Friday, March 1, 2013

"Feature Friday- Sossity and Mario Gargiulo- Holistic Hoof Care"

Howdy Folks,

Like so many folks now practicing and promoting the barefoot healthy horse, Sossity first decided she needed to find a new way to help her own horse, Faith, a 4 year old Arab/Trakehner mare who had lameness issues. She decided to broaden her scope and suddenly natural hoofcare found her. It made perfect sense. But also confused her, "how could veterinarians and farriers and the 'barefoot crowd' each hold such opposite views?" She asked herself. The more she examined the situation, the more confused she became.
Sossity trims
A friend recommended she buy Pete Ramey's book. She did. She became immediately enthralled, joining every Yahoo group she could find on barefoot horse care, bought books and DVDs from folks like, Gene Ovnicek, KC La Pierre, and Jaime Jackson. She traveled to hear Pete Ramey speak. Ultimately enrolled in AANHCP training program, and traveled to several states to mentor. "I applied to the American Hoof Association in 2008 and was approved as a certified trimmer. That was a huge accomplishment and I was at the time of approval one of less than 20 in the nation to achieve the honor." Sossity said.

Sossity is one of the founding members of Pacific Hoof Care Practitioners (PHCP) whose mission it is to provide a supportive network and educational foundation for hoof care professionals and horse owners based on a holistic and progressive approach.

She is instrumental in introducing barefoot horse health to the world of competition horses. Sossity's work with and for, world class horse trainer Shannon Peters, and Shannon's husband Steffen and his horse Ravel was recently written about in "Dressage Today" magazine, by author Kelly Sanchez.

Retired now Ravel, was one of the most successful horses in American Dressage, ridden by Steffen Peters in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, only the second U.S.combination to win the World Cup and the sole American to sweep the Aachen, Germany, CDIO, both in 2009. His record includes many Grand Prix victory. He enjoys his retirement on the trails with his new owner Akiko Yamazaki.
When Steffen's 2 time Olympic horse Ravel developed a quarter crack 2 months before the London games they turned to Sossity and her husband Mario for help. Sossity had just begun to work with Shannon a few months before. Things went so well with Ravel that today there are 15 barefoot horses from Training Level to Grand Prix in Shannon's and Steffen's training barn in San Diego.

Sossity takes the Holistic approach to hoof and horse health. "The hoof is a SYMPTOM.  The most perfect trim in the world can only do so much if your horse is eating a diet that does not respect and support his physiology, or if his tack is causing chronic pain and resulting compensation, if his lifestyle does not reflect his needs as a creature of movement and a social herd life, or if what he is being asked to do as his job does not respect him biomechanically or even psychologically." Sossity believes and teaches.

In addition to Shannon’s horses and those of some of her training clients in San Diego, Sossity also trims all of Akiko Yamazaki’s horses (including the Olympic horse Ravel discussed in the article).  Akiko has competing FEI level horses as well as retired competition horses.  Sossity also works on horses that do trails, riding lessons, therapy horses, fox hunting, reined cow work, gaited breeds, and more.

A lot of Sossity's trimming business has been through word of mouth, but she also tries to get the word out through her work with the PHCP, her website, the Wild Hearts Facebook page, as a blog contributor, and a monthly newsletter where she showcases a client or case study each month, talks about clinics she's attended or are being held, and reports on interesting studies that have come out. "I blog about basically anything relating to holistic horse health. My husband and I also have 3 horses of our own that we ride and love, and try to show by example how successful this approach to horse care really can be." Sossity said.
It's a family affair - Mario trims, too
Her hard work to promote holistic health and care for horses and her efforts to teach the competitive world barefoot is best, makes her a perfect fit for our Feature Friday. Thank you Sossity for all you do!

Please visit her website  for pages of information, links, pictures and contacts.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Thursday, February 28, 2013

"And So It Grows"

Howdy Folks,

And so it grows. Isn't that a beautiful thought? I was writing to a friend last evening about all the things she's taught me that I have shared with others who have in turn then shared that knowledge with still more folks. That's what we do, isn't it? Share the good we learn.

Each time I write about birds, bird watching, wildflowers or butterflies I think of all the people who have taught me so much. Some of those dear friends are gone now, but their wisdom and knowledge goes on because we share it with each other. Funny how certain birds will make me remember friends, who the loved that bird. Our friend Annabelle, we often talk about her here in the Coffee Clutch, now in a nursing home but still insisting I call her weekly with my birding results, loves all the birds and her Cardinals best.  Pat, now gone, loved her Bluebirds. As do I. She taught me so much over the years. Sharing what she taught me about Bluebirds and many others, and wildflowers too, keeps her memory alive. And keeps the knowledge growing in wider circles.

