FROM BEGINNING TO END
A Soft Voice and a Light Touch
This advice is excellent for all introductions – not just birthing.
Our veterinarian arrived within 20 minutes and as we opened the ranch gates for him, he said, “Did I miss it? Sure hope not!” He was so enthusiastic at 2:00 in the morning that I had to ask how many foalings had he attended. His answer: “Somewhere around 6,000.”
He first asked the mare’s permission before entering her enclosure. He checked her and then quietly checked on the baby. He made sure the foal latched on to nurse, checked the placenta, and then leaned over the fence with the rest of us and just watched.
Richard Tramp, DVM and equine reproductive specialist in Valley Center, California gave us this advice when asked about further handling of this foal. “A light touch and soft voice is all she needs. Do that several times a day – start with Mama and ask permission to touch the foal.
Foalhood Flower Essences for All
We often presume that newborn foals have no issues, damage, or abuse. That may (or may not) be so, but upon birth, life on Earth - with all its challenges - begins. Fortunately there are some wonderful flower essences that welcome these beings into the world and help them cope with it. All these essences I will mention are as much or more for the humans as the foals. Make sure everything you use is diluted and in a soft misting spray bottle.
Impatiens essence, especially good for the humans, will give them patience to follow the timing of Mother Nature and not the clock. Sit back and enjoy the event!
Rose and Calla Lily are two essences that are very appropriate for birthings. Rose is the most incredible essence for being in the exact moment with trust, openness, and acceptance. Calla Lily, with its spiral flower, reflects hope and optimism. Sweetgrass is for welcoming change, appropriate for birthing. Yarrow is for environment, and if the foal (or anyone) appears stressed, sprinkle or mist some onto the ground.
A nasty, non-interactive mare can pass these traits down to the foal, so it is best if you can work with her in advance. Some sweet dispositioned mares become irritable, overly protective, and aggressive. Impatience, Red Clover, Sweet Pea, and Crab Apple are all wonderful for a stressful situation or dealing with a difficult person or animal.
Lavender essential oil (therapeutic grade) can be added to the essences mentioned above or dripped/ spritzed onto the stall door or near where visitors are going to be observing the birth and new foal. If the mare is extremely stressed, put a few drops on the wall near her feed or on the fencing where she stands, eats or drinks. Don’t impose anything on her; let her decide. Even better is to spray yourself lightly and approach the mare. Be careful - hormonal changes can make her unpredictable.
Mistakes and Accidents
No matter how prepared we think we are, stuff happens. I know one foal who turned up at a neighbor’s house… she had been born at night and rolled underneath the pipe corral, and once she stood up, she could not get back in to be with her mother. Also things such as doors slamming, tarps flapping, and dogs lurking around can all have devastating and lasting effects on babies.
Star of Bethlehem is the best remedy to help the foal “re-enter” the world from shock. If your foal has encountered any shocks like trailering, injury, or even being orphaned, Yarrow, Rock Rose, and Star of Bethlehem are perfect as singles or a blend. Remember, use them very diluted and gently misted in the air, or put some on your hands and gently massage in. Tips of the ears is a wonderful area to gently massage if they can handle that without adding to the stress.
Passion Flower is a wonderful remedy if mistakes in handling have occurred and the foal’s behavior has become unnatural or undesirable. This will gently guide the foal back to a more acceptable way of behaving. Gentian is for matters of the heart, so if you find that the youngster is owed an apology, use Gentian essence, for yourself as well.
Parting Can Be Sweet
Weaning methods are as controversial as any other subject with horse people. My observations are that to make a smooth, non-stressful transition it is best to wait for all the signs from the mother that she is ready to wean. Why rush it? Slow transition is safest. Move the mare but keep her close so that they can still see each other and hear each other, but not touch, for at least 3-5 days. Foals will try to crawl, jump or push their way back to the mother’s side, so good safe fencing is immensely important for this separation. Then move her a bit further away when you see that the stress is not too great. This will prevent anger, fear, and trauma. Any of the above mentioned essences will be good to add to the water and feed upon weaning, depending on the baby’s behavior.
It is essential that foals feel comfortable and secure in this world with humans and horses alike, so they can naturally adapt to life. They need to remain healthy and cooperative in the face of all challenges, relying on their natural instincts with the trust and respect they have for people and for their own kind. Flower essences work 100% of the time and they will help in any situation from birth, through training, and on to the “finished horse”.
