Tune into Horse Week- Free Online Event

If you enjoying watching videos about horses, you may want to tune into Horse Week from October 3-9, 2021. It is free to anyone with an internet connection and streaming capabilities at http://www.horseweek.tv.

Brought to you by the Equine Network, Horse Week is sponsored by Boehringer Ingelheim and includes organization partners from across a variety of horse breeds and disciplines. It looks like the content will include a little something for everyone.

Here are the FAQ’s From the Horse Week website:

“What is Horse Week?
Presented by the Equine Network and brought to you by Boehringer Ingelheim, Horse Week offers over 25 hours of fresh high-quality educational and inspiring video content that riders and horse lovers of every level and discipline will enjoy.

When is Horse Week?
October 3-9, 2021

How/where do I watch Horse Week?
Viewers can stream all Horse Week video content from any smart device by tuning into http://www.horseweek.tv

How much does it cost to watch?
Horse Week is 100% FREE! Viewers will have complete access to all Horse Week content for no charge.

What type of content can I expect?
Incredible and compelling stories of the impact horses have on the lives of others from all walks of life, clinics with industry leading professionals, profiles on both equine athletes and equestrians from across the different disciplines.

How can I stay up to date with all things Horse Week?
Subscribe to our Horse Week newsletter or follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and #horseweektv.”

Mark your calendars!

Balancing and Shaping in Riding

I’ve recently been reading a book by Beth Baumert called “When Two Spines Align: Dressage Dynamics.” You may recall that I previously read her book “How Two Minds Meet: The Mental Dynamics of Dressage” and wrote about it in a blog post titled The Wonder of Horses at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/03/17/the-wonder-of-horses/. Here is a picture of the two books taken from the Trafalgar Square Books website:

It wasn’t too many years ago the idea dawned on me that some riders could actually improve their horse’s way of going. I’m not just talking about successfully accomplishing a task with a horse or getting it to calm down or speed up. Those things can be part of it. But it encompasses so much more.

I’m talking about actually improving our horses’ body shape, outline and movement. Actually improving their physique through exercise. Essentially turning riding into physical therapy for the horse. Much of dressage training is couched in these terms, but these goals are not exclusive to dressage.

Most of us just do good to stay upright on top of our horse, more or less at the mercy of what our horses do or don’t do. We follow our horses in and out of balance. Remarkably, it seems that most horses do okay with this arrangement. Otherwise, no one but the expert horseman would ever be able ride.

But there can also be a physical and mental cost to many of our horses when they are ridden without attention to their movement. We can end up wearing them down instead of building them up.

Unfortunately for me, actually improving a horse’s way of going in a consistent and measurable way at all gaits still eludes me. Even so, I think it’s a worthy goal to try to hone my eye on the ground and my feeling in the saddle. To seek balance in any horse I ride.

When I tune into how the horse that I am riding feels underneath me. When I continue to read riding literature, listen to podcasts, observe others riding. When I’m able to watch videos and view photos of my riding. All these things help me very slowly learn what I am supposed to be heading towards. What I should be thinking about, feeling for and observing in myself and any horse that I am riding.

It’s like a puzzle that sits on the top of a desk in various stages of completion, but never seems to ever get done. My riding often feels like a bunch of pieces, strewn all over the desk. I’ve been trying to fit them together for years and years.

I especially see it in the videos and photos I accumulate of my riding. I’m still often not able to match up well with what something looks like and what I’m feeling in the saddle. But when I am able to get it right- connect a moment where my horse looks beautiful to a particular sensation I remember at that moment in my ride- it’s a magical feeling that makes me want to keep chasing it.

If any of this resonates with you, I would highly recommend both of Beth Baumert’s books. No matter if you consider yourself a dressage rider or not. So many of her concepts are applicable to all types of riding.

While you can buy the book at a variety of stores or maybe find them in your local library, if you purchase them through the affiliate link to Trafalgar Square Book’s equestrian material on this blog, I will receive a portion of the book sales. If you are reading this from The Backyard Horse Blog website, you can find the affiliate link on either the right hand side of the website or at the bottom (where you see the picture of the woman reading a book to a horse).

Or, if watching videos is more your thing, you also may find the following clip from Horse Class to be helpful. It explains and demonstrates what is meant by the phrase “inside leg to outside rein,” an important concept used for shaping the horse’s body towards better movement.

As quoted from a September 2021 Horse Class Email:

“There are many terms in riding that are a bit vague. Commonly used, but rarely explained. Inside leg to outside rein is one of these vague terms. It is a concept, a key concept for encouraging balanced movement from a horse, but many riders don’t actually know what this means or more importantly, what this feels like.

When I teach riding, I prefer to give both explanations and exercises. When we understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and can feel it this creates true confidence!

In today’s video, I will do just this with the inside leg to outside rein concept to demonstrate what this means with our school horse AppleJack, explain why this is important (even if you are a trail rider), and then teach you an exercise to feel this with your own horse.

Click Here to watch “Inside Leg to Outside Rein” – What this means and an exercise to finally FEEL it:” https://www.horseclass.com/blog/inside-leg-to-outside-rein/

While you are on the Horse Class website, check out the other free videos offered. I think many of them dovetail nicely with the information presented in Beth Baumert’s books. In my book, they are all different pieces to the same puzzle. 🙂

Something For My Canadian Horse Friends

While I am a horse-owner in the USA, I enjoy keeping tabs on how folks ride and care for horses across the globe. I recently learned through the Canadian Horse Journal that the company Boehringer Ingelheim is offering free PPID tests to eligible horses in Canada.

Pituitary Pars Intermedia Dysfunction (PPID) is a chronic endocrine disorder. You may know it by its more common name, Cushing’s Disease. My own horse, Bear, received this diagnosis several years ago. Boehringer Ingelheim is the maker of the medication, Prascend, that Bear’s veterinarian prescribes him to address PPID symptoms.

To find out if your horse may be eligible for the free PPID test, go to https://www.bicanadaequine.ca/ppid to take the quiz.

The offer for the free test runs through October 26th, 2021.

If you are curious about PPID and would like to learn more, you can click on that link above. Even if you aren’t a Canadian resident, you may still find their website material informative. It contains helpful information about PPID including sections on how PPID is diagnosed, what symptoms it can cause, treatment and outcomes.

I have not seen any similar offers for residents outside Canada, but I will keep my eyes open and let readers know if I do. Horses are expensive. A horse with a chronic disease potentially more so. Every free offer that I see is worth considering and posting if it can help someone else better afford to care for their horses. Whether they live near or far.

The Bucket Fund

Have you heard of the Horse and Man Blog? It has got to be one of the longest running horse blogs in existence. I have been reading it for about a decade.

Dawn, the creator and author of this well-established blog, is a friend to horses in need. Through the blog’s “Bucket Fund,” thousands of dollars have been distributed to help horses recover from abuse, neglect and natural disasters.

The idea behind The Bucket Fund is that each “drop in the bucket” can add up to large amounts of money to help each month’s selected recipient(s). For example, if one thousand of her readers each donated just $5 (price of one fancy coffee), that would provide $5,000!

I personally know the power of the Bucket Fund. The fund once helped support the care of a group of miniature horses from the Indiana Horse Rescue, after I nominated them for the honor of being a Bucket Fund recipient. That month, the fund raised over a $1,000 for the minis. The money was much needed and appreciated.

Dawn’s mother passed away recently, and in honor of her Mother, she is asking readers this month (September 2021) to donate money towards a group of ten neglected horses recently taken in by Falcon Ridge Rescue in California (http://falconridgerescue.org/). Many of the horses are seniors. All terribly thin.

If you would like to read the group’s story go to

You can also learn how to donate to The Bucket Fund through the above link. I know that Dawn, Falcon Ridge Rescue and of course the horses would really appreciate any and all contributions.

Equine Fun With Carrot Tops

Usually, when I go to the grocery store, I see carrots without their leafy-green tops. But did you know that many horses enjoy eating this part of the carrot plant? As you can see by the photos, my horses certainly do. Every once in a while, when I can find them, I grab a bundle of carrots complete with tops.

Bear likes them so much that he even performs tricks at liberty in exchange for another bite.

Apparently, most people can eat carrot tops too. I confess I have not tried any myself yet, but I am curious. If you are too, see a recipe for sautéed carrot tops at https://www.forkintheroad.co/sauteed-carrot-greens/.

Interestingly, conventional wisdom holds that there are some cautions for both horses and humans when it comes to carrots.

For example, it is thought that folks with sensitivities to alkaloids and nitrates may want to avoid them. Likewise, it is thought that horses with PSSM should not eat carrots due to the high potassium levels. And horses with EMS, like Bear, are cautioned to only eat them in very small portions (or not at all depending upon an individual horse’s current health status) due to sugar content.

If you’d like to read more about feeding carrots to horses, with or without tops, read this post from Helpful Horse Hints at

Most importantly, it is helpful to remember that even though watching our horses enjoy carrots is fun, treats are best given in moderation (for example, the above article recommends no more than one or two carrots per day for the average horse without any dietary restrictions).

Race on Over to Take These Quizzes . . .

Check out the link below to take just-for-fun quizzes. All horse-related, of course!

From my favorite horse magazine, Equus, comes six entertaining quizzes with titles like “What rare horse breed are you?” and “What do horses say in different languages?”.

For those of you who might be sensitive to what your answers reveal about yourself, please note that your results are not to be taken seriously. 🙂

Go to https://equusmagazine.com/quizzes to have a little horsey fun today!

Equus Magazine Barn Stories Episode 38: The Next Journey (Featuring My Horse, Bear)

Have you listened to Equus Magazine’s Barn Stories podcasts? Barn Story material is selected by the magazine’s editors from almost forty years of True Tale stories that appeared in the printed magazine.

I am thrilled to see that my previously published True Tale story was made into Barn Stories Podcast: Episode 38! Equus has long been my favorite horse magazine. I actually remember reading it as a child. To have the magazine publish an essay of mine was meaningful. To see it turned into a podcast episode is a pleasant surprise.

I wrote the essay a few years ago. I composed it not long after my horse, Bear, began to struggle with a variety of health issues. His problems eventually led me to retire him from riding.

I actually figured that I did not have much time left with him. I anticipated most likely having him euthanized within the year.

I also didn’t have another horse of my own at home. I was fostering a series of horses for a rescue to keep Bear company. But none of them stayed with me permanently. With Bear’s health deteriorating, I also saw the end of my time as a horse owner looming before me.

The essay vividly reflects my feelings during that period. It is sad. Full of grief. Both real and anticipatory. My writing charged by the emotional turmoil that can occur when one experiences unwelcome life transitions.

Those of you who read the blog regularly will recognize that Bear is still with me. He turned 26 this year. But, you know. He won’t live forever. One day, I will in fact be grieving his actual loss. And at some point, my time as a horse owner will come to an end too.

Knowing those things will come to pass? It is painful. At the same time, that knowledge makes me appreciate all the more what I still do have. It sharpens my appreciation for what is right in front of me. Right here. Right now.

While reading or listening to sad stories is not for everyone, some of us find it therapeutic to dive into the depths of human experience and emotion. At least on occasion. Especially when it comes to how we feel about horses. Sometimes it is affirming and comforting to know that someone else feels similarly.

If you are inclined, you can listen to the podcast or read its transcript at


The podcast is about 10 minutes long, including the introduction, an ad read right in the middle of the podcast and the actual essay.

For those of you who prefer to listen to or read something a little different, check out the other Barn Stories podcast episodes. Some are sad or poignant like mine. Some are funny and more of a gentle read. I think they all do a beautiful job of capturing the range of experiences that equestrians have with horses. Find them at


This is the image that I chose to accompany my Equus True Tale story in the magazine. Bear and I are riding out on BLM land near the Little Bookcliffs mountain range in Western Colorado. I have long been drawn to the openness and stark beauty of the high desert. I thought the feeling of the picture captured the vastness of my relationship with Bear. The photographer is none other than my non-riding husband who was leading my other horse, Pumpkin Spice. You can see Spice’s ear sweetly peaking over the bottom corner of the picture.

Labor Day Horse-Shopping Discounts

Readers may know that I like to do the majority of my horse-related shopping when I can best take advantage of steep discounts. I do this by keeping a list of my equestrian needs/wants while setting aside money throughout the year. I then try to time as many purchases as possible to coincide with Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals.

But . . . there certainly are discounts during other holiday-related shopping times too.

Speaking of that, those of you in the USA may be enjoying your last day of the long Labor Day weekend. If you’d like to get in some last minute shopping, I’ve rounded up a list of Labor Day horse-shopping discounts that popped into my email inbox recently for your shopping pleasure.

The picture above was taken from the Big D website. Go to https://www.bigdweb.com to take advantage of the offer(s) shown.

I don’t have pictures for these other offers, but here is the pertinent information from several more shopping websites. Please visit the websites for exact offer details and exclusions.

