Intention of Touch
by Meg Harrison
There is a children’s game that uses 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 when reacting to a hovering fly. A muscle twitch, a swish of their tails, or a stomping of their feet is how they react to this “intention to touch.” How many times does Alpha Mare have to actually touch another horse to get him to do as she bids? Usually all she has to do is look in his direction to communicate her desires. I try to keep this in mind when approaching a horse to touch, handle, groom, affix equipment, or ride him..
Is he nervous? Stoic? Flighty? Withdrawn or a bit forward? Horses who are forward and in your space may be fulfilling 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.
15 minutes of observation will tell you lots about the personality you are about to ride, massage, groom, trim, or help in some way.
Initially, self-observe. 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. This does not have to be done verbally - the fly never says anything, yet its intention is well felt.
Get quiet. I am naturally chatty, so getting quiet makes me more attentive, more in sync with the horse and his immediate needs.
Assess emotions. How do you feel in front of this half-ton emotional storage unit? What is stored inside him? Fear, loathing, grief? Love, compassion, trust? And how is it affecting the overall well-being of this particular individual? 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?
Think “lower”. I was taught if I got nervous to “lower everything” including voice, head, blood pressure and - if riding - my hands, heels, and heart rate.
St. John’s Wort Personality
This yellow flowering plant is delicate and innocuous, not large in stature, standing deliberate and erect. In full bloom, flowers and tendrils almost appear to twitch. It is highly invasive and will “intelligently” travel underground, deliberately emerging later at a great distance from its first planting.
The horse who 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. He could be a bit on his toes. He may appear stoic, unengaged. He follows you with his eyes, not moving his body, yet 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 of your approach.
Play with him. Hover your hand - barely cupped, not flattened - a few inches above his fur and slowly float it over his body, following a muscle contour or a line of some sorts. Spray your hands with essences and do the same thing. What changes in his bodily reaction? Are you invited in to be closer or work longer? Complements and other essences for this personality include passion flower, lavender, and iris. Perhaps invite him to lower his head, softening the throat latch and relieving the neck and shoulders, effectively relaxing the back on through the topline until the entire body is comfortably affected.
Extreme cases can’t bear to be touched. He may tolerate the softest brushes and chamois but just does not enjoy being touched. Either these horses are literally thin-skinned or their hypersensitive nervous systems prevent them from enjoying human touch. (This is not to be confused with the avoidance behaviors of the abused horse or the one suffering actual physical pain.) The Lobelia horse’s respiration is superficial - no big breaths or ful exhalations. These horses tend to lean forward slightly, expecting 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. They may perspire from the face, a sign of 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 include 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. Use a kind and gentle, but determined touch. 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, this horse is often nicknamed a “witchy mare," even if he is a gelding. I had a mare like this who always seemed ready for fight or flight. Her feet seemed to hover over the ground instead of being connected to it.
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. Companion riding will build self-reliance and self-esteem while making the horse feel that he is part of the solution, not the problem. Complements for sweet pea horse and rider include apple, dandelion, and red clover essences.
For best results, mist flower essences over the body, 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 reins for a ride. Enjoy.
About the author:
Meg Harrison, author of the soon-to-be-released book Helping Humans One Animal at a Time, is a Flower Essences lecturer and creator of BlackWing Farms' Remedies. She has 38 years experience studying and using Flower Essences and 20 years as a horse trainer and Animal Behavior Consultant.
Farmaceuticals for Healthy Behavior
TITLE: Save That Stream! Strategies for Stream Bank Management
by Jennie Kramer
Looking back, I’m thankful I didn’t know what lurked in the water. If I had, I likely would not have gone swimming on that hot summer day. Like most children, however, I was simply happy to have a respite from the heat - a place to splash, cool myself, and make memories.
By the 1970’s, concern for the health of the nation’s water was on the rise. In 1972, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was amended and became the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA established guidelines for the discharge of pollution into U.S waters; additionally, it prohibited direct discharge without a permit, and addressed the need for non-point source (NPS) pollution planning.
