Can’t Train Trauma 

After years of working with rescued and “damaged” horses headed to their end because of bad behavior, I came to believe these horses were, to varying degrees, in a state of shock. Many were so surprised by their inhumane and confusing treatment that they either shut down or became enraged, making them unpredictable and dangerous.

Thanks to flower essences, various dramatic behavior improvements took place that seemed impossible, given the history of the animal or the circumstances. Circumstances included hurricanes, weeklong firestorms, tornadoes and court ordered animal seizures.  Flower essences address current the crises and, equally as important, the past – replacing old, negative memories with healthy, positive thoughts. Effects on the animals’ future behavior include giving them the opportunity to learn, and to accept, co-operate with, and trust human intervention and companionship.


Starr was a horse who taught me the true power of flower essences. This mare arrived at my farm filthy, angry, tense, restless and hating to be touched. I had 30 days to “fix” this horse without knowing how traumatized she was. The owner simply said: “We leave the halter on.” He bragged that this gorgeous mare cost only $100 at the monthly auction. He failed to mention that this ½ ton horse had hospitalized 2 people since then.  

After he left that first day, I went to take the halter off and saw that the 2-inch buckle was rusted shut. Then I saw the deformed, indented bone on her nose. Her facial bones, as she grew, could not grow where the non-giving nylon yearling halter was, so there were deep indentations in the bones and muscles of her head. How she could have chewed and eaten, I don’t know. The cheekbone near the eye was deformed as well, and her poll bones and muscle were indented. Imagine a yearling halter on a grown horse’s face… There were many misshapen bones. This halter had been on for years and the bone and flesh grew to fit the halter. I had a choice as to how to proceed and I chose flower essences. No outside help, no surgery, and no more trauma.

To start, flower essences were added to her water, her hay and sprinkled in her new corral: Rock Rose for steadfastness and follow-through, Clematis for learning and focus, Cherry Plum for composure, Impatiens for patience, double doses of Star of Bethlehem for shock and restoration, and Star Tulip for renewed grounding and comfort.

After 3 days of essences, she trusted me enough to cut the halter off her face. The halter hung upside down, the noseband wedged within the bone it shaped, for a full 10 minutes before she moved enough for it to fall out. When she freed herself, I left it there on the ground for the next few days. She urinated on it, struck at it, flung it in the air and urinated on it some more.

During Week 2 I added Crab Apple for improving self-image, Red Clover for control, and Sweet Pea for grounding, to some bath water. She still had a hard time being touched or with fast movements, so she got sponge baths with these essences. I also made a bucket of essences to dip my hands in for light massage and stretches. I had to ease her into moving parts of her body that were stoved up from years of tension.

During Week 3, the essences Gentian for courage and optimism and Mustard for lingering depression were added to her water and feed. The vet said she could never be ridden due to an old injury to the shoulder, probably from a trailering incident. The farrier trimmed her, and even though she cooperated, he doubted she had ever been trimmed, and there was permanent damage as a result of improper feed and exercise. Armed with this information, we intensified the massages, gave her hydrotherapy, added carrot stretches to the routine, started teaching her tricks to help her become more supple, and put flower essences on her treats. She learned to bow, follow her tail in tight circles, reach back onto her rump to get a treat, paw the air, and to bob and weave.

When it was time for her to go home, her family was taught her tricks in order to keep her supple and comfortable. They also got a 90-day supply of Mimulus for known fears, Gorse for hope, and Impatiens for patience with the humans.

3 Years Later I saw Starr’s family and asked how she was doing. They said she was wonderful. Even though she was never ridden; she entertained with her tricks at every family BBQ. They also said she was helpful during a wild fire demanding a mandatory evacuation. The family stopped and picked up neighbors’ horses, some never trailered before, while Starr kept all of them calm.

Hurricane Katrina

Hurricane Katrina created tens of thousands of animal victims who needed something special to deal with the trauma of repeated disappointments, abandonment, confusion, and the sense of hopelessness these conditions presented. They needed to overcome the assault of mental and emotional trauma. They needed to accept help from strangers. They needed to accept that some of their families were gone forever.

