Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Horses and Healing: Hitting the Trails!

Horses and Healing: Hitting the Trails!:  Fall Has Arrived!   My favorite time of the year! You've probably heard of the saying, Horse people (in Ohio) have four seasons, ice, mud, flies and autumn.

Hitting the Trails!

 Fall Has Arrived!  

My favorite time of the year! You've probably heard of the saying, Horse people (in Ohio) have four seasons; ice, mud, flies and autumn.   So very true!!  This year we have been fortunate to have an extended Indian summer this year with beautiful, crisp, sunny, cool weather that is perfect for riding.  I have been enjoying exploring Mohican State Park and Silvercreek using my new (to me) horse trailer.  The artwork below is from a photo I took of my horse and a friend's on a trail ride.  This style of artwork is being offered for sale on my etsy shop here:  Custom Barn wood horse sign 

The wonderful weather, good riding and a nasty election season inspired me to create this vintage sign. Ride More Worry Less Sign
 Ride More, Worry Less Sign

Here is the gorgeous view while riding around my home.  This is Cimmaron.  I'm not sure what the crop is... possibly spelt?  Whatever it is, it makes a beautiful, golden field that looks magical from horseback! 

One of our first frosty mornings... good bye flies! 

Below is a new painting I painted in between Christmas and Holiday Commissions.  

Below is a photo of my 23 yr old Arab, Abbey.  Google Photos enhanced it and I liked the effects.

My husband got a new toy... wish he would want to ride horses but he gave that up years ago... I went for a spin with him and here we are with our yellow helmets.

Stall signs have been a hot item this fall too.  Here are some I completed recently.  

I have had fun with polymer clay and beads making these horse pendants.  I use them as a purse charm.  I get lots of compliments on them.  Hope you like them too. 

Cim feeling good!  My 16.1 Strawberry Roan Sabino TWH gelding.  Love this boy!! 

 A sampling of other live edge wood and barn wood horsey things for sale.  The wood was gathered during a treasure hunt of sorts when my Amish neighbor had to clear his land that had several old barns.  I had a field day!  A couple friends came over and we had a great time!  You can read about it here: A repurposed upcycled salvaged me

I love this sign I made below.  Is it okay to say that and not sound conceited?  I guess an artist has to like what they make or else it would be pretty torturous to do the work, right?  

On the trail with friends!  Cim and are in the back, which is not his preferred place on the trail but he did great. 

This is from a solo ride we took at Mohican.  Such a good boy!! 

A pasture scene.  I love having my horses at home and being able to see this out my back door. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Back in the Saddle!!

Hitting the Trails! 

I am a happy horseback rider!  I wrote a bit ago about my horse's struggle with lameness here: 
I am thrilled to write he has been sound and happy for a little while now and we are really hitting a happy place with our riding.  He's happy- I am happy!!  And the weather is cooperating.  The super humid weather is gone, it has been slightly cooler, less buggy and very nice to ride.  We even got rain and our pastures are starting to green up again!  I am not digging into my winter hay at a fast clip any longer!  

 Yellow brown grass no more! 

 Happy & Sound makes me happy!!

 I have also been having a great time completing custom stall sign ordershorse and pet portrait commissions and trying out new artsy things like these horse wire sculptures and horse charms and pendants. I even played around with broken glass mosaics.  You can see more at my etsy shop.   If you'd like info on pet portraits please check out my website at http://www.paintingpetsonline.com 

Happy Trails! 

Sue Steiner

Friday, July 29, 2016

Intermittent Lameness aka On Again, Off Again Lameness

Are you in an 'on again, off again' relationship with your horse?  

