All good things come to those who wait

Everything finally unfolds as it should if you do your groundwork. The same thing goes for teaching the horse to travel with a natural, low head set. This head carriage helps them develop the muscles needed in order to perform this frame under saddle as well. Promotes strong back, strong legs and comfort to the horse without straining. Eliminates sore backs and helps the young horse to grow and develop without a “sway back”.

I’ve been training Charlie since she was a few months shy of a year. I bought her as a barely handled youngster. her first year with me she went to county fair and she enjoyed it thoroughly. She loved all the attention and the kids reaching in to pet her. She stood along the front wall of her stall all week waiting to be touched when the other horses had enough and moved to the back of their stalls for some quiet time. She’s always been exceptional. She didn’t know much at that time just leading and loading and bathed once. Her first bath was right before fair and let’s just say she wasn’t thrilled even though it was warm water.

Over time, she’s grown and learned so much! Last spring I started her under saddle after she had the winter off. She learns fast and wants to please. My two year olds only learn walk and trot we don’t lope until they are 3 years old. She’s a rockstar! She learned quickly to drop her head at Liberty then allied it rather quickly under saddle on her own without a cue. Most horse’s will do this if you’ve done your groundwork correctly. It’s their preferred way to move once their muscles are developed. It’s been almost a year working on her natural low carriage and using her hind end correctly that she’s finally started to move in frame, on her own at the lope! This comes with time and once they are ready they will do it on their own and it’s beautiful! Last week Charlie started to drop her head at the lope it’s not easy for them but once the muscles are there and the cadence in the gait it all falls into place! This shows me once she’s consistently traveling in frame at all gaits and all without force she’s ready to start loping under saddle when her training permits.

I’m very proud of her she’s a mirror of my gelding Leonard and he’s helped to show her how to move in frame at all gaits by example. He’s a great training assistant, I’m blessed to have such exceptional youngsters.

Take your time, don’t add speed without structure and listen to the horse. They will tell you when they are ready.

Fall is here! Get your horse ready for the winter!

It’s getting colder at night, but still warm during the day. This is perfect for one last bath before winter when baths become scarce for most due to lack of access to warm water. Medicated shampoo baths I highly recommend. Horses right now are dealing with bot flies which lay their eggs then bite the horse to better their chances of the horse ingesting their eggs. The horses are irritated and you’ll find crusty bumps all over where the flies have irritated them. This medicated wash will give the horse some much needed and appreciated relief. It cleanses the skin and irritated areas. I use aloe medicated wash because it soothes the skin and helps it heal. Also it’s time to deworm the horses with Ivermectin. This helps kill any bot fly eggs already ingested and will kill any ticks that are latched on for a free buffet. After bathed and dewormed and they’ve fully dried off, I highly suggest applying Farnam Equi-Spot for fly control and relief from the bugs long term v.s short term fly sprays. The Equi- Spot is long lasting up to two weeks of not in contact with water. I apply on the belly, back of the legs, the chest and the poll. I don’t apply on the face or down the back due to riding occasionally. These three products will help get your horses feeling happy again in no time! After all who doesn’t want bug bite relief?! Have a safe fall season friends!

Below are the exact products I prefer to use. There are many variations but these I found help my horses best.

My 2 and 3 year olds showing off their skills

They learned to carry themselves naturally before ever being ridden. I teach all my horse’s this way and it helps them collect under saddle also because it’s comfortable for them to move correctly instead of fighting them because their muscles aren’t developed yet. This helps them develop strong backs and topline as well as coordination.

Winter is around the corner. When to start blanketing?

With winter around the corner we tend to slow down how much we ride in general so our horses can get fuzzy coats and enjoy the soggy days off. When to blanket depends on what you refer really. Do you want a sleek horse year round? Blanket and double blanket and put them in a barn with lights on timers so the horse still thinks it’s summer. Myself, I prefer fluffy and natural so I wait for them to grow coats and don’t blanket until the rains arrive. I blanket with medium weight turn out blankets since mine live in my pasture.

Winter tip reminder:

Use baby oil on the horse’s legs to repel mud and listerine spray on their hooves after you clean them to prevent thrush.

