Friday, January 17, 2014

Feature Friday – Carol L Nolan Equine Therapy

Howdy Folks,

 As a child Carol wanted to save every animal she saw in distress. Every stray kitten, every injured bird, and everything in between, from lost dogs to wild animals. She didn't know how, but she knew her life would need to revolve around helping animals. About six years ago a young horse named Hope helped her find a way to help.

Hope was a Frisian mare who found Carol, who had gone 20 years without horses in her life. Shortly after their joyous bonding, Hope fell while frolicking in the pasture. It was a bad fall. She became seriously lame. No veterinarian could find a way to help. No help could be found from chiropractors, or a series of lameness experts. Carol set out to educate herself on how to help Hope. She believed from watching the experiences with Hope, that healing and health had to have its foundation in, "A whole horse approach."

She made her mission to learn all she could about the biomechanics of the horse. She dug in, researched and studied hard, learning about the soft tissue, and injuries. She learned about chiropractic, acupressure & meridians, massage and stretching. It all made sense to her and she began to wonder why it wasn't part of everyday horse ownership. "In the end, I have learned that many horses are suffering from the discomfort of chronic pain & physical restrictions that we humans have not been taught to recognize." Carol said. "Once we can understand this, we can set about making our horses feel better."

After much study and learning Carol chose using the acuscope, myoscope & myofascial release as her main therapy tools to, "make horses feel better."

What are the Acuscope and Myoscope? They are FDA approved instruments that use electrical impulses, specifically calibrated to animals, sending healing in exactly the same current that is found in the body naturally, but might be blocked due to injury or tightness. Thus providing noninvasive healing and therapy to both cells and nerves. Each treatment is unique to the animal and cannot under, or over treat. "The myoscope is a direct treatment to the tissues, and an indirect treatment to the nerves once the cells are 'normal' and working correctly, after the ascuscope treatment which focuses on re-charging the cells.  So the myoscope works by detecting & fixing breaks in the magnetic fields surrounding the cells.  Again, the current from the myoscope is what is found naturally in the body, adjusts to only what the body needs, and in that way, the body can accept it." Explains Carol.
Apache gets a back opening with the acuscope, Ahhh - with Carol Nolan & Emily
"The scopes will help an injury heal up to 50% faster (as much as 75% faster if both instruments are used), and the integrity of the healed connective tissue involved is better & stronger. There is also less chance of scarring or proud flesh if the injury is a wound.  Any treatments are cumulative because the cells are being 'retrained' to be normal." Carol said.

Carol also uses myofascial release in her healing practice. "This is another biggie, and why I finally decided this was the 'missing link' to my work." Carol said. "Most of the time, once you do the myofascial release, the bone can 'seek its own home'"

"I am very patient with trying to help people.  As I am helping, educating them, there comes understanding of how what they are doing may have a lot to do with the predicament their horse may be I am sure to do it in a way that they usually get to that understanding on their own.  Then then 'own it' and it becomes a 'self discovery' out of their new understanding.  And when they do get there, they are usually pretty eager to reverse things and improve their horses' quality of life!   That's the part I love with the humans!"

Her love of animals, and wanting to help them all, keeps Carol on her journey to learn more, teach more, and help more. Humans and animals.

Join Carol on her journey  HERE on her Facebook page.   Your horse will thank you.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Get Out Of The Way And Let Your Horse Gait

Howdy Folks,
Yesterday's Coffee Clutch, "Gaited Horses and Saddles, Bits, Shoes and Stuff" generated some lively discussion, and a few questions. We pretty much covered the fact that no special saddle, other than proper fit as with any horse, is needed. No special bit – in fact no bit is needed. No special shoes, in fact barefoot is best, for all horses really, but that could be a subject for another blog day again. You can read my thoughts on barefoot, in my earlier post  "Why Barefoot?"
Kessy Saturday and me headin' out for the trail
I'll never forget the day I was riding along a beautiful "rails to trail" a number of years back, and a young woman rode toward us on a tall, stunning red and white paint. We stopped to chat, and as I'm wont to do, I looked the horse over as he danced and fidgeted beside us. I made note of the tight martingale, his shoes and high heels, his hollow back, thick inversion muscles and sad, worried eyes. The tack and saddle shined like a million bucks. Foam dripped from his mouth around, I don't know what kind of bit. She held tightly on the reins, her legs jammed forward, as they had been when she rode toward me. I asked her what breed her beauty was. With a smirk she replied, "He's a registered, non-gaiting Tennessee Walking Horse." She must have seen the question in my eyes because she promptly added, "He's a registered Tennessee Walking Horse who we can't make gait. He's been to several trainers, and just can't gait!"

