Do You Give Your Horse a Choice?

“Offering animals choice does not inherently mean that humans have to relinquish theirs – or vice versa.

Rather, it is about really hearing what is being communicated and negotiating from there in a way that honours both voices. ” 

I am one who believes in mutual respect and partnership.

I’ve gone the route of “being the *boss*” to “be the leader” in a subservient manner – expecting the horse to comply with my demands regardless of what he or she “feels” to learning  what SERVANT LEADERSHIP is all about …

Being a SERVANT LEADER means serving the team. Serving the other person – teaching, leading by example, not *demanding* but politely suggesting, asking and then not being afraid to change things up if the ‘team’ isn’t understanding what is being asked.

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” –Robert K. Greenleaf.

No, I’m not saying that horses are people but I AM saying that I want to RESPECT them as sentient beings in the same manner that I ask them for respect.

It’s really quite simple … do unto others …

This article is good so thought I’d share it today:

Enjoy!  and yes, I am looking forward to discussion on it. 🙂

On Clicker Training and Dopamine …

I’ve recently been involved in a discussion about using the clicker appropriately.  (Due to the viewing of the last post’s video) … Now if you know me then you know that I don’t always ‘follow the rules” and I’m not a purist of any sort when it comes to teaching horses. I utilize what I find to work the best way without causing stress to the horse!  Clicker Training is just one of the ways I work with horses but, again, I am, in no way, a purist.

The question came up from another horsewoman about dopamine and how it works in Clicker Training and why the ‘click’, for a well-clicker-seasoned horse, can be MORE of a ‘reward’ than a food treat …  (that doesn’t mean that we don’t treat, too — it just means that one needs to be aware and sensitive to what is going to best reward that individual horse at that individual moment in time of teaching)

Here, in a nutshell, is a great explanation …

“Dopamine and the the Endorphins tend to be found in different areas of the brain, and tend to be associated with different behaviors and functions. The common conception of Dopamine and the Endorphins as ‘feel good’ chemicals is really more wrong than it is right. Simply (but inaccurately) put: dopamine tends to be involved in reinforcing behavior. So if you do something that your brain is programmed to ‘like’ like drink some soda in a specific place repeatedly you may get a small release of dopamine when you are near that place. This is not going to be something that you are going to feel but rather a signal that is going to subtly influence your behavior in the future, like perhaps cause you to spend more time in that place and buy a soda when you are there. But in reality the way these chemicals work is WAY more nuanced and subtle than this and I only partially understand these things” — Sam Moss, B.A. Neuroscience

AND MORE: “Dopamine is sent to balance excitement. It sometimes acts as a neurohormone; a hormone that’s produced by nerve cells and secreted into the circulation. It’s main function is to activate pleasure and reward, movements, sleep, mood fixation, memory improvement, attention, regulation of prolactin secretion, etc.

On the other hand endorphins are sent due to stimuli; pain and stress. Its functions are mainly pain management. Endorphins are quite similar to morphine, and affects the reward system. How to they control pain? Because of their bindings with opioid receptors, endorphins reduce pain by restraining the synthesis of proteins involved in pain transmission.” –Natalie Jakarian


Thank you!

Just wanted to share this. Received today .. just moments ago. It truly does warm my heart! …

ME: The BEST supplement for hooves is 1. as much movement the horse can get in a 24/7 period of time and 2. RAW FORAGE … supplement 24/7 hay/grazing with fresh veggies, fruits, nuts and seeds. THAT feeds the immune system and will strengthen new hoof growth like you’ve never seen before!

LAURA O: I learned this from you 20 years ago, Gwen and since then I’ve grown a garden just for them every year. Also, as part of the movement plan/rehab, we go for walks or I gather things to feed them. The grass is greener on the other side of the fence and have realized that horses really do love new ground! It’s done wonders for Promenade Walks as well. I’ll start off with coaxing and discomfort and I’ll be thinking enough, maybe we should go back, but then I get 200’ down the road, the ears prick forward, the heel first landings begin and suddenly I’m being dragged forward. With a balanced diet, the trees are no longer getting chewed on any more either. No composting bin needed either. The veggie trimmings that are safe, go straight to the barn. I’ll do a hay test every year, but that’s just a small part of it. What I don’t know, they tell me


“Horses, as with humans, have preferences and it is best to allow your horse to choose their essential oil; they will generally indicate to you what they need if you listen and observe. Offer the essential oil to them to smell. “If the horse has an imbalance in the physical sense, it will probably use its right nostril first. If the problem is more emotionally based, the horse will use its left nostril first. The right nostril is linked to the side of the brain, which governs the horse’s functions. The left nostril is linked to the right side of the brain, which governs the intuitive side. When we are working with horses we want them in their left-brain where they will be thinking not reacting instinctively, which they do if in their right-brain. If the horse is interested it will move the required nostril over the oil and inhale. If it is not interested the horse will move away.” Any essential oils that your horse turns away from put aside for that day. When using aromatherapy with animals or people it is always best to respect and trust the individuals desires and inner wisdom.”

–Judy Andrews

Food Therapy for a Healthy Horse

Digestive Enzymes, Hydration and the Gut are key to a happy and healthy horse, with the addation of some seasonal whole foods you can help mainatin a good balance.

Read more:

FOR AN EQUINE SPECIFIC BASE DIET (for general, healthy horse)

Gwen can help you personally tailor a diet for YOUR HORSE, individually, to address whatever health challenges your horse might be having. Please email to: to inquire.


Posted on 

I’ve seen alot of inquiries lately from people who are wondering what is that weird red spot on their horse’s sole?  And some showing red on the wall of the hoof.

Well, a red spot USUALLY means the horse has bruised his hoof somehow …

Stepped on a rock or some other hard object causing a bruise on its sole.

