Author Archives: dawndi

About dawndi

I've been a very happy film producer (commercial and long format) for over 20 years. But, the horses have always been foremost in my heart... Currently I live on a small ranch in California with my wonderful husband, 13 horses, 4 dogs, 3 cats and various woodland creatures. Life is good!

Gimmicks and Gadgets… “One Day Alice, Straight to da Moon!”

I’m going to stick my neck out and say the unpopular.

OK, here goes:

We live in a society where we are all too busy.  Yet, we want horses.  We don’t have the time it takes to develop the oneness with our horses yet we want that…  Many of us, myself included, are the weekend warriors.  We go out to work or ride our horses and we wonder why they aren’t as good as they were with the trainer, or why they aren’t as good as they were last week, or why the dang horse still isn’t getting whatever we are trying to teach.  We get frustrated.  Out of that frustration comes my topic for today.


Resorting to devices to fix the issue really bugs me.  In my humble opinion, there is no substitute for time on the ground and time in the saddle.

There, I said it.  People who skip steps and then make the horse pay for it by wearing contraptions just burn my chaps.  I’m not saying that we don’t have the right to have horses if we don’t have the proper time (because I have 12 and I know I don’t have that much time…).  I am saying that if we don’t have the time, we shouldn’t make our horses suffer because of it.  And today, I’d like to speak about devices.


OK, I hear you… who has the time to work at this 5 times a week?!  Trainers do that so I don’t have to… Or, the horse is good enough for what I do…   And, I say, SURE to all of that.  That’s fine.  What I object to is the rider using correction devices so readily available everywhere that make your horse do it or else!  These devices are so common, they are now accepted as tack.  And some actual tack can be mismanaged very easily to become or else devices.

I’m speaking about tie-downs, certain bits (maybe all, for the purist), most spurs, nosebands and cavesons used improperly, curb chains used improperly, shank bits, standing martingales and bosals used improperly… and many more.

What is really frustrating to me is that many of these devices started as simple training steps which have now been eliminated in favor of just using the devices full time.  And believe me, I totally want to save time and skip steps when it comes to riding, but it isn’t fair.  It isn’t fair to the horse and it isn’t fair to the rider.  Neither are getting proper training and both feel they are justified in their behavior.  The human feels like they are a pretty good rider and the horse feels, well, I don’t know how they feel but I have witnesses how I think they feel… and so have you.

I support my opinion with two arguments:  Herd observation and the Indians vs the Cavalry.


Horses in herds are very cut and dry animals.  They appreciate justice.  They have an acute sense of right and wrong.  The lead horse is usually a very fair animal.  She insists the herd behaves to remain safe.  But, she doesn’t dish up anything just to show who is boss.  Her moves are all based on the concept of the right thing at the right time.   And, all the other horses listen to her because she has earned that right based on a proven time of really great decisions.  Having said that, it has also been observed in the wild (and here at home) that most herds have the “bully”.  This bully stirs up stuff just because.  Usually, it is a dominant horse related to the lead horse.  But, do you know what happens to the bully in herds?  Retaliation.  Always.  If the bully horse does something unfair, eventually, he/she will get his.  This is documented.  Horses follow a leader and remember a bully.


I interviewed Dan Bates who has the largest collection of cavalry history and artifacts anywhere.  I don’t know that he is THE authority, but he is a leading authority for sure.

Dan and I spoke for several hours.  During that time, we were speaking of the McClellan saddle.  I was asking why it was created.  Dan smiled and said it was because “we couldn’t keep up with the Indians.”  He was saying that it was decided that a new type of streamlined saddle had to be created to carry all the gear and still keep the horse sound.  Then, Dan smiled again and said that we were never able to ride as fast as the Indians.  Ever.  Hmmmmm.


So, this is my premise.  If a horse feels bullied, eventually, he will retaliate.  And, if you use a bunch of devices that skip training time, you aren’t becoming a partner to your horse and you aren’t commanding justified respect.  In essence, you are being the bully who will eventually, most likely, be the brunt of a retaliation.  And, instead of looking at the cause, we, as humans, go purchase another device.


And that brings me full circle.  What I want to say is that our horses are not brought in from the wild.  They don’t know how to navigate hills or cross water.  They are no longer part of our culture where they are trained from foals and ponied everywhere.  They aren’t carrying packs before they carry people.  They don’t have a rider who spends time learning how to balance without a saddle or bit…  Our horses today often don’t get the benefit of a thorough education.  We skip elementary school or take them out after junior high — you know what I mean.  And, we expect them to know what we want.  “Hey, they’re horses” (whatever that means).  And, if they don’t know what we want, we’ll get a device to fix it.

So, what is the purpose of this post?  I guess I am saying to perhaps think about all the stuff we put onto our horses to make them do what we want.  Maybe part of our horse experience could be purposefully really thinking about what the horse might be reacting to when he/she does something that frustrates us.  Maybe we ponder Leader vs Bully.  Maybe spending a few good moments thinking about what makes a horse trust and follow us would save more time later.   Time well spent vs time spent.  Many of us are so quick to find the faster way… and maybe that isn’t the best way.

That’s all I’m saying…

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
If you want an update on the Iron Man Rescued Foal Bucket Fund or to donate, please click on the photo (photo credit, Trish Lowe)

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

Out of Control, “maybe we should put her down” type of Proud Flesh – Cured! Read on!

