The Equine Emotion

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines emotion as a conscious mental reaction (such as anger or fear) subjectively experienced as strong feeling usually directed toward a specific object and typically accompanied by physiological and behavior changes in the body.

Google defines emotion as a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood or relationships with others.

Dictionary .com defines emotion as an effective state of consciousness in which joy, sorrow, hate, fear, etc. is experienced as distinguished from cognitive and volitional states of consciousness.

So…how do you define emotions. What are they? What is the difference between “feelings” and “emotions?” According to Marc Bekoff, “…emotions are psychological phenomena that emote us, that make us move. A distinction is often made between ’emotional responses’ to physical reactions and ‘feelings’ that arise from thoughts.” Feelings are the psychological phenomena that happens in the brain. Feelings communicate as different moods and help to shape our relationships with others in difference social situations.

We as humans must understand that animals have emotions. Mounting scientific evidence, as well as animal emotion stories are increasing in frequency. There have been stories published in scientific journals; such as Science, Nature, Psychology Today, and Trends in Ecology, and there is still doubt within the scientific community.

“The more people understand that animals, especially group-living mammals with complex brains, have rich emotional lives and, above all, are capable of suffering-mentally as well as physically-the sooner we may succeed in changing the inappropriate ways in which so many millions animals are treated.” Jane Goodall.

The emotions of a horse, much like human emotions is located in the limbic system, often classified as a ‘cerebral structure.’ It is the area of the brain that is strongly related to feeling of emotions, and sustains many bodily operations, which include long-term memory, olfaction, adrenaline flow, behaviors and motivation. The equine limbic system is essential to the survival of the horse. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) signals the ‘fight-or-flight response when danger is present, and when it is safe to rest. Social animals attune to each other for reassurance and comfort, which is why it is essential for horses to feel a sense of belonging within a herd.

Lets talk about emotions; has it been proven that animals have emotions? Leading animal scientists believe they do. We see that they mourn when an offspring or pasture mate is sold or dies. Cows  bellow when separated from their young. Positive emotions open and invite the world in; the body is relaxed. However; in contrast, negative emotions cause a tight, contractual feeling and everything shuts down and turns inward. In horse training, positivity  invite unity, negativity invites isolation.

The emotional stress of weaning, training, and competing, also called human interaction or interference allows for the negative emotions to become trapped. In the wild, If a mare is pregnant she will wean her foal around 10 months of age to allow for the production of colostrum for the new foal. If the mare is not pregnant, the mare will nurse the foal for nearly two years. A far cry from the 5 months the human allows for mares to nurse their foals;  pure human convenience, and the cause of stressful situations.

Now, what happens when you purchase a horse with a lifetime of negative interactions. That horse is sure to have trapped emotions. How then can we humans release those trapped emotions and create a happy, healthy horse? First step…acknowledge that trapped emotions are possible, second…be open minded!

For more information about releasing trapped emotions in your horse, contact Carolyn Wright at 919-200-8796, please leave a message with your name and phone number.

Equine Back Pain

Detection of equine back pain is difficult. It seems as though when humans become aware of any pain in the equine partner is when the horse presents immobility or lameness. If humans would only pay attention!

According to Joyce Harman, DVM, “The most common symptom of back problems is behavior problems.” (emphasis mine). Does your horse move about or sidestep when you mount? Does he reach around to snap at you, pin his ears back? Does he refuse to get his haunches under him for that great spin? Does he refuse to back up? News flash…your horse isn’t  being cranky or difficult because he is having a bad day; your horse is trying to tell you something!!! Listen up…his back could be hurting. A sore back is very common and very difficult to diagnose. The back is extremely complex, consisting of 23-24 thoracic and lumbar vertebrae stemming from the withers to the tail head. The spinal cord runs through the vertebrae; muscles and ligaments hold vertebrae together; the muscles are anchored around the joints and connects the spinal column to the appendages (Craft, Equus Magazine).

Behavior Indicative of Back Pain

  • evading contact
  • pinning the ears or biting as he is being saddled
  • sinking, bucking or rearing when being mounted
  • is difficult to catch
  • develops infuriating habits while under saddle
  • does not want to back up
  • often prefers one direction over another
  • unwilling to fully engage the hind quarters
  • is tense, unable to concentrate
  • is less responsive to cues and aids as the riding session proceeds
  • a roping horse may stop too soon or too late to avoid the jarring of the saddle
  • a reining horse may not “sit down” in is slides because rounding the back is painful
  • a jumper may jump in a rush, with a hollowed back or refuse a jump all together
  • a trail horse may rush the hills or go downhill sideways to avoid the pain

If your horse exhibits any of these behavior problems, pay attention to his performance. When is the pain being triggered? Paying attention to a pattern; the problems can alert you to the possible physical pain factor.

