Ellison is a professional horse trainer and riding instructor. She runs a summer camp program and offers kids a safe introduction to horses.
What Is the Big Deal About Our Energy?
Our energy has a huge impact on all of our interactions with our horses. If we can learn to be aware of our energy and control it to the best of our ability, we can take our horsemanship to a whole new level!
What Do You Mean by Energy?
For the purpose of this article, I'm going to use the word energy in reference to the "vibes" that we send out to the world. The signals that we send out to the world around us non-verbally. Just with our demeanor and body language, we tell the world around us a lot of things.
Think of it as seeing a stranger from afar. You can gauge what they are feeling through their body language and nonverbal signals they are sending the world as they go about life.
Imagine waiting in the grocery store line and observing the other customers waiting to check out. You might see someone who is constantly looking around, shifting their weight back and forth from one foot to the other, and looking at their watch. Our impression of this person is going to most likely be that they are irritated, tense, and in a hurry.
The next person in line might be leaning on their cart and reading a magazine off the shelf by the check out counter. They are leaning in a relaxed fashion on the cart, not paying too much attention to the others in line. Our impression of this person is probably going to be that they are relaxed and laid back.
There might be a mother with two children that are trying to sneak candy into the cart. This woman will be constantly in motion correcting the kids, raising her voice if necessary, and complimenting them for good behavior when they finally stop and wait patiently. What impression will you have of this mother? My impression would be that she is high energy, but shows patience and self-control as she interacts with her children.
As we go about our daily lives, we are constantly giving out vibes to the world around us. Vibes that not only other people will pick up on, but also animals. Horses are very perceptive to the energy a person is giving off to the world as we interact with them.
What Energy Are You Sending Out Into the World?
Think about yourself, what is your general mood and outlook on life? Imagine that your horse sees you inside of a bubble that is full of energy that you are feeling at any given moment.
If you are having a bad day, such as being mad about something, angry, or tense, imagine your horse sees you surrounded by a black bubble with sparks flying. The bubble looks like it is about to pop because it is so full of negative energy. This dark bubble you're in is going to make your horse nervous. They will feel tension and anger and that is going to make them tense. A tense horse and a tense rider are not a good combination.
If you are nervous or afraid of your horse, the energy you are sending him is going to make him see you in a cloudy bubble, one where the clouds are moving really fast. When your thoughts race, your energy races as well. That clouds the area in your bubble and makes it hard for your horse to read your energy. Which in turn will make your horse nervous.
If you are calm and intentional when you work with your horse, then your emotions won't cloud that pretend bubble that your horse sees you through. This is when you and your horse will best work together. When your emotions aren't affecting how you handle your horse, the bubble around you is invisible to your horse and you can communicate best with them—whether it be riding or just spending time with them on the ground.
What Is in Your Bubble?
Generally speaking, most of the time, what do you think your horse sees in the bubble around you? First, you have to determine what you're typical bubble would be filled with. You have to look at yourself and honestly assess what vibes you are sending out to the world and to your horse.
Do you feel comfortable and relaxed with your horse? If so great! The bubble they see around you is going to be crystal clear. You are clear-headed and focused on your horse. Not letting outside factors disturb your time with your horse.
This is ideal, and this is what we are going for—to have crystal clear energy when we are around our horses.
If you are a person filled with nervous energy all the time, you will be relaying that to your horse. You will be tense which will, in turn, make your horse tense. Your horse will not be able to see you clearly through this bubble to read your signals. Horses find comfort in a leader who they can easily read and understand. If your bubble is filled with nervous energy, the horse won't be able to do that which is going to make for trouble communicating.
If you are distracted by something, your horse will be able to tell you aren't focused on them, and they will see you through a cloudy bubble again. Remember, if you don't pay attention to your horse, how can you expect him to pay attention to you?
We strive to interact with our horses with a clear head in an intentional way that is easy for them to interpret.
Learn to Evaluate Your Own Energy
As you walk into the barn, you should try and think about leaving everything else behind. A bad day at work or school should be pushed to the back of your mind. If you are nervous or worried about something, either try and find a way to ease your mind before you get to your horse, or try to push it to the back of your mind.
Obviously in life, repressing our feelings and emotions isn't healthy. For the sake of interacting with our horses, we need to learn to control our emotions. The more even keel we can be with our horses the better our interactions with them will be.
Be aware each day of how you are feeling and what energy you might be sending out. If you had a bad day at work, you may want a relaxing ride with your horse to chill after a long day. The problem is if you can't bring your energy down to that relaxed level. Your horse is going to feel the energy you brought with you from the day and I bet that you won't get the nice relaxing ride you were hoping for.
The more you can control your emotions around your horse, the more your horse will trust you. Horses are looking for a reliable leader, someone who they know what to expect from. The more you can be that reliable leader the more success you will have with your horse.
Ideas to Help Keep Your Bubble Crystal Clear
Be flexible With Your Riding and Barn Schedule
If you have a bad day and had planned on working on something new or something that tends to be harder, today is not the day. Spend time grooming and doing groundwork with your horse. Maybe go on a trail ride. Forcing yourself to stick to a strict schooling schedule can backfire if you are just "in the mood for it."
