Here in the Journal of Ravenseyrie, we have often discussed the differences between training practices that are based on dominator models versus those which are partnership driven.
The dominator model supposes a higher authority which demands that the more intelligent human dictates what the horse's needs are and sets an agenda that the horse must submit to--an agenda which more often than not is a method based on strict tradition where innovation is only reluctantly embraced if it fosters the same results gained by dogmatic principles.
In the partnership model, the role of the human and horse are more flowing...sometimes the human leads the agenda, other times the horse does, with the roles being cooperatively interchanged depending upon the moment in time and what the situation presents. The partnership model uses intuition and relationship enhancement as it's foundation and while it is aware of and sometimes makes use of traditional concepts (either in care or training), it is never bound or limited by them.
These same differences in philosophy and practice have been present in humans' approach to health care since ancient times and has been the subject of many a comparative analysis.
Hygeian) rather than the traditional, dominator (Asklepian/Allopathic) driven veterinary treatment and relay how trusting in the healing environment of Ravenseyrie has proven repeatedly successful.
In today's entry, I'll tell Bella's story, and in a day or two will follow up with Altamrio's story. Before sharing about Bella, I'd like to relay some quotes from the book Reclaiming Our Health by John Robbins, which will more succinctly illuminate the different approaches to health care.
"When patients are expected to be subservient and compliant, this is dominator medicine. When obstetricians are trained to intervene in normal births with piton and fetal monitors rather than patiently supporting women's natural rhythms, this is dominator medicine. When children are pharmaceutically subjugated and healthy alternatives ignored, this is dominator medicine. When normal life events are medicalized, and drugs prescribed to mask problems that have been slow to respond readily to lifestyle approaches, this is dominator medicine."
"In ancient Greece, doctors worked under the patronage of Asklepios, the male god of medicine, while healers served Asklepios' daughter, the radiant Hygeia, goddess of health."
Hygeia by Gustav Klimt
Image found at Wikimedia Commons
Image found at Wikimedia Commons
Quoting the eminent physician, Rene Dubos, Robbins included this explanation of the way both Asklepios and Hygeia are reflected in modern times:
"The myths of Hygeia and Asklepios symbolize the never-ending oscillation between two different points of view in medicine. For the worshippers of Hygeia, health is the natural order of things, a positive attribute to which people are entitled if they govern their lives wisely. According to them, the most important function of medicine is to discover and teach the natural laws which will ensure a person a healthy mind in a healthy body...[on the other hand], the followers of Asklepios believe that the chief role of the physician is to treat disease, to restore health by correcting any imperfections caused by accidents of birth or life."
Continuing his own writing on the subject, Robbins adds:
"In our medical system today, the followers of the Asklepian way utterly dominate those of The Hygeian. And yet, we may soon find ourselves needing the Hygeian tradition more than ever, for it is from this lineage that we can learn how to create health, and how to reown the powers of naturally healing ourselves. Alternative medicine is where most of the followers of the Hygeian tradition can be found today, teaching us the use of natural and inexpensive things such as herbs, hot and cold water, and how to prepare natural and wholesome food. They are reminding us of the power of our attitudes. They are helping us to take responsibility for our lives and to take charge of our health. They are telling us to exercise, to play as well as to work, to be intuitive and artistic as well as rational and logical." (pg. 319)
It has been relatively easy for Kevin and I to trust in the natural processes of Hygeia. As you can imagine with fourteen primitive horses, two domestic horses and three draft mules--all living in a rugged wilderness environment in various networks of herd relationships, the opportunity to experience the rapid healing of scrapes, cuts, abrasions, bruises, etc. has occurred on more than one occasion.
"Anyone who doubts the body's ability to heal itself should pay attention to wound healing. It is a splendid way to learn the nature of the process and gain confidence in it as an innate capacity."
"The list of substances recorded as wound treatments throughout history seems endless. A few of them may actually retard healing; most probably do nothing one way or the other. Some like honey and malachite, may reduce the chance of infection. The fact is that most wounds heal with or without treatment."
"Always, healing proceeds as best it can given the circumstances of its occurrence."
These quotes are from the Harvard trained medical doctor, Andrew Weil, in his very educative book, Health and Healing.
