Extra, Extra! Read all about horses!

Have you seen the Equus Magazine’s online EXTRAS? These are magazine quality articles about various horse care topics that only appear online, not in the printed magazine. You can read them online right away or download them to your computer.

The wide variety of topics are applicable to many horse owners or to anyone who wants to expand their horse knowledge.

Titles include “Help your horse survive colic” and “Is your horse getting enough vitamin E?” as well as “Laminitis Prevention Toolkit” and “Is Your Deworming Program Working?” But there are many more.

To check them all out go to https://equusmagazine.com/tag/equus-extra.

Have you noticed the price of Ivermectin lately?

Ivermectin is one of the chemicals used to deworm horses. Ivermectin has long been effective, readily available and quite affordable for most horse-owner budgets (like $2-3 per dose).

As we all know by now, COVID-19’s arrival has caused various kinds of supply chain issues and price increases. While searching for Ivermectin online, its recent rise in price caught my attention. With the online retailers I visited, the price doubled.

While this rise still makes Ivermectin less costly than other chemical classes of dewormers, the price increase is sizable. More so if you have a barn full of horses to deworm.

Besides supply chain issues, I can’t help but think that part of the cost increase might have to do with some people believing that Ivermectin can help prevent/treat COVID-19. People are apparently buying and using horse dewormer for this purpose. I am currently seeing news reports of a stark increase in people poisoning themselves this way.

If you are interested in the details about why horse dewormer should only be used on horses, I found this very interesting and informative article on the subject. I hope the article gets disseminated far and wide. Both to save people from sickening themselves and to keep horse dewormer readily available within the equine industry at an affordable price point.

https://thehorse.com/1103489/why-you-shouldnt-use-ivermectin-to-treat-or-prevent-covid-19/

Ponying Onward . . .

In a previous post, I wrote about ponying my horses Shiloh and Bear for the first time. If you missed it, you can read it at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/08/11/ponying-my-painted-ponies/.

Since that post, we’ve done a handful more ponying sessions together. Mostly we’ve stuck to ponying in their little paddock area. But we’ve also ponied in our round pen and in one of the pastures.

The ponying sessions continue to be short. About 15 minutes. All at the walk. Sometimes with obstacles included.

I like the challenge of working with two horses at once, trying to keep everyone engaged and flowing together. As herd animals, the concept isn’t foreign to them. But I wonder if they think adding a human into the mix is a bit odd.

I find the novelty of ponying quite interesting. There’s something about trying to direct the horse you are riding while also trying to guide the horse you are not riding that is enlivening.

I feel both horses trying to suss out what the expectations are. I see the horses trying to organize themselves within the boundaries I’m attempting to establish. I can also see that sometimes I am not as clear as I could be with my instructions. I find myself confused sometimes about how/when to communicate what/to whom at which time and in what order. Definitely an exercise in coordination.

Besides the opportunity to practice new skills, the best part of ponying is including Bear. I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to incorporate my now retired horse into my riding work. I may not be able to enjoy spending time on Bear’s back anymore, but it’s been refreshing to experience a new kind of connection with him through ponying.

Many thanks to my husband for his help with these ponying sessions (and for documenting them with the photos shown above).

I rode a jumper!

I rode a jumper.

What image just popped into your mind when you read that?

Maybe something like the drawing here?

Well, that’s not the jumper I am referencing.

Instead, THIS is the jumper that I rode recently:

Fun fact for the day. Carousel horses that have four feet off the ground are called “jumpers”. That’s the kind of carousel horse I mounted while visiting a fair. The photo makes for a different sort of “through the ears” snapshot from what I usually post.

Yes, I am over the age six. And I admit to being the only adult who wasn’t accompanying a child during the ride. But whatever. I always liked riding carousels as a kid. So I decided to go for a spin when I had the chance. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a group trail ride in a long time.

Visiting the fair and taking a spin on the carousel proved to be a pleasant journey down memory lane. While traveling round and round, I couldn’t help think about how thrilled I would have been as a child to know that I would in fact eventually realize my dream of having horses. That instead of decorated wood and plastic, I would one day be mounted on flesh and blood painted ponies of my very own. Even taking pictures at sunrise while riding in my backyard.

On a related note, I found this neat little article from the creators of Mane and Tail grooming products at https://manentailequine.com/carousels/. I got a chuckle out of how they managed to make a segue from the history of carousels to marketing their shampoos, conditions and sprays. I also enjoyed their suggestion that readers imagine what their own horse would look like were it to magically become part of a carousel. 🙂

Equine Inspired Poetry: Horse Play on an August Morning

Horse Play On An August Morning

Crisp morning air revealing hints of Autumn before heat of late-Summer day

Pastured horses energized by the coolth

From a complete standstill, one charges off into a section of tall grass

The first laying down a path for his herdmate to follow

Hooves and hearts pounding, but I can only hear the hooves

A frenzy of movement as they glide over the ground

The first in line cannot contain himself

He bellows out a squeal, jumps up and forward through the air

Just as the two forelimbs reconnect with the earth, two hind limbs kick up and outward

I ponder how that must feel

What strength to leap your 1000 pound heft off the ground with the grace of a tiny ballerina!

The games continue like this until collective energy is spent and the quiet grazing resumes

Quiet grazing that will provide the fuel for the next romp through the tall grass

I posted this poem last year. If you feel like you’ve read this before, you might be right! Fall is my favorite season. And although it is still steamy where I live, I enjoy the occasional crisp morning. They are a wonderful promise of the change of season to come. Watching my horses cavort on those mornings leads me to think they might feel the same way too.

