Yogi-“Meister”: A really ‘different’ looking horse’s …. [behind]!

It’s been a good 3 1/2 months now since Yogi’s hitching post flip-over accident, resulting in a watermelon sized hematoma (see earlier postings). After having been renamed from Jimmy Dean to Yogi and most recently – after Stefanie’s consumption of a tiny bit of Jägermeister – occasionally also called Yogi-Meister, the horse formerly known as Jimmy Dean now has a mostly healed, but quite different looking behind.

Yogi's hind end 3.5 months after the accident
Horse's hind end 3.5 months after accident

Yogi doesn’t mind at all. It feels good, he moves nicely without visible restriction or signs of lameness, the pain and heat is gone and: he cannot see what it looks like!

When Yogi scratches his sides with his teeth, all he sees is the quite attractive side view (compare to pictures of hematoma, taken in September in earlier post).

Horse's hind end 3.5 months after hitching post accident, side view.
Side view of horse's hind end, 3.5 months after accident, hematoma completely healed

And that looks pretty good!

Now it’s time to move this formerly very well proportioned Quarterhorse hind end around, get some exercise and some really enjoyable equine massage and bodywork. Massaging the area will help break up adhesions, encourage blood flow and help the body to move waste out of the muscle tissue. Bodywork (Masterson Method (TM)) will help regain full range of motion and overcome restrictions caused by temporary immobility and layup.

Uh-oh! Almost forgot: Yogi suggested to include some pictures of his other end –> the FRONT END in this blog! He feels there has been undue attention to his hind end and would like to show his other attractive side.  Until the next update on the horse’s …. [behind], that is!

Quarterhorse Yogi's sweet face
Yogi's sweet face
Yogi's attractive front end in focus
Yes, Yogi DOES have a really good looking front end!

Using Masterson Method(TM) principles for training success

It might seem odd, but surely not to those who have been interested in any concept of riding and training with feel: One of the fundamental principles of the Masterson Method(TM) (Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork, see Jim Masterson’s website) lends itself perfectly to raise awareness in the rider/trainer and promote training success with the horse.

It’s real simple. If the horse resists, yield…, then try again. Seems counter-intuitive to many, as we human beings are used to meeting resistance with resistance. In equine bodywork, Jim Masterson found, that meeting the horse’s resistance with resistance or force, would negate any efforts in creating the right state of mind or ‘frame of nervous system’ (for the horse) to successfully relax the horse and help him release tension. Instead, resistance is met with softness. If the horse resists, the handler yields, then softly asks again. Soon the horse registers that there is nothing to resist against, relaxes and becomes compliant and even cooperative.

After practicing the Masterson Method(TM) on many, many horses – client’s and my own – and noticing how these principles almost automatically and instantly spilled over into other areas of my interaction with horses, I became more aware of how this principle can actively be applied in working with your horse, whether it’s riding for pleasure or training with a goal.

Here an example: My horse Yogi (formerly known as ‘Jimmy Dean’, see my blog ‘The Jimmy Dean Story’) had learned in a different environment in a former life, that lunging is a scary thing and it’s best to whirl around, buck and run backwards, then look for a hole in the fence or other escape routes. This prompted lots of folks to provide lots of different input on how such thing should be (man or woman-)handled.

The solution became quite simple when I actively applied the principle of yielding. When Yogi started twirling his hind around, raising his head, slightly rearing and starting to move backwards, I let him do it for a moment, then calmly asked him to step towards me and move out on the circle again. No battling, no fight. Soon – actually after two lunging sessions – Yogi got it: there is nothing to resist against. Whatever it is I thought I’m protecting myself against, doesn’t exist.

Is this an all new and revolutionary insight? No, maybe not. But it helps to keep it on the surface of your consciousness and consciously make it a habit: When the horse resists, yield, then ask again.

Watch this video on youtube to see how this works in a bodywork situation. Then try it on your horse.

Just thought I’d share this with you! Enjoy your horse!

The Rollkur debate – confusing, overdone or right on target?

The internet is buzzing with a debate around the ‘Blue Tongue Video‘ published by the Danish website Epona.tv. Here one can witness how a top level dressage rider rides his horse in hyperflexion (Rollkur) with a hard hand until the horse’s tongue hangs out of his mouth, limp and blue, a sure sign of lack of blood supply to the tongue. Outrage, outcry and much discussion later, some action is being taken, BHS is speaking up, FEI is reacting in statements, riders pro and con Rollkur are voicing their opinions on every forum left and right. Amateur riders, pony club members, horse lovers, professional athletes, veterinarians and anyone who cares follows the developments. Lots of publicity is generated, some ride the wave for their own reasons, others passionately fight for what they think is right.

