What Does Lameness Look Like?

Have you seen the video “24 Horse Behaviors: Shifting The Paradigm of How We See Lameness”?

Starting September 30th, 2022, you can view the 35 minute video for FREE at http://www.24HorseBehaviors.org.

The video features the research of Dr. Sue Dyson, MA, Vet MB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVSMR, FRCVS. She is an equine orthopedic specialist and an accomplished rider in the eventing and show jumping disciplines.

Dr. Dyson wants to expand equestrian definitions and awareness of lameness in an effort to improve horse welfare.

While most equestrians will recognize a head-bobbing trot as a sign of lameness, Dr. Dyson makes the case that many other much more subtle behaviors can give the rider a clue that the horse may be hurting.

The video gives a brief outline of behaviors that horses often display under saddle and how, according to Dr. Dyson’s research, they may relate to lameness, particularly when taking into account the frequency and/or duration with which they occur during a ride.

If you are an equestrian, this video has information you will want to see and consider. I think it has a lot to add to the “is this a training issue or a pain issue?” debate.

In addition, you can view an article on this topic at https://thehorse.com/192855/behavior-test-reveals-owners-miss-signs-of-lameness/.

You can also read the related research by Dr. Sue Dyson and Danica Pollard titled “Application of a Ridden Horse Pain Ethogram and Its Relationship with Gait in a Convenience Sample of 60 Riding Horses” at https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/10/6/1044.

Finally, watch for Dr. Dyson’s book to be released in 2023. You can bet it’s on my wishlist.

Trying To Move Forward After The Loss of A Horse

Last post, I announced the death of my 27-year-old horse, Bear. After seventeen years with him, I must say it is strange and sad to come out my back door every morning and not hear his nicker or see his face.

One thing about horses, though, is that routines must go on. I still have Shiloh and Piper (pictured above) to care for.

I still need to feed, water, muck, groom, etc . . . The grass still grows, and I still need to mow it. Still.

It is hard to do when you are mourning. This getting on with life. Yet it is also comforting. Sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other, even if your heart isn’t quite in it, is good medicine.

Whenever a horse dies, I always wonder about how my remaining horses will cope with the changes. And I have a process that I go through with them, starting with allowing them to view the body of their former companion.

I’ve witnessed everything from a horse being indifferent to curious to scared in these situations. Some horses will not want to approach. Others will walk right up and muffle the body with interest.

I use a lunge line or extra long lead rope so that if they don’t want to get close, they don’t have to. I will go up and touch the body so as to imply it is safe to approach, but I won’t demand that they do so.

In most cases, they usually end up grazing somewhere near the body. I’ll give them a minute to do that and then take them back to their paddock.

My purpose is to give the horses a chance to absorb what happened. I don’t really know what a horse is thinking/understands in these situations, but I’d rather let them have this experience than not.

I’m always so focused on the horse being euthanized that I’m never sure of what my remaining horses have seen of the process. I personally feel like showing them the body helps them settle.

In this recent case after Bear’s death, Piper was more bold in approaching Bear than Shiloh was, but they were both somewhat alarmed. Piper briefly hovered and sniffed but Shiloh keep his distance and just grazed.

Back in the paddock, I noticed for the first 24 hours or so that Piper and Shiloh stayed in closer physical proximity than usual. Piper normally maintains a wide personal bubble, but I saw that he allowed Shiloh to stand quite close to him as they took standing naps. Within a couple of days though, Piper was back to shooing Shiloh out of his space.

The next issue I generally tackle is getting the remaining horses gradually used to being separated, especially if I only have two horses left. I know that the downside to keeping just two horses is that they can get quite attached.

They can become so anxiety ridden at being separated that they can become difficult to handle and/or impossible to ride. This has big safety issues for me and welfare implications for them.

I can’t make a horse not feel anxious, but I can show a horse through consistent handling that a separation is not necessarily permanent. The left behind horse can develop the expectation that the other horse will return.

The first day I took Shiloh out for a ride after Bear’s death, I decided to turn Piper out in our north pasture but without a grazing muzzle to provide a distraction. Unfortunately, Piper still displayed major signs of anxiety and frustration at the situation (running around while whinnying, pacing, pooping, head twirling and bucking).

I guided Shiloh in and out of our round pen and around our barn area so we could appear and disappear repeatedly from Piper’s view. I wanted Piper to see again and again that when we’d go away, we would also come back. After about 20 minutes of chaos, Piper finally settled enough to graze.

Here is a sample video of what Piper was doing during that ride (my husband acted as the resident media taker on this day):

To Shiloh’s credit, despite Piper’s behavior, Shiloh never did anything worse than raising his head on occasion. He never answered Piper back or became otherwise difficult to ride.

But I found Piper’s behavior worrisome and distracting. I felt bad for him and bad for myself as I was still quite emotionally exhausted from Bear’s death. The ride was kind of a wash.

I just let Shiloh plod around, going in and out of the round pen and circling around the outbuildings. Nevertheless, it was an important first step in trying to move forward, and you know, do something other than cry every time I came outside to see my horses.

Shiloh did finally got the chance to cut loose after our ride though. Piper was sweaty and lathered from feeling upset and running around. I wanted to hose him down to lower his temperature and get the sticky out of his coat. While I gave Piper his shower, my husband released Shiloh back into the paddock.

I could see out of the corner of my eye that Shiloh had a good roll in the dirt not long after my husband took off the halter. After Shiloh scratched his back in the dirt, Shiloh jumped up off the ground quickly. Seeing the gate to the north pasture was still open, he cantered off with great glee towards the grass.

At the start of the following clip, you can see Shiloh in the background, running happily past Piper and me. That was the only part caught on video. The whole thing struck both my husband and me as comical. It was a needed moment of levity in an otherwise sad and tense experience.

I was also pleased that Piper didn’t try to pull away from me when he saw Shiloh zooming off. I’ve found that usually the horse that is being handled/ridden is calmer than the horse in the paddock/pasture. But not always. I’ve had some horses really act up when being led away from their pasture mate for the first time.

A few days later, my next ride went much better. I again gave Piper the opportunity to graze again in our north pasture without his muzzle while I rode Shiloh. But this time I rode in their paddock area just for a change of pace.

After I climbed up on Shiloh, Piper whinnied once and pushed on the paddock gate with his chest, but then went to grazing. He stayed right near the gate and would occasionally pop his head over the fence to intently watch Shiloh. But Piper didn’t pace or run around or even break a sweat this time. Progress.

Shiloh was quiet to ride as usual. We practiced doing figures around cones to give us something to focus on other than Piper. I was mentally able to ride with more concentration. In response, Shiloh was able to carry himself with more life as we practiced gaiting while doing large circles.

For our third try at separating to ride, I left Piper to hang out in the paddock while I took Shiloh to our South pasture. It was about 55 degrees and super windy. Really not the best riding day. So I opted to stay closer to their paddock area rather than stroll around the edge of the fence line like I often do.

While Shiloh and I got in some more practice doing figures in the middle of the pasture, Piper stayed by his hay, happily munching away. More progress.

Going forward, I hope to keep repeating much of the same. Winter is around the corner, but even when I’m not riding at home, I can take each horse out individually for hand walks to keep these brief separations within their routine.

It’s all part of restoring some sense of peace and normalcy for the horses and me after Bear’s death, even as I am still mourning him and still adjusting to the change of not having him in my backyard. Still.


The Love and Loss Of A Horse

If you read horse blogs long enough, you may find yourself feeling invested in some of the horses that you read about. We may never know the blogger’s horse in person, but we get a sense of them through the writer’s stories. We journey along with the blogger as they share about the joys of life with horses.

Inevitably, we also participate in the sorrows and heartaches. I know I have cried when reading about the death of a horse I only knew through words and images.

Many readers here have experienced the pain of losing a horse. And if not a horse, most readers have said goodbye to a beloved dog, cat or other animal that was dear to them. You are familiar with the weight of it.

Today I have one of those sad stories of my own to share. My horse herd of three has shrunk to a herd of two.

My beloved Bear died at home on Saturday, September 17th. He was twenty-seven years old.

I came out at dawn to find him in the throws of colic. I ran back into the house to contact the clinic. The veterinarian on call arrived within the hour, diagnosing Bear with a likely strangulating lipoma.

It was a shock. Bear seemed perfectly normal the day before. I remember looking out my living room window at 7pm on Friday, seeing him happily munching on his hay dinner.

Considering Bear’s long history of health issues, I had already decided ahead of time that I would not choose colic surgery for Bear and asked the veterinarian to euthanize him. No more suffering.

As most horse folks know, colic is a general term for stomach pain. What causes the pain varies. As a brief explanation, a strangulating lipoma is a benign fatty tumor that gets wrapped around a horse’s intestine.

Strangulating lipoma is one of the types of colic that can only be addressed through surgery, as opposed to something like a gas colic that might be resolved with hand-walking and medication.

If you are not already familiar with strangulating lipoma, you can learn more through the references I’ve posted below.

https://ker.com/equinews/lipomas-deadly-tumors-horses/

https://horsesidevetguide.com/drv/Diagnosis/10/small-intestinal-strangulation-strangulation-by-a-pedunculated-lipoma/ (just so you are prepared, please note that it includes some graphic colic surgery photos)

If you’ve read this blog for a bit, you may be aware that I’ve had Bear since 2005. That adds up to 17 years with him. Likely the longest relationship I will ever have with a horse. He meant a lot to me, and while I knew he wouldn’t live forever, his death nonetheless hurts.

Before Bear’s passing, I already had two other blog posts written (Another Trail Tale and Why I Decided To Stop Riding My New Horse), so I decided to let the previous two blog posts go out as planned the week after his death. I needed a minute to formulate my thoughts before writing this.

Going forward, I have a separate tribute post for Bear planned. And another post about my remaining horses, Shiloh and Piper, adjusting to being a herd of two now. I’m not yet sure about when exactly those posts will appear, maybe one after the other or mixed in between other material. All I can say is that they are in the works.

Bear’s death is still raw for me, but I know the sting will heal with time. As a Christian believer, my hope is ever on Jesus who is my sustainer in and through all things. Reading the book of Genesis, the scriptures tell me that God The Father breathed life into all living things. I feel blessed to have been able to care for Bear, one of His creations, during my time on this earth. Godspeed, dear Bear, Godspeed.

Why I Decided To Stop Riding My New Horse

Welcome to retirement, Piper. Yes, I’ve decided to retire the horse that I bought one year ago this month. For those of you who missed it, you can read my first post about Piper HERE.

There’s no dramatic story as to why I made this decision. I didn’t get dumped. He didn’t get injured. I simply decided I just didn’t feel good about continuing to ride him. My nagging doubts about his potential physical discomfort as well as our mismatched personalities just won’t leave so we had our final ride at the start of this month.

Many older horses have some physical issues, of course. Maybe stiff, one-sided, a hitch-in-the-get-along when asked to do certain gaits/movements.

Some of that can be worked through by the rider to a certain extent. Or managed by the rider through being attentive to things like footing conditions or length/intensity of exercise. Sometimes farrier or veterinary interventions help. But not always. Riding can be therapeutic for a horse but it can also be damaging. It all depends.

Piper often feels stiff to me when he moves under saddle. And it’s not something I feel he works out of very well as you would expect a horse with mild arthritis to do. He is periodically quite fussy/argumentative with me, too. That might just be part of his bolder, jazzier style, but it could also be him trying to tell me that riding hurts at times.

I generally enjoy the process of getting to know a new horse, even when challenges present. I think Piper and I have certainly had some good moments together. I know I’ve detailed some of those times in my blog posts. Times where I perceived we both enjoyed navigating some of my trail obstacles or taking a stroll through the pasture, for example. But on the whole, I just didn’t reach the point where I consistently enjoyed riding him. Nor did I feel he particularly enjoyed me.

I had of course considered pursuing veterinary intervention. Lameness exam, X-rays, chiropractic work, etc . . . Maybe shoes or hoof boots (his previous owner rode him shod on all fours). But I am cautious about going down a very expensive rabbit hole that may lead to me to the very same conclusion.

Currently, I don’t believe he needs any intervention other than basic health care to be perfectly comfortable at pasture. He gets around just fine without me on his back. But I am thinking in order to ethically continue to ride him, I would want to have a full body workup. And that’s not an expense I can easily absorb right now.

I suppose I could explore different interventions in the future, but the start of Winter in my area is just a short couple of months away. After that, I won’t ride at home again until Spring when Piper will turn 22. That’s not an unheard-of age for a horse to retire anyways. I keep circling around to the same conclusion. It’s time to stop riding him.

But whether I am riding him or not, Piper still has a home with me. I have no plans to sell him. He’s at the age where he needs to be safe, stable and protected, not launched out into the world towards an uncertain future. Of course, I know enough about life now to realize that sometimes realities do not allow someone to keep a horse until end of life. But, Lord willing, I will be able to do for Piper what I’ve done for all the other horses I have owned.

Am I disappointed? Sure. Not many of us who like to ride enjoy not riding. Horses are big, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often long-lived creatures. All that is involved in having a horse of your own is often made worth it by the wonderful riding adventures you experience with them. It is very human to want to get something out of the deal.

At the same time, I personally think that part of being a horseman is practicing good stewardship to the best of your ability. I have the ability to care for Piper and so that is what I plan to do. Hopefully he will enjoy the life of a pasture ornament with me more than he’s done being my riding horse.

These types of decisions are often hard to make. They involve so many factors, and the reasons are so personal. There may not always be a right answer. But if you have an older horse, you may also have to face this decision sooner or later as they age.

If you have your own horse retirement story to tell, please share them in the comments section. Sometimes by sharing your decision making process, you can help someone who is struggling with their own situation. It’s all part and parcel of sharing our lives with horses.

Another Trail Tale

After a super hot Summer, I recently got to get out on the trails again. Bear and Piper kept each other company at home while Shiloh and I met friends for a trail ride at a local multi-use trail.

I used to enjoy riding my gaited ponies, Bear and Spice, on these same trails back in the day. In fact, if you read my Riding With The Rain post, you will already have seen photos of the trail and of my friend, Vicki, and her Appaloosa mare, Warsong.

I had not ridden with them since that rainy ride back in 2014, so it was a real treat to hit the trails together once again.

I was actually supposed to meet with them the week before, but a stomach ache (perhaps brought on by nerves?) kept me from joining them. Ever the experienced trail rider, Vicki took her horse on a successful solo jaunt around the park!