Non-point source pollution describes an accumulation of various pollutants – often agriculturally sourced – that is carried overland via precipitation to lakes, rivers, streams and oceans. Pollutants originating from equine operations typically take one of two forms; the first, nutrient loading, describes dangerous levels of nutrients leached into waterways, usually from manure. The second, sediment pollution, is a problem that commonly occurs when livestock are allowed unlimited access to waterways within a turn-out area. The collective damage of these two pollutants has led to the development of many oxygen-starved “dead zones” around the world.
One of the most effective methods of limiting equine damage to aquatic ecosystems is the creation of a riparian buffer. A riparian buffer is a vegetated area located between - and up-gradient from - livestock holding areas and surface water. A properly implemented buffer strip will filter pollutants carried overland, or through groundwater, before they are deposited into surface water. Established vegetation will stabilize stream banks, further reducing soil loss to the water; additionally, native plantings will provide wildlife habitat.
Establishing a Riparian Buffer on Your Property
It is always advisable to seek the expertise of someone experienced in stream bank restoration when creating a riparian buffer. Your local resource conservation office will be able to provide assistance through the National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). In addition to providing information, trained technicians can evaluate the condition of your stream bank, identify areas of concern, and recommend appropriate solutions, all at little or no cost to the landowner.
Because space is often a precious commodity for horse keepers, restricting livestock from large tracts of land is sometimes impractical. The good news is that even a narrow buffer of 25 feet can improve the health of a waterway.
A buffer is typically broken down into three zones. Zone one is located at the water’s edge; zones two and three move progressively inland. The width of each zone, and the vegetation that comprises it, will vary based on several factors including: water body size, adjacent land use, and desired habitat improvements.
To illustrate this concept, envision a suburban yard and a traditionally cultivated field. A non-chemically-treated yard will typically contribute fewer impurities to a water source than a cultivated field. For this reason, a narrower buffer may be sufficient to improve water quality in the suburban setting; the farmed field may require a significantly wider design. The creation of wildlife habitat will also necessitate a wider buffer; while small mammals will inhabit narrow strips, amphibians and birds will require anywhere from 100 to 300 feet of vegetation.
If possible, the vegetation within a buffer should be native, and customized to meet the requirements of a particular situation; designs should also reflect the landowner’s future plans for the property.
For example, a narrow buffer planted in grass will offer little in the way of habitat or stream bank stabilization; grass will, however, effectively filter pollutants before they can be deposited into a water channel. This design may be adequate in our prior example of a suburban lawn with a stable stream bank. In the case of an unstable stream bank, establishing trees in zone one would provide stabilization, albeit little filtration. By comparison, a waterway which adjoins fields receiving pesticides and manure will require a larger buffer with a wider variety of vegetation.
Each type of vegetation will provide habitat for different wildlife; even deadfall left in (or over) the waterway will promote lower water temperatures and provide hiding places for fish.
Stream Bank Fencing and Crossings
A strong potential for damage exists when horses are allowed unrestricted access to waterways. For this reason, stream bank fencing will be recommended in situations where horses would otherwise have access to a newly-established buffer. Horse-safe fencing, when erected a minimum 25 feet from the channel, will reduce pollution, stream bank erosion, and sedimentation caused by the movement of horses within the water. Additionally, fencing will promote vegetative growth within the buffer, further reducing the likelihood of pollution entering the channel.
In situations where horses require admittance to the stream for watering, a stabilized crossing can be established. Through the use of materials such as stone and geo-textile, the crossing will minimize damage to the stream while still allowing access to watering livestock.
New buffers will require regular maintenance and observation until they become more established. Necessary maintenance may include:
- weekly watering (when necessary) to ensure the survival of new vegetation
- mowing to reduce competition for sunlight
- weed control (mulching, etc.) to allow native vegetation to become established
Afterwards, only periodic maintenance will be necessary.
