Welcome, Piper!

Please join me in welcoming Piper to The Backyard Horse Blog. Piper is a bay, twenty-year-old Racking Horse (unregistered) gelding.

I first met Piper earlier in the Summer after seeing his ad online. I test-drove him and liked him, but I wasn’t quite sure he was the horse for me. I chose not to buy him. But as I continued my horse search, I noticed that he was still for sale with his price lowered. Then lowered again.

Eventually, I saw that his ad had been updated with a note that he would be sent to auction if someone didn’t pick him up soon. Apparently, if you want me to buy your horse, “going to auction” are the magic words.

While there are horses bought at auction who end up in good homes, there are also horses who end up in the slaughter pipeline when purchased by dealers. Those horses move from auction to auction if not sold privately by the dealer in the mean time, eventually being sold to slaughter houses in Mexico or Canada when no other buyer comes forward.

Lots of sound, healthy and trained horses end up in the slaughter pipeline simply because there was not a private buyer to purchase the horse on whatever day the horse was presented at auction.

During my horse search, I had actually been hoping to adopt from a horse rescue. But I was having difficulty finding the type of horse I wanted within reasonable driving distance. Then when I saw that this horse that I had met earlier in the Summer might be sent to auction, it occurred to me that perhaps here was my opportunity to potentially keep a horse out of the slaughter pipeline.

Piper has many good qualities. He is a handsome fellow who is in remarkable shape for an estimated twenty-year-old horse. He was well-cared-for and seemed quite happy with his long-time owner who had kept Piper sound, trained and in good condition.

But at an auction, I was concerned that he would be passed over by potential buyers due to his age. Whether or not he really would have ended up at an auction, bought by a dealer and sold for slaughter? I have no way to know. It is conjecture on my part. But I like to think I kept him from that possible fate.

So once I had Piper vetted, I picked Piper up at his former owner’s place and trailered directly to the boarding barn close to my house where I take lessons. They had a stall opening and kindly let me keep Piper there for a week. It was a good way to get to know him initially without the added drama of integrating him immediately into my home herd.

Piper wasn’t used to being mostly stalled, so I visited him twice a day to let him out to graze/do groundwork/ride in either the indoor arena or the outdoor track. At the barn, I got to experience how he handled moving around a new-to-him place with me, his new-to-him human. I appreciated the opportunity to see how he navigated a busier environment than my backyard. And I liked what I saw.

As of this writing, Piper has now been in my backyard a week and a half. From the get-go, Piper made it very clear to Bear and Shiloh that there is a new sheriff in town. It is an adjustment with everyone feeling various degrees of upset at times.

Fortunately, I am seeing signs of Piper slowly feeling more secure. Bear and Shiloh also seem to be more accepting of the new arrangement. I can see some calm being restored. But all adjustments take time. We ask a lot of our horses when we suddenly take them away from everything they have known and drop them into a totally new experience. Ditto when we subtract from or add to a herd.

As we start our journey together, I reflect on what an interesting experience it is to get to know a new horse. I have lessons to teach them. They have lessons to teach me. I am trying to show them the ropes of their new place by integrating them into my established routines and expectations. At the same time, I am trying to learn their individual needs and preferences so I can make appropriate accommodations.

On that note, I share excerpts from author Anna Blake, taken from her own Relaxed and Forward blog. You can read the full post here https://annablake.com/2021/09/17/calming-signals-and-why-the-second-times-a-charm/.

Her words so often reach me right where I am at, reminding me of guiding principles that orient me as I navigate my way through this horse life.

“Being with horses is about creating tendencies of behavior over time . . . Problems die when starved of attention. Ignore what you don’t want, ask a better question next time, be consistent and affirmative. . . When we get our next horse, they’ll be confused and disoriented when they arrive. Things don’t start well because we forget how it was in the beginning with the last horse. Trust that time is on your side, trust that one moment prepares for the next. Then let the conversation begin . . .” – Anna Blake


What Is a Backyard Horse?

What is a “backyard horse”?

The backyard horse is any equine kept on their owner’s private property, apart from any business like a boarding barn, training facility or ranch. The backyard itself could be anything from a city/suburban literal backyard to a rural property with acreage.