I was nervous the second week, but didn’t feel ill, so I actually made it to the trailhead this time. Per my request, we kept the ride short. Maybe 40 minutes or so, traveling about a third of the trail.

Shiloh loaded well and traveled pretty quietly. I only heard him whiny once from the trailer. I’ve noticed he’s talkative when we travel without Bear, wanting to make contact with any horses he sees or gets the scent of.

At the park, Shiloh unloaded well. He stood well at the trailer and was still for me to mount. We then took the lead position out of the parking lot and onto the trail. Shiloh was tense and “looky” as we headed out, but didn’t do anything dramatic.

I got to practice my deep breathing, being conscious not to strangle Shiloh with the reins. I also tried to envision how I wanted him to go (back relaxed, head down and in front of shoulders), rather than imagining disaster scenarios. It’s unfortunately my default thinking pattern when I am nervous. Something I constantly fight to one degree or another.

At certain points, Shiloh relaxed quite nicely, and I took the opportunity to get some video clips like the one below.

The part of the trail we rode is flanked by woods and a river on one side with open prairie on the other. At my favorite part, the trail snakes and winds through woods. As I mentioned, it is a multi-use trail, so you never quite know who or what you will encounter.

Shiloh gave some things the side eye but walked pasted it all. I know from previous experience that the information posts (describing animals and fauna) and standing swing sets along the trails (for hikers to rest) can be frightening for some horses. You can see the edge of the info post in the photo here. Shiloh’s ears are pointed right at it.

We briefly chatted with a walker on foot as she kindly moved over to let us pass. We saw a large family with children playing in a tree. Shiloh had to raise his head to get a gander.

We managed to bypass confronting a large group of walkers by taking a path around them. Vicki had encountered this same group of young students the week before while she ventured out alone. I’m guessing the group consisted of at least twenty. They took up the full trail width as they walked along. Vicki told me Warsong didn’t mind the swarm of people and acted as a wonderful horse ambassador as they came up to pet her.

I, however, wasn’t confident about Shiloh’s ability (or mine) to stay calm in that situation. So when we started to come around the corner and saw the group, I also noticed a little side trail that would allow us to avoid a head-on collision. I sent up a grateful prayer, thankful for this detour opportunity presenting itself at just the right time.

The only real bobble came on the trail bridge. Shiloh was still leading at that point and stepped onto the wooden bridge beautifully. I had a big smile on my face and was about to pour gator aid all over myself for being such a spectacular horseman, navigating this potentially tricky obstacle. Shiloh then quickly came to an abrupt halt and froze.

I suddenly saw that he and I were making a huge shadow across the bridge. I think he decided a big black hole had appeared in the bridge out of no where. He was now concerned about his footing. But who knows?

Actually, the shadow would have made a really cool photo as you could see our outlines perfectly straight in front of us. But this was no time to whip out my phone.

I asked Shiloh to go forward again. His answer was to back up. Vicki had already entered the bridge behind us and had to hustle back as well. A tense moment, but it didn’t get any worse than that. We were all able to get off the bridge safely, if somewhat awkwardly.

Vicki and Warsong immediately took the lead and Shiloh followed her horse over the bridge like he does it every day. Picture me breathing a sigh of relief. Thanks, Vicki!

Since I didn’t get a photo of Shiloh and I on the bridge, here’s a photo of that same bridge, taken over 10 years ago. I had to dig through my ancient scrapbooks to find it. That’s me and my old pony, Pumpkin Spice.

You can see how narrow the bridge is. What you can’t see very well is how high it is raised up off the ground. Since I am not an eventer and Shiloh is not used to negotiating drops, I am happy we avoided jumping off the side!

After the bridge, Warsong and Vicki continued to lead us safely back to the trailhead. Here’s a little video clip of what the trail looks like as you move further away from the woods and back towards the parking lot.

Many thanks to my friend Vicki and her trusty trail mount, Warsong, for allowing me to get in some more trail time with Shiloh. Can you believe Warsong is 23-y-o? What a wonderful job Vicki has done of caring for her all these years and developing a great partnership. And isn’t her coat pattern spectacular? I think Warsong and Shiloh make a fun, colorful pair.

Thank you also to my husband for tagging along for moral support. He drove separately and hiked on foot in a different section while Vicki and I rode, but I appreciated having him as a nearby safety blanket in case I needed help.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to Shiloh. Hopefully the 101 horse cookies he got made the point that I was grateful for the opportunity to safely travel the trails with him once more.

What I’m Reading Now

Sometimes it is fun for me to splurge on a set of horse books!

I read them, take copious notes and photocopy certain pages or illustrations for inclusion in my horse journal.

The books I find most helpful, I keep. The rest get resold to recoup some of my costs. I then save up for the next set of books I want to read.

I purchased these titles, including Mark Rashid’s newest book, through Trafalgar Square Publishing at their HorseandRiderBooks website.

If you are interested in any of these books (or one of their hundreds of other books or DVD’s), please consider using this blog’s affiliate link to make your purchase.

Depending upon the device you use to read this blog, you should find the HorseandRiderBooks affiliate link on the right-hand side of your screen or at the very bottom once you scroll through all the posts.

The link is the photo of a woman reading a book to a horse. Click on the photo to be taken to the HorseandRiderBooks website. This blog will then receive a much-appreciated portion of your sales at no extra cost to you!

For those outside the USA, please note that the HorseandRiderBooks website is US based. They ship to the US and Canada (although the more expensive postage to Canada is not included in the price like it is for US customers). They do not ship internationally unfortunately. BUT, they DO offer lots of eBooks for sale through the Glassboxx phone app. They also have publishing relationships with book publishers in the Australia, Europe, the UK and New Zealand. For more information, go to https://www.horseandriderbooks.com/individual-customer/.

Based on my recent purchases, I might spin out a new book review. Or maybe weave my favorite book quotes into a future blog post(s).

Horse books often have the power to fuel a passion for improvement and promote creativity, both inside and outside of the barn. I’m interested to see what develops with my new set of reads.

End of Summer View

I don’t live in a particularly scenic area of the Midwest. I am flanked by flat, open farmland. When you go to purchase property anywhere, beauty is expensive. Adding trees, mountain vistas or water easily adds tens of thousands to a property’s price tag.

To fulfill my dream of keeping horses at home, I gave up the prospect of living in a more picturesque location. I have very fond memories of living within view of the ocean while residing overseas. Likewise my time spent living near mountain ranges and spectacular red stone cliffs in the Western part of the USA.

But I have to say that at certain times of the year, I do find some of the views around my property to be quite attractive. The end of the Summer season is one of those times.

While most things stay a verdant green in my area from Spring through Fall, the landscape becomes more colorful as the days get shorter. The light seems to soften at certain times of the day. The soybean fields start to turn a golden yellow, creating an eye-catching backdrop against the green leaves still visible underneath. Bright yellow wild flowers, native to the area, reach their full height and add to the vista.

It’s been an unusually hot, dry Summer for me. Often, my South pasture is too wet to ride. I hate to tear up moist ground or risk the horses slipping around while I am on top. But this year, the pasture has often been the best place to ride. My trusty round pen’s footing has been so hard and coarse due to the dryness this Summer, frequently making the pasture the more inviting riding option.

The pasture isn’t that big. Maybe a couple of acres? But Shiloh has not spent much time in it since he came to live with me in 2018. So when we ride there, it feels like we are going on a bit of an adventure. Shiloh seems to enjoy strolling along and gazing around at the scenery.

He also loves taking little standing breaks under the shade of trees along the far fence line. As we stand there, Shiloh looks out across the landscape as though he’s considering something. I’d love to be a “fly on the wall” inside his mind. I wonder what he thinks about.

As the scenery starts to change, I feel the weather cooling. Although it’s still on the whole quite warm. I hook bottles of fly spray up by the fence while I ride in case I need it as the last of the Summer bugs are vicious. I can now buy Pumpkin Spice everything at the grocery store too.

I am reminded that I only have a couple more months to ride at home until Winter sets in. Winter with its wind, mud and freezing temperatures. Some snow and ice mixed in too. The trees will be bare with the skies mostly grey over my property for a good four to five months.

So here’s to late season riding. Being in the saddle while I still can. Enjoying that end of Summer view with the help of my horse.

Help The World’s Working Equids

While the tagline of The Backyard Horse Blog is “All About Keeping Horses At Home,” I do in fact digress from that motto on occasion.

Today’s post is a case in point. I leave my backyard and look to other parts of the world. It is good to peer outside one’s own fence line sometimes.

Last Summer, I wrote about the UK-based organization Brooke as well as BrookeUSA. They provide support and education to working horses, mules and donkeys the world over.

I also shared about a trip I took with my grandmother to Egypt many years ago. We saw lots of working horses and donkeys like the one I photographed above. If you missed it, you can read the blog post at

Equine Non-Profit Spotlight: The Brooke and BrookeUSA

Due to that brief but profound travel experience, I periodically donate to BrookeUSA and am on their contact list. I recently received a flyer and letter in the mail from them about ongoing horse fairs in India during the month of September.

Being in the US, I usually think of horse fairs as educational setups with clinicians, tack shopping and demonstrations. These fairs in India are apparently very different. They are designed for the buying and selling of large number of working animals.

Working animals and their people are packed into one hot, crowded, loud location as folks interact and animals change hands. People who have attended these fairs report them as being stressful and dangerous due to the conditions, with many animals arriving to the fair already in poor condition.

Brooke reports that these fairs are also an excellent vector for communicable diseases thus adding to the stress and misery for the animals and their people.

Brooke wants to improve welfare conditions at the fairs by providing medical assistance to the animals and education for their owners on site.

I’ve made a small donation and encourage everyone else who is interested to do the same. Even tiny amounts of money when donated by many people can make a difference.

You can donate via this link at https://www.brookeusa.org/equine-fairs. Please note this link includes a hyphen between “equine” and “fairs” that does not appear in the flyer featured above (I verified the correct link with BrookeUSA via email).

And by the way, whether you donate or not, you can also help the world’s working donkeys by supporting the ban of the sale of Ejiao, a gelatin made from donkey hides that is used in beauty products.

The slaughtering of donkeys to produce this product is devastating donkey populations and the people that traditionally rely on donkeys in their everyday work.

Visit https://www.brookeusa.org/ejiao-act to learn more. And if you are in the USA, please ask your legislators to support the bill H.R. 5203 to stop the sale and import of Ejiao.

Horses’ Reaction To New Tree: A Photo Story

My horses’ initial reaction to newly planted tree in paddock? Run around and snort like crazy.

Their second reaction was to stop and observe from a distance.

Then each horse gathered round to thoughtfully consider the sapling’s presence.

After some tree contemplation, the horses huddled together to sniff noses. They reassured each other that the new addition was not a threat.

While Bear and Shiloh did not attempt to grab a snack, Piper let me know quickly that my initial attempt at putting a temporary fence around the tree was ineffective. I have since widened the fence line so curious and hungry noses like his can’t reach the vulnerable newbie.

Postscript- A week later and a half later, my Liriodendron Tulipifera (otherwise known as a Tulip Poplar) is still alive and upright. This is my first foray into raising a tree. A tree that was specifically selected to add shade to a horse paddock. I originally planned on a row of three trees. But then I figured out how expensive trees are! So I settled on one fast-growing tree variety that already has some growth on it. I’m a nervous new parent. Not exactly sure what I’m doing. I keep reading that transplantation is hard on little trees. And that nurturing them is as much an art as it is a science. I’m not sure how it is all going to go. Sounds something like backyard horse-keeping, right?

Fun with Ground Poles

Though my jumping days are long behind me, I can still have fun with ground poles. While for years I used old fence posts and plastic PVC pipes as walk-over poles, I was excited over Winter to finally buy my own set of four “real” trail poles.

Of course, the pattern possibilities with only four poles are limited. But that’s probably just as well. If I had like twenty poles in my possession, and designed an interesting pattern, I would likely be too tired and sore to ride after laying them all out!

I find that Pinterest is a great place to accumulate sample ground pole patterns, even if you only have a few poles like me. In my Pinterest Horse Trail Obstacles board, I now have a section within that board titled Ground Pole Patterns and Exercises. Check it out to spark your own ground pole imagination.

But I don’t think you need to design elaborate patterns to have your horse benefit from ground poles. Over the four years I’ve had Shiloh, he’s gone from almost falling over the first time we tried to clear one ground pole to walking over a line of four ground poles, trotting over a ground pole and walking over a stack of three ground poles (my version of a raised ground pole).

For Shiloh, periodic ground pole work has helped him to

-stop pacing so much both in the walk and gait
-think about his hoof placement rather than mindlessly shuffle around
-practice adjusting his stride
-gently flex and bend his muscles and tendons (instead of moving so stiffly which is intertwined with that tendency to pace)
-get the feel of extending his neck forward (rather than inverting Camel-like).

Here’s Shiloh on the first day of traveling over a little ground pole stack. I was concerned he wouldn’t quite be able to coordinate his body to adjust for the raised height, but I underestimated my pony. Good job, Shiloh.

As for Piper, I’ve only had him just under a year now. I have not yet been able to make a lot of changes to his way of going. Not really sure how much difference my average-at-best level of riding skill is going to be able to make with a 21-year-old horse who is croup-high in his conformation and noticeably moves downhill.

In looking through media of a recent ride, for example, I can see moments when he is not totally on the forehand and we are trying to bend in the direction we are going.

But we still have moments that look like this one below. I find it fascinating how a horse’s body outline can look so different depending upon how they are being ridden. Here I loose his hind end. The sensation is that of following Piper down into a hole as all his weight goes onto his front. Have I mentioned before that I struggle with positively influencing a horse’s balance?

Despite these issues, I’ve seen improvement in how Piper now crosses ground poles.

Here are two videos for a “compare and contrast.” The first clip was taken in October 2021. Not the smoothest crossing. A crossing that also shows how much I was still struggling to encourage him to take up the rein contact and not curl behind it (you may recall in a previous post that I wrote about switching to a bitless bridle for a while to help him lessen this tendency). The second clip was taken August 2022. A smoother crossing, even when done on purpose at an angle (which is a little more challenging than approaching a ground pole straight on).

Sure, both Shiloh and Piper still tick ground poles from time to time. Or they might arrive with a hoof a little too close to the pole or whatnot. Nevertheless, their improvements with the pole exercises are encouraging for me to experience.

How about you? Do you enjoy working with ground poles? What is your favorite type of pole pattern or design?

