The Power of Pause. Why its so important to take breaks when you work with your Horse.

I don’t know about you, but I remember having lessons (and even later on teaching lessons) where it was all go-go-go. We would go from one exercise to another, whether it was pole work, transitions, jumping etc, without stopping for breath, because it was all about how much ‘progress’ you could pack into a session.

I very vividly remember, way back in the day, teaching this way- feeling pressured to get as much done as possible and to ‘keep everyone moving’.

Nowadays, I’m happy to report that I know much better, and I understand the power of having lots of pauses for integration throughout sessions I am teaching, and also when I exercise or work with my horse.

So why are pauses throughout sessions with your horses so important?

In working sessions between humans and horses, those moments of pause play a crucial role in facilitating learning and integration. This is rooted in the functioning of the nervous systems of both species.

Humans rely on their nervous system to interpret signals and communicate effectively with our horses, and pauses allow for reflection and relaxation, aiding in the consolidation and integration of learning and refinement of techniques, mentally, physically, and energetically.

Horses possess a sensitive nervous system that enables them to perceive human cues, and allowing moments of quiet, provide them too with the opportunity to process information and alleviate stress, fostering a sense of safety and trust, and preventing them feeling ‘overloaded’ with information, particularly if we are working on something new. This then allows us to make progress together, because learning and growing from a place of relaxation, rather than constant buzz and stress, is considerably more effective and enjoyable for all.

Overall, pauses are integral to working sessions, allowing for the synchronisation of body and mind, fostering trust, and facilitating effective communication between humans and horses.

Next time you work with your horse, I encourage you to try introducing some mindful pauses in your sessions to breathe and integrate, it may seem counter intuitive to ‘slow down to speed up’ your progress, but I’d love to know if you try it, how it changes your sessions…because I have a feeling, there’ll be all the better for it!

Thats all for now, lots of Idyllwild love,

Kim 🙂

Are you distorting your experiences with your horse?

It’s a profound question to ask yourself, yet it’s essential for any horse person looking to deepen their bond with their equine companion and enhance their horsemanship skills. Often, without even realising it, we bring our own limiting beliefs and biases into our interactions with our horses, which can hinder our progress and connection with them.

This might look like:

  • Out on a hack/trail ride, in an hours ride your horse spooks twice, but you get back and all you can focus on is those ‘massive spooks’ which were really only 5% of an otherwise pleasant ride
  • You finish a dressage test, get a great score, but can’t believe it because you remember yourself ‘riding terribly’.

Limiting beliefs are those deeply ingrained thoughts or attitudes that hold us back from realising our full potential. These beliefs can stem from past experiences, societal conditioning, and self-doubt. When it comes to horses, these beliefs can manifest in various ways:

  1. Fear and Anxiety: Perhaps you had a fall or a negative experience in the past, leading to fear or anxiety around riding or handling horses. This fear can create tension in both you and your horse, impacting your ability to communicate effectively and eroding trust.
  2. Perfectionism: Striving for perfection in your riding or training can lead to frustration and disappointment when things don’t go as planned.
  3. Self-Doubt: Doubting your abilities as a rider or handler can undermine your confidence and clarity in your communication with your horse. Hesitation or uncertainty can confuse your horse and lead to miscommunication.
  4. Comparison: Constantly comparing yourself to others or feeling inadequate in comparison to more experienced horse people can diminish your enjoyment and progress with your horse.

So, how can you start to change these distortions and improve your mindset and outlook when spending time with your horse?

  1. Awareness: The first step is to become aware of your limiting beliefs and how they might be influencing your interactions with your horse. Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions during your time with your horse, and notice any patterns or recurring themes.
  2. Challenge: Once you’ve identified these beliefs, challenge them. Ask yourself whether they are based on facts or simply assumptions. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations and focus on your strengths and progress rather than perceived shortcomings.
  3. Mindfulness: Practice mindfulness techniques to stay present and focused during your interactions with your horse. Take deep breaths, relax your body, and let go of any tension or stress. This will help you communicate more effectively and build trust with your horse.
  4. Education: Continuously seek to expand your knowledge and skills as a horse person. Take lessons, attend clinics, seek out coaches (ahem!) or read books and articles on horsemanship to deepen your understanding and confidence in working with your horse.
  5. Patience and Persistence: Changing deep-seated beliefs takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself. Celebrate small victories along the way and stay committed to your growth and development as a horse person.

By addressing and reframing your limiting beliefs, you can unlock new levels of connection, communication, and fulfillment in your relationship with your horse. Remember, it’s not just about what you do with your horse but also about the mindset and energy you bring to the partnership. So, are you ready to let go of distortions and embrace a more empowering and enriching experience with your equine companion?

