Riding Benefits of Open Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bear Booted Up Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cool Horses For A Hot Day

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

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

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

Chasing Hay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pasture Practice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you shopped Poshmark for Equestrian Clothing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shiloh in Video Clips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video Clip Progression with Piper

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

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

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

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

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


Then we did our first ride over it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Horse Care Challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your most challenging Summer horse care issue?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More About The Kong Mega Wubba & Horses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Trail Obstacles!

My round pen is looking more crowded these days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is It A Horse Toy or A Dog Toy?

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

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

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

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

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

Please, someone get this child a pony!

Was I sent the wrong Kong?

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

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

Carla with Consumer Relations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Barbra Schulte via an April 2022 email blast

Horses Leave Hoof Prints On . . .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Lip Products For Equestrians

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

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

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

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

And check out these sassy Blue Ribbon Beauty lipstick names:

Peachy Pony
Unbridled
Coral Sorrel
Cherry Bay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Day In My Horse Life (Journal Notation Style)

Which horse to ride first today? I decided to start with my newest horse, Piper.

A minute into our ride, he tripped (spooked?). Piper rushed forward to catch his balance and proceeded to crow hop. He tossed me straight up into the air. Fortunately, I landed right back in the saddle. My back still upright. My feet still in the stirrups. Now I am awake!

I was planning to take a few “between the ear” snapshots during the ride. After the crow hop, I abandoned those plans. Best not to let my focus wander in this case.

Despite beginning with the unexpected bucking bobble, the rest of the ride was mercifully boring.

On to my next mount of the day, Mr. Shiloh.

Shiloh was his usual calm and casual self under saddle. While we started walking, I took through-the-ear photos, trying to capture some “mane in the wind” shots.

About the time I put my camera away and was ready to practice some maneuvers, it started to rain.

Like the kind of rain that makes your horse hold his head at funny angles. Argh! Sigh. I did not quite outrun the forecasted precipitation of the day.

So my plan B turned to quickly dismounting and hightailing it with Shiloh to the hay barn. My saddle tells the tale here:

It kept raining even as I let Shiloh back in the pasture, although not quite as strong as before.

Bear waited at the gate for me, like he wanted to be picked to do something (or maybe he just wanted a snack?).

As the rain dropped down to a light drizzle, I took Bear to the round pen for a brief bit of in-hand work. Then we went into the hay barn for a treat. I thought I better cover all the bases. Bear agreed.

After returning Bear to the paddock and then hanging his halter up, I turned around to see Shiloh asking for a treat. See him standing on the tire (filled in with dirt and rocks)? This is what he does when he wants me to bring food.

I sometimes come out of the house at feeding times, only to see Shiloh standing on the pedestal tire. I always wonder exactly how long he’s been standing there waiting.

So Shiloh got a horse cookie, of course. I’ve clearly done a terrific job of reinforcing Shiloh’s strong association between standing on the tire pedestal and me appearing with food. Who is training whom?

Finally, the last critter of the day to want attention (and food) was my barn cat, Saul. He showed up several years ago, around 2018, as a feral cat. Completely unapproachable.

You know how most horse people have dogs that follow them around the farm? Not me. It’s a long string of barn cats that have kept me company over the years.

So in keeping with my tradition of taking in stray cats, I got Saul trapped, neutered, vaccinated, flea treated, microchipped and released back home. It’s been over three years since that day.

As often happens in my experience, this cat decided he would stick around.

Saul finally joined the horses in knowing the pleasures of being dotted on by an attending human.

The end.

Muck Boots On The Runway?

One of my eagle-eye relatives recently pointed out to me this article from the Wall Street Journal. Since the newspaper is not where I’d normally expect to see the words “Bridled Enthusiasm” in bold print, the title certainly caught my attention.

If you would like to read the online version for yourself, you can see it HERE. The article is about equestrian-inspired fashion choices.

“The equestrian look canters back into style every decade or so, and in 2022, riding boots, tailored hunt jackets and even breeches feel as natural as Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar restaurant in New York as on an actual polo field.”- Laura Nelson

I found the writing to be rather amusing. I’m still not quite sure if it was actually meant to be tongue-in-cheek or serious. But maybe that’s just because I normally feel hopelessly out of touch with anything related to fashion.

“Pleated beige breeches by Swedish brand Aisling Equestrian. They dramatically flare out at the thighs for a statement-making daytime look- no Hanoverian necessary.” – Laura Neilson

The article reminded me of the well-known disconnect between those with money to burn and those of us who consider $475 to be a car payment, not the price of a belt. Maybe that’s why I found myself laughing out loud as I read through it?

Still, if there is any fashion trend I COULD get excited about, it would be an equestrian one. Granted, several of the items featured in the article cost more than the real-live horses I bought.

And as far as I am concerned, a helmet belongs on your head, not on your arm like a handbag. I’m looking at you, Gucci.

But fashionista or not, what horse-lover isn’t going to give a little wink and nod to equestrian fashion touches appearing on the runway (or on main street) now and then?

It certainly makes me feel, dare I say, more fashion forward.

I mean, nothing could be more authentically equestrian than manure-encrusted muck boots. Or maybe barn-jacket pockets filled with hay. And how about that forgotten carrot slice tucked into a Wrangler jeans pocket found only after it has gone through the wash cycle.

Surely all of those things count as equestrian fashion, right?

If so, those of us with horses already have this trend down cold!

The Next Art of The Horseman Online Fair- FREE!

