Let’s Here It For The Barn Cat!

After horses, my next favorite animal is the cat. Those big eyes. That Soft fur. Their quiet companionship. It’s all catnip to me.

As a feline fan, I find curious the perpetuation of what I consider to be false stereotypes. I have a hard time relating to some of the judgments leveled at cats. For whatever reason, my experience just doesn’t bear them out.

Far from finding cats difficult to understand, deva-like or standoffish, I see cats as clearly wanting to connect with the people in their lives. Are there exceptions? Of course. Just like there are with any kind of domesticated animal. But I have to say that my life would have been decidedly less rich without the companionship of many a cat who sought out my company.

While on the surface it seems that the lives of horses and cats don’t intermix, one glaring exception is the barn cat. Cats have long been found hanging around farms, ranches and barns.

Traditionally, barn cat value has been placed on their abilities as mousers. But I think that the friendly company barn cats provide their people is just as valuable. Side note here- Interestingly enough, I also like rodents of all varieties and the one thing that I don’t like about cats is the fact that they hunt. Go figure.

Twenty-plus years ago, when I first became a horse owner, I found it disturbing that barn cats seemed to be an afterthought at the barns I boarded with or visited. I often felt aghast at the level of neglect that I observed.

Over the years, though, I’ve seen both attitudes and actual care habits change for the better. Of course, as with any animal welfare issue, there is still a ways to go. Sometimes a long way to go. Nonetheless, I find any kind of progress encouraging. Barn cats by and large seem to be held in higher esteem than they once were.

In keeping with this new found consideration for barn cats, you are now more likely to see folks providing daily fresh food and water. Spaying and neutering. Applying anti-flea and deworming medication. Giving vaccines. Taking them to the vet when they are ill or injured. You’ll even find people adopting barn cats from shelters and rescues that have a “working barn cat” program like this one in Texas.

I have personally seen the positive transformation in barn cats when they’ve gone from say fertile females, constantly popping out kittens, to spayed cats who get fresh water and a daily meal of kibble. No longer thin, sickly and shy, these cats were turned sleek and social.

And contrary to the myth that a barn cat will only hunt if he or she is hungry, a physically healthy barn cat is much more likely to be a successful mouser. It’s an important point to mention to folks who are still skeptical about how they themselves could benefit from spending time and money on their barn cats.

Sure, that initial rounding up of all the barn cats through the TNR (trap-neuter/spay-return/release) process takes some planning. But the effort is so worth it when you end up with healthier, happier cats who aren’t overwhelming your barn with kittens season after season.

True, some barn cats are ferals or strays that just show up one day at the barn. They may not be very social upon arrival and remain that way for the rest of their lives. But I suspect that often has more to do with humans not prioritizing the socialization of their barn cats rather than something inherent about the cats themselves. Another side note here- A feral cat is a cat not raised around humans. A stray cat is a cat who was raised around people but has somehow gotten separated from their original home. Ferals and strays display different behaviors that you can learn about HERE.

Based on my experience, I would argue that it is worthwhile to take the time to socialize your barn cats too. Socialized barn cats are much more pleasant to be around than scared, defensive creatures. Just like with wild horses, earning a feral cat’s trust takes time, patience, emotional consistency and a basic willingness to keep showing up with a smile on your face no matter what they offer you in return. It’s a rewarding process but not usually a quick one.

Want to read more about barn cats and see specific care tips tailored to this population? I’ve rounded up a few links for you here:

https://www.horseillustrated.com/how-to-care-for-barn-cats
https://www.petmd.com/cat/care/how-best-care-barn-cats
https://www.offthegridnews.com/how-to-2/keeping-your-barn-cats-healthy/
https://www.americanhorsepubs.org/newsgroup/29845/25452/

In addition, this blog also has a Barn Cats Pinterest Board that includes pins linking to barn-cat care ideas (plus some very sweet cat and horse photos!).

I’ll now introduce you to my current barn cat, Saul. This marble tabby, in addition to continuing to prowl my property, now likes to spend some time in the house too. Actually, he’s kind of turning into a part-time rather than a full-time barn employee. 🙂 This fact is noteworthy because Saul used to be completely feral.

For over a year, I only saw distant glimpses of him around my property before I could finally get anywhere near him. He was completely terrified of me, panicking if I accidentally encountered him during barn chores. I was eventually successful in trapping him in my barn and getting him neutered, vaccinated and microchipped in February 2019 through a local low-cost spay-neuter clinic. Since then, Saul has chosen to stick around and has responded beautifully to socialization efforts.

You can see his confident transformation by contrasting the following two photos taken six months apart. He goes from A) just starting to tolerate my presence but still unsure of me (note his body posture- hunched, rounded, tail down) to B) following me happily all over my backyard barn area!

For those of you who like cat videos, here’s a quick clip of Saul on a day he decided to hang with me in the house. Turn up the volume to hear him purrrrrrrr.

Finally, I want to say many thanks to all the cats who have graced my backyard barn with their presence including the cats you see in this post. Featured here are Saul (the marbled tabby), Mamma Grace (the grey with white paws) and OJ (the orange tabby). Not featured but just as appreciated were AJ, BJ, MJ, and TJ. Here’s to the barn cat!

Not So Resolute About Resolutions This Year

In this photo, Shiloh has a look on his face that illustrates how I am feeling at the moment. Anybody else out there having trouble nailing down equestrian new year resolutions? Or even deciding if you want to make any in the first place?

I’ve long been a fan of making horse-related goals for each new calendar year. I realize there’s no rule that says “you have to make new year’s resolutions to be a fully completed human being.” Yet having some kind of goal can produce a motivating and organizing effect for me. I wouldn’t have had quite the fun with my horses over the years without setting goals and putting in the work towards meeting them.

But I must say, I struggle with making new goals for 2023. It’s hard to make goals when you feel like you don’t have a realistic vision of how you can actually accomplish them.

For example, I’d like to get my horse Shiloh out for more trail rides, but I have the issue of what to do with his herd mate, Piper, who continues to get upset when I even take Shiloh out of their shared paddock for so much as a farrier trim. With Shiloh just twenty-five feet away.

I do have the option of getting another horse to keep Piper company while I work with Shiloh. Maybe another full sized horse that I could also ride or a miniature for driving. But adding another horse means spending more money than I would like in this time of inflation.

There’s also the reality for me that adding another horse would increase my daily workload. And lately, I feel my fitness, strength and energy decline while my problems with arthritis and other body pain issues increase. I wonder how much can I push myself physically.

But if I don’t get another barnyard critter, I am starting to envision having three limiting choices for the new year. Choice #1: not riding Shiloh at all. Choice #2: Ponying Piper along with us on every single ride. Choice #3: Tie Piper up inside their shared paddock and only ride Shiloh in said paddock so that we are not too far away from Piper.

Considering my situation, creating a new theme(s) for myself in 2023 may be a more appealing prospect than creating goals. Last year, I wrote a post about setting themes instead of goals, an idea I gleaned from a podcast by horse professional Stacey Westfall. You can read that post HERE if you’d like.

In the midst of contemplating my options, I also read a blog post titled Visions vs. Resolutions from Heccateisis’s Blog. The post really resonated with me. I enjoyed reading the writer’s perspective. Very refreshing. I particularly liked the word that appeared at the bottom of her post, “meandering”.

So as we close in on the end of January, I continue to think things over. Goals and themes and lollipop dreams. Knowing I am somewhere in between. Between where I am and where I want to be. Struggling to arrive.

Exciting Announcement About The 2023 Art of The Horseman Online Fair!

Are you ready for the new 2023 online horse fair?

Brought to you by the Art of The Horseman, this fair features over 100 online presentations all about horses and horsemanship. That’s 50+ hours of video content!

The videos cut across different breeds and disciplines so there is a little something for just about everyone. And each year, the Art of The Horseman adds new presenters and presentations to its lineup of online horse learning videos.

You can purchase full, anytime access to these fairs. But you can also obtain access for FREE for two-days on predesignated dates a few times a year.

The next two-day FREE access, with its new 2023 lineup of videos, is January 30 and 31, 2023.

I am super excited to announce that my Aunt, Lynne Sprinsky Echols, is one of the new 2023 presenters! She is the author of the book A Good Seat: Three Months At The Reitinstitut von Neindorff. You can read my review of her book HERE.

You can also visit my aunt’s new website at http://www.theridersseatdoctor.com or check out her Facebook page at http://www.Facebook.com/RiderSeatMD/ for all kinds of great riding tips and hints.

Even if you don’t ride dressage, so much of what she has to offer applies to all disciplines. I am really looking forward to seeing my aunt’s presentations through the Art of The Horseman in 2023. I have not yet seen her videos so I’ll be watching along with you for the very first time on January 30 and 31! Update: It looks like fair attendees will have to wait until later in the calendar year to see my Aunt’s videos due to some unforeseen technical difficulties. Nevertheless, I’m still super excited that she will be part of the fair once the tech issues are sorted out! Stayed tuned.

But I enjoyed learning from past Art of The Horseman fairs so much, I decided to have The Backyard Horse Blog become an affiliate. When you use the link below to get your FREE ticket to the next fair viewing, The Backyard Horse Blog receives a monetary bonus if you later purchase lifetime access. Use this link to get your FREE ticket at

https://www.becauseofthehorse.net/a/23333/jm4gSypW

Once you get your ticket, you will receive more information about the fair via email. On the day of the fair opening, you will receive an email reminder about the timing of the free video access so you will know when it goes live.

Sign up today for your FREE ticket. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can learn!

Podcasts, Anyone?

I confess. I am more of a reader than a listener. But I do like to hear podcasts from time to time. Like during last month’s polar vortex, when I spent more time inside than usual, in between my suiting up in 47 layers to venture outside and perform horse care duties, of course!

I appreciate a good sense of humor and enjoy podcasts that are funny or fluffy. Just for their pure entertainment value. But I also appreciate podcasts that make me really think about the topic at hand.

Maybe about, for example, a subject not often addressed in the horse community. Say, the equine veterinary pathology episode I write about later in this post. What a great opportunity to learn something totally new to me!

