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!

 

 

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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

   

Lessons from the mist and a formal introduction

Well, we’ve been in our new home for 3 weeks now!  In some way the time has flown by and it feels like we’ve been here for much longer, and in other ways it still feels very new.

The time has flown by in a blur and at times it has felt very overwhelming.  It’s a huge change living here, compared to our old life in the suburbs of Bristol.  Suddenly having 8.5 acres of paddocks, woodland and vegetable and fruit areas feels rather out of our comfort zone!

  • How on earth do you care for all these magnificent trees and hedges?
  • How do you support Nature to do her thing while still keeping the land manageable?
  • What’s the best way to care for our little orchard?
  • What veg should we grow here – and where do we even start with that?!

As you’ll know, if you’ve been following my blog, we’ve been without WiFi since we moved in.  On one level this is quite nice, as it allows us time to focus on other things – wow, I can now see how social media has eaten my time in the past! – but it has also meant that we don’t have a working landline in the house, our mobile connection is patchy, we have no access to emails or looking things up on the internet – and we have no TV.  (Lots of DVD watching and actually having to have conversations!)

All this has left us feeling rather out of our depth.  At times I’ve felt like I’m lost and can’t see my way…

One morning I was pushing a barrow full of hay up to the field for the horses.  Dawn was just breaking and there was a mist hanging over the fields.  I could only see clearly for a few steps ahead of me.  But as I walked I realised that, as I moved forwards the path ahead of me was revealed, step by step.  I couldn’t see any further ahead than a few metres, but the fact of moving forward was meaning that those few metres were also shifting with me, allowing me to see my next few steps.  This felt a bit like my life at the moment.  It made me think that if I could just ‘go with it’, and trust the process, choosing to be content with only seeing the next few steps and not stressing about being unable to see the whole of the path, then I would feel more at ease and less out of control.

This, and spending time with the horses surrounded by the beautiful fields and woodland here, has helped me to be more grounded and to feel more balanced and settled in this new life.  I’m more able to look ahead to how I might be able to develop my practice by drawing on all the wonderful resources of this place.

In this week’s post I also wanted to introduce you to our newest addition to the family.  Her formal name is Ulrike, and previously she was known as Eureka, but we’ve shortened her name to ‘Rika.  As you might remember, I believe that names can be significant and I love the meanings that this beautiful girl’s name holds:

Ulrike – a German name meaning Mistress of All

Rika – a Norse name meaning Forever Strong

Rikka – a Teutonic name meaning Tranquil Leader

I had been hoping that this mare would be a leader for our ‘teenager’ gelding.  That hasn’t quite worked out as planned as he tends to be the one who bosses her around, but I think that her steadfast, gentle presence will still be a wonderful asset.

Next week I’ll share a little more about how things are going with her but for now I need to sign off as I need to get home before dark to feed these two!

 

 

Lessons from Dax

If you’ve been following my blog over the last few weeks and months, you might be wondering about how things are now with me and the amazing horse that I took on in May.  We’ve had our challenges and our ups and downs, so what has worked for us, and what hasn’t…?

Well, I can tell you that Dax is a different guy to how he was just a month or so ago.  He has really softened and relaxed which is wonderful to see.  He’s choosing to come with me when I ask him to – sometimes he needs to think about this for a second, but that’s fine by me.  I want him to engage his brain and to think about things, even if that means that it takes a little bit longer while he considers his options.

He’s recently had lots going on in his life – the dentist, the trimmer, a worming treatment and 3 of his buddies moving to another yard.  The trimmer (Caroline Andresen of Hoofing Marvellous) has been a few times now and he soon learnt that he can trust her to take good care of him and to make sure that he feels safe and comfortable at all times.

His dental appointment was the first since he had come to Bristol, so it was a new dentist and a different experience for Dax, but he was amazing.  I was so proud of him!

The loss of his 3 buddies hit him the hardest.  His special friend Belle was one of the 3 and he called for her for a day or so, obviously missing her and wondering where she’s gone and whether or not she would come back.

But Dax is a resilient fellow and he settled again, just in time for a new arrival.  We now have a young filly – a 2 year old Exmoor pony – on the yard.  She’s the cutest little thing and so independent!  She’s well able to take care of herself despite her size.  Dax has been a complete star too, and has been looking after her, which completely made my heart melt!

Looking back over all that’s been happening I’ve realised that I’ve learnt so much about myself since Dax arrived.  My relationship with him has been like a metaphor for my life…  It struck me the other day that the more I ‘resisted’ the challenging behaviours that Dax was showing, the more fear I felt, and the more fear, the more I resisted.  It became a negative cycle that wasn’t helping either of us.