The next Art of The Horseman online fair takes place April 29th and 30th, 2022.

For 48 hours, you can get FREE access to around one hundred horsemanship videos from over seventy presenters for your online learning pleasure!

The videos cut across different breeds and disciplines so there is a little something for just about everyone.

Presenters include well-known professionals like Warwick Schiller and Jim Masterson as well as up and coming trainers/instructors.

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

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

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

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

Click on the link and sign up today for your FREE ticket. Then mark out time on your calendar for video viewing, April 29th and 30th. I think you will be surprised at how much you can learn. Don’t miss out on this opportunity!

Buy A Horse Book Day!

Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate relationship with Trafalgar Square Books, co-sponsor of Buy A Horse Book Day. When you purchase materials through the Trafalgar Square Books affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog (click on the photo of the woman reading a book to a horse), the blog receives a much appreciated portion of your purchase at no cost to you.

Heels Down Magazine and Trafalgar Square Books team up to host the inaugural #BuyAHorseBookDay on May10, 2022!

“Both companies hope all who enjoy reading horse books will come together to celebrate horse books and horse book authors on May 10th each year, posting selfies of horse-book purchases and pics of their favorite equestrian titles, plus supporting their favorite authors, local bookstores, and tack shops.”- From an American Horse Publications Press Release Dated 4/8/22

This sounds like a day right up my alley. I am a voracious reader, passionate about all-things-horse and enjoy writing! How about you?

“Want to get involved? Anyone who loves horses and reading can! Post pics of your horse book shelves, your favorite reads, your TBR pile, and tag them #BuyAHorseBookDay with a note that you can’t wait for May 10th and an excuse to buy another horse book!.”- From an American Horse Publications Press Release Dated 4/8/22

If you’d like some reading suggestions for the big day, let The Backyard Horse Blog help you out. Find your next read through the following The Backyard Horse Blog book reviews:

Language Signs and Calming Signals of Horses: Recognition and Application by RachaëlDraaisma

Getting Along With Horses: An Evolution in Understanding by Crissi McDonald

Sacred Spaces: Communing With The Horse Through Science and Spirit by Susan D. Fay, PhD

A Good Seat: Three Months At The Reitinstitut Von Neindorff by Lynne Sprinsky Echols

Strands of Hope: How to Grieve The Loss Of A Horse by Susan Friedland

Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life With Horses by Denny Emerson

Last but not least, consider purchasing an eBook from The Backyard Horse Shop on Etsy.

I’ve written two eBooks for riders who don’t get as much saddle time as they would like. Sometimes life just doesn’t cooperate with our riding plans. We can feel painfully isolated during these seasons from our horsemanship dreams and from the wider horse community. Yet we still have a strong desire to stay connected to horses and to fellow equestrians. These two books give you ideas for how to do just that!

Favorite Horse Obstacles: Pick Four

If someone asked you to name your favorite four obstacles, what would you say? I’ll let you fudge a little and allow for multiples of the same item in “sets”. But otherwise, you have to name four separate obstacles.

For those of us who love to incorporate obstacles in our horse work, it is hard to choose. Right? But here are mine:

  • Set of traffic cones
  • Set of ground poles
  • A tarp
  • A large horse ball

So why these four? They are

  • Relatively inexpensive
  • Simple to obtain
  • Moved easily around a riding area (you don’t need a crane or four people to lift them)
  • Easy to store because they don’t take up much space
  • Super versatile!

While I do have more obstacles in my arsenal than “the big four” named here, these are the four that I’ve used the most consistently over the years. And with the greatest variety of horses.

For example, these four photos in this post were taken in 2010, 2016, 2019 and 2021 respectively. They feature four different horses, including one of my former foster horses named Bitsy (the bay mare).

There’s so much you can accomplish with these four obstacles. It is exciting to provide a fun challenge for you and your horse without needing an elaborate trail set up (you might still WANT an elaborate trail set up, but you don’t need one to get your horse used to negotiating basic obstacles).

You can set out each obstacle separately to practice them one at a time. Or set up a simple course where you move smoothly from one obstacle to another like you would in a horse-show trail class. You can also stack or combine obstacles to make something more challenging. For example, you could place a ground pole(s) across a tarp and ask your horse to cross them together.

You can of course use these obstacles in groundwork, too. Doing in-hand trail obstacles is a lot of fun and great for horses who are too young/too lame/too old to be ridden. And if you like to pony one horse from another, you could add in some obstacles to test everyone’s skills at leading/following through them.

Speaking of obstacles, I have been wanting to obtain some more formal obstacles for some time now. I am not, however, handy with tools. I knew I would need to pay someone to make them. So over the Winter, I put a few pieces on a zero-interest layaway plan and recently had them declared “paid in full” and delivered!

Once the weather in my area is set for me to start riding regularly again (will the yo-yo weather with plenty of wind, precipitation and resulting mud ever stop?), I plan to introduce you to my new toys in an upcoming post with photos.

Spoiler alert, one of my new toys is a set of actual ground poles, not the old fence posts repurposed into ground poles that you see in the photos above (or the PVC poles that I also sometimes use). Since I now have a set of evenly shaped and sized ground poles, I finally felt comfortable attempting to trot my horse, Shiloh, across one for the first time.

On our initial attempt, he ticked it with three of four hooves, but didn’t trip or feel unbalanced. So I tried a second time from the opposite direction. I could feel him trotting a little more carefully over it this time.

