Friday, May 17, 2013

"Feature Friday- Yvonne Welz-The Horse's Hoof"

Howdy folks,

Yvonne Welz started The Horse's Hoof magazine in 2000, as a way to create a place where people can gather to learn and share knowledge and resources about the "barefoot paradigm." Back then it was a simple folded newsletter sent out to a few hundred subscribers. She and her husband had been following and learning all they could about the barefoot movement and it was an announcement by Jaime Jackson that year that he was discontinuing his newsletter, "The Hoof Care Advisor" that worried Yvonne.

That announcement jolted many barefoot enthusiasts and inspired Yvonne to create "The Horse's Hoof." "Thanks to Jaime, Dr. Hitrud Strasser and Sabine Kells, the barefoot movement was really just beginning to get noticeable traction. It worried me that the loss of this resource for people trying to understand and learn the health benefits of the barefoot lifestyle would create a void. Just beginning to really understand how important a barefoot lifestyle is to the horse, I felt committed to do the best I could to keep the momentum going." Yvonne said.

Keep the momentum going is what she and her husband did. For twelve years they've kept on stride and this month's issue of the quarterly magazine is issue number 50. Now a beautiful 32 page full color magazine packed with resources, advice and contacts to help everyone who is yearning to care for their horses following the barefoot lifestyle can find help, encouragement, answers and friends.
The 50th issue!
 Yvonne and James first discovered the barefoot paradigm when, in May 1999, Yvonne's dressage award winning Lipizzaner cross mare, Inty, foundered the day after winning a major competition. Of course the knowledge at the time suggested it had, "just happened," but now Yvonne realizes it had been a long time in "happening." They enlisted the aid of the very best care a noted veterinarian could give, which included invasive hoof surgery, and shoeing. Inty continued to worsen, becoming so sore she would lie down for days at a time.

Frantic, Yvonne dove into the internet to find alternative answers to save Inty. Her search led her to discover Dr.Hiltrud Strasser's book being offered on Jaime Jackson's website, and all the information just beginning to emerging about how to promote a healthy horse through a healthy hoof. Things began to make sense; she and James quickly began to realize this was the true answer to helping Inty. To that end James traveled to Canada in the fall of 1999 to study under Sabine Kells. When James returned the following weekend and began to apply what he'd learned at Sabina's clinic, they saw the first progress in Inty.

Inty's journey back to health continued to lead Yvonne and James, and in the spring of 2000 James traveled to Texas to attend Dr. Hiltrid Strasser's first appearance in the USA. So impressed was James with what he learned there, he enrolled in Dr. Strasser's year long course. Through the years, he continued to study, from a wide variety of sources, and developed his own unique, detailed trimming system. Today, James not only has a thriving barefoot care business, but also a website community where folks can drop in to learn the Welz trimming system, exchange ideas and learn the benefits, and how to trim their own horses, and much more. For your horse's sake, check it out here – - This is a subscription site but you can sign up with a free one day trail to take a look.
TBR Granite Chief and Karen Chaton winners of the Arabian Horse Association's High Miliage Award in 2004 & 2005 go barefoot and with boots.

The Horse's Hoof Magazine continues to grow, reach out, offer help, advice and encouragement. At the website - - you'll find all manners of helpful links and pages, everything from a trimmers list to horse lover's corner where you'll find touching stories. I encourage you to subscribe to The Horse's Hoof Magazine, for your horse. And tell your friends!
Dutch Warmblood Juneau made his FEI Dressage comeback as an 18 year old, barefoot, with Dawn Jensen riding. The pair won the Prix St George classes, winning high score FEI of the show-only 10 months after he'd been written off by vets as a hopeless case ... Read their story in issue 37 of The horse's Hoof.
The knowledge Inty inspired Yvonne and James to pursue not only gave Inty a few more years of life, but charted a new course for their lives. That course is a devotion to bringing together people who believe in the barefoot paradigm, and offering assistance to folks just beginning to explore the barefoot lifestyle for their horses. Good Job, Yvonne and James. And thank you Inty for guiding them!

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Thursday, May 16, 2013

"What is Therapeutic Riding or Equine Assisted Therapy?"

Howdy Folks,
It was Hippocrates who first wrote about the benefits of horseback riding for physical therapy, over 3,000 years ago. He actually wrote how a rider's pelvis, legs and feet move in synchronization with a walking horse. Thousands of years later this was proven scientifically.

Perhaps the most stunning and inspiring event to shake up the world of physical therapy was Liz Hartel of Denmark winning the Silver Metal in Dressage at the Helsinki Olympic Games in Finland in 1952. Though Polio had left her paralyzed from the knees down and with limited use of her hands in 1944, together with the help of her horse Jubilee, she battled back to not only take the Silver, but also be the first woman in history to win a medal in equestrian games. It is said that her remarkable accomplishment on the world stage is what sparked the idea of equine assisted therapy.
Liz Hartel & Jubilee
Therapeutic horseback riding took root in Europe in the 1950's then came to the United States and Canada sometime in the late 1960's. I had the honor a few years ago of writing a story about Barb Heine, who in the '60s and 70's worked tirelessly to promote the use of hippotherapy as an accepted form of physical therapy. Thanks to her and many others who shared like beliefs and understanding of the healing power of the horse, today there are hundreds of equine assisted therapy centers across the U.S. where thousands of selfless horses are doing their part to help heal children, women and men.

