Neuroscience: the Basics

Neuroscience…such an intimidating name for the study of the nervous system. There’s the joke that a brain surgeon goes to a party, and after asking each person what their job is says, “Well, it’s not exactly brain surgery!” After thoroughly angering everyone at the party, he is introduced to another guest who works for the space administration. “Ah, I’m a brain surgeon!” he pompously states. The other man cocks his head and replies, “Well, it’s not exactly rocket science is it?”

The nervous system, in simple terms, is how the body communicates with its many parts. The brain, brain stem, spinal cord, and nerves are the general make-up of this complex system. They all work together to keep the body safe and in working order.

There are many types of sensory nerves and neurons that communicate different types of information with the brain: pain, temperature, light levels, smells, flavors, pressure, proprioception, sounds, and more. All of these help keep the body safe and well-informed in space.

Why are these diverse and well-developed sensory pathways important? Some animals have developed very protective exteriors, like shells and calloused skin. Human, dogs, horses, etc. have not, so we all have developed a very sensitive “warning” system. Pretty nifty, right?

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and spinal cord. The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is comprised of all of the nerves and ganglia (cluster of nerve bodies) that lie out in the periphery. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls the viscera and involuntary function. The ANS can be divided into two categories: sympathetic and parasympathic. These are how the body responds to external stress—either things are “rest and digest” (parasympathetic), or “fight or flight” (sympathetic).

Those are the basics of neuroscience….stay tuned for more on this incredibly interesting body system!!

By Callie Rulli, Skylark Animal Bodywork, LLC

Who Opened the Gate for that Dog?


Written by Beth Pelosa

The 4 gates is an acupuncture point combination consisting of 2 different points; Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4, stimulated at the same time bilaterally. Since acupressure practitioners only have two hands, and don’t use needles, the gates are opened one side of the body at a time.

Liver 3 is a source point. It is known among practitioners as the most important point for stagnation of the inner body. Liv3 is helpful in animals to disperse stagnant liver energy and harmonize the liver energy. Liv 3 is known to help with detoxification, calming effect on the nervous system to alleviate restlessness, irritability, stress, and anxiety, low back pain. This point gets energy moving!   Liv 3 on a dog is located on the medial aspect of the 2nd toe, located between the 1st and 2nd metatarsal bones.

Large Intestine 4 is a source point. Large Intestine 4 balances the Large Intestine meridian. It is helpful when used to strengthen the immune system, helps reduce skin irritations, allergies, to clear heat and inflammation , to help any type of problem with the face which including TMJ. It is used for PAIN anywhere in the body. LI 4 on a dog is located in the webbing of the dew claw.

Together, these points circulate the free flow of qi and blood through the body. They help to open all the meridians, increase circulation, and decrease pain anywhere in the body. The 4 Gates can also be used for animals rescued from abuse to help release emotional issues such as feelings of being trapped or stuck in a situation.

Stimulate both points of the right side of the dog for 30 seconds, or less if you get a release, such as a lick, chew, yawn bark, or passing gas. Repeat on the right side.

Your dog will be happy you opened the gates!

If you are interested in becoming a Large and or Small Animal Massage or Acupressure practitioner, go to the Rocky Mountain School of Animal Acupressure website for practitioner course information and dates

For private acupressure sessions for your dog or horse contact Beth Pelosa, Certified Large and Small Animal Massage and Acupressure Practitioner, and RMSAAM’s Animal Acupressure Instructor.

For an appointment or more information, Beth can be contacted at: 303-746-7786 or visit Beth’s website Rocky Mountain Holistic Healing Arts Institute and sign up for her free newsletter, and receive 6 free online human and animal acupressure lessons.

Success; when it becomes a thorn on your side

There is a very special ingredient to success – humility. (Image: Sandi Martinez)

There is a very special ingredient to success – humility. (Image: Sandi Martinez)

by Sandi Martinez

Try… and try again until you succeed. We hear this in many various forms and perhaps is even a quote somewhere. Time, energy, more time, and still more energy, and sloshing through doubts and insecurities – a time when you are being measured. When we succeed at something we set a high standard not only for ourselves, but for our peers. For without the proof, a way to measure success, it wouldn’t matter now would it?