The change has seemed to come in steps.  For example, one day I got the sense that Dax saw my attempts to be more assertive, and defend my space, as a game.  He wasn’t being nasty, he just wanted to play, but his play was scary to me – and because of his size, mass and strength, it could actually be potentially dangerous.  The important thing was that this realisation wiped out most of my fear and gave me a very different perspective.  I began to be able to respond with humour – or at least to be able to laugh at myself, and sometimes with Dax, rather than getting scared and anxious and only adding to the tension.

In the last week Dax has started to use his lips to nuzzle, rather than going straight in with his teeth.  I felt that he wanted to offer some mutual grooming – he loves a good scratch (as you can see in the video above) and I felt that he wanted to connect by offering something in return – however I was too nervous of those big teeth of his to let him try.He might always be a horse who likes to explore things with his mouth, and he might never be good with hand-held treats (he gets over excited and can become nippy and pushy) but he his now starting to offer a more gentle connection and engagement which is really helping me to relax more around him.  This in turn helps me to breathe more easily, rewarding him with softness and calmness and encouraging him to respond in the same way – a much more positive cycle.

Dax has taught me that I should have trusted my gut from the beginning and just listened to him and to my own sense of what was right for me.  This relationship is between the 2 of us.  Another horse, or another person, would bring a different response and what has worked for us might not work with that combination.

I would just like to encourage everyone reading this to really listen to your own inner wisdom.  Do what feels best to you, in your situation, with your set of circumstances.

If you’re struggling to do this, don’t worry.  It’s very easy to get out of touch with our own intuition and inner guidance, but there are simple steps you can take to reconnect:

  • One very powerful tool is mindfulness – taking some time every day to be fully present with whatever you’re doing.  You can practise this while doing simple daily tasks such as cooking, eating or brushing your teeth.  You can also take a familiar object and explore it with new eyes – and indeed all your senses.  Try to avoid any labels or judgements and just focus on what you can see, feel, smell, hear and even taste.
  • Another way to reconnect with your inner wisdom is by journaling.  This was something I thought I’d never be able to do but I surprised myself by how easily the words flowed when I made a start!  It gave me so much insight into my thought processes and the feelings behind them.  It also helped me to observe patterns in my behaviour and to see where these were supporting me – or not!

If you feel that you would like some support in reconnecting to your inner self, I offer workshops on how to Feel Your Way from Stress into Flow.  I will also be offering Mindfulness sessions at our new premises in Wales where you can spend time tuning in to the peacefulness of the surrounding woodland and / or sit with the horses.  If you’d like to know more, please contact me:

www.equenergy.com 

robyn@equenergy.com 

07980 669303

We have a moving date – and a new addition to the family

So, it’s official, we have exchanged contracts and the removal vans are booked for 2 weeks’ time!  It has felt like a long wait and I can hardly believe that we’ll soon be in our new home.

It’s been a very busy time with sorting, packing, recycling and getting rid of years’ worth of stuff.  This is a wonderful fresh start for us!  I feel lighter and energised – and just the right thrill of ‘scary’ to make it all exciting.  But the wait has been a challenge – trying to stay positive, to not get stressed, and to know how much to pack when we didn’t have a definite move date.

There have been some legal issues to sort out and at times we wondered if it would all fall apart and we’d lose the house.  We reached a low point last week as yet another proposed exchange date went by, and we lost our slot with the removal company.  I went to the yard and sat with the horses and started to visualise the steps towards successfully getting through this whole process.  I even put together a text to my husband:

That was the start of a shift for me.  I believe that if we focus on something, by The Law of Attraction we will get more of that thing.  This works both for the things we want, but also the things that we don’t want – it’s all about the flow of energy.  Where attention goes, energy flows.  So if I’m spending all my time thinking about something I don’t want, I’m feeding that energy and attracting more of it to me.  I realised that I’ve been doing this with our move – worrying that it will never happen, getting upset about the missed deadlines, grumbling about the lack of communication from our solicitor.  So instead I started to focus on how wonderful it will feel to hear that we’ve exchanged, to receive the keys on completion and to actually be moving into our new home.  I made the image as colourful as I could and included as many senses and emotions as possible:

  • the elation of receiving good news
  • the fizz of excitement
  • the flurry of packing
  • the decisions of unpacking
  • the rooms taking shape with our furnishings.

Doing this makes it all the more ‘real’ and encourages the Universe to come into line with the images and to make them happen.

