Conformation

Conformation
I get so many questions about proper conformation and I am often shown photos to give my opinion on a horse. I am super surprised to see the number of people that aren't familiar with conformation, how to assess it, or what a conformation fault truly is. Let's start with the basics 😀

Conformation is simply the way a horse is put together. This plays a role in the way a horse moves, how they perform, and how injury-prone a horse can be.

Overall, when we assess conformation, we are looking for good proportions- all of the horse's parts fit well together and none seem too big or too small for the rest of the animal.

Conformation faults are structural problems or unproportioned areas. Conformation faults are not always genetic and they don't have to be permanent! Depending on the fault, there are ways to work with them or even eliminate them. Some disciplines actually look for certain faults because the professionals in those disciplines feel that they actually help the horse to perform better.

Here's where things get more interesting- we can't make good assessments of conformation when horses are too young because they aren't born well proportioned at all- they tend to be all legs 😍 And even when their joints naturally fuse as they stop growing, we can make a better assessment of conformation, but it isn't the end of the world when we spot faults in most horses. Conformation of a horse will change throughout its life- so if you know why these changes are happening we can intervene and make sure that our horses' shape and functionality actually support whatever their daily activity and favorite disciplines are.

Some common conformation faults that cannot be changed are:

  • Over at the knee
  • Back at the knee
  • Base Wide
  • Base Narrow
  • Knock Kneed
  • Bow Legged
  • Cow Hocked
  • Bow Hocked
  • Sickle Hocked
  • Straight Behind (Posty)
Some common conformation faults that can be changed are:

  • Sway Back
  • Ewe Neck
  • Camped Out
  • Camped Under
  • Pigeon Toed
  • Toed Out
There are definitely more faults to put on both of these lists, but this is a good starting point. And remember- conformation faults don't have to be the end of the road for your horse! The most severe faults are often noticeable on foals and veterinarians do there best to correct the faults enough to allow the horse to have a good quality of life.

If you want to learn more about how to improve some faults that your horse has or what jobs your horse may be more suited for according to his conformation, jump on over to my Free Facebook Group!

30 Hour Getaway

30 Hour Getaway

I am sure I am not the only person that totally over schedules most days. Seriously. My planner has a to-do list with 8 lines- I manage to fill at least 12 lines daily. And, of course, at least 4 are left over from the day before. I rely heavily on my Sundays to finish things around the house and to work uninterrupted on my business.


Sunday, May 28th was no different. I had such a long to-do list. There were so many things that I had been putting off that I was going to finish on Sunday. However, at 5:30 pm on Friday (the 26th) a conversation arose with my mother that lead to something completely different than my "catch-up Sunday." Weirdly enough and completely our of character for me, I jumped at the opportunity to leave after work on Saturday to go to Marquette, MI. The catch? I had to be back around 10 pm Sunday.


So, 24 hours after the trip was proposed, my sister, my daughter and myself were loaded into a truck (with my sister's dog, too lol) and headed to Marquette. The trip there was long, but the excitement of what we were about to experience was nearly palpable.


We pulled into our destination for the night just after 1 am. Thankfully, we didn't end up bringing a tent. Instead, we had cots to set up in the garage of the vacant house we were stopping at to pick up some antiques. We finally got to sleep around 2 am.

We were up around 8 am and had the truck packed ready for our trip home by 9 am. The plan was to be headed home by 2 pm so we had plenty of time to meet some friends that moved to the area last year and had great local spots to share with us. Instead of walking you through all of the fun things we saw, I will let you see the pictures and just share what this trip has taught me.


First, my to-do list was still there when I came home Sunday night... and Monday... and some items are still on it now!! Please do not make the assumption that the items on my list weren't important. Of course, I had some easy to put off items on the list like laundry and cleaning the kitchen. However, I also had follow-ups for my business and finalizing plans for my 7th wedding anniversary which is this Friday and my daughter's 9th birthday which is in 2 weeks. These things are important, but I am so glad I put them off for this quick trip.


Second, I have had a few opportunities similar to this that I have always turned down because the short trip "would not be worth the effort." I cannot express how wrong this thought process was. It seems crazy I know. Really though, a quick 1-night trip doesn't require much in the way of clothes, food, or planning. This trip can be easy and inexpensive! Don't over think it!


Finally, this idea may make you uncomfortable- GOOD! It's crazy! It's fun! You will grow as an individual, in experience, and with the people that you share your trip with. You can travel alone and have just as much fun and possibly grow more than traveling with others.


We only have one life. Don't forget that. Do things differently so you can experience all that life has to offer.

Chicken, Turkey, AND Duck

Originally posted Fall 2019

 If you follow my Facebook page you may have seen the Live video I did a couple of weeks ago when I  talked about my dog, Ardy's, allergies. I've suspected allergies with  Ardy for a long time. We have changed his food so many times that I was starting to wonder if 1) I was totally wrong or 2) he was allergic to something in our house and not his food. 