Possible Causes of Equine Back Pain

The most obvious is saddle fit and it doesn’t matter how much you paid for the saddle, if it causes pain it isn’t worth a hill of beans. The saddle sits on the 12 Association Points along the Bladder Meridian, which are connected directly to the horse’s 12 internal organs. One thing to remember, using a thicker saddle pad will not fix the problem. Do you put on a thicker pair of socks if your shoes are too tight?

Getting ready for show, working in sand before entering competition season. Working hills; although hill work will strengthening the back, introduce it gradually. Work on slight inclines at first, then graduate to increasing the challenges. I would not suggest working hills to reduce back pain. You cannot train pain!

Soreness in the limbs, which causes the horse to compensate the stress, will create back pain. Pain in the hocks and stifles are most frequently connected to back pain. If the hocks or stifles are ignored then the back muscles become more painful and tense. Alterations in the stride due to forelimb soreness may cause tightness in the shoulder and back muscles. Incorrectly trimmed hooves, low heels and/or long toes, on the back feet tends to alter the movement pattern, overstressing the muscles of the back.

The inappropriate bit, or heavy, insensitive hands, as well as dental problems, also can create secondary back soreness. Trying to escape pain, the horse will elevate his head and hollow the back, which tenses the entire spinal column.

Treatment for Equine Back Pain

The treatments consist of corrections. Find an expert saddle fitter, correct contributing hoof problems by consulting with your veterinarian and farrier. Ride considerately, be mindful of your horse’s well-being. Increase turnout time, inactivity can cause stiff muscles and discomfort; also, turnout keeps the horse mentally stable and content. Your horse contributes to his healthy back by grazing, swatting and biting flies. A horse that is content is less likely to be tense and have back problems.

Medications can be prescribed to control the pain, but I do not recommend them long-term. Regular visits by your acupuncturist/acupressurist, massage therapist, as well as chiropractic adjustments; however, a chiropractic adjustment should never be violent and has the best results after tensions release therapies.

In the case of “kissing spines,” which is caused when there is bone-on-bone contact of the vertebrae. This conditions might be alleviated by releasing muscle tension of the topline with acupressure/acupuncture as well as tension and emotional release therapies.

The equine back was not intended to carry weight; it is the human who decided to use the horse for his purpose. Be aware of uncharacteristic behavior because it is indicative of a painful problem.

Balance = Health

If you have read any of my posts, you realize that I believe alternative therapies are just as important as a veterinarian checks and a farrier’s hoof balance to maintain the health of a horse. Many of the types of therapies I write about I use on my horses. Tui Na and Shiatsu are holistic therapies and complementary with veterinary equine care. Isn’t it funny how Western medicine is now recognizing Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is approximately 5000 years older.

Kim Bong Han, a North Korean surgeon, has verified the existence, prevalent function and the location of the meridians; He has also verified accessibility and benefits of the cavities in the skin known as the acupuncture points. Western medicinal scans prove their existence. “Acupuncture points have a higher density of micro-vessels and contain a large amount of involuted microvascular structures. The non-acupuncture points did not exhibit these properties.”

The meridians are created soon after conception and before the organs formed or developed. They are very closely connected with the cell nuclei of tissues, the nervous and endocrine systems. Stimulating acupuncture points causes the release of endorphins, which are known as natural pain killers. Fluid taken from meridians have shown to contain a unique, high concentration of DNA, RNA, amino acids as well as hormonal matter, such as adrenalin and corticosteroids. Interesting! It has been thought that the meridian system and the nervous system were the same; however, further research visually confirm the meridian system is a separate, unique, and independent throughout the molecular and cellular structures of a living body. The Governing Vessel and the Conception Vessel are main pathways that run midline and meet at both ends to make up a continuous loop around the body. When doing emotional releases, I use a magnet along the Governing Vessel to release trapped negative emotions once I pinpoint the emotion needs to be let go.

Tui Na is an ancient method of meridian massage originating in China that utilizes a push (Tui) and a grasp (Na) vital energy that has been continually practiced for nearly 4000 years. It follows the TCM of body meridians that the chi, blood and body fluids flow within the body via the meridians. The intent of Tui Na is to eliminate obstruction and to create harmonious chi flow and energy, much like acupuncture and acupressure.