Rock & Roll: Diary of A Rescue (Free Viewing Offer)

It’s a little late in the month to point this out. And the screen shot here isn’t as clear as I’d like. But better late and blurry than never! Through the end of August 2022, Meredith Hodges of the Lucky Three Ranch is offering a free viewing of her 45-minute video “Rock & Roll: Diary of A Rescue”.

Back in the day when I used to have cable, I remember watching Meredith’s mule and donkey training programs on RFD-TV. She helped stoke my interest in all types of equids.

Rock & Roll: Diary of A Rescue details her journey with two rescue Belgian draft mules. It struck me as a realistic example of a rehabilitation process.

I think it’s very informative for horse people to follow these kinds of stories. Stories where a horse/mule/donkey presents with certain behaviors which at first appear to be nothing more than “quirks.” But upon closer examination, someone figures out a very clear physical cause for the behavior.

The draft mules, Rock and Roll weren’t just displaying weird idiosyncrasies. They were making adjustments based on physical pain or restriction. This video shows that in spades (in addition to showing obvious lameness issues).

It makes me think about how often we reject or dismiss animals out of hand. Instead of being curious about why the horse/donkey/mule might be behaving in certain ways, we assign them labels. We think they are naturally clumsy. Or think they were born dull, moody or cranky. It doesn’t occur to us that there might be an underlying physical reason for their way of going or the way they interact with the world around them.

There is a lot to learn from Rock and Roll’s story. I figure that the more I view and hear these types of stories, the more I can increase my awareness. It’s time well spent in front of my computer screen.

To get access to the video, click on the link below. If you have internet access and an email address, you can take advantage of this offer from anywhere in the world. You will need to input your name, email, select a password and sign up to receive email newsletters and product updates from Those Magnificent Mules. Then enter the promo code ROCKROLL. You don’t need to enter any credit card information.

https://thosemagnificentmules.vhx.tv/checkout/rock-and-roll-diary-of-a-rescue/purchase

Remember, this offer expires on August 31st, 2022. Hurry if you want to take advantage! If you miss the free offer, you can still purchase a viewing of the video for $4.99 USD.

Book Review: Cowgirl Lessons Book Series

In two and half years of blogging, I now have eight book reviews posted. I love horses. I love to read. I love to read about horses. It’s all intertwined for me. But none of my reviews are of children’s books. Not having any little ones around, I don’t often read materials for youngsters.

In some ways though, I might do well to take notice. Horse books have the power to introduce children to horses. They can also fan the flames of interest for those already immersed in all-things-horses. Promoting equine literature for children is one way to speak to future generations about the wonder of horses.

So when Rae Rankin contacted me about reviewing her Cowgirl Lessons series, I saw it as a fun opportunity. In addition to being a children’s book author, Rae is an independent marketing and graphic design consultant. She sent me free PDF copies of her books, but I did not receive any other compensation for this review.

Welcome to the Cowgirl Lessons children’s book series. This book series is based on the author’s personal experience raising her equestrian daughter. There are currently four books in the series with a fifth slated for publication in 2023. Titles include:

Cowgirl Lessons
Show Day: A Cowgirl Lessons Adventure
Cowgirl and The Ghost Horse
Cowgirl Christmas

Each book’s story is told through a series of short paragraphs using a catchy rhyme rhythm. The stories are energetic and optimistic in their outlook. As a horse-crazy girl, I would have related to the tone of the books. They capture the magic of horses and the anticipation I felt about being around them. J-San, the illustrator for all four books, provides colorful and inviting pictures that capture the essence of each paragraph.

“I pick up my helmet from the floor of the truck,
Tie my hair in a ponytail, kiss dad for good luck.
I race to the red barn, slide the door open wide,
I can hardly wait to start my weekly horse ride.”

Cowgirl Lessons

Of the four books in the series, my favorite is Show Day: A Cowgirl Lessons Adventure. It features dressage and western dressage, disciplines I don’t often see emphasized in children’s books.

What is especially noteworthy about the Show Day: A Cowgirl Lessons Adventure is that it taps into the power of generosity as one rider loans her horse to another. It encapsulates the possibility of community in supporting our fellow riders. Riding is often thought of as an individual sport, but the book’s storyline shows it can be about much more. That’s an important message to communicate to young horse fans.

If you would like to purchase a copy of one or more books in the series, visit the author’s website shop. She will send signed copies. Other options are purchasing from Amazon or ordering through your favorite local independent bookstore.

Please note that several books in the series have won book awards:
Cowgirl Lessons, Best Children’s Book USA, 2019 Equus Film & Arts Festival
Cowgirl Christmas, Best Children’s Holiday USA, 2019 Equus Film & Arts Festival
Cowgirl and the Ghost Horse, Best Children’s Short Story, 2020 Equus Film & Arts Festival; Purple Dragonfly 2021

“The day is over, our cowgirl lessons are done,
Goodnight y’all it’s been really great fun.
I’ve hung up my hat, I’m hittin’ the hay,
For tomorrow brings another cowgirl day.”

Cowgirl lessons

Calling All Senior-Horse Owners

Do you every feel behind the eight ball in keeping up with senior horse issues? Seems like every time I think I have a handle on a certain medical condition, I find out that I actually don’t have all the answers.

I might get into a groove, thinking I’ve got this management thing down. I’m patting myself on the back. And then, well, something changes with my horse. What I was doing before isn’t garnering the same results. Now I’m back to square one. Trying to figure it all out.

This leads me to the thought that I don’t think there’s ever too much we can learn about horses. That’s true of any age steed. But maybe more so with the older set.

Within the last twenty years since I first became a horse owner, there have been many advances in senior horse care. Much is available to help us care for our senior’s needs now. But it all starts with each individual owner’s awareness of what to watch for as our horses age.

My own ability to recognize that something is off with my horse is paramount. Ditto for my own knowledge of various horse diseases/lameness issues, especially ones that are more common in older equines.

Of course, reading about an issue and actually identifying/managing it in real time are two different things. I don’t always get it right. The application of knowledge can be a messy endeavor. From one horse to another. From one condition to the next. But I do think that acquiring “head knowledge” is at least a good place to start.

So I was excited to come across this section of Canada’s University of Guelph website titled “Senior Horse Care Challenge Tools.”

The website contains multiple resources for senior-horse owners. It includes an interactive quizz about senior horse care as well as free, downloadable PDFs and videos.

I read about senior horse issues all the time, but found the quiz and their PDF’s to be particularly informative and helpful. I haven’t gotten a chance to take in all their other resources yet, but I definitely like what I see so far.

Want to check it out for yourself? Go to
https://www.equineguelph.ca/Tools/senior_horse.php

Almost Crop Duster Broke

Last Friday dawned bright and beautiful. The air was mercifully dry. The temperatures were crisp enough that I wore a sweatshirt when I first went out to see the horses in the morning. The sky was a brilliant blue. Perfect day to ride.

Apparently, it was also the perfect day to crop dust. My horses and I got a front row site and sound show right in our own backyard.

When I started my pasture ride with Shiloh, I could hear the helicopter crop duster, but it was far enough away that I didn’t immediately cancel my riding plans. I took some photos from the saddle, but they didn’t turn out very well. The addition of the graphic-arts arrow was my attempt to help viewers actually locate the flying machine. 🙂

Shiloh and I walked around the pasture to warm up. We practiced his fox-trot while doing stretchy circles. All the usual stuff. Shiloh was his typical calm self.

After 20 minutes or so, the sound of the helicopter got louder. Then the site of the helicopter sashaying over the crops started to catch Shiloh’s attention. Not enough to cause him to spook, but enough where he was craning his neck to get a gander at this hovering thing in the sky above us.

I decided to stay to the side of the pasture that was furthest from the helicopter and halt for a minute to join Shiloh in viewing the helicopter make straight runs, turn, dip and dive back down the other way. Something like watching a drive-in-movie from horseback.

I soon noticed that Piper and Bear were standing at alert, looking quite concerned. They had come to the electric fence line, not far from where Shiloh and I halted.

Suddenly, Piper and Bear whirled and took off. Their quick exit was not lost on Shiloh who proceeded to launch forward in an attempt to join them. Racehorse out-of-the-starting-gate style. Just one of those instinctual, automatic horse reactions where one horse(s) moves and every other horse in close proximity joins in on the action. It’s why we all love horses.

To Shiloh’s credit, I no sooner touched his face with the reins (I ride him in a bitless bridle) and said whoa than he came to a quick stop, happily relaxed again.

Even though Shiloh didn’t seem too concerned about the crop duster, Piper and Bear were clearly not so sanguine. With them snorting and bouncing around, the atmosphere was definitely getting too charged for my delicate nervous system.

So in the spirit of “discretion is the better part of valor,” I walked Shiloh over to the nearest patch of shade and dismounted. We hung out for a minute under the protection of the tree and continued to watch the show.

Here you can see Shiloh looking with interest in the direction of the helicopter. You can also see his droopy lower lip. Not too worried apparently. In the background, you can also see Bear and Piper, partners in crime, returned to their place along the electric fence line.

Now, dear readers, turn up the volume button on your device. Listen to a little video clip of what Shiloh and I were hearing during our ride. Also see that Shiloh’s only reaction was to cock an ear in the direction of where the helicopter went as it moved away from us.

I’m not quite ready to declare Shiloh 100% crop-duster broke, but if I had to be riding any of my three horses in a situation like that, he was definitely the best choice of the bunch. Good boy, Shiloh.

***This post was written in the spirit of good fun. But on a much more serious note, my up-close horse and helicopter experience made me think of the ongoing USA’s Bureau of Land Management round-ups of our nation’s wild mustangs and burros. These round-ups are often conducted by herding the horses and burros with helicopters, resulting in long and terrifying runs for these animals. Runs that result in some horrific injuries, suffering and death, especially for foals and pregnant mares. If you would like to have the BLM stop these helicopter roundups, please visit Wild Horse Education’s website link below. This particular link has information about the Wild Horse and Burro Protection Act of 2022 (Bill HR 6635) and how you can contact your government representative to support the bill asking the government to stop the use of helicopters in round-ups.

Loyalty Reward Programs For Horse Feed and Products

Do you participate in any loyalty programs for horse products, feed or supplements from specific brands?

As someone who likes to save money wherever I can, I appreciate these types of programs.

For example, I am a member of Nutrena’s Plaid Perks program. I recently redeemed my points for a $10 off coupon on a bag of Nutrena’s Topline Balance (ration balancer). The coupon was easy to redeem at my local Tractor Supply Company.

The Plaid Perks program allows members to accumulate points by uploading receipts for Nutrena products already purchased.

In addition, you can also earn points by visiting the Plaid Perks website and viewing videos, reading articles and taking quizzes. New opportunities to earn extra points are put on the website once a month or so. You have regular opportunities to accumulate points, even if you don’t buy a ton of feed.

Interested? Sign up at https://www.plaidperks.com/ and start earning points today.

While the Plaid Perks program is the only one I have signed up for so far, I am aware of three other programs that may be of interest to readers:

Horse Care Loyalty Rewards
https://www.horsecareloyalty.com/
This is a combined program by Farnam, Horse Health Products and Vita Flex. Participants can get a free product when they buy a certain quantity of selected products from these manufacturers.

Ultra Shield Rewards
https://absorbine.com/pages/ultrashield-rewards
Last year, I posted about an Ultra Shield rebate program giving the buyer $10 off a gallon of Ultra Shield. I now suspect that rebate offer was discontinued and has been replaced with this new rewards program. Sign up for the program, upload your Ultra Shield Fly Spray receipts, accumulate points and receive coupons for future purchases.

Platinum Rewards
https://www.platinumperformance.com/platinum-rewards.html
Earn points towards future purchases when you buy Platinum supplements either directly from Platinum Performance or from your veterinarian.

Do you participate in a program that I have not listed here? Please let me know in the comments section. Your fellow readers and I would enjoy learning about other ways to save some horse $$$!

Hot As All Get-Out!

In my area, we are experiencing a prolonged period of wicked high humidity. With dewpoints around 70, the air is considered tropical. It’s that heavy, soupy, wet-blanket-type weather.

I have managed a couple of short bareback rides, but that’s been about it for mounted work.

As I explained in a 2020 post, We Ride At Dawn, these hot and humid days necessitate very early morning rides for me.

Early morning coincides with the time period when I turn my horses out to graze. So if Shiloh’s or Piper’s grass-eating time is shortened in order to go for a ride, I offer them a hay bag while I groom.

Nevertheless, in the following photo, Shiloh might have been wondering why he had to work while Piper and Bear got to graze. I think that’s horse FOMO.

You can almost see how thick the air is in the photos. Absolutely stifling weather.

So with my riding-time limited, I busy myself with extra barn chores. I do things like restacking hay and scrubbing water troughs.

Also been counting how many bags of bedding and stall deodorizer I will likely use in my horses’ run-in shed over the Winter. ‘Cause soon enough, I’ll be complaining about cold, wind, ice, mud and snow instead of heat and humidity.

I know I’m not the only one who lives in a place with ridiculous extremes in weather. So when I saw the following post, I knew I would want to share it.

Once you’ve sweated through all your barn chores, if you are ever looking for some indoor “rainy day” or “hot-as-all-get-out day” activities, take a look at these three DIY videos sponsored by Maryland Saddlery at

https://marylandsaddlery.com/blogs/equestrian-tips-advice/diy-projects

Their current Summer intern, Brooke, made three videos that are three minutes or less. ***side note- Oh how I would have loved to intern for a horse businesses during college!***

The video topics are making horse popsicles, designing ribbon photo frames and whipping up your very own fly spray. All three ideas would also make entertaining projects for a barn party, horse-lover birthday party or a summer camp activity.

I need to gather up the necessary supplies before I give these ideas a try, but if this rough stretch of weather continues, I will have plenty of time to experiment. Boy, is it hot out there!

Muzzle Muscle Marvels

How DO horses show so much dexterity with their muzzles? I was thinking about this last week when grooming Piper after a ride. As I watched him wriggle and curl his muzzle in apparent delight during his rub down, I marveled at the movements.

Here is Piper looking unenthused before his ride. Ho-hum.

And then turning increasingly animated during his post-ride grooming.

It is admittedly difficult for me to groom and take media at the same time. But hopefully, you get the picture.

Later that same day, while riding Shiloh, I noticed his parted lips. I only see him do this when he is relaxed. I like to think he was enjoying that day’s quiet stroll around the pasture as much as I was.

Shiloh’s slightly offset jaw revealed a tooth gently peeking out of that droopy lower lip (the jaw issue is a result of allegedly being kicked in the face as a foal). You can’t see the tooth in the photo above, but here is a clearer picture from a 2019 ride. I smile whenever I see that cheeky grin.