There is a very special ingredient to success – humility. We have suffered, sacrificed, given up many things we thought we would like or enjoy better – or worse – would be more realistic and in our best interest to take a different route. Still, we chose to continue… why? With so many voices including our own, is the determination to continue on the ‘unknown’ path; the least tread and possibly the most frightening – where no man or woman has gone before.

And then as if a breath of fresh air or clouds parting on a rainy day, the sun slices through the sky we get there, success! We receive well-earned accolades, recognition, and respect for our hard-earned success. But with success comes commitment. The kind that takes up even more of your energy, more of your time, and increases the pressure a few notches more than where it was before.

Perhaps a bit of your old self is being filed away a bit at a time. Suddenly, the small amounts of free time you did have are now taken up by volumes of additional responsibility and expectation from others. Now time with your family, friends, and loved ones is being eaten up by what’s expected of you.

But I have an important question for you: What do you expect of yourself and how do you plan on carrying it out realistically, while balancing your family, friends, and professional life? Perhaps you might find that a bulleted list of helpful hints might be just what you need but instead, RMSAAM is asking you to come up with your own!

And we’ll take it a step further, and ask you to share it with us! We’d love to hear about the challenges and obstacles that became the stepping stones to your ultimate success as an animal body-worker, and what you considered to be thorns on your side on your way to success. Because a thorn on our side may not just be painful or uncomfortable but a reminder: What appears as an obstacle is merely a red flag that something is amiss in our plans. Stand tall, plan well, and prepare to reap the rewards of your success and do so with humility, for without it, you are just another blooming flower amongst hundreds, growing on the same row and in the same field.

Stand out, stand proud, and grow tall!

The New Frontier of Ultrasound

With my Acadia Equine Rehabilitation intern hat on, I accompanied Jenny and a client horse to the veterinarian for some diagnostics on the back: x-rays and ultrasound. As we trekked to Littleton Equine Medical Center, Jenny told me about Cooper Williams, a veterinarian who has revolutionized veterinary diagnostics with his use of the ultrasound. One of the vets at the Littleton clinic has studied courses with Williams, and we were excited to see what he would have to show us.

We looked at the x-rays, and then Jenny and I excitedly crowded around the vet and his ultrasound machine as he ran the probe along the horse’s topline. He pointed out markers of what we were looking at, showing us the shapes of the vertebrae and ribs sloping healthfully out. X-rays do not reveal soft tissue injuries, but the ultrasound is able to, so he took screen shots bilaterally to show us a damaged muscle and the opposing healthy version. We “ooo-ed” and “ahhhh-ed”, and then quickly made our way to the next room for the last ultrasound diagnostic. (Stopping briefly to peek in on a colic surgery, fascinating to see the portion of intestine out and moving from peristaltic contractions!)

For this version, the ultrasound probe is inserted rectally, similar to pregnancy checking in mares. In this scenario, however, the probe is rotated dorsally to “see” the vertebral column and sacroiliac (SI) area. Our eyes were bulging in excitement as the kind vet pointed out nerve bundles, the lumbar vertebrae, the location of the spinal cord, etc. He then rotated the probe to show us each SI joint, with the look of the bone and connections.

As we walked the horse back to the trailer, we bubbled in awe about what ultrasound can show. This truly is a fascinating diagnostic tool that is gaining more and more recognition for its ability to reveal soft tissue injuries. Talk about a nerd-ily awesome day!

Written by Callie Rulli – Skylark Animal Bodywork

International Society for Equitation Science (ISES)

ISESWritten by Callie Rulli-Skylark Animal Bodywork

This week, the spotlight is on the International Society of Equitation Science (ISES). This non-profit organization and membership pool encourages international scientific research and study of horse training to improve the horse-and-rider interaction. It promotes Equitation Science: a multidisciplinary, evidence- and science-based approach to understanding the welfare of the horse during training and use.

There is a conference annually in different locations around the world, and each year there is a slightly different theme. Top researchers from leading institutions in equine science gather to present research from themselves and student, give talks, and have question-and-answer panels on the issues of focus. It is an incredible opportunity to meet scientists and equine enthusiasts from all around the world, and gain perspective on how the equine industry is changing. There is strong emphasis on student research, where university-level students have the opportunity to present their own research. The local organizing committee also organizes outings in the area of the conference. These can be farm tours, racing facilities, breeding farms, schools, veterinary centers, training barns for Olympic trainers and riders, and notable equine-related places.