Shiatsu is also an ancient method of massage with Japanese origin that is gentle, profoundly effective, non-invasive, credibly proven, highly sensitive, simple and safe holistic system. Deeply entrenched in philosophies and theologies of Eastern medicine, with the understanding the universal energy. All energies of life forms and matter are interconnected through universal energy; researchers of modern medicine and physics agree.

Tight muscles impede the natural flow of chi energy, blood and body fluids and if not attended to, the horse will compensate with other muscle groups to avoid pain. Within a few days, the equine body is out of balance, it does not function properly, and starts to fail. Tui Na techniques, as well as acupressure, Shiatsu, and acupuncture, stimulate chi, blood and bodily fluids to move along the meridians to eliminate stagnations and energy blockages. Because Tui Na works with both the meridians and acupoints, the flow of chi, blood and bodily fluids are reestablished, the pain is gone, muscles and tissues are restored, meridians are regulated, joints and sinew is soothed, circulation is initiated, balance to the internal organs is restored and the immune system is strengthened. Phew! Obviously the whole horse is brought back to optimal health.

When giving any type of alternative treatments, be patient and confident; work together with the horse, allow as much time as it takes and do not make judgments. Always remember alternative therapies are to be used in conjunction with traditional veterinarian medicine and not a replacement.

“For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear.” ~Henry Beston, 1929~


Hannay, P. & Kaselle, M. (1997) Touching Horses Communication, Health & Healing through Shiatsu. Great Britain, London. J.A. Allen & Co. Ltd.

Snow, A. & Zidonis, N. (n.d.) Equine Tui Na: Hands-On Pain Relief. Holistic Horse Integrative Care for Horse and Rider. Retrieved December 10, 2016 from

World Wide Web. (January 4, 2014) Retrieved from


The Bit and Behavior

Humans have been using the bit for centuries. Understanding how a bit works is controversial.

The bit, which is the mouth piece to the bridle, is inserted into the horse’s mouth. This permits the rider to place pressure in and around the horse’s mouth to control speed and direction. There are disciplines that use two hands on the reins for constant “light” pressure with the mouth.  However; inexperienced or “… incorrectly trained horses may be confused and respond adversely to the type or intensity of pressure applied by some bits.”  “Applying single episodes of long-term pressure encourages resistance and avoidance of cue” (Extension Magazine, 2015). Regardless of the type of bit and pressure, the rider must understand how the bit works as well as pressure applied. Lets take a journey of how the bit works and see how many problems can be avoided.

The information for this blog comes from written reports from owners and riders submitted to W.R. Cook of the School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, 200 Westborough Road, North Grafton, MA 01536, USA.

In this published study there were 440 written reports from equestrians who have switched from a bridle with a bit to one without. The assessment was an examination of equine behavior with a bitted bridle to one that was bit less. Many believe the bitted bridle to be invasive and agonizing form of control, while the bitless bridle offers a non-invasive and painless style. “The survey demonstrated that the bit is responsible for at least 50 problems.”

Please take a few moments to view this video produced by Dr. Cook about the effects of the bit. You will gain a much larger understanding of what happens inside the mouth of the horse when using even the most gentle of bits.

Many equestrians of both English and Western riding styles will probably argue the interference the bit has. Dr. Cook illustrates in the above link as well as the evidence indicative of pain with a thin, metal rod in the mouth and how it disturbs almost every major body system, with the exception of the reproductive system (2000).

The bit less bridle is designed to be used in all disciplines both English and Western riding styles. It’s design is user-friendly for the experienced and inexperienced rider; it is usable for all equine breeds and temperaments; the horse can be switched instantly because there is hardly any learning curve for the horse or rider.

According to Dr. Cook, “…the bit method of control is not compatible with the physiological requirement of an exercising horse for breathing and striding…” (1999). When comparing the two methods, there is an obvious distinction in the behavior of the horse with and without the bit.  The removal of the bit eradicated all the negative behavioral responses listed but not limited to:

  • Tacking-up
    • Suspicious attitude
    • Eye contact avoidance
    • Nervousness
  • Mounting
    • Refusal to stand still
    • Tense with ears pinned back
    • Took off before rider was situated in the saddle
    • Rearing up when the rider gathered the reins
  • Schooling a green horse
    • Progress ceasing because of resentment
    • Parrot mouth
    • Bulldog mouth
  • While exercising
    • Bad attitude
    • Slow or hesitant in responding to the aids
    • Panic to the least amount of rein pressure
    • Lack of cooperation or partnership between horse and rider
    • Lack of trust or courage
    • Absence of spirit, dead eye
    • Looking for the excuse not to work
    • Bolting toward the barn
    • Refusing to relax
  • After exercise
    • Fear of the bit rattling against the incisor teeth when removing the bridle
    • Grinding the teeth or the bit
    • Loss of appetite, resulting from a sore mouth

Osteological evidence: There is tangible evidence as to the source of pain that the bit inflicts. Sixty five domestic equine skulls aged 5 years or older showed bilateral exostoses (bone spurs) in 75% of the skulls examined. The area studied does not have any tendinous or ligamentous insertions, concluding that the bit caused the bone spurs. There was not such finding in a survey of 35 zebra skulls, and none were found in equine skulls taken from the wild.

