Friday, December 30, 2011

Fast Friday- Hairy Legs

Winter Weather Tip:
Don't forget to check your horse's legs in the winter.  The long winter hair can hide cuts, splints, or other wounds. I recommend checking them daily at feeding time.  I run my hand from the knee and hock down on both sides of each leg.  Remember that your horse depends on you for his health and well being.  

 Thought of the day:
A good rider can hear his horse speak to him, a great rider can hear his horse whisper, but a bad rider won't hear his horse even if it screams at him. 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What your horse wishes you knew about horses

I apologize for not keeping up over the holidays.  You know how it is, but I am back and committed to writing once again.

Wouldn’t be great if you could sit down with the special horse in your life and tell each other your deepest darkest secrets? To be able to confront your horse about your relationship and get real answers on how your horse views you and your relationship. Unfortunately we can’t hear it straight from the horse’s mouth so here is the next best thing.

Everyone has a place 
 As horse owners we often want to be equals with our horse and have a true partnership. Unfortunately the horse world is much like the military, and every horse has their rank/position in the herd. You can rank number 1, number 2, or number 27 depending on the herd size but no one shares a position. When you enter a horse’s life you are also given a position in the herd, and depending on how you approach the horse you can out rank them or rank below them, but in the horse’s mind there are no equals.

Do it, do it now.
Our horses live in a cause and effect world and do not understand the concept of asking, begging, or pleading. Horse 1 says, “I want your grain, so move.” Horse 2 either moves or Horse 1 kicks them.  If Horse 1 slowly walked up to Horse 2 and asked “Pretty please, I’m still hungry can I have some of yours?” Horse 2 would just laugh and keep eating. Do horses appreciate kindness? Absolutely, but in their world “please” just does not exist. In order to be taken seriously in the horse world you have to say it then make it happen.

It is not that I’m trying to hurt you, I’m just over you.
When we do not make it a priority to rank above our horse in the herd we subject ourselves to herd law. Horses do not touch or mess with the horses out ranking them but anyone ranking under them is fair game. Pair that with their say it and then make it happen lifestyle and things can get dangerous. Your horse was not maliciously sizing you up with the intent of kicking you this morning as you were trying to pick his hind feet. He told you with his ears to not mess with him because he out ranks you in the herd, and you did not listen so he kicked you. The horse in his mind did not do anything wrong.

It is all about me.
 The majority of our horse related behavior problems are due to our horses not feeling confident in our ability to lead them and be over them in the herd. Horses are all about their personal safety and they are happy as long as the horses or persons over them in the herd continue to fulfill their need for safety and leadership. Horses do not care if they a number 1 or number 28 as long as they feel confident and secure in their leader. When Horse 1 is no longer able to fulfill the needs of the herd another horse will take over. When your horse does not feel that you are leader material he will work until until he gets over you. It is not that they do not like you or the former herd boss, but an insecure/ineffective leader puts everyone at risk in the horse’s mind.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why I train

 I train-
  • To help horses, especially the misunderstood ones
  • For the challenge
  • For the breakthroughs no matter how small in both horses and humans.
  • For the smiles of accomplishment and joy from a horse owner.
  • For the thrill of helping a fearful horse to relax, understand, and listen.
  • For the on top of the world feeling you get after a really great ride, especially after a few bad ones.
  • Because of how much you love and care about your horses.
  • For the joy of outlasting in a very stubborn horse with persistence and timing.
  • For the proud parent feeling you get when horses and people you know do great things.
  • The adrenalin rush you get on the first few rides.
  • Because no matter how much you accomplish there is still more to explore and do.
  • Because every horse I meet makes me a better person.

Too much of a good thing

 Who doesn't love horses, and of course the more the better as we say. But is there such thing as too much of a good thing?

I've been a one horse person most of my life. Owning multiple horses was never really been an option growing up due to pasture space and money. And until last year when I bought my gelding I had never actually given any thought on owning more than one horse. And I probably would have never given it any thought except that over the summer my little herd very unexpectedly grew to three as a result of the gift of a horse I had trained due to the previous owner no longer being able to afford him. That is when my perspective changed.

