My animal is showing anxious and defensive behaviours – what can I do?

How to recognise the escalation steps and know the appropriate response at each level

In another role, I recently attended a 1-day refresher course in MAPA® (Management of Actual and Perceived Aggression) run by CPI (the Crisis Prevention Institute).  This course looks at what happens when an individual’s tension starts to rise, and how we can respond – rather than react – in order to hopefully diffuse the tension before it escalates further and possibly turns into aggression.

MAPA® teaches that there are 4 stages in this process:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Defensiveness
  3. Risky behaviour
  4. Tension reduction

When we can respond appropriately at each stage, it allows us to address the level of tension in the ‘least restrictive’ manner.

The suggested responses are:

  1. Be supportive
  2. Be directive
  3. Use (minimal and proportionate) physical intervention
  4. Engage in therapeutic rapport

Listening to the trainer, I began to realise that this makes a lot of sense for our interactions with our animal friends too! 

I like simplicity (as you might have seen in my recent post) and so MAPA®’s 4-step process resonated with me and I thought I would share, in case it might prove helpful for others too.

The first step we need to take is to observe, and become familiar with, our animal’s baseline behaviours:

  • How do they appear in a variety of situations and settings?
  • What does their ‘happy’ look like?
  • What does their ‘slightly uneasy’ look like?
  • What does their ‘worried’ or ‘anxious’ look like?
  • If they have a disagreement with another horse, what behaviours do they show and how do they behave afterwards? (ie during the tension reduction phase)
  • What do they enjoy? What are they good at?

When we know the answers to these questions, then we can start to gauge where our animal is on their scale of tension, and how we might begin to support them at each level.

Sometimes however, we don’t notice / recognise the subtle signals an animal displays to say that they’re beginning to feel anxious.  These might be a tension around the eyes, mouth and ears, or behavioural clues such as yawning or looking away.

Most – if not all – animals would prefer to keep their tension levels as low as possible, therefore their early signals are an invitation to us to offer support in some way.  If we aren’t able to at least attempt to offer this – and animals are generally very forgiving, tolerant and accepting of our sometimes stumbling and clumsy attempts – then their anxiety will probably move up to defensive behaviour.

At this level we could see things like threats to kick or bite in horses, or bared teeth and growling in dogs.  Unfortunately, particularly with animals who have been punished for giving these signals, we might perceive that they ‘suddenly jump’ into the risky behaviour of charging or biting.  However, if we are able to spot defensive signals, then the MAPA® suggested response is to be directive.  With animals, since we don’t have a shared verbal language, this will need to be in the form of body language or movement on our part.

You could, of course, use a verbal command such as ‘No!’, but I believe that if this was successful it could have the same outcome as punishment, in that it might restrict the animal’s choices in communicating their feelings.  Over time they might stop showing the lower level signals all together, meaning that we no longer have the opportunity to step in and respond to help them release / channel their tension.

Our animals can’t learn to speak, however with a bit of effort and practice we can learn to read their body language and facial expression (see more about this in my blog series) and work together to create a set of signals that have meaning for both participants.

At this level we can use ‘re-direction’, that is shifting the focus to something else.  The ‘something’ would depend on the individual, but you could use things like movement, play, touch or breath.  Obviously, this should be something that you know the animal likes, or already knows how to do, and so can feel the reassurance of doing something that is ‘easy’ for them and at which they can be ‘successful’.

When the animal has reached defensive behaviour, they are beginning to lose the ability to think rationally which is why the response is to make the decisions and direct the activity at this point.

However, if we miss this opportunity for the animal to release their tension, the next step is risky behaviour.  This is when their behaviour becomes much more dangerous, that is, the animal attacks in some way.  At this point they have completely lost the power of rational thought and their entire focus is self-preservation. They have lost the ability to be conscious of our vulnerability!  The training from CPI – which I highly recommend – covers a range of disengagements from various holds, but with animals, unless you’re trained and have the necessary protective gear, the best response at this point is to get out!  Move away and get to a place of safety.