That extra effort allowed him to trot right over it cleanly! I felt so proud and made much of him. You would have thought we just jumped a three-foot fence.

I don’t think the hunter/jumper circuit is in our future, but I am definitely looking forward to experimenting further with my new obstacles. 🙂

Want more ideas on incorporating obstacles in your horse work? You might enjoy checking out The Backyard Horse Blog’s “Horse Trail Obstacles” board on Pinterest:

Wild Horses and Burros As Wild Fire Preventers?

“Wild Horse Fire Brigade is about helping to save forests and wildlife, as well as saving native species American wild horses by rewilding them from government holding facilities, and/or relocating them away from areas of contention with livestock production. This new plan seeks to humanely place wild horses as family units into carefully selected designated wilderness areas that are economically and ecologically appropriate, where they will reduce and maintain grass and brush fuels to more natural levels.”

-William E. Simpson II

I don’t know how many of you keep up with issues surrounding wild horses and burros on US public lands. But it is an issue of importance to me. You can read about my history with wild horses in a previous post HERE.

An animal’s value is often based on what it can do for humans. A value that is frequently linked to their very survival. Unfortunately, wild horses and burros have yet to find their human value as part of US public lands.

Instead, they have often been considered a nuisance. An impediment to the running and expansion of other industries. A problem to be contained or eliminated.

But exciting research shows that wild horses and burros could have a place in actually solving the current human and environmental problem of ever-increasing wildfires in the Western US.

Could this be their ticket to survival? In contrast, current government management practices are viewed by many as a direct path to wild horse and burros extinction- practices such as rounding up the animals, warehousing the ones that aren’t adopted (which is most of them) and sterilizing the ones that are allowed to remain on the range.

The research behind this exciting idea of a “wild horse fire brigade” is promoted by a naturalist rancher in California, William E Simpson II. You may recognize his name in association with the award-winning video short by Micah Robin titled Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses.

“Wildfire continues to devastate the American West at increasing rates. According to some, the plan that could combat the danger of forest fire lies in the complicated history and present role of the wild horse. Naturalist rancher William E. Simpson II, Michael Perez, and Pulitzer Prize winning author David Philipps explore the interconnected issues of wildfire and wild horses in the American West.”

From the Pitchstone Waters Website

You can view this 8 minutes, 34 second clip online within several websites including:

https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/

Fuel, Fire, and Wild Horses

And if you want to read the book mentioned in the video, Wild Horse Country: The History, Myth and Future of the Mustang, America’s Horse by David Philipps, you can find more details about it HERE.

After watching Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses, I encourage you to read the following essay by William E. Simpson II “Understanding ‘Wild Horse Fire Brigade’ : The Supporting Science of Wildfire Grazing”. In this piece, Mr. Simpson lays out his thoughts about exactly how wild horses could help stem forest fires. The photos and graphs included display interesting information that bring home many important points.

In reading some of Mr. Simpson’s other materials, I surmised that he does not think highly of non-for-profit organizations that report on and advocate for wild horses and burros. He notes that after over 50 years of advocacy, our wild horses and burros are just as endangered by human development as ever. While I don’t completely agree with Mr. Simpson’s premise, I do see his point that new ideas are desperately needed.

Certain non-for-profits like, Wild Horse Education, regularly document conditions of horses on the range as well as the ever-more-frequent government roundups. Roundups that often involve terrorizing the animals with helicopters, sometimes resulting in gruesome injury, suffering and death. To me, the filming of wild horses on the range and during roundups is critical to trying to bring further accountability of our US government’s handling of them.

But when the government largely does not see the value in keeping wild horses and burros on the range, new ideas like that of Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade could be a faster ticket to their survival than more traditional forms of advocacy.

If wild horses and burros are important to you, I encourage you to share Mr. Simpson’s Wild Horse Fire Brigade idea far and wide. I’ve seen his research featured on the Straight From The Horse’s Heart blog as well as the Horse and Man blog (just yesterday, in fact), but this Wild Horse Fire Brigade needs more press if it is ever to become a reality.

Ask your friends to watch the video Fuel, Fire and Wild Horses. Read Mr. Simpson’s essay. Visit his website at https://www.wildhorsefirebrigade.org/. Post links to the video and the website on your social media. Help continue the conversation.

Update May 2022: Wild Horse Fire Brigade and issues surround wild horses were featured during a Denver news channel segment. I will continue to update this post as I become aware of media coverage.

Solving Horsemanship Problems When You Don’t Have Professional Help

As a backyard horse owner, I am “it.” Day in and day out, the only person who generally interacts with my horses is me.

This comes with advantages, but it can also be challenging. Especially when I encounter problems. While I have sometimes availed myself of professional help, I usually have to solve problems on my own.

When I think about my horse life and those of my friends, I recall that we have encountered (or continue to encounter) a gamut of issues. Everything from not being able to get a horse in a trailer, to a horse bucking when asked to canter to one of our mounts spooking repeatedly on the trail.

A life with horses is a dream for many of us, but the reality of it is sprinkled with lots of hard physical and emotional work. It can be disappointing and down right scary at times when we can’t get our horses to cooperate.

And it’s not just backyard horse keepers with this issue. Even folks who board their horses may not be in a barn with a trainer.

Boarded horses might get daily care from folks other than their owners, but it is often only the owners who ride or do groundwork with their horses. Just like backyard horse-keepers, boarders often have to solve problems without professional help.