Riding Warehouse
Free $25 RW gift card with any $150 purchase
Offers expires on 9/6/21

15% off plus, if you place a $200 order, get a free $50 e-gift card.
Use promo code LaborDay21
Offer expires 9/10/21

Cheshire Horse
20% off in store and online (with some exceptions)
Offer expires 09/08/21 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern

Hay Pillow
10% off Standard Hay Pillows
One Day Only – Monday September 6th
Use Coupon Code: Lbr10

Majesty’s Animal Nutrition (supplements/treats for equines and canines)
25% off all products
Valid Sept. 3rd through Sept 13th, 2021
Promo Code:LABORDAY25

Beauty For Real
30% off site wide
Use Code: LABOR30
Not sure of expiration date but probably at the end of the day today 9/6/21
(Please note that Beauty For Real is a makeup company. Not for horses. BUT, if you purchase their Lip Revival- Tinted Lip Balm, 20% of proceeds will benefit Brooke USA. This is an organization that helps working equids and their families worldwide. See my previous post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/07/26/equine-non-profit-spotlight-the-brooke-and-brookeusa/ to learn more about The Brooke and Brooke USA)

Very Short Story: Window To A Horse’s Soul

Led into the stable, he held his head low. He had never been here before and didn’t know these people. His instincts told him to run, but he felt too tired and sore. He just got off the trailer after a long ride. Throat dry from lack of water. Stomach tight from little food. Hoofs sore from lack of trimming. Whatever these new people wanted to do to him, he knew he would just have to stand there and take it. With eyes and ears at half-mast, he started to disappear into himself as he had done so many days and nights before. As he shuffled forward into the new barn, he suddenly felt the soft bedding beneath his hooves as he entered a stall. He caught the scent of fresh hay in the corner. He took note of the full bucket of clear, clean water. All these unexpected comforts captured his attention. Maybe, just maybe, he could come alive again. Today I think I saw hope in that horse’s eyes.

***This very short story is dedicated to all those horses-in-need out there, still waiting on their own soft place to land. ***

Wednesday Whinny

One of the many horse professionals that I enjoy learning from online is Barbra Schulte. I find her positive outlook on horses, riding and competition so inviting.

I referenced her in a previous post at

Mental Fitness in Riding

For today’s post, I share her words that appeared in one of her recent “Just For Today” emails.

“I think about the people in my horse world who inspire me.

I am so grateful for them.

Today, I realize that I too inspire others.

This makes me feel good.

It doesn’t have to be a big deal, just a smile or a kind word or a compliment about their horse.

And I will never know how I encourage someone else by never giving up, succeeding, and just being me – as I am.

I love knowing we all help each other in ways we will never know!”

By Barbra Schulte in her Just For Today Email Dated 8/16/21

Pursuing our horsemanship goals can bring out the Type A personality hidden (or maybe not so hidden) in some of us. This can lead to noticing every thing wrong about our own horsemanship and that of others.

Sure, in order to improve, it is helpful to notice and acknowledge what needs to change. But there’s a difference between that kind of awareness verses dwelling on the negative. It can be a delicate balancing act of perspectives as we seek to learn and grow our skills.

I like this reminder from Barbra Schule that we all have the power to look for the inspiration we gain from others. Barbra also shows us that sometimes just being ourselves, in all our human messiness and contradiction, allows us to connect with others in a way that a “perfect” version of ourselves never could. How refreshing is that!

Extra, Extra! Read all about horses!

Have you seen the Equus Magazine’s online EXTRAS? These are magazine quality articles about various horse care topics that only appear online, not in the printed magazine. You can read them online right away or download them to your computer.

The wide variety of topics are applicable to many horse owners or to anyone who wants to expand their horse knowledge.

Titles include “Help your horse survive colic” and “Is your horse getting enough vitamin E?” as well as “Laminitis Prevention Toolkit” and “Is Your Deworming Program Working?” But there are many more.

To check them all out go to https://equusmagazine.com/tag/equus-extra.

Have you noticed the price of Ivermectin lately?

Ivermectin is one of the chemicals used to deworm horses. Ivermectin has long been effective, readily available and quite affordable for most horse-owner budgets (like $2-3 per dose).

As we all know by now, COVID-19’s arrival has caused various kinds of supply chain issues and price increases. While searching for Ivermectin online, its recent rise in price caught my attention. With the online retailers I visited, the price doubled.

While this rise still makes Ivermectin less costly than other chemical classes of dewormers, the price increase is sizable. More so if you have a barn full of horses to deworm.

Besides supply chain issues, I can’t help but think that part of the cost increase might have to do with some people believing that Ivermectin can help prevent/treat COVID-19. People are apparently buying and using horse dewormer for this purpose. I am currently seeing news reports of a stark increase in people poisoning themselves this way.

If you are interested in the details about why horse dewormer should only be used on horses, I found this very interesting and informative article on the subject. I hope the article gets disseminated far and wide. Both to save people from sickening themselves and to keep horse dewormer readily available within the equine industry at an affordable price point.


Ponying Onward . . .

In a previous post, I wrote about ponying my horses Shiloh and Bear for the first time. If you missed it, you can read it at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/08/11/ponying-my-painted-ponies/.

Since that post, we’ve done a handful more ponying sessions together. Mostly we’ve stuck to ponying in their little paddock area. But we’ve also ponied in our round pen and in one of the pastures.

The ponying sessions continue to be short. About 15 minutes. All at the walk. Sometimes with obstacles included.

I like the challenge of working with two horses at once, trying to keep everyone engaged and flowing together. As herd animals, the concept isn’t foreign to them. But I wonder if they think adding a human into the mix is a bit odd.

I find the novelty of ponying quite interesting. There’s something about trying to direct the horse you are riding while also trying to guide the horse you are not riding that is enlivening.

I feel both horses trying to suss out what the expectations are. I see the horses trying to organize themselves within the boundaries I’m attempting to establish. I can also see that sometimes I am not as clear as I could be with my instructions. I find myself confused sometimes about how/when to communicate what/to whom at which time and in what order. Definitely an exercise in coordination.

Besides the opportunity to practice new skills, the best part of ponying is including Bear. I find a lot of satisfaction in being able to incorporate my now retired horse into my riding work. I may not be able to enjoy spending time on Bear’s back anymore, but it’s been refreshing to experience a new kind of connection with him through ponying.

Many thanks to my husband for his help with these ponying sessions (and for documenting them with the photos shown above).

I rode a jumper!

I rode a jumper.

What image just popped into your mind when you read that?

Maybe something like the drawing here?

Well, that’s not the jumper I am referencing.

Instead, THIS is the jumper that I rode recently:

Fun fact for the day. Carousel horses that have four feet off the ground are called “jumpers”. That’s the kind of carousel horse I mounted while visiting a fair. The photo makes for a different sort of “through the ears” snapshot from what I usually post.

Yes, I am over the age six. And I admit to being the only adult who wasn’t accompanying a child during the ride. But whatever. I always liked riding carousels as a kid. So I decided to go for a spin when I had the chance. It’s the closest thing I’ve had to a group trail ride in a long time.

Visiting the fair and taking a spin on the carousel proved to be a pleasant journey down memory lane. While traveling round and round, I couldn’t help think about how thrilled I would have been as a child to know that I would in fact eventually realize my dream of having horses. That instead of decorated wood and plastic, I would one day be mounted on flesh and blood painted ponies of my very own. Even taking pictures at sunrise while riding in my backyard.

On a related note, I found this neat little article from the creators of Mane and Tail grooming products at https://manentailequine.com/carousels/. I got a chuckle out of how they managed to make a segue from the history of carousels to marketing their shampoos, conditions and sprays. I also enjoyed their suggestion that readers imagine what their own horse would look like were it to magically become part of a carousel. 🙂

Equine Inspired Poetry: Horse Play on an August Morning

Horse Play On An August Morning

Crisp morning air revealing hints of Autumn before heat of late-Summer day

Pastured horses energized by the coolth

From a complete standstill, one charges off into a section of tall grass

The first laying down a path for his herdmate to follow

Hooves and hearts pounding, but I can only hear the hooves

A frenzy of movement as they glide over the ground

The first in line cannot contain himself

He bellows out a squeal, jumps up and forward through the air

Just as the two forelimbs reconnect with the earth, two hind limbs kick up and outward

I ponder how that must feel

What strength to leap your 1000 pound heft off the ground with the grace of a tiny ballerina!

The games continue like this until collective energy is spent and the quiet grazing resumes

Quiet grazing that will provide the fuel for the next romp through the tall grass

I posted this poem last year. If you feel like you’ve read this before, you might be right! Fall is my favorite season. And although it is still steamy where I live, I enjoy the occasional crisp morning. They are a wonderful promise of the change of season to come. Watching my horses cavort on those mornings leads me to think they might feel the same way too.

2020 Paralympic Games (starting August 24th, 2021)

“Spirit in Motion.” Did you know that is the Paralympic movement motto? I didn’t until just a few days ago. As much as the Olympics is touted, much less recognition goes to the Paralympics.

I don’t think I am the only one in the dark about these games. I have long read about Para Equestrian athletes and their horses, but I admit to not being up to date on the games as a whole.

In doing some online reading, I found that Wikipedia provides a good summation:

“The Paralympic Games or Paralympics are a periodic series of international multi-sport events involving athletes with a range of disabilities, including impaired muscle power (e.g. paraplegia and quadriplegia, muscular dystrophy, post-polio syndrome, spina bifida), impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency (e.g. amputation or dysmelia), leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment. There are Winter and Summer Paralympic Games, which since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, are held almost immediately following the respective Olympic Games. All Paralympic Games are governed by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

The Paralympics has grown from a small gathering of British World War II veterans in 1948 to become one of the largest international sporting events by the early 21st century. The Paralympics has grown from 400 athletes with a disability from 23 countries in 1960 to thousands of competitors from over 100 countries at the 2012 Summer Olympics. Paralympians strive for equal treatment with non-disabled Olympic athletes, but there is a large funding gap between Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

The Paralympic Games are organized in parallel with the Olympic Games, while the IOC-recognized Special Olympics World Games include athletes with intellectual disabilities, and the Deaflympics include deaf athletes.[2][3]

Given the wide variety of disabilities that Para athletes have, there are several categories in which the athletes compete. The allowable disabilities are broken down into ten eligible impairment types. The categories are impaired muscle power, impaired passive range of movement, limb deficiency, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia, ataxia, athetosis, vision impairment and intellectual impairment.[4] These categories are further broken down into classifications, which vary from sport to sport.”

I also found out that there are 28 Paralymic sports divided between the Summer and Winter games.


Football 5-a-side
Shooting Para sport
Sitting volleyball
Table tennis
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair fencing
Wheelchair rugby
Wheelchair tennis


Alpine skiing
Cross-country skiing
Para ice hockey
Wheelchair curling

If you’d like to read specifically about Para Equestrian events, both at the Tokyo games and more broadly, here are some helpful resources to explore:




The 2020 Paralympic Games begin in Tokyo, Japan on August 24th, 2021. Media coverage of the games has historically been lacking. I hope that changes this year. I know I’ll be watching for TV and other coverage, hoping that the Games, the athletes (and the horses!) get the exposure they deserve.

Three Tips For Entering A New Barn- How to start off on the right foot!

Sometimes life changes necessitate that we find a new barn for taking lessons, putting our horses in training or boarding.

Other times, we want to explore a different discipline. Maybe join a training program that our current barn doesn’t offer.

Whether you board your horse or participate in a lesson program without boarding, you may at some point find yourself the new kid on the block.

While I currently keep my horses at home, I boarded in the past. I volunteered at a horse rescue. I worked at one therapeutic riding center and volunteered at two others. I have also moved across the country with my horses. I still frequently seek instruction outside my own backyard and also enjoy experimenting with new disciplines from time to time.

All those instances have led me to entering new barns. Many times over. I have experience walking into new places, trying to figure out how to fit in and get the most of the opportunity.

Starting off or starting over can be difficult. You may even decide this new barn you chose is ultimately not for you. Even so, there is real value is trying to learn as much as you can while you are there. Even from folks who are quite different from you. Even from folks who care for their horses, ride and otherwise conduct themselves in a way that you decide you don’t like.

Here are three tips for giving each experience a good go while you are there:

1)Consider yourself a guest and conduct yourself accordingly

Practice basic manners. Say hello and smile. Ask before you borrow something. Inquire about barn rules.

If you have previously spent time at only one barn, you may be surprised at significant differences in rules and horsemanship philosophies. It’s something that can really catch people off guard, especially if they are new to horses.

For example, have you ever thought there might be more than one way to escort a horse from the riding arena and back into their stall?

At one barn I visited, I was corrected for walking into the stall with a horse. I was told that was unsafe. Never mind that I had walked horses into stalls all my horse life. I was instead instructed to stand at the stall door, send the horse ahead of me into the stall, have the horse face me and then take off the halter with my feet still outside the stall door. I then became accustomed to that practice.

Later, while visiting a different barn and observed sending a horse into a stall, I was told that what I did was unsafe. I was instead instructed to walk ahead of the horse into the stall.

It’s those types of situations that can really grate on the nerves. But as a barn new-comer, I feel it is my job to learn and practice the rules of the barn. Even if they seem odd to me.

