Physiology Psychology

Usually this blog is written on Mondays, except for emergencies or travel. But it’s Tuesday and I have no excuse except that I’m dragging.

I’m down.

I feel like hibernating.

I tell myself it’s gray outside. You just had a big week with Thanksgiving. Your routine is off. And you have a lot to be grateful about. But I still want to crawl in bed.

My husband was just the opposite the past few days … he was organizing, hyper, and short of temper. He was intensely cussing out the dirt on his boots for making a mess on the floor.

There’s nothing “real” that’s making me feel down … no one died, I didn’t lose my job, my house isn’t in foreclosure. It’s not psychology that’s got me feeling lethargic but rather it’s my “winter” physiology. A case of seasonal affective disorder.

The same is true for my husband … he had nothing in his life to create “rage” … no one was threatening his life, or family, or livelihood. It was his “winter” physiology too. And I reminded him of that. It seemed to help, he calmed down.

Both my and my husbands responses are from various hormones triggering a stress response. My response is more of the parasympathetic freeze response where I just want to shut down and conserve energy. My husbands is more of the sympathetic fight response where he just wants to send his excess energy outward.

It’s helpful to know about stress and have the awareness to put these different feelings in perspective. I didn’t judge myself or my husband. And I’m working out of the freeze response by simplifying the week, making a list of what would be helpful to accomplish and checking those tasks off as they are completed.

Blog … Check.

Now rest a bit and then onto the next item on the list.


Walk With Me

I prefer to run, but with a chronic pain diagnosis I’m limited to walking for now. I walk year round. I walk every day. That’s one of the nice things about having a dog, no excuses for not walking. November isn’t one of the prettiest months, it’s a month of transition with bare trees and where one day is 70 degrees and the next it’s blustery snowing. Yep, just like last Friday and Saturday here in Michigan. But I still walked and there is still beauty if you really look, so walk with me.


Moving On


You know how those memories come up on Facebook? One came up for me, reminding me of all that has happened over the past 3 years.

3 years ago I was diagnosed with a chronic pain disorder because I worked in a job I created and loved but one that put my body in awkward positions … I compromised my own self for my work and when my body said “no more” I chose to move on by starting a new chapter in my work life but I also felt compelled to honor the past by writing about it … the first book (pictured above) was completed 9 months after my diagnosis in February of 2013 … 9 months and the birth of a new creation. That seems very fitting. Now 3 years later I have completed the Brown Pony Series plus an additional 2 books on saddle fit and being in integrity with your horse.

I have only one last commitment in the hippotherapy field …. this is the last year of a ten year research project that began in 2006. I just put out the call for respondents to complete the final hippotherapy safety survey:

Ten years of data collection on incidents, injury, risks, and risk management in hippotherapy is coming to a close this year. Can you help make our last year the biggest survey year yet?
The hippotherapy safety survey was designed to be completed by therapists who have offered hippotherapy sessions in 2016. Whether your practice is large or small, your survey participation is valuable.
The survey will take approximately 15 minutes to complete. Please share your time and complete the survey today and then forward this information to any therapist friends who also offer hippotherapy!
The 2016 Hippotherapy Safety Survey closes January 5, 2017.

After this research is completed, I will be fully ready to move on to new adventures. Adventures that I’ve already been preparing for … teaching others about horses and holistic natural health. Moving on hasn’t been an overnight thing, rather it has been a slow journey but the slowness has allowed for reflection, healing and closure … and I needed that. I think we all need time for reflection, healing and closure no matter what the life change or loss is … but we often don’t allow ourselves to take that time.

It’s taken me three years and I still feel a slight pang deep inside and residual physical pain outside but I’m moving on.

Saddle Fit Simplified


I held another Saddle Fit educational clinic yesterday, the second one hosted by Julie Nelson at Trails Head Stable. It was a beautiful day and a welcoming location for learning.

As I was teaching, I realized that I am trying to do nothing less than the herculean task of changing the standardization of the saddle industry.  Actually pushing for standardization in an industry that literally has no consistency from english to western or brand to brand.

I am just one small person … what makes me think I’m up to this task? Particularly when people have lived with the same old system and they seem to have given up on the possibility of something easier and different.

What I’m doing isn’t ground breaking per se … it’s simply matching the bones of the saddle to the bones of the horse and adding an inch or so of padding between the two to help keep the horse comfortable.

