A Home For Every Horse giveaway- enter by 10/31/21!

Photo taken from A Home For Every Horse Website

If you are a USA resident, here is a contest for you to enter. Sponsored by Purina, the contest brings attention to the program A Home For Every Horse.

“A Home for Every Horse was created in 2011 in result to a partnership between the Equine Network, the nation’s leading publisher of equine-related content, and The American Horse Council’s Unwanted Horse Coalition. The program provides a resource for 501(c)(3) horse rescue organizations.

The A Home for Every Horse program helps connect rescue horses in need of homes, in over 600 rescues across the United States, with people looking for horses. To make the connection between rescue horses and homes, rescue organizations can list their horses for free on Equine.com, the world’s largest horse marketplace, where they can be seen by 300,000 visitors each month.”

-Taken from A Home For Every Horse website

To learn more about A Home For Every Horse, go to https://ahomeforeveryhorse.com/. Then to enter the contest, go to https://ahomeforeveryhorse.com/page/ahfeh-and-purina-giveaway. The winner will receive a $100 visa gift card, FIVE FREE bags of premium Purina horse feed and all sorts of swag. Total prize value is $300. The winner will be announced on A Home For Every Horse social.

Hurry, entries for the giveaway end on October 31st, 2021.

Horse Vital Signs- Free Download

*UPDATE: Please note these normal vital sign numbers are for the ADULT horse. I have only ever kept adult horses at home so that is my orientation. A comment from a reader made me remember that vital sign numbers are different for foals verses adults. Here is a link that includes a great infographic that shows both adult AND foal vital sign numbers for those who might benefit from that info: https://chimacumtack.com/blog/2020/04/07/tuesday-tip-your-horses-vitals/.

Even after almost twenty years of horse-keeping, I struggle to recall the numbers associated with normal horse vital signs. And I can guarantee that during an emergency, my recall will not get any better.

While I don’t take my horses’ vitals that often, I have found it useful to do so during instances where I am trying to decide whether or not to call the veterinarian. If my horse seems a little off, but their vital signs are within normal ranges, I might take a wait and see approach. But if I am able to identify an increased temperature or heart rate, for example, I am more apt to call the vet immediately.

My relaying abnormal vital-sign numbers to the veterinarian may give a better picture of my horse’s condition than my own vague “he just doesn’t seem like himself” description.

Since I have trouble keeping all the relevant vital sign numbers in my head, I like to store a print-out in my first aid kit. I’ve seen various versions over the years, but I have to say that I really like this one from feed manufacturer, Standlee, that is shown in the photo at the top of this post (photo taken from the Standlee website).

If you’d like your own copy, the chart is free to download at

https://www.standleeforage.com/standlee-barn-bulletin/identify-horse-vital-signs/

All good information for any equestrian to have at the ready.

A Take On Horse Reactions to New Objects

On my list of books to read is Horse Brain Human Brain by Janet L. Jones, PhD. In the mean time, I’ve enjoyed reading some online articles by the author.

Dr. Jones does some writing for the magazine Psychology Today. She wrote a piece about the incident this Summer at the Tokyo equestrian Olympics regarding a particular jump design. Specifically, a giant Sumo wrestler statue positioned next to one of the stadium jumps.

Show jumps can be works of art. It is amazing to see the creativity of jump designers. I enjoyed seeing many of the Olympic jumps clearly reflecting the cultural and environmental beauty of Japan.

Horses at the Olympic level are in fact used to jumping some pretty interesting designs. Unfortunately, a number of horses at the Tokyo Olympics had trouble with the jump accompanied by the Sumo wrestler.

If you have not yet seen photos of the wrestler, you can do a Google search for it. Multiple online news outlets reported on the disruption it caused. Some of the news reporting gave me a chuckle in how they recounted the story. But I remember seeing the statue on TV while watching the Olympics. I was not amused. The jump made my heart race while I was just sitting on the couch. It was quite intimidating.

If you are a horse person, you have likely read explanations of how horses perceive new objects differently than humans do. Still, I like the way Dr. Jones explained it. Straight forward enough for a non-equestrian to comprehend and yet interesting enough to add to even the experienced rider’s equine knowledge base.

The article particularly caught my attention as I read it right after I had returned from a riding lesson involving a new object in the arena.

Side note here- Those of you who regularly read The Backyard Horse Blog may know that in addition to riding my own horses at home, I frequently take riding lessons at a nearby barn on their lesson horses. If you keep your horses at home like me, I highly recommend taking outside lessons. Without them, I doubt I would have the skill practice and confidence to ride my horses on my own at home.

