Not exactly riding off into the sunset just yet

In a previous post, Best Laid Plans, I wrote about taking my horses over to a friend’s property to ride with the hopes of eventually getting out onto her trail system. I also wrote about a day when my other horse, Bear, refused to load on the day of a planned follow-up field trip. I thought I’d give an update here on what we’ve been doing since in regard to working on trail loading and resuming our away-from-home trips.

First, if you need to catch up, you can read the above referenced previous post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/06/07/the-best-laid-plans/.

Second, here we go with the update . . .

For inquiring minds who want to know, I DID eventually get Bear to load later that same morning after I canceled the follow-up trip to my friend’s property. As for Shiloh, he was willing that first morning to load but only if I led him in. So besides practicing with Bear, I also practiced self-loading with Shiloh.

In light of the earlier-in-the-day snaffu, though, I decided to leave the trailer hooked up and practiced loading the next morning and the next afternoon without actually taking the horses anywhere. By the second day, both horses were self-loading smoothly.

I had to wait another week to plan a second trip to my friend’s place. On the day of that trip, the previous week’s loading practice seemed to help. Both horses self-loaded well.

While I did ride Shiloh once there, we unfortunately did not get out on the trails that trip either. Both my horses were quite nervous about separating.

I rode Shiloh while Bear stayed in a stall like last time with another horse in the barn. Shiloh seemed especially undone by Bear’s anxious energy in a way that he wasn’t during the previous trip.

In doing groundwork with Shiloh prior to the ride, he wasn’t leaping through the air, but he wasn’t paying attention to me that well either. He was looking around a lot and calling out to Bear.

I felt comfortable enough riding Shiloh in my friend’s arena, but I like a horse to be pretty “with me” before we go on a trail system where their attention and obedience to aids is arguably more critical than when riding in an arena.

So long story short, there was no trail riding for us on that day either. Here we are looking out towards the trails where we have yet to go together. The next photo is us riding with my ever-patient friend in her arena instead of the woods.

The following week, I brought my horses over for a ride at the training/boarding/lesson barn that is closest to my property.

The horses hadn’t been back there since April. I absolutely love riding on their outdoor track system. Great place to practice Shiloh’s gaiting.

Unfortunately, the horses’ distress at being separated, even when they could see each other, was obvious.

The barn owner noted that both horses acted quite differently than when they were there in April. Bear was much more “pumped.” Shiloh would periodically call out to Bear, especially when Bear was later taken from the round pen to the indoor arena while I stayed outside with Shiloh.

Photo here of Bear in roundpen. Instead of taking the opportunity for some unmuzzled grazing, he is looking out anxiously. One red arrow points to Bear in the roundpen while the other red arrow points to the indoor arena.

Shiloh all the while was rideable for me, but his attention flipped between what we are working on and anxiety about “where in the world did Bear go” as he periodically looked around and called out.

Here Shiloh is back at the trailer after our ride while Bear is still in the barn. Shiloh is sufficiently tired at this point to not care quite as much about where is Bear. Fun fact- All that hay was not there when we pulled in. It’s not my hay, of course, but I still think it’s a beautiful sight to see all that horse food.

Then last week, I took the horses back over to the nearby barn. For that visit, both horses were much more calm and quiet. I think I heard Bear call out only once. Shiloh never responded. Shiloh and I had a nice ride around the outdoor track, enjoying a day of unseasonably cool weather.

Fortunately at home so far, my separating the horses is not a problem. I can take Shiloh out into my round pen or down into my south pasture without him getting upset. I am grateful for that.

But clearly, something has definitely changed in their insecurity regarding being separated when we are off the property. I am guessing the horses may continue to cycle between feeling okay about being apart and feeling quite insecure. This makes me think I am not getting out on any trails anytime soon. No riding Shiloh off into a sunset on the trails just yet.

I’ve known that keeping just two horses together long enough runs the risk of developing buddy sour problems. And I have been looking for a third horse since last year (that’s not guaranteed to solve the problem but it would allow me to leave Bear at home with companionship so I’d only take one horse with me on my field trips, whether Shiloh or the new horse).

