New Trail Obstacles!

My round pen is looking more crowded these days.

In a previous post, I mentioned that over Winter I bought a set of handmade trail obstacles. Now that the weather in my area recently turned favorable for more regular riding, I finally get to use them!

The set includes a walk-over bridge, a rope gate and four ground poles. These types of treats are normally beyond my budget, but a sale and a zero-percent interest layaway plan made them within reach.

I purchased the set from Backyard Equine and More (no relation to my blog, but I love the name!). They are best known for their jumps and cavaletti.

Most of their items are customizable. You can have stuff made in the colors you’d like. They deliver around the Midwest states (they are Indiana-based), but you can also place an order and pick it up yourself.

I do regret that I didn’t get the poles stained to match the bridge and rope gate. It would have looked better to have everything in the round pen matchy-matchy. But I have to say that I have a thing for colorful poles. It reminds me of the jumping I did as a youngster.

The next time Backyard Equine and More has a sale, though, I might like to get three ground poles stained to match the gate and bridge. And a flower box set as decoration/an extra walk-over obstacle would look good too!

Whether I add to my collection or not, I hope to get lots of use out of my current set. And if I ever get bored with them, maybe I could make some money by renting them out for X amount of dollars per week? Or maybe rent them to a horse show for the weekend?

On a related note, it got me to thinking that it’s been almost a decade since I entered an obstacle competition. Here’s a set of photos of my old gaited pony, Pumpkin Spice, and me at a competition in 2013.

The course called for things like dismounting and then remounting on the opposite side, carrying a flag, pushing a big horse ball, crossing under a pole set between two jump standards, and negotiating a maze of flowers. So much fun!

I don’t know if any competitions are in my future, but I am enjoying practicing with my new toys. It’s interesting to see each of my horses’ take on these new-fangled objects.

With Shiloh, I felt immediately comfortable riding him over the bridge without practicing from the ground. Ditto with working the rope gate. Here’s a view from the saddle on our first day with the bridge (short-side first).

Similarly, Bear marched right up onto the bridge the first time I asked in-hand (he’s retired from riding).

Piper, bold as he usually is about things, was none too sure about these new additions. He needed to investigate the gate with lips and teeth.

And on first introduction, Piper thought the walkover bridge was a bridge too far.

So we are taking baby steps from the ground for now.

In closing, here’s Shiloh giving me the side-eye. I imagined him asking me to reassure him that jumping the rope gate will not be in our repertoire.

And then I saw his relieved reaction when I reminded him that backing, turning and side passing are required but no jumping! Phew.

Is It A Horse Toy or A Dog Toy?

I think it is loads of fun to mix obstacles, toys and horses. I enjoy seeing how each horse initially responds to various objects. It reveals so much about their personality. I find that fascinating.

Last year, I began seeing some horse-retail websites selling a “Kong Equine Mega Wubba.”

I was already familiar with the usefulness of Kong rubber toys for dogs (through dog sitting periodically for friends) as well as Kong wubba toys that I bought for my own cats and a handful of foster felines.

I was curious how my three horses would respond to this “Kong Equine Mega Wubba” and was definitely game to try it. I finally bought one earlier this year from an online equine retailer.

When I unboxed the toy, the first thing I noticed about it was the attached tag. It features a photo of a boy and a dog with the Kong “Dogs need to play” tagline on the back. No mention of horses whatsoever.

Please, someone get this child a pony!

Was I sent the wrong Kong?

I wasn’t sure from where the toy had been sourced, so I decided to contact the Kong Company directly via email. I received a same-day reply. The representative from their Consumer Relations department wrote that Kong does not make a Kong Wubba specifically for horses. Hmmm?

Thanks so much for reaching out to us. I have shared the photo you uploaded with our Wubba product manager and that is our Mega Wubba Toy that we market for dogs.  We do not market it for horses but we have been told that many people do use it with their horses.

Carla with Consumer Relations

While the Kong company does not appear responsible for this advertising switcheroo, I am surprised that some horse-retailers are choosing to market dog wubbas as an equine toy.

Yes, I certainly use items as obstacles/toys with my horses that aren’t specifically made for equines. Things like tarps, cones, traffic cone bars and toy balls come to mind.

But to sell something as a “Kong Equine Mega Wubba” when it is simply a Kong Mega Wubba made for dogs seems like inaccurate advertising to me. Seeing items marked as “equine”, I imagine that they are made with horses and their unique needs in mind. Even more so when I notice that it is sold at a higher price point for horses than dogs.

In the end, does it make a difference whether the wubba is a horse toy or a dog toy? Well, I guess that is left up to the individual consumer. But I think it is important that we know what we are buying so we can make informed choices.

Beyond this issue of marketing, you might be wondering what my horses and I actually think of the Kong Mega Wubba? I’ll tell you the rest of the story in an upcoming post.

Riding Advice From Barbra Schulte: Be Calm, Be Clear, Be Committed

“It’s the power of seeing what we want, setting an intention to see it through in the most favorable light, and then committing to it.” -Barbra Schulte

This riding advice from horse professional and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Barbra Schulte, is just what I needed to help get my riding off to a good start this year.

Yes, I know we are months into the new year. But without an indoor arena, the weather in my area often keeps me from riding with any frequency/consistency until May.

This Spring is no exception. My riding “year” is definitely off to a slow start.

I put “year” in quotes because I don’t get a full twelve months to ride at home. It gets too cold for me to ride around November. My riding season typically lasts about six months in any one calendar year.

Since I ride at home about half as much as I would otherwise like to, I want to be purposeful and focused when I do get in the saddle.

Maybe that’s why the recent email blast from horse professional Barbra Schulte titled “Calm, Clear, Committed” resonated with me. It’s exactly how I’d like to ride.

And yet, I struggle. Instead of calm- clear- committed, I tend toward anxious- muddled- hesitant. Qualities that unfortunately don’t make for a great horse listener or horse leader.

Twenty years ago, I re-entered the world of horses as an adult. I thought my awkwardness around horses was simply because I had to re-learn so many horsemanship skills. Everything felt weirdly familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It was nerve-racking.

I was sure that with just a little bit of time and effort that I would be the type of calm, confident, proficient horseman that I always wanted to be. But it has not worked out like that.

Without marching up a hill where I reach and stay at the top, my progress is more roller coaster like as my confidence waxes and wanes.

I have felt successful in certain situations. With certain horses. With certain support. But with others, not so much. It’s frustrating and painful to feel confident doing certain activities with certain horses, but not be able to replicate that same confidence later when confronted with different circumstances.

I know I’m not the only horse person who feels that way. Or who struggles with being a better listener and leader for their steeds. Who can’t seem to build on previous times of confidence to the degree that they would like.

We know it’s not all about mastering physical skills or techniques. There is a certain kind of mindset that is a large component of interacting successfully with horses. Maybe like me, you let your past disappointments and present doubts come along for the ride just a little too often?

I wish I had great words of wisdom. Some magic answer in a bottle. Something to easily and automatically defeat all those things that haunt. But I don’t.

The only way I know to keep moving forward is to continue absorbing information from others about ways to be a better rider and handler. Including a heavy focus on the mental aspects of riding.

For me, bathing in a sea of information hasn’t “cured” anything. But I believe it keeps me in the game. It keeps me doing more with my horses than I would otherwise.

Perhaps Barbra Schulte’s words can do the same for you, encouraging you in your own horse journey. May we all be calm, clear, and committed during our next ride.

“It’s the power of seeing what we want, setting an intention to see it through in the most favorable light, and then committing to it . . .

It’s the difference between allowing ourselves to be drug down by our imperfections or keeping our eye on small step goals and taking lumps in stride. The missteps do have the best information to help us improve, and we make sure we stay committed to enthusiasm and positivity as we experience the inevitable mistakes.

When you ride, it might be talking to yourself about being calm, noticing where your horse’s focus is, being clear about your message, asking your horse for a move then seeing what happens but not allowing yourself to go down the rabbit hole of limiting thoughts and discouragement.

The next time you ride, get clear about one or two small steps you want to achieve.

Approach them with the expectation you will be calm within. You will communicate clearly with your horse.

If things get muddled, slow down and come back to stay calm – and get clear again. Either back up a step or try again . . .

Don’t give in to or waste time on bummer feelings about disappointments when things don’t work out. Return to calmness and clarity and stay flexible on your pony.

There is great power in the energy you bring to everything you do.”

-Barbra Schulte via an April 2022 email blast

Horses Leave Hoof Prints On . . .

Most horse people are familiar with the phrase “horses leave hoof prints on your heart.”

It is a candy-sweet sentiment, describing how enchanting horses are to those of us who find them irresistible. I can attest that more than one horse has left his or her mark on me. I have the t-shirt.

I also recognize that a literal hoof print on my heart would not invoke the same warm-fuzzy feelings. Probably not for the folks I’d leave behind, either. The strength and power of a horse’s kick is truly awe-inspiring.

Maybe that’s why when I saw this mark on my horse, Piper, I couldn’t quite believe it. Took me a minute to make it out. Is . . . that . . . a . . . HOOF PRINT???

Fortunately, Piper seemed no worse for the wear. The area was not tender or hot to the touch. It was not swollen. The skin underneath was fully intact. Piper didn’t seem sore or lame.

But how in the world did that hoof print get there?

I then remembered seeing earlier that morning the tail end of a scuffle between Piper and my other horse, Bear, over a pile of hay.

I recalled observing Bear’s back hoofs flying, but my angle and distance from the scene didn’t allow me to see exactly what happened.

Bear must have left his signature while expressing displeasure over Piper moving in on his preferred hay selection. Yikes.

Yes, sometimes horses leave hoof prints on our hearts. I hope that never changes. I never want to lose the sense of wonder and gratitude over forging meaningful relationships with more than one horse in my life.

But sometimes, horses leave hoof prints on each other. Now that is one reality I could probably do without.

Three Lip Products For Equestrians

Looking for something fun to purchase for yourself? How about a gift for a fellow horse-lover? I have a few suggestions for you here.

Although I am not a huge fan of makeup, I find lip products to be the most useful beauty item around the barn.

My lips get easily dry and/or burnt depending upon the time of year. I like having lip products that moisturize and/or provide SPF protection. If it can also add a hint of color to my face, that’s an added bonus.

So let’s get started with my first suggestion, satin lipstick from Blue Ribbon Beauty. I mean, seriously, what horse aficionado could resist the super-cute decoration on their lipsticks? Makes me smile just looking at it.

And check out these sassy Blue Ribbon Beauty lipstick names:

Peachy Pony
Unbridled
Coral Sorrel
Cherry Bay

I also like that they are advertised as paraben-free and cruelty-free.

Those of you who show might be interested to know that Blue Ribbon Beauty also has eyeshadow kits, decorated for either Western riders or English riders. The eye shadow palettes come with discipline-specific instructions:

“A lot of horse show rules are unspoken, and makeup is no exception. Every discipline has its own look, and knowing what lip color goes with what can be super confusing! That’s why we built Blue Ribbon Beauty. To help cut through all the information and make it simple, easy and fun to put your makeup on for an event! Not a makeup pro? No problem! Beginner tutorials are included on the back of each palette with instructions on the best eye look for your discipline. Plus the easily blendable, highly pigmented eyeshadows come in the perfect neutral colors to complement any show outfit.” – From The Blue Ribbon Beauty website

Ready to give Blue Ribbon Beauty a try? Check them out at https://www.blueribbonbeauty.com/.

But what if you don’t like traditional lipstick? As an alternative, you may prefer a tinted lip balm from the brand Beauty For Real. I’ve mentioned Beauty For Real several times before on this blog as I’ve used their Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm in the color Hannah for years.

Beauty For Real is a cruelty-free brand and the Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm is paraben-free. Beauty For Real also donates 20% of their Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm proceeds to the organization Brooke USA which supports working horses, mules and donkeys the world over! Ready to give this product a try, order through this link at https://www.beautyforreal.com/collections/lips-collection/products/lip-revival-tinted-lip-balm.

Last but not least, for those of you who want a lip product without any color, you might like this apple-scented lip balm. Sold as a promotional item for the horse-product company, Duravet, it contains aloe vera and has an SPF 15. Perfect for those days when you are riding or doing horse chores in the sun.

I enjoy the fragrance, but I will say that it does have an initial taste when you apply the lip balm. It is not overwhelming though and goes away quickly. If you prefer a completely plain-scented product though, this one might not be for you. Read to buy? Find this lip balm for sale at Rod’s Western Palace and Murdock’s Ranch and Home Supply.

***Please note that this post is unsolicited and uncompensated by any store or beauty brand.***

A Day In My Horse Life (Journal Notation Style)

Which horse to ride first today? I decided to start with my newest horse, Piper.

A minute into our ride, he tripped (spooked?). Piper rushed forward to catch his balance and proceeded to crow hop. He tossed me straight up into the air. Fortunately, I landed right back in the saddle. My back still upright. My feet still in the stirrups. Now I am awake!

I was planning to take a few “between the ear” snapshots during the ride. After the crow hop, I abandoned those plans. Best not to let my focus wander in this case.

Despite beginning with the unexpected bucking bobble, the rest of the ride was mercifully boring.

On to my next mount of the day, Mr. Shiloh.

Shiloh was his usual calm and casual self under saddle. While we started walking, I took through-the-ear photos, trying to capture some “mane in the wind” shots.

About the time I put my camera away and was ready to practice some maneuvers, it started to rain.

Like the kind of rain that makes your horse hold his head at funny angles. Argh! Sigh. I did not quite outrun the forecasted precipitation of the day.

So my plan B turned to quickly dismounting and hightailing it with Shiloh to the hay barn. My saddle tells the tale here:

It kept raining even as I let Shiloh back in the pasture, although not quite as strong as before.

Bear waited at the gate for me, like he wanted to be picked to do something (or maybe he just wanted a snack?).

As the rain dropped down to a light drizzle, I took Bear to the round pen for a brief bit of in-hand work. Then we went into the hay barn for a treat. I thought I better cover all the bases. Bear agreed.

After returning Bear to the paddock and then hanging his halter up, I turned around to see Shiloh asking for a treat. See him standing on the tire (filled in with dirt and rocks)? This is what he does when he wants me to bring food.

I sometimes come out of the house at feeding times, only to see Shiloh standing on the pedestal tire. I always wonder exactly how long he’s been standing there waiting.

So Shiloh got a horse cookie, of course. I’ve clearly done a terrific job of reinforcing Shiloh’s strong association between standing on the tire pedestal and me appearing with food. Who is training whom?

Finally, the last critter of the day to want attention (and food) was my barn cat, Saul. He showed up several years ago, around 2018, as a feral cat. Completely unapproachable.