2020 Paralympic Games (starting August 24th, 2021)

“Spirit in Motion.” Did you know that is the Paralympic movement motto? I didn’t until just a few days ago. As much as the Olympics is touted, much less recognition goes to the Paralympics.

I don’t think I am the only one in the dark about these games. I have long read about Para Equestrian athletes and their horses, but I admit to not being up to date on the games as a whole.

In doing some online reading, I found that Wikipedia provides a good summation:

“The Paralympic Games or Paralympics are a periodic series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The Paralympics has grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. The Paralympics has grown from 400 athletes with a disability from 23 countries in 1960 to thousands of competitors from over 100 countries at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

The Paralympic Games are organized in parallel with the Olympic Games, while the IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games include athletes with intellectual disabilities, and the Deaflympics include deaf athletes.[2][3]

Given the wide variety of disabilities that Para athletes have, there are several categories in which the athletes compete. The allowable disabilities are broken down into ten eligible impairment types. The categories are impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment.[4] These categories are further broken down into classifications, which vary from sport to sport.”

I also found out that there are 28 Paralymic sports divided between the Summer and Winter games.

22 SUMMER SPORTS

Archery
Athletics
Badminton
Boccia
Canoe
Cycling
Equestrian
Football 5-a-side
Goalball
Judo
Powerlifting
Rowing
Shooting Para sport
Sitting volleyball
Swimming
Table tennis
Taekwondo
Triathlon
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair fencing
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair tennis

6 WINTER SPORTS

Alpine skiing
Biathlon
Cross-country skiing
Para ice hockey
Snowboard
Wheelchair curling

If you’d like to read specifically about Para Equestrian events, both at the Tokyo games and more broadly, here are some helpful resources to explore:

https://uspea.org

https://www.paralympic.org/news/sport-week-10-things-know-about-para-equestrian

https://www.eurodressage.com/2021/07/05/us-para-dressage-team-2021-tokyo-paralympics-announced

The 2020 Paralympic Games begin in Tokyo, Japan on August 24th, 2021. Media coverage of the games has historically been lacking. I hope that changes this year. I know I’ll be watching for TV and other coverage, hoping that the Games, the athletes (and the horses!) get the exposure they deserve.

Three Tips For Entering A New Barn- How to start off on the right foot!

Sometimes life changes necessitate that we find a new barn for taking lessons, putting our horses in training or boarding.

Other times, we want to explore a different discipline. Maybe join a training program that our current barn doesn’t offer.

Whether you board your horse or participate in a lesson program without boarding, you may at some point find yourself the new kid on the block.

While I currently keep my horses at home, I boarded in the past. I volunteered at a horse rescue. I worked at one therapeutic riding center and volunteered at two others. I have also moved across the country with my horses. I still frequently seek instruction outside my own backyard and also enjoy experimenting with new disciplines from time to time.

All those instances have led me to entering new barns. Many times over. I have experience walking into new places, trying to figure out how to fit in and get the most of the opportunity.

Starting off or starting over can be difficult. You may even decide this new barn you chose is ultimately not for you. Even so, there is real value is trying to learn as much as you can while you are there. Even from folks who are quite different from you. Even from folks who care for their horses, ride and otherwise conduct themselves in a way that you decide you don’t like.

Here are three tips for giving each experience a good go while you are there:

1)Consider yourself a guest and conduct yourself accordingly

Practice basic manners. Say hello and smile. Ask before you borrow something. Inquire about barn rules.

If you have previously spent time at only one barn, you may be surprised at significant differences in rules and horsemanship philosophies. It’s something that can really catch people off guard, especially if they are new to horses.

For example, have you ever thought there might be more than one way to escort a horse from the riding arena and back into their stall?

At one barn I visited, I was corrected for walking into the stall with a horse. I was told that was unsafe. Never mind that I had walked horses into stalls all my horse life. I was instead instructed to stand at the stall door, send the horse ahead of me into the stall, have the horse face me and then take off the halter with my feet still outside the stall door. I then became accustomed to that practice.

Later, while visiting a different barn and observed sending a horse into a stall, I was told that what I did was unsafe. I was instead instructed to walk ahead of the horse into the stall.

It’s those types of situations that can really grate on the nerves. But as a barn new-comer, I feel it is my job to learn and practice the rules of the barn. Even if they seem odd to me.

Remember that horses thrive on routine. Barns tend to function like well-oiled machines when there is consistency in how the horses are handled.

So even if you disagree with the new barn’s ideas, remember that adjusting your techniques to fit in with the barn has the larger purpose of contributing to barn harmony.

2) Keep a “learn and grow” mindset

While this attitude applies to barn rules too, it is especially important when it comes to training and lessons. Remember that presumably the instructor or clinician has been successful at doing something in some way that you have not yet been. That means you have something to learn from them.

True, there may be times where you feel you need to decline to participate or object to something for safety reasons. For example, maybe you feel the instructor is truly over facing you, the clinician’s training technique is abusive to your horse or the barn manager is acting inappropriately towards you. Otherwise, try to keep a beginner’s mindset. Be open to seeing things from the instructor’s viewpoint.

You may ultimately decide that you don’t agree or don’t like their philosophy/techniques. Even so, there is probably something in the experience that you can take with you and apply to your horsemanship or horse care in a new environment. Sometimes learning what you don’t want to do is a good thing. A negative experience is not wasted if you can take something positive away from it.

3)Have an exit plan that reflects an “it’s a small horse-world” view

Sometimes, despite the best of hopes and intentions, we just don’t find the new barn a good fit. I know this can be disappointing and upsetting. You may even feel the urge to get out as fast as you can.

No matter your exit timeframe, consider taking the time to contemplate the best way to leave. Echo that phrase “begin with the end in mind.” I say this because the horse world is a small one.

