Announcing The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest!

The Backyard Horse Blog is now officially one year old! Thank you to each individual who subscribes and takes the time to read. I so appreciate every post “like”, every comment and every social media share too.

After starting with a readership of zero, the blog now has 64 followers between its email subscribers and WordPress Readers. And the blog’s Pinterest page shows 39 followers. How cool is that!

To celebrate the blog’s journey, I am announcing another contest. This contest will work differently than our Summer 2020 contest. Hopefully the contest will also be more attractive to international readers (outside the USA) since one prize can be used by anyone with an internet connection (no shipping needed).

Read below for the contest rules and how to enter!

The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest!
Information and Rules

Contest Prizes: The contest will draw two random winners. Each winner will select one prize of their choice from these prize options:

(PRIZE OPTION #1) One online gift certificate to The Great British Equinery of Indiana worth $50.00 USD! Check out their product line at

*To see links to The Backyard Horse Blog product reviews written about products sold by Great British Equinery, go to


(PRIZE OPTION #2) One online gift certificate to Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVD’s, worth $50 USD. Trafalgar Square Books, in addition to selling hardback and paperback books, offers books that can be read online or downloaded to your device. Visit them at

*Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate agreement with Trafalgar Square Books where the blog receives a percentage of book sales made when readers purchase books through the “horse books and videos” link displayed on the blog.

Contest Time Period: The contest will run from 1/29/21 starting at 12:01am and run until 2/18/21 at Midnight.

Method of Entry: The contest has a TWO-STEP entry process.

(STEP 1) Sign up to get The Backyard Horse Blog in your email inbox by filling out your email address in the “Follow” box on the right-hand side of the screen at If you are already an email subscriber, you’ve already completed this first step.

(STEP 2) After making sure you are an email subscriber, leave a comment in the “Leave A Reply” comment box below. Let me know one equine-related topic that you would like to see addressed in a future The Backyard Horse Blog post.

Winner Announcement: After the random drawing, the winner’s first names will be announced on The Backyard Horse Blog on 2/19/21. I will also contact each winner via the email address associated with the comment left on the blog. Each winner will have a week (seven days) to contact me via email at to select their prize or forfeit the prize entirely. So watch this blog and your email inbox carefully!

Any questions? Problems entering? Feel free to email me at

Thank you for reading The Backyard Horse Blog!

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Read our contest winner announcement here at

Horse Clipper Caper

My hopes for possessing a new set of cordless clippers are on hold. You may recall that I mourned the death of my Andis cordless clippers in a previous post at

Last Fall, I anxiously awaited the Cyber Monday shopping sales so I could snag a new clipper set at a discount. After reviewing one thousand websites, I decided to purchase cordless clippers from Wahl through an online tack shop. Unbeknownst to me at the time of my order, Wahl’s production has been severely limited during the COVID crisis. As of this date, I am still waiting for my clippers to ship.

“Thank you for your interest in Wahl. Due to COVID-19, we are experiencing substantial inventory shortages on hair clippers. Unfortunately, the virus has impacted our supply chain and our ability to produce at capacity. We hope that everyone is staying safe and staying home. Please check back periodically for inventory updates.”

From the Wahl website

If the delayed arrival of clippers is the worst thing that happens to me this year, I will be very fortunate indeed. My horses don’t really care if their bridle paths get trimmed, but I must say their overgrowths are starting to get distracting. While I don’t give my horses a full-bridle-path clip during Winter since they live outside 24/7, I do like to keep the area somewhat trimmed. Halters, grazing muzzles and bridles are less likely to come off if there’s a little bit of a depression behind their ears.

I still have my CORDED clippers so I strung up a long electric cord from house to the edge of the pasture to give the horses a quick hair cut. Apparently, I must not be meant to clip bridle paths as the corded set didn’t work correctly either. Shiloh’s “before” picture looks better than his “after” picture! Guess I’ll try mailing off the blades to get sharpened and see if that solves the issue. Otherwise, I might be looking at breaking out the scissors soon.