That particular week of my lesson, the indoor arena where I rode had a board replaced along one of the gates. The board had not yet been painted over to match the old wood so the new board clearly stood out against the other painted white boards.

Homer, the lesson horse that I was riding, immediately noticed this difference. He was anxious about heading towards it and passing by it for much of the lesson. For example, our attempt at cantering calmly next to it, past the corner onto the straightaway, turned into something that felt more like riding a skittering spider.

The poor guy was clearly creeped out by this out-of-place item that was absent the hundreds of other times he had entered the arena.

I have long struggled to keep a horse’s attention during moments of tension. This time was no different. Good practice, you say, in trying to keep my own composure and give the horse something else to think about besides the scary object? Sure. But it ain’t easy for me.

I suppose I should be grateful that nobody has propped up a sumo wrestler statue in the corner yet!

If you would like to see Dr. Jones article to read her explanation about why horses shy at unusual objects, go to

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/horse-brain-human-brain/202108/sumo-wrestler-walks-bar-er-horse-show.

If you would like to purchase a copy of Horse Brain Human Brain by Dr. Jones, you can buy it through Trafalgar Square Books. The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate link with them. If you purchase any books through the affiliate link (click on the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse featured on the blog website), I will receive a much appreciated portion of your purchase. Many of Trafalgar Square Books materials can also be bought as downloads if you prefer reading on your computer.

Driveway As Rideway: Using your driveway as an arena

When it rains in pours. That’s how the weather in my area seems this October. The sloppy footing conditions around my property limit most of my rides to the round pen. Despite a thick grass cover, my open pastures and barn area are much too soggy.

While I very much appreciate having my round pen with its aglime footing, I get the sense that Shiloh finds the round pen monotonous. I work to make the rides as interesting as I can, changing the obstacles and whatnot, but I also value being able to vary where I ride.

For a change of pace, I decided to break up a roundpen session with some work in my barn driveway.

I mounted in the roundpen and then rode Shiloh onto the driveway, trying to spend as little time as possible on the squishy grass between the two. At the end of each part of the driveway, I began by doing little half circles to reverse directions, going briefly onto the grass sides in each direction.

After a couple of rounds, I advanced to changing directions at each driveway end by doing either a turn on the forehand or a turn on the hindquarters. Varying the direction of the turns each time. Meanwhile, Bear and Piper chose to use Shiloh’s work session to take a nap. If you look closely, you can see Bear lying down in the photo backgrounds. Piper was resting behind him just out of view.

In between the turns, I switched between walking and foxtrotting. Sometimes asking Shiloh to foxtrot right from the halt just after completing the turn on the forehand/hindquarters. It’s good practice for us both. He’s kind of a slow horse. I’m kind of a slow rider. Snappy really isn’t our style.

But the short, narrow driveway prompted us to try to be a little more active and crisp in our movements than usual. Unfortunately, we loose some relaxation in the process. I then have trouble encouraging Shiloh to reach towards the contact. Especially when his adrenaline level shoots up early in our ride as seen in the photo below. But where’s the fun in life without some challenges.

In reviewing the photos of our work (kindly taken by my husband), I noticed that we were able to keep to the same line of travel. Just like riding in a newly dragged sand arena (or through freshly packed snow), the hoofprints tell the tale.

It’s a simple thing to ride a straight line. Yet weirdly difficult. I remember when Shiloh and I first started riding together that I couldn’t get him to go down a straightaway for more than a few strides. We’d bob and weave all over the place.

Shiloh naturally doesn’t move very straight. I can see it when he moves in the pasture. The way he places and turns/twists his hooves/legs as he moves through space is odd. It makes efficient forward movement challenging. All that to say, I was pleasantly surprised that we could keep to the middle as well as we did.

Driveway as rideway? It’s funny how when you are an equestrian that you see so many things in terms of horses. When I am traveling around and see a long driveway, my mind usually travels to thinking about how much fun it would be to ride on it. I know in the past when looking at properties for sale, I would consider where I could potentially ride in the absence of a designated arena. A smooth dirt or gently graveled driveway was definitely on my wish list.

How about you? Have you ever used a driveway as a training space for you and your horse?

Piper Update

After announcing the latest horse addition to my backyard at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/09/29/welcome-piper/, I thought I’d do a Piper update for today’s post.

Piper continues his process of settling into his new life. But no mistaking it. Transitions are difficult. It really is a tall ask to take a horse from all he has known and expect him to function well in a totally new environment.