The backyard horse could be any breed and participate in any discipline. You do sometimes find backyard horses who are top competitors but that is more the exception rather than the rule. Your typical backyard horse is more likely to be a pretty average horse.

I would like to clarify that my use of the word “average” is not meant to imply that the backyard horse is without value though. When did “average” become a dirty word? Average makes the world go round.

The typical backyard horse may not be your national level winner, but he or she can still be a delightful ride. A wonderful companion. A wise teacher of life lessons among other treasured experiences.

When I was growing up, I always saw the term “backyard horse” and its companion “backyard rider” as pejorative. Maybe they still are in some circles.

I think the idea is/was that backyard horses are likely to be poor quality. Kind of dinky. The backyard rider was uninformed and unambitious. Unable to win ribbons in any kind of competitive setting. As though accumulating accolades is the only way to show worth.

That said, I very much appreciate competition and enjoy supporting other equestrians as they pursue their show goals. I even like to try to snag a few ribbons by competing in the occasional local or schooling-type show myself! I have lots of good memories competing and hope to accumulate more.

Competing can be fun. A rush. An exciting challenge. It teaches you lessons that are harder to learn outside of competition settings. If competing is your main gig with your horse, you go for it. I am cheering you on!

While I am clapping for you from the sidelines or entering a class myself, I am also remembering that winning prizes or purses is not the only determiner of the worth of a rider or a horse.

For example, I turn my life over to my backyard horses every time I ride or handle them, especially considering I am usually interacting with the horses by myself. The horse that keeps me safe but hasn’t won a ribbon in his entire life? I would say he or she is just as valuable as a prized show horse.

That horse that allows me, as an average rider with non-professional horse skills, to handle, ride, transport and otherwise care for him year in and year out? You can’t tell me that horse is not special, even if the horse were the homeliest, most unathletic four-legged creature on the planet.

Even though my particular perspective is of a backyard rider with backyard horses, I know there is room in the equestrian world for all of us and our different types of horses/minis/mules/donkeys. Backyard horse or rider. Show horse or rider. Trail horse or rider. Equestrians who board their horses. Riders without their own horse. Folks who enjoy their animals but don’t ride, drive or otherwise employ them.

I love it when we make space for each other. To be proud of the corner of the horse world we occupy, and at the same time, support others in their chosen endeavors, interests and level of involvement. To celebrate measurable wins. But also see the important qualities that go beyond those gained through external achievement.

I suppose one of the reasons I chose the name “The Backyard Horse Blog” is to reclaim that derogatory title I remember from my youth. Instead, I wanted to use the term in its most positive sense.

I wanted to hopefully show that backyard horses and their riders have a place at the table within the equine industry. They have value. Even if that value might not look like rising triumphantly through the levels of a particular discipline.

Instead, maybe it might look more like someone enjoying their horses during the ins and outs of everyday home and barn life. Maybe it looks like someone improving their skills or developing their horses’ talents. None of which will ever be tested outside their backyard. Maybe it looks like someone providing a lifetime home to a horse that can’t ever be ridden. Maybe it looks like marking time together. Watching each other grow up or grow old.

If you have a horse or two at home, I hope you can join me in positively using the term backyard horse. Not in a way that denotes we are worse or better than any other equestrian who makes different choices, but in a way where we recognize the merits of our own horses. Appreciating the wonder, the beauty, the adventures and even the challenges that your horses add to your life. Right in your own backyard.

Equine Illustrated Inspiration

“When we are open to listening and learning, each horse and every ride teaches us every day, for the School of Soft Hands and Hard Knocks never ends. Anyone with desire can enroll in this school and be exposed to many worthwhile lessons through the process of being with horses and learning to ride. This school accepts all applicants, yet no one ever graduates. Since the course of study is infinite, students are perpetually earning credits of insight and know-how toward their lifelong degree in HorsePower!”

From Living with HorsePower! Personally Empowering Life Lessons Learned From The Horse by Rebekah Ferran Witter

Equine Illustrated Inspiration is a periodic feature on The Backyard Horse Blog. The writer pairs her personal photographs of horses with inspiring quotes from a variety of authors. She hopes that readers will find these quotes as motivating in their own horsemanship journeys as she does.