Considering it took me about two years to find Shiloh, I am doubting a new horse will appear anytime soon. Stranger things have happened, but it has gotten weirdly difficult for me to find the type of horse I want, in a location close to me, in a price range I can afford.

In the mean time, this issue of separation anxiety gives me the opportunity to expand my horsemanship skills. I know a better horseman would do a better job at keeping Shiloh so focused that he wouldn’t even think about Bear.

But . . . I seriously struggle in that area. I always have. Probably always will. Doesn’t mean there’s no hope for improvement. But it’s a definite challenge for me.

It is an ongoing area of work that I am willing to tackle so long as the horses and I can remain safe while doing so. I may have to cry uncle at some point if their anxiety causes their behavior to get completely beyond my skill set, but we are not there just yet. So I want to keep trying, at least up to the point where the risk to me or the horses seems unreasonable.

One of my favorite horse professionals, Anna Blake, wrote a recent post “Calming Signals: Planning For Stress” on her blog Relaxed and Forward. I thought her words were particularly applicable to this situation of mine.

I will end this post with a quote from Anna’s post, in case any other readers who might struggle with certain aspects of horsemanship might also take fortitude from Anna’s words.

“Horses and humans both feel stress as a natural response, but humans have more choice about our response . . . The world will always be chaotic. We will always face the things we never saw before, and we cannot desensitize our horses or ourselves to life. We can learn to lay down our natural leaning toward dread and train ourselves to say yes. To become the sort of human a horse can rely on. They say horses make us better people, but the work is ours to do.”

From Anna Blake’s “Calming Signals: Planning For Stress” post on 6/18/21 from her blog “Relaxed and Forward” at http://www.annablake.com

Fit to a T

Have you ever seen a saying on a t-shirt that felt like it was made just for you?

There are a lot of beautifully designed graphics on T shirts nowadays. Plenty of horse related ones too.

Sometimes I see t-shirts where the graphics really appeal but the sayings don’t quite fit me.

I am thinking of something like the phrase “born to ride.” I like the concept, but it doesn’t describe me. I absolutely love to ride, but considering how hard I have to work to be passably okay in the saddle, “born to ride” doesn’t seem applicable in my case.

Or take the phrase “ride like the wind.” Again, I appreciate the sentiment. It is just not me. Now, I do ride IN the wind, but ride LIKE the wind is something different. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been galloping on a horse. All but one was by accident. “Slow gait like a gentle breeze” might be more descriptive of my general riding speed.

But THIS t-shirt? If there ever was a t-shirt that described me, this right here is it!

I found this shirt via a Pinterest pin. The pin linked to an Etsy store, ChristineFRStore, at

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

The buyer can customize the t-shirt with their choice of color and style. How fun is that!

What about you? What’s a horsey t-shirt graphic or saying that fits you to a T?

Dapple Discussion

Ever heard of dapples?

For those of you unfamiliar, dapples are clusters of round circles or spots on a horse’s hair coat. Even those not acquainted with horses may have heard the term “dapple gray.” Gray horses don’t have a complete monopoly on dapples though. For example, my bay and white horse named Bear sports a few dapples every year too.

Photo of a dapple gray horse courtesy of the website Canva

 Dapples are a repeating pattern of slightly darker and lighter hair in small circles. Dappling is most common on grey horses but may occur with any color. Dappling is not permanent but may vary in any particular individual with season, nutritional status, or physical condition. For this reason, dapples are not generally recorded for identification. 

From https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/NVAP-Reference-Guide/Animal-Identification/Equine-Identification under the title “Markings.”

When I was growing up, I read that seeing dapples on horses was a sign of equine good health. The idea I absorbed was that the horses sporting dapples were especially well cared for.

That was all well and good, I suppose. But it did beg some questions. What about all those horses out there that didn’t have dapples on their coat? Were those horses managed poorly or horses whose health was compromised? Back then, I never found a good answer.

This memory popped into my head as I was observing my present-day horses, Bear and Shiloh, in their paddock earlier this month. Now that both horses have shed out their Winter coats, they are slick and glossy. I can see Bear’s shiny coat sporting dapples across both sides of his bum. Dapples that I can’t see on his Winter coat. But on Shiloh? There is not a dapple to be found on him at any time during the year.

