First off horse’s aren’t humans. Too many people humanize the horse to make it look as if it understands English so we better relate to them. That couldn’t be more incorrect. Horses are animals and at any point can revert to instinct and cause harm to us we don’t emphasize on that enough. That being said, they are flight animals and if they can’t escape they will fight. “Run now, look later” has kept them alive for hundreds of years but it was our bright idea to change that. They are “designed” to graze all day and move constantly. But again we decided that’s not convenient for us so we feed them twice a day, the same times everyday then wonder why they colic or have ulcers. We work them for 1-2 hours a day most of the time to a sweat, walk them out to cool off then they stand in stalls 22 hours until you arrive again and we wonder why they have arthritis. The horse is a well oiled machine it does best with ample room, constant forage and companions. Humans like routine and convenience. Horses are opposite in more ways than one.
Horses don’t have depth perception, they don’t need it to survive only hunters need depth to survive. This makes the horse spooky and weary of shades that differ on the ground. They want to be part of a herd and you are considered their herd. It’s up to you to establish where your place is in there world. Just because you bought this animal does not mean he doesn’t think he owns you. The farther you get from thinking like a human and closer you get to understanding the horse, the closer your bond will be.
If you’re horse is stalled let him out as much as you can. Not only to be worked but to go for walks, explore, graze, find their itchy spot, let them cruise around and you walk with them to keep them safe but to understand it’s a partnership he can sometimes wonder at the end of the lead and show you places he’s interested in or grass he thinks needs to be tasted. These simple acts will mean so much to him. Just make sure he’s respectful not dragging you around.
Step back, think about what makes him happy not what makes you happy. That’s the first step to partnership. He does his best to try to make you happy. They deserve the same from us in return.
Here is my 2.5 year old filly as of currently. I started her last spring and she’s ridden once a month for 15-20 minutes. She’s only walk trot at this time I don’t introduce the canter until they are very confident at lower gaits. Low, slow, no hands, this girl already knows her job because she’s confident in her ground work! Don’t skip steps you’ll see it’s all worth it in the end.
Leonard is my 3 year old APHA gelding. I’ve owned him since he was a yearling and done all his training. He’s always picked up on things quickly and finds out what I want right away. We’ve always communicated well. He was the best at free lunging in the arena. Always stayed the same direction, he will trot all day until I changed it up. He was so good I used him to teach other horses how to behave. He likes being the good example, teachers pet persay. He’s always been special I love him dearly. Now he’s been teaching my two year old filly to free lunge. He stays on the outside of her to keep her circles in. The entire arena and I have two horses trotting so close around me I could Touch them! Once they drop their heads we stop then reverse and do it all over. Now that they are so used to being worked together we’ve all found our rhythm! These two are a beautiful team and partnership like this with animals. They mirror each other I’m blessed to have such connected team.
Sorry I have been away from posting I’ve been busy working then on my days off I’m catching up with work around the ranch. Dad ordered gravel last week and I moved 5 yards by hand to to horse’s winter shelter for mud control. I set up there shelter and it was an all day endeavor but greatly satisfying!
On the topic of mud control I wanted to say it’s very important to add gravel in high traffic areas but do so before it’s muddy and the horse’s will pack down the gravel themselves. It provides great drainage therefore the horse’s have dry paces to stand without sinking in mud. Mud creates a snowball effect of issues to our horses. Thrush, mud fever, scratches, rain rot and abscesses to only name a few. By just adding gravel that alone alleviates much of the headache and the horse’s are much more comfortable.
My horse’s shelter is bordered with panel gates and is constructed of a cement slab with stall mats on top for extra grip and comfort for the loading horse enjoying the dry area to escape the weather.
The job is never done at the ranch but all the hard work is so worth it!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.