You may think that someone who specializes in one breed/discipline doesn’t even talk to someone else in another. But often those people use the same services like farrier, vet, body workers and feed stores who often serve folks from multiple disciplines and breeds.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to gab with the farrier or vet while you are standing around holding horses for them? Or how easy it is to overhear folks conversing in the barn aisle or on the rail at a horse show?

Even removing social media from the equation, know that word gets around fast in the horse community. Especially concerning negative experiences and comments.

While there ARE times you need to draw a line in the sand if you feel your safety is at stake or a horse is being neglected/abused, most of barn drama is not life or death.

Most of the conflicts I have been a part of or witnessed could have been avoided if everyone involved (me included!) practiced more restraint and discretion in passing on opinions and judgments.

For additional thoughts on leaving a barn on a good note, I recommend this article from Horse Illustrated magazine:
https://www.horseillustrated.com/boarding-a-horse-make-graceful-exit

Ideally, the new barn or lesson program you picked fits most of your needs and you decide to stay. No barn is perfect, but some places just feel more like home than others. A supportive barn environment can provide years of good care for your horse, allow you to tackle new riding challenges or meet fellow equestrians that can become life-long friends. But, if you ever have to move on, keeping these tips and hints in mind can help you land softly at your next barn.

AHP 2021 Horse Industry Survey Results

In a previous post, I alerted readers to the opportunity to participate in the American Horse Publications (AHP) 2021 annual industry survey at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/22/2021-ahp-equine-industry-survey-get-your-voice-counted/.

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.”

I noted that filling out the survey was a rare opportunity for me, a backyard horse-keeper, to make my voice heard within the wider equine industry.

Now, the 2021 survey results are in. I thought readers would find them interesting and informative so I am sharing them here. All information is directly quoted from a press release kindly sent to me by Kelsey at Zoetis (Zoetis sponsored the 2021 AHP survey). The key conclusions are noted early on, but I hope that readers will digest the entire press release. How do the survey results mesh with your experiences and impressions of the current state of the equine industry?

AHP EQUINE INDUSTRY 2021 SURVEY RESULTS

PARSIPPANY, NJ – Jul 26, 2021 –AHP Equine Industry Survey Demonstrates Stability Based on the Number of Horses Owned/Managed

Coming on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey can serve as an important benchmark in the health of the equine industry now and in the future.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the equine industry is stable based on the number of horses owned/managed, according to the results of a survey by American Horse Publications (AHP) sponsored by Zoetis. The survey, which includes responses from 7,267 horse owners/managers, found that the top three issues facing the industry are land use issues, horses in transition or at risk, and the increased cost of horse-keeping. And, while vaccination rates are stable, survey respondents indicated they are following updated deworming recommendations and adjusting their frequency if needed.

American Horse Publications. 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey.
The 2021 survey faced a number of unique challenges in collecting responses due to changes in engagement on social media, increased privacy concerns, and the polar vortex that hit the Texas area and left millions without power.

Survey Key Conclusions
⦁ Continuing the trend from previous studies, the U.S. equine industry appears to remain fairly stable based on the number of horses owned/managed.
⦁ More than 85% of respondents have experienced an increase in horsekeeping costs.
⦁ Based on results from this year’s survey, the top three issues currently facing the equine industry are land use issues, horses in transition or at risk, and the cost of horsekeeping.
⦁ There is a continued increase in the prominence of the role of veterinarians in providing routine health care, such as vaccinating and deworming. While there are no significant differences in vaccinating horses compared to the previous survey, this survey shows a continuing trend in which respondents are deworming less frequently.
⦁ The survey indicated that about 20% of horse owners/managers used telemedicine to provide equine health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may become a regular tool for improving equine health.

“The results from the 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey reveal overall stability in the U.S. equine industry in spite of unique challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Jill Stowe, Ph.D., professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, who analyzed the data and consulted on the results. “Based on respondents’ input on management and issues facing the industry, our leaders have helpful information to guide strategic planning and decision-making for the long-term benefit of the industry.”

The survey, which was conducted from January 18 through April 9, 2021, has three primary objectives: to gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry, to identify critical issues facing the equine industry as perceived by those who own or manage horses, and to better understand approaches to horse health care. AHP conducted similar surveys in 2009-2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

Stability Through the Pandemic
The average respondent owns/manages about six horses. 75.2% of respondents indicate that the number of horses they currently own/manage is the same as in 2020, and 10.4% own/manage more horses than they did in 2020. When asked about future expectations of ownership, 73% expect to own/manage the same number of horses in 2022, 17.3% expect to own/manage more horses and 9.7% expect to own/manage fewer horses. Comparing this to the 2018 survey, we see an increase in expected stability regarding the number of horses owned/managed.

Horse Ownership
Growth in the number of horses owned/managed is more prevalent among respondents in the youngest age group as compared to the oldest group. Similar to previous studies, the frequency of owning/managing more horses in the survey year (2021) than in the previous year (2020) is decreasing with age; 21.8% of respondents in the 18-24 age category report owning/managing more horses in 2021 than in 2020, while only 5.4% of respondents in the 65+ age category report owning/managing more horses. This pattern is also consistent with expectations on horse ownership/management one year in the future: 31.1% of respondents in the 18-24 age category expect to own/manage more horses in 2022 than they do this year, while only 10.2% of respondents in the 65+ age category report the same expectation.

Event Participation
Survey participants indicate that they expect to compete in an average of 4.3 events in 2021, which is less than the 5 competitions reported in the 2018 study. More than 45% of the respondents do not plan on competing at all in 2021, up from 38.7% in 2018.