Remember never blanket a wet horse they can get rain rot and it’s a very painful fungus.

Start ordering gravel and gravel your high traffic areas too to help manage mud.

Be safe and as always don’t forget to hug your horse it’s great therapy for you and they appreciate the attention.

Keeping your horse comfortable in smokey conditions.

With all the wild fires in Oregon right now many are reaching out to me for advice on how to better care for their horse during these times. Some of the questions are “do I use a nebulizer or not?”, “how long can I work my horse in the smoke?”, “do they need to be kept in the barn or can they go outside?”. All very good questions. I’m not a vet these are just my opinions on what to do to keep your horse healthy while dense smoke is around us.

First of all avoid working your horse at all while smoke is in the air. Secondly, don’t use a nebulizer until the air is clear again. The nebulizer removes smoke from the lungs it’s not safe to use while smoke is still present. And on the topic of to stall your horse or pasture it really doesn’t matter too much unless your barn is insulated and air tight the smoke will still penetrate and come in. One thing you can do once the smoke clears is a eucalyptus paste administered orally will open the horse’s airways and they will breathe better. It will help them clear out the smoke naturally. This paste can be purchased online or at your vets office.

Be safe friends and always hug your horse.

English, western, reining, jumping, trail riding etc.

Recently I’ve had a change of heart in a certain discipline. I loved reining but after researching the horses body and how it is perfect for being exactly how it was intended as a grazing animal. They are meant to graze all day and constantly moving never staying in one spot. They function like a well oiled machine as a herd and a unit. Everyone has their job. It has kept them alive for thousands of years. That being said, I used to love reining I still teach my horses the basics of dressage and reining but I’ve drifted away from the sport due to the strain it puts on the horses body. Horses are not meant to spin hard consistently on their hocks, stopping hard to slide is very straining on hocks and knees. To each their own if that’s your cup of tea it’s beautiful to watch but I just don’t agree with the pressure it puts on the horse. I’ve been an avid 3 day Eventer as a teenager when I lived in AZ, I’ll forever love jumping and dressage but I didn’t prefer the people. I love English and western pleasure and that’s where my heart resides for the fact that it’s not strenuous on the horse if done correctly. Slow, natural collection and communication between horse and rider subtle and soft there’s no better picture in my opinion. I don’t agree with the mechanical lope some circuit horses do but no sport is perfect. Anymore as I get older now in my 30s I appreciate a nice, relaxing trail ride on a good horse with friends enjoying time away from our busy lives. It’s funny how we change as we get older. My horses used to constantly have their tails washed and bagged, whiskers and bridle paths shaved, socks shaved, white socks as bright as they could be but now, happy, pasture potatoes is what I prefer. My horses now have “cactus faces” sporting their long whiskers so they can use them as they were intended. They are bathed once a month (maybe) and tails most times have black berry bushes stuck in them. Natural and happy. That’s my approach to horse care anymore. What makes me happy? Riding on a horse who would go to the ends of the earth for me if I asked, soft in my hands, light to my cues and still has their personality to tell me their opinions as we ride. It’s a partnership not a dictatorship. To be better today than we were yesterday is all I ask. No more expecting perfection and hours in the arena schooling. Short schooling rides that achieve small goals are what we do anymore. Life’s too short. Enjoy the horse and think of your partnership as a relationship not an ownership. You’ll find the beauty I’ve found and love.

Why feed a different grain in the summer v.s the winter?

