Friday, May 24, 2019

Research Lavender as Aromatherapy for Horses

From Wikipedia.
Some trainers have claimed that the scent of lavender acts as a natural calmer for horses. One trainer used small dabs of diluted pure lavender (purity is important) to the high energy, reactive horses in a clinic. Even the heads of the more energetic horses lowered and they seemed calmer. The trainer said my horse Blessi was already quite calm and didn't need the scent of lavender. The audience persuaded her to try a bit, at which point Blessi started to follow her like she was covered in peanuts.

Research backs her up. Previous research found that horses exposed to stressors such as blasts from air horns exhibited significant reduction in stress when receiving sniffs of lavender from diffusers as shown by quicker returns to normal heart rates.
Researchers at University of Arizona looked at lavender aromatherapy in the absence of stressors. They measured heart rate and variability of dressage horses standing in a paddock.

""The heart rate didn't change; what changed is what's called the parasympathetic component of heart rate variability," Baldwin explained. "One of the parameters of heart rate variability is RMSSD, and that represents parasympathetic input, which is the relaxation part of the autonomic nervous system. If RMSSD goes up, that indicates the horse is relaxed. We found that when the horses were sniffing the lavender, RMSSD significantly increased compared to baseline.""

"The data were supported by the horses' observed behavior, which often included relaxation signals such as neck lowering and licking and chewing while the lavender was being inhaled." The relaxation persisted as long as the horse smelled the lavender.

They concluded that if a horse is nervous under conditions like shoeing that the owner could rub dab of lavender oil on her hands and let the horse smell them during the shoeing process.

Hum, I wonder if Blessi would like lavender sugar cookies?  I sure do.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Ecology of (Icelandic) Horse-Human Relationships

Dona Davis, Anita Maurstad, and Sarah Cowles in their research paper "“Riding up forested
mountain sides, in wide open spaces, and with walls”: developing an ecology of horse-human relationships" examined the relationships between horses and humans as a result of the environment in which they interact.  Per Davis et al, "When we began this study our intention was to examine horse-human relationships as points of entanglements, most particularly forms of bond or bonding in a variety of environmental settings and equestrian sports. What we did not anticipate was the degree to which discourse on environment, as terrain traversed by horse and rider together, would be used to construct a shared sense of identity between horse and rider." The results are based on 60 interviews with horse owners who ride dressage, endurance, cross country, and trail riding in the US Midwest and northern Norway.

Because of the Norway connection, many participants talk about their experiences with Icelandic horses.  The discussion helped me to better understand the phrase "riding in the nature" and the passion with which Icelandic horse owners in Europe and Iceland regard this concept.

"The narratives show that the Norwegian informants, although less self-revealing (compared to Americans), speak more about the environment as a “nature” to be seen and experienced in a unique way on the horse than is the case for any of the other sport groups or equestrian cultures in our study. Katla’s statement about riding as a good way to be out in nature and Urder’s that “riding is with animals and nature too,” are reminiscent of Pálsson’s (Biosociality 74) description of ancient Scandinavians as seeing their lands as an extension of their own nature. Maurstad (37) also describes how contemporary north Norwegians open their selves up to and embody the very land- and sea-scapes that surround them. Narratives illustrate how riding a horse in nature engages the senses and the emotions. Katla, savoring the fresh mountain air, allows her horse to take the lead and to go where the horse wishes, and feels good being connected with her horse and with the nature that surrounds them."

As the researchers point out about the riders of Icelandic horses in Norway: "Surrounded by the “nature” they seek, unlike the dressage riders and eventers who must have their terrains engineered with predictable elements, and the endurance riders who travel to good and mixed terrains, the Norwegian narratives privilege depictions of a varied terrain or environment that is always there, all year round. The horse becomes a strategy for getting into it, travelling over it, and letting it come over you."

You can read the entire report at the link below:

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Blessi and the Shovel

Why do I usually put Blessi in cross ties?  So I don't spend hours cleaning up his explorations.  One day I had him in a single cross tie.  I turned my back for a second and he started maneuvering to grab some leftover alfalfa on the ground.  He also managed to use his butt to knock the shovel off the wall, which landed on his butt.  

His head did go up.  But then he got this look on his face as if to say "I meant to do that."