Are You a Card-Carrying Member?

Are you a member of any equestrian organizations? Maybe a local saddle club? An international show organization or breed registry? What about 4H or pony club?

I have been a member of various horse organizations over the years. I never held office in one, but I contributed in other ways. I wrote newsletters articles. I planned a fun show. I brought donated items to club auctions. I baked snacks for meetings.

Being part of a horse organization is not exactly the work of say, a Mother Teresa, but it is a way to give back to your horse community of choice. Ideally, joining a club is one way to encourage and support your fellow equestrians while also reaping personal benefits. Maybe you want to meet other people who are aficionados of your favorite breed or discipline, gain the opportunity to win specific awards or make contacts to grow your horse-related business.

Of course, not all clubs function well. Some display really unhealthy interpersonal dynamics, making participation unattractive. Sometimes the club seems great from the outside, but once a member, we find it awkward to make friends or participate in activities. Sometimes we as members are much more interested in what we can get out of an organization rather than what we can put into it. Clubs can find it difficult to grow without contribution of members’ time or resources.

My own horse-related memberships have waxed and waned over the years. I have been that enthusiastic, active member. And truthfully? I have also been that floundering member who never contributes.

For 2021 so far, the only organization I have joined is the North American Western Dressage Association (NAWD) at


You may recall that this is the organization that sponsored the online horse show that I entered last Fall with my horse, Shiloh. North American Western Dressage hosts virtual shows throughout the year. If I can manage to find a better venue for filming than my own backyard with its small spaces and uneven footing, I would like to capture more tests on video and enter future shows.

So, do you belong to any equine organizations? Why or why not? Have you experienced a particular benefit of being a member? Or experienced problems? Let me know in the “Leave a Reply” comments section.

Obstacle Idea: Using Traffic Cone Bars

Traffic cone bars! Where have you been all my life? I had no clue until recently that they even existed. I stumbled upon them online and quickly acquired a pair.

I mentioned in previous posts my fondness for riding through obstacles. I love incorporating them in both riding and groundwork routines.

Unfortunately, the greatest difficulty for me in using obstacle is that I don’t have a riding arena. I have no place to set up obstacles and leave them. Instead, I set up a few items up periodically in my round pen or in a corner of a pasture. I have to use light weight, simple to maneuver items. Things that make for easy set up and take down. The traffic cone bars fit the bill!

Most of the ones I see advertised are adjustable in size, retractable from about 4 to 7 feet. Weighing around a pound, they seem made out of a light pvc-type plastic. At about $20 a piece, they are more expensive than I would like. If you do a lot of obstacle work like I do, though, the cost might be worth it to you.

I only have two cone bars at the moment. I can see that once my collection grows larger, they could be used to design all kinds of fun little mazes. Luckily even with just the two cone bars, I can set up little chutes. If you’ve never tried to ride through a narrow area or send your horse through a narrow area out ahead of you during groundwork, you might be surprised at what good practice this is.

Shiloh is mostly getting the Winter off from work, but I try to periodically climb on bareback just for fun. Anxious to try out my new toys, I set up four cones and the two cone bars to make a little squeeze chute to ride through during our most recent ride. It was sunny, but cold that day, so I decided just to stay in the horses’ paddock since I knew it would be a quick bareback ride due to the temperature.

After our ride, I figured Shiloh would return to eating from his hay bag under the run in shed. Instead, he walked over to the cone bars and proceeded to walk back and forth between them all by himself. Funny! He then amused himself by rearranging the cones and bars with his nose several times.

When I eventually started to drag the cone bars out of their paddock, Shiloh faced my direction and placed his two front hooves on his tire pedestal that is near one of the paddock exit gates. Apparently he wasn’t done with our play session just yet.

This Winter, we’ve been working on “saluting” with one hoof when he’s on the tire. I thought I’d place a cone bar in front of him and see if I could encourage him to tap the bar as he came down from the salute.

He actually did it very easily but ending up taking the cones with him on the set down. Ha! The cone bars survived the day’s horse play, but I don’t think they are solid enough to withstand being stepped on or chomped. I wouldn’t leave them out unsupervised with horses for this reason.

Even Bear decided to get in on the fun and repeatedly tap a nearby cone with his hoof while Shiloh was using the tire pedestal. I am pretty sure Bear remembers some of the work with cones we used to do together when he was ridden. We would ride up to an upright cone. Bear would hook one front hoof over the cone and pull it towards him so the cone was on its side. Then we would do a turn on the forehand to end up facing the other side of the cone. Bear would complete the maneuver by hooking the other front hoof on the edge of the cone to pull the cone upright once again.

I always thought he found doing that quite fun and thought himself very clever. I sometimes had trouble riding him away from the cone, because he kept wanting to play! I think the positive association with our bright orange cones remain in his memory even though he has been retired for about three plus years now. I unfortunately couldn’t find a full series of photos of him performing this trick from start to finish, but I did find a few snap shots that might help you better visualize it.

Long story short, I am very pleased with my cone bar purchase. They sure do make a fun addition to my pile of backyard obstacles. I hope to buy a few more this year and see how else I can incorporate them into my horse riding. If you would like to possess your very own cone bars, you can find them for sale at many hardware stores or Amazon.

Announcing The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest!

The Backyard Horse Blog is now officially one year old! Thank you to each individual who subscribes and takes the time to read. I so appreciate every post “like”, every comment and every social media share too.

After starting with a readership of zero, the blog now has 64 followers between its email subscribers and WordPress Readers. And the blog’s Pinterest page shows 39 followers. How cool is that!

To celebrate the blog’s journey, I am announcing another contest. This contest will work differently than our Summer 2020 contest. Hopefully the contest will also be more attractive to international readers (outside the USA) since one prize can be used by anyone with an internet connection (no shipping needed).

Read below for the contest rules and how to enter!

The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest!
Information and Rules

Contest Prizes: The contest will draw two random winners. Each winner will select one prize of their choice from these prize options:

(PRIZE OPTION #1) One online gift certificate to The Great British Equinery of Indiana worth $50.00 USD! Check out their product line at

*To see links to The Backyard Horse Blog product reviews written about products sold by Great British Equinery, go to


(PRIZE OPTION #2) One online gift certificate to Trafalgar Square Books, the leading publisher of equestrian books and DVD’s, worth $50 USD. Trafalgar Square Books, in addition to selling hardback and paperback books, offers books that can be read online or downloaded to your device. Visit them at

*Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate agreement with Trafalgar Square Books where the blog receives a percentage of book sales made when readers purchase books through the “horse books and videos” link displayed on the blog.

Contest Time Period: The contest will run from 1/29/21 starting at 12:01am and run until 2/18/21 at Midnight.

Method of Entry: The contest has a TWO-STEP entry process.

(STEP 1) Sign up to get The Backyard Horse Blog in your email inbox by filling out your email address in the “Follow” box on the right-hand side of the screen at If you are already an email subscriber, you’ve already completed this first step.

(STEP 2) After making sure you are an email subscriber, leave a comment in the “Leave A Reply” comment box below. Let me know one equine-related topic that you would like to see addressed in a future The Backyard Horse Blog post.

Winner Announcement: After the random drawing, the winner’s first names will be announced on The Backyard Horse Blog on 2/19/21. I will also contact each winner via the email address associated with the comment left on the blog. Each winner will have a week (seven days) to contact me via email at to select their prize or forfeit the prize entirely. So watch this blog and your email inbox carefully!

Any questions? Problems entering? Feel free to email me at

Thank you for reading The Backyard Horse Blog!

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Read our contest winner announcement here at

Horse Clipper Caper

My hopes for possessing a new set of cordless clippers are on hold. You may recall that I mourned the death of my Andis cordless clippers in a previous post at

Last Fall, I anxiously awaited the Cyber Monday shopping sales so I could snag a new clipper set at a discount. After reviewing one thousand websites, I decided to purchase cordless clippers from Wahl through an online tack shop. Unbeknownst to me at the time of my order, Wahl’s production has been severely limited during the COVID crisis. As of this date, I am still waiting for my clippers to ship.

“Thank you for your interest in Wahl. Due to COVID-19, we are experiencing substantial inventory shortages on hair clippers. Unfortunately, the virus has impacted our supply chain and our ability to produce at capacity. We hope that everyone is staying safe and staying home. Please check back periodically for inventory updates.”

From the Wahl website

If the delayed arrival of clippers is the worst thing that happens to me this year, I will be very fortunate indeed. My horses don’t really care if their bridle paths get trimmed, but I must say their overgrowths are starting to get distracting. While I don’t give my horses a full-bridle-path clip during Winter since they live outside 24/7, I do like to keep the area somewhat trimmed. Halters, grazing muzzles and bridles are less likely to come off if there’s a little bit of a depression behind their ears.

I still have my CORDED clippers so I strung up a long electric cord from house to the edge of the pasture to give the horses a quick hair cut. Apparently, I must not be meant to clip bridle paths as the corded set didn’t work correctly either. Shiloh’s “before” picture looks better than his “after” picture! Guess I’ll try mailing off the blades to get sharpened and see if that solves the issue. Otherwise, I might be looking at breaking out the scissors soon.

After the clipping debacle with Shiloh, I decided to leave Bear’s hair style (shown above) in tact.

Messy bridle paths or not, the horses still look beautiful to me.

Shout Out To Great British Equinery of Indiana!

Today I am giving a special shout out to Great British Equinery of Indiana!

I initially discovered them online and purchased two of their Harrison Howard Fly Masks in 2019. One of my first product reviews on this blog was of those masks. I had been using the masks for about a year when I completed the review. I knew I found a solid product that I felt comfortable recommending. I emailed Debbie, the business owner, a link to that post.

Great British Equinery went on to support this blog in 2020 by kindly providing free products for me to test and review. Below are the separate links to each of six review posts in case you missed them. Also check out the slideshow near the top of this post for product photos.

The Backyard Horse Blog marks its first birthday this month, January 2021. To celebrate, I will host another blog contest. Details are forthcoming in a future post. The contest fittingly incorporates Great British Equinery. It is a way to thank the business for their support through The Backyard Horse Blog’s first year.

As the business name implies, the Great British Equinery of Indiana is geared towards the English rider. It is a US based business featuring products from the UK. But their product line up includes plenty of items that any horse lover would want. Just because you don’t ride in an English saddle, don’t let that stop you from checking them out!

Head over to their webpage at where you will be greeted with the tag line “2021- Let’s lunge this one first.” 🙂 Don’t forget to sign up for their email newsletter so you can receive periodic announcements on sales, special offers and new products. You can also follow them on Facebook.

Stayed tuned for The Backyard Horse Blog’s upcoming contest announcement in a future post! You won’t want to miss it!

UPDATE: Go to to enter The Backyard Horse Blog Winter 2021 Contest. Hurry, last day to enter is 2/18/21.

2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey- Get your voice counted

If you are a horse/pony/mule/donkey owner in the USA, I highly encourage you to fill out the 2021 American Horse Publications Equine Industry Survey at

The information from the annual, anonymous survey is used to further the “understanding of the nationwide trends in the equine industry as well as the most important issues facing the industry” according to the American Horse Publications website. Survey answers help “gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry.”

There aren’t too many ways that I, as a backyard horse keeper, can let industry professionals know my demographics, what issues are important to me as a horse owner and some of my concerns about the horse world. Filling out this survey is one opportunity to get my voice counted.

The survey is open to anyone 18 years of age or over who currently owns or manages at least one horse and lives in the USA. Both professionals who make their living in the horse industry as well as every day horse people are needed. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes to complete. The last day to take the survey is March 30th, 2021.

American Horse Publications is a nonprofit association composed of horse organizations, companies and individuals who want to promote excellence in equine media. Filling out the survey is a great way to let the movers and shakers in the horse industry see who currently makes up the horse community. They want to know what issues are important to horse folks like you and me. Have your voice heard by completing the survey at

Don’t Forget About The Water

“Water is life’s matter and matrix, mother and medium. There is no life without water.”

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, M.D., Credited with discovering Vitamin C

Water is a vital source of life for plants and animals. Our four-legged steeds included. For all the emphasis we place on what to feed our horses, we often pay less attention to what they drink.