It also seems, according to the results W.R. Cook’s survey, the leading cause of headshaking syndrome is the bit. According to the survey, “This has been demonstrated many times (46 times, see item #4, table 1) by the convincing manner in which the headshaking problem has been eliminated by simply removing the bit” (Cook 1998).  There have been many etiological theories of headshaking syndrome, which have included, vasomotor rhinitis, photophobia, dental pain, upper airway obstruction, and equine protozoal myeloencephalitis. It appears that the clinical indications as to the cause of headshaking syndrome is consistent with bit-induced trigeminal neuralgia. If your horse demonstrates headshaking syndrome, removal of the bit will alleviate the problem. Craniosacral therapy, emotional release therapy and tensions release therapy with aid in getting your horse back on track.

All horse behavior problems result from the human. If your horse demonstrates any of the problems stated in W.R. Cook’s  equestrian survey, why not give the bitless bridle it a try.


Cook, W.R. (n.d.) The Effect of the Bit on the Behavior of the Horse. School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University. Retreived November 25, 2016 from

Extension. (2015, December 4) Understanding Bits for Horses Learning Lesson. Retrieved November 25, 2016 from




A Tight Noseband and Its Effect on the Horse

I admit, I do not know a lot about dressage; however, I have heard of the tight noseband controversy. According to the standards of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body of equestrian sports, “The FEI stipulates that horses should demonstrate submissiveness and penalizes ‘resistance, evasion, putting out the tongue or teeth grinding’ [2]. It is therefore beneficial in competition for horses to appear submissive, and nosebands may be used to give this appearance” Now this is what bothers me with the equestrian sport of dressage and many other equestrian sports. “It is thought that , chiefly by pressing the bit(s) against the tongue, a tight noseband restricts tongue movements, which are among the mechanisms by which horses attempt to dissipate pressure from the bit within the oral cavity [3]. The resultant inability to escape bit pressure leads to the sensitisation of the horse’s mouth, increasing the horse’s responsiveness to rein pressure [4] and thereby making the horse appear (emphasis mine) more responsive [5]. The crank noseband is allowed to be tightened to the extent that is may compromise vascular perfusion …and may even cause nerve and bone damage.” REALLY! THIS IS ACCEPTABLE?

Doing a little bit of research to answer questions I had about the double bridle and two bits, as I understand it, the double bridle is apparently for the more skilled rider and is for more intricate cues from the rider to the horse. I would have thought the less restrictive the bridle, rein and bit, the more skilled the rider. However, “The ultimate goal is harmonious partnership between horse and rider. The bit or bit less riding is dependent on the rider’s heart and hands on the rein and not every rider uses the equipment well” (Rohlf, 2014). Rohlf also states, “Dressage is about enhancing movement that is natural to the horse” when talking about the biomechanics of the horse and communication between horse and rider.

The PLOS ONE has conducted a study to research the effects the increased tightening of the noseband has on the physiology and behavior of the horse. The discussion results show that naïve horses who wear the noseband with no area available underneath, demonstrated an increased heart rate, decrease heart rate variability (HRV) and increased eye pressure in comparison to a noseband fitted with half, or more, the conventional recommended area underneath. The horses were stationary when evaluated (2016). This study, the cardiac responses are consistent with stressful events. The increased heart rate are indicative of physiological stress. “Horses in the current study showed an increase in heart rate when wearing a bridle with no area available under the noseband, suggesting that equipment fitted in this way imposes enough discomfort to provoke a stress response. This stress response may be a result of either the inhibition of normal behaviors or from pain or discomfort, or a combination of the two” (PLOS ONE, 2016).


“The current study produced evidence that horses undergo a physiological stress response when wearing a tight noseband in combination with double bridle” (PLOS ONE, 2016). So in other words, the horse is not submissive but under stress. The more I am learning about Dressage and other riding modalities, the more I realize my purpose as an equine bodyworker.


Kenner, K., Yoon, S., White, P., Starling, M., McGreevy, P. (May 3, 2016). The Effect of Noseband Tightening on Horses’ Behavior, Eye Temperature, and Cardiac Responses. PLOS ONE. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone. 0154179.

