Deepening your connection – Part 5

Other ways of supporting your own wellbeing and balance include:

  • taking time-out for yourself
  • meditation / mindfulness
  • physiotherapy / chiropractic / massage sessions
  • a healthy diet
  • getting sufficient sleep
  • complementary therapies (eg homeopathy, aromatherapy Bach Flower remedies, EFT, healing, etc) 

I personally offer a range of support which can be used face-to-face or at a distance:

  • MetaHealth : This sees dis-ease as a process and, by analysing what is going on for the person, it can trace back to find the original trigger behind the symptoms. The practitioner can then suggest ways in which the trigger can be addressed directly, and cleared, allowing the person to make the journey back to good health.
  • Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) : this uses the same meridian lines followed by Traditional Chinese medicine, however without the needles! It helps to clear blocked traumas and so is a very effective therapy.  It can be used with a wide range of issues including chronic pain, anxiety, limiting beliefs, allergies and phobias.
  • Energy Healing / Reiki : This is a wonderfully relaxing therapy which encourages your body to naturally move into the parasympathetic cycle of rest and repair. It can be used to support a wide range of issues including:
    • healing of injuries
    • detoxification (eg after chemotherapy of giving up smoking)
    • pain relief
    • balancing
    • a sense of wellbeing and calm
  • Nutrition : I am currently studying to be a nutritional therapist and I can advise you on ‘clean eating’ to support health and wellbeing


The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 


mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website:


(Read the full article here)


Deepening your connection – Part 2

The tension that we sometimes see in our domestic herds is due to the unnatural conditions in which we keep our horses.  There could be perceived competition for precious resources – eg food, water or space – or frequent changes in their surroundings or herd members resulting in them exhibiting stressed behaviours. 

In addition, when we see the strength and power of these large animals we often feel that we need to keep control by dominating them, and this causes them to fear us and the punishments that we give.  These punishments make no sense to horses.  To them, their behaviours are seeking to avoid a fight.  They prefer a quiet life because, as a prey animal, fighting within the herd wastes energy and distracts you from looking out for prey.

scaredIf we focus on dominating horses, this will come across as aggressive and the horse could feel threatened.  This could push him into one of the stages of the fight / flight response:


  1. fidget
  2. freeze
  3. flight
  4. fight

In any of these stages, we have lost his attention because he is focused solely on diffusing or avoiding the tension that he feels.  If we don’t understand his signals, and think that he is deliberately misbehaving, we might resort to punishment which only adds to his fear and distress.

Also if he is tied or being ridden, any attempts to get away will probably be futile adding to his stress and possibly causing him to shut down. 

Another problem with using punishment is that the horse will probably not make the connection between what he has done, and the punishment he is given.

For example:

A horse refuses a jump and the rider comes off.

If the rider then picks himself up and goes to shout at the horse, who is now calmly grazing nearby, the horse will not understand.  To his mind he has moved on and is just looking after himself.

Even if the horse does make the connection, he is learning what is not wanted, not what is wanted.

Fear based relationships are unstable and unpredictable.  The horse might comply as long as he is more scared of the human than the environmental trigger.  But what happens when something comes along that is more scary than the human?

Viewing things from the perspective of dominance versus yawnsubmission also means that we are less likely to spot the subtle signs that horses use to maintain herd cohesion and harmony. eg

  • looking away
  • yawning
  • stretching
  • licking lips
  • relaxed ears

When working with a horse (or any animal) it is very important to be consistent and clear, with the signals we use, our boundaries and even our behaviour / mood.  Doing this helps the horse to feel safe around us because he comes to see us as predictable and learns that he can trust the relationship.  This particularly applies if you are not the only person working with the horse.  If he gets different signals from different people, it could be confusing for him.

Our signals also need to be clear, that is, not contradictory.  Sometimes horses struggle because we think we’re saying one thing, but our body language / energy is actually saying something very different.  For example if we’re trying to teach boundaries to a horse when we’re not clear about holding these for ourselves.

