I know I have
discussed some of this subject before but it has been a year or
so and I feel it needs to be emphasized on a regular basis, so
here is this year's installment.
I meet well
trained, well "broke" horses quite often in my travels and am
always surprised that these "made" horses are high strung, nervous,
touchy, spooky, over reactive, highly sensitive and potentially
explosive. To me a well trained horse is a horse that is safe,
happy, comfortable, and quiet, relaxed in his work and play and
can think through difficult moments and come out of them with
confidence and trust. Sure every horse has their scary and spooky
moments, but how they handle fear and recover can be quite different.
any animal that has been raised with trust, support, patience,
respect, understanding and compassion from a very young age, a
fully made horse is a horse that is well-adjusted, trusting and
fully realized. It doesn't matter what the breed or size, the
discipline or use of the horse is, if he has the foundation of
a balanced nervous and immune system he will find his or her full
potential in life.
So how do
you establish a balanced nervous and immune system in a horse?
If you are lucky enough to start with a wild or domesticated foal
or even a yearling you have all the advantages. You are the one
that will establish the respect, the boundaries, the trust, the
language of communication, and the connection between you. If
you are well-adjusted and balanced within yourself, and know when
to be firm and strong and when to be soft and allowing in your
mind and in your body, this will pass along to your youngster
and give him or her a very good foundation for a good long life.
I am working
with two yearlings now and they are both coming along so well.
They are both Arabian/Quarter Horse crosses from Canada who are
healthy and happy in their environment. Since I started working
with them and their owners 4 months ago, they have progressed
quickly to being willing partners who enjoy their "work" time.
We only work for 20-30 minutes once per week and focus on the
nervous system (NS) and getting their focus on the partner.
With a horse
that is young but has been handled by others you may have to start
over unless you know they have had the proper introduction to
people, to ground work, to manners, and to work under saddle or
in front of a cart. Unless you were witness to the horse being
trained before he or she came to you then you cannot know what
internal thinking layers have been put into or left out in the
I think it
wise to spend a lot of quality time with a young horse and especially
a new young horse. Do lots of positive ground work a few times
a week and other times just hang out together in the pasture or
take walks together around the property or over nearby trails.
You will be starting the bond and shifting the nervous system
toward relaxation if you begin this way.
With an older
more experienced horse that comes to you or you decide to take
on, the shift of the nervous system will take longer and you will
need to be very patient. He or she may revert back to their old
habits and old ways occasionally and you must understand this,
be patient and give them a nice break with an endorphin release
from acupressure or massage. This is difficult because the horse
may be rideable and may know a lot but still has no foundation
of comfort and confidence within themselves. They need to learn
a different way of using their mind and body to function in performance.
You will find a lot missing in a horse like this and it will be
hard to identify what is wrong. So he walks, trots, canters, and
lopes, whatever and does a few tricks well but he's just not present.
He has been trained with a "rote" approach or repetitive learning
from force rather than a thinking, understanding and processing
approach. In other words his nervous system is shut down and not
operating or functioning overtime, therefore, you have little
or no brain to work with which can be dangerous and frustrating.
So what are
the steps and how do you make changes to connect the brain to
the body and to you?
create a Nervous System rating system, 1-10.
- 1 - being
malnourished, barely functioning, shallow breathing, lifeless,
completely shut down
- 10 - being
so strung out and hyper as if a pack of wolves were about to
your horse to always function around 5-6. This would be the place
that he or she is balanced, sane, happy, comfortable and thinking.
They are present with you and always look inside of themselves
rather than outward at the next scariest thing. They are normally
reactive but always come back into themselves automatically and
quickly when they are initially scared. They learn to process
information and education and store it inside of themselves as
useful and meaningful and will put it together with other pieces
to figure out the next challenge.
many of the steps to achieving this with a horse. Developing a
balanced NS comes quickly if you have a blank slate like a foal
or yearling, and some horses are simply smarter than others and
may "catch on" to the whole process sooner than others, but remember
there are late bloomers in horses too. Give all of this information
plenty of time; you are shifting an entire chemical system of
the horse. It has taken my new horse one year and three months
to see a significant long lasting shift. What a joy he is today!
