Thursday, August 29, 2013

Barn tips, tricks, and other making life easier with horses tidbits

Today I have decided to share some of my horse care tips.  Please feel free to share your tips by leaving a comment and I will add yours to the list.

1.  A cheap adjustable nylon pet collar will keep your hook over the rail buckets in place with a horse that likes to redecorate on a daily basis.

2.  A used dewormer tube works great when you need to give bute or other powdered (crushed pills) medicines.  Just pour your stuff in the tube and add something sticky and sweet to help the medicine go down.  I like to use cheap pancake syrup.

3.  When at shows, on the trail, or other away from home stabling events first lead your horse to water and give them a chance to fill up.  Then haul water to their stall.  Doing this will save you a few sloppy bucket hauls and help ensure that your horse will have throughout the day/night.

4.  Consider your water trough placement and put it in the shade when possible.  Doing so will help your horse drink more water during the summer months.  (If you do not think this is important, leave a bottle of water in the sun and try to drink it.)

5.  Plain old deodorant will help keep a horse from chewing bandages.  I also really like to product Bitter Yuck! that is no toxic and can be sprayed on anything (I taught the then puppy to not eat my patio plants with it). I highly recommend doing something to make it taste bad the first few times you use wraps on a horse.  There is nothing worse than needing a leg wrapped and having horse that tries to remove it.

6.  Bitter Yuck! and other nontoxic cribbing sprays are a great deterrent for tail chewing foals and horses and can safely be applied daily until the behavior becomes extinct.

7.  A large grill cleaning brick is so much cheaper than a for horses bot block and is made from the same material.

8.  If you travel with you dog a lot consider making them a on the road tag with the license plates of your trucks and trailers.  This tag could be a lifesaver if you regularly camp in remote areas that do not have reliable cell service. has great slide on tags for just $10.

I will add more as they come to me and others send them in so stay tuned.  :)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It's not cheating if it works

It's not cheating if it works.

No, I am not talking about illegal drugging, abusive training tactics, or other wise breaking the rules.

I am talking about taking the simpler way when training.

I taught Mozzie to load this weekend.  (Yes, I know I should have gotten around to it sooner but I just had a baby and life kind of got in the way.)

I didn't tap.

I didn't pull.

I didn't sweat, and didn't stress.

I just cheated and tried the easiest way first.

 I offered a hungry baby his breakfast that could only be gotten by doing the right thing.

He put one foot on the ramp and was reward with a bite and in less than 10 minutes he had willing walked in.
I then backed him, unloaded him and did the whole process over and over.  At the end of his 40 minute lesson he had quietly and calmly loaded and unloaded 8 times all because he was motivated by his breakfast.
While I was more than willing to do whatever I needed to get him in the trailer using force. I choose to first try positive motivation and was able to make the scary process of loading pleasant and enjoyable.

Moral of the story -

Why start a fight if you do not have too.

Give your horse a chance and start positive when possible because it isn't cheating if it works.  

(Of course if positive reinforcement does not work you must continue try all options until you eventually achieve your goal)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Great horses- my personal philosophy

I believe most if not all horses have the ability to become a really great horse.

The kind of horse every equestrian dreams about.






The kind of horse that can be ridden with just a whisper.

I truly believe that every horse if given the chance can become something truly great.

The key words being "if given the chance."

Great horses are made by great riders.  

Riders willing to do what ever the horse needs until he no longer needs it.

A rider willing to work through the tough outer shell until they reach the sparkling gem hidden inside.

Good horses are born, but great horses are made.   

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Water problems- Health Edition

Lines break.
Floats stop working or get knocked out.
Buckets get turned over.
Buckets get pooped in.
Birds or wildlife fall in.
Many things can go wrong with your horses' water supply.

So what should you do if you find that your horses' tough is dry or contaminated?

Besides obviously cleaning and filling the trough you should withhold grain (and hay if possible) for a few hours once the trough has been filled to give your horse plenty of time to drink and re-hydrate to help prevent colic.

If you feed a horse before they have had a chance to drink for several hours the they many end up with an impaction colic from not having enough moisture to properly digest their meal.