After the clipping debacle with Shiloh, I decided to leave Bear’s hair style (shown above) in tact.

Messy bridle paths or not, the horses still look beautiful to me.

Shout Out To Great British Equinery of Indiana!

Today I am giving a special shout out to Great British Equinery of Indiana!

I initially discovered them online and purchased two of their Harrison Howard Fly Masks in 2019. One of my first product reviews on this blog was of those masks. I had been using the masks for about a year when I completed the review. I knew I found a solid product that I felt comfortable recommending. I emailed Debbie, the business owner, a link to that post.

Great British Equinery went on to support this blog in 2020 by kindly providing free products for me to test and review. Below are the separate links to each of six review posts in case you missed them. Also check out the slideshow near the top of this post for product photos.

Got Fly Mask?

Great British Equinery Sends Bear and Shiloh a Care Package!

Bear and Shiloh give the Hilton Herbs Herballs a five-star rating!

Shiloh is “too cool to be schooled” and Bear is “back in black” thanks to the Great British Equinery!

Shiloh is all wrapped up with the John Whitaker Training Bandages

Ending August with More Products From The Great British Equinery

The Backyard Horse Blog marks its first birthday this month, January 2021. To celebrate, I will host another blog contest. Details are forthcoming in a future post. The contest fittingly incorporates Great British Equinery. It is a way to thank the business for their support through The Backyard Horse Blog’s first year.

As the business name implies, the Great British Equinery of Indiana is geared towards the English rider. It is a US based business featuring products from the UK. But their product line up includes plenty of items that any horse lover would want. Just because you don’t ride in an English saddle, don’t let that stop you from checking them out!

Head over to their webpage at where you will be greeted with the tag line “2021- Let’s lunge this one first.” 🙂 Don’t forget to sign up for their email newsletter so you can receive periodic announcements on sales, special offers and new products. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Stayed tuned for The Backyard Horse Blog’s upcoming contest announcement in a future post! You won’t want to miss it!

UPDATE: Go to to enter The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest. Hurry, last day to enter is 2/18/21.

2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey- Get your voice counted

If you are a horse/pony/mule/donkey owner in the USA, I highly encourage you to fill out the 2021 American Horse Publications Equine Industry Survey at

The information from the annual, anonymous survey is used to further the “understanding of the nationwide trends in the equine industry as well as the most important issues facing the industry” according to the American Horse Publications website. Survey answers help “gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry.”

There aren’t too many ways that I, as a backyard horse keeper, can let industry professionals know my demographics, what issues are important to me as a horse owner and some of my concerns about the horse world. Filling out this survey is one opportunity to get my voice counted.

The survey is open to anyone 18 years of age or over who currently owns or manages at least one horse and lives in the USA. Both professionals who make their living in the horse industry as well as every day horse people are needed. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete. The last day to take the survey is March 30th, 2021.

American Horse Publications is a nonprofit association composed of horse organizations, companies and individuals who want to promote excellence in equine media. Filling out the survey is a great way to let the movers and shakers in the horse industry see who currently makes up the horse community. They want to know what issues are important to horse folks like you and me. Have your voice heard by completing the survey at

Don’t Forget About The Water

“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, M.D., Credited with discovering Vitamin C

Water is a vital source of life for plants and animals. Our four-legged steeds included. For all the emphasis we place on what to feed our horses, we often pay less attention to what they drink.

If your horse does not drink enough water at regular intervals, he or she will suffer ill-effects. Most horse owners are familiar with the classic description of a horse colicing due to dehydration. Yet symptoms of “not having enough water” can be more subtle too.

You may notice that a horse who is sick might change its water consumption. But even a healthy horse’s attempts to drink can be thwarted by many factors. How likely your horse is to drink/how much they drink can be affected by the water’s temperature, taste, cleanliness, freshness, smell and composition. Don’t forget that the condition of the bucket/trough can affect water quality as well.