If your horse does not drink enough water at regular intervals, he or she will suffer ill-effects. Most horse owners are familiar with the classic description of a horse colicing due to dehydration. Yet symptoms of “not having enough water” can be more subtle too.

You may notice that a horse who is sick might change its water consumption. But even a healthy horse’s attempts to drink can be thwarted by many factors. How likely your horse is to drink/how much they drink can be affected by the water’s temperature, taste, cleanliness, freshness, smell and composition. Don’t forget that the condition of the bucket/trough can affect water quality as well.

I am not a horse nutritionist, veterinarian or H2O expert. Instead, I am a backyard horse keeper who has encountered some issues with my horses’ water over the years. I compose the issues in the form of questions below and include links to more expert sources than I for your reference. Hopefully the questions will spur your interest in further exploring these topics.

What exactly is in your horse’s water?

If you keep your horses at home, you might want to have your water tested. If you are aware of its mineral composition, you can use the testing to better inform your feeding program. For example, I live in a high iron area so I try to avoid ration balancers/grain with added iron. I also tend to put out white salt-only blocks instead of the red ones with added iron. See for one study about the potential dangers of too much iron in a horse’s diet. If you have concerns about your horse regarding this issue, please consult your veterinarian for guidance.

When was the last time you cleaned and/or replaced your horse’s water bucket or trough?

I can’t say for sure that my horses experience a dirty, slimy water trough with the same distain that I do. I do see on a regular basis, when given a choice of more than one water source, my horses will generally prefer to drink from a freshly scrubbed and filled trough over one sitting there with older water.

Remember that most horses don’t have the choice of more than one water source. They are forced to drink if they become thirsty enough, no matter if their water is unappetizing. I don’t know of any studies on this issue. I do suspect horses drink less in those situations than they would if provided with fresh, clean water from a clean container.

To get a really good sense of how clean your buckets and troughs are, do more than just look at the color of the water. Run your hands over the water containers’ sides and bottoms. Often clear slim quickly accumulates. You can’t see it, but you can sure feel it. Dip your fingers into the water to check for problems with the temperature (getting too hot after standing in the Summer sun or maybe electrical shorts caused by water heaters in Winter). Put your face closely over the bucket or trough periodically and notice if it smells putrid.

Remember to clean your water containers on a regular basis and replace them altogether periodically. I prefer some combination of a scrub brush, clean water, vinegar and baking soda to clean the 15 or 20 gallon round rubber tubs I typically use. I personally prefer to employ multiple smaller bins rather than one large trough. This way I waste less water (and create less mud) when they need to be drained/dumped.

How do you provide unfrozen water to your horses during Winter?

For those of us who keep horses in cold climates, a huge issue is dealing with freezing water in Winter. Power outages where water pumps stop working are also challenging. I use an electric bird water-fountain heater in a 15 gallon rubber tank. I run extension cords running from pasture to house as I have no electricity in my barn area.

Word to the wise, budget for increased electricity costs during Winter if you do use a tank heater. And as previously mentioned, dip your finger into the water periodically to check for shorts. Watch your horses when they head over to drink and see if they seem hesitant. Many years ago I noticed my horse, Blue, putting his head down to drink and then jerking back. When I touched the water, I felt a little zap. I would not have caught the issue so quickly had I not noticed Blue’s behavior.

I replaced all the extension cords as well as the tank heater to solve the problem. It is helpful to keep replacements directly on hand. Tank heaters and extension cords can be hard to obtain in the middle of inclement weather or a pandemic lockdown, for example.

Many folks have success using non-electric methods to heat their horse’s water, but I have not. I stick with using a trough heater even though I’d prefer a nonelectrified source to increase safety and decrease expense. Read the following informative article for some additional ideas at Perhaps you will find more success than I have in keeping your troughs from freezing over without a heater.

I also try to stay updated on the weather forcast. Severe cold snaps and ice storms have at times knocked out our power. I often choose to fill up a bathtub with water and/or some five gallons jugs ahead of weather events. I will then have a temporary water supply if the outside water pump stops working.

Is your horse able to easily access his water source?

Another issue to consider is the placement of your tanks, especially if you keep your horses outside 24/7 like I do. I never really thought much about this until my horse, Bear, experienced repeated laminitic flares and hoof abscesses several years ago. He was always a sensitive soled horse, but especially after those events, I noticed that if the ground became really hard frozen, he would not leave the area around his run-in-shed. This meant that he was not accessing his water tank located on the other side of his paddock from his shelter.

If we have a cold snap that results in those footing conditions, I have learned to make sure to hand walk a bucket of water out to Bear first thing in the morning and then several times a day. On some occasions, he has whinned at me when he sees me coming with the bucket and then drinks greedily. This confirms my observations that he doesn’t seem to be leaving his shed area to drink during those cold snaps.

Some folks might be able to simply move the tank so the horse could better access it, but the logistics of my set up don’t allow for that during Winter when I need to run electric cords for the tank heater. So I need to put out more physical effort into hauling water to make sure Bear stays drinking during those periods.

Would you like to do further reading on the subject of water and horses?

If so, below are additional resources. Feel free to dive right in. 🙂 Most come from website, one of the few health resources that my veterinarian’s practice regularly recommends for reliable information. A couple of these are sponsored posts, but I still think they contain sound and helpful material. Here’s to keeping our horses happily hydrated!

Developing Resilience So You Can Enjoy Your Horse Life

While surfing the internet, I came across the following online quiz from the Noëllefloyd website:

“Horses get hurt and our plans go out the window. We are limited by our bank accounts. We have an off day at a show and feel embarrassed. The ways that this sport and lifestyle challenge are innumerable . . . Have you ever asked yourself, honestly and truthfully, if you’re bringing a resilient mindset to the ring?”

Noëllefloyd website

This quote may be oriented to those who ride and show, but I think the general idea applies to anyone who is involved with horses in any capacity. Whether you ride or not. Whether you show or not. Whether you have your own horses or not.

As much as we love horses, sometimes equestrians have to dig deep not to drown in a sea of hurt and disappointment. That old backyard horse we have long cherished dies. That young horse holding so much promise goes permanently lame. The lease with a perfect partner comes to an end. The lesson barn closes. There are a thousand ways our horse lives can go dark when our desires do not match our reality.

Developing the capacity to pick ourselves up off the barn floor and carry on is vital to our longevity as horse people. Some of us come by this naturally, but many of us have to learn the skills involved in creating a resilient mind set.

Without those skills, we can easily let the hurts, the failures, the missed opportunities suck all the joy out of our horse experience. I know some people even leave the horse world behind because of them.

While the above referred quiz may not be scientific, it certainly can serve as a great contemplation starter. Horsemanship is not only about developing our physical skills but our mental skills as well.

If you’d like to further explore the topic of developing your mental fitness for all things horse, I highly recommend the book Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse by Tonya Johnston, MA.

Front Cover

I also really like the material designed by Barbra Schulte, Cowgirl Hall of Fame inductee, at She has lots of articles and videos on her website on the subject of mental fitness for horse people. You can also sign up there for her courses and clinics as well as her email newsletter. I particularly like her free “Just For Today- daily thoughts to bring out the best with you and your horse” emails.

“Sometimes I get discouraged when it seems like I’m not making progress or even going in the wrong direction!

But, today, I remember that no one person or no one event can ever diminish my love of what I do with my horse… or my desire to keep going.

No matter if my ride measured up to what I wanted… or not…
when I think about why I ride, it always puts everything back into perfect perspective, again.

I’m gonna’ keep reaching for more… for better or for worse.

I know I’ll keep improving in sometimes tiny steps… and, in tough times and good times, I’ll never lose sight of how fortunate I am.”

Barbra Schulte- From her Just For Today emails

Developing the skills to keep going despite tough times and to hold events in perspective can truly enhance our horse life. Growing in these areas is an ongoing process for me as it is for so many of us. Let’s try to keep this in mind. Let’s remember that we can encourage ourselves and each other to hang in there, whatever that may look like for each of us as individual horse people. Let’s use our thoughts, words and actions to build up ourselves and each other.

Barn Hack- How to Eliminate Winter Grooming Static

If you experience static while grooming your horse, wet the brush.

I wish this had occurred to me when I lived in a high desert town in Colorado. One of the area’s lovely amenities was extremely low humidity and a short, mild Winter. I’ve never done as much outdoor riding during Winter as I did when I lived there. Heaven!

Low humidity has very little downside for me. One notable exception is static. Previous to my move, I had only ridden or kept horses on the East coast or in the Midwest. Both humid climates where I rarely encountered static.

Imagine my shock when I went to groom my horse one Colorado Winter day, only to have Bear startle and jump. Being slow to realize what was happening, I tried two more times to brush him. Bear had the same reaction.

Bear is naturally a twitchy, nervous, high energy kind of guy. His strong reaction wasn’t entirely out of character. I figured he was just having a bad day. On about the third grooming try, I felt a spark. I finally realized I must have been shocking him with every stroke.

The only thing that I new stopped static? Dryer sheets. We lived in a small rental with attached pasture. I was a backyard horse keeper in Colorado too. I quickly marched into the house’s laundry room and grabbed a box. I went back outside to stroke my now wide-eyed horse with the dry sheets until we both relaxed.

I was reminded of this incident while recently reading an article in the January/February 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine, “Fuzzy Wuzzy Winter Spa Day” by Elizabeth Moyer. Moyer writes about ways to cut Winter grooming static including using a grooming spray/conditioner or wetting the grooming tools. Genius!

Fortunately for Bear, static wasn’t an everyday occurrence in Colorado. But it happened often enough that I could have saved money/eliminated dryer-sheet waste had this tip been on my radar.

So if you ever encounter a similar situation, just remember to lightly wet the bottom of your grooming tools to eliminate that static (an unfrozen spritz bottle of water or a damp cloth can both do the trick).

*Thank you to photographer, Chris Bair, and Unsplash for the use of this post’s featured photo.

Found a Bump or Lump on Your Horse- Now What?

While combing through boards on Pinterest, I was reminded about an informative magazine article titled “Your Horse’s Lumps and Bumps”. Written by the well-known veterinarian, Barb B Crabbe, it is an easy and concise read that contains lots of information for your average horseman.

Some lumps and bumps are merely cosmetic while others can indicate deeper problems. The article teaches readers how to assess the bumps/lumps before calling the veterinarian (so you have some specific information to give the vet to help triage the situation). It then goes on to describe common equine bumps/lumps and what they might mean for your horse.

Pictured above is my first horse, Blue, in 2011 when he was nineteen. I originally bought him when he was nine. At that time, the only leg lump he had was a popped splint. He eventually developed multiple leg bumps on front and back legs in his late teens. The above photo and the photo below were both taken in the year 2011, just a few months apart. The bumps initially were quite small, developing over several years, but really progressed in size in 2011.

When I first noticed them, I called them “old man bumps.” I figured they were a result of old age and probably harmless. I later went on to learn that the bumps were most likely symptoms of arthritis and causing Blue pain to some degree. It took the input of a veterinarian, a body worker and a horse trainer for me to come to this realization.

I feel bad that I didn’t more quickly pick up on the seriousness of something that in hindsight seems obvious to me. I was young enough that I didn’t yet have any experience with the difficulty of coping with arthritis in my own body. And while I had been a horse owner for almost ten years by then, I didn’t pick up on lameness signs when I watched him move or rode him. He continued to be cooperative under saddle and was not classically lame, but he gradually started tripping more and more when ridden. Once I put all the pieces together, I made the decision to retire him from riding on September 1st, 2011. Blue remained pasture sound until his death a couple years later from unrelated causes.

Some conditions develop so slowly that it is actually hard for us who see our horses daily to notice them. Sometimes these things are more easily seen by someone who visits our horses only at intervals like a farrier or veterinarian. Even a horse savvy friend or family member might realize something is bothering your horse before you do.

It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes we are so close to a situation that we don’t realize how much our horses have changed (both positively or negatively). It is a great reason to involve more than just yourself in your horse’s care, especially if you are your horse’s only caretaker. Keep an open mind when someone makes a comment about your horse before dismissing something out of hand. Even if it doesn’t match your own narrative. There might be something in there for you to learn.