You know what I'm talking about.  Those times your horse is just 'off', showing signs of vague lameness that comes and goes?  You watch and think you can isolate the area of concern but it is not always so obvious.  You study his movement and have your friends study his movement.  Your horse is not '3 legged lame', which is a phrase describing a horse that will not bare weight on one leg, and therefore, walks on 3 legs rather than four.   Your horse is showing less obvious signs.  You may only see a slight head nod at the trot (but what if your horse is gaited and nods his head naturally?  Or you may only see it in the smaller riding ring going in one direction, but not in a larger arena or straightaway.  Or he's 'ouchy' on gravel....or just a teeny bit short-strided.  He just is not moving freely but it is subtle.  You don't ride because you don't want to aggravate whatever it is that is bothering him.... so you turn him out and he gallops off like a mad man.  Hmmmm... couldn't be too sore!!  Grumble, grumble.

Or you do ride and he 'works' out of it, you think.  You ride and he feels tight and tense....is it his teeth?  His tack?  The footing? A bad day?

You study him in the pasture.  Why did he not gallop off like he usually does?  The right answer can change for a multitude of reasons.  Again, you analyze and fret.

If you've been here before with your horse then you have probably;
1. had your vet out
2. had your farrier out
3. have tried to 'fix' it on your own

And the results probably were:
1. You spent a ton of money
2. You are no closer to figuring out what was going on with your horse.
3. The lameness comes and goes

So you;
1. Get a second (or third) opinion.
2. Try a different farrier (or two)
3. Try new DIY fix-it methods.

And you are probably;
1. poorer
2. nowhere closer to figuring it out
3. Have conflicting information/diagnosis/treatment plans from all the professionals you have consulted that all take time, money and resources but lead in different directions. You still have no clear plan.
4. confused and frustrated

I don't mean to be a pessimistic person.  I am not usually but on again, off again lameness can feel like a slow, steady drain of your time, energy, and resources.  If you are like most horse owner's, seeing any discomfort in your horse is pretty agonizing for you- not to mention the horse!  I gain pleasure by seeing my animals healthy and happy.  Granted we can't control every illness or injury but vague types of lameness sort of feel like it is something we did-- poor saddle fit, trained or rode wrong/too hard/poorly and caused some sort of strain etc.  We feel guilty.  Because it comes and goes, we analyze every movement with our horse.  We plot ways to avoid whatever we think caused it until the lameness pops up regardless.  What sort of insidious, chronic illness is trying to take hold of my equine?

Plus, all of this it interrupts your riding time, which is a stress reliever for most people and something my horse enjoys too.  If the horse is just vaguely sore... will he ride out of it?  Would riding/exercise/turnout help or hurt?  I know I feel more sore some days than others and need my human equivalent to bute.... life goes on, right?  What to do?  What to do??  Is it me?  How can I stop this??

If you came here for answers, I am sorry.  All I can do is offer sympathy.  I would offer advice but you probably have more advice than you know what to do with.  And I know you have compulsively researched every possible ailment, supplement, and treatment.  Our barns are all full of various cures, tack, and possible solutions.

I had a spring with on again, off again lameness in my horse.  He is sound as of today and I breathe a huge sigh of relief.  I still can't pin point exactly what caused his lameness.  I wrote of another horse that I struggled to save here: http://horsesandhealing.blogspot.com/search?q=navicular  I had flashbacks to my days with Splash this spring.  And, pray tell, WHY does this happen to the best horses?   It is always the best horses!

If you are in a similar spot I am offering my sincere sympathy.  I hope the correct treatment is made clear for you and the right professionals are put in your path.  I hope for you and your horse many comfortable, sound days ahead.

Happy Trails!
Sue Steiner

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Want a Guaranteed Health Plan for Your Horse?

If you could find a way to ensure your horse would receive the very best care and attention in the event you could not provide for him, would you?  I am sure most of you are saying- Yes!!

Ideally, we all probably want our horses to stay with us forever.  How many rescues and ads ask for 'forever homes' but are asking for what they aren't able or willing to provide themselves.  (Rescues, you are excused because that is your purpose - to rehome hard to place horses.)  The reality is that as much as we all may want to provide a forever home we may not be able to at some point in time. Horses are expensive and life happens.  So how can you ensure your horse has the best possible chances of going on to a good, loving home if you weren't able to provide one any longer?