Thanks to friends and family who believed flower essences would help the Gulf Region animals, we were able to give away 200 bottles of blends to rescue workers and victims. When I first arrived at Lamar-Dixon in Gonzales, Louisiana, which was home to more than 11,000 animals in a 7-week period, the skeptics were afraid I was going to hurt the animals by adding essences to the drinking water. But within 90 minutes, someone yelled: "Bring flowers, we have a stressed out dog over here."

Essences blended together for the dogs, cats, horses, and other Katrina victims were Gorse for hope, Yarrow which is the "wounded hero remedy", Echinacea to balance all subtle systems, Iroquois Sweetgrass for welcoming change, Arnica for loss of security, reconnection, and cleansing hurtful memories, plus 12,000 GrandFathers (stones gathered at 12,000 feet from a glacier in North America) allowing vision and acceptance of the future - that all things will make sense in time. Homeopathics of Aconitum 30x were added for shock, worry, and fear of the future, and Arnica 30x for relief from trauma, stress, and overexertion.

When Hurricane Rita struck later that week, essences were put in all the waters and sprayed throughout the barn. We had the quietest, calmest barn full of 250 rescued dogs, and 5 volunteers asleep on FEMA cots. Yes, we slept through a hurricane.

Months later, some dogs and cats were still not rescued, living under abandoned houses, drinking contaminated water and eating whatever they could find. Deb Rykoff, DVM from Barrington, Illinois and 25-year veteran volunteer with Best Friends Sanctuary said: "We not only used your sprays (above listed formula) in the field rescuing animals, we used them in the trucks transporting, and at staff meetings at the end of a long day."


Intention of Touch

As you read, think Dog, Pig, Rabbit, Pet Rat, Goat, Sheep, and Bovine personalities because all will benefit.

There is a children’s game using only one finger and one refrain: “I’m not touching you.” It is a game played until the anxiety and expectation is too much to handle and someone pulls away or gets swatted. Few people are immune to this teasing, even without the words. 

Horses play this game reacting to a hovering fly. A muscle twitch, a swish of their tails, or stomping their feet reacting to this “intention to touch.” How many times does Alpha Mare have to actually touch another horse to get them to do as she bids? Usually all she has to do is look in their direction to communicate her desires. I try to keep this in mind when approaching a horse to touch, handle, groom, and affix equipment, let alone ride them.


Nervous? Stoic? Flighty? Withdrawn or a bit forward? If they are forward and in your space; they may be telling you a need to protect their space or create an area they can back into if necessary. I don’t always find the “forward” horse to be pushy. I am not talking about the bully with his chest puffed up like a rooster or sneaking up breathing down your neck. This article is going to take everything down a notch from how I usually discuss behaviors. Previous articles deal with extreme situations and difficult personalities. Here, I want to talk about subtle cues our more sensitive horses send that may go unnoticed but are shouting volumes of important information.

Added bonus is once we have learned this information from the hypersensitive; we can be more sensitive in our approach to the next one and maybe help to bring them down a notch on their stress or anxiety ladder. 

Methods of discovery

15 minutes of observation will tell you lots about the personality you are about to ride, massage, groom, trim, or help in some way. First, take a full minute to check in with yourself. Make sure you are not bringing emotional baggage into the session. Introduce yourself and ask permission to be there, revealing your intentions. Does not have to be out loud, the fly never says anything and its intention is well felt. My personality is to be chatty and when I am quiet; makes me more attentive and in sync with the horse and their immediate needs. 

How do you “feel” in front of this half-ton EMOTIONAL STORAGE UNIT? What in the heck is stored inside? Fear, loathing, grief? Love, compassion, trust? And how is it affecting the overall well-being of this particular individual? What else can you learn by just standing there? How do you feel? Is your head swimming with worry? Do you want to shift your weight back and forth from one foot to the other? Are you starting to get nervous? I was taught if I got nervous to “lower everything” including voice, head, blood pressure, and if riding; lower my hands, heels and heart rate.