Or maybe about a “different from what I normally hear” perspective. Like with the Best Horse Practices or Dressage Naturally episodes I link to below. With those types of podcasts, I like the opportunity to really take in what’s being said, reflect on my own reactions and decide what I want to take away from the discussion or the suggestions offered.

And sometimes, I just like listening to a podcast because the author’s journey somehow mirrors my own. Like with the “Senior Horses and The Non-Ridden Equine” episode. These last few years of my horse life have been full of senior horses and/or retired-from-riding horses so I can easily relate to that subject.

I thought all four of these podcasts that I just mentioned were quite interesting and engaging, whether simply for their subject matter or in the way they ended up providing me food for thought. I found myself mulling over their content long after I finished listening.

I’ve listed the links and a bit of info about each episode below. They all have a running time of 44 minutes or less. They are all free to listen to (beyond the price of your internet access, of course). No membership or subscription required.

How about you? Have you heard an equestrian podcast that you really enjoyed? Let me know in the comments section. I’m looking for more listening material before the next wicked weather event comes my way!

Equine Innovators: Pathology Is More Than Just Necropsies
From The Equine Innovators podcast episodes on TheHorse.Com website
Running Time: 44 minutes
Description from The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare website: “Dr. Uneeda Bryant, DVM describes how veterinary pathologists safeguard horse populations, determine causes of death, and protect the human-animal bond.”

Dream-Observe-Root-Play
Episode 110 of The Dressage Naturally Podcast with Karen Rohlf
Running Time: 37 minutes
Description from the Dressage Naturally website: “In this episode, I’ll share a summary of a recent 4-part Video Series where I give 4 valuable lessons on how to improve how your horse moves, and each lesson has an exercise. I’ll lead you through a process of dreaming, observing, going back to determine the root of any issues, then explain how to use playfulness to improve your horse’s posture and way of moving.”

Coaches Corner with Amy Skinner
Season 3: Episode 12 of The Best Horse Practices Podcast with Jec Ballou and Amy Skinner
Running Time: 28 minutes
Description from the Best Horse Practices website: “Jec and Amy continue a thread that we have recently introduced to our podcast. It’s a pushback from what we see as a trend toward the warm and fuzzies in horse circles. By warm and fuzzies, we mean attending to methods, promotions of hacks, and proclamations that may indeed serve the human and her need to feel connected and in a relationship, but, in fact, don’t serve the horse one bit. Or, even worse, they confuse or neglect the horse . . . I’m starting to form theories around how we in the horse community got to this place. It’s a pendulum thing, for sure, away from a dominance-based approach. But it’s also a result of the pandemic and how very hard that has been for us.”

Senior Horses And The Non-Ridden Equine
Season 4: Episode 65 of The Willing Equine Podcast with Adele Shaw, CHBC
Running Time: 40 minutes
Description from The Willing Equine website: “This episode is dedicated to my gelding Cash, who passed away recently. I share his story and how he was a shining example of just how valuable a non-ridden horse can be.”

Trotting Into 2023 (But Mostly Just Trying To Survive Winter)

Greetings, dear readers! I am pleased to be back to blogging after my Christmas writing break. My backyard horses and I welcome you to 2023!

I don’t know about you, but my main focus this time of year is simply surviving another Mid-Western Winter. Bearing up under year after year of harsh Winters with a bare bones, backyard horse-care setup is my reality. It is also something that I’m physically struggling with more each year. Especially when things go wrong. Say, for example, during the December 2022 polar vortex that gripped much of the US.

I took the following photo on December 23rd, 2022. Piper is barely visible inside the shed as his bay coat tends to blend into the background. Shiloh is standing just outside at the shed opening but still under the awning. The actual temperature was minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit with a wind chill of minus 35.

That’s pretty cold. So cold that the heater outdoor water tank kept freezing over and the outdoor water pump handle froze up. This left me having to hand-haul water from the house out to the horses. Five times a day. This went on for three days in a row until the outdoor pump started to work again on Christmas Day- best present ever!

If you’ve never experienced going outside in that type of cold, it is difficult to imagine, but I’ll try to paint you a picture.

First, see yourself putting on so many layers of clothing that your movements are slow and awkward. Each time you prepare to go feed/water the horses, you felt like you are suiting up to go into outerspace.

Then see yourself opening your back door and stepping outside, the wind immediately hitting your face as the snow kicks up all around you. The air is so cold that you soon develop what I can only describe as an “ice cream headache.”

Then after maybe ten to fifteen minutes, your feet feel so cold and heavy like your leg bones are attached to inanimate blocks. But the pain in your hands is the worst. Your fingers are so cold, painful and stiff that operating latches and clips is often impossible. Sometimes the discomfort brings tears to your eyes.

As you might imagine, dealing with all of that while hauling heavy jugs of water out to the horses five times a day was absolutely exhausting. A week after the polar vortex, I’m still feeling tired.

Shiloh and Piper, thankfully, both came through the wicked Winter weather well. I took the photo at the top of the post of them trotting about on Christmas Day when the temperatures finally rose to a comparatively balmy 12 degrees Fahrenheit.

During the storm, the horse ate (I kept hay in front of them 24/7). They readily drank the water I hauled out to them. I also keep blankets at the ready in case of emergency, but I didn’t use them. I never saw either of them shiver or otherwise look chilled. The run-in shed thankfully provided adequate shelter in this case. Both Shiloh and Piper stayed healthy and in good spirits.

Yet for all my challenges of caring for horses during Winter, I can only write so many posts lamenting the difficulties I encounter. Ditto for my endless frustrations with the lack of backyard riding opportunities. Shiloh hasn’t seen a saddle since the end of November.

Likely for the remainder of Winter, therefore, I will churn out a new blog post just once a week (with perhaps a bonus post added on occasion). I am challenging myself to write about something else besides the misfortunes of caring for my horses during the Winter. We’ll see how successful I am as the season continues. My frustrations do tend to pile up like snowfall totals.

But for those of you in a similar situation, who want to commiserate about Winter horse care before I move on to explore other topics in future posts, I list some links below to posts of Winters past. They are a mix of Winter horse care tips, some standard complaints about caring for horses during Winter and important reminders that there is beauty to behold even during a harsh weather season.

Winter Barn Hack: Extending The Life of Disposable Hand Warmers
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/06/winter-barn-hack-making-those-hand-warmers-last-longer/

Winter Barn Hack: Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/02/17/ever-had-your-horses-reject-their-hay/

Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/02/05/does-your-horse-wear-a-grazing-muzzle-during-winter/

Six Ideas For What To Do If You Can’t Ride During Winter (A Guest Blog Post that I wrote for the Savvy Horsewoman Blog)
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/12/09/cant-ride-during-winter-six-ideas-for-what-to-do-instead/

The Beauty of Horses in Snow
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/17/the-good-about-backyard-horse-keeping-in-winter-snow/

Fun and Festive Winter Horse-Craft
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/12/28/fun-and-festive-craft-for-winter/

From Snow to Mud
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/02/22/from-snow-to-mud/

Pea Gravel For Paddocks
https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2022/01/14/pea-gravel-for-paddocks/

Thinking Of Working Donkeys During This Holiday Season

*Please note that following today’s post, I am taking a blogger’s break as I celebrate Christmas. I plan to resume posting new content for you again in January 2023.*

I don’t have any donkeys in my backyard, but I must say that I am a donkey fan. I like looking at donkey pictures and video clips. I enjoy reading about them. Meeting the occasional donkey in person is a particular delight. There’s just something about their look and demeanor that I find really inviting.

As a Christian believer, I am also drawn to the numerous mentions of donkeys in the Bible. The passages about Balaam’s Donkey in the Book of Numbers are likely the most compelling to me. And during this time of Advent when Christians prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth, I think particularly about the Bible passages that describe a pregnant Mary, Jesus’s mother, riding on a donkey during her travels. (UPDATE: You know what, there ARE NOT Bible Passages that describe Mary riding on a donkey. Instead of Bible passages, I should have said “Christmas imagery.” Considering the plethora of donkeys that existed during Biblical times, it is assumed that she MIGHT have ridden on a donkey or that there MIGHT have been donkeys present at the birth of Jesus, but they are not explicitly mentioned. This is a case of my confusing folks lore for what is actually written. Some of the most iconic Christmas images are not technically Scriptural. I apologize for the error.)

Donkeys were an integral part of people’s lives in Biblical times. They were crucial to the completion of so many tasks. Yet even today, in many parts of the world, donkeys perform important work for their owners. It’s probably not something many folks in fully industrialized countries think about. But there are still millions of working donkeys around the world today, particularly in some of the most economically disadvantaged places.

Brooke (and their sister organization in the USA, BrookeUSA) is one of the organizations that work to better the lives of working donkeys and their people. Brooke estimates that 100 million donkeys, horses and mules support 600 million people around the world.

As I contemplate the concurrent seasons of Christian Advent and the Jewish Festival of Lights, I’ll be making a donation to BrookeUSA in honor of the working animals of past and present. These donkeys are yet another reminder to me this holiday season that sometimes help and hope come in the most unassuming and humblest of packages.

2022 Top 10 Blog Posts

As we approach the year’s end, and the inevitable reflection that it brings, I thought it would be fun to post a Top 10 list.

Of course, there are multiple ways to quantify such a list. I first looked at the posts published in 2022 that received the most views. I always find it interesting to see which post titles resonate the most with readers.

But I was also curious about the posts that received the most views since the blog’s inception. I totaled those too.

There is a little bit of overlap between the two groupings. But not much. So I ended up making two Top 10 lists.

The first list is just for posts published in 2022. The second list is for the most viewed posts of all time. In this case, “all time” means from January 2020 (the blog’s birth month) through today’s date. If you missed seeing any of those posts, here is your chance to click and read.

I thank each of you, each and every reader, for choosing to spend some of your time in 2022 with my backyard horses and me.

Top 10 Posts of 2022

Top 10 Posts of “All Time”

From This to That: Change of Seasons

I thought these two photos were perfect for a quick post.

It never ceases to amaze me how closely tied my horse keeping is to the seasons and weather. Those factors dictate so much of what I do with my horses.

When I was scrolling through recent photos on my phone, I was struck by the contrast between two particular photos. Both were taken in November. I realize that Winter doesn’t start on the calendar in the Northern hemisphere until December 21st, but my Mid-Western weather pays no attention. Winter typically arrives a lot earlier than that.