While most of us survived swimming in oft-unsanitary waters, I don’t believe it’s an experience that I’ll be replicating for my son anytime soon. While many dream of having a stream on their property, the beauty and convenience of free-flowing water come at a price - the responsible stewardship of a shared resource. Fortunately, many simple, cost-effective options exist for horse keepers wishing to mitigate their impact on these fragile ecosystems. It is these people to whom I will be obliged when, one day, in the not-too-distant future, my grandchildren will be fortunate enough to enjoy those mid-summer swims.
A special thanks to the Schuylkill Conservation District and Mark and Karla Dreisbach of Green Heron Farm for their assistance with the production of this article – and their dedication to preserving our natural resources for future generations.
About the author:
Jennie Kramer is an environmental writer based in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy and Environmental Science, and possesses over a decade of horse farm management experience. She is also the Associate Editor of Natural Horse Magazine.
Jennie can be reached at
Diagram courtesy of Jeanne Alice Peter and Elemental Acupressure
Getting to know you: Five Element theory gets you and your new horse off on the right foot
by Susan Tenney
Wouldn’t it be great if new horses came with an instruction booklet that told you exactly what they needed to stay healthy and happy? Instead, most horses come to you with plenty of unknowns. So how do you work successfully with that new stranger in the barn? That’s easy; try using Five Element theory to better understand the physical and emotional makeup of your new friend. By sizing up your horse through the lens of the Five Elements, you’ll minimize the getting-to-know-you phase and hit your stride together more quickly.
Five Element theory sees every horse as a unique blend of five basic Elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. You’ll find that every horse has one Element that stands out above the others; this is your horse’s Constitutional Element. Figuring out the Constitutional Element will save you time and frustration by helping you understand the horse’s individual needs, strengths, and weaknesses right from the start.
For example let’s say that your new horse had a tendon injury that ended her racing career. In her first week with you she quickly asserts herself as lead mare in your herd and tests you constantly in the round pen. Given that your horse has a tendon injury, continues to test you, and has a dominant character, it’s very probable she has a Wood Constitution. Knowing this allows you to tailor your approach to handling, training, and health care with an eye to the specific needs of the Wood horse. Use the acupressure points described here to encourage Elemental health and balance. Now your “stranger” doesn’t seem so strange after all!
To identify your horse’s Constitutional Element, use the descriptions below to see which profile most closely matches your new horse’s behavior and health history. Then use the suggestions to know how to care for your new companion.
Note: Acupressure points Liver 3, Spleen 6 and Kidney 3 are contraindicated for pregnant mares!
The Wood Element:
First impressions: speed, power, dynamism
Seller boasts about: natural athleticism, strong competitive drive, eager worker
Seller grumbles about: dominant character, constant testing – especially of weaker or less experienced handlers
Best activities: sport horse
Worst activities: beginner lesson horse, repetitive tasks, standing around, retirement
Health issues to monitor: tense muscles, tendons, ligaments, hooves, eyes
Behavioral issues: dominance, aggression, impatience, spooking, and running away
Handling tips: Create firm, consistent boundaries and stick to them, be PRESENT – no slacking
Training tips: Vary lessons frequently; keep work challenging but not overly arduous. These horses push beyond their limits when fueled by competition. Allow for vigorous movement to get the kinks out before training detailed moves. Use regular massage and stretching for biomechanical tension.
Acu-tip: Liver 3 soothes aggravation, but pay attention – Liver 3 is a kick point during times of irritability!
The Fire Element:
First impressions: charismatic, social, high strung, flashy
Seller boasts about: high energy, loving, eager to work together
Seller grumbles about: lack of concentration, flighty, being a drama queen
Best activities: endurance (if fit), work requiring close relationship with rider, competitions where looks and attitude count (i.e. halter classes)
Worst activities: anything where horse has to stay calm, slow, steady, or alone
Health issues to monitor: front leg issues (tendons, navicular, shoulder, abscesses), rashes and other irritated skin issues, heat intolerance
Behavioral issues: loves excitement but quickly over-stimulated, scattered, anxious, separation anxiety
Training tips: In busy times with lots of noise, activity or social interaction, remember to take time apart to bond and ground. These horses look happy until suddenly overloaded. Keep Rescue Remedy on hand to soothe nerves.