We humans do like to make our horses feel better and desire to speed up healing, but in normal situations, given the right environment the horses' abilities to heal themselves is more than sufficient, without recourse to micromanaging the healing process with our modern medical interventions and running the risk of disrupting the horse's naturally occurring responses.
To chance upon an exquisite example of "Fairy Ring" style mushrooms while looking for Bella was surely a good omen.
But what of some acute physiological disturbance or deeper injury--can Hygeia be trusted or is one better served by the swift and direct action of Asklepios?
Let's explore a recent frightening situation that Bella went through.
On March 28th of this year, Bella gave birth to Pinoteia. On April the 4th, Bella came into her foal heat and was covered by Altamiro. I have no further heat cycles recorded on my calendar, and the appearance of Bella throughout the spring and summer was that of a settled mare.
On September 20th, I noticed that Bella looked amazingly fit! She had lost the low round abdomen, was tucked up behind the girth area, had a certain bloom to her hair coat and an added brightness to her eyes. She looked the way mares look after foaling. I suspected she had aborted her fetus and had Kevin come out to assess her body state, lest my eyes were playing tricks on me.
On September 23, Bella was lethargic and her rear-end was completely covered with runny manure. While she came up for breakfast oats, she didn't stay eating for long, but instead walked off to the side, cocked a hip and took up a standing rest position. Quite frequently, she would raise her tail and squirt out brackish liquid manure. It was not black and overtly foul smelling, but it was clearly was not a normal excavation of the bowels. I suspected she had eatien some toxic plant which prompted the abortion of the fetus and some secondary condition or digestive upset was resulting in this episode of diarrhea. This being our first experience with diarrhea in a horse, I went right to my books to see what they had to say about the symptoms I was documenting and what manner of treatment might be suggested.
In her book, Emergency!, Dr. Karen Hayes offers these thoughts regarding diarrhea in the mature horse:
"The sudden onset of diarrhea--true diarrhea--in an adult horse is never anything less than an emergency...If diarrhea strikes your adult horse, you should become immediately alarmed."
Yes! I was now certainly alarmed, more than ever after reading this!
Dr. Hayes differentiates diarrhea from occasional loose stools:
"Diarrhea, however, is characterized not only by excessive water in the stool, but also by a significant increase in the frequency of bowel movements...You might also notice that the manure doesn't have its usual pleasant, earthy aroma but smells soured and fermented, or more like dog feces...In most cases, along with diarrhea, the horse might also show signs of general malaise: a droopy, depressed demeanor, lack of appetite, and fever (although fever is often missing if the diarrhea is the result of poisoning instead of an infection). Colic (nonspecific belly pain) is another common finding regardless of the diarrhea's underlying cause."
In Bella's case, there was no apparent fever (though I didn't take a rectal temperature) and no signs of belly pain, but she was definitely demonstrating a lack of appetite and depressed demeanor.
According to Dr. Hayes, when the mature horse has a case of diarrhea it reveals a digestive system that is excessively inflamed and secreting all manner of caustic liquids with a major disruption of the usual processes of the intestines:
"The result is a rapid and profound upset of the horse's water and electrolyte balance, and depending on how rapidly it takes place, it can be life threatening before the day is over."
There is a list of procedures that Dr. Hayes says the "sharp veterinarian" would undertake, which includes laboratory tests to identify any infectious organisms, correct the loss of water and electrolyte balance, administer an "antiinflammatory/antiprostaglandin/antiendotoxin/anti-fever medication such as Banamine if indicated", administer Pepto-Bismol or other such soothing medicine, if it has been determined a poisoning has occurred give an antidote if available, give antibiotics and probiotics if a bacterial culprit is determined, institute a quarantine if necessary and "take steps to prevent founder, a common sequel to diarrhea".
Here is our stoic Bella, not feeling well, but alert and interactive (note the tension in her jaw and lips)
The book suggests what to do while waiting for the veterinarian's arrival some of which are to take vital signs, listen to gut sounds (or lack thereof) offer small amounts of food to determine appetite interest and offer three buckets of water, one plain, one with baking soda added and one with electrolytes mixed in.
