Hunterdon Review

Wednesday, March 19, 2003.


Holistic Horse Care Gaining Popularity in Hunterdon


More horse owners in the Hunterdon area are beginning to look toward “natural horse care”, a holistic approach to equine health and environmental management which combines a number of concepts to improve the soundness and well-being of pleasure horses.

The movement investigates options and developments in feed, shelter, hoof, parasite and disease control, as well as saddlery, soundness and veterinary care,  according to Lynn Henderson, manager of EquinNaturally Holistic Equine Services, located just outside Holland Township in Pohatcong.

Henderson, formerly of the Whitehouse section of Readington Township, has worked with horses professionally for 35 yeares, is a freelance instructor specializing in amateur owners and also teaches equine studies at Hunterdon County Polytech.  She and several other horse professionals in the area were introduced to natural horse care when trying to determine why some horses were sound on their own but lame under saddle.

Mary Bashtarz, of the Pittstown section of Alexandria Township, is a close associate of Henderson’s, and serves as EquiNaturally’s natural rehabilitation specialist and teaches courses on hoof care and saddlery at Hunterdon County Polytech. 

When describing how she and other local horse owners became involved in the natural horse care philosophy, she recalls that a company from England called Balance International had given a presentation here a couple of years ago.

The presentation showed how improper saddle fit can cause soundness and movement problems in many horses, something which many trainers and riders don’t realize.

“The saddles made all the difference with most of these horses, including some Friesians we were working with,” Bashtarz explained. “But when the saddle didn’t help, we began to focus on the feet, and discovered how unnatural shoeing and trimming can cause problems.”

The natural horse care method encourages barefoot hoof care as opposed to traditional shoeing, although Henderson admits this is not suitable for every horse, especially performance horses which are required to do strenuous work.

She also notes that, when making the switch from traditional to natural barefoot horse care, there will be a transitional period in which the horse may feel uncomfortable, as his feet adjust.

She describes the difference between natural hoof care and just having a traditional farrier trim an unshod horse. “Most blacksmiths trim a bare foot the same way they trim a horse they put shoes on,” she said,”which often involves leaving more heel and wall than a horse needs in a natural setting.”

It should be noted, however, that many quality blacksmiths are willing and able to trim unshod hooves properly, while still advocating corrective and traditional shoeing for horses whose jobs and environments require it.

“Most of the problems encountered with horses can be traced to the unnatural conditions people have imposed on them,” according to Henderson.

“Many of the jobs we ask of our horses are unnatural”, she said. “The animal is able to perform in a more efficient, happy and healthy manner when natural practices are followed. “

In August, 2002, Lynn opened EquiNaturally, a holistic horse care facility located on 20 plus acres of varied terrain outside Holland Township. EquiNaturally offers a variety of services, including barefoot transitional care, rehabilitation, nutritional assessment/care, medical care, retirement, and boarding, which can include stalls, individual quarters or free roaming on spacious grounds and varied terrain.

Alternative/complementary care includes acupuncture and acupressure, massage, animal communication, chiropractic care, herbs and homeopathy, Reiki and traditional Chinese medicine.

In addition to Lynn Henderson and Mary Bashtarz, on-call specialists include Brian Colquhoun DVM of Sand Spring Equine and Veterinary Acupuncture, Craig Denega, massage therapist, Kathryn Rose, Reiki master/practitioner, and Sharon Orlando, animal communicator. Also, Mary’s son, Tom Bashtarz, is currently going through the certification process in the La Pierre method of hoof trimming, and is working with the horses at EquiNaturally.

The philosophy of EquiNaturally and other holistic horse care programs, according to Henderson, is a combination of many “old and improved” concepts in horse management.

For those interested in finding out more about the natural/holistic horse care method, a number of classes are offered through Hunterdon County Polytech, including “Less is Best-Natural Horsekeeping”, “Saddlery from the Horse’s Point of View”, “No Hoof, No Horse” and others related to horse ownership and breeding. Students may register online through Hunterdon County Polytech.

To find out more about services offered through EquiNaturally, click onto the website at: www.equinaturally.com or call Lynn Henderson at 908-797-6921.

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