The following two photos succinctly contrast the difference between the typical lovely Fall weather in my area and the harshness of its Winters. Notice, among other things, that I am riding in one photo and not in the other. The weather makes all the difference.

Equestrian Blog Hop

Today I am posting my responses to the latest equestrian blog hop. This one comes from Rain Coast Rider. You can also read Anxiety At A‘s answers. Always fun to see what different people have to say! If any other horse bloggers out there would like to participate, leave a comment with a link to your own post. I would like to read it!

  1. What’s your favorite thing about your current horse?
    Shiloh: His personality! Shiloh is sweet and personable. He generally maintains a calm demeanor and/or quickly returns to calm after a startle or other moments of distress. He’s just an overall pleasant horse to be around.
    Piper: I’ve only had him a little more than a year, but so far he has loaded beautifully in a trailer, stands well for the farrier and is easy to catch in the pasture. Those things may seem small, but if you’ve ever had a horse who struggles in those areas, it makes you appreciate a horse who is cooperative in those tasks.
  2. What do you find to be the most challenging thing about your current horse?
    For both Piper and Shiloh, the separation anxiety issues that have appeared since Bear’s death have been challenging. It bothers me when I sense a horse is unhappy, and I find some of the accompanying behaviors, especially the whinnying, to be quite distracting.
  3. If you could only hire one person to help you, would it be with coaching, riding/training, or barn work?
    Definitely coaching. For the most part, I enjoy doing as much stuff as I can myself, but there’s nothing like educated eyes on the ground to help you problem-solve and improve your horsemanship.
  4. What’s Something You Want to Learn or Wish You Were Better At?
    Where to even start with this question? There is so much! If I had to pick one, it would be mastering my nerves. Not letting my frequent “what if” fears dictate my actions in the way that they so often do. It is a constant struggle.
  5. Shout out to your support crew. Who are they?
    Husband, friends to ride with and Winter riding instructor! They all help me in different ways, at different points. There is lots of stuff I wouldn’t have done in my horse life without them.
  6. Favourite book, website, podcast, or other equine resource?
    Oh no, another question where I don’t even know where to start! There is so much to choose from! If you have read my blog for a while, you know that I frequently include links to various resources that I find useful to my horse life.
  7. If money was no object, what would you do all day?
    I imagine I would do exactly what I do now. But more of it, to a greater degree and with more style. 🙂
    I would also be more involved in the world of horse rescue. The rescue horses that don’t have training are hard for the average horse person to take on because the average horse person doesn’t have the skills to train (and hiring someone else to train is expensive). Horses miss out on adoptive homes for this reason. I’d like to be involved in accessing training for these horses. Maybe through funding a grant program for training or hiring full-time trainers to work at specific rescues?
    I would also explore the idea of running a mustang and burro sanctuary. The government keeps removing our nation’s wild horses and burros off of US public lands at an unprecedented rate. If the government can’t be persuaded to change course, the next best thing in my book would be relocation to private sanctuaries where they can live as close to free as possible with some added care and oversight as needed. I’m thinking something along the lines of Sky Dog Ranch or Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary. I also really like the idea behind the Wild Horse Fire Brigade. Their goal is to release wild horses into wilderness areas where the horses can thrive while helping to maintain a healthy environment through their natural behaviors and preventing forest fires.
  8. Because this is real world and horses are expensive, have you ever had a side hustle or considered having one?
    Well, I started this blog and its corresponding Etsy shop as a way to make some money on the side. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way yet. In fact, when I consider blog and shop expenses, I’ve lost money rather than made it.
  9. What’s the best horsey decision you’ve ever made?
    Keeping my horses at home. It’s something I had wanted to do since I first set eyes on a horse. There’s something very satisfying about achieving a long-delayed goal and then maintaining it for however long it continues to work for you.
  10. Worst decision?
    Ouch. This is another “I don’t even know where to start” questions. There are a lot of decisions I would like to redo if I could. Things I did but shouldn’t have done. Things I should have done but didn’t do. I’m constantly reassessing things in my head.
  11. What’s the best thing that happened to you or that you accomplished in 2022?
    Taking Shiloh out to trail ride a couple of times. I had been wanting to do with him for the last four years. Trail riding with Shiloh was another one of those satisfying “delayed goals finally achieved” situations. The other thing was participating in a miniature horse-driving clinic. It reawakened my long-held interest in both miniature horses and the discipline of driving. I’m now excited about exploring both those areas more in the future.

Textures: Shiloh’s Winter Hair Coat

Much to my surprise, I got in six rides with my horse, Shiloh, during November. The weather is so variable in my area during late Autumn. It is hard to find opportunities to ride in between the cold snaps, sudden snow events and stiff winds. But fortunately, there were a handful of 40 to 50-degree days with dry ground, full sun and little wind last month. Yay!

While I mainly rode Shiloh by himself without Piper, I did get in one last ponying ride before Winter. I hadn’t done any ponying yet without my husband’s help from the ground. This was the first time I mounted, dismounted and did the entire ride without another human present. I am pleased to report I stayed on for the entire twenty-two-minute experience. Neither horse lost their minds.

I made sure to get a shadow shot from the saddle so I would have something to remember the occasion by. 🙂

So what does all that have to do with this post’s “textures” title? During these last few rides of the Fall season, I was thinking about how different it is to groom Shiloh as compared to earlier in the year. Both cleaning his coat and tack fitting become more challenging as Winter approaches.

Shiloh’s slick Summer coat is long gone, replaced by his Winter coat. He’s got such thick hair this time of year. It is wonderfully soft, fluffy and protective. Good thing, too. As I type this, it is 24 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now, I’ve always admired Shiloh’s flashy pinto coat pattern. I think his bi-colored mane and mixed tail are eye-catching too. But the way he grows his Winter hair coat creates even more depth and texture to all those splashes of color. I do appreciate a slick, shiny horse, but a wooly horse is also marvelous.

When I read a fellow horse blogger’s post with the title “Textures”, I thought it would be fun to play along by posting close-up photos of Shiloh’s Winter coat. I find it especially interesting how his white hairs fluff out more than his chestnut hairs.

If you would like to see more examples of horse-related textures, check out the Horse Addict blog post that served as my inspiration. Her post was part of a Lens Artists Challenge. If you’ve never read a blog post written by a horse, you will want to check out this version from the dressage horse, Biasini!

https://horseaddict.net/2022/11/23/biasini-speaks-heres-my-textures/.

How about you? What textures do you notice most around the barn?

Giving Tuesday: 2022 Equestrian Edition

Yes, today is Cyber Monday. But I want to give a shout out to tomorrow’s 2022 Giving Tuesday. This year’s date is 11/29/22.

Created in 2012, #Givingtuesday refers to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States. Wikipedia defines it as “a global movement that unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” Giving Tuesday reminds us to look beyond our own backyards.

Not sure where to donate? Read on for a few horse-related suggestions. Remember, even small donation amounts are appreciated and helpful.

YOUR LOCAL HORSE RESCUE OR SANCTUARY
Every dollar counts in a big way when running a horse rescue or sanctuary. There are so many organizations, large and small, doing the ongoing work of helping horses in need. If you don’t know of any local horse rescues off the top of your head, a quick Google search should give you some ideas. In addition to cash, many need donations of items like hay, feed and horse-care products. Giving Tuesday is a great time to get in contact with your local rescue. If you aren’t already aware, you might be surprised to learn about the equine rescue-work that goes on in your own community. Beyond donating money, have you ever thought of volunteering at a rescue? What about fostering or adopting a rescue horse? Read about my own experience with fostering horses HERE. Maybe you’ll decide to give it a go too!

FLEET OF ANGELS
https://www.fleetofangels.org/
Fleet of Angels provides emergency assistance to horse owners in need, mostly in the USA, but also in Ukraine. They help organize emergency transportation during disasters as well as donate physical goods like hay and medical supplies to equestrian in need. Individual horse owners in times of crisis can even apply for one-time financial grants to cover horse care costs. Donate to help keep these programs well-funded so more horse people can receive emergency assistance!

WILD HORSE EDUCATION
https://wildhorseeducation.org/
Wild Horse Education(WHE) continues to be my favorite mustang advocacy organization. WHE works to film and document horses on the range as well as those controversial government round ups. As part of their ongoing public education efforts, WHE explains to the public why it is important to keep wild horses and burros on the range instead of removing them. WHE also advocates for wild horses and burros on a national level working with government law makers to try to improve protections for these animals. Right now, a generous donor is matching all donations up to a particular amount so your donation dollars can go farther!

Finally, what if you don’t plan to donate money but still want to give back during the holiday season? Consider participating in the Angel Card Project.

The Angel Card Project works with individuals and groups to send cards and notes of encouragement to folks in the USA over the holidays. Think children in hospitals, the elderly in nursing homes and people who are otherwise isolated or experiencing a difficult year.

While the Angel Card Project is not horse-related or Giving Tuesday-related, it would be a great community service project for horse clubs or barn buddies so I decided to mention it here.

I’ve participated for the last few years and will be doing so again this season. It doesn’t cost anything to participate beyond the price of the cards and stamps. You can send just one card or as many as you would like (the list of potential recipients is over 1500 names long so instead of printing out the list, I just keep the list downloaded to my computer and chose names from there based on how many stamps/cards I have). Learn more about the project and sign up at https://www.theangelcardproject.com/.

Equestrian Black Friday Shopping Deals: 2022 Edition

What a weekend! We have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday followed by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Get your wallets ready.

After furiously scouring the web and collecting email offers, below are the horse-related shopping deals I found. They are listed in alphabetical order by business name.

Please note that offer details may vary. If you see something that piques your interest, I highly suggest popping over to the corresponding website immediately. Read the exact offer details and all the fine print. Sometimes time limits, quantities, etc . . . are very specific. If the details I list below are different than what you see on the company’s website, take the website’s word for it.

One last word of Black-Friday-shopping caution here. Make sure the discount actually shows up in your shopping cart total before you press “buy”. If not, you can call the company and try to recoup your money later, but that’s not always possible. Ask me how I know!