You know how most horse people have dogs that follow them around the farm? Not me. It’s a long string of barn cats that have kept me company over the years.

So in keeping with my tradition of taking in stray cats, I got Saul trapped, neutered, vaccinated, flea treated, microchipped and released back home. It’s been over three years since that day.

As often happens in my experience, this cat decided he would stick around.

Saul finally joined the horses in knowing the pleasures of being dotted on by an attending human.

The end.

Muck Boots On The Runway?

One of my eagle-eye relatives recently pointed out to me this article from the Wall Street Journal. Since the newspaper is not where I’d normally expect to see the words “Bridled Enthusiasm” in bold print, the title certainly caught my attention.

If you would like to read the online version for yourself, you can see it HERE. The article is about equestrian-inspired fashion choices.

“The equestrian look canters back into style every decade or so, and in 2022, riding boots, tailored hunt jackets and even breeches feel as natural as Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar restaurant in New York as on an actual polo field.”- Laura Nelson

I found the writing to be rather amusing. I’m still not quite sure if it was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek or serious. But maybe that’s just because I normally feel hopelessly out of touch with anything related to fashion.

“Pleated beige breeches by Swedish brand Aisling Equestrian. They dramatically flare out at the thighs for a statement-making daytime look- no Hanoverian necessary.” – Laura Neilson

The article reminded me of the well-known disconnect between those with money to burn and those of us who consider $475 to be a car payment, not the price of a belt. Maybe that’s why I found myself laughing out loud as I read through it?

Still, if there is any fashion trend I COULD get excited about, it would be an equestrian one. Granted, several of the items featured in the article cost more than the real-live horses I bought.

And as far as I am concerned, a helmet belongs on your head, not on your arm like a handbag. I’m looking at you, Gucci.

But fashionista or not, what horse-lover isn’t going to give a little wink and nod to equestrian fashion touches appearing on the runway (or on main street) now and then?

It certainly makes me feel, dare I say, more fashion forward.

I mean, nothing could be more authentically equestrian than manure-encrusted muck boots. Or maybe barn-jacket pockets filled with hay. And how about that forgotten carrot slice tucked into a Wrangler jeans pocket found only after it has gone through the wash cycle.

Surely all of those things count as equestrian fashion, right?

If so, those of us with horses already have this trend down cold!

The Next Art of The Horseman Online Fair- FREE!

The next Art of The Horseman online fair takes place April 29th and 30th, 2022.

For 48 hours, you can get FREE access to around one hundred horsemanship videos from over seventy presenters for your online learning pleasure!

The videos cut across different breeds and disciplines so there is a little something for just about everyone.

Presenters include well-known professionals like Warwick Schiller and Jim Masterson as well as up and coming trainers/instructors.

Want access to the videos beyond that free, 48 hour period? You can purchase lifetime access to the videos.

I have enjoyed learning from past Art of The Horseman fairs. So much so, in fact, that I decided to have The Backyard Horse Blog become an affiliate!

If you use the link below to get your free ticket to the fair, The Backyard Horse Blog receives a monetary bonus if you later purchase lifetime access.

https://www.becauseofthehorse.net/a/23333/jm4gSypW

Click on the link and sign up today for your FREE ticket. Then mark out time on your calendar for video viewing, April 29th and 30th. I think you will be surprised at how much you can learn. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Buy A Horse Book Day!

Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate relationship with Trafalgar Square Books, co-sponsor of Buy A Horse Book Day. When you purchase materials through the Trafalgar Square Books affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog (click on the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse), the blog receives a much appreciated portion of your purchase at no cost to you.

Heels Down Magazine and Trafalgar Square Books team up to host the inaugural #BuyAHorseBookDay on May10, 2022!

“Both companies hope all who enjoy reading horse books will come together to celebrate horse books and horse book authors on May 10th each year, posting selfies of horse-book purchases and pics of their favorite equestrian titles, plus supporting their favorite authors, local bookstores, and tack shops.”- From an American Horse Publications Press Release Dated 4/8/22

This sounds like a day right up my alley. I am a voracious reader, passionate about all-things-horse and enjoy writing! How about you?

“Want to get involved? Anyone who loves horses and reading can! Post pics of your horse book shelves, your favorite reads, your TBR pile, and tag them #BuyAHorseBookDay with a note that you can’t wait for May 10th and an excuse to buy another horse book!.”- From an American Horse Publications Press Release Dated 4/8/22

If you’d like some reading suggestions for the big day, let The Backyard Horse Blog help you out. Find your next read through the following The Backyard Horse Blog book reviews:

Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses: Recognition and Application by RachaëlDraaisma

Getting Along With Horses: An Evolution in Understanding by Crissi McDonald

Sacred Spaces: Communing With The Horse Through Science and Spirit by Susan D. Fay, PhD

A Good Seat: Three Months At The Reitinstitut Von Neindorff by Lynne Sprinsky Echols

Strands of Hope: How to Grieve The Loss Of A Horse by Susan Friedland

Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life With Horses by Denny Emerson

Last but not least, consider purchasing an eBook from The Backyard Horse Shop on Etsy.

I’ve written two eBooks for riders who don’t get as much saddle time as they would like. Sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate with our riding plans. We can feel painfully isolated during these seasons from our horsemanship dreams and from the wider horse community. Yet we still have a strong desire to stay connected to horses and to fellow equestrians. These two books give you ideas for how to do just that!

Favorite Horse Obstacles: Pick Four

If someone asked you to name your favorite four obstacles, what would you say? I’ll let you fudge a little and allow for multiples of the same item in “sets”. But otherwise, you have to name four separate obstacles.

For those of us who love to incorporate obstacles in our horse work, it is hard to choose. Right? But here are mine:

  • Set of traffic cones
  • Set of ground poles
  • A tarp
  • A large horse ball

So why these four? They are

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Simple to obtain
  • Moved easily around a riding area (you don’t need a crane or four people to lift them)
  • Easy to store because they don’t take up much space
  • Super versatile!

While I do have more obstacles in my arsenal than “the big four” named here, these are the four that I’ve used the most consistently over the years. And with the greatest variety of horses.

For example, these four photos in this post were taken in 2010, 2016, 2019 and 2021 respectively. They feature four different horses, including one of my former foster horses named Bitsy (the bay mare).

There’s so much you can accomplish with these four obstacles. It is exciting to provide a fun challenge for you and your horse without needing an elaborate trail set up (you might still WANT an elaborate trail set up, but you don’t need one to get your horse used to negotiating basic obstacles).

You can set out each obstacle separately to practice them one at a time. Or set up a simple course where you move smoothly from one obstacle to another like you would in a horse-show trail class. You can also stack or combine obstacles to make something more challenging. For example, you could place a ground pole(s) across a tarp and ask your horse to cross them together.

You can of course use these obstacles in groundwork, too. Doing in-hand trail obstacles is a lot of fun and great for horses who are too young/too lame/too old to be ridden. And if you like to pony one horse from another, you could add in some obstacles to test everyone’s skills at leading/following through them.

Speaking of obstacles, I have been wanting to obtain some more formal obstacles for some time now. I am not, however, handy with tools. I knew I would need to pay someone to make them. So over the Winter, I put a few pieces on a zero-interest layaway plan and recently had them declared “paid in full” and delivered!

Once the weather in my area is set for me to start riding regularly again (will the yo-yo weather with plenty of wind, precipitation and resulting mud ever stop?), I plan to introduce you to my new toys in an upcoming post with photos.

Spoiler alert, one of my new toys is a set of actual ground poles, not the old fence posts repurposed into ground poles that you see in the photos above (or the PVC poles that I also sometimes use). Since I now have a set of evenly shaped and sized ground poles, I finally felt comfortable attempting to trot my horse, Shiloh, across one for the first time.

On our initial attempt, he ticked it with three of four hooves, but didn’t trip or feel unbalanced. So I tried a second time from the opposite direction. I could feel him trotting a little more carefully over it this time.

That extra effort allowed him to trot right over it cleanly! I felt so proud and made much of him. You would have thought we just jumped a three-foot fence.

I don’t think the hunter/jumper circuit is in our future, but I am definitely looking forward to experimenting further with my new obstacles. 🙂

Want more ideas on incorporating obstacles in your horse work? You might enjoy checking out The Backyard Horse Blog’s “Horse Trail Obstacles” board on Pinterest:

Wild Horses and Burros As Wild Fire Preventers?

“Wild Horse Fire Brigade is about helping to save forests and wildlife, as well as saving native species American wild horses by rewilding them from government holding facilities, and/or relocating them away from areas of contention with livestock production. This new plan seeks to humanely place wild horses as family units into carefully selected designated wilderness areas that are economically and ecologically appropriate, where they will reduce and maintain grass and brush fuels to more natural levels.”

-William E. Simpson II

I don’t know how many of you keep up with issues surrounding wild horses and burros on US public lands. But it is an issue of importance to me. You can read about my history with wild horses in a previous post HERE.

An animal’s value is often based on what it can do for humans. A value that is frequently linked to their very survival. Unfortunately, wild horses and burros have yet to find their human value as part of US public lands.

Instead, they have often been considered a nuisance. An impediment to the running and expansion of other industries. A problem to be contained or eliminated.

But exciting research shows that wild horses and burros could have a place in actually solving the current human and environmental problem of ever-increasing wildfires in the Western US.

Could this be their ticket to survival? In contrast, current government management practices are viewed by many as a direct path to wild horse and burros extinction- practices such as rounding up the animals, warehousing the ones that aren’t adopted (which is most of them) and sterilizing the ones that are allowed to remain on the range.

The research behind this exciting idea of a “wild horse fire brigade” is promoted by a naturalist rancher in California, William E Simpson II. You may recognize his name in association with the award-winning video short by Micah Robin titled Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses.

“Wildfire continues to devastate the American West at increasing rates. According to some, the plan that could combat the danger of forest fire lies in the complicated history and present role of the wild horse. Naturalist rancher William E. Simpson II, Michael Perez, and Pulitzer Prize winning author David Philipps explore the interconnected issues of wildfire and wild horses in the American West.”

From the Pitchstone Waters Website

You can view this 8 minutes, 34 second clip online within several websites including:

https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/

Fuel, Fire, and Wild Horses

And if you want to read the book mentioned in the video, Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth and Future of the Mustang, America’s Horse by David Philipps, you can find more details about it HERE.

After watching Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses, I encourage you to read the following essay by William E. Simpson II “Understanding ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade’ : The Supporting Science of Wildfire Grazing”. In this piece, Mr. Simpson lays out his thoughts about exactly how wild horses could help stem forest fires. The photos and graphs included display interesting information that bring home many important points.

In reading some of Mr. Simpson’s other materials, I surmised that he does not think highly of non-for-profit organizations that report on and advocate for wild horses and burros. He notes that after over 50 years of advocacy, our wild horses and burros are just as endangered by human development as ever. While I don’t completely agree with Mr. Simpson’s premise, I do see his point that new ideas are desperately needed.

Certain non-for-profits like, Wild Horse Education, regularly document conditions of horses on the range as well as the ever-more-frequent government roundups. Roundups that often involve terrorizing the animals with helicopters, sometimes resulting in gruesome injury, suffering and death. To me, the filming of wild horses on the range and during roundups is critical to trying to bring further accountability of our US government’s handling of them.

But when the government largely does not see the value in keeping wild horses and burros on the range, new ideas like that of Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade could be a faster ticket to their survival than more traditional forms of advocacy.

If wild horses and burros are important to you, I encourage you to share Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade idea far and wide. I’ve seen his research featured on the Straight From The Horse’s Heart blog as well as the Horse and Man blog (just yesterday, in fact), but this Wild Horse Fire Brigade needs more press if it is ever to become a reality.

Ask your friends to watch the video Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses. Read Mr. Simpson’s essay. Visit his website at https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/. Post links to the video and the website on your social media. Help continue the conversation.

Solving Horsemanship Problems When You Don’t Have Professional Help

As a backyard horse owner, I am “it.” Day in and day out, the only person who generally interacts with my horses is me.

This comes with advantages, but it can also be challenging. Especially when I encounter problems. While I have sometimes availed myself of professional help, I usually have to solve problems on my own.

When I think about my horse life and those of my friends, I recall that we have encountered (or continue to encounter) a gamut of issues. Everything from not being able to get a horse in a trailer, to a horse bucking when asked to canter to one of our mounts spooking repeatedly on the trail.

A life with horses is a dream for many of us, but the reality of it is sprinkled with lots of hard physical and emotional work. It can be disappointing and down right scary at times when we can’t get our horses to cooperate.

And it’s not just backyard horse keepers with this issue. Even folks who board their horses may not be in a barn with a trainer.

Boarded horses might get daily care from folks other than their owners, but it is often only the owners who ride or do groundwork with their horses. Just like backyard horse-keepers, boarders often have to solve problems without professional help.

When I saw a ten-minute video made by Horse Class on the subject of horse problem solving, I knew it was something I would want to share on this blog. I know there are lots of us “do-it-yourselfers” who struggle with various aspects of horsemanship.

Sometimes these struggles can seem insurmountable. They can keep us from enjoying our horses to the extent that we would like to. Limiting what we can do with them. Or even impact our safety.

Of course, there are many positives about getting professional help through lessons, clinics or having our horses in full-time training. But all those things cost money. They can also be physically hard to access if you don’t have a horse trailer, live in a remote area or have an extremely busy schedule.

Online learning opportunities might be more helpful than going it alone. Video recording your issue and paying a professional to review is an option for many. But online review is still not the same as having a professional guiding you through a difficult moment with your horse or stepping in to handle a situation. And of course, remote learning is not free. Just like in-person learning, online learning may not be in your budget.

If you largely work with your horse on your own like I do, I highly recommend you watch this video. Callie, the speaker, relays her six-part approach to dissecting horse problems. It might give you more insight into your horsemanship issues and ideas about how to thoughtfully approach them. It certainly gave me some food for thought. See the video here:

My Problem Solving Framework – A 6 Step Process to Solve Any Problem

After you watch the video, let me know in the comments section what aspect of the clip stood out to you? Do you have a systematic way of approaching problems that develop between you and your horse?

Book Review: Begin and Begin Again- The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life with Horses by Denny Emerson

Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate relationship with Trafalgar Square Books, the publisher of this book. When you purchase materials through the Trafalgar Square Books affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog website, the blog receives a much appreciated portion of your purchase at no cost to you. That being said, this book review was not solicited or reviewed by Trafalgar Square Books. I received no direct compensation for this post.