"If he's so sick that he's refusing to drink or eat, he needs intravenous fluids and electrolytes. The combination of diarrhea (massive losses) with refusal to replace those losses is a deadly one."
Let's look at my other reference book, the Horse Owner's Veterinary Handbook by James M. Giffin, M.D. and Tom Gore, D.V.M. They provide references to diarrhea on many pages which are devoted to situations which often prompt loose bowels, such as tainted food, poisoning, bacterial infection, parasitic infection, etc. and they distinguish between "acute" or "chronic" diarrhea.
"Diarrhea of sudden onset indicates an infectious disease or an acute poisoning. Poor-quality feed, spoiled feed, and ingested irritants do not cause diarrhea in horses as they do in animals with shorter digestive tracts. When diarrhea is profuce, watery, explosive, foul-smelling, dark green to black, blood-tinged, or bloody, the horse is suffering from infectious colitis. Salmonellosis is the most likely cause because it is the most common...Less common causes of acute diarrhea include arsenic and lead poisoning, equine viral arteritis, selenium toxicity, plant poisoning, blister beetle poisoning, and peritonitis. Treatment is directed at the cause of the diarrhea."
Kevin and I discussed what to do...should we call out the veterinarian, or is this something that we can allow to run its course, providing whatever support Bella herself indicates is necessary?
Based on Bella's willingness to eat (albeit at a vastly reduced amount), her capacity to keep up with the herd, her interactive and seemingly positive attitude, along with mild weather conditions, we decided against calling upon veterinarian assistance. Our decision included the concerns we had over what impact veterinary intervention would have on Bella psychologically as well as physically. We were worried the manner of treatment discussed in my books and on various veterinary websites was, itself, potentially damaging to the already distressed digestive system Bella had, and that also such "helpful", interfering medicines would leave behind residual elements that could have a negative influence on the environment and the other horses. Another concern we had was for the impact these chemicals could have on Bella's nursing filly, Pinoteia. Overall we believed in Bella's strong capacity for self-healing and that the Ravenseyrie habitat would provide all that she needed to return to a healthy state of being. Though she was obviously ill, the intuitive perception we both felt radiating out from Bella herself was that this was an episode she was well equipped to work through with minimal support from her human friends. She wanted us to be around for her, but also wanted to show us her own capacity for doing what she needed to do to feel well again. Kevin and I reaffirmed our partnership with the landscape, with Bella and with the ever-present oversight of Hygeia...we decided to monitor Bella as closely as we could without removing her from her herd mates or her environment.
"For several hundred years there has been a bias in Western education against the intuitive approach in medicine and science. Intuition, imagination, and instinct are relegated to art or religion. There it is permissible to use such faculties. While one can appreciate the need for objective observation and analytical study, the use of these methods alone, as if they were the only true measures of reality, in and of itself, is an inherently sick and flawed condition. It skews the human organism by rendering obsolete skills and faculties it has always relied upon to contend with environmental and internal stress."
"The self-healing mechanism of the organism counteracts environmental stress. It takes an action in one direction and then a reaction in the opposite direction to contend with the stress and return to the healthy mean or homeostasis...As long as the organism is able to act and react it will be able to recover from disease. Problems arise when it gets stuck in either polarity."--Matthew Wood from his book, The Practice of Traditional Western Herbalism
Would you like to know what Bella did to make herself well again?
Bella was careful to eat less and in very small quantities when she did eat.
Bella drank copious amounts of water, which due to the heavy rains the island had recently experienced was easy to access almost anywhere in the open grasslands.
Bella spent long periods of time at the mineral block, licking and gnawing at it. One morning, she was there for almost 25 minutes!
Bella sought out the bark of a fallen Poplar tree and was observed selecting the flowering tops of Goldenrod. Both which are mentioned in my herbal books as having a beneficial effect on the digestive tract in the case of diarrhea. There may have been other plants she selected to which she consumed when I was not there to observe her.
The diarrhea lasted for three days, each day becoming less. Bella would seem strongest in the early evening and some times would stay with the herd, while other times she sought a secluded area to rest.