Acu-tip: Heart 7 calms anxiety.
The Earth Element:
First impressions: kind, gentle, all-around good guy, steady
Seller boasts about: dependability, ease of riding, suitability for beginners
Seller grumbles about: stubbornness, nipping, slowness, “lazy”
Best activities: school horse, trail horse
Worst activities: anything demanding speed, quick thinking or frequent travel
Health issues to monitor: digestive conditions including colic and weight imbalances, growths (warts, sarcoids), dental issues
Behavioral issues: learns and processes information more slowly, stubborn, dislikes change, can be overly food focused
Training tips: When learning new things, keep lessons short and finish on a success. Regular exercise helps avoid sluggish body or mind. Be patient and kind – Earth types learn slowly but work hard when respected.
Acu-tip: Spleen 6 eases digestive upset.
The Metal Element:
First impressions: quiet nobility, smart, elegant, cool customer
Seller boasts about: hard working, no-nonsense low-drama attitude, tough
Seller grumbles about: impatience and intolerance, aloof manner, stiff movement
Best activities: demanding work with a quiet and trusted partner, dressage
Worst activities: retirement, high drama events demanding a showy attitude
Health issues to monitor: Respiratory issues, skin conditions, immune issues
Behavioral issues: aloof and stiff, serious, demanding, intolerant though often surprisingly good with children
Training tips: Work quietly, challenge this animal’s admirable mind and ability. Give 100% to your work. Provide a quiet, drama-free environment.
Acu-tip: Lung 9 benefits the stiff mind and all health issues of the Metal Element.
The Water Element:
First impressions: Something special, grabs your soul in an instant
Seller boasts about: unusual abilities
Seller grumbles about: strange sensitivities, unpredictable behavior, health conditions the vet can’t diagnose or cure
Best activities: unique to each Water horse, horse will show you if you observe closely
Worst activities: most dislike competition but those who like it can be uncommonly talented performers
Health issues to monitor: expect the unexpected, in particular conditions that are hard to diagnose
Behavioral issues: immensely sensitive to their emotional environment, unpredictable and extreme emotional responses
Training tips: Water horses lead you on a journey of exploration of body, mind, and soul. They often display unusual behavior and develop unusual health conditions requiring extra care, awareness, and patience; be prepared to take unusual measures. Surrender your expectations and go with the flow!
Acu-tip: Kidney 3 deeply supports the Water Element and is useful for old age.
Side bar: Five Element Fundamentals
To help you get the best results, remember these tips:
1. Listen to what the previous caretaker has to say but form your own opinion about your new horse. The previous people may not have understood the horse well.
2. If your perception of your horse’s Elemental makeup changes, try working with this new Element and see how your horse responds.
3. Physical and emotional stress can trigger changes in your horse’s Elemental balance. If you begin to notice different patterns of behavior or see physical changes in your horse, try to identify which new Element is most prominent. During this new phase, use the proper acupoints to balance that Element.
Side bar: How to use the Elemental Acupoints
1. Use the point associated with the Constitutional Element you’re working with to nourish and support the horse’s health and behavior.
2. Not sure which Element to work with? Stimulate all of the Element points presented in this article. The point that generates the strongest response will direct you to the Element that needs attention now.
3. Stimulate all of the points described in this article to tonify all 5 Elements. You support ALL of the Elements with this approach.
Side bar: Acu-tips
1. Use the Constitutional Element point 1-4 times per week.
2. Gently stroke the area of the point before and after pressure.
3. Use your fingertips to gently find and press the point.
4. Press the point from 10-40 seconds.
5. If you see extreme resistance, stop immediately.
6. Keep your spare hand held firmly over the cannon bone while you squat or lean over near the lower leg – do NOT kneel.
Side bar: Elemental Partners
Can a Wood person be successful with an Earth horse? Will a Fire horse get along with a Metal horse? Does my horse have to be the same Element as me? People often ask questions about which Elements work together best.