The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 


mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website:


(Read the full article here)

Deepening your connection – Part 1


In this series of 5 blogs I will look at the interaction between our horses and ourselves:

  • how we can develop a deeper understanding and connection with our equines

  • how having us in their lives affects them

  • how we can do our best for the horses in our care

bossThe traditional approach to working with horses has been to assume that we need to establish who is the ‘boss’.  Horses are generally bigger and stronger than us and so people have tended to believe that we need to hold a dominant position in relation to them.  Many of us have also been taught that this model is taken from how horses organise themselves in the wild.  We hear stories of the lead stallion, or the alpha mare, and while there is some truth in this, the reality is more complex. 

In fact, horse herds often act as a single entity.  They will spread leadershipthemselves out to graze, each animal facing in a different direction, effectively giving them an all round view to watch out for predators.  A horse’s usual way of interacting is therefore one of cooperation, synchronisation and leading / following, rather than dominance.  Any member of the herd who sees a threat can lead the others, by starting to run.  The rest sense the movement and follow.  This cooperation encourages cohesion within the herd, allowing them to live together peacefully, so maximising their chances of surviving.  The horses will also follow leads in terms of moving off to look for new grazing or water.

In the day-to-day life of the herd, horses tend to defer to those who are older or more experienced.  These horses are the ones who appear calm and assured, rather than those who are nervous, or even bossy.  Horses like to feel safe, and they are attracted to those who make them feel this way.  They are also very sensitive to the energy of others and they can quickly assess who makes them feel relaxed and who doesn’t.

In the next post I’ll look at why domesticated horses sometimes appear to be less co-operative.


The information in this article was taken from my workshops and video series on giving horses a more natural lifestyle and the benefits that this brings, not only to them but to their owners / carers.  To see more, please follow this link:

If you have comments or questions about anything in this article, or if you would like to book a session with me, please don’t hesitate to get in touch: 


mobile:           07980 669303

You can also read more about me and my work on my website:


(Read the full article here)


The challenge of going barefoot with your horse – part 2

In Part 1 I looked at the various elements that need to be in place in order to maximise your horse’s chances of success when transitioning from shod to barefoot:

  1. lifestyle
  2. diet
  3. working with your horse
  4. trim

When points 1-3 are covered, and you’re ready take your horse’s shoes off, what happens next? Well, this will depend on the health of the horse and his feet. How long has he been wearing shoes and how much has this affected the various layers of tissue? If a horse has been shod for a long time this will probably have impaired his circulation and caused his frogs to atrophy. If this is the case then he will probably require a longer transition period.



This photograph shows a contracted heel with a deep cleft that can harbour bacteria leading to infection. It also indicates that the tissue is not as healthy as it could be meaning that the hoof might not be growing very well. A healthy hoof grows at about 1cm per month meaning that it can take about 9 months for new tissue to grow down from the coronet band to the ground. If the tissues have been compromised, this growth rate can slow down to almost nothing, however when the shoes are removed and the diet and lifestyle improved they can recover and in time proper growth should be re-established.

In the meantime the hoof might need to get rid of toxins that have been collecting. This can – and probably will – result in abscesses. These can be very painful while the pressure is building within the hoof however this quickly passes when the abscess bursts. This is a natural process and if possible should be left to do its own thing. Digging it out could actually introduce foreign matter leading to further complications. The body knows what it is doing and its aim is always to return to good health in order to survive, therefore it is best to allow the process to run its course as naturally as possible. Once the abscess has burst, keep the foot clean (using a simple salt or apple cider vinegar soak) and poultice to remove the infected material. The wound should then recover by itself.

If your horse has been suffering with laminitis he will probably be veryunhealthy-hoof-side footsore. Depending on the severity of the laminitis, and the length of time it has been present, there could be visible signs such as ‘rings’ on his hooves, lack of concavity of his soles and under-run heels / long toes, due to the distortion of the hoof capsule.

Taking the shoes off at this point will reveal the extent of the horse’s discomfort. Shoes can actually mask pain, in that they reduce the circulation to the foot, and therefore its sensitivity, however they will not help to heal the laminitis.