After you have gathered some information about the emotional and possibly the mental state of this horse; approach any part of the body, hopefully, being offered to you to touch. (Keep in mind that offering you his rear-end is not always a bad thing.) Hover your hand 1-12 inches above the body and while moving slowly – one inch per second to start - see how your horse feels about this. Take inventory. Is he getting nervous? Moving away? Moving into you? Is the breathing changing? Head rising? Eyes more alert? Moving his lips? Moving his feet? Should you back off a bit or is he inviting you in closer?

Check in every few minutes and see how he “feels” and how do you “feel” now? Adjust your non-touching pressure accordingly or maybe take a short break. Some will stay with you wanting more or they could just have good manners and stay close. Maybe they just need a drink. If they walk off; many will walk back to you if you wait. You be the judge how and when to proceed.

Plants have personalities too

Personality is used here to describe traits and characteristics studied in varied disciplines under names including: doctrines of correspondents and of signatures, laws of similars, contraries and cures. For today’s discussion let’s keep it simple considering Dr. Bach always intended flower essences to be for the layperson.                                                                                                    

“No scientific explanation of how or why these remedies worked was offered by Dr. Bach. Indeed, he was wary of the “trends” that science is prone to, and encouraged others to keep his remedies “free from science, free from theories.” If certain observable principles were operative in nature, there was no need to complicate the issue. Wild animals did not need an explanation of why certain plants helped them when they were ill.” The Bach Flower Remedies, page X, first published in 1931 and in 1979 by Keats Publishing (New Canaan, CT).

Flower essence therapy began in 1930 with the British homeopathic physician, Dr. Edward Bach, noticing how he “felt” standing in front of a specific plant. For example, when standing in front of a mustard plant; he possibly felt depressed as this essence is used for depression. In front of gorse, he may have felt despondent as he said we should use this plant for hope. And so forth with his 38 remedies. Nowadays, I tell my students it is easier for our edification to first use a flower essence remedy and then discover how it makes us feel. Most of us are not as intuitive as was Dr. Bach.

St. John’s Wort Personality

This yellow flowering plant I use for my flower essence is delicate and innocuous, not large in stature, less than 2 feet, but stands deliberate and erect. In full bloom, flowers and tendrils almost appear to twitch. I learned it is highly invasive and will “intelligently” travel underground deliberately emerging later at a great distance from its first planting.

The horse that may benefit from this plant is the one who may stand a bit taller in the head and shoulders, he may seem to do this deliberately and not be completely comfortable in this frame. Could be a bit on his toes. He may appear stoic, unengaged, following you with his eyes and not moving his body but, he knows exactly where you are and what your intentions are. If you move slowly around this horse; he will anticipate where you intend to touch and be more accepting in your approach.

Play with him. Hover your hand, barely cupped not flattened, a few inches above his fur and slowly, floating your hand over his body following a muscle contour or a line of some sorts. Spray your hands with essences, do the same thing, and see what changes in his bodily reaction. Are you invited in to be closer, work longer, make it a more enjoyable experience? That’s the goal. Complements and other essences for this type are passion flower, lavender, and iris. Lavender essential oil is nice for this personality. Maybe invite them to lower their heads, softening the throat latch, relieving the neck and shoulders which relaxes the back and on through the topline until the entire body is comfortably affected.

Lobelia Personality

Extreme cases can’t bear to be touched. Tolerating the softest brushes and chamois but just does not enjoy being touched. Either they are literally thin-skinned or their hypersensitive nervous systems prevent them from enjoying human touch. Not to be confused with the avoidance behaviors of the abused horse or the one suffering actual physical pain. Respiration is superficial, never seeming to take in a big breath or fully exhale. They tend to lean forward slightly with an expectation to be hurt or made to feel uncomfortable. They may stop eating or drinking when you are around. They tend to have very expressive eyes often showing a worrisome confusion or concern, and may perspire on the face showing mental and emotional discomfort.

Historically, lobelia was used as a nerve tonic for humans and as a special ingredient in love potions. So, here I say, allow this personality to fall in love with you. Create a comfortable space of safety for them to enter when in your presence. If they tend to lean forward a few inches in a protective stance; you lean back. Take an actual step back, if you need, in order for them to want to approach you. Give this horse time, space and lobelia flower essence. Complements and further support are essences of rose and impatiens.