Remember that horses thrive on routine. Barns tend to function like well-oiled machines when there is consistency in how the horses are handled.

So even if you disagree with the new barn’s ideas, remember that adjusting your techniques to fit in with the barn has the larger purpose of contributing to barn harmony.

2) Keep a “learn and grow” mindset

While this attitude applies to barn rules too, it is especially important when it comes to training and lessons. Remember that presumably the instructor or clinician has been successful at doing something in some way that you have not yet been. That means you have something to learn from them.

True, there may be times where you feel you need to decline to participate or object to something for safety reasons. For example, maybe you feel the instructor is truly over facing you, the clinician’s training technique is abusive to your horse or the barn manager is acting inappropriately towards you. Otherwise, try to keep a beginner’s mindset. Be open to seeing things from the instructor’s viewpoint.

You may ultimately decide that you don’t agree or don’t like their philosophy/techniques. Even so, there is probably something in the experience that you can take with you and apply to your horsemanship or horse care in a new environment. Sometimes learning what you don’t want to do is a good thing. A negative experience is not wasted if you can take something positive away from it.

3)Have an exit plan that reflects an “it’s a small horse-world” view

Sometimes, despite the best of hopes and intentions, we just don’t find the new barn a good fit. I know this can be disappointing and upsetting. You may even feel the urge to get out as fast as you can.

No matter your exit timeframe, consider taking the time to contemplate the best way to leave. Echo that phrase “begin with the end in mind.” I say this because the horse world is a small one.

You may think that someone who specializes in one breed/discipline doesn’t even talk to someone else in another. But often those people use the same services like farrier, vet, body workers and feed stores who often serve folks from multiple disciplines and breeds.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to gab with the farrier or vet while you are standing around holding horses for them? Or how easy it is to overhear folks conversing in the barn aisle or on the rail at a horse show?

Even removing social media from the equation, know that word gets around fast in the horse community. Especially concerning negative experiences and comments.

While there ARE times you need to draw a line in the sand if you feel your safety is at stake or a horse is being neglected/abused, most of barn drama is not life or death.

Most of the conflicts I have been a part of or witnessed could have been avoided if everyone involved (me included!) practiced more restraint and discretion in passing on opinions and judgments.

For additional thoughts on leaving a barn on a good note, I recommend this article from Horse Illustrated magazine:

Ideally, the new barn or lesson program you picked fits most of your needs and you decide to stay. No barn is perfect, but some places just feel more like home than others. A supportive barn environment can provide years of good care for your horse, allow you to tackle new riding challenges or meet fellow equestrians that can become life-long friends. But, if you ever have to move on, keeping these tips and hints in mind can help you land softly at your next barn.

AHP 2021 Horse Industry Survey Results

In a previous post, I alerted readers to the opportunity to participate in the American Horse Publications (AHP) 2021 annual industry survey at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/01/22/2021-ahp-equine-industry-survey-get-your-voice-counted/.

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.”

I noted that filling out the survey was a rare opportunity for me, a backyard horse-keeper, to make my voice heard within the wider equine industry.

Now, the 2021 survey results are in. I thought readers would find them interesting and informative so I am sharing them here. All information is directly quoted from a press release kindly sent to me by Kelsey at Zoetis (Zoetis sponsored the 2021 AHP survey). The key conclusions are noted early on, but I hope that readers will digest the entire press release. How do the survey results mesh with your experiences and impressions of the current state of the equine industry?


PARSIPPANY, NJ – Jul 26, 2021 –AHP Equine Industry Survey Demonstrates Stability Based on the Number of Horses Owned/Managed

Coming on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, the survey can serve as an important benchmark in the health of the equine industry now and in the future.

Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the equine industry is stable based on the number of horses owned/managed, according to the results of a survey by American Horse Publications (AHP) sponsored by Zoetis. The survey, which includes responses from 7,267 horse owners/managers, found that the top three issues facing the industry are land use issues, horses in transition or at risk, and the increased cost of horse-keeping. And, while vaccination rates are stable, survey respondents indicated they are following updated deworming recommendations and adjusting their frequency if needed.

American Horse Publications. 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey.
The 2021 survey faced a number of unique challenges in collecting responses due to changes in engagement on social media, increased privacy concerns, and the polar vortex that hit the Texas area and left millions without power.

Survey Key Conclusions
⦁ Continuing the trend from previous studies, the U.S. equine industry appears to remain fairly stable based on the number of horses owned/managed.
⦁ More than 85% of respondents have experienced an increase in horsekeeping costs.
⦁ Based on results from this year’s survey, the top three issues currently facing the equine industry are land use issues, horses in transition or at risk, and the cost of horsekeeping.
⦁ There is a continued increase in the prominence of the role of veterinarians in providing routine health care, such as vaccinating and deworming. While there are no significant differences in vaccinating horses compared to the previous survey, this survey shows a continuing trend in which respondents are deworming less frequently.
⦁ The survey indicated that about 20% of horse owners/managers used telemedicine to provide equine health care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may become a regular tool for improving equine health.

“The results from the 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey reveal overall stability in the U.S. equine industry in spite of unique challenges posed by COVID-19,” said Jill Stowe, Ph.D., professor of agricultural economics at the University of Kentucky, who analyzed the data and consulted on the results. “Based on respondents’ input on management and issues facing the industry, our leaders have helpful information to guide strategic planning and decision-making for the long-term benefit of the industry.”

The survey, which was conducted from January 18 through April 9, 2021, has three primary objectives: to gauge participation trends and management practices in the U.S. equine industry, to identify critical issues facing the equine industry as perceived by those who own or manage horses, and to better understand approaches to horse health care. AHP conducted similar surveys in 2009-2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018.

Stability Through the Pandemic
The average respondent owns/manages about six horses. 75.2% of respondents indicate that the number of horses they currently own/manage is the same as in 2020, and 10.4% own/manage more horses than they did in 2020. When asked about future expectations of ownership, 73% expect to own/manage the same number of horses in 2022, 17.3% expect to own/manage more horses and 9.7% expect to own/manage fewer horses. Comparing this to the 2018 survey, we see an increase in expected stability regarding the number of horses owned/managed.

Horse Ownership
Growth in the number of horses owned/managed is more prevalent among respondents in the youngest age group as compared to the oldest group. Similar to previous studies, the frequency of owning/managing more horses in the survey year (2021) than in the previous year (2020) is decreasing with age; 21.8% of respondents in the 18-24 age category report owning/managing more horses in 2021 than in 2020, while only 5.4% of respondents in the 65+ age category report owning/managing more horses. This pattern is also consistent with expectations on horse ownership/management one year in the future: 31.1% of respondents in the 18-24 age category expect to own/manage more horses in 2022 than they do this year, while only 10.2% of respondents in the 65+ age category report the same expectation.

Event Participation
Survey participants indicate that they expect to compete in an average of 4.3 events in 2021, which is less than the 5 competitions reported in the 2018 study. More than 45% of the respondents do not plan on competing at all in 2021, up from 38.7% in 2018.

Horsekeeping Costs
Feed (including both hay and concentrates) continues to be the most frequently identified area in which horsekeeping costs have increased. This is followed by costs of veterinary services (41%) and animal health products (39%), which are stable from the 2018 study.

However, the cost of barn supplies has significantly increased since 2018, from 12.2% to 22%. Frequently mentioned sources of increased costs in the “other” category were fencing, building materials and insurance. In addition, 22.2% of respondents identified fuel/transportation as a primary source of increased horsekeeping costs. It is important to note that if this survey had been conducted later in 2021, when there was a sharp increase in gas and lumber prices, this percentage may have been higher. The rise in horsekeeping costs could force businesses to raise prices even if they don’t want to.

Looking at how to accommodate for horsekeeping costs, most respondents reported they will reduce expenditures in other areas of their lives (60%), attend fewer competitions (22.2%) and pursue other income opportunities (21.3%).

Issues Facing the Equine Industry
The most frequently selected issue facing the equine industry was land use issues (43.5%), followed closely by horses in transition or at risk (43.1%), and cost of horsekeeping (42.8%). Frequently mentioned issues in the “other” category include animal rights activists, competition costs, liability and over-regulation.

Although there are overarching issues that span the entire equine industry, there are certain issues of heightened concern in particular areas of the country. For example, zip code regions 4 (Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio) and 7 (Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas) had the highest percentage of respondents selecting illegal medication of performance horses and ineffective welfare laws. Respondents in zip code region 3, which includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Tennessee, were most likely to select the practice of soring as a key issue.

Horse Health Care
Veterinarians administer vaccines for 65.4% of respondents’ horses, continuing a gradual upward trend from previous surveys (58.2% in 2012, 61.4% in 2015 and 63% in 2018). The percent of respondents who administer the vaccines themselves continues to decrease, standing at 28.5% compared to 29.7% in 2018, 31.5% in 2015 and 34.7% in 2012.

Of vaccination-related issues discussed with the veterinarian, the most common is what the horse is being vaccinated for (63.7%), followed by American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) vaccination recommendations (40.6%). Since the 2018 survey, horse owners and veterinarian conversations surrounding vaccination protocols have decreased.
More than 72% of respondents indicate that their veterinarian is the leading influence for where they purchase their equine vaccines, with price being the second leading influence (13.3%).

Respondents indicate that they are adhering to new deworming recommendations. The percentage of horse owners who are deworming 1 to 3 times a year has increased, while the percentage of those who are deworming up to 6 times a year has decreased.
More than half of respondents (54.4%) indicate their veterinarian is involved in developing their horses’ deworming schedules—the first time this figure has eclipsed the 50% mark. Survey results indicate that just under 60% of respondents report their veterinarians recommend a fecal egg count test, declining from nearly 78% in 2018.

Respondents indicate that they purchase dewormers from chain stores, local feed stores and online. Veterinarians are reported to have the most influence on dewormer purchasing decisions and their role has become more prominent than indicated in previous studies.

Timing of Surveys Can Be Meaningful
The 2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey continues to build upon the first four surveys (2009-2010, 2012, 2015 and 2018) to help understand dynamics within the equine industry. The initial survey was conducted as recovery from the Great Recession in ’08 and ’09 was underway, and the following two surveys were able to track recovery in the equine industry.

“The timing of the 2021 survey is fortuitous because it comes on the heels of a worldwide economic slowdown due to the global COVID-19 pandemic—a health event not seen in more than a century,” said Dr. Stowe. “Accordingly, it can serve as an important benchmark in the health of the equine industry now and in the future.”

About the Survey
The 2021 survey was limited to those who currently own or manage at least one horse, are 18 years of age or older and live in the United States. The survey collected 8,029 responses, of which 7,267 were useable.

“Zoetis is proud to support the ongoing work of American Horse Publications and its significant efforts to understand the trends impacting our industry,” said Jen Grant, head of marketing for U.S. equine, Zoetis. “To see a stable U.S. horse population despite the many challenges of COVID-19 is a testament to the powerful connection between horses and their caregivers—a bond we are committed to nurturing now and into the future through our trailblazing portfolio of horse care products.”

“AHP is grateful for its partnership with Zoetis to provide ongoing and vital data on the trends in horse care, management and welfare of horses in the U.S.,” said Christine W. Brune, AHP executive director. “We appreciate the cooperation of our members in promoting the survey and the expert analysis of Dr. Jill Stowe.”
Survey results will be released by Zoetis and AHP members through their own channels. Excerpts from this study must be referenced as “2021 AHP Equine Industry Survey sponsored by Zoetis.”

About American Horse Publications
AHP has united equine-related publishing media, businesses, professionals, colleges, and students for over 50 years. The non-profit professional association promotes excellence in equine publishing media and encourages relationships and communication to increase interest in the horse industry. For more information, visit http://www.americanhorsepubs.org.

About Zoetis
As the world’s leading animal health company, Zoetis is driven by a singular purpose: to nurture our world and humankind by advancing care for animals. After nearly 70 years innovating ways to predict, prevent, detect, and treat animal illness, Zoetis continues to stand by those raising and caring for animals worldwide—from livestock farmers to veterinarians and pet owners. The company’s leading portfolio and pipeline of medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, and technologies make a difference in over 100 countries. In 2020, Zoetis generated revenue of $6.7 billion with ~11,300 employees. For more, visit http://www.zoetis.com.

Zoetis has been committed to providing horse care you can count on for more than 65 years. Our team includes numerous equine veterinarians and other experts who are inspired daily by the opportunity and profound responsibility to support horses, the owners who love them, and the equine veterinarians and other care team members who safeguard their wellbeing every day. Whether at the clinic or in the field, Zoetis is always by your side with a comprehensive, innovative portfolio of products and services for horses at every step of a horse’s care and throughout the journey of a horse’s life.

Ponying My Painted Ponies

Have you ever ponied a horse? Ponying as in riding one horse while leading another?

I don’t have much experience in ponying. It’s something I’ve practiced a handful of times at clinics and a few times at home. But until last week, I had not tried ponying my horse, Bear, while riding my other horse, Shiloh.