Horsekeeping Costs
Feed (including both hay and concentrates) continues to be the most frequently identified area in which horsekeeping costs have increased. This is followed by costs of veterinary services (41%) and animal health products (39%), which are stable from the 2018 study.

However, the cost of barn supplies has significantly increased since 2018, from 12.2% to 22%. Frequently mentioned sources of increased costs in the “other” category were fencing, building materials and insurance. In addition, 22.2% of respondents identified fuel/transportation as a primary source of increased horsekeeping costs. It is important to note that if this survey had been conducted later in 2021, when there was a sharp increase in gas and lumber prices, this percentage may have been higher. The rise in horsekeeping costs could force businesses to raise prices even if they don’t want to.

Looking at how to accommodate for horsekeeping costs, most respondents reported they will reduce expenditures in other areas of their lives (60%), attend fewer competitions (22.2%) and pursue other income opportunities (21.3%).

Issues Facing the Equine Industry
The most frequently selected issue facing the equine industry was land use issues (43.5%), followed closely by horses in transition or at risk (43.1%), and cost of horsekeeping (42.8%). Frequently mentioned issues in the “other” category include animal rights activists, competition costs, liability and over-regulation.

Although there are overarching issues that span the entire equine industry, there are certain issues of heightened concern in particular areas of the country. For example, zip code regions 4 (Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio) and 7 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas) had the highest percentage of respondents selecting illegal medication of performance horses and ineffective welfare laws. Respondents in zip code region 3, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, were most likely to select the practice of soring as a key issue.

Horse Health Care
Veterinarians administer vaccines for 65.4% of respondents’ horses, continuing a gradual upward trend from previous surveys (58.2% in 2012, 61.4% in 2015 and 63% in 2018). The percent of respondents who administer the vaccines themselves continues to decrease, standing at 28.5% compared to 29.7% in 2018, 31.5% in 2015 and 34.7% in 2012.

Of vaccination-related issues discussed with the veterinarian, the most common is what the horse is being vaccinated for (63.7%), followed by American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) vaccination recommendations (40.6%). Since the 2018 survey, horse owners and veterinarian conversations surrounding vaccination protocols have decreased.
More than 72% of respondents indicate that their veterinarian is the leading influence for where they purchase their equine vaccines, with price being the second leading influence (13.3%).

Deworming
Respondents indicate that they are adhering to new deworming recommendations. The percentage of horse owners who are deworming 1 to 3 times a year has increased, while the percentage of those who are deworming up to 6 times a year has decreased.
More than half of respondents (54.4%) indicate their veterinarian is involved in developing their horses’ deworming schedules—the first time this figure has eclipsed the 50% mark. Survey results indicate that just under 60% of respondents report their veterinarians recommend a fecal egg count test, declining from nearly 78% in 2018.

Respondents indicate that they purchase dewormers from chain stores, local feed stores and online. Veterinarians are reported to have the most influence on dewormer purchasing decisions and their role has become more prominent than indicated in previous studies.

Timing of Surveys Can Be Meaningful
The 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey continues to build upon the first four surveys (2009-2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018) to help understand dynamics within the equine industry. The initial survey was conducted as recovery from the Great Recession in ’08 and ’09 was underway, and the following two surveys were able to track recovery in the equine industry.

“The timing of the 2021 survey is fortuitous because it comes on the heels of a worldwide economic slowdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic—a health event not seen in more than a century,” said Dr. Stowe. “Accordingly, it can serve as an important benchmark in the health of the equine industry now and in the future.”

About the Survey
The 2021 survey was limited to those who currently own or manage at least one horse, are 18 years of age or older and live in the United States. The survey collected 8,029 responses, of which 7,267 were useable.

“Zoetis is proud to support the ongoing work of American Horse Publications and its significant efforts to understand the trends impacting our industry,” said Jen Grant, head of marketing for U.S. equine, Zoetis. “To see a stable U.S. horse population despite the many challenges of COVID-19 is a testament to the powerful connection between horses and their caregivers—a bond we are committed to nurturing now and into the future through our trailblazing portfolio of horse care products.”

“AHP is grateful for its partnership with Zoetis to provide ongoing and vital data on the trends in horse care, management and welfare of horses in the U.S.,” said Christine W. Brune, AHP executive director. “We appreciate the cooperation of our members in promoting the survey and the expert analysis of Dr. Jill Stowe.”
Survey results will be released by Zoetis and AHP members through their own channels. Excerpts from this study must be referenced as “2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey sponsored by Zoetis.”

About American Horse Publications
AHP has united equine-related publishing media, businesses, professionals, colleges, and students for over 50 years. The non-profit professional association promotes excellence in equine publishing media and encourages relationships and communication to increase interest in the horse industry. For more information, visit http://www.americanhorsepubs.org.

About Zoetis
As the world’s leading animal health company, Zoetis is driven by a singular purpose: to nurture our world and humankind by advancing care for animals. After nearly 70 years innovating ways to predict, prevent, detect, and treat animal illness, Zoetis continues to stand by those raising and caring for animals worldwide—from livestock farmers to veterinarians and pet owners. The company’s leading portfolio and pipeline of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and technologies make a difference in over 100 countries. In 2020, Zoetis generated revenue of $6.7 billion with ~11,300 employees. For more, visit http://www.zoetis.com.

Zoetis has been committed to providing horse care you can count on for more than 65 years. Our team includes numerous equine veterinarians and other experts who are inspired daily by the opportunity and profound responsibility to support horses, the owners who love them, and the equine veterinarians and other care team members who safeguard their wellbeing every day. Whether at the clinic or in the field, Zoetis is always by your side with a comprehensive, innovative portfolio of products and services for horses at every step of a horse’s care and throughout the journey of a horse’s life.