Below is the link to the article “Your Horse’s Lumps and Bumps” as well as its Pinterest pin. It doesn’t specifically cover the issue that Blue developed, but it touches on ten other lump/bump scenarios. It is an easy and informative article that can help all of us be more informed about horse health issues. When we know better, we have the potential to do better.

A Blast From The Past

This model horse photo is proof that everything really can live forever on the internet. If you have a minute, let me tell you the story.

When I first got internet service at home in the late 90’s, I was thrilled to see all the model horse activity taking place online. I participated in the model horse hobby as a child and then picked the hobby back up in my twenties. I wasn’t riding any live horses at that time, but horses were never far from my thoughts. Model horses were a perfect bridge to all things equine for that stage of my life cerca 1998 or so.

I loved researching and collecting model horses. I also loved photo showing and live showing. In the year 2000, I even attended Breyerfest, a huge yearly celebration of all things model horse that takes place at The Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

I was never very good at making model horse tack, but I had some success making obstacles and photo backgrounds for model horse showing. I had an awesome camera at that time that allowed for taking really good pictures. It was so much fun setting up performance classes and capturing those scenes on film.

While browsing the internet recently, I came across this 2001 web page from Cindy Cilker, aka The Mini Tack Girl. Cindy used to make a variety of model horse tack. I was shocked to see my name and quote still on her site.

Mary Lynne Carpenter reports: “Thanks so much for the awesome mini parade set you made for my custom Morgan model stallion, Justin The Nick Of Time, back in November. The set with the stallion had its first show debut at the Great Lakes Congress show along with a parade flag and a mini rider I had painted to match the flag. In the mini division, they were the only parade entry and so took first and NAN qualified. Out of the entire mini other performance division, however, they took reserve champion of the division. I had many compliments on the set. Thanks so much!”

Quoted from

The website also includes a quote from Megan, the person that I eventually sold Justin The Nick of Time to as well as his parade tack set.

Then Megan, of Still Water Farms wrote in October 2001: “I purchased the parade set from Mary Lynne Carpenter (w/ her Morgan SM CM by Pope). He came w/ photos, NAN cards, and awards. I have not had a chance to show him live yet (I just got him this summer) but am planning to soon. I have won several photo show championships w/ your costume and have had a couple people ask me to buy it.”

Quoted from

My first thought when I saw the picture of Justin The Nick of Time on the web page was why in the world did I sell that really nice model horse and tack set?!? Then it hit me. The year that I sold the model was 2001. That was also the same year I bought my first horse, Blue.

The model horse hobby can be quite expensive, and I recall that I couldn’t afford to maintain my model horse collection AND support a live horse. So I sadly sold off my beloved model horse string and everything related during my search for Blue. I still miss those models to this day, but their sale allowed me to live out my dream of finally having a live horse of my own.

I am not currently involved in the model horse world, but I like to read updates and keep tabs on the hobby from afar. For example, I really enjoy following the blog “Kristian Beverly: Books. Horses. Plastic Ponies” at

The author is an equestrian as well as a model horse hobbyist. She takes beautiful pictures and likes setting up those performance shots as I once did (see . If you are interested in model horses, please check out her blog.

The world of model horse has its own history, lingo, rules, etc . . . It can be a little overwhelming to the uninitiated. But if you have a background with live horses, you will catch on quickly. It really is a fun, interesting hobby with some many different facets.

If you are not familiar with the model horse hobby at all, you might also want to read the following model horse primer at This link is out of the UK, but the information it contains generally applies to the hobby in the USA too.

Finally, if you want to click through some model horse pictures, go to The Backyard Horse Blog Pinterest page and view the Model Horse board at

So many beautiful horses and engaging performance scene set ups to see. The talent that is out there in the model horse world is amazing.

And remember, for better or worse, everything really can live forever on the internet.

Tale of A Horse Care Fail

Have you ever fed your horse a flashlight?

If not, you may be wondering exactly how does this happen. Let me tell you the tale.

I carry a flashlight every morning when I walk from my house to the barn for morning feed. I like to feed before the sun comes up, but there is no electricity in my barn. It stopped working years ago and is too expensive to repair. I need the flashlight to move around from point A to B.

If you are thinking that most horses do not seem to like flash lights, I am right there with you. Anytime I get a new horse or take on a foster horse, I notice a period of adjustment. It takes awhile for the horse to realize that the emanating light is not as scary as it looks. On a horse training note, it is probably a good skill for a horse to have in case of nighttime emergency situations.

Bear, who has been with me for over 15 years, is a flashlight professional at this point. Good thing, too. He is the horse to whom I inadvertently tried to feed the flashlight.

The lights I carry are of the small variety, about the thickness of the average carrot. You can see where I am going with this.

I usually carry a bite size snack of some sort to feed the horses under the fence as a morning greeting before I actually reach the barn. One day I had a lot on my mind as I said hello to Bear. I handed him his piece of carrot snack without really paying much attention as I turned towards the barn.

I thought I still had the flashlight in my hand but noticed that everything was dark. I couldn’t see where I was going. How had I turned it off? I kept tapping the end of the flashlight with my thumb. Still no light. I stumbled my way to the barn door. Then it dawned on me that the flashlight felt funny in my hand. I suddenly realized I now held only a carrot. My heart rose into my throat.

I quickly turned back towards Bear. I had a passing thought about how I was going to explain this to my vet who I’d surely be calling tout de suite.

Now facing the pasture, I saw only a beam of light on the ground coming straight out from between Bear’s two front hooves. The light was directed right at me. It remains the only time a horse has ever held a flashlight on me instead of vice versa.

Fortunately for Bear, he obviously had the good sense to not chomp on the flashlight. More surprisingly, he was unconcerned about standing over this beam of light. He was perfectly poised with his horse face lit up from underneath. I suspect Bear’s primary thought was that he had just missed his usual morning snack. Bear looked quite confident that I would be producing an edible treat soon enough. Bless him.

While some horse care fails are much more serious, I must say that sometimes all I can do is laugh at my inept moments. And I suspect I am not the only one laughing. I have long thought that horses possess a sense of humor that usually remains unrecognized as we go about riding and caring for them. I like to think of my horses chuckling at and with me, finding humor in the things they witness from their side of the fence.

If you would like to hear “Tale of A Horse Care Fail” in the form of a Podcast, please go to

Winter Barn Hack- Making Those Hand Warmers Last Longer

As a backyard horse keeper, I find Winter horse care is the hardest part of the lifestyle.

Polar vortex. Blizzard. Ice storm. Mud in both its soft and frozen varieties. No matter the conditions, my horses still want to be fed, watered and otherwise attended to.

I can usually cover my body well-enough to stay warm for up to an hour of barn chores, even in sub zero conditions. I am less successful at keeping my hands from aching in the cold.

Like many folks, I make periodic use of disposable hand warmers during the worst periods of Winter weather.

If you open up a pair and then just leave them out, the heat will disappear in about 10 hours. But if you open them, use them for your purposes and then tightly store them in a ziplock-type bag, you can take them out later and reuse them!

I roll mine up very tightly, pressing out all the air. This won’t work if you simply casually place them in the bag. The key is to take all the surrounding air out of the bag to “shut down” the heat reaction until you take them out of the bag and expose them to oxygen again.

Using this storage method, I have had success reusing one pair of hand-warmers three times a day for an hour each time over the course of two straight days. I have also used the hand warmers one time, stored them and then reused them several days later.

Storing them in a ziplock lock bag between uses helps save money since you won’t have to buy as many hand warmers as you would if you didn’t extend their use. And buying fewer disposable hand warmers means fewer ending up in landfills (make sure to reuse those ziplock bags too).

How do you keep your hands warm during Winter? Do you have a favorite glove or a particular liner that works for you? Use the comments section to pass on your wisdom to those of us who would like to know!

Are You Your Horse’s Limiting Factor?

Are you your horse’s limiting factor? Do you find yourself immediately feeling defensive upon thinking about this saucy question?

If you can stay with me here, through the uncomfortable feelings raised by this thought, I can show you that there are actually benefits to asking yourself this question.

As a backyard horse keeper, I don’t usually see other people ride my horses. When I take riding lessons during the Winter, though, I get to watch other people ride the same lesson horses that I do. It is absolutely fascinating to watch how a horse goes differently depending upon the rider.

When I read the following essay, a lot of what I was thinking about my riding lessons hit home. “This Explains A Lot” by Kathleen Beckham appeared in the January/February 2020 issue of Eclectic Horseman. The essay discusses how horses tend to rise or fall to the level of their rider.

“A horse can’t do better than what we can do. He can’t surpass our ability. We are his limiting factor.” – Kathleen Beckham

When I watch the lesson horses respond to different riders, I can see clearly what Beckham describes. The horse that I see walk-trot-canter beautifully with the advanced rider? That same horse can barely move in a straight line along the rail at a walk with the beginner rider.

Did the horse suddenly lose all his training between lessons? Nope. The horse was mirroring the skill of each person.

This issue of a horse “seeking the level of its rider” is terribly humbling. Believe me, I know. That horse who the advanced rider guides around seamlessly? Doing a riding pattern with me in the saddle, that same horse misses gait transitions at the proper letters, performs uneven circles and struggles with picking up a particular lead.

It is not that the horse can’t do the pattern accurately. It is that I am not giving the horse what he needs to perform to his maximum ability. I am the horse’s limiting factor.

Fortunately, most horses are incredibly forgiving. Everywhere I’ve gone in the horse world, across multiple disciplines, I see horses who seem very happy when ridden by folks who aren’t wizards in the saddle. I personally think most of us can be “good enough” riders and horsemen for our horses. A lot of it has to do with making a positive personality match between horse and rider as well as engaging in a discipline that is suited to both.

I suspect the author’s point in making her provocative statements is not to shame less talented riders. There is already a lot of competition and finger pointing in the horse world that can result in discouragement. Our horses don’t benefit from being heavily saddled with rider self-doubt. There is a balance between honestly acknowledging where you are at with your riding and yet not allowing any self-disappointment to turn you into a hesitant rider who leaves the horse without direction.

The author wasn’t writing those ideas as another means for riders to beat themselves up, but rather as a means to motivate riders to seek improvement. Seek improvement, if for no other reason than the good of the horse, particularly in the situation where the rider is continually having problems with their horse.

The author notes that so often horses get blamed for poor behavior or performance that actually originates with the rider ( editor’s note here- “misbehavior” can also be the result of the horse trying to express that they are in physical or emotional distress, but that is the subject of another essay).

“I want you to take lessons or to learn more so your horse does not have to bear the brunt of your frustration. He is doing the best he can with the information you’re providing. I want you to provide good information. And I’m here to tell you that everyone, read that, EVERYONE can improve themselves for their horse.”- Kathleen Beckham

The light at the end of the tunnel is that when we can improve ourselves, the horse can reflect that improvement. Maybe we gain better understanding of how horses communicate. Maybe we learn to manage our nerves. Maybe we gradually refine our aids through the various movements. In all those cases and more, we give the horse the opportunity to rise along with us.

This is an exciting notion that keeps me wanting to learn, both for my own horses and for any horse whose back I am lucky enough to sit. It starts with asking ourselves some hard questions, but not dwelling there in a sea of bad feelings.

Let’s acknowledge our faults as riders, without excuses or self-pity, and then figure out how to improve. This is a life long goal for many of us so be ready to exercise patience. Lots of it. As Kathleen Beckham’s essay title notes, a horse’s reaction to the rider really does explain a lot.

**** If you would like to read Kathleen Beckham’s essay for yourself, you can purchase the magazine issue in which it appears as a digital download PDF for $5.99 at I recognize that the above interpretation of Beckham’s essay is mine alone and may not match her own views.

The Year 2020 Vs. The Bucket List

Last Winter season, during February 2020, I sent out a post titled “What is on Your Equestrian Bucket List?”. Read the original post at

As someone whose life has taken a number of unexpected twists and turns, I am slowly learning to not attach my sense of happiness to particular outcomes. What happens when I’m TOO hooked on an imagined ending and then arrive at a different real-life ending? This scenario often leads to my getting stuck in a lot of self-recrimination and regret if I don’t hit the exact target. On the other hand, I am pretty goal oriented. I do like to have things to strive for.