Sweet Pea Personality

Use sweet pea essence when you need “round-the-clock kindness.” This personality wants to be kind and gentle but it takes great effort on their part. Touch with kindness, gentleness, but with determination. Don’t mislead or lie to this type. Once trusted; don’t change the game plan. These horses tend to be flighty and nervous ready to evade or evacuate at a moment’s notice. They are insecure and vulnerable but often behave contrary in order to protect themselves.

Nasty and unfriendly for no apparent reason, often nicknamed a witchy mare, even if it is a gelding. I had a mare like this; she would dictate my mood just by the way she was standing on any given morning. She seemed always ready for a fight or a flight to the extent that her feet more hovered over the ground than connected to it.

Riding The “Don’t Touch Me” Horse

Sweet pea types can be a challenge to ride as we need to trust and relax enough to discover their rhythm, their stride. Try to make every effort to make them feel safe and secure. If necessary, ask a friend with a trustworthy mount to help as a companion rider, building self-reliance and self-esteem while making them feel they are part of the solution and not the problem. Complements for sweet pea horse and rider are apple, dandelion, and red clover essences. 

St. John’s Wort horses should be ridden quietly aware of every twitch and tingle. Can you feel him getting taller? Where does the sweat begin? Face, forehead, large muscle groups, the legs? Have you found their “sweet spot” while working with them on the ground? Withers, neck, shoulder? Using your creativity, discover how they will learn to trust, be more comfortable, and accept new challenges. Use your flower essences before, during, and after your time together until the need is no longer there.

Lobelia types are amazing to ride because they are so sensitive. Reins can simply be opened to create a place of safety for them to move into, arching into the openness and following with the nose - contrary to most riding styles. Opening your leg acts on them the same way, allowing them to close the gap intentionally. Pulling up your knee and hip just a few inches, gently moves your lower leg. This movement engages the entire midsection of the body with the resulting effort balanced and graceful. Same premise as a back without a perfect topline. We don’t add padding under the saddle to fill in the depressed areas; instead, we create space to encourage the topline to comfortably move up into. 

Contrary to what I have possibly implied; these ultrasensitive animals are my favorites to work with and ride. They are honest and communicative, not misleading. Instructions and requests often have to be repeated and if not well received, don’t push, give them a treat with their essences and put them up. Do some impatiens essence and start fresh at a later time.

Mist flower essences over the body and down the legs, and under the belly. Avoid eyes, genitalia, any open wounds, and bare skin. Spray your grooming equipment, use in bath water, drinking water, or food. Spray your hands for touch and massage. Also, think about spraying your hands before picking up your leadropes and leashes for time spent together.


Basic Training with
Trust and Co-operation

Dr. Edward Bach, the 1930’s British homeopathic physician and discoverer of Flower Essence remedies, wrote: “The action of these remedies is […] to flood our natures with the particular virtue (def: good results) we need, and wash out from us the fault which is causing harm.” To conquer a fault or a wrong requires steady development of the opposing virtue (good result), not suppression of the fault.

What Flower Essences Can Do

Flower essence remedies transform problematic behavior, attitudes, emotions, and patterns of learning, allowing anyone to excel to his or her fullest potential. They offer not just success on obvious behavioral or emotional situations but long-term, permanent solutions to even chronic problems.

There is no substitute for patience, training and understanding but sometimes we simply need to pull the lamp closer to get a better look - at ourselves as well. Flower essences illuminate, allowing us to see from a different angle, giving us an opportunity to reflect and make a long term change. Whether dealing with an excessive personality trait, an ingrained fear or a brand new experience, remedies can give us that moment of opportunity to make IT work - whatever our IT is at the time.

