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The Women & Horses Newsletter - April 2010

Balancing the World of the Confined Horse: Part One "Shifting the Emotions by Accessing the Nervous System"
by Mary D. Midkiff

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Mary & Redge
Mary & Redge

Greetings! mary and redgeThank you for joining me in my communications with horse people from all over the world! We all love horses, we have that beautiful passion together and we also have in common that we are human beings. My Women & Horses newsletter covers topics related to horses, all things equine and the people that surround them. There's so much that horses can teach us, so much horses have to say, so much horses provide in our lives; a journey with horses is truly unlimited.

From newsletter to newsletter I provide insights, observations, questions and solutions to numerous inquiries around horses and the world they live in. I also provide useful resources, web links, experts, books and articles that I feel might be helpful to all horse interests.

The Women & Horses newsletter stands for all horse and pony breeds as well as donkeys and mules, all disciplines and uses of the horse and wild horses. Past newsletters have been archived on the website for you to check out anytime and I'm always open to receiving your inquiries via email.

Check out my website calendar often to find out if I will be speaking or conducting clinics in your area. I look forward to meeting you and your horse(s) and find out what you are up to. Sincerely,

Mary D. Midkiff

Balancing the World of the Confined Horse: Part One "Shifting the Emotions by Accessing the Nervous System"

"Balancing the World of the Confined Horse" is a timely and vast subject and it is one I face every day as a professional and as a horse owner myself. Convenience, space and budget are the concerns of today's horse person and I believe these issues will continue to grow and put constraints on how we "keep" horses in the future. In other words these issues are not going away so it is our charge that we learn how to balance these horses.

As I mentioned in my last newsletter it helps horses a great deal if you can start them out with a balanced, holistic approach. But most horses destined to be top performers are thrown together quickly for the racetrack or the show circuit; for example, million dollar two-year-old races and world champion futurities for two-year-old cutting and reining horses. Taking it easy and training for the individual horse is unlikely to be a part of their young development. Some horses cannot handle the physical, mental or emotional pressure this early in their lives. As a result they deteriorate quickly and by the time they are 4 or 5 behave like an old sour horse.

By adding performance pressure to 24/7 stall confinement you have the formula for vices, mental and physical breakdown, ulcers and digestive inefficiencies, even environmental dysfunction.

As Dr. Nancy Loving states in her recent "the Horse" magazine article (Consequences of Stall Confinement, April 2010), "While viruses and bacteria post risks to airway health, environmental exposure to particulates dispersed from feed, bedding, footing materials, and other sources (i.e. gasoline or diesel exhaust) can lead to inflammatory airway disease (IAD). Horses living in a dusty environment have increased mucus in the airways: even a moderate amount of mucus impairs performance. A critical player in generating respiratory inflammation is endotoxin, a component of the bacterial cell walls of Gram-negative bacteria that is liberated as these bacteria die. Endotoxin is found in large quantities in fecal matter, hay and straw."

She recommends dampening hay before you feed it, keeping the stalls clean and making sure your barn and stalls are well ventilated. Please read the entire article to get more beneficial information and solutions.

When I am called to work with a horse it is usually because they are injured, mis-behaving, demonstrate dysfunction in their movement, acting out or completely depressed, or the owner/trainer has tried everything and nothing has worked. I always begin by discussing the horse's issues, habits, feed and exercise program, saddle fit and mental health. I get a general picture of the horse's environment, the people around him or her, and begin to see how I can benefit the horse inside these parameters. My intention is not to make anyone wrong as that would only create negative energy. My intention is to balance a horse even in the face of the circumstances.

I treat each horse as an individual asking myself, who are they? who do they want to be? what are they saying? Then I start an evaluation. Look over the horse and consider what kind of picture is being presented? Where is the muscling? Is it evenly balanced? What is the horse's demeanor and overall posture? I smell their breath detecting anything toxic or septic.

And I look from the horse's point of view, how are people being when they step in the stall? In order to be healing, therapeutic, safe and comfortable in the horse's eyes you must have self-confidence, physical and spiritual core strength, clarity in your mind and empty of any chatter in your head, love in your heart, the ability to let go and give, gratefulness and an expression of thanks if you receive a gift from the horse, a softness in your body and posture while also being aligned and straight through your spine.

If you meet the criteria, the horse will allow you into their world; he knows the human in his space is no threat and he can fully relax to the best of his ability. It may have been a long time since this horse really relaxed and it may take time for them to realize what is possible, even in confinement.

