'Healthy Happy Horses, Naturally' with Catherine Bird

Archive for February, 2014

Our fire and smoke summer

Where’s there is smoke

The sort of scene Jade Ilana photographed coming towards her horse property in Victoria this weekend is not one anyone wants to sees. Fortunately the wind changed direction and Jade and her horses were safe.

Jade Ilana Photo taken from the back of Yarram 9 Feb 14

Jade Ilana took this pic from the back of Yarram 9 Feb 14

If your horse has been affected by smoke from bushfires near you, two herbs that are easy to get are chamomile and rosehips. This combination will help with associated stresses, not only soothing the nerves but also soothing all the mucus membranes in the respiratory and digestive systems.

With both of these herbs, with most horses they are gentle in their action and unlikely to conflict with other herbs the horse is already on, or medication they may need from your vet.

You don’t always need to make teas with these two herbs but because we are trying to help with any irritation from heat and smoke it would be a good idea to soften with boiling water before pouring the whole contents in any feed.

When they are immediately affected add to any feed:

2 heaped tablespoons of chamomile flowers

2 heaped tablespoons of rosehips granules or shellcut

Cover with boiling water (or very hot water) and once the herbs have softened which only takes a couple of minutes they can add to the feed. You can give this once or up to three times a day.

Once your horse has settled which shouldn’t take too long you can reduce the herbs to once a day and use up what you have left. If it is not convenient to soften the herbs with hot water, you can still give by adding to the feed, you will still benefit from the herbs.

Taking this general approach will calm, soothe and help tissue recover and give you time to assess if your horse needs further support.

If your horse looks like he is straining to eat because the smoke irritated the tissue where he or she swallows, a demulcent herb such as marshmallow root powder can be used as a paste before feeding or added to feed.

Honey is another healing agent you can use. If you have open wounds or burns on the skin  honey will help you fight infections and will promote healing minimising scarring. It will also sooth irritation in the upper respiratory tract. The darker the honey the better, and if you can use unprocessed raw honey even better. Our pantry is always stocked with Manuka honey, just avoid the highly processed honey on the supermarket shelf.

It is important to also talk to your veterinarian at these times, as they will be assisting a lot of horses, and will advise you of any signs to look for in your horse if they have been affected by smoke in a way that requires veterinary attention. The use herbs is not to replace their advice.

If you have to move your horse!

As part of your evacuation kit have some rescue remedy, feeling vulnerable to the environment is not an exclusive human trait, so helping your animals with their stress levels will help keep them healthy through a difficult relocation.

A packet of chamomile tea won’t take up much space and is also a definite necessity in your disaster kit. My favourite supermarket blended tea bag is Natureland’s Night Cup, it contains all the nice calming herbs I like while it helps keep me hydrated and my digestive system calm when I am distracted by a nasty situation. I keep an uptodate packet next to our ‘shake and shine torches’.  A cup of tea for yourself and your horse will help both settle until you have resettled yourselves.

The essential oil to offer a horse after he has been traumatized by bushfires is Sweet Orange. The scent of orange will reassure your horse and every time he is offered a waft of the scent it will be like being given a big warm hug. All you have to do is uncap your body and waft it 10cm/4 inches from the nostrils.

The more you are planned for such events, the easier it will be to respond in the safest way possible for you and your animals.

Don’t forget their feet

Carol Adolf offered some good advice after Victoria’s severe fires in 2009: www.EquineBareHoofCare.org and http://www.EquineSoundness.com

With hooves please be aware that deep burns to the hoof are not always obvious immediately. The outer hoofcapsule does provide insulation for the inner living structures, however, extensive heat over a period of time will cause corium damage. Sole corium and wall lamellae may overheat (literally cook), and tissue will still break-down even if initial visible blisters to bulbs and skin are already healing. Due to the conductivity of metal, shod horses are at greater risk, as the heat will remain longer and is more localized. If internal damage has occurred, the help of a hoofcare specialist is required. Rehabilitation may take at least 8-9 months or more as failure of the suspension apparatus and severe abscessing may be some of the complications.

For burns to the skin and bulbs and coronet please follow initial first aid procedures as recommended by your vet and discuss following alternative treatment methods with him/her to assist the healing process thereafter.

With the heatwaves we have had across Australia this summer, many horse folks have been affected. We all need to be prepared and be logical when our horses are threatened by a bushfire. Then to help our horses after a fire has passed by assisting them to settle and heal from any trauma.

written by Catherine Bird

Making the Perfect Brew

With the convenience of teabags the art of making an infusion or decoction of herbs has been lost in some households.

calendula-flower from www.hort.wisc.edu

calendula-flower from http://www.hort.wisc.edu

A herbal tea can be an infusion or a decoction. An infusion is made by pouring boiling water over dried or fresh herbs whilst a decoction is made by boiling in water harder plant substances such as bark and roots.