I’m not keen on making Bear do a lot of forced exercise at this point in his existence. He is twenty-six with arthritis and a history of laminitis. Our trailer trips to nearby locations (so I can ride Shiloh) have so far seemed within his comfort level. But I suspect he’d get sore if I would, say, try to lead him on a trail ride. At home though, it is easy to keep any organized exercise within limits.

Last week, I asked my husband if he’d be willing to indulge me by helping me get started ponying. My husband no longer rides and wouldn’t consider himself a “horse person”, but he’s absorbed enough horsemanship over the years to be useful in these types of situations.

For our first try at ponying, I decided we’d stay in the horse’s main paddock instead of going to the roundpen or to an open pasture in order to minimize distractions.

So on the chosen day, while I got Shiloh ready to roll, my husband groomed Bear and did a touch of in-hand work with him. Just some walk-halt-turn-back to get Bear in a working frame of mind.

Shiloh’s reaction to Bear being led off was interesting. I was mounted on Shiloh at that point. Shiloh didn’t do anything terrible, but he was clearly distracted.

Shiloh went in the direction I asked him to go, but his ears were going around like radar. They constantly switched back and forth between flicking towards me and then towards the direction that Bear went.

I could also feel in his body that he’d go just a touch slower when we moved away from Bear and a touch faster when we moved towards him. It was subtle, but it didn’t feel very good to me, so we worked for a minute until I felt him relax into my suggestions more.

With everyone warmed up, I was ready for my husband to hand off Bear’s lead rope to me. Prior to this, I was wondering if the horses’ herd dynamics would cause issues. In my limited experience, I’ve found it helpful to ride the lead horse and pony a horse that is more the follower. Between Bear and Shiloh, though, Bear is the leader.

Not long after my husband first handed me the rope, Bear made a face and put his ears back at Shiloh. I felt the worry that created in Shiloh even though Shiloh didn’t move his feet. I growled as I said Bear’s name as a sharp reminder to put herd dynamics aside while I was ostensibly taking over as lord of the dance there. Fortunately, Bear’s facial expression quickly softened. He seemed to let go of the thought of pushing Shiloh around.

As we started off at a slow walk, Shiloh wasn’t quite sure of what to make of any of it. I have no idea if he’d ever ponied another horse. You can see his worried body posture in the above photo.

But soon enough, Shiloh relaxed. We practiced walk and halt repeatedly with lots of turning to the right. We tried a couple of turns to the left, but I struggled with keeping Bear’s nose up near my knee. I decided we’d leave that practice for another day so I wouldn’t end up with a mess on my hands during our first ponying attempt.

Mostly, I thought things went quite well. We did have a blooper moment where Bear unexpectedly stopped. This is awkward when the horse that you are riding keeps moving. Technically, that kind of force can pull you right off the horse, especially if the rider is yacking with her husband and not paying close attention to her own positioning and that of her horses. Fortunately, my situation wasn’t that dramatic. Bear seemed none the worse for the wear. But it was definitely a reminder to remain focused on the task at hand.

I also think it was good practice to have Shiloh pay attention to me as rider even though his formidable pasture- leader was right beside him. Bear might be eight years older than Shiloh and in worse shape physically, but Bear is still happy and able to direct Shiloh and move him right out of the way whenever Bear fancies.

With my leading the dance as rider with doing lots of wide turns to the right, I continually asked Bear to move out of Shiloh’s space. I wonder if Shiloh found that to be a refreshing change of pace?

All in all, ponying proved to be an interesting experiment. If my husband stays game, I may see if he’d be willing to spot us for another few ponying sessions before Winter. Ponying is not a bad skill for a rider to have. And with Bear’s recent Summer weight gain, some limited exercise might actually be helpful, as long as I don’t exacerbate his lameness issues.

Interested in giving it a try? For some professional input on how to pony horses safely, here are some suggested resources:

Articles by Julie Goodnight:


Video by the CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association):

Article by Marty Martin:

On a related note, I happened across this article by Jeff Derby called “Your Attention Please” that appeared in Eclectic Horseman magazine at https://eclectic-horseman.com/your-attention-please/. It wasn’t written to address ponying, but having everyone’s attention when you are ponying is really critical to the functioning and safety of the endeavor. I thought it contains some solid food for thought on the subject of drawing your horse’s attention so I am including it in this post.

Lavender Products For You That Your Horse Might Like Too!

Ever experimented with calming products for your horse? You know, all those pastes, powders, gels and essential oil products that claim to relax your horse in stressful situations?

I have tried a bunch of different over-the-counter equine calming products over the years. Sometimes I thought they might have helped take the edge off a particular horse’s nerves. Might have. Maybe. But I always later changed my mind.

Unfortunately, I never found a product that I was truly convinced worked well or consistently enough to justify its price or continued use.

I actually suspect working on myself- like working on managing my nerves, increasing my focus, improving my riding aids- is likely the best calming product available.

That said, I keep seeing articles about how lavender has consistently shown to have calming effects on horses according to scientific studies.

Lavender also has insect repellent properties. Do an online search. You can easily find fly sprays (and home-made fly spray recipes) that contain lavender oil.

I figure that if my wearing lavender products around horses might have a positive impact, whether calming or insect repelling, why not wear it? If I am using soaps, lotions, hand sanitizers and the like anyways, why not have them lavender infused?

Unfortunately for me, lavender isn’t actually my favorite scent. But I do sometimes find or have been gifted products that don’t bother me that much. The photo accompanying this post shows the lavender-scented products I currently have in my possession.

One product that I would highly recommend that I don’t use currently, but have in the past, are the products from Annie Oakley. These are quality products that are not tested on animals. While their range of products have expanded over the years, they still do make lavender products specifically for horses and riders. How fun is that.

Go to https://www.annieoakley.com/product/131/calming-lavender-journeys-training-essentials to see their gift set that includes their muzzle rub oil and ranch & stall spray. The products are pricey, as are many essential oil products, but I recall that they lasted a long time. For disclosure purposes, The Backyard Horse Blog has no affiliation with Annie Oakley. My recommendation is uncompensated and unsolicited.

Please note that if you compete in horse shows, lavender (either ingested or absorbed through the skin) is a prohibited substance with the USEF and FEI. Ingestion or absorption may result in a positive drug test (yes, lavender is edible in certain forms).

Interestingly though, if a horse inhales the scent of lavender, it does not result in a positive test. In fact, one enterprising equestrian created a product that riders can attach to their bridles that releases the smell of lavender. She had this product approved for use by the USEF, the FEI, USDF, and AQHA. Read more about her business HorseScents at


Remember that it is up to each competitor to do their due diligence in making sure they do not use a prohibitive substance according to their own show organization rules.

As with any scent or product, you may want to check to see if your horse actually likes the smell of what you are using. If you have never seen a horse display scent preferences, it may surprise you that horses can communicate when they do or don’t like a certain smell.

Heather Wallace of The Timid Rider blog made a video at one time that shows her offering two different horses sniffs of multiple essential oils. I was fascinated watching the horses’ reactions.

In general, if a horse liked a scent, they would turn their head and prick their ears or stand calmly with their body arced towards the scent. If a horse didn’t find the scent to their tastes/was indifferent, they would either show no interest whatsoever or move their head or entire body away from the scent.

Now I watch for these reactions in my own horses when using a new product. I must say that Shiloh in general seems to like the lavender scent much more than Bear. Bear usually stands there looking unimpressed while Shiloh will often linger with his nose over whatever lavender product I show him.

Finally, if you are interested in reading more about lavender and its calming effects on horses, here are some resource links for you to explore (FYI- the first two links reference the same more recent study, but the third resource link references a study conducted almost ten years ago).




Let’s Bring Down The Barriers To Horse Adoption (while still protecting rescue horses, mules and donkeys)

Here is my horse, Bear, greeting my first foster horse named Henry.

I am a proponent of animal rescue and adoption.

I have volunteered at both an animal shelter and a horse rescue. I have adopted one horse, fostered nine others, taken in countless stray cats that wandered up on my doorstep, done TNR (trapping feral cats, getting them spayed/neutered and vaccinated and then releasing them back to their original locations), adopted three senior felines and fostered more than 10 cats for two different shelters. I donate to rescues and animal welfare causes.

If you would like to read more about my previous experience specifically with horse adoption and fostering, go to https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2020/02/26/looking-for-another-horse-this-spring-consider-fostering-or-adopting-your-next-horse/.

Sure, the world of rescue can be disturbing and heartbreaking. But it can also be rewarding and gratifying. It’s a world that I will continue to support despite the fact that it’s not perfect. I don’t want the following words to be misconstrued as meaning I am anti-rescue/adoption.

Within in the world of horse rescue, the ASPCA recently launched a program called The Right Horse Initiative. The goal is to encourage equestrians to consider adoption when looking for their next horse. Read more about The Right Horse Initiative at https://therighthorse.org.

The Right Horse Initiative supports a number of innovative programs at rescues across the country. All designed to increase horse adoption rates. I have one more idea for them.

As someone who is looking for their next horse and considering adoption, the greatest obstacle I have come against is the adoption application. Let me say that I DO think it is very important that rescues screen their adopters. After all, no rescue wants the horses in their care to end up in a neglectful or abusive home.

My issue is that since most horse rescues in the country are individual entities, each rescue requires its own application. It’s a great idea, but in practice, it limits my ability to adopt.

I am currently approved as an adopter with two different horse rescues in two different States. I also got a verbal reassurance from one organization that they would approve me as an adopter based on my previous application approval with another nearby rescue. But my experience is that most rescues will not. I was told by the last organization I contacted that it would not accept an approved application from another organization. I would need to go through that rescue’s own application and approval process before I could adopt.

Anybody who has been horse shopping knows that it is common to test out multiple horses in multiple locations. While I don’t so much mind filling out many applications myself, I do mind asking multiple references to talk with multiple rescues. Veterinarians, farriers, riding instructors/trainers (not to mention friends/family) are busy folks.

I suppose if I adopt a horse that it will give the horse professionals in my life another client. But beyond that, there’s not much personal benefit for them taking up their time for me and my multiple applications, especially when there’s no guarantee that I will find a suitable horse at a particular rescue.

What I would really like to see is The Right Horse (or some other national organization) design a blanket adoption application and approval system. Individual rescues could then join in by agreeing that they would accept adopters who were approved by The Right Horse or whatever overarching organization might undertake the responsibility for maintaining this national adopter-database.

I would guess some rescues still wouldn’t participate, preferring to personally approve each adopter, but I bet many of them would. I think the idea of a national adopter-database has the potential to really open up the application barrier to adoption while still protecting the horses, donkeys and mules in their care.

While I am not the first person who has thought of this idea, I sent an email suggesting it to The Right Horse Initiative. I have not heard back from them, but maybe my email is at least hanging out in someone’s inbox somewhere. My hope is that the idea would be considered as they design their future programs within The Right Horse Initiative.

I’ve personally seen the good that animal rescues, shelters and sanctuaries add to the world. I plan to continue to be a part of this world in some form or fashion, whether I actually end up adopting my next horse or not. If folks interested in adopting knew that just one application approval would open up the possibility of them adopting from multiple rescues, I think the horse industry would see adoption rates rise and that would be a beautiful thing.

What about you? Have you ever adopted or fostered an animal? Volunteered at a rescue? What do you think would help equestrians consider adoption when looking for their next horse?

Mid-Year Reflection: What are you working on in your horsemanship?

Reflection often seems limited to the beginning or the ending of events. We might set riding goals at the start of the year. Or maybe look back at the end of show season. But what about when you are midway through or more?

In looking at the calendar, the year is more than half over. And in my neck of the woods, Winter is about three months away. Since I don’t usually ride at home once the weather turns freezing, I don’t have much longer to ride Shiloh before he starts his Winter break.

I’ve been pleased at how Shiloh has ridden this year. We continue to work on basics like maintaining rhythm and bend through circles, stretching forward into contact and improving consistency in his gait. He’s so much softer and more pliable than he used to be. I enjoy working on those smaller details. It’s the wanna be horse-trainer coming out in me.

This month marks the third year that I have had Shiloh. I knew he’d make a good pasture-mate for Bear, and I liked his personality from the get-go, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to bring him back to being a decent riding horse after his spending five years at pasture.

He has always felt safe in the sense of being quiet, but he was so dull and tuned out that it didn’t feel very good riding him. He was super defensive about rein contact, even in a bitless bridle, and didn’t seem to have any awareness of my seat or legs. But now I feel good about the relationship that we have developed in the saddle. It’s very gratifying to feel and see the changes in him.

We’ve also completed a handful of field trips off the property this year, but I have yet to either take Shiloh out on a trail ride or ride him in a clinic.

You may recall my writing about how we left our Spring clinic just a few hours after arriving due to some pain issues I was experiencing. More recently, I canceled our participation in a much-anticipated Summer clinic.

I still hope to resume our field trips to a friend’s property and a local barn once we get past the worst of the hot and humid Summer weather. But considering Bear’s age and health issues, I decided it would not be wise to take him to the four-day Summer clinic.

I wasn’t confident that Bear would eventually settle into spending most of that time separated from Shiloh while parked in a stall. He’s been struggling off and on (mostly on) with separation anxiety during our short field-trips. I just didn’t think he would do well with an extended trip away from home.