And by the way, if you want to see even more equestrian shopping discounts than what I’ve listed here, visit the Breed Ride Event blog to see their HUGE annual list of equestrian Black Friday discounts!

Alright, let’s get started . . .

Barbra Schulte (Equestrian performance coach and cutting horse trainer)
https://bschulte.lpages.co/holiday-course-sale/
Get 40% off three of her most popular online learning courses: Well Connected, Shine in The Show Pen and Cow Smart 2.0. Get 40% off now through Cyber Monday.

Big D’s Tack and Vet Supply
https://www.bigdweb.com/
10% off sitewide on Black Friday. Discount will show up at checkout. Excludes feed, shavings, Ulcerguard, Powerflex, Coflex, Vetrap, Renflex, Custom items, vaccines and dewormers. Cannot be combined with any other offer.

Cheshire Horse
http://www.cheshirehorse.com
Savings of up to 30% off in select categories. Through 11/28. Use code: Holiday22.

Chewy
https://www.chewy.com/deals/horse-108772
Lots of horse-related deals to be had including up to 50% off select products and lots of “buy two get one free” offers!

Remember, too, that Chewy has a donation program where you can place a Chewy order and have the items mailed directly to a rescue of your choice! A wonderful Black Friday gift for the lucky animal rescue you select! Take advantage of the Chewy sales to help horses and other rescue animals. Find more info at https://www.chewy.com/g/animal-shelters-and-rescues.

Chimacum Tack
https://chimacumtack.com/harnessfortheholidays/
Use coupon code “jingle22” for 10% off your harness order and “silverorbrass22” for 15% off your bell order during the month of November.

Five Star
http://www.5starequineproducts.com
Choose your promo code!
10% Off Sitewide. Use code: SHOPPINGSPREE
Free leather headstall with a pad purchase. Use code: AGIFTFOR2
BOGO Boots: Buy one pair, get one half off. Use code: HALFOFF

Great British Equinery
https://greatbritishequinery.com/shop/ols/categories/black-friday-sale
Score significant discounts on select items like HALF OFF certain Gatehouse helmets! Also choose from $5 pony fly masks, $20 jumbo tack wash bags and much more!

Putting a personal plug in here for Great British Equinery! Debbie, the owner, provides excellent customer service. I have met her in person at a horse event, and she couldn’t be nicer. She also kindly sent multiple product samples for me to try and review on The Backyard Horse Blog. Looking for product suggestions? Read some of those reviews HERE.

Horse Class
https://www.horseclass.com/
Horse Class has announced that they will have a sale on their online learning courses on Cyber Monday. Details of the sale will be on their website on Monday morning.

HayGain
https://www.haygain.us
Now through November 28 (or while supplies last), get 10% off the HayGain Hay Steamer, The Forager Slow Feeder and Comfortstall Stable Flooring.

Ice Horse
http://www.icehorse.com
Receive a FREE All Purpose wrap with ANY order over $100! Be sure to add the AP wrap to cart and see the discount in checkout — no code necessary.

Kensington Products
http://www.kensingtonproducts.com
20% off all orders. Free shipping on orders over $150. Black Friday sale.

Kuda Saddlery and Tack
https://www.kudastore.com/
Save 10 to 20% on various tack items according to category. Valid until November 27th. Special terms and conditions apply. See website for details.

Majesty’s Animal Nutrition
https://majestys.com/
November 25th only! 40% off all Majesty products! Use code: FRIDAY40 (cannot be combined with any other offer or Buddy Points).

Murdoch’s Ranch & Home Supply
https://www.murdochs.com/
November 25th only, online and in-stores, save 20% on clothing and footwear. Save 10% on most everything else. Some exclusions apply. See website for details.

Riding Warehouse
https://www.ridingwarehouse.com
Generally, Riding Warehouse features a certain percentage off your shopping cart on Black Friday (last year I think it was 25% off), but I didn’t see an offer pre-advertised yet for this year. Check their website/Facebook for updates.

If you’d like to have a portion of your Riding Warehouse purchases go towards helping horses in need, please go to the blog http://www.horseandman.com and click on their affiliate link with Riding Warehouse (scroll down to the bottom of their blog page to find the link). You can do this all year round, not just Black Friday. A portion of your sales will then go to help horses in need through the Horse and Man Bucket Fund!

Schneider Saddlery
https://www.sstack.com/
Sales of up to 65% off in select categories plus earn a $20 reward towards a future purchase when you spend over $100 on an order. Earn the reward by 11/30/22 and redeem the reward between 12/1/22 and 1/7/23. Limit one reward per order.

Smart Pak Equine
https://www.smartpakequine.com/
Black Friday sale event up to 20% off. Select brands are already marked down, but hundreds more are slated for 15% off with code BF2022. Plus, get a free gift with a $200 order (in past years, they changed what gift they offered each day over the holiday weekend. They didn’t usually announce ahead of time what those free gifts are. You had to look at their website or Facebook page each day to see that day’s offer. In years past, the free gifts ranged from a free hay net to an insulated water bucket cover to a jacket to a free pair of paddock boots).

Spirit Horse Designs
https://www.spirithorsedesigns.com/
Gift certificate specials available this weekend. No coupon code required. Buy a $50 gift certificate and get an additional $10. Buy a $51-$100 gift certificate and get an additional $20. Buy a $101 to $150 gift certificate and get an additional $30. Buy a $151 to $200 gift certificate and get an additional $40. Buy a $250plus gift card and get an additional $50.

Stacey Westfall- The Resourceful Rider (Equestrian online coaching)
https://courses.stacywestfall.com/p/riding-bundle
Enroll with The Resourceful Rider by November 28th and receive three free bonus items as shown on the website link.

The Painting Pony
https://thepaintingpony.com/
Most discounts automatically applied at checkout:
Phone case sale: Save $5 off on phone cases.
9oz Jar Candles: Save $8 off Cinnamon & Vanilla scents 9oz jar candles.
Car Floor Mats: $20 off Car Floor Mats
Pet Mats: $9 off through Cyber Monday
Horse Leggings: $15 off Women’s Leggings
Hoodies: $10 off
Fleece Throws and Plates: 10%

Total Saddle Fit
https://www.totalsaddlefit.com
20% off site-wide for the 24 hours of Black Friday! Discount automatically applied at checkout. Offer only valid November 25, 2022.

Trafalgar Square Books
22% off books and videos sitewide (plus free shipping) now through Monday 11/28. You can go directly to the TSB website OR click on the TSB’s affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog website (find the affiliate photo link on the right-hand side of your screen or scroll down to the bottom to locate the photo link- it is the photo of a woman reading a book to a horse). The blog will then receive a much-appreciated portion of your sales without it costing you anything extra!

Warwhick Schiller Attuned Horsemanship
https://videos.warwickschiller.com/
$50 off yearly Subscription to his online training videos. I think this is for Black Friday only. Use Code: CYBERDEAL2022

Weaver Leather Equine
https://www.ridethebrand.com
20% off protack, working tack, leg care and select saddle pads. Use code:EQBLACKFRIDAY20.

Wild Horse Education
https://www.zazzle.com/store/whestorefront
Shop their store on Zazzle for all kinds of wild horse merch including their 2023 calendars featuring gorgeous wild horse photography! Look for Black Friday specials of up to 50% on the site! Wild Horse Education (WHE) is an advocate for our public lands and wild horses. All proceeds from sales on this shop benefit their work for the wild horses!

Horse and Goat: A Lesson In Interspecies Cooperation

Have you seen this video clip of a horse and a goat? It was originally posted to The DoDo under their “Odd Couples” category. But I found out about it through this Straight From The Horse’s Heart Blog link at

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you have probably seen plenty of cute videos of barnyard critters interacting.

But I think this video is something different. I found it fascinating how this particular pair communes with each other.

It made me think that I have something to learn from the goat about the secrets of horsemanship!

Speaking of secrets, I am still working on my list of USA-based equestrian Black Friday deals. Many deals are kept tightly under wraps until the actual day instead of being announced ahead of time. My post therefore may not go out until the early morning hours of November 25th. In the meantime, I noticed that Hunt Seat Paper Company is right now having a 25% off sitewide sale. No coupon code required. This small business is best known for its beautifully designed equestrian-themed cards, but Hunt Seat Paper Company also sells other items like gift wrap, tea towels, Swedish dishcloths, reusable sponges and more. FYI, this blog is not affiliated with Hunt Seat Paper Company and this mention was unsolicited and uncompensated. Shop the sale at https://huntseatpaperco.com.

What I’m Reading Now: Mini Edition

*Please note that the book recommendations mentioned in this post were not solicited. But this blog does have an affiliate relationship with The Big Book of Miniature Horses book publisher, Trafalgar Square Books. When you click on this blog’s link to Trafalgar Square Books (see the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse on the right-hand side of your screen or at the bottom of all the blog pages) and purchase an item through the link, this blog will receive a much-appreciated portion of your purchases at no extra cost to you.*

On the heels of attending a miniature horse driving clinic and contemplating adding a mini to my herd, I wanted to do some reading about them. So I scoured used book ads and explored library offerings. I ended up buying The Big Book of Miniature Horses and borrowed four other books through my local library’s interlibrary loan system.

Of all the books, I best liked The Big Book of Miniature Horses by Kendra Gale (2017) and the Miniature Horse: A Veterinary Guide For Owners and Breeders by Rebecca L. Frankeny, VMD (2003). In reading about minis, I am most interested in the differences and similarities between keeping big horses versus little ones. Those two books gave me the best ideas on those fronts.

For example, Dr. Frankeny, in her Miniature Horse: A Veterinary Guide For Owners and Breeders, notes that “. . . abnormalities such as navicular disease, osteochondrosis (OCD) and laryngeal hemiplegia (roaring) that are widespread in the large horse population are rarely, if ever, seen in Miniature horses. On the other hand, hepatic lipidosis, a form of liver failure that can occur during times of food deprivation, is very rare in full-sized horses, but quite common in Miniatures.” Who knew?

Of particular interest to me was the author, Kendra Gale, writing a chapter on beginner driving with minis in The Big Book of Miniature Horses. She notes that “. . . many people have the mistaken impression that because Miniature Horses are small, they don’t need to take the time and care in training that they would with a 1,000 pound horse . . . You absolutely can get hurt, and perhaps even more importantly, so can your horse . . . It is completely unfair to your horse not to treat him with the same respect just because he is less likely to inflict serious harm when he gets scared.” Something for me to keep in mind, for sure.