Ponying My Painted Ponies

Have you ever ponied a horse? Ponying as in riding one horse while leading another?

I don’t have much experience in ponying. It’s something I’ve practiced a handful of times at clinics and a few times at home. But until last week, I had not tried ponying my horse, Bear, while riding my other horse, Shiloh.

I’m not keen on making Bear do a lot of forced exercise at this point in his existence. He is twenty-six with arthritis and a history of laminitis. Our trailer trips to nearby locations (so I can ride Shiloh) have so far seemed within his comfort level. But I suspect he’d get sore if I would, say, try to lead him on a trail ride. At home though, it is easy to keep any organized exercise within limits.

Last week, I asked my husband if he’d be willing to indulge me by helping me get started ponying. My husband no longer rides and wouldn’t consider himself a “horse person”, but he’s absorbed enough horsemanship over the years to be useful in these types of situations.

For our first try at ponying, I decided we’d stay in the horse’s main paddock instead of going to the roundpen or to an open pasture in order to minimize distractions.

So on the chosen day, while I got Shiloh ready to roll, my husband groomed Bear and did a touch of in-hand work with him. Just some walk-halt-turn-back to get Bear in a working frame of mind.

Shiloh’s reaction to Bear being led off was interesting. I was mounted on Shiloh at that point. Shiloh didn’t do anything terrible, but he was clearly distracted.

Shiloh went in the direction I asked him to go, but his ears were going around like radar. They constantly switched back and forth between flicking towards me and then towards the direction that Bear went.

I could also feel in his body that he’d go just a touch slower when we moved away from Bear and a touch faster when we moved towards him. It was subtle, but it didn’t feel very good to me, so we worked for a minute until I felt him relax into my suggestions more.

With everyone warmed up, I was ready for my husband to hand off Bear’s lead rope to me. Prior to this, I was wondering if the horses’ herd dynamics would cause issues. In my limited experience, I’ve found it helpful to ride the lead horse and pony a horse that is more the follower. Between Bear and Shiloh, though, Bear is the leader.

Not long after my husband first handed me the rope, Bear made a face and put his ears back at Shiloh. I felt the worry that created in Shiloh even though Shiloh didn’t move his feet. I growled as I said Bear’s name as a sharp reminder to put herd dynamics aside while I was ostensibly taking over as lord of the dance there. Fortunately, Bear’s facial expression quickly softened. He seemed to let go of the thought of pushing Shiloh around.

As we started off at a slow walk, Shiloh wasn’t quite sure of what to make of any of it. I have no idea if he’d ever ponied another horse. You can see his worried body posture in the above photo.

But soon enough, Shiloh relaxed. We practiced walk and halt repeatedly with lots of turning to the right. We tried a couple of turns to the left, but I struggled with keeping Bear’s nose up near my knee. I decided we’d leave that practice for another day so I wouldn’t end up with a mess on my hands during our first ponying attempt.

Mostly, I thought things went quite well. We did have a blooper moment where Bear unexpectedly stopped. This is awkward when the horse that you are riding keeps moving. Technically, that kind of force can pull you right off the horse, especially if the rider is yacking with her husband and not paying close attention to her own positioning and that of her horses. Fortunately, my situation wasn’t that dramatic. Bear seemed none the worse for the wear. But it was definitely a reminder to remain focused on the task at hand.

I also think it was good practice to have Shiloh pay attention to me as rider even though his formidable pasture- leader was right beside him. Bear might be eight years older than Shiloh and in worse shape physically, but Bear is still happy and able to direct Shiloh and move him right out of the way whenever Bear fancies.

With my leading the dance as rider with doing lots of wide turns to the right, I continually asked Bear to move out of Shiloh’s space. I wonder if Shiloh found that to be a refreshing change of pace?

All in all, ponying proved to be an interesting experiment. If my husband stays game, I may see if he’d be willing to spot us for another few ponying sessions before Winter. Ponying is not a bad skill for a rider to have. And with Bear’s recent Summer weight gain, some limited exercise might actually be helpful, as long as I don’t exacerbate his lameness issues.

Interested in giving it a try? For some professional input on how to pony horses safely, here are some suggested resources:

Articles by Julie Goodnight:
https://signin.juliegoodnight.com/articles/training-advice/ponying-with-confidence/

https://horseandrider.com/horseback-trail-riding/learn-how-to-pony-with-confidence-19028

Video by the CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0byMjYShx0

Article by Marty Martin:
https://westernhorseman.com/horsemanship/train-your-horse-to-pony/

On a related note, I happened across this article by Jeff Derby called “Your Attention Please” that appeared in Eclectic Horseman magazine at https://eclectic-horseman.com/your-attention-please/. It wasn’t written to address ponying, but having everyone’s attention when you are ponying is really critical to the functioning and safety of the endeavor. I thought it contains some solid food for thought on the subject of drawing your horse’s attention so I am including it in this post.

Lavender Products For You That Your Horse Might Like Too!

Ever experimented with calming products for your horse? You know, all those pastes, powders, gels and essential oil products that claim to relax your horse in stressful situations?

I have tried a bunch of different over-the-counter equine calming products over the years. Sometimes I thought they might have helped take the edge off a particular horse’s nerves. Might have. Maybe. But I always later changed my mind.

Unfortunately, I never found a product that I was truly convinced worked well or consistently enough to justify its price or continued use.

I actually suspect working on myself- like working on managing my nerves, increasing my focus, improving my riding aids- is likely the best calming product available.

That said, I keep seeing articles about how lavender has consistently shown to have calming effects on horses according to scientific studies.