They can also suffer from gas colic if they drink a bunch of water right before or after a large grain meal which then can give them a tummyache.

So in short to help prevent colic when #@%^ happens postpone a grain feeding for several hours or skip a feeding entirely when your horse has not had free access to water for an period of time.

This also applies when riding and trail riding for several hours at a time.


Monday, August 5, 2013

My New Long Term Project

For the time in a few years I finally have something new to train for myself.  This is Mozzie.  He is currently 3 and a half months old and is the newest member of the KnP team.  Just like his dam Pie he is already proving to be quite the horse and character.  I am excited to be able to document his training progress here on the blog so stay tuned.  

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Teaching Headsets And Other Finer Things- Are You Ready?

Headsets, people love them.

There are few things prettier than a horse with a nice level headset. (Headset meaning- relaxed, light, not too high, not too low,  and on and nearly on the vertical with little to no rein interference.)

While everyone wants an attractive headset many people rush through the training process and try to teach/achieve a nice headset before a horse is ready.  In order to be ready for headsets and other more advanced maneuvers a horse must first have a firm grasp on the basics.  

In order to achieve or school on a headset a horse must first-
*  Have forward movement.  A horse must first be moving freely and willingly under saddle with little to know encouragement from the rider.

*  Be under complete control of the rider and light and responsive to all aids.  A horse should not warp circles, veer off a straight line, or resist rein or leg pressure.  

*   Be able to rate.  A horse must be able to maintain a constant speed at all gates as directed by the rider and do so on a loose rein.

Only after all of the above is achieved should a rider even consider schooling more advanced maneuvers. And a rider must also be willing to go back to the basics and do a little tuneup at any time before continuing in training.      

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Explanation

I apologize for not writing with much regularity the past few months.

I may have not shared that I've been pregnant with my first child and have not been able to sit at my desk comfortably since February. And while I was still working up until a few days before my delivery (I actually had a lesson scheduled for the day that she arrived) getting my ideas down hasn't been as easy.

Thankfully my new riding/training partner was born May 17th (She shall be known as LL here on the blog) and I start back to work this week her in tow which should get the creative juices flowing once again as I take on training and coaching now with the twist of also juggling motherhood.

In the next few months I also hope to take this blog to a more personal level as I begin this next chapter of my training career.

So please stay tuned it promises to be an interesting ride.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A few things to consider before you breed

My first foal (ever) arrived last week.  After 8 years of waiting for the right place and right time, 352 days of pregnancy, and a long month of restless nights Pie (maiden) gave birth to a smashing red headed colt.

The arrival of this bundle of joy has inspired me to really think about what a potential breeder should consider before choosing to breed.

Things to consider before breeding-

A foal will generally take on the attitude and personality of their dam-  
The mare is your foals single greatest influence growing up.  Her approach to people and the rest of the world general will either have a positive or negative effect on your foal.  

The dam accounts for 50% of the foal-
To often would be breeders focus solely on what the stallion may or may not have done and they forget to honestly consider what the mare has to offer besides a open uterus.  I am not saying that she needs to have national wins to be worthy of being being bred but she should be broke to ride and good at her given job.    By knowing your mare by more than just her looks you can make a much more informed decision on the right stallion and have a better idea of how your foal will turn out long term.

They should compliment each other-
If you are looking to raise a ranch versatility horse don't breed to a halter stallion.  If your mare has a longer back than ideal back don't breed to a stallion with the same issue.  There are no guarantees in breeding anyway but by breeding a problem to another problem you are just setting yourself up for another problem. 

Know your faults, and decide what is acceptable-
If you breed to a stallion or mare with a upright shoulder which creates a choppy and short gait you greatly increase your chances of having a foal with that same trait.  There is no perfectly put together horse out there but by breeding your best to the best (that compliments) what you have you greatly increase your chances of having a foal built to excel at your chosen sport and remain strong and sound throughout it's lifetime.  I personally believe that any chronic lameness (permanent or off and on) with the exception of that caused by injury should never be bred.  If the dam is lame at 5 without an injury why set yourself up for a foal which has the potential to follow suit.  