Aging With Comfort
Animals with us today, if given proper care, are living way into their golden years. But living to a ripe old age brings some special challenges.
From Edward Bach, M.D. and F. J. Wheeler, M.D. The Bach Flower Remedies. New Canaan, CT: Keats Publishing Inc., 1979:
“… the new combination of elements that we use together are: 1) a physical diagnosis of a mental problem, 2) transmutation of feelings, 3) cementing with flower remedies, 4) and all the other available therapies such as homeopathic medicine, diet and nutrition, helping postural problems, fasting, and so on.”
This solid plan of action is excellent if the behavioral problems are not exclusively mental, emotional, or personality difficulties. I would boldly say the elderly equine is in this category. So, use all information and resources available to provide the best life prognosis. Since flower essences do have a positive effect 100% of the time (when properly prepared and properly administered) and do complement every modality, use them with confidence while amending the difficulties troubling your horse.
1) A Physical Diagnosis of a Mental Problem
Helping the aging horse mentally and emotionally is only possible after ruling out possible physical causes that create the same troublesome behaviors. Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome and equine dementia are two problems that need to be diagnosed with the help of a holistic veterinarian since the symptoms are virtually identical to the natural aging process.
Symptoms including aimless wandering, staring, head shaking, aggression, distractibility, and seizures (from simple eye flutters to fainting) could have physical origins since a number of diseases and disorders mimic symptoms of equine dementia. Common causes of these exact same symptoms and behaviors include parasites, worms, mites, fever, hormone imbalance, vitamin or mineral deficiency, exposure to mold, colic, heavy metal toxicity, and bug bites. Therefore, it is imperative to get a physical check up first before you assume the problem is solely due to aging.
Noting specific details of behaviors in an aging horse is important in order to provide the best care and not miss physical problems if they do arise later. Know your horse’s daily and nightly habits, average temperature, heart rate, stomach sounds, drinking habits, and feeding schedule including how long it takes to finish a meal. Check on them during the day and late at night to notice any irregularities including sleeping patterns and/or difficulty in getting up. Do they stand there not moving for a while? Or do they move off immediately? This information will be your benchmark if habits and behaviors do change.
2) Transmutation of Feelings
Ruling out physical problems, we are free to take care of any negative behaviors ensuring best quality of mental health in the aging equine. Symptoms of depression tend to be first to manifest. Use single flower essence remedies or blends until you are able to give relief to the horse, his companions, and yourself. Aging is a (often rapid) progression and unfolds itself daily. Continually be alert for changes and re-address your selections accordingly.
Mild depression may be expressed as any of the following: less enthusiasm for favorite things (food, toys, companions), difficulty adjusting to new physical limitations, less focus, less patience, change in sleeping or napping habits, nervous agitation, and newly developed vices. Take care of the retiree who stands daily, staring as if waiting to be saddled and go for a ride, with Honeysuckle. Also, for this demonstration of unwavering devotion, use Rosemary essence. Sweetgrass essence is for accepting change, and Impatiens is used for increased tolerance and approval of the new situation.
Aggression associated with more severe depression is remedied with Rose flower essence. Equally effective is Passion Flower, a multi-faceted flower with soft tendrils, a will to flourish, and blooming for its own sake usually in adverse conditions. This flower will comfortably correct negative tendencies to act out, allowing the horse to calmly think of a more appropriate, positive response. Nasturtium is another flower that is excellent for restoring loss of dignity, eliminating confusion, and expressing the “normal” personality. “Normal” needs to be redefined in the older horse. What was once unacceptable behavior may be allowed, especially if that’s all you get. Playing may take on a new dimension.
Unresolved grief is another possibility for negative behavior in the aging horse. Sudden changes, including retirement, can be traumatic as they represent a big change and may mean loss of identity as well as loss of status. Plus loss of time spent with you and that can easily lead to sadness. Maybe give them a new job or some way to engage their minds. Spray flower essences on safe toys, placed on the ground or hanging in the air, keeping their brains active and their bodies moving. Do something a little different to engage them positively. If their eyesight is compromised; bells and wind chimes can be used for directing to and distinguishing between water, food, and shelter. Companion animals can wear a bell to guide the sight-impaired animal.
