Mounting Block, Ha! And, Do You Get Muscle Sore? So Does Your Horse!

I saw this photo and thought I had to start off with Luscombe Nodram.  He is an 8 year old Draft horse from Australia who measures 20.2′.  Ha!  Noddy is believed to be the tallest horse in the world.  So, I had to read up on him…  He weighs 2866 pounds and is a registered Shire.  Noddy comes from a line of tall horses.  In fact his great grandsire was in the Guiness Book of World Records in 1981 as the Tallest Horse at 19.2.  Ahhh, the kids are getting biger these days!

What I thought was really funny is that the trainer/rider (yes, he is trained to ride and drive) has to use a ladder or “swing from a tree” (no joke, that is what she said) to mount.  I’d like to try to order a mounting block for this guy… “Ah, Hello, Valley Vet… Um…”


I can just hear the flack flying as I delve into this controversial arena…  Actually, I had no idea it was such a big thing until I starting fishing around.

You see, a few years ago, I decided that I wanted to learn how to recognize and aid signs of particular equine soreness, or at least have an overall “feel good” technique to relax my horse while helping him heal his muscles, joints and structure without injury.  Oy. Who knew I was diving into such a bath of churning controversy.  In a nutshell, the people who own schools and teach this sort of thing have a point.  You cannot just hang a shingle and say you do equine bodywork without the proper training.  Yup, I would have to agree.  However, some of us just want to learn basic, lightweight, can’t hurt/could help techniques that don’t take 4 years to study.  This is where there is the rub…  In America, truly, you cannot do this easily. The fear is that one will not just work on their own horses, but will try to make money and hurt other horses.  OK OK, I get it.  But, what about ME?  I don’t want to hurt anyone’s horses, especially my own.  Besides, there are plenty of books out there, I could just teach myself.  Whatever.  It was frustrating.


I want to let you know that I researched from Equine Massage to Equine Osteopathy and everything in between.  There was mud slinging everywhere and I was appalled and fascinated at the same time.  After slogging through it all…

I flew in the face of adversity and followed the Maverick!  Yup, I went after the guy who has a big voice but also the power behind it.  EQUINE TOUCH.

Now, if you haven’t done the research, and why would you, you wouldn’t know that this guy has lots of mumblers.  But, everyone has mumblers so I took it with a grain of salt.  I studied who he studied.  I looked at what the old guys said about him.  And, I was impressed.

Here’s how I based my decision.  I wanted a body background.  I wanted osteopathy but easier.  I wanted the Obewons of the body workers to think this guy was onto something.  So, I followed Janek Vluggen, the best known equine doctor of osteopathy.  Of course, he is in the Netherlands and traveling, so not based where I could study him.  Bummer.  As I read more, I could only find one DVM vested in osteopathy in the US, Marcia DuBois, who happens to also follows Vluggen.  Ah ha!  I was getting somewhere, sort-of.  Then I read more about them all and found the name Jack Meagher.  He was just a guy in the US a while back who was known as the founder of equine osteopathy.  (He has a great, simple book… you might want to get it.)  Sadly, he no longer exists.  He did have students.  But, since the US doesn’t sanction Osteopathy without a DVM, of course, no once can teach this here.  Besides, I didn’t want to learn the whole thing, just the Cliff Notes.

This brought me to a Jock Ruddock of Equine Touch.  He was a human body worker first, has studied with both Janek and Jack Meagher and he does layman’s clinics!  Aha!  Sign me up!  Which I did.  Jock (from Scotland) and his wife Ivana (a vet in the Czech Republic) run this program/school.  It is well thought out for the everyday horse person (Levels 1 and 2) and for the Practitioner (Levels 3 and 4)  The great part is that you can actually make a difference with your horses after Level 1!   And, basic everyday people (like me) cannot accidentally hurt their horses because it is non-invasive and works on the fascia.

It is called Vibromuscular Harmonization Technique (VHT) or Equine Touch.  OMG.  It so works!  I could tell you the whole schpeil, but you should just go to the website and read if you are interested.  It has changed my life and the life of my horses!  Jock knows his stuff.  He is kinda big in personality and has a lot to say, but it is important to listen.  Ivana is the opposite.  She is lovely and gentle and teaches you the clinical side of it all.  They are a perfect balance.  I learned so much and saw so much.  I witnessed Jock work on client horses that were not part of the clinic (I went on a ride-along) and saw incredible improvement without pain.  I was hooked!

