Interview with Lisa Ross-Williams, Natural Horse Care Expert
Lisa Ross-Williams is a natural horse care consultant and host of the If Your Horse Could Talk webcast available at www.naturalhorsetalk.com. She has completed the Basic Veterinary Homeopathy course through the British Institute of Homeopathy, holds a degree in Environmental Plant Science, and is an Equine Iridology Technician. Lisa is the Publisher/Editor-In-Chief of Natural Horse Magazine and the author of the award-winning book, Down-To-Earth Natural Horse Care available at www.down-to-earthnhc.com. Lisa is also the co-creator of Equi-Spirit Toys & Tools, www.equi-spirit-toys.com.
When and how did you get your start in natural horse care?
Although I had a childhood horse friend, upon re-entering the equine world as an adult in 1997, I was totally unprepared for what was to come, namely a spirited Arabian named Rebel.
My work with Rebel sent me on a journey that would change the path of my life and his. As I began looking for horse handling information to deal with his special issues, I realized all the normal care practices seemed so ‘unnatural’ for horses. Why only feed a flake of alfalfa twice a day? Why do horses need metal shoes? Why are people chemically deworming their horses every 8 weeks, etc. Unable to find a solution, I began a personal quest to find a better approach.
I dedicated myself to extensive research, as well as an exploration of hands-on experiences which included clinics, seminars and courses covering natural horsemanship, hoof care, dentistry, bodywork, homeopathy, iridology, essential oils and nutrition. I earned my degree in Environmental Plant Science, completed the Basic Homeopathy Veterinary course through the British Institute of Homeopathy, completed the Reiki 1/Equine Reiki course and am certified as an Equine Iridology technician. I have been involved with natural horsemanship since 1997. Each horse that came into my life became my teacher, and each had a different lesson for me to learn.
It became very clear that not only did I owe it to my horses to continue to educate myself, but that it was my responsibility to share this information with other horse lovers–to be the voice of the horse to the best of my ability. Our company, If Your Horse Could Talk, LLC was founded in 1998 to help promote natural horse care through knowledge. In addition to building that informational website, I started the If Your Horse Could Talk show in 2001; initially on an AM radio station and then as an internet website. The show features holistic people in all facets of equine care. Although I did stop producing the show a number years ago, there are over 130 audio interviews available on the website. www.naturalhorsetalk.com
My book, Down-To-Earth Natural Horse Care; Keeping Your Horse as Best Suits his Mind, Body and Soul was published in the fall of 2010 (www.down-to-earthNHC.com) . In August of 2012, Kenny, my husband and I took over Natural Horse Magazine, and I am extremely proud of the quality of information we share on holistic horse care in that quarterly journal.
What do you believe are the key ingredients to a natural, healthy lifestyle for horses?
It is essential to fulfill their basic biological and psychological needs as a whole or holistically. The way they are kept, fed, cared for, worked with, and related to needs to align with their equine nature as much as possible.
The main elements of a natural horse care approach:
* Environment which consists of a horse’s natural living area, with a herd or companion, allowing them to adapt to environmental changes naturally, and special seasonal considerations.
* Nutrition/Feeding; formulating a species appropriate way of feeding, beneficial natural sources for feedstuffs, reading feed labels, and special considerations for metabolically challenged horses.
* Equine health covering general health, equine dentistry, parasite control, colic, what manure can tell you, special needs of young and senior horses, traveling with your horse and how to be a great client for your equine veterinarian. Also complementary care options; homeopathy, essential oils, flower essences, iridology and alternatives to chemical use.
* Natural hoof care. Drawbacks of shoeing and why barefoot is beneficial, barefoot basics, what to expect from a natural trimmer and dealing with laminitis naturally.
* Natural horsemanship basics, bringing emotionally shut-down horses back to life, and building communication, trust and fun with toys and tools.
Many people are interested in feeding their horses more naturally—what does that mean to you?
See answer above.
Principles of a natural feeding program-To devise a natural way of feeding our domestic horses, we can simply look at their feral cousins, the wild ones, for some basic feeding guidelines, even though their diet may have various limitations.
Basic principles of wild horse diets:
- Have continuous availability of roughage
- Get little to no concentrated feeds/grains
- Receive a variety of vegetation
- Have access to natural mineral sources
- Are grazers, foragers, and ground feeders per evolution
Natural feeding guidelines for domestic horses:
- Feed appropriate hay at frequent intervals or provide free-choice
- Limit grains
- Avoid detrimental starches and sugars
- Understand the importance of balancing minerals
- Add flaxseed for added benefits
- Offer a variety of feedstuff such as nuts, fresh vegetables and fruits
- Feed at ground level.