The cost and the time-
Besides your breeding fee and other veterinary costs related to your mare's pregnancy you must also consider the long term costs of raising a foal to riding age.  This includes feed, hay, board ( if you do not have your own property), regular veterinary care, unexpected veterinary care, hoof care, and all other costs that go into having a horse.  For myself I will have spent 4 years growing this foal before I ever have a chance to ride him (I plan on waiting until he is 3 before starting him under saddle).  Once your horse is old enough to ride you must either have the skills and knowledge to properly start and train it or be willing to hire someone else to do it for you.  Done properly a foal is a serious and expensive long term investment.



Monday, April 1, 2013

Equestrian Spring Cleaning Checklist

Wildflowers are sprouting, the weather (in Texas) is heating up, and the horses are finally shedding.  It seems that spring has officially sprung and with spring comes a great time for some equestrian style spring cleaning.

Spring Cleaning To Do List-

1. Wash and put away all winter blankets.

2. Clean grooming tools.  (A bucket of water with several tablets of denture cleaner does a great job at cutting the grim, I then rinse and soak them in a diluted bleach solution, rinse again and let them dry in the sun)

3. Wash/rinse all saddle pads, sport boots, and other similar items.  (I do not wash my sport boots and a pads with soap.  Instead I rinse them very thoroughly with a sharp stream of water and hang them out in the sun to dry)

4.  Oil and clean all leather tack.

5.  Scrub out all troughs and buckets.  (You can do this with just water or a diluted bleach solution and a stiff brush, rinse thoroughly!)

6. Sort and evaluate all medications, lotions, potions, and other bottled products. (check expiration dates, be sure all products are still the appropriate consistency)

7. Consider your fly control options and methods and put them in place.  With spring comes the flies and with the rain comes mosquitoes.

8.  Evaluate, organize, and restock (or clean out) your first aid supplies.

9.  Do a thorough walk through of your horse pasture, fencing, and stalls and make note of any all repairs that should be taken care of before the summer heat sets in.  Also be on the look out for hornet/wasp nests that should be treated.

10.  Do a thorough inspection of your horse trailer and be sure that the tires are properly inflated, the lights are working, and be sure that your rig is ready for the trails and horse shows.

11.  Groom your horse(s) and help them shed their itchy winter coat.  After a good grooming hook up the hose and give them a head to tail spring bath.  (Beware of flowery shampoos which may attract bees and flies)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When in doubt do as the locals do

While I had planned on continuing the "lightness comes from letting go" post from yesterday sometimes I just have write what I have in mind.

In my years as a owner of cats, dogs, and chickens in addition to horses I often witnessed how an animal when placed in a new environment will quickly assimilate to what is considered normal by the other animals in that environment.

Given that yesterday morning when I went out feed the horses I was greeted by a very emaciated young dog with a string collar well on its way to being embedded in his neck. Of which my husband I have now decided to help find a good home I am currently witnessing the "when in doubt do as the locals do" phenomenon once again.

The moment he was brought in for his bath the resident super cat walks right up sniffed his nose and then proceeded to give him a thorough inspection. Given the take charge attitude of the cat Gus the guest dog stood perfectly still and once the cat was satisfied she calmly walked off and over the last 24 hours Gus has yet to make any moves toward either cat. (the other is less brave but upon watching him for about an hour she too resumed her regular routine)

Once Gus was clean we allowed him to watch the our two dogs while in a crate.  Both of our boys gave him a sniff but quickly came back to their normal quiet selves.  They ate supper, visited with both cats and settled in for the evening after spending the day outside.  After supper I let all three dogs out after being sure that the resident yard rooster who lives in the backyard with the dogs was safely in bed.  Our dogs showed Gus where to do his business and started to teach him the dog rules the household.

Once I let them all back inside I put Gus back in his crate since I was not in the mood to supervise and he fussed a bit since all the other animals were still outside.  When it was time for bed I put our biggest dog who just turned a year old and is house broken but moves around too much on the tile and wood floors at night in his crate next to Gus and turned out the light.  Gus following the lead of the "Giant Puppy" settled down and didn't make a sound all night.