No animal, including ourselves, can hold this level of tension for a sustained period.  It takes a lot of energy and is exhausting.  When they run out of steam, they need to be allowed a period of tension reduction.  For some this will mean being allowed to have some quiet time by themselves, whereas others might want contact and reassurance. This allows the individual to recover their sense of balance and can give us a chance to re-establish bonds of friendship and trust that might be feeling a little frayed.

We too might need support after being the target of an animal’s risky behaviour, to help us recover and not lose our confidence

It’s important to point out here that these steps don’t necessarily progress only in a linear fashion. An individual who has started to ‘de-escalate’ in tension, could be re-triggered back up the scale at any point, if they haven’t yet reached full tension reduction, so be aware of possible triggers and of any signs that their arousal level is increasing again.

I hope this simple set of steps helps to provide a useful way of approaching tension in your animals, but please remember that your safety must come first at all times.  If you feel that you need support, I recommend calling on the services of a good behaviourist to help you build a deeper – and safer – connection.

(Images courtesy of Google Images and Canva)

Guest blog – Is your horse Spring ready (part 2)

By Catherine Howes of UniquEquine Equine Therapy

The therapies I use are:

  • McTimoney-Corley Skeletal Manipulation
  • CranioSacral Therapy
  • Massage
  • Reiki

I also have training in Saddle Fitting and Rider Biomechanics.

McTimoney-Corley Skeletal Manipulation is a gentle form of adjusting/ realigning the bones of the body. Freeing and opening the joints allows better range of motion and function.

The adjustments are delivered with speed rather than force, and stimulate the body to respond by releasing the bones, opening the joint and easing surrounding muscle spasm/ tension.

In correct skeletal alignment the body is stronger and more functional in many ways. The soft tissues are under less strain and torque so can work efficiently.

The nerves have a clearer, less interrupted path to follow so are less likely to suffer impingements or overstretch…which can lead to issues in any of the bodily systems.

The joints are under less force and twisting, which can lead to short and long term injury and issues.

CranioSacral Therapy works on the horse right at their core. Using the lightest of palpation, I feel for the CranioSacral pulse… this is the rhythm of the flow of cerebrospinal fluid being excreted in the brain and pushed down the spinal canal.

This flow can be compared to, though is not in direct association with, respiration. The CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) carries nutrients through the brain and to the spinal cord, bathing and protecting the nerves, and carrying away any waste… toxins, cell debris etc as it is goes.

When feeling this pulse, I am observing any disturbances, irregularities, restrictions etc. I will then work to release these.

This ‘breathing’, whilst contained in the brain and spinal canal, can be felt and influenced throughout the body.

I work to release cranial compression and trauma directly on the head, ‘unlocking’ the sutures between the cranial bones providing the space for the skull to expand with the production and filling of CSF in the brain, allowing it to move freely.

It is of utmost importance that the cranial bones are addressed. Being the casing and protection for the brain is a responsible job! If these bones are compromised… which can happen so easily… trauma, infection, dentistry, tack, stress etc, their whole system suffers.

Benefits of CranioSacral Therapy can be –

  • Improved function of the nervous system, not only helping physical symptoms, but aids the body to deal with stress
  • Alleviates pain and dysfunction
  • Improves mobility by releasing tension and restriction
  • Improves digestive heath
  • Improves the immune system
  • Unwinds stress and injury patterns
  • Helps the flow of energy
  • Releases emotional stress and trauma
  • Gives a feeling of wellbeing and relaxation
  • Helps reconnect the body, mind and spirit.

Massage is a great way of palpating and treating muscle tension, spasms etc.

Whilst palpating the horse I will be feeling for these as well as any changes in heat… hot or cold, reaction to my touch, change in tone, twitching etc.

These findings will be worked on with local massage but also the above therapies.

Reiki is the transfer of universal energy from one being to another. The energy flows through the healer, who is used as a conduit, to aid physical, mental and emotional healing. The body will take the energy where it is needed.

Areas covered:

I am based in Mid-Somerset and currently cover Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, Bath and North East Somerset and Bristol.

I am happy to travel to new areas.