Yesterday I was at the feed store picking up my grain and I over heard a lady asking for advice about grain and the sales associate recommended senior. I stopped to hear her reasoning why an 8 year old should be on senior she had good points it’s a good grain I’ve fed it for many years but it can be quite sweet due to molasses so some horses might get hot on it. The lady asked if she can feed it all year the sales associate said yes and they ended up getting the bag of grain. All well and good but there’s so much more to choosing a grain and a diet for your horse all factors need to be added into it. What breed of horse? Certain breeds are hotter on sweeter feeds like Arabians, Morgan’s and thoroughbred horse’s for example. Those breeds do best on rice bran, beat pulp and low sugar grains. Age played a big role, high proteins are a must for growing horses but too much protein can hurt them. How often are they worked? If not ridden hard consistently than look for more of a low energy feed. I love high fat feeds personally, all horse’s benefit from high fat feeds in moderation. Makes their coats shine and they skin is healthy not dry just make sure you’re not feeding high fat feeds with high sugar hay… that is too much for them and can cause founder. Also take in consideration the horse’s living situation, is it a pasture? Lots of fresh spring grass? Probably not feed much of anything except a mineral block at their own discretion. Is it winter? Are they cold? Feed higher protein and fat to keep them warm. Most supplement with a flake of alfalfa in the winter to keep the horse from dropping weight. Then there’s the vitamins, how to choose the right one?! There’s the basic maintenance vitamin, the biotin and hoof growth supplement, the ulcer guard, the cough free, the fat supplement, the probiotic the joint supplement it’s no different than a human vitamin isle just very expensive. Consult your vet for their professional opinion of course but also seek out people who have horse’s similar to yours and ask their opinions and what they found works. Just know if you’re feeding a pelleted, dry grain please soak it. Horse’s get pretty excited about grain and will choke if it’s too dry. Supplements I prefer are wheat germ oil, to help promote smooth digestion and colic prevention, probiotic to utilize the maximum absorption of my supplement that I feed each horse, basic selenium and vitamin supplement along with aloe juice for moody mares or gas colic prone horse’s. I also like to feed a loose mineral salt in their grain to be sure they are getting enough water in extreme hot and cold temps. You’ll find what works for you but I suggest at every change of seasons you recalculate you’re horse’s individual needs as the weather changes.

The horse’s point of view on desensitization

As humans we think completely opposite of how the horse thinks. This is based on the difference between predator and prey problem solving. They are a “run now look later” mentality that’s been proven to keep them safe for thousands of years. without that “spooky” mentality their species wouldn’t exist today. As humans, we have a “I will make you do what I want”. That’s a predator mentality. That helps us to be confident, driven and superior. The fact we ride horses at all is amazing considering our differences. We can ride these animals because they allow us to. In reality they weigh as much as most cars and could kill us if they knew they could but that’s not their nature… sadly that’s ours. Before riding these beauties we harvested them for food to survive. That is something instilled in them that is hard to shake, do you blame them? Learn from them they will show you how to communicate with them. Forget everything about being a human. Start thinking like a horse. Yes this means you’ll find yourself jumpy, spooking at plastic bags and wishing you could pin your ears at people… that means you’re there!

Okay, introducing the scary object to a horse. The biggest mistake I see is people approaching training thinking like a human. If you think like a human you won’t get anywhere but backwards with a horse. Stop, think about something you’re scared of. Snakes for instance, say someone came at you with a snake. You’d run now look later right? But what if they said “it’s fine, it’s not going to hurt you”… would you believe them? Didn’t think so. That’s how the horse views every scary thing you try to touch them with right away. Then they bring the scary thing up to their nose to MAKE them smell it… notice that’s the human brain again. Horses just see you trying to attack their nose with it now. And lastly the first place people go to touch their horses with said scary object are the most vulnerable areas like the legs and belly! How much sense does that make?! Stop watching amateur “training” videos and re-wire your brain to be a horse not a human.

The best way to make the horse comfortable over a scary object is “setting them up to succeed”. When I say that, what I mean is you let the horse find its way on its own so it’s at his pace and his comfort level. You’re just there to make sure nothing can go wrong making this a bad situation as they feel their way through it. Start out hanging the scary object in the round pen so they can pass it, sniff it or avoid it if they want. Then stop them by it to show them it’s a sign of release. After a couple times of this, reverse so they can see it from their other side and repeat the steps. Next, take it down and put it on the ground, let them investigate it themselves. If it’s a grain bag I like to put their favorite treat on it to get them to engage in being close to it then they get a reward for finding their goodie. All of this without a rope on them so they don’t feel forced. After that, drag it behind you, as you’re leaving them and they will start out at the very end of the rope until they are sure it’s not a horse eating bag they will become more confident and walk closer. Stop, let them walk on it, paw at it and harass it as much as they want. Don’t ever chase them with a scary object that just solidifies the threat and good luck getting them past that again. Be patient, let them set the pace. After they are bored to death of those steps then bring it up to their shoulder then take it away then go back to having them follow it again. This is all very time consuming but the horse learns you’re not going to push it on them and your bond will be stronger because of it. Little by little is how it’s done.

