I’ve started both girls on hill therapy. They are both over weight and need to bump up their exercise a bit. I am still starting them slow and easy because I don’t need any lame ponies. So for now they are trotting each direction for 2 minutes with a 1 minute rest between direction changes and after they are done. This one minute at the end gives me time to make up with Bonnie if she has gotten emotional.

On a side note: I am so so proud of Bonnie! We were gone for 12 days straight when we went to Alaska to visit my best friend Teresa. Then I didn’t make it out to the ponies until the second day we were home. Only to check on their hay and water. I was so tired! But when I re-approached Bonnie was just as easy to catch as she was when I left. And the fly spray continues to be a non issue! Whoot whoot!! Slow and right beats fast and wrong. Every time.

Anyway, hill therapy. Hill therapy is very interesting and can help a horse really learn how to use it’s body. I did it with Billy with awesome results. I’ve changed it up a bit with the girls because I don’t have a hill. To start with I’ll have them trot over a couple of rails, two on each side of the circle. That’s been interesting as they both kind of trip over and trot ON them. So clearly they need to start to pay attention! Then I will move them onto jumping a jump, one on each side of the circle. I’ve started them slow and easy but they will work up 5 minutes each direction trotting or cantering with a 2 minute rest. Hill therapy looks like this:

  • Daily for the first week. By the end of the week I’ll have them up to 5 minutes
  • Then three times a week for the second week.
  • Then weeks 3-6, two times a week!

If you are doing this with a big horse you can’t ride them for this six weeks as they are changing their back muscles. It can make them quite sore and if you ride them you may injure their back or stop the good changes that can happen with this therapy! I don’t ride my minis of course and neither are driving right now. I can still take them for our walks so our schedule won’t change much. If I was driving them I would give them a break from pulling during this six weeks.

Bonnie is doing very well. She backs up beautifully. Her send needs some work as she wants to either freeze out there or come back in, bounding! But I am working on my body language to be sure she totally understands what I’m asking. She wants to be pleasing so if she doesn’t do something I’ve asked then I’ve asked her the wrong question or wasn’t clear.

Sky was interesting today. Last night when we did this she was so responsive and soft on the line. Today she was dragging her feet, breaking down into the walk, tripping all over the rails. I attributed all this to her feeling resistant to what we were doing. She would have rather just stood and ate the hay in the middle. I have hay there for them during our break. They can come in and have a little snack! I don’t want to be giving them lots of treats as they both need to lose some weight. This hay is not their favorite so they kind of munch on it.

I am so excited to see the changes in these girls over the next 6 weeks! This will be so great for Bonnie’s confidence. When I was doing this with Sky on the first direction, Bonnie was loose. When I asked Sky to back up, Bonnie went back so quickly and smoothly! When I stopped asking Sky, Bonnie stopped too. Then when I sent Sky out on the circle, Bonnie just stood there on the edge of it and watched the whole 2 minutes. It was so cute and I was bummed I didn’t get that on video! I think Bonnie will be a great liberty horse as long as I can convince her not to leave me!

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The girls when we were all done with Hill Therapy! I love how they both want to stick with me even after I’ve had them do something they may not really want to do.

As I watch Bonnie go from scared to confident I’ve been thinking about her feelings. Natural horsemanship programs talk a lot about how the horse feels about what we are doing. Are they engaged, connected and responsive or do they feel like we are doing things TO them? That is the question I ask myself every time I DO anything with Bonnie.

Don’t get me wrong. There are times I just have to do something to her so we can get something done. For instance if we are walking and she starts to have a little temper tantrum about the walking, then I will show her that her temper tantrum takes more energy than the walking. If you were watching this exchange I’m sure it would look like I’m doing something to her and not with her. And I know that she feels that way sometimes, but when she finds neutral again she immediately calms, finds relaxation, licks and chews and will even trot out and lead us down the road.

However there are many more times that I can help her through an issue by listening to how she is feeling and then waiting. Every single time I wait she will calm down and I can continue on. That did not happen at first! She gave me very few green lights. I started to get frustrated and knew that wasn’t going to help either one of us so I contacted my favorite Parelli Instructor and in so doing found out that we had actually moved forward by leaps and bounds! It’s funny how things can look so different when you are standing in the middle of it all. Obviously she had made changes and so had I… I just couldn’t see them until I made a video!

