October 2013



The Newsletter is back from an unplanned break

Reflections on ranch life and South Dakota's tragic blizzard

Did you vaccinate your horse this fall?




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Desert Horse




How nice to be back with a new edition of the Desert Horse Newsletter, which has been on hiatus since spring.

Some of you know that I was in an auto accident back in February that totaled my much-loved Toyota pick-up and didn’t do me much good, either. I was rear-ended at a standstill by a car going 40-plus, so pretty much strained every muscle, sprained every connective tissue and rattled my brain around.

I also moved my horses and business this spring, an experiment that started bad and ended up being just awful. So, I moved again just as summer started to heat up and have spent the past few months getting back on track. Keeping up with teaching and training took all my resources for several months, but I’m finally catching up in the house and garden and on business tasks like bookkeeping and, now, this newsletter.

Recovery has been interesting, especially after the first, most acute whiplash symptoms were taken care of. I was very lucky to have great care by a full-service chiropractic/rehabilitation center. And, despite having been looked askance after the first few weeks and even accused outright of malingering, I needed every bit of it.

I had a variety of therapies, including ultrasound and acupuncture, that truly kept me working and functioning. But healing is time-consuming work. I know from study and from working on horses that muscles heal first, in my case in about three months. It’s the joints and connective tissue that are the lingering problem. Now I really know that when I tell a client that injuries to the tendons and ligaments may need six to nine months of recuperation, I’m accurate.

I also have a much better understanding how misalignments in the joints and compromised biomechanics can cause big problems. After the accident, my right hip has not stayed properly aligned in spite of regular adjustments and massages. The joint has ached enough to prevent sleep and compensating for the pain changed my gait enough to create summer-long chronic pain in my right Achilles tendon – something I had never experienced before. I have always suspected that sometimes for horses, a tendon injury is an effect, not a cause. And my own body has shown me that might well be so.

Even with supportive care, I found the healing process was not at all linear. It was very much a one-step-forward, one-step-back kind of formula and it’s still progressing. Eight months out I probably appear fully recovered, but I still haven’t regained my full physical strength or my resilience. Some work I could do a year ago – especially lifting and pulling – I just can’t manage now. When I overwork my body, say catching up on landscaping I couldn't do in the spring, I don’t recover the way I'm used to. My muscles may only be sore for a day or two, but my joints ache for three or four and I hurt deep in my bones where all those tendons attach. I hope that will change, but I don’t know. I hope I regain my full strength, but I don’t know about that, either. It's frustrating and a little scary considering I need to be physically active to work.

The real surprise has been the mental recovery, something with which I hadn’t any prior experience. I’ve hit the ground plenty of times over the years – even broken a couple of bones – but I never remember feeling so frustratingly unlike myself. Outside the arena or roundpen, I’ve been unable to concentrate, to settle at a single task until it’s finished.That’s not at all like me. And I’ve been weirdly indecisive about all kinds of things – where to hang a picture, what to thaw for dinner. Again, not at all me.

No surprise, then, that writing has been a challenge – I just haven’t managed to settle long enough to string together more than a few sentences. Starting in June I did manage to start writing some blog entries, but deciding on a theme and putting together a whole newsletter – no way until now.

Thank you to all the people who have asked about the newsletter, letting me know they enjoy reading the articles and wondering when they’d get the next one. It’s my plan to be back on schedule again, coming to you every other month with whatever horse-related or other info. that strikes my fancy.



I’ve been following the story of the devastating blizzard that decimated South Dakota’s ran ches earlier this month with deep sorrow, a kind of visceral kinship that belies the distance between my sunny Arizona home and the winter-whipped plains. (Watch video here)

Every photo I see and story I read about the estimated 100,000 head of cattle and horses who died so terribly in the harsh weather brings tears to my eyes. I have no connection with the cattle or horses whose bloated bodies litter the range and I never met the people who raised and cared for them. Yet for all that, I still know them. But for the geography, they might be my family and my friends and my neighbors from the small cattle ranch where I grew up in northeastern Colorado.

We had a 400-head breeding herd of Herefords on 13,000 acres and we also raised hay and corn. Winter pasture was 600-plus acres of low ground where we harvested hay in the summer and stacked it for winter feed. On the north edge of these meadows, the South Platte River waters a strip of cottonwoods and willows, the “river bottom” that provides cover for cattle in bad weather.

Summer pastures were about eight miles away, high-desert sandhills with mesquite, prickly pear and, if the spring rains came, plentiful grass. Moving from one season’s grazing area to another was the work of days. First the cows (whose calves had already been shipped to sale) had to be gathered off the 8,000-odd acres and confined to one big pasture. Then we’d spend a long day in the saddle trailing the herd across several ranches down a winding dirt road and across a busy state highway. Time it just right and you got to move cattle on a glorious late-autumn day. Miss one of Mother Nature’s subtle cues and you’d ride in freezing rain or snow all day, your toes turning to icicles in your boots and your face numb from the bitter wind.

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A couple of new resources for those of you who might be pondering whether to vaccinate your horses this fall and, if so, which vaccines are likely to be useful.

Horse Vaccination Protocol by holistic veterinarian Mark DePaolo, who has been treating horses for the negative side effects of over-use and un-judicious administration of “routine/yearly/ booster” vaccines.

Problems With Vaccinations tells how holistic veterinarian Madalyn Ward changed her mind about the advisability of the routine vaccination protocols she'd learned in vet school.