Begin by wiping out the nostrils, around the mouth and eyes with a damp cloth. Some horses are very sensitive about their nostrils and may fight you, but you have to go in anyway. This is where many horses hold their negative emotions. Just like humans, horses use their jaws (TMJ) as a storehouse for stress and trauma. This tension is felt throughout the face, nose and mouth, around the ears and can travel throughout the body over time. Tension turns to pain resulting in grinding teeth, headaches, muscle soreness, bracing patterns and limited range of motion.

Place a quarter-sized amount of The InBalance Horse essential oil blend in the palm of your hand and rub your hands together. Hold the head steady with one hand and rub inside the nostrils with your free hand making sure the oils get up into the nostril. (If you have to keep your long nails, please wear latex gloves) Go around the lips, around the corners of the mouth with the heel of your hand and massage the muzzle. Do this technique on both sides. Always let the horse process what you have done for about 30 seconds to one minute before you move on to the next release technique. Signs of release and relaxation are licking and chewing, yawning, blinking, flicking the ears, shaking the head, neck and body, stretching, urinating and defecating, and passing gas. He or she may need to walk around for a moment and maybe even take a few bites of hay, that's okay too. Next is work inside the mouth. Make sure you do everything on both sides of the horse. You may use latex gloves or not for this work. With closed straight fingers, place your hand under the upper lip and on top of the upper gum and rub back and forth, back and forth for about 20 seconds and let the horse process again. If the horse's gums are dry this can be an indication of dehydration. To help this process, you may need to wet your hand to make the rubbing go smoothly. Dehydration can result from stress, pressure, mineral and salt deficiency, insufficient sweating and heat dissipation and imbalanced nutrition.

If you feel comfortable you may add stroking the upper soft palate with your thumb (no long fingernails please) and playing the piano on his tongue with two or three fingers. Enter your hand through the area of the mouth where there are no teeth. This area is called the bars of the mouth. These massage techniques get him to release the jaw muscles, open the TMJ and release tension in the jaw joint. (Use acupressure and massage around the TMJ joint above the eye.)

This is just the beginning. If this is all you have time for, fine, at least it will start the process of relaxation and endorphin release to give the horse a sense of calm, peace and security.

Always talk to the horse you are working with. They soooooo need a friend, TLC and touching. For many of these horses the only time they are handled is when they are under performance pressure, being examined and treated by a veterinarian, trimmed and shod by a farrier or given a bath. Massage and tickle the wither area and if they want to have a mutual grooming time with you, allow it. Explain who you are, why you are there, what's coming up for them that is exciting and inspiring. Many horses love to show off and need to know they are admired and appreciated.

Your words, your intention and your touch communicate. You may be undoing and undoing layers of hiding out for protection. The horse will look forward to your visits and his or her entire attitude toward the daily routine will alter. What a beautiful thing it is to behold!

More next month in Part Two!


My relationship with my horse Redge was truly tested a few weeks ago when we were attacked by a fiercly protective father Canadian goose.

Redge and I were out on a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon trotting and walking up and down the rolling bluegrass hills of the farm where I board. We followed a fence line up a hill and as we crested I saw a female Canadian goose sitting on a nest about 30-40 yards away.

I stayed near the fenceline thinking I could go around her when out of nowhere her mate came toward us snaking his neck along the ground with widespread wings flapping. I heeded his warnings and kept going forward hoping to sweep out and past their "comfort zone" of protection.

I guess it wasn't room enough for this determined father-to-be! The male goose flew up in the air at us and and began to flap and peck my horse's head and neck. Redge spun left and right and left and right shaking his head and neck trying to avoid the big bird's bites. I was talking to the goose telling him "we're trying to leave, we won't hurt her, I promise we're leaving!" He left us alone for a few seconds then flew up and started at us again. I have no concept of how long this went on but it seemed like several minutes.

How I stayed on I have no idea. I was trying to stear, swat the goose away and grab mane all at the same time. There were many times I thought I'd surely come off. Somehow Redge kept it together and so did I and we eventually got far enough away that he left us alone.

I rewarded Redge greatly and thanked him over and over for being brave, not bolting and running away and taking care of me.

This is what creating partnerships with your horse is all about. You never know when your commitment to the relationship - all the extra care, nutritional considerations, detoxing, balancing of mind, body and soul - will show up! Horses do acknowledge the commitment and I am always deeply touched, moved and inspired by how deeply trusting they can be.

I believe horses are worth our commitment. They give back in sooo many wonderful ways!

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Mary Midkiff, 1119 Merrick Drive #362a, Lexington KY 40502
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