Interview with Carly Hillier – Whitethorn Equine Health
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in leafy suburban Surrey in Southern England. In those days the tv was black and white (I kid you not!) and of course there was no internet (how did we survive?) so I spent most of the time in the garden either making herbal potions and storing them in the tree house or building farms in the gravel drive. I used to move the gravel around to make hedges and roads and spent hours planning out my model farmyard and animals. Happy innocent days!
How did you first get involved with horses or ponies?
From maybe 8 yrs of age, I remember shining my family’s shoes and ironing my dad’s shirts to make enough money to have riding lessons. Unfortunately, I lost my confidence during a lesson and never returned - choosing instead to ride our pet donkey Pepe. I say ride, more like sat on her when and if she allowed it!
When I was 12 my family relocated to Hong Kong where the only ponies in the area were the Borneo ponies at the Royal Stables. Like most native ponies, they were way ahead of me and I soon realised I was out classed. So that was that. When I returned to the UK to go to college I continued my relationship with horses of the Iron variety - Yamaha's, Honda's etc.. No mucking out, cheaper to run but also a lot less interesting. When I moved to Ireland over 30yrs ago now, I was finally able to realise my dream of buying a pony with the £1,000 that my grandpa left me in his will - a piebald cob named Sheila. My happiest memories of riding horses has to be charging across the bog on Sheila with my dogs running alongside us. We had such a close relationship – I just had to think where I wanted to go and she was on it! I swear she could read my thoughts.
What drew you to study & practise Applied Zoopharmacognosy?
Sheila needed a friend, so I bought a weanling - an ID filly whom we named Cora. Fast forward a couple of years and Cora was struggling with regular bouts of colic. At this stage I had studied Equine Science at UL and so had enough knowledge to be able to implement all the measures required to avoid colic. Yet still every 3 - 5 weeks she would go down with colic. I tried everything - initially the vet and Buscopan, then homoeopathy and even Reiki but it kept returning.
I then saw an article in a magazine and the word Zoopharmacognosy jumped out of the page at me. I couldn't take my eye off of the word - I knew I had to investigate further.
I ordered some essential oils from a specialist supplier and lo and behold with every episode of colic Cora would select oils specific to relieving colic. What I found absolutely fascinating was that with every episode of colic, not only would she select the oils known to resolve colic, she would vary the dose of each oil. So, for example, with one episode her main favourite would be Peppermint with a small interest in Fennel and German Chamomile and then in the second episode weeks later, her most favoured oil would be German Chamomile with only a small interest in Peppermint and none in Fennel.
I could see that she really was selecting for the actual specific symptoms that this particular bout of colic was presenting. It absolutely blew me away and to be honest with you still does!
The most successful aspect however, was the fact that the bouts of colic completely disappeared after using the oils.
Well and truly on the Zoocog Wagon, I trained to Practitioner Level in 2011 qualifying for dogs and horses. Since then, I have worked with every type of performance horse to the happy hacker. I used to do a lot of travelling the length and breadth of the country but now I work mostly on zoom guiding horse owners on how to offer to their horses. Online sessions mean that I can reach horses in any part of the world in any time zone. It really has opened everything up.
Tell me a little about how Zoopharmacognosy benefits horses?
Applied Zoopharmacognosy has numerous benefits for the domesticated horse - far too many to list here! But we have had success with a wide variety of issues such as emotional issues, as well as physical issues including pain, inflammation, hormonal, respiratory and digestive issues. The key to the effectiveness of Zoocog vs any other modality (and I have tried most of them!) is the accuracy of how the horse not only self-selects but also self-doses for the horse’s present biological and physiological state. Giving the horse the choice to choose, whilst takes trust and a significant mental shift for the horse owner, really does pay off.
It is an innate ability with no training required.
There are also many medical conditions that are only able to be managed by conventional medicine that have responded well to this approach. Take a mare called Lorraine for example, she came to us for livery from MLHR and was diagnosed with Cushings by UCD with a reading of 165 ACTH. After 8 months with us and (6 x Zoopharmacognosy sessions) two consecutive ACTH readings were both under 50 (taken in Sept & Nov). Also, a dog with Pannus, normally considered incurable, regained full eyesight within 2 weeks of the session. Not all results are so spectacular but nevertheless good results are common.
One lovely aspect to this approach is that it empowers horse and owner to enjoy a deeper more meaningful connection – it gives the horse a ‘voice’ through its sense of smell.
Within your practice what services do you offer?
At Whitethorn Academy Workshops, we train industry professionals alongside the leisure rider to use the Applied Zoopharmacognosy method in workshops where students can learn onsite and online simultaneously. Strategically placed cameras, along with a roving yard camera, ensures that online students can observe, interact and contribute to the sessions. Levels of classes go from basic offering, followed by working with trauma and then onto the Masterclass where we look at honing skills and integrating the method with other modalities.
We also offer one-to-one zoom sessions for horse owners around the globe that need help in the offering process. Extracts are pre purchased and the owner is guided on "how to offer". Sessions are recorded so owners can reflect on their horse’s responses. It’s a great way to learn!
Our shop Whitethorn Herbals also supplies the widest range of extracts available globally for the Zoopharmacognosy approach and ships to customers all over the world. We will be rolling out our Practitioner course soon which will train our students to the highest standard and they will be the best Practitioners in the Industry.
It is a massive leap going from working on your own horse to entering a member of the public’s yard and working with a horse you do not know.
It takes a lot of skill and preparation, not to mention knowledge of the extracts, horse behaviour and conditions. Training will be thorough and effective and produce a capable confident Practitioner.
If you had one piece of advice for women in equestrianism what would it be?
Find ways to reconnect and step back into your Power!
We are all powerful beings, but our Power has been suffocated and repressed by cultural and societal programming. Explore and be curious about the barriers preventing you from stepping back into your Power. (Easier said than done, I appreciate, but send out the intention to the Universe and you will be surprised how the Universal Power will conspire to support you!)
Women have been 2nd class citizens for centuries now and it’s great that the pendulum has swung and women are starting to travel the road of re-empowerment. However, I do feel that it’s important to be mindful of the difference of becoming power filled vs having power over. The end goal is equality for women and men alike - not to switch rolls from being the underdog to the dominator.
What are your goals and ambitions for the future?
How long have you got? I would like to see Applied Zoopharmacognosy becoming more mainstream, even in such basic ways of offering essential oils to weanlings to ease separation from the dam. It is happening slowly, but a lot done, more to do! I would also like to be part of developing an integrated equine health care system and clinic that blends the state-of-the-art conventional diagnostics along with complimentary therapies such as Zoocog, craniosacral work, Amatsu, Equine Psychology, etc.
There is a real need to blend complementary therapies within the Veterinary system and to break down any prejudices.
We also need more science to back the results up. In the same vein we have recently welcomed Dr. Silke Kleefeld to the Whitethorn Team who is project managing case studies and research that will demonstrate the effectiveness of the horse’s ability to self-medicate among other studies that we plan to undertake.
Something you wish people knew about horses?
They have feelings just like you and me - they feel joy, sadness, excitement and anger! Also, it is my experience that they can take on our emotional baggage as well as sense and respond to our intentions. So, in short, be mindful of your own ‘stuff’ that you bring to the yard and stable!
How can people get in contact with you?
You can find more about our workshops, one-to-one sessions at www.whitethornequinehealth.com or browse our shop for essential oils and herbs at www.whitethornherbals.com
Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us on Instagram & Facebook please!
A huge thank you to Carly for such an insightful & informative interview.