 

For most of Ardy's life, he has experienced periods in which his ears would swell a little, produce mass amounts of ear wax (very stinky ear wax), and he would scratch his poor ears until they would bleed, scab over, and lose his hair. I would apply an ointment and he would heal.  Most recently, the  ointment stopped working and the scratching was happening to more than just his ears. I had reached my breaking point  (thankfully, right before Ardy reached his). I called a local holistic vet and requested an appointment. We had to wait for a cancellation to be able to get in before 2020.

Ardy got a much-needed chiropractic adjustment and we found out which of his body systems need the most support. In addition, we found out that his body contains high levels of aluminum and formaldehyde (he was over-vaccinated as a puppy).  Finally, he was allergy tested for A LOT of stuff. It was determined that Ardy is sensitive to grains and seriously allergic to poultry....  guess what food I had been feeding Ardy? Yup... Chicken, Turkey, AND  Duck all in one food.

Although the vet put together a  personalized supplement list, I wasn't prepared for the complete sticker shock of the appointment and then the supplements on top of it. 

I'm glad I couldn't just buy everything then and there. As much as I wanted to do whatever necessary to get Ardy healthy, I didn't have time to do my own research. I did, however, immediately and completely change Ardy's food to a pork-based, grain-free kibble.

I  needed more time to research the other things the vet had recommended-  including a raw diet. It seems super overwhelming to feed my dog raw when I, in fact, have three dogs and I struggle to keep my daughter and husband eating healthy, balanced meals.

When I started researching the supplements the vet recommended and liver detoxing for dogs, I realized that  I already owned quite a few things that would assist Ardy on his journey to recovery. 

So...  once we changed his food I did my best to keep his ears covered in ointment to help the outer skin heal. Two weeks later, and with no other interventions, his skin was healed, but still hairless.  He was great for his chiropractic to follow up, but he seemed itchy again. I  honestly assumed he had just gotten into the other dog's food or the cat food since both have chicken. The day after his follow up appointment (of course) I noticed his right ear (the one that had plagued him the most) was really bothering him and it was actually draining (but not really stinky- thank goodness!).


We were so close to healing! I was definitely disappointed that we had another issue. I mixed up a concoction to try to relieve his discomfort. I soaked a cotton ball in the mixture and then squeezed out the excess liquid. Then I  placed in the opening of his ear, put the flap down and gently massaged the outer base of his ear (this technique was suggested by a vet tech).  That first night, I started him on two of the supplements I had on hand- one to support his immune system and the other a mineral supplement. The next day, I  repeated the concoction and cotton ball routine and fed Ardy one probiotic capsule with breakfast and one with dinner. 



As of this writing, we are five days out from the right ear issues resurfacing and I am happy to report that  Ardy is growing hair on his ears again and they don't appear to bother him. I am continuing the probiotic and minerals for regular supplementation.

In addition, I recently acquired an iTovi scanner. Ardy's first scan revealed that his body would respond well to some essential oils  that I have been incorporating as well.


Want to learn more about the iTovi scanner? Check it out here. I offer scans for people local to me for $10 or you can save money on your own scanner by using this link.

Want to learn the details about what we have done for Ardy? It certainly hasn't been an easy road- you can join my facebook group to hear more about it 😉


Biomechanics: Why every rider should understand the basics

Biomechanics: Why every rider should understand the basics

I remember barely touching on the subject of biomechanics when I was growing up. Luckily, the way I was trained to ride already took biomechanics into consideration. However, there is something to be said about having a personal understanding of biomechanics and the ramifications of not riding/ training in accordance to the natural biomechanics of the horse.


When I really started to explore the topic of biomechanics, I slowly began to realize that there were horses in my past that I did wrong simply by not understanding their biomechanics. I had horses that would consistently knock poles in show jumping or refuse a lead in our dressage tests. I also had horses that would not quit tossing the head! UGH! It was all so frustrating at the time… and each of those horses were rehomed so I could get a horse that wasn’t quite so difficult. 


If only I knew then what I know now... 


Biomechanics is the study of structure, function, and motion of the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the horse.


Did you know the following injuries and shortcomings of the horse are directly caused by improper riding/ training techniques?:

Over-reaching, knocking poles, failure to pick up a lead, hunter's bump (aka- rotated sacrum), and head tossing.

In addition to these common issues, improper riding/ training that doesn't consider proper biomechanics causes the horse to tense in certain areas which will lead to 1) pain; 2) overuse of some muscle groups and underuse of others, and 3) higher risk for injury.


There are definitely other contributing factors to consider besides riding and training methods. For example, how your horse’s feet are shod can directly influence the way your horse moves. This also means that changing the way your horse is shod will directly impact your ride. 