Tune into Horse Week- Free Online Event

If you enjoying watching videos about horses, you may want to tune into Horse Week from October 3-9, 2021. It is free to anyone with an internet connection and streaming capabilities at http://www.horseweek.tv.

Brought to you by the Equine Network, Horse Week is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and includes organization partners from across a variety of horse breeds and disciplines. It looks like the content will include a little something for everyone.

Here are the FAQ’s From the Horse Week website:

“What is Horse Week?
Presented by the Equine Network and brought to you by Boehringer Ingelheim, Horse Week offers over 25 hours of fresh high-quality educational and inspiring video content that riders and horse lovers of every level and discipline will enjoy.

When is Horse Week?
October 3-9, 2021

How/where do I watch Horse Week?
Viewers can stream all Horse Week video content from any smart device by tuning into http://www.horseweek.tv

How much does it cost to watch?
Horse Week is 100% FREE! Viewers will have complete access to all Horse Week content for no charge.

What type of content can I expect?
Incredible and compelling stories of the impact horses have on the lives of others from all walks of life, clinics with industry leading professionals, profiles on both equine athletes and equestrians from across the different disciplines.

How can I stay up to date with all things Horse Week?
Subscribe to our Horse Week newsletter or follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and #horseweektv.”

Mark your calendars!

Balancing and Shaping in Riding

I’ve recently been reading a book by Beth Baumert called “When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics.” You may recall that I previously read her book “How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage” and wrote about it in a blog post titled The Wonder of Horses at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/03/17/the-wonder-of-horses/. Here is a picture of the two books taken from the Trafalgar Square Books website:

It wasn’t too many years ago the idea dawned on me that some riders could actually improve their horse’s way of going. I’m not just talking about successfully accomplishing a task with a horse or getting it to calm down or speed up. Those things can be part of it. But it encompasses so much more.

I’m talking about actually improving our horses’ body shape, outline and movement. Actually improving their physique through exercise. Essentially turning riding into physical therapy for the horse. Much of dressage training is couched in these terms, but these goals are not exclusive to dressage.

Most of us just do good to stay upright on top of our horse, more or less at the mercy of what our horses do or don’t do. We follow our horses in and out of balance. Remarkably, it seems that most horses do okay with this arrangement. Otherwise, no one but the expert horseman would ever be able ride.

But there can also be a physical and mental cost to many of our horses when they are ridden without attention to their movement. We can end up wearing them down instead of building them up.

Unfortunately for me, actually improving a horse’s way of going in a consistent and measurable way at all gaits still eludes me. Even so, I think it’s a worthy goal to try to hone my eye on the ground and my feeling in the saddle. To seek balance in any horse I ride.

When I tune into how the horse that I am riding feels underneath me. When I continue to read riding literature, listen to podcasts, observe others riding. When I’m able to watch videos and view photos of my riding. All these things help me very slowly learn what I am supposed to be heading towards. What I should be thinking about, feeling for and observing in myself and any horse that I am riding.

It’s like a puzzle that sits on the top of a desk in various stages of completion, but never seems to ever get done. My riding often feels like a bunch of pieces, strewn all over the desk. I’ve been trying to fit them together for years and years.

I especially see it in the videos and photos I accumulate of my riding. I’m still often not able to match up well with what something looks like and what I’m feeling in the saddle. But when I am able to get it right- connect a moment where my horse looks beautiful to a particular sensation I remember at that moment in my ride- it’s a magical feeling that makes me want to keep chasing it.

If any of this resonates with you, I would highly recommend both of Beth Baumert’s books. No matter if you consider yourself a dressage rider or not. So many of her concepts are applicable to all types of riding.

While you can buy the book at a variety of stores or maybe find them in your local library, if you purchase them through the affiliate link to Trafalgar Square Book’s equestrian material on this blog, I will receive a portion of the book sales. If you are reading this from The Backyard Horse Blog website, you can find the affiliate link on either the right hand side of the website or at the bottom (where you see the picture of the woman reading a book to a horse).