Then there are those who speak up, sounding something like: “Dressage horses lead a pampered existence, should we not focus on more pressing issues in horse welfare?”

Whoa…PAUSE…..and let’s start thinking a bit, instead of just letting the heat of the argument take over our grey cells.

I think the answer must clearly and loudly be: NO.  World Cup level horses are in the public eye. Their riders set the standards. Young riders look to them for guidance and inspiration. A ‘training method’ that is essentially a short-cut to success and harms horses that give their all physically or at least (for those who want to continue doubting physical damage) degrades the horse in a body posture where he is stressed, totally dominated and cannot see, should be unacceptable at the highest level of competition. Those who have the power to set standards, should take the reins and do so.

This discussion is not about abandoned backyard horses, starved or mistreated equines and other atrocities. It’s about setting standards and bringing highest level equine competition back to traditional principles of respecting these generous animals enough to show them compassion and consideration.

Horses – ‘Celebrity horses’ and 4-H horses alike – are NOT SPORTS EQUIPMENT, but rather living, breathing creatures that totally depend on our mercy. Let’s make sure that celebrity riders show our young riders the right way to do it: with patience, compassion and consideration for the horse, according to time proven classical principles. Let’s raise awareness around this issue to create some buzz and get people to think about why there were 18 year old horses in Olympic competitions only 70 years or so ago, while the average age of a German sport horse euthanized due to unsoundness, is 9. (Karin Kattwinkel, author of several books on equine wellness, website link here, German only).

Setting the right standards and providing the right information will ensure that less amateur or backyard horses will stand abandoned and neglected after failed attempts to ‘Rollkur’ them into shape. Speaking up for ‘celebrity horses’ will help many horses in the end.

For more inspiration and information, I encourage you to visit Dr. Gerd Heuschmann’s website.

An new name, a new life: Jimmy Dean becomes Yogi

It’s been a while that I blogged. Lots has happened! The horse formerly known as Jimmy Dean has a new name, a new owner and a new lease on life. He also has a newly shaped right hind, since flip-over accident, watermelon-sized hematoma on the right hind and ensuing healing process. OK, first thing is first.

The new name: The registered name of the horse formerly known as ‘Jimmy Dean’ is “Good Lord I’m Sizzlin'”. Someone with a sense of humor very much unlike my own, therefore gave him the barn name “Jimmy Dean”. You know… the sausage. Since he has been on the brink of being sent to the meat buyer by a former owner, I thought this name had to go.  Since ‘nomen est omen’ and even the wise native Americans knew that a) a name can bring about a change in you and b) names change during a life time for this reason, I was diligently looking for just the RIGHT name. Hmm… Remington? Diego? Buddy? All good suggestions. Tired of the decision making process, I gave it up to a dream, went to bed and told myself whatever I wake up with, that’s it. It was Yogi. What a great fit! His best buddy’s name is Yankee (you get it: Yogi Berra and the Yankees) and Yogi Bear as well as anything else I associate with Yogi’ism speak of calm and inner peace. Done! Jimmy Dean became Yogi!

The new owner: St. Francis Horse Rescue in  Rosholt, who took on Yogi from an uncertain fate and then sent him to me for evaluation and possible rehab,  is a well managed rescue, taking on some of the worst cases of neglected horses in cooperation with humane societies and authorities (seizures etc.). They also are a retirement home for senior horses, who have given their all but outlived their ‘usefulness’. I brainstormed with St. Francis on what to do with Yogi, who needed more rehab time than anticipated due to deep rooted experiential issues in this horse in combination with his physical challenges. We decided together that my retired high-testosterone gelding Cody would be happy to take charge of their mare herd in Rosholt while I would keep Yogi and could continue to work with him.

The new lease on life: As an almost ‘unadoptable’ horse (bucking issue in combination with physical challenges) and too young (6) to be a retirement horse, Yogi faced an uncertain future. Having more time to work with Yogi, will give him a new lease on life.