I didn’t want to leave Bear devoid of attention. Now that he is retired from riding, I sometimes watch him watching me interact with the other horses. I wonder if he feels left out. So after finishing my activities with Piper and Shiloh, I offered him a good body scratch with my fingernails. But he wasn’t in the mood and sauntered away, apparently unimpressed with my offering.

I wouldn’t be getting any funny faces from him to capture on camera that day. But Bear did show excellent muzzle muscle control while scarfing down a mid-day hay snack!

When I look through old photos, I have quite a few that feature my horses performing other dazzling feats of muzzle and muscle. Through mutual grooming, picking up items on the ground, making the flehmen response and yawning, the horses show off their abilities.

Makes me smile every time I look at them. 🙂

Horse-Reading Highlights

Last post, I highlighted an online article focusing on the details of riding. But during the recent heat waves this Summer, that isn’t the only piece I’ve been pouring over.

For this post, I’ve compiled a list of more online articles with their links so you can see what I have been absorbing and thinking about recently. So let’s get started.

I am constantly hungry for information on the topic of the mental aspects of riding. It is one of the many aspects of riding that I find challenging. So this piece from Canadian Horse Journals really stood out to me:

“Practice Emotional Resilience For A Better Ride”
By Annika McGivern From Canadian Horse Journals https://www.horsejournals.com/riding-training/rider-development/psychology/practice-emotional-resilience-better-horse-ride

I also am really interested in information about horse physical-conditioning. As the owner of three senior horses (ages 19 to 27), how I care for and exercise them has real impact on their welfare.

Of course, that’s true for every horse. But it seems to me it is even more so for the senior crowd. They no longer have the benefits of youth to outweigh any negative impacts that errors in their feed, tack fit or exercise might impart. It just seems to me that what I do or don’t do with them has more immediate consequences for their health and welfare than when they were younger.

Here are four articles that give me lots of food for thought in this area:

“Horse Topline-Building Tips”
By Christa Lesté-Lasserre, MA from The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care
https://thehorse.com/170405/horse-topline-building-tips/

“How Walk Work Over Poles Benefits Equine Rehab and Strength”
By Eleanor Jones From Horse and Hound
https://www.horseandhound.co.uk/news/how-walk-work-over-poles-benefits-equine-rehab-and-strength

“Tips on Improving Suppleness Under Saddle”
From Equus Magazine (author unidentified)
https://equusmagazine.com/riding/stiff4603/

“5 Exercises For Older Horses”
By Camille Saute on the Equisense Blog
https://blog.equisense.com/en/exercises-for-older-horses/

Last but not least, I am always interested in articles about wild mustangs and burros, particularly the ones on US public lands. You can read my post “For The Wild Ones” that details my previous experience with them.

The USA’s Bureau of Land Management’s round-up season is currently in full swing. Thousands of wild horses and burros are losing their freedom. Some are sustaining gruesome injuries and losing their very lives as they try to flee the terror involved in these round-ups. There has got to be a better way.

I respect that no shortage of divergent opinions exists on the topic. Admittedly, there is a lot to unpack on this subject of wild horses and burros and public lands usage. Personally, though, I would like to see the roundups halted. I want the wild horses and burros to largely remain on the range and routinely contact my senators, congressman and other government officials about wild horse and burros issues.

To better understand the history of wild horses and burros on US public lands and to keep up with the latest developments, I subscribe to the newsletter from the non-for-profit Wild Horse Education. Due to this being BLM round-up season, WHE has been posting frequently as they document what happens at these round-ups with photo and video footage.

On a related note, for a different take on the wild horse and burros issue, you might find reading about the Wild Horse Fire Brigade very interesting. You can see my previous post about this innovative idea HERE.

Okay, now that you know what I have been reading this Summer, tell me about you. What horse-related stuff have you been digging into lately? Horse care? Training? A particular horse-industry issue? Let me know in the comments section.

Can The Fun Be In The Details?

“Observe the parameters of the gait: the line of travel and the alignment of the horse’s body. The rhythm and tempo of the footfall. Is it regular or uneven? Is the tempo too fast or too slow, or just right? Listen to the sound of the footfall. Are all four feet touching down with the same intensity, or is one foot louder than the others? Pay attention to the energy level. Is it suitable for what you are trying to do, or do you need to raise it or lower it?”

– Quoted from the article “Inclusive Focus. Getting Into The Right Frame Of Mind” by Thomas and Shana Ritter with http://www.artisticdressage.com

Like many readers, I subscribe to numerous horse-related newsletters. In my blog posts, I often reference online articles that I first found by scrolling through my email inbox. Today, I am highlighting a piece from Thomas and Shana Ritter from their Artistic Dressage website titled “Inclusive Focus. Getting Into The Right Frame of Mind.”

I learned about them through my aunt Lynne Sprinsky Echols, author of A Good Seat: Three Months at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff. Thanks, Auntie Lynne!

Inclusive Focus, Getting Into The Right Frame of Mind” is quite meaty. There are lots of informative tidbits to digest. The authors remind us how much there is to notice about our horses as we ride.

“Zoom in to observe a certain part of the body without losing sight of the whole. Zoom out to observe how all the different areas of the body interact with each other and influence each other. Does any specific joint, limb, or muscle group stand out because it is moving oddly? Can you see or feel where this anomaly is coming from?”

I suspect sometimes we as riders think that if we aren’t doing some exciting activity with our horses, our rides will be dull. But what if while we ride, even “just” at a walk, we focus on all the quiet details that the article describes?

“Observe the horse’s muscle tone. The feel of his back and hind legs. The mobility of his hips, shoulders, rib cage, and spine. Can you feel the hind legs in your reins? Can your weight flow through each of the four legs into the ground? Can you reach all areas of the horse’s body with your aids, or are there areas that you can’t feel or influence?”

The authors reminded me that at slower paces and during simple maneuvers, there is still lots going on between horse and rider. We can absorb much information from and about our horses if we hone our awareness. To me, that’s a pretty exciting idea in and of itself!

What about you? Do you find fun in the details?

Equestrian Blog Hop: 20 (very random) Questions

I am a little late to the party on this one, but here I am, participating in a blog hop. This hop was started by Anna from the equestrian blog “Anxiety at A.”

In addition to reading Anna’s original post, I’ve read four other bloggers’ answers including BreedRideEvent, Fat Buckskin In A Little Suit, Moonlit Pastures: The Ramblings of an Adult Ammy Rider and The Everything Pony.

Did any other bloggers post their answers? Let me know if I’ve missed someone. And if you are a horse blogger who hasn’t participated yet, why don’t you consider giving the blog hop a try?

Leave a comment here with a link to your answers so I know that you gave it a go. And don’t forget to post a reply to Anna at Anxiety at A under her own blog hop post so she can read your answers too.

Each blogger, including me, has their individual preferences, opinions and blogging styles. Nevertheless, the delight we all clearly share in “everything equus” shines through the variations. Vive la différence.

Without further adieu, here’s my spin on “20 (very random) Questions:”

  1. What is one of your favorite brands specifically for your horse, and why?

Absorbine and Farnam are my go-to brands. Their products are widely available and reasonably priced (mostly).

  1. If you were given a gift card for a tack shop with unlimited funds, what would you buy first?

A lifetime supply of fly spray.

  1. What horse event/clinic do you really want to audit or participate in? (Events like Equine Affaire, or the LRK3DE, or even local events, etc)

Ride in a Buck Brannaman clinic.

  1. What is something your horse has taught you that you didn’t expect to learn?

I didn’t expect to learn how much my emotions, level of confidence and general thought process affect my horses. The longer I am around horses, the more I appreciate their biofeedback features. Although I admit that I don’t always like the feedback I receive.

  1. If you could take your horse anywhere, right now, to do anything, where would you go and what would you do?

I would go to the Bolender Horse Park in the State of Washington. I want to tackle their mountain trail course (or at least give it a good try). I love the puzzle involved in figuring out how to negotiate obstacles.

  1. What are your favorite colors to put on your horse? (think saddle pads, tack colors, browbands, etc.)

Based on horses I’ve had in the past, I like a vibrant red on a bay horse. Either earth tones or orange on a solid chestnut. Royal blue on a blue roan. Black or any shade of blue on a grey.

In my possession, I have mostly red and orange since those were the colors for my horses Bear (now retired) and Spice (now deceased). Of all the horses I’ve owned, I did the most activities with them, so I enjoyed color-coordinating outfits.

And here is a photo of Bear and me, riding in red in 2012, milling around at a local horse show.

Here is a photo of Spice and me in 2013 at a trail competition, decked out in orange, right down to the hoof boots.

With my currently ridden horses, Piper as a bay horse looks good in Bear’s red stuff. I’d love to get Shiloh some of his own earth-tone items to compliment his flashy chestnut and white coat, but I’ve been spending my money on other things. Maybe someday. For the last four years, Shiloh wears Bear’s old red stuff like Piper does.

  1. What is your least favorite equestrian brand?

Probably Manna-Pro. It’s not so much that I don’t like their products, it’s just that their prices seem too high for the quality of the product that I get. I usually find I can get an Absorbine or Farnam product that I like just as well for a better price.

  1. If you could change one thing about your discipline, what would it be?

You know, I don’t really have a discipline, but I do have several interests. At the moment, I am most interested in western dressage, working trail obstacles and in trail riding. I’m not in a training program or even part of a larger equestrian community within those categories. Claiming a particular discipline doesn’t fit for me.

All that said, I do like gaited horses. I know that’s not a discipline. And there’s certainly a wide variety of gaited breeds and styles of riding. But being a gaited horse owner does seem to put me in a kind of “checkmarkable” box.

So what is one thing I’d change about the gaited horse world? I’d like to see all gaited horses trained to canter under saddle. Traditionally, I think there was concern that training a gaited horse to canter would somehow ruin its gaiting abilities. That line of thinking seems to be drifting away, but I suspect it is still out there.

I know training a super lateral-going horse to canter can have its challenges, but it adds so much to the horse’s training. And I actually think more non-gaited horse people would give gaited horses a try if they knew the horse was trained to canter or lope like any other horse.

  1. Did you grow up in an ag/equestrian familiar family, or are you the first person in your family to step foot in a barn?

My Aunt introduced me to horses when my mom and I visited her when she lived in California (back in the 1970’s). I was five years old and instantly smitten with riding.

  1. Do you like the bit that is in your horse’s mouth currently or do you want to try a new one?

Shiloh goes best in a bitless bridle. I currently use the LG-Zaum German bridle attachment with a western bridle (show above). Shiloh was a sour, unhappy horse for me in a bit. I was pretty sure I caught him smiling after the first time I rode him in a bitless bridle. I started him off with a Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle, but tried the LG-Zaum out of curiosity. Shiloh went even better in the LG-Zaum so that’s what we use.

Piper, my newest horse, has been ridden by me in a Myler curb bit, a plain eggbutt snaffle and a Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle. For a while, I toggled back and forth between the snaffle and the bitless getup.

I think I’ve decided to stick with the snaffle for while, although I may try a different type of snaffle eventually. I think his tongue is rather thick, and I wonder if a thinner snaffle might be more comfortable for him to carry.

But I came to the conclusion that Piper felt a little lost in the Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle. Like maybe my communication with him was muddled. But I must say though that riding him in the bitless bridle really helped me to get him to stop curling behind the contact as much. He’ll still put his nose on his chest on a day he’s feeling particularly tense, but the overall improvement is really noticeable.

The photo on the left was taken October 2021 and the photo on the right was taken June 2022. I’m using the same eggbutt snaffle in both photos, but after using the bitless bridle for awhile, I’m less likely to see his head totally disappear in front of me now when I pick up on the contact in the snaffle.

It’s like I needed to ride him for a while in something that was the least restrictive piece of equipment I could in order to get him thinking about loosening up and stretching forward. He seemed to learn to trust my hands and rein contact more through the process of using the bitless bridle.

  1. If you could change one thing about your horse, what would it be?

That they were shorter. I just feel better physically matched to a mount that’s more pony height than horse height. Bear is large pony height, but Shiloh and Piper are both about 15 hands.

  1. What is one thing about horses you are weirdly obsessed with? (i.e wrapping techniques, footing, grooming, hair care, clippers, saddles, etc)

Hmmm. Not sure. Have to skip this one.

  1. What is the most advanced horse you have ever ridden, or what is the most advanced move for your discipline you have done?

I’ve ridden many lesson horses in various disciplines over the years. I’ve had the most lessons in Hunt Seat (including jumping) and Saddle seat. I’ve also had a handful of western lessons, dressage lessons and even driving lessons. All of the horses were more well-trained than I am. 🙂

As far as my own horses go, Bear is my most advanced horse. We learned to do all sorts of fun stuff together by attending multi-day clinics. And then incorporating those acquired skills into our riding at home, on the trails and at local shows over the years. Bear could bow down on one knee to be mounted, side pass, do turn on the forehand and hindquarters. And he had an awesome racking gait (quick and smooth). A lovely lope, too! I still very much miss riding him now that he is retired.

  1. What is your favorite type of reins?

Anything thick. My hands and wrists are often stiff and achy. Thin reins are my nemesis.

  1. What are you a diva/stickler about in terms of equipment quality? Hmmm. Not sure about this one either.
  1. What is your favorite barn hack you learned?

I’ve written several previous posts on my favorite barn hacks. I also have an entire “barn hack” Pinterest board. Check out the links below.

Barn Hack- Cat Litter Containers As Water Storage While Traveling

Barn Hack: Using Bed Sheet Cases to Organize

Barn Hack- Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater

Winter Barn Hack- Making Those Hand Warmers Last Longer

  1. What is your least favorite piece of equipment and why?

My least favorite is whatever I think my horse(s) dislike. It really bothers me if I think a horse is unhappy with something whether a particular bit, a fly mask, a brush, saddle, etc . . . I am happiest when I perceive my horse to be happy. And even if I don’t like a piece of equipment, I will often use it if I think my horse likes it.

  1. If your horse was a character from a Disney movie, who would they be?

Not sure about Disney characters. Can we go with Muppets instead?

I’d imagine Bear would be Kermit. Shiloh would be Rowlf The Dog. Piper would be Animal.

Piper is the odd man out here in my little herd. He has many good qualities, but his personality is a bit “much” for me at times. And he has bossy moments with Bear and Shiloh that I don’t particularly like. That’s why I picked the Animal character to describe Piper, even though he’s not THAT over the top. Piper has only been with me for just under a year. So how he fits into my backyard can change over time. I’m holding space for that to happen.