I am not a horse nutritionist, veterinarian or H2O expert. Instead, I am a backyard horse keeper who has encountered some issues with my horses’ water over the years. I compose the issues in the form of questions below and include links to more expert sources than I for your reference. Hopefully the questions will spur your interest in further exploring these topics.

What exactly is in your horse’s water?

If you keep your horses at home, you might want to have your water tested. If you are aware of its mineral composition, you can use the testing to better inform your feeding program. For example, I live in a high iron area so I try to avoid ration balancers/grain with added iron. I also tend to put out white salt-only blocks instead of the red ones with added iron. See for one study about the potential dangers of too much iron in a horse’s diet. If you have concerns about your horse regarding this issue, please consult your veterinarian for guidance.

When was the last time you cleaned and/or replaced your horse’s water bucket or trough?

I can’t say for sure that my horses experience a dirty, slimy water trough with the same distain that I do. I do see on a regular basis, when given a choice of more than one water source, my horses will generally prefer to drink from a freshly scrubbed and filled trough over one sitting there with older water.

Remember that most horses don’t have the choice of more than one water source. They are forced to drink if they become thirsty enough, no matter if their water is unappetizing. I don’t know of any studies on this issue. I do suspect horses drink less in those situations than they would if provided with fresh, clean water from a clean container.

To get a really good sense of how clean your buckets and troughs are, do more than just look at the color of the water. Run your hands over the water containers’ sides and bottoms. Often clear slim quickly accumulates. You can’t see it, but you can sure feel it. Dip your fingers into the water to check for problems with the temperature (getting too hot after standing in the Summer sun or maybe electrical shorts caused by water heaters in Winter). Put your face closely over the bucket or trough periodically and notice if it smells putrid.

Remember to clean your water containers on a regular basis and replace them altogether periodically. I prefer some combination of a scrub brush, clean water, vinegar and baking soda to clean the 15 or 20 gallon round rubber tubs I typically use. I personally prefer to employ multiple smaller bins rather than one large trough. This way I waste less water (and create less mud) when they need to be drained/dumped.

How do you provide unfrozen water to your horses during Winter?

For those of us who keep horses in cold climates, a huge issue is dealing with freezing water in Winter. Power outages where water pumps stop working are also challenging. I use an electric bird water-fountain heater in a 15 gallon rubber tank. I run extension cords running from pasture to house as I have no electricity in my barn area.

Word to the wise, budget for increased electricity costs during Winter if you do use a tank heater. And as previously mentioned, dip your finger into the water periodically to check for shorts. Watch your horses when they head over to drink and see if they seem hesitant. Many years ago I noticed my horse, Blue, putting his head down to drink and then jerking back. When I touched the water, I felt a little zap. I would not have caught the issue so quickly had I not noticed Blue’s behavior.

I replaced all the extension cords as well as the tank heater to solve the problem. It is helpful to keep replacements directly on hand. Tank heaters and extension cords can be hard to obtain in the middle of inclement weather or a pandemic lockdown, for example.

Many folks have success using non-electric methods to heat their horse’s water, but I have not. I stick with using a trough heater even though I’d prefer a nonelectrified source to increase safety and decrease expense. Read the following informative article for some additional ideas at Perhaps you will find more success than I have in keeping your troughs from freezing over without a heater.

I also try to stay updated on the weather forcast. Severe cold snaps and ice storms have at times knocked out our power. I often choose to fill up a bathtub with water and/or some five gallons jugs ahead of weather events. I will then have a temporary water supply if the outside water pump stops working.

Is your horse able to easily access his water source?

Another issue to consider is the placement of your tanks, especially if you keep your horses outside 24/7 like I do. I never really thought much about this until my horse, Bear, experienced repeated laminitic flares and hoof abscesses several years ago. He was always a sensitive soled horse, but especially after those events, I noticed that if the ground became really hard frozen, he would not leave the area around his run-in-shed. This meant that he was not accessing his water tank located on the other side of his paddock from his shelter.

If we have a cold snap that results in those footing conditions, I have learned to make sure to hand walk a bucket of water out to Bear first thing in the morning and then several times a day. On some occasions, he has whinned at me when he sees me coming with the bucket and then drinks greedily. This confirms my observations that he doesn’t seem to be leaving his shed area to drink during those cold snaps.

Some folks might be able to simply move the tank so the horse could better access it, but the logistics of my set up don’t allow for that during Winter when I need to run electric cords for the tank heater. So I need to put out more physical effort into hauling water to make sure Bear stays drinking during those periods.

Would you like to do further reading on the subject of water and horses?

If so, below are additional resources. Feel free to dive right in. 🙂 Most come from website, one of the few health resources that my veterinarian’s practice regularly recommends for reliable information. A couple of these are sponsored posts, but I still think they contain sound and helpful material. Here’s to keeping our horses happily hydrated!

Developing Resilience So You Can Enjoy Your Horse Life

While surfing the internet, I came across the following online quiz from the Noëllefloyd website:

“Horses get hurt and our plans go out the window. We are limited by our bank accounts. We have an off day at a show and feel embarrassed. The ways that this sport and lifestyle challenge are innumerable . . . Have you ever asked yourself, honestly and truthfully, if you’re bringing a resilient mindset to the ring?”

Noëllefloyd website

This quote may be oriented to those who ride and show, but I think the general idea applies to anyone who is involved with horses in any capacity. Whether you ride or not. Whether you show or not. Whether you have your own horses or not.

As much as we love horses, sometimes equestrians have to dig deep not to drown in a sea of hurt and disappointment. That old backyard horse we have long cherished dies. That young horse holding so much promise goes permanently lame. The lease with a perfect partner comes to an end. The lesson barn closes. There are a thousand ways our horse lives can go dark when our desires do not match our reality.

Developing the capacity to pick ourselves up off the barn floor and carry on is vital to our longevity as horse people. Some of us come by this naturally, but many of us have to learn the skills involved in creating a resilient mind set.

Without those skills, we can easily let the hurts, the failures, the missed opportunities suck all the joy out of our horse experience. I know some people even leave the horse world behind because of them.

While the above referred quiz may not be scientific, it certainly can serve as a great contemplation starter. Horsemanship is not only about developing our physical skills but our mental skills as well.

If you’d like to further explore the topic of developing your mental fitness for all things horse, I highly recommend the book Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse by Tonya Johnston, MA.

Front Cover

I also really like the material designed by Barbra Schulte, Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, at She has lots of articles and videos on her website on the subject of mental fitness for horse people. You can also sign up there for her courses and clinics as well as her email newsletter. I particularly like her free “Just For Today- daily thoughts to bring out the best with you and your horse” emails.

“Sometimes I get discouraged when it seems like I’m not making progress or even going in the wrong direction!

But, today, I remember that no one person or no one event can ever diminish my love of what I do with my horse… or my desire to keep going.

No matter if my ride measured up to what I wanted… or not…
when I think about why I ride, it always puts everything back into perfect perspective, again.

I’m gonna’ keep reaching for more… for better or for worse.

I know I’ll keep improving in sometimes tiny steps… and, in tough times and good times, I’ll never lose sight of how fortunate I am.”

Barbra Schulte- From her Just For Today emails

Developing the skills to keep going despite tough times and to hold events in perspective can truly enhance our horse life. Growing in these areas is an ongoing process for me as it is for so many of us. Let’s try to keep this in mind. Let’s remember that we can encourage ourselves and each other to hang in there, whatever that may look like for each of us as individual horse people. Let’s use our thoughts, words and actions to build up ourselves and each other.

Barn Hack- How to Eliminate Winter Grooming Static

If you experience static while grooming your horse, wet the brush.

I wish this had occurred to me when I lived in a high desert town in Colorado. One of the area’s lovely amenities was extremely low humidity and a short, mild Winter. I’ve never done as much outdoor riding during Winter as I did when I lived there. Heaven!

Low humidity has very little downside for me. One notable exception is static. Previous to my move, I had only ridden or kept horses on the East coast or in the Midwest. Both humid climates where I rarely encountered static.

Imagine my shock when I went to groom my horse one Colorado Winter day, only to have Bear startle and jump. Being slow to realize what was happening, I tried two more times to brush him. Bear had the same reaction.

Bear is naturally a twitchy, nervous, high energy kind of guy. His strong reaction wasn’t entirely out of character. I figured he was just having a bad day. On about the third grooming try, I felt a spark. I finally realized I must have been shocking him with every stroke.

The only thing that I new stopped static? Dryer sheets. We lived in a small rental with attached pasture. I was a backyard horse keeper in Colorado too. I quickly marched into the house’s laundry room and grabbed a box. I went back outside to stroke my now wide-eyed horse with the dry sheets until we both relaxed.

I was reminded of this incident while recently reading an article in the January/February 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine, “Fuzzy Wuzzy Winter Spa Day” by Elizabeth Moyer. Moyer writes about ways to cut Winter grooming static including using a grooming spray/conditioner or wetting the grooming tools. Genius!

Fortunately for Bear, static wasn’t an everyday occurrence in Colorado. But it happened often enough that I could have saved money/eliminated dryer-sheet waste had this tip been on my radar.

So if you ever encounter a similar situation, just remember to lightly wet the bottom of your grooming tools to eliminate that static (an unfrozen spritz bottle of water or a damp cloth can both do the trick).

*Thank you to photographer, Chris Bair, and Unsplash for the use of this post’s featured photo.

Found a Bump or Lump on Your Horse- Now What?

While combing through boards on Pinterest, I was reminded about an informative magazine article titled “Your Horse’s Lumps and Bumps”. Written by the well-known veterinarian, Barb B Crabbe, it is an easy and concise read that contains lots of information for your average horseman.

Some lumps and bumps are merely cosmetic while others can indicate deeper problems. The article teaches readers how to assess the bumps/lumps before calling the veterinarian (so you have some specific information to give the vet to help triage the situation). It then goes on to describe common equine bumps/lumps and what they might mean for your horse.

Pictured above is my first horse, Blue, in 2011 when he was nineteen. I originally bought him when he was nine. At that time, the only leg lump he had was a popped splint. He eventually developed multiple leg bumps on front and back legs in his late teens. The above photo and the photo below were both taken in the year 2011, just a few months apart. The bumps initially were quite small, developing over several years, but really progressed in size in 2011.

When I first noticed them, I called them “old man bumps.” I figured they were a result of old age and probably harmless. I later went on to learn that the bumps were most likely symptoms of arthritis and causing Blue pain to some degree. It took the input of a veterinarian, a body worker and a horse trainer for me to come to this realization.

I feel bad that I didn’t more quickly pick up on the seriousness of something that in hindsight seems obvious to me. I was young enough that I didn’t yet have any experience with the difficulty of coping with arthritis in my own body. And while I had been a horse owner for almost ten years by then, I didn’t pick up on lameness signs when I watched him move or rode him. He continued to be cooperative under saddle and was not classically lame, but he gradually started tripping more and more when ridden. Once I put all the pieces together, I made the decision to retire him from riding on September 1st, 2011. Blue remained pasture sound until his death a couple years later from unrelated causes.

Some conditions develop so slowly that it is actually hard for us who see our horses daily to notice them. Sometimes these things are more easily seen by someone who visits our horses only at intervals like a farrier or veterinarian. Even a horse savvy friend or family member might realize something is bothering your horse before you do.

It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes we are so close to a situation that we don’t realize how much our horses have changed (both positively or negatively). It is a great reason to involve more than just yourself in your horse’s care, especially if you are your horse’s only caretaker. Keep an open mind when someone makes a comment about your horse before dismissing something out of hand. Even if it doesn’t match your own narrative. There might be something in there for you to learn.

Below is the link to the article “Your Horse’s Lumps and Bumps” as well as its Pinterest pin. It doesn’t specifically cover the issue that Blue developed, but it touches on ten other lump/bump scenarios. It is an easy and informative article that can help all of us be more informed about horse health issues. When we know better, we have the potential to do better.

A Blast From The Past

This model horse photo is proof that everything really can live forever on the internet. If you have a minute, let me tell you the story.

When I first got internet service at home in the late 90’s, I was thrilled to see all the model horse activity taking place online. I participated in the model horse hobby as a child and then picked the hobby back up in my twenties. I wasn’t riding any live horses at that time, but horses were never far from my thoughts. Model horses were a perfect bridge to all things equine for that stage of my life cerca 1998 or so.

I loved researching and collecting model horses. I also loved photo showing and live showing. In the year 2000, I even attended Breyerfest, a huge yearly celebration of all things model horse that takes place at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

I was never very good at making model horse tack, but I had some success making obstacles and photo backgrounds for model horse showing. I had an awesome camera at that time that allowed for taking really good pictures. It was so much fun setting up performance classes and capturing those scenes on film.

While browsing the internet recently, I came across this 2001 web page from Cindy Cilker, aka The Mini Tack Girl. Cindy used to make a variety of model horse tack. I was shocked to see my name and quote still on her site.

Mary Lynne Carpenter reports: “Thanks so much for the awesome mini parade set you made for my custom Morgan model stallion, Justin The Nick Of Time, back in November. The set with the stallion had its first show debut at the Great Lakes Congress show along with a parade flag and a mini rider I had painted to match the flag. In the mini division, they were the only parade entry and so took first and NAN qualified. Out of the entire mini other performance division, however, they took reserve champion of the division. I had many compliments on the set. Thanks so much!”

Quoted from

The website also includes a quote from Megan, the person that I eventually sold Justin The Nick of Time to as well as his parade tack set.

Then Megan, of Still Water Farms wrote in October 2001: “I purchased the parade set from Mary Lynne Carpenter (w/ her Morgan SM CM by Pope). He came w/ photos, NAN cards, and awards. I have not had a chance to show him live yet (I just got him this summer) but am planning to soon. I have won several photo show championships w/ your costume and have had a couple people ask me to buy it.”

Quoted from

My first thought when I saw the picture of Justin The Nick of Time on the web page was why in the world did I sell that really nice model horse and tack set?!? Then it hit me. The year that I sold the model was 2001. That was also the same year I bought my first horse, Blue.

The model horse hobby can be quite expensive, and I recall that I couldn’t afford to maintain my model horse collection AND support a live horse. So I sadly sold off my beloved model horse string. I still miss those models to this day, but their sale allowed me to live out my dream of finally having a live horse of my own.

I am not currently involved in the model horse world, but I like to read updates and keep tabs on the hobby from afar. For example, I really enjoy following the blog “Kristian Beverly: Books. Horses. Plastic Ponies” at

The author is an equestrian as well as a model horse hobbyist. She takes beautiful pictures and likes setting up those performance shots as I once did (see . If you are interested in model horses, please check out her blog.

The world of model horse has its own history, lingo, rules, etc . . . It can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated. But if you have a background with live horses, you will catch on quickly. It really is a fun, interesting hobby with many different facets.

If you are not familiar with the model horse hobby at all, you might also want to read the following model horse primer at This link is out of the UK, but the information it contains generally applies to the hobby in the USA too.

Finally, if you want to click through some model horse pictures, go to The Backyard Horse Blog Pinterest page and view the Model Horse board at

So many beautiful horses and engaging performance scene set ups to see. The talent that is out there in the model horse world is amazing.

And remember, for better or worse, everything really can live forever on the internet.

Tale of A Horse Care Fail

Have you ever fed your horse a flashlight?

If not, you may be wondering exactly how does this happen. Let me tell you the tale.

I carry a flashlight every morning when I walk from my house to the barn for morning feed. I like to feed before the sun comes up, but there is no electricity in my barn. It stopped working years ago and is too expensive to repair. I need the flashlight to move around from point A to B.

If you are thinking that most horses do not seem to like flash lights, I am right there with you. Anytime I get a new horse or take on a foster horse, I notice a period of adjustment. It takes awhile for the horse to realize that the emanating light is not as scary as it looks. On a horse training note, it is probably a good skill for a horse to have in case of nighttime emergency situations.

Bear, who has been with me for over 15 years, is a flashlight professional at this point. Good thing, too. He is the horse to whom I inadvertently tried to feed the flashlight.

The lights I carry are of the small variety, about the thickness of the average carrot. You can see where I am going with this.

I usually carry a bite size snack of some sort to feed the horses under the fence as a morning greeting before I actually reach the barn. One day I had a lot on my mind as I said hello to Bear. I handed him his piece of carrot snack without really paying much attention as I turned towards the barn.

I thought I still had the flashlight in my hand but noticed that everything was dark. I couldn’t see where I was going. How had I turned it off? I kept tapping the end of the flashlight with my thumb. Still no light. I stumbled my way to the barn door. Then it dawned on me that the flashlight felt funny in my hand. I suddenly realized I now held only a carrot. My heart rose into my throat.

I quickly turned back towards Bear. I had a passing thought about how I was going to explain this to my vet who I’d surely be calling tout de suite.

Now facing the pasture, I saw only a beam of light on the ground coming straight out from between Bear’s two front hooves. The light was directed right at me. It remains the only time a horse has ever held a flashlight on me instead of vice versa.

Fortunately for Bear, he obviously had the good sense to not chomp on the flashlight. More surprisingly, he was unconcerned about standing over this beam of light. He was perfectly poised with his horse face lit up from underneath. I suspect Bear’s primary thought was that he had just missed his usual morning snack. Bear looked quite confident that I would be producing an edible treat soon enough. Bless him.

While some horse care fails are much more serious, I must say that sometimes all I can do is laugh at my inept moments. And I suspect I am not the only one laughing. I have long thought that horses possess a sense of humor that usually remains unrecognized as we go about riding and caring for them. I like to think of my horses chuckling at and with me, finding humor in the things they witness from their side of the fence.

If you would like to hear “Tale of A Horse Care Fail” in the form of a Podcast, please go to

Winter Barn Hack- Making Those Hand Warmers Last Longer

As a backyard horse keeper, I find Winter horse care to be the hardest part of the lifestyle.

Polar vortex. Blizzard. Ice storm. Mud in both its soft and frozen varieties. No matter the conditions, my horses still want to be fed, watered and otherwise attended to.

I can usually cover my body well-enough to stay warm for up to an hour of barn chores, even in sub zero conditions. I am less successful at keeping my hands from aching in the cold.

Like many folks, I make periodic use of disposable hand warmers during the worst periods of Winter weather.

If you open up a pair and then just leave them out, the heat will disappear in about 10 hours. But if you open them, use them for your purposes and then tightly store them in a ziplock-type bag, you can take them out later and reuse them!

I roll mine up very tightly, pressing out all the air. This won’t work if you simply casually place them in the bag. The key is to take all the surrounding air out of the bag to “shut down” the heat reaction until you take them out of the bag and expose them to oxygen again.

Using this storage method, I have had success reusing one pair of hand-warmers three times a day for an hour each time over the course of two straight days. I have also used the hand warmers one time, stored them and then reused them several days later.

Storing them in a ziplock lock bag between uses helps save money since you won’t have to buy as many hand warmers as you would if you didn’t extend their use. And buying fewer disposable hand warmers means fewer ending up in landfills (make sure to reuse those ziplock bags too).

How do you keep your hands warm during Winter? Do you have a favorite glove or a particular liner that works for you? Use the comments section to pass on your wisdom to those of us who would like to know!

Are You Your Horse’s Limiting Factor?

Are you your horse’s limiting factor? Do you find yourself immediately feeling defensive upon thinking about this saucy question?

If you can stay with me here, through the uncomfortable feelings raised by this thought, I can show you that there are actually benefits to asking yourself this question.

As a backyard horse keeper, I don’t usually see other people ride my horses. When I take riding lessons during the Winter, though, I get to watch other people ride the same lesson horses that I do. It is absolutely fascinating to watch how a horse goes differently depending upon the rider.

When I read the following essay, a lot of what I was thinking about my riding lessons hit home. “This Explains A Lot” by Kathleen Beckham appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Eclectic Horseman. The essay discusses how horses tend to rise or fall to the level of their rider.

“A horse can’t do better than what we can do. He can’t surpass our ability. We are his limiting factor.” – Kathleen Beckham

When I watch the lesson horses respond to different riders, I can see clearly what Beckham describes. The horse that I see walk-trot-canter beautifully with the advanced rider? That same horse can barely move in a straight line along the rail at a walk with the beginner rider.

Did the horse suddenly lose all his training between lessons? Nope. The horse was mirroring the skill of each person.

This issue of a horse “seeking the level of its rider” is terribly humbling. Believe me, I know. That horse who the advanced rider guides around seamlessly? Doing a riding pattern with me in the saddle, that same horse misses gait transitions at the proper letters, performs uneven circles and struggles with picking up a particular lead.

It is not that the horse can’t do the pattern accurately. It is that I am not giving the horse what he needs to perform to his maximum ability. I am the horse’s limiting factor.

Fortunately, most horses are incredibly forgiving. Everywhere I’ve gone in the horse world, across multiple disciplines, I see horses who seem very happy when ridden by folks who aren’t wizards in the saddle. I personally think most of us can be “good enough” riders and horsemen for our horses. A lot of it has to do with making a positive personality match between horse and rider as well as engaging in a discipline that is suited to both.

I suspect the author’s point in making her provocative statements is not to shame less talented riders. There is already a lot of competition and finger pointing in the horse world that can result in discouragement. Our horses don’t benefit from being heavily saddled with rider self-doubt. There is a balance between honestly acknowledging where you are at with your riding and yet not allowing any self-disappointment to turn you into a hesitant rider who leaves the horse without direction.

The author wasn’t writing those ideas as another means for riders to beat themselves up, but rather as a means to motivate riders to seek improvement. Seek improvement, if for no other reason than the good of the horse, particularly in the situation where the rider is continually having problems with their horse.

The author notes that so often horses get blamed for poor behavior or performance that actually originates with the rider ( editor’s note here- “misbehavior” can also be the result of the horse trying to express that they are in physical or emotional distress, but that is the subject of another essay).

“I want you to take lessons or to learn more so your horse does not have to bear the brunt of your frustration. He is doing the best he can with the information you’re providing. I want you to provide good information. And I’m here to tell you that everyone, read that, EVERYONE can improve themselves for their horse.”- Kathleen Beckham

The light at the end of the tunnel is that when we can improve ourselves, the horse can reflect that improvement. Maybe we gain better understanding of how horses communicate. Maybe we learn to manage our nerves. Maybe we gradually refine our aids through the various movements. In all those cases and more, we give the horse the opportunity to rise along with us.

This is an exciting notion that keeps me wanting to learn, both for my own horses and for any horse whose back I am lucky enough to sit. It starts with asking ourselves some hard questions, but not dwelling there in a sea of bad feelings.

Let’s acknowledge our faults as riders, without excuses or self-pity, and then figure out how to improve. This is a life long goal for many of us so be ready to exercise patience. Lots of it. As Kathleen Beckham’s essay title notes, a horse’s reaction to the rider really does explain a lot.

**** If you would like to read Kathleen Beckham’s essay for yourself, you can purchase the magazine issue in which it appears as a digital download PDF for $5.99 at I recognize that the above interpretation of Beckham’s essay is mine alone and may not match her own views.