This article was originally published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on Friday, March 18, 2016
In many cultures, the “wind horse” is a representation of a pony carrying a sacred symbol on his back. This is often seen on prayer flags, hung to release blessings to the winds. In New Mexico, a wind horse right now is any of our equine friends standing with bums to the gusts, eyes closed and heads lowered. This is how a horse gets through spring in the high desert!
We can help our horses remain safe and reasonably comfortable during this windy season, even when we do not have a posh barn in which to enclose them. For their safety in the stable yard, all objects that could become airborne must be weighted down or removed. Dangerous things like metal roofing sheets could maim or kill. Seemingly benign things like plastic bags can frighten a horse flapping about and could be eaten, making them potentially deadly as well.
The horse’s eyes are the most susceptible to irritation and injury by the blowing dirt. The fly masks that are mesh head covers to keep insects off the face will also provide a barrier to this dust. Especially for breeds like Appaloosas, Paints and Palominos who might have light colored skin on the face or the sclera (white of the eye) showing, eye protection can preserve eyesight.
Odd things become important during the windy season: electric fence tape will be battered by the gusts and fences can be broken, gates undone.
Even roofs on shelters can become rattled by heavy gusting, so checks of the integrity there can avoid big trouble. I’ve been known to use plumber’s strapping to secure the corners of roofs. In the spring, when I bail out water tubs for scrubbing, I’ll throw the water all over the horses’ pens to help settle that dust.
Wind breaks are important – walls arranged on the east and west of shelters; trees along fence lines; hedgerows and the like. I teach riding lessons at a stable in our valley that is surrounded by pecan groves. That is a very effective wind break!
I protect the horses’ lungs in this weather with the feeding of flaxseed meal, flaxseed oil or the jelly. This is a very nourishing food for the lungs and heart. I add magnesium to the bran mashes, too, to protect the lungs. Both of these additions are very safe and can be fed to “bowel tolerance”, meaning that if the bowels become loose, you just reduce the amount fed.
When problems arise, I turn to colloidal silver. I use it (pure, undiluted, 15 ppm) to wash irritated eyes, I put it in their drinking water to kill pathogens and I rinse the horses’ irritated skin with it.
The wind creates energetic anomalies as well. While we humans often feel agitated by it, horses can become downright bonkers after several days of the positive ion (negative feelings) build up. The wind rushes through their ears and makes it difficult for them to listen (instinctively for predators, etc.), creating fear and “spookiness”. Objects are in motion (that usually are not) and gusts can whip up against their bodies causing serious reactions when being ridden. I judge horse shows, often in the wind, and have been unable to see the competitors at times – this is when it becomes dangerous and time to stop.
All of this simply means that we need to heighten our awareness to keep us all safe and comfortable and that we should plan our activities with horses for the early morning hours during the spring. Today, I’m watching the wind horses on the prayer flags by our cabin and thinking about all the blessings the wind is releasing. It’s one way to think about it all!
Katharine teaches horseback riding and is the president of Dharmahorse Inc., a sanctuary for unwanted horses. www.dharmahorse.org