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#101 Left hanging out to dry

Hello, dear listeners!

Thanks for tuning in as we celebrate our horses' body, mind, and spirit.

I love connecting with horses and their people over the phone and taking road trips to meet them in person. Meeting horses who often, for the first time, get to express how they feel about their lives and what they need from their people is deeply satisfying—for me, for sure, but so much for the horse and human.  

My human clients are often interested in the horse’s past—what the horse has experienced and what it thinks about its new life. Unlike other domestic animals, horses move often. Their place, work, training, herd, and people change as they get sold, traded, or adopted. The older the horse, the longer its stories. But even young horses can have a tale to tell. 

One horse sticks out in particular, Remmy. Remmy is a beautiful light chestnut-colored Warmblood. He was imported from Belgium, one of the countries that breed Warmbloods for competition. In our first conversation, by phone, he explained how, though he was young, six years old to be precise, he had a solid education. He explained that he was bred “for Greatness.” With the statement came a visual of his mom and dad with ribbons attached to their bridles. And Remmy was of the same stock. 

After arriving from Europe as a three-five-year-old, Remmy had been in training in the US. Several barns and people had worked with him to prepare him for the show circuit. When he reached the age of six, he started to show signs of imbalance. He took a funny step here and there and didn’t swing his hind as much as he had in the past. He seemed tense and resisted to move forward. Tests were conducted, limbs assessed, and x-rays were taken, but no conclusion was reached. 

So, I asked Remmy if I could check in with him regarding his body. And he obliged. 

“How does your body feel?” Attuning to him, I saw the structure of a horse’s skeleton. 

Immediately, Remmy brought my attention to his poll, the area right behind the ears, and his right hip and hind leg. 

Those areas were tight. Overworked. 

I said to his person, “Someone had required Remmy to tuck his nose toward his chest while simultaneously asking his butt to move farther under himself and forward, causing a three-car collision as both ends were pushing into the middle, the ribcage and spine.”

Feeling myself into it it was uncomfortable. The tension in the neck.The constant push, push, push, and then having nowhere to put those two forces but toward the belly. 

“I feel he has stomach issues, “I said. 

“Yes,” his person answered, “ he has ulcers.” 

No surprise there. 

Is he on meds? “Yes, he just finishing up a cycle of Ulcerguard.”

“He is still uncomfortable,” I said.”

“That’s why we wondered if he should go to the specialty clinic for a full-body scan. Nobody can seem to pinpoint what is wrong with him.”

“You will see many red areas where his body is inflamed,” I said. 

I continued, “But what will that tell you?”

I paused. 

“I am not here to tell you what to do. But your horse needs to be ridden differently to be at ease. Many issues will go away when he is allowed to use his body according to his abilities and potential. Once he is more relaxed and his body more subtle you will know if there is an actual physical issue. If so, you can always take him for a scan at the hospital. But right now, everything is on fire.”

A week later the woman reported a new trainer was found, and Remmy was on his way to that barn.

About a month later, the new trainer texted to say: Remmy and I have been working together, implementing what he had asked for. He is doing well.

Another month went by, and I visited with Remmy at his new barn. 

My first question for the owner was, of course, “How is Remmy?”

“Wonderful,” she replied, “I have been beyond excited seeing him move easily along the rails. He is back to being himself under saddle.”

“That is wonderful!” I said, joining her smile. 

When I met Remmy he was just as friendly and forthcoming as he had when we connected over the phone. 

I assessed his Chakras: they were balanced.I asked him about his new life: he explained that is was fun and intellectually challenging. 

I took note that he didn’t say he was physically challenged. 

When I asked him how he felt in his body: he said, great. 

And yes, he looked and acted like it. 

He was curious and engaged. Muscled up and well-conditioned. 

He looked like the star he knew he was meant to be. 

There is only one thing we are still dealing with, his person said.

He paws terribly when he is standing in cross-ties. 

Immediately, I saw a picture of Remmy standing in a barn aisle held in place by cross-ties made up of two ropes attached to the walls on either side of a barn aisle. Each rope was clipped to a cheek ring on Remmy’s halter.

I called out, “No wonder when you’re stuck in cross-ties for two hours.” 

At the same time, Remmy’s person said, “I knew that with the last trainer, he had been left in the crossties sometimes for two hours.” 

We looked at each other. First in amazement, then in concern.

I spoke first, “This horse was made to stand in the barn aisle in crossties for two hours…” 

The woman interrupted, “Yes, after his rides.”

I took a moment to feel myself into Remmy’s experience. The sensation of being stuck in the aisle, restrained was intense. I shared, “Imagine you were ridden hard, nose to chest, butt to middle. Then, when that is finally over, you get to stand in the crossties while they take off the saddle, bridle, and boots. That’s a relief. But then as you are standing, and standing and the sweat on your back and around your belly slowly dries you get itchy. But you can’t turn your head to touch your lips to your flank or belly because your head is stuck in crossties. And when you suddenly wish for water, because you just rode not only at a walk but trotted quite a bit and cantered a good amount, while your nose was on your chest and the rider’s legs keep pushing and the heels kicking, you now really crave some water to cool your body.” 

I sight.

His person looked perplexed.

“I think we need to give him a little more time to get past that behavior. “I explained.

“For Remmy, time has no meaning. The moment you put him into crossties, he loses track of time. So he will paw to get out of there no matter if is after a minute or an hour. Never mind two.”

For crying out loud, I thought. Who leaves a horse in crossties for this long anyway, but how unfair is it to do after a strenuous ride? Sweaty, itchy, and thirsty?

Of course, if I asked the trainer why he or she would leave the horse standing there, hanging out to dry, the answer would most likely be to teach him a lesson—a lesson in patience or surrender, to give up and submit. 

Those tactics have been around for centuries. I have heard so-called horse people talk about tying a young horse to a tree in the woods, for days without water or food to get them to capitulate, to give in. 

It’s hard to wrap my mind around that. I imagine you feel the same. 

The idea that any one of my three beautiful horses would be treated that way horrifies me.

We all have done things or let others do things to or with our horses that felt wrong at the moment. Sometimes, we didn’t know better, and sometimes, we felt the need or obligation that deferring to a professional was the correct approach.  


Hindsight is 20/20.

We do what we know how to do, and once we know better, we do better. That’s how we gain experience. I know Remmy’s person has learned a lot from her horse. She learned to trust her gut and advocate for her horse despite what so-called experts were telling her. 

Horses are so forgiving. And when we pay attention to our horses, they help us move from traditional training methods to compassionate approaches that support and celebrate the horse’s body, mind, and spirit. 

The most important thing is for us to find a tribe of professionals who support our horses with us. It is a lifelong quest—a worthwhile quest so our horses can shine.   

Now you understand why meeting horses who often, for the first time, get to express how they feel about their lives and what they need from their people is deeply satisfying—for me, for sure, but also for the horse and his human.  

Enjoy your horse. Celebrate and support your horse’s body, mind, and spirit.

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