Today I gave the girls a bath. This was Bonnie’s second bath with me. Her first bath was all drama, running around in circles, snorting and striking at the water, spreading her legs wide and trying to leap away, sometimes leaping on ME! I would wait and give her time to think, but as soon as the water came near again she was on the move! That day I did not get frustrated and just took my time, but didn’t feel that we made any head way by the end. She did not get on board with my idea at all! Today everything was different! She stood quietly… not always calmly but she was actively searching for that calm feeling. She did not try to run away, she did not walk on me, she did not leap around. She. was. awesome. I swear I nearly burst with pride for her! She let me spray and spray her, I sprayed her legs, her belly, her girly area, her back, her butt, high up on her neck by her face and her chest. Everything. She took it all in stride.

As I was bathing her I was thinking about how I’m sure she has had other baths in her life, before me. But the difference between those baths and the two she has had with me is that I was thinking about her feelings the whole time. I was trying to help her find peace and calmness within the bath. I was rewarding every try and every time she was calm. When you go about these simple tasks with that in mind it’s amazing how the horse will change and how much faster you can get through these simple tasks!! It’s so much easier to help a horse find calmness than to argue with them every time you need to give them a bath. Or spray them with fly spray. By the way. She stands perfectly every time I spray her with fly spray. I can spray her legs, her belly, her back, her neck… every where!!

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I had to put this one in! I love Sky’s face!!! She is always putting her nose up by my cheek so I can kiss it. Adorable.

The two girls and I have been walking about 4-5 times a week together for nearly two months. At the beginning I noticed that Sky was wearing her toes off a bit on the gravel road. She was a little tender on the rocks and as her toe wore down more she got more tender. I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot. I wasn’t sure about them. They look so thick and heavy and awkward.

Then I remembered that my mom saved the little mini hoof boots I had specially made many, many years ago for a little stallion I had that was very tender on the gravel and pavement. I dug through my stuff and found them! With a little trimming I got them to fit Sky and she went down the road merrily after that.

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This last week I noticed that Bonnie was getting quite sore on the rocks. She is a trooper and would just keep on truckin’ but she was gimping along. I trimmed her up and knew that she wasn’t going to be able to go out on the rocks without boots so I started looking into the Easyboot Mini Hoof Boot again. Again I thought they looked awkward. I could not find very much information about them anywhere on line. I googled miniature horse boots and found lots of pictures of minis wearing other types of boots but not many of these particular boots. I found photos of minis wearing the Easy Boot Epic style, but they don’t come quite small enough for my minis.

When I finally made up my mind I went to Valley Vet Supply to buy a pair of size 3 boots. Of course they were out of stock! I contacted Easy Care and they told me I wouldn’t be able to get a pair until the end of August! Well with only 4 days off Bonnie has gotten quite chubby again and I knew I couldn’t wait until then. I searched around and found a pair on eBay. Thank goodness! I had to laugh that I went from not really wanting a pair to frantically searching everywhere for some!

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They came in the mail yesterday and after unpacking them I was quite impressed! They are tiny. The soles are quite thick, but they are not heavy. In fact they are lighter than the other boots I have that Sky has been wearing. The uppers of the boot are very soft. I think they will squish down a little bit on the back of the boot under the pastern. That is where they come up a bit higher than I would like. They are very easy to put on and take off, yet they stayed in place perfectly on our walk with lots of trotting and Bonnie climbing around in the tall grass on our breaks. She was climbing up and down the steep hills along the road looking for the best grass to nibble on and the boots stayed on perfectly! And they didn’t fill up with rocks or get cheat grass stuck in them. I love that part!

I’m not sure how they would be in the water. They don’t have drain holes, so I think they would fill up with water and possibly rub. When I took them off I noticed a little rubbing just above the coronet band on the front of her feet. I may have to wrap that part of her feet with some vet wrap, but I’ll keep an eye on that area. It may have just been ruffled hair.