If yes, and you’d like a little help…you know where I am! Check out my services page or drop me an email and I’d be more than happy to help!

Practicing Praise & Snapshotting Behaviors

How often do you let your horse know they’ve done/are doing what you’ve asked them for?

Praise is SO incredibly important when working with your horse, particularly if you are working on something new or challenging. Actually saying out loud ‘good/good boy/good girl’ and pairing that the release of pressure, or with some kind of reinforcement such as a rub/scratch or treats etc (whatever is best for you and your horse) is a great way of ‘snapshotting’ the moment that your horse has offered the behavior (or steps towards it) that you are looking for. The better your timing with this, the more ‘drive and try’ your horse will have to working with you, making the whole experience more of a positive interaction, and a more enjoyable experience for both horse and human.

For me, I find that consistent ‘pairing’ of using my voice and other positive reinforcements is key, particularly at times when I am working with my horse and can’t physically reach them (such as lunging, long reining or liberty work) because then when I want to praise them, they will get the same good feelings from me simply using my voice, as they would if I was physically giving them a rub or a treat. This method utilises principles of classical and operant conditioning to shape behaviors effectively.

So my question to you is, do you praise your horse out loud? Do you work to pair that with other reinforcement…and do you keep an eye out for moments when you can snapshot behaviors that you’re after…?

If not, I highly recommend giving this a try, and please feel free to let me know how you get on in the comments!

If you’d like to learn more about this, I talk all about it on the podcast episode linked below!

Otherwise, I hope you found this helpful, and I’ll be back with another blog soon!

Over and out!

Kim 🙂 xx

Some Advice for Ch-Ch-Changes…

We are finally moving towards (dare I say it) Spring now, the days are getting longer (hooray!) and the weather is slightly milder, daffodils are popping up everywhere and blossom is now starting to peep out from the trees.

As delightful as this is, you may have also noticed ‘spring-like’ changes in your horses too! I know Snoox and his girlfriend have been suddenly more spritely, and I’ve had many reports from friends and clients of their horses acting and feeling the same!

While its great to know that your horses are ‘feeling well’, changes in their behavior, admittedly, can be a bit frustrating. You may be seeing more adverse behaviors such as heightened awareness and spookiness, low attention spans, and general ‘freshness’ from your horse. If you are reading this and can relate, please know, you are not alone! Seasonal changes are a real thing when it comes to horse ownership, and as your horse is a living thing, and connected to nature as much as we are, shifts in daylight patterns and changes in weather affect us all.

So how can we work with our horses through these seasonal transitions…and remain sane, loving partners to our horses??

Here are some tips that I hope help!!

  1. Know and Understand, that this ‘is a thing’ and it will pass.

It can be so frustrating when you’ve been making progress with your horse, or you have things you want to achieve, and suddenly their behavior has changed, and you’re not quite getting what you want and need from your furry pal. Here its important to understand, this will pass, look at the positives in the situation (i.e. this means the weather is getting better, its great that your horse is feeling well etc) and try not to get bogged down in annoyance and frustration.

2. On Days Where You Bring In a Fire Breathing Dragon From the Paddock..

You have two options. Decide that today is not the day, pick their feet out, check they’re alive and well, and chuck them back out again to try again tomorrow…or…commit to your session, take a breath, and minimise what you work on. If you choose option 1, know that this is ok, there is no win or lose, sometimes, its just not worth the hassle! If you choose option 2, break down your session, really focus on just getting your horses focus in the session, and reward moments of relaxation and focus from your horse. Lots and lots of transitions are always helpful to get your horses focus in a session.

3. Consider some Herbal Help!

I change Snoox’s supplements depending on the seasons, to best suit his needs and make sure he stays nourished and healthy all year round. I LOVE using herbal support! This time of year if he was being consistently crackers (which for now its just every now and then so we’re ok), I might consider bringing some calming herbs into his diet such as chamomile, valerian, or passionflower.

The biggest thing to remember here, is that this will all pass, and to stay positive, not to take any behaviour personally, and to be kind to yourself, and your horse, as we transition through the seasons.

I hope this was helpful, please feel free to email me at info@idyllwildhorsemanship.com with any questions or comments!

Horse with rider

Lymes Disease in Your Horsey Pal.