I couldn’t miss the initial signs of anxiety in Piper. Constant pacing along the paddock fence line. Aggression towards the other horses at feeding time. Tension about being handled and ridden.

Now that a month has gone by, I am seeing signs that Piper’s tension is dissipating, although not completely gone. Despite that, he hasn’t done anything terrible through all we’ve done together- groundwork, riding, trailering three times and two farrier visits (I had his hind shoes removed before I put him in with Bear and Shiloh and then his front shoes removed more recently).

We completed ten rides to date. Mostly in my home round pen, but also in my open pasture as well as in the indoor arena and on the outdoor track at a nearby barn. Short rides practicing basic transitions, turns and crossing ground poles. Just trying to get the feel of each other.

He may be twenty-years-old with plenty of training, but we do have some things to work out between us. I am quite different from his long-time former owner in almost every way. A person that Piper really seemed to like. It’s actually one of the reasons I did not go through with Piper’s sale the first time. I had my doubts about how Piper, a bold- energetic- forward horse (even at age twenty), would adjust to my own skill level, confidence and demeanor.

But maybe I wasn’t extending Piper enough credit. I’m already seeing improvement in some of the areas that proved initially challenging. For example, he is now moving out of my space when I enter the paddock with hay or the ration balancer pellets as opposed to running at me when he sees me coming.

Piper is also improving at standing and growing roots at the mounting block, but we still have a ways to go. His former person was much taller and mounted easily from the ground. I remember when I test-drove Piper that I had to use an overturned bucket as his owner did not have a mounting block on hand. All that to say, Piper may not have had much previous exposure to mounting blocks.

He is showing more relaxation at the block than he used to, but I’m still having to channel my inner gymnast to get in the saddle more frequently than I’d like. This video clip shows one of those moments.

As far as Bear and Shiloh go, Piper quickly established himself as herd leader. That hasn’t changed. But I see much less of the resource guarding behavior that I imagine was related to his anxiety about being in a new place.

At first, Piper seemed bound and determined to guard every hay pile, even when I spread them out across the pasture. He completely blocked Bear and Shiloh’s use of the run in shed. During nap time, Piper would run them off the good patches of shade that appear in the pasture at different times of the day. Bear and Shiloh got a lot of exercise. Shiloh even ended up with three small bite marks on his rear end, likely when he didn’t move fast enough out of Piper’s way.

I contemplated separating the horses permanently with electric tape as I had when Piper first arrived, dividing the run in shed down the middle or buying a second run in shed. The herd dynamics have fortunately now improved enough for me to put that idea aside for the time being.

Moving forward with Piper, I am trying to find the right tack for us. You may notice several wardrobe changes in this post’s photos. Piper is croup high, with some muscle wasting behind his shoulders and well-sprung ribs. Saddle fitting is proving challenging (I’ve tried four saddles so far- some fit better than others- but I’m still looking for other options). He is also quite sensitive to rein contact so I’ve been changing out bits and reins to try to find the best combo.

I also suspect that conformationally croup high combined with some mental tension and his sensitivity level to rein contact leads to moments where I inspire him to end up leaving hind legs out behind him, curling behind the bit and dropping way onto the forehand as opposed to keeping a more level balance (you can see the contrast in the two photos below). Using my rudimentary dressage understanding, I hope to improve on these areas as we find some mental relaxation and a healthier physical balancing point between us. I am interested to see where Piper and I can go from here.

Older Horses Finding Homes With Older Folks

As I look out over the paddock fence line in my backyard, I am greeted by the site of my horses. All seniors. Currently 18, 20 and 26 years old.

So while reading the latest issue of Horse Illustrated (Nov/Dec 2021), the article by Pat Raia “Reversing Time: Older horses can be harder to place, but they are finding fantastic adoptive homes among senior people” resonated with me.

“Since 2010, surveys conducted by American Horse Publications (AHP) that were prepared by Jill Stowe, Ph.D., of the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky, have revealed that women 45 to 65 years of age and older represent the fastest growing segment of those most likely to own horses.” – Pat Raia

I did not adopt any of my current herd, but I am female, fall into the age demographic noted and have three senior horses. Many of the reasons the article listed for older women selecting older horses ring true to me.