Then this afternoon when I had the time I introduced Gus to the backyard rooster BB who is so confident and considers himself to be one of the dogs that he walked right up and actually made Gus take a few steps back so he could watch me through the patio doors.  As of now Gus has been out back with both dogs and the rooster for nearly 4 hours.

The point of this long winded tale is that animals tend to act like those around them.  So if you have really good role models for a new horse or animal to look up to the new animal will usually pick up those good habits and behaviors, often very quickly.  The same goes for when you introduce a new animal to a less than well behaved group of animals.

Years ago my grandparents had a rottweiler who would chase any and all cats at his house but would share the back porch just a few feet from the cats at my parent's house when my grandparents left for vacation.

I personally often have seen this time and time again the horses that come in for training.  They may be a terror with bad manners at home, and impossible to catch out in the pasture and yet after just a few days in my herd they quickly behave as well as my own horses.

Knowing this I often use my other well behaved animals to teach any new animal that comes in.  When I want to clip a new horse for the first time I tie them super close to my own horses who clip very well and "show" them how I expect them to behave.  The new horse not wanting to look a fool to his new friends will often accept the clippers and clip as nice as my role model horses.

On the flip side since I know that animals learn from each other I am careful to try and shelter any new animal from any bad habits my other animals might have until they are well acclimated and have seen far more good behavior than bad.

All this being said stay tuned to the continuation of "lightness comes from letting go" in the next post.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Lightness comes from letting go

We all want a light and responsive horse.  We want a horse that reins with minimal contact. One that instantly responds to the lightest cue.  We want a horse that moves off our leg instead of plowing into it.  We want a horse that doesn't pull, wobble, or resist.

We all know what we want but few know how to actually achieve it.

 Lightness comes from letting go... over and over and over and over again.

In order to teach a horse lightness a rider must be willing to cue their horse for what they want and back up what they say. This means a rider must first ask for a response and then back up their request by making their horse do as requested (this means increasing the leg, rein, or other pressure until the horse responds appropriately).  Once the horse has properly responded to the cue the rider must then release and be willing to do it all over again.

In order to teach lightness a rider must be willing to repeat the above process until the horse responds to the cue the moment that it is used.

Teaching lightness takes time and constancy.  The rider must be willing to back up every cue that they use and release the moment that the horse responds to their satisfaction.

So to achieve lightness a rider must be willing to 'check' their horse constantly.

Anytime the horse pulls to the outside of a circle, or lays into a rider's legs a rider must be willing to cue to horse to the proper response and immediately release once again.

This means that in the beginning of teaching lightness a rider may have to check their horse 10 or 15 times in a single working circle, or a few times for every simple turn.

Teaching lightness takes a "do it right every time, all the time" mentality on the part of the rider.

I will continue on this topic in my next post.  


Saturday, February 16, 2013

The Feeding Commandments Part 2

The Feeding Commandments 

Last post I laid out the 11 feeding commandments that are followed in the KnP household and I promised today's post will break down all the different commandments and how they are taught and reinforced.  

I should start by saying that I teach these feeding rules to every horse that gets introduced into my herd.  I use feeding time as yet another means establishing respect and control.  Since horses establish herd dominance by who can move the other's feet (click the link to see what I'm talking about)  and by controlling the food supply I have found that I can use feeding time to establish my place as "boss mare".  And the more I am seen as the herd leader the more respectful and considerate my horses will be while I am on the ground and the better my rides will be under saddle.  

I rarely have to spend more than a few days teaching a new horse the rules of feeding and after being taught I rarely have them challenged.  Of course I generally do not have more than one horse at a time that does not know the rules and having other horses who know the drill so the speak can really help in the training process.  For the average horse owner with several horses in need of training I recommend starting to teach these rules with a single horse and adding additional horses in a timely manner rather than starting out with the whole unruly bunch, but the process of teaching one horse is the same as teaching the whole herd at once which can be done.  