Your vet will probably prescribe pain killers at this point, and possibly even recommend re-shoeing your horse, however the final decision is yours. Using pain killers can mask symptoms and even contribute to the condition they are supposed to be helping, due to the effects they have on the horse’s metabolism. Of course you do not want your horse to suffer, nor do you wish him to go off his food, but this needs to be balanced against the detrimental effects of medications such as ‘bute’.

Jaime Jackson, in his book Founder Prevention and Cure the Natural Way recommends a 4-day cycle where you only medicate the horse, as necessary, for 3 days, then give him 1 day off to allow the medication to work out of his system and review how he is doing. Gradually reduce the medication until he no longer needs it. He also recommends allowing the horse to move around freely. At first your horse might need to be encouraged to move and might only be able to take a few short steps, but this should be done frequently throughout the day until he is more comfortable and able to move on his own. Box rest and confinement should be avoided where at all possible. If necessary put down mats or a softer surface for your horse to walk on initially until he is no longer in so much pain. Movement is an essential part of the healing process as it encourages good circulation which helps to remove toxins and bring much needed oxygen and nutrients to the tissues in order for them to heal.

Horses with painful feet often appear to get relief from standing in cold water. The cooling affect must be soothing to their inflamed tissues. Wild horses do this naturally as it is hydrating for their hooves and helps to keep them strong.

When your horse is comfortable walking on soft ground you can gradually introduce other surfaces. Initially he will probably show signs of ‘footiness’ on harder or rougher surfaces. Hoof boots can be a useful support here allowing time for the stronger hoof to grow down and his feet to toughen up. There are a wide range of boots available in a range of fittings. I recommend contacting Liz Hapgood of The Hoof Bootique. She stocks a wide variety of boots and is able to talk you through the measuring and selection process.

Something else that often worries horse owners is the shapes that a hoof-flaretransitioning hoof goes through as it gradually finds its way back to balance and health. Flares, cracks and flaking are common. This is another reason to use a qualified Barefoot Trimmer as they will be able to reassure you and advise you on any further ways to support your horse. They also have an in-depth understanding of hoof balance and so will be able to ensure that your horse is as comfortable as possible, no matter how strange his feet are looking!

As mentioned above, the hoof grows at about 1 cm per month so after a short while it is possible to see the new, healthy wall growing down. This can be at a very different angle from the old hoof and results in a ‘broken hoof-pastern axis’. It can look a little odd at first (see below) but it is a very encouraging sign that your horse’s hoofs are beginning to heal themselves. It is worth taking pictures at intervals so that you can track his progress and look back to see how far you have come. As the new hoof continues to grow down it can appear that the lower section might snap off, however this is unlikely to happen as the horse does not roll his foot forward over his ‘toe’ area as we do, but rather lifts his hoof straight off the ground.


In Part 3 I’ll be looking at what you can do if your vet insists on reshoeing your horse.

The challenge of going barefoot with your horse – part 1

In my work I often come across people who have made the choice to take the shoes off their horse, only to run into challenges.

Going barefoot is often not for the faint-hearted, but I do believe that it is the best choice for your horse. There are the odd exceptions to this (some horses’ feet have had such a poor start in life or have suffered from years of shoeing and inappropriate diet and lifestyle) but generally, if all the right conditions are in place, the majority of horses can make the transition. Of course this can take time, and the hooves might go through all sorts of weird shapes and variations in comfort levels, however with perseverance they will develop those ‘rock-crunching’ feet you dream of.

So what are those ‘right conditions’ I mentioned? As you can see from the diagram below, removing your horse’s shoes and getting his feet trimmed is only a small part of a holistic way of caring for your horse. Having said that, I would strongly advise using a qualified Barefoot Trimmer to do this job, as they will have been trained on how to achieve the proper balance in a horse’s hoof and how best to work with them through the transition from shod to barefoot. If you don’t know of a trimmer near you, contact Hoofing Marvellous. They have a list of trimmers covering a wide area and can probably point you in the direction of a good local trimmer.