Are you looking to infuse inspiration into your horse life? If so, you will want to get your hands on Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life With Horses. The information it contains is as hopeful as the book title sounds.

The chapters and sections discuss options for starting, re-entering or changing your involvement in the horse world. The book touches on the issues of brand new riders, re-riders, riders who have experienced injuries, riders who want to change disciplines and riders who must contend with declining abilities.

The author also reminds us that riding isn’t required to remain in the horse world. He gives examples of people who are an integral part of the horse industry whether they ever sit on the back of a horse or not.

“There’s no rule that says someone has to ride or drive or have a hands-on connection to get joy from horses. Some paint horses, others take photos of horses; some sponsor a young rider, work with horse-rescue organizations, build saddles or write horse books.”

Now, if you want a “how to” book, I need to point out that this one isn’t it. But if you like to draw ideas for your own life by reading about the experience of others, “Begin and Begin Again” will fit the bill.

The author, Denny Emerson, makes his points mostly through the art of storytelling, relaying his experiences as he rode a variety of breeds and disciplines throughout his long career. While Mr. Emerson is probably most well-known for his three-day eventing career, he also competed in endurance riding and rode Park-type Morgan horses. In addition, the book features lots of interview side-bars where professional and amateur riders alike tell their own experiences with beginning and beginning again with horses.

As an equestrian who has “begun and begun again” more times than I would like, I found the book relatable. This despite the fact that the author is an accomplished horseman in a way that I never will be.

I sometimes find it discouraging as an average equestrian to read “story of my life” books by horse professionals. As they write about their leaping from one success to the other, I don’t see myself fitting in the picture. It can be hard for me to find common ground with that level of accomplishment.

While Mr. Emerson shares high-level riding successes in his career, he also (refreshingly) describes setbacks and challenges. Including writing about how his training approach has changed over the years. As an example, he describes working with a family member’s teenage Quarter Horse gelding who is an ex-ranch and team roping horse:

“When I ask Kansas for even a little bit of contact, legs into connection, his first responses are to evade, dip his head, open his mouth, invert, basically telling me the only way he knows how, “Hey, I don’t get what you want. Hey, this isn’t comfortable for me to do.” So I stay very quiet, and simply suggest . . . so if I am going to make changes, they will be tiny changes, done over plenty of time, with plenty of releases and rest breaks. I may not even go much further than slight contact, just to steady him from time to time, because he’s so used to a certain pattern. I’m not trying to change Kansas into something he isn’t, not at this stage of his life. I was thinking recently of how I might have responded 25 or 30 years ago, and I am pretty sure that I’d have been more demanding, and more inclined to think of Kansa’s evasions as disobediences rather than as struggles . . .”

Mr. Emerson goes on to write about how he sees that same attitude in other riders too. For example, riders thinking that a horse reacting like Kansas is simply “being a brat about it.” Mr. Emerson notes that he now realizes that line of thinking is the start of a “confrontational downward spiral” with the horse. A spiral that leads to needlessly harsh riding and handling.

It takes guts to look at your past behavior and declare it wanting. This type of reflection is a form of re-starting that fits right in with the rest of the book. It is something that any horseman can relate to, no matter one’s level of skill.

The book is a great reminder to look for options within your horse life. To see possibilities where you might have only seen stumbling blocks. To give yourself permission to step up, step sideways or step back. To know that you can start and re-start as long as you are still breathing.

Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life with Horses ends in the same way that it starts, by referencing the apt C. Lewis quote, “We can’t go back and change the beginning, but we can start today and change the ending.”

Same But Different: Animal Photo Challenge

For as long as I can remember, my horses have shared a fence line with neighboring cows.

Sometimes, I notice that one of the cows will strike up a friendship with one or more of the horses.

They will spend time along the fence line together. Maybe playfully nipping at each other through the fences. Maybe just dozing, warmed by the sun and each other’s company. Occasionally, everyone gets stirred up at the same time. Cows and horses are all running, jumping and bucking at the same time on their respective sides of the fence.

Last month, I happened to have my camera when I noticed Shiloh taking a standing nap as a neighboring cow snuck up behind him. With horse and cow standing near each other, you can see how they sport matching coat colors.

Horse people might call Shiloh’s main coat color “chestnut,” but cattle folks call that same color “red”. And there you have it. Same but different.

I thought this idea of “same but different” would make for a fun animal-only photo challenge. If you have a blog or are on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, you could participate in the challenge by making your own “same but different” post. You could then leave a comment on this blog post with a link to your own post so The Backyard Horse Blog readers could see your own animal version of “same but different”.

Who’s game to play?

Horsin’ Around On April Fool’s Day

With a nod to April Fool’s Day, I am reblogging a previous April 1st post filled with corny horse jokes and riddles. Hopefully good for at least one smile or laugh. 🙂

The Backyard Horse Blog

I need some comic relief! So today, I am giving a nod to April Fool’s Day with a compilation of horse jokes, puns and silly sayings for some unbridled laughs. So let’s quit stalling and get to it.

Bear thinks these jokes and puns are pretty funny!

The LaffGaff website says “We’re not trying to stirrup trouble, but we reckon these are the best horse jokes and puns you’ll find…. there’s no night-mare jokes here!”

The following are my favorites from the LaffGaff horse-related joke list:

  • 100 years ago everyone owned horses and only the rich drove cars. These days everyone drives cars and only the rich own horses. Oh, how the stables have turned.
  • What did the horse say when it fell down? “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t giddy up!”
  • What do you call a horse that lives next door to you? A neigh-bor.
  • When do vampires like…

View original post 346 more words

Horse Printables Contest: Winners Announced (plus more equine contests to enter)!

Recently, The Backyard Horse Blog hosted its latest contest.

Congratulations to our winners, Anne L. and Reese M.! They will each receive a free printable item from The Backyard Horse Shop on Etsy!

Didn’t win but want more horse-related contests to enter? Here are some others to try. Let me know if you win!

Win Amigo turnout gear:
https://www.horseloverz.com/sweepstakes

Win 10 bags of Legend horse feed:
https://ker.com/equinews/legends-sweepstakes/

Win a subscription to Warwick Schiller’s online training library:
https://horseandrider.com/page/warwick-schiller-horsemanship-giveaway

Win a $1,000 shopping spree to the Breyer model horse catalog:
https://www.breyerhorses.com/pages/2021-2022-magalog-shopping-spree

Equine Liver Failure: Fate’s Story

Fate was the name of a grey unregistered part-Arabian gelding. Initially selected to be my son’s 4H gaming horse, he became one of my backyard riding horses when my son lost interest.

I bought Fate when he was an estimated 19 years old. Even as a senior horse, he was quick and athletic with a strong personality. He was always the herd leader in the pasture.

Fate was the healthiest horse I ever owned. Like many grey horses, he sprouted some melanomas on his body. But in the ten years he lived in my backyard, he never needed an emergency vet call. He had no hoof problems. He never had any special management issues.

I rode Fate regularly until his mid-twenties and then gradually stopped. I had four horses by that time, including two gaited ponies with whom I was very active. Even though Fate was not experiencing any problems, it seemed the natural progression to retire him from riding and focus my horsemanship efforts on his younger herd-mates, Bear and Spice.

In 2014, when Fate was an estimated 29, I noticed he began losing weight and topline muscle. The changes happened quickly and caught me off guard. He had been an easy keeper up to that point.

Here is a picture of him in August 2014.

Here is a picture of him in October 2014, less than two months later.

When I first noticed the weight loss, I just figured his nutritional needs were changing due to his advancing age. So I began feeding Fate a senior horse feed in ever-increasing amounts. I thought that the extra calories would help him quickly fill back out. But instead, I continued to see weight loss.

During this same season, I was preparing to move across the country. Part of my moving preparations involved getting health certificates issued by a veterinarian for my horses. This paperwork is a legal requirement for horses crossing State lines.

In the course of all that preparation, Fate’s veterinary physical exam revealed no reason for his weight loss. So his veterinarian recommended doing a full blood panel.

Unfortunately, the blood work indicated that Fate was in liver failure. Apparently, there are treatments if the liver disease is caught early enough, but Fate’s disease process was too advanced by the time of diagnosis. His veterinarian described a very poor prognosis. Fate was euthanized a week before I moved to Colorado in late October 2014.

Before the veterinary exam, it didn’t occur to me that there might be something wrong with Fate other than advancing age. He was still eating, drinking and moving around like normal. He was still the herd leader in the pasture. He was still pleasant and cooperative to handle on the ground.

I didn’t see any other signs of illness (besides the weight loss). That doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, of course. Just that I didn’t see any.

Why did he develop liver failure? I still don’t know. What I do know is that before I had him in my backyard for ten years, his previous owner had him in her own backyard for seven.

I remember her telling me that their other horse died of liver failure. Was there an environmental issue on their property that might have contributed to both horses’ eventual deaths? Even ten years apart?

I also know that around 2010 or so, our own pastures developed a buttercup weed infestation. Over the course of a few seasons, Buttercups completely took over the horse’s main pasture, choking out most of the grass. In the photo below, you can see patches of bare ground exposed as the buttercups invaded. It got so bad that I began to feed hay almost year-round even though the horses were on full-time turnout.

To combat the infestation, I ended up having the entire pasture sprayed with weed killer for a couple of years in a row. The spraying saved the pasture. In fact, the pasture is now so lush that I have to keep my horses completely off of it due to one of my horse’s history with laminitis. But Buttercups are known to be poisonous, with the ability to negatively affect the liver. And of course, some chemicals in weed killers are suspected in various types of disease.

Was living for several years in a pasture overtaken by buttercups to blame for Fate’s liver disease? Were the chemical sprays used to kill the buttercups the reason Fate got sick? Did his history of having a former herd-mate with liver failure factor into Fate’s diagnosis? Or was it just a coincidence? I have no answers.

Long story short, I wanted to write about Fate’s story as a cautionary tale. In retrospect, it is easy for me to see that a horse losing condition that quickly likely indicates illness, not advancing age. Hindsight is 20/20.

I think sometimes we just figure an old horse is losing weight because they can’t absorb nutrients like they used to. We aren’t aware or forget that a horse’s weight loss can be indicative of disease. A disease that has nothing to do with their age or how many calories they are consuming.

Though not a common issue, equine liver failure is something I continue to think about. Fate and my horse, Bear, were pasture mates for about nine years. Bear also lived on that same buttercup-infested pasture that was repeatedly sprayed with weed killer.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that Bear is still with me. We just marked our 17-year “anniversary” this month, and he is scheduled to turn 27 this Spring. But he’s approaching the same age Fate was when Fate’s dramatic weight loss occurred. As Bear continues to inch ever closer to 30, the possibility of liver failure stays on my radar.

Want to learn more about equine liver failure beyond the personal experience I described here? Try these resources to get you started:

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/horse-owners/digestive-disorders-of-horses/disorders-of-the-liver-in-horses

Thought For The Day: Gratitude

“At this moment, I realize the power of gratitude.

It reminds me of all that’s lovely with my horse, instead of what I don’t have.

When I am grateful, I feel wonderful and so appreciative.

Being grateful for what is true is free and available to me any time and anywhere.”

-From Barbra Schulte’s Just For Today emails (daily thoughts to bring out your best with your horse)

What are you grateful for in your horse life?

Survey On Trailering Horses

Some years I haul my horses frequently. Some years not at all. It depends on what horses I have at the time and what access I have to trail riding/clinics/lessons/shows. And, of course, whether or not I have a horse trailer!

While reading some material on The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care, I came across this request to participate in research conducted by the University of Kentucky.

“We are interested in understanding how transportation affects horses of different ages, breeds, and health status so that we can ultimately find ways to better support horse health. This survey will provide valuable information and, therefore, we encourage all horse owners to get involved and be part of our project,” said Dan Howe, PhD, interim chair of the UK’s Department of Veterinary Science and interim director of the Gluck Center.

From Thehorse.com website articled referenced above

The researchers are asking folks to take a survey about their horse trailering experiences in the past year. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. At the end, you have the option of entering a drawing to win a chocolate prize basket. That’s a pretty good incentive in my book! Complete the survey at

https://uky.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bK5B8c5CJIgwqAC

Please note they are looking for USA residents only who are over 18, own/lease at least one horse (or care for someone else’s full time) and have trailed said horse(s) at least once in the past year. The survey is open until April 1st, 2022.

I completed the survey. How about you?

Great Spring Time Activity: Practicing The Backup

The month of March in my area is frequently cold and/or rainy. Neither of which makes for good riding conditions.

I may get in a handful of rides with my horses at home. Mostly though, March is a month filled with groundwork, not time in the saddle.

But eventually, I will hopefully get about the business of reacclimating my horses to riding following their Winter break.

This reconditions process consists of lots of walking with crossing poles and practicing small movements. Things like turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarters, side passing or backing.

Backing up is a simple (but not necessarily easy) exercise. I find it works nicely into the Spring riding season, especially if your horse is out of condition and not up for much cardio work (trotting and cantering) yet.

A smooth, soft back can be elusive but not impossible. Backing is often done poorly with the rider causing the horse to throw its head in the air and hollow its back. All while moving crookedly in an irregular rhythm. I unfortunately speak from experience here.

As I was formulating plans for my first Spring rides, I came across THIS short video from Callie with Horse Class about backing.

“The backup can be one of the most useful exercises in riding.

Done correctly, it improves far more than just the ability for you and your horse to move backwards.

The backup develops the strength of the horse, particularly in their hind end muscles as they lower and transfer more weight to their hind legs to correctly make the movement. As they do this, their topline lengthens, their neck stretches forward, and they step back with a diagonal movement.

For the rider, the backup is also a very useful exercise for learning to feel these weight shifts from the horse and adjusting in response to them.

None of these benefits are achieved by pulling back on the reins.

The backup needs to be initiated by a change in the rider’s center, a slight shift in their weight, and then the creation of movement. The reins should only be communicating don’t go forward.

No movement happens in isolation, and as soon as we begin pulling on the reins to try and get a backup, the horse will have to tense and shorten their neck, therefore hollowing their back and dragging their legs backwards.

The process of riding a good backup begins with just a weight shift . . .”

From a Horse Class email

This video clip will help you resist the urge to haul on your horse’s face. Instead, it encourages you to concentrate on sensitizing your horse to your seat aids and your intention (thinking about what you want your horse TO do).

I’ve been cautioned not to drill movements. I usually practice backing my horse just a handful of times during a ride for a minute or so at a time. I’ve also learned to vary the time and place within the ride to ask for the backup.