Owning more than one horse can be great. Growing up we each had a horse and at any given time we had 3-6 belonging to the family out in the pasture. An extra horse or two can be a lifesaver when you have an accident prone horse, it can offer kids, friends, and even spouses a chance to share your passion. Another horse can give you options in riding different sports, and also provide much needed companionship to your main ride. But over the summer I quickly learned that extra horses often cost more than just money.

I'm a very equal person when it comes to my horses, meaning that if you do it for one you have to do it for everyone. If I only have plans for working with one, I always make sure I budget enough time so the other at least gets some cookies and a good grooming. For nearly a year I had been happily doing double duty for my mare and gelding much to my enjoyment. Then number 3 joined my herd, and everything that was doubled now became tripled. For the first week things went pretty smoothly, but keeping everyone equal quickly went from being a joy to a down right chore. As the weeks went on I found myself in a perpetual assembly line of horsey chores always in a hurry. Due to the unplanned costs of #3 and the current economy I unhappily learned that I could not afford to care for everyone as I normally would, or do the riding events and activities I enjoy. I was forced to cut out any new activities, postpone my mare's yearly float for the first time because I couldn't afford it, and the surprise after hours visit for #3. My busy schedule forced me to squeeze 3 horses into a time slot made perfectly for two, and I soon found that something or someone was always left out. Due to training my mare for competition and training #3 so he would be ready for a new home my poor gelding was much to my and his dismay was pushed to the back burner. Thankfully there was a happy ending for everyone 3 months after #3 arrived when I was able to find him a wonderful home with awesome people. The next morning with #3 in his dream home we were all at such peace, I was able to relax again, and I swear I saw my gelding smiling.
I am sure that at some point in time I will have more than two but that will only be when I have kids needing horses. This experience taught me that my personal equine number of true enjoyment is 2 and no more. Though I was more than happy to help my good friend in placing #3 it was a great lesson in how 2's company, and 3's a crowd, and how more doesn't always mean more of the good stuff.   

Friday, December 16, 2011

Keeping it Green

Fast Friday-  On Fridays I am going to offer a quick thought, tip, quote, etc.  

As riders we must never stop learning.  To often we sink into a comfortable routine of mediocrity.  We forget to push ourselves and our horses. we forget to grow.


Keep riding, learning and growing.  

Quote of the Day:
There is no secret so close as that between a rider and his horse. ~Robert Smith Surtees


Thursday, December 15, 2011

WHOA Thief!

Warning: Horse Owner Awareness

Horse theft happens, and all of our horses and horse related possessions are at risk. Thankfully there are steps we can take to help prevent it.

  1. Permanently identify your horses you can do this by freeze branding, hot branding, micro-chipping, and tattooing them. I personally recommend branding as it is very visible from a distance.
  2. Register your brand(s) with the county that your horses live in.
  3. Put signs up on property, stall doors when boarding or at horse events that tell people that your horses and equipment have permanent identification...
  4. When at horse events - leave a light on, feed horse at the back of the stall, inform barn neighbors to be aware of possible theft and people who will be moving your horses, put sign on door that horse and tack have permanent identification. Do not give complete information on the breeding of the horse on the stall door. This may attract thieves to pick your horse because of the breeding.
  5. Record identification information with county, state, and national registries.
  6. Photograph your horse in two seasons. Keep photographs current.
  7. Photograph your horse dirty and clean.
  8. Photograph any identifying markings a horse has close up this includes brands, tattoos, scars, and other unique markings.
  9. Make a file with all important horse information inside including photos, brand registration receipts, and registration papers. 
  10. Padlock gates and keep fencing in good shape.
  11. Do not put halters and lead ropes by stall doors when you do not have a sign posted.
  12. Keep halters off of pasture horses.
  13. Keep barns away from road if possible.
  14. Install security lighting around the barn.
  15. Put no trespassing signs on pasture fences.
  16. Put security signs on pasture fences.
  17. Keep a barking dog or other animal that makes noise, like a peacock, donkey, geese, or guinea hen.
  18. Change routines often.
  19. Pay attention to service people on property and anything or anyone that looks different and not right or normal.
  20. Start a neighborhood watch.
  21. Keep trailer out of view if possible.
  22. Lock up tack.
  23. Buy a hitch lock and door/gate locks for you trailers (bike locks work great if you have a stock trailer or any trailer with a slide gate on the back) and always lock up your trailer and tack when you are in a public situation, such as shows, clinics, trail rides etc.
  24. Put identification info on tack - the best ID is your driver’s license number preceded by the state code. Do not use the drivers license number if it s a social security number. You can also put a microchip into your saddle but this will not be recognized like your drivers license. Or mark your saddle up out of sight and have a photograph of the mark.
  25. Record all serial numbers/ model numbers of your tack and trailers with a photograph.
  26. Have photos of your trailers and big/expensive tack items like saddles.