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Bonnie LOVED them! After the initial awkward feeling of having something on her feet (she walked lifting her front legs up really high at first! I tried to get it on video but could not manage both horses, the ropes and my phone at the same time… LOL) she walked right out. She did a lot of trotting, which meant I did a lot of jogging. All good for us! Her ears were up the entire time and she was licking and chewing and blowing out a lot. I could tell that she was very happy to be out and with all her forward, clearly the boots felt nice on her feet! We only walked 3 miles this morning… I will work her up to 4-6 miles while wearing the boots. Even their slight weight is more than she is used to. I don’t want to sore up her shoulders and back.

On our first day with the boots I have to say I really like them. I’ll keep you updated as we put more miles on them!

**Edited on September 30th**

Well we’ve had these boots for two months and I can say that I still love them! Bonnie does great in them and we have put them through the WRINGER! We have climbed through sage brush, climbed a few big rocks and totally went 4 wheeling in them. The only thing we haven’t done is cross water!

I took a picture of them to show where the hoof sits in the boot.  The bottom of my thumb is where the bottom of the hoof sits. As you can tell it sits down inside the boot a bit making the sole not as thick as it looks:

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I have also made a few videos showing Bonnie walking in them:

The boots have held up very well to the hardships I’ve put them through. The stitching is nice and tight and they never fill with debris from our hikes. When we get home the only thing in the boot is Bonnie’s hoof!

I have been using some form of a slow feeder for several years now. The entire time I had Billy he had feed 24/7. He had a slow feeder, a slow feed net and/or access to pasture.

Now that I have the minis I did not want that to change. Because I thoroughly understand the importance of a horse having access to forage all times of the day and night I knew I wanted that for my minis as well. I have three hay nets, the 70 pound bale nets to be exact.

Forage is the foundation of every equine’s diet and needs to flow steadily through the digestive tract. Gaps without forage can lead to ulcers, colic, behavioral issues, stall vices, gorging, choke, cribbing, and even laminitis. Truly, the only way to avoid these problems is to allow your horse steady access to forage, free-choice, all day and all night.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

Horses produce 1.5 liters of stomach acid every hour. Regardless of whether they are eating or not, they are producing stomach acid. This stomach acid can be responsible for stomach ulcers. Saliva can help balance out the stomach acid. Saliva is only produced when the horse chews. So having hay or forage in front of them 24/7 solves this.

Having access to forage also helps with colic. Especially sand colic. It’s been found that having hay in their system will help push the sand out better than the traditional Psylliuym.

Horses in a natural setting eat small amounts of forage as they wander in search of the next tasty morsel. They eat virtually all day and night, taking time to socialize and rest every so often for a few minutes at a time. When they know that they always have access to forage, they become calm and relaxed, rest more often, and walk away from their hay, knowing that it will still be there when they return. In other words, they “self-regulate” and eat only what they need to maintain a healthy body condition.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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This is shot of my two dry lots. The mares have their own side in front and the boys have their own side in the back. Both dry lots are huge and encourage lots of movement!

It’s a common thought that horses using a slow feeder will be fat and lazy. If they are locked in a small area this is true! If they are not encouraged to move they will stand around and get fat. I am not a fan of using food restriction to manage weight. I think movement is the only way to regulate weight.

There are some horses, however, who gain weight very quickly when given forage free-choice. The reason has to do with the sluggish metabolic rate they’ve developed over time. When forage is parceled out only a few times a day, the horse responds by going into “survival mode,” where his metabolic rate significantly slows down in an attempt to conserve body fat. A cycle of ever-increasing obesity is created that can be reversed only through exercise and removing the hormonal fat-storing response that forage restriction creates.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

I’ve been witness to people wanting to try the slow feeder, but not having the patience to wait for their horses to self regulate. This can take time if your horse has been used to the starvation diet of one, two or three meals a day. It takes consistency on your part to make sure they are never without hay in their slow feed nets because if they are out for even 10 minutes their brain will switch back into starvation mode and you have to start the process all over again.

They need to be refilled frequently (unless a whole bale size is chosen). Horses who run out of hay (even for 10 minutes) will never get the message that hay is always there and will not self-regulate.

The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

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The girls checking to see if I’m going to give them any more food!