The traditional proportion for an infusion is 30 gm of dried herb to 500 ml of water. You infuse this amount of herb for 15 minutes before drinking. There is no benefit in stewing your herbs, you will have obtained the healing properties in this time. With a decoction use 600 ml of water to 30 gm of dried root or bark. This is brought to the boil and simmered for 15 to 20 minutes.

Herbalists have found chronic conditions require less strong brews. In most texts one dose is a wineglassful. Ideally if you are taking your herbs to help with a health issue, the body responds well to three doses a day. If you have made too much tea for the day, you can keep the reserve in the fridge and warm as you need, though it is best to discard this fluid in 24 hours.

The timing for having your cup of tea will vary. If your digestion is weak, enjoy your herbal tea after a meal. If you are taking herbs as a tonic and general wellbeing, enjoy your tea before meals. Herbs will treat bones or marrow are believed to best taken before bed, whilst female reproductive or liver herbs are better on rising in the morning.

For the management of fevers hot infusions help to bring about therapeutic sweating. A favourite cold and flu brew on my household is peppermint and lemon balm. In between sleeping off the symptoms, a regular cup of tea assisting with recovery.

Mixing flavours of herbs into herbal tea mixtures can be fun. Mix equal parts of the blander chamomile with a tastier herb such as rosehips or for our older readers hawthorn berry to nurture the heart. The rosehips can be pretty in their shell cut form and enhance the appeal to others more enticing if you use a clear glass plunger to make an infusion.

Infusions and decoctions are not as strong as fluid extracts used by herbal practitioners but with most herbs available loose, cut and dried a good cup of tea is a safe way to relax with friends. Infusions are also portable and easy to make at work.

The most important thing to remember is to have fun with making your tea mixes. Mix flavours and colours, and some blends can have up to six herbs in your mix. Then sit back and savour the moment while you do something that is good for you.

When it comes to you horse or dog, simply make your brew 15 to 20 minutes before you offer it to them. For a dog who is fretful while you are away from the home, have a second bowl with chamomile tea available to lap up. For a horse who needs root and bark herbs, brew his tea and pour over his feed, make sure you include the softened herbs when mixing in.

Making up a calendula tea as described you can spray and clean a wound with this yellow tea.

Ask your herbal suppliers if some of their blends can be made into a tea, and while you make a serving for your horse or dog, add a teaspoon of their mix into an infuser for yourself.


written by Catherine Bird

Hitting the right Note with your Horse

Socrates and Plato regarded music indispensable to the health of the Soul.

I think most of us have heard of using music to soothe the savage beast and similar metaphors. This is only one use of music and in this article I would like to explore how we can use music to assist our competition animal with certain tasks and life situations as well as on deeper level where we can assist the utilisation of biochemistry. Music can be played to soothe our animals, help us connect with them on a different level when training for a dressage test with our horse or an agility course with our dogs.

I am going to refer to the writings of Bernard Jensen, Cyril Scott and Manly P Hall with this topic as they were two writers who sparked an interest in the use of music and its ability to heal and laid the foundation for my own exploration.

Music can be used with your horses on many levels. Music and its tone are simply vibrations, and the vibration they create you and your horse can encourage a healing space, clear negative thoughts and overwhelming emotions, and set a tone to help you and your competition animal achieve your goals.

Music from modern times as well as composers from the past all have various applications. Many new-age compositions can be utilised to kickstart a biochemical process throughout the body, more recent popular composers that had melodic compositions will trigger the utilisation of specific vitamins and minerals, whilst older compositions can tap into generations of healing gained from their rhythms and melodies over time.

Amazing Grace is a certain piece of music that stirs all kinds of emotion and Bernard Jensen noted that it was a hymn that was claimed to have more healings occur then played than any other piece of music.

You do not have to break the sound barrier when you use music for healing. It is suggested you have the music at a comfortable sound level, one both you and your horse find enjoyable.

Physical Effects

Bernard Jensen in his Color, Music and Vibration booklet, refers to an Italian surgeon who explored the power of classical music on the body. Dr Gaetano Zappolo reported (in the New York Journal of Medicine) examples of how Bach soothes digestion, Mozart relieves rheumatic pain, Schubert assists insomniacs into sleep, while Handel eases emotional problems.

