What the Horses Have Taught Me

All Articles Equine Health Formulator's Corner

“When the student is ready, the master will come” — Zen Proverb

I have had some wonderful, amazing teachers in my life; some of them came into my life through school and college, but others like Michael Raven Horse, Carrie Spotted Eagle and a World Health Organization researcher named Dr. Woo have had an incredible impact on my passion about food. And then there are the lessons learned from horses who have been some of the most impacting teachers of all….

No doubt, Kemosabe learned a lesson or two from Lionheart.

Lionheart and Kemosabe running.

Lionheart: I probably would still be feeding processed feeds and regular supplements if this chestnut with a white blaze had not stubbornly refused to heal with conventional medicines. He forced me out of the box and in doing so taught me another lesson: for every break down there’s a break through. 

Contino: This giant of a horse, a grand prix jumper, looked at me that first day I met him, with one part bemusement, and one part contempt. It was if he was saying, “what are you doing in my stall you peon human?” The key to this horse’s performance and well being was not simply unprocessed food, it was HOW he wanted to eat his whole food. His groom, Sandra, figured out that Contino liked certain food in one bucket, and other food in another bucket so that he could pick and choose what he wanted to eat and when. He liked his alfalfa cubes in one bucket, and his grains and beet pulp in another bucket. And he wanted to eat from the ground, not from buckets hanging in the stall.

Contino’s teaching to me: not everyone wants to eat their food from one plate. 

Jonathon Millar and Contino

Jonathon Millar and Contino

Reed: A small horse with a BIG personality, this warmblood dressage horse had his owner and I dancing to his every epicurean whim. He was so demanding that if a smoothie wasn’t made based on what HE wanted to eat that day, he wasn’t going to eat. Period. And he would kick the stall or a human for good measure. After a few months of working with his owner over the phone, with repeated “try this,” “try that”, I finally got to meet Reed at a horse show. I was expecting an enfant terrible, but Reed turned on the charm (while I plied him with Tum Ease) and we instantly bonded.

Reed’s teaching: actions speak louder than words; step out of your comfort zone and I will meet you half way. 

Nev: A tall event horse, he towered over me the first time I met him. Lanky and angular, he was cocky on one hand and aloof on the other. His metabolism plus the stress of competition would cause him to drop weight overnight at events and not just 50 pounds of weight; 100 pounds or more. This horse taught me a lot about probiotics, particularly yeast probiotics (Tract Bios), and he led me to develop Bio Flora to support the GI tract and hind gut.

Nev’s teaching: the demands of a high performance horse must include management of stress to the digestive system.

Navada Bay and Will Coleman

Navada Bay and Will Coleman

Squishy: If ever there was a challenging horse to balance it is Squishy. Just when you think everything is okay, something changes. When I first started working with Squishy and he went into the Okay Zone, I thought he would stabilize there, and I went on my merry way…But Squishy was to teach me a profound reminder lesson: life and health is about the delicate balance of homostasis. Squishy would stay in homostasis for a day, a week, even three weeks, and then boom, metabolism out of whack, or liver out of whack, or foot discomfort, or just not quite right.

Squishy’s teaching: homeostasis is a balance that in some horses must be constantly adjusted or tweeked. Listen to your gut feelings. Trust your instinct. 

Master Man: I will never forget the day I met Master Man. He had been on the whole food diet for over 6 months and was doing well. Like many horses I meet after their diet change, I fully expected him to greet me with a welcome. Instead, I got his left hook to my thigh. He bared his teeth as I fled from the stall.

Master Man’s teaching: in the presence of a High Master, you must convey humility. 

Master Man and Kelly Soleau

Master Man and Kelly Soleau

Sucha: He was in his thirties when I first started working with his owner to deal with some of his unusual issues like foot canker. I dubbed him “The Yoda Horse”. He was so incredibly sensitive and attuned that he became a fantastic test horse for various, uncommonly fed foods like ghee (clarified butter used in Ayurvedic medicine), Gojii berries, and Reishi mushrooms.

Lessons learned from Sucha: when using food as medicine, the quality of the food is of more importance than the quantity. A little medicinal food goes a long way.

Carlson: He was very sick when I saw him; head hanging in his stall, repetitive colics, lack of interest in the world around him. The vets had tried everything. We started him on a whole food diet that day, and 24 hours later he was perky, hanging his head out of his stall, and no longer in distress.

Carlson’s teaching: changing the diet immediately for a horse in crises can take a horse from very sick to feeling much better almost overnight. 

Delia: She was a feisty chestnut mare who picked up on the attitudes and energy of the humans around her. Delia’s owner worried about everything in Delia’s life and that worry affected Delia’s health. The more her owner obsessed about her, the more neurotic and un-well the mare became.

Delia’s teaching: the way humans interact with horses plays a profound role in the overall health and well being of horses.

Medicines and diet are key components to health, but so are our human energies. Confidence, trust and love are essential elements that are as important in wellness as they are during crisis and sickness. I think one of the best things about being in the horse world is having access to those lessons learned from the horses; to make mistakes and yet be generously forgiven by the horses.

We are fortunate indeed to share our lives with these Masters.

Tigger

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