I once got into the habit of asking my horse, Shiloh, to back at the end of every ride, right after I’d look at my watch to note how long we’d been riding. Being the smarty-pants horse that he is, I noticed that Shiloh started to back up during the ride whenever I looked at my watch! I had not realized I’d paired looking at my watch with asking him to back quite so successfully!

So instead, I incorporate backing within the ride itself. Not just right at the end. It is fun for me to mix it up with halt-walk-gaiting-backing. That way you aren’t just going around in circles working on one thing at a time. I find incorporating the backup helps Shiloh to be a more attentive and athletic horse. It challenges his mind while helping him to think about balancing his body as we switch gears.

But wait. Permit me to back up here for one moment. 🙂 I should mention that if you and/or your horse struggle with the backup under saddle, please practice from on the ground for awhile instead. Rider-teacher-author, Jec A Ballou, talks a lot about incorporating the backup in groundwork. If you want some ideas and don’t have any of her books already, check out a few of her You Tube Videos on backing up as well as on her website:

In closing, I will leave you with one last thought- that teaching your horse to back up off of your seat can have some practical applications. Especially if you ever encounter obstacles on the trail or participate in trail classes/obstacle competitions. Opening and closing gates comes to mind. But here’s something that is even more fun.

This is one of my favorite photos of my now-sadly-deceased pony, Pumpkin Spice, and me. We entered a two-day obstacle competition hosted by the now-sadly-defunct ACTHA organization.

The photo shows us performing the “don’t feed the bears” obstacle where we walked up to a backpack on the ground. The pack was attached to a long rope that had been swung over a tree branch. The obstacle was named for the camping practice of keeping food off the ground so as not to attract predators.

Instructions were to approach the tree on horseback, grab the rope and levitate the back pack off the ground by asking your horse to back up while you maintained tension on the rope. You then completed the obstacle by returning the back pack to the ground as you moved your horse forward once again.

You can imagine the interesting challenges this might present to horse and rider. For example, backing up one-handed. Backing up in such a way that the backpack was raised smoothly so you don’t end up tangling the rope or terrifying your horse as the backpack raises up right in front of them.

What a hoot!

Win A Printable Bundle or eBook From The BackYard Horse Shop!

Okay, folks, it is time for another blog contest!

Win your choice of one printable bundle or one eBook from TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy! Up to five winners will be randomly selected from all entrants!

TheBackYardHorseShop sells printable items (otherwise known as digital files or digital downloads) including horsemanship goal-sheets and bookmarks.

It also sells the eBooks, “What To Do When You Can’t Ride: Ten Horse-Related Activities For When Life Keeps You Out of The Saddle” AND “What To Do When You Can’t Ride Part II: Ten MORE Horse-Related Activities For When Life Keeps You Out of The Saddle.”

Not familiar with printables/digital files/digital downloads? Here’s how they work. When you purchase a printable or an eBook from the shop, you buy the right to download the PDF file of that item. You print out the PDF yourself at home or send it out to be printed through an online printing service of your choice.

With eBooks, you can also simply read them right on your computer or phone without having to print out anything.

Long story short, when you purchase a printable or digital file, nothing is mailed out to you.

Now for the contest details:

Enter the contest by leaving a comment on this post about what other kind of printable products you’d be interested in the shop carrying. You should see a box below this post that says “Leave a Reply.” The last day to enter is March 27th, 2022 at Midnight.

It will help if you first visit TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy to view the shop listing to see what is already for sale before you leave a comment. I am asking for some fresh ideas to bring more traffic and sales to the shop. Who better to help me out than blog readers (that’s you!)?

Have trouble leaving comments on this post? An alternative form of entry is to send me an email at thebackyardhorseshop@gmail.com with the Subject Line “Printable Contest Entry.” Don’t forget to include your idea(s) for new printable products you would like to see in the shop. I will email you back and confirm your entry.

On March 28th, I will announce the winners on this blog (using the first name and first letter of the last name only). I will also contact each winner via email. Winners will receive a special coupon code good for one free item from the shop. Item must be purchased within two weeks of notification or else the prize is forfeited.

So what are you waiting for? Visit TheBackYardHorseShop today. Then come back here to enter the contest by leaving your comment!

Up Close

Ever notice the small details of a horse’s coat? How each hair blends in delightfully with all the others. The patterns that form. Lines, swirls and whirls. It is interesting what draws your attention when you get up close.

Typically, during later Winter/early Spring, my horses look their worst. Winter coats are dull. Manes super scraggly. And did I mention the mud? Wet and dry dirt caked over, under and into all that hair. It can make for quite a mess.

Even so, I love marveling at the beauty beneath the chaos. I observe the individual hairs coming together to form this protective tapestry that keeps the horses warm all Winter.

What an amazing design. Wonderfully Intricate. To me, it bears witness to God’s original universal design. Right down to the tiny details of each separate hair. It shows me that small things, seemingly insignificant, have a time, place and purpose. It is satisfying to contemplate.

I now sit on the cusp of the annual shedding ritual. My horses will change in appearance. All the long hairs so necessary for Winter protection will loosen. They will end up all over the ground when the horses roll, all over me when I go to groom and scattered into the four directions every time the wind blows. The advent of transition is an opportune time to watch, document and reflect on the details of life.

What do you notice about a horse up close?

AMERICAN HORSES: Nature Season 40 Episode 10

If you missed viewing American Horses on PBS, you can stream it for FREE up until March 23rd, 2022 at https://www.pbs.org/video/american-horses-i5v309/.

American Horses is part of PBS’s Nature Series, now in its 40th season. In 54 minutes, it brings a condensed history of the horse as it pertains to what is now the USA. The show focuses on the Mustang, Morgan, Appaloosa and Quarter Horse. It is rated TV-G for family-friendly viewing.

Like all of the Nature series, the episode is beautifully filmed with appealing narration and background music. I was pretty much enthralled the entire time. Maybe that’s just because I find horses endlessly fascinating to watch. But I think even someone who isn’t quite as enamored with all things Equus would still find American Horses to be of interest.

As I watched the show, I did have a few misgivings. I might quibble with some of their assertions about horses or have explained some details differently. Similarly, while I’m glad they included Mustangs, they did not mention anything about how our wild horses and burros are being removed from our public lands at a rate that seriously threatens their survival.

And as the owner of three American gaited horses, I sure wish they would have covered more breeds. But I know there is only so much history a show can cover in under an hour, right?

All that aside, I would definitely recommend American Horses for your viewing pleasure.

Something I also appreciate about the PBS website is that their show episodes stream really well for me. I don’t have any streaming-service subscriptions because I often have trouble viewing most videos. So far, though, every free PBS show that I have watched plays without issue. I hope it is that way for you, too.

Want more? Check out their 2019 two-part series Equus: The Story of The Horse. The series takes a global look at the story of the horse, documenting horses and the people that care for them in various corners of the planet.

Equus: The Story of The Horse series is available to watch through PBS Passport, a paid subscription service. In addition, I also know that some libraries carry the series on DVD so you might want to check with your local branch. It has been a few years since I watched it. I am fuzzy on the details, but I remember the series as a fascinating look at the diversity of the horse around the world. Go to

https://www.pbs.org/video/equus-story-of-the-horse-episode-1-origins-bp00yv/

and

https://www.pbs.org/video/equus-story-of-the-horse-episode-2-chasing-the-wind-u7o10x/.

Anywho, if you end up watching American Horses, let me know what you think in the comments section!

Considering The Horses and Equestrian Community of Ukraine

PLEASE NOTE- THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED AS OF 4/30/22. When I become aware of new information or resource links regarding the equestrian community in the region, I will continue to update this post.

“Archaeological evidence indicates that the domestication of horses had taken place by approximately 6,000 years ago in the steppe lands north of the Black Sea from Ukraine to Kazakhstan.”

– From http://www.britannica.com “Origin of Horse Domestication”

I wish I knew more about the horses and equestrian community of Ukraine. I do not have family ties to Ukraine or personal knowledge of the modern Ukrainian horse industry. But as the above quote demonstrates, Ukraine and horses clearly share a lengthy history.

And if you have ever heard of the Cossacks, you recognize Ukraine as having a history of a fierce warrior culture on horseback. In fact, if you ever witnessed modern-day trick riding, you have seen movements that the Cossacks used to fight its enemies. Read a 2019 article from the website Ukraine World about the relationship between the history of the Cossacks and modern Ukrainian identity HERE.

I also highly recommend you see this video clip posted to YouTube titled “Ukrainian Cossacks Horse Show in Kyiv in 2020“. If you didn’t before Putin’s invasion, you likely now recognize Kyiv as the Ukrainian capital city. Now in the cross-hairs of Russian aggression. The video includes short clips of a riding demonstration like one would see at a horse expo. It shows impressive riding displays on horses that seemed very well-prepared and well-suited to their jobs.

And have you ever heard of the wild horses living around Chernobyl? You can read about their story on a science website HERE. It contains a 2021 article about the horses flourishing around Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear reactor accident over thirty years ago. Now the horses have to contend with yet another man-made disaster, war.

As the eyes of the world settle on the invasion of Ukraine, I can’t help but think of the horses and other animals caught up in the conflict. All the affected pets, livestock and wildlife. The numbers must be staggering.

In an effort to round up information about supporting Ukrainian animal organizations during this time of war, I came across several sources I want to share with you.

The two websites listed below contain multiple links to groups helping animals either within Ukraine itself or in bordering countries that are supporting Ukrainian refugees who have fled with their pets.

https://www.eurogroupforanimals.org/news/how-you-can-support-animal-protection-organisations-ukraine

https://www.thedodo.com/daily-dodo/pets-in-ukraine-heartbreaking-photos-show-people-clinging-to-their-animals-as-they-flee

The Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation‘s website has information about how to help. It also posts notices about what is happening within the equestrian community on the ground.

The Foundation For The Horse, an arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, is accepting donations as they try to support veterinarian intervention for horses in Ukraine.

The organization BrookeUSA is also assisting those in Ukraine with horses. According to their website, “Brooke USA Foundation (Brooke USA) recently announced the establishment of its Ukraine Emergency Fund and asks its generous supporters to help equestrians and their horses as it joins the many organizations supporting relief efforts in that nation. Funds raised will be forwarded to the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation (UEFCF; registered in Belgium) with assistance from the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) and USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) via the USEF Disaster Relief Fund.”

I also understand that the Fédération Equestre Internationale (the international body governing horse sports) has pledged $1 million Swiss francs in aid for the Ukrainian equestrian community and is in contact with the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation president, according to a post from New Zealand’s HorseTalk website.

Finally, read about an update from Horse Nation dated 3/30/22 regarding ongoing relief efforts within the horse community of Ukraine and then read this 4/4/22 update from Yahoo! News via Reuters as posted to the blog Tuesday’s Horse:

Have You Shopped For Horse-Products At Corro? (Discount Code For New Customers!)

As consumer costs continue to rise, I appreciate the opportunity to compare prices at different stores and websites. Especially for anything horse. I’ve long shopped at places like Smartpak Equine, Riding Warehouse, Dover Saddlery, Valley Vet Supply and Jeffers. And even more recently, Chewy.

But now, there is also Corro! Founded in the Summer of 2019, Corro is relatively new on the scene. I had heard about them but had not chosen to shop there until I won a much appreciated Corro gift card from the website, Decidedly Equestrian. This made me take the time to visit the Corro website and finally place my first order.

I discovered that while not all of Corro’s prices are competitive with other online retailers yet, Corro does offer opportunities for consumers to save money. For example, their minimum-order total to obtain free shipping is $49. And they offer a shopping-rewards program (Corro Rewards) that allows the shopper to earn discounts towards future purchases.

I also like the fact that Corro supports some selected horse-related organizations and makes it easy for their customers to donate if they so choose.

My order wasn’t anything too exciting. Just vet wrap and fly-spray that I like to keep stocked for the next time I’ll need them. But besides product basics, Corro does have more fun stuff too. For example, colorful equestrian-themed dessert plates that I have not seen elsewhere.

Long story short, I received the items I bought in good order without any problems. I would definitely consider buying from them again.

If you have not purchased from Corro before and would like to give them a try, I have a special link here that will give you $10 off your first order AND allow me to earn Corro shopping rewards for bringing new customers their way. The special link is https://prZ.io/r3ZaAJNt3.

It will take you to the Corro website where a separate pop-up will appear, noting a discount code you can enter at checkout to receive the ten dollars off (from your order of ten dollars or more)! How fun is that?!

Please note you can only get one discount code on the Corro website per order so you can’t layer this offer with a second discount like you can at some other websites. If you have come across another Corro discount code besides this one, you will have to choose which one you want to use on your order. You can’t use both.

If you decide to give Corro a try, let me know what you think of them in the comments section!

A Possible Solution To The High Cost of Equine Prescription Meds

I must have big money on the brain this week. Or more specifically, how other people’s big business decisions ultimately affect a backyard horse keeper like me.

After my Monday post mentioning a private equity firm acquiring Equine Network, my thoughts turned to billionaire Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company.

The Cost Plus Drug Company’s business model allows it to offer prescription medications at reduced prices. For folks who spend a good portion of their money on medications, buying them through Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company could be a financial game-changer.

But what about pet/horse/livestock prescription medication? It’s not just human meds that folks sometimes struggle to afford. The cost of treating chronic conditions in our animals can be considerable.

For example, just doing a quick estimation in my head, I know I’ve spent over $5,000 for my twenty-six-year-old horse’s medications since he was started on Equioxx and Prascend several years ago. That’s a lot of money for someone like me. It’s money that I don’t spend in other budget categories, or more importantly, save for the future.

Sometimes the price of medications even determines animal life or death. I have previously made the choice for euthanasia, not because there weren’t treatments available, but because I did not feel I was in a financial position to cover the treatment costs.

Perhaps even more sobering is that due to ever-increasing consumer prices, I will likely be confronted with that same choice in the future. And I know I am not the only one. Lots of us have and will confront these painful issues.

With all this on my mind, I decided to fill out the contact form on the Cost Plus Drug Company website. I wrote a little bit about my struggles trying to cover the cost of medications for my senior horse, Bear. I inquired about the possibility of them selling animal prescription medications. Here was the response I received:

“Hi Mary,

We are happy to assist and we appreciate you sharing your feedback and your story with us!

We appreciate you reaching out and letting us know how we can improve. We are looking to add animal prescriptions soon. However, it is a different process on accepting prescriptions for animals than for human medications, even if your animal takes human medicine. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news for Cost Plus Drugs here.

Let us know if you have any more questions or concerns, and we will be happy to address them.

Thank you,

The Cost Plus Drug Company Team”

First off, I was impressed that someone actually seemed to read my email. They responded within 24 hours. It’s not very often that businesses respond in a way where the customer (or potential customer) feels seen and heard.

While I learned that they don’t yet carry animal prescription medications, I am excited to know it is on their radar. You can bet I signed up to be on their email newsletter list so I can keep up with future announcements.

In the mean time, if you are looking for more immediate relief from equine prescription drugs costs, I have three suggestions:

1) Compare costs between your veterinarian and online pharmacies

I want to make clear that I definitely prefer to support my veterinarian by purchasing meds from my vet’s office directly. But sometimes, it makes the most financial sense for me to shop elsewhere. I make the choice to purchase from online pharmacies when the savings are significant.

2) Buy In Bulk

Do the math. You will often see that you will pay less per pill when you buy the biggest bottle or package available. Yes, you will pay a larger amount upfront, but the yearly cost savings per pill can be significant.

3) Watch for rebate offers

I receive about $150 per year in medication rebates just by taking a few minutes to fill out a form and take a photo of the medication receipt (read my previous post HERE about Equioxx and Prascend rebates).

Be sure to read the details so you meet the specific rebate requirements. For example, sometimes the rebates are only valid for medication purchases made directly from your veterinarian, not an online pharmacy.

Finally, if you are so inclined, it can’t hurt to do like I did. Let the Cost Plus Drug Company know that you are interested in them carrying prescription pet/horse/livestock medications. Let them know why this is important to you. Email them at info@costplusdrugs.com. If lots of folks make their need known, hopefully we will see Cost Plus Drugs gravitate to offering animal medications that much sooner. Want to visit the Cost Plus Drug Company website? Go to https://costplusdrugs.com/.

A Monopoly In The Horse Industry?

Have you noticed the recent growth of Equine Network? Over the last few years, Equine Network has been busy snapping up major equine businesses left and right.

Reminds of the game Pac-Man with the yellow head moving steadily down the row, gobbling up one dot after the other until there’s none left.

Mostly, Equine Network’s acquisitions are horse-media related. Horse magazines and websites. Outside of the world of publishing, Equine Network now also owns US Rider, the horse trailer road-side assistance service.

Equine Network’s most recent purchase is The Horse Magazine: Your Guide to Equine Welfare. Purchased, in fact, just this year. Equine Network already owned the big-three USA horse magazines: Equus, Practical Horseman, and Horse & Rider (plus more- see the list near the end of this post). When I look at my horse magazine subscriptions, that leaves me with just a few that aren’t under their umbrella (yet).

All this got me to wonder who is behind Equine Network and what motivates this buying spree. I was thinking maybe a big horse organization ran Equine Network. Maybe a sports governing body, a major breed association or even just a generic publishing house with an Equine specialty. I was wrong.

Equine Network was acquired by Growth Catalyst Partners (GCP) from Active Interest Media in early 2021. GCP is a private equity firm.

This is how the Growth Catalyst Partner’s website describes Equine Network: “Equine Network is a provider of proprietary sports content, information, and tech-enabled services to the USD130 billion US equine industry.”

Clearly, Growth Catalyst Partners thinks substantial money is to be made through the Equine Network and its expansion.

That sounds all well and good for its investors. But as a horse owner, I wonder what does that mean for the quality of the publications and services within Equine Network?

What does it mean for horses and all the people involved in the equine industry who are affected by the content produced by Equine Network? From equine professionals to backyard horse keepers like me. Exactly how harmful or helpful?

I have more questions than answers at this point. And I remain skeptical.

I also know that I still enjoy and find valuable many of the Equine Network offerings. Equus has long been my favorite horse magazine even as it changed owners. And I’ve linked to Equine Network resources numerous times on this blog due to the quality of the information offered. But I question how long my favor will last.

I suppose if I get to the point where I no longer feel comfortable tossing any money towards Equine Network, I can still read their as-of-now free online reading materials. That is one little bright spot for me in the midst of my concerns.

For example, each of Equine Network’s publications offers a form of a monthly “extra”. You can sign up for “free to your email inbox” mini-magazines including

Equus Extra (multi-discipline horse care)

Practical Horseman Extra (dressage, eventing, hunter-jumper)

Dressage Today Extra (dressage only)

Horse & Rider’s Monthly (western riding)

Horse & Rider’s Trail Riding Extra (trail riding and otherwise traveling with your horse)

Stable Management Extra (for those with their own horse properties or those who board)

The Team Roping Journal’s Extra.

Just reading through that list gives you a sense of the scope and reach of the Equine Network. If you’d like to subscribe to any or all, go to https://hub.equinetwork.com/equine-network-extras.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eye on Equine Network, watching for changes in the quality and quantity of education and services offered. Wondering what they are going to snap up next and what increasing consolidation means for the horse industry. Wondering what will happen to Equine Network, and everything under its umbrella, if and when Growth Catalyst Partners decides Equine Network is no longer part of a winning portfolio strategy.

Wordle: A Game Tailor-Made For Equestrians

Surely by now you’ve played or at least heard of Wordle, yes? It’s an online game where players have six chances to guess a five-letter word of the day.

Although not expressly horse-related, equestrians have an advantage in playing the game. Have you thought about how many five-letter words we horse-lovers use? Starting with, well, H-O-R-S-E!

We regularly speak words like mount, brush or grain. And think of all the four-letter horse words that can be made into five-letters by adding “S”. Barns, hoofs and colts come to mind.

I won’t spoil all your creative fun by listing more examples. But hint, hint. I often start off my Wordle play by using an equestrian-related word. With positive results.

One big problem with Wordle? It only lets you make one guess a day. Horrors! Riding to the rescue is the almost identical game Wordmaster. It’s the same deal, but you can play as many times a day as your heart desires. You’re welcome!

And because I knew you were just hoping for another idea on how to spend even more time on the internet, check out these previous posts from The Backyard Horse Blog about giving generic games an equestrian twist!

Horsin’ Around With Puzzles

The Backyard Horse Blog Word Search

Let’s Play Bingo

Would You Rather: Equestrian Edition (First Installment)

Would You Rather: Equestrian Edition (Second Installment)

Bridle Review: John Whitaker Barton Bridle

Interested in trying out a new English bridle? Do you have a thing for bling? If so, check out this John Whitaker Barton Bridle!

Last Summer, Great British Equinery kindly sent me a John Whitaker Barton Bling Bridle to test for review. While I normally ride Shiloh in a bitless bridle and Western saddle, I have periodically experimented with different tack setups, so I was game to try out this John Whitaker bridle.

Unfortunately, the bridle size that I requested did not fit my horse, Shiloh. So I went on a hunt to find a new horse to be my tester for the full-size bridle. It was too large for the first horse I sampled, a Saddlebred mare. The throatlatch hung way off of her and the flash noseband was loose. But it did fit my friend’s AQHA gelding well. So we now have a handsome palomino named Apollo wearing the bridle in this post’s photos!

The bridle is a head turner. Shiny black leather frames the bling browband. The noseband is padded on the top and bottom as is the crown piece. The flash noseband is removable. While most new leather is stiff to some degree, this bridle is not too hard to manipulate the first time putting it on a horse.

My favorite feature is actually the reins. I love their size and grip. The older I get, the more uncomfortable it is for me to hold anything narrow. These reins feel very comfortable and easy to hold onto without cramping my fingers.

The one caution I would point out is the size I mentioned earlier. The full-size bridle is likely best for a horse with a more substantial build like my friend’s AQHA gelding. Think Warmblood, not Arabian!

After reviewing the bridle, I donated it to the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center in Nicholasville, Kentucky. They said they might use it as a silent auction item for one of their fundraising events. Cool!

Interested in purchasing The John Whitaker Barton Bling Bridle? Click on this link:

https://greatbritishequinery.com/shop/ols/products/barton-bridle

If you would like to read other The Backyard Horse Blog reviews of Great British Equinery products, visit

Shout Out To Great British Equinery of Indiana!

Remember that The Backyard Horse Blog readers can use a special coupon code to save ten percent on purchases from Great British Equinery! While their product lineup is geared towards the English rider, they do sell items that any horse or horse-lover would enjoy so I encourage all my readers to check them out. To get ten percent off your order, enter the four-letter coupon code at checkout: BYHB.

A Salute to Pursuit: Trying to Nail Down Horsemanship Goals and Themes For 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes and 4 seconds (for inquiring minds who want to know)

“Is your horse more interested in the busyness of the world than you? Quiet your mind by letting it rest in your feet. Feel your toes. Let your heel settle into the earth. Do you lunge your horse? Don’t chase him. Stand still so he can find his balance. Is he a little fussy at the mounting block? Park your feet and become reliably still. Want to connect with your horse? Make your breath an anchor by inhaling into your toes and then trust the earth to send the message. The air is unstable. The earth is our connection with horses, it is trust in solid form.”

Anna Blake, Author of the Relaxed and Forward blog, from a post on 1/7/22 titled “Finding The Ground But In A Good Way” 🙂

If there was ever a quote about horses that I need to absorb, this one is it. It is a reminder to me of the importance of staying grounded.

As I continue to contemplate my chosen goals and themes for 2022, I repeatedly return to the issues of (1) staying present with my horse(s) and (2) maintaining my inner and outward composure when my horse(s) is not doing what I want.

I have not set anything in stone yet as far as my 2022 goals and themes, but my struggles with those issues #1 and #2 are interwoven throughout my history with horses. By the way, if you are wondering what I am talking about with this “goals and themes” business, please read this previous post for reference.

It’s easy for me to think about yearly goals and themes during Wintertime. But taking action is harder. With daytime temperatures in my area regularly below freezing, practicing horsemanship beyond basic daily care is difficult for me.

Even though my horses are in my backyard, I often find myself missing them over Winter. I physically find it painful to stay outside much beyond feeding, mucking, watering and observing that everyone still has four uninjured legs and two eyes. So the amount of time I spend in their presence is much less than other seasons.

But everyone once in a while, the sun shines bright enough or the wind calms or the temperatures rise. I can get in a little bit of precious horse-time, even if it is not on their backs.

I have to get creative with what I do since it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go through a full repertoire of exercises. I think about the stuff we have doodled around with in the past, seeing if there’s something I can test out or review to see what we’ve maintained. Or gently play around with a new concept.

I thought about the above quote when I did a little groundwork with each of my horses earlier this week. Day two was documented in photographs by my ever-patient husband. (Side note here: The lighting was terrible that day, quickly going from bright sun reflecting harshly off the snow to incredibly cloudy and dark. I tried to do some lighting adjustments with my photo-shop type program, but I question my success. Hopefully you can still see enough detail in the photos to get a sense of what we were doing).

Starting off, I worked with Shiloh on staying on the pedestal at liberty while responding to my request that he return my gesture of salute.

Then I checked in with Bear on picking up each front hoof at liberty while I stayed on one side of him (rather than the usual practice of switching sides). It’s something we practiced at a clinic long ago. I really like the exercise because it causes the horse to really think about what you are asking and not just go off of routine. You can see in the photos that he has an intense look of concentration and at first offers the leg on the same side I am standing on rather than the opposite front hoof that I was asking for. Even Shiloh, observing from the side, looks befuddled at the unusual request.

Last, I haltered Piper to practice stepping onto the tire pedestal and backing off it. It was something we accomplished for the first time just the day before. Maybe eventually we will graduate to working at liberty as I do with the other two.

How much could I stay mentally present in the moment rather than the past or the future? Could I recognize, feel what is happening between us right then and there? And then stay in that place without heaping a whole bunch of past or future thoughts and resulting emotions onto the moment?

Sure, I was at home with the horses. It’s not like I was trying to load them in a trailer or ride them in a new environment. We remained in their familiar paddock. But even so, it’s amazing how my mind can become self-absorbed in my own mess of thoughts and emotions if things aren’t going the way I think they should at any one moment with a horse. Maybe a moment of fear during a spook or a moment of frustration when the horse is not relaxed at the mounting block, for example. Meanwhile, the horse is left without any support or direction from me as I am frozen in thought.

But when I can loosen my fierce grip on what I think should happen or what I fear might happen. And what all that means about my worth as a horse person. I can maybe actually make room for us to do something fun together.

If things go a little sideways, I can see the humor in it. Instead of worrying about myself, I can help my horse work through the awkward moment rather than leave him to flail while I am focused on my own fear or self-doubt.

A bit of a misstep above turned into a more comfortable setup below with some guidance.

I’m not yet sure how I want to package all of that into a succinct goals and themes statement yet. Did I mention I’m working on it? One thing I know for sure is that I am still smack dab in the middle of Winter in my area. That gives me plenty of time to keep thinking. And to practice staying grounded during those precious moments with my horses, even if it’s on top of frozen, snow-covered earth on a 20-degree day.

Want Solid Riding Advice? Go To The Horse Listening Website

If you are looking for solid riding advice to advance your understanding and skills, I recommend heading over to the Horse Listening website and perusing their article archives. The Horse Listening website is one of my favorite places to read about riding concepts and get practical advice about what to do in the saddle.

Their focus is English riding, specifically dressage, but so much of their material applies to any type of riding. The first article listed below really speaks to that idea. It’s all just good horsemanship no matter your saddle preference.

Their archives are extensive, so if you aren’t sure what to read first, here are my top six picks of the moment. As I contemplate my riding goals and themes for the new year, these articles speak to issues that I want to address in my own riding.

Happy horse-reading!

Living Horse Life In The Basics

How To Be An Active Horseback Rider- aka- Riding With Intention

Why Black and White Is Better Than Gray In Horse Riding

Secrets To A Great Turn- aka- Shift Out to Turn In

A Question of Imbalance- Can You Tell?

17 Things I Learned While Developing My Seat

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2021

Hope you enjoyed last week’s recap of 2021 with each of my horses, Bear, Shiloh and Piper.

I’m going to close out the month of January, and my look back at 2021, with a “Top 10” list of The Backyard Horse Blog’s posts that received the highest number of views last year.

Most of these posts were actually written in 2021, but my second most viewed post was written in 2020. It’s fun for me to see an older post continue to resonate with fellow horse folks.

Curious about which post took the number one spot? Here is the most viewed post of 2021:

Today’s post will be my only one for this week. Going forward, I’ve decided to change things up a bit by trying a 2x a week posting schedule for 2022 with posts going out on Mondays and Friday (starting next week).

In the meantime, please check out this list below. See if there’s something you’d like to read for the first time or re-read. Just click on each individual post’s link.

By the way, do you have a favorite post? I’m not just looking for a good wither scratch here. I’d be interested to read what post(s) resonated the most so I can create similar content for you in 2022.

Was there a post that was particularly helpful, entertaining or thought provoking? Please give me feedback in the comments section or by emailing me at thebackyardhorseblog@gmail.com.

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2021 FROM THE BACKYARD HORSE BLOG

  1. Obstacle Idea: Using Traffic Cone Bars
  2. Ten Ideas For Staying In The Saddle If You Struggle With Riding Alone
  3. Activities For The Unridden Horse
  4. Would You Rather? Equestrian Edition- First Installment
  5. New Documentary Film: Lady Long Rider
  6. Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?
  7. Product Review: Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup
  8. Announcing The Buck Channel
  9. 2 Gaited Horses: Compare and Contrast
  10. Have You Seen The Constant Comfort Block?

A Few Months In My Life With . . . Piper

Reading Time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds (plus a short video clip to watch)

Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I decided to do this by writing three separate posts, one regarding each of my horses. My horses Shiloh and Bear were featured previously. This final installment features the newest addition to my herd, a solid bay Racking Horse gelding named Piper.

Observant readers that you are, you will note that the title of this post installment is a little different from the previous two. That’s because “A Year In My Life With Piper” would not quite fit our reality. Piper joined my herd only four months ago. Here was his for-sale photo that first caught my eye.

Since Piper is a rather recent arrival, I didn’t have much opportunity to work with him before Winter weather arrived. We only have 15 rides under our belts. I rode him at home in our round pen, out in the open pasture, and at both the indoor arena and outdoor track at the local boarding barn. I also trailered him a total of three times between his previous home, the local boarding barn, and my backyard. Here’s a little video clip of us gaiting in the pasture.

Other than difficulties with Piper accepting the mounting block, Piper’s behavior has been quite solid through it all. He’s always been easy to catch, stands well for the farrier, and doesn’t seem inclined to overact to new situations or unexpected surprises.

While there’s certainly lots to appreciate about his confidence level, his bold personality combined with a naturally high energy takes some getting used to for me. I’m not always quite sure what to make of his behavior or how to communicate what I want. We are still so new to each other.

My biggest disappointment in bringing him home was seeing how he interacted with Bear and Shiloh. He came in extremely strong, guarding every resource whether a flake of hay, a patch of Summer shade or the entire run-in shed during a cold rain. Bear and Shiloh got extra exercise as they constantly had to clear way.

I ended up separating the horses and putting them together multiple times, dividing up access to the run-in shed with a variety of electric tape and traffic cone creations. It seemed to help. Piper is still top dog of the herd, moving everyone around at feeding time so he can get the best cuts of hay. That’s not likely to change, but I see them all more comfortable with sharing space together now.

One really surprising change is seeing Shiloh and Piper play together, with Shiloh actually initiating. It’s a nice change from watching Piper charge at him and Shiloh run away in terror.

They do what is sometimes called “the nip and shove.” For those not familiar, it is where horses stand facing each other but slightly offset so their faces are right to left or left to right. Then they nip back and forth at each other’s cheeks while pushing into each other. Usually, they also rear up and/or spin around. Then they trot in a circle for a minute. All before returning to face each other and repeating the same play pattern.

This is what I sometimes see from my living room window. The photo is out of focus, but I wanted to show you an example of Piper and Shiloh, well, horsing around. 🙂 Never goes on for long. Just a few minutes. But it sure is entertaining to watch.

I am looking forward to the rest of 2022 with Piper. Ideally by then, we will have more positive changes, including some fun riding experiences, to report!

A Year In A Life With . . .Bear

Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I decided to do this by writing three separate posts, one regarding each of my horses. The posts will come in three installments, each titled “a year in a life with . . .”. The last installment featured my horse, Shiloh. Today’s features Bear, my bay and white Racking Horse gelding.

In 2021, Bear marked his 26th birthday and our 16th anniversary.

I’ve spent more time with him than any other horse I have had the pleasure of keeping in my backyard. Bear is also the horse who has spent more time in retirement with me than any of my previous horses.

As he entered his second decade, Bear’s issues with arthritis and laminitis eventually led to my assessment that he was no longer comfortable working under saddle. After over ten fun riding years together, I sadly retired him in 2017.

For a retired horse, though, Bear’s been pretty active. In 2021, he went with Shiloh on eight trailer trips. We went to the vet’s office, a clinic, a friend’s property, and a local boarding barn. I didn’t want to leave him alone at home.

Now that I added a third horse to the herd a few months ago, Bear will have some company if I take someone else out to ride. We’ll have to experiment with that in 2022.

While Bear seems mostly happy being left to his own devices, I do still like to include him in at-home activities from time to time.

In 2021, I tried ponying him off of Shiloh for the first time. We ended up doing a handful of sessions. Here’s a little video clip of us practicing changing directions and stopping.

Bear was always a fan of playing around with obstacles during our riding days. So throughout the year, I periodically took out obstacles and let him play around with them on the ground.

And sometimes I just took him out for little walks around the property. I also took him into the round pen, let him loose, and took out a bunch of grooming tools to see what he picked out for a little massage. It is a good excuse to practice taking him away from the other horses, who sometimes react to the fact that Bear is leaving the paddock without them.

Mostly though, Bear enjoys running around, just being a horse.

Even running around and kicking up his heels sometimes.

With Bear turning 27 this Spring, I know the clock is ticking on our time together. His Cushing’s Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, and arthritis make it challenging to manage his health. But my goal is to make his life as healthy and happy as I can, maintaining a good quality of existence for him as long as possible.

Here’s to you my dear, Bear!

A Year In A Life With . . . Shiloh

Reading Time: 5 minutes, 13 seconds (plus a couple of short videos to watch)

Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I am doing this by writing three separate posts, one regarding each of my horses. The posts will come in three installments, each titled “a year in a life with. . .”. Today I begin by writing about Shiloh, my Missouri Fox Trotter gelding. In addition to describing some of what we did together in 2021, I throw in background information for those of you not familiar with his story.

What can I say about this sweet horse wrapped up in a flashy package? Mostly that I am enjoying Shiloh in a way I did not expect when I purchased him in the Fall of 2018. At that time, he had spent the previous five years mostly at pasture. He enjoyed his days as a companion to his previous owner’s other horses. But when the last one passed away, Shiloh was put up for sale. I brought him home as a companion to my senior horse, Bear, who was at that point also an only horse.

As two lonely horses coming together, they immediately got along well. In addition to having Shiloh as a trusty companion for Bear, I hoped to enjoy Shiloh as a riding horse. But I had my doubts. Five years is a long time to be out of commission. And I am no professional horse trainer.

We started a little rocky. Shiloh was dull, tuned out, unenthusiastic. He paced (instead of gaiting as his breed would ideally dictate). He tripped. He seemed exhausted after 10 whole minutes of riding at the walk.

I had trouble doing seemingly simple things with him. Like bringing him to a halt from a walk under saddle! I suppose technically he was running away with me, but luckily I rode well enough to stay with him at his slow shuffle.

I constantly questioned myself, struggling to figure out the best way to communicate with him. I was all the while nervous about working with this “new to me” horse.

In the back of my mind loomed the incident that resulted in his spending the previous five years at pasture. His owner lost confidence in him after a riding accident. An accident that led to an ER visit and a hospital stay. A freak accident, just one of those things that could likely happen to any rider. But because it happened with this particular horse, I unhelpfully thought about it almost every time I rode him.

Somehow, out of all of that, we started building a positive foundation together. He stopped tripping. Stopped pacing. Started holding himself under saddle in a much healthier posture than the inverted and strung-out way in which he started.

I also get the sense Shiloh likes me now. He sometimes comes up to me in the pasture when I’m doing chores just to hang out, relaxing in my company. And he’s almost always up for a good scratch.

Much to my delight, he appears more enthusiastic about our work together. In 2021, I first noticed that he was offering more to me without my asking. Sure, I need to ride each step to support him, but I don’t constantly have to hold him together. And while he will never be a speed demon, he is much more forward than he used to be.

His tendency to be slow used to drive me bonkers. Every step, it felt like he was pulling his legs out of a vat of gooey molasses. But his lack of speed gave me a gift. I realized this year that I can feel things on him that I can’t seem to feel on other horses. I can better process what he’s doing with his body because he is not so quick. I can sense his responses to my aids in a way I have not with other horses.

Due to this better sense of feel, I’ve had more success in influencing his way of going this year. Certainly more so than with any other horse from my past. It gives me a refreshing insight into riding that is exciting.

In reviewing my 2021 calendar, I see that we completed 68 rides and eight trailer trips together. Not bad, but I sure would like to get out and do more with him.

I had imagined by this time having a few clinics, trail rides and a couple of local horse shows under our belts.

But our only successful field trips were to the nearby boarding barn. We rode multiple times around both their indoor arena and outdoor track since 2019. But my attempt at attending a clinic earlier this year did not go well. Nor did my two attempts at taking him trail riding with a friend.

For all our field trips, I brought along my now-retired horse Bear. I didn’t want to leave him home alone. At the boarding barn, Bear has rarely been fussy, but at the clinic and my friend’s property, Bear was a nervous mess. Bear fretted and hollered. Bounced around the stalls.

Bear’s energy upset Shiloh to the point where he also fretted, hollered, and bounced while I tried to do groundwork and ride. We were all miserable.

The situation is disappointing, of course, but I can’t blame the horses. It’s a horsemanship issue on my part. Keeping a horse’s focus and attention, when the chips are down, is a long-standing struggle for me. When a lot is going on, I can get nervous, lose my confidence, and then can’t do what I need to do to get the horse back on track.

With the addition of a third horse to my herd last Fall, I was hoping to start taking Shiloh on trips without Bear. But a very rainy and then cold Fall season squashed those plans. I am hopeful we can give it a go in 2022.

I’ll wrap things up by sharing a couple of Shiloh videos with you.

The first is of us crossing a series of four ground poles together. While to some this may not seem impressive, I am positively thrilled. I remember the first time I asked him to cross one ground pole a few years ago. I’m pretty sure he ticked it with all four hooves. He ended up tripping over it so badly that it frightened me. I didn’t try crossing another ground pole for months after. So Shiloh being able to cross four ground poles in a row without hitting any of them? That’s miracle territory right there. And I have it on tape.

The next video is of us working on tipping a cone over with a front hoof. Since taking that video, we’ve graduated to tipping it over AND back up. That happened on our last ride of the year on an unusually warm December 31st day. It is a bummer that no one was with me to capture that event. But for this video taken earlier this Summer, my husband was taping the ride. Cracks me up how both of us are verbally cheering Shiloh on like he’s a baby taking his first steps. That kind of verbal tone can grate on the nerves (for both people and horses), but for Shiloh, I think he prefers it. Good boy, Shiloh!

Free Online Horsemanship Fair!

Here’s an opportunity to watch horsemanship videos for FREE!

This online horse fair, brought to you by the Art of The Horseman, will feature over 130 online presentations all about horses and horsemanship. That’s 60+ hours of video content.

You can view the videos for FREE on January 24th and 25th, 2022. Anyone with internet access worldwide can view this large selection of videos from an international lineup of horse professionals in a variety of disciplines. Past those dates, you have to pay to view the videos.

Back in 2020, I posted about a previous Art of The Horseman fair. I have to say I really enjoyed the presentations I viewed at that time. Unfortunately, some of my favorite presenters from 2020 are not in the 2022 lineup. But one presenter is, Noah Tillman-Young.

Noah Tillman-Young operates his training business out of Grace Ranch in Texas (USA). I previously watched a great video of his about trailer loading. It’s an issue I have had plenty of problems with over the years. I really liked how calm and methodical he was about helping a reluctant horse load.

Lots of the Art of The Horseman Fair videos are about riding, but many touch on other issues like this trailer loading one I saw and more. The videos are grouped into three sections:

Human mindset, riding, health

Horse mind, body, spirit

Horsemanship

I had to laugh when I saw that one of the 2022 video presentations will be “16 Steps to Solving Separation Anxiety Undersaddle” by Warwick Schiller. Like trailer loading, that’s another horsemanship issue I’ve struggled with. Seems like every time this horsemanship fair comes around that there’s always something that touches a nerve.

To receive your free ticket to the fair, go to https://www.becauseofthehorse.net and click on the picture that says “free ticket click here.” On the becauseofthehorse website, you can see the list of presenters and presentations schedule.

Once you get your ticket, you will receive more information about the fair via email (as well as info about how you can buy a membership to view the videos past the two free dates). On the day of the fair opening, you will receive an email reminder about the timing of the free video access so you will know when it goes live.

Mark your calendars for this FREE online learning opportunity!

Having Trouble Lately Finding Products For Your Horse?

Bet you noticed the rise in consumer prices lately. You also likely entered a store (or website) recently and left without the product you were seeking. It was not in stock.

In the last year, I similarly noticed prices rising both for horse services and horse products. But unlike a recent trip to the grocery store where iceberg lettuce was nowhere to be found, obtaining horse products has not been difficult for me.

That all changed when I went last week to refill an Equioxx prescription for my horse, Bear.

Equioxx is an NSAID for horses to control inflammation and pain. Bear was first prescribed Equioxx in the Fall of 2017 to address signs of arthritis.

Back then, Bear started struggling to get his hind legs to flex and move after laying down for a nap. He appeared to rise well. But then be initially stiff-legged and limp until he loosed up.

Fortunately, Equioxx quickly addressed this issue. It eliminated the limp. Over four years later, I am still pleased with how it helps him.

When I tried to refill Bear’s Equioxx this month, I saw that the product was out of stock at the online pharmacy where I usually buy his prescriptions. No problem, I thought. I have a list of about seven online alternative pharmacies. Wouldn’t you know, I couldn’t find it anywhere.

That’s when I panicked. I wondered how long Bear could go without Equioxx before he’d struggle to rise and walk. And how quickly I’d need to make the choice for euthanasia to avoid further suffering. I became so distraught that I started crying. Like big huge tears streaming down my soon red, puffy face.

Dramatic? Maybe. But both price fluctuations and access to products sometimes do have real life, negative consequences.

And in my defense, with the way I am apparently wired, I tend to immediately imagine disaster scenarios at the first signs of trouble. Did I mention I was especially tired that morning too?

As my computer screen went completely blurry, I whipped out a Kleenex tissue. I took a minute to pray, breath and drink some water. These actions helped center myself back into the present moment.

It’s funny how often I have to remind myself to stay in the here and now. Possibility awareness and preparation has its place. But becoming emotionally reactive about something that has not happened yet to the point where I become super distressed is an old, unhelpful habit that I have yet to break.

So, while wondering if Kleenex would be the next thing I’d find out of stock, I dried my tears. I could then see the computer screen and the situation more clearly.

It occurred to me that this supply chain issue was likely temporary. I might be able to wait this out?

With that thought, I decided to count Bear’s remaining pills. I discovered almost a month’s worth left. I also made a plan to contact my veterinarian once their office opened later that morning to get a list of potential alternative treatments. I could then make a plan before Bear’s pills ran out.

I recalled the equivalent medication for dogs used to be prescribed for horses before Equioxx became available. I also remembered that symptoms of arthritis can sometimes be controlled by topical products, injectables and even supplements in certain situations. I felt some relief thinking that there might actually be a doable solution less drastic than euthanasia.

True, I’ll likely have to make that final appointment for Bear someday. “But today would not be the day,” I told myself.

As it turned out, while my veterinarian’s online pharmacy was in fact out of Equioxx, their office had some bottles for sale at the desk. Crisis averted!

I recount my story to hopefully save readers from a similar panic. I can’t promise your vet will have a stash of otherwise unavailable medication. But I do think it is helpful to remember that most supply-chain issues are in fact temporary. Ditto for realizing that many conditions can respond to a variety of treatments.

Be proactive in getting your animals what they need? Sure. Call your veterinarian to discuss the situation and solutions? Definitely. Please don’t come apart at the seams.

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Speaking of product availability . . . Do you know one thing that is NOT in short supply? My printable products on my new Etsy store, TheBackYardHorseShop. How is that for a segue!

For those of you unaware, I opened TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy at the very end of December 2021. The shop offers all printable products for instant, digital download.

Listings include my 2022 horsemanship-goal worksheets, horse bookmarks and my first ebooklet “What To Do When You Can’t Ride? Ten horse-related activities for when life keeps you out of the saddle.” See the little photo- slideshow below.

I want to give a special shout out to The Backyard Horse Blog reader who made my first sale. I won’t reveal your name here, but you know who you are! What you don’t know is how excited I was about it. So thank you!

What about you? Did you visit the shop but didn’t find anything you wanted to buy? Don’t do printables? Fair enough.

Instead, would you please consider passing on awareness of the shop to horse family/barn buddies/your equestrian social media followers? If you know anyone who you think might enjoy the ebooklet or the other printable products, please send them the link to the shop at

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheBackYardHorseShop

Pea Gravel For Paddocks?

Are you dealing with alternating muddy to frozen footing in your horse paddocks? You know, muddy footing that then forms into an uneven surface. A surface with lots of divots and sharp edges when the ground freezes. A surface that is difficult and even painful for you and your horses to traverse.

If you are looking for a quick, cost-effective solution to a similar footing issue that doesn’t involved major construction, you might want to consider pea gravel. Pea gravel is a smooth, rounded stone that is naturally formed from river rock. Each piece is roughly 3/8″ or the size of a pea. Hence the name.

Using pea gravel has its pluses and minuses. It is not suitable for all situations. Please keep that in mind as you consider the uniqueness of your own set up. Also, it may not be available or cost effective in your area like it is in mine. I am sharing my experience simply as an example, not as a definitive “how to” guide.

Ideally, we’d all have tons of acreage for our horses to roam so they wouldn’t always be in a limited spot, wearing the ground out quickly. When we would need to keep them close to the barn, we’d also have paddocks that were carefully designed and constructed with horses in mind.

But I’m guessing most backyard horse-owners don’t. A lot of us make do with old cow pastures or fenced in farm land where hay used to be grown. We often have to come up with less than ideal answers to problems. All on the fly. All in the quest to keep our horses as happy, healthy and comfortable as we can.

In my area, a wet and muddy Fall season led to a Winter that so far has lots of see-sawing temperatures. We’ve had plenty of rain followed by some wind-chill temperatures below zero.

It’s all left my horse’s main paddock in a sad state. I say main paddock because that’s where they live almost 24-7 save for a short time on pasture each day.

The area around my horses’ run in shed is a flat, ag lime footing pad. It gives them a firmer and drier place to stand than the mud or frozen ground in the rest of the paddock.

But if they want to access their water trough or make the trek out to the grass pasture for a few hours of daily grazing? They have to walk across the rest of the paddock without any special footing.

Most of the year, this works out just fine. With too much rain though, the horses are then walking through thick mud. With regular below 32 degree temperatures, they are walking on uneven frozen ground.

This issue isn’t new. I deal with it every year. However, it seems especially pronounced this Winter.

Likely my adding a third horse (Piper) to the herd and then having an unusually wet Fall season both contributed to the deteriorating conditions.

The uneven frozen footing is especially hard on Bear, my 26 year old gelding. On the coldest days when the footing is at its sharpest, he won’t leave the run-in shed area to access the water trough.

I’ve become accustomed during the coldest days to bring a bucket of water out to Bear with his morning breakfast. I realized many years ago that he will avoid walking on that type of cut up ground, even if he is very thirsty.

If he sees me coming with the water bucket and has not left the shed all night, he will look at me with perked ears, nicker, lick his lips, and toss his head up and down. And then drink an entire 8 quart bucket as soon as he puts his nose in it.

Bear has not yet ever had an episode of colic. BUT reduced water consumption in Winter is notorious for leading to impaction colic. It’s something I worry about every Winter. To read more about this issue, check out this magazine article from Equus at

https://equusmagazine.com/horse-care/preventing-winter-colic-horses

Unfortunately, my placement of the necessary water bucket heater is limited by the fact that I can’t string extension cords across a horse pasture in order to give them heated water in the run-in shed.

Our Winter night time temperatures are largely below freezing so I’ve found a water tank heater to be a necessity from December through the end of March/early April.

Anticipating that this Winter might be a hard one, I had been waiting for the weather to even out long enough to allow me to schedule a dump truck delivery of pea gravel.

I wanted to get this accomplished by November, but the extra rainy Fall season would not allow it. A dump truck on soft ground will leave huge ruts. I would have to wait until the ground froze solid.

Finally, the ground seemed solid enough to bring in a dump truck and get pea gravel delivered earlier this month.

I got a 6 ton load delivered and dumped on an edge of the horses’ paddock to make a walkway.

The area extends from the edge of the ag lime footing pad out to their water trough and then the gate leading to their grazing pasture.

Pea gravel is not a perfect or permanent solution, but it definitely gives the horses a more comfortable and safer surface to travel on than uneven frozen ground.

The horses liked it immediately and were happy to investigate and walk all over it.

The difference between how they cross the pea gravel and how they cross the frozen, pocketed ground is like night and day. They can walk normally rather than mincing and stumbling across the ground in fits and starts, especially Bear.

Best of all, Bear will now leave his run-in shed to go drink water after he finishes his evening hay meal. He’s no longer anxious for me to bring a water bucket to him with his breakfast.

These photos were taken not long after the gravel arrival. The 6 tons were dumped in two piles. I spread the pea gravel by hand using a rake and shovel. Currently it looks more like a typical, flat walkway and less like the motocross course you see in these photos.

Spreading 6 tons of pea gravel is a lot to tackle all at once so I’ve been doing a little bit at a time. The horses do their part by walking back and forth on it (and sometimes pawing at it) too.

In this photo below, you can see the length of the walkway as I stand on the ag lime pad looking out towards their grass pasture. The right-hand side of the photo shows how cut up that formerly-muddy-now-frozen ground really is.

Ideally, I would have liked to have ordered 12 tons of the pea gravel to make a wider walkway, but both my budget and my back strength are limited.

Side note here- I don’t normally leave halters on my horses when they are loose in the pasture, especially not rope halters that have no break-away mechanism. In this case, I had been leading the horses from one area of the property to another to accommodate the movement of the dump truck. Piper, the bay gelding, was the last to be moved so I left the halter on him while I opened and closed gates for the driver as he came and went.

Eventually, the pea gravel will roll away and get stomped into the ground, and I will need a refill. That’s one of the downsides to pea gravel.

But I’ve had good experience adding pea gravel to other areas in the past. I am hopeful this walkway might last through at least a couple more Winters before needing a top off.

Overall, pea gravel has more positives for me than negatives. I really appreciate that pea gravel is a fairly budget-friendly option in my area. This 6 ton load cost me $300 delivered.

Pea gravel is also an easy surface to remove poop from. And it will dissipate pools of urine so we don’t have a lot of pee-ice-rinks settling on top of the footing.

Pea gravel is usually quite loose but can form some irregular clumps during the wet-freeze cycles. They break apart pretty easily though. I have not noticed the horses acting “ouchy” over them.

Speaking of ouchy, I have read more than one expert write that pea gravel (and sand too) is an excellent footing choice for horses with soundness issues. The smooth roundness of the pea gravel pieces and the movement of the pieces give the horses a softer surface to pack into the hoof than gravel with sharp edges.

Like anything with horses, though, I have also read counter arguments. Like some people observing their horses’ hooves wear out faster (resulting in sole soreness) than when housed on a different surface. While this has not been my experience, it is definitely a potential issue worth noting if you are considering trying pea gravel.

If I couldn’t have ordered pea gravel (you never know with supply chain issues these days), sand would have been my second choice. It is even cheaper, but because I get so much rain and have a pretty flat paddock, I don’t consider it the best option for walkways in my area. I lack good paddock slope and drainage. Sand turns into a soupy mess for me.

I have had sand delivered to a section of the pasture specifically for a “lay-down and roll” area, but I notice the horses use it much more in the Summer than the Winter. The sand gets soggy and hard in the wet/freezing weather.

I will also point out that I rarely see my horses chose to roll or lay down on the pea gravel. Maybe because pea gravel moves and gives them less of a solid feel when they have to push off it to get up? I also sometimes wonder if the rocks can feel too hot for them to lay on in the Summer sun? Nevertheless, I have read from other folks on horse forums that their horses do in fact roll/lay down on their pea gravel.

In any case, since I don’t observe my horses choosing to lay down on it much at all, I don’t think I’d want to have my horses exclusively on pea gravel. In fact, most recent expert literature that I’ve read about paddock design recommend allowing horses access to a variety of surfaces to accommodate those types of preferences.

Long story short, here’s my personal list of pea gravel pros and cons:

PEA GRAVEL PROS LIST:

  • Helps cover and reduce the spread of mud
  • Helps cover uneven, jagged frozen-ground edges
  • Readily available (in my area of the Mid-West)
  • Budget friendly (in my area of the Mid-West)
  • Easy to remove manure
  • Keeps urine from pooling and freezing on the surface
  • Possibly a good choice of footing for horses with soundness issues although there is debate on this

PEA GRAVEL CONS LIST:

  • My own horses don’t generally seem to lay down or roll on it
  • Pea gravel spreads out overtime, necessitating periodic “refills”
  • Pea gravel is not something I can transport myself in large quantities. I need it delivered in a large dump truck. You must have wide enough gates to accommodate the trucks and ground solid enough to not create huge ruts. This issue of course isn’t exclusive to pea gravel. I could say the same of most landscape stone.

In conclusion, remember what works in one backyard paddock may not work in another. Or for one horse verses another. Paddock location and geography, weather conditions and patterns, the soil type, the number of horses, the size of the paddock and your budget can all influence “what works best where.”

Want more paddock footing ideas? I suggest reading these three articles from three different resources:

https://www.horsejournals.com/acreages-stables/fencing-pasture/muddy-horse-paddock-footing-fixes

Have You Heard Of Everythinghorses Consignments?

Need to clean out your tack room/closet? Do you have items in great condition but that you just don’t want or use? If you are US based, consider partnering with http://www.everythinghorses.com to sell your items via consignment online!

I know that the notion of Spring cleaning gets all the attention, but I also find Winter to be a great time to do some sorting and organizing.

While you can always choose to donate your unwanted items to a horse rescue or therapeutic riding center, there may be things you’d prefer to sell for cash. Everythinghorses is one place you can do just that.

Note that their focus is on English Huntseat-type tack and clothing, so if you lean Western, this isn’t the place to sell your cowboy boots. BUT, remember that stable supplies are pretty universal. Many of us use the same horse blankets and halters, no matter our chosen riding discipline.

After recently receiving a pair of English riding boots that did not fit me and that I could not return, I contacted Everythinghorses for a “clean out kit”.

In the mail I received a 19×24 bag, free shipping label and a grooming cloth with their logo on it. I don’t know if they send something like that to every customer, but I have to say that I love it when I get a little bit of lagniappe when I shop.

I managed to get a “clean out kit” near the start of the website’s launch and the kits were offered completely free with no upfront money required at all.

I see now on their website that their pricing structure for the kit has changed. They currently list two choices for a basic clean out kit (saddle clean out kits are pricier due to the cost of shipping a large item):

$10 CLEAN OUT KIT- You can a “free” clean out kit and a $10 “automatic coupon applied at checkout” towards the purchase of a consignment shop item.

OR

$15 CLEAN OUT KIT- This kit comes with “Return Assurance” that you will be mailed the item back if it doesn’t sell.

I filled out their consignment form, stuck the shipping label on the bag and mailed off my pair of boots to their store. I now see that the boots are in fact listed for sale on their website. If the boots sell, I will get my choice of 40% of the sale in store credit or 50% of the sale in cash via PayPal.

I will stick a note of caution in here- If they chose not to accept an item or if the item doesn’t sell within a designated time period, you don’t get any money and your item is not returned to you (if you don’t purchase the “Return Assurance” mentioned above). The good news is that they will instead donate the item to one of their horse non-profit partners.

I DO like that donation aspect of their business plan, but if you have your heart set on getting money for your item or if you want the item back if it doesn’t sell, this might not be the right store for you.

If you want to give them a try, I highly suggesting carefully reading the information on their website about what they do and do not accept. This will increase your chances that Everythinghorses will accept your item in the first place and not being immediately rejected.

To learn more/to purchase a “clean out” kit, go to www.everythinghorses.com.

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By the way, whether you use Everythinghorses or not, clearing out unused horse stuff is kind of a perfect activity for those of us who are finding their riding time cut short during brutal Winter weather. That’s me right now!

Speaking of lack of riding time, I will use this opportunity to make a plug for my new e-booklet “What To Do When You Can’t Ride? Ten horse-related activities for when life keeps you out of the saddle.” It is now for sale on TheBackYardHorseShop.

The proverbial wisdom is to “write what you know.” I have a lot of experience with not being able to ride as often as I would like so the subject seemed a good fit for my first booklet. I am hoping it could help fellow equestrians as they try to cope with this common problem.

“What To Do When You Can’t Ride? Ten horse-related activities for when life keeps you out of the saddle” is suitable for all horse-lovers, whether you have your own horse or not. No actual horse is required for any of the suggested activities. The 12 page e-booklet is sold in the form of a digital download PDF that you can either read right on your computer or print out.