This opens up a new dimension to the music you play in your barn. Remember some music can poison the body vibrationally so avoid playing a radio station that dedicates itself to the harsher more abrasive tones of some of today’s popular music.

Ideally if you have an older horse with aches and pains, an hour of Mozart while you are pottering around the barn may assist with his physical comfort. When you introduce a new horse to a boarding facility and this horse is restless you may want to take your portable tape player down when you visit of an evening and share some quality time together listening to Schubert.

The horse recovering or prone to colic episodes, especially when drinking water is icy during winter, would benefit from Bach being played during the dinner time.

Manly P Hall in his booklet The Therapeutic Value of Music Including The Philosophy of Music takes this concept one step further and looks at the properties of basic tones. He stated “the note C stimulates the growth of plants and excites recklessness in animals. It is a stimulant, and inadvisable for those of a nervous or hysterical type.” This would suggest it is not wise to play music to a horse in the key of C prior to a cross-country event, or if you have a nervous horse. Your sheep trial dog who is cautious would also benefit from some of the courage this could instil.

“The note E has a cleansing effect, strengthens the intuitive faculties, and assists in the digestion of food.” If we were to play your horse a Bach composition in the key of E when he is eating, you are likely to find better assimilation of his food. Finding soft music in E would also assist the budding animal communicator chat with their horse, dog or cat and tap into their intuitive skills while playing with their pet.

“The note G reduces fevers … It is soothing and relaxing.” So definitely worth having a CD of minuets in G tucked away in your first aid kid, to assist with any emergencies in the stable for nt only your horses but the mouser cat or stable dog.

For Uplifting Spirits

Pythagoras, the Greek philosopher, advised his disciples to open their day by listening to pleasant music, using it to purify the mind and emotions. What better way to set the tone for the day at the stables? Pachabell’s Canon is a beautiful and inspiring piece of music that can be played gently and unintrusively. This canon can be used to clear away disturbing emotions that may have settled in your horse’s energy field and very useful at times when you are facing personal challenges of your own, or challenges in your training together. It will strengthen your resolution and your horse’s willingness to participate in training periods that are introducing new or what appears to be difficult movements.

It is also a nice piece of music for the show cat to listen to before a show so that a statuesque air be presented to the judges.

Manly P Hall in his writings takes the use of music to a deeper level, this an area you may want to explore.

“In the case of Bach we feel the powerful integrity … with Beethoven there is psychic integrity … Mendolson’s music increases the sense of security … Chopin stimulates the imagination … Schumann is for those seeking to advance their education … Strauss is recommended for those deficient in individuality … Robert Wagner emphasis on universal consciousness…”

Translating this to use with our horses we could use Schumann to help with educating a young horse, Mendolson to help a new horse adapt to a new property or herd situation, and Strauss to encourage a withdrawn horse to be more expressive. It could be useful with the pack of kelpies you have working on the farm when you introduce a new dog to the property so he and the established dogs can quickly sort out their pecking order.

Using Music with Situations

Music can be used to stimulate memory. If you have a horse who has difficulty picking up from where the last training session got you, find a piece of music that can be played softly in the background when you want to focus on certain aspects of your discipline. Each time you want to work on this aspect, play this same piece of music gently again in the background and it will assist this horse with his memory. Having music playing like this with a horse or dog that is slow to comprehend works to distract the mental barrier to “new ideas”; it permits information to be accepted more readily by internal faculties. In other owrds if you need to prepare for a competition with less time than you would like, play a familiar track from your training music.

When you use music for this purpose, do not choose vocal music, as it has to be listened to, rather than heard, and this will interfere with the activity.

Another interesting writer was Cyril Scott in his book Music – Its Secret Influence throughout the Ages. He describes Schumann as the messenger from the heart of the child to the heart of the parent. This composer could be employed during foaling season, the soft melodic sentiments floating through the air in the background will encourage the mare-foal connection.

Cyril Scott also described Strauss and Wagner stronger compositions as being sexually stimulating. These may be suitable to have playing when a stallion is required to serve mares or at the breeding kennels. You do not have to have crashing crescendos blaring out across the field or through the stud’s area. Remember your animal’s hearing is more attuned than yours is so softly-softly in the background will duly meet the requirements of the moment.

Giving Music a Color

As we are looking at music and its vibrational qualities, then we can do a comparison with color and how certain music can emphasis a color vibrational and help with healing. I will stay with the seven colors of the spectrum and give examples of music that expresses the properties of these colors.

Red is a projecting yang color. Ravel’s Bolero helps embrace this energy for life and a good piece of music to build up a powerful amount of energy when you require your animal to work energetically.

Orange is dual in its projection and absorption. Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto#2 helps the adrenals into action when you and your animal are lethargic; or you can use Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum in A or Vera Lynn’s We’ll Meet Again to help balance the thyroid. Liszt to steady an overactive thryoid and Lynn or similar to stimulate a lazy thyroid.

Yellow is another out there color. Heroic Tenor Operatic Arias can be used to help the self project when needed. Yellow is the color of the solar plexus so any sort of anxieties related to dramas can be worked through with Beethoven’s Symphony #5 or Aaron Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man.

Green relates to the heart chakra and is a very healing vibration. Dukas’s Sorcerers Apprentice and Theodorakis’s Zorba’s Dance help the heart project out into nature. Irish Jigs and Scottish Reels will bring a green vibration and heal on many levels.

Blue is the color of communication. Dire Straits’ Water of Love, Claude Debussy’s Claire De Lune, Sakura (Traditional Japanese Folk) can be used to address the pH balance in your own and your animal’s body.

Indigo is the color of the third eye chakra. Music including Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess and Bizet’s Symphony in C can assist when there is a need for evaluation whilst Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours from the Opera “La Gioconda” helps you and your horse explore new possibilities. When there needs to be an appreciation of self consider playing Dire Straits version of the theme from “Local Hero”.

Violet relates to the crown chakra and beauty. Toto’s song You are the Flower will help you and your horse project beauty, whereas Grieg’s Soveig’s Song from Peer Gynt Suite will help you and your animal connect with your own inner beauty to help with your presentation to a judge in any competition where you are judged on appearance and conformation.

If you wish to connect with the entire rainbow of color; Rachmaninov’s last movement of his 4th Concerto or the Blues Brothers’ Sweet Home Chicago will bring forth the array of colors.

There are many ways to relate to music and the key to its use with you and your animal is what makes you feel good. What do you enjoy and is it in harmony with your competition animal’s vibration. What I have described here may not be your taste of music; so explore and see what you find helps you with your relationship and training.

If a piece of music brings up an emotional response with you use it clear that emotion from your energy field. Feel the essence of the music and visualise the pain or aches leaving your body as the music plays. When you need energy select the stronger rhythmic pieces of music to build your energy levels up. If you need to focus and concentrate on your work with your horse, find music that you can play to distract you active mind so you can get into the task at hand.

The most important thing to remember is that music is to be enjoyed.


Does your horse like your scent?


When you first start offering essential oils to your horse, it may not be clear what the preferences are.

With younger horses they may look like they are interested in every bottle you waft under their nose, you may find the only indicator is the strength of breath they take to get more of the scent they like.

The horse in this pic got me very excited when he dropped his tongue out at the bottle. However his handler stated he did this all the time, be it when being groomed, riding or just ‘because’. He was clear though with his likes and dislikes and would turn away from the ones he disliked.

Other horses may indicate their preference by stepping forward for the essential oil they prefer. Older less expressive horses may simply lean forward.

The more time you take and not rush the selection, the better you become at picking up the subtle signs. It may be the look in the eye changes, the horse choose his favourite by not moving away from one particular essential oil.

The sign I always enjoy is the flehman where the horse curls his top lip and lifts his head to capture the scent. Even then, some horses will do this with nearly all the scents I offer so to determine a preference I may reoffer and find he then only selects a few, or I offer one essential oil that is quite different to see if he truly like the first selection.

Remember not to offer too many in one session, eventually he can become overpowered and switch off to what you are trying to achieve.

Sometimes you will have very demonstrative selections, other times you need to read more subtle signs. The key with either type of response is to watch closely at the way the horse responds and see if you can pick a pattern. The overly demonstrative can be just as hard to decide on his preferred scent as the one who may only slightly flare one nostrils as he hangs his head over the bottle.

Grapefruit is a refreshing and uplifting scent for this time of year, be you in the warm Australian sunshine for Christmas or experiencing the wet in England or the cold in the US at the moment. If your horse is unsettled by your current weather conditions anywhere, Sweet Orange will give them a reassuring hug. For those in colder climates, a waft of Ginger will help warm them from within. For those in the Southern Hemisphere Peppermint can help cool an overheated horse experiencing the stifling effects of a heatwave.

All these scents just need to be wafted under the nostrils from the bottle, no need to physically apply for these purposes.

Frankincense is always appropriate at this time leading up to New Year, helping you release the stress of the past year from you and your horse by warming a few drops in the palm of your hand and wiping your own and their auric field with that intent. It helps start the new year with a cleaner slate and open you up to what the spiritual aspects of the year to come may have to offer.


written by Catherine Bird