New paths to equine understanding

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Aleta McCormick of Omni-Equus, a deep tissue massage therapist, give Mia Boudreau's horse Willie a massage at the Equine Symposium at the Soka University campus Saturday.

Massage, talk to and insure your horse.

By Pam Linn / Staff Writer

A small but dedicated group of horse owners gathered at Soka University campus Saturday to hear from the experts about new treatments, diagnostic techniques and even healing massage. Whatever might be troubling their equine partners, be it health, behavior or disaster-response plans, answers were there for the asking. The Equine Symposium was organized by ETI Corral 36.

Attorneys Art Carvalho and Gerald Peters discussed the liabilities of horse ownership, the limits of insurance policies and the difference between actions deemed negligent or reckless in court.

Coming on the heels of mandatory evacuations in horse communities like Bell Canyon and Hidden Hills during recent wildfires, just about everyone had a story to tell about rescues, difficulties moving horses and strangers offering to help trailer animals to Pierce College.

“No one is required to offer help,” the attorneys said. “But once you act as a good Samaritan, you have an obligation to carry it out responsibly.”

While most homeowners policies cover liability for damage or injury caused by the owner’s horses, those who take money for boarding, hauling horses or even leading trail rides are held to a higher standard.

“Insurance companies can’t insure you for punitive damages,” they agreed, but the experts recommended purchasing an umbrella policy to cover liability of $1 million dollars.

Dr. Richard Stevens, a partner at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital, explained what’s new in diagnostic imaging and which machines designed for humans are now being used on horses. Ultrasound, CAT scans, bone scans and MRI all are being used now to help pinpoint causes of lameness. Scans of feet and lower legs were projected on a screen to show different views of damaged cartilage and soft tissue injuries that would not be visible on X-rays.

Aleta McCormick, a certified massage therapist, demonstrated deep tissue massage technique on a horse she had not treated before. As she would touch an area of soreness, the horse would resist and she would move to another area. As the horse relaxed, she would return to the sore muscle and each time the horse showed less resistance until finally it appeared to enjoy the massage, leaning into the pressure instead of avoiding it. She said that increasing blood flow to injured muscles allows greater freedom of motion and quicker healing.

“It’s amazing how quickly they learn to like the treatment.”

Animal communicator Edward Rote explained that horses are sensitive to negative energy even though they don’t know what’s causing it.

“Learn to cultivate what you sense and what you feel and turn that into the next level of interpreting what’s going on with the animal,” he said. “Anybody can do this. You just have to get over the negative ego. The first thing is to trust your intuition. Your first impression is usually the truth.

“The next step is to develop brain, mind control. Thoughts and beliefs create your reality. Practice meditation, closing your eyes, take deep breaths and clear your mind. By altering brain waves you can get into different levels of mind.”

For those who are interested in developing this ability to communicate, Rote suggests working with animals other than your own. “If you’re only dealing with your horse, you have expectations that get in the way.”

During the lunch break, Rote communicated with two horses that had been trailered in for the day. He spent 15 or 20 minutes with each, running his hands over them, looking into their eyes and asking questions of the owners. He then told them his sense of what the horse was feeling, what it liked and what it feared.

“Lacey,” a 10-year-old quarter horse, was having some digestive difficulty, he told Jennifer Lindskog.

“She has a very sensitive constitution,” he said.

Lindskog said the mare had a tendency to eat too fast.

“She also seems to be afraid of restraint,” Rote said, even though she was tied to the trailer and wasn’t resisting the rope.

Mackenzie Huffine was having some difficulty getting her 11-year-old Arab gelding “Bravado” to stand still. She’s been working with him for only six months.

“He’s still apprehensive about the change,” Rote said. “But he’s very fond of you. He’s enjoying bonding. This is new to him.”

The horse had several owners, Huffine told Rote. “He’s been passed around because nobody got along with him.”

She’s hoping to teach him to jump, and Rote said he thought the horse would be willing to try it for her if she took some time with him. Huffine smiled, to hear that with some patience, her expectations might be met.