I now try to maintain a better balance regarding my drive to meet certain goals. I want to orchestrate them as a guide to help orient me to the general direction of my life, remembering to enjoy the ride along the way, without getting super narrow about the exact destination. The following quote summaries this outlook.

“It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end.”

Ursula K. Leguin

So when I started this blog in January 2020, I chose not to include a list of specific resolutions tied to 2020. Instead, I included a bucket list of things with no particular time frame for completion. I did end up doing one of the six listed items in 2020. I rode in a couple of walk-trot classes at a “lesson horse only” schooling show earlier this month. But since I’d like to eventually take Shiloh to a local show, too, I am leaving horse showing on my bucket list for future use.

Considering how the pandemic narrowed options for most of us, I feel fortunate to have stayed healthy and stayed regularly in the saddle in 2020 even without completing more bucket list items. I find it interesting that at the end of 2019, I remember really looking forward to 2020. Here’s a quote from my original bucket list post

“… 2020 seems like a great year to try something new or reach for a long-held goal. Those round, even numbers just roll off the tongue when you say them. The numbers call to me somehow. It’s like 2020 wants to be featured prominently as part of my life story.”

As it turns out, 2020 was a difficult year to navigate with the pandemic. Watching people absorb change and loss on a mass scale is daunting. The death toll is enormous. The changes to the economy have real-life repercussions.

Against this backdrop, 2020 on the whole was oddly a good year for me personally for a few reasons:

-My husband no longer works in a different State (read this post if you want the skinny on that story).

– I finally started to make some good riding progress with Shiloh and also completed ten trailer trips off the property.

-Bear, at twenty-five years old with PPID, EMS and arthritis, had a remarkably good year. No emergency vet visits for him in a little over two years now.

So, long story short, my equestrian bucket list still stands as is:

*Ride in a parade
*Ride in a horse fair/expo demo
*Try a “new to me” discipline like maybe endurance riding, mounted archery or jousting
*Adopt another horse
*Work cattle from horseback again
*Ride in a horse show again

Life is both precious and precarious, whether during a pandemic or not. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. And yet some future consideration is warranted in case we do stick around longer than today. May we all learn to find that ideal balance of living fully in each moment today while working towards tomorrow’s goals.

Fun and Festive Horse Craft for Winter!

Some folks might see peppermints as mainly a holiday candy. I see them as fair game for the entire Winter season.

Peppermints just look so inviting and outright happy to me. I can’t help but crack a smile when I see a peppermint.

Not only are they tasty for both horse and human, but their shape, texture and fun coloring lend themselves to many cooking and craft uses.

While scrolling through Pinterest, I came across this pin at and later added it to The Backyard Horse Blog Pinterest “Horse Crafts” Board at

I put an equestrian spin on the idea by using a horsey cookie-cutter to make the craft.

While the peppermint horse would certainly look nice on a holiday tree, its potential goes beyond ornament status. You could also use it to decorate the outside of a cookie tin. Another option is to tie it to a present. Either way you have an additional fun and edible gift for all those human and horse Winter birthdays.

Don’t forget that the red color lends itself well to Valentine’s Day. And you could use those green peppermints for St. Patrick’s Day too.

According to the original Pinterest Pin instructions, you will need peppermint candies (I used Starlight mints), metal cookie cutters, nonstick cooking spray (I used a canola oil spray) and parchment paper. You preheat the oven to 350º F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spray the insides of your metal cookie cutters with cooking spray. Arrange peppermint candies inside the cookie cutters. Cook them for about 6 to 8 minutes. Take them out to briefly cool. Poke holes at their tops to later add hanging string. Last but not least, pop them out of the cookie cutters.

I followed the instructions closely, but I did run into a couple of glitches. For example, I needed to add more candies than shown in the photos. With my horse cookie-cutter, I ended up using 13 candies and stacking some of them to better fill out the head and legs. The saying “no hoof no horse” applies to this craft.

I also had problems with the candies melting out from under the cookie cutters. This resulted in a blob, not a horse. And I found it tricky to pop out the candy from the cookie cutter without destroying the horse. I broke several necks and snapped more than one limb.

My hints to avoid similar candy carnage? Make sure your metal cookie-cutters lie flat on the cookie pan. Use cookies pans that aren’t warped. Consider using a glass Pyrex dish to put over the top of the cookie-cutters to tamp them down flat (and then be prepared to cook the peppermints about twice as long as the original recipe). Go very slowly while removing them from the cutters, using gentle and even pressure to pry the horses loose.

If you do end up with any broken pieces, never fear. Remember that they can still be eaten by you, your horse or dropped into a cup of hot cocoa. Yum.

So do you have any Winter craft ideas for creating home-made equestrian gifts or decor?

***Please note today’s post will be my only blog post this week. After celebrating the reason for the Christmas season, next week I plan to resume my typical 3X a week posting schedule. ***

“Every time a person writes, for the public or not, he or she is connected to all who have ever felt that magnificent charge of communication through the written word- whether carved in ancient hieroglyphics or glowing in code across our computers… there will always be the brilliant conspiracy between author and reader.” – Betsy Lerner in The Forest For The Trees

This quote from the book, The Forest For The Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, anchors the written work across time and space. If a writer chooses to share their thoughts, the writing lives a life of its own beyond the author. It becomes part of the reader too. In the best case scenario, the writer’s words leave an impact, giving the reader something of value to take with them when they close the book or power down the screen (or leave the Egyptian temple in the case of reading hieroglyphics?).

Maybe the reader finds a moment of release through entertainment. Maybe a parcel of information they can apply to their own lives. Maybe the inspiration to think about an issue from a different perspective. Maybe the motivation to try something new. To me, this must be part of that “brilliant conspiracy between author and reader” that Betsy Lerner described. I hope that The Backyard Horse Blog has entertained, informed or inspired you, the readers, at some point this year.

In preparation for 2021, I finished The Backyard Horse Blog website update. I still have a few future tweaks in mind, but the main changes stand complete. I felt some frustration, but the process went much better than I anticipated. The blog did not explode. I did not cry even once. I have to say I am impressed with the use of the blog hosting program, WordPress, for a non-techie like me.

If you receive The Backyard Horse Blog posts via email and don’t typically visit the website to read the posts, please head on over to

Take a look at the new set up. Click through the site. My backyard horses encourage you to have some fun and run with it!

Further Banter About The Canter

A brief December warm up in my area has come to an end. I am thinking that my at-home riding is pretty much done for Winter, save for the occasional bareback stroll perhaps.

In late 2019, I had some footing installed in my roundpen that allows me to get in more rides at home than I did when the footing was just grass. Still, it’s no substitute for an indoor arena as protection against wicked Winter weather. Instead, I am starting to think about my potential 2021 goals for Shiloh, particularly in regard to the canter.

I had been hoping to add the canter to our riding repertoire this year. Back in the Fall with Winter approaching, I decided to dispense with cantering on the longe and give it a try mounted. I first mentioned my canter plans in the “Banter About The Canter” post at Since then, we have practiced canter transitions a hand full of times with varying degrees of success.

Shiloh seems to understand what I am asking and also seems happy to give it a go. We can usually now get maybe eight canter strides or so going to the right. But in the other direction, I feel like he is trying to organize himself for the canter but can’t quite make it happen.

We both kind of get out of position during the attempted transition in the difficult direction to the left, and Shiloh ends up moving into a hard pace rather than canter. I’ve been very pleased that we’ve mostly moved away from pacing at the walk and at the intermediate gait. But the pace still pops out at times during moments of physical/mental tension. In the pictures below, you can see the difference in our way of going to the left and right just after I ask for the canter.

We may be at the point where we need some additional support to further our canter work. I have already started resuming Winter riding lessons on lesson horses at a nearby barn so I should get some good cantering practice this Winter in an aim to improve my position/feel/timing apart from Shiloh.

Adding Shiloh back into the mix, I’m making a list of possible interventions at home such as asking a professional to throw a leg over Shiloh a few times or maybe arranging some chiropractic or massage sessions.

Back in the day, there were times with Bear that I found some combination of the above interventions helpful to our progress.

For example, I remember struggling during a multi-day clinic to get even one step of sidepass from Bear. The clinician eventually asked me to dismount so he could mount up. Within about five minutes, he had Bear sidepassing. I wasn’t able to get the concept across to Bear, but the clinician was, and I was then able to continue from there. It was a quick intervention that saved Bear and I grief.

Likewise with chiropractic and body work. I found that regular chiropractic work as he aged helped Bear pick up his left lead canter so much more easily than without it. Here we are during a lesson from a reining instructor in Colorado. No, we weren’t reiners, but boy do those reining folks canter A LOT, so it was a great opportunity to practice work at that gait.

It was never that Bear couldn’t or wouldn’t do those movements. Rather, I wasn’t giving him the tools that he needed. He needed more support than I could give him alone, so I sought outside help.

It is disappointing and frustrating not being the kind of effective rider that I’d otherwise like. This is an unfortunate reality for many of us who are horse enthusiasts. Sometimes our skills and talents fall considerably below our level of riding passion and ambition.

I don’t ride as effectively as I would like, but I can put in effort to improve, recognize my limitations and seek help at points along the way. To that end, I came across an article about a week ago. It has some really interesting insights about the canter.

The article is by Jec Aristotle Ballou, author of 101 Dressage Exercises fame. I mentioned her in my previous post describing the “equine pole straddling” exercise. Jec is definitely one of my favorite horse training/riding authors. I’m including the “Benefits to Cantering Your Horse” link here in case you’d like to read it:

The article gives me great food for thought as I make plans for, Lord willing, more cantering with Shiloh in 2021!

What to do on a warm winter day?

How about some groundwork play with ponies?

Last week, I took advantage of a brief warm snap to ride, do some property maintenance and play around with my horses on the ground.

In his retirement, Bear mostly likes to spend his time walking between hay piles.

Sometimes, though, Bear still likes to show off his groundwork moves in exchange for a treat or two. Without my asking, he will prop himself up on one of the two tire pedestals that is in the horses’ paddock. Then he might go through his little repertoire of “salutes” or “bows” with my giving him a treat after each maneuver.

Shiloh will see what is going on and usually come on over to get in on the action. He’s always up for treats.

A “new to me” groundwork exercise that I just started playing around with is the “stand your horse lengthwise over a pole”. I got the idea from the blog, Equine Ink, in a post that referenced an article in the Canadian Horse Journal at

Here is a video on Facebook of the exercise:

The article and video are by Jec Aristotle Ballou of 101 Dressage Exercises and 101 Western Dressage Exercises fame. Definitely one of my favorite horse training authors.

I’ll let the article link and the Facebook video link above tell you about the exercise, but in my practicing it with Shiloh, I will say that I was impressed with the challenge.

Shiloh did manage to straddle the pole with two front hooves but was very careful to keep both hind hooves on the right side of the pole. No straddling of back hooves for him just yet. I could see Shiloh carefully thinking through the placement of his hooves and immediately recognized the potential benefits of the exercise that the article described.

A lot of Jec’s exercises are like that pole straddling. Super quiet and low key. Easy to set up. And yet with surprisingly deep benefits for the horse. It’s definitely something I can easily play around with over Winter while I’m not riding much at home. I haven’t practiced pole straddling with Bear yet, but it is on my Winter to do list. I’ll have to see if I can snap a photo of one or both horses with all four hooves straddling the pole!


My senior backyard horse, Bear, has been prescribed Prascend and Equioxx for over three years now. Prascend addresses the symptoms of PPID (Pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction or Cushing’s Disease). Equioxx is a pain reliever that helps mitigate discomfort caused by Bear’s arthritis symptoms.

While both medications seem to work well for him, they are painfully expensive for me to purchase. I pretty much wince every time I ask for a refill.

Fortunately, the company that sells both these prescribed products has offered rebates for several years now. I certainly hope they continue to do so. The rebates are a balm to my budget, especially when I purchase the larger quantity boxes/bottles to get the best price per pill.

The company that offers the Prascend and Equioxx rebates also issues them for Gastroguard and Ulcerguard. I have never used the latter two products, but if I had to, I would want to take advantage of those rebates too.

Go to for all the details and to fill out the rebate forms online. Please note that you must first purchase the prescribed medications from your veterinarian before you can apply for the rebate offers.