I walked down to the paddock and noted that Snoox (my horse) looked pretty sleepy. Not unusual since we had just had quite the change in weather, and as he lives out, he can be affected by the weather if its been pretty rough in the night. We had just had our first bout of heavy rain after a long hot summer, so I wasn’t surprised. As I got closer however, I noticed that all four of his legs had filled, pretty dramatically.
Now this, was unusual. He also looked more than sleepy, he looked like he’d been sedated!
I grabbed the headcollars and walked Snoox and his ex racer girlfriend, Sally, up to the yard, trying not to worry. Since I have had Snoox in my care, he has been SO easy health-wise, I have never had any worries with him and he’s always been very low drama, care wise. To find him like this, was very odd, and very worrying.
On reaching the yard, he was still listless, and showing a vague interest in his hay, rather than tucking in with his usual gumption. I pinched the skin on his neck to see if he was dehydrated, all seemed normal there. He didn’t seem ‘colicky’, I could hear gut sounds, he wasn’t tucked up, and I then checked his gums, all seemed normal there too. Honestly, I was stumped, in ‘all my years’ working with horses, I’d never seen a set of symptoms like these, especially that appeared seemingly, overnight. So next, I took his temperature. 40 degrees.
NOT GOOD.
I called the vet surgery explaining his symptoms, and a vet was arranged to come out ASAP. I waited with Snoox, trying very hard not to give into the building anxiety, and remain positive. What the hell was going on?
On arrival and initial examination, the vets first question, was ‘have you found any ticks on him recently?’ I was taken aback by this and replied I hadn’t, and he explained that his symptoms pointed to possible lymes disease, OR some kind of viral infection. Lymes disease had not occurred to me for a moment, I had never even considered that it was something that horses could suffer from, this was certainly the first I’d heard of it! The vet explained further, that lymes wouldn’t be detected by a blood test at this stage, but as a precaution, he would treat with a round of antibiotics strong enough to treat a viral infection, AND possible lymes if that was what he had, so then he would have started treatment as soon as possible, which is key with Lymes Disease.
A week, later, to my relief, on finishing his first round of antibiotics and some anti inflammatories, and having a week off work, Snoox had picked up and looked much better…normal, in fact. Sadly however, this only lasted afew days, and I noticed his legs had started to fill up again. I was gutted, and called the vet once again, who arranged a blood test for Lymes Disease, and a further course of antibiotics.
Almost straight away, Snoox responded to the antibiotics, and I convinced myself that maybe it was a remainder of the possible virus, that just needed cleaning up, with more drugs. I had purposefully not looked into equestrian lymes disease further on the internet, because I knew it would add unnecessary worry to the situation, and honestly, I thought ‘neeeh, the chances are slim, and it won’t be that’.
Unfortunately, I was wrong. The following week (due to badly timed postal strikes and bank holidays) the results were in, and Snoox had tested positive for Lymes Disease. I was shocked, and honestly devastated, I knew so little about lymes other than anecdotes I had heard from in humans, and none of what I had heard there was good. The vet, however, was incredibly positive, and assured me that because we had caught it so early, and already begun treatment, the outcome looked like it would be good. He prescribed a further course of 4 more weeks of anti biotics, with a view to reviewing his symptoms and a further blood test on finishing the treatment.

So, what exactly IS Lymes Disease when referring to the horsey form?

According to an article by Andrea Caudill in the AQHA Journal Online (one of the best articles I found in my search) ‘Lyme disease gets its name from the town where it was first identified as a unique syndrome–Lyme, Connecticut–in 1975.

The disease is caused by the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, and is transferred to horses through infected ticks. There are several types of ticks that can transfer the bacterium, but the most common one is known as a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis).
To transfer the bacteria, the infected tick must bite the horse and, researchers believe, must stay attached to the horse for at least 24 hours to successfully transmit the bacteria to the horse. Horses do not transmit the disease to other horses.
Because the bacteria must be transferred via tick, the disease is common in tick-hospitable environments, such as woody areas.
“The thing to know about Lyme disease in horses, and people and dogs too, is that many, many horses will get infected with borrelia but never develop clinical signs,” Dr. DeNotta says. “So you can be exposed, you can be infected, you can develop antibodies and even an immunity to borrelia, but never actually have any negative effects that could be attributed to Lyme disease.”’
As it turns out, the area of Devon that Snoox and I now reside in, is a common place for ticks to be found. There are also plenty of deer leaping about, to transfer ticks around. Lovely. It was just bad luck that an infected tick (or horse fly, as they can also transfer the disease) found its way to Snoox.

Lymes is actually quite rare in the UK, especially when it comes to horses. Cases of Lymes Disease in America are much more prominent, which is where I managed to find the most information from. Annoyingly however, even still, there is a lack of information, particularly around the recovery process of horses with the disease.

Common symptoms of the disease include, but are not limited to, swollen joints, uveitis, stiffness, lameness, general changes in behaviour, raised temperature. The above symptoms can vary, be very vague, and horses may show only one of the above symptoms. As a result diagnosis can often be missed, and I am very lucky that my vet was so switched on. I’m incredibly grateful for that.