Based on the information I had about dapples growing up, it would seem odd that Bear has dapples while Shiloh does not. Bear is 26 years old and several years into a diagnosis of cushings disease. Not a horse I would consider in the peak of good health. Shiloh is six years younger with no chronic health diagnosis. Shouldn’t Shiloh be the one showing dapples?

Fast-forward a few decades since I first learned about dapples. Scientists now believe that dapples in horses have a genetic component. Some horses have the genetics to dapple while other’s don’t. While management can help bring out dapples in a horse genetically inclined to dapple, no type of feed/grooming/conditioning will bring out dapples in a horse that doesn’t have those genes. It would seem that Bear has the genetics to dapple while Shiloh probably does not.

Interestingly, even in a horse with the genetics to dapple, those horses may not dapple without the right combination of adequate diet and grooming. And even those horses may only dapple seasonally. So while dapples CAN be a sign of good health, the absence of dapples does not equal poor health. That is good news for Shiloh.

Bear is the bay and white gelding shown in the photo above. Bear’s dapples on his rump have proven hard difficult for me to photograph, but hopefully you can see them enough to distinguish him from Shiloh (shown below) without the dapples.

What do I do that might help bring out Bear’s genetic tendency towards dapples? I’m not exactly sure.

Bear is retired from riding, so he receives no formal exercise, but he is turned out 24/7 and moves around quite a bit. I groom him almost daily from Spring though Fall. He is fed grass hay with a touch of separate alfalfa hay mixed in, a ration balancer and a variety of treats (mostly low carb/low sugar). He also gets some daily access to pasture, mostly with a grazing muzzle. He is dewormed according to the results of yearly/bi-yearly fecal egg counts. He is vetted every Spring, including teeth floating when needed.

Really, Bear receives pretty standard care. Would he dapple even if I managed his care differently? Is there a way I could bring out even more dapples? Hard to say.

Apparently, I am not the only one that still has questions left unanswered about dappling. Scientists are still learning more about dapples and don’t seem to have all the answers yet either. Questions remain about how/where/when they are expressed in individual horses.

A few interesting resources I found that discuss dapples are an article from Thehorse.com website, another article from Horse Illustrated at and an “Ask The Vet” YouTube video sponsored by Smartpak. All reputable resources that helped me shed some light on this topic. Here are the links

https://thehorse.com/180950/how-to-get-a-horses-coat-to-dapple/

https://www.horseillustrated.com/horse-health-what-your-horses-coat-says-about-his-health

While I know from past experience that Bear’s dapples will fade as the Summer continues, I enjoy watching them appear each year. And I still think Shiloh looks very attractive even without a bloom of dapples on his coat. Really, there is not much more beautiful in nature than a glossy horse. Dapples or no dapples. I love to watch them all shine.

Bareback and Bridleless

Sometimes it is fun to do something a little different with my horses.

I used to enjoy occasionally experimenting with riding my horse, Bear, with just a neck rope. The photo above was taken of Bear and me in 2007.

It is an interesting test of the rider’s balance and aids in communicating with the horse. Even when done in a small space like my roundpen and limited to riding only at the walk. I realize things about my riding that don’t show up in the same way when I am on a fully tacked horse.

I get to see how my horse responds to my seat, leg and weight aids in a pure way. I can’t use to the reins to reinforce my other aids or make up for the fact that I gave an ineffective seat aid, for example.

It’s also an interesting experiment in staying with my horse when my control over the horse’s body is greatly reduced.

Sometimes things go a little wonky during a ride without tack, even a quiet ride at the walk. When in full tack, my habitual response is to brace against the horse to try to wrestle back control. But with no tack, I can’t do that. Not even with the neck rope.

Instead, I have to go with whatever the horse is presenting. I can’t block it. I have to relax mentally and physically in that moment, flow with the horse’s movement while trying to maintain my balance. Take a deep breath. Get back on track with the rest of my plan for the ride. Probably how I should be riding even with tack too.

I’d been wanting to try riding my other horse, Shiloh, without bridle and saddle for awhile now. Last week I decided we were finally ready. Each time, I rode first in full tack as a way to check in with him and make sure we were on the same page, relaxed and listening to each other. Then I took off the tack, put on a neck rope and we were ready to give it a go.