Review- Face Mask Coverlet (Snowflake Horse Winter Holiday Design) by The Painting Pony

If there is something that equestrians face constantly, it is risk. I weigh risk at the barn on a daily basis. Every time I am with my horses on the ground. Every time I put a foot in the stirrup. As horsemen, we assess the risks of interacting with our horses and implement appropriate safety measures. We also deal with the very real outcomes of our safety decisions. As a backyard horse keeper, this is something I do on a daily basis, multiple times a day.

There are no guarantees of absolute safety in working with horses. We try to make smart decisions while going about our daily horse lives. We want to continue to do what we love.

Weighing the risk of contracting the Corona virus (or unwittingly being a silent carrier and passing it on to others) is not dissimilar to me. I make adjustments to when- how much- at what distance I interact with others in an effort to mitigate risk while still living my life. Even though a vaccine is on the horizon, it looks like mask-wearing to lower the spread of the virus will be recommended by health officials for the foreseeable future.

If you are looking for a mask specifically for Winter, check out the Snowflake Horse Winter Holiday Face Mask Coverlet by The Painting Pony.

When I first saw it online, the beautiful design and bright colors (red or blue) caught my eye. When I read that it contained a pocket to add a disposable earloop mask, I knew I had to order one. What a great idea! While the mask may be touted as a holiday mask, I think the universal Winter design will make it appropriate for wearing until Spring.

I recently wore the coverlet with disposable mask to a group riding lesson and to a schooling show. I wore the combination in the barns but also took the mask off to ride. I was able to take the mask off easily even while wearing my riding helmet. The coverlet was comfortable to wear and stayed in place well. Having two earloops did not irritate the skin on the backs of my ears. While the combination of a coverlet and disposable mask might be a bit too much cover in the heat of Summer, it works for Winter.

The 100% polyester mask coverlet, size 7″ x 3.5″ is machine washable. Please note that it does not come with a disposable face mask. You provide your own. While there are certainly cheaper masks available, the lovely design and the coverlet feature made it worth the price to me.

Go to to order. While the coverlet is the only item I have ordered from The Painting Pony, I wouldn’t mind having many of the other items I saw advertised on their site. Looks like a great place to buy all sorts of fun and attractive horse-themed items!

**** Please note this review was unsolicited and uncompensated by The Painting Pony. 🙂

Can’t Ride During Winter? Six Ideas For What To Do Instead

Is your riding season winding down? Depending upon where you live, you might be experiencing the start of Winter just like I am. Without an indoor arena to protect from wind, cold and snow, I find it painful to ride at home in Winter. I might enjoy the occasional ride on an unusually warm and dry day, but any hope of regular riding at home is dashed.

Very soon I will most likely have my final backyard ride of the year. I’ve already been making my annual Winter transition to taking lessons at a nearby barn on their lesson horses. I even recently participated in a lesson-horse-only schooling show.

I enjoy my lessons and learn so much. They definitely make me a better rider. But sometimes my budget, holiday schedules, polar vortexes, six-foot snows or a pandemic interfere with those riding plans too. Over the years, I have had many a Winter where I didn’t ride for weeks or months at a time.

If like me, you find it incredibly depressing to have your riding plans sidelined every Winter, read my recent guest-post on The Savvy Horsewoman Blog titled “What to Do If You Can’t Ride in The Wintertime.” Just click the link below for six ideas on what to do instead. While there’s no exact substitute for time in the saddle, there are ways to keep moving forward in our horsemanship journeys even when we can’t ride much or at all.

Movin’ on Up: The Backyard Horse Blog gets its own website

When I started this blog in January 2020, I decided to use a WordPress-hosted, free site at I wasn’t really sure if I’d take to blogging so a free site seemed a harmless way to test the waters.

After almost a year of blogging, I recently got an invitation to host an affiliate link for Trafalgar Square Publishing’s HorseandRiderbooks website. Affiliate links allow the hosting website to earn money every time a reader purchases an item after clicking on the affiliate link.

Horses and reading are high on my “favorites” list. I knew I had to take advantage of this hosting invitation, but there was a problem. My free site didn’t seem to allow me to post affiliate links. At the same time, I balked at the price of purchasing a self-hosted website that would allow me to display them. I had a dilemma on my hands.

Lo and behold, within days of learning about the affiliate opportunity, I received an email offer for a substantial discount on the price of a self-hosted website. Talk about kismet. Now The Backyard Horse Blog has evolved into having its very own web address at

And here is The Backyard Horse Blog’s very own affiliate link to HorseandRider Books:

The Backyard Horse Blog can now earn money every time a reader clicks on the affiliate link and purchases an item. I enjoy making money. My backyard horses enjoy when I take said money and purchase treats for them. It all comes full circle, right?

My first improvement to the website was adding a Pinterest sharing link to the bottom of each post. Pinterest is so far the only social media platform where I participate. I am excited to have readers now be able to share content with Pinterest via one simple button click.

I have further website improvements in mind, but the structural process of upgrading the blog is new to me. And a little scary. I will be taking the month of December to learn about the new features available to me as I make changes to the blog website.

I still plan to post blog content this month, but if the blog momentarily goes dark or you notice some inconsistencies, please see them as part of my blogging learning-process and not as an intention to jump ship.

It’s kind of like when you put yourself out there in a horse show arena with the best of intentions. You are looking for things to go well, but you are also aware that things sometimes go sideways. You might go off pattern in a dressage test, hit a barrel during a run or let the cow sneak back to the herd after a cut. When we dare to act, we dare to fail. For better or worse, it’s all part of life.

Long story short, I look forward to continuing the blog as I try to implement some structural changes within the new site. Hopefully all will go smoothly, but since you are along for the ride, you might want to check your girth.

Horsin’ Around with Puzzles

Do you like to complete puzzles? I’m not a fan of the one-thousand-piece wheat field type of puzzle. A puzzle with horses? Now I like that!

I recently stumbled upon the website I’m A Puzzle. It allows you to put together puzzles online. The site provides gallerys of photos, including horse ones, to be made into virtual puzzles. For even more fun, you can upload your own photo as I did with the above photo featuring Bear and me when we lived in Colorado.

You don’t need any kind of plugin or app. You simply select a picture, game mode (puzzle piece shape) and game difficulty (number of puzzle pieces). You then click “create” and voilà! Your virtual puzzle appears onscreen. Finally, press “start” and your puzzle will display with all its pieces separated.

Now the fun of putting the puzzle back together begins. A timer tracks your work. You know you’ve correctly added a new piece to the puzzle when you drag it onto the board and the piece pops off the screen in a 3D kind of way and then snaps into place. No pop and snap means the pieces don’t go together.

When you play, the website gives you a generic ID that you can leave as is or customize with your information. The time it takes to finish the puzzle is tracked against other players (or just yourself in the case of selecting your own uploaded picture). You can see your time and rank as compared to other players for those of you who like to engage in some competition.

When you complete the puzzle, confetti comes down across your screen. Very reinforcing! For you clicker trainers out there, you may appreciate that the confetti coming down was definitely a click and treat moment for me. I couldn’t wait to do another puzzle after that first confetti reward! Never mind that it took me like one hundred times as long to complete my first gallery puzzle as the fastest ranked player.

If you are rearing to give it a go, head on over to

Let’s Talk About An Eclectic Approach to Horses

ECLECTIC- Selecting or employing individual elements from a variety of sources, systems, or styles

Definition from

If you have followed this blog for awhile, you may have noticed that I like pulling from different discplines and training styles. I don’t stick to one discipline or one training philosophy. I don’t object to others who do. It’s just that has not been my particular path. I’m constantly gathering information from one source or another.

Some folks might see this as a rather scattered approach to learning about horses, but for me, I see patterns. The details might be different, but I often find deep connections between seemingly dissimilar styles of riding.

Sure, breeds and disciplines have their distinct differences. Even so, they are still dealing with the basic nature and mechanics of the horse’s mind and body. Take away all of the trappings, and a horse is a horse.

I like to learn about the “whys” and “hows” of various styles so I have a well-stocked pantry of information I can use at home with my backyard horses. I’ve often thought working with them is a lot like cooking. On a good day, I combine different ingredients to create one delicious result.

In recognition of that fact, I like to post a variety of links to different horse professionals. I know that not everything shared on this blog will be appealing to all readers. And not everyone likes an eclectic approach. Nevertheless, I hope that all readers will find something at some point that resonates deeply and is helpful to your own horsemanship journey.

So continuing in this same eclectic vein today, I share a link to a video from CRK Training at Callie King from Honey Brook Stables shares her expertise via her CRK Training Blog. Most of her material comes in short articles and video clips illustrating a basic riding principle, exercise, etc . . . She comes mainly from a hunter/jumper background but has experience in other disciplines too.

I find I can apply a lot of her information even though I don’t ride in a huntseat saddle at home. The material is easily digestible, and for someone like me with an unsteady internet connection, I appreciate the short video clips that play better than lengthy ones.

The most recent video clip I saw was about arm position in the saddle. She talks about how rider conformation plays a roll in rider arm position. This caught my attention.

As someone built with short arms and legs myself, I constantly struggle to find some kind of effective riding position. As horse people, we hear lots of talk about horse conformation and how it enhances or limits horse athleticism. We hear less often about how rider conformation does the same for the human.

On a side note, Callie rides in a bitless bridle for this episode. Readers may remember that I ride my horse, Shiloh, in a bitless bridle. I don’t have a whole lot of experience viewing how other peoples’ horses go in bitless get ups, so I found it super interesting to see.

While you are on the CRK site at, check out their other offerings. Whether you are a beginner rider or further along, I think you will find something useful on her site that you can go right out and apply during your next ride. I got word that Callie has a book coming out soon too. I’m definitely looking forward to reading that one!


Yes, I know it is Cyber Monday today, but I wanted to post a reminder about tomorrow’s Giving Tuesday.

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.”

If there has ever been a year that horse rescues and other non-profit equine organizations need help, the year 2020 ranks high on the list. If you are in a position to do so, please consider participating in Giving Tuesday this year. YOU can make a difference!

Remember, too, that if you live in the USA, the CARES act has a provision that allows for a 2020 tax deduction on up to $300 in cash donations to 501(c)3 charitable organizations even if you don’t itemize. Contact the Internal Revenue Service through or your tax professional for more information.

“. . due to the coronavirus pandemic and the CARES Act that was passed in March to provide relief for it, charitable donations of up to $300 can be deducted for 2020 tax purposes, even if you don’t itemize on this year’s return… Here’s what that means. Normally, if you don’t itemize and give away $300, you get none of that back in tax savings. This year, if you give away $300, the IRS won’t tax you on $300 of income. If your tax rate, based on your total income, is 22%, that means you effectively get $66 of your donation back”.

From the USA Today Newsletter dated 11/23/20

Don’t know where to donate? Read on for a few ideas.

    Every dollar counts in a big way when running an all-volunteer rescue organization or operating on a tiny budget. If you don’t know of any local horse rescues off the top of your head, a quick Google search should give you some options. In addition to cash donations, many need donations of physical items and volunteer time/labor. If you aren’t already aware, you might be amazed to learn about the rescue work that goes on in your own community.
  2. SADDLE UP AND READ- A 501(c)3 charitable organization Have you heard the podcast Young Black Equestrians? One of the YBE co-hosts, Caitlin Gooch, is also the founder of Saddle Up And Read, a literacy program that combines the wonderful worlds of reading and horses. From the Saddle Up and Read website, “Saddle Up and Read is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based out of Wendell, NC. Saddle Up And Read is on a mission to encourage youth to achieve literary excellence through equine activities. In 2017, founder Caitlin Gooch noticed the literacy rates in North Carolina were low. Caitlin acted immediately by creating an incentive with a local library. As a prize for reading, this incentive included a day at her father’s horse farm. The only requirement was for children to check out 3 or more books from the library. It turned out to be a great success which led to Saddle Up And Read (SUAR).” Visit the program at to learn more or donate. Saddle Up and Read also offers for purchase t-shirts featuring their eye-catching logo.
  3. WILD HORSE EDUCATION- A 501(c)3 charitable organization I mentioned the non-profit Wild Horse Education in my post “For The Wild Ones,” at WHE works to not only educate the public about wild horse and burro issues but also to film and document horses on the range and those controversial government round ups. WHE explains to the public why it is important to keep wild horses and burros on the range instead of removing them. While the Bureau of Land Management continually puts out information stating that horses are starving in mass numbers and destroying land, the WHE provides ample evidence to the contrary. 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. Protections were enacted into law almost fifty years ago but are continually manipulated and trampled on by competing interests. Go to There you will see their blog post about the important work they did in 2020 AND this photo below. Look for this photo to click and donate BETWEEN DECEMBER 1st THROUGH DECEMBER 6th to have YOUR DONATION DOUBLED!