1.  The person feeding must be allowed to complete the task at their leisure.- When I say leisure I mean that you should be able to stop to tie your shoe and smell the roses without any horse hassling you and getting in your space.  I teach this by carrying a whip with me every time I feed until the horse(s) have been respectful for several days.  The more aggressive and pushy the horse(s) are the father away they have to stay from me at all times.  I correct the slightest space infringement by charging (just like a boss mare) and "kicking" them with my whip (since I cannot kick like them for real I use my whip instead of hind legs to make contact when possible).  I like to start with a 15ft-20ft respect circle and as the horse(s) learn to automatically keep that distance I will adjust it accordingly.

Only when all horses are a respectful distance do I proceed to dump the feed and move on.  Be prepared to spend quite a while outside working on this.  If you have limited time to feed start the training process on the weekend when you have time to spend working on it, and if need be you can divide up feedings and spend the greater part of a day working on establishing this respect.  In my experience you may have to spend nearly an hour working on this the first time but after the initial lesson the time spent should greatly decrease to just a few minutes in just 2-4 feedings and no time at all when you are finished.   

2.  All horses must maintain a safe and respectful distance in relation to the person feeding and will be corrected accordingly.- Rule number 2 goes hand in hand with rule number 1 and is achieved in the same manner.  I correct all personal space infringements with my body language and whip.  Only after the horse(s) has settled down and is not actively trying to get in to my space do I proceed forward.  I do not move forward or present feed until all horses are behaving in an appropriate manner.  By an appropriate manner I mean waiting a respectful distance away facing towards me with their ears and body language in a passive and non aggressive manner.  

3.  No bullying or aggressive behavior will be allowed towards the person feeding or the other horses.-  Any horse that tries to bully another horse while I am in the pasture will be corrected.  I am the "boss mare" and when I am in the pasture no horse play will be allowed.  I correct the offending horse by pushing them around with my body language and whip.  At times I will feed the horse that was bullied and keep the offending horse away until they have given up trying steal the others feed before offering feed to the want to be bully.  (Again I am generally teaching one horse at a time in a group that already knows the rules)          

4.  Feed will not be offered in general until all horses have settled down and are at or near their respective feeding stations.- I may change the feeding ordered at times (I usually feed in the order of the herd from the top horse down to the bottom) but I do not change their feeding stations.  No horse will be fed at the wrong station so until they decide to go to the right place they will not be fed.  Using this method 99% of the time after the feeding commandments have been established all horses will go to their respective places and wait their turn.  

5.  Feed will not be offered until the individual horse has settled down and is at their respective feeding station.- Same as number 4, each horse is only allowed to eat at their station.  If they hassle me at the other feeding stations they will be kept off again using my whip and body language and only after they submit and go to the right place will they be given their feed. (The horse being protected tends to quickly figure out that they are "safe" and will generally happily allow you to keep the other horse off for them)    

6.  No horse is allowed to change stations or steal from the other horses until the person feeding has completely left the area.- Especially when dealing with two or more horses the top horse in the herd will try and steal from other horses.  I correct this by keeping them off as in rule number 5.  I will only leave them alone when they are at the correct station.    

7.  All horses must walk in front or to the side of the person feeding at all times.  Horses are not allowed to "push" the person feeding from behind.-  As you may have already picked up on you are basically behaving like the top horse the entire time you are in pasture.  The top horse always pushes the other horses and is never pushed from behind.  I make every horse walk in front of me by; using my whip, body language and by not continuing forward until all horses are in my line of vision.  

8.  The person feeding may easily push any horse off their feed at anytime and the horse must move away respectfully and wait until the person releases their meal.- Going back into the herd hierarchy the top horse is always able to push any horses lower than them off of their feed.  Since I am the top horse I am allowed to do the same.  When I get a new horse I will "steal" their feed several times at each feeding.  I push them off using my body language and reinforce what I say using my whip.  Only when they are at a respectful distance patiently waiting will I step away and allow them to continue eating.  I do this until they respectfully move away and wait immediately.  After this has been taught I will at times steal a horse's food just because I can as any other top horse would.  If the horse you are working with has claimed the top place in the herd you may start this lesson by working with this horse separately until they understand the concept before trying this out in the herd.   

9.  The person feeding may change the feeding order at anytime and all horses must respectfully wait at their stations and not try and steal from others.-  Going back to rules 4 and 5 being the top horse I am allowed to feed in any order.  I enforce this rule accordingly using the techniques described above.