3) Cementing with Flower Essences
Roses - for everyone. Rose flower essence is my #1 for aging animals and all of their friends. Make your own essence as follows: cut fresh, organically grown roses and float the flowers (whole or petals) covered with pure water in a glass bowl set in the sun for ½ to 1 hour. Strain and add the “solar-infused flower water” to drinking water, food, or bath water. Use while you massage and on grooming equipment. Make fresh every day.
Companions often feel the sadness and confusion of their aging friends. Treat these accordingly. However, some behaviors of the companion animals may appear uncharacteristic. For example, Chief, a 32-year-old Paint gelding lived for years in a pasture with several other geldings. They all got along and followed the hierarchy faithfully with Chief being respected as Alpha. One day, while Chief was trying to nap, 2 of the youngsters started picking on him. The young ones would not allow the old man to rest in peace. They circled Chief and appeared to bite his flanks. They got on opposite sides until Chief lifted his head. They did not leave him alone until he was standing. Other times, they would chase him. At 32 years old, he was loaded with arthritic joints and a swayback, so that herd behavior appeared cruel until the vet informed me the youngsters were possibly trying to keep him alive by keeping him active. Later observations confirmed these actions were definitely acts of compassion for the old-timer.
Star of Bethlehem essence was given to Chief for restoring dignity. Rosemary essence is used to ease the effects of slower circulation including slower mental function. Use singly or combine with flower essences of Impatiens and Rose.
An aging horse often does better with a companion than living alone . Care needs to be taken that the new companion does not succumb to the same levels of inactivity and/or possible depression. Burn-out is possible if the aged horses take their caregiving position seriously. To prevent this, give them the same remedies plus give them regular time off from their caregiver’s position before they get depressed or cranky. Vervain has been proven the perfect flower essence for those who are stoic, strong-willed, and overly self-confident. This type of Vervain personality, according to Dr. Bach in the aforementioned book: “In illness they struggle on long after many would have given up their duties.”
Human counterparts suffering in heart-gripping sorrow are in need of Bleeding Heart essence. Our distress for the situation will have a direct effect on the comfort levels of our charges. To snap out of a negative state of mind, use Star of Bethlehem. Honeysuckle is perfect for disappointment. And, of course, help yourself to essences of Rose and Impatiens.
4) And All Other Available Therapies
Essential oils of Lavender, Rose, Rosemary, and Rose Geranium are excellent for geriatrics as they address anxiety, worry, and depression, and are best used separately. Allow the horse to choose what he wants. Put a few drops near feeding areas or water buckets. Be careful because oils will attract insects, including bees.
When Chief reached 34 years old, tests revealed he had only 5% kidney function. Euthanasia was suggested but I asked for 3 weeks. The vet started him on a round of antibiotics and I started him on flower essences and vegetable soup. Parsley, alfalfa, red clover, carrots with tops, dandelions, and other goodies simmered for an hour every day. We soaked his hay in this soup and fed it to him along with the mushy vegetables and flower essences. He loved it.
Moreover, he was given soothing sprays of flower essences all over his body. Twice a day, we put 10-20 drops of essences in 1 ounce of water (any of the ones mentioned in this article would be excellent choices) and generously sprayed him, paying special attention to the spine, base and tips of the ears, and massaging the gums liberally. If your horse really does not like a spray, apply with a sponge, dandy brush, or piece of cloth. 3 weeks later, Chief’s blood work showed normal kidney function. The vet gave credit to the antibiotics while I gave credit to the herbs and essences. He died a year later due to heart failure in his pasture full of friends.
As you age with your horse, keep in mind, and foremost in your heart, that you are the one who best knows your best friend. Learn your choices. Find advisors you trust. Work within your budget. Address every day as unique and adjust to changes accordingly.
Living Beyond Grief
“Grief is any distressing emotion or behavior that arises out of a change,” according to Sandy Heath, certified grief recovery counselor in San Diego, California.
Horses love consistency and routine and may react strongly when that is upset for any reason. Separation from a loved one or a lifestyle change can create irreconcilable feelings of insecurity and unfamiliarity.
Grief in horses can appear as depression, anger, anxiety, impatience, or any multitude of behaviors. Of course, this is normal for any loss or change but if the horse has not gotten better within a given period of time, then attitude and behavior can be affected with long-term negative consequences.