Today equine assisted "physical therapy" is used for everything from spinal cord injuries, to stroke victims, to wounded Veterans and skeletal and muscular diseases in children and adults. But seeing the equine/human connection and the ability of the spirit of the horse to touch lives, many therapists began to experiment. They began to use horses to aid in therapies not only related to physical rehabilitation but mental and behavioral health as well.
 Equine assisted therapy, or Hippotherapy, (Hippo is the Greek word for horse) is an important, and thankfully, growing form of therapy used to help people of all ages improve and enrich their lives. According to Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International's (PATH Intl.) website  there are currently over 800 member centers around the globe with an estimated 42,000 student participants, 3,500 instructors 30,000 volunteers annually. And 6,300 equines.

Therapy horses are incredibly valuable and helpful in so many different ways and for so many different treatments. More and more therapists are finding new and exciting results with not only physical but mental stress and confusion, too. The spirit of the horse connects with the spirit of the person as she visits with or rides a therapy horse.

I've written stories about children who've spoken their first word, and smiled their first smile, while riding a therapy horse and Veterans who've begun to manage their struggles with injuries and PTSD with the help of equine therapy. I recently wrote a story about an organization who uses horses to help abused women and girls cope with their situation, and another that uses rescue horses to teach at-risk youths to love life and learn the value and rewards of responsibility.
 The world is a better place because of these wonderful people and horses and we thank them for their tireless efforts. The spirit of the horse touches so many lives, heals so many hearts and builds smiles on thousands of faces. If you have the chance, hug a therapy horse.
What is Equine Assisted Therapy? I think it is a special gift from God and horses. A healing, loving gift.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"What Do You Do, JUST, For Your Horse?"

Howdy Folks,

Yesterday I talked about Kessy and her willingness to find a way to keep both of us balanced at a quicker gait. It was that trying on her end that caused her to discover her newest gait, a Rack. A Rack is a 4 beat gait, like the Running Walk, but with shorter and quicker strides. It's comparable to a quick trot in speed, and that's the story here. I'd been asking for a little more speed than the running walk, but I'd been having trouble sitting the canter lately, so Kessy had begun to drop in and out of canter, even mixing in a trot, while seeking balance, and she found a gait neither of us knew she had.

Why did she try so hard? I think she tried so hard because over the past three years we've developed a partnership. I don't mean a partnership where I'm the "boss" or "alpha horse." I know, we're all told we need to do that to gain our horse's respect and obedience ... I've never bought into that ... Don't know if I'm right or not, I just know that's not how I think. The partnership Kessy and I have is one of equals. Does she do everything I'd like? No … not yet.  Do I do everything she'd like? No … not yet.

So how do you build a partnership of "equals" that works? I believe you've got to "give" to your horse. Most horse/human relationships are structured around, "training." In one way or another, the human "trains" the horse to do what the human wants. Some folks say they're all about "natural horsemanship." I don't think there is anything "natural" about a round pen. But however they do it, the person expects their horse to be, "trained" to the person's perspective. Some folks even say, "it's got to make sense to the horse." But often the training is still from the person's perspective.

Oh don't misunderstand me, training is necessary to the relationship, but if you work on the relationship first, the training is really just more relationship building. What does that mean? … 

Sadly most horse/human relationships consist of, feeding, training, riding, housing, grooming, hoof and other health care. All very important things indeed, but where is the horse's perspective in that? Sure they nicker when the person comes with the hay. Is it because she's happy to see the person, or the hay?

I believe for every hour spent in "training" at least as many hours should be spent "giving to the horse." Many horses are only in the ring with their person to be "worked" or "schooled" or "trained" or shown. The horse can't help but see the ring, or round pen, (or human) as anything other than a place of stress. Some horses will show it. Others will internalize it. The effects of that stress may not show up for years, but it'll show up. Then folks say "I don't understand why he started being so ring sour," or slow, or stubborn or any of the many complaints we've all heard too often.

What if for every hour in the training session there was an hour spent in the ring just hanging out with the horse? A person could toss a flake of hay out and sit with their horse there and read a book, or work on their laptop, or just watch their horse relax and munch hay. Takes too much time? Actually it's good therapy for the human, too. And it's doing something for the horse, instead of expecting something from the horse. It's more powerful than simply turning the horse out in the pasture and going home. Because you're there with her, without asking for anything.

Doing the release and relax exercises, based on Linda Tellington-Jones and Peggy Cumming's teachings are a most wonderful way to "Do something just for the horse." These exercises "give to the horse" without asking, or expecting anything of the horse. It's totally giving ... Total partnership building.

