Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Feet Matter

Howdy Folks,
My mare Kessy's, beautiful feet. I do maintenance trim every 3-4 weeks. Takes about 20 minutes.
The feet matter. You bet they do and I have come to believe that they matter a whole lot more than a lot of folks realize they do. Yes just about everyone who has a horse can recite that old axiom, “No foot no horse.” But why then are so many horses allowed to endure all the structural damage of poorly managed feet?

In recent months I’ve traveled more than normal working with folks and their horses on posture. For me, just about everything good, great, not so good, bad and horrible can be traced to posture, the horses, and the human’s—but mostly I focus on the horse. Since I’ve been traveling more than normal, I’ve seen more horses than I have been for a while. And I’ve seen a lot of feet causing poor posture. And I’ve begun to speak up, sorry.

For a long time now I’ve devoted a fair amount of my time to helping folks understand and learn the exercises Peggy Cummings put together to promote proper posture, body carriage and self awareness. As folks who know me know, I’m all about the horse’s posture and I’ve often written about it. And for a long time I’ve “mentioned” the feet, but went about meeting with folks, doing a few clinics and trying to help. Inside me though, I was well aware that even though by the end of the day or clinic we’d have the horse in great, healthy posture and body carriage, I knew it could not hold. Not on a poor foundation.

The purpose of the clinics is to teach the basic exercises so that the horse owner can continue to do them, but if the feet, the very foundation, is out of whack—no amount of exercises, bodywork, training or gadgets will keep the horse in healthy posture, free moving and happy.

So I’ve begun to speak up more about feet ... And please believe me it is not always easy. It’s not always easy for me to say, it’s not always easy for folks to hear. It’s certainly not always easy for folks to accept and change, I get that. However, I now always address feet right away, at the very beginning when I first analyze the horse. Instead of simply studying and discussing posture and what the horse needs and what we’ll work on, I talk about the feet. In fact I may not, in some cases, even begin until I trim feet. I’ve found that to be the biggest eye opener when folks can watch the pasterns, legs, chest and topline change right before their eyes.

Folks who know me know I’m an unwavering believer in that all horses can and should be barefoot. If I’ve lost you here, that’s okay. For those of you still interested we’ll go on a bit more.

Sadly I see way too many barefoot horses with poor posture brought on by poorly managed feet. All I’m hoping to point out today is, the feet do matter. In fact, they matter most of all. When posture begins to fail, everything goes downhill with it, health, attitude and money. And posture will always fail if the foundation is lacking.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry 

 P.S.For a bit more about my thoughts about foot care please read "For a Beautiful Barefoot Trim-Keep it Simple" HERE

You might also be interested in my book, "It's for the Horses." Find it at www.itsforthehorses.com  

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Suddenly—Don’t Use in Writing or Horsemanship"

Howdy Folks, "Suddenly—Don’t Use in Writing or Horsemanship" ... 

I often think about, and write about, how living and working, or playing and learning with our horses, and writing have so many similarities.

The other day I was reading a writer’s blog about the overuse of the word “suddenly” in a manuscript. Every word she said was exactly correct, and I’d hoped she would say more. I’ve always found the word “suddenly” to be a speed bump in a story or novel. Instead of propelling me forward with the action as the writer intends, it stops me dead in my reading tracks. Pushes me away. In fact most “ly” words have that effect on me. If the author replaces the “ly” word with the action she’s trying to portray, we readers can be drawn in and feel the action. Instead of “hearing” about it. But “suddenly” for me is the worst of the “ly” words.

Here’s a brief example. “Suddenly she burst into tears.” Not much there, even if we knew why she had to cry. How about something like, “She needed to see him again. Where was he? Why can’t she find him? Sucking short breaths, she tried to be strong, but her burning eyes flooded, tears streamed down her face.”

I’ve always found while I’m editing, if I re-write scenes or sentences replacing “ly” words, the scene embraces me more. Adds depth, meaning and emotions. Yes it will add words, but I suggest they are words that build emotions and connection with the reader. And for writers, aren’t they the two most important things?