Another important point, from an equine body workers point-of-view, is to be sure your slow feeders are at ground level. Do not hang them so the horse has to reach up to eat. This is not natural for a horse and causes their jaws to misalign, as well as causing them to have to twist their head and neck when eating which causes the TMJ and the poll to go out. This is very painful and can definitely affect your horses attitude about being ridden or driven.

Chewing with the head low is more in line with the horse’s natural physiology, creating even pressure on the teeth and allowing the jaw bone to move freely in all directions. Furthermore, the muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and bone structure are not stressed when horses can grab hay in a straight downward motion. Eating with their heads down also protects their eyes and respiratory tract against mold spores and dust and provides for better nasal drainage.

 The Correct Way to Use Slow-Feeders by Julie Getty, Ph.D.

My ponies look great having access to feed 24/7. They all got fat at first and then leveled out. Bonnie is still in the process of regulating, though she will walk away from the hay nets now and hang out. She and Sky can share a net without any food aggression at all. I am very pleased with how my ponies look and how calm they are about food.

Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn't been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!
Sky is a 13 year old mama. She hasn’t been driven for about 7 years and has just been a pasture pet. I know that when I start driving her she will tuck back up again!
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Bonnie is a 4 year old easy keeper. She is still self regulating and will slim down when I start playing with her more.
Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the
Captain Planet is an 8 year old gelding who has always been a pasture pet. Even when he was on the “starvation” diet of two feedings a day he looked exactly like this! He has been on a slow feeder for over 2 years now.
Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!
Zorro is the baby. He is a yearling and in his awkward gawky stage right now. Every day his belly changes depending on how much he runs around that day!

I have at least two if not three hay nets out at all times. I will toss out a flake here and there too. They also have access to pasture for no more than 4 hours in the early morning hours. I get up at 4:30 to let them out and bring them in by 8:30 to ensure they are not out when it starts to heat up and the sugars make their way up the grass stem. They are fed 1/2-3/4 of a cup of Crypto Aero once a day, in the morning as well.

With some patience and education you can be successful at using a slow feeder for your horses too!

Edited on 8/22/18:

After having the minis for almost three years I will say that the key to slow feeding successfully is making SURE your hay is low sugar low starch. DO NOT feed an alfalfa/grass hay 24/7. DO NOT feed an untested hay 24/7 without expecting your minis and ponies to get fat. They just will. Now that I have switched to all low sugar low starch hay my mini and ponies look really good. They still have bellies but they are no longer fat.

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Tonight Bonnie and I had a lovely play session. It was short and sweet, just the way we like them!

I focused on staying very calm and centered in my body first and foremost. I’ve noticed that Bonnie really doesn’t like to be touched so I figured the Friendly Game was a good place to start. If my hand offends her, I thought I would start with the stick and give her a little more room. She responded beautifully to this! Her ears were forward most of the time and she was really thinking and responding. Most importantly she was not REACTING!! I was so thrilled.

We moved onto playing with the bridge. Bless her, she thought I wanted her to jump it, so I kept it positive and didn’t reward for the jump, but kept smiling and using my “bridge” word which is “Good.” I decided to get her to look at the bridge a bit and placed a bunch of carrots there. I also wanted to work on getting her to see me pointing and begin to understand that when I point something is going to happen and it’s always good. Finally with lots of encouragement she began to understand that there were carrots ON the bridge and all she had to do was eat them. It was fascinating how long it took her to understand this! Sky understood immediately and ate many of the carrots. So funny! Once Bonnie started to look for my pointing finger she started to crunch up the carrots quickly. When she had this we walked away from the bridge and went to jump a log a few times.

I started to introduce her to the driving game and with a bit of encouragement she was starting to understand my intention of moving away from the pressure versus when I was playing the friendly game and she could just hang out. This pony is SMART.

When we went back to the bridge, she tried to jump it once and then I saw the light bulb come on and she put a foot on it instead! Whoot Whoot!! I asked her to get off the bridge and then to come back up and in a short time she offered BOTH front feet all by herself. JACKPOT! She got a handful of cookies for that.