Contact details:

Please contact me for a chat and more information:

  • or on 07734874673.

Alternatively, you can find me on:

  • Facebook at ‘Uniquequine

Thank you for reading! I hope you have found the article helpful.

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to get in touch.

Wishing you and your horses happiness and good health –

With love, Catherine x

Some thoughts on my highs and lows of winter horse care!

The last couple of weeks have felt pretty tough here at Equenergy. This is my first year of being a horse carer, having welcomed Dax back in May last year, and Rika in October when we moved to Wales and got our own land. It has been a steep learning curve!

About a week ago, on Friday, we had the first snow of the season and, obviously, the first since our move. Suddenly I was having to feed the horses much more hay, as they were unable to access any grass. We were already running a little low, and had arranged an order for the Sunday anyway, but it quickly became clear that there probably wouldn’t be enough to get us through the remaining day, night and morning before we picked up more supplies.

I went through uncomfortable feelings of guilt at not being better prepared and getting into a situation where the horses might suffer because of my lack of foresight…

This came on top of me already feeling rather low, mostly due to exhaustion, which was the result of a combination of factors:

  • the short days which never seem to have enough daylight to get everything done
  • the relentless-seeming round of daily poo picking; often in wind, rain, mud and semi-darkness at this time of year
  • juggling appointments, working on the house, business stuff (such as updating my website, networking, etc) and caring for the animals
  • still not having any proper internet, phone or TV connection
  • the time it takes to get things done because of the above challenges.

As you might have spotted, reading the above list, another drain on my energy has been the high level of expectation that I place on myself!

At times I’ve felt rather alone and vulnerable, and it was at one of these moments that I received some comments on a post that I’d made on Facebook. From the perspective of this low point they hit a nerve and felt like criticism. I was tempted to hide away and feel sorry for myself, but instead I decided it would be more productive to take a step back and look at the situation with a more objective view.

Doing this I quickly realised that the comments were far from being critical. They were actually just someone who cared deeply about an issue, expressing their thoughts. However their message threw a spotlight on a need in me that I hadn’t been addressing (old insecurities about how people see me and being ‘good enough’), which was bringing up old hurts and leaving me experiencing emotional discomfort. I could see that this provided a great opportunity for me to work on this inner pain in order to release it, taking a further step in setting myself free from the things that hold and restrict me. I explored the sensations I was experiencing and used them to identify where I needed to change my thoughts to be more supportive.

There are a variety of ways that we can do this kind of exploration:

  • journaling
  • mindfulness
  • meditation
  • talking with a friend or a professional coach / therapist
  • I personally used EFT (emotional freedom techniques, or ‘tapping’) as this helps to reduce painful emotions, meaning that I could look at things with greater clarity

I’ve had to remind myself, too, that change is often painful, as it pushes us out of our comfort zone. This is true, even when we were the ones who decided to make the change. Even when we know in our heads what to expect, the raw reality, and the unknown duration of the discomfort, can make it hard to keep going, and to keep trusting that we’ve made the right choices. This is especially true when we’re feeling tired, alone or unsupported.

Often when we’re feeling low, our inner critic goes into overdrive. I had to remind myself that this part of me is just trying to keep me safe, but in actual fact it’s made up of thoughts and beliefs that are untrue, or at least greatly exaggerated, and viewed from a negative bias. But I am able to choose my thoughts and beliefs, which in turn impacts on my perceptions, emotions, behaviours and the outcomes I experience. If I choose to focus on more positive, uplifting, optimistic thoughts, then I will experience more supportive, hopeful feelings, leading to behaviours which are more likely to produce the outcomes that I desire.

Sometimes we can get stuck in a negative cycle, particularly when we’re feeling run down, which is why it’s so important to take care of ourselves, doing our best to get quality rest, eat healthily, spend time outdoors in the fresh air and engage in exercise that we enjoy. It’s also important to reach out for help when we need it. Things can feel too big to face alone, but with another pair of hands / eyes, suddenly they seem much more manageable. Also, we are social creatures. We need to feel connected. When this is missing from our lives, the world can feel like a very big, scary and lonely place. Even if you feel that no-one can help, it’s still worth reaching out, as even doing something as simple as meeting a friend for a cup of coffee can bring a bit of brightness to your day and make things seem much less bleak.