Please visit for lots more information on theft prevention and what to do if horse theft happens to you.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Estate Planning

If something happens to you what will happen to your horses?

I never woke up that morning thinking that I would nearly die by 7pm.  It had been a regular day at college, I was not feeling great, but I never feel great so I did not think much of it.  After my classes I hop in my truck and drive the 10 miles to see my mare Pie.  I visit with her for about an hour before heading back home to my apartment.  I start the drive back without issue, but mid way through I get very light headed and nauseous.  I pull over and vomited what looked and tasted like blood. I only remember bits and pieces of how I made it back to my apartment.  I regained consciousness long enough to call my then boyfriend now husband, to tell him something was very wrong before I was sucked back into the darkness.  We rushed to hospital where I spent 3 days in the ICU for bleeding ulcers.  I later learned that I was lucky that I stayed conscious long enough to call my boyfriend, as I was so out of it that I never thought to call 911.  I was 21 years old at the time.

Every horse owner should seriously consider what would happen to their horses if they were to suddenly past away.

Horse Estate Planning

1.  Include your horses in your will no matter your age.

2.  If you are lucky enough to have other family members who are experienced in horses, talk with them about your feelings and plans for your horses and horse related property.

3.  If you are not lucky enough to have other horse wise people in your family ask one of your horse friends to help your family with the horse related decisions.

4.  Create a horse binder which carries all veterinary and registration information on all your horses.  If your horses are not papered provide their ages, breeds, and other relevant information. (can also be done for cats and dogs)

5. This day in age very few people have the money, time, and or property to keep one horse let alone 4 or 5 so you may also want to include money for care, well written sale ads, boarding information, and a list of professionals in your area who you would trust to help your family place your horses.

6.  Think about your horse related property and put it in your will.  Who gets the truck and trailer, your saddles, etc.  If you do not have friends or family who could use your horse related property consider making a donation to a local 4-h group or rescue.

While no one ever wants to think about the end, taking time to do so can greatly help your family and friends make the right decisions in regards to your horses. The same can be done for your dogs, cats, and other animals in your life.  

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Greatest Teachers

The greatest teachers in my life have always been horses.  

This is Setta Lu

She taught me to love, trust, and try.
She taught me how to listen to and communicate with horses.
She made me become a horseman and a trainer. 

She was the first horse I ever trained.
She was always willing to check my attitude when I needed it the most.
She had a slow soft trot to die for, and was the only reason I managed to survive High School.   

We trail rode, showed, worked cattle, rode at the beach, and did everything else in between.   

She was severely visually impaired and later blind 7 of the 8 years we were together.  
She passed away at the age of 15.  

How have horses influenced your life?  

Monday, December 12, 2011

Consistency is Key

All you really need is Consistency

I never call a horse finished. To me you finish reading a book, or you finish the work week. I consider all horses to be works in progress, just like a nice lawn they have to constantly be maintained. Consistency is key in having a happy equine relationship. Horses see everything as absolute. So if you allow your horse to eat grass while on the halter, every time they see some grass they will be trying to eat it even when you don't want them too. Sometimes does not exist in the horse world, it is the same as always.