It is absolutely worth the time.
1) The horse
must be physically comfortable before you can make changes. You
can start to make the NS changes while you are having his body
work done but he will not be able to fully receive the chemical
shift until he is totally clear through his spine and into his
Body Work and Immune System Support: Professional dentistry, feet
are balanced, body skeleton in alignment, ligaments, tendons and
soft tissue are healthy, airways and breathing are normal, temperature
is normal, healthy weight, bright eyes and coat, skin is soft
and supple and well hydrated, coat and mane will lie flat and
not stand up on end like with static electricity flip flopping
in all directions, tail is fully functional and the horse is not
carrying it off to one side (except for Arabians which may have
this trait innately), joints are healthy and fully supported with
nutrition. Make sure your horse is not overly toxic with too much
worming, supplementing, feeding and vaccinating. There is a healthy
balance that needs to be established. A horse that is toxic is
a horse with a chronic hangover and you can imagine trying to
work and think in this foggy state.
with mouth massage. Many horses hold their stress and tension
in their jaw and mouth, biters and mouthy horses will especially
benefit from this work. First of all, I like to wipe out their
nostrils and clean up their muzzle with a wet cloth to get a good
clean airway. I place a couple of drops of W&H "The
InBalance Horse" oil on my hand and rub it on their muzzle
and around their nostrils. I have now created a very relaxing
environment to start. If you are standing on his left side, place
a flat left hand underneath his top lip and on top of his upper
gums and slowly rub back and forth staying under the lip but on
top of the gums. Do this for about 10-15 seconds and bring your
hand out and watch his reactions.
*To see an
endorphin influence watch the blinking and rolling of the eyes,
sleepy eyes, the shaking of the head, the shaking of the body,
yawning, licking, chewing, lowering the head and generally relaxing.
If the horse fights you, try and stay in the mouth and keep massaging
the upper gum. Then let him think about it for a minute and go
to the other side of the horse, use your right hand and repeat.
You can also
massage the corners of the horse's mouth by placing your fingertips
in his nostril and using the heel of your hand to circle and massage
his corners. Watch for the same endorphin release as above, you
know you are giving the horse good chemical feelings and affecting
his nervous system.
3) Try acupressure.
Place two fingers in the cavity hole or socket above the horse's
eye and gently press and hold for a minute or so until the horse
shows signs of release as mentioned above. If you have wide hands
you can place a thumb in one eye socket and your pinky in the
other and hold.
spot is about 4 inches behind the ears on either side of the neck.
Place a hand behind the ear and run your fingers down the neck
about two inches below the mane line and feel for a dime sized
hole. Once you find it place two fingers in the hole and gently
press and hold. Watch for the signs of the chemical release. Do
this on both sides as horses will react differently on either
side of the body.
the ears. Get your horse used to you stroking their ears from
the base out to the tip over and over. They get a lot of good
chemical release from this feeling and it will help you with bridling
and with trimming when you need it. Mares especially get a benefit
from this massage as they have hormonal points near the tips of
5) Rub the
coronary band just above your horse's hoof. Place one hand all
the way around the band that connects the leg to the hoof and
rub back and forth like you are washing a jar. These are beneficial
acupressure points there for relaxation and connection into the
to give your horse a massage or have him or her professionally
massaged as often as you can afford it. I have my horse done once
per month professionally and I do it for him every now and then
myself. This will benefit all of the systems and bring your horse
into ultimate health. You will get to know your horse's body really
well through this process. You will also get to know the spots
that he really loves to have rubbed or itched which is fun.
7) Look into
alternative methods of release and relaxation for your horse.
Horses are athletes and they need support. Use acupuncture, chiropractic,
rolfing, energy work and magnet therapy when you can.