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 | Filed under Medical

This is a traumatic story with a happy ending.

My wonderful mare (see post 2/4/10 Canker ) had a baby in 1999 who I nicknamed Ava.  She was a beautiful filly with incredible natural knee action and a really sweet demeanor.  It was love at first sight.  Here is a picture of Ava with her Mommy when Ava was two weeks old.

Isn’t she cute?!  Full of life and talent!

Well, the very next day, Ava got her foot caught between a piece of wood and the automatic waterer.  We don’t know how long she was caught there, but we didn’t discover her until the next morning.  Needless to say, the sight of this little filly, exhausted, hanging on by a thread, balefully looking at us as her back legs were about to give out.

OMG.  My friend was the first to her.  Marla swooped in, picked up the filly and removed the leg from its awful entrapment.  In a flash of action, the filly was stabilized on the ground and the vet called.  It was obvious that Ava had struggled for a very long time as the wound was huge.  We were so thankful that she didn’t give up and sit down or she would have snapped her little leg.  What a strong little girl!  After we washed away the dirt, we could see clear to the bone.  Our first inspection of the gaping hole gave us hope.
Her tendons and muscles were there, she could use the limb normally and there wasn’t any profuse bleeding – so we hoped it might turn out OK.  We had no idea that with no broken bones or any other injury, proud flesh alone could kill her.

The vet came out immediately (bless her) and did her thing.  There was cleaning and probing, X-rays, sedatives, antibiotics administered orally and topically and then a cast.  The diagnosis was pretty good, at first.  Nothing was damaged except the flesh.  Ava should fully recover with no long-term effects.  But the flesh wound was daunting at about 5″ long and almost fully around her little leg. Yet, the vet was very optimistic.  All we would have to do is change the cast once a week for several weeks and all would be good.  Or so it should have been.

What really happened was very different.  For some reason, it would not heal. Cast after cast was applied.  The wound was abraded and treated every week.  Nothing happened.  It literally stayed the same size for 5 months.  Here is a picture of Ava at 5 months with her cast still on.

Believe me, everyone was frustrated.  Baby Ava was stuck in a little pen. The vets (at this point we had several involved) were upset that nothing was helping and I was heavy under the vet bills with no results.  I’m not blaming the vets.  We consulted every specialist possible.  No one knew what to do.

Eventually, we decided to leave the wound open during the day and soft wrapped at night.  We thought that maybe the air would help it more than the dirt would hurt it.  Nothing.  It was at this point that a few vets mentioned that maybe it was time for euthanasia.  Gawd.  Ugh.  Yes, the filly had no major improvement in 6 months.  Yes, we were all tired of treating her.  But, NO, I wasn’t going to give up on her.  I read everything I could and prayed to the horsey god in the sky…

Finally, with no answer in sight and in a fit of frustration, I pulled out the Healing Tree T-Zon cream I had gotten at the Horse Expo that year (I have no affiliation).  I knew it was created by a vet whom I had met at the Expo, Dr. Eric Witherspoon, DVM.  He said it was a great cream for healing the dermis (skin).  I remembered that.  And, since I am a fan of tea-tree oil, I figured it “couldn’t hurt, could help.”  I slathered that stuff really thick on her wound and wrapped it.  I held my breath and waiting until the next day to remove the wrap.  Gently, I pulled the cotton away and the area looked less pink, I thought… was I just wanting to believe?  I left the wound open in the air for a few hours.  Again, I slathered on the cream and wrapped it for the night.  The next day, it was definitely better.

Now I was on a roll!  I did this for two weeks.  It was better by a half of an inch and the middle was not so angry looking.  I did it for another week with the vet’s approval.  After the next two weeks, much improvement!  We kept going and after only 6 weeks, the wound was almost totally healed!  And, hardly a scar!  Here is a picture where you can see that Ava is only slightly older than when she had the cast.  (Obviously she is having fun torturing my donkey…)

It took about 2 more months for all the tissue to heal perfectly and after another year, there were no more white hairs.  OMG!  Here we went from a filly who was suggested to be put down to a filly with no scarring and a potential to actually meet her potential!

Well, a few years later, this picture was taken of my Ava as she was winning the World title in English Pleasure at the Morgan Grand Nationals.  She healed really well!!

So, I am not affiliated with the product, but I am a sworn disciple.  I use all of the Healing Tree line!  You can go to the website and check it out.  I use the cream on my skin every time I get a cut or burn.  I know it is not legal for humans, but I use it.  It does sting a little (the tea-tree oil…) but it works!

As for Ava, she was sold to a wonderful woman who has since retired her into motherhood.  Just imagine if I hadn’t found Dr. Eric Witherspoon at the Western States Horse Expo… What if I hadn’t bought his T-Zon cream…?  I wonder where we would be now… 

And, of course, this lovely filly would never have been born.  This is CBMF CHEATING HEART, born to Ava in 2009.   She is beautiful, healthy, happy and in a lovely environment to grow and thrive.  The cycle of life continues.

So for today, if you ever have proud flesh, remember this story.

And, if you see Healing Tree products — buy them!  They literally saved my filly’s life!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
If you want an update on the Iron Man Rescued Foal Bucket Fund or to donate, please click on the photo (photo credit, Trish Lowe)

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!