When I saw a ten-minute video made by Horse Class on the subject of horse problem solving, I knew it was something I would want to share on this blog. I know there are lots of us “do-it-yourselfers” who struggle with various aspects of horsemanship.

Sometimes these struggles can seem insurmountable. They can keep us from enjoying our horses to the extent that we would like to. Limiting what we can do with them. Or even impacting our safety.

Of course, there are many positives about getting professional help through lessons, clinics or having our horses in full-time training. But all those things cost money. They can also be physically hard to access if you don’t have a horse trailer, live in a remote area or have an extremely busy schedule.

Online learning opportunities might be more helpful than going it alone. Video recording your issue and paying a professional to review is an option for many. But online review is still not the same as having a professional guiding you through a difficult moment with your horse or stepping in to handle a situation. And of course, remote learning is not free. Just like in-person learning, online learning may not be in your budget.

If you largely work with your horse on your own like I do, I highly recommend you watch this video. Callie, the speaker, relays her six-part approach to dissecting horse problems. It might give you more insight into your horsemanship issues and ideas about how to thoughtfully approach them. It certainly gave me some food for thought. See the video here:

My Problem Solving Framework – A 6 Step Process to Solve Any Problem

After you watch the video, let me know in the comments section what aspect of the clip stood out to you? Do you have a systematic way of approaching problems that develop between you and your horse?

Book Review: Begin and Begin Again- The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life with Horses by Denny Emerson

Please note that The Backyard Horse Blog has an affiliate relationship with Trafalgar Square Books, the publisher of this book. When you purchase materials through the Trafalgar Square Books affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog website, the blog receives a much appreciated portion of your purchase at no cost to you. That being said, this book review was not solicited or reviewed by Trafalgar Square Books. I received no direct compensation for this post.

Are you looking to infuse inspiration into your horse life? If so, you will want to get your hands on Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life With Horses. The information it contains is as hopeful as the book title sounds.

The chapters and sections discuss options for starting, re-entering or changing your involvement in the horse world. The book touches on the issues of brand new riders, re-riders, riders who have experienced injuries, riders who want to change disciplines and riders who must contend with declining abilities.

The author also reminds us that riding isn’t required to remain in the horse world. He gives examples of people who are an integral part of the horse industry whether they ever sit on the back of a horse or not.

“There’s no rule that says someone has to ride or drive or have a hands-on connection to get joy from horses. Some paint horses, others take photos of horses; some sponsor a young rider, work with horse-rescue organizations, build saddles or write horse books.”

Now, if you want a “how to” book, I need to point out that this one isn’t it. But if you like to draw ideas for your own life by reading about the experience of others, “Begin and Begin Again” will fit the bill.

The author, Denny Emerson, makes his points mostly through the art of storytelling, relaying his experiences as he rode a variety of breeds and disciplines throughout his long career. While Mr. Emerson is probably most well-known for his three-day eventing career, he also competed in endurance riding and rode Park-type Morgan horses. In addition, the book features lots of interview side-bars where professional and amateur riders alike tell their own experiences with beginning and beginning again with horses.

As an equestrian who has “begun and begun again” more times than I would like, I found the book relatable. This despite the fact that the author is an accomplished horseman in a way that I never will be.

I sometimes find it discouraging as an average equestrian to read “story of my life” books by horse professionals. As they write about their leaping from one success to the other, I don’t see myself fitting in the picture. It can be hard for me to find common ground with that level of accomplishment.

While Mr. Emerson shares high-level riding successes in his career, he also (refreshingly) describes setbacks and challenges. Including writing about how his training approach has changed over the years. As an example, he describes working with a family member’s teenage Quarter Horse gelding who is an ex-ranch and team roping horse:

“When I ask Kansas for even a little bit of contact, legs into connection, his first responses are to evade, dip his head, open his mouth, invert, basically telling me the only way he knows how, “Hey, I don’t get what you want. Hey, this isn’t comfortable for me to do.” So I stay very quiet, and simply suggest . . . so if I am going to make changes, they will be tiny changes, done over plenty of time, with plenty of releases and rest breaks. I may not even go much further than slight contact, just to steady him from time to time, because he’s so used to a certain pattern. I’m not trying to change Kansas into something he isn’t, not at this stage of his life. I was thinking recently of how I might have responded 25 or 30 years ago, and I am pretty sure that I’d have been more demanding, and more inclined to think of Kansa’s evasions as disobediences rather than as struggles . . .”

Mr. Emerson goes on to write about how he sees that same attitude in other riders too. For example, riders thinking that a horse reacting like Kansas is simply “being a brat about it.” Mr. Emerson notes that he now realizes that line of thinking is the start of a “confrontational downward spiral” with the horse. A spiral that leads to needlessly harsh riding and handling.

It takes guts to look at your past behavior and declare it wanting. This type of reflection is a form of re-starting that fits right in with the rest of the book. It is something that any horseman can relate to, no matter one’s level of skill.

The book is a great reminder to look for options within your horse life. To see possibilities where you might have only seen stumbling blocks. To give yourself permission to step up, step sideways or step back. To know that you can start and re-start as long as you are still breathing.

Begin and Begin Again: The Bright Optimism of Reinventing Life with Horses ends in the same way that it starts, by referencing the apt C. Lewis quote, “We can’t go back and change the beginning, but we can start today and change the ending.”

Same But Different: Animal Photo Challenge

For as long as I can remember, my horses have shared a fence line with neighboring cows.

Sometimes, I notice that one of the cows will strike up a friendship with one or more of the horses.