First off, we positioned carefully at the mounting block.

Then I swung a leg over.

And we’re off!

We practiced staying on the rail.

We practiced turning off the rail.

We practiced crossing the ground poles.

In both directions.

Here we end on whoa.

While I rarely ride without tack, it is a challenging exercise I enjoy. I also think both Bear and Shiloh found it interesting. All that said, please note that I am aware that bareback and brideless riding poses safety risks beyond those normally associated with riding horses.

If you have ever thought about riding bareback and bridleless, I strongly recommend extensive thought, planning and preparation. Carefully consider:

  • Your own skill level (be really comfortable riding bareback WITH reins before you go without)
  • The environment in which you plan to ride (the arena, the weather, the surrounding atmosphere)
  • Your horse’s temperament
  • How well your horse stands still for mounting (keep in mind you might need a mounting block)
  • Your horse’s level of training (see the reading recommended reading-material below for details)
  • Wearing your choice of safety equipment like a helmet or air vest
  • The availability of a reliable grounds person to supervise

I also recommend reading material written on the subject by respected and experienced horse professionals. Here are a few resources to give you food for thought if you are interested in learning more.

https://www.horseillustrated.com/western-horse-training-go-bridleless-part-1 (This is a link to part one of a three part series written by Julie Goodnight with links to parts one and two at the bottom of the article)

https://horseandrider.com/western-horse-training-tips/going-bridleless-mustang-maddy

https://blog.dressagenaturally.net/27-freestyle-riding-and-healthy-biomechanics

Many thanks to my husband for acting as my trusty grounds person and photographer, both in 2007 for the top photo and more recently for all the other ones!

No Barn, No Horses?

While reading the Summer 2021 issue of Equus magazine, I found an article titled “Horsekeeping Without A Barn” by Hope Ellis-Ashburn.

My first reaction was, “hey, that’s me!” I have some open-air outbuildings but no structures with stalls. I have kept horses for almost twenty years at home without a traditional horse barn or most other equestrian amenities.

Horse barns certainly provide a lot of human convinience in the area of horse keeping. Having multiple horses all in one place, close by and contained-at-the-ready has advantages for their hands-on care and easy accessibility for riding.

The larger and busier the barn, the more typical it is to have horses in barns with stalls. Think show barns, lesson barns, breeding barns, racing barns, Summer horse camps and many boarding facilities.

But what about when you have horses in your backyard? This article makes the argument that barns are optional.

“We all have romanticized visions of the barn we would love to own one day. But sometimes a dream barn- or perhaps any barn- is out of reach. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to give up the dream of horse ownership or that you’ll have to keep horses in a way that compromises their health or happiness.. . You might even find that the barn wasn’t really the dream after all, and that a barnless lifesyle holds benefits you never even imagined.”

Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Unless I win a contest with a really big money prize, I am guessing that my own backyard will remain sans horse-barn.
It was fun to read an article by an author whose horse-keeping experience closely mimics mine.

The writer gives lots of great hints and tips for living the barnless lifesytle including about horse shelter, feed/tack storage, manure management and horse containment/control. The article makes the case that with some planning and creativity, no barn does not necessarily mean no horses.

If you would like to read the article “Horsekeeping Without A Barn,” but are not an Equus print subscriber, go to https://hub.equusmagazine.com/equus-digital-subscription to see all the places you can read Equus online.

Horse-Book Blow Out

Do you know that The Backyard Horse Blog website features an affiliate link to Trafalgar Square Books?

You can find the affiliate link (Horse Books and Videos titled square with the photo of the lady looking at a book next to a horse) on either the right hand side of your screen or at the bottom of your screen, assuming you are actually on The Backyard Horse Blog website at the moment.

What does “affiliate link” mean? If you click on the affiliate link (Horse Books and Videos titled square with the photo of the lady looking at a book next to a horse) featured on The Backyard Horse Blog website, you will be taken to Trafalgar Square Book’s website.

If you purchase any of their materials during your visit after clicking on my affiliate link, The Backyard Horse Blog will receive a percentage of your sales.