By not riding in either clinic, I’ve missed out on the opportunity to do obstacle work, try my hand at mounted archery and refresh my skills in working cattle. I must say it hurts to type all that out. I so enjoy participating in horse adventures, and it bothers me to stay at home so much. But I don’t want my fun to be potentially at Bear’s expense.

Otherwise, Bear is battling the battle of the bulge. He was staying trim until just the last month or so. The excessive rain we’ve had this July turned his semi-dry lot into something closer to a normal pasture.

That translated into him gaining weight quickly in just a few weeks. Something potentially dangerous for a horse like him with PPID (Cushing’s Disease) and EMS (Equine Metabolic Syndrome). I am now working on adjusting his diet since I can’t exercise him as he is only pasture sound at this point in his life. As Bear’s farrier says, “There’s nothing easy about managing an easy keeper.”

In the mean time, I am working on finding a third horse to add to the herd so Bear can be left at home with companionship while I take either Shiloh or the third new horse out for the future adventures I’d like to enjoy. I’ve met some very nice horses along the way in that journey, but I have not found the right one for me yet.

I had also thought Shiloh and I might have videoed a few more gaited western-dressage tests by now in order to enter online shows. But I am still confronting the fact that without an actual arena with good footing (as opposed to just riding in my paddocks, pastures or round pen), it is difficult for me to ride the tests at anything other than a walk. As interested as I am in western dressage, I am not sure I’ll be entering any online shows this year.

While I feel like on the whole I’ve had a good riding year with Shiloh so far and I have really enjoyed our rides, the year hasn’t been without its frustrations and disappointments.

Long story short, I thought I’d give this update of mine in order to prompt you, dear readers, to think about what you’ve done so far this year with your horsemanship and/or what else you’d like to work on or accomplish before year’s end. Especially for those of you, who like me, may find their riding severely limited or non-existent from December through March.

If you have not done what you would otherwise like to do yet, you still have some time. Set that goal. Make a plan.

Like me, you may not get as far as or do as much as you would like, but you never know until you try. Whatever the ultimate results, I bet you can still have fun along the way.

What is YOUR mid-year reflection?

Eight Ideas For What to Put In A Horse-For-Sale Ad

Tucked within a previous post on a different topic, I mentioned that I have been looking for a third horse to add to my herd.

For about a year, I have been regularly looking at adoption and rescue websites. I also view Craigslist, Dream Horse, EquineNow and HorseClicks ads.

With the popularity of Facebook, you may wonder why I didn’t include it in my list above? Technically, Facebook banned animal-for-sale ads although I am well aware that those ads still regularly appear.

In addition, I am not a Facebook member. I can still view public pages, but most Facebook ads don’t include alternative contact information like an email or phone number so I can’t communicate with the sellers even if I am otherwise interested.

But Facebook aside, I’ve likely viewed a thousand ads during my search. I use the information in ads to try to figure out if a horse matches enough of my criteria to warrant a trip to go meet said creature. Horse-shopping trips are exciting, but they can also be potentially time consuming and costly when they involve travel.

I don’t expect to read an entire novel about the horse or to see professional photos. But I unfortunately find myself frequently stymied by the lack of information in a sizable number of ads.

I get the sense that many folks are not sure what to put in an ad. They end up leaving out a lot of critical information that might otherwise help sell their horse.

I understand there can be legitimate reasons that certain information is not provided. But if I see an ad that lacks critical details, a red flag goes up for me. I am likely to keep scrolling or clicking. The seller misses out on a potential sale.

For those folks who may wonder how they can design an ad that is more likely to attract a buyer like me, here are my suggestions from the perspective of someone who is currently horse searching. In all your horse ads, please include the following:

  1. Age
  2. Breed
  3. Gender
  4. Height
  5. Skills and highlights
  6. Location (with contact info)
  7. Price
  8. Photos (and video)

Numbers 1 to 4: Age, breed, gender, height

The first four (age, breed, gender, height) are especially critical (if the horse is unregistered, even an estimated age and the notation that the horse is “grade” is helpful).

Having those first four basic criteria at the start of your ad is a big help to the potential buyer who is likely to be looking for a specific type of horse, say a small-gaited- teenage-gelding. It may also cut down on fifty people texting you asking your horse’s age because you forgot to include your horse’s basic statistics.

I didn’t include it in the above list, but you may also want to throw in your horse’s color. Especially if a photo does not accompany your ad. I am a fan of the adage “a good horse is never a bad color.” Even so, many of us do have coat-color preferences. Listing the color may be helpful to catch a buyer’s eye who happens to be looking for a particular shade of horse.

Number 5: Skills and highlights

The skills and highlights that you list should correspond with how you are marketing your horse. Is your horse an unstarted prospect, kid’s horse, companion-only horse? Think about what traits the typical buyer might be looking for in your horse’s chosen category.

For example, let’s say you are selling old Dobbin as a trail horse. List something about the horse’s specific training or experience or demeanor in that area. Maybe “trailer loads without drama, has experience staying tied all night to a high-line while camping or rides quietly in a group whether in the back, middle or lead.”

What about the companion-only horse who can’t be ridden? It can be helpful to talk about the horse’s manners and demeanor. Maybe “stands well for farrier, gets along quietly with other horses at pasture or loves to be groomed and fussed over.”

More general highlights that can apply to horses across the board are also helpful. Statements like “healthy and sound”, “stands like a rock at the mounting block” or “smooth and slow lope” can add nicely to the picture you are trying to paint of your horse.

Paint as attractive a picture as you can of your horse based on current skills that your horse demonstrates, not based on what you think your horse could be with more time, training or attention. This isn’t to say that your ideas of your horse’s potential certainly don’t have merit. You might include a sentence about what you think the horse could be suited for in the future. But mostly, tell me what kind of horse I will be encountering when I show up for a meet and greet this week.

Number 6: Location

Location (as in where the horse is so the buyer can arrange a “meet and greet”) is super helpful. Some folks are comfortable buying site unseen, but many still want to arrange an in person test-drive before buying.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten really excited about an ad, only to email the buyer and find out the horse is five States away and I can’t get there. I wouldn’t have disturbed the seller if that information had been included in the ad.

Don’t forget your contact info! Most ad websites require the seller to include one form of contact, but more is helpful. When you can, include both a phone number and an email. Let folks know if you can receive texts at your phone number too.

Number 7: Price

Listing the price is really important! Even a price range (mid-four figures, for example) is more helpful than nothing. If I have a maximum of $2,000 to spend, I will know not to bother contacting you if your horse is listed for $3,000. Saves time for everybody.

Number 8: Photos and Video

Not all for sale ads include photos, much less videos, but when they are an option, use them to show off your horse’s skills!

A photo of a horse grazing in a pasture doesn’t tell me much. But even a single photo of a horse haltered and tied up with a saddle on its back shows me that the horse accepts a tack and ties at least long enough for someone to take a photo. Use the photos to show me what your horse knows and what he or she can do!

Keep in mind that especially if the actual sale ad doesn’t include room for media, most buyers will still want to be emailed or texted more than one photo of the horse. Video too.

If you don’t already have a ton of photos and video clips of the horse you are selling, get friends or family to come out and do a multi-media shoot. Then you’ll be able to easily show off your horse’s skills when all those emails and text requests for photos and videos arrive.

Everything from picking out all four hooves, to standing for mounting to heading down the trail or trotting around the arena can be documented with photos and short video segments. Those to-the-point video clips can be very powerful in generating interest in your horse.

Final Thoughts

I understand from others that selling can be just as frustrating an experience as buying, perhaps even more so.

Folks asking a hundred questions and then deciding they are no longer interested. No-showing on the day of the “meet and greet”. Messages not returned. I’ve heard multiple sellers describe such difficulties. It can be awkward and exasperating on both sides of the equation apparently.

In closing I will say that I know a great sale ad is no guarantee of a sale. But a seller has the power to get the ball rolling in the right direction with an ad that includes the eight items above. And when that sale finally happens, with both sides feeling like they got a fair deal and the horse going to a suitable home, everyone can finally breath a sigh of relief.

Olympic-Level Book Sale

Do you enjoy watching the Olympics? I know I do!

The Olympics are interesting to me on so many different levels. The connection to history. The international locations and competitors. The incredible variety of sporting events (Google says there are 41 sports spread across 339 events). And let’s not forget the horses and riders!

Have you heard the interesting backstories of many of the Olympians? Cheered the amazing wins? Winced at the heartbreaking loses? Even athletes at the top of their game are still people after all. Watching it all play out can be an emotional rush.

Apparently, the folks over at Trafalagar Square books are excited about the Olympics too. So excited that now through the end of the games, they are having a sale on all their Olympic-related equestrian books.

“Trafalgar Square Books has Olympic fever! Now through the end of the Games enjoy 20% off all books with an Olympic connection: riders, grooms, coaches, and judges in Tokyo or participants in Olympics past.”

From the Trafalagar Square Books Website

The Backyard Horse Blog website features an affiliate link to the Trafalgar Sqaure Books website that allows the blog to receive a percentage of each book sale made through that link.

You can find the affiliate link (Horse Books and Videos titled square with the photo of the lady looking at a book next to a horse) on either the right hand side of your screen or at the bottom of your screen, assuming you are actually on The Backyard Horse Blog website at the moment.

After you click on the affiliate link and are transported to the Trafalgar Square Publishing website, click on the “On Sale” tab, then go to “Categories” and select “Olympic Reads” to see the discounted selections!

Remember, the sale ends at the end of the games, August 8th, 2021.

What Tack or Equipment Do You Need To Repair or Replace?

I promise the grazing muzzle was in tact the morning I put it on the horse. Not so about an hour and forty-five minutes later!

This is one reason I keep at least one extra grazing muzzle per horse on hand. You never know when a critical piece of tack or equestrian gear might come apart and prove beyond use.

What about you? What is a piece of horse-related equipment that you need to repair or replace today?

Equine Non-Profit Spotlight: The Brooke and BrookeUSA

Did you know that world-wide, an estimated 100 million equids help 600 million people to earn a living?

All around the world, mules, donkeys and horses help farm, move goods, work in the tourist industry and otherwise assist their humans survive.

To live and work so intimately with one’s animals, relying on their strength and skill for our very survival, is not something that many of us who live in more prosperous areas can easily relate to. I don’t think it’s something contemplated much outside of a historical context. But it is a daily reality for huge numbers of people.

While the horses, mules and donkeys are critical to the welfare of the families who own them, people with limited resources can struggle to properly care for them. It is these families that the Brooke works to assist.

Based in the UK, the Brooke, provides support to these families, their animals and their communities in the form of physical resources and education.

When a family can access appropriate veterinary care, farrier care, feed, training and better fitting equipment for their animals, the families and the communities have a better opportunity to prosper because their animals are healthier physically and mentally.

The Brooke was originally started in the 1930’s by Dorothy Brooke as a way to address the issue of ex-military horses left behind by allied forces in Cairo, Egypt after World War I. Now eighty years later, The Brooke has helped working equids the world over.

In 2008, Brooke USA (originally American Friends of the Brooke) became an affiliate of The Brooke, supporting the Great British organization’s work as well as branching out to manage their own Brooke USA projects.

While many of the stories of working-equids and their families are sad and disturbing, even more so in light of the COVID-19 pandemic impact, there are also stories of hope and resilience.

Every time I think about The Brooke, I am reminded of a trip to Egypt that I took with my grandmother in the 1980’s. She lived and worked overseas for many years and loved to travel. I grew up with a very different lifestyle than the one I live now and was fortunate to be my grandmother’s traveling companion for more than one overseas adventure. Our trip to Egypt was my favorite.

We saw lots of working donkeys during our trip. I often wondered about the quality of their lives and the people that cared for them. At that time in my life, I wasn’t aware of the work of The Brooke (or that it started its work in the very country where I was vacationing). But without that trip to Egypt, perhaps the issue of working equids would not have ever made my radar.

My grandmother was not an equestrian. I don’t recall her being a particularly staunch animal advocate. But I do remember that she was selective about which horse and carriage team we picked for a ride one afternoon. We avoided the horses that looked super thin, seemed exhausted or looked too small for the size of the carriage.

For example, the picture below is a horse we passed over. We were pleased to see the horse parked in a spot of much needed shade. His tack incorporated quite a bit of padding and seemed in good condition. But we were concerned that he appeared old and thin. We also noted how swollen his legs appeared.

I admit it is difficult to make snap judgments about situations you know little about. Sometimes things are not as they appear. But in the moment, we made a decision and went with our gut reaction to not hire this particular horse for a drive.

It made a big impact on me that my grandmother would consider such things. Any of us who travel and incorporate equids in our vacation can in fact help those working animals by thoughtfully choosing vacation destinations and businesses.

The Horse website has a detailed article on this subject that is definitely worth the read at https://thehorse.com/185798/how-to-book-a-vacation-ride-tour-thats-kind-to-horses/. Among other things, the article references The Brook’s “Happy Horses Holiday Code” (otherwise known as a “vacation code” for those of us who speak American-type English).