Stay tuned for a “part II” edition that I am currently designing. It will contain ten more non-riding activity ideas!

Introducing TheBackYardHorseShop!

Welcome to you and 2022! It’s been a busy start to the new year over here at The Backyard Horse Blog.

First off, I hope readers caught my January 1st post where I reviewed my Aunt’s new horse book, “A Good Seat: Three months at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff” with a foreword written by none other than the famed horseman, Walter Zettl. If you have any interest in the areas of memoir, European travel, dressage or even daily life before Smartphones, I think you would really enjoy the book.

But backing up in time just a bit, besides taking a recent blogger’s break to celebrate Christmas, I got going behind the blog scenes before the start of the new year.

I changed several items on the blog website, reorganized the blog Pinterest account and opened an online Etsy store called TheBackYardHorseShop. For those of you not yet familiar with Etsy, it is a global online marketplace for creative types to sell their wares.

And last but not least, while crafting a logo for the shop, I also created a matching logo for the blog as I very much consider the shop its extension.

TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy offers printable products to compliment your horse life. Everything sold on the shop is a printable product, otherwise known as a digital download.

This means that the shop has no physical products for sale. Instead, when you purchase a product, you buy the right to download the selected template to your computer for you to print out at home (or through some kind of printing service, if you so choose).

Currently, TheBackYardHorseShop has a grand total of eight listings. Six individual products and two bundles.

For example, dovetailing off a previous post “Setting Horsemanship Goals and Themes,” I designed some related printable worksheets. You can purchase each of the three worksheets individually or buy all three for a discounted price.

And because I think one can never have too many bookmarks, I designed three printable bookmarks, all with a horsey theme, of course. Buy one or two separately or all three in a bundle. Blog readers will notice that my horse, Shiloh, is the featured model for this particular bookmark bundle.

If you’d like to check out the shop, please go to https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheBackYardHorseShop or click on the TheBackYardHorseShop logo near the top of this post or on either of the photos above to be whisked right over to the shop.

As of this writing, I’m still awaiting my first sale. I also have several more printable product ideas in the works. Including an e-booklet or two to give the product line-up some printable educational offerings.

But all this creating is taking me longer than I anticipated.

So for the month of January, instead of resuming my usual “3 posts per week” schedule, I will plan on publishing one post per week, likely on or near the start of each week (with perhaps a bonus post thrown in periodically if I come across something that I think readers could benefit from immediately).

My tentative plan is to resume the “3 posts per week” schedule come February, if I can manage to get the hang of juggling The Backyard Horse Blog AND TheBackYardHorseShop.

For me, it’s kind of like trying to lead two horses at once. You know how everything goes along swimmingly until one horse dives for grass while the other spooks and runs right past you? Then you’ve got to pivot and figure out how to untangle yourself, assuming you still even have hold of one or both lead ropes. It’s a little disorienting at times! 🙂

Book Review: A Good Seat: Three months at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff By Lynne Sprinsky Echols (Foreword by Walter Zettl)

***If you’ve been with me since the start of this blog in January 2020, you may recall reading that when I was the tender age of five, my Aunt introduced me to horses. It seems fitting that a review of my Aunt’s new book be featured as the first post of January 2022, the blog’s two-year anniversary month.***

“A Good Seat: Three Months at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff” is in equal measure memoir, travel diary and dressage handbook. Set in Germany in the early 2000’s, it is based on the American author’s journaling of her experience as a riding student at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff. Many dressage riders dream of studying in Europe. Few get to realize their ambitions as did the author.

“It was not without trepidation that I packed my bags for Karlsruhe. Herr von Neindorff’s reputation as a stickler and a perfectionist was well known to me. However, it was precisely that unwavering insistence on correctness in the rider and consideration for the horse’s nature that drew me there. And those qualities were certainly abundantly in evidence during my stay, although there were some big surprises along the way . . . as you will see.”

– Lynne Sprinsky Echols

All events take place before the rise of the Smartphone, Facebook or Instagram. The writer details the charm of living in a German town, and studying riding, while using the devices of the time to keep in touch with family and friends back home. In this way, the book acts as an interesting time capsule.

While technology has changed in the last twenty years, the principals of effective riding have not. Readers will ride along with the author as she tries to master her then fifty-something body during her improvement quest.

Modern day riders will find nuggets of equestrian wisdom weaved throughout the tales of daily living in Europe. “A Good Seat” emphasizes how important a rider’s own self-carriage is to the horse’s way of going.

“Remember, we want a steady “zzzzzzzzzt” connection, as though our seat bones were the metal prongs of an electric plug and we were plugged into the saddle. This is achieved by slightly toning the abdominal muscles. If the pelvis were a bowl full of water, water would trickle out the back. This is not an extreme tucking-under of the pelvis, which constitutes a forceful driving aid. Instead, it is so subtle that it is almost more of an “attitude” than a physical manifestation.”

– Lynne Sprinsky Echols

Ideas from the book such as how to rotate one’s hips for better leg alignment, how to stabilize the pelvis and how to use the shoulders as part of the seat aid can all be put to immediate use during the reader’s next ride.

Through absorbing the writer’s journey, “A Good Seat” readers will find inspiration to better their skills in the saddle and pursue their own riding dreams.

If you’d like to purchase your own copy, please contact the author, Lynne Sprinsky Echols, directly.
Use email: lynneechols50@gmail.com
OR
Private message via her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RiderSeatMD/.
Email or PM her on Facebook with (1) the email address you use for PayPal and (2) your mailing address. She can then send you an invoice via PayPal where you can purchase the book with one click. The book is $27.95 plus shipping via Media Mail (USA only).

On a personal note, I want to say congratulations to my Auntie Lynne for publishing “A Good Seat”! It’s been a long road for her, and I admire her tenacity in “gettin’ ‘er done.” Just as I followed my Aunt into the saddle so many years ago, I hope one day to follow her into the self-publishing world too. Cheers to mastering a good seat and crafting a good book!

2022 Dressage For The Horse: An Educational Calendar

***Please note that following today’s post, I am taking a short blogger’s break. After celebrating the reason for the Christmas season, I plan to resume posting new content for The Backyard Horse Blog during the first week of January 2022! In the mean time, I expect to update the blog’s tagline, welcome & disclosure pages and add a new logo for a little fun. ***

Looking for a 2022 horse calendar? Even better, how about a calendar that doubles as a horsemanship manual?!

If so, you’ve got to check out this beautiful, functional and informative calendar with illustrations by graphic designer, Michelle Guillot.

Don’t ride dressage? Don’t let that stop you from exploring this calendar.

After all, basic dressage concepts are simply sound riding principals that can be applied to any riding discipline even if you have no interest in the sport of dressage itself.

Guillot’s illustrations make those basic riding concepts come to life with visually engaging pictures combined with straight forward, “to the point” text.

Each calendar month displays different ideas or concrete exercises that you can incorporate into your riding.

At that end of the year, I see myself separating the calendar pages and laminating my favorite pictures to incorporate into my riding binder where I keep horsemanship articles and journal-type notes about my horses.

I am so excited about receiving this calendar. The information it contains is seriously useful!

To purchase the calendar, go to the North American Western Dressage(NAWD)Store at

Store

If you prefer, at the NAWD Store, you can also purchase several of the month’s illustrations in a poster format. Display them on the walls at your barn! See the posters at https://www.northamericanwesterndressage.com/store/Educational-Posters-by-Michelle-Guillot-p400507035

This post is unsolicited and uncompensated by NAWD.

Have You Heard of Safe Landings?

News about innovative programs that help horses find new homes catch my eye. This, despite the fact, that I have so far kept all of the horses I have owned until death.

I also know that life can throw curve balls. All of us can get knocked off-course from our intended path with a one-two punch by a health concern, financial downturn, family issue, etc . . .

For these reasons, I think it important to keep my eye out for rehoming options in case I am not able to keep my horses in the future.

Safe Landings, hosted by the EQUUS Foundation, is one such rehoming platform. It acts as an information hub and connection point for folks looking to rehome their horses outside of the typical sale or auction situation. In fact, Safe Landings focuses on horse donation, something that isn’t widely talked about within many equestrian circles.

Horse folks may not realize that there are colleges, universities, camps, police units, equine assisted learning programs and therapeutic riding centers in need of horses to fulfill their program requirements.

Beyond the issue of awareness is the fact that finding the right match among the donating owner, the horse in question and the receiving organization is not always simple. Safe Landings seeks to make the process easier.

“Safe Landings is a new online platform featuring organizations that are looking for program horses to provide opportunities for horse owners, rescues, and transition centers to find homes for their equines in need of a next chapter.

For horses to remain an important part of American life and have a viable future, it’s imperative that we increase opportunities for horses to naturally transition from one career to the next without risk of abuse, neglect, and the threat of slaughter, and provide the means to retrain horses in transition to prepare them for these opportunities,” says Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President.

Safe Landings offers resources for horse owners who are unable to retain ownership of their horses with viable options other than sending horses to auction where they are likely to be purchased by “meat brokers” and sent to slaughter across our borders.”

-From the North West Horse Source Magazine November 2021 Issue

Safe Landings is hosted by the EQUUS Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote horse welfare and the horse-human bond.

According to a recent email I received from the EQUUS Foundation, their goals include “minimizing the conditions that lead to abuse and neglect, and the threat of slaughter by finding homes for at-risk horses and horses in transition, providing a safety net for owners enduring hardship to keep their horses, ensuring a safe haven for aged horses, and increasing opportunities for more horses to engage and partner with people in new and innovative ways.”

Designing the Safe Landings program is one way they are meeting their mission. Their website also contains many articles on what to consider when rehoming a horse. Things like asking questions about how horses are incorporated into a center’s program and what the center does when the donated horse no longer fits their program needs.

To learn more about the Safe Landings program and to see the list of collages, universities and other organizations currently looking for horse donations, go to

https://www.equusfoundation.org/next/next-chapter-display-quest.php

Book Review: Talking of Horses By Monica Enid Dickens

“Riding is a completed joy, so full of promises fulfilled. There is never a totally ‘bad ride’. There are days when you ride badly, or the horse doesn’t go so well, but there is always something to find out. Nothing stands still. You never know it all. You learn something each time, even if it’s only that you are not as good as you thought you were. The truth about riding is always there for you to discover all over again . . .”

From Talking of Horses (1973) by Monica Enid Dickens

I’d like to thank my riding instructor, Caroline, for loaning me her copy of the book Talking of Horses by Monica Dickens. I previously used a quote from the book for my most recent “Equine Illustrated Inspiration” blog-post edition. I did so without realizing that my riding instructor knew the author personally.

After Caroline saw my blog post, she asked if I would like to borrow her copy of the book. Turns out that many years ago, Caroline lived across the street from Monica Dickens. She would take her pony over to Ms. Dickens property to compete in gymkhana events that Dickens hosted. A small world moment!

I had read various quotes from the book but never the book in its entirety. As an avid reader, it is an exciting opportunity to be set up with a great read. Even more so to have the opportunity to turn that read into another blog post. 🙂

Talking of Horses was published in 1973. Due to its age, many readers may not be familiar with the book (or may not have even been born when it first launched).

All the same, if you enjoy reading older literature about horses, you may find this book quite interesting. Advice and opinions given in the book very much reflect the common equestrian thinking of the time, allowing the text to be a time capsule of sorts.

Some aspects of that thinking would be judged as inappropriate by today’s standards, but on the whole, I found the book relatable as a modern day horse-person.

For example, take the case of someone having trouble trailer-loading a horse. Suddenly, an entire crowd of people appear to “help” the stranded equestrian. This has happened to me and to some of my horse-friends. I smiled and nodded knowingly when Dickens described this experience happening to her more than fifty years ago!

My biggest reflection about the book is the level of joy and enthusiasm that the author communicates about horses. Feelings that resonate with most equestrians.

It is a timeless joy, this horse life. Lived by so many who came before us and hopefully lived by others when we ourselves are long gone. Definitely an experience not to be taken for granted or squandered by those who truly understand the wonder of horses.

Based on the many horse adventures described in the book, it is clear to me that Dickens lived her horse-life for all it was worth.

Horse Owners in Kentucky and Surrounding Tornado-Affected States

A huge line of powerful storms recently rolled through middle America, spawning tornadoes across six states.

Whenever I hear of disaster affected areas, I think of all the folks with animals. I hear of the struggles in coping with losses and providing continued daily care when their own health, safety and resources are at risk. Maybe no water, no power, no cell phone service. Barns, shelters, fences torn down. Hay, feed, equipment blown away or rained on. All while the pandemic continues.

In scouring the internet, I came across several resources for folks who are looking for horse-care assistance such as temporary housing, transportation out of an area or hay/feed.

If you are aware of other organizations or individuals that are offering assistance to horse owners, please add them in the comments section. As cell phone/internet service is restored, you never know who will stumble on this page in the quest to access resources. The more ideas the better.

Fleet of Angels
Fleet of Angles is most well-known for providing emergency transportation services for horse owners nationwide, but they also distribute money to those affected by disasters. Horse owners affected by the recent tornados can apply for emergency micro-grants to assist with horse care (like hay, repair materials, vet bills) at https://www.fleetofangels.org/.

Kentucky Equine Humane Society
Per a recent Facebook post on their page: “DO YOU NEED HELP FOR YOUR HORSES AFTER RECENT WEATHER DISASTER? If your pasture fencing has been destroyed or you need a temporary safe space for your horses after recent tornadoes that have swept across our state please contact Kentucky Humane Society about temporary sheltering options or a safe place for your horses. Our hearts go out to all those who have experienced loss or damage due to the recent storms and we would like to help horses in need if we can.”
Contact: Call our Horse Helpline: 502-272-1068 or email Horses@kyhumane.org

Heartland Equine Rescue in Southern Indiana
Heartland operates through a network of foster homes. According to their Facebook page, Heartland has already taken in two horses whose pasture shelter and fences were destroyed by tornados.
https://www.facebook.com/heartlandequinerescue/
https://heartlandequine.webs.com/
https://heartlandequine.webs.com/contact-us

This link is specifically for survivors with pets and animals. It comes from TV station, WPSD Local 6, serving western Kentucky, southern Illinois, southeast Missouri, and northwest Tennessee:
https://www.wpsdlocal6.com/news/resources-to-help-tornado-survivors-with-pets-and-animals/article_eecf5bf8-5c9d-11ec-ae61-cfcdeae0ca9e.html

For ideas on how to help the wider communities impacted, this article from The Lexington Herald notes numerous organizations that are accepting volunteers, blood donations and money donations.
https://www.kentucky.com/news/state/kentucky/article256557261.html