  1. If you could change one thing about the property you are at right now with your horses, what would it be?

I’d like it to have an indoor arena!

  1. What is the purchase that you regret in the horse world?

There was one time I thought I wanted to start regularly showing my son’s old barrel horse named Fate in hunt-seat classes. So I bought the best complete set of tack and show clothes I could. We practiced at home and even did a fully dressed show rehearsal.

Turns out though that Fate, when at the horse show, still very much expected to run barrels or poles. He got way over-excited in the warm-up ring. He was such a handful outside of the show ring that I didn’t actually get him IN the show ring. And I never tried again.

Our hunt-seat tack and my show outfit were later re-sold for pennies on the dollar. This was before the proliferation of online equestrian-resale websites. The entire endeavor was an embarrassing experience and a big waste of money. Not funny at the time. But I can laugh about it now (sort of!).

Horse Health Updates

It’s been about a month since I posted about my horse, Bear, and the issue with his post-abscess hoof blow out.

After weeks of keeping his hoof either booted or wrapped, Bear recently started to look comfortable walking without them. That changed yesterday now that the ground hardened again after days without rain. But I am really pleased with how the damaged hoof is growing out so far. Hopefully he will be completely boot/wrap free again soon.

Bear’s hooves grow wicked fast. While that can cause problems between trim cycles, it is helping with this particular situation where he really needs to grow more hoof wall in a hurry.

In the photo on the left, here is his hoof now, just after being trimmed again by his farrier this week. The hoof wall is still kind of short and uneven near the bottom, but looking a LOT better than before.

Bear spent some time in his SoftRide boots and Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boot, but I actually ended up mostly wrapping his hoof with layers of Equifit-Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape and vet wrap. Bear has worn his SoftRides for previous lameness, but this was my first time trying the Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boot. It stayed on really well and provided solid sole protection, but I decided it wasn’t the best boot for Summer weather.

The Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boot material holds in heat and retains moisture. I started to get concerned about Bear’s hoof and pastern feeling noticeably hot (his pastern was constantly sweaty). I also didn’t like how the hoof would stay moist for more than 24 hours after my giving Bear a bath on a hot day. I’ll definitely be keeping the boot for future use, but I’m thinking it will be more appropriate for use when the temperatures cool.

I also reported on Shiloh’s allergy symptoms. Thankfully, they seem much less noticeable now. Which is a good thing, because on the very hottest days, I like to remove his fly mask. He is still taking his generic Zyrtec, flax seeds and having his face cleaned as needed, including whisking away frequent eye discharge. But it’s wonderful to see him not rubbing red and swollen eyes.

Meanwhile, Piper this year joined the grazing muzzle brigade when I put the horses out on pasture. None of my horses are slouches in the appetite area, but Piper is on another level. He seems to eat twice as fast as Bear and Shiloh. Because Piper is the herd leader, he also gets the first choice of the tastiest patches of grass or hay flakes.

He’s not cresty-necked yet, but I’ve had enough problems with weight gain to realize that I need to act sooner rather than later to try to help this cookie monster lose weight (or at least not gain further).

Now if we can just get through these bursts of 100+ degree weather indexes, we’ll be doing well. The heat puts a resounding kibosh on my riding plans. It makes doing even basic horse chores very taxing. Considering how widespread these heat waves have been around the world, I am sure many of you can relate.

The only reasonably comfortable time of day is when I can still see some pink in the sky at sunrise. Stay cool out there folks!

Riding: Appreciating The 1% Bonus

I came across this article, written by dressage professional Ange Bean, regarding living by the 1% rule. It gave me perspective regarding some of my recent rides. If riding for you is not all butterflies and sunshine, I recommend giving it a read.

“The “1% rule,” to me, represents hope. . . This rule shows me the path, one step at a time. If each of my daily trot-halt-trots gets a tiny, tiny bit better, I can go from “trot-waterski and hope for several strides-check out my mount’s browband because he’s so inverted-finally stop moving” to a quiet, invisible half-halt. Even if I’m nowhere near that in today’s training session.”

Ange Bean

Progress comes in fits and starts for me, when it even comes at all. Ange Bean is a much more accomplished rider than I will ever be. Yet she describes many significant setbacks in her life that helped form her views on progress.

I was thinking about her article as I reflected on Shiloh’s difficulty in stretching towards the contact. Or should I say, my difficulty in encouraging him to do so.

It seems that each year after our Winter break, it takes a few months for me to convince him to stretch. I want him to stretch because it seems to help with his relaxation and avoid a pacing gait. And the more we practice this posture, the more his Foxtrot gait (he’s a Missouri Fox Trotter) becomes smooth and rhythmic.

At this point in the year, Shiloh is finally starting to stretch again. But not consistently. Here’s a little recent video taken earlier this month.

I could hold on to the disappointment that we are still struggling. To focus on the inconsistently. Or, I could choose to focus on the progress. The older I get, the more it occurs to me that I actually have a choice in how I look at any given situation.

I also keep this idea of 1% progress in mind as I encountered a recent setback with my newest horse, Piper. Fresh on the heels of my successful trail ride with Shiloh, I took Piper to the local boarding barn where I participate in Winter riding lessons.

Piper spent a week at this barn before I brought him home to my backyard. And we revisited the place last Fall when I trailed him over for another practice ride. Piper was nervous that first week with me (in keeping with being in a new environment with a new owner), but he was basically cooperative and wasn’t spooky. Not so for our return trip this year, unfortunately!

He was actually, well, terrible. He was dancy-prancy. Alternating between head tossing and curling behind the bit. Scooting away when he heard noises behind him or the wind blew the arena dust in a little swirl. And he stopped and spun away when approaching corners. Three of the four corners in fact.

Even so, he wasn’t unseating me. I kept my stirrups. I thought perhaps if we continued with figure eights (my go-to movement with an unhappy, tense horse) that he would quickly relax. But after 15 minutes, the antics continued.

Though I was still firmly in the saddle, my confidence in my ability to continue to ride him through the tension started to wane. Without being able to arrive at those universal basics of relaxation and rhythm, it made for a really unpleasant ride for me. Obviously for Piper too. So I decided to call it a day and take him home.

That experience lingered with us. The next time I rode him at home, I was apprehensive. He was an emotional mess again. I ended up doing a total of 40 minutes of groundwork with Piper because multiple attempts at asking him to stand at the mounting block were unsuccessful. By the time I did get on, I was so tired and frazzled that we walked around quietly for like five minutes and called it a day.

Again, not a great experience for either of us. But was it 1% better than our previous ride? Yes, it was. Because during our last ride, we didn’t even get five minutes of quiet. And now we had at least that.

The next few rides after that one were actually quite nice. We’ve been going back to working on doing long serpentines and big circles in our open pasture. I can feel him stretch and blow through his nose periodically. He is calm enough for me to fiddle with my phone and capture a set of shadow shots from the saddle. 1% progress? Yes and then some.

Our next eventual step will be to see if we can travel again and not unravel. I’ll likely try to schedule a lesson, not just an open ride, so I can get a professional’s supervision and input. I’d love to know what the issue was, especially with the spooking. It seemed really out of character.

Is Piper developing some herd-sour issues with my other horses, Bear and Shiloh (who I agree are fantastic company- I probably wouldn’t want to leave him either)? Is he feeling skeptical about me and my abilities to pilot him through a hair-raising situation (I readily admit to not being the confident, go-getting rider I’d love to be)? Was he just not feeling like working that day? He is an older horse, after all. Prone to aches and pains, I’m sure.

But, you know how it is with horses. We don’t often get to learn exactly what the deal was. So instead, I will try to look forward. I will try to figure out what I can do the next time to find, as Ange Bean states in her article, that 1% progress.

On a related note, I also came across this article by Karen Rohfl with Dressage Naturally about working with a horse who is stressed in new places. Lots of good suggestions. Another piece that I found helpful was by author Sally Spickard in Heels Down Magazine. It details what to do immediately following a tough ride.

Those articles provide good food for thought for someone like me. Someone who loves to ride. Yet who routinely finds it challenging to keep it mentally together when things go wrong in the saddle. Someone who struggles to help their horse along, whether in developing improved self-carriage or just finding a basic level of relaxation when riding off the property.

While we can often learn something from a disappointing ride, at other times it is hard to find the silver lining. Each of us is left with the task of trying to make sense of it all. I don’t particularly welcome those difficult rides, but if nothing else, they allow me to appreciate the easy rides all the more. Those rides where everything seems to click between my mount and me.

Most importantly, in the end, I remember to have gratitude for the opportunity to ride in any capacity at all. It is quite a privilege. 1% progress is the bonus.

Product Review: Kerrits Ice Fil Gloves

*** Please note, this post was unsolicited and uncompensated by Kerrits.***

I am a fan of wearing gloves while doing barn chores and riding. It wasn’t always that way for me though. I used to be more of a “winter only” glove wearer. But as I’ve aged, I find I develop rubs and callouses more easily than I did back in the day. So gloves it is! Pretty much year-round now.

I admit that wearing gloves during the Summer can be uncomfortable due to heat and humidity. While I have not yet found a glove that prevents my hands from sweating, the Kerrits Ice Fil Gloves are my Summer glove favorite.

Here is a description of the gloves, taken from the Kerrits website:

“Ice Fil® technology absorbs sweat while quickly and effectively being converted into cooling energy. Cools skin by up to five degrees. GripSoft™ palm for secure rein handling; reinforced for durability. Easy pull-on design Touch-screen friendly. Cools by reducing skin’s temp up to five degrees. Four-way stretch for comfort. Highly breathable. UPF+50 sun protection. 81% Nylon/ 19% Spandex.”

The material is lightweight and flexible. My hands don’t feel restricted like they do in some other gloves. I appreciate the UPF protection. I also like the feel of the grip they provide when I am handling lead ropes, lunge lines and reins.

One of their best features, as far as I am concerned, is that they contain no velcro. So many riding gloves have velcro closures at the wrist.

I like being able to take off my gloves without them making that “ckckckcckc” sound as the hook and loop closures come apart, especially when I am mounted.

My only disappointment with the gloves has to do with their reported “touch screen friendly” feature. I, unfortunately, have not found this to be the case. I usually have to take my gloves off to work my cell phone. In defense of the gloves, I will say that I do have an older model phone. Perhaps the gloves were tested on newer phones with more sensitive screens than mine?

This is the second Summer that I have used the two pairs I own. Both pairs are still going strong and are not sprouting any holes. The care instructions say that they can be machine washed and tumbled dry on low, but I prefer to mostly keep them out of the drier. I lay them flat out on a towel instead. They do dry quickly (this is likely what helps make them a cooler Summer glove too).

For those of you who like to add a pop of color to your riding outfits, note that the gloves come in five different shades.

I have to say that Kerrits is probably my favorite equestrian clothing brand. I wish they made more Western/casual barn wear, but I am happy to sport their items no matter the kind of saddle I am using. They seem to make quality clothes that last from year to year, without having an absolutely outrageous price tag attached.

At about $32 a pair, the gloves are a tad pricey for my budget but not unaffordable. I appreciate having them in my collection for Summer riding. I am not surprised that Kerrits make a glove I really like.

What about you? Have you tried Kerrits Ice Fil Gloves? Or do you have a different brand that you prefer for horsing around during the Summer? Let me know in the comments section.

A Review Of My Equestrian Product Reviews: “Most Used” Edition

I thought it would be fun to take a look at all my product reviews posted to date. Out of curiosity, I wanted to see if the products I wrote about are items I still use?

I will start by saying that I stand by all my reviews. I have not changed my opinion about any posted products. However, I did notice that some items are just more closely woven into my everyday horse-life than others. This is as opposed to products that I very much like, but only use under special circumstances. Say, for example, things like leg wraps or bell boots.

So without further ado, here is what made my list of “most used of the reviews.” Products are listed in alphabetical order.

Absorbine Cool Down Cooling Rinse: Herbal After Work-Out Rinse


Harrison Howard Fly Masks


Lavender Products For Your That Your Horse Might Like Too


Nibblenets


Tiger’s Tounge


Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Cinch


Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup


Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer

How about you? Are any of your own most used products on this list?

Now that I have product reviews on the brain, stay tuned for a new one coming up next post. I’ll be writing about an item I have happily used for over a year now.

Get Your Free Ticket For The Next Art Of The Horseman Online Fair!

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From Bear, Shiloh and Piper- Happy Fourth of July

Side Note Here- I was hoping to add a photo of Piper and me riding with the American flag so we could be matchy-matchy with Bear and Shiloh’s photos. However, the closest I’ve gotten to working on Piper with the flag is having Piper watching me ride Shiloh with the flag. Anyhow, the headshot of Piper with somewhat of a red, white and blue theme will have to do for this year’s Fourth of July photo collage. All the same, Happy Fourth of July to my fellow citizens of the USA.

For this holiday post, I share the lyrics to “I believe in America.” The song was written by Chris LeDoux (1948 to 2005), an accomplished professional rodeo cowboy and singer/songwriter. It was featured on his Wild and Wooly album and released in 1986. Over thirty years later, his lyrics resonate with me still.

“This country’s seen some hard times
Lord knows she’s deep in debt
She’s comin’ through another depression
And for some it ain’t over yet

We’ve all been divided
Playin’ our own selfish games
Why does it always take the hard times
To get people back together again?

But I believe in America, I believe in America
One nation under God, still proud and strong
I believe in America, I’m proud to be in America
Though I know in America, we gotta right some wrongs
But I don’t believe you can keep America down for long

Now if you read the papers
Or listen to the news these days
Sometimes there don’t look like there’s much hope left
For the good old USA

This country, she ain’t perfect
Oh, but thank God she’s still free
And she’s gonna make her comeback
Yes, sir, just you wait and see

And I believe in America, I believe in America
One nation under God, still proud and strong
I believe in America, I’m proud to be in America
Though I know in America, we gotta right some wrongs
But I don’t believe you can keep America down for long

I believe in America, oh, I believe in America
One nation under God, still proud and strong
I believe in America, I’m proud to be in America
Though I know in America, we gotta right some wrongs
But I don’t believe you can keep America down for long”

First Trail Ride Together

I chose not to take any photos on the trail so I could pay my best attention to Shiloh on our first jaunt. But here is a shot I took as we rendezvoused in a clearing. Look at all those lovely woods we got to enjoy!

There’s nothing like experiencing nature from the back of a horse. I used to take my horses, Bear and Spice, out on the trails regularly. Then Spice died and Bear began experiencing a series of health problems that led to his retirement from riding. The last time I had taken my own horses trail riding was in Colorado in 2015.

