe.

I did a google map search and granted they can be a few months old but I still see those steel guard rails EVERYWHERE on the site.

None of the comments I received addressed the issue, they instead were heated arguments on how safety was a priority and that we should make this a celebrated event instead of a warning. Nothing in the posts addressed the initial concern of safety though.

I know the person that brought this concern into the public, I know him well and I know he has fiery passion for the Wild horses in this area and after seeing the damage just one ill placed guard rail can do to a halfway domesticated horse, where the concern would come from.

What I can’t understand is people trying to demonize this person saying he’s trying to make the SALE negative by just worrying about the horses safety. What IS that? Why would a question ever be considered negative if it had to do with safety? Especially when it has to do with animals?

In my opinion, what it comes down to, is that it cuts too close to home and people that think they could be wrong, get defensive and feel they need to react strongly to change everyone and anyone’s mind against that train of thought otherwise they may loose face. To me, that’s like what they call a right brained horse, it’s reactive, and usually without thought. If we expect that we can work our horses out of this state of mind to become great partners than how is it we don’t expect the same from ourselves? I’m really not trying to offend any of my friends that react like this either, we all react differently and that’s what makes us human, it’s not wrong,  I just hope they can recognize when they do this and remember it’s totally okay to believe what they believe but it doesn’t make anyone else necessarily wrong just because they call something into question when the question is very valid.

My hope is there are more and more people in the horse world that think logical is okay now and in the future, because fear is no reason to not question if what we are doing now is wrong or if it could be done better. No question is a bad question even if it upsets everything we believe in because the only thing holding us back is fear. If we expect our horses to learn their way out of this why can’t we?

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