Gale also noted the importance of training/mentoring when learning to drive and that you don’t necessarily have to stick with an instructor who only drives miniatures. Driving principles are the same across the board and can be taught by any experienced instructor, according to Gale. Another good point.

I’m still trying to gather more miniature horse/donkey/mule resources to read. If you are involved with minis, please let me know if you have favorite mini resources whether educational websites/places to buy mini equipment and harnesses. I would love to read more, whether in book format or online!

*On a different horse-related note, I am still working on composing a list of equestrian Black Friday deals. Many deals are not announced until right before Black Friday or even on the actual day so my post may not go out until the early morning hours of November 25th.

But, I am noticing that some stellar deals are going on right now ahead of Black Friday, including an eye-catching offer from Dover Saddlery of a free $50 Dover Saddlery Digital Promotion Gift Card with purchase of $150 or more. Use Promo Code: CMHOLLY. The fine print on the ad announcement says “excludes purchase of gift cards, Tailored Sportsman, Hit-Air and Kerrits. Limit one per household, per day. Gift card will be sent via email by 11/24.”

While Dover Saddlery specializes in English Riding, there are plenty of general horse care, grooming and stable equipment items that will appeal to all horse folks. Visit Dover Saddlery at http://www.doversaddlery.com. Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog is not affiliated with Dover Saddlery in any way. I just wanted to pass on this offer for readers benefit.*

Free Horse-Related Newsletters: Sent Right To Your Email Inbox!

I wrote about these free newsletters before, but I find them so valuable that their mention bears repeating.

You can sign up to receive free horse-related newsletters from the publishers of the magazine The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare. The newsletters give research-based, solid, reliable information on all things equine.

To sign up, go to https://email.thehorse.com/k/Sfs/basic_newsletter_registration_form

You can choose from either weekly or monthly newsletters that are sent straight to your email inbox. Sign up for just one newsletter or all of them. You can select from quite the breadth of topics including:

Horse Health
Horse Nutrition
Equine Welfare and Industry
Soundness and Lameness
Breeding
Equine Behavior
Farm and Barn
Older Horse Care
Equine Sports Medicine

Each newsletter will give you links to articles on that particular topic, many of which were first published in the printed The Horse: Your Guide To Equine Healthcare magazine. Please note that in order to view the body of most articles, you must sign up for an account with TheHorse.com. It is free, easy to do, and didn’t result in spam in my email inbox. The entire website really is a treasure-trove of equine information.

If you like the newsletters as much as I do, you might consider purchasing a digital and/or printed subscription to The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Healthcare magazine at https://www.thehorse.com.

“Written for hands-on horse owners and managers of any breed or discipline and reviewed by a board of American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) veterinarians, this monthly publication provides current, understandable, and practical information on equine health, care, management, and welfare . . . The Horse is an all-breed, all-discipline equine education provider for hands-on participants in the horse industry. Our articles are written for hands-on horse owners, trainers, riders, breeders, veterinarians, vet techs, and managers who want to know more.”

-From TheHorse.com website

*Please note that this post was unsolicited and uncompensated.*

Thank You For Your Service: Veterans and Horses

As I mentioned in a previous post, Just Horsin’ Around, riding often becomes more difficult for me as Winter approaches. The weather in my area is frequently unstable during the late Fall season. I get in a ride here and there, but I have done more groundwork recently than riding. Being in the saddle less often makes me appreciate it all the more. These are my final 2022 Autumn-colored photos as the leaves have fallen now.

My husband isn’t a horse person, but he occasionally likes to come out with me to take photos, groom or do some of that groundwork with the horses. Since today is Veteran’s Day in the USA, and my husband is a Veteran, I wanted to be sure to feature some photos of the groundwork that my husband and Piper have been doing recently.

We have worked in the round pen, the paddock and the pasture, depending upon the variable weather and footing conditions. In between bad weather days, my husband and I have taken the horses for short walks in the pasture. I enjoy watching the leaves turn colors and later scatter to the ground. I like listening to their hooves make the leaves crunch underneath too.

The changing leaves made for some fun backdrops for photos. I will have to remind myself next year that a groomed horse with eye goobers removed makes for a more aesthetically pleasing picture. Piper was groomed before his photo shoot, but in a moment of oversight, Shiloh was not. Shiloh’s “smile” in the photo on the right, though, kind of makes me think he was in on the joke. 🙂

Next, in the round pen, here is a sampling of my husband negotiating different obstacles with Piper.

Here Piper shows off his signature nose flip with the big horse ball. I had fun making a couple of his video clips into GIFs.

We also worked on getting Piper used to the cane/walking stick that my husband uses to walk with if he’s going to be on his feet for awhile. He has arthritis and usually carries the cane in his right hand, but we started Piper out with my husband having the cane in his left hand.

Here, on a cloudier and windier day, we took both horses to the round pen together. My husband practiced walking on Piper’s right side while Shiloh hung out with me as I took photos.

I also took a brief bareback ride on Shiloh and practiced following, leading and passing Piper. In my mind’s eye, I have this image of my riding Shiloh with my husband walking Piper in-hand down the trail. Not really sure we will ever get that far, but having something to aim for helps me organize our groundwork sessions.

With an additional nod to Veteran’s Day, I include web links below that refer to equine-assisted activities for Veterans. While I never served any Veterans during my employment as a certified therapeutic riding instructor, I was certainly aware of therapeutic activities catering to Veterans. These kinds of services have exploded in popularity in the last ten years since I left the field of equine-assisted activities.

If you are interested in learning more, please check out the following ones links. I wasn’t able to click on every resource and video within all the pages. I can’t speak to my opinion of all of them. But I provide these links as examples of the depth and breadth of these types of programs. There is a whole lot more out there on the subject, and more resources, but this should help get you started if you are new to the idea.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7890715/
Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies for Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: Current State, Challenges and Future Directions (2021)

https://www.military.com/benefits/veterans-health-care/veteran-horse-therapy.html

https://usvetconnect.com (National Veterans Outdoors Resource Hub: Bridging the gap between veterans and the outdoors)

https://www.horsesforheroes.org/resource-links.html

https://www.heroesandhorses.org/

https://www.operationwearehere.com/equinetherapy.html

https://www.vfw.org/media-and-events/latest-releases/archives/2022/7/healing-heroes-through-horses

Tribute to My Horse, Bear

Thank you for all the kind thoughts, blog comments and prayers regarding the death of my horse, Bear. The private emails too. They were and are still much appreciated. If you missed the announcement of Bear’ passing, you can read it HERE. But today, I wanted to write an official tribute post as a way to summarize my time with him.

For those of you not familiar with our history, I brought Bear home in March of 2005, just before he turned ten-years-old. Bear died on September 17th, 2022 at the age of twenty-seven. That’s seventeen years together. He spent more years with me than he did any other human.

Those seventeen years together almost didn’t happen though. At one point, I had seriously considered selling him.

Bear, a registered Racking Horse from Speed-Racking bloodlines, was a sensitive, timid, quick and athletic horse. All 14.1 hands of him. He was light in the bridle. Light on his feet. He had the most wonderfully smooth racking gait and a great lope.

Despite his small stature, his energy could be intimidating, especially in those first few years with him. After several very embarrassing and very public experiences where he got completely out of control, I thought I might be done with him.

But I knew he was likely the most quality horse I would ever own. Bear is hands-down the best-gaited horse I have ever ridden. And so I decided to persevere by attending a multi-day natural horsemanship clinic as a last-ditch effort to get on the same page with him. Fortunately, that experience completely transformed our relationship. All thoughts of selling him went out the window.

We went on to do so many fun activities together. Stuff I had always dreamed of doing with horses.

We rode trails, went horse camping, won show ribbons, went swimming, worked cows, worked obstacles, played horse soccer and moved out to Colorado from the Midwest and back again.

We learned to do lateral movements like side passing. I learned how to ask Bear to bow down on one knee so I could mount him from the ground. We even literally walked through a line of fire at a police-horse-training clinic.

As the years passed, Bear still remained a challenge to ride at times. His sensitivity and energy under saddle never really diminished. Nonetheless, the more things we did together, the more confidence and rapport we developed with each other.

Surprisingly, despite Bear’s nervousness and propensity to spook with some frequency, he never hurt me. He could jump sideways with the best of them, but he always took me with him. He was light on his front end, popping up a bit sometimes, but even when he fully “high-ho silvered”, standing on his back legs, it felt smooth as glass. Bear could also dolphin as he cantered and throw in a crow hop every once in a while, but I stayed with him.

The one and only time I fell off of him actually had nothing to do with his anxious tendencies. The spill happened as we were tracking cattle in a large field. Bear accidentally stepped into a crater-sized hole that was obscured by the tall pasture grass.

The hole was quite deep and wide. As Bear started to sink (with his rump up in the hair and his front legs going down), I pitched forward and rolled off him to the side. Fortunately, Bear was able to push up out of the sides of the hole. He avoided falling completely into it. We were both a little surprised and frightened but otherwise no worse for the wear.

In reflecting on the totality of our relationship, I can’t say how Bear felt about me. But as far as how I felt about him? I definitely experienced the most satisfying relationship I’ve ever had with a horse. Of all my horses, Bear was the most deeply woven into my sense of who I am as a horse person because of the challenges that we faced and overcame. It’s not a guarantee with horses, overcoming challenges, so it’s something I treasured. He allowed me to be the horsewoman I had always wanted.

Since the day I brought Bear home in 2005, technology has changed a lot. All my first years with him are not documented on my smartphone. Instead, I have multiple scrapbooks filled with his print pictures.

I had fun going through those scrapbooks recently and decided to photograph some of the pages so I could share them on the blog. In looking through the scrapbooks, I was struck by how young we both looked. My, how we aged together! But the photos helped remind me of all the fun I had with him riding at home, as well as doing so many different activities off the property.

My scrapbooks are huge. The following pictures are just a small sampling. I have great friends and family to thank for having all this documentation of my time with Bear.