They will spend time along the fence line together. Maybe playfully nipping at each other through the fences. Maybe just dozing, warmed by the sun and each other’s company. Occasionally, everyone gets stirred up at the same time. Cows and horses are all running, jumping and bucking at the same time on their respective sides of the fence.

Last month, I happened to have my camera when I noticed Shiloh taking a standing nap as a neighboring cow snuck up behind him. With horse and cow standing near each other, you can see how they sport matching coat colors.

Horse people might call Shiloh’s main coat color “chestnut,” but cattle folks call that same color “red”. And there you have it. Same but different.

I thought this idea of “same but different” would make for a fun animal-only photo challenge. If you have a blog or are on Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram, you could participate in the challenge by making your own “same but different” post. You could then leave a comment on this blog post with a link to your own post so The Backyard Horse Blog readers could see your own animal version of “same but different”.

Who’s game to play?

Horsin’ Around On April Fool’s Day

With a nod to April Fool’s Day, I am reblogging a previous April 1st post filled with corny horse jokes and riddles. Hopefully good for at least one smile or laugh. 🙂

The Backyard Horse Blog

I need some comic relief! So today, I am giving a nod to April Fool’s Day with a compilation of horse jokes, puns and silly sayings for some unbridled laughs. So let’s quit stalling and get to it.

Bear thinks these jokes and puns are pretty funny!

The LaffGaff website says “We’re not trying to stirrup trouble, but we reckon these are the best horse jokes and puns you’ll find…. there’s no night-mare jokes here!”

The following are my favorites from the LaffGaff horse-related joke list:

  • 100 years ago everyone owned horses and only the rich drove cars. These days everyone drives cars and only the rich own horses. Oh, how the stables have turned.
  • What did the horse say when it fell down? “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t giddy up!”
  • What do you call a horse that lives next door to you? A neigh-bor.
  • When do vampires like…

View original post 346 more words

Horse Printables Contest: Winners Announced (plus more equine contests to enter)!

Recently, The Backyard Horse Blog hosted its latest contest.

Congratulations to our winners, Anne L. and Reese M.! They will each receive a free printable item from The Backyard Horse Shop on Etsy!

Didn’t win but want more horse-related contests to enter? Here are some others to try. Let me know if you win!

Win Amigo turnout gear:
https://www.horseloverz.com/sweepstakes

Win 10 bags of Legend horse feed:
https://ker.com/equinews/legends-sweepstakes/

Win a subscription to Warwick Schiller’s online training library:
https://horseandrider.com/page/warwick-schiller-horsemanship-giveaway

Win a $1,000 shopping spree to the Breyer model horse catalog:
https://www.breyerhorses.com/pages/2021-2022-magalog-shopping-spree

Equine Liver Failure: Fate’s Story

Fate was the name of a grey unregistered part-Arabian gelding. Initially selected to be my son’s 4H gaming horse, he became one of my backyard riding horses when my son lost interest.

I bought Fate when he was an estimated 19 years old. Even as a senior horse, he was quick and athletic with a strong personality. He was always the herd leader in the pasture.

Fate was the healthiest horse I ever owned. Like many grey horses, he sprouted some melanomas on his body. But in the ten years he lived in my backyard, he never needed an emergency vet call. He had no hoof problems. He never had any special management issues.

I rode Fate regularly until his mid-twenties and then gradually stopped. I had four horses by that time, including two gaited ponies with whom I was very active. Even though Fate was not experiencing any problems, it seemed the natural progression to retire him from riding and focus my horsemanship efforts on his younger herd-mates, Bear and Spice.

In 2014, when Fate was an estimated 29, I noticed he began losing weight and topline muscle. The changes happened quickly and caught me off guard. He had been an easy keeper up to that point.

Here is a picture of him in August 2014.

Here is a picture of him in October 2014, less than two months later.

When I first noticed the weight loss, I just figured his nutritional needs were changing due to his advancing age. So I began feeding Fate a senior horse feed in ever-increasing amounts. I thought that the extra calories would help him quickly fill back out. But instead, I continued to see weight loss.

During this same season, I was preparing to move across the country. Part of my moving preparations involved getting health certificates issued by a veterinarian for my horses. This paperwork is a legal requirement for horses crossing State lines.

In the course of all that preparation, Fate’s veterinary physical exam revealed no reason for his weight loss. So his veterinarian recommended doing a full blood panel.

Unfortunately, the blood work indicated that Fate was in liver failure. Apparently, there are treatments if the liver disease is caught early enough, but Fate’s disease process was too advanced by the time of diagnosis. His veterinarian described a very poor prognosis. Fate was euthanized a week before I moved to Colorado in late October 2014.

Before the veterinary exam, it didn’t occur to me that there might be something wrong with Fate other than advancing age. He was still eating, drinking and moving around like normal. He was still the herd leader in the pasture. He was still pleasant and cooperative to handle on the ground.

I didn’t see any other signs of illness (besides the weight loss). That doesn’t mean that they weren’t there, of course. Just that I didn’t see any.

Why did he develop liver failure? I still don’t know. What I do know is that before I had him in my backyard for ten years, his previous owner had him in her own backyard for seven.

I remember her telling me that their other horse died of liver failure. Was there an environmental issue on their property that might have contributed to both horses’ eventual deaths? Even ten years apart?

I also know that around 2010 or so, our own pastures developed a buttercup weed infestation. Over the course of a few seasons, Buttercups completely took over the horse’s main pasture, choking out most of the grass. In the photo below, you can see patches of bare ground exposed as the buttercups invaded. It got so bad that I began to feed hay almost year-round even though the horses were on full-time turnout.

To combat the infestation, I ended up having the entire pasture sprayed with weed killer for a couple of years in a row. The spraying saved the pasture. In fact, the pasture is now so lush that I have to keep my horses completely off of it due to one of my horse’s history with laminitis. But Buttercups are known to be poisonous, with the ability to negatively affect the liver. And of course, some chemicals in weed killers are suspected in various types of disease.

Was living for several years in a pasture overtaken by buttercups to blame for Fate’s liver disease? Were the chemical sprays used to kill the buttercups the reason Fate got sick? Did his history of having a former herd-mate with liver failure factor into Fate’s diagnosis? Or was it just a coincidence? I have no answers.

Long story short, I wanted to write about Fate’s story as a cautionary tale. In retrospect, it is easy for me to see that a horse losing condition that quickly likely indicates illness, not advancing age. Hindsight is 20/20.

I think sometimes we just figure an old horse is losing weight because they can’t absorb nutrients like they used to. We aren’t aware or forget that a horse’s weight loss can be indicative of disease. A disease that has nothing to do with their age or how many calories they are consuming.

Though not a common issue, equine liver failure is something I continue to think about. Fate and my horse, Bear, were pasture mates for about nine years. Bear also lived on that same buttercup-infested pasture that was repeatedly sprayed with weed killer.

Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that Bear is still with me. We just marked our 17-year “anniversary” this month, and he is scheduled to turn 27 this Spring. But he’s approaching the same age Fate was when Fate’s dramatic weight loss occurred. As Bear continues to inch ever closer to 30, the possibility of liver failure stays on my radar.

Want to learn more about equine liver failure beyond the personal experience I described here? Try these resources to get you started:

https://www.merckvetmanual.com/horse-owners/digestive-disorders-of-horses/disorders-of-the-liver-in-horses

Thought For The Day: Gratitude

“At this moment, I realize the power of gratitude.

It reminds me of all that’s lovely with my horse, instead of what I don’t have.

When I am grateful, I feel wonderful and so appreciative.

Being grateful for what is true is free and available to me any time and anywhere.”

-From Barbra Schulte’s Just For Today emails (daily thoughts to bring out your best with your horse)

What are you grateful for in your horse life?

Survey On Trailering Horses

Some years I haul my horses frequently. Some years not at all. It depends on what horses I have at the time and what access I have to trail riding/clinics/lessons/shows. And, of course, whether or not I have a horse trailer!

While reading some material on The Horse: Your Guide to Equine Health Care, I came across this request to participate in research conducted by the University of Kentucky.

“We are interested in understanding how transportation affects horses of different ages, breeds, and health status so that we can ultimately find ways to better support horse health. This survey will provide valuable information and, therefore, we encourage all horse owners to get involved and be part of our project,” said Dan Howe, PhD, interim chair of the UK’s Department of Veterinary Science and interim director of the Gluck Center.

From Thehorse.com website articled referenced above

The researchers are asking folks to take a survey about their horse trailering experiences in the past year. The survey takes about 15 minutes to complete. At the end, you have the option of entering a drawing to win a chocolate prize basket. That’s a pretty good incentive in my book! Complete the survey at

https://uky.az1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_bK5B8c5CJIgwqAC

Please note they are looking for USA residents only who are over 18, own/lease at least one horse (or care for someone else’s full time) and have trailed said horse(s) at least once in the past year. The survey is open until April 1st, 2022.

I completed the survey. How about you?

Great Spring Time Activity: Practicing The Backup

The month of March in my area is frequently cold and/or rainy. Neither of which makes for good riding conditions.

I may get in a handful of rides with my horses at home. Mostly though, March is a month filled with groundwork, not time in the saddle.

But eventually, I will hopefully get about the business of reacclimating my horses to riding following their Winter break.

This reconditions process consists of lots of walking with crossing poles and practicing small movements. Things like turn on the forehand, turn on the hindquarters, side passing or backing.

Backing up is a simple (but not necessarily easy) exercise. I find it works nicely into the Spring riding season, especially if your horse is out of condition and not up for much cardio work (trotting and cantering) yet.

A smooth, soft back can be elusive but not impossible. Backing is often done poorly with the rider causing the horse to throw its head in the air and hollow its back. All while moving crookedly in an irregular rhythm. I unfortunately speak from experience here.

As I was formulating plans for my first Spring rides, I came across THIS short video from Callie with Horse Class about backing.

“The backup can be one of the most useful exercises in riding.

Done correctly, it improves far more than just the ability for you and your horse to move backwards.

The backup develops the strength of the horse, particularly in their hind end muscles as they lower and transfer more weight to their hind legs to correctly make the movement. As they do this, their topline lengthens, their neck stretches forward, and they step back with a diagonal movement.

For the rider, the backup is also a very useful exercise for learning to feel these weight shifts from the horse and adjusting in response to them.

None of these benefits are achieved by pulling back on the reins.

The backup needs to be initiated by a change in the rider’s center, a slight shift in their weight, and then the creation of movement. The reins should only be communicating don’t go forward.

No movement happens in isolation, and as soon as we begin pulling on the reins to try and get a backup, the horse will have to tense and shorten their neck, therefore hollowing their back and dragging their legs backwards.