My mentor, Diane Sept, taught me so much about horses, their health, their spirit, their ability to love, teach and heal. Each time I work with horses, my own, or horses in my "Therapy For Therapy Horses" clinics I think of her. I marvel at how she can be helping those horses and their people without ever meeting them. Her wisdom, teachings and helping reaches out through me, and the folks to whom I introduce her techniques to make their lives better. It's like ripples in a pond spreading out farther and farther. How many horses has Diane helped by teaching me? And in turn my showing others, and then they pass that knowledge on ... The horses, too, I've met who have taught me so much that can be shared, and passed on.  And so it grows.

When I think of all the good things about life I learned from my dear wife, Robbie, I can only hope to be as giving and patient as she, and pass on what she taught me about caring for, and understanding others, first. When we teach our children and grandchildren, and they grow into adulthood and in turn teach their own children things they've learned from us, about life, love and sharing the good. And so it grows.

So as you go along, give a thought every now and then to those who inspired you to become who you are, and how they, through you, are inspiring others they may never meet. That's a good thing.

And so it grows ~ Dutch Henry

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

" Pt 2 - Bluebirds-They Carry The Blue Sky On Their Wings"– Nest boxes and Bluebird Trails-

Howdy Folks,

Bluebirds love to be loved. And they will repay you with countless hours of beauty and fun. They are what is called cavity nesters, that is to say they select nest sites in cavities of trees, fence posts and other locations that offer shelter. They do not create the cavities, rather they just find and occupy holes made by nature or woodpeckers or other creatures. They readily accept man-made nest boxes. Since the mid 60's Bluebird trails have really helped bring the beautiful little bird from dangerously low numbers. Their numbers decline was largely blamed on loss of habitat and nesting locations.
 For 25 years I volunteered with the PA Department of Environmental Protection to monitor a Bluebird Trail at French Creek State Park, and conduct bird walks and talks, and I thought it would be fun to share some of what I learned there. I was introduced to the project by a wonderful environmentalist, Pat Magnus and we enjoyed many years of birding and studying nature together. Pat went to Heaven last year, but all she put in motion will live on forever. Including great Bluebird trails!

I used to check my Bluebird trail on horseback in French Creek all 50 boxes over 3 hours of riding. At one time for a few years I had 3 different trails going in different locations! Kessy and I check our trail here in VA on horseback, all 4 boxes! I've scaled back some.

Starting and maintaining a Bluebird trail of one nest box, or many boxes is easy and fun to do. Nest boxes are readily available to purchase or you can find plans to build your own on the internet here at the North American Bluebird Society's site- then click on "Fact Sheets" then on "Nest Box Plans". The simplest are the best. I recommend the "Carl Little Bluebird box" you'll find there. There is wealth of information on this site, too.

First, you need a good location. It really is true, "if you build it they will come." But you must have the correct location. As with most of the guidelines for successful Bluebird trails, or just a single box in your yard, the basics are indeed basic and to complicate them with nifty strategies will set you up for heartbreak and disappointment. So please keep it simple. Most important is "LOCATION."

1)- They like their nest box in the open, preferably 100 feet from the woods edge or trees. Closer to the trees Bluebirds might well accept and build, but Wrens are big predators and might kill your Bluebirds to steal the nest.

2)- Do not mount your boxes near buildings, barns etc where house sparrows are seen. They are huge Bluebird predators and will kill the mommas and babies right on the nest. House Sparrows and Bluebirds do not mix and the Bluebirds will always loose. There are all kinds of guards, gimmicks and tricks, but ultimately they end up not working. It's best for the Bluebirds to just find a place away from House Sparrows.

3)- Mount your box on a smooth metal pipe or post. If snakes are a problem slip a PVC pipe around the post before driving it in. This will also detour raccoons etc. Bluebirds are territorial to each other and want their boxes at least 300 feet apart.

4)-  Tree Swallows and Bluebirds DO get along nicely, and will use the same type box. In fact we found putting 2 boxes about 5 feet apart worked fabulously. Bluebird in one, Tree Swallow in the other and since Tree Swallows are great home defenders and the Bluebirds benefit from a home security guard!

5)- Monitor your boxes weekly. It's fun to keep records and important that you know what's going on ... It takes about a week, or if they are in a hurry, a few days to build a nest. Then 4 or 5 days to lay the eggs. Then 14+ days to hatch. 17 to 20 days to fledge. The parents will feed the fledglings for about 7 to 12 days. I used to sit with my horse and watch the parents feed the babies in the box. They take turns and each return with insects about every 3 minutes!