There is research on donkey welfare with its use in African countries, use of nosebands in dressage, bit fit and use, saddle pressure and fit, humane feeding and stabling practices, rein pressure, and welfare of the sport horse. With an added emphasis of education, they also encourage university students to perform and present their own research as well. Technological developments also come to light at the conferences; rein tension devices to measure rider hand pressure have come light-years in development. Pads that measure saddle pressure distribution and fit, biomechanical analyzing tools, x-rays for bit fitting, and more.

I personally have gone to two conferences so far: Netherlands in 2011 (“Equitation Science: Principles and Practices – Science at work ”), and Delaware USA in 2013 (“Embracing science to enhance equine welfare and horse-human interactions”). The networking connections launched me into the career path I’m involved in with equine science. I have met so many fascinating people from all over the world, all of them excited to see young people involved. This is an incredible organization, full of amazing people who want to see horses better understood by people who interact with them.

For more information, check out their website or facebook page!

Trailering Horses…Keeping Horses and Humans Safe!


We put a lot of miles on the horse trailer these days, hauling rehabilitation horses to and from the clinic, their home barn, or to other practitioners. This means loading and unloading a lot of different horses, all with different experiences traveling. My trailer is extremely horse friendly, and my team is experienced and savvy. We rarely have trouble loading; the horses generally travel quietly, and arrive and unload without incident. I see a lot of other people trailering horses to and from various places, and that also means I see some things happen that are less than safe for both humans and their horses! Hence, the inspiration for this article…

Weight of the load
If you’re using a straight load trailer, it’s safest to put the heaviest horse on the left side of the trailer. If you’re hauling one horse, it should be also be put on the left side of a straight load trailer. This makes for a much safer ride with the heaver side of the trailer near the center of the road. Roads are crowned (slightly higher in the center, graded slightly towards the shoulder), so the balance and safety of the trailer is much better when the heavier or only horse is on the left.

Think about your load also! Try to evenly distribute tack, hay or other equipment that might be hauled in the trailer.
Slant load trailers should carry the only horse (or the heaviest horse) at the front for better balance.

Preparing to Load – Proper Attire for Horses and Handlers It’s best for horse handlers to have boots and gloves on for both the loading and unloading process. I try to take my sunglasses off so they don’t get knocked off my head and the horses can see my eyes. My trailer is very light, open and bright, so it’s very welcoming to the horses. I like my horses to travel in breakaway halters (leather or those with a leather strap that will break) so that potential problems involving a tie or halter that won’t break in a situation where they need to are easier to avoid.

To Boot or Not to Boot?
Because I haul so many different horses, the topic of boots or wraps is complicated. Horses should be accustomed to boots or wraps if they are to wear them. Some of my own horses who are prone to loading/unloading drama, will wear good quality shipping boots that go down over all four hooves, and up over hocks and knees. If I’m hauling two horses that are both used to boots, I will often boot them so that legs don’t tangle and cause issues while traveling. Horses with lower leg injuries that require support may travel in standing wrap(s) with bell boots to cover coronary bands. I find a lot of horses don’t like hind
wraps or boots and will spend the trip kicking, which is often worse for them than not wearing leg protection.