Since returning to live in the Mid-West, I had only kept two horses at home. At first, it was Bear and a series of individual foster horses from a local rescue. Then it was Bear and Shiloh. While I did periodically practice taking the horses out to local venues, I noticed that they became increasingly buddy sour while traveling. Not being a horse whisperer, I started to feel like I was getting in over my head and perhaps creating problems that I could not solve.

Now that I have a third horse (Piper) to keep Bear in company at home, I figured it was high time to give trail riding another go. Just as I have ridden trails before, Shiloh had also traversed trails in his previous life. But in almost four years together, we had yet to go on a trail ride as a team.

I felt like we were ready, but at the same time, I’m not often flush with confidence when it comes to horses. I usually have some sort of nagging doubt about my ability to do what I want to do with them. Even so, the desire to trail ride remains.

Recently, a friend with a lovely private trail system behind her barn invited me to join her and another friend for a practice ride. We kept it short and sweet and it went really well.

Shiloh seemed content in the company of the other two horses. He strode out nicely on the trails. Shiloh led some. Shiloh followed some. He didn’t display any funny business.

Shiloh was alert in a new environment yet felt relaxed enough underneath me to make me think that he enjoyed the experience. While I am accustomed to horses picking up on my own nerves, this was one of those cases where I felt more nervous than the horse- ha!

We didn’t tackle any of my friend’s trickier trail paths, but her undulating terrain allowed me to see that Shiloh can go up and down little inclines without issue. My ground is so flat at home and in the local arenas we’ve ridden that this was my first experience in seeing how Shiloh handles little hills.

Of course, we’ve got some things to work on. Like keeping adequate distance from the other horses (seemed like we were either too far in front or running up on someone’s behind). And his snack grabbing while going under low-hanging branches was annoying. He doesn’t exactly jump right in the trailer either (coming or going).

But the fact that Shiloh wasn’t a loon out on the trails made me very happy! Yah! Perhaps more importantly, Shiloh came back home sound and in a good mood. Hopefully he’ll be game to try it again.

Thank you so much to my friends and their horses for providing a supportive environment. Great company for Shiloh and me on our first official trail outing together!

Riding Benefits of Open Spaces

I enjoy my round pen with its solid, ag lime footing. It allows me to do some riding when the rest of our property is muddy or frozen. But going round and round in circles is limiting. True, my trail obstacles provide interesting variety. Yet also true, there’s only so much I can do during any one ride in a small space.

The weather in my area has recently been abnormally dry. I am riding more on our grassy areas, particularly our South pasture. The drier than usual weather allows me to enjoy the grass riding without worrying about horse hooves tearing up the ground.

I think my horses are savoring this change of venue. Both Shiloh and Piper are similar in age, 19 and 21 respectively. But they have very different personalities. I find that I can use riding in a more open space to their advantage, despite their very different styles and preferences.

Riding in a wide-open space helps a lower-energy horse like Shiloh to move out more. He actually gets to go somewhere! And where is his favorite somewhere? Any shady spot. Shiloh melts in the Summer heat and will happily halt under even the smallest shadow.

In our South pasture, Shiloh seems very happy to stride out towards the various patches of shade along our far fence line. Doesn’t seem to matter to him that we are moving away from the barn and the other horses. I can feel Shiloh smile when I ask him to stop and pause while we are shielded from the sun.

Piper, on the other hand, is a higher-energy horse. When he is either physically or mentally uncomfortable, he gets quick. I notice that he seems more subdued outside of the pen. He is more likely to stretch his neck and blow out air through his nose. He just seems more relaxed.

Considering how stiff Piper can be, I think not having to attempt to keep him on a continuous bend is more comfortable for him. This contributes to his relaxation. Outside of the round pen, I can intersperse doing bending figures with heading out on a straightaway. This allows Piper to stay more comfortable while still getting the benefits of bending.

His favorite exercise so far is serpentines. I prepare and ask for a bend through the brief turns. I then release the bend to travel straight until the next turn. This seems to work well for him both physically and mentally. A little bit of effort to make a turn followed by a quick release. This instead of my asking him for a continuous bend all the way around the pen.

In my fantasy world, my backyard has an indoor arena, a reining-size outdoor arena, an outdoor dressage arena, a mountain-trail obstacle course, a large oval racing-style track and a set of trails winding through woods with tall, full trees. Now, don’t ask me how I’d maintain all that. But I can tell you exactly how much I would enjoy having diverse riding venues at my fingertips.

Out here in reality, though, my backyard looks different. Nevertheless, I will continue for as long as I can to do what I’ve done for the last twenty years. I will dodge weather and footing conditions. I will try to keep riding with some kind of regularity despite less-than-ideal facilities. I will relish the ability to expand my horizons outside of the round pen when the opportunity presents.

And speaking of open spaces . . . Drum roll please . . . In my next post, I will tell you about Shiloh’s and my first official trail ride!

Bear Booted Up Again

Last year, I wrote about Bear’s recovery from his latest abscess episode. Bear is my 27-year-old gelding whom I’ve had for 17 years now. He has Cushing’s Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome and arthritis. He is retired from riding.

Here is Bear during last year’s abscess crisis. He wore a Soft Ride Boot on one front hoof. On the other, he wore a complete set of bandages due to his leg swelling above the abscessed hoof.

Despite his age, diagnoses and occasional abscess, Bear has otherwise been trucking right along. Last year’s abscess healed in short order, but we are now dealing with the damaged part of his hoof wall as it grows out.

It’s typically said that it takes about a year for a horse to grow an entirely new hoof. They grow their hoof wall from the coronet band downward. So if an abscess works its way out of the hoof interior by busting out the top of the hoof, that part of the hoof wall will crack. And it will remain cracked until the hoof completely grows out.

As the cracked part moves closer to the ground, the horse may lose an entire chunk of hoof wall as the damaged area becomes increasingly unstable. For your additional reading pleasure, here is an online article from Vettec Animal Health company that touches on this issue.

Unfortunately, that is what has happened to Bear. Bear’s farrier previously prepared me for this probability. I must say, though, my heart sank when his hoof wall came apart. Here is the photograph I sent to said farrier, asking if he could fit Bear into his appointment schedule ASAP.

When I saw that the hoof wall was going to give way, just before contacting the farrier, I made an emergency hoof boot with red vet wrap sandwiched between two pieces of Equifit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape. It looked rag-tag up close, but the most important thing is that it stayed on for almost exactly 48 hours until the farrier arrived.

Bear’s farrier was able to clean up the damaged section, but now there is not much hoof wall left between the ground and the bottom of Bear’s hoof. Without a nice section of hoof wall on which to distribute his weight, Bear’s hoof sole is supporting more of his heft than what it is designed to do. This, of course, can lead to hoof soreness.

The goal now is to keep Bear as pain-free as possible while the hoof wall continues to grow out. Bear will need some kind of hoof support 24/7 for the foreseeable future.

In my hoof-protection arsenal, I currently have Equifit Pack-N-Stick Hoof Tape, Woof Wear Medical Hoof Boots (shown in the photo below) and Soft Ride Boots. I am also looking at other temporary hoof boot options, comparing features and prices to see what else might work for Bear. Any suggestions on products to try? Let me know in the comments section.

By the way, the links I’ve included in this post are not sponsored in any way. I receive no compensation for including them. Just thought they might be helpful for any readers who are curious about those types of hoof support products.

If I don’t need an emergency hoof boot shipped overnight, my favorite place to look for gently used hoof boots is Ebay. People sometimes keep boots just for emergencies and then re-sell them once the situation resolves. Often the hoof boot is still in excellent condition and sold at a discount from the original price. The trick is finding a used boot that happens to be in your horse’s size.

But, what if I can’t keep Bear comfortable enough through my own efforts? Another option is to have glue-on shoes applied at Bear’s next farrier appointment.

Whenever I find myself dealing with horse lameness, in all its various forms and appearances, I am reminded of the old adage, “No hoof, no horse.” I admit to choking up with relief when Bear’s farrier took a look at his blown-out hoof wall and declared that it was not a life-ending situation. No sensitive inner structures were involved in the destruction. Just the hard outer layer of the hoof wall.

With Bear turning 27 earlier this year, the thought of his eventual death is not far from my mind. I will likely need to consider eventual euthanasia for Bear when his quality of life declines. While I am intellectually prepared to make that decision, my tears of relief during Bear’s farrier visit told me that my emotions have yet to catch up. Caring for Bear is not always easy, but I do fiercely love this old horse.

Here’s What Hanging Laundry Looks Like At The Backyard Horse Blog

For readers who may wonder what you are looking at, those are fly masks for horses. I put the fly masks through my washer periodically and then hang them out to dry. The masks provide eye protection from Summer bugs (and sometimes guard their ears and nose too depending upon the mask design).

I also use the masks to combat seasonal allergies for my horse, Shiloh. His allergy symptoms result in weepy, itchy, puffy eyes. Sometimes he rubs his eyes so much that he will lose hair on his face. And one year I had to schedule an emergency vet call after his rubbing resulted in an eye so painful that he wouldn’t open his eyelids.

For whatever reason, his symptoms have been especially noticeable this year. So in 2022, wearing a mask that provides good visibility 24/7 (so he can wear it at night in the dark) is part of my multi-prong treatment strategy. The others are cleaning his eyes and face thoroughly every day, giving him Cetirizine (generic Zyrtec per our veterinarian’s guidance) and adding flax seed to his daily diet.

On the subject of flax, there is some limited scientific evidence that adding flax to the diet can help horses with all kinds of allergy issues, including skin and respiratory, due to the seed’s anti-inflammatory properties. For more information, click on these article links from The Horse- Your Guide To Equine Healthcare website:

I try to keep my fly masks quite clean and end up changing them out often. I have a large collection at this point. A dirty fly mask might still keep bugs off their face. But it seems to me that a clean mask helps more with the allergies than one with caked-on mud and dirt (maybe because the allergens stick to the soil on the mask?).

In any case, I seem to be doing a lot of horse laundry this Summer to keep Mr. Shiloh’s eyes as clean and itch-free as possible.

Cool Horses For A Hot Day

Want something horse-related to help cool you down on a hot Summer’s day? Watch this two-minute video of a very special breed of arctic horse!

While you are the PBS webpage, check out the other “Equus: Story of The Horse” segments that the PBS Nature series has to offer. Here’s a suggested link to get you started:

Pretty interesting stuff for any horse lover, I’d say!

Chasing Hay

If you keep horses at home, you need to keep hay on hand. Doesn’t matter whether you feed hay year-round or only during certain seasons. Assuming you even live in an area with grass, it is likely at some point your pasture will not produce enough forage to keep your horses adequately fed.

How much hay do you need? That totally depends on your individual situation. Typically, I get a large load of hay delivered in the Fall. Somewhere between 125 to 250 small square bales depending upon how many horses I have in any given year. This lasts me through Winter. But come late Spring or early Summer, I start to get nervous about the small amount of hay I have left over.

Many years ago, before Bear’s first laminitis episode, I kept my horses 24/7 on pasture. The pasture was quite lush. I only needed to supplement with hay from about December to April.

But since Bear had his first laminitis episode six years ago, I needed to drastically limit his pasture intake. Unfortunately, I now feed hay year-round despite having abundant grass in my backyard.

Some folks have their own hay fields or their own baling equipment. I have neither. So I need to go in search of hay before I run out. Doesn’t matter how hot the temperature is or how high the gas prices are.

Sourcing hay is actually one of the things I find most stressful about keeping horses at home. It is a bit of a game, even if you have a long-standing relationship with a hay farmer. Hay is not widely available in stores. I have no local feed stores that sell hay. It is critical to know where else I can find it.

You must find individual hay growers through word of mouth or scouring ads. You call, text and email as many folks as you can find in your area to compare locations, prices and types of hay. Or you might attend a livestock auction and hope someone is selling hay that night.

Once you find a hay farmer, you make appointments to come pick up the hay directly from the growers or see if they will deliver hay to you (for an additional price). Some folks I know that live in desert areas have hay delivered from neighboring States by the semi-truck load.

Hay is not easy to physically handle or pick up. Hay bales are heavy and require strength to move. They are large and take up space. You need to make sure you have enough room to store it out of the weather. If you pick up hay yourself, you also need to watch the forecast like a hawk. You don’t want to be driving home with a truck-bed or tag-along trailer full of hay in the pouring rain.

If you feed round bales instead of square bales, you may need an even larger storage space as well as heavy equipment to move the round bales from point A to point B on your property. I don’t have any of that so I stick to the small, square bales.

I am fortunate in the Midwest regarding the amount of hay grown. I live in an area where hay is plentiful, generally priced at $5 to $7 a bale depending upon the cutting and type of hay.

Even so, it is a coordinated effort to make sure I have the right amount of money set aside at the right time in order to bring home the right amount of hay and right type of hay for my horses at the right time. Lots of rights to get right there!

Assuming the weather is conducive to cutting and baling, generally the first year’s hay cut in my area is done towards the end of May. I was worried with our wet Spring that it would never dry out and thus delay the ability to cut and bale. Fortunately, first-cutting hay was mostly on schedule this year.

I was super excited to recently bring home two loads of first-cutting grass hay. Just like getting my annual fall load of hay delivered, it’s a relief to bring home my first load of Summer hay bales in my truck bed.

My barn smells wonderful. I wish my blog had a “scratch and sniff” button. I’d love to share the fragrant aroma of fresh cut hay for those uninitiated to the pleasure.

I estimate I need seventy more bales before this year’s Fall hay-load arrives. That means more hay chasing for me in the near future.

Here’s a shout-out to all the hay growers, by the way. It’s a big job. Done without a lot of acknowledgement or appreciation. Yet it’s critical to the health and welfare of our horses. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Pasture Practice

Yikes! It’s starting to get hot and humid in my neck of the woods. Definitely a good time to stand in the shade like Shiloh and I are doing here!

Due to the wicked forecast, not sure how much upcoming riding I will be doing. But this past weekend, I rode Shiloh in my South pasture. The pleasant morning temperatures were offset only by a swarm of bugs everywhere we went.

I started out planning to do a video from the saddle as we bopped along. Unfortunately, Shiloh began the ride a little worried.

Shiloh walked super quick with his head up like a camel. He needed a rider who could keep him contained and eventually get to the point of relaxation. In other words, it wasn’t the right time for me to fiddle with my phone.

My husband was still outside at that point so I ditched my original plan. Instead, I asked my husband if he would film us.