Taking action in this way has also helped me to remember the many ‘highs’ of our new life here in Wales, and having horses with us. It’s so lovely to be able to spend time with them, either connecting through activities, or just being in their presence and feeling their calming, grounding energy. I’ve been seeing some subtle changes in Dax, where he seems to be processing things and being less reactive. He can tend to show some fear aggression, reverting to inappropriate behaviours – such as biting and pushing – when he feels anxious, but having started some clicker play with him, I’ve seen how he’s using his brain to find other ways to approach situations. Doing this in a safe environment seems to be giving him confidence in other areas of his life as well. Occasionally he seems to take a backwards step, but Rome wasn’t built in a day, and it can take time to change habits that have been held for long periods of time so I just need to remain patient and keep remembering all the good things in him so that he can see these too and step into them more fully.

Another ‘high’ is that Rika is opening up more and more each day. When she first arrived here, everything was so new for her. She’d been taken away from her people, her herd and the environment that was familiar to her. It has taken her a while to find her feet but she now regularly approaches us to say Hello, or for a cuddle or a scratch. She’s such a gentle and graceful creature that it’s a joy to spend this time with her!

I’m also deeply grateful for this amazing space all around us. The landscape is so beautiful and the light changes almost in every moment! We are surrounded by birdsong from early morning to well into the evening and it’s magical to watch the onward march of the seasons.

If you are experiencing painful emotions that feel like they’re taking over your life, and you’d like to explore some constructive ways to address the underlying issues so that you can reconnect with your balance, joy and wellbeing, then please get in touch for a no obligation chat.

PS For those of you wondering about the horses and their hay: I rang our lovely hay man, Gwyn, on the Friday and he happily gave us a couple of bales the next day which easily got us through to Sunday when we collected our order. This reminded me again that worry is unproductive and that when I reach out, help is there, supporting me through the ‘dramas’ of my life and showing me that, in fact, all is well in the end 🙂

Happy New Year! Equenergy is open for business

Hello!  I’d like to start by wishing you all a very happy and healthy New Year!  I hope it brings you many wonderful adventures.

I hope you had a magical festive season and enjoyed some rest and relaxation alongside all the business that tends to be common over the holiday.

I’ve been very fortunate to spend time with family and friends, and also with the horses and out in the woods.  It’s been mostly mild here, with a couple of very beautiful sharp frosty mornings.  We made the most of the dry weather to put up a field shelter for the horses and my husband put a floor into the ‘tack room’ on the end, making it a wonderful hay store.  This means that I don’t have to push the hay up to the field twice a day!

The dry spell has also allowed me to paint the sign for our cottage, making it easier to locate us:

And, of course, the Equenergy sign is there as well:

We also received the most beautiful wooden plaque for a Christmas present, but we haven’t yet decided where to put it:

We’ve sanded and varnished the floor of the healing room, and had the place painted, so it’s looking much fresher.  I’ve now moved the furniture back in and it’s ready for clients:

 

The peaceful, healing energy of this place takes my breath away, every day, and I’m so looking forward to sharing that with others!

Amazingly, the longer daylight hours and the recent mild weather have already brought on some signs of the promise of spring to come.  It feels like a wonderful new energy in this place, heralding in the New Year, and a new adventure for Equenergy, here on the Blorenge in South Wales.

If you would like to experience some of this amazing energy for yourself, please contact me:

Winter is starting on the Blorenge!

Since welcoming Dax into my life back in May, I’ve been on quite a learning journey.  It’s been a fascinating process seeing how the theory that I’ve picked up over the years translates into applied practice – and how it doesn’t always fit the individual as neatly as the books and training might suggest!  This was one of my reasons for getting a horse ‘of my own’: to build a relationship and to learn more about the practicalities of caring for an equine.