In our relationship with our horses, “emotions and connection” are most important as well. If we do anything “suddenly,” it’s more than a speed bump to our horse. It’s a “failure to communicate.” And as “authors” of the moment, it’s our job to “re-write the scene.”
If we replace that “ly” word, or action, with a more descriptive series of words and actions, our horse will follow us, feel the emotion, and sense the connection. And our relationship will deepen.

It makes no sense to the horse when we bark commands, jerk on the lead rope or wave our hands and arms. Sure, we get a reaction, and that’s just what it is, a reaction. It’s not a connection. It’s best, even if the horse is making a mistake, to follow through that mistake, see where it takes you, then build on it. Write the scene with easy to embrace description.
Engage your imagination, your intuitiveness, let your horse help write the scene in a way that embraces both of you. It’ll add words, but those words make all the difference.  ~ EXCERPT from "It's for the Horses: An advocate's musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care." Find it here, www.itsforthehorses.com

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry

Monday, February 22, 2016

"What I See"

Howdy Friends!
My mare Kessy looking to me, and all of us ...
When I look at a horse I see the horse it can be, wants to be. Somehow I look right beyond the stiffness, lacking posture or inverted body carriage ... Much like a sculptor who looks at a chunk of granite and chips away all the tiny pieces hiding the beauty of the masterpiece that lays hidden beneath. The artist sees the beauty from the inside out, and reveals it to the world. That is how I see every horse I meet, and I know by chipping away at the stiffness, unbalanced body carriage and uncertainty ... we can reveal and empower the beauty, grace and splendor that lay inside yearning to be free. It’s not about training–it is about freedom and comfort of confident movement. ~ www.itsforthehorses.com
Gitty Up, Dutch. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Horse's Growth ... Starting too Young"

Howdy Friends!

After a recent lengthy discussion about “issues” with a horse I was again re-enforced in my belief in the work/teachings and wisdom of Peggy Cummings, I learned from my mentor Diane Sept. Her groundwork, exercises and posture correctness is indeed the single best route to a healthy, happy equine partner—it is the reason I’m so devoted and encouraged to help folks learn and understand how to master them. This chart indicates the growth patterns and maturity of the skeletal system of horses. It has long been my experience and belief that most, if not all, “issues” with horses are pain, discomfort or confusion driven. Many of these “hidden” issues were caused years earlier by horses started under saddle too young, and show up later. Helping the horse find correct posture, freedom of movement is, in my belief, the very best thing we can do for our horses.

Gitty Up, Dutch.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"A Horse’s Healthy Immune System"

Howdy Friends,

All things for a horse are better with an immune system firing on all cylinders. Protecting our horse’s healthy immune system is one of the most important things we can, and indeed should, do in my opinion. The thoughts I’m about to share are mine, you may take them into account or disregard.
Kessy taking in the sun on a chilly winter morning
Recently while working with a client and her horse we began discussing immune health and skin issues. I believe rain rot, inside ear rash, scratches and even thrush are signs of a weakened immune system. I also believe they must be most effectively cured from the “inside out.” I subscribe to the theory that topical treatments treat the symptom, not the root cause. Less than glowing, shining coat and any skin condition always, for me, points to the immune system. I think of it as the earliest warning sign, and if not heeded many things can go wrong leading to more significant disorders.

What can we do to be sure our horses have the most powerful immune system possible? There are many products available; supplements, vitamins, herbs, immune boosters. For a long time I researched many, and indeed used many different approaches. Thanks to the blessing of being allowed to write for “Natural Horse Magazine,” I’ve had the honor and privilege of interviewing some of this country’s most knowledgeable and respected holistic doctors and veterinarians, animal health care providers, herbalists, acupuncture practitioners, trainers and more, and have learned so much I often joke I should pay Lisa Ross Williams, owner publisher, for the college education she’s provided me!