An Example of Growth and Change in The Horse Industry

Thank you to photographer Kirsten LaChance via Unsplash for use of this photo.

Something I love to see is a horse professional who is willing to actively grow and change. Someone who is already professionally established yet willing to explore new ways of training and being with horses? To me, it sets a great example for the rest of us “everyday horse people” to follow.

Two well-known professionals that come to my mind in this regard are Madison Shambaugh and Warwick Schiller. You may have read about Madison Shambaugh, otherwise known as “Mustang Maddy” and Warwick Schiller of “Warwick Schiller Performance Horses”. Both are successful horse professionals, riding and training at a high level.

Frankly, if I were as successful with horses as they are, I would probably sit at the end of each day and simply bask in the glow of my own fabulousness. I certainly wouldn’t think that maybe there is another way for me to ride and train and provide horse care. Clearly whatever I had done in the past to reach my level of achievement must be just fine, thank you very much.

Interestingly, that is clearly not how these two operate. If you follow their work, you will have heard them talking about different points in their horsemanship journeys that caused them to question certain aspects of their training philosophies. Even after achieving competitive success. Even after accumulating large social media followings. Even after making money with their previous methods of horse training.

I really admire the example this sets in the horse industry. I think so often horse folks are afraid that if we admit there is a different way of doing things that we will somehow invalidate ourselves or all our prior work. We forget that we can grow and change without throwing everything we ever did in the past under the bus. That we can balance the traditions of our chosen breed or discipline with modern scientific insights into how horses might actually feel about those traditional methods of horse keeping or training or riding.

I look forward to seeing how their evolving insights might help change the horse world. Their examples encourage all of us to continually examine how we care for, interact, ride and think about our horses. How refreshing and inspiring!

Get Your FREE Subscription to Equine Wellness Magazine!

Image taken from The Equine Wellness Magazine Website

This offer popped into my email inbox yesterday. I am excited to share it with you. For a limited time, Equine Wellness Magazine is offering a FREE one-year digital subscription to their magazine!

My USA readers may have seen the glossy, print version of the magazine on the book rack at a local Tractor Supply Store. With this digital subscription, you can access the magazine anywhere in the world!

Equine Wellness, published five times a year, offers a natural/holistic perspective to horsekeeping. This makes it a bit different from most mainstream equestrian publications. For example, the magazine offers lots of information about the use of herbs, oils, massage, acupressure and horse training tips that are a little outside the box.

Sign up via the link below. You will be directed to register a user name and password for the digital magazine service ISSUU. You can then redeem the coupon code given to immediately access your first free issue. The magazine can be read online or downloaded to your computer for future reading. You will receive an email each time a new issue becomes available to read. This is a limited time offer so hurry over to their website to take advantage of this free offer at

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

Readers may recall a previous post where I shared my experience in entering my first online horse show (

I chose to enter one class (a walk-only dressage test) in the 2020 Gaits Wide Open Championship through North American Western Dressage. The show was sponsored by the gaited-breed advocacy organization Friends of Sound Horses (FOSH).

In my work with Shiloh over the last two years, I have been bringing him back into riding work after he spent the previous five years unridden at pasture. Shiloh was understandably out of shape, no longer used to the sustained mental focus and physical demands of having someone on his back.

I know from reading, watching and listening that the basic principals of dressage can be applied to help a horse use their body in a healthy manner. So in my work with Shiloh, I have been trying to apply my understanding of those basic principals. Without any formal dressage training,though,I wasn’t quite sure if I was on the right track or not.

My goal in sending in a video of a ridden dressage test was to get feedback from a judge. I like winning placings and ribbons as much as the next person, but the critique was what I was after. Dressage is the only discipline that I know about that gives its participants written feedback from the judge. Marvelous!

For those of you unfamiliar with scoring of dressage tests, here is a brief primer for you taken from the How to Dressage website “In a nutshell, a dressage test is made up of a series of movements and each movement is awarded a mark out of 10. At the end of the test, all the marks are added together and turned into a percentage where the highest percentage wins. Each mark correlates to a predetermined standard that all registered judges are trained to observe.” The judging scale ranges from a zero (for a movement not performed) to a 10 (excellent). Overall, scores of 60-69% are considered good with scores of 70% or over considered very good.

For this Gaits Wide Open show, I could enter up to two free classes thanks to the FOSH sponsorship. Since I only submitted one video, I was given the option to have the same video critiqued by two different judges. Doubly marvelous!

What I took away from the written feedback is that I am on the right track, but that even at a walk, I have a long way to go.

Shiloh and I received an averaged overall score of 60.25%, combined from one judge’s 59.5% and another’s 61%. This put us in 2nd place in our small class of three. We were a quarter of a percentage point lower than the winner- so close! All of our individual movements were scored between 5 ( meaning “sufficient”) to 7 (“fairly good”). There were also overall scores for gaits, impulsion, submission and rider’s aids. We scored between 5 (sufficient) or 6 (satisfactory) in all of them.

What stood out to me the most is that we definitely need more impulsion, more spring in our step. Not faster exactly but rather more dynamic movement. I figured we’d get some comments to that effect, but I didn’t realize the extent to which this would be considered important.

Most of the comments were peppered with notes about needing more energy. Some quotes were “Show more energy (march)” and “ask for more energy/forward (more forward will improve suppleness)” and “a more supple back will allow for a more active walk.”

I know that compared to where we started, Shiloh IS more supple and active than he WAS. But clearly still, he would benefit from developing FURTHER activity and suppleness. That is EXACTLY the kind of feedback I was hoping to receive. It tells me we are heading in the right direction even if we aren’t meeting the mark right now. Rather than discouraging, I find that exciting.

The other thing that stood out to me was that my use of the arena could use some improvement. I need work on my timing and application of my aids to get rounder circles, more accurate transitions and more square halts. Apparently in dressage, the instructions to perform movements at specific letters is to be taken as a directive and not a mere suggestion. 🙂 One judge’s comment of “Watch your geometry” pretty much sums it all up! Need I mention that math was always my worst subject?

Putting my questionable math skills aside, I do know you can clearly see the effectiveness of a rider in how well they guide the horse through a pattern. Effectiveness in applying my aids at the right time, in the right combination with the right touch is something I have always struggled with so I thought the comments were very fair.

Anywho, I was particularly pleased to see the comments about Shiloh’s connection and contact with me. “Appears attentive and confident”, “Appears to be very willing to accept requests”, and “A quiet and harmonious team” were some of the most positive feedback.

When I first started riding Shiloh, he reacted to any contact by tossing his head and pushed through all of my aids as he ignored/didn’t hear them. Riding him now is like riding a different horse. He accepts rein contact with so much more relaxation than he used to and will organize his body in response to my seat now even before I apply leg/rein aids. I know he is tuning into me in a way he just didn’t/couldn’t before. So to have a judge make those types of positive observations is super affirming to me in my work with Shiloh.

I’m glad that I decided to participate in the virtual show and would like to enter again next year. Hopefully we can even add a two-gait test to our repertoire. I’d like to see if after another year of practice, we can register any improvement in our 2021 scores using the feedback from this show to guide us in our work.

If you might like to explore participating in your own virtual show, take a look at the North American Western Dressage website. They are very welcoming to the average horse and rider. Every breed accepted. They offer all kinds of tests, including in-hand and trail, for the beginner to the advanced. Visit them at .

The Backyard Horse Blog Word Search

Do you like to do word searches? What about creating your own?

I recently came across a free online program that allows anyone to create their own word searchs (and more) at

I put together a word search featuring words from some of my favorite blog posts. I used words from posts that were particularly fun to write or notable to me in some way.

If I had a different web hosting program, I could have uploaded my creation to the blog as a downloadable PDF for readers to use. But I don’t, so I can’t, so I didn’t. 🙂

If you want to play around with making your own word search, check out the Worksheetworks website. Seems like a great idea for teachers of all sorts to make fun word searches including for folks who host Summer horse camps, give riding lessons and provide other equestrian educational opportunities.

“On Demand” Equestrian Video Subscriptions

Anybody have a subscription to Horse and Rider On Demand, Dressage On Demand or Equus Prime? Each of these subscription services offers its members access to a select group of videos on riding/horse training/horse care.

For many of us going into Winter in colder climates, the change in weather will soon mean less riding time. 😦 Now might be the right moment to take advantage of the free trials that each of these services offers (You have to sign up with a credit card to access the free trial but then you can cancel your membership before the end of the free trial if you don’t want your credit card charged for the full membership fee).

I haven’t taken advantage of the free trials yet myself but I certainly plan to. If anybody out there has a membership already, I’d welcome your review. Let me know in the comments below.

Here are the relevant links:

Wanter to enter for a chance to win one of these memberships? The Equine Network and Equimax are hosting a contest to win a prize pack of memberships/subscriptions. You get your choice of a horse magazine subscription, your choice of an On Demand membership AND a USRider membership (horse trailer emergency road- side-service in the USA). Final day to enter is November 20th, 2020 at

Photo taken from the HorseandRider website

Just Enjoying The Ride

Last week in my area, a period of unusually warm weather was coming to a close. I managed to squeeze in one last ride before the more seasonable weather returned.

I decided to take Shiloh out for a little walk in our South pasture with our only agenda to enjoy the weather. I don’t often ride Shiloh there due to the uneven footing. It is okay for walking but not much more. I had never even taken him out to the South fence line.

I figured he might be a little nervous about our new riding venue. I decided to test the waters. I made sort of very big, long serpentines where we’d go out only so far before heading back closer to the barn.

I expected to feel him speed up heading back to the barn and slow down turning away, but he actually did the opposite! It finally dawned on me that he actually WANTED to go out further. Leaving our “safe” area nearer to the barn wasn’t an issue. I was the nervous one not him! So on we went for a mini adventure around the South pasture.

We visited the neighbor’s cows.

We checked the tree branches that could have used some trimming like yesterday.

We observed the farm equipment finishing harvesting and prepping the soil for next year.

Then we circled around to a nice patch of leaves. I have not been fortunate enough yet to take Shiloh out on a trail ride. One of the things I really miss about trail riding is riding in the Fall when all the leaves are gathering on the paths. I love that crunch, crunch, crunch sound under the horses’ hooves. Tree cover is sorely lacking at my place, but along the far fence line there was a little section of fallen leaves to walk across. Those ten seconds of crunching were like music to my ears.

At the end of the ride, I decided to dismount away from the barn along the South fence line. The bitless bridle and the reins with the buckle ends made it easy for me to unhook one rein end so I could hold the reins like a lead rope. I let Shiloh graze as a little reward for being so adventurous.

Thanks for the ride, Shiloh!

Visited The Backyard Horse Blog over at Pinterest?

So my horse, Bear, wants to know! Have you visited The Backyard Horse Blog over at Pinterest yet?

When I began The Backyard Horse Blog in January 2020, I chose a free WordPress program to host the site. I have nothing to compare it to since this is the only blog I have started so far, but I am overall happy with the free site.

An unfortunate downside to many free programs is that you are limited in the features/plug-ins you can offer. This hampers my ability to link my blog posts to some platforms.

I find it funny that the only outside platform that I participate in (Pinterest) is a plug-in NOT supported by my free WordPress program.

On the blog website at the bottom of each blog post, you will see buttons for sharing my posts to Twitter and Facebook but not for Pinterest. Bummer.

Even though I can’t seamlessly move The Backyard Horse Blog posts to Pinterest, I have been able to pin some content from The Backyard Horse Blog over to the Pinterest site using back door methods. And of course it is fun to build boards with pins from other horse pages. Neat to see so many folks sharing their creativity on Pinterest.