I’ve also had the opportunity to see what life on a yard is like – when your horse lives there – compared to the yards that I’d visited through work.  I was very fortunate to be on a lovely yard with fairly like-minded people.  It was a small establishment with only 2 other people and a total of 5 horses, while I was there.  We worked pretty well together, sharing poo picking and happily stepping in when one or other of us went away for a few days.  It was lovely to have others to share and consult or even just chat with, back in those long warm summer evenings.

Now that we’ve moved to Wales and have 2 horses, things are different in many ways.  There’s a lot more poo picking for a start!! Thankfully my husband often steps in to help.  (He nicknamed himself ‘Professor Poo’ back in our yard days, so he has to keep his hand in, so to speak!)

On the plus side, it’s lovely to have the horses here on site with us.  We can’t quite see them from the house, due to the trees and the fact that the fields are further up the hill, but it’s wonderful to be able to just pop up and see them.  It’s also easier to organise my day, now that I don’t have to think about making a trip to the yard.  I just go up first thing every morning to check on them after the night (and at the moment, I’m checking that they’re warm enough), deliver some hay and do the first round of poo picking.  I then go up again in the evening for more of the same.  We’ll soon be getting a field shelter with a hay store which will mean I don’t have to push the barrow up the hill so often, which will be nice – though it has been a good way to build up my core strength!

Sometimes work commitments mean that it’s still dark when I go up in the morning, or the sun has set by the time I get home.  A head-torch is great on these occasions – though I’ve been surprised at how much I can actually see, even in the dark – but I often leave the poo picking until the next day as it’s difficult to spot, even with the beam of the torch.  On these mornings and evenings it’s wonderful to hear the birds and owls calling to each other!  One of the many perks of moving out of the city.

At the moment the main issues I’m dealing with are the weather, whether or not to rug, and managing the grass.  We’re higher up than we were used to, here on the Blorenge, which has meant that we’ve had some very cold nights and frosty starts.  I can sometimes be a cold bod and I like to feel warm, so it can be very tempting to wrap the horses up in a big snuggly rug, however I know that horses are great at making their own inner heat, due to their hind gut fermentation processes.

Dax is a hardy fella, having lived out, without a field shelter, even in the snows earlier this year, but Rika was used to being rugged and stabled, so I was unsure how she would adapt.  She came with 2 rugs – a waterproof and a quilted one – so I kept a close eye on her, and the forecast, in case I would need to use them.  So far, I’ve used each one once but, on reflection, I think it was unnecessary.  It was more a case of me being overly worried for her, particularly as we don’t yet have a field shelter, than of any real need for extra protection for her.  I also ended up just worrying that I was interfering with her body’s natural mechanisms for keeping warm.  A rug can keep the hair from being  able to fluff up to trap air, and also mean that they are too warm in some areas, while in contrast other parts of their body are relatively cool / cold.  In fact that the weather wasn’t as wet as predicted, and even on the really frosty mornings, she has been lovely and warm and hasn’t shown any signs of shivering, or looking miserable or ‘tucked up’.

A big factor is that they have plenty of hay and ad lib access to forage in the fields.  There is grass, hedging and lots of herby things for them to browse on throughout the day and night.  Digesting this, helps to keep their inner heating system ticking over nicely.  They also make good use of the natural shelter provided by the hedges and trees.  It will be interesting to see how much they actually use the shelter when it comes!  Perhaps they will even prefer to be out in the field where they can see in all directions, which is, after all, how horses in the wild keep themselves safe.

Their coats, too, are wonderfully engineered to keep them warm.  The hair forms rivulet patterns when it rains, to help direct the water away from their skin.  It has also thickened up and stands on end to trap air, which forms an extra layer of insulation.  Dax, in particular, often looks very fluffy and has been affectionately nicknamed our Woolly Bear.  Rika’s coat seems to be working differently in that it has become oily and dense, though it too looks fluffier than before.

Rika’s fluffy, dense winter coat

The ‘hole’ is due to a love-bite from Dax when Rika was in season

 

Rain patterns in Dax’s coat forming channels to allow the water to run off

Our muddy, woolly bear!