Flower Essences Help during Training

Years ago, I was hired to gentle 4 Thoroughbred colts who had never been handled because they were going to be race horses and the owners thought wild was the way to go. When I walked into the pasture, they rushed me, coming so fast and so close that I scrambled over the top of the fence to safety. I put 10 drops of Angels’ Trumpet for trust, Cherry Plum for control, Impatiens for patience, Rock Rose for courage, and Star of Bethlehem for inner-peace into the 400-gallon water trough. When I returned the next day, same thing happened and they rushed toward me, but stopped in a cloud of dust 20 feet in front from me, lowered their heads, and slowly approached to within arms’ length. One came closer and let me touch his nose. This colt had all 4 feet trimmed within 90 minutes of accepting his first halter. This proved a wonderful combination of essences, helping to establish trust for long-term relationships.

In training, some behaviors we request are complicated for the animal and require a series of adjustments to execute. Flower essences can help with these adjustments by encouraging a particular behavior or understanding from your animal. For example, Chestnut Bud and Clematis are integral to focus, learning, and acceptance of the procedures. Tiger Lily is for encouraging a team spirit in the horse and rider.

Training tips:

My opinion is that every time we handle a horse we are training. Every day, we have the chance to improve the horse-human relationship. How can we do this?

- One of the most important things we can do as a “trainer” is learn to apologize. I had ridden, taught and trained for 25 years before I realized how far down the road a simple apology would get me and my horses. Gentian is the essence I use for this since in homeopathics this is a wonderful remedy for “matters of the heart” and in essence form, I believe it helps courage and optimism replace doubt and pessimism. Also, Arnica essence is for cleansing hurtful memories, Gorse is for hope, and Mimulus is for known fears. Damaged and traumatized horses do well on this combination. This combination gives horses and humans a fresh start.

- In training procedures, we can create a positive atmosphere by vigilantly looking for the TRY. Most horse people are used to big deals, and unless there is drama, flair and a bit of the unnatural, some are not satisfied that ENOUGH has happened.

- We all benefit from having a basic plan, whether it is for the next 15 minutes or the next three weeks. And, just in case, I always have a “plan B”.

- Avoid setbacks by giving essences in advance. For example, trailering presents its own set of problems, best avoided from the first time a horse is introduced to the trailer. To avoid negative reactions in the first place, use the remedies for trust and acceptance. Trailers to some horses are very scary, loud, dark and full of unnatural movement. Arnica essence is used here for security, Impatiens and Cherry Plum while taking a few extra minutes in the beginning to help adjust, and Clematis for focus and learning through experience

Overcome Past Issues with Flower Essences

Horses are incredible one-time learners, not always for the best. One bad experience (like trailering) can prove difficult to overcome but it is possible to get a horse to overcome the fear or phobia. Use Mustard for anxiety caused by external circumstances, Mimulus for known fears, Star of Bethlehem for recovery from previous trauma or shock, and Star Tulip for grounding and creating a new experience.

During the process of change, a myriad of behaviors can surface. Be ready for this and address each one as it appears, and proceed. Rescued and re-habbed animals generally suffer through this because there is so much baggage to their lives. Typically, as they are made comfortable in their new surroundings and begin to relax and trust, their issues manifest and surface, and begin to create chaos in their new ordered world. Patience and understanding of their circumstances while using essences will get most animals right again.

Choosing and Evaluating Essences for Your Horse

Observation is the best judge when it comes to selecting which essences or blends to use, and when. If we observe the horse, noting his personality and its difficulties, we can see how he uses his brain, body and personality to (mis)behave, and we can choose suitable essences. 

If progress is slow or personality flaws still exist, ask yourself: Was it the appropriate remedy in the right dosage and frequency? Is there a physical ailment or limitation that needs to be addressed by a health care professional? Are there any mental deficiencies that prevent the animal from working and thinking at his maximum? Has the best possible environment been provided? Was the desired result possible? With this animal? Within this environment? Most difficult to answer: was there change and you missed it or it was not the one you were looking for but the one that the animal needed? Do you need to modify your expectations? Do you need to see if you are part of the problem? These are tough questions, but don’t be afraid to ask. 

We and our animals can improve our relationships by overcoming the “faults that cause us harm”. We can replace those faults by simply developing good results, naturally, with the help of flower essences.