8) In training,
do as much ground work as you do under saddle. Use the "S"ing
exercises on the ground that I define in my "Fitness,
Performance and the Female Equestrian" book or that I describe
on my website. Integrate what you learn from "Natural Horsemanship"
techniques with your own methods and with methods that you feel
will work for you. Don't stick with one way and only one way with
horses, constantly be adjusting and adding to what that individual
horse needs at the time. I am a real believer in changing it up
for horses as often as I can and finding what works.
9) In riding,
train the nervous system instead of riding the wheels. In other
words, always train and ride to educate and encourage rather than
just exercising your horse's legs. I see riders that go out and
trot and canter their horses thoughtlessly for an hour and the
horse doesn't learn a thing or think once during the entire session.
So the rider has just been going round and round getting the horse
fitter and fitter and putting more pressure on the joints with
no benefit. They haven't accomplished anything.
is a goal, the horse needs to go out on trail rides and climb
a few hills and do some road work if possible. Your fitness training
should be on straight-aways as much as possible or in a very large
arena or track.
unless you are training to race or for upper level performance
or endurance competitions, don't need a tremendous amount of conditioning.
If you are working them 4 days per week with positive exercises,
strength work and a bit of aerobic work,(and of course you are
equally as fit as your horse) you and your horse can complete
most types of competition successfully. If you are not fit and
not doing your part you are putting unnecessary pressure and drag
on your horse's body.
with NS health as the basis and bringing them up to working in
self-carriage (the goal of every horse and rider) gives them everything
they need to do jumping, dressage, reining, roping, barrel racing,
hunter under saddle, pleasure riding, trail and endurance competition,
whatever. You can always add your style of dress and saddle and
the areas of specialty once you have the healthy foundation.
I had one
trainer a long time ago tell me "It's always easier to start a
fire than to put one out." By taking the approach to balance the
nervous system first, then create the physical athlete through
training for self-carriage you will always have the grounded horse
you want and can always build on up to the highest levels.
If you are
considering or currently work with horses that have a naturally
hot or sensitive nervous system such as Arabians, Thoroughbreds,
National Show Horses, Saddlebreds, Akhal-Tekes, some warmbloods
and cross breds, this approach is absolutely necessary. These
horses are easily ruined and unrecoverable once their nervous
systems have been blown. They will never be safe, comfortable
or happy in their body or their work if their nervous systems
have been severely damaged. It is very sad but true. Pay particular
attention to these breeds when you are working with their delicate
naturally quiet breeds will be less sensitive but can be abused
because of their gentle and giving natures. Make sure you give
them all the credit and time they deserve to adjust to a healthy
balance. Some horses that have been on dude ranch or commercial
strings will go into a deep dark depression and seem very quiet
when they are severely damaged and may explode when unexpected.
Make sure if you take on one these horses that you give them lots
of good nutrition (not overfeeding protein), all the body work
I mentioned at the beginning of this newsletter and plenty of
time to come into health before you expect them to think clearly.
can be recovered if given time and the proper support. I hope
you will honor your horse by working with him or her in this manner
from now on. It makes a huge difference in how they view their
work with us.
I also want
to comment briefly on nosebands. Nosebands and throat latches
were created to hold the bridle on the head if the bit breaks
or comes loose. Nosebands were also created to give the rider
more leverage off of the bit and more control of speed and turning
and supposedly to help keep the mouth shut. What has happened
over the years is that people will rely on tightening the nosebands
rather than training the horse to be more responsive and to think.
Especially with the hotter horses I see people with very tight
"crank" nosebands to where you cannot even get a pinky finger
underneath it; figure 8 nosebands improperly fitted on the face
and way too tight (remember there is a piece of steel where it
crosses the nose); flash nosebands pulled so tight that the nostrils
are squeezed outward and struggling to suck air in and out and
also improperly placed too low on the nose.
in all of these situations is that the frontal lobe of the horse's
brain slows down or stops working because of lack of oxygen, impingement
on and of the nasal cavity, TMJ and headache muscle pain, poll
pain and numbness in the face. So 1/2 the horse's brain is not
functioning and you wonder why he's out of control?