I can tell you the answer in one word:  training.

I am part of a horse training group on facebook.  Members share their successes and struggles of working with their horses.  A woman shared this morning how she has been working with her young, green horse and has now progressed with him enough he is calmly and obediently carrying around a young rider who until recently clutched the horn in fear at a walk.  This little girl is now confidently trotting around the riding ring with this woman's horse.  What a happy start for both of them!

I read her post and thought immediately how that horse's future life just got SO much brighter!!  A horse that possesses good manners, good training, and a happy disposition is always in demand.  Even slightly lame or arthritic senior horses who are good with kids and/or grandmas for short trail rides, pony rides are not hard to place.  They often are the most loved ones of all!

With the exception of poor health, which will at some point, be out of the owner's hands, providing training for your horse, good ground manners, and experience under saddle is what will ultimately make or break whether a horse has a fighting chance at a good home.

Horses that are hard to place have:

Poor ground manners
Poor horse social skills
Not good with farrier
Horses that buck, shy, bolt, charge and or any other equine behavior that makes life around them dangerous and unpredictable.
green broke
broke at one time but left unridden for an extended period

So, to give your beloved horse a brighter future you can follow these simple steps:

  • Work with your horse on the ground and in the saddle.  You don't have to be a super duper rider- just ride and keep your horse ridable.  Green broke horses or horses that haven't been ridden for an extended period of time have limited options for homes.  Don't start your babies too young or ride them too hard - keep a mind toward future soundness but ride those horses!!   If your horse is now semi-retired, an ex-show horse, for example, work on new skills such as trails and obstacles.  If your trail horse is bored with putzing around the farm, challenge them with new activities and disciplines.  Horses have preferences for different activities.  Where are they most engaged and interested?   
  • Handle their feet and work on them to stand for the farrier.  It's not fair to the farrier to have to wrestle with your horse.  A sure way to sore feet and a bad life is to have a horse that won't allow his feet to be trimmed.  
  • Insist on good ground manners each time you handle your horse.  Teach them to stand quietly and respect your personal space.  This goes a very long way to keeping the horse's mind in a good place and a pleasure to be around.  
  • Find the 'holes' in their training and fix them.  Most horses have some kind of hole or challenging area in regards to training.  I am doing that right now with my broke horses and am learning a lot. 

Another thing to consider.  Keep up with their dental work, vet visits, vaccinations, worming etc.  Prevention goes a long way.  Vet bills rack up and emergency vet calls are notoriously expensive.  Geld your colts- that should go without saying but saying anyways. 

Finally, one more bit of advice.  It is in my opinion that horses that are allowed to live like horses are happier and healthier.   Don't load 'em up on sweet feed.  Feed free choice grass hay when at all possible.  Give them lots of turn out with horse company.  Your horse will thank you!  Long live our horses and long live their niche in the horse market ~~ for this ensures a good home better than anything else!

Happy Trails!

Sue Steiner

visit my: 
Etsy Shop with equine and animal art

Monday, April 4, 2016

Am I Digging the Divide Deeper

Am I Digging the Divide Deeper ? 

I think one of the things horses have taught me is in order to function as part of any 'system', community or herd, I must learn the correct social behavior.  Are my social interactions isolating, dividing or driving others away?  Or is my behavior such that promotes cohesion, cooperation, and communication?

Some things to consider to enhance communication.

  • Am I reading the social cues correctly?  
  • Am I speaking clearly and coherently? 
  • Is my body language and tone of voice congruent with my intended message? 
  • Am I being sensitive to cultural differences? 
  • Am I using slang or language that can have negative connotations? 
Some things to consider to enhance cooperation.
  • Am I being respectful?  
  • Am I aware of my own bias or hidden agenda?  How does that affect cooperation?
  • Am I working toward an agreed-upon common goal that is beneficial to my 'herd'?  
  • Is there a power imbalance that is destructive to the group dynamics?  
Some things to consider for cohesion. 
  • Finding common goals or benefits for all.  
  • Giving credit and dignity to all 'parts' of the group.  
  • Allow some freedom for each to find their role and fit within the group.  Allow some diversity- in thought, action and otherwise.  Be open to the process of growth that comes from listening and learning from others. 
  • Nurture growth in the whole and in each individual.  
I have long been interested in conflict resolution.  In today's political climate and the changing ways in which people communicate, it is increasingly challenging to find or feel community or cohesion which hinders cooperation to work toward resolution of issues.  And we do have some issues that need work.  We can all agree on that!  