I began to ask a question, but she cut me off. "Don't bother, I've heard it all. No-one's ever gonna make him gait." With that she jerked him right, and trotted away.

"Make him gait." I've never forgotten that, obviously as I'm writing about it all these years later. I've never forgotten the look of that beautiful horse she rode either. All the signs, stress and breakdowns of a fine horse people were trying to, "make gait." The over-collected, inverted, hollow backed look of a horse forced to gait, or try too, unnaturally.

Gaited horses will gait. They're born with it. All we need to do is get out of their way and let them. Simply sit your horse comfortably, in proper posture, as Sally Swift would say "in neutral," and allow your horse to walk on. After all, the flat walk and running walk are walks; they're just a little quicker.

The same muscles used to gait are the same muscles used to walk. Riding your horse for miles and miles and miles on the trail at a walk, will develop those muscles, and a longer and longer soft and powerful stride. It is important that as you ride these miles at a walk you allow your horse to relax, walk with their head down, off the forehand, and on a loose rein. You know, get out of their way.

About the trail miles as opposed to miles in the ring. Trail is much preferred over the ring, no matter the size, your horse is always preparing to turn, so are you. It's more difficult for her to, "walk on" and develop the stride in long continued muscle engagement. So really try for unending trail miles. Besides it's better birdwatching on the trail. And more interesting for your horse.

In not too much time you'll feel the stride begin to change; the hind end will become more powerful, and engaged, and softer (Also there are exercises you should consider to free up the hind end if your horse is short strided). She'll begin to achieve a bigger overstride. All without forcing, over collecting, and gimmicks. And damage to her biomechanics. It'll be completely natural, and make sense to your horse. During this time it's fine to mix in a few canters, even trot if she wants to from time to time. What we are doing is building confidence in her long gait and her proper body carriage. And we are staying out of her way while she does it. I would say during this phase look for at least 80% long, easy, but powerful walk.

When she tells you she's ready, find a nice long stretch of level trail, ask her to walk faster. Be gentle, and stay out of her way, but move her on and say, "Gait please." I use my right heel and a lot of kisses, and I say the command over and over each time I tap my heel. She'll speed up instantly, and might try for a trot or pace. Using just one rein tap her back, Very Gently, (never ask for collection) just short of the trot, at her fastest walk (Pacing is not good for a horse so don't do it). Then go right back to a loose rein and let her walk on a bit before asking again, congratulating her for the magnificent effort. Remember to smile.

Off and on, in safe level places along the trail ask for the "Gait please" – It'll come, just before the trot. If you did you're walking miles loyally and politely, she'll give you her flat-walk or gait in just a few tries, remember to praise her, and every stride in gait say, "Gait" so she learns the verbal request. At first she'll only hold her gait a few strides, and that's perfect. Keep helping her build those muscles. It takes a few months to build up the power to sustain it, but really, it's just this easy. She'll learn the verbal cue fast too.

Her head should be level, her stride soft and long, her head will bob a little, and you'll feel the glide. In time together you'll develop a variable speed running walk. Just stay out of her way, and enjoy the ride.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

"Gaited Horses and Saddles, Bits, Shoes and Stuff"