Lavender also has insect repellent properties. Do an online search. You can easily find fly sprays (and home-made fly spray recipes) that contain lavender oil.

I figure that if my wearing lavender products around horses might have a positive impact, whether calming or insect repelling, why not wear it? If I am using soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers and the like anyways, why not have them lavender infused?

Unfortunately for me, lavender isn’t actually my favorite scent. But I do sometimes find or have been gifted products that don’t bother me that much. The photo accompanying this post shows the lavender-scented products I currently have in my possession.

One product that I would highly recommend that I don’t use currently, but have in the past, are the products from Annie Oakley. These are quality products that are not tested on animals. While their range of products have expanded over the years, they still do make lavender products specifically for horses and riders. How fun is that.

Go to https://www.annieoakley.com/product/131/calming-lavender-journeys-training-essentials to see their gift set that includes their muzzle rub oil and ranch & stall spray. The products are pricey, as are many essential oil products, but I recall that they lasted a long time. For disclosure purposes, The Backyard Horse Blog has no affiliation with Annie Oakley. My recommendation is uncompensated and unsolicited.

Please note that if you compete in horse shows, lavender (either ingested or absorbed through the skin) is a prohibited substance with the USEF and FEI. Ingestion or absorption may result in a positive drug test (yes, lavender is edible in certain forms).

Interestingly though, if a horse inhales the scent of lavender, it does not result in a positive test. In fact, one enterprising equestrian created a product that riders can attach to their bridles that releases the smell of lavender. She had this product approved for use by the USEF, the FEI, USDF, and AQHA. Read more about her business HorseScents at

https://www.theplaidhorse.com/2019/08/13/horsescents-calm-horses-naturally/.

Remember that it is up to each competitor to do their due diligence in making sure they do not use a prohibitive substance according to their own show organization rules.

As with any scent or product, you may want to check to see if your horse actually likes the smell of what you are using. If you have never seen a horse display scent preferences, it may surprise you that horses can communicate when they do or don’t like a certain smell.

Heather Wallace of The Timid Rider blog made a video at one time that shows her offering two different horses sniffs of multiple essential oils. I was fascinated watching the horses’ reactions.

In general, if a horse liked a scent, they would turn their head and prick their ears or stand calmly with their body arced towards the scent. If a horse didn’t find the scent to their tastes/was indifferent, they would either show no interest whatsoever or move their head or entire body away from the scent.

Now I watch for these reactions in my own horses when using a new product. I must say that Shiloh in general seems to like the lavender scent much more than Bear. Bear usually stands there looking unimpressed while Shiloh will often linger with his nose over whatever lavender product I show him.

Finally, if you are interested in reading more about lavender and its calming effects on horses, here are some resource links for you to explore (FYI- the first two links reference the same more recent study, but the third resource link references a study conducted almost ten years ago).

https://thehorse.com/159680/study-lavender-can-lead-to-calmer-horses/

https://www.americanfarriers.com/articles/10427-study-finds-lavender-useful-for-calming-down-horses

https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2013/06/03/lavender-aroma-calms-horses-research/

Let’s Bring Down The Barriers To Horse Adoption (while still protecting rescue horses, mules and donkeys)

Here is my horse, Bear, greeting my first foster horse named Henry.

I am a proponent of animal rescue and adoption.

I have volunteered at both an animal shelter and a horse rescue. I have adopted one horse, fostered nine others, taken in countless stray cats that wandered up on my doorstep, done TNR (trapping feral cats, getting them spayed/neutered and vaccinated and then releasing them back to their original locations), adopted three senior felines and fostered more than 10 cats for two different shelters. I donate to rescues and animal welfare causes.

If you would like to read more about my previous experience specifically with horse adoption and fostering, go to https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/26/looking-for-another-horse-this-spring-consider-fostering-or-adopting-your-next-horse/.

Sure, the world of rescue can be disturbing and heartbreaking. But it can also be rewarding and gratifying. It’s a world that I will continue to support despite the fact that it’s not perfect. I don’t want the following words to be misconstrued as meaning I am anti-rescue/adoption.

Within in the world of horse rescue, the ASPCA recently launched a program called The Right Horse Initiative. The goal is to encourage equestrians to consider adoption when looking for their next horse. Read more about The Right Horse Initiative at https://therighthorse.org.

The Right Horse Initiative supports a number of innovative programs at rescues across the country. All designed to increase horse adoption rates. I have one more idea for them.

As someone who is looking for their next horse and considering adoption, the greatest obstacle I have come against is the adoption application. Let me say that I DO think it is very important that rescues screen their adopters. After all, no rescue wants the horses in their care to end up in a neglectful or abusive home.

My issue is that since most horse rescues in the country are individual entities, each rescue requires its own application. It’s a great idea, but in practice, it limits my ability to adopt.

I am currently approved as an adopter with two different horse rescues in two different States. I also got a verbal reassurance from one organization that they would approve me as an adopter based on my previous application approval with another nearby rescue. But my experience is that most rescues will not. I was told by the last organization I contacted that it would not accept an approved application from another organization. I would need to go through that rescue’s own application and approval process before I could adopt.

Anybody who has been horse shopping knows that it is common to test out multiple horses in multiple locations. While I don’t so much mind filling out many applications myself, I do mind asking multiple references to talk with multiple rescues. Veterinarians, farriers, riding instructors/trainers (not to mention friends/family) are busy folks.

I suppose if I adopt a horse that it will give the horse professionals in my life another client. But beyond that, there’s not much personal benefit for them taking up their time for me and my multiple applications, especially when there’s no guarantee that I will find a suitable horse at a particular rescue.

