By the time a horse starts kicking, rearing or biting, it is screaming that something is wrong.
There will have been signs way before, such as tightening around the eyes, wrinkling nose, ears back and a swishing tail when saddled or ridden and all those may be signs of pain.
Northland resident Ivana Ruddock-Lange, who is originally from the Czech Republic where she graduated as a veterinarian and who now works as a bodyworker, says horses are masters of compensation and will mask their lameness so as not to be noticed by predators in the wild.
They will make changes in their movement to compensate for injuries or discomfort or even their emotional state, which can all build up to one chronically uncomfortable animal.
"People will bring horses to me and say they are naughty, or mad or bad but the owners need to understand that changes in behaviour are sometimes the only way that horses can communicate that something is hurting."
Ivana has travelled all around the world to lecture on the Equine Touch, a method of bodywork that adopts a holistic approach to horse care.
With her late husband Jock Ruddock, she developed the hands-on techniques to relax and release muscle and fascia tensions and restore balance to the horse's soft tissue.
They knew the treatments worked because horses with stiff and tight muscles were "melting in front of our eyes", finally relaxing and changing their posture to a natural stance again.
Once a vet has checked and treated a horse for its initial problems, working on the muscles and fascia of the whole body is crucial to allow complete healing and recovery, she says.
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Now living at Whatitiri west of Whangārei, Ivana and her husband Andrew Lange have developed their classic lifestyle block to be a haven for humans and animals alike.
Ivana says horses are herd animals and should not be kept in isolation no matter how many "kisses and treats they are given".
"In the herd, they all have jobs to do which keeps them mentally balanced. Horses also need to be able to walk, graze and browse."
With this in mind, Ivana and Andrew have an unusual paddock system where the inside area has been fenced and planted in orchard, leaving wide interlinked tracks around for the horses to move around as they graze.
The property is double fenced with trees planted between and the animals have plenty of trees and sheds available where they can seek shelter.
Ivana says horses can cope with cold conditions quite well as they will shiver or run to keep warm, but they can't cope with too much heat.
"All animals need good shade, especially when they have dark coats which absorb the heat more."
Ivana has written several books, with her latest book Atlas of Equine Musculoskeletal System now in its second edition. It was created as a tool for body workers and vets to understand in pictures what is under the skin.
She developed this body of knowledge through her popular three-day whole horse dissection clinics that she holds around the world each year in Europe and North America.
"The light bulb goes on when people can actually see what's going on under the skin. When my students see the gastrointestinal system of the horse, they understand that feeding a horse twice a day is not healthy or natural.
"Or when I can show them the wholeness of the fascia they can see how a badly fitted or ill designed saddle affects the whole body and not just the horse's back.
"And when they see all the nerves on the horse's face they can understand the impact of the bit and bridle on the whole horse. They can see that all the muscles, joints, bones are connected by fascia into functional chains and nothing in the body exists in isolation,'' she says.
Horses need a lot of upkeep to be kept in good condition. Teeth need to be checked at least once a year and hooves need to be trimmed each month even, if the horse is not being ridden.
Saddles should be carefully adjusted to avoid problems, as horses change their shape often.
"If you have a tight shoe, putting a fluffy sock on is not going to fix that and it's the same with saddles,'' she says.
Ivana and Andrew have worked hard to make their lifestyle block as productive as possible. They rarely need to buy any vegetables and almost all the trees and plants have been grown from seed or cuttings.
They use horse manure and composted vegetable scraps processed by their worm farm to make a lush environment in the tough pipe clay soils.
"It's so easy to grow your own food and be self-sufficient, especially in Northland,'' Ivana says, "and we love it here."