I mention all this as a self-serving reminder about how readers can help support this blog. Also to let readers know that now through June 20th, 2021, Trafalgar Square Books is having a $10 blow out sale on many of its horse books and DVD’s!

This is exciting news for horse-loving readers! Yah! Click on the affiliate link to go to the Trafalgar Square Publishing website and once there, click on the “On Sale” tab! Remember, the $10 horse-book blow out sale ends this Sunday, June 20th, 2021!

From the Trafalgar Square Books website:

50 titles priced at only $10
Training • English & Western Riding • Dressage • Hunter/Jumper • Memoir •  Health Care • Horse Fitness • Rider Fitness • Children’s • DVDs
Free shipping in the USA

Please Take My Poll


No, not my ground pole! I need every ground pole that I have.

The kind of poll that I offer up for the taking is my ten question opinion poll below, “Why do I read horse blogs?”

I’m super curious! Inquiring minds (or at least my mind) want to know.

I started writing The Backyard Horse Blog in January 2020, but I was an avid horse-blog reader long before that. I still am.

I can’t exactly remember the first blog I ran across. It might have been the Horse and Man blog. Or it might have been a blog that is no longer in production. Understandably, there are a lot of those.

Blogs, like most things, usually have a shelf-life. They are time intensive for the writers. Only a small portion of bloggers actually make sizeable money from their work. Blogs wax and wane in content and popularity. Readers come and go. Life happens for both blog creators and consumers. And yet, horse blogs have not gone the way of the dinosaur.

There are a handful of equestrian blogs that have been in production for a decade or longer like the previously mentioned Horse and Man blog. New blogs continue to pop up frequently too.

Even with the proliferation of social media sites oriented to photo/video and the rising popularity of audio podcasts, people keep reading blogs.

Horse blogs have not been around long enough yet, but someday, someone out there will have started to blog when they were a horse-loving child. And then continue blogging until they are a senior equestrian. How interesting it would be to see someone’s horse-life played out across the decades that way.

But all musings aside, I would like you to think about all the equestrian blogs that you have read as you go through the “Why do I read horse blogs?” poll. Check all the answers that apply.

And if you have a reason for reading horse blogs that is not listed below? Please let me know what they are in the comments section. If enough readers choose to take the poll, I will share the poll results in an upcoming post in case anyone else is as curious as I am.

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Product Review: Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup

If you grew up riding in an English saddle, you may be familiar with peacock safety stirrups. These are metal stirrups with a thick rubber band on the outside of the stirrup that can pop off when pressure is applied. In event of an unscheduled dismount from the horse, the rider’s foot will not be trapped.

Since the advent of peacock stirrups, other styles of English stirrups that allow for the release of the foot have appeared. For whatever reason, the western industry has seemingly not shown the same level of interest in safety stirrups.

True, there are tapaderos and endurance stirrups with cages. These are stirrups with coverings on the front that prevent a foot from getting hung up in the stirrups. But neither style seems to have taken hold in the industry across western discipllines.

For almost ten year now, I have ridden in a combined leather and cordura Fabtron western saddle with plastic stirrups. While I can’t say that the plastic stirrups were the height of safety, fashion or comfort, I managed to have many good rides with them. Still, I considered swapping out the plastic stirrups for something different on many occasions. I finally took the plunge this Winter.

Back in the day, I did experiment with taking off western fenders and replacing them with english leathers and peacock stirrups so I could ride with a set of safety stirrups in place. This photo shows my horse, Bear, and me back in 2009 with this western saddle/english leather/peacock stirrups get up. While this worked fine for me while riding at home, trail rides, clinics and fun shows, it did look a little odd. It wouldn’t have worked well for anything more than casual showing. It was also very difficult to remove and replace those western fenders.

The stirrups I now have are the Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrups. Here is the manufactures description as taken from the JT International website:

“High quality aluminum stirrups with rubber grip tread and spring loaded outside release for safety. When pressure is applied to outside of stirrup like in a fall the side of the stirrup will open all the way up allowing the foot to be released. No way to get hung up in these stirrups. Available in adult and youth sizes for any age rider. The easy way out of a bad situation! Medium size (5” x 5” inside measurement, 7” outside height, 3 1/2” x 1 1/4” tread, .9 lbs.)”