Essences for Grief
Flower Essences are extremely helpful in times of grief. They do not take away from the experience but enhance recovery. Depression and despondency with failure to thrive can be observed through loss of appetite, drinking less, gloom in all undertakings, and most often the eyes change, no longer reflecting a world that is hospitable. Change has overwhelmed them.
Star of Bethlehem is my single most important remedy, and I am seldom without it - I carried several bottles to the Gulf Region post-Katrina. I use this essence for shock and trauma, no matter how long ago the experience. This is the remedy that gets immediate results for me when the horse just cannot cope and is acting poorly.
Oak and Mustard essences are wonderful for overturning depression and despair. Oak is for exhaustion from trying to be strong. Mustard is used when horses appear to be giving up and not participating with their former enthusiasm. Mustard is good for those who feel resigned to the fact they have no control over their lives.
A wonderful Quarter Horse mare came to us as a rescue. We got her sound and loved her dearly for many years. She babysat my six-year-old son and was smooth as silk with him in the corral or on the trail.
While playing in the pasture, she tore all the ligaments and tendons away from her knee tripping in a gopher hole. The vet said she had a 50/50 chance. We did everything we could for her for the next 18 months. I had made a promise that I was never going to give up on her, until I saw what would change my mind. She was playing in the pasture with our other horses when she pulled herself out of the game, went behind a tree and hung her head in pain. I knew then that her quality of life would force the worse decision any horse owner will ever have to make.
Euthanasia in Greek means “good death” and I have come to believe it is an inherent responsibility that follows domestication. I have learned that it is never the perfect answer, that there is never a good time, and that I’ve never been 100% certain in any of the 11 times that I have had to make the decision. I have rescued so many horses in my lifetime and been incredibly successful re-habilitating them and placing them in good homes, but the reality is that not all are going to make it.
I did not let Pony and our Clydesdale-Thoroughbred, Bubba, say “good-bye” to their stable mate when she left. I thought I was doing the right thing but Bubba told me different - he was immediately angry and agitated, and he bucked me off every time I rode him for the next three weeks. I wanted him to go through the grieving process in his own time, but he was stuck - and I was on the ground way too much - so I intervened.
I gave him Gentian flower essence, which is for matters of the heart. He also received Gorse for hope and his loss of trust. The world had changed and was no longer in its proper order. Rock Rose is a good essence for this behavior, addressing panic and uncertainty, giving the horse a chance to quiet down and accept the new situation.
Other Grief Instances that Benefit from Essences
Destructive behaviors are sometimes easier to treat because you can address the behaviors, but if the animal has shut down, then the task is more difficult. Some live with a kind of quiet desperation and the blend of essences to turn that around is Mimulus for known fears, Star Tulip for grounding, Rock Rose for suppressed panic, and Angel’s Trumpet for incorporating the new awareness and change. Also, Forget-Me-Not is wonderful and gentle for these types of behaviors.
My son works as a vet tech in an equine hospital and has told me the majority of colic cases are because the horse experienced a sudden change in feed, water source, environment, or exercise routine. Helpful essences are Yarrow for environment, Star of Bethlehem for shock, Star Tulip for grounding, and Sweetgrass for accepting change.
Starr was a horse I wrote about previously who was traumatized by abuse and neglect and became extremely dangerous. What I did not write in that article is that she had seriously injured two people before she came to stay with me. The owner told me that the mare attacked his wife sending her to the hospital with a broken foot because she “…watered the mare at the wrong time.” This may sound like an extreme example but horses that are confused, hurt, or insecure are unpredictable and therefore can be dangerous.
Moving can be stressful.
I used to take it personally if horses did not settle in at my farm but then I came to realize maybe they missed their herd or that they were confused and concerned about their place in the new herd. For these feelings of settling into a new environment, I use Dandelion for courage, Yarrow for environment, and Arnica for acceptance.
According to the grief recovery counselor: “We never intentionally inflict our negative emotions on our animals but sometimes they pick up on them and “absorb” our depression and grief.” If that has happened, use any of the previously suggested essences - especially Gentian, which is great for apologizing.
Some losses seem impossible to accept with the feeling we will never get beyond the difficult emotions and the weight of our grief. If that is the case, Bleeding Heart is incredible for healing the broken heart. Again, with essences, time does not matter. Use Bleeding Heart or the others mentioned here to recover from losses inflicted decades earlier. It will work for you and those you are trying to help.