One morning she came up for breakfast covered in bite marks and was quite determined to avoid Altamiro...unfortunately she was also (poor dear!) exhibiting signs of a heat cycle which was prompting Altamiro to pester her for copulation rights. She managed to deflect his advances--obviously whatever arguing they had done over the evening had left an impression on Altamiro that his lady indeed "had a headache" and was not interested in providing sexual favors.
Probably because of her desire to avoid Altamiro, on September 26 Bella kept herself well separated from the family band and I would go looking for her, bringing with me a small amount of oats mixed with compressed alfalfa cubes, carefully broken up into easy to ingest morsels. I always found her, and she always nickered a greeting and walked up to meet me. Some days she ate more than others. Some days Pinoteia was with her, other days Pinoteia was with the herd. I had noticed at the beginning of the illness that Bella's udder had shrunk considerably, along with her losing a tremendous amount of weight in a short period of time. While I was pleased that the diarrhea had ceased to be an issue, I was still concerned over how little time Bella spent grazing and how much time she preferred to be alone, standing at rest.
On September 30th Bella rejoined the herd and was much, much better--once again her somewhat domineering, regal self!
Here Kevin let's Bella know how happy he is that she has recovered and rejoined the herd.You can see the weight loss especially well when observing Bella from the rear. (Altamiro, left, with Bella on right) But, no worries, she's already putting pounds back on and doing very well!
Bella's illness lasted one week, or ten days if we count the day I noticed she had lost her pregnant belly. During her recovery, there were many little things I did to assist in supporting Bella heal herself. I stimulated Bella's "Tien Chu" point as suggested in the book Healing Hands, written by Dominque Giniaux, D.V.M. and translated from the original French to English by Jean-Claude Racinet. I used damp grasses to clean Bella's soiled hindquarters and gave her massages and itches in all the areas she presented to me as needing attention. And of course I would seek her out and bring her special small meals as explained above.
Before I close this journal entry, I want to say a few things about equine abortion. First, it is not unnatural for mares to sometimes not carry a fetus to term...in fact it is part of a protective mechanism all mares are equipped with. Abortion is not necessarily an abnormality, though sometimes, especially with highly domesticated horses it can be. Abortion of the fetus can occur early on with little to no apparent signs, or it can occur during a later term, as it has with Bella. The reason the mare's body rejects the fetus may be because of some physical deformity in the development of the fetus, or it could be because of the presence of twins which the body is not able to support, or it could be from some parasitical burden, lack of condition in the mare, bacterial infection or toxic poisoning. And how can we say it is not possible that the mares themselves induce abortion from time to time by deliberately choosing plants that stimulate uterine contraction? The only way to know for sure what may have prompted the abortion is to run tests on the mare and the aborted fetus. I am not losing sleep over the mystery of why Bella aborted this pregnancy or what the cause was, rather I am accepting it as something "right" for Bella at this time in her life. Probably if every year this occurred or if all the mares had reoccurring inability to carry foal to full term I would have to suspect that there was some grave problems with them or the environment and take appropriate action.
In addition to the more normal ministrations, I also undertook more meditative support: I would light medicinal Tibetan incense while at work in the studio and send her a mental message of healing. I would also devote my Tai Chi practice to thoughts of healing for Bella. When Kevin and I would have our evening meals we would raise our glasses of wine in a toast to Bella's full recovery. These meditative supports may seem like so much quackery--I don't much care what readers might think of them--they made me feel closer to Bella and provided a connection between her and I throughout the entire episode whether I was physically with her or not, and for me that has tremendous merit, even if it seems just plain silly to others.
This is actually Bella's second abortion. The first one occurred in October of 2008, while she was still nursing her firstborn colt, Animado. Just as she did this time around, she "caught" on her foal heat when Altamiro covered her and we only knew that she had aborted the foal because she came into heat that autumn after having not cycled the rest of spring and summer. She did not suffer any residual illness from that abortion.
Had Bella carried this year's fetus to term, she would have been delivering her baby in February--not a good time for a newborn on the island. So all in all, I trust that the loss of this fetus was to Bella's benefit, despite the illness she suffered after the fact. And how great of her to show us that Hygeia is alive and well and overseeing the healing processes at Ravenseyrie!