Maybe someday with a website upgrade, I will be able to access that coveted Pinterest plug-in. In the mean time, go to to follow along with The Backyard Horse Blog on Pinterest and check out The Backyard Horse Blog boards and pins.

Also, if you have an equestrian Pinterest site of your own, please post the link in the comments below! I’d love to see what everyone else is up to on Pinterest!

Another Horse Field-Trip Report

Last weekend, I completed another field trip with Shiloh and Bear. We went over to the nearby training/boarding/lesson barn again. I mentioned in previous posts that I have been trying to tick off several items on my riding “to do” list. My goal for this trip? To ride Shiloh with another horse.

For most people and horses, riding with others is standard practice. Shiloh and I are an exception. We had never ridden with anyone else.

Overall, the ride went fine. Nothing terrible. I did struggle though to keep Shiloh “on the aids” with the extra distractions. We were in the indoor where Shiloh is not as comfortable. There is a row of eight stalled horses, two huge doors with views to the outside, an observation room with people coming and going. I suspect Shiloh sees it more as haunted house than barn.

We also did something a little different with Bear for this visit. Instead of the outdoor roundpen, Bear stayed in a stall in a separate part of the barn. Bear was completely out of sight.

Being in the indoor combined with Bear’s absence definitely created a different feel to the ride. Since I’d eventually like to do more adventurous things with Shiloh, these are necessary small steps to practice. Bear, I was told, looked unhappy at first alone in the stall, but apparently settled better by the end.

After Bear walked out, our riding partner walked in. The presence of the other horse being in the arena was fine with Shiloh as long as we were on opposite ends. The other horse was a tall Saddlebred with a different energy and movement from Shiloh. He was also longer strided and faster. In order to pass going in the same direction, the other horse had to halt while we walked by or had to be walking while we foxtrotted past him. Otherwise we would be forever trailing.

Closer up, though? Shiloh was intimidated. Passing left shoulder to left shoulder with Shiloh on the outside between the wall and the other horse brought Shiloh to an abrupt and complete halt.

I felt Shiloh with his body say something to the effect of “I think it would be best to turn and spin 180 degrees and high tail it outa here before the other horse gets too close, yes?”. He was all for social distancing.

Those dicey situations can be tricky for me. Keeping a horse mentally in tact during tense moments can be a struggle. This was a major issue for me with a horse like Bear who is quick, extra sensitive, nervous by nature pretty much 24/7 (most likely due to those speed racking bloodlines of his). At twenty-five, Bear is a quieter horse than he was, but even so, he still has his fiery moments.

Shiloh generally needs less support from his rider than Bear. He was just born a quieter, more relaxed fellow. In those situations where he becomes hands-down frightened or otherwise overwhelmed with emotion, though, he needs me to step up. He needs me to provide direction and support. I know this intellectually, but sometimes I do a better job of actually coming through for my horse in those moments than others.

Anywho, Shiloh thought about spinning away but didn’t. Rollbacks are actually kind of a fun movement to sit. That power when they roll over their haunches and push away quickly in the opposite direction feels pretty neat. But it’s a movement that I would rather ask for on a well-trained horse, not happen to me unexpectedly in the course of a spook!

At the end of the ride when the other horse left the arena, I wondered if Shiloh would object to the desertion. He is a herd animal after all, even if he was a little unsure about the other horse.

To my surprise, I actually felt Shiloh relax when it was just the two of us again. I might have actually heard him say “phew!”, but I’m not sure. We practiced a little bit of backing and then I dismounted.

Shiloh was a touch sweaty at the end of the ride while sporting his Winter coat on an unusually warm November day. He was no doubt a little tired too, both mentally and physically.

I think Shiloh’s highlight of the trip was being fawned over by the young daughter of the person who rode with us. The daughter is an equestrian herself and was riding in a lesson as I arrived with my horses. I thought Shiloh might fall asleep as she talked to him and stroked his face. Apparently loving adoration in the package of an enthusiastic child is just fine with him.

I didn’t get any pictures of the ride so the window shots of Bear and Shiloh loaded up in the trailer will have to suffice. I feel thankful for every safe and drama-free travel experience that we can accumulate under our belts.

More About Horse Illustrated and More Contests to Enter!

Say it ain’t so! Horse Illustrated magazine is going from a 12x a year format to a 10x a year format. This comes after I featured their October issue in a recent post at I mentioned in that post that HI was still one of the few horse magazines that published monthly. Well sadly no more!

Granted, that is still better than Equus, Horse and Rider and Practical Horseman. All three of them went from a 12x a year format to a quarterly format. Even more surprising to me was seeing Dressage Today, another 12x a year magazine, disappear completely as a stand-alone entity. It was instead absorbed by Practical Horseman.

Anyhow, I suppose I should be grateful that Horse Illustrated will mostly still be published monthly. The publishing schedule will now be January/February, then monthly from March through October and finishing the year with a November/December issue.

Despite my disappointment over the publishing schedule changes, I still love sitting down to relax with a stack of my favorite horse magazines. I also still love entering contests. If you are a USA resident, here are ones you might want to enter.

The company Weatherbeeta is celebrating their 40th anniversary by giving away prize packs of blankets! Enter at by November 10th, 2020 for your chance to win.

The University of Kentucky is asking owners of horses 15 years and older to fill out a survey as part of a research project. Participants will be entered in a drawing to win feed/treats. Learn more about the research and the link to enter at Survey closes November 20th, 2020.

Enter the Mannapro Inspiring Moments photo contest for a chance to win a $1,000 Visa gift card, horse treats and more at All entrants will receive coupons for up to $15 worth of Mannapro products. Contest ends November 30th, 2020.

Equus Magazine is sponsoring a contest for a 501(c)3 horse rescue to win a Horizon Barn Structure and other prizes! See details and the link to enter at While the rescue would win the two-stall barn and more, the person who nominates the winning rescue also wins a prize pack of horse items! Deadline for entry is November 30th, 2020.

Horse Illustrated is sponsoring a contest to write about your favorite veterinarian. Link to enter is at with an entry deadline of December 15th, 2020. Sounds like a nice way to give your veterinarian some recognition while also entering yourself to win a two-year subscription to Horse Illustrated!

Bear as Artist

The windy Fall weather in my neck of the woods must bring out the artist in my horse, Bear. I am not sure if this photo is “life imitating art” or “art imitating life” or “life imitating life”? Hmmm. Whatever the case, I think Bear did a bang up job of getting his tail to copy the tree in the background. I was taking photos of his tail flipping in the brisk wind and didn’t see the relationship between his tail and the tree until I transferred the photos to my computer. Weird how something can be right in front of you, and you don’t even see it.

Banter About The Canter

Last week after three frustrating days of having my riding plans thwarted by a bunch of windy, wet days, I finally managed a ride.

It’s a different experience riding in the cooler weather. Each year, I forget how much preparation is involved.

I track the forecast like a meteorologist to pinpoint the exact time of day when the combination of temperature, sun and wind will allow me to ride without turning into an ice cube.

I have to remember to bring my bridle inside the morning I plan to ride. It unstiffens the leather and makes sure the metal parts of the bitless bridle aren’t freezing cold when it makes contact with Shiloh’s face.

Then there are the layers of clothes. I feel like the Michelin man by the time I’m done dressing.

For this ride, I wanted to attempt ticking off another item on my “before I stop riding at home for the Winter to-do list”. Earlier this year, I started asking Shiloh to canter periodically on the lunge line in our roundpen. I finally I felt we were ready to canter undersaddle.

My first attempts were pretty funny. I decided to do a gradual sequence of aids by taking a deep breath, thinking “canter!”, squeezing my legs and then moving my seat as though we were already cantering while making a kissing noise with my lips. What I got was a fast trotting horse with me trying to scoop my seat as though I was cantering. Sounds as ridiculous as it felt.

Shiloh didn’t seem upset, neither mad or scared by my requests. I figured he legitimately thought that I must be asking him to hard trot rather than gait. I couldn’t fault him for an honest response. I was pleased that at least he increased his energy at my requests if nothing else. As a low energy kind of guy, anytime Shiloh offers a bit of “umph” that is not tension-filled, it is a moment to celebrate. His bouncy trot makes me laugh so I just kind of had fun with it.

Lots of things have been like that in the course of re-starting Shiloh to ridden work. It often takes me awhile to figure out what cues he responds to best and for him to suss out what I am asking. As long as we both stay relaxed through all the hits and misses, I am okay with the process. Sure, I’d love to have Shiloh further along than he is. The slow pace of our progress is disheartening to me at times, but it is what it is, and whether slow or fast, I am still riding. Not something to take for granted.

I mixed in my canter requests with gait work in the foxtrot, work over the poles, backing up and changes of direction. My husband kindly came out for a minute to capture some media of our ride. As a “to it yourselfer” I mostly have to judge riding progress from “feel” but having photos/video is super helpful and much appreciated.

Towards the end of my riding time when I kind of figured we probably weren’t going to be cantering that day, I gave Shiloh a longer halt break and stopped to chat with my husband for a minute before he left.

I’m not sure why, but I felt suddenly very compelled to ask Shiloh one more time to canter. Much to my pleasant surprise, when I took Shiloh back out to the rail and asked again for the canter, I felt a little bit of hind-end tucking and his front end lifting. There is was!

Sure enough, Shiloh did like three strides of canter before dropping out of it like a flipped pancake. Plop! But I must say, those three strides felt pretty awesome. I brought him down to a quick halt, dismounted and gave him a big hug and fussed over him.

I know that three strides is not exactly noteworthy in some people’s eyes, but I have found that the best way for me to work with Shiloh is to build very gradually. I praise any initial effort like crazy.

If Shiloh and I are fortunate, we can play around with the canter transition a bit more before the start of Winter and then build on it next year. A trick going forward will be to try to ask him to come back down to a walk BEFORE he drops from the canter on his own. That sort of timing gets harder for me the faster the gait or the more intricate the maneuver. I have to be quicker than Shiloh in those moments. He’s a slower type of horse, but he’s still faster than I am.

Canter on, Shiloh!

UPDATE: To read about our canter progress since this post, go to

Briefly Back to the Bit Again

As the start of each Winter season draws close, I try to check off a few things on my riding wish list before the wicked weather arrives. One of those items was riding Shiloh in a bit again. At, I wrote about the reason I started riding him in a bitless bridle in 2018. I actually hadn’t ridden him in a bit yet in 2020. I was curious to see if his reaction to it would be any better.

While I don’t currently compete in anything, I would welcome the option to do some local stuff at some point. I used to enjoy taking my horses to fun shows, local shows and trail competitions like the now defunct ACTHA rides. Many breed and competitive organizations require a bit even at the lowest levels.

Of all the bits that Shiloh seemed unhappy about, he seemed the least unhappy in a loose ring 5 1/4 inch French link snaffle. So that is the bit I chose for a ride last week.

Shiloh had some dental work done earlier this year at the vet clinic. We’ve also made good progress in him accepting the contact in the bitless bridle this year (he used to not tolerate any rein contact between his face and my hands- bit or no bit- any pick up on the reins would result in head tossing). Seemed like a good time to go briefly back to the bit.

I’ll squash the suspense and say right off the bat that Shiloh DID ride better in the bit this year than previously. I was pleased to see that he reached for and experimented with some contact. He didn’t head toss or quickly snatch at the reins. Still, he was constantly chewing the bit and moving his jaw around in an exaggerated manner. Most notable was how loud his breathing became when we moved from walk to gait work.

I brought out a couple of ground poles to traverse periodically throughout the ride. I also put out my biggest tarp in a “table runner” type configuration. Shiloh did a nice job clearing the ground poles repeatedly and ran the tarp gauntlet multiple times. I love playing around with obstacles just for fun, but I also find that it helps me in helping him to lift and lengthen his back as well as helping him to think about articulating those leg joints. If he is flat, pacing or stumbling at any point, I know I need to ride differently to help him out.