Or, if watching videos is more your thing, you also may find the following clip from Horse Class to be helpful. It explains and demonstrates what is meant by the phrase “inside leg to outside rein,” an important concept used for shaping the horse’s body towards better movement.

As quoted from a September 2021 Horse Class Email:

“There are many terms in riding that are a bit vague. Commonly used, but rarely explained. Inside leg to outside rein is one of these vague terms. It is a concept, a key concept for encouraging balanced movement from a horse, but many riders don’t actually know what this means or more importantly, what this feels like.

When I teach riding, I prefer to give both explanations and exercises. When we understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and can feel it this creates true confidence!

In today’s video, I will do just this with the inside leg to outside rein concept to demonstrate what this means with our school horse AppleJack, explain why this is important (even if you are a trail rider), and then teach you an exercise to feel this with your own horse.

Click Here to watch “Inside Leg to Outside Rein” – What this means and an exercise to finally FEEL it:” https://www.horseclass.com/blog/inside-leg-to-outside-rein/

While you are on the Horse Class website, check out the other free videos offered. I think many of them dovetail nicely with the information presented in Beth Baumert’s books. In my book, they are all different pieces to the same puzzle. 🙂

Something For My Canadian Horse Friends

While I am a horse-owner in the USA, I enjoy keeping tabs on how folks ride and care for horses across the globe. I recently learned through the Canadian Horse Journal that the company Boehringer Ingelheim is offering free PPID tests to eligible horses in Canada.

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) is a chronic endocrine disorder. You may know it by its more common name, Cushing’s Disease. My own horse, Bear, received this diagnosis several years ago. Boehringer Ingelheim is the maker of the medication, Prascend, that Bear’s veterinarian prescribes him to address PPID symptoms.

To find out if your horse may be eligible for the free PPID test, go to https://www.bicanadaequine.ca/ppid to take the quiz.

The offer for the free test runs through October 26th, 2021.

If you are curious about PPID and would like to learn more, you can click on that link above. Even if you aren’t a Canadian resident, you may still find their website material informative. It contains helpful information about PPID including sections on how PPID is diagnosed, what symptoms it can cause, treatment and outcomes.

I have not seen any similar offers for residents outside Canada, but I will keep my eyes open and let readers know if I do. Horses are expensive. A horse with a chronic disease potentially more so. Every free offer that I see is worth considering and posting if it can help someone else better afford to care for their horses. Whether they live near or far.

The Bucket Fund

Have you heard of the Horse and Man Blog? It has got to be one of the longest running horse blogs in existence. I have been reading it for about a decade.

Dawn, the creator and author of this well-established blog, is a friend to horses in need. Through the blog’s “Bucket Fund,” thousands of dollars have been distributed to help horses recover from abuse, neglect and natural disasters.

The idea behind The Bucket Fund is that each “drop in the bucket” can add up to large amounts of money to help each month’s selected recipient(s). For example, if one thousand of her readers each donated just $5 (price of one fancy coffee), that would provide $5,000!

I personally know the power of the Bucket Fund. The fund once helped support the care of a group of miniature horses from the Indiana Horse Rescue, after I nominated them for the honor of being a Bucket Fund recipient. That month, the fund raised over a $1,000 for the minis. The money was much needed and appreciated.

Dawn’s mother passed away recently, and in honor of her Mother, she is asking readers this month (September 2021) to donate money towards a group of ten neglected horses recently taken in by Falcon Ridge Rescue in California (http://falconridgerescue.org/). Many of the horses are seniors. All terribly thin.

If you would like to read the group’s story go to

You can also learn how to donate to The Bucket Fund through the above link. I know that Dawn, Falcon Ridge Rescue and of course the horses would really appreciate any and all contributions.

Equine Fun With Carrot Tops

Usually, when I go to the grocery store, I see carrots without their leafy-green tops. But did you know that many horses enjoy eating this part of the carrot plant? As you can see by the photos, my horses certainly do. Every once in a while, when I can find them, I grab a bundle of carrots complete with tops.

Bear likes them so much that he even performs tricks at liberty in exchange for another bite.