Visit Your Horses With a Clear and Open Mind
If you don't feel like your mind is clear, or if you don't feel like you are giving off positive vibes, try to find a way to clear your head before you go to the barn. Go home drink a cup of coffee, listen to music, take a nap...whatever you need to do to unwind. You and your horse will both appreciate you taking the time to get your head on straight and getting your energy bubble clear before you get to the barn.
Learn to Read Your Horse's Energy Better
Are they tense? Relaxed? Nervous? If you can determine your horse's energy by observing their behavior, you can learn whether or not you and your horse will work well that day. Hopefully, eventually, you will learn to control your emotions to the point that you can be calm and clear with your horse even if they are having a bad day. It just takes time and practice.
Try and spend time watching your horse with other horses. Or watching your horse in the stall. Observe your horse's energy when they are alone in their stall or turned out with other horses.
Compare that to their energy when you are in the barn working with them or riding. I think that the more you are aware of the energy you are giving off and the more you observe your horse's natural energy that you will have a lot of insight to help you succeed in your relationship with them.
Choose a Horse That Is Compatible With Your Energy
When you are looking for a horse to lease or buy, this is another time to consider your energy and the energy of the horses you are considering. A nervous, tense horse with a naturally nervous, tense rider is going to be fighting an uphill battle. Not that it couldn't be overcome, but it will be more difficult.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Nose: There may be some bloody nasal discharge if your dog gets a grass seed stuck in this area. Continuous sneezing and rubbing of the nose or face are other signs, and the dog may struggle to breathe. A seed can damage the airways and may even move into the lungs, which is usually considered life threatening.
Eyes: The eye will seem swollen, inflamed and red, and may also be watery. Ulcers can appear, and the dog might rub at the site because of the irritation. Seeds can even enter the eye itself. Long-term problems can result in blindness, and the eye may even be removed depending on the severity of the problem.
Ears: Your dog may scratch their ears, rub their head along the floor, shake it and walk at a tilted angle. The ear might also be sore to touch and the dog may hold their head to one side. Infections can develop at the site, the ear drum could rupture and the dog might even go deaf or lose their balance permanently. They could die if the seed travels from this area into the brain.
Skin: The dog may try to remove the grass seed by licking and chewing a specific area. The awn might visibly protrude from the skin, which could appear swollen and red with pus or blood. From here the seed can move into the abdomen or chest, in which case surgery would probably have to be administered to remove it.
Feet: Signs of a seed in the feet are swelling, redness and a weeping hole. The dog will try to lick or chew the affected place, and limp or hold their leg up. A seed can travel from the feet up through the leg, all the way up to the chest or joints.
Stomach and lungs: It is possible for a dog to ingest and inhale grass seeds in a variety of ways. They might be picked up on food they eat off the ground, when they lick their coats or whilst walking or running through long grass. They can also be inhaled through the mouth and get stuck in the lungs, causing the dog to cough or retch. It is impossible to detect whether a grass seed has become stuck in the lungs until the infection is rather advanced, and the case may be that it is too late to treat. This may manifest itself in the form of a chest infection, pneumonia or collapsed lung.
Grass seeds can be digested if they find their way into the stomach, but it is still possible for them to pierce the digestive tract into the surrounding tissues and organs, thereby spreading the infection and travelling to other areas of the body.
A grass seed that gets stuck in the throat can cause inflammation and swelling. Reluctance to eat or refusing to eat at all, vomiting and coughing are all signs that are linked to swallowing a grass seed.
Why Turnout Is Important for Your Horse
Horses are healthiest and happiest outdoors in their pastures. There are a number of reasons why your horse should be outside as much as possible. Although many horses will clamor to come into a stable during nasty weather, it’s important that they live outdoors as much as possible.
Sometimes keeping your horse confined in a stall is necessary, such as when a veterinarian prescribes stall rest. Other than that, turnout (being outdoors) is crucial to your horse’s health and well-being.
Guidelines for Horses Exposed to Wildfire Smoke
- Avian and Exotics
- Food & Agriculture
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- Human & Animal Health
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The severe fires throughout California over the past three months have exposed humans and animals to unhealthy air containing wildfire smoke and particulates. These particulates can build up in the respiratory system, causing a number of health problems including burning eyes, runny noses and illnesses such as bronchitis. They can also aggravate heart and lung diseases such as congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and asthma.
Because little information is available to horse owners and even equine veterinarians on the effects on horses of breathing air laden with particulates, UC Davis equine specialists are offering these suggestions to serve as a general guide.
What Is In Smoke?
Smoke is made up of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, soot, hydrocarbons and other organic substances including nitrogen oxides and trace minerals. The composition of smoke depends on what is burned different types of wood, vegetation, plastics, house materials, and other combustibles all produce different compounds when burned. Carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless gas that is produced in the greatest quantity during the smoldering stages of the fire, can be fatal in high doses.