The code makes suggestions for how tourists can assess animal welfare when faced with a decision similar to the one my grandmother and I made. You can read the code at https://www.thebrooke.org/get-involved/responsible-use-animals-tourism/happy-horses-holiday-code. I think my grandmother would have liked what it has to say.

Here is the horse that my grandmother and I finally chose for a carriage ride in Egypt. I remember thinking that the horse was one of the better conditioned horses that we saw. Despite the rudimentary tack, he certainly did his job well, seeming to have a good rapport with his driver.

If you would like to read further about working horses, mules and donkeys, please visit The Brooke and Brook USA on their websites. You can also donate money to their cause and inquire about other ways to get involved in their mission.


On a related note, would you like to shop and have twenty percent of the proceeds donated to The Brook USA? Buy Beauty For Real’s tinted lip balm. Cruelty fee, vegan and paraben free, the lip balm is available in nine tints. Beauty For Real has a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale every year, and I usually stock up on my favorite shade at that time. I like knowing a portion of my money is going to help support a cause that is important to me. Go to http://www.beautyforreal.com to learn more.

Equine Illustrated Inspiration

Equine Illustrated Inspiration is a periodic feature on The Backyard Horse Blog. Through pairing photos of my backyard horses with inspiring quotes, I hope to encourage others to live their own versions of their best-horse-life. No matter our discipline, our skill level or even if we don’t ride at all, being around horses can enrich our lives in ways we never expected.

Product Review: Shoulder Relief Cinch By Total Saddle Fit

Looking for a new girth or cinch for your horse? I suggest you check out the products from Total Saddle Fit. In particular, their Shoulder Relief Cinch.

I first purchased one of their cinches in 2017 when my previous girth from a different manufacturer became worn. I was intrigued by the Total Saddle Fit claim that their English girths and Western cinches are more comfortable for horses based on their design.

“The Shoulder Relief Girth™ actually changes the position and angle of the billets to prevent the saddle from interfering with the shoulder. The center of the girth is set forward to sit in the horse’s natural girth groove. While the sides of the girth are cut back to meet the billets 2 inches behind where the horse’s natural girth groove lies. This brings the billets from angling forward, to becoming perpendicular to the ground (in the case of a forward girth groove horse), which reduces the saddle’s tendency to be pulled forward into the shoulders. With horses that have shoulder interference without angled billets, it simply moves the billets back to keep the saddle farther away from the shoulders… The secondary benefit to this shape, is that it is cutback at the elbows. This gives more room for elbow movement as well, and prevents galls in the elbow area.”

From the Total Saddle Fit website

I can’t say for sure if horses in general prefer them, but their design claims seem reasonable. I have been happy with how the cinches have performed for me and my horses. Happy enough to purchase a second cinch so I have an extra on hand.

The cinches strike me as very well made with quality material, including the stitching. Not surprisingly, the cinches are priced accordingly. They vary from $140-170 depending upon the type of liner selected. As an alternative to the pricier leather cinches, their website now also features a synthetic cinch for under $90 that I have not yet tried. To save money, I purchase my leather cinches during their annual Black Friday sales at a substantial discount.

Besides the quality materials, attractive design and choice of black or brown leather, the feature that I most appreciate is that the liners of the leather cinches are replaceable! They offer fleece, felt, neoprene liners. I have tried both the fleece and the neoprene liners but not the fleece yet.

For about $25, I recently purchased a new neoprene liner when I noticed the old neoprene had finally developed substantial wear and cracks. I simply pulled off the old liner and replaced it with the new. And I can switch them between my two girths. I feel like I have a nice, new girth without having to replace and pay for the entire thing!

Here is a current photo of the first girth I purchased from Total Saddle Fit in 2017.
The liner on the old cinch was definitely due for a replacement this year.
Separating the main part of the girth from the old liner was easy.
The old girth on the left with the new neoprene liner, still in its packaging, on the right.
Here I switched the felt liner from the brown girth to the black girth and then the black neoprene to the brown girth.

Total Saddle Fit also features a very generous 90 day return policy. You don’t even have to return the girths/cinches in pristine condition. It is really difficult to properly test a piece of tack and yet not get it somewhat dirty. I feel better purchasing something that is pricey when I know that I can return the item if it doesn’t work for me.

To top it all off, Total Saddle Fit offers free shipping on any size purchase. As someone who is budget conscious, that’s something I really appreciate as shipping costs can add substantially to the price of an order, especially for a small purchase.

For more information or to purchase one of their products, go to https://www.totalsaddlefit.com/shoulderreliefgirth/.

Disclosure: Please note this original product review was unsolicited and uncompensated by Total Saddle Fit. After this post was published on The Backyard Horse Blog, Total Saddle Fit kindly sent me a thank you note accompanied by a Total Saddle Fit pendent after they read the review. Thank you to Total Saddle Fit!

Ten Truths about Keeping Horses At Home (according to me)

Ten truths, according to me, as I reflect on having horses in my own backyard. All information that I would tell my younger self if I could go back in time.

  • You will spend lots of time riding. Riding your lawn mower.
  • Hay bales get more expensive as time goes by. They also get heavier.
  • You will be queen of your castle. And also the chamber-maid.
  • Being able to pop out the back door of your house, walk fifty feet and hand out carrots to eager, nickering noses attached to expressive faces with perked ears has got to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.
  • Two main pros- You get to make all the decisions about your horse’s care. You are the only person that handles your horses.
  • Two main cons- You get to make all the decisions about your horse’s care. You are the only person that handles your horses.
  • Vacations are . . . Wait, what is a vacation again?
  • You get to experience the intimacy of knowing your horses on a level that is different from when you boarded.
  • You also miss out on the amenities provided at those boarding barns like professional riding facilities, easy access to instruction, camaraderie with other equestrians and ready-made opportunities to train/show/trail ride with a group.
  • You will cry as you walk through your house, pass by your back window and for the first time see your horse grazing in the pasture (after a lifetime of wishing and waiting for that very moment).

Like pretty much every other life choice, keeping horses at home is a series of trade offs. You do all this with an awareness that, like all earthly things, it will come to an end someday. You need to savor the good stuff. Find lessons or humor in the not so good.

Sometimes you can’t believe how fortunate you are. Other times, you wonder what you got yourself into. Sometimes you feel sad about the things you miss out on (like those indoor areas and vacations). But at the end of the day? On most days at least. You wouldn’t trade any of it for the world.

Equine Inspired Poetry- Time For A Drink

He saunters towards the trough
Licking and chewing in anticipation as he travels

Body slows to stillness at the water’s edge
Eyes and ears survey the immediate area

He assesses it is safe for the moment
Head lowers to take the first sip

Lips play with the water’s surface, making it dance
Ears flick back and forth in time to successive swallows

Cool water washes over whiskers, muzzle, tongue and throat
Vulnerable in this position as he tends to his own needs

Sometimes, he hears himself loudly slurping
Always, he is on alert

Now he lifts his head
The last sip of water lingers

Tongue sucks to the roof of his mouth
Droplets dribble from the tip of his muzzle, down his chin and onto the ground

He opens and closes his jaw
His thirst finally satisfied

Pausing for a moment in relaxation
Body, mind and spirit now hydrated

Turning to carry on with the rest of his day
Extending his neck and snorting as he strolls away

Until the next time thirst comes to visit
When the time is right for another drink

The Dog Days of Summer (Equestrian Style)

Is it sizzling where you are? July is a mostly hot, humid month in my neck of the woods.

Summer presents special horse-care challenges. For me, Summer is all about trying to mitigate the harsh effects of the weather while still trying to stay in the saddle (or at least on top of my horse bareback!) regularly.

For today’s post, I gathered up links to three Summer-themed posts that I published last year on this blog. If you didn’t read them in 2020, they will give you a sense of how I manage my horses’ care during the hottest months of the year.

Stay cool and hydrated out there!

Reading Round Up

Looking for some new reading material online? About horses, of course? I’ve got you covered! Here’s my suggestions for some interesting and informative horse-related reading.

Does Your Horse Like You?

This article, written by horse professional Julie Goodnight, touches on something that I think many horse people wonder about. Using the example of a clinic participant who was struggling with their young horse, Julie explains the miscommunication occurring between the pair. Goodnight details from her professional perspective what horses need from their people in order to be happy. Lots of good food for thought in this piece for anyone who has ever tried to build a relationship with a horse.

The Rules of ‘Poopspection’: Analyzing Your Horses’ Manure

Written with a wonderful dose of humor, this article takes a deep dive into what a horse’s manure has to say about his or her health. The article’s author, a PhD, interviews veterinarians for their input on your horse’s output. A really good piece for anyone who wants to learn how to “read” horse poop.

6 Ways to Compete Against Yourself in Horse Riding

If you haven’t recently perused the Horse Listening website, you are missing out. Chock full of sound, useful information for the rider, it is a treasure trove of knowledge. Written both for riders who show and those who don’t, this particular article encourages its readers to think a little differently about measuring horsemanship progress.

Happy reading!

Equine Non Profit Spotlight: Best Friends Animal Sanctuary

You may already be familiar with Best Friends Animal Sanctuary if you are involved in the world of pet rescue, wildlife rehabilitation or have seen the TV show DogTown or DogTown, USA. But did you know that Best Friends also has an equine division called Horse Haven?

Located in the beautiful red rock desert area of Southern Utah, Best Friends is the largest no-kill animal sanctuary in the USA. It supports animal welfare on a local, state and national level, partnering with many organizations across the States. Their national campaign “Save Them All” has a goal to end shelter killings in all 50 States by 2025.

Horses at Horse Haven, part of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Photo taken from the Best Friends website.

I have never visited Best Friends, but I have been a long-time reader of their Best Friends magazine. For a $25 donation, you can receive the printed, bimonthly magazine filled with animal related rescue and care information. Go to https://bestfriends.org/stories/best-friends-magazine to subscribe.

I do have a family connection of sorts to Best Friends. My mother, who was heavily involved in cat rescue for much of her adult life, spent about a week at Best Friends some years ago as a volunteer. This was even before working vacations were really a thing.

It’s something I would like to do someday, be a working volunteer at Best Friends. Since my mother’s visit, they built an onsite hotel (that is pet centric, of course) on the sanctuary grounds. What a wonderful idea to vacation in a beautiful part of the country AND give back to animals by volunteering at the sanctuary during your stay!

The variety of animals that Best Friends cares for and the scale on which they do so is inspiring. Best Friends areas include Dogtown, Cat World, Bunny House, Parrot Garden, Horse Haven, Marshall’s Piggy Paradise and Wild Friends. They also have a beautiful memorial area titled Angels Rest to honor animals who have passed on.

Their equine division, Horse Haven, is home to horses, mules, donkeys (and goats too). Just like any other rescue, equines find their way to Horse Haven due to a variety of circumstances, including abuse, neglect and financial/health hardships suffered by their original owners. Best Friends website shows 26 equines (horses/mules/donkeys) currently available for adoption.

Photo taken from Best Friends website.

If you are at all interested in any form of animal rescue/rehab/adoption, I highly recommend you visit the Best Friends website at https://bestfriends.org/. It’s filled with not only information about the sanctuary itself, but information about animal rescue, care and welfare.

As a horse lover, I am glad that horses, mules and donkeys are a part of the Best Friends vision and mission. To read more about Horse Haven and see their list of adoptable equines, go to https://bestfriends.org/sanctuary/about-sanctuary/animal-areas/horse-haven or https://bestfriends.org/adopt/adopt-our-sanctuary/equine.

Please Pass The Salt: Does Your Horse Have A Preference?

“Salt is the only mineral for which horses have an indisputable appetite, thereby displaying a degree of nutritional wisdom regarding its consumption.”

From Kentucky Equine Research at https://ker.com/equinews/nitty-gritty-salt/

Salt is an essential nutrient for horses. They can’t manufacture salt themselves within their bodies, so they must obtain it from their diet. But have you ever thought about what type or form of salt that you horse prefers?

During a recent trip with my horses to a friend’s barn, I noticed that my horse, Shiloh, started licking the Himalayan rock salt that my friend had set out for her own horse. Shiloh licked it like he just found a long-lost friend.

At home, I keep a 50 pound white salt block out for my horse’s in their paddock at all times (I learned to put it in the shade under the awning of their run in shed- those blocks get hot to the touch in the sunlight and Summer weather). I also add table salt to my horses’ ration balancer during Summer. But I had never given my horses Himalayan rock salt.

After seeing how much Shiloh enjoyed that type of salt, I went ahead and bought one to hang in the paddock. The photos show Shiloh appreciatively licking and nibbling his new pink block. Bear was less impressed. He sniffed it but did not taste-test. I have yet to see him do so. To each his own I suppose.

Fortunately, there are multiple options for providing a horse with salt. There is the option of providing free-choice salt (in a salt block or loose salt in a pan) or adding salt to their grain. Some provide their horses with a mineral lick like the red salt blocks or something similar. These licks include salt plus other minerals (note that the Himalayan salt lick seen above also includes some additional minerals besides salt).

Interestingly, there is debate about whether or not mineral licks could imbalance a horse’s diet because of all the mineral additives in addition to the salt itself. Others question if a horse can even get enough salt, much less too many other minerals, from any kind of salt/mineral lick at all. Those folks recommend loose salt instead.

Since I am not a veterinarian or an equine nutritionist, I don’t have much personal knowledge to add regarding the appropriateness of one source of salt or another. I do, however, have a list of resource links from several reputable sources on the subject of horses and salt that I found interesting. Lots of information to mull over and help plan your own equine salt usage.

Have you met a horse with a notable preference for a certain type or form of salt?

Holiday-Horse-Shopping Brief

For those of you in the USA, you may want to take advantage of holiday shopping deals for equestrian tack and gear in between your patriotic Fourth of July celebrations and remembrances.

Here is a list of several sales I came across this past weekend. Many end today, Monday, July 5th, 2021 at Midnight. See each store’s website for exact details and conditions.

15% off plus free $30 gift card with the order of $200 or more. Use code: July21

10% sitewide and free standard shipping. Use code: REDWHITEBLUE

10% off most items (some exceptions apply) through July 6th. Use code: USA21

Independence day bargain bin sale. Shop their website for steep discounts on a variety of sale items.

Equine Illustrated Inspiration

“When horses meet, they gently blow into each other’s nostrils. That is how they come to recognize individuals- by their breath. To me, there’s something wonderfully gentle, honest, and accepting about that behavior- breathing in another’s essence, getting to know them from the inside out.”

From “Living with HorsePower!: Personally Empowering Life Lessons Learned From The Horse” By Rebekah Ferran Witter

Equine Illustrated Inspiration is a periodic feature on The Backyard Horse Blog. I pair photos of my backyard horses with quotes that I hope will fire the reader’s spirit and imagination. Thanks to my horse, Bear, on the right and to my former foster-horse, Bitkana, on the left for the photo featured in this edition.

Not exactly riding off into the sunset just yet

In a previous post, Best Laid Plans, I wrote about taking my horses over to a friend’s property to ride with the hopes of eventually getting out onto her trail system. I also wrote about a day when my other horse, Bear, refused to load on the day of a planned follow-up field trip. I thought I’d give an update here on what we’ve been doing since in regard to working on trail loading and resuming our away-from-home trips.

First, if you need to catch up, you can read the above referenced previous post at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/06/07/the-best-laid-plans/.

Second, here we go with the update . . .

For inquiring minds who want to know, I DID eventually get Bear to load later that same morning after I canceled the follow-up trip to my friend’s property. As for Shiloh, he was willing that first morning to load but only if I led him in. So besides practicing with Bear, I also practiced self-loading with Shiloh.

In light of the earlier-in-the-day snaffu, though, I decided to leave the trailer hooked up and practiced loading the next morning and the next afternoon without actually taking the horses anywhere. By the second day, both horses were self-loading smoothly.

I had to wait another week to plan a second trip to my friend’s place. On the day of that trip, the previous week’s loading practice seemed to help. Both horses self-loaded well.

While I did ride Shiloh once there, we unfortunately did not get out on the trails that trip either. Both my horses were quite nervous about separating.

I rode Shiloh while Bear stayed in a stall like last time with another horse in the barn. Shiloh seemed especially undone by Bear’s anxious energy in a way that he wasn’t during the previous trip.

In doing groundwork with Shiloh prior to the ride, he wasn’t leaping through the air, but he wasn’t paying attention to me that well either. He was looking around a lot and calling out to Bear.

I felt comfortable enough riding Shiloh in my friend’s arena, but I like a horse to be pretty “with me” before we go on a trail system where their attention and obedience to aids is arguably more critical than when riding in an arena.

So long story short, there was no trail riding for us on that day either. Here we are looking out towards the trails where we have yet to go together. The next photo is us riding with my ever-patient friend in her arena instead of the woods.

The following week, I brought my horses over for a ride at the training/boarding/lesson barn that is closest to my property.

The horses hadn’t been back there since April. I absolutely love riding on their outdoor track system. Great place to practice Shiloh’s gaiting.

Unfortunately, the horses’ distress at being separated, even when they could see each other, was obvious.

The barn owner noted that both horses acted quite differently than when they were there in April. Bear was much more “pumped.” Shiloh would periodically call out to Bear, especially when Bear was later taken from the round pen to the indoor arena while I stayed outside with Shiloh.

Photo here of Bear in roundpen. Instead of taking the opportunity for some unmuzzled grazing, he is looking out anxiously. One red arrow points to Bear in the roundpen while the other red arrow points to the indoor arena.

Shiloh all the while was rideable for me, but his attention flipped between what we are working on and anxiety about “where in the world did Bear go” as he periodically looked around and called out.

Here Shiloh is back at the trailer after our ride while Bear is still in the barn. Shiloh is sufficiently tired at this point to not care quite as much about where is Bear. Fun fact- All that hay was not there when we pulled in. It’s not my hay, of course, but I still think it’s a beautiful sight to see all that horse food.

Then last week, I took the horses back over to the nearby barn. For that visit, both horses were much more calm and quiet. I think I heard Bear call out only once. Shiloh never responded. Shiloh and I had a nice ride around the outdoor track, enjoying a day of unseasonably cool weather.

Fortunately at home so far, my separating the horses is not a problem. I can take Shiloh out into my round pen or down into my south pasture without him getting upset. I am grateful for that.

But clearly, something has definitely changed in their insecurity regarding being separated when we are off the property. I am guessing the horses may continue to cycle between feeling okay about being apart and feeling quite insecure. This makes me think I am not getting out on any trails anytime soon. No riding Shiloh off into a sunset on the trails just yet.

I’ve known that keeping just two horses together long enough runs the risk of developing buddy sour problems. And I have been looking for a third horse since last year (that’s not guaranteed to solve the problem but it would allow me to leave Bear at home with companionship so I’d only take one horse with me on my field trips, whether Shiloh or the new horse).

Considering it took me about two years to find Shiloh, I am doubting a new horse will appear anytime soon. Stranger things have happened, but it has gotten weirdly difficult for me to find the type of horse I want, in a location close to me, in a price range I can afford.

In the mean time, this issue of separation anxiety gives me the opportunity to expand my horsemanship skills. I know a better horseman would do a better job at keeping Shiloh so focused that he wouldn’t even think about Bear.

But . . . I seriously struggle in that area. I always have. Probably always will. Doesn’t mean there’s no hope for improvement. But it’s a definite challenge for me.

It is an ongoing area of work that I am willing to tackle so long as the horses and I can remain safe while doing so. I may have to cry uncle at some point if their anxiety causes their behavior to get completely beyond my skill set, but we are not there just yet. So I want to keep trying, at least up to the point where the risk to me or the horses seems unreasonable.

One of my favorite horse professionals, Anna Blake, wrote a recent post “Calming Signals: Planning For Stress” on her blog Relaxed and Forward. I thought her words were particularly applicable to this situation of mine.

I will end this post with a quote from Anna’s post, in case any other readers who might struggle with certain aspects of horsemanship might also take fortitude from Anna’s words.

“Horses and humans both feel stress as a natural response, but humans have more choice about our response . . . The world will always be chaotic. We will always face the things we never saw before, and we cannot desensitize our horses or ourselves to life. We can learn to lay down our natural leaning toward dread and train ourselves to say yes. To become the sort of human a horse can rely on. They say horses make us better people, but the work is ours to do.”

From Anna Blake’s “Calming Signals: Planning For Stress” post on 6/18/21 from her blog “Relaxed and Forward” at http://www.annablake.com

Fit to a T

Have you ever seen a saying on a t-shirt that felt like it was made just for you?

There are a lot of beautifully designed graphics on T shirts nowadays. Plenty of horse related ones too.

Sometimes I see t-shirts where the graphics really appeal but the sayings don’t quite fit me.

I am thinking of something like the phrase “born to ride.” I like the concept, but it doesn’t describe me. I absolutely love to ride, but considering how hard I have to work to be passably okay in the saddle, “born to ride” doesn’t seem applicable in my case.

Or take the phrase “ride like the wind.” Again, I appreciate the sentiment. It is just not me. Now, I do ride IN the wind, but ride LIKE the wind is something different. I can count on one hand the times I’ve been galloping on a horse. All but one was by accident. “Slow gait like a gentle breeze” might be more descriptive of my general riding speed.

But THIS t-shirt? If there ever was a t-shirt that described me, this right here is it!

I found this shirt via a Pinterest pin. The pin linked to an Etsy store, ChristineFRStore, at


The buyer can customize the t-shirt with their choice of color and style. How fun is that!

What about you? What’s a horsey t-shirt graphic or saying that fits you to a T?

Dapple Discussion

Ever heard of dapples?

For those of you unfamiliar, dapples are clusters of round circles or spots on a horse’s hair coat. Even those not acquainted with horses may have heard the term “dapple gray.” Gray horses don’t have a complete monopoly on dapples though. For example, my bay and white horse named Bear sports a few dapples every year too.

Photo of a dapple gray horse courtesy of the website Canva

 Dapples are a repeating pattern of slightly darker and lighter hair in small circles. Dappling is most common on grey horses but may occur with any color. Dappling is not permanent but may vary in any particular individual with season, nutritional status, or physical condition. For this reason, dapples are not generally recorded for identification. 

From https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/nvap/NVAP-Reference-Guide/Animal-Identification/Equine-Identification under the title “Markings.”

When I was growing up, I read that seeing dapples on horses was a sign of equine good health. The idea I absorbed was that the horses sporting dapples were especially well cared for.

That was all well and good, I suppose. But it did beg some questions. What about all those horses out there that didn’t have dapples on their coat? Were those horses managed poorly or horses whose health was compromised? Back then, I never found a good answer.

This memory popped into my head as I was observing my present-day horses, Bear and Shiloh, in their paddock earlier this month. Now that both horses have shed out their Winter coats, they are slick and glossy. I can see Bear’s shiny coat sporting dapples across both sides of his bum. Dapples that I can’t see on his Winter coat. But on Shiloh? There is not a dapple to be found on him at any time during the year.

Based on the information I had about dapples growing up, it would seem odd that Bear has dapples while Shiloh does not. Bear is 26 years old and several years into a diagnosis of cushings disease. Not a horse I would consider in the peak of good health. Shiloh is six years younger with no chronic health diagnosis. Shouldn’t Shiloh be the one showing dapples?

Fast-forward a few decades since I first learned about dapples. Scientists now believe that dapples in horses have a genetic component. Some horses have the genetics to dapple while other’s don’t. While management can help bring out dapples in a horse genetically inclined to dapple, no type of feed/grooming/conditioning will bring out dapples in a horse that doesn’t have those genes. It would seem that Bear has the genetics to dapple while Shiloh probably does not.

Interestingly, even in a horse with the genetics to dapple, those horses may not dapple without the right combination of adequate diet and grooming. And even those horses may only dapple seasonally. So while dapples CAN be a sign of good health, the absence of dapples does not equal poor health. That is good news for Shiloh.

Bear is the bay and white gelding shown in the photo above. Bear’s dapples on his rump have proven hard difficult for me to photograph, but hopefully you can see them enough to distinguish him from Shiloh (shown below) without the dapples.

What do I do that might help bring out Bear’s genetic tendency towards dapples? I’m not exactly sure.

Bear is retired from riding, so he receives no formal exercise, but he is turned out 24/7 and moves around quite a bit. I groom him almost daily from Spring though Fall. He is fed grass hay with a touch of separate alfalfa hay mixed in, a ration balancer and a variety of treats (mostly low carb/low sugar). He also gets some daily access to pasture, mostly with a grazing muzzle. He is dewormed according to the results of yearly/bi-yearly fecal egg counts. He is vetted every Spring, including teeth floating when needed.

Really, Bear receives pretty standard care. Would he dapple even if I managed his care differently? Is there a way I could bring out even more dapples? Hard to say.

Apparently, I am not the only one that still has questions left unanswered about dappling. Scientists are still learning more about dapples and don’t seem to have all the answers yet either. Questions remain about how/where/when they are expressed in individual horses.

A few interesting resources I found that discuss dapples are an article from Thehorse.com website, another article from Horse Illustrated at and an “Ask The Vet” YouTube video sponsored by Smartpak. All reputable resources that helped me shed some light on this topic. Here are the links



While I know from past experience that Bear’s dapples will fade as the Summer continues, I enjoy watching them appear each year. And I still think Shiloh looks very attractive even without a bloom of dapples on his coat. Really, there is not much more beautiful in nature than a glossy horse. Dapples or no dapples. I love to watch them all shine.

Bareback and Bridleless

Sometimes it is fun to do something a little different with my horses.

I used to enjoy occasionally experimenting with riding my horse, Bear, with just a neck rope. The photo above was taken of Bear and me in 2007.

It is an interesting test of the rider’s balance and aids in communicating with the horse. Even when done in a small space like my roundpen and limited to riding only at the walk. I realize things about my riding that don’t show up in the same way when I am on a fully tacked horse.