10.  The person feeding is allowed to feed only one horse if they choose and all other horses must wait a respectful distance and not try to sneak in or bully the chosen horse or person feeding.-   As with the rules above I will keep any and all other horses away using my body language and whip (eventually you should be able to do all of the above by just using your body language and should no longer need the whip, if need be I will back up what I say by throwing a bucket)  The chosen horse quickly learns that they are "safe" and will allow you to move to keep all other horses away.  I choose to use this technique will all of the horses in my pasture being the chosen one at least once every time I introduce a new horse.

11.  The person feeding is allowed to feed all horses by hand and all horses must wait patiently for their turn and not crowd or bully the person feeding or the other horses.-  After all the horses have learned the above rules and are following them to your satisfaction on a daily basis I will then at times choose to feed by hand.  I do this by feeding the horses who are standing where I want them and waiting their turn and pushing away any horse that tries to bully or move into my personal space.  Only the good horses get a handful and the naughty ones quickly decide to follow the rules so that they too can be fed.  I correct any and all steps toward me or the other horses by pushing them back into place.  

As with all of these training techniques consistency is key.  I never bend the rules for any reason and I am quick to correct the slightest indiscretion.  When possible after I have everyone behaving to my satisfaction I like to have other people enforce the feeding commandments so that my horses learn that the rules apply to any person that feeds.  Again you and any other person you have feed must be willing to enforce the rules at any time.  While the task may seem daunting a first the time you spend teaching these commandments will greatly pay off in long run when you are able to effortlessly feed in the future and they can at times be a life saver when you find yourself injured, otherwise less than able, or in need of someone else to feed for you.      

The Feeding Commandments

How do your horses behave at feeding time?

Are they pushy and at times aggressive or sweet and respectful?

Can you safely and comfortably feed without separating out the herd?

Can you feed one horse out in the group and not be bothered?

At my house I have what I call the feeding commandments and every horse that comes in for training or otherwise is taught the rules from the first feeding.

The Feeding Commandments

1.  The person feeding must be allowed to complete the task at their leisure.

2.  All horses must maintain a safe and respectful distance in relation to the person feeding and will be corrected accordingly.

3.  No bullying or aggressive behavior will be allowed towards the person feeding or the other horses.

4.  Feed will not be offered in general until all horses have settled down and are at or near their respective feeding stations.

5.  Feed will not be offered until the individual horse has settled down and is at their respective feeding station.

6.  No horse is allowed to change stations or steal from the other horses until the person feeding has completely left the area.

7.  All horses must walk in front or to the side of the person feeding at all times.  Horses are not allowed to "push" the person feeding from behind.

8.  The person feeding may easily push any horse off their feed at anytime and the horse must move away respectfully and wait until the person releases their meal.

9.  The person feeding may change the feeding order at anytime and all horses must respectfully wait at their stations and not try and steal from others.

10.  The person feeding is allowed to feed only one horse if they choose and all other horses must wait a respectful distance and not try to sneak in or bully the chosen horse or person feeding.

11.  The person feeding is allowed to feed all horses by hand and all horses must wait patiently for their turn and not crowd or bully the person feeding or the other horses.

Where do your horses stand in relation to the feeding commandments?  Do you and your horses follow any, some, and all of these rules?

Stay tuned for the next post where I break down the rules and talk about how you too can achieve them.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Short and Sweet: Your horse will only ever be as; light, willing, responsive...

Your horse will only ever be as light, willing, responsive, respectful, and easy to handle, etc as you expect him to be.

You will only get what you expect, allow, and or accept.

If you accept your horse dancing around and allow him to push on the gate when you are trying to open it your horse has no motivation to improve his behavior and stand still and wait.

So how do you stop enabling your horse's mediocre behavior?

For every maneuver and or action your horse does ask yourself,  "Was this (fill in the blank) the best that he can possibly do?"  And if it wasn't you need to work and practice until it is, and if you do not know how to improve it or fix it you should seek out the help of someone who does.

True horsemanship happens when you stop accepting good enough and start striving to be the best that you can be.