Since their purchase, I estimate I have had about twenty rides with my new Tough 1 Easy Out Stirrups. I am so far quite pleased with them. They have an attractive look that closely mimics a traditional western stirrup. I especially like the way the stirrups hang on the saddle fender. They also sport a comfortable yet solid instep that feel good beneath my feet.

Arrows near the bottom of the stirrup tell you which way the stirrup should face out from the horse in order to facilitate the hinge mechanism releasing in even of a fall. But will they really work in event of an accident?

I still don’t know. I have not fallen off with the stirrups and would like to keep it that way. I have no interest in doing that kind of research, even if it would make for a more comprehensive review. I WAS able to pull the hinge apart with my hands with a quick, firm pull as a way to test how the hinge might work.

I have also read online reviews where the writers claimed that the stirrup did release during their unscheduled dismount. I do not have a way to verify if those reviews are factual though.

I was concerned that the hinge mechanism might be activated accidently somehow during mounting. So far I have not experienced that, but I do think about weighting my left foot more to the inside of the stirrup while mounting now. I could see how that might cause a wreck if the stirrup released as the rider was trying to swing up into the saddle.

The weight of the stirrups is the one feature that is a mixed bag for me. The website notes that each stirrup is about a pound, but my home scale showed their weight as a combined total of 3.8 pounds. That’s closer to two pounds each.

That weight helps provide a nice feel to the stirrups under my foot, but it makes my saddle noticeably heavier. Four pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I immediately noticed the difference when I went to pick up my saddle for the first time after attaching the new stirrups. I felt it in my back everytime I picked up the saddle until my body got used to the difference.

My horse, Shiloh, noticed the difference in the feel of the stirrups too. He shot forward a bit the first time I gave him a light squeeze to move away from the mounting block. It occured to me later that lunging him first with the stirrups might have been a good idea.

On that note, I like how the heaviness of the stirrups make the fenders hang more solidly for lunging. My plastic stirrups would sometimes flap around easily because they were so light weight.

I purchased my set of stirrups from an online retailer for about $100. While I wouldn’t consider them inexpensive at that price point, they are the most attractive, quality western safety stirrups I have found for the price. I have the “adult size” stirrups that I think they refer to as “medium sized”, but they do make a smaller-sized youth safety-stirrup that looks the same, just with different size dimensions.

Overall, I like the stirrups and am so far happy with how they look, feel and function. On the minus side, I do wish they were a bit lighter just to keep the overall weight of the saddle down both for my horse and me.

If you would like to read more about the stirrups directly from the manufacturer, go to http://www.jtidist.com/ez-out-safety-stirrup.html. You can purchase the stirrups through that link, but I have found most other online retailers advertise a lower price.

*** Please note that this review is unsolicited and uncompensated.***

Put a Horse Stamp on It

I have long considered my choice of postage stamp as a form of personal expression. No slapping any old stamp on a card or bill for me!

My stamps are carefully selected to reflect something about my own interests. Or in the case of something like a birthday card, those of the recipient.

Maybe a historical event or figure that is of special appeal. Maybe a current cause or issue I am interested in promoting. Maybe a pretty photograph or other piece of art that is visually attractive.

If a stamp has a horse on it? So much the better! I remember back in the eighties when the USPS issued a set of horse breeds stamps that I coveted. With no internet ordering available back then, those stamps were hard to come by. I remember feeling sad when I used my last one.

Now in the age of the internet, I have not yet found a set of stamps that exclusively showcase horses. But I have found horses currently encompassed in various stamp books- Christmas Carols Forever Stamps (a sleigh horse in harness representing the “Jingle Bells” song), Winter Scenes Forever Stamps (two draft horses pulling) and Heritage Breeds Forever Stamps (featuring American Cream Draft horse AND American Mammoth Jackstock).

While I sometimes have trouble finding the exact stamp I want at my local post office, the United States Postal Service website allows users to have stamps mailed to their doorstep, including all the fun horse stamps noted above.

Of course, horses displayed proudly on postage stamps is a world wide phenomenon, not limited to the USA. For those of you who live in a different part of the world than me, what horse stamps have you seen your own country issue? Any favorites?

And if the USPS is reading, please bring back those horse breed stamps!