Howdy Folks,

One of the many things I'm pretty fussy, and outspoken about, is saddle fit. Gaited horses are just that. Horses with extra gaits. They walk, they trot, they have a running walk, a rack and a canter. Some gaited breeds have even more gaits. What they don't have, is a need for a special saddle or equipment. They just need, as do all horses, a saddle that fits. If a saddle fits, it fits. Some gaited horses have high withers, others not so high. Just like other horses. Some are wide, others are narrow. Just like other horses. Some have big shoulders, some don't. Some are tall; some are short, just like other horses. Why "experts" too often insist folks need "gaited horse saddles" is way beyond me. Except as a selling tool for their saddles … And yes, I've seen the big name gaited horse saddles, and no, I've not been impressed. But I'm a simple fella. Either a saddle fits, or it doesn't. Simple.
My mare Kessy and her saddle. Just a little endurance type saddle built by Larry Wilson. Has a Western tree, weighs 18lbs. Just a blanket, no pad, breast collar, or crupper. I've had this saddle a long time and Kessy is the third horse he's reshaped the tree to fit.You can read a bit about Larry HERE.
What makes a saddle fit? A horse needs to be able to move under the saddle, while the saddle stays put. It's in the tree, or the flocking. Yup we need room at the withers, the shoulders, the spine. It can't be too long, too short, too wide, or narrow. It can't bridge, rock or pinch. It must be well balanced, can't lean forward or back, and certainly not to the side. But isn't that the case for all horses? If your saddle fits, a blanket will do, no pad required. It's not the saddle that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.

But what about all those gaited horse bits? I ride bitless. Have for years, with many different horses. I use a little noseband hackamore. Discovered it in my endurance days. I love it, and every horse I've ridden has loved it. Often I've ridden in a halter only. I really got a kick out of the times I'd ride a horse for the first time and the owner hands me their bridle with a "Walking Horse" bit and I say, "I'll use this," showing my little bitless rig. They always doubt it, then often say, "Wow, he never gaited like that for me!" It's not the bit that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.

What about those special shoes? And I don't only mean only the horrible stacks and such they do to TWHs. There are the nasty plantation shoes and cog shoes and others, all causing damage to the foot, the joints, the legs and back. I ride barefoot. Have for a lot of years. Since before it was really catching on. And no long toes or high heels either. A gaited horse's hooves should look just like any other hoof on any other horse. "He needs longer toes to gait," they say. "Hogwash!" I say. He needs healthy feet, just like any other horse. It's not the shoes or the trim that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.

What about the other "stuff?" There are lots of gadgets, gimmicks and attachments out there some people insist are needed to "teach" a horse to gait. Many of them too nasty for me to mention. Some not so nasty, but equally unnecessary, and to some degree, harmful to the horse's biomechanics. It's not the stuff that gives a horse their gait. They're born with it.

An exciting note I'll share here, in my travels doing my "Therapy For Therapy Horses," clinics I have several times helped what folks call, non-gaiting breed horses discover they could indeed gait. Arabian and Quarter horses to name the breeds. Click HERE to read about one of those fun times, Lilly's Surprise. And each time we had this experience, I only knew the horse a few hours, and their owner was riding in their regular tack, all I did was talk them through it.

So there you have it. A gaited horse is no different in what it needs from any other horse. They need love, respect, honor and a trusting rider who cares. Sit your horse, relax and say, "Gait please," and watch the world glide by.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

Monday, January 13, 2014

"Understanding Characters While Writing A Novel -Vs- Understanding Your Horse"

Howdy Folks,

I've blogged in the past about how many times writing and horses have parallels. This weekend I was reviewing a scene in my novel, "Tom Named By Horse," which I'm hoping my publisher will pick up, and my mind drifted to my mare Kessy. I was reviewing a scene in which we slipped into just a bit of back-story. I like to weave in tidbits here and there to help the reader understand why a character feels and act the way they do.
Saturday and Kessy helping me understand my characters ...
For the reader to care about your character, they must know them. Writers create that bond with little baby steps of information. Huge information dumps are boring, and actually turn off readers. Sometimes permanently.

For your horse to care about you, and understand you, we must use those same baby steps of information sharing. Horses each have different levels of how much information they can absorb at any one time. Too much, pushing them beyond their comfort level, will make them uncomfortable and take their mind off you and your attempt at communication. Sometimes building doubt and mistrust.

Setting the stage for your reader with a combination of you character's action in the moment, and tiny slices of where they came from, combined with hints of where you're going to take them, all come together to create a strong, compelling character. Your reader will feel the connection and become invested in wanting to learn more.

It is exactly the same truth for your horse. Mixing in actions of the moment, or things she already knows, with tiny steps of new information, will open the door to where you want to go in a clear way that will keep her interested, involved.

Just as the reader will want to turn to the next page to follow your character on their quest, your horse will want to turn the page and follow you on your journey together.

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry