Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Equestrian Lifestyle at Freedom Farm: Feet First

By Jerry Schmidt and Mary Gallagher

A natural lifestyle is the foundation of our horses' health at Freedom Farm. Foundational to that is the care of their feet, which are, without exception, barefoot. It's a great first topic of this series on natural equestrian lifestyle. -MG

Our boarding and training business, dedicated to keeping horses in a more natural environment, is a huge undertaking in the horse industry today. The way our horses live – moving barefoot with a herd, enjoying access to natural grasses and hay 24/7 – is not how horses are typically cared for, especially if you have competition aspirations. Yet that is how our horses live and compete: barefoot and in a herd environment.

Magnum’s Rough Year, Part Two: Oh No! Laminitis!

Not feeling well at all!
by Mary Tulin

Mary and Magnum's story of insulin resistance continues with more hard times, dealt with effectively. A good example of proper horse management. -MG

Magnum really wasn’t feeling well.

His move to a dirt pen with old pals had seemed like the perfect situation: get him off grass, keep him in a herd with room to play. The big dirt pen by the hay barn was roomy, with his old herd right next door. Within weeks after the move, however, he got worse again. Dirt pens are great, but this one was next to pasture, grass within easy reach of questing muzzles. Magnum munched freely, and paid dearly.

Friday, October 7, 2016

"Are you sure you still want him?" Scooter’s Story

by Breanna York and Dekker McKeever

It has been a pleasure to welcome Breanna  (a long-ago student of mine), her husband Dekker, and their two horses, Helo and Scooter, to Freedom Farm. I asked Breanna to share Scooter's story with us. He and Dekker are regulars in our Friday morning Ground Work class.  - MG

“Are you sure you still want him…???” Barry pleaded with me, his desperate eyes frantically scanning my face. He barely held back the rearing, bucking, flaring miniature stallion. The 10-month old miniature horse looked like a tiny woolly mammoth, painted with a smattering of chestnut red and summer sky white clouds. A tiny woolly mammoth whose name would be Scooter, fighting to flee his chicken coop stable. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Magnum's Rough Year: What I learned about insulin resistance (his) and denial (mine).

by Mary Tulin, with Kip Tulin, MD

“Is your horse insulin resistant?”

“No. Uh, what’s that?” I asked, feeling oddly defensive. I was chatting with a woman participating in a clinic at Freedom Farm last year (2015), a fellow Morgan fancier.

“It’s kind of like diabetes, “ she replied. “My horse has it, and mature Morgans are prone to get it.” Her Morgan horse, a handsome, trim gelding, stood nearby.

I quizzed her further, sure that my 15-year old gelding Magnum was perfect in every way and destined to be healthy and fit into old age.

“Well, I noticed Magnum had some little bumps,” she pointed to his side. “My guy had those, so I had a vet check him.”

Bumps? Yep, there they were. But there weren’t very many. And even though a few professionals (riding coach, saddle fitter, etc.) had pointed out Magnum’s occasional crestiness, I’d never worried. He was a lively, feisty middle-aged horse and I was sure he was fine. Perfectly normal.
Magnum and me, a few months earlier. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Balanced Performance: making every moment with your horse count, from barn to gate, and beyond (a series)

 by Mary Gallagher

One lesson horses have consistently taught me over the years is to be present and address questions as they arise, before moving on. We don't know what future problem we are fixing in the present but most certainly, if we ignore the issue in the moment, it will show up again at the most inopportune time. Knowing this has shaped my teaching at home and on the road: make each moment you spend with your horse count!

In my last post, I shared how I had recently witnessed a horse's unwanted behavior at the in gate at a show, a perfect example of an issue showing up under pressure, at an inopportune time:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Koko and the Beginnings of Balanced Performance

by Mary Gallagher

Everyone in my family got to choose a special gift for their 13th birthday. I think that was my parents’ way of getting out of buying us cars at 16. Anyway, all 6 kids wanted their special thing, and mine was a horse. His name was Koko and we spent a lot of time together. He was 3 when I got him. I had been showing since I was 7 so I wasn’t a total beginner, but I was no trainer, either. I depended on my adult trainers for guidance on how to develop Koko.

There were lots of trails around our stable, so I rode him out after lessons whenever possible. We fox hunted and did horse trials along with dressage and jumping lessons, and horse shows. Koko was a great all around horse.

14-year old Mary Gallagher on Koko.
About 3 years into our life together, the showing part was beginning to develop a glitch. Koko did not want to leave the in gate; he developed a real aversion to it. Within a year we were regularly getting excused from the arena. I tried everything my trainer asked, and even had other trainers ride him at shows to help get him get over this behavior, but nothing seemed to work. Koko was one very arena sour guy.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Joey's Hind Leg and What We Learned About Wound Care

by Mary Gallagher (with comments from Kip Tulin, M.D.

This is a story I've been meaning to share since it happened. Meanwhile, I've continued to use the basic approach here with success. At the time it was a bit of a science experiment, which thankfully produced positive results. I'd be interested in comments from those of you who have had success with natural remedies for wound care as well. I also invited Dr. Kip Tulin, a Freedom Farm regular and retired physician, to comment below on the basics of this art. -MG

Joey injured his left hind leg very badly in May 2012. He had kicked through and then gotten tangled in his pen's electric fence. The wound was wide open and there was no way to stitch it. We first irrigated the wound very thoroughly with cold water. It was a large, deep wound so I must have kept the hose on it for 30 minutes. We then left it un-bandaged and applied herbal products, with the result that the granulating tissue nearly covered the area, with the exception of a small area in the center that drained constantly. Then one day it just got really swollen and split down the middle. It was horrendous. Out of ideas and very worried about Joey, we took him to the veterinary hospital. 

Monday, April 4, 2016

Kenny's Fitness Corner: A Triple Whammy Squat

 by Mary Gallagher, with coach Kenny Hall, fitness trainer

During our Monday morning Fitness for Riders class, I asked Kenny to give me and our students an exercise to help with shoulder position, and he gave us a triple whammy: an exercise to work on our 1) balance, 2) seat position in the saddle, as I 3) open up our shoulders. Once again, I got to be the model for this post:

A Horse, a Human, and a Microbe walk into a Barn…..

by Kip Tulin

Note: There are quite a few 50-cent words in here which you may feel free to skip past in search of Dr. Tulin's point about feed and supplementation. Science geeks, enjoy! -MG

humans, horses, dog, and gazillions of microbes...
….and while hanging out around the treat bin, they decide to find out if they have anything at all in common. Horse and human, sure. But a microbe?? Turns out all three (human, horse, microbe) have more in common than you might think: they—and I might as well say ‘we’— all have DNA made up of the same four ‘letters’ (called nucleotides) and they all use groups of three of these letters (triplets) to code for the the same twenty ‘building blocks’ (amino acids). It is truly amazing to think that all of the immensely diverse living things on earth, whether single celled, plant, insect, or animal use the same basic code of life.

The Transformation of Niko's Feet: Progress Report

 by Mary Gallagher

“My horse has bad feet and can’t be ridden without shoes.” It’s a sentence I hear too often. At Freedom Farm, hoof care and rehabilitation are part of our creed and a cornerstone of our work. This post is about sharing one horse’s story, but it is certainly not unique to him! We’ll be sharing more and offering classes in trimming and hoof care, so I hope this post will offer some inspiration on the subject. - MG

As I was trimming Niko’s feet this week I thought it would be nice to give everyone a look at what has changed in the two years he has been without shoes.

Niko moved off the rubber floor and has been living out with one of the gelding herds 24/7 for about 8 months now and doing great. His training continues with less and less need for hoof boots.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Connecting the Dots: How Horses Learn

 by Mary Gallagher

Horses are highly perceptive animals who learn faster than humans do.  They have to learn fast to survive as prey animals. In our human effort to communicate with the horse, we tend to forget to take advantage of their quick learning abilities. In our rush to fulfill our agenda, we go too quickly and sometimes impatiently, through force (e.g., heavier bits and leverage reins) which causes the horse to engage his survival instincts, rather than his intellect. When the horse is in survival mode, there is no lasting learning effect on the horse. He is merely trying to live for another day; there is no cooperation or communication happening.

So what to do? Learn to call on their intelligence and  quick learning abilities in our interactions with them. Horses love to learn, and relate best to clear patterns that can be broken into clear parts. They understand intentions and are masters at reading body language; connecting the dots is their superpower. So we must slow ourselves down and learn how to break our ideas into smaller dots that the horse can enjoy connecting.

If we can break our ideas down into smaller and smaller pieces for the horse he will connect the dots on his own. Try slowing things down to a walk. Do your training in the walk first and evaluate how well your horse is getting what it is you are teaching. If he is having trouble, give him simpler tasks (or easier dots) to interpret. When you are sure he understands the lesson, then try it at the trot. When we train at the walk first, it gives us the time to let the horse soak on a particular part of a lesson he may be having trouble understanding. Also, we can work on ourselves, making sure all our aids are working softly. If you develop the skill of slowing down and making smaller, simpler dots for the horse to connect when needed, you will find you do not need to repeat lessons, and your training will actually go faster.

Soleus and Gastroc Stretches: Good for Riders!

by Mary Gallagher, with Kenny Hall, fitness coach

I asked Kenny Hall, our Riders Fitness coach to give us some tips on maintaining great equitation by helping riders lower their center of gravity, utilizing the shock absorbing abilities in their ankles. Here is a summary of our exchange by email and during workouts. -MG

Mary Gallagher: Kenny, we coach riders in correct posture and center of gravity, supported by flexible, strong ankles. Can you give us some insight about that, and any exercise tips?

Kenny Hall: Sounds like you could focus on a commonly tight muscle in the body in the calf called the soleus. The soleus muscle helps us maintain good posture and keeps us from falling forward. Also, a flexible soleus muscle will act as a shock absorber for any athlete or rider, helping them to withstand impact while keeping a correct posture. Keeping this muscle toned and flexible is a must for a correct riding position.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Springtime means sunshine, green grass, and risk of laminitis!

by Barbara Noble

With the warmer weather and another early spring, laminitis is a good topic for all horse owners to have on their mind. Our northwestern grass will soon be growing high, and also high in sugar. All horse owners could benefit from knowing about the risk of laminitis, and being proactive in preventing it, whether or not their horse is showing symptoms. Horses prone to laminitis of the most common variety are thought to be horses with an inherited gene which predisposes them to obesity (the easy keeper type) and a different metabolism of carbohydrates. Even if your horse does not have laminitis, you can be proactive and possibly avoid this condition altogether.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

The Transformation of Niko: Mary Gallagher comments

by Mary Gallagher

Niko recently.
Michelle’s series on the transformation of her off-track Thoroughbred, Niko, is a testimony to time,
healing, balance and perseverance as cornerstones of natural horsemanship. We were privileged to welcome Niko to Freedom Farm and help with his transition from promising but challenged prospect, to the happy, healthy guy he is today. Michelle has done a great job of sharing her journey with Niko, and now Jess Crouch and I are relating some of our contributions along the way. I hope this article series will prove helpful and maybe even inspirational to anyone with a horse in need of transformation.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Transformation of Niko: Jessica Crouch Comments

by Jessica Crouch

This article is part of our "Transformation of Niko" series, by Michelle Grimmer, jumping and dressage instructor, and Niko's owner.  Our previous post was the fifth in the series, and has links to Michelle's first installment. -ed.

Michelle asked me to spend some time with Niko as her school year got busier. Obviously, the dressage/jumping work itself was being well covered by Mary and Michelle, so I decided to focus on groundwork and relationship building with Niko. One of the very most important things I look for from a horse is the feeling that they WANT to be with you and that they look forward to a new learning experience with enthusiasm.  This is sometimes very difficult to achieve - after all it's hard for a human to compete with the safety and comfort of a horse's herd mates. I noticed that Niko tended to prefer being with his herd rather than with people, and he seemed to worry quite a bit about the herd when he was out.  He also tended to do things a bit grudgingly - not really engaging with his person, even if he (Niko) was otherwise performing beautifully. With Niko, there is an added component that he is one of the more dominant horses in his herd so he has a strong need to look after his buddies. Also, because of whatever stresses he had in his past life, he had some definite worries.  So he would need to feel pretty secure and comfortable to let all that go and engage with a person.

The Transformation of Niko, Part 5

 By Michelle Grimmer

This article is the fifth in a series about Michelle’s thoroughbred Niko, whose journey to health is a study in holistic horse care and natural horsemanship. The earlier articles are highly recommended as background. You can find all Michelle’s articles by clicking on her name at right, or just start HERE, with the first installment of The Transformation of Niko (Part One).  - ed.

            One of the best things that ever happened to Niko was that I started nursing school just after I adopted him from his previous owner. While at times I felt frustrated that I could not do more with him on a daily basis to help him progress, the very thing he needed was for me to do things very slowly. In other words, less was more. The challenges present in his body and mind (which I came to think of as his ‘twistedness’) required strategic nudging and time for things to be sorted out. Niko is a tremendously talented horse who has always always been willing to try, and has always made progress, but I had a nagging sense that there was yet more inside Niko to work through, that there were still ‘stuck places’ in his body somewhere.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Barefoot Success at Horse Shows, 2015

by Mary Gallagher

Back in July, I wrote about Freedom Farm’s barefoot, herd-dwelling horses. With the end of the year fast approaching, it occurs to me that we’ve had quite a year outside the Farm, at a number of horse shows with our young riders in the Hoof Beats competition team. Looking back on their consistent success, I just wanted to bring our readers up to speed on our experiences showing, as possibly the only barefoot, natural-lifestyle competition stable on the circuit.

By any measure, you could say our riders had a phenomenal year, bringing home multiple wins, championships, reserves, and high point awards at every outing. With the consistency of their success, something had to be working in their favor. A few things were, actually, though here I want to focus on the barefoot aspect.

Healing by Secondary Intention: Bob's Story

by Kip Tulin M.D.

Bob's wound, Day One
In early December (a month before this writing) Bob, an older gelding in the Farm school program, sustained a deep laceration to the right side of his face, cause unknown. (Mary Gallagher discovered his plight in the course of a morning feeding and checked around the pen, with no luck.) As you can see from the photo, the cut went from just below his eye and way down the cheek, gaping open almost an inch. Mary examined the wound carefully, noting some places where the wound went all the way through; she could hear a sucking sound as Bob breathed.

Obviously such a deep cut needed to be stitched, right?