You will see that the basis of this holistic way of keeping your horse is all about providing them with as natural a lifestyle as possible. For those who are not lucky enough to have their own land this will probably be some form of livery. There is a growing number of places that now offer a ‘Paddock Paradise’ or ‘Track System’ livery which seeks to recreate as natural a lifestyle for our horses as possible. (I highly recommend reading Jaime Jackson’s book Paddock Paradise, if you haven’t already, as it will help to explain this system of boarding and how it benefits the horses.)

Track Systems are just that: a track that allows for the continual movement that can be seen in wild horses as they walk around their territory in search of food. This promotes good circulation and digestion helping to keep the horse healthy and fit. Horses kept this way are normally on 24 hour turnout, with field shelters, trees and hedges providing places to seek refuge from sun, rain and wind. The idea is also to keep horses together in ‘herds’ so that they are able to socialise with each other.


The next layer of the pyramid is diet. Horses are designed to eat little and often. They have small stomachs and no gall bladder. They have evolved to extract nutrition from tough vegetation using bacterial fermentation. These symbiotic bacteria work best when the horse eats the right kind of food, ie plants and grasses that are high in fibre and low in sugars. They are very sensitive to changes in this balance which can lead to health issues in the horse.

The grass in many of our fields is high in sugar as it was designed to fatten cows or to achieve a high milk yield. It is actually unhealthy for our horses, especially our native breeds who have evolved to live on wild moorland. Added to this, many of the bagged feeds available for horses contain high levels of sugar, and chemicals such as mould inhibitors and pesticides. For this reason it is best to feed your horse as naturally as possible. Try to source hay made from old meadow grasses that have been grown on land that has not been fertilised or sprayed. It is worth having your hay analysed to see its energy and mineral content to ensure that you know what is lacking in order to provide a fully balanced diet for your horse.

You can also offer a wide range of other plants for horses to forage from. This will satisfy their natural instinct to browse for additional nutrients and can be a healthier way to offer these vitamins and minerals than some of the commercial supplements. (One of my other blog posts gives ideas on herbs and other plants to offer.) If it is necessary to use a supplement, try to find one that is as natural as possible and free from added sugar and chemicals. (If you are in any doubt about your horse’s diet, and whether or not it is fully meeting his nutritional needs, consult a qualified equine nutritionist.)

The third layer of the pyramid refers to training. This is not something that I will go into here other than to say that I recommend finding ways to work with your horse. Find what he enjoys and try to always keep the sessions light and fun. Doing this will mean that he looks forward to your time together and it will keep him curious and open to learning. Any signs of stress or fear mean that he is going into the ‘fight or flight’ response and is no longer open. He is now looking for ways to diffuse or escape a situation that has become uncomfortable to him. If this happens stop the activity that was causing stress and take a break or end the session. If you can, try to end on a positive and encouraging note. Both you and your horse will feel better and be more optimistic about future sessions.

In Part 2 I’ll be looking at what happens after your horse’s shoes come off.

A horse-share story

About 5-6 weeks ago I was very fortunate to begin a horse-share arrangement at a yard not far from where I live. The horse in question is a beautiful dark brown gelding called Knight. Over the past month or so we’ve been getting to know each other and he has been teaching me so much.


When I first met him, I was told that Knight had some back issues and was showing signs of pain when ridden, in fact his young owner told me that he would try to buck her off. He had been seen by a vet who recommended a session with an equine physio. The physio had found that his back muscles were tight and painful so she used a massager on him. He has now had 2 sessions with her and will soon be getting measured for a new saddle.

I started by offering Knight some healing, some gentle massage and a few acupressure points that I thought might be helpful. (During an initial scan I’d noticed that Knight reacted at 2 points on his neck and was also sensitive around his lumbar area.) Knight ‘tolerated’ these therapies, briefly, but didn’t seem to be enjoying them so I shelved them for now and instead we practised some gentle exercises in the school, including walking over poles, weaving, doing circles to encourage him to bend and increase flexibility in his spine, carrot stretches to release any tight muscles and walking backwards to strengthen his back and his hip flexors.

Knight seemed to do most of these exercises quite easily and it helped us to get to know each other a little better. He appeared to be curious about this newcomer and even followed me through the exercises without being led. It was a lovely feeling for me that he was choosing to be with me – even if only out of curiosity – and it made me want to develop our relationship and connection further. This is something that is very important to me, and a big part of what I focus on in my work, but spending time with Knight has opened up a whole new level for me.