Among those I’ve met is Dr. Joseph Thomas, the world’s foremost Chinese Herbalist, and founder of “For Love of the Horse,” and like others I’ve written about we’ve become friends. Having been convinced that the best long term defense/maintenance for the battle against Lyme disease is in fact the horse’s own immune system, I have for several years been working to build my mare Kessy’s, as she has chronic Lyme and has ever since I’ve owned her.

I knew that Dr. Thomas had a proprietary blend of pharmaceutical grade herbs, Total Immune Health,” and I asked him about using it to help my mare. He assured me it would and explained his blend, after years of research, is designed to, and proven to, boost the immune system at its very core, in the bone marrow—which he has many times proven with before and after blood work showing the increased white blood cells. I put Kessy on it and indeed within the first week saw results, even though she had started at a good place.

I mentioned my client the other day that I do a Dr. Thomas treatment each spring getting ready for summer insects, ticks etc. She asked why only once a year and why not stay on it year-round.

I explained while I totally believe Dr. Thomas’ products are the very best available to us today, and indeed are scientifically backed up; they can only be part of the whole.

Management, I explained, plays a huge, perhaps the biggest role in protecting a horse’s immune system. Many, many things we do can help or detract from it. I truly believe that once a year is all my mare needs in that I am fanatical about not doing anything to lower, or stress her immune system throughout the year. Things to avoid (all things I'm about to list we now know, can indeed damage or confuse, or in some cases shut down immune operations) ... I don't re-vaccinate (immunologists have known sine the '70's once a lifetime is enough for everything except tetanus,) ... I don't use chemical wormer only herbal, I use no chemical fly sprays only natural (most fly sprays don't work very well anyway) ... I don't blanket (I know this one is confusing, but it matters) ... I don't stall ever ... I feed no grain, and I'm a barefoot practitioner. Now I understand some of these are difficult to agree with, believe, believe in, buy into, or even want to accept and I understand that... I understand peer pressure, habits, lifestyles etc, but there ya have it ... I was not always a believer either, but I've seen with my own experiences the truth behind the practices I try hard to promote, "It's for the Horses." ... We must always remember as well, horses have a strangely fragile immune system when it comes to man-made interference especially.

Gitty Up, Dutch Henry.

Friday, January 22, 2016

"Snowy Day Read"

Howdy Friends,

Snowed in? Gonna get snowed in? Forgive me for making an unapologetic push for my book. But what could be better than a good read, a quest that whisks you away, thrusts you into an adventure, or sweet love, or read about understanding horses, while nestled inside watching the windblown snow. All my books are available on Amazon Kindle here, www.itsforthehorses.com ... You can start reading right now! “We’ll Have the Summer,” a love story that I promise will grip your heart. “Tom Named by Horse,” an adventure that you’ll long remember. “It’s for the Horses; An advocate’s musings about their needs, spirit, gifts and care,” even if you don’t have horses I promise you’ll love the thoughts provoked, if you do enjoy horses in your life it may awaken new ideas and attitudes for you and your horse. Enjoy the snow, stay safe, and I hope you’ll have a read—or three.

Gitty Up, Dutch.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

"A Christmas Story"

Howdy Friends,

I wrote this little story as a thank you and Christmas present to all our Coffee Clutch and Facebook friends 3 years ago. I figured it might be a sweet tradition to share each Christmas. I hope you'll enjoy readin' it to your youngin's and grandbabies. Ravishin' Robbie and I, and all our critters wish you all a love filled and HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

A Christmas Story
With a piece of kindling, Sarah scratched ice from inside the lone cabin window. Cupping hands against her face she squinted through the tiny pane to see blowing, swirling snow. Nothing new to see, except the darkness moving in. She shook her head. "Can't even see the barn now."

If he wasn't getting home tonight, and her hopes were fading, she'd better bundle up and tend the animals in the barn. Jed had been sure to load the wood box before leaving the day before. Load the box? She chuckled at the heavily laden box with wood stacked halfway up the wall. "Wood enough for a week," she remembered him assuring her, even though he was planning on being gone only a day.