They’re also both decidedly muddy!  I fondly and amusedly despaired at Dax one morning when I saw just how dirty he was.  At least, I thought, he can’t be cold if he’s rolling in the wet mud.  He assured me that it was good to get muddy!  Now I know that rolling is good for our horses – it’s kinda like a massage for their back muscles – but I wasn’t entirely convinced about the mud…  Dax insisted that it was ‘good’.  When I asked him why, he just said:

It just Is…  Why do you hoomans always need to know a why?!

Trust him to have the last word!

The other issue is the grass.  We’re very fortunate that we have soil that tends towards being sandy, and we’re high up on the side of the hill, so our drainage is good, and we have very little mud.  Long may this last!  I now just need to work out how to best manage the land so that it doesn’t become poached and so that we keep the grass healthy.  The horses currently have access to 2 of the 3 fields.  The third field has longer, richer grass, and I’m hoping to use this, alongside the hay, to feed Dax and Rika as the weather gets colder.  By then, there should be little risk of laminitis – providing we don’t have too much bright, frosty weather which could still result in high sugar levels!

I hope that this lifestyle that provides them with as natural and varied a diet as I can, fewer stresses, plenty of room to run or just mooch around will help to keep them healthy, happy and well.

I’d love to hear from you and your horses:

  • What are your tips for surviving the winter months?
  • How do your horses respond to the weather?

Hoping that you can all manage to stay warm, dry and reasonably mud-free – humans anyway!

 

 

Equenergy’s latest update

Musings on WiFi, having the lurgy, latest developments and the horses

To quote a frequently heard announcement at railway stations across the UK:

EQUENERGY would like to apologise for the late running of this service.

This is due to ongoing technical issues – we still haven’t been connected to the internet, so I’ve been relying on cafés, trains and the local library, where I can.  We’ve been given a new start date of 26 November, so fingers crossed!

Despite the frustrations of being offline – I’ve been surprised at the number of times I’ve wanted to ‘Google’ something, or order things for the new house – there have also been benefits: time being a big one; also, a feeling of less pressure to be ‘on’ all the time – on social media, on ‘duty’, on work.  It has felt like taking a step back and having a bit of a breather, which has been good when we have so many things to do following the move.  It has been a shift from the ‘virtual’ to the present moment, in many ways, which has been a refreshing change.

In addition, we’ve been told that the delay is due to the fact that our provider has felt it necessary to upgrade our line to fibre (the Cottage has relied on copper cable up to this point).  This should hopefully mean a better and faster connection, which will obviously be good for Skype appointments and other online aspects of my work.  Thank you Universe!

Another challenge for me this week is that my body has gone into regeneration (for more information on this, see my blog post from when I was training in ‘META-Health’) on some issues, leaving me feeling a little under par and needing to get as much rest as I can.  However, as I said in a presentation I gave last week, it’s so good to understand now (from my training) that my body is doing exactly as it should.  It hasn’t ‘gone wrong’ and it doesn’t need to be ‘fixed’, it just needs to be allowed some time to do it’s amazing healing thing!   Consequently, I’ve been able to experience this dis-ease – chest infection, headaches, fatigue and bunged sinuses – without feeling that I’m ‘suffering’ with it.  So often our suffering comes from resistance, which in turn comes from fear.  Remove the fear and much of the suffering also disappears.  It’s been a great opportunity, too, for me to explore what’s been going on, where I could have listened to my body more, and perhaps supported myself more effectively.

So, what developments have there been here at Equenergy?  Well, my wonderful husband has been doing some amazing work around the place to make things generally easier for us – well, often for me, bless him!  He’s put lighting in the hay barn so that I can see to prepare the horses’ feeds and fill the barrow with hay, even on these short winter days; he’s put lights in strategic places so that we don’t injure ourselves walking around the property in the dark; and in the house he’s had a cat flap put in so that Kali is no longer going stir crazy, and is again able to come and go as she pleases; he’s put a sensor in the walk-in larder so that the light comes on automatically – amazingly handy as I’m invariably carrying stuff when I go in there and no longer have to fiddle with light switches; and he’s just installed a shower door so no more soaked bathroom floor to mop!