In general, particulate matter is the major pollutant of concern in wildfire smoke. Particulate is a general term used for a mixture of solid particles and liquid droplets found in the air. Particulates from smoke tend to be very small (less than one micron in diameter), which allows them to reach the deepest airways within the lung. Consequently, particulates in smoke are more of a health concern than the coarser particles that typically make up road dust.
How Smoke Affects Horses
The effects of smoke on horses are similar to effects on humans: irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract, aggravation of conditions like heaves (recurrent airway obstruction), and reduced lung function. High concentrations of particulates can cause persistent cough, increased nasal discharge, wheezing and increased physical effort in breathing. Particulates can also alter the immune system and reduce the ability of the lungs to remove foreign materials, such as pollen and bacteria, to which horses are normally exposed.
Assessing and Treating Smoke Inhalation in Horses
During the recent Napa area fires, UC Davis equine specialists Drs. Joie Watson and Gary Magdesian created a quick reference guide for horse owners to determine potential smoke inhalation damage and a quick reference guide for veterinarians on treatment of smoke inhalation in horses.
In the height of the Napa fires, the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine hosted Dr. Elizabeth Woolsey Herbert of the Adelaide (Australia) Plains Equine Clinic. She performed a wet lab on equine burn bandaging for dozens of students, and lectured to more than 100 faculty and students, presenting “Findings and Strategies for Treating Horses Injured in Open Range Fires.” Thank you to the Wiley Online Library for making the publication free online for owners and veterinarians currently dealing with horses with thermal injuries.
Protecting Horses from Air Pollution
• Limit exercise when smoke is visible. Don’t have your horse do activities that increase the airflow in and out of the lungs. This can trigger bronchoconstriction (narrowing of the small airways in the lungs).
• Provide plenty of fresh water close to where your horse eats. Horses drink most of their water within 2 hours of eating hay, so having water close to the feeder increases water consumption. Water keeps the airways moist and facilitates clearance of inhaled particulate matter. This means the windpipe (trachea), large airways (bronchi), and small airways (bronchioles) can move the particulate material breathed in with the smoke. Dry airways make particulate matter stay in the lung and air passages.
• Limit dust exposure by feeding dust-free hay or soak hay before feeding. This reduces the particles in the dust such as mold, fungi, pollens and bacteria that may have difficulty being cleared from the lungs.
• If your horse is coughing or having difficulty breathing, have your horse examined by a veterinarian. A veterinarian can help determine the difference between a reactive airway from smoke and dust versus a bacterial infection and bronchitis or pneumonia. If your horse has a history of having heaves or recurrent airway problems, there is a greater risk of secondary problems such as bacterial pneumonia.
• If your horse has primary or secondary problems with smoke-induced respiratory injury, you should contact your veterinarian who can prescribe specific treatments such as intravenous fluids, bronchodilator drugs, nebulization, or other measures to facilitate hydration of the airway passages. Your veterinarian may also recommend blood tests or other tests to determine whether a secondary bacterial infection has arisen and is contributing to the current respiratory problem.
• Give your horse ample time to recover from smoke-induced airway insult. Airway damage resulting from wildfire smoke takes 4-6 weeks to heal. Ideally, plan on giving your horse that amount of time off from the time when the air quality returns to normal. Attempting exercise may aggravate the condition, delay the healing process, and compromise your horse’s performance for many weeks or months. While we recognize that owners and trainers of sport horses may want to return to work sooner than 4-6 weeks, Dr. Kent Pinkerton* recommends that horses return to exercise no sooner than 2 weeks post smoke-inhalation, following the clearance of the atmosphere of all smoke. Horses, like all other mammals, tend to have an irritation to particles, but will recover from the effects within a few days. With the devastation at San Luis Rey Downs (where 46 horses died, mostly from fire or smoke inhalation), it would be wise give the horses a break from exercise and then to gradually re-introduce them back to their routine exercise. On December 10, 2017, Dr. Rick Arthur, equine medical director at the UC Davis Kenneth L. Maddy Equine Analytical Chemistry Laboratory and at the California Horse Racing Board, issued an advisory on behalf of the CHRB regarding horses at the Del Mar racetrack.
• Air quality index (AQI) is used to gauge exercise/athlete event recommendations for human athletes. It may be reasonable to use those for equine athletes as well. For example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association lists the following recommendations on their website: “Specifically, schools should consider removing sensitive athletes from outdoor practice or competition venues at an AQI over 100. At AQIs of over 150, all athletes should be closely monitored. All athletes should be removed from outdoor practice or competition venues at AQIs of 200 or above.” During the Napa area fires, the Napa Valley Unified School District used the AQI to determine when students should return to school. They recommended 2 weeks off based on the AQI which was over 400 and took more than 10 days to resume normalcy.
*Dr. Kent Pinkerton is a professor in both the medical and veterinary medical schools at UC Davis. His research focuses are on the health effects of inhaled environmental air pollutants to alter respiratory, cardiovascular and neurological structure and function. Special areas of interest include the interaction of gases and airborne particles to produce cellular and structural changes within site-specific regions and cells of the respiratory tract in both acute and chronic timeframes of exposure.
Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. . They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions -- Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.
"The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods," says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York.
In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants. "The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but we still need to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on," he says.