I get to see how my horse responds to my seat, leg and weight aids in a pure way. I can’t use to the reins to reinforce my other aids or make up for the fact that I gave an ineffective seat aid, for example.

It’s also an interesting experiment in staying with my horse when my control over the horse’s body is greatly reduced.

Sometimes things go a little wonky during a ride without tack, even a quiet ride at the walk. When in full tack, my habitual response is to brace against the horse to try to wrestle back control. But with no tack, I can’t do that. Not even with the neck rope.

Instead, I have to go with whatever the horse is presenting. I can’t block it. I have to relax mentally and physically in that moment, flow with the horse’s movement while trying to maintain my balance. Take a deep breath. Get back on track with the rest of my plan for the ride. Probably how I should be riding even with tack too.

I’d been wanting to try riding my other horse, Shiloh, without bridle and saddle for awhile now. Last week I decided we were finally ready. Each time, I rode first in full tack as a way to check in with him and make sure we were on the same page, relaxed and listening to each other. Then I took off the tack, put on a neck rope and we were ready to give it a go.

First off, we positioned carefully at the mounting block.

Then I swung a leg over.

And we’re off!

We practiced staying on the rail.

We practiced turning off the rail.

We practiced crossing the ground poles.

In both directions.

Here we end on whoa.

While I rarely ride without tack, it is a challenging exercise I enjoy. I also think both Bear and Shiloh found it interesting. All that said, please note that I am aware that bareback and brideless riding poses safety risks beyond those normally associated with riding horses.

If you have ever thought about riding bareback and bridleless, I strongly recommend extensive thought, planning and preparation. Carefully consider:

  • Your own skill level (be really comfortable riding bareback WITH reins before you go without)
  • The environment in which you plan to ride (the arena, the weather, the surrounding atmosphere)
  • Your horse’s temperament
  • How well your horse stands still for mounting (keep in mind you might need a mounting block)
  • Your horse’s level of training (see the reading recommended reading-material below for details)
  • Wearing your choice of safety equipment like a helmet or air vest
  • The availability of a reliable grounds person to supervise

I also recommend reading material written on the subject by respected and experienced horse professionals. Here are a few resources to give you food for thought if you are interested in learning more.

https://www.horseillustrated.com/western-horse-training-go-bridleless-part-1 (This is a link to part one of a three part series written by Julie Goodnight with links to parts one and two at the bottom of the article)



Many thanks to my husband for acting as my trusty grounds person and photographer, both in 2007 for the top photo and more recently for all the other ones!

No Barn, No Horses?

While reading the Summer 2021 issue of Equus magazine, I found an article titled “Horsekeeping Without A Barn” by Hope Ellis-Ashburn.

My first reaction was, “hey, that’s me!” I have some open-air outbuildings but no structures with stalls. I have kept horses for almost twenty years at home without a traditional horse barn or most other equestrian amenities.

Horse barns certainly provide a lot of human convinience in the area of horse keeping. Having multiple horses all in one place, close by and contained-at-the-ready has advantages for their hands-on care and easy accessibility for riding.

The larger and busier the barn, the more typical it is to have horses in barns with stalls. Think show barns, lesson barns, breeding barns, racing barns, Summer horse camps and many boarding facilities.

But what about when you have horses in your backyard? This article makes the argument that barns are optional.

“We all have romanticized visions of the barn we would love to own one day. But sometimes a dream barn- or perhaps any barn- is out of reach. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to give up the dream of horse ownership or that you’ll have to keep horses in a way that compromises their health or happiness.. . You might even find that the barn wasn’t really the dream after all, and that a barnless lifesyle holds benefits you never even imagined.”

Hope Ellis-Ashburn

Unless I win a contest with a really big money prize, I am guessing that my own backyard will remain sans horse-barn.
It was fun to read an article by an author whose horse-keeping experience closely mimics mine.

The writer gives lots of great hints and tips for living the barnless lifesytle including about horse shelter, feed/tack storage, manure management and horse containment/control. The article makes the case that with some planning and creativity, no barn does not necessarily mean no horses.

If you would like to read the article “Horsekeeping Without A Barn,” but are not an Equus print subscriber, go to https://hub.equusmagazine.com/equus-digital-subscription to see all the places you can read Equus online.

Horse-Book Blow Out

Do you know that The Backyard Horse Blog website features an affiliate link to Trafalgar Square Books?

You can find the affiliate link (Horse Books and Videos titled square with the photo of the lady looking at a book next to a horse) on either the right hand side of your screen or at the bottom of your screen, assuming you are actually on The Backyard Horse Blog website at the moment.

What does “affiliate link” mean? If you click on the affiliate link (Horse Books and Videos titled square with the photo of the lady looking at a book next to a horse) featured on The Backyard Horse Blog website, you will be taken to Trafalgar Square Book’s website.

If you purchase any of their materials during your visit after clicking on my affiliate link, The Backyard Horse Blog will receive a percentage of your sales.

I mention all this as a self-serving reminder about how readers can help support this blog. Also to let readers know that now through June 20th, 2021, Trafalgar Square Books is having a $10 blow out sale on many of its horse books and DVD’s!

This is exciting news for horse-loving readers! Yah! Click on the affiliate link to go to the Trafalgar Square Publishing website and once there, click on the “On Sale” tab! Remember, the $10 horse-book blow out sale ends this Sunday, June 20th, 2021!

From the Trafalgar Square Books website:

50 titles priced at only $10
Training • English & Western Riding • Dressage • Hunter/Jumper • Memoir •  Health Care • Horse Fitness • Rider Fitness • Children’s • DVDs
Free shipping in the USA

Please Take My Poll

No, not my ground pole! I need every ground pole that I have.

The kind of poll that I offer up for the taking is my ten question opinion poll below, “Why do I read horse blogs?”

I’m super curious! Inquiring minds (or at least my mind) want to know.

I started writing The Backyard Horse Blog in January 2020, but I was an avid horse-blog reader long before that. I still am.

I can’t exactly remember the first blog I ran across. It might have been the Horse and Man blog. Or it might have been a blog that is no longer in production. Understandably, there are a lot of those.

Blogs, like most things, usually have a shelf-life. They are time intensive for the writers. Only a small portion of bloggers actually make sizeable money from their work. Blogs wax and wane in content and popularity. Readers come and go. Life happens for both blog creators and consumers. And yet, horse blogs have not gone the way of the dinosaur.

There are a handful of equestrian blogs that have been in production for a decade or longer like the previously mentioned Horse and Man blog. New blogs continue to pop up frequently too.

Even with the proliferation of social media sites oriented to photo/video and the rising popularity of audio podcasts, people keep reading blogs.

Horse blogs have not been around long enough yet, but someday, someone out there will have started to blog when they were a horse-loving child. And then continue blogging until they are a senior equestrian. How interesting it would be to see someone’s horse-life played out across the decades that way.

But all musings aside, I would like you to think about all the equestrian blogs that you have read as you go through the “Why do I read horse blogs?” poll. Check all the answers that apply.

And if you have a reason for reading horse blogs that is not listed below? Please let me know what they are in the comments section. If enough readers choose to take the poll, I will share the poll results in an upcoming post in case anyone else is as curious as I am.


Product Review: Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup

If you grew up riding in an English saddle, you may be familiar with peacock safety stirrups. These are metal stirrups with a thick rubber band on the outside of the stirrup that can pop off when pressure is applied. In event of an unscheduled dismount from the horse, the rider’s foot will not be trapped.

Since the advent of peacock stirrups, other styles of English stirrups that allow for the release of the foot have appeared. For whatever reason, the western industry has seemingly not shown the same level of interest in safety stirrups.

True, there are tapaderos and endurance stirrups with cages. These are stirrups with coverings on the front that prevent a foot from getting hung up in the stirrups. But neither style seems to have taken hold in the industry across western discipllines.

For almost ten year now, I have ridden in a combined leather and cordura Fabtron western saddle with plastic stirrups. While I can’t say that the plastic stirrups were the height of safety, fashion or comfort, I managed to have many good rides with them. Still, I considered swapping out the plastic stirrups for something different on many occasions. I finally took the plunge this Winter.

Back in the day, I did experiment with taking off western fenders and replacing them with english leathers and peacock stirrups so I could ride with a set of safety stirrups in place. This photo shows my horse, Bear, and me back in 2009 with this western saddle/english leather/peacock stirrups get up. While this worked fine for me while riding at home, trail rides, clinics and fun shows, it did look a little odd. It wouldn’t have worked well for anything more than casual showing. It was also very difficult to remove and replace those western fenders.

The stirrups I now have are the Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrups. Here is the manufactures description as taken from the JT International website:

“High quality aluminum stirrups with rubber grip tread and spring loaded outside release for safety. When pressure is applied to outside of stirrup like in a fall the side of the stirrup will open all the way up allowing the foot to be released. No way to get hung up in these stirrups. Available in adult and youth sizes for any age rider. The easy way out of a bad situation! Medium size (5” x 5” inside measurement, 7” outside height, 3 1/2” x 1 1/4” tread, .9 lbs.)”

Since their purchase, I estimate I have had about twenty rides with my new Tough 1 Easy Out Stirrups. I am so far quite pleased with them. They have an attractive look that closely mimics a traditional western stirrup. I especially like the way the stirrups hang on the saddle fender. They also sport a comfortable yet solid instep that feel good beneath my feet.

Arrows near the bottom of the stirrup tell you which way the stirrup should face out from the horse in order to facilitate the hinge mechanism releasing in even of a fall. But will they really work in event of an accident?

I still don’t know. I have not fallen off with the stirrups and would like to keep it that way. I have no interest in doing that kind of research, even if it would make for a more comprehensive review. I WAS able to pull the hinge apart with my hands with a quick, firm pull as a way to test how the hinge might work.

I have also read online reviews where the writers claimed that the stirrup did release during their unscheduled dismount. I do not have a way to verify if those reviews are factual though.

I was concerned that the hinge mechanism might be activated accidently somehow during mounting. So far I have not experienced that, but I do think about weighting my left foot more to the inside of the stirrup while mounting now. I could see how that might cause a wreck if the stirrup released as the rider was trying to swing up into the saddle.

The weight of the stirrups is the one feature that is a mixed bag for me. The website notes that each stirrup is about a pound, but my home scale showed their weight as a combined total of 3.8 pounds. That’s closer to two pounds each.

That weight helps provide a nice feel to the stirrups under my foot, but it makes my saddle noticeably heavier. Four pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but I immediately noticed the difference when I went to pick up my saddle for the first time after attaching the new stirrups. I felt it in my back everytime I picked up the saddle until my body got used to the difference.

My horse, Shiloh, noticed the difference in the feel of the stirrups too. He shot forward a bit the first time I gave him a light squeeze to move away from the mounting block. It occured to me later that lunging him first with the stirrups might have been a good idea.

On that note, I like how the heaviness of the stirrups make the fenders hang more solidly for lunging. My plastic stirrups would sometimes flap around easily because they were so light weight.

I purchased my set of stirrups from an online retailer for about $100. While I wouldn’t consider them inexpensive at that price point, they are the most attractive, quality western safety stirrups I have found for the price. I have the “adult size” stirrups that I think they refer to as “medium sized”, but they do make a smaller-sized youth safety-stirrup that looks the same, just with different size dimensions.

Overall, I like the stirrups and am so far happy with how they look, feel and function. On the minus side, I do wish they were a bit lighter just to keep the overall weight of the saddle down both for my horse and me.

If you would like to read more about the stirrups directly from the manufacturer, go to http://www.jtidist.com/ez-out-safety-stirrup.html. You can purchase the stirrups through that link, but I have found most other online retailers advertise a lower price.

*** Please note that this review is unsolicited and uncompensated.***

Put a Horse Stamp on It

I have long considered my choice of postage stamp as a form of personal expression. No slapping any old stamp on a card or bill for me!

My stamps are carefully selected to reflect something about my own interests. Or in the case of something like a birthday card, those of the recipient.

Maybe a historical event or figure that is of special appeal. Maybe a current cause or issue I am interested in promoting. Maybe a pretty photograph or other piece of art that is visually attractive.

If a stamp has a horse on it? So much the better! I remember back in the eighties when the USPS issued a set of horse breeds stamps that I coveted. With no internet ordering available back then, those stamps were hard to come by. I remember feeling sad when I used my last one.

Now in the age of the internet, I have not yet found a set of stamps that exclusively showcase horses. But I have found horses currently encompassed in various stamp books- Christmas Carols Forever Stamps (a sleigh horse in harness representing the “Jingle Bells” song), Winter Scenes Forever Stamps (two draft horses pulling) and Heritage Breeds Forever Stamps (featuring American Cream Draft horse AND American Mammoth Jackstock).

While I sometimes have trouble finding the exact stamp I want at my local post office, the United States Postal Service website allows users to have stamps mailed to their doorstep, including all the fun horse stamps noted above.

Of course, horses displayed proudly on postage stamps is a world wide phenomenon, not limited to the USA. For those of you who live in a different part of the world than me, what horse stamps have you seen your own country issue? Any favorites?

And if the USPS is reading, please bring back those horse breed stamps!