Sitting in the barn, or walking around their paddock, lot or pasture with them, just hanging out with them, this is partnership building. And in my opinion is really important to the horse. Yes it does take time. But aren't they worth it? And I submit it is time very well spent for two big reasons. First you'll actually need to spend less time training, because the relationship will be so strong. You'll hear your horse and your horse will hear you. Cues are easier to hear, feel and follow for both horse and human. Second these quiet moments do wonders for people too! We can all slow down a little.
Kessy, Saturday and me, "just hanging out"
I attribute Kessy's desire to try so very hard to take care of me that she found a gait, a new way, because she wanted to help her partner ... Am I silly about that? Well, perhaps, but that's my belief ... And I suggest if you can find the time to just give to your horse, by offering the relax and release exercises, and just hanging out with her, be there "for her," without asking anything in return, your relationship will deepen in ways you can't imagine.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, May 13, 2013

"Kessy Helps Me Find Her Fifth Gait!"

Howdy Folks,

The 17th of this month, Kessy and I will celebrate three years of being a team. Over these 36 months we've traveled many little journeys, enjoyed plenty of excitement, endured a few disappointments, and had lots of fun and learning together. Yes, Kessy is a great student, and like all horses a great teacher, too. While I try to help her to learn, she patiently, and sometimes not so patiently, teaches me too. We've enjoyed Coffee Clutch together nearly every morning. We've hit the trail 258 times for a total of 321 hours and if you figure 4 miles an hour that's 1,288 miles. All those miles are barefoot miles. We've spent hours together in her bedroom writing stories. On May 31, Kessy will be 10 years old. Kessy is half Saddlebred half Tennessee Walker.
Kessy & me writing a story
 In our first months she could not understand that standing still to mount at the mounting block was both correct and polite, and also healthier for both of us. With patience and consistency she learned to not only stand still to mount and dismount, but recently when this leg and left side of mine developed its silly issue, she learned to stand perfectly for me at the new mounting platform. My mounts and dismounts are not a thing of beauty, but her patience is.
Kessy stands patiently at the mounting platform
 Before coming to me, Kessy had never been on the trail, and of course never on the trail alone, which is how we always went, until recently. At first she would not go 100 yards down the trail. Thankfully at that time, mounting and dismounting was not so hard for me, and I'd get off and lead her. For a while I did a lot of leading.

Being Tennessee Walker, Kessy is a gaited horse, but at first she did not have the stamina, muscles or condition to maintain her stunning "Running Walk" for more than a few yards. I had felt it the first time I rode her, but as I say, only for a few strides.

In my opinion, the most important thing you can do to do to help a horse learn, and develop, the Running Walk is miles, and miles, and miles of "just plain walking." And we did that. We also practiced the exercises my mentor Diane Sept taught me, which are so very important to develop correct body posture and carriage; softness, off the forehand, and never inverted. We also, with the help of Larry Wilson Saddles, made sure her saddle fit her "Perfectly."
Kessy loves her exercises. Here she demonstrates the "Belly Lift"
Today Kessy can amble along in her "variable speed" Running Walk for miles, with the reins laying on the saddle, her head held level and bobbing gently in time to the 4 beat gait.  Even with my "not always so balanced posture," Kessy maintains her balance and stride. Soft, smooth, powerful.

So we were thrilled in the knowledge that Kessy has 4 gaits, a Walk, a Running Walk, a Trot and a Canter. Her canter is as smooth as any I've ever sat, and she "was" able to transition from Running Walk to Canter without a hitch. Her smooth transition was possible, I believe, because she had become so balanced and self aware that she could simply maintain her posture and softly shift gears.

But then something happened. When my left side did whatever it did, I developed a problem sitting her canter. Her canter didn't change, Kessy didn't change, I did. My balance just goes away and Kessy has a hard time helping me find it in the canter. And yes, I do mean "helping me" … She'll try for her canter, I get all crooked, twisted, and Kessy will begin to Trot, change leads and even crowhop (very gently) trying to balance me. But I'm no help.

Then two weeks ago something really neat happened. I was trying to better my "canter seat" and Kessy was trying to "balance" me, in and out of canter and trot … 

All at once she balanced herself and me in a Rack! WOW!! Soft, Smooth and quick! Wow Kessy, where did that come from? …  A Rack is a 4 beat gait, like the Running Walk, but with shorter and quicker strides. It's delightful to sit and I was immediately balanced.

There is no doubt in my mind that all the miles of riding at a walk, developing her balance, and her Running Walk, the saddle fit and the exercises, made it possible for Kessy to find her Rack. But holy cow this is too wonderful! … In Kessy's attempt to carry me safely, at the speed I was asking for, she helped me discover her FIFTH GAIT … A stunning Rack!

Now just as in the beginning with her Running Walk, she can only stay in the Rack a short distance, but over the coming months, together we will learn this too. She needs to develop the muscles to maintain this new gait, and I need to "hear" what she is saying to help her. And Kessy, I am listening.
Saturday leading Kessy and me on another adventure
I share this story not only because Kessy and I think it's exciting, but to encourage everyone to allow their horse the freedom and the time it takes to discover new things together. Because of all the things we did together the past 3 years, Kessy was determined to find a way to carry me, at the speed I asked for, in a way she could balance us both. I believe it is as simple as that.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry