Is anybody else having trouble leaving comments on blogs this year? And more specifically, WordPress blogs?
It’s funny because this blog of mine IS a WordPress blog. And yet, I’ve been experiencing the issue of having my comments not “go through” on other peoples’ WordPress blogs.
As a horse blogger, I like to think of myself as part of a community. A community that I’d like to participate in by supporting other bloggers through acknowledging their work. Reading, liking and commenting are the basics. It’s frustrating to not be able to do that in the manner to which I became accustomed.
It has been happening for a few months now. And I can’t figure out how to resolve the issue.
I’d say “Let me know in the comments section,” if you have any problem-solving ideas for me. But what if you, like me, are not able to leave comments? 🙂
Hopefully, your email still works. You can contact me at email@example.com instead.
Speaking of email, in corresponding with another blogger, she discovered that my comments had been going straight to her blog’s spam folder.
Once she marked my messages as “not spam,” that seemed to solve the issue. I am now able to leave comments on her WordPress blog once again.
For any bloggers out there, you might want to check your blog’s spam folder just in case some of your own reader comments have been likewise banished. (if, that is, you can stand to wade through the hundreds of obnoxious and inappropriate messages that WordPress spam blocker does a great job of weeding out).
So if you are a blogger and have noticed that I am no longer commenting on your blogs, please know that I am continuing to read and trying to leave messages but am having problems. As lame as it may sound, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Really!
Fortunately, I can usually (although not always) click the “like” button on others’ posts. At least the writers know in that case that I saw and read what they wrote. But sometimes, I’d just rather leave a comment.
Okay, now that I’ve got that out of the way, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled backyard horse programming with my next post. My horses, Piper and Shiloh, have a new addition to their paddock. No, this is not an “I got a new horse” teaser. The new arrival is an inanimate addition to my horse paddock that I plan to show you next week.
Thank you, by the way, to all The Backyard Horse Blog visitors. From original readers to brand-new ones. I appreciate your spending some virtual time with my horses and me. It is fun to have you along for the ride.
It’s been a month since I shared my last riding update. If you missed that one, you can read it HERE. I figured it was time for a new update now that May comes to a close.
May was definitely a better month for riding than April. The weather and footing improved, making doing all things with horses more comfortable.
I still had to do some riding in the wind and even once during a light rain shower when I miss-timed its arrival in relation to my ride. But there was little to no mud during May. No weird temperature extremes either. It was glorious weather on the whole.
Still, the month was not without its challenges. My husband left for a three-week road trip to visit family on the other side of the country. All the property management, errands, mowing, weeding and animal chores fell to me. And with my husband multiple states away, he wouldn’t be at the ready should I have a riding accident. This gave me pause.
My husband used to work full-time in a different State. During those five years, I got used to riding by myself and never fell off during that time. But even in ideal circumstances, weird things can happen during a ride. I am well aware that it’s just not that hard to get hurt around horses.
In fact just last week, I came the closest I’ve ever been to falling off Shiloh. We were foxtrotting happily along when Shiloh tripped rather dramatically. I thought we were both going down. Fortunately, Shiloh regained his footing and I regained my seat. We continued the ride without further incident, but I was struck by how quickly that series of bad steps occurred. It was scary. I had to will myself to continue foxtrotting so I could replace that bad experience with the experience of remaining upright.
Then there is the problem with Piper. Since my herd shrank from three horses to two horses after Bear died last Fall, Piper is upset to be left alone in his paddock. Piper can now become quite anxious when I remove Shiloh for a ride.
Piper’s behavior varies, but it is usually some combination of yelling, pacing and flat-out running. His anxiety adds drama to the atmosphere that I would rather do without during my rides. Even though Shiloh usually doesn’t react much to Piper’s behavior, I find it distressing and nerve-racking.
After my husband departed for his trip, I wanted to keep things as quiet as possible during my rides. I had to try something different. Instead of removing Shiloh to ride elsewhere, I decided I would ride Shiloh in the horses’ shared paddock while having Piper stand tied with a full hay bag.
To help Piper settle, I also started lunging Piper before I rode Shiloh. About 10 minutes of a walk and trot combination.
Even so, I wasn’t sure if once I mounted up, would Piper lose his marbles? Would I look over only to see Piper have a fit and pull back on his tie rope?
Happily, none of that happened. It actually went really well. He pawed the ground at first, but Piper never pulled back. He didn’t call out to Shiloh either. Piper seemed fairly content to stand and eat for about half an hour.
I tied up Piper with a hay bag for the first two rides and then tied him up without a hay bag for the third. Again, I wondered if I’d see fireworks. But no, he stood pretty patiently while I had another Shiloh ride.
At that point, I felt confident enough to take Shiloh out in our south pasture while Piper remained in their paddock. I left Piper loose with some hay to eat.
Piper stayed close to the fence line, away from the hay, that first ride, but wasn’t running around or screaming much. I’ve been taking Shiloh further out into the pasture for subsequent rides.
So far, Piper has handled it pretty well. There’s been less pacing the fence line. Less running around and screaming. He’s doing a better job at keeping himself occupied by eating from the hay bags or scrounging around for a few blades of grass in their semi-dry lot of a paddock. The photo below shows what I love to see. Piper completely ignores Shiloh and me.
I’m so glad that I’ve continued to tackle this issue. That I didn’t give up. But until I get a third horse, I suspect that Piper will still struggle with being left behind. He has good days and bad days. His bad days continue to test my nerve and patience.
But I’m trying to look at the separation anxiety as a problem that I can help Piper manage, rather than holding the expectation that my riding time will be ruined because I can’t cure his anxiety for him. If I wait for his separation anxiety to completely go away before I ride, I will never ride.
In some ways, this process with Piper actually mirrors my own riding anxiety. If I waited to feel wonderfully bold before I put my foot in the stirrup, I would never ride.
Instead, I chose to ride while understanding that I’m likely never going to feel comfortable galloping around my pasture. The anxiety is something I will likely never overcome this side of heaven. But I can keep chipping away at it, keep trying to manage it. Keep riding, even if I am not doing something notable like chasing cows or climbing mountain trails. Sometimes an exciting ride for me happens at a walk in my own backyard.
As we finish out the month of May, I am looking toward June, July and August. Unfortunately, these are typically uncomfortably hot and humid months in my neck of the woods. Lord willing, I will keep riding. But I’ll likely be riding earlier in the day and seeking out shade where ever I can find it. Ready or not, Summer is almost here.
I think many of us horse people have seen this groomer tool before. They have been around for a while. But it wasn’t until recently that I figured out the mystery of what the groomer was actually supposed to do.
Maybe I’m the only one who missed the message about its unique properties? But in case I am not alone, I thought this post would be worth sharing.
Each groomer weighs about 5 ounces and is 12x8x2 in size. Manufactured in Taiwan, they feel like they are made of a rubber-type material. The tool is the invention of Dr. Pat Bona, an equine chiropractor.
I never bought one prior to 2023, because when I used them at other people’s barns, I never liked how they functioned. I thought they were terrible curry combs. They did a poor job of lifting the dirt out of horse coats. I quickly learned to avoid these “weird green curries” when I saw them in a grooming bucket.
Recently though, I ran across an online photo of the Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomer Basic Instruction Guide. It was then that I realized that the Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomer wasn’t a curry at all! Or really even a grooming tool despite its name.
As the instruction guide states “The Posture Prep Cross Fiber Grooming System is designed to improve posture, performance and health by optimizing the myofascial system of the horse.”
It is meant to be used with a back-and-forth movement that helps loosen the skin/muscle fascia. Not in a circular motion like a curry comb. Apparently, the idea is that when the horse’s fascia becomes tight or sticky, this causes a restriction in the muscles that can, in turn, affect overall well-being and performance.
Here is more on that idea from the instruction guide:
“It differs from traditional grooming as you will use a straight back-and-forth stroke across the muscle fibers. This enables the facia of the skin and of the muscles to freely glide across each other by minimizing restrictive adhesions and scar tissue. The grooming system improves circulation, range of motion, and lymphatic drainage.”
Ah, ha! Now I didn’t have to feel like such a simpleton for wondering how this thing was supposed to work like a curry. Because it wasn’t!
At this point, I was intrigued enough to research the price. I was pleased to see it was actually affordable. Even at today’s inflated 2023 prices. You can find them online at many equestrian retailers for about $10. But for $20 or so, you can purchase the groomer with a carrying case and the instruction guide.
There’s actually a lot of interesting information in the guide about using the groomer and how posture relates to horse health.
Although it is plastic, I also found the carrying case useful because you can keep the tool inside the case AND keep the basic instruction guide attached but separated by its own pocket. I like to keep those types of guides clean. Not just let them sit at the bottom of my grooming bin where the pages will get dirty and torn. I especially like the cover photo that clearly shows the angle of how the tool is supposed to be used over different body areas of the horse.
Before trying the tool out, I read the entire guide front to back and then went on the product website to watch several of their tutorial videos. It was helpful to me to see someone actually using the groomer as it was designed to be used.
So after taking photos of my purchase while everything was still in pristine condition, I then decided to try using the tool on my horse, Piper. I hung hay bags for the horses during their afternoon meal time and brought out my grooming bucket, including the new tool.
Piper usually enjoys a good curry, but I was curious to see how he would respond to the action of the groomer.
Within about ten seconds of my using it, Piper was clearly enamored. Even as I switched the angle of the groomer as I moved onto other body parts, he was still enjoying the feel and leaning into it.
Piper can be sensitive over certain parts of his body, but interestingly, he wasn’t with this tool. I did go with less pressure over his historically flinchy areas like his sides and upper back legs. He was good with that.
I will note that the instructions recommend loosening the fascia first at the hindquarters, not the neck, using the idea that a horse’s power in motion comes first from behind. I confess to forgetting that useful tidbit during this initial trial.
I think it is also important to note that Piper is not what I call a normally relaxed horse. He tends to be more on alert. He just always has a bit of an edge about him.
So considering all that, I was particularly pleased to see that Piper’s body posture became increasingly more round and relaxed as I went along. I also noticed that he was so into the feel of the groomer that he stopped eating, choosing instead to focus on the experience.
That relaxed body posture, head extended and down, is not something I see from him very often.
And by the way, one distinct advantage of grooming a horse loose as opposed to tied is that it allows me to see that sort of reaction more clearly.
I personally have found that the more the horse thinks he can move, the more I can truly discover what they think about things. I feel it also helps me to be more sensitive to their comfort level in using different tools. And I think that has the potential to help me develop a more positive relationship with a horse. It doesn’t work like magic. And I have had varying levels of success with it depending upon the individual horse, but I’ve learned a lot over the years from grooming a horse untied.
If you haven’t tried this before but are curious, I will point out that it helps to know the horse you are grooming. And you may want to start off with a halter and lead rope but have the lead rope simply draped over your arm, rather than have the horse completely at liberty. As with all things with horses, you need to keep the environment and safety in mind.
When I was done using the groomer with Piper on both sides, I stepped back to see what he would do. Piper stood there quietly for a minute or so. Perhaps still basking in the lingering relaxed feeling of the groomer before resuming his hay bag meal.
Then it was Shiloh’s turn. What would Shiloh think about this new-fangled tool? Well apparently, nothing at all! I am not sure he even noticed the difference from his regular curry combs and brushes. He acted no differently than he does when I use any other tool. Shiloh was happy to stand there for it and continue to eat his hay, but he was definitely not as impressed with the experience as Piper.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that the tool couldn’t have benefits for a horse like Shiloh. A horse who doesn’t appear to feel the difference.
Now I will say that I don’t have any training or background in massage or other types of bodywork. I confess I don’t have enough knowledge or feel to know if I in fact am helping loosen a horse’s fascia. Or even what tight versus loose fascia feel like. But I would think over time if I used the tool regularly as directed, I could assume it has positive benefits if I see a horse look better and move better. Even if the horse doesn’t oohh and aahh at the feel of the groomer like Piper did. At the product’s price point, I think buying one and using it regularly is definitely worth a shot.
When visiting the current product website at https://www.drpatbona.com, I noticed that they sell a groomer for dogs, another one for humans and some related products too. Look for a pop-up when you visit the website that will offer you 15% off your first order when you sign up for their email list. They also offer free shipping IF you place an order for $25 or more. I bought my groomer from a different retailer, but I thought I would point this information out for price-comparison purposes.
The Posture Prep Cross Fiber Grooming Tool originally had a different website. I noticed that the cardboard cover inside the carrying case, as well as the instruction guide I bought, included a reference to the old website with a special code to access the tutorials. But that old website simply directed me to the current website where no special access is required to see the video clips.
How about you? Have you ever seen these Posture Prep Cross Fiber Groomers? What do you think of them?
I thought it was a fun coincidence that the May 2023 issue of Horse Illustrated Magazine features the Missouri Fox Trotter as its featured breed profile of the month.
“In addition to its smooth gaits, the Missouri Fox Trotter is celebrated for its gentle and willing temperament. Known for being relaxed and for enjoying human company, they make great companions and unflappable trail horses.”
From the May 2023 Horse Illustrated Missouri Fox Trotter Breed Portrait Written by Audrey Pavia
I’d say the quote is a pretty accurate description of Shiloh. The trait I most appreciate about Shiloh is in fact his personality. He’s very amiable. Pleasant to be around. He emits this casual vibe that is very endearing. Both on the ground and under saddle. I definitely feel fortunate to have him in my backyard.
Attached to those previously mentioned registration papers is the only photo I have of Shiloh as a foal.
For comparison purposes, here is a photo of him today at twenty-years-old.
Shiloh’s papers got me to thinking about the history of the Missouri Fox Trotter breed and how Shiloh’s ancestry intersects with it.
I’ve long been a history buff, especially when it comes to horses. Due to that interest, I’ve really been enjoying the “history of horse breeds in the USA” feature that’s been running the last few years in Equus magazine. The articles are all written by Dr. Deb Bennett, Ph.D.
The last couple of installments were centered on how the Saddlebred came to be. I remember reading about the Thoroughbred contribution to the Saddlebred breed through Denmark and his sons like Gains Denmark. I just didn’t realize at the time that I had a Denmark descendant in my own backyard!
Yup, you read that right. I discovered that Shiloh has Thoroughbred and Saddlebred ancestry way back in his pedigree.
With the help of the All Breed Pedigree database, I was able to trace Shiloh’s ancestors to the following horses whom I have previously read about in historical contexts:
Old Fox (Missouri Fox Trotter born 1913) Black Squirrel (Saddlebred born 1876) Gains Denmark (Saddlebred born 1851) Denmark (Thoroughbred born 1839)
Through continued online digging, I realized that a great-grandsire of Shiloh, Zane’s Charming Lad, is one of two horses buried at the MFTHBA’s showgrounds in Ava, Missouri. He was interred in an unmarked grave 100 feet from the main gait. Zane’s Charming Lad is himself a son of Zane Grey, one of the most if not the most famous MFT sires. Zane Grey shows up at least three more times in Shiloh’s pedigree.
Another of Shiloh’s great-grandsire’s was Go Boy’s Royal Heir. He was a well-known Tennessee Walking Horse stallion and a grandson of Roan Allen F-38, one of the foundation sires of the TWH registry. In fact, Shiloh goes back to Roan Allen at least twelve times. Apparently, inbreeding was not historically uncommon.
Along another line, Shiloh goes back to the famous TWH stallion, Midnight Sun, who was made into a Breyer horse that I used to have in my bedroom as a child.
Missouri Fox Trotter enthusiasts will likely note that the crossing of MFT’s with TWH’s was not without controversy. The MFTHBA was founded in 1948, but by the early 1980’s, the MFTHBA registry closed its books, meaning that a horse had to have two registered MFT parents in order to be registered as a MFT henceforth. No more outcrossing.
One point that hit home to me in all of Dr. Deb Bennett’s Equus articles is that the history of breed development is not linear. There are a lot of twists and turns that occurred to have us arrive at the breeds we see today in the USA. The Horse Illustrated article I referred to earlier reflects this process as it pertains to the Missouri Fox Trotter.
“The Missouri Fox Trotter is a culmination of the breeds Southern settlers brought to the Ozars with them in the early 1800’s. Arabians, Morgans, Saddlebreds, Tennessee Walkers and Standardbreds all accompanied the farmers that settled in these mountains. They used their horses to clear forests, sort livestock, and work the fields they planted on the plateaus common in the Ozarks.”
From the May 2023 Horse Illustrated Missouri Fox Trotter Breed Portrait Written by Audrey Pavia
We like to think of our horses as individuals, but it is fascinating to think about the long lines of horses that existed before them. Shiloh’s ancestors made him who he is. It is a fun history to think about on this milestone birthday occasion. Happy 20th, Shiloh!
Addendum- I had written this post a few days ago in advance of today’s planned photo shoot on Shiloh’s actual birthday. You know what they say about best laid plans, right?
First, the weather ended up dark and cloudy, making for washed out photos. Then, both Shiloh and his herd mate, Piper, were full of antics today. Shiloh was, in fact, NOT emitting a casual vibe despite what you just read about him.
Much to my chagrin, Shiloh cavorted around on the end of the line like a young race horse. Oh, and that flower vine you see draped around his neck in the lead photo (the only decent photo I got, by the way)? That vine ended up in two pieces. First, Shiloh munched on it. And then, when I had Shiloh tied on the other side of the fence from Piper, Piper reached over the fence and plucked the whole thing right off of Shiloh’s neck!
I wish I had that whole episode on video, but the only media I captured right then was this photo as I dived between the fence railings to try to snatch the flower vine back from Piper.
Sometimes with horses, I guess you just have to put your plans aside, lay your exasperation down and have a good laugh at it all.
When should you replace your saddle pad? Interestingly, it’s not a question I often see answered in horse literature or even talked about much among horse people.
But anyone who has been around a riding horse has likely noticed how nasty saddle pads can get. Horse sweat, horse hair and dirt all combine over time and use to make a gritty, grimy, stinky and sticky mess.
English saddle pads are usually easy to launder. Western saddle pads can present more of a challenge. But even if you are fastidious about cleaning your saddle pad, I wonder about a saddle pad losing its substance over time? When does a saddle pad become less effective at cushioning the horse’s back due to the pad’s condition?
The western saddle pad I use on Shiloh is about six or seven years old. It is a red Professional’s Choice Saddle Pad with a felt bottom that I originally bought to use with my horse, Bear. Red was Bear’s color.
Unfortunately, not too long after I acquired the pad I ended up retiring Bear from riding due to a series of health issues. By the time I bought Shiloh, it was the only saddle pad I had. Fortunately, it seemed to work for him.
I’ve never had any issues with the pad, but Shiloh has never been in anything more than what I’d consider light work under saddle with me. It’s not like the pad has ever gotten any heavy use. Not like it would for an all-day trail-ride or a long show weekend, for example.
I also let the pad air out after every ride and try to store it on top of my saddle so that it doesn’t spend time on the rack compressed underneath it.
In addition, I use a homemade liquid solution (see recipe below) to clean the grime that accumulates around the edges. I periodically brush the underside of the pad to remove the aforementioned dirt, sweat and hair too.
Despite attentive care, I’ve started to wonder if it might be time to get a new saddle pad? Like maybe in the next year or two depending upon how much riding I am doing?
With my level of at-home riding, I certainly don’t need any fancy equipment, but it’s still important to me to help my horse be comfortable when tacked up.
I’ve also had enough horses and enough equipment to realize that even well-cared-for tack can break down over time. I don’t have a climate controlled tack area. My tack, even when not in use, is subject to freezing Winters and humid Summers.
And much like our own bodies, horses’ bodies can change as they age, gain/lose weight or gain/lose fitness. Any of those situations might necessitate new equipment.
I couldn’t find any reference to this question in the books or magazines I have. An internet search surprisingly didn’t provide much more. Here is the most relevant mention I found:
“Diligent saddle-blankets care allows them to last several years and many rides, so invest in a good one. When your pad loses its fill, or you can’t wash and brush it so it returns to its original shape and softness, then it’s time to replace it. Replace neoprene when the material tears, cracks, or hardens.”
So, returning to where we started, how often should you replace your saddle pad? Near as I can figure, it seems there are no hard and fast rules. Just general guidelines.
How about you? Have you ever wondered when is it time to replace a saddle pad? Do you have a rule of thumb that you use? Let me know in the comments section or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By the way, if you are interested in that homemade liquid solution I mentioned earlier, here are the details. I combine equal parts rubbing alcohol and a Listerine-type mouthwash in a spray bottle. I spritz some on the pad edges and then scrub off the grime with a cloth. This same solution works well to clean the horse’s back after a ride. It does a great job of removing sweat marks. While I also sometimes enjoy purchasing a commercial cooling rinse solution, this combination is more cost-effective and works just as well.
I recently attended a mini horse palooza! The four day occasion consisted of show classes, clinics, social get-togethers and two auctions.
This was an event put on by multiple sponsors including the American Shetland Pony Club, American Miniature Horse Registry and the Pinto Horse Association (which offers a lot of miniature horse classes at their PtHA shows).
Due to time and travel restraints, I attended just the clinic day which featured over a dozen clinicians and 104 attendees from 20 the USA and Canada.
The clinic was oriented towards show ponies and minis. Although I will hopefully some day end up with a backyard driving mini, probably not a refined show pony, there was still plenty for me to learn and apply. If you have not previously read about my interest in miniature horses, you can read last year’s post Miniature Horse Driving Clinic.
As a person new to this pony/mini show world, I was struck by the friendliness of the event organizers and clinicians. I’ve been to plenty of horse events where I could barely get anyone to make eye contact with me, return a smile or engage in casual chit-chat. Not so with this crowd. It didn’t seem to matter if I was talking with a multi-national champion trainer or another amateur enthusiast. Folks were delightfully welcoming and down to earth.
There were multiple presentations scheduled in different areas around the show grounds. Topics ranged from driving to showmanship to obstacles to jumping in-hand. In addition, there were clinics about the benefits of dental, hoof care, massage and chiropractic work for the mini/pony. I leaned heavily on attending the driving presentations but wished I could have worked in the other subjects too. So much to learn!
As a bonus, the clinic registration fee included a lunch and gift bag at no extra cost. I got to come home with a new tote and all kinds of nifty horse samples and coupons!
And they had the most fantastic door prizes including fun gift bags full of horsey stuff, several huge grooming packages from Farnam and $50 tack gift certificates. My number wasn’t drawn for any of them, but I appreciated the work that someone put into gathering up all those items for the lucky winners to enjoy.
There were also vendors at the event, including Star Lake Tack. Walking through their trailers full of horse stuff for sale, I felt I was walking through a miniature doll house. I didn’t buy anything, but I gushed over the teeny-tiny fly masks, hay bags and halters. The thought occurred to me that equipment shopping for a new miniature horse would be a hoot.
On a related note, the venue where this event was held was a place I had once shown my horse, Bear. Readers may recall that Bear passed away last year.
I took a little walk down memory lane as I located the stall where Bear stayed. And then I cringed when I recalled that day wasn’t one of our better performances. The best thing I can say about the class is that I stayed on.
I laughed at how often my ambitions seem to outstretch my abilities when it come to horses. I always want to do more than I am apparently capable of doing. Would it be any different for me with miniature horses than the big ones? I’m still hoping someday to find that out.
Anywho, I am so glad I got to attend this mini palooza. It sure was a whole lot of miniature horse fun!
Photo taken from the American Horse Council website.
Have you filled out the 2023 American Horse Council Economic Impact Survey yet? If you are a horse owner in the USA, you might want to consider it. Not only could you help the American Horse Council advocate more effectively for horse owners, but you could be entered to win prizes including a John Deere mower, a year of horse feed and more.
According to the AHC Economic Impact Study website, “An economic impact study examines the effect of an event or industry has on the economy and usually measures changes in business revenue, business profits, personal wages, and/or jobs . . . The purpose of the census is to demonstrate the value of the equine industry in the national and state economies by analyzing the direct, indirect, and induced economic impacts of horse ownership, recreation, and equine-related services . . . Data collected will inform public and private investments in equine-related businesses, equine health care, education, land use decisions, tax policy, tourism, employment incentives, etc. . . When the industry needs to take aim at an issue, this data is invaluable in helping us paint the picture of the contributions the industry makes and the breadth & depth of its composition.”
The last AHC Economic Impact Survey was conducted in 2017. Since that time, there have been changes in the tax code, COVID-19 and skyrocketing inflation. The American Horse Council wants to assess how those changes have impacted horse owners and the horse industry.
Just so you know, the survey is lengthy. It took me 25 minutes to complete. The longest section for me had to do with estimates of my horse expenses, according to category. Think vet, farrier, hay, feed, tack, barn supplies, lessons, etc . . . If you go into the survey with a general idea of your expense amounts, it will help you move through the survey more smoothly.
The online survey is now live and goes through September 29, 2023.
I’m off to a slow start this Spring in the horse department. If you have read this blog for any length of time, you will notice that I complain with some frequency about the weather and how it interferes with my horse time.
During March and April, I got in a handful of rides and some groundwork but not nearly as much as I would like. It’s the same old song and dance. Maybe a song and dance that some get tired of reading about? But those of us who crave being with horses, and especially riding, can likely understand the obsession.
I started off riding at home this year with a few brief bareback rides but have since graduated to using the saddle again.
I continue to toggle between working with Shiloh alone versus ponying Piper while I ride Shiloh.
I also toggle between having my husband help me get started with the riding/ponying/groundwork (and doing the photo/video taking) and me doing it alone.
So far, when riding Shiloh as I pony Piper, I have yet to drop my phone, but it’s nice to have someone worrying about capturing the media sometimes!
I notice in most of the photos how I am wearing a Winter jacket but yet the grass is long and sprouting dandelions. A weird contrast.
My husband even caught this video clip of what Piper likes to do at liberty when I lay out a bunch of obstacles in the round pen for the horses to explore. Piper can be quite the go-getter.
And isn’t it amazing how a 1000-pound horse can sneak up on you from behind without your realizing it? I guess I was concentrating so much on fixing Shiloh’s fly mask that I didn’t notice Piper trying to join in on the activity. In case you are wondering, the fly mask in this instance isn’t for fly protection but for wind protection. The excess wind combined with allergy season makes Shiloh’s eyes water, even when the weather is cold.
Oh, I almost forgot to include this three-part photo. It’s nothing to do with riding or groundwork, but it is definitely backyard horse related. The photo shows damage to my run-in shed after Piper’s hoof managed to blast a hole through it in March.
Sheet metal can cause horrific injuries to horses. Fortunately, Piper presented with nothing more than a tiny surface scrape to the inside of a hind leg. It didn’t seem to hurt him at all and healed up quickly. That was the first time in twenty years I had a horse damage the shed like that. Hopefully, it will be the last.
That concludes my latest sampling of backyard horse commentary and media. Can you believe it’s almost May 1st? We will see if I am able to pull off more regular riding as we head into Summer.
It’s almost that time again! Every four months, the Art of The Horseman offers a two-day viewing of their horsemanship videos for FREE.
There are 150 presentations making for 70+ hours of video content. All for your viewing and learning pleasure. The content is multi-breed and multi-discipline from an international lineup of horse professionals. There is a little something for just about everyone.
If you don’t get a chance to watch everything during the FREE showing, you can later purchase full, anytime access to the videos.
The next two-day FREE access, with its 2023 lineup of videos, is this Thursday and Friday April 27 and 28, 2023.
I enjoyed learning from past Art of The Horseman fairs so much that I decided to have The Backyard Horse Blog become an affiliate.
When you use the link below to get your FREE ticket to the next fair viewing, The Backyard Horse Blog receives a monetary bonus if you later purchase lifetime access.
Once you get your ticket, you will receive more information about the fair via email. 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.
I am super excited to announce that my Aunt, Lynne Sprinsky Echols, is one of the new 2023 presenters! She is the author of the book A Good Seat: Three Months At The Reitinstitut von Neindorff. You can read my review of her book HERE. You can also visit my aunt’s new website at http://www.theridersseatdoctor.com.
Even if you don’t ride dressage, so much of what she has to offer applies to all disciplines. I am really looking forward to viewing my aunt’s presentations. I have not yet seen her Art of The Horseman videos so I’ll be watching along with you for the very first time!
Sign up today for the April 2023 FREE showing of the Art of The Horseman online fair! I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the depth and breadth of all the video offerings. Don’t miss this wonderful FREE learning opportunity!
It only took me twenty years to finally attend an Equine Affaire! I previously went to smaller expos but never this particular large, long-standing horse event. Thanks to the generosity of a couple of horse friends, I enjoyed a fun getaway by attending the first two days of the 2023 Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio.
I definitely have a special fondness for equine expos. Before I had horses as an adult, I went to a local equine fair on a whim. That experience reignited my childhood fascination with horses. Within three years of attending that event, I went from restarting riding lessons to keeping a horse in my backyard.
As with past expos, I mostly just walked around the Equine Affaire, gawking at everything. I viewed a handful of clinics/demos and went by a lot of product booths.
In between ducking in and out of buildings, I enjoyed sitting outside, basking in the fantastic weather. On the first day there was not a cloud in the sky. It was fun to watch all different types of horses being led, ridden, ponied and driven around the fairgrounds.
I also got to meet a couple of horsewomen I admire. Women I had only previously “met” on the internet but had never seen in person.
Carol J. Walker, the Mustang advocate and photographer, was signing books. And Olivia Dixon, trainer and rescue/adoption horse advocate with the Kentucky Humane Society and of “A Pony Named Satan” fame, was cleaning stalls in the adoption horse row when I ran into her. Both Olivia and Carol were very friendly. I enjoyed our brief chats.
For those interested, I learned that Carol Walker has a new podcast “Freedom for Wild Horses.” The podcast just launched last month. The podcast flyer she gave me states “If you want to learn more about why wild horses deserve a place on our public lands, why we need the tonic of their wildness in our lives, the threats they are facing from the agency that manages them, and what you can do to help, this show is for you.” I know I’ll be tuning in soon!
Probably the thing that I enjoyed most about the fair was seeing the showcase of horses available for adoption. The ASPCA’s The Right Horse Initiative featured a number of their partner organizations who brought horses ready to be adopted. I thought it was a great way to remind all of us horse folks about the adoption option.
Speaking of buying, there were lots of businesses vying for your cash. It was fun to look around. But besides buying lunch, I only spent my money on one thing- a collapsible bottle holder to help organize my barn.
I did come home with lots of free stuff though. I visited booth after booth and collected things like coupons, samples, magazines and useful merch like pens.
Moving from the practical to the impractical, I did have a couple of fantasy moments. Like when I came across the DP Saddlery booth and got to see my dream saddle in person. Considering how pricey they are, I did not come home with one.
Something else I saw and coveted but didn’t come home with is this little Icelandic trail gelding who is for sale. While I am technically thinking about getting a miniature driving horse, and not a riding horse, I was so taken with this cutie after seeing him in a demo.
I have a thing for short, gaited, pinto horses and have long wanted to have an Icelandic. I was already envisioning how amazing he would look in my backyard. I even saw myself taking him out for our first trail ride together.
Unfortunately, that dream came to a full stop when I was able to make contact with his owner and find out his price is $15,000. If any of you more well-to-do blog readers end up buying him, you gotta promise to invite me over for a guest ride!
Soon after meeting the Icelandic, I ran across this photo booth. It then occurred to me that it was likely the closest thing I will ever get to actually riding an Icelandic. So while my friends were elsewhere, I accosted a stranger who kindly agreed to snap my photo. Ha!
Finally, I will wind down this post with a plug for the Equine Affaire Marketplace. It is essentially a pop-up consignment shop where fair attendees can bring all their unwanted horse stuff to sell.
I brought nine items that I wasn’t going to use anymore. Everything sold in less than 24 hours except one piece of tack (which I later walked over to one of the horse adoption booths and donated).
After The Marketplace commission and fees were taken out, I made $86. It helped offset the cost of event tickets and the outrageously priced fair food ($16 bought me a bottle of water and a veggie Gyro- tasty but pricey!).
Many thanks to my husband who babysat Shiloh and Piper while I was away. He even texted me “proof of care” photos.
For anyone reading who hasn’t yet attended and is interested in a future Equine Affair, the next one will take place in the Fall in Massachusetts. Check out their website for more information and make plans for your own trip!
Well, what do you know! I didn’t have to cancel my horses’ veterinary appointment after all. If you don’t have a clue what I’m talking about, you can get the background scoop HERE.
Using what I learned during my previous trailer loading practice with my two horses, the loading process on the big day went smoothly. Both horses traveled quietly together. We even arrived at the vet clinic with ten minutes to spare.
During their appointments, Shiloh and Piper got their annual exams, Spring vaccinations and blood draws for their Coggins tests. Fecal samples were also collected to do a worm egg count. Piper needed his teeth floated so that was performed during this visit too.
No major health concerns were noted by their veterinarian, other than the ever-present issue of weight management which is a continual thorn in my side. Easy keepers are not easy to manage.
Afterward, both horses rested in stalls while Piper’s sedation from his dental work wore off. It was a busy day at the clinic, and by the time I got ready to leave, there were three other trailers in the parking lot.
As I led Piper towards my trailer with the helpful veterinary tech leading Shiloh behind, I noticed a small audience watching us as they waited for their horses’ appointments. I also observed three horse heads peaking out from the trailer directly next to us. Everyone looked curious.
I immediately felt intimidated by having spectators. Spectators that were about to watch me attempt to trailer load. Something that I often find difficult, if not impossible. Cue my brief mental panic. I had visions of the horses having to be henceforth boarded at the vet clinic because I couldn’t get them home.
Fortunately, though, I managed to quickly refocus on my game. I worked to remain mentally present with the horses as I sought to quietly and calmly guide them into their big box on wheels.
As Piper and I approached the back of the trailer, he stepped onto the ramp. Piper briefly stopped in his still slightly sedated stupor to get his bearings but soon went right on in.
Next, I got Shiloh’s lead rope from the veterinary technician and asked Shiloh to walk forward toward the trailer. He didn’t initially move so I repositioned myself and asked him again just as the technician clucked to him. Shiloh walked right up the ramp and went straight for the hay bag like he does it every day. What a relief!
I then gave my thanks to the veterinary technician for all her help wrangling two horses during the visit. I was now ready to head home with both horses firmly in tow. As I closed up the back of the trailer, it was then that I heard someone from the crowd exclaim “Don’t you just love a good loader!”
One thing I can say about my property is that it has plentiful grass. Lots and lots of grass. For most of the time that I have been a backyard horse keeper, my equine residents had free run of a few acres of that grass pasture.
This came to a screeching halt six years ago when my now recently deceased horse, Bear, developed laminitis. It became impossible to prevent him from having repeated laminitic flare-ups while on full-time pasture. His access to all that grass had to change.
It was then that I started horse-keeping in a much smaller, corded-off section of the pasture with a run-in shed. I did turn the horses out on the richer section of pasture, but usually with a grazing muzzle and for only a couple hours a day. Otherwise, they stayed in the smaller paddock section.
For the last six years, every horse, including a series of foster from a local rescue, shared this arrangement with Bear.
Truth be told, I hated transitioning them to a paddock. Once you’ve seen your horses enjoying a larger area, downsizing can be a disappointing adjustment.
It disturbed me to limit their freedom of movement and freedom of choice to an even smaller area. No longer could they select their preferred sections of the pasture for eating. They couldn’t access the softest areas for laying down. The best trees and bushes were no longer available to them for shade and windbreaks. They didn’t putter around as much as they used to.
It really struck me as sad to take all that space away from the horses. So sad that it actually robbed me of some of the joy of keeping horses at home. To add insult to injury, it also increased my workload and made horse-keeping more expensive.
For example, when the horses were on full pasture, poop piles were distributed over a wide area. They easily broke apart and got absorbed into the grass or were reduced when I mowed over them. But in their paddock, I have to remove the manure myself to keep the area from turning into a mucky mess. This results in huge manure piles that I have to figure out how to get rid of periodically. Everyone talks about how great horse manure is for growing things, but nobody seems to be interested in coming to pick it up.
The manure management can be back-breaking work, even when you keep just a couple of horses. It is estimated that an average size horse produces about 50 pounds of manure a day. So I am picking up and moving 100 pounds a day using only my manure pick, a bucket and a wheelbarrow.
Keeping my horses in a smaller space is also more expensive than keeping them on full-time pasture. Previously, I only had to buy about four months’ worth of hay as their pasture grass was usually lush from April through November. I now have to feed hay year around so I need to purchase three times as much hay as I used to. All that free pasture grass goes largely to waste.
It is more physically taxing and more expensive for me to keep and feed TWO horses in a small paddock than it was for me to keep and feed FOUR horses on a few acres of pasture!
Despite all the difficulties involved in keeping my horses on a smaller area, I committed to doing what I could to keep Bear as healthy as possible for as long as he lived. But I knew that I would happily go back to giving my horses full-time access when Bear eventually passed on.
Those of you who have read the blog for awhile may recall that Bear died in September 2022. And yet despite my original intentions to have my remaining horses return to full-time pasture, it is looking like that will not be possible.
As it turns out, Shiloh and Piper are both easy keepers. Piper is fatter right now than Shiloh, but Shiloh is no light weight himself. If I return them to full-time pasture, I run an increased risk of them developing the same painful and debilitating health issues as Bear.
I thought I could maybe bridge the gap with grazing muzzles, but that has not proved as useful as I had hoped. I started putting a muzzle on Piper last year when I turned the horses out onto the pasture outside their paddock. Piper had some difficulty getting used to the muzzle, but you can see that by Winter, he could even eat hay with his muzzle on.
In the past, Shiloh has worn one too, but since Piper arrived, Shiloh no longer seems to need one. I have noticed that Piper is a faster eater than Shiloh, and I suspect Piper ends up with a bigger portion at the end of every meal.
Over Winter, there was a new development. Shiloh began taking off Piper’s grazing muzzle in the course of their spontaneous play sessions. In one instance, the stitching came out, and I had to completely replace the muzzle.
I never did get evidence of the removal on camera, but here’s a little video clip (get out your magnifying glass- sorry) taken this January showing what usually happened just before Shiloh pulled off Piper’s muzzle.
I kept trying different configurations to keep the muzzle on, but it wasn’t working. I eventually decided to stop turning them outside of their paddock. They haven’t been on the grass pasture at all since February.
Now we are coming into the Spring season when the grass starts growing like crazy. It’s not the best time to turn out fat horses. So in the paddock they stay, much to their consternation as they try to grab every blade of new Spring grass under the fence lines and look longingly over the gate towards where they used to graze. I cringe every time I see them do that.
This pasture problem is just something I never anticipated at the start of my backyard horse-keeping journey. I remember being so excited to bring my first horse home to live in my backyard and watch as new additions arrived over the years.
It was such a pleasure to observe a small herd enjoying a grassy, open space and just being horses. Eating, playing, snoozing and being beautiful. My workload and expenses were minimal and I had access to my horses at all times.
I thought for sure that after Bear died, I would turn out my horses full-time again and likely add another riding horse or two. It would be the return of the glory days with a pasture full of happily grazing horses. But no. Neither of those things is likely to happen anytime soon. Adding more full-sized horses just doesn’t seem the best option right now when I look at my situation.
I do still hold out hope that I will eventually incorporate a miniature driving horse or two, but I definitely can’t turn out miniature horses on my lush grass. Minis are even more prone to weight gain than full-sized horses. I will need to provide a different setup for them, and I am still thinking through how I might go about that.
It’s funny the things that happen to you in life that you don’t expect. I can definitely say that when I began my backyard horse-keeping journey, twenty years ago this May in fact, I never thought that having too much grass would ever be a problem. It has definitely rearranged my horse life in more ways than I ever anticipated. I just never saw it coming.
To me, trailer loading is clearly black and white. Either the horse is in the trailer or the horse is not. There’s no such thing as ” I kind of loaded” my horse. It’s something I appreciate. It’s also something I find daunting.
With all the Spring rain in my area, it’s difficult to do much with my horses beyond basic care, including trailer-loading practice. I try to take advantage of the occasional dry/warm/less windy days to do more, but those days are few and far between.
I had trailered Shiloh and Piper multiple times separately, but never together. And neither horse had been in a trailer in any capacity since last Fall. Hence the need for practice.
As I recall from previous years, when you trailer your horse(s) regularly, the process gets to feeling routine. It all becomes pretty easy and comfortable.
But when you only trailer infrequently, it can feel like a super-human task. Something that makes your stomach do flips just at the thought of it.
Of course, part of the trick of trailer loading for me is my staying calm and positive, acting like I don’t really care that much about the entire thing, when of course I really DO care. I’m getting slowly better at it. But I’m frankly not sure I will be able to live long enough to master the art of Zen.
Considering all that angst, I told my husband that I might need help this Spring with what I jokingly referred to as “Operation Pegasus.” I wanted to see if I could load Shiloh and Piper in the horse trailer. Ideally with minimum muss and fuss. On a related note- For all you history buffs, the title is not a reference to the military operations by the same name. I was thinking more along the lines that sometimes trailer loading is as difficult for me as encouraging my horses to sprout wings and fly.
So recently, on a good weather day, I decided I better get to it. The horses have upcoming vet appointments for their Spring vaccines, dental checkups and the like. I didn’t want to try to load them for the first time on the same day of the appointment. On a practice day, we could take our time and not worry about a schedule.
As you can see from the lead photo, Operation Pegasus was ultimately successful. But what the photo doesn’t tell you is that I originally had loaded Piper on the left side and couldn’t get Shiloh to load on the right. He wouldn’t go. No ifs, adds or horse butts.
Shiloh, to his credit, didn’t do anything dangerous or dramatic. He didn’t jump around or rear. Shiloh simply planted his feet and gave me this big “I am really disappointed that you are asking me to do this thing” look. He made a few half-hearted attempts to walk on the ramp before sauntering off sideways/backward and giving me the look.
I am not sure how long that went on. Maybe about 10 minutes. But the thought soon occurred to me that I needed to change something up. We all know what they say about the wisdom of continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result. So I decided I would try to load Shiloh on the left side instead.
However long the time actually was, it must have seemed like forever to Piper who waited semi-patiently for Shiloh to load. As I finally asked Piper to back off the ramp, he stopped half way and looked around him like horses sometimes do when they arrive at a new location. He must have been puzzled by being sent into a trailer and not actually later unloading in a different locale.
Anywho, after backing out of the left side, thankfully Piper loaded up on the right side just as nicely. This opened up the left side for Shiloh to enter. Shiloh went right in.
Shiloh went right in, stood for a second and then came right back out. I then sent him in a second time. This time Shiloh stayed put so I easily secured the butt bar and closed the ramp.
With both horses loaded, I officially declared Operation Pegasus a success. Just as important, I learned that Shiloh has developed a strong preference for the left side of the trailer. I will use that to my advantage on appointment day. Hopefully, it will minimize stress and prevent a loading delay or complete refusal.
I also learned that it is helpful to keep both horses within physical or sighted proximity to each other during the process. You may recall that I’ve been dealing with separation anxiety issues since my oldest horse died and my herd shrank from three horses to two.
Adding trailer loading into the mix increases the fear factor for both horses so their pull toward each other gets stronger. Many thanks to my husband for helping me to lead two horses and keeping one horse company while I worked to load the other.
Of course, anything could happen on the actual game day. It could very well be that I will have to call the vet’s office and reschedule if I can’t get one or both horses to load.
Will that be embarrassing? Well, yes. But it wouldn’t be my first rueful moment involving a horse. In fact if I died of embarrassment every time I had a mortifying encounter with a horse, I would have died a hundred deaths already. Life with horses isn’t always rosy, but for a writer, it sure does provide plenty of grist for the mill.
Now that Spring has sprung on the calendar in the Northern Hemisphere, I feel obliged to write a Spring-themed horse post. So much of horse care and riding is affected by the weather. For those of us who live in areas with four distinct seasons, including harsh Winters, the coming of Spring is most welcomed.
Some equestrians may have lots of fun horsey stuff planned on the calendar come Spring. Others of us don’t have any big plans but are just grateful to muck and feed in above-freezing temperatures, even while we have to deal with the typically excessive Springtime rain. Either way, there is lots to appreciate about this time of year.
In looking over previous posts, though, I decided that I didn’t really have any new thoughts to add to the subject. So I am instead sharing links to those Spring-themed posts I wrote over the last few years.
As you click through them, perhaps you can find information or inspiration to apply to your own situation as you embark on this new season. A season traditionally associated with promise, birth and renewal. Here’s to Spring!
Have you seen this video clip titled “NEIGH-SMR (aka Horse Eating ASMR)” from Visit Lex’s YouTube channel?
Made three years ago, this clever Kentucky tourism marketing video is definitely for horse lovers.
For those not familiar, ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Wikipedia describes it as “a tingling sensation that usually begins on the scalp and moves down the back of the neck and upper spine.”
It can occur when a subject is exposed to certain visual, tactile or auditory stimuli. These responses induce a relaxed physical/mental state (although not everyone experiences it apparently).
Wikipedia goes on to mention that a genre of videos “intended to induce ASMR” has emerged, notably on YouTube. But I didn’t read anything about horse-induced ASMR on Wikipedia. Guess they have not seen the NEIGH-SMR video yet.
Equestrians however know that many “horse sounds” can be super relaxing. They often contribute to the overall “good-vibe” feeling in the barn.
I venture to guess that many horse people probably have recorded at least one NEIGH-SMR video of their own. I thought today I would share my latest such clip. But first, I’ll give you a little background.
In 2021, I posted videos of Shiloh’s hay dunking behavior. You can see them HERE if you missed that post.
Since capturing those videos, I have noticed that Shiloh’s behavior comes and goes. I used to only see Shiloh do it during the Summers, but this Winter he has been hay dunking too.
In the year and a half or so that I’ve had Shiloh’s herd mate, Piper, I never noticed Piper eating any of Shiloh’s leftover dunked hay. Until just recently, that is.
While I still have not seen Piper carry hay over to the water trough like Shiloh does, Piper clearly enjoys benefiting from Shiloh’s hay dunking.
The video features the research of Dr. Sue Dyson, MA, Vet MB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVSMR, FRCVS. She is an equine orthopedic specialist and an accomplished rider in the eventing and show jumping disciplines.
Dr. Dyson wants to expand equestrian definitions and awareness of lameness in an effort to improve horse welfare. She encourages folks in the horse industry to think beyond obvious head-bobbing lameness and to instead watch for more subtle signs that may indicate the horse is experiencing muscuolskeletal pain.
The video gives a brief outline of behaviors that horses often display under saddle and how, according to Dr. Dyson’s research, they may relate to lameness, particularly when taking into account the frequency and/or duration with which they occur during a ride.
Now, in addition to viewing the 35 minute video for free at http://www.24HorseBehaviors.org, you can also get a free mobile download and two free PDF downloads that will help you identify these behaviors in your own horse.
The free mobile downloads and free PDFs are offered through the Train with Trust Project. The Train with Trust Project is a non-profit whose website states its mission is to provide “behavior education to animal owners, and professionals directly caring for animals, on any topics that will enhance animal welfare and the human animal bond.”
As more horse folks become aware that “resistant” horse behavior can be a manifestation of physical issues and not just training issues, the distribution of this free video and the free downloadable materials strikes me as particularly timely.
I laughed when I saw this photo on my phone. I took it during my first at-home ride of 2023. The camera was pointing downwards, over Shiloh’s left shoulder, while I rode bareback.
The resulting image gave the illusion that my left foot was touching the ground while I sat on my horse. But I promise you that Shiloh is not that short, and my legs are not that long!
The photo’s optical illusion is funny all on its own. But there is another reason that I find the picture particularly interesting. It has to do with what I was thinking about during that ride. Let me explain.
If you have read my previous posts, you may recall that I’ve been concerned about my curtailed prospects for riding this year due to Piper’s continuing issues with separation anxiety.
Instead of riding on decent weather days, I’ve been taking Shiloh and Piper out for walks-in-hand along our barn driveway. I keep hoping that the more I separate them and then bring them back together that Piper’s anxiety will subside.
As for Shiloh, he is comparatively much less anxious than Piper. But because Piper makes such a fuss, Piper’s behavior can sometimes catch Shiloh’s attention and worry him. This whole dynamic does not bode well for my riding safety.
By the end of February, though, I felt that Shiloh was tuning into me well enough during our driveway walks in hand that I could chance a ride. Then March 1st happened to dawn reasonably warm and clear with almost no wind. I decided to attempt a short bareback ride with Shiloh in my round pen.
I actually would have preferred to put on the saddle for extra security, but this time of year, my horses are awash in shedding hair. Shedding hair that is layered with mud in various stages of drying. It is not a great time to put on the tack, even for a quick ride. Trying to find room on Shiloh’s head for the bridle amidst all that hair and mud was bad enough!
In leading Shiloh from my barn driveway to the round pen for our ride, I noticed that Piper was particularly upset back in their paddock. Piper ran the fence line. I could hear his hoofbeats. I noticed the loud “splat-splat” of the pea gravel and ag lime footing getting dislodged and slung up against the fence as Piper skidded around.
Once in the round pen, Shiloh and I just milled about at the walk. I asked him for lots of changes of direction, trying to encourage a relaxed riding rhythm while Piper cavorted.
Despite Piper’s racket, Shiloh was overall pretty calm for me. He seemed a bit quick and distracted at times, periodically glancing in Piper’s direction. Fortunately, Shiloh’s worry didn’t escalate. He didn’t do anything to unseat me.
During the ride, I was aware that I felt nervous about Piper’s behavior and what it might mean for Shiloh at any given moment. When I get nervous on horseback, I have bad habits of shortening and tightening my body.
Neither action contributes to my own balance or the horse’s comfort. Those habits can definitely make the ride go worse for me and the horse. I realize that mentally waiting for disaster to occur is also not a helpful riding habit, but it’s something I battle in varying degrees on a regular basis. It’s all one ball of sticky wax that can be difficult to untangle.
To counteract all those tendencies during this bareback ride, I kept reminding myself to breathe, focus on the walk rhythm and use the visual imagery of lengthening my feet toward the ground. THAT’S why the photo struck me as so funny! It’s not very often that a riding photo captures the essence of what I was working on in such a picture-perfect way.
For his part, Shiloh responded really well to my efforts. Whenever I felt him get worried and then quick with his movements, I’d try to “reach the ground” with my feet. He would soon slow down and lower his head and neck. It was good bio-feedback for me.
I realize in a comparative sense that the photo is nothing remarkable. It’s not going to win any photography contests. Going forward, though, I plan to use it as a visual reminder of an important concept. Namely, the idea that I have the ability to affect my horse’s state of relaxation IF I remain grounded. Staying grounded even as I am hovering six feet off the ground on my horse’s back.
I couldn’t resist buying this set of equestrian-themed stickers. The set cracked me up when I first saw it. So funny and so spot on.
While not every horse person may relate to each and every one, I bet that there’s at least a few that have you nodding your head in solid agreement.
Personally, my favorite sticker is the “rewarded the try” one. That one isn’t meant to be funny, of course, but I really like the concept. Someone should put that on a t-shirt.
My second favorite is the “actually rode my horse” sticker. Considering I keep horses in my backyard, it’s amazing how often I DON’T ride. So when I actually DO climb onto a horse, the occasion definitely feels sticker-worthy.
And I can’t go without raising a glass to the “hooked up the trailer on the first try” sticker. I mean, if that is not one of life’s most satisfying events, I don’t know what is.
Each sheet is only $1.99, but there is a minimum shipping charge of $7.95 for orders up to $29.99. Please note that HoofPrints will only ship to a USA address.
If you want to get your full money’s worth on the shipping charge, it wouldn’t be difficult to reach the $29.99 level. HoofPrints sells all kinds of other fun horse-themed stuff, including a long list of budget-friendly sale and discounted items.
By the way, this post was not solicited and I received no compensation for it. Not even a gold star.
How about you? Do any of the stickers put a smile on your face or make you laugh out loud?
Have you ever considered what to do with unused horse medication?
After my horse, Bear, was euthanized last September, I sorted through all his stuff. Some items, of course, I continue to use. Lead ropes, buckets and grooming tools that were all originally purchased with Bear in mind can still be used with my other horses.
But since Bear was cob-sized, I had accumulated a certain number of items that didn’t fit any of the remaining herd.
A few pieces, like Bear’s old halter and bridle, I saved for future inclusion in a possible shadow box. But I sold most of his other fitted equipment. Like a beautiful bright-red heavy blanket I purchased several years ago. I kept it on hand just in case Bear needed extra protection one Winter. But as it turned out, he died before he ever wore it.
I sold the blanket and several other times on eBay. Everything ended up finding a new home except for a few of Bear’s cob-sized fly masks. Guess I’ll be keeping those in my “this might fit some new future horse” section of my tack bin. All horse people have one of those, right? It’s how we keep our equestrian hopes alive.
While I appreciated getting some money from the sales, sorting through my dead horse’s equipment was weirdly emotionally exhausting. I know I got teary-eyed every time I drove to the post office with one of Bear’s sold-on-eBay items.
I had reached my emotional limit, but I knew I still had Bear’s prescribed medications to deal with. I double-checked expiration dates and decided to wait awhile to tackle what to do with them.
So as we entered this new year, I still possessed Bear’s leftover Prascend and Equioxx medications. It was finally time to make some decisions.
There are laws and regulations around prescribed medication both for humans and animals. There are limits to what I could legally do with the pills. No putting them up for sale on eBay, for example.
I enquired about returning the almost $300 worth of unused medication to my vet’s office, but they have a no-refund policy.
Fortunately, I noticed that Bear’s Equioxx medication was not set to expire until 2025. Considering that I still have two senior horses remaining, I figure the odds are good that at least one of them will eventually be prescribed Equioxx. I decided to hang on to that last bottle.
In contrast, Bear’s Prascend medication was set to expire in June 2023, and I still had 84 pills left over. The window of opportunity for its use would close much sooner than with the Equioxx.
When I posed the question to my vet’s office about a possible refund, they suggested donating unused medication to a rescue or therapeutic riding center. Both organizations often have large numbers of senior horses.
Prascend, for those of you not familiar, is a medication that addresses symptoms of equine PPID (Cushing’s Disease). If you do an internet search for PPID, one of the Google responses that often comes up is
“Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID; equine Cushing’s disease) is an endocrine disorder that occurs in over 20% of aged horses, ponies, and donkeys. Most animals are over 15 years old when diagnosed, but PPID can occur in younger horses. It is, rare in horses less than 10 years old.”
Both rescues and therapeutic riding centers typically have just the right age range of horses to benefit from such a medication donation.
I chose the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center because they have a large number of senior horses in their care who are listed as “companion animals” only. In fact, the day I looked at their website, they had eighteen such horses available for adoption. I figured that there was a good chance several of those horses were likely prescribed Prascend.
I contacted theKyEAC by email just to make sure they actually accepted and had use for the medicine. I sent them a photo of the unused pills in their unopened bubble packets along with the relevant manufacturing and expiration dates.
As it turns out, they were in fact very happy to hear from me. The KyEAC even sent me a nice letter referencing my donation after they received the Prascend (I don’t itemize, but tax laws do change sometimes so I keep these types of receipts just in case).
In the end, I am really glad that the medicine did not go to waste. I like to think that Bear would have approved of how his left-overs were used.
Keeping horses at home when you don’t have an indoor arena poses challenges. Especially during Winter. Particularly if your Winter weather is not mild. I ought to know. I’m in the midst of my twenty-first Mid-Western Winter.
This particular Winter, I feel it important to continue to practice separating my horses, Shiloh and Piper. But the number of times I am able to work with them over Winter is considerably hampered by the overall poor weather. Doing the necessary daily barn chores can be bad enough.
For those of you just tuning in, I keep my horses 24/7 outside in a paddock with a run-in shed. As recently as last year, I had three horses. But then my oldest horse, Bear, died. Since that time, Piper shows varying degrees of separation anxiety when I take Shiloh out of their shared paddock.
Despite Piper’s objections, Shiloh continued to be rideable for me last Fall after Bear’s death. I did have to concentrate a bit more on keeping Shiloh’s attention on me. Piper can create quite a ruckus when I remove Shiloh from their shared pen. Shiloh was not, however, overtly nervous or fractious during our rides.
But between our last ride at the end of November and a break in the weather after the December polar vortex, I noticed that Shiloh started to react more to Piper’s behavior.
As we exited the paddock, Shiloh would start looking around him. Searching left and right. Head held high. He would snort and jig. He couldn’t hold still. For a normally quiet horse, this was a big change in behavior.
When Shiloh became upset, I didn’t get the sense that Shiloh was worried about leaving Piper. But rather Shiloh started thinking that Piper was alerting him to some danger that Shiloh couldn’t identify.
Maybe something like when you are in a building and someone starts yelling “fire!”, but you see no smoke or flame. You are physically safe at that moment, yet your sense of alarm rises in tandem with the screaming person’s panic. That’s Shiloh.
It made me wonder how exactly was I supposed to try to ride this now terrified, 1000-pound beast. My usual goal of doing periodic bareback rides through Winter went out the window with this new development. Best for me to stay on the ground instead.
I was hopeful that if I just kept concentrating on keeping my breathing steady and my walk even-paced that Shiloh would tune into me. I continued mentally willing him to join me. I wanted to show him I was the better option. He could either tune into panicking Piper and feel alarmed. Or he could focus on me (someone who I hoped was offering him a more relaxed presentation) and feel okay.
I was mildly encouraged when I would see Shiloh momentarily freak out and then cock an ear in my direction and turn an eye on me. I imagined him asking me, “Lady, are you sure there’s nothing to worry about here?” I was doing my best to respond in the affirmative.
Shiloh was in fact starting to tune into me, but not consistently. He continued to ping-pong between anxiety and something akin to relaxation. He’d settle a bit. But then something odd would happen. A big hawk unexpectedly flying out of a nearby bush. Or the sudden screeching sound of car tires. Shiloh’s reactions to these surprises were supersized. Clearly, he still felt jumpy.
Very recently, though, Shiloh finally turned noticeably calmer when leaving the paddock.
His head didn’t immediately go up as we passed through the gate. He was able to stand quietly while I secured the gate chain. He didn’t rush ahead of me as we traversed the barn driveway.
Even as Piper nickered, paced and jumped around, Shiloh kept his eye on me. The walk was uneventful.
We’ve also done some trotting in hand since then too. Shiloh stayed right with me instead of escalating with excitement at the faster pace.
On this particular day in the video below, Shiloh was quiet enough for me to safely carry my phone while filming.
In this next clip, Piper is waiting for us as Shiloh and I return to their paddock gate. This is what Piper often looks like at the end of my ten to fifteen-minute walk with Shiloh. He gives himself quite a workout while Shiloh is gone. Piper is so sweaty that steam is coming off of him and his breathing is labored from running the fence line.
I am hopeful that with enough short separations that Piper will eventually decide that there is nothing to worry about. But five months after Bear’s death, we are not there yet.
I don’t like to just leave Piper a frazzled, harried mess and walk away. So I also take him for his own little walk to help cool him down. Fortunately, Shiloh so far doesn’t become frazzled when I take Piper away. Piper though can be a bit of a handful on these walks. It takes a few minutes for him to feel more relaxed.
When both horses are back in the pasture together, I grab the grooming bag and hang out with them for a minute, offering to scratch their itches. Piper often likes to amuse himself by overturning the bag and sorting through all the brushes, hoof picks and grooming rags. He carefully tastes everything. Some folks think only young horses are mouthy. Yet Piper, now in his early twenties, defies expectations.
In this next clip, you can see that during one of our post-walk grooming sessions, Piper was quiet. So quiet that even a quick touch-up of his bridle path with the clippers didn’t bother him. He stood still for it without a halter or even a lead rope around his neck.
I was also eventually able to remove a big wad of hay that was stuck on the inside of Shiloh’s gums. I don’t normally think of cleaning gums as part of a grooming routine, but on this day, it was apparently necessary.
You can see Shiloh in the video above and in the video below as he contorts his face. Maybe he was saying, “Hey Lady, can you help a horse out here?”
When I finally was able to stick my hand carefully in his mouth and dislodge the wad, Shiloh shot me this surprised, happy look. He completely stopped moving his muzzle and relaxed. I so wish I could have gotten THAT moment on video. It’s hard to capture the really good stuff sometimes.
Long story short, while I certainly do enjoy spending time with my horses on the ground, I would in fact really like to get back to riding Shiloh this year. So far though, I’m just hoofing it. Hoping that I can help Piper and Shiloh eventually reach a consistent place of peace and safety whether they are together or apart.
It’s been pretty quiet here lately in my backyard. Winter is usually that way for me. The season is a good time to focus on the simple pleasures around me since the big pleasure of riding at home is mostly off the table.
Simple pleasures like walking out in the morning darkness and noticing the sparkling stars overhead as I stroll towards the barn. Sensing the stirrings of wildlife as they finish up their nocturnal activities before dawn. Hearing the horses munch, munch, much their breakfast hay.
Later in the day, I might focus on the chattering of birds as I head out to greet my horses again. Noticing any hoof print impressions laid down on top of freshly fallen snow. Grateful for the days when the afternoon sun finally shines brightly, eventually melting away that snow and making everything feel warmer.
It’s easy to ignore the small stuff. To take it all for granted. But one day when I don’t have horses in my backyard. Or a backyard at all. I will miss all this. Best to appreciate what is right in front of me now, even as I am simultaneously bummed about the lack of riding opportunities during Winter.
I’ve also noticed that with the gradual increase in daylight hours, Shiloh and Piper are starting to shed their Winter coats! Not an excessive amount. That will come later. But seeing some extra hairs on the horse brushes reminds me of better weather to come.
I excitedly present to you Shiloh’s brush on the left and Piper’s curry on the right:
Outside of my backyard, I’ve been taking riding lessons on lesson horses at a local barn since the tail end of November. The barn has an indoor arena. But during January, I only got in two rides. And so far in February, just one.
The protection of the indoor arena notwithstanding, I find that the cold and humidity now make it difficult for me to ride. It didn’t use to be that way. But now, even with the daily exercise of barn chores and targeted stretching exercises, I feel super stiff when the temperature dips below freezing.
On those days, my riding ability diminishes right along with the weather forecast. I’d rather spare the sainted lesson horses the grief of packing stiff-as-a-board me around. Trying to push through just doesn’t seem to contribute toward my riding progress.
Interestingly, we’ve had plenty of above-freezing days in my area. But it seems like every time my lesson day rolls around, the temperatures take a rapid nosedive! And I end up canceling my lesson. The pattern would be funny if it weren’t so disappointing.
Lord willing, even periodic lessons will help me retain enough of my riding muscle memory so I can go back to safely riding my horse, Shiloh, come Spring. In a future post, I plan to show readers what I’ve been doing with my horses at home in preparation.
In the meantime, I’ll keep looking to appreciate all those simple pleasures in my life. Remembering to savor horse hair on brushes and pretty hoof prints in the snow.
I am pleased to follow up last week’s post with this week’s book review. Please note that while I did receive a free copy of the book, I did not receive any monetary compensation for this book review.
Talk about a coincidence! Just as I was composing last week’s blog post about barn cats, Stoic Simple Press contacted me about their new book titled The Stock Horse and The Stable Cat. What perfect timing!
The Stock Horse and the Stable Cat is a thoroughly charming and thoughtful read. Visually engaging illustrations accompany the storyline of a horse and cat going about their day. The book is sure to be appreciated by both equine and feline fans alike.
Throughout the book, the horse and the cat discuss their different viewpoints on various subjects. Apple trees, windy days and critters with whom they share their home are all fodder for this barn-yard pair. Readers learn that the horse and the cat each have their differing likes and dislikes. Yet they still enjoy spending time together.
While the book is described as a Stoic fable, the reader doesn’t have to be an adherent of, or even familiar with, Stoic philosophy to appreciate the positive outlook on life that the book promotes. As a quick and straight forward read, the book struck me as perfect for a child’s bedtime story but would also make a lovely addition to a coffee-table book collection.
View the publisher’s short video clip about the book here:
Read more about the book and purchase a copy on the publisher’s website:
By the way, if you missed last week’s blog post, you can read it HERE. Among other things, I wrote about valuing the companionship of barn cats. I shared lots of photos, too. But didn’t have room for all of them. So here is one more. Taken in 2011, it is a picture of me riding my horse, Bear, with my barn cat, MJ, happy to tag along. Sadly, Bear and MJ have passed on, but I still have the happy memories.
After horses, my next favorite animal is the cat. Those big eyes. That Soft fur. Their quiet companionship. It’s all catnip to me.
As a feline fan, I find curious the perpetuation of what I consider to be false stereotypes. I have a hard time relating to some of the judgments leveled at cats. For whatever reason, my experience just doesn’t bear them out.
Far from finding cats difficult to understand, deva-like or standoffish, I see cats as clearly wanting to connect with the people in their lives. Are there exceptions? Of course. Just like there are with any kind of domesticated animal. But I have to say that my life would have been decidedly less rich without the companionship of many a cat who sought out my company.
While on the surface it seems that the lives of horses and cats don’t intermix, one glaring exception is the barn cat. Cats have long been found hanging around farms, ranches and barns.
Traditionally, barn cat value has been placed on their abilities as mousers. But I think that the friendly company barn cats provide their people is just as valuable. Side note here- Interestingly enough, I also like rodents of all varieties and the one thing that I don’t like about cats is the fact that they hunt. Go figure.
Twenty-plus years ago, when I first became a horse owner, I found it disturbing that barn cats seemed to be an afterthought at the barns I boarded with or visited. I often felt aghast at the level of neglect that I observed.
Over the years, though, I’ve seen both attitudes and actual care habits change for the better. Of course, as with any animal welfare issue, there is still a ways to go. Sometimes a long way to go. Nonetheless, I find any kind of progress encouraging. Barn cats by and large seem to be held in higher esteem than they once were.
In keeping with this new found consideration for barn cats, you are now more likely to see folks providing daily fresh food and water. Spaying and neutering. Applying anti-flea and deworming medication. Giving vaccines. Taking them to the vet when they are ill or injured. You’ll even find people adopting barn cats from shelters and rescues that have a “working barn cat” program like this one in Texas.
I have personally seen the positive transformation in barn cats when they’ve gone from say fertile females, constantly popping out kittens, to spayed cats who get fresh water and a daily meal of kibble. No longer thin, sickly and shy, these cats were turned sleek and social.
And contrary to the myth that a barn cat will only hunt if he or she is hungry, a physically healthy barn cat is much more likely to be a successful mouser. It’s an important point to mention to folks who are still skeptical about how they themselves could benefit from spending time and money on their barn cats.
Sure, that initial rounding up of all the barn cats through the TNR (trap-neuter/spay-return/release) process takes some planning. But the effort is so worth it when you end up with healthier, happier cats who aren’t overwhelming your barn with kittens season after season.
True, some barn cats are ferals or strays that just show up one day at the barn. They may not be very social upon arrival and remain that way for the rest of their lives. But I suspect that often has more to do with humans not prioritizing the socialization of their barn cats rather than something inherent about the cats themselves. Another side note here- A feral cat is a cat not raised around humans. A stray cat is a cat who was raised around people but has somehow gotten separated from their original home. Ferals and strays display different behaviors that you can learn about HERE.
Based on my experience, I would argue that it is worthwhile to take the time to socialize your barn cats too. Socialized barn cats are much more pleasant to be around than scared, defensive creatures. Just like with wild horses, earning a feral cat’s trust takes time, patience, emotional consistency and a basic willingness to keep showing up with a smile on your face no matter what they offer you in return. It’s a rewarding process but not usually a quick one.
Want to read more about barn cats and see specific care tips tailored to this population? I’ve rounded up a few links for you here:
In addition, this blog also has a Barn Cats Pinterest Board that includes pins linking to barn-cat care ideas (plus some very sweet cat and horse photos!).
I’ll now introduce you to my current barn cat, Saul. This marble tabby, in addition to continuing to prowl my property, now likes to spend some time in the house too. Actually, he’s kind of turning into a part-time rather than a full-time barn employee. 🙂 This fact is noteworthy because Saul used to be completely feral.
For over a year, I only saw distant glimpses of him around my property before I could finally get anywhere near him. He was completely terrified of me, panicking if I accidentally encountered him during barn chores. I was eventually successful in trapping him in my barn and getting him neutered, vaccinated and microchipped in February 2019 through a local low-cost spay-neuter clinic. Since then, Saul has chosen to stick around and has responded beautifully to socialization efforts.
You can see his confident transformation by contrasting the following two photos taken six months apart. He goes from A) just starting to tolerate my presence but still unsure of me (note his body posture- hunched, rounded, tail down) to B) following me happily all over my backyard barn area!
For those of you who like cat videos, here’s a quick clip of Saul on a day he decided to hang with me in the house. Turn up the volume to hear him purrrrrrrr.
Finally, I want to say many thanks to all the cats who have graced my backyard barn with their presence including the cats you see in this post. Featured here are Saul (the marbled tabby), Mamma Grace (the grey with white paws) and OJ (the orange tabby). Not featured but just as appreciated were AJ, BJ, MJ, and TJ. Here’s to the barn cat!
In this photo, Shiloh has a look on his face that illustrates how I am feeling at the moment. Anybody else out there having trouble nailing down equestrian new year resolutions? Or even deciding if you want to make any in the first place?
I’ve long been a fan of making horse-related goals for each new calendar year. I realize there’s no rule that says “you have to make new year’s resolutions to be a fully completed human being.” Yet having some kind of goal can produce a motivating and organizing effect for me. I wouldn’t have had quite the fun with my horses over the years without setting goals and putting in the work towards meeting them.
But I must say, I struggle with making new goals for 2023. It’s hard to make goals when you feel like you don’t have a realistic vision of how you can actually accomplish them.
For example, I’d like to get my horse Shiloh out for more trail rides, but I have the issue of what to do with his herd mate, Piper, who continues to get upset when I even take Shiloh out of their shared paddock for so much as a farrier trim. With Shiloh just twenty-five feet away.
I do have the option of getting another horse to keep Piper company while I work with Shiloh. Maybe another full sized horse that I could also ride or a miniature for driving. But adding another horse means spending more money than I would like in this time of inflation.
There’s also the reality for me that adding another horse would increase my daily workload. And lately, I feel my fitness, strength and energy decline while my problems with arthritis and other body pain issues increase. I wonder how much can I push myself physically.
But if I don’t get another barnyard critter, I am starting to envision having three limiting choices for the new year. Choice #1: not riding Shiloh at all. Choice #2: Ponying Piper along with us on every single ride. Choice #3: Tie Piper up inside their shared paddock and only ride Shiloh in said paddock so that we are not too far away from Piper.
Considering my situation, creating a new theme(s) for myself in 2023 may be a more appealing prospect than creating goals. Last year, I wrote a post about setting themes instead of goals, an idea I gleaned from a podcast by horse professional Stacey Westfall. You can read that post HERE if you’d like.
In the midst of contemplating my options, I also read a blog post titled Visions vs. Resolutions from Heccateisis’s Blog. The post really resonated with me. I enjoyed reading the writer’s perspective. Very refreshing. I particularly liked the word that appeared at the bottom of her post, “meandering”.
So as we close in on the end of January, I continue to think things over. Goals and themes and lollipop dreams. Knowing I am somewhere in between. Between where I am and where I want to be. Struggling to arrive.
Brought to you by the Art of The Horseman, this fair features over 100 online presentations all about horses and horsemanship. That’s 50+ hours of video content!
The videos cut across different breeds and disciplines so there is a little something for just about everyone. And each year, the Art of The Horseman adds new presenters and presentations to its lineup of online horse learning videos.
You can purchase full, anytime access to these fairs. But you can also obtain access for FREE for two-days on predesignated dates a few times a year.
The next two-day FREE access, with its new 2023 lineup of videos, is January 30 and 31, 2023.
I am super excited to announce that my Aunt, Lynne Sprinsky Echols, is one of the new 2023 presenters! She is the author of the book A Good Seat: Three Months At The Reitinstitut von Neindorff. You can read my review of her book HERE.
Even if you don’t ride dressage, so much of what she has to offer applies to all disciplines. I am really looking forward to seeing my aunt’s presentations through the Art of The Horseman in 2023. I have not yet seen her videos so I’ll be watching along with you for the very first time on January 30 and 31! Update: It looks like fair attendees will have to wait until later in the calendar year to see my Aunt’s videos due to some unforeseen technical difficulties. Nevertheless, I’m still super excited that she will be part of the fair once the tech issues are sorted out! Stayed tuned.
But I enjoyed learning from past Art of The Horseman fairs so much, I decided to have The Backyard Horse Blog become an affiliate. When you use the link below to get your FREE ticket to the next fair viewing, The Backyard Horse Blog receives a monetary bonus if you later purchase lifetime access. Use this link to get your FREE ticket at
Once you get your ticket, you will receive more information about the fair via email. 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.
Sign up today for your FREE ticket. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can learn!
I confess. I am more of a reader than a listener. But I do like to hear podcasts from time to time. Like during last month’s polar vortex, when I spent more time inside than usual, in between my suiting up in 47 layers to venture outside and perform horse care duties, of course!
I appreciate a good sense of humor and enjoy podcasts that are funny or fluffy. Just for their pure entertainment value. But I also appreciate podcasts that make me really think about the topic at hand.
Maybe about, for example, a subject not often addressed in the horse community. Say, the equine veterinary pathology episode I write about later in this post. What a great opportunity to learn something totally new to me!
Or maybe about a “different from what I normally hear” perspective. Like with the Best Horse Practices or Dressage Naturally episodes I link to below. With those types of podcasts, I like the opportunity to really take in what’s being said, reflect on my own reactions and decide what I want to take away from the discussion or the suggestions offered.
And sometimes, I just like listening to a podcast because the author’s journey somehow mirrors my own. Like with the “Senior Horses and The Non-Ridden Equine” episode. These last few years of my horse life have been full of senior horses and/or retired-from-riding horses so I can easily relate to that subject.
I thought all four of these podcasts that I just mentioned were quite interesting and engaging, whether simply for their subject matter or in the way they ended up providing me food for thought. I found myself mulling over their content long after I finished listening.
I’ve listed the links and a bit of info about each episode below. They all have a running time of 44 minutes or less. They are all free to listen to (beyond the price of your internet access, of course). No membership or subscription required.
How about you? Have you heard an equestrian podcast that you really enjoyed? Let me know in the comments section. I’m looking for more listening material before the next wicked weather event comes my way!
Equine Innovators: Pathology Is More Than Just Necropsies From The Equine Innovators podcast episodes on TheHorse.Com website Running Time: 44 minutes Description from The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare website: “Dr. Uneeda Bryant, DVM describes how veterinary pathologists safeguard horse populations, determine causes of death, and protect the human-animal bond.”
Dream-Observe-Root-Play Episode 110 of The Dressage Naturally Podcast with Karen Rohlf Running Time: 37 minutes Description from the Dressage Naturally website: “In this episode, I’ll share a summary of a recent 4-part Video Series where I give 4 valuable lessons on how to improve how your horse moves, and each lesson has an exercise. I’ll lead you through a process of dreaming, observing, going back to determine the root of any issues, then explain how to use playfulness to improve your horse’s posture and way of moving.”
Coaches Corner with Amy Skinner Season 3: Episode 12 of The Best Horse Practices Podcast with Jec Ballou and Amy Skinner Running Time: 28 minutes Description from the Best Horse Practices website: “Jec and Amy continue a thread that we have recently introduced to our podcast. It’s a pushback from what we see as a trend toward the warm and fuzzies in horse circles. By warm and fuzzies, we mean attending to methods, promotions of hacks, and proclamations that may indeed serve the human and her need to feel connected and in a relationship, but, in fact, don’t serve the horse one bit. Or, even worse, they confuse or neglect the horse . . . I’m starting to form theories around how we in the horse community got to this place. It’s a pendulum thing, for sure, away from a dominance-based approach. But it’s also a result of the pandemic and how very hard that has been for us.”
Senior Horses And The Non-Ridden Equine Season 4: Episode 65 of The Willing Equine Podcast with Adele Shaw, CHBC Running Time: 40 minutes Description from The Willing Equine website: “This episode is dedicated to my gelding Cash, who passed away recently. I share his story and how he was a shining example of just how valuable a non-ridden horse can be.”
Greetings, dear readers! I am pleased to be back to blogging after my Christmas writing break. My backyard horses and I welcome you to 2023!
I don’t know about you, but my main focus this time of year is simply surviving another Mid-Western Winter. Bearing up under year after year of harsh Winters with a bare bones, backyard horse-care setup is my reality. It is also something that I’m physically struggling with more each year. Especially when things go wrong. Say, for example, during the December 2022 polar vortex that gripped much of the US.
I took the following photo on December 23rd, 2022. Piper is barely visible inside the shed as his bay coat tends to blend into the background. Shiloh is standing just outside at the shed opening but still under the awning. The actual temperature was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of minus 35.
That’s pretty cold. So cold that the heater outdoor water tank kept freezing over and the outdoor water pump handle froze up. This left me having to hand-haul water from the house out to the horses. Five times a day. This went on for three days in a row until the outdoor pump started to work again on Christmas Day- best present ever!
If you’ve never experienced going outside in that type of cold, it is difficult to imagine, but I’ll try to paint you a picture.
First, see yourself putting on so many layers of clothing that your movements are slow and awkward. Each time you prepare to go feed/water the horses, you felt like you are suiting up to go into outerspace.
Then see yourself opening your back door and stepping outside, the wind immediately hitting your face as the snow kicks up all around you. The air is so cold that you soon develop what I can only describe as an “ice cream headache.”
Then after maybe ten to fifteen minutes, your feet feel so cold and heavy like your leg bones are attached to inanimate blocks. But the pain in your hands is the worst. Your fingers are so cold, painful and stiff that operating latches and clips is often impossible. Sometimes the discomfort brings tears to your eyes.
As you might imagine, dealing with all of that while hauling heavy jugs of water out to the horses five times a day was absolutely exhausting. A week after the polar vortex, I’m still feeling tired.
Shiloh and Piper, thankfully, both came through the wicked Winter weather well. I took the photo at the top of the post of them trotting about on Christmas Day when the temperatures finally rose to a comparatively balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit.
During the storm, the horse ate (I kept hay in front of them 24/7). They readily drank the water I hauled out to them. I also keep blankets at the ready in case of emergency, but I didn’t use them. I never saw either of them shiver or otherwise look chilled. The run-in shed thankfully provided adequate shelter in this case. Both Shiloh and Piper stayed healthy and in good spirits.
Yet for all my challenges of caring for horses during Winter, I can only write so many posts lamenting the difficulties I encounter. Ditto for my endless frustrations with the lack of backyard riding opportunities. Shiloh hasn’t seen a saddle since the end of November.
Likely for the remainder of Winter, therefore, I will churn out a new blog post just once a week (with perhaps a bonus post added on occasion). I am challenging myself to write about something else besides the misfortunes of caring for my horses during the Winter. We’ll see how successful I am as the season continues. My frustrations do tend to pile up like snowfall totals.
But for those of you in a similar situation, who want to commiserate about Winter horse care before I move on to explore other topics in future posts, I list some links below to posts of Winters past. They are a mix of Winter horse care tips, some standard complaints about caring for horses during Winter and important reminders that there is beauty to behold even during a harsh weather season.
*Please note that following today’s post, I am taking a blogger’s break as I celebrate Christmas. I plan to resume posting new content for you again in January 2023.*
I don’t have any donkeys in my backyard, but I must say that I am a donkey fan. I like looking at donkey pictures and video clips. I enjoy reading about them. Meeting the occasional donkey in person is a particular delight. There’s just something about their look and demeanor that I find really inviting.
As a Christian believer, I am also drawn to the numerous mentions of donkeys in the Bible. The passages about Balaam’s Donkey in the Book of Numbers are likely the most compelling to me. And during this time of Advent when Christians prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, I think particularly about the Bible passages that describe a pregnant Mary, Jesus’s mother, riding on a donkey during her travels. (UPDATE: You know what, there ARE NOT Bible Passages that describe Mary riding on a donkey. Instead of Bible passages, I should have said “Christmas imagery.” Considering the plethora of donkeys that existed during Biblical times, it is assumed that she MIGHT have ridden on a donkey or that there MIGHT have been donkeys present at the birth of Jesus, but they are not explicitly mentioned. This is a case of my confusing folks lore for what is actually written. Some of the most iconic Christmas images are not technically Scriptural. I apologize for the error.)
Donkeys were an integral part of people’s lives in Biblical times. They were crucial to the completion of so many tasks. Yet even today, in many parts of the world, donkeys perform important work for their owners. It’s probably not something many folks in fully industrialized countries think about. But there are still millions of working donkeys around the world today, particularly in some of the most economically disadvantaged places.
Brooke (and their sister organization in the USA, BrookeUSA) is one of the organizations that work to better the lives of working donkeys and their people. Brooke estimates that 100 million donkeys, horses and mules support 600 million people around the world.
As I contemplate the concurrent seasons of Christian Advent and the Jewish Festival of Lights, I’ll be making a donation to BrookeUSA in honor of the working animals of past and present. These donkeys are yet another reminder to me this holiday season that sometimes help and hope come in the most unassuming and humblest of packages.
As we approach the year’s end, and the inevitable reflection that it brings, I thought it would be fun to post a Top 10 list.
Of course, there are multiple ways to quantify such a list. I first looked at the posts published in 2022 that received the most views. I always find it interesting to see which post titles resonate the most with readers.
But I was also curious about the posts that received the most views since the blog’s inception. I totaled those too.
There is a little bit of overlap between the two groupings. But not much. So I ended up making two Top 10 lists.
The first list is just for posts published in 2022. The second list is for the most viewed posts of all time. In this case, “all time” means from January 2020 (the blog’s birth month) through today’s date. If you missed seeing any of those posts, here is your chance to click and read.
I thank each of you, each and every reader, for choosing to spend some of your time in 2022 with my backyard horses and me.
I thought these two photos were perfect for a quick post.
It never ceases to amaze me how closely tied my horse keeping is to the seasons and weather. Those factors dictate so much of what I do with my horses.
When I was scrolling through recent photos on my phone, I was struck by the contrast between two particular photos. Both were taken in November. I realize that Winter doesn’t start on the calendar in the Northern hemisphere until December 21st, but my Mid-Western weather pays no attention. Winter typically arrives a lot earlier than that.
The following two photos succinctly contrast the difference between the typical lovely Fall weather in my area and the harshness of its Winters. Notice, among other things, that I am riding in one photo and not in the other. The weather makes all the difference.
Today I am posting my responses to the latest equestrian blog hop. This one comes from Rain Coast Rider. You can also read Anxiety At A‘s answers. Always fun to see what different people have to say! If any other horse bloggers out there would like to participate, leave a comment with a link to your own post. I would like to read it!
What’s your favorite thing about your current horse? Shiloh: His personality! Shiloh is sweet and personable. He generally maintains a calm demeanor and/or quickly returns to calm after a startle or other moments of distress. He’s just an overall pleasant horse to be around. Piper: I’ve only had him a little more than a year, but so far he has loaded beautifully in a trailer, stands well for the farrier and is easy to catch in the pasture. Those things may seem small, but if you’ve ever had a horse who struggles in those areas, it makes you appreciate a horse who is cooperative in those tasks.
What do you find to be the most challenging thing about your current horse? For both Piper and Shiloh, the separation anxiety issues that have appeared since Bear’s death have been challenging. It bothers me when I sense a horse is unhappy, and I find some of the accompanying behaviors, especially the whinnying, to be quite distracting.
If you could only hire one person to help you, would it be with coaching, riding/training, or barn work? Definitely coaching. For the most part, I enjoy doing as much stuff as I can myself, but there’s nothing like educated eyes on the ground to help you problem-solve and improve your horsemanship.
What’s Something You Want to Learn or Wish You Were Better At? Where to even start with this question? There is so much! If I had to pick one, it would be mastering my nerves. Not letting my frequent “what if” fears dictate my actions in the way that they so often do. It is a constant struggle.
Shout out to your support crew. Who are they? Husband, friends to ride with and Winter riding instructor! They all help me in different ways, at different points. There is lots of stuff I wouldn’t have done in my horse life without them.
Favourite book, website, podcast, or other equine resource? Oh no, another question where I don’t even know where to start! There is so much to choose from! If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I frequently include links to various resources that I find useful to my horse life.
If money was no object, what would you do all day? I imagine I would do exactly what I do now. But more of it, to a greater degree and with more style. 🙂 I would also be more involved in the world of horse rescue. The rescue horses that don’t have training are hard for the average horse person to take on because the average horse person doesn’t have the skills to train (and hiring someone else to train is expensive). Horses miss out on adoptive homes for this reason. I’d like to be involved in accessing training for these horses. Maybe through funding a grant program for training or hiring full-time trainers to work at specific rescues? I would also explore the idea of running a mustang and burro sanctuary. The government keeps removing our nation’s wild horses and burros off of US public lands at an unprecedented rate. If the government can’t be persuaded to change course, the next best thing in my book would be relocation to private sanctuaries where they can live as close to free as possible with some added care and oversight as needed. I’m thinking something along the lines of Sky Dog Ranch or Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. I also really like the idea behind the Wild Horse Fire Brigade. Their goal is to release wild horses into wilderness areas where the horses can thrive while helping to maintain a healthy environment through their natural behaviors and preventing forest fires.
Because this is real world and horses are expensive, have you ever had a side hustle or considered having one? Well, I started this blog and its corresponding Etsy shop as a way to make some money on the side. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way yet. In fact, when I consider blog and shop expenses, I’ve lost money rather than made it.
What’s the best horsey decision you’ve ever made? Keeping my horses at home. It’s something I had wanted to do since I first set eyes on a horse. There’s something very satisfying about achieving a long-delayed goal and then maintaining it for however long it continues to work for you.
Worst decision? Ouch. This is another “I don’t even know where to start” questions. There are a lot of decisions I would like to redo if I could. Things I did but shouldn’t have done. Things I should have done but didn’t do. I’m constantly reassessing things in my head.
What’s the best thing that happened to you or that you accomplished in 2022? Taking Shiloh out to trail ride a couple of times. I had been wanting to do with him for the last four years. Trail riding with Shiloh was another one of those satisfying “delayed goals finally achieved” situations. The other thing was participating in a miniature horse-driving clinic. It reawakened my long-held interest in both miniature horses and the discipline of driving. I’m now excited about exploring both those areas more in the future.
Much to my surprise, I got in six rides with my horse, Shiloh, during November. The weather is so variable in my area during late Autumn. It is hard to find opportunities to ride in between the cold snaps, sudden snow events and stiff winds. But fortunately, there were a handful of 40 to 50-degree days with dry ground, full sun and little wind last month. Yay!
While I mainly rode Shiloh by himself without Piper, I did get in one last ponying ride before Winter. I hadn’t done any ponying yet without my husband’s help from the ground. This was the first time I mounted, dismounted and did the entire ride without another human present. I am pleased to report I stayed on for the entire twenty-two-minute experience. Neither horse lost their minds.
I made sure to get a shadow shot from the saddle so I would have something to remember the occasion by. 🙂
So what does all that have to do with this post’s “textures” title? During these last few rides of the Fall season, I was thinking about how different it is to groom Shiloh as compared to earlier in the year. Both cleaning his coat and tack fitting become more challenging as Winter approaches.
Shiloh’s slick Summer coat is long gone, replaced by his Winter coat. He’s got such thick hair this time of year. It is wonderfully soft, fluffy and protective. Good thing, too. As I type this, it is 24 degrees Fahrenheit.
Now, I’ve always admired Shiloh’s flashy pinto coat pattern. I think his bi-colored mane and mixed tail are eye-catching too. But the way he grows his Winter hair coat creates even more depth and texture to all those splashes of color. I do appreciate a slick, shiny horse, but a wooly horse is also marvelous.
When I read a fellow horse blogger’s post with the title “Textures”, I thought it would be fun to play along by posting close-up photos of Shiloh’s Winter coat. I find it especially interesting how his white hairs fluff out more than his chestnut hairs.
If you would like to see more examples of horse-related textures, check out the Horse Addict blog post that served as my inspiration. Her post was part of a Lens Artists Challenge. If you’ve never read a blog post written by a horse, you will want to check out this version from the dressage horse, Biasini!
Yes, today is Cyber Monday. But I want to give a shout out to tomorrow’s 2022 Giving Tuesday. This year’s date is 11/29/22.
Created in 2012, #Givingtuesday refers to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States. Wikipedia defines it as “a global movement that unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” Giving Tuesday reminds us to look beyond our own backyards.
Not sure where to donate? Read on for a few horse-related suggestions. Remember, even small donation amounts are appreciated and helpful.
YOUR LOCAL HORSE RESCUE OR SANCTUARY Every dollar counts in a big way when running a horse rescue or sanctuary. There are so many organizations, large and small, doing the ongoing work of helping horses in need. If you don’t know of any local horse rescues off the top of your head, a quick Google search should give you some ideas. In addition to cash, many need donations of items like hay, feed and horse-care products. Giving Tuesday is a great time to get in contact with your local rescue. If you aren’t already aware, you might be surprised to learn about the equine rescue-work that goes on in your own community. Beyond donating money, have you ever thought of volunteering at a rescue? What about fostering or adopting a rescue horse? Read about my own experience with fostering horses HERE. Maybe you’ll decide to give it a go too!
FLEET OF ANGELS https://www.fleetofangels.org/ Fleet of Angels provides emergency assistance to horse owners in need, mostly in the USA, but also in Ukraine. They help organize emergency transportation during disasters as well as donate physical goods like hay and medical supplies to equestrian in need. Individual horse owners in times of crisis can even apply for one-time financial grants to cover horse care costs. Donate to help keep these programs well-funded so more horse people can receive emergency assistance!
WILD HORSE EDUCATION https://wildhorseeducation.org/ Wild Horse Education(WHE) continues to be my favorite mustang advocacy organization. WHE works to film and document horses on the range as well as those controversial government round ups. As part of their ongoing public education efforts, WHE explains to the public why it is important to keep wild horses and burros on the range instead of removing them. WHE also advocates for wild horses and burros on a national level working with government law makers to try to improve protections for these animals. Right now, a generous donor is matching all donations up to a particular amount so your donation dollars can go farther!
Finally, what if you don’t plan to donate money but still want to give back during the holiday season? Consider participating in the Angel Card Project.
The Angel Card Project works with individuals and groups to send cards and notes of encouragement to folks in the USA over the holidays. Think children in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes and people who are otherwise isolated or experiencing a difficult year.
While the Angel Card Project is not horse-related or Giving Tuesday-related, it would be a great community service project for horse clubs or barn buddies so I decided to mention it here.
I’ve participated for the last few years and will be doing so again this season. It doesn’t cost anything to participate beyond the price of the cards and stamps. You can send just one card or as many as you would like (the list of potential recipients is over 1500 names long so instead of printing out the list, I just keep the list downloaded to my computer and chose names from there based on how many stamps/cards I have). Learn more about the project and sign up at https://www.theangelcardproject.com/.
What a weekend! We have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday followed by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Get your wallets ready.
After furiously scouring the web and collecting email offers, below are the horse-related shopping deals I found. They are listed in alphabetical order by business name.
Please note that offer details may vary. If you see something that piques your interest, I highly suggest popping over to the corresponding website immediately. Read the exact offer details and all the fine print. Sometimes time limits, quantities, etc . . . are very specific. If the details I list below are different than what you see on the company’s website, take the website’s word for it.
One last word of Black-Friday-shopping caution here. Make sure the discount actually shows up in your shopping cart total before you press “buy”. If not, you can call the company and try to recoup your money later, but that’s not always possible. Ask me how I know!
And by the way, if you want to see even more equestrian shopping discounts than what I’ve listed here, visit the Breed Ride Event blog to see their HUGE annual list of equestrian Black Friday discounts!
Alright, let’s get started . . .
Barbra Schulte (Equestrian performance coach and cutting horse trainer) https://bschulte.lpages.co/holiday-course-sale/ Get 40% off three of her most popular online learning courses: Well Connected, Shine in The Show Pen and Cow Smart 2.0. Get 40% off now through Cyber Monday.
Big D’s Tack and Vet Supply https://www.bigdweb.com/ 10% off sitewide on Black Friday. Discount will show up at checkout. Excludes feed, shavings, Ulcerguard, Powerflex, Coflex, Vetrap, Renflex, Custom items, vaccines and dewormers. Cannot be combined with any other offer.
Remember, too, that Chewy has a donation program where you can place a Chewy order and have the items mailed directly to a rescue of your choice! A wonderful Black Friday gift for the lucky animal rescue you select! Take advantage of the Chewy sales to help horses and other rescue animals. Find more info at https://www.chewy.com/g/animal-shelters-and-rescues.
Five Star http://www.5starequineproducts.com Choose your promo code! 10% Off Sitewide. Use code: SHOPPINGSPREE Free leather headstall with a pad purchase. Use code: AGIFTFOR2 BOGO Boots: Buy one pair, get one half off. Use code: HALFOFF
Putting a personal plug in here for Great British Equinery! Debbie, the owner, provides excellent customer service. I have met her in person at a horse event, and she couldn’t be nicer. She also kindly sent multiple product samples for me to try and review on The Backyard Horse Blog. Looking for product suggestions? Read some of those reviews HERE.
Horse Class https://www.horseclass.com/ Horse Class has announced that they will have a sale on their online learning courses on Cyber Monday. Details of the sale will be on their website on Monday morning.
HayGain https://www.haygain.us Now through November 28 (or while supplies last), get 10% off the HayGain Hay Steamer, The Forager Slow Feeder and Comfortstall Stable Flooring.
Ice Horse http://www.icehorse.com Receive a FREE All Purpose wrap with ANY order over $100! Be sure to add the AP wrap to cart and see the discount in checkout — no code necessary.
Kuda Saddlery and Tack https://www.kudastore.com/ Save 10 to 20% on various tack items according to category. Valid until November 27th. Special terms and conditions apply. See website for details.