I have found,
even with difficult horses that run off or are hard to steer,
that if I train him to think and work with me and use equipment
that he likes, I don't have to resort to tighter anything. With
my mare Theo who was a big strong high strung Thoroughbred off
the track, I evented her in a simple snaffle and regular cavesson.
And with my new horse, Redge, less is more with him and he's a
strong, young, big-moving warmblood. I ride him in a pinchless
D ring snaffle and regular cavesson that is just snug around his
face but that I can easily get a couple of fingers under. He is
thinking clearly and fully using his brain now which is giving
me much more control and steering than ever before. When I first
got him he also opened his mouth a great deal and cocked his head
from poll pain. All of that is gone and without the use of tighter
or "more" equipment.
be cases in upper level competition where you do need some help
with brakes and steering. Using the nosebands mentioned above
can be helpful but only if they are properly fitted, snug but
not tight, the rider is in top condition to not have to rely on
the equipment and the rider has sensitive hands and knows how
to use the equipment properly.
It all boils
down to full healthy brain and nervous system function and its
up to you to develop this within your horse.
The use of
aromatherapy can also be very helpful in activating the brain
and NS system in a positive way. I use it everyday with my horses
and it brings them into awareness and focus and calm that I want
when we meet and work together. I simply put a few drops in the
palm of my hand, rub my hands together and hold them up to the
horse’s nose. If he is accepting (I’ve never had one turn me down
yet.) then I go ahead and massage my hands around his nostrils
and muzzle and do a bit of mouth massage. The W&H
essential oils are formulated to work for the human and the
horse and can help both of you perform your work together with
mental and emotional clarity. Because the oil blends are so highly
concentrated they will last from 3-6 months with regular use which
is different than most of the oil aromatherapy products on the
market. This is another excellent tool for training your horse
in a positive manner without resorting to tight nosebands, draw
reins, martingales, tie downs and pulley systems.
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is a questionnaire to help me identify your needs more clearly.
Please fill it out and send it to me. I look forward to your comments.
Please Copy and Paste the questionnaire into an email and send
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Questionnaire and New Product Survey
Women & Horses™
Essential Oils Products:
Seasonal Oils: Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall (1 oz.bottles)
InBalance Horse (2 oz. bottle)
Ride! (1 oz. bottle)
and Release Body and Bath Oil (4 oz. bottle)
In the past
couple of months W&H has sent out information on new essential
oil products for women and horses in the form of a newsletter
and press releases.
1) Have you
read about the essential oil products? _____Yes ____No
2) Are the
essential oil products of interest to you? ____Yes ____No
a. If not,
_____Do not know how to use
_____Other (Please explain)
3) Are you
aware of the benefits and uses of the oils for you and your horse?
4) Are you
comfortable using the oils on you and your horse?
____No and if
not, what makes you uncomfortable about them, please explain:
5) Are you
currently using other aromatherapy products for you and your horse?
you be interested in receiving additional information, photos
and scented card samples of the W&H Essential Oils through the
If you would
like to receive more information and samples in the mail please
supply us with your home or business address.
comments would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for taking time
to help us serve you and your horse.
More information about Essential
Oils and Aromatherapy for Horses
for my new project release with Pilates expert, Maggie Parker.
Formerly referred to as a "workbook" I have named the new book
project "The Dynamic Rider System®". The first installment is
"Finding Your Foundation in the Saddle." Every installment will
be a detailed exercise fold out piece and attached information
which you may store in a three-ring binder or take out and use
at home or in the barn and simply wipe clean. We are going to
press next week and I hope to have it available by November 1.
It is specifically created for the benefit of the female rider
and integrates the Pilates Method with riding horses.
My next public
appearance and seminar are November 9 and 10 in Salt Lake City,
Utah with the Steve Regan Expo.
Mary D. Midkiff