Some of the issues mentioned were

  • Concerns about their own lifespan in relation to their horses (for example, I feel I have a better chance of outliving a twenty-year-old horse than a two-year-old)
  • Welfare concerns about how senior horses may fair in the current equine industry as in the idea that if I don’t provide a home for this horse, who will (this definitely entered into my decision to bring home the most recent addition to my herd)
  • Awareness of their own physical limitations in relation to the endurance and athleticism needed to train and ride young horses (that’s me to a T)
  • Being able to relate to age-related physical changes they see in their horses (as someone diagnosed with arthritis who often experiences pain through movement, I am open to the idea that many horse behaviors may have a physical competent. I no longer dismiss all unwanted behavior as the horse simply needing an attitude adjustment)

Having said all that, I don’t want to imply that all older folks should only keep/ride older horses. I know plenty of people my age and older who have younger horses. I have seen riders in their seventies and eighties who are more skilled at riding young horses than many of their more youthful human counterparts. Aging is after all a very individual experience.

But as for me? I am starting to appreciate senior horses in a way I did not when I was younger. Senior horses often (although not always) emit this calm, even-keeled energy that I find very inviting. They seem a good match for my skills and abilities. Maybe that is why the article struck a cord with me.

Even so, I know that being around older horses still involves risk. After all, a senior horse is still a horse. Still bigger than me. Still stronger than me. Still faster than me. While in general someone might have a better chance of staying safe around a senior verses a youngster, it takes guts to share our lives with horses of any age.

We all get older. Our horses too. Let’s not let that fact of life stop us from pursuing our passions in one form or another. No matter if we have to make some accommodations for age-related changes or illness. The article echoed that sentiment for me. That there is so much yet to enjoy. Let’s keep going!

Have you seen the Constant Comfort Block?

Please note, this post was unsolicited and uncompensated by Tribute Equine Nutrition.

I picked up this “buy one- get one” offer at my local feedstore recently. I also received an email regarding this Nationwide (in the USA) offer from Tribute Equine Nutrition.

For the price of one ($9.99 in my case), you get two Constant Comfort Blocks. These are 15 pound solid mineral blocks that are designed to “soothe and support” your horse’s gut health system.

They function like a salt block in the sense that the horse ingests the ingredients by licking the block.

“The very first gut health system to help soothe and support your horse 24/7! Allow free-choice access to the Constant Comfort™ block and add the Constant Comfort™ Plus topdress to your horse’s regular feedings and before times of stress.

Product Details:
Formulated with Seaweed Derived Calcium to help maintain proper stomach pH.
Contains Aloe Vera, Glutamine and Lecithin, which can help soothe the stomach.
Added Equi-Ferm XL®, a pre- & probiotic, supports hindgut health.
When used together, the Constant Comfort™ gut health system offers your horse 24/7 support.

From the Tribute Equine Nutrition Website”

My guess, based on looking at the ingredients, is that this product was made in mind mostly for those equestrians concerned about their horse’s potential to develop ulcers, even though I don’t see that explicitly stated on the block.

As for me, I have not yet had a horse that I knew to have gastric ulcers. The symptoms themselves can be vague. The only way to know if your horse actually has ulcers is to have them scoped (gastroscopy) by a veterinarian. I have never had that done before so I can’t confirm or deny the presence of ulcers in any of my horses from that standpoint.

If you are unfamiliar and would like to read about gastric-ulcers in horses, I recommend this piece, written in 2016 by a veterinarian, from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

https://aaep.org/horsehealth/equine-gastric-ulcers-special-care-and-nutrition

This article by Dr. Nancy S. Loving, DVM from Horse Illustrated in 2019 is also informative

Overcoming Ulcers in Horses

In looking at all the horse risk-factors for ulcers, probably my horse, Bear, would have the highest overall risk. He has been on the equine pain medication Equioxx for several years now to help with symptoms of arthritis. One of the know side-effects of long-term NSAID use is ulcers. Hence my own interest in using a product that may speak to a horse’s gut health.

While there is only one FDA approved medication for treating ulcers, there are dietary and lifestyle changes that can lesson the chances that a horse will develop gastric ulcers in the first place or lower the likelihood of recurrence.

Now, will the Constant Comfort Block (along with the recommended Constant Comfort pellets which I did not purchase) actually make my horses’ guts feel better and thus be part of a larger plan to help prevent gastric ulcers in my horses?

How would I measure if the product actually works for my horses?

Am I wasting my money?

These are all questions that I have about the Constant Comfort Block. Really about any nutritional product that we feed to our horses. There is a lot of heavy marketing involved (and apparently a lot of money to be made for the manufacturers) in the recent proliferation of types of horse feeds.