New hind end: The accident left Yogi with an odd shaped right hind, some hardened tissue and possibly some muscle damage. With proper exercise, massage and bodywork, this can surely be overcome. It does look a bit ‘special’ right now. But just when you lift up the tail…

Progress Update: After almost 60 days of confinement, Yogi returned to his herd and now spends most of his time with buddies Yankee (best bud), Mr. B and Flicka. He has started lunging again, has been carrying a tightly cinched saddle without bucking (that’s right, we don’t need to start on square one again!!!) and has displayed complete FEARLESSNESS in the face of a giant blue tarp. After an initial balk, he walked right over the crumply, flighty thing, didn’t mind me twirling it all around him and even became the ‘walking giant blue plastic bag‘ when I completely wrapped him in the tarp, head and all, and he walked about the barn blindly, his feet getting a bit tangled in the tarp. Zero problemo! With the inner calm of a Yogi, he emerged from the tarp after a few minutes as the ‘mystery horse’, with a sweet and content facial expression.

So stay calm, breathe deeply and stay tuned for more YOGI NEWS!

Holy Oxtail! That’s different!

During recent equine massage adventures I had the opportunity to work on an animal of a different kind: the historic FARM OXEN! Having gotten a ‘taste’ of Angus bull in May in Iowa, when Jim Masterson worked on a young bull and the Masterson Method(TM) students of that class got a chance to explore the bull’s anatomy through the reassuring bars of a chute, I was interested in getting a closer feel of these wonderful, big-eyed animals.

Releasing Tension in an Oxen Shoulder
Releasing Tension in an Oxen Shoulder

This opportunity came along when I went to Old World Wisconsin, the wonderfully reconstructed historic site in Eagle, WI, for a second time to work on historic farm draft horses Nelly and Lady. Historic farmer Bryan Zaeske thought that farm oxen team Teddy and Bear could benefit from some bodywork as well. So after working on the two very well behaved senior mares and going for a hearty lunch (with second thoughts about the burger I was eating in view of the upcoming ox massage), we headed for the historic farm that is home to Teddy and Bear.

Bryan and two young helpers, clad in historically correct pants with suspenders and very interesting hats, helped get Teddy and Bear out of their pasture and into the barn yard, where I started working on Teddy. Not knowing what to expect, I was soon fascinated by these gentle horned animals. Besides several obvious differences in anatomy, there are a few key differences between an ox and a horse, from the bodyworker perspective:

a) When a horse doesn’t want to pick up his foot, he can be convinced. When an ox does not want to pick up his foot, he does not want to pick up his foot.

b) An ox SMELLS very different from a horse!

c) A horse’s hair grows from front to back, an ox’s hair grows from top down. This might not sound important, but when using massage strokes it gives you something to think about. After all you’d like to go with the hair.

d) An Ox has a bumpy, odd looking musculature around the base of his tail. Both oxen loooved to have these bumpy muscles massaged.

e) Performing bodywork on an oxen leaves your hands oily and moisturized. I was unable to wash the oily substance off with water alone. My hands were instantly rejuvenated by at least 10 years. Lanolin?

Very Cooperative Oxen!
Very Cooperative Oxen!

Oxen clearly let you know whether they enjoy something or not and can be quite the comedians. Stretching out their necks, closing their eyes, quivering with their very soft, velvety noses, these are all very clear signs of enjoyment.  Their noses are always moist and their muzzles velvety and soft. Teddy and Bear have very different personalities. Teddy is a bit more stoic, he is the ‘muscle’ of the team. When he lost interest in what I was doing, he simply bulldozered over to the next good looking patch of grass and had to be led back to our spot. Bear was a much more social animal. He really interacted with me, checked me out, sniffed on my quite a bit and showed more interest. He had a greater range of facial expression and was very responsive. Bear is the ‘brain’ of the team and the one who interacts with the handler and takes the commands, while Teddy just follows Bear along. According to historic farmer Bryan Zaeske, the determination who will be the ‘brain’ and who the ‘muscle’ of a team is made according to the animals personality when they are only a few days old and then they receive the respective training from that day on.

I am very much looking forward to my next trip to Old World Wisconsin and to working with Nelly and Lady and hopefully the oxen team again. Bryan gave me some encouraging feedback about my work on draft horses Nelly and Lady: “You really did something to those horses. [After the first bodywork]… they moved as they had not done in 5 or 6 years. … They thought it was the Kentucky Derby!”

I learned a lot that day from Teddy and Bear and cannot wait to work on my next oxen, bull or dairy cow. I have cut down a lot on eating red meat. It just doesn’t look the same to me now…

The Old World Wisconsin Oxen Team
The Old World Wisconsin Oxen Team

Jimmy Dean says: “That’s the SPOT, Doc!”