The process of riding a good backup begins with just a weight shift . . .”

From a Horse Class email

This video clip will help you resist the urge to haul on your horse’s face. Instead, it encourages you to concentrate on sensitizing your horse to your seat aids and your intention (thinking about what you want your horse TO do).

I’ve been cautioned not to drill movements. I usually practice backing my horse just a handful of times during a ride for a minute or so at a time. I’ve also learned to vary the time and place within the ride to ask for the backup.

I once got into the habit of asking my horse, Shiloh, to back at the end of every ride, right after I’d look at my watch to note how long we’d been riding. Being the smarty-pants horse that he is, I noticed that Shiloh started to back up during the ride whenever I looked at my watch! I had not realized I’d paired looking at my watch with asking him to back quite so successfully!

So instead, I incorporate backing within the ride itself. Not just right at the end. It is fun for me to mix it up with halt-walk-gaiting-backing. That way you aren’t just going around in circles working on one thing at a time. I find incorporating the backup helps Shiloh to be a more attentive and athletic horse. It challenges his mind while helping him to think about balancing his body as we switch gears.

But wait. Permit me to back up here for one moment. 🙂 I should mention that if you and/or your horse struggle with the backup under saddle, please practice from on the ground for awhile instead. Rider-teacher-author, Jec A Ballou, talks a lot about incorporating the backup in groundwork. If you want some ideas and don’t have any of her books already, check out a few of her You Tube Videos on backing up as well as on her website:

In closing, I will leave you with one last thought- that teaching your horse to back up off of your seat can have some practical applications. Especially if you ever encounter obstacles on the trail or participate in trail classes/obstacle competitions. Opening and closing gates comes to mind. But here’s something that is even more fun.

This is one of my favorite photos of my now-sadly-deceased pony, Pumpkin Spice, and me. We entered a two-day obstacle competition hosted by the now-sadly-defunct ACTHA organization.

The photo shows us performing the “don’t feed the bears” obstacle where we walked up to a backpack on the ground. The pack was attached to a long rope that had been swung over a tree branch. The obstacle was named for the camping practice of keeping food off the ground so as not to attract predators.

Instructions were to approach the tree on horseback, grab the rope and levitate the back pack off the ground by asking your horse to back up while you maintained tension on the rope. You then completed the obstacle by returning the back pack to the ground as you moved your horse forward once again.

You can imagine the interesting challenges this might present to horse and rider. For example, backing up one-handed. Backing up in such a way that the backpack was raised smoothly so you don’t end up tangling the rope or terrifying your horse as the backpack raises up right in front of them.

What a hoot!

Win A Printable Bundle or eBook From The BackYard Horse Shop!

Okay, folks, it is time for another blog contest!

Win your choice of one printable bundle or one eBook from TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy! Up to five winners will be randomly selected from all entrants!

TheBackYardHorseShop sells printable items (otherwise known as digital files or digital downloads) including horsemanship goal-sheets and bookmarks.

It also sells the eBooks, “What To Do When You Can’t Ride: Ten Horse-Related Activities For When Life Keeps You Out of The Saddle” AND “What To Do When You Can’t Ride Part II: Ten MORE Horse-Related Activities For When Life Keeps You Out of The Saddle.”

Not familiar with printables/digital files/digital downloads? Here’s how they work. When you purchase a printable or an eBook from the shop, you buy the right to download the PDF file of that item. You print out the PDF yourself at home or send it out to be printed through an online printing service of your choice.

With eBooks, you can also simply read them right on your computer or phone without having to print out anything.

Long story short, when you purchase a printable or digital file, nothing is mailed out to you.

Now for the contest details:

Enter the contest by leaving a comment on this post about what other kind of printable products you’d be interested in the shop carrying. You should see a box below this post that says “Leave a Reply.” The last day to enter is March 27th, 2022 at Midnight.

It will help if you first visit TheBackYardHorseShop on Etsy to view the shop listing to see what is already for sale before you leave a comment. I am asking for some fresh ideas to bring more traffic and sales to the shop. Who better to help me out than blog readers (that’s you!)?

Have trouble leaving comments on this post? An alternative form of entry is to send me an email at thebackyardhorseshop@gmail.com with the Subject Line “Printable Contest Entry.” Don’t forget to include your idea(s) for new printable products you would like to see in the shop. I will email you back and confirm your entry.

On March 28th, I will announce the winners on this blog (using the first name and first letter of the last name only). I will also contact each winner via email. Winners will receive a special coupon code good for one free item from the shop. Item must be purchased within two weeks of notification or else the prize is forfeited.

So what are you waiting for? Visit TheBackYardHorseShop today. Then come back here to enter the contest by leaving your comment!

Up Close

Ever notice the small details of a horse’s coat? How each hair blends in delightfully with all the others. The patterns that form. Lines, swirls and whirls. It is interesting what draws your attention when you get up close.

Typically, during later Winter/early Spring, my horses look their worst. Winter coats are dull. Manes super scraggly. And did I mention the mud? Wet and dry dirt caked over, under and into all that hair. It can make for quite a mess.

Even so, I love marveling at the beauty beneath the chaos. I observe the individual hairs coming together to form this protective tapestry that keeps the horses warm all Winter.

What an amazing design. Wonderfully Intricate. To me, it bears witness to God’s original universal design. Right down to the tiny details of each separate hair. It shows me that small things, seemingly insignificant, have a time, place and purpose. It is satisfying to contemplate.