Majesty’s Animal Nutrition https://majestys.com/ November 25th only! 40% off all Majesty products! Use code: FRIDAY40 (cannot be combined with any other offer or Buddy Points).
Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply https://www.murdochs.com/ November 25th only, online and in-stores, save 20% on clothing and footwear. Save 10% on most everything else. Some exclusions apply. See website for details.
Riding Warehouse https://www.ridingwarehouse.com Generally, Riding Warehouse features a certain percentage off your shopping cart on Black Friday (last year I think it was 25% off), but I didn’t see an offer pre-advertised yet for this year. Check their website/Facebook for updates.
If you’d like to have a portion of your Riding Warehouse purchases go towards helping horses in need, please go to the blog http://www.horseandman.com and click on their affiliate link with Riding Warehouse (scroll down to the bottom of their blog page to find the link). You can do this all year round, not just Black Friday. A portion of your sales will then go to help horses in need through the Horse and Man Bucket Fund!
Schneider Saddlery https://www.sstack.com/ Sales of up to 65% off in select categories plus earn a $20 reward towards a future purchase when you spend over $100 on an order. Earn the reward by 11/30/22 and redeem the reward between 12/1/22 and 1/7/23. Limit one reward per order.
Smart Pak Equine https://www.smartpakequine.com/ Black Friday sale event up to 20% off. Select brands are already marked down, but hundreds more are slated for 15% off with code BF2022. Plus, get a free gift with a $200 order (in past years, they changed what gift they offered each day over the holiday weekend. They didn’t usually announce ahead of time what those free gifts are. You had to look at their website or Facebook page each day to see that day’s offer. In years past, the free gifts ranged from a free hay net to an insulated water bucket cover to a jacket to a free pair of paddock boots).
Spirit Horse Designs https://www.spirithorsedesigns.com/ Gift certificate specials available this weekend. No coupon code required. Buy a $50 gift certificate and get an additional $10. Buy a $51-$100 gift certificate and get an additional $20. Buy a $101 to $150 gift certificate and get an additional $30. Buy a $151 to $200 gift certificate and get an additional $40. Buy a $250plus gift card and get an additional $50.
The Painting Pony https://thepaintingpony.com/ Most discounts automatically applied at checkout: Phone case sale: Save $5 off on phone cases. 9oz Jar Candles: Save $8 off Cinnamon & Vanilla scents 9oz jar candles. Car Floor Mats: $20 off Car Floor Mats Pet Mats: $9 off through Cyber Monday Horse Leggings: $15 off Women’s Leggings Hoodies: $10 off Fleece Throws and Plates: 10%
Total Saddle Fit https://www.totalsaddlefit.com 20% off site-wide for the 24 hours of Black Friday! Discount automatically applied at checkout. Offer only valid November 25, 2022.
Trafalgar Square Books 22% off books and videos sitewide (plus free shipping) now through Monday 11/28. You can go directly to the TSB website OR click on the TSB’s affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog website (find the affiliate photo link on the right-hand side of your screen or scroll down to the bottom to locate the photo link- it is the photo of a woman reading a book to a horse). The blog will then receive a much-appreciated portion of your sales without it costing you anything extra!
Warwhick Schiller Attuned Horsemanship https://videos.warwickschiller.com/ $50 off yearly Subscription to his online training videos. I think this is for Black Friday only. Use Code: CYBERDEAL2022
Weaver Leather Equine https://www.ridethebrand.com 20% off protack, working tack, leg care and select saddle pads. Use code:EQBLACKFRIDAY20.
Wild Horse Education https://www.zazzle.com/store/whestorefront Shop their store on Zazzle for all kinds of wild horse merch including their 2023 calendars featuring gorgeous wild horse photography! Look for Black Friday specials of up to 50% on the site! Wild Horse Education (WHE) is an advocate for our public lands and wild horses. All proceeds from sales on this shop benefit their work for the wild horses!
Have you seen this video clip of a horse and a goat? It was originally posted to The DoDo under their “Odd Couples” category. But I found out about it through this Straight From The Horse’s Heart Blog link at
Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you have probably seen plenty of cute videos of barnyard critters interacting.
But I think this video is something different. I found it fascinating how this particular pair communes with each other.
It made me think that I have something to learn from the goat about the secrets of horsemanship!
Speaking of secrets, I am still working on my list of USA-based equestrian Black Friday deals. Many deals are kept tightly under wraps until the actual day instead of being announced ahead of time. My post therefore may not go out until the early morning hours of November 25th. In the meantime, I noticed that Hunt Seat Paper Company is right now having a 25% off sitewide sale. No coupon code required. This small business is best known for its beautifully designed equestrian-themed cards, but Hunt Seat Paper Company also sells other items like gift wrap, tea towels, Swedish dishcloths, reusable sponges and more. FYI, this blog is not affiliated with Hunt Seat Paper Company and this mention was unsolicited and uncompensated. Shop the sale at https://huntseatpaperco.com.
*Please note that the book recommendations mentioned in this post were not solicited. But this blog does have an affiliate relationship with The Big Book of Miniature Horses book publisher, Trafalgar Square Books. When you click on this blog’s link to Trafalgar Square Books (see the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse on the right-hand side of your screen or at the bottom of all the blog pages) and purchase an item through the link, this blog will receive a much-appreciated portion of your purchases at no extra cost to you.*
On the heels of attending a miniature horse driving clinic and contemplating adding a mini to my herd, I wanted to do some reading about them. So I scoured used book ads and explored library offerings. I ended up buying The Big Book of Miniature Horses and borrowed four other books through my local library’s interlibrary loan system.
Of all the books, I best liked The Big Book of Miniature Horses by Kendra Gale (2017) and the Miniature Horse: A Veterinary Guide For Owners and Breeders by Rebecca L. Frankeny, VMD (2003). In reading about minis, I am most interested in the differences and similarities between keeping big horses versus little ones. Those two books gave me the best ideas on those fronts.
For example, Dr. Frankeny, in her Miniature Horse: A Veterinary Guide For Owners and Breeders, notes that “. . . abnormalities such as navicular disease, osteochondrosis (OCD) and laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring) that are widespread in the large horse population are rarely, if ever, seen in Miniature horses. On the other hand, hepatic lipidosis, a form of liver failure that can occur during times of food deprivation, is very rare in full-sized horses, but quite common in Miniatures.” Who knew?
Of particular interest to me was the author, Kendra Gale, writing a chapter on beginner driving with minis in The Big Book of Miniature Horses. She notes that “. . . many people have the mistaken impression that because Miniature Horses are small, they don’t need to take the time and care in training that they would with a 1,000 pound horse . . . You absolutely can get hurt, and perhaps even more importantly, so can your horse . . . It is completely unfair to your horse not to treat him with the same respect just because he is less likely to inflict serious harm when he gets scared.” Something for me to keep in mind, for sure.
Gale also noted the importance of training/mentoring when learning to drive and that you don’t necessarily have to stick with an instructor who only drives miniatures. Driving principles are the same across the board and can be taught by any experienced instructor, according to Gale. Another good point.
I’m still trying to gather more miniature horse/donkey/mule resources to read. If you are involved with minis, please let me know if you have favorite mini resources whether educational websites/places to buy mini equipment and harnesses. I would love to read more, whether in book format or online!
*On a different horse-related note, I am still working on composing a list of equestrian Black Friday deals. Many deals are not announced until right before Black Friday or even on the actual day so my post may not go out until the early morning hours of November 25th.
But, I am noticing that some stellar deals are going on right now ahead of Black Friday, including an eye-catching offer from Dover Saddlery of a free $50 Dover Saddlery Digital Promotion Gift Card with purchase of $150 or more. Use Promo Code: CMHOLLY. The fine print on the ad announcement says “excludes purchase of gift cards, Tailored Sportsman, Hit-Air and Kerrits. Limit one per household, per day. Gift card will be sent via email by 11/24.”
While Dover Saddlery specializes in English Riding, there are plenty of general horse care, grooming and stable equipment items that will appeal to all horse folks. Visit Dover Saddlery at http://www.doversaddlery.com. Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog is not affiliated with Dover Saddlery in any way. I just wanted to pass on this offer for readers benefit.*
I wrote about these free newsletters before, but I find them so valuable that their mention bears repeating.
You can sign up to receive free horse-related newsletters from the publishers of the magazine The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare. The newsletters give research-based, solid, reliable information on all things equine.
You can choose from either weekly or monthly newsletters that are sent straight to your email inbox. Sign up for just one newsletter or all of them. You can select from quite the breadth of topics including:
Horse Health Horse Nutrition Equine Welfare and Industry Soundness and Lameness Breeding Equine Behavior Farm and Barn Older Horse Care Equine Sports Medicine
Each newsletter will give you links to articles on that particular topic, many of which were first published in the printed The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Healthcare magazine. Please note that in order to view the body of most articles, you must sign up for an account with TheHorse.com. It is free, easy to do, and didn’t result in spam in my email inbox. The entire website really is a treasure-trove of equine information.
If you like the newsletters as much as I do, you might consider purchasing a digital and/or printed subscription to The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare magazine at https://www.thehorse.com.
“Written for hands-on horse owners and managers of any breed or discipline and reviewed by a board of American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) veterinarians, this monthly publication provides current, understandable, and practical information on equine health, care, management, and welfare . . . The Horse is an all-breed, all-discipline equine education provider for hands-on participants in the horse industry. Our articles are written for hands-on horse owners, trainers, riders, breeders, veterinarians, vet techs, and managers who want to know more.”
-From TheHorse.com website
*Please note that this post was unsolicited and uncompensated.*
As I mentioned in a previous post, Just Horsin’ Around, riding often becomes more difficult for me as Winter approaches. The weather in my area is frequently unstable during the late Fall season. I get in a ride here and there, but I have done more groundwork recently than riding. Being in the saddle less often makes me appreciate it all the more. These are my final 2022 Autumn-colored photos as the leaves have fallen now.
My husband isn’t a horse person, but he occasionally likes to come out with me to take photos, groom or do some of that groundwork with the horses. Since today is Veteran’s Day in the USA, and my husband is a Veteran, I wanted to be sure to feature some photos of the groundwork that my husband and Piper have been doing recently.
We have worked in the round pen, the paddock and the pasture, depending upon the variable weather and footing conditions. In between bad weather days, my husband and I have taken the horses for short walks in the pasture. I enjoy watching the leaves turn colors and later scatter to the ground. I like listening to their hooves make the leaves crunch underneath too.
The changing leaves made for some fun backdrops for photos. I will have to remind myself next year that a groomed horse with eye goobers removed makes for a more aesthetically pleasing picture. Piper was groomed before his photo shoot, but in a moment of oversight, Shiloh was not. Shiloh’s “smile” in the photo on the right, though, kind of makes me think he was in on the joke. 🙂
Next, in the round pen, here is a sampling of my husband negotiating different obstacles with Piper.
Here Piper shows off his signature nose flip with the big horse ball. I had fun making a couple of his video clips into GIFs.
We also worked on getting Piper used to the cane/walking stick that my husband uses to walk with if he’s going to be on his feet for awhile. He has arthritis and usually carries the cane in his right hand, but we started Piper out with my husband having the cane in his left hand.
Here, on a cloudier and windier day, we took both horses to the round pen together. My husband practiced walking on Piper’s right side while Shiloh hung out with me as I took photos.
I also took a brief bareback ride on Shiloh and practiced following, leading and passing Piper. In my mind’s eye, I have this image of my riding Shiloh with my husband walking Piper in-hand down the trail. Not really sure we will ever get that far, but having something to aim for helps me organize our groundwork sessions.
With an additional nod to Veteran’s Day, I include web links below that refer to equine-assisted activities for Veterans. While I never served any Veterans during my employment as a certified therapeutic riding instructor, I was certainly aware of therapeutic activities catering to Veterans. These kinds of services have exploded in popularity in the last ten years since I left the field of equine-assisted activities.
If you are interested in learning more, please check out the following ones links. I wasn’t able to click on every resource and video within all the pages. I can’t speak to my opinion of all of them. But I provide these links as examples of the depth and breadth of these types of programs. There is a whole lot more out there on the subject, and more resources, but this should help get you started if you are new to the idea.
Thank you for all the kind thoughts, blog comments and prayers regarding the death of my horse, Bear. The private emails too. They were and are still much appreciated. If you missed the announcement of Bear’ passing, you can read it HERE. But today, I wanted to write an official tribute post as a way to summarize my time with him.
For those of you not familiar with our history, I brought Bear home in March of 2005, just before he turned ten-years-old. Bear died on September 17th, 2022 at the age of twenty-seven. That’s seventeen years together. He spent more years with me than he did any other human.
Those seventeen years together almost didn’t happen though. At one point, I had seriously considered selling him.
Bear, a registered Racking Horse from Speed-Racking bloodlines, was a sensitive, timid, quick and athletic horse. All 14.1 hands of him. He was light in the bridle. Light on his feet. He had the most wonderfully smooth racking gait and a great lope.
Despite his small stature, his energy could be intimidating, especially in those first few years with him. After several very embarrassing and very public experiences where he got completely out of control, I thought I might be done with him.
But I knew he was likely the most quality horse I would ever own. Bear is hands-down the best-gaited horse I have ever ridden. And so I decided to persevere by attending a multi-day natural horsemanship clinic as a last-ditch effort to get on the same page with him. Fortunately, that experience completely transformed our relationship. All thoughts of selling him went out the window.
We went on to do so many fun activities together. Stuff I had always dreamed of doing with horses.
We rode trails, went horse camping, won show ribbons, went swimming, worked cows, worked obstacles, played horse soccer and moved out to Colorado from the Midwest and back again.
We learned to do lateral movements like side passing. I learned how to ask Bear to bow down on one knee so I could mount him from the ground. We even literally walked through a line of fire at a police-horse-training clinic.
As the years passed, Bear still remained a challenge to ride at times. His sensitivity and energy under saddle never really diminished. Nonetheless, the more things we did together, the more confidence and rapport we developed with each other.
Surprisingly, despite Bear’s nervousness and propensity to spook with some frequency, he never hurt me. He could jump sideways with the best of them, but he always took me with him. He was light on his front end, popping up a bit sometimes, but even when he fully “high-ho silvered”, standing on his back legs, it felt smooth as glass. Bear could also dolphin as he cantered and throw in a crow hop every once in a while, but I stayed with him.
The one and only time I fell off of him actually had nothing to do with his anxious tendencies. The spill happened as we were tracking cattle in a large field. Bear accidentally stepped into a crater-sized hole that was obscured by the tall pasture grass.
The hole was quite deep and wide. As Bear started to sink (with his rump up in the hair and his front legs going down), I pitched forward and rolled off him to the side. Fortunately, Bear was able to push up out of the sides of the hole. He avoided falling completely into it. We were both a little surprised and frightened but otherwise no worse for the wear.
In reflecting on the totality of our relationship, I can’t say how Bear felt about me. But as far as how I felt about him? I definitely experienced the most satisfying relationship I’ve ever had with a horse. Of all my horses, Bear was the most deeply woven into my sense of who I am as a horse person because of the challenges that we faced and overcame. It’s not a guarantee with horses, overcoming challenges, so it’s something I treasured. He allowed me to be the horsewoman I had always wanted.
Since the day I brought Bear home in 2005, technology has changed a lot. All my first years with him are not documented on my smartphone. Instead, I have multiple scrapbooks filled with his print pictures.
I had fun going through those scrapbooks recently and decided to photograph some of the pages so I could share them on the blog. In looking through the scrapbooks, I was struck by how young we both looked. My, how we aged together! But the photos helped remind me of all the fun I had with him riding at home, as well as doing so many different activities off the property.
My scrapbooks are huge. The following pictures are just a small sampling. I have great friends and family to thank for having all this documentation of my time with Bear.