Apparently, most people can eat carrot tops too. I confess I have not tried any myself yet, but I am curious. If you are too, see a recipe for sautéed carrot tops at https://www.forkintheroad.co/sauteed-carrot-greens/.

Interestingly, conventional wisdom holds that there are some cautions for both horses and humans when it comes to carrots.

For example, it is thought that folks with sensitivities to alkaloids and nitrates may want to avoid them. Likewise, it is thought that horses with PSSM should not eat carrots due to the high potassium levels. And horses with EMS, like Bear, are cautioned to only eat them in very small portions (or not at all depending upon an individual horse’s current health status) due to sugar content.

If you’d like to read more about feeding carrots to horses, with or without tops, read this post from Helpful Horse Hints at

Most importantly, it is helpful to remember that even though watching our horses enjoy carrots is fun, treats are best given in moderation (for example, the above article recommends no more than one or two carrots per day for the average horse without any dietary restrictions).

Race on Over to Take These Quizzes . . .

Check out the link below to take just-for-fun quizzes. All horse-related, of course!

From my favorite horse magazine, Equus, comes six entertaining quizzes with titles like “What rare horse breed are you?” and “What do horses say in different languages?”.

For those of you who might be sensitive to what your answers reveal about yourself, please note that your results are not to be taken seriously. 🙂

Go to https://equusmagazine.com/quizzes to have a little horsey fun today!

Equus Magazine Barn Stories Episode 38: The Next Journey (Featuring My Horse, Bear)

Have you listened to Equus Magazine’s Barn Stories podcasts? Barn Story material is selected by the magazine’s editors from almost forty years of True Tale stories that appeared in the printed magazine.

I am thrilled to see that my previously published True Tale story was made into Barn Stories Podcast: Episode 38! Equus has long been my favorite horse magazine. I actually remember reading it as a child. To have the magazine publish an essay of mine was meaningful. To see it turned into a podcast episode is a pleasant surprise.

I wrote the essay a few years ago. I composed it not long after my horse, Bear, began to struggle with a variety of health issues. His problems eventually led me to retire him from riding.

I actually figured that I did not have much time left with him. I anticipated most likely having him euthanized within the year.

I also didn’t have another horse of my own at home. I was fostering a series of horses for a rescue to keep Bear company. But none of them stayed with me permanently. With Bear’s health deteriorating, I also saw the end of my time as a horse owner looming before me.

The essay vividly reflects my feelings during that period. It is sad. Full of grief. Both real and anticipatory. My writing charged by the emotional turmoil that can occur when one experiences unwelcome life transitions.

Those of you who read the blog regularly will recognize that Bear is still with me. He turned 26 this year. But, you know. He won’t live forever. One day, I will in fact be grieving his actual loss. And at some point, my time as a horse owner will come to an end too.

Knowing those things will come to pass? It is painful. At the same time, that knowledge makes me appreciate all the more what I still do have. It sharpens my appreciation for what is right in front of me. Right here. Right now.

While reading or listening to sad stories is not for everyone, some of us find it therapeutic to dive into the depths of human experience and emotion. At least on occasion. Especially when it comes to how we feel about horses. Sometimes it is affirming and comforting to know that someone else feels similarly.

If you are inclined, you can listen to the podcast or read its transcript at


The podcast is about 10 minutes long, including the introduction, an ad read right in the middle of the podcast and the actual essay.

For those of you who prefer to listen to or read something a little different, check out the other Barn Stories podcast episodes. Some are sad or poignant like mine. Some are funny and more of a gentle read. I think they all do a beautiful job of capturing the range of experiences that equestrians have with horses. Find them at


This is the image that I chose to accompany my Equus True Tale story in the magazine. Bear and I are riding out on BLM land near the Little Bookcliffs mountain range in Western Colorado. I have long been drawn to the openness and stark beauty of the high desert. I thought the feeling of the picture captured the vastness of my relationship with Bear. The photographer is none other than my non-riding husband who was leading my other horse, Pumpkin Spice. You can see Spice’s ear sweetly peaking over the bottom corner of the picture.