Some Elements have a natural affinity toward each other and tend to pair more easily. But any combination of Elements will work as long as one of the two partners is balanced and emotionally stable.
Trouble starts when two out of balance Elemental profiles come into conflict. Instead of pointing your finger at your horse or blaming the Elements, work to bring your own Element (and your horse’s) into balance. You may be surprised how quickly mutual respect and cooperation bloom.
Want to learn more? Visit us to read articles on each Element
About the author:
Susan Tenney, CMT works internationally as a practitioner of Five Element acupressure for animals. She teaches classes for animal lovers of all ages and offers an online certification program through her company Elemental Acupressure. Learn more about her courses, books and acupressure charts at
To Michele who reached out to me regarding ERU and Herbal Remedies:
Your e-mail address is bouncing back. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and an alternate e-mail and we can talk further.
Press Release: For immediate release
Ginger Kathrens, Nominated to National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board
Nomination by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham, with recommendations from Congressmen Raul Grijalva, Jim Moran and Eric Cantor.
WASHINGTON, DC (August 20, 2013) - Ginger Kathrens, Founder and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation (TCF) was nominated to the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board position of Public Interest (Equine Behavior) by Congresswoman Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM), with recommendations from Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Jim Moran (D-VA) and Eric Cantor (R-VA). The uncompensated board provides advice to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) concerning the management, protection and control of wild free roaming horses and burros on public lands.
In her letter nominating Kathrens, Congresswoman Grisham said, "Ms. Kathrens understands the complexities of the issues surrounding wild horses. I have seen her continuously maintain the highest level of integrity, exercising sound judgment and developing creative solutions to problems that arise in this challenging area. Her efforts to educate the public and foster strong relationships among all stakeholders have established her as a leader in this field. She is known for her calm demeanor and balanced approach to complex issues, making her an ideal fit for this appointment."
Congressman Grijalva stated, "Ms. Kathrens has the experience and background to help make policy changes a reality. Her addition to the board will provide an important and experienced voice." Congressman Moran commented, "Ms Kathrens is one of the most highly qualified persons in the country to hold this position." He went on to say, "Kathrens has a proven track record of offering positive and constructive feedback to the Bureau of Land Management..."
An Emmy Award-winning producer, cinematographer, writer and editor as well as award winning author, Kathrens' resume includes nearly 20 years of documenting wild horses in the Pryor Mountains of Montana, and creation of The Cloud Series, for PBS’s "Nature" series. The first Cloud program was voted the most popular in the program's 25 year history. Kathrens has a life-long fascination with wild animals and a sound foundation in agriculture and the challenges of making a living raising cattle. These are qualities and sensibilities that allow her to understand the challenges the BLM faces in managing public lands and their multiple use mandate. She is also an adopter and trainer of wild mustangs, and, through TCF, has rescued many Pryor mustangs and helped in finding them good homes. Ginger is currently helping publicize the auction of The Badlands Horses scheduled for round up in September in Teddy Roosevelt National Park to insure that those historical horses do not end up in slaughter houses.
Of her nomination Kathrens said, "Many Americans don’t even know we have these incredible animals roaming free on public lands. Those that do, want them protected. If selected for this position I would try to represent the public’s wishes and give voice to our freedom-loving wild mustangs and the burros.”
Given the National Academy of Science recommendations to the BLM Wild Horse and Burro Program, the Department of Interior would be taking positive steps toward fulfilling it's promise to increase transparency and make good on its promise to more humane treatment of wild horses and burros if Kathrens is chosen. With Ginger Kathrens commitment to "on the range management" of wild horses and burros, her recommendations could also reduce the enormous annual BLM Wild Horse and Burro Budget which now exceeds $78 million, 70% of which goes to Roundups and Holding costs.
Paula Todd King
The Cloud Foundation (TCF) is a Colorado based 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and preservation of wild horses and burros on our western public lands.