traveling the world, helping horses!
The Wonder of Wellington December 2017
The Winter Equestrian Festival, fondly referred to as WEF, is by far one of the most anticipated, attended, and premier equestrian events worldwide. Competitors from all over the world participate, some simply for the experience, and others, for the ultimate title of best horse-and-rider team in their class.
This will be my 5th year in Wellington, which is synomomus with WEF, and by most standards you could say that I’m
just getting warmed up. I’ve been an equine bodyworker for 10 years now and while I’ve learned more in the last four
years at Wellington than at any other point in my career, there is one aspect of this phenomena called WEF, that
stands out above all.
Imagine the moment when a rider is offered the chance to compete in Wellington. After perhaps years of training, the time is right, the horse is ready, the rider is committed. They make their way to the Sunshine State, set up temporary living quarters for horse and human, and go about preparing for what may be ultimately referred to as their 'finest hour'.
I won’t pretend to know all of the intricacies of preparing for an event like this. I’ve had but a glimpse into this world of riders, trainers, owners, farriers, dentists, bodyworkers, braiders, vets, grooms, clippers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, massage therapists, osteopaths, feed suppliers, tack stores, shippers, and security guards. But we all have one common goal … to provide the horse with the best care possible.
From January to March it’s as if the entire global equine community relocates to Florida. And while most of you are thinking that sounds like a great place to spend the cold winter months, the majority of these professionals will work 14 hour days, and 6 1/2 days each and every week. Coffee and Red Bull become their own separate food group, and sleep is a highly sought-after commodity. It cannot be over-stated enough just how long, and hard, each of these individuals work, each and everyday of this 12-week circuit. And in this arena, hard work does not always pay off. Only one horse-and-rider team (per class) will walk away with the blue ribbon.
So, we all play our part in supporting these elite, equine athletes. And I’m certain that everyone involved will agree with me when I say that I hope they all walk out of the competition arena, at the very least, FEELING like a blue ribbon winner.
Thin Soles August 2017
So how do you know if your horse has thin soles? It's actually pretty simple, just look at the
depth of the collateral grooves.
In the picture to the right you can see that the collateral grooves run alongside the frog.
The yellow arrows show where it is deep, indicating a thick sole. Now look at the Apex of the Frog
(the tip). The red arrows show that there is almost no depth, and this indicates a very thin sole.
The sole is responsible for protecting interior soft tissue and the coffin bone so we most definitely
want our horses to have uniformly thick soles.
If your horse has thin soles, how do we get them to thicken up? And the answer again is
pretty simple ... walk your horse on pea gravel. Ideally, it should be 3/4 inch pea gravel. You can
install a walking area filled with it or create an area in your turnouts or fields where your horses
can choose to stand on it, and they typically love standing on it. The depth should be 1-3 inches max.
We've all heard Jim Masterson say, "doubt-the-doubt" more times than we can count. The first time I heard him say this I'm sure I responded back with a look of utter confusion. But, by the end of my first weekend seminar back in 2008 I could feel that mantra rise up in me whenever I doubted the responses I was getting from a horse I was working on. At home and on my own, I faithfully relied on this edict to support me every time I did a bodywork session.
Teaching, mentoring, and coaching have allowed me to continue to carry this torch, encouraging others along this path to believe even when we can't always fully explain why something is happening. Becoming more confident in the power of this key teaching point, “Doubt the Doubt” has become a new marker in my DNA.
I can still clearly remember that day back in May. If ever there was a time, place or situation to 'doubt the doubt', it was that beautiful, balmy, spring day, the air filled with the intoxicating aroma of horses, all grazing quietly in the valley below.
Linda, a Masterson student had just finished with her first five case studies and had proposed doing a coaching session in Costa Rica. She had a contact at a private equine rescue facility that also provided horseback rides into the rain forest. Within a few weeks we had a second student, Laura, signed up, and the riding facility, Discovery Horse Tours, anxiously awaited our arrival.
Owned and operated by a British husband and wife team, Chris and Andrea Wady founded Discovery Horse Tours (DHT) 12 years ago after falling in love with Costa Rica while on vacation there. They began with only 3 horses and a passion for showing that working horses can be treated with dignity and respect. They set out rescuing and rehabilitating mostly local horses, training them with kindness, trust and patience using natural horsemanship techniques. Most of the horses are part Criollo (pronounced Cree-yoyo), and part Thoroughbred or something else. They are never overworked and are rotated to ensure their mental and physical wellbeing. Some horses are adopted out, while others are added to their herd, which currently totals 18.
Chris said in realizing their dream, "For us it was easy, we vowed never to put profits ahead of the welfare of our horses hearts, minds or body. We have stuck to that rule always, it has always steered us well."
For two days we worked at their primary location in the village of Mata de Plátano, just outside of Jaco. It was warm, tropical, and surrounded by the rain forest. The horses were healthy, well-mannered, and outstanding teachers for the students. We stopped for lunch each day at a local restaurant that prepared some of the best Latin cuisine I've ever had. Evenings were spent in Jaco enjoying more of that fabulous cuisine, continuing the conversation on bodywork and horses.
On our third day we took a ride over to DHT's secondary location where they rehab newly rescued horses. The rescued horses get turned-out into the fields and valleys of this 100-acre property which also holds a small herd of 20 privately owned horses. Chris, our host, had three horses he wanted us to take a look at, believing that they would greatly benefit from bodywork. They all had various health issues.
The three of us went to work in a 40-meter, covered corral, talking occasionally about what we were seeing in our horses, sharing ideas or making suggestions. It was fun and rewarding. The horses loved the work.
Then, about 20 minutes into the sessions, we started to notice that one-by-one all the other horses in the herd had come up out of the valley and were now surrounding the corral. They were very quiet and peaceful. Each horse found their place and settled in along the outside of the corral, their eyes closed ... all apparently benefiting from the bodywork. Even after we finished working on the rescued horses, they all remained around the corral.
This is where I quietly told myself, one more time ... Doubt-the-Doubt.