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.

TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy
https://www.etsy.com/shop/TheBackYardHorseShop
Did you know that The Backyard Horse Blog has an Etsy shop? The shop offers horse-related printable PDF products. Now through November 30th, everything in the shop is 20% off. No coupon code required. With the sale, all products are now under five bucks! I will likely close this Etsy shop by the end of the year so get these printable items and ebooks while you still can!

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.

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. 🙂

Horse-Reading Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can The Fun Be In The Details?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Equestrian Blog Hop: 20 (very random) Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A lifetime supply of fly spray.

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

Ride in a Buck Brannaman clinic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What is your least favorite equestrian brand?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hmmm. Not sure. Have to skip this one.

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

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

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

  1. What is your favorite type of reins?

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

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

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

Barn Hack- Cat Litter Containers As Water Storage While Traveling

Barn Hack: Using Bed Sheet Cases to Organize

Barn Hack- Help For The Reluctant Hay Eater

Winter Barn Hack- Making Those Hand Warmers Last Longer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d like it to have an indoor arena!

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

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

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

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

Horse Health Updates

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding: Appreciating The 1% Bonus

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

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

Ange Bean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Product Review: Kerrits Ice Fil Gloves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Harrison Howard Fly Masks


Lavender Products For Your That Your Horse Might Like Too


Nibblenets


Tiger’s Tounge


Total Saddle Fit Shoulder Relief Cinch


Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup


Wahl Arco Cordless Trimmer

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

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

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

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From Bear, Shiloh and Piper- Happy Fourth of July

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Trail Ride Together

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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