What I would really like to see is The Right Horse (or some other national organization) design a blanket adoption application and approval system. Individual rescues could then join in by agreeing that they would accept adopters who were approved by The Right Horse or whatever overarching organization might undertake the responsibility for maintaining this national adopter-database.

I would guess some rescues still wouldn’t participate, preferring to personally approve each adopter, but I bet many of them would. I think the idea of a national adopter-database has the potential to really open up the application barrier to adoption while still protecting the horses, donkeys and mules in their care.

While I am not the first person who has thought of this idea, I sent an email suggesting it to The Right Horse Initiative. I have not heard back from them, but maybe my email is at least hanging out in someone’s inbox somewhere. My hope is that the idea would be considered as they design their future programs within The Right Horse Initiative.

I’ve personally seen the good that animal rescues, shelters and sanctuaries add to the world. I plan to continue to be a part of this world in some form or fashion, whether I actually end up adopting my next horse or not. If folks interested in adopting knew that just one application approval would open up the possibility of them adopting from multiple rescues, I think the horse industry would see adoption rates rise and that would be a beautiful thing.

What about you? Have you ever adopted or fostered an animal? Volunteered at a rescue? What do you think would help equestrians consider adoption when looking for their next horse?

Mid-Year Reflection: What are you working on in your horsemanship?

Reflection often seems limited to the beginning or the ending of events. We might set riding goals at the start of the year. Or maybe look back at the end of show season. But what about when you are midway through or more?

In looking at the calendar, the year is more than half over. And in my neck of the woods, Winter is about three months away. Since I don’t usually ride at home once the weather turns freezing, I don’t have much longer to ride Shiloh before he starts his Winter break.

I’ve been pleased at how Shiloh has ridden this year. We continue to work on basics like maintaining rhythm and bend through circles, stretching forward into contact and improving consistency in his gait. He’s so much softer and more pliable than he used to be. I enjoy working on those smaller details. It’s the wanna be horse-trainer coming out in me.

This month marks the third year that I have had Shiloh. I knew he’d make a good pasture-mate for Bear, and I liked his personality from the get-go, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring him back to being a decent riding horse after his spending five years at pasture.

He has always felt safe in the sense of being quiet, but he was so dull and tuned out that it didn’t feel very good riding him. He was super defensive about rein contact, even in a bitless bridle, and didn’t seem to have any awareness of my seat or legs. But now I feel good about the relationship that we have developed in the saddle. It’s very gratifying to feel and see the changes in him.

We’ve also completed a handful of field trips off the property this year, but I have yet to either take Shiloh out on a trail ride or ride him in a clinic.

You may recall my writing about how we left our Spring clinic just a few hours after arriving due to some pain issues I was experiencing. More recently, I canceled our participation in a much-anticipated Summer clinic.

I still hope to resume our field trips to a friend’s property and a local barn once we get past the worst of the hot and humid Summer weather. But considering Bear’s age and health issues, I decided it would not be wise to take him to the four-day Summer clinic.

I wasn’t confident that Bear would eventually settle into spending most of that time separated from Shiloh while parked in a stall. He’s been struggling off and on (mostly on) with separation anxiety during our short field-trips. I just didn’t think he would do well with an extended trip away from home.

By not riding in either clinic, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to do obstacle work, try my hand at mounted archery and refresh my skills in working cattle. I must say it hurts to type all that out. I so enjoy participating in horse adventures, and it bothers me to stay at home so much. But I don’t want my fun to be potentially at Bear’s expense.

Otherwise, Bear is battling the battle of the bulge. He was staying trim until just the last month or so. The excessive rain we’ve had this July turned his semi-dry lot into something closer to a normal pasture.

That translated into him gaining weight quickly in just a few weeks. Something potentially dangerous for a horse like him with PPID (Cushing’s Disease) and EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome). I am now working on adjusting his diet since I can’t exercise him as he is only pasture sound at this point in his life. As Bear’s farrier says, “There’s nothing easy about managing an easy keeper.”

In the mean time, I am working on finding a third horse to add to the herd so Bear can be left at home with companionship while I take either Shiloh or the third new horse out for the future adventures I’d like to enjoy. I’ve met some very nice horses along the way in that journey, but I have not found the right one for me yet.

I had also thought Shiloh and I might have videoed a few more gaited western-dressage tests by now in order to enter online shows. But I am still confronting the fact that without an actual arena with good footing (as opposed to just riding in my paddocks, pastures or round pen), it is difficult for me to ride the tests at anything other than a walk. As interested as I am in western dressage, I am not sure I’ll be entering any online shows this year.

While I feel like on the whole I’ve had a good riding year with Shiloh so far and I have really enjoyed our rides, the year hasn’t been without its frustrations and disappointments.

Long story short, I thought I’d give this update of mine in order to prompt you, dear readers, to think about what you’ve done so far this year with your horsemanship and/or what else you’d like to work on or accomplish before year’s end. Especially for those of you, who like me, may find their riding severely limited or non-existent from December through March.

If you have not done what you would otherwise like to do yet, you still have some time. Set that goal. Make a plan.

Like me, you may not get as far as or do as much as you would like, but you never know until you try. Whatever the ultimate results, I bet you can still have fun along the way.

What is YOUR mid-year reflection?

Eight Ideas For What to Put In A Horse-For-Sale Ad

Tucked within a previous post on a different topic, I mentioned that I have been looking for a third horse to add to my herd.

For about a year, I have been regularly looking at adoption and rescue websites. I also view Craigslist, Dream Horse, EquineNow and HorseClicks ads.