After I handed him my phone and resumed the ride, a switch flipped. Shiloh walked off relaxed. Ha! Oh well, video footage from the ground is good too.

In this first clip, here we are strolling along the far fence line. Beyond the fence is a creek-type ditch that is home to a variety of winged and furry creatures. They have a habit of popping out at inopportune moments and scaring the horse (and the rider). But this day, all was quiet. Makes for a boring video clip for the viewer. But boring isn’t necessarily bad when it comes to horses.

In the second clip, as we traveled in the opposite direction, you can see how well Shiloh handled the pressure of an oncoming truck. It passed loud and fast.

He got a little worried, but it was a very mild reaction for a horse. I know more than one mount that would have cut and run.

This final clip shows why working with gaited horses can be so interesting (or maddening depending upon how you look at it). Most gaited horses can do more than one gait all within seconds.

To foxtrot at his best, Shiloh needs to be on smooth ground. Our south pasture is unfortunately uneven. It creates a challenge to his balance and timing of his footfalls. He responds to the challenge by going from a pace to a foxtrot to almost a pure trot back to a foxtrot.

We are also still at that point in the year where I am struggling to encourage him to really reach down and out towards the rein contact. It all makes for a bit of a performance mess. Nevertheless, I could tell he was making an effort to balance the best he could given the circumstances.

It’s one reason I do very little gait work out there in that pasture. But it’s a good test to do periodically. I can get a sense of where Shiloh is in his strength, balance, and coordination cycle. I can also see whether or not I am able to influence his gait mid-stride as I encourage him toward the foxtrot (he is a Missouri Fox Trotter after all).

I listened to it the day after my pasture ride. She talks about the differences between riding specifically and non-specifically. As in riding in a very focused, specific way versus riding just for the enjoyment of it with the horse on auto pilot. She couches it in terms of making deposits or withdrawals from a bank account you have set up with your horse. It’s all about the balance.

Anywho, riding in a big pasture space is good practice for the trail ride I’d eventually like to do with Shiloh. Speaking of trail rides, did you hear the podcast that Stacey Westfall (of bareback and bridleless reining fame) recorded while on the trail?

As I listened, I reflected on how I did a bit of both types of riding during my pasture jaunt. It was interesting to learn her take on a subject I don’t hear talked about very often. Not to mention, I thought it was cool that she recorded the whole thing from the saddle!

If you’d like to give the 17 minute podcast a listen, go to https://stacywestfall.com/podcast-show/. The podcast is Episode 186- Specific verses non-specific.

Have you shopped Poshmark for Equestrian Clothing?

***Please note this post was unsolicited and uncompensated by Poshmark. I took the Poshmark logo posted above from their website so readers will know what their branding looks like.***

Poshmark is an online resale website for those in the USA, Canada, Australia and India. It helps you unload your unwanted items as well as find bargains for sale.

While Poshmark is best known as a clothing resale site, you can also buy/sell home, beauty and pet items.

Poshmark even adds a social networking twist where buyers and sellers can follow each other through their individual Poshmark accounts.

So what does any of this have to do with horses? Equestrians can buy/sell pre-owned equestrian clothing through Poshmark!

Just type in a well-known equestrian brand like Kerrits, Ariat, Arista, Hobby Horse, Noble Outfitters, Tuff Rider or even simply the word “equestrian” to see what is currently available.

While shipping costs inevitably increase the final price of what you purchase, you will likely spend less on clothing through this site than buying new from a store. As someone who appreciates a bargain, Poshmark fits the bill for me.

But what I particularly like is that Poshmark helps me locate brands/styles that are discontinued.

Why discontinued? Well, my body proportions are atypical. I have a difficult time finding clothing that fits. Once I find a brand or style of clothing that actually covers me the way I like, I want to stick with it.

Unfortunately, brands (and the styles within those brands) come and go. Since I don’t buy new clothes that often, I frequently find that items I want to repurchase have been discontinued by the time I go to buy again.

I’ve turned to Poshmark more than once to find a discontinued brand or style, now being sold as a gently used item. I can’t buy the item new in the store anymore, but I can sometimes find it on Poshmark!

See what kind of equestrian-related treasures you can find on Poshmark today.

Shiloh in Video Clips

After sharing several videos of Piper in my previous post, today it is Shiloh’s turn.

Shiloh is such a pleasure. Of course, he is a real horse and I am a real rider. We have our share of less than stellar moments together. Nevertheless, I very much enjoy him.

See what we’ve been doing lately in this post’s series of video clips.

Please note- My Pivo recording device wasn’t working well during one of my rides so you might have to wait a second until Shiloh and I come into camera view. 🙂

We can foxtrot over a ground pole now! This is exciting to me because we started off a few years ago not being able to walk over even one ground pole without risking life and limb. For us, it is a Napoleon Dynamite “Things are getting pretty serious” moment.

Next you can see how delightfully calm Shiloh is about crossing over my new trail bridge. It was a none issue for Shiloh from day one.

Interestingly, though, our one point of miss-communication regarding the obstacle is when I try to ask him to stop with all four hooves on the bridge. Going over the bridge? No problem. Stopping on the bridge with two front hooves? Easy. But all fours? We have yet to master it. Per Barbra Schulte’s advice, I need to improve my clarity in communicating to Shiloh what I am asking.

Similarly, I have plenty of work to do with the rope gate obstacle. I need to better convey to Shiloh what I want him to do during each phase. Traditionally, folks open and close gates from horseback when working cattle. Ideally, you keep your horse neat and tidy in his movements. That way, you don’t accidentally let out any of the cows. Opening and closing a rope gate obstacle is supposed to simulate that scenario. Here, I’m afraid Shiloh and I would have lost the entire herd!

It’s always fun to foxtrot. If the Pivo doesn’t track me properly, at least I can hear the cadence of Shiloh’s hoof beats even with a lawn mower running in the background. Despite the lack of a visual, I can still identify how consistent we are in the gait.

Coming off of our Winter break, I find that maintaining his foxtrot takes some concentration. Ditto for encouraging him to stretch towards the rein contact and open his back. When he gets tired or tense, he sometimes reverts to the dreaded pace.

I wrote about those issues in last year’s post Ride The Horse Underneath You. Each year, Shiloh gets a little better at coming back into form after Winter break. Yet it is still a gradual process.

While we have mostly been working at home, Shiloh and I had our first off-the-property ride recently. We trailered over to the nearby boarding barn. This was our first riding trip without Bear’s company. Shiloh was insecure with the arrangement. He called out while traveling in the trailer and announced his presence loudly when we arrived to the barn.

We were the only ones working in the outdoor that day. Other horses were in the barn, nearby pastures and the indoor arena. Shiloh kept wondering where everyone was. He was clearly nervous. I wish I was enough for him to feel completely secure away from home, but alas, that is not the case yet.

Nevertheless, he stood still for mounting. He never spooked, balked, jigged or got “broncy.” Just before I dismounted, I snapped a photo of him in his fly mask (a larger design to fit over a bridle for use during riding). Those silly ears make me smile.

I’ll close with this video clip taken on Memorial Day as we worked with the flag. It’s my personal, quiet tribute to fallen soldiers and the service animals that died with them. I retain my country’s freedoms, including that of being able to enjoy my horses, because of such sacrifices.

Video Clip Progression with Piper

After a slow start to my riding year due to weather, I now have 15 rides with Shiloh and 10 with Piper. I recently brought out my Pivo recording device to get some video documentation of how we are doing. I like to use photos and videos to mark progress as well as observe problem areas.

While I am generally pleased with my Pivo, sometimes it loses me entirely. I was disappointed to miss out on recording some groundwork “firsts” with Piper due to this issue. My husband graciously agreed to videotape my first rides over my new trail bridge so I wouldn’t miss out.

The first time I presented Piper to the bridge in hand, the most he was willing to do was sniff, lick and put one hoof on the bridge.

Side note: All video clips are 16 seconds or less (except for the final video which is under two minutes).

The second day, I could easily lead him over it (that’s the day my Pivo stopped tracking). So with my husband and camera at hand, on the third day, we hand-walked the bridge cross wise and length wise.


Then we did our first ride over it.

I regret my horsemanship during our first lengthwise crossing. I was herky-jerky with my aids as I tried to keep Piper forward and straight. The bridge is quite narrow. It is surprising how difficult it is to keep your horse on top and not fall off the sides. I used way too much hand and not enough seat/leg on that first attempt.

Somehow, despite my mistakes, Piper seemed game to try it again. On our second go, we went much better.

We interspersed the obstacle work with leaving the round pen for little “trail rides” on the grassy areas. Here is our first time leaving the round pen this year.

I continue to toggle between using a Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle and the eggbut snaffle bit with Piper. He is less likely to put his nose on his chest as well as less likely to ferociously chew the bit than he was last year with me. His balance in movement is still largely downhill, though. At his estimated age of 21 and with how his croup is higher than his withers, I’m not sure how much I will be able to affect that.

I can also see and feel stiffness in his way of going. Again, not surprising at his age. Bending is especially difficult. I try to arrange his body parts for a bend as we turn. I can feel him just begin to shape himself in a nice “banana bend” but then wiggle out of it and lean around the turn with the inside shoulder dropping down.

My understanding was that he spent most of his life happily going down the trail. I’m guessing he did little arena work, but I really don’t know.

And if we mostly trail rode, I don’t know that I would have picked up on the bending issue. But since my round pen is my main riding area, the difficulty with bending really stands out to me. When you are riding on a curve all the time and your horse has a hard time bending, it can make things awkward.

I don’t need Piper to do any specific discipline. My only goal for him is to remain suitable for light pleasure riding for as long as possible as he ages. I plan to continue gently playing around with trying to shape him under saddle. We will see what develops. Maybe someday we can even get out on a trail together. Hope springs eternal.

That’s about it for Piper. In an upcoming post, I’ll feature some video clips of what Shiloh and I have been working on together.

Summer Horse Care Challenges

As many of us in the northern hemisphere head into the hottest part of the year, Winter becomes a distant memory. For those horse owners in cold Winter climates, the season poses serious horse care challenges that we would just as soon forget.

I was reminded, though, that Summer comes with its own set of issues regarding equine care and welfare. Some recent articles I read listed Summer horse-health concerns and prevention/management suggestions regarding

  • Heat/Humidity Stress
  • Dehydration
  • Access to salt
  • Insect bit hypersensitivity
  • Pasture-Associated Asthma
  • Sunburn
  • Photosensitization
  • Hard Footing

Between caring for my own horses, former foster horses and the horses at the therapeutic riding center where I used to work, I have some direct experience with all those issues.

It’s easy, though, to forget about an issue when you currently have a horse(s) that seems to sail through Summer. But as our horses age, when we bring in a new horse or if we move to a different climate, we may see issues appear that we never saw before.

For that reason, I think it is good for all of us horse folks to be aware of the challenges that each season might present, even if we don’t currently deal with them. If something is on our radar, we are more likely to identify it properly when it finally comes into view.

Want to read more about Summer horse care challenges? Here’s a few resources to get you started:

What is your most challenging Summer horse care issue?

Backyard Horse Math (number of horses versus size of trailer)

For the last few years, when I had only two horses in my backyard, taking them to their annual veterinary checkups was a one-trip deal.

Now that I have three horses, I am making more trips. I decided this year that I would take each horse separately to the vet. One at a time. So nobody would be left at home alone.

Some horses do okay with being left behind without company, but in my experience, it is pretty stressful for many equines. Not that trailering alone (or even with a companion) isn’t also stressful for horses. But it strikes me as more stressful to be left behind alone. I’ll have to watch for any research that might compare those two scenarios. That would be interesting to see the results.

So far, I’ve completed two of my anticipated three trips. Bear and Piper both took their individual trips to the vet recently. Shiloh’s appointment is upcoming.

Both Bear and Piper loaded smoothly for each of their trips. And the horses who stayed behind were calm (my husband was left with strict instructions to babysit the horses in the paddock and document any issues- he reported all went well- many thanks to my dear and ever-patient-with-me husband!).

Here are a couple of video clips to show how sensibly both horses loaded. Good boys!

Our trips were short and sweet because neither Bear nor Piper needed a dental float this year. Physical exams, blood draws, and vaccines got completed in short order. Fortunately, I live close to the horses’ vet clinic. We were gone and back within about an hour.

Due to the proximity, making three separate trips to the vet clinic is not that taxing for me or that expensive (even with these frighteningly high gas prices)- especially when compared to the price of a heavier truck and a three-horse trailer.

While ideally I’d like to have something larger to evacuate all horses at once in case of emergency, I don’t see that happening (again, the price of a heavier truck and larger horse trailer is prohibitive).

Readers may recall that I added a third horse (Piper) to my herd last year. I wanted to be able to take one horse out to ride without having to drag my retired horse, Bear, along with us to avoid leaving Bear at home by himself. That has yet to actually happen, but plans are in the works.

Also, with Bear turning 27 this year, I was concerned about Shiloh being left behind alone (if Bear, who is 8 years older than Shiloh, should die first). Of course, sometimes those situations can’t be avoided. But while I am able to have three horses, it is one less worry on my mind.

Sometimes I think about the time period when I kept four horses while still having a two-horse trailer. I would take two horses with me to an event and leave the other two horses at home. Everyone either had a companion to stay behind with in the paddock or a companion to travel with in the trailer. It all added up nicely.

Could I care for four horses again? Would the increased work and expense of my keeping four horses versus three make it worth it to me now? After all, I am older, more prone to fatigue/pain and find this sky-high inflation worrisome. Nevertheless, it’s something I occasionally contemplate, even though the prospect of enlarging my herd doesn’t seem likely.

Any way you slice it, backyard horse math can get complicated. 🙂

More About The Kong Mega Wubba & Horses

LAST MONDAY, I wrote about my purchase of a “Kong Equine Mega Wubba” and my discovery that it was actually a dog toy. This is my follow-up to that piece, describing what I think about the wubba beyond the issue of it being a horse toy verses dog toy.

I’ll start off by pointing out that I am a fan of toys for animals, no matter the species. I enjoy watching critters at play.

It’s fun to see which animal likes which particular toy. It gives me glimpses into their personality and what makes them tick. I find it delightful to see their individuality displayed in their toy preferences and play styles.

I currently have a herd of three senior horses, ages 19 (Shiloh), 21(Piper) and 27(Bear). They are not exactly in their prime play years. I didn’t get any zany pictures of them running around chasing each other with the wubba like you might with a bunch of youngsters. But I nevertheless really like this toy for its versatility.