This would be the first visit to the orphanage she'd missed since they'd wed three years ago. But this year, with a month old daughter of their own, and the threatening skies, Sarah thought it best Jed make the ten mile ride without them. So he'd set out in the shadows of early morning alone.

She bent over the black kettle filled nearly to the brim with simmering duck stew. Stirred it thoroughly and swung the black arm out from the fire to hold the kettle just near enough to the hot coals and gentle flames to keep the stew at the perfect temperature. She'd have a Christmas feast waiting for him when he returned.

The orphanage sat way outside of town, on a little farm well off the beaten path. Out of sight. Out of mind. Run by old widow Martha Bowman, and two ancient broken down ex-cow pokes, Jake and Shorty. Jed had grown up there. "Poor kids." Jed told her once. "Not only don't they have families of their own, but most town folks don't even want to see 'em. They'd just as soon forget 'em."

Jed never forgot them. Each Christmas he'd visit and carry a feed sack of toys to share with the children, usually numbering around ten. Toy horses, he'd whittle, a fishing pole or two, and dolls Sara would sew. Of course a few scarves and mittens too.

Not being able to see the children this Christmas Eve had Sarah's heart a little heavy. She'd grown so used to the singing, laughing and playing. And the happy faces. Even the old cow pokes would join right in and sing along. Jed had a way of really throwing a lively Christmas Eve party.

Sarah tended to the fireplace, wrapped the baby in their warmest blanket, grabbed the milk pail, the coal oil lantern and started for the door. Forcing the door into the wind took all her strength. The gale hit her full on, slamming the door closed behind her, nearly sucking the very breath from her lungs. Leaning low she sheltered the baby, pushed into the wind and hurried for the sheltering barn. Tiny frozen flakes pelting her cheeks like stinging bees. It was a journey of only fifty feet, but tonight it seemed a mile. The snow wasn't deep, but the wind halted her every step.

Cold, full hands made sliding the barn door latch nearly impossible. She could set nothing down for fear it blow away. Struggling with an elbow and the back of her hand she managed to pull back the thick, black, frozen metal latch. Fierce wind ripped the door from her grasp slamming it wide open. She hurried to the far corner, past the cows, the horse and chicken coop.

Inside was a different world. Jed had labored a full summer four years ago to build the barn out of logs instead of boards. "Harder to be burnt out that way," he'd explained. They'd lived in the barn a full year after that while together they finished their one room cabin. She settled the baby snugly in a bed of hay. "There now," Sarah soothed the sweet girl, "you sleep easy, Jessica, while I milk the cows, and I'll bet Daddy will be home before I'm through."

She battled the raging wind to pull shut and latch the heavy door, hung the lantern on its crooked peg in the center of the barn and paused a moment to look around. Three cows and a horse make plenty of heat inside a barn as tight as this one. The wind howled and raged but could find no way in. She settled down on the milking stool and started milking the first cow. Snug as they were in the sturdy barn, her mind was on Jed. The first streams of milk rang out on the pail side. She tried to time the ringing sound of milk hitting the metal bucket to "Silent Night" as she squeezed in rhythm to the hymn she hummed.

"Why isn't Jed home yet?" Worry began to creep into her thoughts.

Only two cows in milk right now, so milking didn't take very long, or give even half a pail. Clover, the youngest was due to calve any day, and her milk would surely be welcome.

Milking finished and still no sign of Jed. Sarah checked on Jessica all snug in her nest of hay, then busied herself giving hay to the cows and horse. The chickens hardly stirred, few even pulled their heads from under their wings.

Worry kept her busy. Finished the feeding, Sarah found cloth and strained the milk, a job usually done on the tiny table in the cabin, but she dreaded the trip back through the wind and biting ice crystals, so she did it right there in the barn. Besides, somehow the barn seemed a better place to be tonight, Christmas Eve. Her mind kept busy fretting over Jed. Was he lying in the bitter cold somewhere, hurt? Or worse? She began to build a plan to go search the vast openness that lay between them and the orphanage. That would have to wait for daylight. But wouldn't his horse have found its way back to the barn? Jed's horse, Scout was a big, powerful horse and very smart. Surely had something happened to Jed, Scout would have come home?