Every horse is an individual and brings a whole series of new teachings. I get the impression that Knight is a very ‘contained’ horse – calm on the outside but holding a lot of emotion inside. Whether in the school, paddock or stable he would comply with what I asked or gently show me that he ‘didn’t want to play today’ but without any real emotion. I got the feeling that I was only seeing the tip of the iceberg, like a mask – a façade that he shows to the outside world, while keeping his inner thoughts very private. I felt that he was letting me in just so far, but no further. While respecting that this is his choice, I also want to make sure that he knows he is completely safe around me. I always keep my energy low when I’m with him, moving gently and keeping my hands and voice soft. I want him to know that he can trust me always to be reliable and to never use punishment with him.

I also often spend time with him, just being present, not asking anything of him, other than for him to be himself. I want him to know that he is free to express himself and make his own choices, to encourage him to be self-aware. I would like him to to feel safe to show me his wants and needs, knowing that I will listen. I still keep boundaries, and hopefully I do this consistently, so that Knight learns what is or is not ‘ok’ with me, just as I do for him. I watch his body language and encourage him to take the lead at times. This seems to be encouraging him to open up a little more and to be more relaxed around me. The other day he actually yawned for the first time with me – and not just a small yawn either! It built up into a massive jaw and tongue release which was beautiful to see.

Some of the best times we’ve had have been in the paddock where I often just spend time sitting on the ground while Knight and his 2 field buddies graze around me. It’s very touching how these large animals take such good care around me. They are always very gentle and are conscious about where they put their feet! I love to watch the buzzards riding the thermals, the swallows swooping after insects, the rabbits hopping about and the butterflies enjoying the sunshine. I also love the sound of the wind in the trees and the feel of it caressing my skin.  These are magical times that the horses allow me to share with them.


Yesterday, before going to the yard, I watched The Path of the Horse . This is an amazing film and I highly recommend watching it. It was one of those moments where the Universe delivers exactly what you need, at exactly the right time – a gift … and a challenge! Many parts of the film were difficult for me to watch, some because I have been guilty of less than gentle handling in the past (partly due to ignorance but also because I was lacking the confidence to question what I was taught, even when it felt wrong and also, to my shame, I have at times taken out my pain on these beautiful, patient animals) also some scenes reflected my pain, as the horse does, showing that I have much personal work still to do.

I realised that this is what I was bringing to Knight – and that this was what he was reflecting back to me! No wonder he appeared reserved and very self-contained. No wonder he didn’t seem to trust me with his innermost feelings. I’ve been doing exactly the same with him – and with myself!

Being honest with myself I’ve known this to be true but needed to be confronted with it. I’ve been making excuses that it was ‘ok’, ‘not really important’ or ‘not about me, anyway’, but being with Knight has shown me that I must be willing to ‘show up’ and fully own, and take responsibility for, all of my emotions before I can expect the same from him. At the same time I can be free to go with the moment with a very light, soft touch, allowing my ‘E-Motions’ (Energy in Motion) to ebb and flow naturally without the baggage of guilt or ‘navel gazing’ that we humans so often get caught up in.

After watching the film I went to see Knight. I brought my drum (an Irish bodhran) and Kindle with me and we played and danced together. It felt rather strange at first (and I was glad that no-one was watching) but it also felt liberating and joy-ful and Knight seemed to pick up on this energy and join in.


We then just stood together, Knight dozing, feeling the wind in our hair, the sun on our backs and enjoying each other’s energy.  It was a very beautiful and special time and an infinitely precious moment of connection between us that we can build on.


Healthy vs unhealthy hooves

There’s a saying in the Health and Wellbeing world that many of us don’t realise how good our bodies could feel.  I think that in the Horse world the equivalent might be that most of us don’t know what a healthy hoof looks like.

The hoof on the left (below) is a healthy hoof: smooth wall, low heel, short toe.