Once a solid foundation is built on trust and they are correctly desensitized you’ll see a confident, happy partner. That’s the goal and it’s worth it!

Performance, halter or breeding career?

Well in a perfect world we’d love all horses to be built perfectly correct and ride smooth also be top breeding quality but that’s not real life. I know you’re thinking right now “you’re so wrong my horse is perfect and does it all!”… well Karen I’m happy you’re so in love with your horse as you should be! A good horse is hard to find but most have one thing about them that makes them one career or the other. I’m going to cover those traits, the benefits of an imperfect horse and why we shouldn’t be so hard on judging them. There’s always a career that best suits every horse. It’s usually us, as riders who don’t listen to what they would be best suited for and put them in a job they can only do 80% the best of their ability because their heart just isn’t in it. Horses will tell you what they would excel in just be patient.

The flawed horse is my utmost favorite! These horses are “rejects” from big halter and show barns. They are discarded and undervalued in general because they aren’t perfect. I own two youngsters that a a result of this and they are the best youngsters I’ve ever had! They are easy to train, love to work, bred well, out of and by multiple world champion parents, pretty and the smoothest rides ever! The only thing wrong is they don’t have perfect legs. Both are cow hocked and my gelding “paddles” with one front leg. So what? Yes they won’t win anything in halter but they are pleasure show horse’s. Conformation doesn’t matter in riding careers! Moral of this story is too many people put too much weight in horse’s builds when purchasing anymore. If it’s perfectly built, that horse isn’t going to be the best athlete or the smoothest ride. Sometimes confirmation flaws make the horse smoother and much more enjoyable to ride. The correct horse’s are best suited for breeding and halter. The slightly imperfect horse’s are best suited for riding careers.

When looking at a horse don’t judge it on the stigma “if it’s not confotamionally correct it’s not a good horse”… how many of us are not perfect? Yes I went there! Look at yourself, be as critical on yourself as you are on these horses you criticize. Now after you’ve realized you’re out of shape, eat too much fast food, stressed, tired, have a pin in your ankle from an old sports injury, a ruptured disc in your back and can’t walk far due to bad knees… lets take another look at this horse that just has a slightly turned out front foot.

It’s all in perspective! The horse with a slightly turned out foot may not be great for high impact sports like jumping 5ft fences but he would rock it as a trail horse or open show horse right? Just like saying I’m not going to put you in a race and make a lot of money if I bet on you with all your issues but it doesn’t mean you’re not successful and a great mom. This horse may not be the horse you would breed because of the funky foot but he could be your best friend if you let him.

The pros of conformity faults are always a fun one for me to explain to folks. They come into this conversation thinking only horse’s with straight, correct legs are worth buying. Any horse with a fault is trash. That’s what close minded does to a person. They think that way but never realize the beauties of these faults and how they actually make the horse more enjoyable to ride!

Short backs v.s long backed horse’s- short backs are correct and strong. But nothing about that is smooth unless you like jack hammers… long backs make for a smooth ride and your horse won’t pull their shoes off by over reaching with the hind legs. It’s also easier to fit a saddle to a long backed horse in my opinion.

Straight legs v.s cow hocked horse’s- straight is visually appealing and considered correct but you go into a big reining barn you’ll see nothing but cow hocked horse’s because they absorb the shock better and stop harder than straight legged horses.

Correct hock angle v.s slightly sickle hocked- sickle hocks are more angled than usual but they are very smooth and they absorb more concussion of the gaits making for a smooth ride you can go all day!

So take in consideration your flaws and how you’ve adapted and overcame them you’re doing just fine. Stop being so critical on these slightly imperfect horse’s. They aren’t useless you just need to help them find what they are made for. I love my “rejects” I wouldn’t trade them for a correct horse ever!