The best part about the wubba is that it has three ways that a horse could choose to pick it up from the ground (it also has a little string on the top for hanging, but I’m not sure how long that will stay attached with continued use).

With its octopus-like form, the wubba can be picked up from the small top, larger middle section or the long, thin arms on the bottom. It occurred to me that the wubba would be a fun toy for those who like to teach their horses to pick up objects on command.

So what did my horses think about the Kong Mega Wubba? Of my three horses, Piper was the only one who chose to play with it. Shiloh walked right up to the wubba when I initially hung it up but was not interested in engaging further. When I took it down, Bear was initially afraid of it. He looked on with concern while Piper made first contact. Bear did eventually give the toy a sniff, but not until long after Piper completed his thorough inspection. None of that made me like the Kong Mega Wubba any less. I still think it’s a neat toy with several potential uses.

By the way, I understand that the toy is designed to squeak, but Piper, despite having several goes at picking it up, has yet to make the toy make noise. Just thought I’d point that out as some horses might react with surprise to the sound.

Besides using it to teach your horse pick-up tricks, the wubba could be used as part of a ridden obstacle course. You could hang it off of a gate or fence post. Then from horseback sidle up to it so you can retrieve it. Then ride a pattern with your reins in one hand and the wubba in the other. You could later finish by placing the wubba back on the rope gate or fence post.

Seems simple, but it’s interesting to see how many horses are afraid of having the rider carry an unfamiliar object, particularly something that moves and flutters. Just go to any horse show. I can almost guarantee you will see at least one horse skitter away as the rider tries to walk out of the ring with their winning ribbon in hand.

Long story short, despite my reservations about some businesses marketing this dog toy as a horse toy (and charging more for it), I feel it was worth the purchase. I also think most horse owners who have large dogs would particularly enjoy having one in their tack box. If your horse doesn’t engage with it, maybe your dog will. That sounds like a decent deal to me.

New Trail Obstacles!

My round pen is looking more crowded these days.

In a previous post, I mentioned that over Winter I bought a set of handmade trail obstacles. Now that the weather in my area recently turned favorable for more regular riding, I finally get to use them!

The set includes a walk-over bridge, a rope gate and four ground poles. These types of treats are normally beyond my budget, but a sale and a zero-percent interest layaway plan made them within reach.

I purchased the set from Backyard Equine and More (no relation to my blog, but I love the name!). They are best known for their jumps and cavaletti.

Most of their items are customizable. You can have stuff made in the colors you’d like. They deliver around the Midwest states (they are Indiana-based), but you can also place an order and pick it up yourself.

I do regret that I didn’t get the poles stained to match the bridge and rope gate. It would have looked better to have everything in the round pen matchy-matchy. But I have to say that I have a thing for colorful poles. It reminds me of the jumping I did as a youngster.

The next time Backyard Equine and More has a sale, though, I might like to get three ground poles stained to match the gate and bridge. And a flower box set as decoration/an extra walk-over obstacle would look good too!

Whether I add to my collection or not, I hope to get lots of use out of my current set. And if I ever get bored with them, maybe I could make some money by renting them out for X amount of dollars per week? Or maybe rent them to a horse show for the weekend?

On a related note, it got me to thinking that it’s been almost a decade since I entered an obstacle competition. Here’s a set of photos of my old gaited pony, Pumpkin Spice, and me at a competition in 2013.

The course called for things like dismounting and then remounting on the opposite side, carrying a flag, pushing a big horse ball, crossing under a pole set between two jump standards, and negotiating a maze of flowers. So much fun!

I don’t know if any competitions are in my future, but I am enjoying practicing with my new toys. It’s interesting to see each of my horses’ take on these new-fangled objects.

With Shiloh, I felt immediately comfortable riding him over the bridge without practicing from the ground. Ditto with working the rope gate. Here’s a view from the saddle on our first day with the bridge (short-side first).

Similarly, Bear marched right up onto the bridge the first time I asked in-hand (he’s retired from riding).

Piper, bold as he usually is about things, was none too sure about these new additions. He needed to investigate the gate with lips and teeth.

And on first introduction, Piper thought the walkover bridge was a bridge too far.

So we are taking baby steps from the ground for now.

In closing, here’s Shiloh giving me the side-eye. I imagined him asking me to reassure him that jumping the rope gate will not be in our repertoire.

And then I saw his relieved reaction when I reminded him that backing, turning and side passing are required but no jumping! Phew.

Is It A Horse Toy or A Dog Toy?

I think it is loads of fun to mix obstacles, toys and horses. I enjoy seeing how each horse initially responds to various objects. It reveals so much about their personality. I find that fascinating.

Last year, I began seeing some horse-retail websites selling a “Kong Equine Mega Wubba.”

I was already familiar with the usefulness of Kong rubber toys for dogs (through dog sitting periodically for friends) as well as Kong wubba toys that I bought for my own cats and a handful of foster felines.

I was curious how my three horses would respond to this “Kong Equine Mega Wubba” and was definitely game to try it. I finally bought one earlier this year from an online equine retailer.

When I unboxed the toy, the first thing I noticed about it was the attached tag. It features a photo of a boy and a dog with the Kong “Dogs need to play” tagline on the back. No mention of horses whatsoever.

Please, someone get this child a pony!

Was I sent the wrong Kong?

I wasn’t sure from where the toy had been sourced, so I decided to contact the Kong Company directly via email. I received a same-day reply. The representative from their Consumer Relations department wrote that Kong does not make a Kong Wubba specifically for horses. Hmmm?

Thanks so much for reaching out to us. I have shared the photo you uploaded with our Wubba product manager and that is our Mega Wubba Toy that we market for dogs.  We do not market it for horses but we have been told that many people do use it with their horses.

Carla with Consumer Relations

While the Kong company does not appear responsible for this advertising switcheroo, I am surprised that some horse-retailers are choosing to market dog wubbas as an equine toy.

Yes, I certainly use items as obstacles/toys with my horses that aren’t specifically made for equines. Things like tarps, cones, traffic cone bars and toy balls come to mind.

But to sell something as a “Kong Equine Mega Wubba” when it is simply a Kong Mega Wubba made for dogs seems like inaccurate advertising to me. Seeing items marked as “equine”, I imagine that they are made with horses and their unique needs in mind. Even more so when I notice that it is sold at a higher price point for horses than dogs.

In the end, does it make a difference whether the wubba is a horse toy or a dog toy? Well, I guess that is left up to the individual consumer. But I think it is important that we know what we are buying so we can make informed choices.

Beyond this issue of marketing, you might be wondering what my horses and I actually think of the Kong Mega Wubba? I’ll tell you the rest of the story in an upcoming post.

Riding Advice From Barbra Schulte: Be Calm, Be Clear, Be Committed

“It’s the power of seeing what we want, setting an intention to see it through in the most favorable light, and then committing to it.” -Barbra Schulte

This riding advice from horse professional and National Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, Barbra Schulte, is just what I needed to help get my riding off to a good start this year.

Yes, I know we are months into the new year. But without an indoor arena, the weather in my area often keeps me from riding with any frequency/consistency until May.

This Spring is no exception. My riding “year” is definitely off to a slow start.

I put “year” in quotes because I don’t get a full twelve months to ride at home. It gets too cold for me to ride around November. My riding season typically lasts about six months in any one calendar year.

Since I ride at home about half as much as I would otherwise like to, I want to be purposeful and focused when I do get in the saddle.

Maybe that’s why the recent email blast from horse professional Barbra Schulte titled “Calm, Clear, Committed” resonated with me. It’s exactly how I’d like to ride.

And yet, I struggle. Instead of calm- clear- committed, I tend toward anxious- muddled- hesitant. Qualities that unfortunately don’t make for a great horse listener or horse leader.

Twenty years ago, I re-entered the world of horses as an adult. I thought my awkwardness around horses was simply because I had to re-learn so many horsemanship skills. Everything felt weirdly familiar and unfamiliar at the same time. It was nerve-racking.

I was sure that with just a little bit of time and effort that I would be the type of calm, confident, proficient horseman that I always wanted to be. But it has not worked out like that.

Without marching up a hill where I reach and stay at the top, my progress is more roller coaster like as my confidence waxes and wanes.

I have felt successful in certain situations. With certain horses. With certain support. But with others, not so much. It’s frustrating and painful to feel confident doing certain activities with certain horses, but not be able to replicate that same confidence later when confronted with different circumstances.

I know I’m not the only horse person who feels that way. Or who struggles with being a better listener and leader for their steeds. Who can’t seem to build on previous times of confidence to the degree that they would like.

We know it’s not all about mastering physical skills or techniques. There is a certain kind of mindset that is a large component of interacting successfully with horses. Maybe like me, you let your past disappointments and present doubts come along for the ride just a little too often?

I wish I had great words of wisdom. Some magic answer in a bottle. Something to easily and automatically defeat all those things that haunt. But I don’t.

The only way I know to keep moving forward is to continue absorbing information from others about ways to be a better rider and handler. Including a heavy focus on the mental aspects of riding.

For me, bathing in a sea of information hasn’t “cured” anything. But I believe it keeps me in the game. It keeps me doing more with my horses than I would otherwise.

Perhaps Barbra Schulte’s words can do the same for you, encouraging you in your own horse journey. May we all be calm, clear, and committed during our next ride.

“It’s the power of seeing what we want, setting an intention to see it through in the most favorable light, and then committing to it . . .

It’s the difference between allowing ourselves to be drug down by our imperfections or keeping our eye on small step goals and taking lumps in stride. The missteps do have the best information to help us improve, and we make sure we stay committed to enthusiasm and positivity as we experience the inevitable mistakes.

When you ride, it might be talking to yourself about being calm, noticing where your horse’s focus is, being clear about your message, asking your horse for a move then seeing what happens but not allowing yourself to go down the rabbit hole of limiting thoughts and discouragement.

The next time you ride, get clear about one or two small steps you want to achieve.

Approach them with the expectation you will be calm within. You will communicate clearly with your horse.

If things get muddled, slow down and come back to stay calm – and get clear again. Either back up a step or try again . . .

Don’t give in to or waste time on bummer feelings about disappointments when things don’t work out. Return to calmness and clarity and stay flexible on your pony.

There is great power in the energy you bring to everything you do.”

-Barbra Schulte via an April 2022 email blast

Horses Leave Hoof Prints On . . .

Most horse people are familiar with the phrase “horses leave hoof prints on your heart.”

It is a candy-sweet sentiment, describing how enchanting horses are to those of us who find them irresistible. I can attest that more than one horse has left his or her mark on me. I have the t-shirt.

I also recognize that a literal hoof print on my heart would not invoke the same warm-fuzzy feelings. Probably not for the folks I’d leave behind, either. The strength and power of a horse’s kick is truly awe-inspiring.

Maybe that’s why when I saw this mark on my horse, Piper, I couldn’t quite believe it. Took me a minute to make it out. Is . . . that . . . a . . . HOOF PRINT???

Fortunately, Piper seemed no worse for the wear. The area was not tender or hot to the touch. It was not swollen. The skin underneath was fully intact. Piper didn’t seem sore or lame.

But how in the world did that hoof print get there?

I then remembered seeing earlier that morning the tail end of a scuffle between Piper and my other horse, Bear, over a pile of hay.

I recalled observing Bear’s back hoofs flying, but my angle and distance from the scene didn’t allow me to see exactly what happened.

Bear must have left his signature while expressing displeasure over Piper moving in on his preferred hay selection. Yikes.

Yes, sometimes horses leave hoof prints on our hearts. I hope that never changes. I never want to lose the sense of wonder and gratitude over forging meaningful relationships with more than one horse in my life.

But sometimes, horses leave hoof prints on each other. Now that is one reality I could probably do without.

Three Lip Products For Equestrians

Looking for something fun to purchase for yourself? How about a gift for a fellow horse-lover? I have a few suggestions for you here.

Although I am not a huge fan of makeup, I find lip products to be the most useful beauty item around the barn.

My lips get easily dry and/or burnt depending upon the time of year. I like having lip products that moisturize and/or provide SPF protection. If it can also add a hint of color to my face, that’s an added bonus.

So let’s get started with my first suggestion, satin lipstick from Blue Ribbon Beauty. I mean, seriously, what horse aficionado could resist the super-cute decoration on their lipsticks? Makes me smile just looking at it.

And check out these sassy Blue Ribbon Beauty lipstick names:

Peachy Pony
Unbridled
Coral Sorrel
Cherry Bay

I also like that they are advertised as paraben-free and cruelty-free.

Those of you who show might be interested to know that Blue Ribbon Beauty also has eyeshadow kits, decorated for either Western riders or English riders. The eye shadow palettes come with discipline-specific instructions:

“A lot of horse show rules are unspoken, and makeup is no exception. Every discipline has its own look, and knowing what lip color goes with what can be super confusing! That’s why we built Blue Ribbon Beauty. To help cut through all the information and make it simple, easy and fun to put your makeup on for an event! Not a makeup pro? No problem! Beginner tutorials are included on the back of each palette with instructions on the best eye look for your discipline. Plus the easily blendable, highly pigmented eyeshadows come in the perfect neutral colors to complement any show outfit.” – From The Blue Ribbon Beauty website

Ready to give Blue Ribbon Beauty a try? Check them out at https://www.blueribbonbeauty.com/.

But what if you don’t like traditional lipstick? As an alternative, you may prefer a tinted lip balm from the brand Beauty For Real. I’ve mentioned Beauty For Real several times before on this blog as I’ve used their Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm in the color Hannah for years.

Beauty For Real is a cruelty-free brand and the Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm is paraben-free. Beauty For Real also donates 20% of their Lip Revival Tinted Lip Balm proceeds to the organization Brooke USA which supports working horses, mules and donkeys the world over! Ready to give this product a try, order through this link at https://www.beautyforreal.com/collections/lips-collection/products/lip-revival-tinted-lip-balm.

Last but not least, for those of you who want a lip product without any color, you might like this apple-scented lip balm. Sold as a promotional item for the horse-product company, Duravet, it contains aloe vera and has an SPF 15. Perfect for those days when you are riding or doing horse chores in the sun.

I enjoy the fragrance, but I will say that it does have an initial taste when you apply the lip balm. It is not overwhelming though and goes away quickly. If you prefer a completely plain-scented product though, this one might not be for you. Read to buy? Find this lip balm for sale at Rod’s Western Palace and Murdock’s Ranch and Home Supply.

***Please note that this post is unsolicited and uncompensated by any store or beauty brand.***