The one on the right is an unhealthy hoof: the coronet band is at an unnatural angle indicating internal changes (see below) the wall is ridged, the heel is higher and the toe longer (even though it appears to have been trimmed).


hoof xray comparison

The xray on the left (above) shows how the pedal bone in a healthy foot is parallel to the wall of the hoof.  The pedal bone on the right has separated from the wall of the hoof and is now pressing painfully on the sole of the foot.

The photograph below compares the underside of healthy / unhealthy hooves.  For anyone who might be unfamiliar with the names of the parts of the hoof, here is a diagram showing the areas I’ll be referring to:

hoof anatomy

The hoof on the left (below) has a strong sole, wall and bars. Also the frog looks healthy and there’s a nice wide heel with a shallow sulcus.

The hoof on the right has a contracted heel with a deep sulcus which could allow infections such as thrush to grow. The frog and sole look very different from those of the other hoof and the wall appears to be crumbling. There are marks on the sole which could indicate infection or bruising.


These changes in the hooves, and the resulting lameness that often follows, can be very worrying.  In fact many horses are lost each year due to painful hoof conditions.  These are often diagnosed as ‘laminitis’ or ‘navicular’ however they are actually part of a whole-body dis-ease.

Domestic horses are often kept stabled for long periods of time.  This causes stress which results in chemical changes in their bodies and also lowers the effectiveness of their immune systems.  It also means that they can be left standing in their own waste and that they have restricted movement.  Many commercial feeds contain high levels of sugars (even those which say they are aimed at Insulin Resistant horses) and also chemicals such as pesticides, preservatives and mould inhibitors.  All these take their toll on the horse’s metabolism.

The AANHCP (Association for the Advancement of Natural Horsecare Practices) put out this statement:

 “We have long urged you to read the labels on feed products and avoid those with sweeteners, insecticides, mould inhibitors, petroleum by-products (mineral oil), sugar / molasses / other ‘hidden’ sweeteners, and agricultural waste products such as beet pulp, oatfeed & wheat middlings. Now, many hay growers – especially in humid, rainy areas – are using glyphosate weed killers, not only to kill weeds, but also to speed up the drying time on hay crops. 

According to Dr Debbie Carley of Thunderbrook Feeds in the U.K., these weedkiller residues are getting into feed in vast amounts ever since the patent on glyphosate (the main ingredient in most weedkillers) expired, which makes the toxic chemical much cheaper.

Sadly the alternative of turning your horse out on grass isn’t always the answer, particularly if the grass is rich pasture land originally intended for grazing cattle or sheep.  This grass was for fattening the livestock for market or for a high milk yield and is generally too rich for horses who have evolved to live off low nutrient vegetation.  Also, if a horse is surrounded by this tasty food there is no motivation for him to move far.

Contrast this with the lifestyle of wild horse herds.  They can roam distances of up to 30km in a day looking for food, and they are continuously browsing and foraging throughout the day.  The domesticated horse’s lifestyle is very different from that of their wild cousins and involves much less movement.  Just like us, this can lead to ill health.  However, in recognising this we can explore changes to improve the health, and quality of life, of the animals in our care.

Dr Sid Gustafson of The University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada says that we need to “provide the horse with abundant forage, friendship, and locomotion.”

In his blog article posted in April 2014 he goes on to say:

Locomotion is required not only for normal healing, but for normal digestion, respiration, hoof health, circulation, and all other physiologic functions of the horse. Stall rest is at the expense of many systems, especially the hoof and metabolic systems. Digestion and respiration are compromised by confinement and restriction of movement. Metabolic, digestive, circulatory, hoof health, musculoskeletal, and nervous, systems, as well as the all other systems and functions of the horse, are dependent upon adequate and appropriate locomotion for normal functioning and/or healing.

The wall of the hoof is made of keratin, just like our fingernails and in a healthy hoof it grows at the rate of about 1/4 to 3/8 inch per month.  Therefore, given the correct diet and lifestyle horses hooves can recover from the changes shown above, enabling them to have strong, sound feet again. It may take time, and the hoof will probably go through some weird shapes along the way, but your horse will be happier and healthier in the end.