I personally picked up the blocks out of curiosity. I am saving them to put out later this Winter. I will likely put out one block and see if any of my horses will even lick it.

I suppose I remain skeptical about the value of the block, but I am always up for trying a new product, especially when it involves a BOGO offer.

To learn more about the Constant Comfort Blocks, go to
https://tributeequinenutrition.com/constant-comfort-system. Through the Tribute Equine Nutrition website, you can find out if a feed store in your location carries the product.

What about you? Are you concerned about your horse having ulcers? Have you ever had a horse diagnosed with ulcers via gastroscopy?

For Donkey Fans!

I have never owned or otherwise cared for a donkey, but I am definitely a donkey and mule fan.

I have petted a donkey. I even rode a mule (half horse/half donkey) once. But that is more or less the extent of my experience.

I enjoy reading about them and find both the similarities and the differences between horses-donkeys-mules to be really interesting.

So while reading The Hoofbeat newsletter from Canadian Horse Journal, a feature caught my eye about a virtual collection of articles on donkey health and welfare.

You can read the article for yourself here at https://equinescienceupdate.blogspot.com/2021/08/donkey-medicine-and-welfare-free.html.

At the end of the article is this link to a bunch of research articles at

https://beva.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/toc/10.1001/(ISSN)2042-3306.donkey-medicine-welfare.vi

This research study link is free to view until October 29, 2021. There’s quite a treasure trove of donkey information contained therein. If you are at all interested in donkeys, I would highly suggest your taking advantage before the deadline.

The same day that I read The Hooftbeat article, I attended the annual tack sale at the Indiana Horse Rescue. They have an influx of donkeys this year and have something like seven donkeys available for adoption. All the photos you see in this post were taken at the Indiana Horse Rescue.

If anybody reading this is interested in adopting donkeys, please contact the Indiana Horse Rescue at (765) 605-5790 or INHorseRescue@gmail.com. If you don’t live in Indiana, they do adopt to approved out-of-State homes. You can also see some information on several of the donkeys available for adoption on the Indiana Horse Rescue website at http://www.indianahorserescue.org.

How fun it would be to see this blog be involved in a deserving donkey findings its new temporary foster or permanent adoptive home!

Update on Chewy- More Products For Horses and A Donation Program!

If you live in the USA and buy pet products, you have likely heard of Chewy. Did you know that they sell many horse products too? Tack, supplies and feed can all be ordered and delivered to your doorstep.

I published a post early last year about my experience as a Chewy customer at

Chewy Sells Horse Stuff!

Since that post, I notice that Chewy has expanded its horse- product line considerably. You can even buy saddles through Chewy now.

And did you know that Chewy supports a charity program? Animal rescues can post animals for adoption as well as a wish list of items. Donors can then purchase those wish list items as a donation and have the products shipped directly to the rescue.

I previously fostered nine horses from the Indiana Horse Rescue. They have signed up with this program and now have their own Chewy wishlist.

As a donor to the Indiana Horse Rescue through this program, I can confirm that the program works!

You order the items and the rescue receives them. You even get an email confirmation upon placing the order donation and when the donated items are delivered.

If you’d like to see the IHR wish list (IHR functions under the name Animal Protection Coalition) to donate items to the cause, go to https://www.chewy.com/g/animal-protection-coalitioninc_b78818400.

To learn more about Chewy’s donation program in general, to find a different rescue to donate to or to find out how to get a rescue that you are involved with connected with the program, go to

https://www.chewy.com/g/animal-shelters-and-rescues

*Please note this post was unsolicited and uncompensated by Chewy.

For Thoroughbred Fans

Last year, I wrote a post about my admiration for Thoroughbreds at

Gotta Love Those OTTB’s

This week I was thrilled to find in my mailbox the Fall 2021 issue of Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine, a production of the Retired Racehorse Project.

I really can’t say enough good things about Off-Track. Even if like me you don’t have a Thoroughbred of your own, many of the articles are applicable to working with any breed. This season’s issue covers topics like how to have a positive ride, coping with a cold-backed horse and groundwork exercises to teach your horse to better yield to pressure.

The issue reaches me right before the start of the Thoroughbred Makeover, October 12-17, 2021 at the Kentucky Horse Park. I love what the Retired Racehorse Project is doing through this event.

“The Retired Racehorse Project, a 501(c)3 charitable organization, created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds. The competition is intended to inspire good trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers, and the National Symposium serves to educate the people involved in the care, training, and sale of these horses to responsible owners.”