In my early years of horse ownership I thought that if you had a horse and you had a saddle then you were good to go. I didn’t know saddles could cause pain for horses. I later learned that similarly to people having their own individual shoe size (6, 7, 8, 9, 10 etc.) that horses too had gullet sizes, usually from size 5 up to 8 inches (I give away a free gullet size guide on my website www.SaddleFitSimplified.INFO). I also learned that similar to people having narrow, medium, or wide feet that horses have narrow, medium and wide spreads to their shoulders (measured as shoulder angle where narrow is less than 90 degrees, medium is 90 degrees, and wide is greater than 90 degrees). Can you imagine having a size 8 narrow foot and trying to wear a size 6 wide shoe? How far could you walk without wanting to stop? Or if you were compelled to walk, how far before you had blisters on your feet? The same is true for horses and saddle fit.

It is very simple to learn how to measure a saddle tree to determine it’s gullet size in inches and to find out if the saddle has a narrow, medium or wide angle. It’s also very simple to measure the horse to determine his/her gullet size in inches and to find out if the horse has a narrow, medium or wide shoulder angle. Then it’s just a matter of combining those measurements to see if the saddle is a good match for the horse. I also taught the clinic attendees how to compare the horse’s dip in the back to the saddle’s rocker and how to make a template of the horse to take saddle shopping.

I was very proud of my students. I did pre-testing and post-testing of their measurements of a Western saddle and an English saddle. A 5 inch gullet size is a very narrow horse (or pony) all the way up to an 8 inch gullet size which is considered draft horse size. The Western saddle was sold as semi-quarter horse bars and the English saddle was purchased as a medium-wide.

Before being trained, the students pre-test measurements for the Western saddle ranged from a gullet size of 6 1/4 inches to 9 inches … a 2 3/4 inch variation. After being trained, the students post-test measurements for the Western saddle ranged from 5 1/4 inches to 6 1/4 inches. I measured the saddle at 5 7/8 inches. Their post-test measurements from each other were only 1 inch apart and they were all close to my measurement.

Before being trained, the students pre-test measurements for the English saddle ranged from a gullet size of 4 7/8 to 7 1/2 inches … a 2 5/8 inch variation. After being trained, the students post-test measurements for the English saddle ranged from 5 3/4 inches to 6 1/2 inches. I measured the saddle at 6 1/8 inches. Their post-test variation from each other was only 3/4 of an inch and they were only 3/8 of an inch either way of my measurement.

The above scores were collected from 12 students who completed this clinic research piece. And the pre- and post-test scoring occurred after less than 5 minutes of training. The entire clinic was 2 hours and covered basic saddle anatomy, basic horse anatomy, equine behavior and psychology, some simple physics (pounds per square inch of pressure), and hands on learning for measuring both horses and saddles. We finished with a segment on horse massage because even if you get your saddle fit corrected, past saddle fit damage can still be lingering in the muscle tissue.

I hope my little grass roots movements catches fire and starts a blaze of awareness and change around the globe. I’m confident we can start in little ways, simple ways, to bring more comfort to our horses and more joy to our rides.

Possible vs. Probable


I haven’t been traveling much by airplane in the past few years. I’ve chosen conferences that are vacation spots where I can drive and bring along my parents or I’ve chosen educational venues that are closer to home.

Why? Fear. I watched the planes strike the World Trade Center and I see terrorism escalating around the world. Plus some airplanes are getting older, mechanical parts do wear out. And some airlines are cutting back on just about everything and I’m concerned about their staff and how much they are expected to do and if some maintenance things get overlooked.

Those are 3 logical reasons for a fear of flying … this fear is not irrational. It IS possible that any of those problems could creep up. It’s also possible I could get in a car accident on my way to the grocery store or I could have a heart attack on my next walk with my dog or I could get bucked off my horse on the next ride.

Many things are possible but the question I need to ask myself is if the situation is probable. How many planes fly and reach their destination safely daily. How often do crashes happen? If I’ll probably have a problem, then I need to adjust my behavior or the situation to keep myself safe. But I shouldn’t avoid flying, driving, walking, or riding my horse if it’s only possible there could be a problem … because almost anything is possible. Giving into fear possibilities would mean leading a life of avoidance and missing out on many great adventures.

How do you determine the possible from the probable? Well, for one thing, you can’t go by your emotions … rather you have to gather information and make an informed choice. I had to tell myself about the hundreds of thousands of airplane flights that happen all the time without incident. And I had to practice stress management (i.e. breathing exercises) to calm my emotions. Plus I knew I’d need to allow a lot of extra time for getting through airport security and making it to the gate way ahead of schedule … nothing should feel like a rush because if it did, that would fuel an already anxious brain.

Finally, I told myself that I needed to leave those rare possibilities of problems for God to handle and that I would be responsible for learning about and dealing with the probability issues. Guess what? It worked! I flew to Atlanta, Georgia for a conference this past weekend and I’m back home safe and sound with a ton of great tips to implement into my business. It is worth it to sort out the possible from the probable.