I have been doing a spot of gardening, and recently I’ve been focusing on getting the therapy room ready.  It had been acting as a storage space for boxes after the move, but I’ve slowly been clearing these and putting the furniture, books, pictures, etc in place to see how the space might work.  Again my amazing husband has been a great help, putting in a working heater as the one left by the previous owners was broken.  Synchronously, I met with a friend for coffee last week.  She lives nearby and happened to mention that her partner does painting and decorating.  The inside of the cabin could really do with some TLC in that department, so I invited them over yesterday to take a look and prepare a quote for the work.  Hopefully they will be able to fit me in quite soon and the room will shortly be ready for business.

 

With the horses, I’ve been trying to find a local trimmer to come and see to their feet, and on the recommendation of a wonderful colleague, Sarah Hussey of Naturally Healing in Bristol, UK, I’ve started Dax on some new supplements to see if they will help him.  He can still tend to show some ‘aggressive’ behaviours (biting and being overly pushy) so I’m going to try him on Acid Ease from Protexin (I know from his history that he could be prone to digestive issues such as ulcers) and Over Dominant remedy from BioForce.  It will be interesting to see what impact, if any, these have…

Also, this morning I’ve been making another batch of Golden Paste.  This is a great supplement for our animal friends – and even for ourselves.  It ‘activates’ turmeric, that wonderful spice that helps fight inflammation in the body, easing stiff joints and aiding better digestion.  This is the recipe that I use:

Golden Paste

120g organic turmeric

500ml water

3 teaspoons of freshly ground black peppercorns

140ml organic raw coconut oil (melted)

  • Add the turmeric and water to a pan, put on a low heat and simmer for 7-10 mins, adding more water if the paste becomes too dry.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in the coconut oil and ground pepper.
  • Leave to cool.

This can be kept in the fridge for up to 2 weeks, or for 3 months if frozen.

Initial dosage – to be taken with food

  • Humans: ¼ teaspoon twice daily
  • Horses: 1 teaspoon twice daily
  • Dogs/cats: ⅛ teaspoon twice daily

Increase dosage slowly until you see, or feel, a difference.

* If on medication, please consult your doctor first, as golden paste can increase the efficiency of some drugs.

It’s important to use organic turmeric as otherwise the active ingredient, curcumin, has often been removed.

Cooking the turmeric and adding oil and pepper makes it more bio-available to the body, and therefore more effective than simply taking turmeric on its own.

The pepper should be freshly ground as much of its goodness is lost over time once the corns have been crushed.

 

 

Giving our horses the time they need

Friday 2 November

Often, I think, our horses need us to give them more time and space than we realise.

An example of this came up just this morning.  I was poo picking in the fields and I noticed that Rika was yawning.  She seems to have been finding the transition to Wales more challenging than Dax; but then more of this has been new to her than to him, since she has also left her people, as well as her herd and her place.  I hoped that the yawns might mean she was releasing and starting to relax a little more into her new home.

I’d been spending some time scratching Dax and Rika had approached us, so I thought I would offer her some scratches too.  At first she seemed uncertain, so I stepped back to get a clearer idea of what she was trying to tell me.  I sensed that she was just a little unsure but still open, so I gently took a step forward again.  She accepted this so I continued with scratches and a bit of massage.  I heard some long, loud gut sounds and it seemed that she was relaxing a little into my touch.  I decided to offer some rebalancing of her energies along her bladder meridian.  As soon as I started her eyes began to blink, long and slow and I could see that she was working through some stuff.  I only got about half way along her neck when she walked away, putting some distance between us.  She didn’t stop until she had crossed the gateway into the next field.  She stood there for some time, just processing whatever had come up for her.