From the Thoroughbred Makeover website

If you’d never heard of the Thoroughbred Makeover, please visit their website at

https://www.tbmakeover.org/.

If you want to subscribe to Off-Track Thoroughbred Magazine, please visit their website at

https://www.retiredracehorseproject.org/join-ottb-magazine.

Whose Got Bots?

Do you check your horse’s coat for bot eggs? Those tiny, yellow little dots that stick to your horse’s hair coat and mane? I don’t find bot eggs on my horses very often. Perhaps bot flies are not prolific in my area. But on the day that I picked up Piper, my new horse, I saw that he had a few small clusters of bot fly eggs on his neck and front legs.

Piper used to live about fifty miles North of me, and I suspect that might have something to do with it. I remember when I boarded my first horse, about thirty miles North of where I now live, he accumulated bot eggs easily. I don’t remember that being much of an issue once I brought him home. I have plenty of insects around my place, but perhaps bot flies are not usually one of them.

For those of you not familiar, here are some resources I found that discuss the issue of bot fly eggs as well as how/why to remove them.

As for Piper, I was able to buy a $3 bot knife (I couldn’t find the old one I had back in my boarding days) and easily remove them. See the three photo slide-show below.

Do you ever find bot fly eggs on your horses?

Not Entering But Still Interested – Western Dressage For Gaited Horses

Last October, Shiloh (my Missouri Fox Trotter gelding) and I entered our first virtual horse show. You can read my two posts about that experience here

Shiloh and I Make Our Virtual Horse Show Debut

Shiloh’s First Virtual Horse-Show Experience: Results and Conclusions

I won’t be entering the same show this year unfortunately. It is difficult for me to ride a dressage test at anything faster than the walk without a proper arena and good footing. But that doesn’t mean I’m leaving my interest in western dressage for gaited horses behind.

I continue to try to incorporate my understanding of basic dressage principles into my riding. I use the qualifier “my understanding” because my formal training in this area is almost nonexistent. I know I get a lot wrong in both my intellectual understanding and execution.

Despite that, I really like the idea of trying to ride a horse in a balanced way. Encouraging the horse to use its body in a manner that builds strength and flexibility. Hopefully in a way that actually feel good to the horse once he or she figures out what you are asking.

These pictures of Shiloh and me show a recent roundpen ride. Shiloh has good and bad days, but on the whole, I’d say his ability to carry himself has improved in these three years I’ve been riding him.

I enjoy feeling his body puff up beneath me, seeing his neck softly stretching towards the rein contact and the sensation of his weight shifting rhythmically from one hip to another. On the good days, he’s so well-timed that the feeling is almost hypnotic.

His walk, foxtrotting and upward transitions have improved a lot, but I am still struggling with certain aspects like supporting him better through downward transitions like from foxtrot to walk.

I’ve become increasingly aware of this feeling that I call “splat”. The sensation is his front hooves getting caught in quicksand and then his hips quickly popping up off the ground. Very jarring.

I finally caught a moment of “splat” on camera during this same ride. What I feel during these moments finally makes sense. It looks about as awful as it feels. Compare this splat photo to the photos above. Shiloh looks like a different horse from his nose to his tail.

Now that I think I have a better awareness of what is happening, I’m experimenting with how to encourage a more balanced downward transition so we end up with more “spring” than “splat” as we transitions up, through and down the various gaits. But trying to figure it all out is a bit of a head scratcher for me.

If nothing else, I am learning that I need to support Shiloh continuously throughout the ride and not just think that because things are going well during one exercise, or in one direction or at one speed that they will continue that way without my supporting him.

My intention, my attention and my aids need to match up in a way that makes sense to him. Easier said than done. But I want to keep aiming.

If anyone out there is interested in learning more about western dressage for their gaited horse, you can enter the same online show this year that I did last year. The judge’s feedback that you receive after sending in your video is quite specific.

I know it seems odd to enter a show at the start of one’s journey in a discipline, but that detailed written feedback you receive from the judge can be very useful, especially for someone who doesn’t have access to a western/gaited dressage instructor in person.

The online show “Gaits Wide Open” is sponsored by the organization Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH) and is hosted by The North American Western Dressage Association (NAWD). If you’d like to explore entering, go to

Traditionally, there’s been a huge disconnect between dressage, the western disciplines and the gaited horse industry.

While there will always be distinct differences, FOSH and NAWD attempt to bridge that divide and bring awareness of important training principles for any horse with any level of rider.

If you are at all curious, I’d highly suggest checking out what FOSH and NAWD have to offer.