6)- Clean the box after each fledging so it is ready to go again. Depending where you live you will get 2 to 4 nestings ... If you had predation consider what it was, must you move the box or just clean it and let them try again. If you had babies or eggs and everything disappears with no damage to the nest it was a snake. Be sure to install a PVC pipe around your mounting pole to prevent it.
Bluebird nest with 5 eggs
 7)- Nests – Bluebirds do neat little circle nests of dry grass or pine needles. Tree Swallows not so neat and add a few feathers. House Sparrows messy and lots of feathers and even paper trash. Wrens do tall nests of small twigs and will stuff several boxes full just to command the area.

8)-Predator guards – Great idea, use them. Also no perches on the outside as this allows predator birds to sit there.

9)- Have fun, keep notes and take plenty of pictures. You will learn a lot about wildlife and nature on a Bluebird trail. Cornell University and the North American Bluebird Society have programs you can join to send in your records. It's great fun!

Well those are the biggest tips to successful Bluebird trails or boxes. There is a lot more information you can gather at the website above. But again, proper site location is the single biggest, most important thing to consider. If you would like to talk to me about Bluebirds and trails please feel free to email.

May you have many Bluebird days! ~ Dutch Henry. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

"Bluebirds-They Carry The Blue Sky On Their Wings" Pt 1--

Howdy Folks,

As I enjoyed Coffee Clutch with Kessy, Saturday and Tigger yesterday morning our resident male Bluebird landed treetop high, thrust his beak skyward and let go his beautiful trilling song. It was such a delight! I had just commented to Ravishin' Robbie I'd not seen nor heard from our Bluebirds for some time. And I missed them. Bluebirds are my very favorite birds. I love them all, but Bluebirds have the strongest grip on my heart.
Adult male Eastern Bluebird
Growing up as a foster kid on a dairy farm I had many duties that sent me off on my own with tasks and chores. One job that I really enjoyed was maintaining fence along the fields and pastures. It was a lovely farm in rural PA with rolling hills, streams and woods. The fence rows in those days were narrow lines of big trees, thick undercover brush and brambles. I would spend many happy hours trimming back the fence line, patching barbed wire and replacing rail and post, and learning about wildflowers, trees and birds.

A few fence lines ran straight through open fields far from trees and forest. It was a bright sunny, early spring day when I was about 12 that I saw my first Bluebird perched atop a leaning rickety post along one of those open field fence lines. I still remember that little fellow all shiny and blue proudly singing to the wide open world. It truly was love at first sight. I'd met other birds by then, a Bobwhite Quail had also sang for me one morning from a fencepost, and a Killdeer had performed its clever "broken wing" dance, luring me from its nest in the cornfield as I hoed thistles between the stalks. Small flocks of Meadow Larks had gathered near me in our far pasture one Sunday afternoon. Barn Swallows had nests in the lower part of the barn in the horse and cow stables. And our resident Barn Owls always watched quietly whenever I was upstairs in the big barn. As I recall, our old farm had plenty of mice for their family.

But something about that tiny Bluebird took hold of me that morning. I remember sitting down in the warm grass and watching him sing. I noticed then at the very next fence post a momma Bluebird was peeking out a hole in the weathered roundish wooden post, looking exactly like the many pictures we see now. Of course at first I didn't know it was a momma Bluebird. Thinking back I believe I thought it was a field mouse, but as I stood up it flew out. I do positively remember noting the different shade of blue she wore.

There was another first that day, I chuckle as I recall. I experienced my very first "swooping" by a pair of defending Bluebird parents. Being 12, and curious I just had to have a look in the hole of that old fencepost. Totally absorbed in examining and counting the 4 sky-blue eggs I never saw the attack coming! Suddenly a Bluebird flew past my face, I think his feathers touched me! At the same time momma whizzed behind me clicking her beak in a most threatening way. They continued to dive bomb me until I was well away from their nest.

For the next few weeks I kept a check on that little nest in the old post. The parents greeted me each visit with wing swooshing and beak clicking. I watched those blue eggs hatch into tiny pink, blind babies, and remember when they got their first feathers I saw them when they were nearly grown, fully feathered and beautiful. I remember the next time I visited they were gone. Years later I would learn that's called "fledging." ... I didn't know it then, but that was my first experience with "Bluebird nest box monitoring." I will tell you, I never, ever replaced that old post, and almost every summer there was a Bluebird family in it.

Please join us here tomorrow and I'll share some Bluebird Trail Monitoring tips I learned in my 25 years of volunteering for the PA DEP monitoring trails in State Parks.

Have a Bluebird day & Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry