Treasure Hunt For Horses With Hertha James

Ever thought of setting up a treasure hunt for your horse? Apparently clicker horse trainer and author, Hertha James, has! I love it when folks think outside the box when it comes to horses. Sometimes we forget that there can be more to being with horses than grooming them and riding them. Check out her written description and video clips.

Hertha James is a clicker horse trainer in New Zealand and prolific author. I recently finished reading her updated 2019 book Conversations with Horses: An in-depth look at signals and cues between horses and their handlers.

Even if you don’t practice clicker training with your horses, her insights into horse-human communication can easily be applied outside formal clicker-training sessions.

Consider this idea she calls “Resetting A Task”:

“When we teach something new, we are experimenting with our signals and the horse is also experimenting to work out what it is we want him to do. It’s not unusual for things to get a bit complicated and messy.

If either you or the horse lose track of what you are doing, pretend it was perfect, relax (but no click & treat), pause. Then go back to the beginning of the task and try again, starting with your visualization of how a good effort will look and feel.

The magic about pretending it went well (when it actually turned into a mess) is that it dissolves the natural frustration we feel when our communication is not getting through.

If we can smile, breath out and relax our body before we reset, we don’t upset the horse or make him anxious. We simply start again.”

Hertha James

This is a gem of an idea. I can think about a dozen different ways to incorporate this into groundwork and riding. How about you?

Product Review: Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer

Please note: This post was unsolicited and uncompensated by Wahl.

My long-awaited cordless trimmer finally arrived! Pandemic effects understandably resulted in reduced production at the Wahl factory. The trimmers that I ordered over Black Friday weekend in November arrived mid-February. I am pleased to report the trimmer was definitely worth the wait.

The Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer features 5 blades in 1 with the cutting lengths #9,#10,#15,#30 and #40. There is a small lever on one side of the clipper that allows for easy changing between the lengths. The trimmer is lightweight (less than 8 ounces), quiet and comes in an understated, attractive champagne color.

I didn’t realize when I bought the trimmer that I was also getting a plastic carrying case, an extra battery, instruction booklet, corded charging base with indicator light, four snap on guard combs, cleaning brush and a small container of blade oil. A welcome bonus!

I wrote previously about my general preference to keep some kind of bridle path on my horses. I also have a preference for using cordless trimmers due to the lack of electricity in my barn. When the battery on the cordless trimmers I previously owned turned out not to be replaceable, I started my search for a new trimmer. You can read those posts at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/27/horse-clipper-capers/ and https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/09/28/what-are-your-favorite-cordless-clippers/.

The temperatures in my area are slowly rising. But it is still Winter. I desperately wanted to clean up my horses’ bridle paths. They had become ridiculously long since the Fall. But I didn’t want to remove all the hair like I often do during the Summer. We could easily experience a March cold snap.

As a compromise, I horizontally shortened the lengths of my horses’ current bridle paths without removing all the hair. My new cordless trimmers worked seamlessly for this purpose. It is an advantage to have the 5-in-1 blades. I can take off more hair or less hair with the simple move of a lever.

Since I have only used my new Wahl Arco trimmer once on the horses, I can’t speak to the trimmer’s longevity. My corded Wahl trimmers still function after almost 20 years so I am hopeful about the life span of the new trimmer.

If you are looking for a new cordless trimmer, I definitely recommend the Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer. Go to https://www.wahlanimal.com/product-category/equine/ to learn more about the Wahl trimmer line. The Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer retails for about $124 USD. You can find the them for sale at many small tack shops as well as major retailers like Chewy.com, SmartPak Equine and Riding Warehouse.

Shiloh and Bear looking forward to the month of March and the start of Spring!

From Snow to Mud

This was the view from my window just a few days ago. Outside temperature was about seven degrees. On one hand, the cold and snow make for difficult horse-chores conditions. On the other hand, the beauty of all that powder can’t be denied.

For more of my thoughts on Winter horse-keeping, read my previous post on the subject at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/17/the-good-about-backyard-horse-keeping-in-winter-snow/.

Now that temperatures will soon rise and the Spring rainy season arrives, all that lovely snow will help the ground turn to mud. Much like Winter, the Spring weather presents challenges to my daily horse keeping.

Once mud arrives, it is difficult to control. Your best bet is to make changes to your horse-housing areas ahead of the muddy season. Over the years, I have paid for a few improvements to my property. But even those changes have not solved my problems entirely.

Currently I have are two areas constructed with a crushed limestone footing. The area around the horse-paddock shelter and my round pen had layers of ground removed. Crushed limestone (compacted and leveled) was put in its place. In the round pen, there is also a layer of geotextile fabric placed between the base layer and the compacted footing. The footing around the shed allows the horses to have a place to stand out of the mud. The round pen footing allows me a place to ride mud-free.

The area around the horses’ run-in-shed was originally installed in 2013. In 2019, it was resurfaced with additional limestone. That same year, I had the round pen footing installed. It is a definite blessing to have those areas mud-free (except for what the horses track onto the surfaces from other areas- there is maintenance involved in trying to keep them clean). Pre-installation, I used to have my boots sucked off by mud in the horse paddock. And the horses would have to huddle inside the run-in-shed if they wanted to stand out of the mud. Riding in the round pen was out of the question anytime the ground got wet.

Unfortunately, in between the paddock and the round pen is mostly open ground that is not protected. This limits how many times I can take a horse back and forth during the wet season before everything gets churned up. Maybe someday I can have a walk-way of sorts constructed. I could then move horses over that ground without creating a mess. If I really want to ride in the round pen but the ground between the paddock and the round pen is super sloppy, I lay down a series of tarps for protection. It adds a lot of work for me and is tricky to do in the wind, but sometimes a woman just has to ride!

If you have been thinking about doing something similar to your own place, I gathered a few links to give you some ideas. Every property, location and budget is different. It is good to be familiar with multiple options for tackling this mud problem in your own area.

https://horseandrider.com/horse-health-care/vets-top-mud-tips

https://stablemanagement.com/articles/avoid-mud-horse-farms-surfaces-hightraffic-areas-31939

https://thehorse.com/197323/dealing-with-pooling-urine-and-frozen-winter-horse-paddocks/

What about you? Assuming you even have a muddy season in your area, how do you cope?

Texas

Like many of you, I watched the news coverage of the power-grid disaster during recent severe weather in the State of Texas. I also subscribe to a variety of equestrian blogs. Many of the blog authors happen to reside in Texas. My email inbox was eerily empty this past week. I assume that all of those bloggers were affected by this event.

Each disaster is different. I can’t pretend to know what this event in Texas has been like for the horse owners there. Or what the continuing fall out is and will be. I do know that I have experienced extended power outages during ice-storms in the Midwest where I was stuck at home with no heat or water. I had a pipe burst during a power outage causing extensive home damage. I also evacuated ahead of a hurricane when I lived in the South.

I know all of those events were extremely stressful, expensive and with lasting consequences. Even considering they happened to me pre-pandemic. I wrote a previous blog post detailing some of my experiences with the hurricane evacuation at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/09/14/severe-weather-preparation-resources-from-the-horse-com/.

I did receive one post this weekend from the Straight From The Horse’s Heart blog. The creator, RT Fitch, is an author and wild horse advocate. I follow his blog to keep up to date with various happenings in the movement to protect wild horses, something of deep interest to me. You can read his most recent blog post at https://rtfitchauthor.com/2021/02/20/thawing-out-in-texas-sort-of/.

As the immediate crisis abates, we will hear news from those horse folks who live in Texas or other affected areas. As the news cycle loses interest in the Texan crisis and moves on to other events, remember that the effects of these events can linger.

If you don’t know anyone in Texas to directly assist, please consider donating to the Fleet of Angels hay relief fund. Fleet of Angels provides assistance to horse owners during natural disasters and other emergency situations. If you know of someone struggling to feed their horses, you can urge them to apply for assistance. If you are in a position to help, you can donate money to the hay fund. Go to their website at

https://www.fleetofangels.org/

Are you aware of other resources for Texan horse owners? If so, please note them in the comments section below. You never know when someone needing assistance (or someone with resources to share) will stumble upon the information you provide at just the right time.

Congratulations to Our Contest Winners!

Congratulations to Our Winter 2021 Contest Winners!

For those of you unaware, The Backyard Horse Blog hosted a Winter 2021 contest in recognition of its own first birthday. Always fun to celebrate those types of firsts. They only come around once.

Congratulations to our two winners, Reese and WeAreOnTheLoose! Winners get their choice of one $50 gift certificate to either Great British Equinery at http://www.greatbritishequinery.com or Trafalgar Square Books at http://www.horseandriderbooks.com.

Our two winners were the contest’s two entrants. Two entrants in a two-prize contest make for really good odds! As someone who likes to enter contests, I know that is about as good as it gets. Please, someone out there host an equestrian contest with similar odds that I can enter!

If you didn’t enter this Winter 2021 contest, watch The Backyard Horse Blog for other chances to win horse-related prizes. I can’t guarantee future contest odds will be as promising, but the only way to find out is to stay tuned.

Thank you to each individual who chooses to read, like, and share The Backyard Horse Blog posts! Your participation in the blog is meaningful to me. I am privileged to have you along for the ride.

Congratulations again to our winners!

Barn Hack- Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater

It has probably happened to every backyard-horse keeper at least once. You obtain a load of hay, only to have your horses turn up their noses at it. Or maybe they were eating the load just fine at the start of Winter but now that it is almost Spring, your horses seem less interested.

When this happens in my backyard, I first ask myself some questions. Why is this happening? Why now? Before I encourage the horses to eat their hay, I want to determine if I have a sick horse(s) or if the hay itself is bad.

Tooth problems. Colic. Moldy hay. Thorny hay full of weeds. Foreign objects mixed in. I want to try to rule out those types of possibilities.

If I think a horse is not eating due to illness, I call the vet.

If I determine the hay bale I just starting feeding is bad, I ideally already have some different hay available to feed or can quickly obtain some new bales. Horses need a steady supply of forage to keep their digestive systems running smoothly. Health problems can easily occur due to lack of forage.

In the real world, though, I may not have access to more hay. When the snow storm hits. When my usual supplier runs out. When it is a bad year for growing any kind of hay. There are certain situations where I may be stuck feeding hay that is safe to eat but not particularly palatable.

Side note here- If you determine your hay is actually unsafe, like when your remaining bales have all gone moldy, I suggest talking to your veterinarian about forage alternatives. You might be able to turn your horse out on grass, switch to a pelleted/cubed hay or transfer to a complete feed. Remember, feed changes can sometimes prove problematic for horse’s sensitive digestive systems. That is why I suggest consulting your veterinarian for guidance on how to make the switch.

In the case of “safe yet unpalatable hay,” I use a little trick that seems to perk up my horses’ appetite. I add a light layer of the Standlee Premium Western Forage compressed-bale alfalfa to the top of a regular hay flake. I might wrap it up inside my hay carrier or sprinkle some inside one of my horse’s pre-filled hay bags. It especially works well if I “marinate” their usual portion of hay overnight with the Standlee sprinkles to let the aroma linger over the less palatable hay.

I purchase a Standlee bale or two at my local Tractor Supply at the start of Winter so I always have one on hand just in case. Standlee’s line of compressed hays come in many varieties, but their alfalfa has the best aroma.

The compressed bales are small but heavy and need to be opened to give them time to expand a little bit. The compressed bales are expensive (around $18 USD) so I look for store sales and discount coupons to help offset the cost (the Standlee company periodically offers coupons on their website).

I keep the bales covered and up off the ground. Usually my horses’ not eating their hay is only limited to a hay bale here or there. I only use a little bit of the compressed hay at a time so one or two Standlee bales will last me all Winter.

If I end up with left-over compressed hay at the start of Spring, I usually find that the hay is still quite fragrant. I use it inside my horse trailer by putting regular hay flakes in the horses’ traveling hay bags along with a top dressing of the Standlee compressed hay. If I put the hay bags in the trailer the night before we travel, the trailer will smell like the delicious hay. I like to think it sets up a more pleasant trailer-loading experience for the horse.

If you are not already familiar with the Standlee line of products, check them out at https://standleeforage.com/. On their website, you can sign up for their email newsletter to receive those all important coupons too.

Hopefully my horses will happily eat their hay all Winter long, but if not, I like knowing I have a back up plan at the ready.

Please note this post is unsolicited and uncompensated by Standlee.

Snow Days

February is shaping up to be a cold and snowy month in my neck of the woods. Long stretches of below freezing day time temperatures. Sub-zero wind chills at night. It all makes for very limited riding at home.

My horses live in my backyard, but I miss them all Winter. Most other seasons, I love riding and doing groundwork. I also enjoy just hanging out with my horses while they eat or graze. But during Winter? I find it painful to be outside for more than the necessary barn chores. Regularly hanging out with the horses pretty much goes by the wayside as does frequent riding and groundwork. I cherish the times the wind dies down, or the sun peaks out, and I can do some activities with them.

On those rare days, we might plow through the snow bareback. Maybe practice trying to make semi- recognizable patters in the snow (above you can see my attempt at making a ridden question mark with Shiloh- walking in a straight line, halting, doing a turn on the forehand and following the same path back out). Or I might groom them and take photos. Horses look especially beautiful to me in Winter with their long, wooly coats set against the backdrop of snow.

As we brace today for yet another Midwestern snow storm, I am looking forward to better weather days in the upcoming months.

Free Horse Book for Download!

Here is a free, downloadable ebook from Trafalgar Square Publishing! Available, through their horseandriderbooks website, the free book is titled “Eco-Horse Keeping: Over 100 budget-friendly ways you and your horse can help save the planet.”

I still have not read all the way through it yet, but it looks to contain all sorts of useful hints and tips.

Click on the following link and scroll down to the book description where you will see in blue lettering “click here for your FREE DIGITAL DOWNLOAD of Eco-Horsekeeping!

https://www.horseandriderbooks.com/product/ECHODD.html

__________________________________________________________

Remember too that you can win a $50 gift certificate to either Trafalgar Square Publishing OR The Great British Equinery through The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 contest! Hurry, contest ends February 18th.

Sign up to be an email follower of The Backyard Horse Blog (if you aren’t already an email subscriber) AND leave a comment about what horse-related topic you would like to read about in a future blog post. Read more about the contest and leave your entry comment at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/29/the-backyard-horse-blog-winter-2021-contest/.

Have questions about the contest or problems entering? Email me at thebackyardhorseblog@gmail.com.

Enter soon because the contest ends Thursday, February 18th at midnight! In the mean time, don’t forget to download the free book “Eco-Horsekeeping.”

Let’s Put a Pin in It!

What is a horse blogger to do when she can’t ride much during the Winter? Experiment with making Pinterest pins, of course!

For those of you not familiar with the platform, Pinterest is a social curation website where users visually bookmark information that can be shared with others. A Pinterest pin is a picture that is embedded with a link to a website, blog post, online store, etc . . . Ideally, a pin will catch the viewers’ attention and compel them to click on the pin to travel to the embedded site.

I’d much rather be riding more, but I must say that I am having a lot of fun with pin creation. I especially like working to create a certain “feel” to the pin by combining basic ingredients like photos, colors and fonts. I can’t say if my pins are particularly attractive to anyone else but me. I CAN say that I am enjoying myself by spending way too much time on the internet trying to create them.

You may have noticed that I’ve been designing pins to go with some of my more recent blog posts. I am also reviewing some older posts and creating Pinterest pins to accompany those as well.

Below is a sampling of pins that I recently designed. They all link to older blog posts. If you are new to this blog, reviewing the pins is a great way to see what content you might have missed. If you are a Pinterest user, you can save the pins to any of your own Pinterest boards.

Happy pinning!

Two Gaited Horses- Compare and Contrast

Bear and me on the left verses Shiloh and me on the right.

As I learn more about blogging, I try to experiment with different media. Today, I am tossing in some video clips for the first time.

Assuming I am successful at uploading them in some viewable form, I thought it might be interesting for readers to contrast two gaited horses. Near the bottom of this post is one video of my gaited horse, Bear. The other is a video of my gaited horse, Shiloh.

Both horses are registered as gaited horses, but they are different breeds. Bear is a registered Racking Horse. Shiloh is a registered Missouri Fox Trotter.

Most gaited horses can and do execute a variety of gaits, but each breed often has a distinctive gait for which they are best known. For example, the Tennessee Walking Horse’s running walk, the Racking Horse’s rack or the Missouri Fox Trotter’s foxtrot.

Unfortunately, just because you have a gaited horse of a particular breed does not necessarily mean that they will perform the breed’s signature gait. Horses gait due to their genetics, but there is a lot of variability with how those genes are expressed.

I have learned to think about gaited horses by picturing a spectrum. On the left is the two-beat pace and on the right is the two-beat trot. In between the two-beat pace and the two-beat trot lies all the so called “easy” or “intermediate” four-beat gaits like the running walk, fox trot, rack, stepping pace, etc . . .

A two-beat gait tends to feel bouncy to the rider as there is a point of suspension in the two-beat pace and the two-beat trot. A four-beat gait tends to feel smoother because it lacks those moments of suspension (or at least ideally it should- most folks who ride gaited horses don’t want to bounce!).

All horses, gaited or not, display a four-beat walk. But a gaited horse can display other four-beat gaits like the rack or the fox trot. On the spectrum, a gait like the rack is closer to a pace and a gait like the fox trot is closer to a trot.

I know the entire issue of gaited horses can be confusing, even more so to folks who aren’t familiar with gaited horses. There is a lot of variability in how individual horses express their gaits.

There is differing terminology for the same gaits within different breeds (especially when you consider that gaited horses are found throughout the world). There exists a thousand contrasting ideas on what constitutes a “correct” gait. Identifying gaits from the saddle or even from the ground can be challenging.

Some gaited horses are just simply better at gaiting and are more smooth than others. Some can’t do a lick of gait even with two gaited parents. On the other hand, people forget that breeds that aren’t always thought of as gaited, such as Saddlebreds and Standardbreds, can sometimes gait. Gaited horses have been around since the dawn of time so those genes can even linger down into breeds that nowadays are almost exclusively non-gaited such as the Appaloosa.

Adding to the mystery of gaited horses is the lack of literature. There is not the same amount of literature out there about gaited horses as there is their non-gaited counterparts. I suspect a lot of gaited horse knowledge tends to get passed down from person to person within families or communities where gaited horses are popular rather than that information, for whatever reason, being put into books.

Of the few gaited horse books in existence, my personal favorite is one published in 2005 titled “Easy-Gaited Horses: Gentle, humane methods for training and riding gaited pleasure horses” by Lee Ziegler.

With all the confusion, you might wonder why I chose to keep gaited horses in my backyard? To me, riding a really well-gaited horse is a singular pleasure. You feel all this action going on underneath you, but you are sitting smooth and quiet in the saddle.

A slow gait is pleasant and relaxing. A fast gait is absolutely exhilarating. The wind is cutting the horse’s mane straight back and hitting your eyes so they water, but you aren’t being jostled around at all in the saddle. Not every gaited horse is a gaiting machine, but I find an athletic, well-gaited horse an absolute blast to ride.

I rode my first gaited horse as a child during a Summer camp and have been in love ever since. Interestingly, I find horse folks tend to have strong reactions to the topic of gaited horses.

Rather than just feeling “meh” about them, my experience is that most folks either tend to strongly favor them or to strongly dislike them. Something about a horse trotting or a horse not trotting seems to bring out strong opinions in equestrians. While I favor gaited horses, I very much enjoy riding all types of equids. I also enjoy riding with folks of all breed preferences, but I understand not everyone feels the same way.

So what about these videos of my gaited horses, Bear and Shiloh?

Bear’s video is from 2006 with him performing his saddle rack. Bear’s sire was a speed-racking show horse which I suspect accounts for Bear’s sensitive personality and quick movement. I was not able to track down photos, videos or other information about Shiloh’s parents so I don’t have any conclusions to draw there. But when you see Shiloh’s video of us practicing the fox trot, you will notice all sorts of differences between him and Bear. Their legs are moving in different time, there is a different in speed, difference in smoothness and difference how each horse is carrying himself.

Bear didn’t need much help from me to maintain his gait. I pretty much just thought “go” and he would gait. Shiloh seems to need more help from me to stay in gait, and I struggle to maintain his rhythm when I ask for more speed (so most of our work is done at a slow pace in the hopes we can perhaps build up to a more dynamic tempo some day) .

Please note that I don’t offer these videos as an example of how a gaited horse “should” go or “should” be ridden. As an average rider at best, I don’t have the skills to demonstrate that.

Instead, what I do think the videos show is a good example of some of the potential differences in gaited horses, even when ridden by the same rider. I hope the contrasting videos can help folks think of gaited horses as a broad category rather than one particular type of horse.

Bear and I in 2006.
Shiloh and I in 2020.

What about you? Have you ever ridden a gaited horse?

Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?

I’ll get to the specific topic of this post in a minute, but first, I’ve got something for you folks who like to win free horse-prizes. Greenguard Muzzle is hosting a contest. The prize is a free grazing muzzle valued at about $99 along with a few other related items. Contest ends March 30th, 2021. Read below for entry info.

“Our 2020 face mask and grazing muzzle contest was a massive success. Even with vaccines for Covid-19 currently rolling out, being careful in public spaces is more important than ever, so we’re doing another round of our Mask and Muzzle photo contest.

There will be at least 6 random drawings: prizes include two new GreenGuard Grazing Muzzles, two new GG Equine Premium Breakaway Halters, and two sets of replacement muzzle straps.

Post a photo of yourself in a face mask and your equine friend in their grazing muzzle (any brand of muzzle is fine), tag GG Equine, and you’re entered to win a new GreenGuard Grazing Muzzle!

Follow and tag GG Equine on your favorite platform:

Instagram
Facebook
Twitter
No social media? No problem! Email your photo entry to support@gg-equine.com with “Mask and Muzzle” in the subject line!”

Contest officially runs from 1 February – 31 March, 2021. Random drawings will be done to select the prize winners during the first week of April. The drawing is open only in GG Equine’s sales territory – North and South America – though anyone may submit a photo.”

Quoted from a recent Greenguard email blast

I am personally familiar with the GreenGuard brand. I used to work in a barn where the GreenGuard muzzles were popular among the boarders. You can learn more about the muzzles at https://www.gg-equine.com/.

I also tried a GreenGuard once on my horse, Bear, after using a Tough 1 Easy Breath muzzle for a couple of years. I got the sense he felt more comfortable in the Tough 1 than in the GreenGuard. The Tough 1 Easy Breath muzzles are also easier on my budget. For now, I stay with the Tough 1 brand. That said, I will certainly keep the GreenGuards in mind as an alternative option if my future muzzle needs change. You can check out the Tough 1 Easy Breath grazing muzzle through this link here

https://www.smartpakequine.com/pt/tough-1-easy-breathe-grazing-muzzle

The email blast that I received about the Greenguard contest included links to a couple of interesting articles about grazing muzzles. The articles discuss the reason that some owners might choose to muzzle their horses year round when on grass. You can read them at

https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/health-and-well-being/muzzles-year-round

https://www.proequinegrooms.com/tips/health-and-well-being/grazing-muzzles-winter-your-horses-health

My twenty-five year old horse, Bear, has Equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID) and equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) with a history of laminitis. My seventeen-year-old, Shiloh, does not. But Shiloh is a very easy keeper so I consider him at risk. Both my horses typically wear grazing muzzles when turned out onto the grass that is outside of their semi-dry lot paddock, but they usually get a couple of muzzle-free months during Winter. Depending upon my horse(s) condition in a particular year and the grass conditions of my pastures, I usually do not put their muzzles on during January and February.

The entire issue of whether to let a horse with PPID or EMS out on grass can be difficult to navigate. Without a way to test a horse’s glucose/insulin levels daily and without a way to test the fructose in the grass at different times throughout the day (because it is something that constantly changes), it is in fact impossible to know for sure “when your horse is safe to eat what grass and for how long.” It is a constant judgment call as to what circumstances/conditions will prove safe.

It is one reason that you will see some vets recommend that horses at risk for laminitis (such as horses with PPID and EMS) never be turned out on grass. If your horse is in the initial stages of these diseases, or especially when experiencing a laminitic episode, keeping them completely off the grass seems to be essential to getting those glucose/insulin levels down enough to stop the acute disease process and prevent even further damage.

Once past that acute phase, some owners consider it worth the risk to turn a horse out on limited grass due to the physical, mental and social aspects of allowing the horse to graze. That’s something every owner needs to discuss with their own veterinarian for each of their horse’s individual situation, circumstances and history. A grazing muzzle can be one way to potentially allow your horse some grass access, although it is not a guarantee of good health.

I imagine that someday a non-invasive device will be invented that gives an immediate reading on a horse’s glucose and insulin. If I could pass a wand over my horse and get instant results, I would have a better chance at keeping him sound and healthy by adjusting my management practices based on that information.

Same thing with the grass. If I could wave a wand over the grass and track its changing fructose levels in real time, I could chose the optimal turnout time with more accuracy than just going by general rules of thumb about when fructan levels are thought to be at their lowest.

What about your horse? If he or she wears a grazing muzzle during Spring through Fall, does he or she also wear one during Winter?

P.S. – After you enter the GreenGuard contest mentioned above, don’t forget about The Backyard Horse Blog’s own current contest. Enter to win one of two prizes, either a $50 gift certificate to The Great British Equinery or to Trafalgar Square Books (Horseandriderbooks). Go here to enter:
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/29/the-backyard-horse-blog-winter-2021-contest/

Are You a Card-Carrying Member?

Are you a member of any equestrian organizations? Maybe a local saddle club? An international show organization or breed registry? What about 4H or pony club?

I have been a member of various horse organizations over the years. I never held office in one, but I contributed in other ways. I wrote newsletters articles. I planned a fun show. I brought donated items to club auctions. I baked snacks for meetings.

Being part of a horse organization is not exactly the work of say, a Mother Teresa, but it is a way to give back to your horse community of choice. Ideally, joining a club is one way to encourage and support your fellow equestrians while also reaping personal benefits. Maybe you want to meet other people who are aficionados of your favorite breed or discipline, gain the opportunity to win specific awards or make contacts to grow your horse-related business.

Of course, not all clubs function well. Some display really unhealthy interpersonal dynamics, making participation unattractive. Sometimes the club seems great from the outside, but once a member, we find it awkward to make friends or participate in activities. Sometimes we as members are much more interested in what we can get out of an organization rather than what we can put into it. Clubs can find it difficult to grow without contribution of members’ time or resources.

My own horse-related memberships have waxed and waned over the years. I have been that enthusiastic, active member. And truthfully? I have also been that floundering member who never contributes.