Besides lots and lots of photos, I have some other special objects to remember Bear by. Like the pile of ribbons that he won for me at different events.

I also have the stall plate that came from Bear’s first owner. You know, it’s rare that something goes with a horse as he or she changes owners. Even important stuff like registration papers get lost. But this stall plate stuck with Bear as he changed hands. I was able to verify this when I tracked down his original breeder. Bear’s sire was a stallion named Kentucky Bear and my Bear was apparently just like his sire in personality. So his breeders gave him the barn name “Little Bear”.

Last but not least, through my writing gigs, I have published many words about and images of Bear. For example, an essay I wrote about Bear titled “The Next Journey” was published in Equus magazine’s July 2018 issue in its True Tales category. It was also later made into a podcast Equss Barn Stories Episode. You can get the links to them HERE.

In an interesting coincidence, the Fall 2022 issue of Equus included a Back Page feature that detailed the magazine’s relationship with its long-running True Tales feature. I thought it appropriate that I read these words in the magazine’s 2022 Fall issue, considering that Bear died this Fall.

“Although the Equus staff has always enjoyed reading these real-life accounts and preparing them for publication, we tended to think of True Tales as something to work on in between our more important articles. Our real work, we thought, was reporting on veterinary research, equine physiology, management innovations, training techniques and the like. In time, however, we came to the realization that we had been wrong about True Tales. They are, in fact, a very important part of Equus. You may not find the horses featured in this section in the record books or halls of fame, but they are the very foundation of the horse industry. They are central to the lives of their owners. They serve as the focal point for equestrian ambitions. And they inspire countless dreams.”

– Equus- Issue 511-Autumn 2022

Bear’s photos are also peppered throughout this blog and the blog’s Pinterest page. In fact, my popular Pinterest Pin is “Activity Ideas For The Unridden Horse” which features Bear’s sweet face. The Pinterest pin links to a previous blog post of a similar title. You can read it HERE. Even after I retired Bear from riding five years ago, I still enjoyed playing around with him on the ground. He inspired me to write that post and create the pin.

I must say that it is heart-warming to see a part of Bear live on through all these written and visual mediums.

When I started this blog in January 2020, Bear was already three years into retirement. By that time, he had been diagnosed with PPID, EMS and arthritis. He had experienced several bouts of laminitis and had areas of skin cancer removed. While I would have loved to have blogged during our riding adventure years, I am still glad readers got to know Bear, even if it was as an older, retired horse.

It was a different sort of experience for me, caring for Bear as a senior horse with health issues verses as a younger, active riding horse. It was difficult at times to try to manage Bear as he aged, but it was also a privilege and an honor to care for him at so many different points in his life.

Horses can take us on many journeys. Certainly those physical journeys- down the trail, around the arena or into the show ring. Yet sharing a life with a horse can be quite the emotional and spiritual journey as well.

Learning about your horse as an individual being and learning about yourself in relation to your horse are gifts not everyone gets to experience. It is truly special.

Thank you, my dear Bear, for all the lessons. All the rides. All the experiences. The whole whopping journey. I love you.

Equestrian Survey Surfing

Do you enjoy filling out surveys? I do! And if a survey is about horses? Jackpot!

I recently came across four horse-related surveys. Unfortunately, two of them closed before I could post about them. Whomp, whomp. But I am sharing the other two in case anyone else reading this is a serial survey taker too.

Neither of them are marketing surveys. Nobody is trying to sell you a product. Since I know blogs typically gets hits from all over the world, I will mention that:

Survey #1 is looking for USA respondents.
Survey #2 accepts respondents from anywhere in the world.

So if you are game, survey on!

Survey #1

https://s.surveyplanet.com/203sppxk

This survey is from Heart of Phoenix, West Virginia’s largest horse rescue. They help horses in need throughout Appalachia. They also sponsor the yearly Appalachian Trainer Face Off and adoption event. They want to know how the current economic climate is impacting your horse ownership plans.

“Please share with ALL USA horse owners you know and ask they complete this short survey. Heart of Phoenix first circulated this survey last September when we began seeing an increase in owner surrender requests.

Since then, we have gathered last year’s results, and we are looking to compare the changes to the current situation we are all experiencing.

We, in a desire to be prepared for winter and 2023, want to gather data as to what are the main reasons owners are considering surrendering and what are things owners who are keeping their horses may be concerned about in the future.”- From A Recent Heart of Phoenix Blog Post

Survey #2

https://tinyurl.com/PUSurveyHorse

This survey is run by undergraduates at Purdue University in their Department of Agricultural Sciences Education and Communication under the supervision of Dr. Colleen Brady. The students want to assess perceptions of horse well-being.

“This study will assess what factors people think are most important when assessing horse well-being. This information will then be used to help develop educational materials to help people better understand aspects of horse well-being, and how to assess it.”- From the survey’s research information participation sheet

Prepping For Equestrian Black-Friday Shopping!

Anybody else out there notice that Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday are just a few short weeks away?

I REALLY appreciate Black Friday/Cyber Monday for horse-related shopping. All the great offers make equestrian shopping so much more affordable for me IF I do some pre-planning.

Most of us already know about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but fewer know about Small Business Saturday. This day shines a spotlight on small companies, many of which will also offer shopping discounts.

Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity to support with cash donations those nonprofits that do valuable work. Don’t forget that you can also use Black Friday/Cyber Monday discounts to buy physical goods for nonprofits. For example, many horse rescues keep a wish list of wanted items either on their own websites or through a shopping website like Amazon or Chewy. You can buy the items and then take them to the rescue yourself or have the items shipped directly to the rescue!

So how do I prepare for all this shopping and donating without breaking the bank? At the start of each year, I keep a list of the things that I want to replace or buy new. If I can do without something until Black Friday rolls around, I will wait. In the meantime, I put money aside specifically for Black Friday shopping.

Then as the time gets closer, I watch sale ads like a hawk. There are some seriously good deals to be had during Cyber Monday and the surrounding shopping days. Steep discounts. BOGO offers. Free gifts with purchase. Handy gift cards offers like “buy $100 worth of product and get a free $25 gift card for future use”. It is fun to compare deals and see who has what sales/offers.

Speaking of watching sale ads, I plan to pass on what I see to my readers. Just as I did last year, on or right before Black Friday, I expect to post a list of horse-related shopping offers and discounts so you can take advantage of some great deals too. Stay tuned!

Miniature Horse Driving Clinic!

Have you ever driven a miniature horse? Or driven another type of horse/mule/donkey?

My own experience with driving is limited but varied. I have taken driving lessons periodically over the years. Probably fewer than 30 lessons total. To date, I’ve driven a couple of minis, a hackney pony, an Amish-trained horse, a Saddlebred, a draft-type pony and a Percheron. Despite my limited experience, getting a driving horse has long been of interest to me.

Since Bear’s death, I spend time thinking about what direction I might like to go regarding future horse ownership. Would I eventually like to switch from riding big horses to driving little ones?

Before I explored that idea further, I wanted to see if I still enjoyed driving and being around minis. It had been a good ten years since my last drive and miniature horse experience. Would driving still hold the same appeal? When I got wind of a miniature-horse-driving clinic, I decided to find out.

Since I don’t have a mini of my own, the clinic instructor allowed me to work with her mini gelding named Romeo. I must say that the clinic was a ton of fun. We went over harnessing and ground driving. I got to drive in two different carts, an easy-entry cart (the metal cart in the first photo) and a Meadowbrook cart (the wood cart in the photo directly above). We walked, trotted and weaved poles in both of them. I am pleased to say we didn’t mow down any obstacles! I was the only one who actually made it to the clinic that day so I essentially got an extra-long private lesson with the instructor.

The parallels between riding and driving are interesting to me. You are connected to the horse’s sensitive mouth through the reins and bit. Finding the right amount of rein contact to use for your particular horse is an experiment. You still need to bend your elbows. Wiggling around is not helpful (how you sit in the cart affects the weight distribution of the cart and harness over the horse’s sensitive back). Leaning is a no-no. Encouraging your horse to move forward and straight is important.

Turns out that attending the clinic made me excited about the prospect of getting a mini to drive. Maybe more than one. If I got a driving mini, I might be able to drive trails, do clinics, participate in parades and attend shows. A mini could also provide Piper with company at home while I take Shiloh off the property to ride.

But do I have any immediate mini-horse shopping or adopting plans? Well, no. Concerns about inflation weigh heavy on my mind. Minis may be more economical to feed, but veterinary and farrier care costs are comparable to larger horses. I would also need to spend money on miniature-sized shelter, fencing, carts, harnesses and other equipment. I need a minute to give some thought to setting up mini-housing on my property and to put aside some cash.

I’m also still really vacillating between the idea of getting another riding horse versus a mini. I wonder how much I would miss having a horse of my own to ride?

On the other hand, I am thinking that driving minis might be a better fit for me as I age. I’m in my fifties. I’m not exactly ready for the nursing home yet. But I already contend with plenty of physical issues. And I’ve unfortunately never been a truly competent or confident rider, despite my love of horses and my efforts to improve. I see minis as more manageable for me on almost every level as compared to full-sized horses. Update to Original Blog Post: Apparently, I am not the only person who thinks this way. Many weeks after I wrote this post, I found the following article about older folks gravitating towards minis at https://horsesport.com/magazine/equine-ownership/joy-miniature-horses-older-hoomans/.

I wonder too if I could be more independent and active with a mini than I have been with my riding horses. Looking back, I was the most active with my gaited ponies, Bear and Spice. I had so much fun going different places and doing different activities with them. But, for a variety of reasons, I have not been able to consistently replicate that same dynamic with other horses. I wonder if I would be more successful in doing more and going more places with a driving mini?

My timeline with my remaining two horses plays into all my thinking too. Shiloh will turn 20 next year and Piper 22. With a horse’s average lifespan of 25 to 30 years, I likely have (at most) another five to ten years with them. This assumes I outlive both of them, of course!

Readers may remember that I’ve already decided to stop riding Piper, but I continue to ride Shiloh. It would be wonderful for me if I could keep riding Shiloh into his mid-twenties or beyond. There are still trails that I would like to blaze with him. But that depends upon Shiloh’s continuing health (mine too) as well as my finding a companion for Piper.