Nervously she nursed baby Jessica, to the unsettling sound of relentlessly raging wind tearing at the walls of the tight barn. Gathering Jessica she moved closer to the cows so the sounds of them peacefully chewing might sooth her worried heart. She nestled into the straw next to Clover and rocked gently. The barn was a peaceful place but tonight even its warmth and embrace could do little to sooth her. The ride to the orphanage and back, even with a first class Christmas party should only have taken Jed and Scout about six hours. He should have been home well before dark.

Weary with worry, Sarah almost drifted off.

Her horse pacing and nickering in its stall roused her. "It's okay, Goldie, the wind can't get us in here."

Knowing she must check the fire and the stew in the house, she carefully tucked tiny Jessica safely back in her nest of hay. "I'll be right back, you sleep tight." She kissed her cheek, and wiped a tear from her own. Turning to the cows and Goldie she said, "You all watch over her while I'm gone."

She snatched the lantern from its peg and made the dash from barn to cabin, the never-ending wind at her back. Inside she found the fire nearly out, but the stew still delightfully warm. Building the fire back up, stirring the stew and gathering another blanket to swaddle Jessica took only moments, and through the bitter, blinding darkness she ran for the barn, shielding her face from the stinging snow.

Fighting the wind to pull closed the heavy door, for an instant the wind's roar was blocked. Was that a bell? Did she hear ringing bells? Or were her ears simply ringing in the wail of the wind? She strained her eyes in the direction of what she imagined was the ringing bells. Is that a light? Could that be a light? But what could there be out there moving in this horrible wind? It didn't appear to be a horse and rider, so her hopes sank as quickly as they'd soared. The bells stopped and the light vanished. Sarah pulled tight the door, made fast the latch, then hurried to Jessica to add the extra blanket.

Clover mooed, Goldie stomped and whinnied. Before Sarah could react, from the outside, above the wind, came an answering whinny. “Scout?” Sarah yelled, tears streaming her face. Terrified of the possible answer she yelled, “Scout, is that you? Is Jed with you?” Bells, did she hear bells again? With wings on her feet she flew to the door, only to have the latch yanked from her grasp.

Stunned she starred into darkness, and there stood Jed flashing an ice covered smile as wide as the mountains themselves, holding Scout's rope. Behind Scout stood two horses harnessed to a wagon with canvas stretched over it. “Brought ya a few Christmas visitors Sarah!” Jed waved a hand toward the wagon. Sarah's knees melted, she crumbled to the ground.

“Hey now,” Jed scooped her up with a hearty laugh. “We can't have this, we have us a Christmas Eve party to put on for the young 'ins!”

Jed, Shorty and Jake fought the wind to swing open the big barn door, Martha led Scout and the team right into the barn. Every hand worked together to pull the door closed behind the wagon. Martha flipped down the wagon tail gate, and one by one giggling and laughing children slid out.

Sarah's knees went weak again, she grabbed onto Jed. He could see the love, relief and questions in her eyes.

“Well,” Jed started, “When I rode up to Martha's the wind already yanked the roof off that old shed they call home. Jake, Shorty and me didn't take too long to figure out there was no fixin' that rickety old building. Nobody knew what to do next, not only did they all need a place to live, but heck Sarah, this is Christmas Eve and we got songs to sing and presents to open … so we hatched a plan to stretch this canvas over the wagon, nail 'er down with boards and haul the entire outfit right here.”

With a grin and tip of his hat, Shorty yanked the sack of presents from the wagon seat, and held it high.

The children had settled down in a circle holding hands, except for little Jane, who had discovered baby Jessica. "Look Miss Martha, it's just like the story of baby Jesus, lying in the manger with all his friends in the barn."

Gitty Up and Merry Christmas ~ Dutch Henry