I know that you’ve been trained in iridology. Can you tell us just a little bit about what iridology is and how you use it with horses?
Iridology is the reading of the iris (colored part of the eye) for imbalances in the body. Essentially, the iris is a “blueprint” of the tissues and organs and can demonstrate areas and stages of inflammation as well as the healing process. Each part of the iris correlates to areas of the body with the left eye corresponding with the left-side and the right eye with the right.
Issues show up as spots, flecks, streaks, lines and texture changes in various colors and shades.
Iridologists believe these signs are formed due to the thousands of nerve endings attached to the optic nerve as well as the base of the brain and every tissue and organ in the body. The iridologist then uses a specialized grid to correlate the markings to the location in the body. It should be noted that iridology is not a true diagnostic technique in that it cannot determine specific diseases, only imbalance within the body and changes to those conditions.
Although iridology is a valuable tool used to detect underlying signs of imbalance, often before physical signs show up, it is then up to the caregiver to take appropriate actions to correct the issues. According to Naturopath, Mercedes Colburn (who pioneered Equine Iridology), “the main issues seen in horses today is in regards to improper worming and feeding practices as well as continuing to work a horse before injuries have been corrected or healed.” Even non-physical problems such as stress, which can lead to physical issues, can be seen in the horse’s iris. Therefore, it is especially important to follow a holistic approach to correct any imbalance found and support the horse in every aspect of his life. This includes his nutrition, environment, handling, and even the discipline he is being used for.
For more information on Equine Iridology and courses offered by Dr Colburn visit his website.
Do you believe a horse can be shod and still be completely healthy?
No, I don’t. We know that shoes inhibit natural function and cause adverse consequences. Some of these include:
* Decreased shock absorption: Shoes decrease the hoof’s ability to absorb shock by 70-80% by not allowing the hoof to expand properly upon weight-bearing. In 1983, a study at the University of Zurich found “a shod horse walking on pavement receives three times the impact force as an unshod horse trotting on that surface.” The excess force must then be taken up by the legs damaging joints, tendons, and even the lungs which were not designed to deal with this force.
* Metal vibration damages tissue: A doctorial thesis at the University of Zurich found that metal horseshoes vibrate at about 800 Hz, a frequency damaging to living tissue. This type of circulation and neural condition in humans is called Raynaud’s Syndrome. We must realize that every step a shod horse takes is damaging tissues throughout the body, setting him up for chronic conditions such as arthritis, ringbone or sidebone.
* Decreased blood circulation: Each hoof is actually a secondary circulatory pump which supports the heart in circulating blood throughout the body. When the natural expansion and contraction of the hoof is diminished by shoes or unbalanced hooves, this important blood flow is hindered, putting the horse at a disadvantage not only in his hooves but his whole body.
* Decreased traction: Metal shoes do not give the amount of traction on slippery ground, pavement, or rocks as an unshod hoof. A natural barefoot uses the skid-break action of the bars, suction-cup effect upon weight-bearing, and the ability to “feel” the ground as an all-terrain tool.
* Damage by nails: Nails weaken the hoof wall in addition to contributing to tissue damage from the vibrational frequency. Since old nail holes do not close-up, they leave the hoof vulnerable to bacteria as well as temperature extremes.
* Hoof contraction: When a hoof grows, it does so not only in length but also in diameter. Since the metal shoe doesn’t become wider, it contracts the growing hoof in a squeezed position. Remember that shoes are applied when the hoof is off the ground and in its contracted state. Proper hoof function (contracting and expanding) is hindered and the hoof is forced into the all too narrow hoof shape. Contracted hooves are oval rather than round and have very narrow frogs and heel bulbs.
* Prevents development of young horse’s feet: A horse’s coffin bone grows and develops until they are about five years old. If a horse is shod before that age, the constricting influence of the shoe prevents normal growth of this all important bone, predisposing the horse to lifetime hoof problems.
If you could convince someone to make just one change towards a more natural lifestyle for their horse, what would it be and why?
Since I believe in the holistic (or whole) horse approach, this is a really hard question to answer…..But, if I HAD to pick just one, it would be a tossup between Environment-creating a natural living area or a more natural feeding program.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Just a few quick tips for caring for your horse naturally-
* Take the process one step at a time. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day.
* Follow your intuition and stay true to your beliefs.
* Share the information you have learned but understand there will always be people who want to continue on the conventional path.
* Finally, enjoy the process of creating a natural horse paradise. Your equine partner will be right with your through the journey.