For 2021 so far, the only organization I have joined is the North American Western Dressage Association (NAWD) at

NAWD

You may recall that this is the organization that sponsored the online horse show that I entered last Fall with my horse, Shiloh. North American Western Dressage hosts virtual shows throughout the year. If I can manage to find a better venue for filming than my own backyard with its small spaces and uneven footing, I would like to capture more tests on video and enter future shows.

So, do you belong to any equine organizations? Why or why not? Have you experienced a particular benefit of being a member? Or experienced problems? Let me know in the “Leave a Reply” comments section.

Obstacle Idea: Using Traffic Cone Bars

Traffic cone bars! Where have you been all my life? I had no clue until recently that they even existed. I stumbled upon them online and quickly acquired a pair.

I mentioned in previous posts my fondness for riding through obstacles. I love incorporating them in both riding and groundwork routines.

Unfortunately, the greatest difficulty for me in using obstacle is that I don’t have a riding arena. I have no place to set up obstacles and leave them. Instead, I set up a few items up periodically in my round pen or in a corner of a pasture. I have to use light weight, simple to maneuver items. Things that make for easy set up and take down. The traffic cone bars fit the bill!

Most of the ones I see advertised are adjustable in size, retractable from about 4 to 7 feet. Weighing around a pound, they seem made out of a light pvc-type plastic. At about $20 a piece, they are more expensive than I would like. If you do a lot of obstacle work like I do, though, the cost might be worth it to you.

I only have two cone bars at the moment. I can see that once my collection grows larger, they could be used to design all kinds of fun little mazes. Luckily even with just the two cone bars, I can set up little chutes. If you’ve never tried to ride through a narrow area or send your horse through a narrow area out ahead of you during groundwork, you might be surprised at what good practice this is.

Shiloh is mostly getting the Winter off from work, but I try to periodically climb on bareback just for fun. Anxious to try out my new toys, I set up four cones and the two cone bars to make a little squeeze chute to ride through during our most recent ride. It was sunny, but cold that day, so I decided just to stay in the horses’ paddock since I knew it would be a quick bareback ride due to the temperature.


After our ride, I figured Shiloh would return to eating from his hay bag under the run in shed. Instead, he walked over to the cone bars and proceeded to walk back and forth between them all by himself. Funny! He then amused himself by rearranging the cones and bars with his nose several times.

When I eventually started to drag the cone bars out of their paddock, Shiloh faced my direction and placed his two front hooves on his tire pedestal that is near one of the paddock exit gates. Apparently he wasn’t done with our play session just yet.

This Winter, we’ve been working on “saluting” with one hoof when he’s on the tire. I thought I’d place a cone bar in front of him and see if I could encourage him to tap the bar as he came down from the salute.

He actually did it very easily but ending up taking the cones with him on the set down. Ha! The cone bars survived the day’s horse play, but I don’t think they are solid enough to withstand being stepped on or chomped. I wouldn’t leave them out unsupervised with horses for this reason.




Even Bear decided to get in on the fun and repeatedly tap a nearby cone with his hoof while Shiloh was using the tire pedestal. I am pretty sure Bear remembers some of the work with cones we used to do together when he was ridden. We would ride up to an upright cone. Bear would hook one front hoof over the cone and pull it towards him so the cone was on its side. Then we would do a turn on the forehand to end up facing the other side of the cone. Bear would complete the maneuver by hooking the other front hoof on the edge of the cone to pull the cone upright once again.

I always thought he found doing that quite fun and thought himself very clever. I sometimes had trouble riding him away from the cone, because he kept wanting to play! I think the positive association with our bright orange cones remain in his memory even though he has been retired for about three plus years now. I unfortunately couldn’t find a full series of photos of him performing this trick from start to finish, but I did find a few snap shots that might help you better visualize it.

Long story short, I am very pleased with my cone bar purchase. They sure do make a fun addition to my pile of backyard obstacles. I hope to buy a few more this year and see how else I can incorporate them into my horse riding. If you would like to possess your very own cone bars, you can find them for sale at many hardware stores or Amazon.