Besides lots and lots of photos, I have some other special objects to remember Bear by. Like the pile of ribbons that he won for me at different events.
I also have the stall plate that came from Bear’s first owner. You know, it’s rare that something goes with a horse as he or she changes owners. Even important stuff like registration papers get lost. But this stall plate stuck with Bear as he changed hands. I was able to verify this when I tracked down his original breeder. Bear’s sire was a stallion named Kentucky Bear and my Bear was apparently just like his sire in personality. So his breeders gave him the barn name “Little Bear”.
Last but not least, through my writing gigs, I have published many words about and images of Bear. For example, an essay I wrote about Bear titled “The Next Journey” was published in Equus magazine’s July 2018 issue in its True Tales category. It was also later made into a podcast Equss Barn Stories Episode. You can get the links to them HERE.
In an interesting coincidence, the Fall 2022 issue of Equus included a Back Page feature that detailed the magazine’s relationship with its long-running True Tales feature. I thought it appropriate that I read these words in the magazine’s 2022 Fall issue, considering that Bear died this Fall.
“Although the Equus staff has always enjoyed reading these real-life accounts and preparing them for publication, we tended to think of True Tales as something to work on in between our more important articles. Our real work, we thought, was reporting on veterinary research, equine physiology, management innovations, training techniques and the like. In time, however, we came to the realization that we had been wrong about True Tales. They are, in fact, a very important part of Equus. You may not find the horses featured in this section in the record books or halls of fame, but they are the very foundation of the horse industry. They are central to the lives of their owners. They serve as the focal point for equestrian ambitions. And they inspire countless dreams.”
– Equus- Issue 511-Autumn 2022
Bear’s photos are also peppered throughout this blog and the blog’s Pinterest page. In fact, my popular Pinterest Pin is “Activity Ideas For The Unridden Horse” which features Bear’s sweet face. The Pinterest pin links to a previous blog post of a similar title. You can read it HERE. Even after I retired Bear from riding five years ago, I still enjoyed playing around with him on the ground. He inspired me to write that post and create the pin.
I must say that it is heart-warming to see a part of Bear live on through all these written and visual mediums.
When I started this blog in January 2020, Bear was already three years into retirement. By that time, he had been diagnosed with PPID, EMS and arthritis. He had experienced several bouts of laminitis and had areas of skin cancer removed. While I would have loved to have blogged during our riding adventure years, I am still glad readers got to know Bear, even if it was as an older, retired horse.
It was a different sort of experience for me, caring for Bear as a senior horse with health issues verses as a younger, active riding horse. It was difficult at times to try to manage Bear as he aged, but it was also a privilege and an honor to care for him at so many different points in his life.
Horses can take us on many journeys. Certainly those physical journeys- down the trail, around the arena or into the show ring. Yet sharing a life with a horse can be quite the emotional and spiritual journey as well.
Learning about your horse as an individual being and learning about yourself in relation to your horse are gifts not everyone gets to experience. It is truly special.
Thank you, my dear Bear, for all the lessons. All the rides. All the experiences. The whole whopping journey. I love you.
Do you enjoy filling out surveys? I do! And if a survey is about horses? Jackpot!
I recently came across four horse-related surveys. Unfortunately, two of them closed before I could post about them. Whomp, whomp. But I am sharing the other two in case anyone else reading this is a serial survey taker too.
Neither of them are marketing surveys. Nobody is trying to sell you a product. Since I know blogs typically gets hits from all over the world, I will mention that:
Survey #1 is looking for USA respondents. Survey #2 accepts respondents from anywhere in the world.
This survey is from Heart of Phoenix, West Virginia’s largest horse rescue. They help horses in need throughout Appalachia. They also sponsor the yearly Appalachian Trainer Face Off and adoption event. They want to know how the current economic climate is impacting your horse ownership plans.
“Please share with ALL USA horse owners you know and ask they complete this short survey. Heart of Phoenix first circulated this survey last September when we began seeing an increase in owner surrender requests.
Since then, we have gathered last year’s results, and we are looking to compare the changes to the current situation we are all experiencing.
We, in a desire to be prepared for winter and 2023, want to gather data as to what are the main reasons owners are considering surrendering and what are things owners who are keeping their horses may be concerned about in the future.”- From A Recent Heart of Phoenix Blog Post
This survey is run by undergraduates at Purdue University in their Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication under the supervision of Dr. Colleen Brady. The students want to assess perceptions of horse well-being.
“This study will assess what factors people think are most important when assessing horse well-being. This information will then be used to help develop educational materials to help people better understand aspects of horse well-being, and how to assess it.”- From the survey’s research information participation sheet
Anybody else out there notice that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are just a few short weeks away?
I REALLY appreciate Black Friday/Cyber Monday for horse-related shopping. All the great offers make equestrian shopping so much more affordable for me IF I do some pre-planning.
Most of us already know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but fewer know about Small Business Saturday. This day shines a spotlight on small companies, many of which will also offer shopping discounts.
Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to support with cash donations those nonprofits that do valuable work. Don’t forget that you can also use Black Friday/Cyber Monday discounts to buy physical goods for nonprofits. For example, many horse rescues keep a wish list of wanted items either on their own websites or through a shopping website like Amazon or Chewy. You can buy the items and then take them to the rescue yourself or have the items shipped directly to the rescue!
So how do I prepare for all this shopping and donating without breaking the bank? At the start of each year, I keep a list of the things that I want to replace or buy new. If I can do without something until Black Friday rolls around, I will wait. In the meantime, I put money aside specifically for Black Friday shopping.
Then as the time gets closer, I watch sale ads like a hawk. There are some seriously good deals to be had during Cyber Monday and the surrounding shopping days. Steep discounts. BOGO offers. Free gifts with purchase. Handy gift cards offers like “buy $100 worth of product and get a free $25 gift card for future use”. It is fun to compare deals and see who has what sales/offers.
Speaking of watching sale ads, I plan to pass on what I see to my readers. Just as I did last year, on or right before Black Friday, I expect to post a list of horse-related shopping offers and discounts so you can take advantage of some great deals too. Stay tuned!
Have you ever driven a miniature horse? Or driven another type of horse/mule/donkey?
My own experience with driving is limited but varied. I have taken driving lessons periodically over the years. Probably fewer than 30 lessons total. To date, I’ve driven a couple of minis, a hackney pony, an Amish-trained horse, a Saddlebred, a draft-type pony and a Percheron. Despite my limited experience, getting a driving horse has long been of interest to me.
Since Bear’s death, I spend time thinking about what direction I might like to go regarding future horse ownership. Would I eventually like to switch from riding big horses to driving little ones?
Before I explored that idea further, I wanted to see if I still enjoyed driving and being around minis. It had been a good ten years since my last drive and miniature horse experience. Would driving still hold the same appeal? When I got wind of a miniature-horse-driving clinic, I decided to find out.
Since I don’t have a mini of my own, the clinic instructor allowed me to work with her mini gelding named Romeo. I must say that the clinic was a ton of fun. We went over harnessing and ground driving. I got to drive in two different carts, an easy-entry cart (the metal cart in the first photo) and a Meadowbrook cart (the wood cart in the photo directly above). We walked, trotted and weaved poles in both of them. I am pleased to say we didn’t mow down any obstacles! I was the only one who actually made it to the clinic that day so I essentially got an extra-long private lesson with the instructor.
The parallels between riding and driving are interesting to me. You are connected to the horse’s sensitive mouth through the reins and bit. Finding the right amount of rein contact to use for your particular horse is an experiment. You still need to bend your elbows. Wiggling around is not helpful (how you sit in the cart affects the weight distribution of the cart and harness over the horse’s sensitive back). Leaning is a no-no. Encouraging your horse to move forward and straight is important.
Turns out that attending the clinic made me excited about the prospect of getting a mini to drive. Maybe more than one. If I got a driving mini, I might be able to drive trails, do clinics, participate in parades and attend shows. A mini could also provide Piper with company at home while I take Shiloh off the property to ride.
But do I have any immediate mini-horse shopping or adopting plans? Well, no. Concerns about inflation weigh heavy on my mind. Minis may be more economical to feed, but veterinary and farrier care costs are comparable to larger horses. I would also need to spend money on miniature-sized shelter, fencing, carts, harnesses and other equipment. I need a minute to give some thought to setting up mini-housing on my property and to put aside some cash.
I’m also still really vacillating between the idea of getting another riding horse versus a mini. I wonder how much I would miss having a horse of my own to ride?
On the other hand, I am thinking that driving minis might be a better fit for me as I age. I’m in my fifties. I’m not exactly ready for the nursing home yet. But I already contend with plenty of physical issues. And I’ve unfortunately never been a truly competent or confident rider, despite my love of horses and my efforts to improve. I see minis as more manageable for me on almost every level as compared to full-sized horses. Update to Original Blog Post: Apparently, I am not the only person who thinks this way. Many weeks after I wrote this post, I found the following article about older folks gravitating towards minis at https://horsesport.com/magazine/equine-ownership/joy-miniature-horses-older-hoomans/.
I wonder too if I could be more independent and active with a mini than I have been with my riding horses. Looking back, I was the most active with my gaited ponies, Bear and Spice. I had so much fun going different places and doing different activities with them. But, for a variety of reasons, I have not been able to consistently replicate that same dynamic with other horses. I wonder if I would be more successful in doing more and going more places with a driving mini?
My timeline with my remaining two horses plays into all my thinking too. Shiloh will turn 20 next year and Piper 22. With a horse’s average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, I likely have (at most) another five to ten years with them. This assumes I outlive both of them, of course!
Readers may remember that I’ve already decided to stop riding Piper, but I continue to ride Shiloh. It would be wonderful for me if I could keep riding Shiloh into his mid-twenties or beyond. There are still trails that I would like to blaze with him. But that depends upon Shiloh’s continuing health (mine too) as well as my finding a companion for Piper.
Getting a driving mini while I am still riding would provide a gradual transition for me from one type of horse lifestyle to another. If Shiloh’s soundness didn’t continue, I would have a mini that I could still do activities with (assuming the mini stayed sound, of course!). Then once Piper and Shiloh pass on, I could keep minis only until I am ready for that aforementioned nursing home. Of course, in some ways, I wouldn’t mind having a go with just one more gaited riding pony. It’s hard to let certain dreams die, you know?
Many thanks to Romeo and the instructor at Hitchin’ A Dream for providing me with a fun learning experience and taking the photos you see here. The instructor recently purchased the property where she now runs her Hitchin’ A Dream business as well as The Shepard and The Hound Boutique.
The Boutique’s website is https://theshepherd.info/ where you can check out her crocheted items for people, pets and horses. And if you can make it over to Hitchin’ A Dream in Southern Michigan for lessons or a clinic, I am sure she would appreciate the business.
The instructor apparently did some video-to-music editing and posted clips of Romeo and me to TikTok with her handle @hitchinadream. You can also see the clips by visiting the Hitchin’ A Dream Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hitchinadream/. I’m not actually a member of either platform, but I was able to view at least some of the footage. Cracked me up. I’m guessing that is the first time in my life that clips of me have been set to a variety of contemporary music. Have I mentioned I am continually late to the party on technology?
Long story short, the clinic was a ton of fun. I’m definitely glad I attended. And if you’ve managed to suffer through reading this entire post, you can see the clinic certainly gave me lots to think about!
When I brought Piper home last Fall, I had every intention of Shiloh and me hitting the trails on a regular basis in 2022. My thinking was that Bear and Piper could keep each other company while I took Shiloh out and about.
Unfortunately, the Spring of 2022 started off much wetter than usual, delaying the start of my at-home riding year.
Then once the weather dried up, Shiloh and I managed only two off-the-property rides before the Summer of 2022 became a real scorcher.
I finally got out on the trails again in September when cooler weather arrived. That ride went well, and I was so looking forward to getting in a handful more trail rides before Winter. Fall is my absolute favorite time to trail ride with its cooling temperatures, interesting foliage and lots of crunchy leaves under the horse’s hooves. The feel, the sites and the sounds of Fall trail riding can be magical.
Unfortunately, Bear was unexpectedly euthanized just two days after that September trail ride. All my future Fall trail riding plans died with him. Now that I have just the two horses at home again, I am hesitant to take Shiloh out by himself and leave Piper at home alone.
If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know that I’ve instead been working on separating them at home. It is going okay, but I can tell it continues to be somewhat stressful for them, even when I’m taking one of them just a couple of acres away at most.
Still, I hated to miss out on Fall trail riding altogether. The leaf colors this year have been especially vivid. I really wanted to enjoy this Autumn’s beauty from the back of a horse. I decided to do a guided trail ride on a rental horse at a nearby park venue.
It is part of the same park system where I rode Shiloh in September, but the guided rides take place on a different side of the park. I visited this particular trail riding outfit a handful of times, just after I retired Bear and didn’t have a horse to ride at home anymore.
While I might quibble with some of their trail ride procedures and their tack choices, their horses look well-fed, well-shod and seem temperamentally suitable to the task. I especially like that most of the horses are owned by a gentleman who takes them back home during the Winter and then returns them to this trail outfit in the Spring, providing stability and continuity for horses and staff alike. I recognized several of the same horses in the string from five years ago.
This time around, I rode a quarter horse-type gelding named Josh. Here he is dozing before the ride.
We rode in a group of six riders. The guided ride wound through woods and around open prairie. It was slow, quiet and relaxing. All the horses did their jobs well. It was an excellent Fall day. Sunny, in the sixties and with light winds.
Was it the same as taking my own horse out on the trails? Well, no. I’m still bummed about missing out on more trail rides with Shiloh. It bothers me seeing my horse trailer just sit there. All dressed up and no place to go. It’s certainly been a different kind of Autumn season for me than what I expected.
Nonetheless, I was grateful for this recent trail riding opportunity. And the horse, Josh, here was no doubt grateful to get a drink at the end of the ride.
What about you? If you could only pick one season to trail ride, which season would you say is your favorite?
If you missed my first “ponying Shiloh and Piper” post, you can read it here. Today, I share about my continuing attempts.
Having successfully ponied within the confines of the paddock, I felt confident trying to pony in the larger pasture area.
While I didn’t take the horses around the far outer edges like I hoped to do, we still got to spread our wings more. And we even dabbled in moving faster than a walk. More on that in a minute.
First, we reviewed what we practiced last time. Walk, halt, walk on a straight line. Walking circles to the right. Then we tried circling to the left and gradually moving further away from the barn area.
This didn’t go too badly, but I did have to ask Piper to not charge ahead. Sometimes with turning to the left, the horse on the end of the lead tends to lag behind the ridden horse. But in Piper’s case, we had the opposite issue. He never got out of control and was open to my direction, but I had to keep wiggling the rope more than I’d like to remind Piper to stay in position.
I also noticed that the further we went out, the tenser and more “looky” Piper became. With that development, I didn’t feel confident taking them to ride right at the edge of the pasture like I do with Shiloh when we are riding just the two of us. Instead, we repeatedly walked in a curve toward the edges and then away from the edges. Pushing the boundaries for a little bit and then heading back toward emotional safety. A work in progress.
Before we called it a day, I was curious to see if we could go a little bit faster without falling apart. I am pleased to report that we did a couple of gaiting/trotting passes in a large half-circle to the left. No disaster ensued. I stayed on, didn’t drop the rope and the horses didn’t lose their minds.
Piper started off a little on the muscle, but he stayed in position.
Shiloh was smooth to guide and ride as he gaited along, but I think his high-head and overall body posture reflected mental tension as we explored doing this new thing.
On the whole, though, I thought our second ponying practice went quite well. I’ve been particularly impressed with how helpful Shiloh is to the process. He’s quiet and cooperative enough that I can put a large amount of my attention and intention on Piper when needed, while counting on Shiloh to just keep moving along.
Ponying is definitely a challenging exercise in coordination and focus for me, but I think it is good practice for all three of us.