As a natural equine health practitioner, one of the first things I do at the beginning of a consultation is take a detailed history of the horse I am working on. The information I gather during this stage of the consult allows me to understand all the factors that may be contributing to their current health status. This not only enables me to track the path of dis-ease, but it also helps me to identify the underlying cause(s).
The Importance of Taking a Horse Health History
Having a complete history of the horse including ownership timelines, past emotional traumas, physical illness, and general horse-keeping practices helps me set the stage for the rest of the consult.
Every horse, no matter how cared for they are, have a series of physical and emotional experiences behind them that they carry through life. Even though you might not be aware or see any physical signs or symptoms, these imbalances can often manifest in the body for long periods of time.
Physical stressors include:
- Feed toxicity
- Nutrient deficiencies
- Imbalanced diet
- Pain and inflammation
- Poor hoof care
Emotional stressors include:
A horse can start to develop or exhibit subtle signs and symptoms in response to these stressors long before a major health problem appears but many times the owner doesn’t recognize them as warning signs.
A horse may begin to colic more frequently, lose their appetite, shed a little slower, have soundness issues, or even show signs of irritability and aggression. As an unsuspecting horse owner, it can be very difficult to understand what has caused the sudden onset of symptoms or how to resolve them.
Healing Layers – what are they?
As stressful experiences and physical imbalances occur throughout a horse’s life, they begin to build up as a series of layers. This is what I refer to as healing layers. Accumulated layers of imbalance often lead to a very convoluted health profile made up of a series of symptoms that are difficult to make sense of. For example, certain symptoms may disappear or get masked by new ones, and others may come and go intermittently as the body tries to find balance.
This can often lead an owner to believe that their horse’s history of health problems has been nothing more than a random series of unrelated events. This is especially common if a cause can’t be determined or there is no correlation between health conditions. Often-times the association between traumas, events and past health problems is never realized until the horse has a major health crisis.
How to Identify the First Healing Layer
The first step to initiating the healing process for your horse is to identify the first layer. This is the starting point. This layer can be identified as the combination of emotions, behaviors and symptoms the horse is showing you today. It is the outermost layer of the metaphorical onion.
Let’s say a horse has a long history of confinement, loneliness and boredom and has always been suspected of having ulcers, then at 12 years old he starts to show signs of slow shedding and a crested neck from a diet too high in sugar, then he has his first laminitic episode at 15 years old, and then at 17 years old he loses his favorite pasture mate and now he is starting to colic twice a year.
What do you address first?
The most important or first layer to address is the current one. In this case, it would be the episodes of colic (even if they are only happening twice per year). In a situation like this, chances are that the horse’s digestion has been compromised for many, many years however, with a stressful past, metabolic imbalances and laminitis, the symptoms of indigestion got masked until they were triggered again. In this example the trigger was the emotional trauma caused by the loss of his best friend.
Making the Connection
In many cases the various health conditions that a horse experiences over a life time are interrelated but it can be difficult to make the connection. By taking a closer look at a horse’s health history you can often see how one condition leads to another. In the example above, it is likely that chronic stress lead to ulcers, poor digestion and inflammation. All these factors in combination with a high sugar diet puts a horse at very high risk for developing both Equine Metabolic Syndrome and laminitis.
Listen to their body
Like humans, the horse has a physical healing intelligence. Every health condition or set of symptoms that occur, is the bodies way of restoring balance. The horse will always show you where to start with their healing journey by revealing the first layer to heal.
Taking the time to identify your horses healing layers will not only help you set reasonable expectations for their recovery without pushing them past their level of comfort, but it will also prevent you from putting too much pressure on yourself to find a miracle solution. The key to achieving long-term health for your equine partner is to identify, prioritize, and address their healing layers one at a time. Once you have a program in place for the first layer, and you have observed the response you can then decide how to move forward. Sometimes a layer may resolve very quickly and sometimes it takes a few program changes and some patience. However, once the first layer is resolved you can then be sure that the horse is ready to move on to the next one.
Interested in learning more?
My online training, Healing Horses Their Way, will not only show you how to identify healing layers but how to resolve them. Get on the wait list here…
I am an animal lover, health consultant, scientist and educator. I am passionate about delivering safe and effective health care to all animals but horses and dogs have a special place in my heart. I believe that through education and awareness of natural animal health we can drastically improve their quality of life and longevity. I invite you to join me on my quest to make the world a better place for all of them.