Loading and Unloading
I’m going to save the topic of “difficult to load”, for another article on another day. There are a few really important rules about loading that help make things safe and easy for all involved! Make sure that the butt bar (or rear door/ramp) are up AND secured BEFORE tying the horse! I can’t tell you how many horses I’ve seen people load, tie, and then walk around to secure the butt bar only to have a pull-back incident. Teaching a horse to “self load” or walk in the trailer on his own so that one person can easily load, secure the butt bar, then walk around to tie the horse is the easiest. If you’re dealing with horse that won’t self-load, then having an assistant to secure the butt bar while you stand with the UNTIED horse is the best method.
It’s important to tie the horse short enough that he can’t put his head down and have wreck with the divider or chest bar. It’s equally important to make sure that the horse has enough room tied to reach the hay bag, and ideally put his head down some so he can clear his airway. Using a trailer tie with a quick release snap is good, but a smartly tied quick release knot on a lead rope is fine. My trailer doesn’t have a manger, which I like because the horses can put their front feet forward more during travel to balance. I also use hay bags, which are great so horses can put their heads down lower when eating, again so that they can better clear their airway. I like to clip the trailer tie or the lead to the cheek ring on the halter. That way I can tie the horse shorter, lessening the chance of entanglement, but he can still reach his hay. I don’t like the Velcro quick release type trailer ties, they seem to be too easy for horses to get undone, and the potential for a horse to get his head stuck again under the divider or chest bar are greater if he is untied!
Make sure you load the horse(s) last, after you have everything else ready to go, loaded and be ready to get in the truck and head out to your destination. This is especially important for horses that aren’t seasoned travelers, are traveling alone remember horses are herd animals), or may have trailering “baggage”, and you want to make their experience as short and sweet as possible.
Always do a final check of the trailer before you go: look at tires, check trailer doors, windows (more ventilation is better!), lights, hitch, tack room door, truck tires, to make sure there aren’t any problems brewing that might get bigger during the haul.
When you arrive at your destination, find a safe place to unload the horse. Make sure that the first thing you do is UNTIE the horse and attach the lead rope BEFORE opening any doors. THEN it’s safe to take the ramp down, open the doors, and when YOU are ready, un-fasten the butt bar and allow the horse to calmly unload. If the trailer is opened before the horse is untied, and/or before the lead rope is attached to his halter, this is another prime opportunity for a pull back incident or a loose horse!
If you are hauling more than one horse, keep in mind that horses are herd animals. When the first horse unloads, make sure he is safely out of the way, but keep him within sight of the still-loaded horse, s that horse doesn’t panic and have a wreck while unloading.

Clean up!
Once the horses are safely put away at their destination, clean the trailer by removing all manure and sweeping it clean. Weather permitting, it’s best to hose the trailer out if there is urine. Sweep out any hay from the floor; make sure the windows and vents are shut (unless the trailer needs to dry out). I like to make sure the butt bars, trailer ties, etc., are all hooked back up so that things aren’t rattling around if I haul an empty trailer. I don’t like to use shavings or other bedding in the trailer, particularly for short trips. Shavings are dusty with a well-ventilated trailer and can blow up into horse’s eyes and nose. Straw
can be slick even when dry. On long distance trips I put a small amount shavings down at the back half of the horse compartment to soak up urine and also encourage horses to urinate normally, because some horses don’t like to urinate on hard surfaces where their legs will get splashed. I use the clean up time to make sure there are no maintenance issues with the trailer, so that it’s safe and ready to use the next time we need it.

My favorite horse trailer resource is the book called The Complete Guide to Buying, Maintaining, and Servicing a Horse Trailer, by Neva Kittrell Scheve. Check it out for more information!

Jenny Rukavina
Acadia Equine Rehabilitation

The Equine Chakra System-An Introduction


The Equine Chakras-An Introduction
By Dendria Mclaughlin

A chakra is a spinning vortex of energy located along the spinal column and they primarily work through the endocrine and nervous systems governing the flow of energy and information being sent to and from the body. Each chakra has a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual component that affects overall harmony and balance.

Over the next few months I will cover the 7 main chakras in the equine system and share some experiences using hands on healing, essential oils, gemstones, crystals, photonic light and cranial sacral therapy.

Today I want to share the location and color of the 7 main equine chakras:

The Root chakra is located at the base of the tail and its corresponding color is red. The Sacral chakra is located at the croup and the corresponding color is orange.
The Solar Plexus chakra is located at the center of the back and the corresponding color is yellow.

The Heart chakra is located at the base of the withers as well as at the center of chest and the corresponding color is green.

The Throat chakra is located at the throat and corresponding color is blue.

The Brow chakra is located between at the forehead and its corresponding color is indigo. The Crown chakra is located at the poll and its corresponding color is purple.
Pretty basic stuff so far but please stay tuned to our blog as I talk a bit more about the functions, specific glands, emotions, behaviours, and seasonal changes that can affect your horse’s chakra system.