I have to ask myself, am I digging the divide deeper?   Do I challenge myself to be open to new ways of understanding and growth?   Am I looking for a common ground?  Am I showing empathy to someone else's struggle?  How can I effect change in MY circle of influence?  Am I a positive role model?   What behaviors, beliefs, actions do I have that might undermine the health and well-being of others in my community?  

I work in the mental health field (my day job) where conflict, pain, and feelings of isolation surround me.  One would imagine my work days to be depressing, tense and high intensity but that is not the overriding emotions of my work.  I practice (and practice!!) being a calm, supportive, empathetic person in the moment with someone who is quite possibly having the worst day of their life.  This feels like an honor on many levels to me.  I know the mental health field isn't for everyone but it can be so rewarding to just show kindness and care to someone in need.   This is SO powerful.  Don't ever underestimate the power of your non-judgemental presence, kindness and genuine care for another.  

Thanks for reading and sharing.  :)  Let's break new ground! 

Sue Steiner at Free Rein Art Studio

Monday, November 16, 2015

Does Your Horse Pay You Compliments?

Do They Even Like you??  

We can't ever be sure of what a horse is thinking since we aren't inside their minds... but the more time we spend with them the more we can guess!  Horse people LOVE guessing what their horse is thinking. (Me included!!)  Sometimes it veers toward the misbehaving side (common in parenting styles as well).  This is when someone views behavior and makes an assumption that the behavior is negative.  It could be a look, or a gesture or body posture or a response.  What I find interesting is how many times a negative emotion or intent is put on it.  The pendulum can swing the other way too.  A person can see no wrong in spite of what others may see as pretty blatant misbehavior or bad intent.    

As always the goal is to find a balance in what we see and the assumption we put on it.  I don't have any special mind reading skills so I am sorry I can't convey what your horse really is thinking... but the other day I ~~~ think~~~ my horse gave me a compliment.  :)  Yes, I am pretty sure he did.  

This is a gelding I got almost a year ago.  He came to me well trained, well manner and healthy.  But I was new to him and he was new to me.  We needed some time.  My horse is in his teens so conceivably he may have changed hands multiple times by now.  The last few years were tough years for horses since the economy and horse markets took some big hits.  Many people had to downsize. Horses require a lot of upkeep added to high hay and feed costs meant more than just a little shuffling around of horses.  Anyways he is mine now and I really like him.  I have sensed a reserve in him....not an all out shutting down that sometimes happens to horses that are used hard and have a temperament that leans toward the horse developing a 'thick skin' (so un-natural for a horse IMO), and have learned to tolerate human demands and interaction by being outwardly obedient and inwardly withdrawn.  They do what is asked of them, but there is a dullness about it.  Okay- I may be making some of my own assumptions and interpretations of horse behavior but since this is my blog I can.  Now back to the 'compliment'.  

(I hope this isn't anti-climatic with all this build-up!!)   My big lug of a gelding walked up to me..... lowered his head....and let out a big sigh.  :)  Yup... that was the compliment!    :)  My heart did a little pitter patter because I felt like I received some concrete evidence that this big ol' guy was actually starting to like me- and not just tolerate me.  

Agree?  Or am I putting my own wishes on him?  
Has your horse complimented you?  Tell me in the comments how.  I would love to hear.  

Happy trails!  

Sue Steiner

I have some new art up for sale!

You can see more of my equine and animal art at Free Rein Art Studio, Horse Art Online
or my etsy shop.   Free Rein Art Studio on Etsy