The horse was 15, unwanted after 12 years of service. And I don’t remember the exact day I placed a little less than his slaughter value into the woman’s hand. But I do remember the satisfaction of having the opportunity to live up to my promise to the horse that one day, he and his welfare would be respected and cared for.
After the Vet saw my new acquisition and informed me that he had a bowed tendon that had never been allowed to heal and that for a lack of a better description; “one third of his right lung was necrotizing in him” from COPD and that I would be lucky if he made it into his 20’s I heaved a long sigh and set about living up to my promise.
He was a great horse, talented, could collect like a dream, he would throw tempi’s for jokes and made people gasp when he was on the muscle. He was an odd boy; he listened and obeyed full sentences, passed the horse IQ test with flying colours and would chase me with his butt to have it scratched. He was my friend and his twisted, quirky sense of humour never ceased to make me laugh.
I set about treating the tendon: cold casts daily, cold hosing, heat, magnets, rubs of all sorts, physio exercises and massage, and hand walking up and down hills to keep him strong. His breathing was another matter and took human inhalers along with a barrage of other meds to get him comfortable. He healed and we set about enjoying life and each other.
One spring, before bug season hit I did my usual trip to the tack store for a supply of summer grooming products. Headed to the barn, rode, gave him a bath and groomed him till he was shiny and his tail fluffy. I then sprayed him with some barn/grooming concoction that promised the moon on the label and turned him out for the night.
The black flies were thick that year and I was expecting the usual lumps and bumps when I returned to the barn. But instead of lumps he was covered in blisters and bald spots. No one at the barn had seen this before or would even speculate on what was happening. I cleaned him up brushing gently, washing and putting cream on the worst of the blisters and pulled out the bottle of fly spray.
By the time I was on the third spritz I stopped in shock as I realized that each of the blistered, hairless spots was exactly where I would spray, every time, without exception. I was mortified. I wasn’t taking care of this horse. I was making him sick.
That was the moment I became a label reader. I wasn’t impressed with myself when on closer inspection found; “residual pesticides” as one of the ingredients. And to be completely honest with you my dear reader; at that time I didn’t even know what residual pesticides were.
That was the beginning of the end for off-the-shelf products for that boy. Next bath he started itching and flaking and looking miserable. The shampoo went into the trash to keep the fly spray company. I started using human products on him and whenever I could find them and equine products that were claiming to be natural. The supply of these products was unreliable, included questionable ingredients and were expensive.
I started researching and reading about formulating and then decided that I should try for no more reason than if something didn’t work the person to blame was looking back at me in the mirror and I could have a chat with her about what went wrong or consult with my references and Vet.
At first I attempted to duplicate already available natural products, logging what worked, what didn’t. Then adding my own research and fine-tuning over the next 3-4 years. In 2008 I had a reliable formula and people were starting to ask about it, it smelled great and everyone (horses included) didn’t choke, gag, or dance when it was airborne.
By 2010 and thanks to a snide comment by someone who didn’t approve of my efforts; found the final ingredients, proportions, and method to make an all-round grooming spray that worked, even in a moldering, bug-infested fen.
My boy wasn't itchy and had only a few bumps. His coat was healthy; gleaming like a new copper penny. I continued exploring, learning, creating, improving. It all came in very handy when I also started reacting to everyday products and chemicals. I have learned much over the past 12 or so years.
I don’t fear chemicals and synthetics – I never did. But I find we rely on them far too heavily, for the most part because we don’t know any better.
I now know how best to avoid overuse and make sensible, effective choices whether it be for keeping a horse, dog, human or home; happy and healthy.
So, here is to the adventure. Not all natural products are safe. Not all chemicals are bad. It is about using them wisely. I sincerely hope you enjoy using my products. They are made with human and food-grade ingredients, as simply as possible, with common sense for the safety of all, and a lot of love.
PS: the horse (Toad) flew by his early 20’s, still had changes at 28, and lived to see his 30th year before time forced us to part company.
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