Protecting Your Horse is Nature’s Job
It’s been a long winter. We’ve done our best to keep our horses comfortable and cozy. In the Pacific Northwest, it’s been a wild one; pounding blustery rain storms, howling wind and hefty saturated snow. The dense white sludge glues itself to the branches of our 200-foot Cedar and Douglas Fir Trees. These trees are enormous, majestic towers of nature’s magnificence. Yet, if they are not 100% stable, they break with the load. And this is when the trouble really starts. Crashing into cars, blocking the roads, snapping the power lines and collapsing barns like houses of cards. The wee hours of the morning would find me pacing the house, attempting to peer out through the mayhem to make sure our horses are still there amid it all. I’ve contemplated the pros and cons of wrapping them in bubble wrap or bringing them into the house. They could stay in the storage room. Could it be so wrong?
And now, finally there is reprieve.
Blessedly, it seems to be coming to end. We can look to the sun. The first day of Spring has arrived. That glorious healing sun, magnificent ball of fire that changes everything.
The Sun Salutations
One of my favorite Yoga sessions are called The Sun Salutations. The series was developed in the ancient days, before electricity, toilets and concrete. They travelled on paths then. Often with animals. They slept under the stars and the shepherds noticed that when the sun rose, the world changed from dark to light. The birds and bees came out to pollinate and propagate. Plants began to grow, which meant food became more plentiful. It was life-giving, worthy of worship and celebration. The life affirming postures and mantras of Sun Salutations were practised as a morning ritual in honour of The Sun.
As we move into the summer season to spend more time outdoors with our horses, we should enjoy the sun, but with a caveat of caution. Unlike animals with hides, human skin is rather fragile. Us poor fallible humans must continually adapt in the absence of thick body protecting hair. It may take up to four weeks for your skin to build up full protection to your local solar conditions and your skin layers become saturated with melanin pigment which acts as a natural sunscreen.
How Much Sun is Too Much
Plants and animals know exactly how much sun is good for them, Plants close, or turn away their leaves, in symphony with their molecular light harvesting zones. The sun is a source of light and energy for plants. They take energy from the light of the sun, carbon dioxide from the air, and water to make glucose, which is a sugar that plants store for energy. Plants are also filled with vitamin D, an important nutrient because of the sunlight they absorb. Good for us. Good for our animals.
Animals seek the shade and protect themselves by wearing fur. In harmonious conjunction with the largest muscle mass in your horse’s body, the properties of the epidermis change to accommodate the increase in solar radiation. This muscle activates to raise the hair follicles which insulate the animal from too much sun. If you constantly blanket your horse, you are compromising nature’s intelligence.
With gradual exposure to sunlight, a mechanism of solar acclimation begins that changes the nature of the hair follicles to create sun protection. Of course, nature works this way. Well before the full-on Summer sun continuously shines, our Spring days are interspersed with cloudy periods, perfectly allowing gradual acclimatization. All you really need to do is provide exposure to direct sun sprinkled with some areas of shade. This early preparation ensures that when you find your horse basking in the glorious rays of mid-Summer sun, you can be comfortable knowing nature’s genius has been at work.
And of course, when the sun comes out we all love to head out on the trails! Don’t forget to pop on your Cavallos – although protecting your horse IS nature’s job, Cavallos can lend a helping hand.
Happy Spring Adaptation!