This move means that Dax will be able to live with us, rather that at livery.  Because of this, we’ve been on the hunt for a companion for him.  Being a herd animal, horses need company, preferably of their own kind.  I wanted a mare this time, as Dax gets on well with girls.  Mares often make good herd leaders too, and I feel that Dax could do with a horse who will look after him and perhaps help him to learn more about boundaries.

One of the lovely women on our yard, Liz, has very kindly offered us a horse that we hope will be a good fit.  Ulrike (known as Eureka) was a brood mare and had a series of 7 foals.  She then was put to the stallion again but didn’t conceive, so her owners decided that she was no longer of use to them and they were going to give her up for meat.  At this point she was rescued by Liz’s daughter and has been living happily as part of their herd for a few years now.  Their herd has grown in size and due to time commitments Eureka hasn’t been getting the attention that they would like to give her, which is why she is now coming to live with us and Dax.  She is such a gentle and giving soul that we’ve fallen in love with her!

So we’re now the proud owners of a house in the country surrounded by 8.5 acres.  This is quite a lifestyle change for us as we will need to manage the land and care for the horses.  In fact we’re off there shortly to learn all about how to drive the tractor and work all the attachments.  My husband is so excited – he’s even got his John Deere cap ready for the occasion!

Might he be in pain?

So last week I mentioned that I was concerned that Dax’s recent behaviour could possibly have been triggered by pain.  I therefore booked him in for a session with Helen Jacks-Hewett the McTimoney and Sports Massage therapist.  She came out to the yard on 27 July and gave Dax a thorough examination.

We also had a fun time speculating on his heritage!  Helen thought that his eyes looked quite Appaloosa as there is some white visible around his iris, as you can just about see in this photo:

She wondered if he might actually develop some spots as he grows older!  She also thought that his temperament could indicate some Welsh Section D.

Regarding her assessment she wrote in her report:

No misalignments located in spine or pelvic joints, and no areas of muscle asymmetry or soreness noted so on the whole there doesn’t appear to be any significant underlying musculoskeletal problems. His poll was a little tight predominantly on the left side, it is possible his tendency to head twirl may cause this tension, or his general underlying level of anxiety.

Small areas of scar tissue from previous/old injuries noted in the right ascending pectoral and the right gracilis muscles which may indicate he has had some prior trauma.

Baited core activation ‘carrot stretches’ will help to strengthen his core muscles

She then went on to say:

His behaviour seems typical for a hand raised foal, and shows a lot of foal like tendencies even though he is 6 years old.

There is a really sweet natured clever horse in there who will hopefully continue to learn and develop given the right herd conditions and handling techniques.

It was such good news to hear that he doesn’t appear to have any areas of pain and that, overall, his conformation is pretty good.  Also, I now have Helen’s suggestions on things that I can do to improve his core strength and balance, which hopefully will make him more comfortable in himself.  We’ve now been practising carrot stretches, particularly the low ones, and turning him in small circles.  He’s a clever boy and has picked this up quickly.  The only issue is that, as Helen mentioned, he is rather foal-like in some of his behaviours and shows traits common to horses that have been hand reared – in this case, getting over excited when offered food by hand and becoming ‘snatchy’.  He’s getting better though, as he’s learning that he always gets his reward!

Another area that needed work, and where I was hoping Helen’s suggestions would help, was in having his feet handled.  In fact it was our wonderful trimmer Caroline Andresen of Hoofing Marvellous who first suggested Helen, when she noticed that there is a slight twist to Dax’s lower right foreleg, and thought that this might be why he is reluctant to lift his front feet.

I’m sure that building his core strength and stability will make him more comfortable when having to stand on just 3 feet to have his hooves picked or trimmed and also I want to help him realise that he is safe to give us a foot for attention.  My lovely, supportive husband has been helping me with this, holding Dax, reassuring him and rewarding him when he allows us to gently lift a foot.

Caroline noticed a big difference in her most recent trim, compared to the previous one.  Dax was much more chilled!  We could also see how his feet are changing since his move to Bristol.  I find it fascinating how you can see so much in a horse’s foot!  It sort of gives you a wellbeing history for the previous 9-12 months.  In the last trim, Dax’s feet were brittle – a reflection of whatever was happening towards the end of last year.  Pieces were breaking off again this time, which shows how his feet are responding to the stresses placed on them by his weight and movement.  There is some flaring, which is a further indicator of this, and of what’s going on inside his hoof capsule.  (You can read more about hoof health in my earlier post and in this article from my website.)

So that was step one in supporting Dax to be a happier and more balanced horse, but what about the other questions I was facing?

More about that next week!