What To Put Where in the Horse Trailer

As I am starting to try to get out a bit more with my horses this year, I play around with “what to put where” in my new horse trailer.

My old trailer is a two-horse bumper pull with mangers on top and a tack storage area underneath the mangers. The new trailer is a two-horse bumper pull without mangers and without a separate tack area. Instead there is a saddle rack and bridle hooks along the nose of the trailer.

With this arrangement, the only thing that separates the horses from the saddle racks and bridle hooks are the chest bars and a few feet of space. While this set-up keeps the overall cost of the trailer down, it could present safety issues if any of that tack should shift. And I definitely don’t want tack and grooming items to go sliding back underneath the horses during travel.

As part of the trailer purchase agreement, I had some D rings installed around the nose of the trailer. I use a mesh netting and carabiner clips to cover all the items in a way that will hopefully secure everything. So far this set up has worked well for multiple short trips in a flat-land area.

Below you can see the nose of the trailer from the left side door of the trailer.

Here you can see the view of the nose taken from the right side of the trailer. I am standing behind the right side chest bar and facing forward. This is the view that a horse placed on the right side would have of the trailer nose. On the left side of the photo, you can also see a hint of the hay bag hung from the head divider that separates the horses.

I am also very accustomed to dividing storage between my trailer and my truck. The tack storage area under the old trailer is small enough that I can’t fit larger equipment like broom, muck bucket or an extra hay bale in there. So I am already in the habit of securing those items in the bed of my truck. I am continuing to do so with the new trailer.

There are so many different options when it comes to horse-trailer design. All come with pluses and minuses regarding cost, safety, size, humane convenience, horse comfort, etc . . . As with most products, selecting a trailer is a series of trade offs for many of us. I can’t afford the exact type of trailer I would otherwise purchase.

I realize not all horse people have horse trailers. Any kind of horse trailer at all. I have definitely spent years at a time when I didn’t have either a truck or a trailer. Sometimes the purchase price and cost of maintenance has been prohibitive depending upon our financial situation at the time. If you are in that same situation now, I understand how frustrating and limiting that can be.

I started off as a new horse owner without a hauling vehicle or trailer. Then purchased both. Then sold both and spent several years without either before the next purchase. And who knows. I may have to do go through that cycle again someday. Experience shows me that having a truck and trailer is not something to be taken for granted. I know the importance of trying to take advantage of what I have while I still have it.

All that brings me to a question. For those of you out there currently with a horse trailer, what do you like about your trailer’s set up? Alternatively, if you could change one feature of the trailer, what would it be? It’s always interesting for me to hear what works for someone’s individual situation and why.

The Best Laid Plans . . .

I had hoped to write a post today about finally getting Shiloh out on an actual trail for a ride. But that’s not going to happen because it didn’t happen. Follow me? If not, let me explain.

So far this year, I’ve trailered the horses four times. Each time to a different place. Each time my horses, Bear and Shiloh, loaded and unloaded pretty smoothly. They both have a history with me of refusing to load so I was quite happy with having no major problems for four trips in a row.

For our most recent outing about a week ago, we visited a friend’s property where I used to trail ride Bear and my other pony, Pumpkin Spice. She has an amazing private trail system through woods, hills and a winding creek. It is interesting and beautiful, making for a great ride with equally great company.

After arrival, Bear (shown above) stayed in a stall with another horse in the barn for companionship while my friend and I rode. We warmed up in her outdoor arena and then rode a bit around her pasture. It was a short ride, but both her horse and Shiloh did well despite not riding together before.

Even with another horse in the barn for company, Bear still called out for Shiloh. Shiloh answered Bear’s calls a few times, but otherwise was very well behaved.

Since that ride went so well, I had high hopes of returning this past weekend to actually get out on my friend’s trail system and see how Shiloh does in the woods. I suspect trail riding is where Shiloh really shines, but in the almost three years since I’ve had him, we have yet to hit the trails.

Unfortunately, Bear decided he wasn’t going to trailer load yesterday. I called my understanding friend and sadly cancelled our plans. I spent the rest of the morning practicing trailer loading and then taking a ride on Shiloh at home. I was eventually able to load both horses several times, but it look quite awhile.