Getting a driving mini while I am still riding would provide a gradual transition for me from one type of horse lifestyle to another. If Shiloh’s soundness didn’t continue, I would have a mini that I could still do activities with (assuming the mini stayed sound, of course!). Then once Piper and Shiloh pass on, I could keep minis only until I am ready for that aforementioned nursing home. Of course, in some ways, I wouldn’t mind having a go with just one more gaited riding pony. It’s hard to let certain dreams die, you know?

Many thanks to Romeo and the instructor at Hitchin’ A Dream for providing me with a fun learning experience and taking the photos you see here. The instructor recently purchased the property where she now runs her Hitchin’ A Dream business as well as The Shepard and The Hound Boutique.

The Boutique’s website is https://theshepherd.info/ where you can check out her crocheted items for people, pets and horses. And if you can make it over to Hitchin’ A Dream in Southern Michigan for lessons or a clinic, I am sure she would appreciate the business.

The instructor apparently did some video-to-music editing and posted clips of Romeo and me to TikTok with her handle @hitchinadream. You can also see the clips by visiting the Hitchin’ A Dream Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/hitchinadream/. I’m not actually a member of either platform, but I was able to view at least some of the footage. Cracked me up. I’m guessing that is the first time in my life that clips of me have been set to a variety of contemporary music. Have I mentioned I am continually late to the party on technology?

Long story short, the clinic was a ton of fun. I’m definitely glad I attended. And if you’ve managed to suffer through reading this entire post, you can see the clinic certainly gave me lots to think about!

A Different Kind of Autumn

When I brought Piper home last Fall, I had every intention of Shiloh and me hitting the trails on a regular basis in 2022. My thinking was that Bear and Piper could keep each other company while I took Shiloh out and about.

Unfortunately, the Spring of 2022 started off much wetter than usual, delaying the start of my at-home riding year.

Then once the weather dried up, Shiloh and I managed only two off-the-property rides before the Summer of 2022 became a real scorcher.

I finally got out on the trails again in September when cooler weather arrived. That ride went well, and I was so looking forward to getting in a handful more trail rides before Winter. Fall is my absolute favorite time to trail ride with its cooling temperatures, interesting foliage and lots of crunchy leaves under the horse’s hooves. The feel, the sites and the sounds of Fall trail riding can be magical.

Unfortunately, Bear was unexpectedly euthanized just two days after that September trail ride. All my future Fall trail riding plans died with him. Now that I have just the two horses at home again, I am hesitant to take Shiloh out by himself and leave Piper at home alone.

If you’ve been reading this blog recently, you know that I’ve instead been working on separating them at home. It is going okay, but I can tell it continues to be somewhat stressful for them, even when I’m taking one of them just a couple of acres away at most.

Still, I hated to miss out on Fall trail riding altogether. The leaf colors this year have been especially vivid. I really wanted to enjoy this Autumn’s beauty from the back of a horse. I decided to do a guided trail ride on a rental horse at a nearby park venue.

It is part of the same park system where I rode Shiloh in September, but the guided rides take place on a different side of the park. I visited this particular trail riding outfit a handful of times, just after I retired Bear and didn’t have a horse to ride at home anymore.

While I might quibble with some of their trail ride procedures and their tack choices, their horses look well-fed, well-shod and seem temperamentally suitable to the task. I especially like that most of the horses are owned by a gentleman who takes them back home during the Winter and then returns them to this trail outfit in the Spring, providing stability and continuity for horses and staff alike. I recognized several of the same horses in the string from five years ago.

This time around, I rode a quarter horse-type gelding named Josh. Here he is dozing before the ride.

We rode in a group of six riders. The guided ride wound through woods and around open prairie. It was slow, quiet and relaxing. All the horses did their jobs well. It was an excellent Fall day. Sunny, in the sixties and with light winds.

Was it the same as taking my own horse out on the trails? Well, no. I’m still bummed about missing out on more trail rides with Shiloh. It bothers me seeing my horse trailer just sit there. All dressed up and no place to go. It’s certainly been a different kind of Autumn season for me than what I expected.

Nonetheless, I was grateful for this recent trail riding opportunity. And the horse, Josh, here was no doubt grateful to get a drink at the end of the ride.

What about you? If you could only pick one season to trail ride, which season would you say is your favorite?

Continuing Ponying Practicing

If you missed my first “ponying Shiloh and Piper” post, you can read it here. Today, I share about my continuing attempts.

Having successfully ponied within the confines of the paddock, I felt confident trying to pony in the larger pasture area.

While I didn’t take the horses around the far outer edges like I hoped to do, we still got to spread our wings more. And we even dabbled in moving faster than a walk. More on that in a minute.

First, we reviewed what we practiced last time. Walk, halt, walk on a straight line. Walking circles to the right. Then we tried circling to the left and gradually moving further away from the barn area.

This didn’t go too badly, but I did have to ask Piper to not charge ahead. Sometimes with turning to the left, the horse on the end of the lead tends to lag behind the ridden horse. But in Piper’s case, we had the opposite issue. He never got out of control and was open to my direction, but I had to keep wiggling the rope more than I’d like to remind Piper to stay in position.

I also noticed that the further we went out, the tenser and more “looky” Piper became. With that development, I didn’t feel confident taking them to ride right at the edge of the pasture like I do with Shiloh when we are riding just the two of us. Instead, we repeatedly walked in a curve toward the edges and then away from the edges. Pushing the boundaries for a little bit and then heading back toward emotional safety. A work in progress.

Before we called it a day, I was curious to see if we could go a little bit faster without falling apart. I am pleased to report that we did a couple of gaiting/trotting passes in a large half-circle to the left. No disaster ensued. I stayed on, didn’t drop the rope and the horses didn’t lose their minds.

Piper started off a little on the muscle, but he stayed in position.

Shiloh was smooth to guide and ride as he gaited along, but I think his high-head and overall body posture reflected mental tension as we explored doing this new thing.

On the whole, though, I thought our second ponying practice went quite well. I’ve been particularly impressed with how helpful Shiloh is to the process. He’s quiet and cooperative enough that I can put a large amount of my attention and intention on Piper when needed, while counting on Shiloh to just keep moving along.

Ponying is definitely a challenging exercise in coordination and focus for me, but I think it is good practice for all three of us.

Free Online Horse Fair- October 24-25, 2022!

Please note that this blog has an affiliate relationship with the ART OF THE HORSEMAN.

Here’s an opportunity to watch horsemanship videos for FREE!

This online horse fair, brought to you by the Art of The Horseman, features over 130 online presentations all about horses and horsemanship. That’s 60+ hours of video content!

The Art of The Horseman fair presentations are available for free viewing on a quarterly basis. Did you miss the dates earlier in the year? Or did you click on a couple of videos during the previous fair but didn’t get to watch everything you wanted? Here’s your next chance!

The videos cut across different breeds and disciplines so there is a little something for just about everyone. Presenters include well-known professionals like Warwick Schiller and Jim Masterson as well as up and coming trainers/instructors.

You can view the videos for FREE on October 24th and 25th, 2022. Anyone with internet access worldwide can view this large selection of videos from an international lineup of horse professionals.

Want access to the videos beyond that free, 48 hour period? You can purchase lifetime access to the videos.

I enjoyed learning from past Art of The Horseman fairs. So much so, in fact, that I decided to have The Backyard Horse Blog become an affiliate!

If you use the link below to get your FREE ticket to the fair, The Backyard Horse Blog receives a monetary bonus if you later purchase lifetime access.

https://www.becauseofthehorse.net/a/23333/jm4gSypW

Click on the link and sign up today for your FREE ticket. Then mark out time on your calendar for video viewing, October 24th and 25th. I think you will be surprised at how much you can learn. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Once you get your ticket, you will receive more information about the fair via email (as well as info about how you can buy a membership to view the videos past the free dates). On the day of the fair opening, you will receive an email reminder about the timing of the free video access so you will know when it goes live.

Click on the above link to get your FREE ticket today!

Just Horsin’ Around

It’s just me over here in October, trying to wrap up my at-home riding year on a good note. The 23rd of this month is the average first freeze in my area. It is getting harder to find the right time to ride as the weather becomes more unstable with see-sawing temperatures and increasing wind. Winter is around the corner.

Most years, I can ride at home until about the end of November, but not always. Overall, I am doing well if I can ride once a week in the late Fall. Twice a week is cause for celebration.

Come December, I experience typical daytime highs in the thirties/forties and nights almost always below freezing. The skies are grey and cloudy. The winds howl. It is physically painful for me to ride at that point. The months of January and February are even colder.

At home, I hang up my chaps and spurs until Spring (not that I actually use either of those things, but “hanging up my paddock boots and helmet” just doesn’t have the same ring to it). My horses get a break from riding from at least the start of December through the end of March, save for maybe an occasional bareback ride.

But I still want to ride more than that! So I switch to riding lesson-horses at a local barn with an indoor arena for the rest of the Winter. While I get my horseback riding fix, my instructor gets to fix all the bad riding habits that I’ve indulged in while riding by myself at home all year. 🙂

So as I finish up my 2022 at-home riding season, I continue to work on separating my two remaining geldings. Whoever is left in the paddock by themselves still tends to let out a few whinnies periodically. Maybe pace the fence line a bit. But it hasn’t been going too badly. Even on the days when it is cold/windy and the horses are more snorty/alert, I have still been able to work with them without feeling like my death is imminent, as I think you will see in the following series of photos.

I thought this first shot was funny. I am riding Shiloh in my round pen, practicing with my trail obstacles. As I parked Shiloh on the trail bridge temporarily, I noticed Piper watching Shiloh intently from their paddock gate. By the time I got my phone out, both horses turned their heads, but in opposite directions.

Next, we have Piper in the round pen while Shiloh is in the paddock. You can see Shiloh hanging out by the gate. Even though I decided not to ride Piper anymore, I still like to do some activities with him on the ground. Piper is parked with his front hooves on the trail bridge and notices Shiloh, but Piper doesn’t call out to him or move out of position.