For me, I took my Level 1 in TexasNot only was I amazed at the work but I was also amazed that I could learn it.  I took my Level 2 in Hawaii which was nice…  ;)   I haven’t done my Level 3 but did watch it.  And, as much as I kicked and screamed about having to leave CA to learn, I met wonderful people who will be lifelong friends.  An adventure for sure!

Equine Touch advanced levels go into nutrition, feet, the complete horse… which is good to know.  But, you don’t have to start there, you can just go and learn the basics that work.  For me, it was good to observe that they are on the cutting edge of just about everything equine — in a sensible way — but I could return home with very practical, basic knowledge on lower level courses.

Downside:  The downside is that these two are so popular around the world that they don’t come to the US as much anymore (they will be here in May 2010).  But, they do have very adept trainers here who can teach you.

I highly, highly recommend that you do this if you are interested in non-invasive body work that you can do fairly easily on your horses.  And, if you can get yourself into Jock and Ivana’s training, you will never forget it.  They will be in the US in May.  So, sign up, if you want to/are able to.  (Or, email:  for a schedule.) I think you will be very happy you did.  (I have no affiliation.)


Here are a few honorable mentions that I didn’t try but looked promising.

1)  You have all probably heard of TTouch by Linda Tellington-Jones.  Her school offers a well-rounded technique of understanding your horse through several avenues and one of those is simple bodywork.  I think she addresses this correctly in that we all need to understand the ins and outs so we can better see the whole picture.  TTouch offers a 3 or 5/6 day course that covers many valuable aspects.  Check it out.

2)  The next place, Tallgrass Animal Acupressure, offers just about every type of body work imaginable.  I didn’t choose this but did hear many rave reviews.  Why didn’t I choose it?  Well, I needed a short course…

Tallgrass Animal Acupressure. Look it up if you are interested in a full education.

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An Odd Grouping of Tips: The Slightly Embarrassing, The Dangerous and the If I’d Only Known!…

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010 | Filed under Handy Tips

Today I was inspired to write about three things.  But, they don’t really go together.  So, it is an odd grouping.  The only thing that really ties them together is that I have experienced them all and am writing about them today.


Ok, this one is really only embarrassing to you, not your horse.  And, maybe it isn’t embarrassing at all.  But, I found that I was a bit embarrassed.  Even now, when I speak of it, I find myself using soft, folksy words or hushing my voice as if I’m talking about something illegal…  So, here it is:  Do you wash your mare’s udders?  There.  I said it.  Kinda weird question, eh?   And, believe me, I wouldn’t ask if there wasn’t a reason.  Here is how it came up for me.

One of my mares would rub her tail so badly that it looked like a 1950’s Beehive.  It was a mess.  She would rub in the barn or out of the barn, against a gate or a board, anything and everything was fair game.   I had all the regular solutions to this problem.  I used all the proper wormers in the proper rotation.  I had masked and sprayed her until there was not a fiy within 100 yards.  She was clean.  She didn’t have any odd diet changes.  No matter what I did, she was sporting a nasty, matted tail clump.  I could not figure it out!  Finally, one afternoon, my across-the-fence neighbor leaned out and asked me if I had ever cleaned her udders.  Ken was about 100 years old and had lived on ranches his whole life.  Whenever he said anything, I tended to perk up…  “Uh, No.”  “Well, that there is yur problem.  You see, they kick up dirt and it gets all caught up in ‘er and then they sweat and a whole heap o’ trouble starts packin’ in that area…”  Hmmm.  Sounded reasonable.

When you think about it, that kind of dirt in “that area” has to be really annoying.  There is no way for any mare to get at it.  My mare had tried all of her ideas.  She tried to roll it out.  Nope.  Rubbing on a fence feels good but it didn’t help.  No hoof would reach and no lips could get there.  Arrrgh.  It must be horsey torture to have that area dirty.  I guess wild mares are having babies to clean it out for them.  Or, they are crossing water once a year.  Dunno.  But obviously, this area needs attention.  Especially for the well endowed mare.  I have several.