For example let's say that your Grandmother always keeps a full cookie jar, so every time you visit her you're going to go get a cookie. Now one day you go to visit and when you check the cookie jar you find crumbs instead of cookies. You have grown to expect cookies so even though they are none today the next time you go to visit you are going to check the cookie jar, and will probably check several more times afterwords until you are absolutely certain that there will be no more cookies.

Horses work they same way. The best trained horse in the world will turn rotten if allowed too, and the worst horse can become a joy to handle. For example if you are riding and you ask your horse to trot and then he breaks down to a walk and you allow him to walk for 15 steps before telling him to trot then the horse learned that they can stop trotting and walk for 14 steps before being corrected and he will probably try and do it again.

Horses learn through cause and effect. The horse touches the electric fence, the fence shocks him and the horse learns that touching the fence hurts. A colt gets too full of himself and bites the old mare, and old mare bites or kicks him, so the colt learns that you should not bite old mares.

A nippy colt can easily be fixed by lightly bopping him on the nose every time he tries to bite. Consistency in the horse world means every time without exception by all people who have contact with the horse no matter the situation. Don't worry if they keep testing you, as the more they have been allowed to do something like biting they longer they will continue to try to do it.

A foal spends the majority of it's life a horse so when dealing with young horses it is important to enforce the same rules that adult horses live by. Most young horses will try to bite, kick, rear, be pushy when leading, etc but all of these behaviors can be quickly put to bed by correcting it the moment that the horse acts out. If the first time a colt tries to bite a person he is met with a light bop on the nose, he will very quickly learn that you don't bite people. Training is consistently making the right behavior easy and the wrong behavior hard.
The sky is the limit as to what you teach your horse, you just have to remember that consistency is key.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

All of a Sudden

It seems like 99% of all horse accident stories begin with the wondrous phrase “all of a sudden.”

We hear it everyday. The ride was going perfect until “all of a sudden” the horse; kicked, bucked, reared, bit, etc.

One of my favorite examples of this phenomenon was on a quiet trail ride where I meet a grandmother and her granddaughter both on well broke horses. I was riding behind both them when mid way through the ride I see the granddaughter's gelding slowly start riding up the rear of the grandmother's mare. The mare from the moment it started was obviously pissed.

I warn them to back off, but they ignore my comments. So the mares starts pinning her ears, and wringing her tail.

I warn them again that they need to pay attention and get off the mare's rear, I guess they didn't hear me or the mare. So Mare adds chomping the bit, and begins glancing back with road rage to the already pinned ears and wringing tail.

I tell them to back off, that the mare is on her way to blowing a gasket, and of course they didn't listen. So Mare adds pissed off jig to the pinned ears, wringing tail, etc.

This goes on for about 15 minutes........

when “ALL OF A SUDDEN” the mare kicked!

Suddenly the mare was bad, she was wrong, by the words of the grandmother, “a terrible horse.” She just couldn't believe that that mare would do such a thing.

It never crossed their minds that the whole incident was their fault. Even after I explained the situation play by play.

You mean I can't just sit back and enjoy the scenery while riding like when I'm a passenger in a car? That I actually have to pay attention to what my horse and the horses around me are doing when riding. What did you think was happening when your mare pinned her ears and started acting up? Do you do the same thing with your car? That check engine light comes on for a reason you know.

After the ride as I walk past their trailer to hear the Grandmother exclaim over the phone, “Then all of a sudden (insert name) kicked!”

If you happen to experience “all of a sudden” stories regularly in your horse life, chances are you the one are causing the problems or ignoring them, especially if you are riding a well seasoned horse. Riding is just like driving you can never fall asleep at the wheel. I've had plenty of interesting moments on green horses, but as a rider I expect green horses to freak over anything and everything.

In my riding life I have only experienced one true “all of a sudden” moment. It happened when I was a kid riding in the woods with my Mom. My horse was quiet and on a loose rein, when “All OF A SUDDEN” a tree fell about 30 yards away, and my horse took off like a bolt of lightning. I regained control about 50 yards later, and circled until my horse was ready to continue once again on a loose rein.

Maybe it should be changed it to, “Suddenly I wasn't paying attention when.....”