Today was another unusual day for Jimmy Dean. Lots of things have been happening lately, that he knows nothing about. First Stefanie asked him to swing his hind end around – that was on Thursday – and that was kind of a scary affair at first. Who knows what she was going to do with that twirling lead rope… But then it turned out she just wanted Jimmy Dean to take a step or two to the side with his hind feet and that was easy enough to master. Then Stefanie put this odd saddle on Jimmy. It didn’t even have a horn! She called it ‘English’. That felt strange enough and just in case, Jimmy decided to do a little bucking in the canter. Soon enough, however, he was convinced that his strange saddle was not any more dangerous than the usual and moved nicely and undisturbed in a circle in all three gaits.

Today then, a man with a baseball hat and unusual pants (dog training pants) showed up at the barn and introduced himself as “Doc McKann”. Jimmy was in a good mood and greeted the stranger with friendly indifference. Soon Doc McKann won Jimmy’s trust by patting him gently all over and then he went to work. A Chiropractor he is, Jimmy thought. That’s something new! Doc McKann squeezed, pushed and contorted Jimmy around a little bit and Jimmy soon started to feel that this was all good stuff. Closing his eyes he silently thought “That’s the spot, Doc!” when Doc McKann hit just the right spot on the left lumbar section.

Jimmy Dean: "That's the spot, Doc!" Hm, Hm
Jimmy Dean: "That's the spot, Doc!" Hm, Hm
Animal Chiropractor Dr. Mark McCann works on JD
Animal Chiropractor Dr. Mark McCann works on JD

Doc McKann took notes on his special pad and noted that Jimmy has some restriction in his cervical/thoracic junction on the left, something stuck in the neck on the left, something in the withers on the left and some restrictions in the spine in the area of the last ribs/lumbar  that he released.

Feeling like a new horse, Jimmy took the rest of the afternoon off after eating a wholesome meal of ADM Moreglo, Patriot Feed and Equishine. Oh, and a yummy carrot, of course, for desert.

Let’s see how Jimmy moves tomorrow. Will he be a ‘new horse’ indeed?

Jimmy Dean under saddle (without rider)

After successfully braving the horrors of a baling twine around his girth (day 3, crow hopping, running backwards) and a saddle during vet examination (day 3, crow hopping, running backwards) Jimmy had progressed through longeing with a rope around his girth and wearing a bareback pad without any reactions. Now that he was so comfortable with pressure around the girth, it was time to put a saddle to the test. Jimmy looked quite handsome with Yank’s Western saddle and was unworried until…

Handsome Jimmy Dean under Saddle
Handsome Jimmy Dean under Saddle

Well, it wasn’t all that dramatic. He trotted over the ground pole with the saddle a few rounds. I retightened the cinch three times, then we went on to canter on the longe line. (We remember, that Jimmy’s patella locks up so that his stifle locks and he is forced to take a little ‘hop’ to unlock it while cantering, especially on the left lead.) Dr. Ketover confirmed that this a problem that’s likely to disappear with increasing fitness, but right now Jimmy is still battling the locking stifle. When this happens, and it only happens in the canter, Jimmy is fine without a saddle and ‘resets’ his leg without a worry. With saddle: different story. Jimmy gets anxious when his patella locks and starts crow hopping. We went through this a few times and other than nudging him to go on I did not show any particular reaction to his crow hopping. Soon he became assured that there was nothing to worry about and we ended on a very good note, after Jimmy had shown some spunky, energetic forward movement without crow hopping.

Here excerpts from a brief interview I conducted with Jimmy right after the longing session:

SR: “Jimmy Dean, can you comment on your odd reactions to your locking patella when you are wearing a saddle? You don’t do this when you don’t wear a saddle. What’s the reason?”
JD: “Well, I don’t quite remember the details, but it seems to have happened quite a while ago. Every time I wore a saddle, some dude was sitting in it. And every time I wore the saddle and some dude was sitting in it, I felt a stinging pain in my sides whenever my hind leg locked up. Almost as if someone was kicking me with something sharp. I also heard yelling and unrepeatable words. This happened quite a few times and – since I wasn’t born yesterday – I figured it’s not safe to be wearing that saddle.  But today – to be honest – it wasn’t that bad. I expected the stinging and yelling, as usual, but nothing happened. If that stays like that, I guess wearing that saddle isn’t all that bad. But I gotta go now. My sweetie is waiting for me across the street…”

[This is a fictional interview. Please don’t draw conclusions in regard to my mental state. Thank you.]

Stay tuned for Jimmy Dean’s next adventure: [topic is top secret, it will be surprising and suspenseful]