A hoof bruise isn’t too much different than you or I bruising.

A bruise can also occur if the horse hits something or something hits the outside wall of the hoof. Or, if there is damage to the laminae at the coronary band causing a bleed of some sort. These kinds of bruises will readily be apparent on white hooves.

So, what IS a bruise?

Basically, a bruise, also called a contusion, forms because the soft tissues of the foot have been damaged. Some hooves bruise easily, whereas others may have tougher soles that are better conditioned than others. When these soft tissues in the hoof are injured, small veins and capillaries (the tiniest blood vessels) break. Blood leaks out of the damaged vessels to form the ‘bruise’.

Sometimes, most times actually, the hoof, the body is able to metabolize the blood cells and no one is the wiser for it.

Other times, however, the bruise will be severe enough that the hoof will form a protective pocket around it and develop an abscess. In the photo above we see an abscess that has vented (finger pointing to vented abscess) as well as a bruise (blue arrow).

An abscess can cause a sound horse to become dreadfully lame overnight – seemingly without cause.  In fact, a horse that does go lame like that overnight is usually suspected of developing an abscess.

Contrary to much thought about horse shoes preventing such injuries, if the shoes do not also have pads to them then a horse can just as easily bruise its hooves when shod as when barefoot. You can see the bruising on either side of the frog in the photo of the shod horse above.

Barefooted horses, that are well conditioned to the environment, will grow thick calluses to protect the soles.  But they can still be injured, somehow, from a strike on the coronary band or hoof wall.

If the bruise is not severe and not causing any lameness then one can pretty much just let the horse go its own way. But, if the bruise is causing some discomfort, it can be indicative of an abscess brewing. The body may reabsorb it in short time or one may have to help the abscess develop fully to vent. Some veterinarians choose to knife out the abscess; I’ve found over the years that abscesses will vent themselves without surgical intervention with homeopathy, some essential oils and soaking – allowing the horse to move around as he or she wishes. Then, once the abscess has burst, appropriate care is given in the way of further soaking, possible poulticing and bandaging with either medication or essential oils and, again, a different homeopathic remedy than used for the un-vented abscess.

We all hate to see our horses in any sort of discomfort or downright pain. We all want to take that pain away. Sometimes that is necessary for treatment and other times its best to let nature take its course.

With barefooted horses, whose hooves are well callused and conditioned, it may take some time for a brewing abscess to fully develop and, as such, may need some intervention. But mainly, for a simple bruised sore or a bruised wall, just allow the horse to be a horse.

Horses and hooves are amazing self-healers. I think sometimes we humans like to micro-manage and cause MORE problems.

Oh, by the way, meant to mention, also … concerning the use of a NSAID for pain? If the horse has an abscess then the pain reliever is just not going to do anything much at all for the horse. The abscess will remain painful until it has burst and released the pressure inside the hoof capsule. It is the pressure that causes the pain.  That is another tell-tale sign that your horse’s bruise is developing into a full abscess.

Again, soaking in some epsom salt water or activated charcoal water will help soften the sole a bit. If the body is not going to reabsorb the bruise and abscess then the softened sole will allow its departure.

Many times, in addition to bruised soles and walls, bruising will become apparent around the white line after a laminitic attack or, even during, an active laminitic situation. This blood is evident in the white line as the bruise will ‘grow down’ with the hoof growth. The horse may never have even exhibited any sort of clinical symptoms, as is the case with the first stage of Laminitis – the Developmental Stage. The old bruise/blood in the white line, coupled with a few rings in the hoof that have ‘grown down’ the wall, tells of a laminitic episode that happened sortly before the observation. In an active phase of laminitis, Stage 2 or Stage 3 (Founder), there will be blood evident in the white line and rings will be still developing at the coronary band. This situation is far more dire than sole bruising or small abscess and MUST be taken care of quickly and correctly.

Bruising and abscessing don’t have to be major events when they are recognized for what they are and are treated appropriately.

If you’re not sure what is causing your horse’s lameness, or you’re not sure if you’re looking at a bruised sole or something else, always consult your veterinarian or hoofcare provider.

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Gwenyth Browning Jones Santagate is the best-selling author of 10 Secrets to Healthy Hooves as well as a noted author for various international equine publications including The Horses Hoof, Equine Wellness, Natural Horse Planet as well as a contributing author for the 2001 United States Federal Mounted Border Patrol Training Manual. For the last 37+ years, she has maintained healthy hooves with natural trimming on thousands of horses and specialized in pathological rehabilitation hoofcare for the last 20 years. She and her husband John keep a small herd of their own equine in SW Florida and continue to offer consults for horses in need. You can email to Gwen — or telephone in the US (23)-573-9687. For further information please click here:


LIVE, ONLINE COURSE with Gwenyth Santagate begins Sept. 13, 2017. For more information and to register (limited reserved spots) go here:





A couple more spots left … grab yours before they’re all gone!
Penzance’s NATURAL #HOOFCARE is concerned with all aspects of equine hooves, and is developed for horse owners as well as those who wish to pursue HOOFCARE as a career. Anyone who wants to learn extensive information on the topics of healthy, barefooted horses and their hooves are encouraged to explore this course.

MODULE I: The Lifestyle of the Natural Horse
MODULE 2: Functional Anatomy & Physiology
MODULE 3: Equine Natural Nutrition – Feeding the Hooves
MODULE 4: Handling the Equine Utilizing PPT
MODULE 5: Pathologies Part I
MODULE 6: Pathologies Part II
MODULE 7: Alternative & Complementary Hoof Healthcare
MODULE 8: The Business End of Hoofcare
MODULE 9: The Trim – Step-by-Step Review
MODULE 10: Review and Final Exam

For further information or questions please contact me,

Feel free to share.  Thank you.

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