To add to the joy of this disease, there is also an even rarer variant, called neuroborreliosis, which is even more serious, because the bacteria invades the horses central nervous system, causing severe symptoms such as muscle wastage, skin sensitivity, trouble eating, and neurogical issues.

The good news is, as Snoox responded so well to his treatment, it appears this is not the form that he has. Phew. The most common treatment for Lymes in horses is an aggressive course of antibiotics, for 6-8 weeks, and USUALLY, that is enough to stamp out the disease for good. There are cases of relapse, and honestly, some places I’ve read that symptoms can flare up now and then, and in some places I’ve read that once its gone, its gone. I also read somewhere that this type of bacteria can ‘hide’ and avoid detection if its not caught soon enough. Delightful. I do not recommend visiting facebook groups for information, as I found to my detriment, the majority of the posts (especially in the USA) are not positive, there are some worrying horror stories in there (horses ‘never being the same again’ etc) and there was also LOTS of conflicting information.

The best and most positive article I found was the one I referred to above, so I decided to stick with that, and just to trust my vet, and trust that Snoox was going to be OK, I was doing everything I could, and the horse I knew and loved, was going to be his old self again soon.

So how has his treatment gone so far?

I’m happy to report that Snoox is now ‘drug free’, and has been for 8 months now, with no returning symptoms. He had a second blood test, afew months after treatment, which showed he still had anti bodies, so not totally clear at that point, but that’s to be expected, and after a full physical examination from the vet, he is now looking much healthier and happier, and unless anything pops up again, he’s been discharged! The advice from the vet moving forward was to slowly bring him back into work, to keep a close eye on his progress, and continue to support his immune and digestive system over the winter and ‘see how it goes’.

Alongside the veterinary prescribed treatment, I delved into the world of herbal remedies, and turned my tack room into something resembling Holland and Barrett. He has had all sorts of herbs and spices complimenting his diet over the last few months to help support his immune system, reduce any remaining inflammation, and help his body fight the disease, and return to some sort of normal. I even found a supplement known to eradicate spirochete bacteria, so added that to the mix to help stamp it out from a herbal angle! I’ve also been careful to supplement his microbiome after being on such strong antibiotics, and he’s been on a good pro biotic supplement to support his digestive system.

To really fire at it from all angles, I have also had regular appointments with my Equine Physio, who is incredibly knowledgeable, and who by chance, had an extensive knowledge of Lymes Disease, as her sister in law had been diagnosed with it earlier in the year. She provided some treatments to help ease any stiffness/soreness he was feeling from the effects of the disease, and again, I was left feeling very lucky to have such a great professional team helping return Snoox to health.

All of the above seems to have really helped, and he is now looking shiny again, he’s happy, and in our work he has started find his ‘mojo’ again and is definitely showing me he’s feeling good. I am taking things VERY slowly, we are avoiding stressing his body and his immune system still, and I have been very slowly building his fitness back up, and being mindful of any potential soreness still lingering in his body from the disease.

As frustrating as it was not being able to jump on board and lope off into the sunset, I would rather have played the long game and have a happy, healthy horse at the end, than get over excited and push things too far, potentially causing damage. So, we’re taking it slow, and I’m reminding myself to practice what I preach, taking small steps, and enjoying the small things in every session.

For now, everything seems to be moving in the right direction, and 9 months on I am positive he is going to make a full recovery. We’ve just started ridden work again, and so far so good!

So I imagine at this point, the question you’re asking is, so how can I prevent this happening in my horse?!

Unfortunately, unlike in dogs, there is no pill you can give your horse to avoid making friends with a tick.
The best preventative measures include checking your horse over fully at least once every 24hrs ( because it can take up to 24hrs to transfer the disease) to ensure there are no ticks, and if you find any, to remove them safely with a tick remover. You can also apply fly sprays that include tick repellent, or there are some essential oils like lavender, lemongrass, and eucalyptus oils that they do not like!

Because the symptoms are so vague with Lymes, being vigilant regarding ticks is the best line of defence, and if you suspect something is wrong, after a consultation with the vet, a blood test might be your next line of enquiry.

My hope with this article, is not to alarm, but to raise awareness of this rare disease. I had no idea it could effect horses, and as a result, because of my total lack of awareness, coming to terms with it and helping my horse, has been a much more worrying process than it needed to be.

My advice if you come across this with your own horse, is to stay positive, trust your vet, and to stay away from facebook groups! Every case seems to be different, so trusting that you know your own horse is also key. I have definitely thrown everything I can at it, and so far, so good. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and Snoox and I will keep heading towards it!

Important note I am NOT in any way and expert in Lymes Disease, this article is my own experience of the disease, always consult your vet if you have any suspicions that your horse is sick.