Part of me would have liked to continue encouraging her to release, and trying to build a bond with her, but I think that to have done so would actually have pushed her further away and perhaps have caused her to shut me out.  I knew that my desire to carry on in that moment was coming more from my need than from ‘Rika’s – my need to connect with her and for her to be happy here.  A part of me wanted this to happen straight away, rather than allowing ‘Rika to find this balance in her own time.  I had to remind myself that horses, like humans, need time to adjust to change.  Everything here is new to her – the place, the people, the food, the grass, the ‘herd’ – so it’s a lot to take in.  Horses can take up to a year, or even more, to fully settle into a new environment and to really feel comfortable enough to ‘be themselves’.  ‘Rika has only been here 3 weeks so I need to be patient and proceed at her pace.

In our human world we are so conditioned to expecting instant results.  So many things are at the touch of our fingertips: news, information, entertainment, even food.  I’ve been made very aware of our dependence on this due to our lack of internet access following our move, and the remoteness of our new location, which is taking us back to slower ways of being.

Horses live to a different timescale from ours.  They tend to be thoughtful beings, weighing things up and exploring them from all angles before deciding what action to take (except of course in the case of instinctive responses to potential threats).  Because of this, they are generally better at being in the present moment – with more of an awareness of the wholeness of their being – and they are less ‘in their heads’ than we tend to be.  We often want them to respond within our timescales, and with the exact movement, or whatever, that we’re asking for.  If this doesn’t happen, we ask again and again until it does, often increasing the volume or adding more energy.  How must this appear to these gentle, slower-paced animals…?  In fact, when we work with horses, it’s often a case of ‘less is more’ – the quieter and more subtle our signals, the more responsive the horse becomes.

There is much that we can learn from horses in this.  Spending time with them and sharing their energy can help us to take on that slower pace, allowing us to let go of the stresses and pressures of our everyday lives in order to find greater grounding and balance.  This has huge benefits for our wellbeing.

 

 

Saturday 3 November

This morning I went up to give the horses their hay as usual.  Dax is always the first to push in for a mouthful, whereas ‘Rika hangs back, knowing that he will move her away if she comes too close.  I dropped a few leaves from the bale in one of the feeding spots then, while Dax tucked in, I called ‘Rika to follow me to where I would place some more hay.  I left her happily munching while I put out the rest of the hay, then came back to check in with each of them, as I do every morning.  ‘Rika was nearest, so I approached her first.  Normally she adopts a very defensive stance when I come up to her when she’s eating.  On previous days she would tense, become very watchful, put her ears back and sometimes block me with her hindquarters, but today there was none of this.  Her ears stayed forward, or tuned in to me, she appeared relaxed and she even turned to say hello.  Shortly after this she approached me and accepted some gentle stroking.  This is a big change in her behaviour.  Nothing earth-shattering maybe, but she definitely appears to be a more settled and engaged horse this morning.  I believe that listening to her request for space yesterday, and allowing her to take the time she needed, has helped to build more trust and respect between us.  She is such a big-hearted girl and beautiful soul and hopefully she will find contentment here in this wonderful place with us.

 

Alice Griffin, writing in a recent edition of Horsemanship Magazine (Issue 109), about her time on a horseback tour of the Alentejo region of Portugal, says:

“In this increasingly busy world there are few places that offer a true sense of peace; where roads are empty, passersby rare and where we can truly find a way to switch off and be submerged in nature.”

She noticed that the Alentejan people are

“… often teased for their lackadaisical approach to life, but I can’t help thinking they are all the smarter for refusing to get rushed along by expectation, instead choosing to soak up every moment with deepened relish”

I too, think there is something very special about being able to slow down and reconnect – both with ourselves, and with the animals and nature all around us – and to be able to appreciate the richness and wonder of it all.

Alice goes on to say that:

“Somehow animals – unlike humans – have not lost their ability to be at one with the earth, remaining unchanged in their effortless navigation of rivers, rocks, hills and valleys despite the centuries that may have passed.”

If Portugal isn’t for you at this time, you can still experience a little of this magic of Nature and horses for yourself here in the UK.  I offer mindfulness and wellbeing sessions here at our wonderful retreat space in rural Wales, not far from Abergavenny, Wales (map) Just get in touch to find out more:

Or take a look at my website: www.equenergy.com