We walked away from the bridge and I took off her halter. She politely turned her head for a couple of carrots. I put the halter and stick on the ground and went to move the bridge as I noticed there was a lot of grass growing under it, Bonnie was standing with the halter and stick and string, just investigating them. She nibbled on the stick some and nudged the halter around. She walked on all of it with her front feet and then finally came to see what I was doing with the bridge. Talk about a happy ending!!! I love when my horse stays with my and the equipment instead of hurrying away at the end of a session.

Smart smart Bonnie!

When I got Bonnie she was due for a hoof trim. I could tell by her feet that she had been living on soft ground. We have hard, rocky, sandy and dry ground here. If I didn’t trim her as soon as possible I was risking her soundness.

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So even though she had only been here two days as was still very skeptical of everything I was doing, I opted to trim her. I set it up for success as much as I could and she handled it very well.

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I believe she is innately a RBI (Right Brain Introvert). She wants to please me and tries her best. If she is worried she will spook, then freeze. If I wait for her she will come out of it on her own. If I push her she will blow up and become extroverted. She is highly reactive right now so my first responsibility is to prove to her that I am a person she can trust 100% of the time. As I build her confidence in me she will become more responsive and less reactive. The ultimate goal!

So I choose to move slowly but deliberately. I give her lots of time to think about the things we are doing. I wait for the lick and chew before I move forward in our sessions and the time between the scary moment and the lick and chew is getting shorter and shorter.

She came to me a “hard-to-catch” mare and now is one of the first to greet me. (It’s difficult to beat Zorro… he RUNS to me every time he sees me!)

Today when I trimmed her she was much more confident on her left side and very unconfident and spooky on her right. Most horses are and I’ve noticed this in our other sessions so I just worked more calmly and gave her more think time on the right side. We ended our session with a few carrot pieces and some nice grazing time. (And a little photo shoot!)

So onto the collages!

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As you can see above I was able to get even more toe off. I am very happy about this because the length of toe before was pulling her heel forward and putting pressure on her tendons. I have  LONG way to go still but we are getting there!

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Her toe on this side is very thick and bumpy. I’m not sure what is going on… maybe an abscess? An old abscess? I’m not sure but I’ll be watching that spot very closely. She will stand with her hind feet stretched out behind her often, so I’m interested to see if she stands more square after today’s trim as I was able to back her toes up quite a bit!

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I am very happy with her fronts. I got all the toe off that I wanted and she is standing much better.

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You can see that she needs to grow out that old bumpy, lumpy hoof. It was trying to flare out and pull away from her white line, so I’m so happy that I got her when I did!!

I love this little mare and can’t wait to see what we can accomplish once our partnership is set up. I will take the time it takes so we can have a long happy career together! One that we can BOTH enjoy!

What I’m about to share with you may turn some of you away from my blog, but it may help some others so I’m pressed to share.

I’m known as the “Hippie Horse Chick” up here where I live in southwestern Montana. I was born and raised in Montana and spent many years being a cowgirl, riding colts, rodeoing, barrel racing and roping. I’ve definitely done my share of cowgirl type of activities, but noticed as I got older that being a cowgirl didn’t define me. The old ranchers that live around me shake their heads at me when they spot me doing something “weird”. And I’m often spotted doing weird things! But I continue to march to the beat of my own drum and work at not letting what others think of me effect me. It’s an ongoing battle, but I would rather be my own weird self and be ME than try to be anyone else.

This post is about a “weird” thing I did that no one can see and I wouldn’t have to tell anyone except my Handsome Hubby (He saw the charge on my PayPal account when he was snooping! Otherwise I wouldn’t have told him!! LOL) and my mom, who also happens to be a bit of a “hippie” and believes in this stuff too. But I find this to be so HELPFUL that I figured I should share it and maybe someone that is struggling to help their horse can get some answers, without all the guessing that we have to do because horses can’t speak to us… or can they?