With the popularity of Facebook, you may wonder why I didn’t include it in my list above? Technically, Facebook banned animal-for-sale ads although I am well aware that those ads still regularly appear.

In addition, I am not a Facebook member. I can still view public pages, but most Facebook ads don’t include alternative contact information like an email or phone number so I can’t communicate with the sellers even if I am otherwise interested.

But Facebook aside, I’ve likely viewed a thousand ads during my search. I use the information in ads to try to figure out if a horse matches enough of my criteria to warrant a trip to go meet said creature. Horse-shopping trips are exciting, but they can also be potentially time consuming and costly when they involve travel.

I don’t expect to read an entire novel about the horse or to see professional photos. But I unfortunately find myself frequently stymied by the lack of information in a sizable number of ads.

I get the sense that many folks are not sure what to put in an ad. They end up leaving out a lot of critical information that might otherwise help sell their horse.

I understand there can be legitimate reasons that certain information is not provided. But if I see an ad that lacks critical details, a red flag goes up for me. I am likely to keep scrolling or clicking. The seller misses out on a potential sale.

For those folks who may wonder how they can design an ad that is more likely to attract a buyer like me, here are my suggestions from the perspective of someone who is currently horse searching. In all your horse ads, please include the following:

  1. Age
  2. Breed
  3. Gender
  4. Height
  5. Skills and highlights
  6. Location (with contact info)
  7. Price
  8. Photos (and video)

Numbers 1 to 4: Age, breed, gender, height

The first four (age, breed, gender, height) are especially critical (if the horse is unregistered, even an estimated age and the notation that the horse is “grade” is helpful).

Having those first four basic criteria at the start of your ad is a big help to the potential buyer who is likely to be looking for a specific type of horse, say a small-gaited- teenage-gelding. It may also cut down on fifty people texting you asking your horse’s age because you forgot to include your horse’s basic statistics.

I didn’t include it in the above list, but you may also want to throw in your horse’s color. Especially if a photo does not accompany your ad. I am a fan of the adage “a good horse is never a bad color.” Even so, many of us do have coat-color preferences. Listing the color may be helpful to catch a buyer’s eye who happens to be looking for a particular shade of horse.

Number 5: Skills and highlights

The skills and highlights that you list should correspond with how you are marketing your horse. Is your horse an unstarted prospect, kid’s horse, companion-only horse? Think about what traits the typical buyer might be looking for in your horse’s chosen category.

For example, let’s say you are selling old Dobbin as a trail horse. List something about the horse’s specific training or experience or demeanor in that area. Maybe “trailer loads without drama, has experience staying tied all night to a high-line while camping or rides quietly in a group whether in the back, middle or lead.”

What about the companion-only horse who can’t be ridden? It can be helpful to talk about the horse’s manners and demeanor. Maybe “stands well for farrier, gets along quietly with other horses at pasture or loves to be groomed and fussed over.”

More general highlights that can apply to horses across the board are also helpful. Statements like “healthy and sound”, “stands like a rock at the mounting block” or “smooth and slow lope” can add nicely to the picture you are trying to paint of your horse.

Paint as attractive a picture as you can of your horse based on current skills that your horse demonstrates, not based on what you think your horse could be with more time, training or attention. This isn’t to say that your ideas of your horse’s potential certainly don’t have merit. You might include a sentence about what you think the horse could be suited for in the future. But mostly, tell me what kind of horse I will be encountering when I show up for a meet and greet this week.

Number 6: Location

Location (as in where the horse is so the buyer can arrange a “meet and greet”) is super helpful. Some folks are comfortable buying site unseen, but many still want to arrange an in person test-drive before buying.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten really excited about an ad, only to email the buyer and find out the horse is five States away and I can’t get there. I wouldn’t have disturbed the seller if that information had been included in the ad.

Don’t forget your contact info! Most ad websites require the seller to include one form of contact, but more is helpful. When you can, include both a phone number and an email. Let folks know if you can receive texts at your phone number too.

Number 7: Price

Listing the price is really important! Even a price range (mid-four figures, for example) is more helpful than nothing. If I have a maximum of $2,000 to spend, I will know not to bother contacting you if your horse is listed for $3,000. Saves time for everybody.

Number 8: Photos and Video

Not all for sale ads include photos, much less videos, but when they are an option, use them to show off your horse’s skills!

A photo of a horse grazing in a pasture doesn’t tell me much. But even a single photo of a horse haltered and tied up with a saddle on its back shows me that the horse accepts a tack and ties at least long enough for someone to take a photo. Use the photos to show me what your horse knows and what he or she can do!

Keep in mind that especially if the actual sale ad doesn’t include room for media, most buyers will still want to be emailed or texted more than one photo of the horse. Video too.

If you don’t already have a ton of photos and video clips of the horse you are selling, get friends or family to come out and do a multi-media shoot. Then you’ll be able to easily show off your horse’s skills when all those emails and text requests for photos and videos arrive.

Everything from picking out all four hooves, to standing for mounting to heading down the trail or trotting around the arena can be documented with photos and short video segments. Those to-the-point video clips can be very powerful in generating interest in your horse.

Final Thoughts

I understand from others that selling can be just as frustrating an experience as buying, perhaps even more so.

Folks asking a hundred questions and then deciding they are no longer interested. No-showing on the day of the “meet and greet”. Messages not returned. I’ve heard multiple sellers describe such difficulties. It can be awkward and exasperating on both sides of the equation apparently.

In closing I will say that I know a great sale ad is no guarantee of a sale. But a seller has the power to get the ball rolling in the right direction with an ad that includes the eight items above. And when that sale finally happens, with both sides feeling like they got a fair deal and the horse going to a suitable home, everyone can finally breath a sigh of relief.