Labor Day Horse-Shopping Discounts

Readers may know that I like to do the majority of my horse-related shopping when I can best take advantage of steep discounts. I do this by keeping a list of my equestrian needs/wants while setting aside money throughout the year. I then try to time as many purchases as possible to coincide with Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals.

But . . . there certainly are discounts during other holiday-related shopping times too.

Speaking of that, those of you in the USA may be enjoying your last day of the long Labor Day weekend. If you’d like to get in some last minute shopping, I’ve rounded up a list of Labor Day horse-shopping discounts that popped into my email inbox recently for your shopping pleasure.

The picture above was taken from the Big D website. Go to https://www.bigdweb.com to take advantage of the offer(s) shown.

I don’t have pictures for these other offers, but here is the pertinent information from several more shopping websites. Please visit the websites for exact offer details and exclusions.

Riding Warehouse
Free $25 RW gift card with any $150 purchase
Offers expires on 9/6/21

15% off plus, if you place a $200 order, get a free $50 e-gift card.
Use promo code LaborDay21
Offer expires 9/10/21

Cheshire Horse
20% off in store and online (with some exceptions)
Offer expires 09/08/21 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern

Hay Pillow
10% off Standard Hay Pillows
One Day Only – Monday September 6th
Use Coupon Code: Lbr10

Majesty’s Animal Nutrition (supplements/treats for equines and canines)
25% off all products
Valid Sept. 3rd through Sept 13th, 2021
Promo Code:LABORDAY25

Beauty For Real
30% off site wide
Use Code: LABOR30
Not sure of expiration date but probably at the end of the day today 9/6/21
(Please note that Beauty For Real is a makeup company. Not for horses. BUT, if you purchase their Lip Revival- Tinted Lip Balm, 20% of proceeds will benefit Brooke USA. This is an organization that helps working equids and their families worldwide. See my previous post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/07/26/equine-non-profit-spotlight-the-brooke-and-brookeusa/ to learn more about The Brooke and Brooke USA)

Very Short Story: Window To A Horse’s Soul

Led into the stable, he held his head low. He had never been here before and didn’t know these people. His instincts told him to run, but he felt too tired and sore. He just got off the trailer after a long ride. Throat dry from lack of water. Stomach tight from little food. Hoofs sore from lack of trimming. Whatever these new people wanted to do to him, he knew he would just have to stand there and take it. With eyes and ears at half-mast, he started to disappear into himself as he had done so many days and nights before. As he shuffled forward into the new barn, he suddenly felt the soft bedding beneath his hooves as he entered a stall. He caught the scent of fresh hay in the corner. He took note of the full bucket of clear, clean water. All these unexpected comforts captured his attention. Maybe, just maybe, he could come alive again. Today I think I saw hope in that horse’s eyes.

***This very short story is dedicated to all those horses-in-need out there, still waiting on their own soft place to land. ***

Wednesday Whinny

One of the many horse professionals that I enjoy learning from online is Barbra Schulte. I find her positive outlook on horses, riding and competition so inviting.

I referenced her in a previous post at

Mental Fitness in Riding

For today’s post, I share her words that appeared in one of her recent “Just For Today” emails.

“I think about the people in my horse world who inspire me.

I am so grateful for them.

Today, I realize that I too inspire others.

This makes me feel good.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a smile or a kind word or a compliment about their horse.

And I will never know how I encourage someone else by never giving up, succeeding, and just being me – as I am.

I love knowing we all help each other in ways we will never know!”

By Barbra Schulte in her Just For Today Email Dated 8/16/21

Pursuing our horsemanship goals can bring out the Type A personality hidden (or maybe not so hidden) in some of us. This can lead to noticing every thing wrong about our own horsemanship and that of others.

Sure, in order to improve, it is helpful to notice and acknowledge what needs to change. But there’s a difference between that kind of awareness verses dwelling on the negative. It can be a delicate balancing act of perspectives as we seek to learn and grow our skills.

I like this reminder from Barbra Schule that we all have the power to look for the inspiration we gain from others. Barbra also shows us that sometimes just being ourselves, in all our human messiness and contradiction, allows us to connect with others in a way that a “perfect” version of ourselves never could. How refreshing is that!