My little mare Sky has been behaving so strangely. We’ve had her since she was a yearling and she is now about 13, so I feel I have a good baseline for her behavior and can safely say she is behaving strangely. She is MAD. So mad that I can barely do anything with her. She likes to be brushed but not for long and she stomps off, she has been making trimming her feet difficult, something she has always been a very good girl about! She walks around with her ears pinned often. She stands and stares out into the distance and whinnies. When I catch her she STOMPS her feet as she walks. Sometimes she is easy to catch and other times she will just storm off before I can get the halter on her. Again, not behavior that is normal for her. She is always the Alpha mare in a herd, but has always been a very sweet and easy going mare for us. We showed her in as many classes as we could, drove her many miles and she was one of our main parade ponies. So this behavior had me puzzled.

I worried that she was missing her pasture mate Amber. I wondered if she would be happier going back to Mom’s and hanging out, just being a pasture pet again. I wondered if she wanted to be a mommy again… not that I need more foals, but if she wanted to I would consider it! But how could I ask her these things? I would sit and commune with her as well as I could, but she just seemed to be giving me the middle finger. If you own a mare, I’m sure you can relate!

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Grumpy mare!

I was thinking about ways I could help her and wanted to narrow a few things down so I called my mom to talk about contacting my favorite animal communicator, Bonnie Fogg. Mom was all for it and also felt a certain amount of relief to get some answers. I called and made my appointment, tickled because Bonnie remembered me even though it’s been about 9 years since I have called her! (And now I’m wondering why I never called her to get some help with Billy!!)

Here is how the session went… be prepared. Horses do NOT think like people!!

First, Bonnie does a body scan. She is checking for any aches and pains that may be causing discomfort. It’s not possible to help a horse emotionally if they are struggling physically.

Sky has

  • discomfort on her right top teeth, a small ridge that I need to get floated before we drive!
  • Sore back… from the middle of her back all the way back to her tail. This is VERY sore and has been for awhile. Because her back is sore and she has vertebrae out her—->
    • hips are sore
    • her right hind is sore AND her left hind
    • her left shoulder and right shoulder are sore
    • her neck is sore as well!

So… pretty much her WHOLE body is hurting! We know when one thing is out in the body it will really effect the rest of the body, but it’s always a surprise to remember just how true this is!

Because she is so sore she is angry. She is PISSED. She wants to kill all the animals and the humans that she sees. And honestly I understand. When I’m sore and hurting I too want to kill people.

Oh and she has PMS. So it’s multiplied but 1000!!

I asked if she missed her mare girlfriend at mom’s. She said she does miss her but not for the reason you may think! She misses bossing her around and fighting with her. She misses creating CHAOS in the herd. Captain Planet is too easy going and a push over and that makes her MAD. Oh my gosh!!! I laughed so hard at that!! Here I thought she was sad because Amber was her girlfriend and we just ripped them apart. But no. She’s mad because she can’t fight with someone! I told Bonnie that she could tell Sky she is creating a lot of chaos with ME so at least she is accomplishing that. And no wonder she’s been fighting with me!

I had noticed that for the first time since Sky came to my house she DIDN’T stare off into the distance and whinny yesterday. I wondered if it was because of the new mare? Bonnie said yes! Sky is hoping that the new mare will prove to be a good combatant. I said I didn’t know if I wanted to inflict that on the new mare! LOL! Of course they will work it all out and who am I to say the new mare doesn’t also thrive on fighting? Maybe it’s a mare thing!

I asked if Sky wants to drive or maybe have another baby. When Bonnie showed her a harness, Sky came back with a picture of herself IN the harness. She does want to drive, but not until we get her all put back together. I have a call into my favorite body worker Heidi Chretien so we can align Sky’s vertebrae. My aunt is coming on Tuesday and we will do a Raindrop Technique on her to help her body AND her hormones. And until then I will be doing a couple of Redneck Raindrops on her to help bring her some comfort right now. Last night I put some Ortho Sport on her front feet and her spine, hoping to give her some temporary relief right away. We’ve been getting some rain this morning, but I am heading out to work on her after I push publish on this!

I hope this blog can help some of you that are struggling with your horse. (We’ve also used Bonnie to help us with one of my mom’s dogs that was giving her trouble. The change in that dog was instantaneous. It was amazing!) If you feel like your horse is trying to tell you something and you can’t hear, please give Bonnie Fogg a call and set up a session! You won’t regret it and it’s totally affordable. Tell her “Hi” from me when you call!