Acupuncture? CT Scans and Other Imaging Show The Points!

Technology is proving that the ancient Chinese medicine of acupuncture exists. Studies using technology, such as CT scans, infrared imaging, MRI, ultrasound and other imaging methods. Medical researchers are admitting, “Our results demonstrated again the existence of acupoints, and also show that the acupoints are special points in mammals” (HealthCMi, 2014). There are clear differences between the non-acupuncture point and the acupuncture point of anatomical structures. (HealthCMi, 2014). Non-acupuncture points had very few thick blood vessels; whereas acupuncture points show microvascular densities that can undeniably be seen with more thick blood vessels that are 15-50 micrometers in size.

The researchers also admit that an acupuncture point, “…can be estimated by the diameter of microvascular aggregation…” and commented that additional research, “…has found unique structures of acupuncture points and acupuncture meridians using MRI…” (HealthCMi, 2014). Another interesting facts that was observed was that at a acupuncture point, partial oxygen pressure was significantly higher.

“These measurements are not needled points by are natural resting states of acupuncture points absent stimulation. A truly unique finding, acupuncture points exhibit special oxygen characteristics. Acupuncture points and acupuncture channels are scientifically measurable phenomena in repeated experiments” (HealthCMi, 2014).

So…if acupuncture points have been proven with CT scans and other imaging, then we can safely say that the Chakra (energy) system is valid; and if the Chakra system is valid then the energy of negative emotions can cause dis-ease.  If negative energy can cause dis-ease, then we have a way to release the negative energy.

It works for horses too!

Image result for equine chakra system


Emotional Release

Insanity; “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” (Esco Buff). Every single person has been there when it comes to our horses. You know something is off, so you call your vet, your farrier; you may even go outside the medical realm and call a chiropractor, equine massage therapist/tension release therapist. Things seem to get better for a little while, but then your horse becomes “off” again. More than likely, your horse is out of balance and the vet, farrier, chiropractor and massage/tension release therapist will help to maintain balance. Have you ever thought about the emotional health of your horse? Yup, it is true, your horse has emotions. Science has recently established that horses do have emotions and can recognize the emotions and facial expressions of a human (guess that is why they use them in therapies such as Wounded Warriors).

Unresolved negative emotions are energy that is alive in the physical body. All dis-eases are a consequence of unresolved negative emotions that have been buried or ignored. Prevention Magazine quoted Emrika Padus from her book The Complete Guide To Your Emotions And Your Health; “It is estimated that 90 percent of all physical problems have psychological roots” (1992, p.563).

As I search for more information to back up what I have seen and experienced myself with The Emotion Code, releasing harbored emotions has profound physical as well as mental positive effects. Compare the two pictures of Ariana, a rescued Paso Fino horse. She is slightly swaybacked with what was thought to be started too young. However, after releasing 3-4 negative emotions, Ariana’s topline rose nearly 2 inches.

Ariana was nearly starved to death before animal rescue was able to step in. The emotions of abandonment, despair, rejection as well as sadness were released using a pendulum to ask her body what emotions were stuck and a magnet along the Governing Meridian to release the emotions. I never dreamed that the results would have been physical.

According to Karol K. Truman, author of Feelings Buried Alive Never Die…states, “Most of us recognize that we are not just a piece of flesh. We are at least five-dimentional. By this I mean: spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and social” (2003, p. 5). Horses are also at least five-dimentional; they have each of these attributes. A horse I worked on grieved for nearly 3 months for her pasture mates. Have you ever been a witness to a mare who has lost her foal? Seen a horse grieve for pasture mates when one has been sold? Now…what about those horses subjected to horrendous training methods and devices? Don’t you think they hold on to the energy of negative emotions? Have you ever seen a horse that has shut down? If you have horses, you know what I am talking about. The subconscious remembers.

identifying the negative emotions is imperative in order to release and resolve them. According to Dr. Bradley Nelson, author of The Emotion Code says “Trapped emotions are truly epidemic, and are the insidious, invisible cause of much suffering and illness, both physical and emotional in nature” (2007, p. 21).

Negative emotions have an effect on people; it does on horses also. In order to maintain balance and for peak performance from your equine partner, releasing negative emotions have an intense effect on the physical and mental well-being.


Nelson, B. (2007) The Emotion Code. Mesquite, NV: Wellness Unmasked Publishing.

Truman, K.K. (2013) Feelings Buried Alive Never Die…St. George, Utah: Olympus Distributing.