So, I decided to cautiously examine her.  Please, if you do this at home, either know your mare well, pick up a leg or talk to her gently and do it slowly — but don’t tickle her or surprise her!  Anyway, I gently but firmly reached up in there.  OMG.  Ugh.  I won’t go into detail but she turned and looked at me as if to say, “Fiiinally.  Sheesh.  What’s a girl gotta do around here!!”  I realized I needed some cleaning tools so I brought back a natural sponge, some gentle shampoo and warm water.  This mare HATES anything dripping on her legs so I was very careful.  Instead, I let it all drip down my sleeve.  After a few attempts, I got the hang of it and boy, was she in horsey heaven!  I have never seen her lip curl up so high and her eyes roll back so far.  In fact, she was leaning into me at such an angle, I thought she would fall.  When I was done, she begged me to stay.  “Pullleeeeezze don’t stop!”

After that, no more tail rubbing.  Now, as part of my grooming ritual, I always reach up there and check.  If she needs a cleaning, I get out my stuff and rinse really well.  I now do this with all of my fillies from the start.  I use really gentle soap and warm water.  I rinse well, too.  But, I did find this product called, Equi-Spa.  I haven’t used it.  However, the review was good.


This one might be unpopular with some folks.  But, I have to say something because I have first hand experience with this.  One of my pet peeves…  Crossing deep water on horseback.  I know that many people think a horse will be fine in water up to its shoulders or beyond.  And, I guess that often, things work out just fine.  But, I am here to tell you that it is awful and dangerous when a horse freaks out in deep water with a rider (or without).

Basically, a horse naturally avoids deep water.  If wild, the leader picks a spot to cross and they follow.  I guess one could site the Chincoteaque Ponies as horses that cross water all the time without incident.  However, that is not true.  They cross once a year, in summer when the water isn’t at its highest and there HAVE BEEN fatalities although rare.  Remember, there are many people watching this event.  And, from my research it is said that most of them are buoyed by the other horses, and they aren’t afraid of the water because the leaders aren’t afraid.  But, enough about them, I want to tell you about your average horse and the dangers of crossing deep water.

Here it is.  If a horse gets scared in deep water and starts to panic, he will thrash. The rider is either going to grab on like a crab and help sink the horse, get a foot caught while trying to dismount and get rolled on, or dismount and have a hysterical horse climb on top of him as he tries to swim away.  I have seen all of the above.  And it was tragic.  Here’s the deal.  First of all, just don’t do it.  But, if you have to, they say to not get off, if you can help it.  Drop your stirrups and try to stay as streamlined on their back as possible.  If you do get off, swim like heck in the opposite direction.

I have seen a joyrider not notice the signs of her mount panicking and continue to push her horse into the swelling river.  I saw that rider get caught in the stirrup as the horse rolled and thrashed.  She went under and was knocked about horribly.  I also saw another member of the party do the same thing and she floated off of her horse.  As she was gasping and trying to swim, so was the horse.  Except, in this case, the horse was grabbing onto the closest thing there — her!  Another awful event.  Sadly, both girls were life flighted and one horse broke his leg while scrambling and thrashing on the rocks.  The whole scenario was avoidable.  I remember the girls saying, “They’re horses, they swim naturally!”

Both the Ranger and the Medic at the scene said that this type of tragic accident was not uncommon.  I remember the Ranger saying that 2 feet of water can carry a truck away.  He wondered what people are thinking when they put an unsteady object on the back of a light horse (in comparison with a truck) and expect it to swim in the invisible current.

To step back, I totally understand teaching your horse to cross water or a creek.  But, there is a difference between deep water and a creek.  There is a reason your horse spooks at a puddle.  If he cannot see the bottom, he wants no part of it.  And, he’s basically correct.  So, if your horse isn’t fully trained, and even if he is, please be very careful when crossing deep water.


Maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know of this kind of a soaking boot… but if there is anyone out there that has the miserable challenge of having to soak a hoof three times a day, every day for a while, this will be your gift from me.  THE DAVIS SOAKING BOOT.  Hallelujah Brother!  I was doing the bucket soak and hating my life.  I remember sitting against the stall and bemoaning to my friend about how I wished they would just make a secure and durable rubber boot that you could leave on your horse for 30 minutes and come back and just take it off.  She looked at me and said, “Its called the Davis Soaking Boot, ya knumbscull.”  Oops.  I didn’t know.

If you don’t know about this boot, get one!  It is the best thing since fleece saddle seats.  It stays on the horse, it holds up, its easy to clean and the horse cannot break it.  Wow!

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