Shiloh negotiated everything in the bit no differently than he does in the bitless getup. He even posed for what would turn out to be an antler photo, although neither of us realized at the time how the photo would appear 🙂

As the ride went on, he seemed to be experimenting more with the placement of his head and neck in a way that he doesn’t do in his bitless bridle. After about 20 minutes total riding time, I figured I had my answer about whether or not I should try to ride him more in the bit. I chose to end the ride there. Can you see in the shadow below that Shiloh is moving his jaw around?

Whatever it is about Shiloh’s natural anatomy or his injury (being kicked in the face as a foal), he remains uncomfortable carrying a bit IMO. Perhaps a different rider could help him along with this, but in the real world, I am the rider that he’s got. Also, I have been really pleased at the overall progress we have been making this year while riding exclusively in the bitless bridle. It is back to bitless riding for Mr. Shiloh and me.

Meanwhile, my other horse, Bear continues to do what any retired horse (or any horse) likes to do best. Eat, of course! I took this photo last week. The grass is still plentiful so the grazing muzzle stays on when he spends time outside of his paddock. Bear, now twenty-five years old, has EMS and PPID along with arthritis. Trying to maintain his health is an ongoing dance as we look towards Winter.

Checked Out Horse Nation Lately?

Horse Nation is one of my favorite websites. It is a nice mix of informative articles about horse care/riding and op-eds about happenings in the horse world. It also includes some “newspaper comics” material with its “Idea of Order” series and other light-hearted features. Here is a roundup of my recent article favorites:

Ashley Francese wrote an article titled “What to Do When You and Your Horse Don’t See Eye to Eye.” Many of us have ended up with a horse that we didn’t quite click with very well. The author notes lots of great ways to approach this situation at

Mary Lynne Carpenter (that’s me) details her reflections on matching our horses’ interests and abilities with our own riding ambitions. Read it at

Dr. Darby Bonomi is a PhD Sport and Performance Psychologist. She wrote an encouraging article about changing our focus from how our body LOOKS on a horse to how our body FUNCTIONS on a horse. View it at

Happy reading!

Horses and Music

Whenever I hear the word “horse” inside a song, it catches my attention. Of course often the horse mentioned in song is used to represent something else entirely. Even folks who have never touched a horse find powerful the imagery and emotion that horses conjure. It sometimes turns out the song isn’t really about a horse after all. While I do appreciate that type of artistry, I particularly like to listen to music written by horse people for horse people.

Enter the songwriter/singer, Templeton Thompson and her CD’s “Girls and Horses” and the “Songs From Seven Clinics”. Produced in 2006 and 2012 respectively, these CD’s are a well-worn part of my music collection. Coming from the country music genre, Templeton has composed songs for famous artists like Reba McEntire and Jo Dee Messina.

If you followed Julie Goodnight around 2010 or so, you might recognize Templeton’s song “Cowgirl Creed” as the theme song to Goodnight’s Horse Master TV series. Likewise, if you watched the DVD series “7 Clinics with Buck Brannaman”, you will have heard “Songs From Seven Clinics.”

Much of the music of “Girls and Horses” as well as “Songs From Seven Clinics” draws parallels between life in and out of the saddle. From thoughtful to upbeat to tear jerking, the songs and instrumentals strike at our relationship with the horse. Some of my favorites titles are “Ride Before It Rains”, “Follow You Anywhere” and “A Horse That Can Fly”. My favorite sad song is “She Remembers Riding” about an elderly woman who still recalls the horse of her past even while she no longer recognizes her family. If I live long enough, I suspect that will be me. You can find Templeton’s music at If you sign up for her email list, she will send you a free song download.

Singer Mary Ann Kennedy at is another artist with a bunch of songs specifically about riding and horses. Her jaunty tune “Gotta Go Feed” is something like the sound track to my life. My favorite of hers is “The Rhythm of The Ride.” It is a fun song if you like to country swing-dance or ride a posting trot.

“The rhythm of the ride. It’s a natural high. Two hearts beat and four feet fly. We are moving as one. Hoof beats are the perfect drum. To the rhythm. The rhythm of the ride.”

Mary Ann Kennedy

I went heavy on the American country music with this post. I am sure readers know that with the presence of horses across time, place and history, equines are by no means unique to this style of music. There are a ton of other artists singing about them across different music genres, languages and time periods.

No matter our diverse tastes and preferences, we can find common ground with the horse. You may not prefer my music. I may not agree with your politics. Maybe we have different religious faiths. Our backgrounds and world views could be like night and day. Despite all that, I bet we could go for a ride together and have a smashing good time. I love that about our four-legged steeds.

What songs about horses stand out to you?

Focus on Two Good Things- Balancing Your Feelings When The Going Gets Rough With Your Horse

Here is a photo of my ponies Pumpkin Spice and Bear when we lived in Colorado. Definitely “two good things”. 🙂

Horses are incredible creatures. It is a marvelous thing to be in the presence of a horse. They manage to inspire all kinds of dreams in us without even trying.

If you spend enough time around horses, though, you are likely to eventually meet up with a large dose of reality. Maybe you get your foot stepped on or you fall off while riding. Could be that you have an embarrassing experience at the show grounds. Maybe you allow things to creep into your groundwork or riding that result in your horse’s behavior deteriorating. Whatever the case, your horse dreams have now become more like nightmares.

Some folks can brush off these kinds of incidents and move forward swimmingly. Others of us get stymied by difficult experiences with our horses. We know that approaching our horses with dread is not likely to result in a good experience, but we have a hard time taking our thoughts off of the negative. All we can think about is everything that is going wrong in our relationship. All the pain/fear/disappointment. Then we think about how all that negativity comes across to our horses who are so sensitive to our moods, vibes and body language. No wonder we get stuck sometimes.

If you struggle with staying positive in the midst of difficulty, here is an idea for resetting your outlook. Notice “two good things” (or more!) that happen during every ride, every groundwork session, every interaction. Do this even when things are not going well. Maybe ESPECIALLY when things are not going well. It is simplistic, I know. But I have been surprised at how practicing this regularly has helped me.

I gleaned the idea for noticing “two good things” from Tonya Johnston’s book Inside Your Ride: Mental Skills for Being Happy and Successful with Your Horse Book. If you struggle with the mental aspects of riding, I highly recommend this book. It is packed with ideas and specific strategies for coping with the fear and negativity that unfortunately creeps into many of our relationships with our horses.

I would also recommend a September 2020 blog post from The Horse Redeemer Blog entitled “Our Own Worst Critic: Blocking Out Negative Thoughts When Riding” at This post is an excellent read with many straightforward ideas on how to look for the good.

I hold a Master’s degree in Social Work. With that background, I am keenly aware of how the way that people think about things affects their feelings and their behavior. It is a topic of high interest to me. I like to read different takes on the subject from a variety of perspectives. Currently, I am reading a Christian faith-based book titled All The Feels: Discover why emotions are (mostly) awesome and how to untangle them when they’re not by Elizabeth Laing Thompson. Within the book, the author quotes the psychiatrist, Dr. David Burns, “…you can learn to change the way you think about things… when you do, you will often experience profound and lasting changes in your mood, outlook and productivity …” This quote jumped out at me as perhaps being behind the genius of practicing “looking for the good” in our horse life. When we make choices about what we focus on, we have a better chance of being more productive with our horses.

It is an interesting balance with our horses and our riding, isn’t it? On the one hand, there is the need to be aware of and realistic about our riding level, our horse’s athletic ability and our limits. We can easily get into trouble with our horses when we inflate our abilities or push our horses too far or refuse to seek help. On the other hand, it is helpful to challenge ourselves by setting goals. To seek improvement. To accept “what is” without judgment while also holding in our minds “what could be” as we stretch ourselves.

I find that actively looking for those “two good things” helps me strike a better balance than I might without that positive focus. Without purposely looking for and thinking about what is GOING WELL between my horse and me, I can easily suck all the joy out of the relationship by dwelling on the “not so swell” aspects. Life is too short and horses are too much fun for that.

So, what “two good things” happened between you and your horse today?

Book Review- Strands of Hope: How to grieve the loss of a horse by Susan Friedland

I took the above photo when four horses graced my backyard. From left to right is Pumpkin Spice, Bear, Fate and Blue.

If you have been reading The Backyard Horse Blog, you may recognize that my twenty-five year old gelding, Bear, is the only current living-member of that group. I am one of the millions of horse-keepers who knows something about the heartache of losing a horse.

Due to my experiences, I was compelled to read Strands of Hope- How to grieve the loss of a horse by Susan Friedland. You may recognize Susan from her successful equestrian blog, Saddle Seeks Horse. The death of Susan’s long-time horse, DC, anchors this book.

The story of the author’s path through grief is echoed by the book’s stories of other equestrians who also experienced the death of a horse. Readers will see that while no two journeys are exactly alike, there are common themes weaved between the varied stories. Readers will feel less alone in their own despair after reading the accounts of others.

“To have the trust of a 1,200-pound animal is an incredible feeling, and the relationship that develops from this faith in one another is hard to describe. And once that partner is gone, it’s quite simply devastating. It’s okay to grieve for a horse the way that you’d grieve for a longtime best friend.” – From “Strands of Hope: How to grieve the loss of a horse”.

I appreciate that the author also included a chapter on the grief associated with early retirement of a horse from riding. The chapter “Death of A Dream” shares one rider’s experience with that issue. Having retired a couple of horse earlier than I expected, the material included in that chapter resonated with me.

Strands of Hope is an organized read, chock full of suggestions and resources to support readers through their own healing. The book is gentle and tender while also practical and useful. For example, one of the exercises Susan suggests is writing a eulogy for your horse. She guides you through the process step by step. Composing written dedications to my horses after their deaths is something I myself found cathartic.

I submitted a five star review of Strands of Hope to Amazon and recommend this book as reading for all equestrians. If you would like to purchase a copy, you can buy it from Amazon or directly from the author’s website at While the subject matter is sad, the book is ultimately hopeful, just as its title implies. Strands of Hope reminded me that good things can come out of a painful situation. It affirmed for me the truly special place in our hearts that we hold for horses.

Backing Up The Horse Trailer

I was reminded this week of a funny video clip. It is a one-minute commercial that I linked in a previous blog post (see Of all the tricky things about driving a horse trailer, backing up is pretty high on the list.

I took my horses, Bear and Shiloh, on a field-trip this week to a local barn. I asked the barn owner if I could back up my trailer directly to the opening of their indoor arena.

Based on recent visits, Bear was proving sensitive to the new drive-way rocks that were put down in their parking lot. I figured Bear would be more comfortable backing off my trailer directly onto the soft arena footing rather than the rocks. That required me to turn left into the barn driveway and then back up from the driveway entrance to the indoor.

Fortunately, I had a much better experience backing up the trailer than the first driver did on the above-referenced video. I only had to make one big adjustment in the backing up process where I stopped and pulled forward to recalibrate.

As you will soon read, Bear apparently approved of this “rock avoidance” plan. After unloading, I typically hand Bear over to the very capable barn owner while I briefly lung Shiloh in the indoor and then mount at the block. All four of us then walk out the indoor, between the barns and onto the outdoor riding tracks. I continue my ride while the barn owner kindly deposits Bear in the outdoor roundpen that sits at the center of the two oval riding/driving tracks.

Bear’s sensitive hooves were apparently feeling well-enough that he decided to cut loose in the roundpen. He had a good tear and romp. Normally, I love to see my old horse kick-up his heels. When I am on Shiloh’s back? Not so much.

As any rider can surmise, Bear’s excitement level was not lost on Shiloh. Shiloh began what I assume would have turned into his own tear and romp by shaking his head and bouncing into a stiff, high-headed halt. Lucky me, I quickly “put the lid back on the pot” by doing some tight serpentines and changes of direction. Shiloh soon relaxed and let go of the cavorting idea.

From there we went on to have a productive ride. That outdoor track is a great place to practice Shiloh’s gait work. I don’t have a large expanse of solid footing at home so it is quite a treat for me to ride on the track.

I did abandon my plan to take photos while I rode though. It was a windy Fall day, and after our little incident, I thought best to keep my focus on my horse rather than my phone. I missed some really cool shots of his mane dancing off the right side of his neck and folding beautifully over the top and left side as the wind whipped around us. Guess you will just have to take my word for it.

If you have not already, be sure to view the above video. I don’t care how many times I watch it. I still laugh.