I think I have mentioned before that Shiloh’s favorite spot is anywhere there is shade, at least until the weather gets super cold. Here, we are halting for a minute during a ride in the far corner of the pasture, just south of their paddock. A line of trees behind us gives some cover from the sun. If you look really closely with a magnifying glass, you can see Piper across the way. He is munching on hay, not worried in that moment about where Shiloh is.

I really like this next photo of Piper. I think he looks quite happy as he hangs out on the tire pedestal. While the middle of the tire is solidly packed with dirt, there is a little bit of give around the edge of the tires where the dirt has moved with time. I watched Piper’s chest muscles move back and forth as he worked to center his balance but without moving his feet. A bonus proprioception exercise.

Later that same day, I took off Piper’s halter and stood on the tire while Piper and Shiloh gathered on opposite sides as I gave them some scratches in their itchy spots. After Shiloh sauntered away, Piper spontaneously stepped up on the tire all by himself. I took this photo as I stood on the tire next to Piper. My husband titled it “Hoof N Boots.”

Next up are some photos of Piper and my husband. On a day he came out to take some media of me ponying the two horses, my husband got to tackle the tire pedestal with Piper. Here they both show good form on the approach to the obstacle!

And looky there! Piper’s Up!

Good boy, Piper! Nicely done, husband!

As for Shiloh? Well, since he is still a riding horse, Shiloh’s idea of ground work is shaking himself off after having a good post-ride role. 🙂

In a future post, I’ll write more about our continuing ponying practicing (say that tongue-twister fast three times), including our first attempts at moving a little bit faster together. I’m hoping that all the work this Fall on separating as well as our ponying practice will give the horses and me a small foundation to build on come Spring.

Book Review: For The Love Of The Horse: Looking Back, Looking Forward By Mark Rashid

If you liked Mark Rashid’s other books, you will want to hurry and pick up this newest one. Just published in September 2022, it is hands down my favorite of his works.

While readers familiar with his writing will find some overlap with his previous storytelling, there is still plenty of new material to make it worth the read.

On the other hand, if you have never heard of Mark Rashid, I suggest starting with this newest book. If it speaks to you, you will likely want to explore his other horsemanship books:

Considering The Horse: Tales of Problems Solved and Lessons Learned (1993)

A Good Horse Is Never A Bad Color (1996)

Horses Never Lie: the Heart of passive leadership (2000)

Life Lessons From A Ranch Horse (2003)

Whole Heart, Whole Horse: Building Trust Between Horse and Rider (2009)

Horsemanship Through Life (2012)

A Journey To Softness (2016)

Finding The Missed Path: The Art of Restarting Horses (2017)

A prolific writer, Mark Rashid is well-known for describing his early horse experiences. Especially the ones with his mentor, Walter.

It is primarily through his storytelling that Mark imparts bits of horsemanship wisdom to his readers. If you are looking for a “how-to” instructional guide, you may be disappointed. But if you enjoy inferring lessons from other people’s experiences, you will find lots to absorb here about horses.

In addition to his personal stories, the author also shares his thoughts on some horse industry issues like problems with horse inbreeding and his frustrations with what is commonly termed “the natural horsemanship movement.” I always find it interesting to see professional horsemen’s views on the wider horse world.

Ever a learner, Mark also describes finding opportunities for like-minded partnerships with other horse professionals, including Jim Masterson of The Masterson Method and Dr. Stephen Peters, co-author of the book Evidence Based Horsemanship (along with Martin Black).

Mark has likely forgotten more about horses than I will ever know, but I find it encouraging that even he sees the need to increase his own horse knowledge. It’s a good example for all horsemen to follow.

At the heart of all of his books is the improvement of the horse-human relationship. As someone who struggles with the mental/emotional aspects of riding, I am especially attracted to Mark’s emphasis on the importance of the horseman making internal changes.

“By internally focusing on what we’d like from our horses instead of what they are doing (if what they are doing is not what we want) we can not only draw our horses to us, but this focus can most certainly help in the development of things such as softness, willingness, and even effortlessness of movement.” – Mark Rashid

Mark Rashid writes a lot about how human thought processes and emotions can either create space for a horse to connect with us or create so much noise that the horse can’t hear us. He emphasizes that connecting with a horse is not so much something that we do to the horse, but rather something that we create space for the horse to do.

“Negative feedback loops between horse and rider can be disrupted by the rider letting go of what they don’t want, focusing on what they do want and then offering their horses direction towards that goal. Doing something as simple as this can, in turn, allow riders to get back in their bodies, center themselves, and ultimately create an internal reconnect.” – Mark Rashid

He also talks about the strengths and weaknesses that horses and humans each bring to the partnership. One of my favorite quotes in the book on this subject is

” . . . in general humans are not very good at connecting. Horses, on the other hand, are very good at it. Horses are also very good at finding openings. They can find openings in fences, in a rider’s intent, in someone’s lack of direction or judgment.” – Mark Rashid

I laughed when I read this. I have often thought that my horsemanship looks like swiss cheese. Lots of holes.

In conclusion, I think this book will appeal to a wide variety of horsemen. Whether you are brand-new to horses or have ridden for fifty years, I think everyone who is on a quest to be better with horses will find this book valuable. For the love of the horse, indeed.

Disclaimer: This post was unsolicited, but I do want to point out that my blog has an affiliate relationship with the book’s publisher, Trafalgar Square Books. If you click on the publisher’s link on this blog’s website and buy any materials through that link, this blog will receive a much-appreciated portion of your sales at no extra cost to you. Just click on the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse. You will see it on the right-hand side of your screen or at the bottom after scrolling down.

Ponying Piper

In a recent post, I wrote about adjusting to life after the death of my oldest horse, Bear. Part of that adjustment is working with my remaining two geldings on staying relaxed while separating.

For a change of pace, I also decided to experiment with ponying Piper while riding Shiloh.

Ponying is something I did on occasion with Bear and Shiloh. I wrote a couple of posts about it, Ponying My Painted Ponies and Ponying Onward. They made a colorful pair of ponies to pony.

Overall, I thought my first attempt at ponying Piper went well. For extra security, we stayed in my horses’ paddock area instead of venturing elsewhere.

Both horses remained calm. There were no dust ups. And all the cones I set out as markers were still standing upright by the time we were done.

At first, I had to do more with the lead rope to encourage Piper to come along with me and Shiloh. But Piper figured out pretty quickly that I was asking him to keep pace with Shiloh while positioning his head somewhere around my leg. Pretty soon I could leave the lead rope mostly slack and Piper just tagged along quietly.

In the photo below, all is good starting out. Here, my husband has just handed Piper off to me and positioned himself to take some photos. Piper is clearly super impressed. He cocks a back leg while we wait for my husband to get situated.

Next, you can see that Piper is still standing with that back leg cocked even as Shiloh and I proceed forward. Now the slack is gone from the rope.

It is a bit of an awkward start, but Piper finally gets the message that I would like him to follow along.

By the time we make a big circle and get back around to the same cone again, we are all moving along with more rhythm and relaxation.

You can see in the beginning photos that Shiloh inverts his head. He didn’t feel tight underneath me, but I think that inversion speaks to a certain level of tension. I imagine that Shiloh wondered how this experiment with Piper was going to go.

Piper is the dominate horse in the pasture. He also has the widest personal bubble of any horse I have had in my backyard to date. Shiloh normally likes to steer clear of him. I anticipated some hesitancy on Shiloh’s part regarding the ponying since it requires the horses to be fairly close to one another.

But Shiloh never tried to move out of Piper’s way, even when Piper made some ugly faces when I would turn Shiloh towards Piper in order to make our circles to the right. It was something I kept a close eye on, but the neck and head posturing from Piper faded as we went along. Pretty soon Shiloh was moving with his more typically relaxed posture.

We used the newly planted tree as a sort of large cone to circle around too. The tree also prefers a wide bubble of personal space so that horses can’t snatch at its leaves! I would like to get a more sightly fence constructed around it. For now, though, this hodge-podge temporary setup is doing the trick.

I find the coordination required to ride one horse quite challenging. So leading one horse while riding another takes me right up to the edge of my skill set. Still, it’s something kind of fun to experiment with from time to time. And it’s a way for me to do something with my two horses without leaving anyone behind in the paddock by themselves. All good fun and good practice.

Equioxx Users Take Note: New Generic Drug Approved!

“Firocoxib Tablets for Horses contain the same active ingredient (firocoxib) in the same concentration and dosage form as the approved brand name drug product, Equioxx Tablets, which was first approved on July 24, 2016.” – From the Federal Drug Administration website

Is your horse prescribed Equioxx? If so, you may want to ask your veterinarian about the newly FDA approved generic version. It cheaper than the name brand.

For those of you not aware, Equioxx is a NSAID used to treat pain and inflammation. I am familiar with the drug because my horse, Bear, took Equioxx for his arthritis symptoms.

Had he not recently passed away, I would have definitely asked my veterinarian about the possibility of switching to this generic version in order to save money.

In a post dated, 08/01/22, the Federal Drug Administration announced that it approved this generic version. You can read the announcement at

https://www.fda.gov/animal-veterinary/cvm-updates/fda-approves-first-generic-firocoxib-tablets-horses#

“Firocoxib Tablets for Horses” is made by PRN Pharmacal. You can visit their website at https://www.prnpharmacal.com/ to read about this and other products they offer.

Note that “Firocoxib Tables for Horses” is only available via prescription, just like Equioxx. And both medicines are manufactured in a 57mg pill. But, so far, I’ve only seen a 60 count bottle offered in the generic version (Equioxx comes in a 60 count and a 180 count version).

For an example of price comparison, a 60 count Equioxx bottle at Valley Vet Supply is listed at $96.99 while the Firocoxib Tables for Horses is $81.14. Makes for about a $15 savings per bottle.

Note that if you participate in the rebate program for Equioxx (see my previous post about that HERE), you may want to compare how the name-brand rebate program stacks up against the generic savings. But since not everyone bothers with rebate programs. And since rebate programs tend to come and go, knowing that there is a generic version available is valuable information.

Here’s a photo of the Firocoxib for Horses ad that I saw displayed in the October 2022 issue of Your Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care magazine.

This is all exciting news, if you ask me!

***Since the FDA is USA based, I am not yet aware of the drug’s availability elsewhere. International readers might want to inquire about the availability in their home countries.***

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. 🙂