So my plans for a trail ride didn’t work out, but I did have a good ride at home. Since Shiloh’s lameness incident that I wrote about in a previous post, I have been riding him in my pasture with the thickest grass cover, keeping him out of the round pen with the more solid footing. But for yesterday’s ride, I took Shiloh to the round pen to see if he would still ride sound.

Fortunately, Shiloh seemed very sound on the firmer footing while walking and foxtrotting and doing small circles so that was great to feel. He didn’t take one bad step. I noticed when I dismounted though how hard the ground felt to my own feet. And that got the wheels in my head turning.

I think the footing has firmed up quite a bit since I had it installed. It is time to explore adding a layer of something to provide more cushion. So I have some research to do on what I can afford to install AND what will do the job I want it to do AND be easy to maintain considering I have no arena drag.

So I had a horse-filled weekend, but not exactly the kind that I had planned. Even when my efforts don’t work out the way I hope, I try to make the best of whatever happens. Life is too short to not try to do something with the hand I am dealt, even if it is a disappointing one.

The full title of this blog is “The Backyard Horse Blog: Living the dream and the reality of keeping horses at home”. This weekend I experienced more the reality side. Here’s hoping Shiloh and I live long enough to report more on the dream side which translates at the moment to eventually getting Shiloh out onto those trails.

“Cool” Contest to Enter

If you live in a part of the world that is soon entering the Summer season, you may start to think about how to help your horses stay cool. To this effort, most equestrians I know employ some combination of shade, fans and baths as well as providing plenty of cool, clean water to drink. Maybe body clipping too, especially for those equines who tend to keep a long/thick hair coat even during Summer.

On the subject of cooling horses, I came across a current contest hosted by Equus Magazine. Four winners will receive products from Cool Aid Animal Cooling and Recovery. I had never heard of Cool Aid before but am now intrigued by their products.

They offer various blankets and wraps that you can wet and then place on your horse to keep them cooler during hot weather, after exercise or during trailering. I wonder how well these products work? Read about Weaver Leather’s Cool Aid products, go to https://www.ridethebrand.com/exclusives/coolaid.

Both of my horses wilt in the heat. I have posted previously about giving my horses baths on hot days (see https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/07/13/warm-hot-hotter/). I sure would be interested in giving these products a try so I entered the contest.

TO ENTER THE CONTEST: If you live in the USA and would like to enter too, go to https://equusmagazine.com/page/coolaid-giveaway. Contest ends June 30th, 2021. If you win, let me know what you think about the them!

PHOTO TAKEN FROM WEAVER LEATHER’S WEBSITE AT https://www.ridethebrand.com/exclusives/coolaid

How This Blog Got Its Own Street Sign

The Backyard Horse Blog now has its own street sign. How fun is that!

No, the blog didn’t get a public street named after it. Instead, for one year, the street sign will mark a lane of the sensory trail at Reins of Grace Therapeutic Riding Center. On the sign, you can see the center’s logo displayed to the left of the blog’s name.

All this came about after I ran across one of the therapeutic riding center’s online fundraisers. Anyone could bid to have their business or organization name displayed on one of three street signs along their sensory trail. The signs are to remain in place for one year at the center. At the end of the year, the signs will be given to the donors.

I thought this was such a clever way to raise organizational funds that I just had to participate. As a formerly-certified therapeutic riding instructor, I know how meaningful center services can be to their clients. What a fun way to advertise the blog while also supporting the work of therapeutic riding.

For those of you not familiar with the sensory trail concept, here is a basic definition:

“A sensory trail is an interactive environment that can be ridden through on horseback or walked through, designed to stimulate the senses . . . A sensory trail has a series of experiences along a route that are designed to engage the different senses and collectively to immerse people in a multi-sensory journey …. (with a focus on) movement.”

– Google

If you want to explore the sensory trail idea more indepth, I recommend this link at

http://www.lessonsintr.com/2017/03/16/sensory-trail/.

It thoroughly explains the sensory trail concept. It also includes lots of examples with pictures of stations and obstacles ideas.

Finally, if you would like to learn more about Reins of Grace Therapeutic Riding Center and their ministry, you can visit them at https://www.reinsofgrace.com/.