By understanding the structure and function of all of your horse's moving pieces, you will be able to get out of their way. Your horse will be able to reach their highest potential and you can worry a little less about a potential injury.


It is important to note that when you find that your horse’s biomechanics have been impeded in some way, they will most likely be sore or even dead lame, depending on how long it took you to discover the problem. In this case, you will need a good CESMT that is familiar with the causes of pain and biomechanics. If you aren’t in my working radius, you will find a highly qualified CESMT here.


I would love to invite you to join me in my Naturally Minded Horse Lovers community on Facebook where we talk more in-depth about biomechanics and other natural ways to support your horse 😀

Ulcers in Horses: Signs, Effects, and Natural Solutions

Ulcers in Horses: Signs, Effects, and Natural Solutions
Ulcers seem to be more common now than they were, say, 15 years ago,  but I would wager that we just didn't know what we were dealing with then. Ulcers are erosions of the stomach lining and they are usually painful.
Signs of ulcers can include reduced/ poor appetite, weight loss, dull skin and hair coat, attitude/behavior changes (especially when saddled), colic, reluctance to work, and impaired performance.
If you can see some of these signs in your horse, it may be wise to get a diagnosis. There are a  couple of good ways to do that. First, you can have your vet run a  gastroscopy (AKA "scope") down the horse's throat and to the stomach to literally see if there are ulcers in the stomach. It is possible to have ulcers in the hindgut though and those will not be visible with the "scope."


 
 Another way to diagnose ulcers is with acupressure. This may be something that your vet can do or your CESMT (like me) or another natural health provider could be capable as well. You can check this link to get an idea of what this diagnosis technique involves.
Once  you have determined that your horse is suffering from ulcers, or at  risk for developing them, you have some changes to make. Ulcers have been determined to be caused by high-stress levels, seriously restricted grazing/ pasture time, and diets high in carbs.
First of all, it isn't always possible to completely eliminate our horse's  stress- especially if they are highly competitive athletes that travel frequently. One thing you can do that will benefit your ulcer prone horse is to make sure they get plenty of turn out time. Horses are NOT meant to be stuck in a stall for hours at a time. They were built to be grazing freely and moving constantly throughout the day. Wild horses usually only rest for short periods in between grazing. Not only does the consistent grazing keep their digestive system moving (keeping natural buffers for the stomach lining healthy and strong), but it also plays a role in their circulation.  It may not always be possible to provide extended turn out time even though it is ideal. If that is the case, the best thing you can do for your horse is to make sure that they don't go long without forage. 
In addition to pasture time, changing how and what you feed can also help reduce your horses'  stress level and improve their stomach health. The one thing that always seems to surprise people is to NOT feed your horses on a strict schedule. This may seem counter-intuitive, but when your horses are used  to being fed at the EXACT same time EVERY day, they experience extreme stress if you are late. In fact, you may have already noticed your horses standing at their gates and calling out to you and pawing the  ground as they catch sight of you coming out to feed. Though it can seem cute to have them calling out to you, it is a stress response. If you are more flexible in your feed times you will find that your horses are still out in the field when you come out to feed and while some may run to their feeders, you will find others will calmly and casually make their way in. This also helps when there is something that prevents you from feeding "on time." None of your horses' will be panicking that you aren't there to feed them- they will not think twice if you are an hour later than usual.
One of the biggest contributors to ulcers is poor quality, high carb foods. Concentrates or grains are generally high carb and your horse's digestive system was not made to process them in high quantities. Again, if the horse is an athlete or a  "work" horse, it may not seem possible to completely eliminate grains from your horses' diet. There are foods that you can incorporate to nurture the stomach and also, replace some of the grains your horse is consuming. First, alfalfa hay provides natural buffers for the stomach lining. Remember to avoid long periods without forage- going more than 6  hours in between meals has been shown to increase the prevalence of  ulcers. Second, you can feed high-fat foods (think stabilized rice bran, raw pumpkin seeds, and flaxseed oil)  to replace the carbs for energy and also protect the stomach lining. You can also feed raw cabbage and aloe vera juice to support a healthy digestive system in your horses. Third, make sure your horse ALWAYS has access to clean, fresh water (easy enough 😉). 
Finally, if you use straw as bedding, you may need to reconsider- if your horse eats a sizable about of straw, they are adding  to the formation of ulcers.
To recap- give your horse as much pasture time as possible. Make sure they always have water.  Don't let them go long without forage- the more quality forage they get the less grain they will need. Supplement when necessary and add some flexibility to your feeding schedule.
Keep your vet in  the loop as you treat your horse for ulcers- you may need help or more detailed guidance depending on the severity of the ulcers and the goal is to have happy, healthy horses- two heads are better than one 😀 

Interested in more information like this? Join my Naturally Minded Horse Lover community on Facebook!
 
Read Older Updates