I now sit on the cusp of the annual shedding ritual. My horses will change in appearance. All the long hairs so necessary for Winter protection will loosen. They will end up all over the ground when the horses roll, all over me when I go to groom and scattered into the four directions every time the wind blows. The advent of transition is an opportune time to watch, document and reflect on the details of life.

What do you notice about a horse up close?

AMERICAN HORSES: Nature Season 40 Episode 10

If you missed viewing American Horses on PBS, you can stream it for FREE up until March 23rd, 2022 at https://www.pbs.org/video/american-horses-i5v309/.

American Horses is part of PBS’s Nature Series, now in its 40th season. In 54 minutes, it brings a condensed history of the horse as it pertains to what is now the USA. The show focuses on the Mustang, Morgan, Appaloosa and Quarter Horse. It is rated TV-G for family-friendly viewing.

Like all of the Nature series, the episode is beautifully filmed with appealing narration and background music. I was pretty much enthralled the entire time. Maybe that’s just because I find horses endlessly fascinating to watch. But I think even someone who isn’t quite as enamored with all things Equus would still find American Horses to be of interest.

As I watched the show, I did have a few misgivings. I might quibble with some of their assertions about horses or have explained some details differently. Similarly, while I’m glad they included Mustangs, they did not mention anything about how our wild horses and burros are being removed from our public lands at a rate that seriously threatens their survival.

And as the owner of three American gaited horses, I sure wish they would have covered more breeds. But I know there is only so much history a show can cover in under an hour, right?

All that aside, I would definitely recommend American Horses for your viewing pleasure.

Something I also appreciate about the PBS website is that their show episodes stream really well for me. I don’t have any streaming-service subscriptions because I often have trouble viewing most videos. So far, though, every free PBS show that I have watched plays without issue. I hope it is that way for you, too.

Want more? Check out their 2019 two-part series Equus: The Story of The Horse. The series takes a global look at the story of the horse, documenting horses and the people that care for them in various corners of the planet.

Equus: The Story of The Horse series is available to watch through PBS Passport, a paid subscription service. In addition, I also know that some libraries carry the series on DVD so you might want to check with your local branch. It has been a few years since I watched it. I am fuzzy on the details, but I remember the series as a fascinating look at the diversity of the horse around the world. Go to

https://www.pbs.org/video/equus-story-of-the-horse-episode-1-origins-bp00yv/

and

https://www.pbs.org/video/equus-story-of-the-horse-episode-2-chasing-the-wind-u7o10x/.

Anywho, if you end up watching American Horses, let me know what you think in the comments section!

Considering The Horses and Equestrian Community of Ukraine

PLEASE NOTE- THIS POST HAS BEEN UPDATED AS OF 10/5//22. When I become aware of new information or resource links regarding the equestrian community in the region, I will continue to update this post.

“Archaeological evidence indicates that the domestication of horses had taken place by approximately 6,000 years ago in the steppe lands north of the Black Sea from Ukraine to Kazakhstan.”

– From http://www.britannica.com “Origin of Horse Domestication”

I wish I knew more about the horses and equestrian community of Ukraine. I do not have family ties to Ukraine or personal knowledge of the modern Ukrainian horse industry. But as the above quote demonstrates, Ukraine and horses clearly share a lengthy history.

And if you have ever heard of the Cossacks, you recognize Ukraine as having a history of a fierce warrior culture on horseback. In fact, if you ever witnessed modern-day trick riding, you have seen movements that the Cossacks used to fight its enemies. Read a 2019 article from the website Ukraine World about the relationship between the history of the Cossacks and modern Ukrainian identity HERE.

I also highly recommend you see this video clip posted to YouTube titled “Ukrainian Cossacks Horse Show in Kyiv in 2020“. If you didn’t before Putin’s invasion, you likely now recognize Kyiv as the Ukrainian capital city. Now in the cross-hairs of Russian aggression. The video includes short clips of a riding demonstration like one would see at a horse expo. It shows impressive riding displays on horses that seemed very well-prepared and well-suited to their jobs.

And have you ever heard of the wild horses living around Chernobyl? You can read about their story on a science website HERE. It contains a 2021 article about the horses flourishing around Chernobyl, the site of the nuclear reactor accident over thirty years ago. Now the horses have to contend with yet another man-made disaster, war.

As the eyes of the world settle on the invasion of Ukraine, I can’t help but think of the horses and other animals caught up in the conflict. All the affected pets, livestock and wildlife. The numbers must be staggering.

In an effort to round up information about supporting Ukrainian animal organizations during this time of war, I came across several sources I want to share with you.

The two websites listed below contain multiple links to groups helping animals either within Ukraine itself or in bordering countries that are supporting Ukrainian refugees who have fled with their pets.

https://www.eurogroupforanimals.org/news/how-you-can-support-animal-protection-organisations-ukraine

https://www.thedodo.com/daily-dodo/pets-in-ukraine-heartbreaking-photos-show-people-clinging-to-their-animals-as-they-flee

The Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation‘s website has information about how to help. It also posts notices about what is happening within the equestrian community on the ground. Their Facebook page contains up-to-date information on horse relief efforts within the country.

The Foundation For The Horse, an arm of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, is accepting donations as they try to support veterinarian intervention for horses in Ukraine.

The organization BrookeUSA is also assisting those in Ukraine with horses. According to their website, “Brooke USA Foundation (Brooke USA) recently announced the establishment of its Ukraine Emergency Fund and asks its generous supporters to help equestrians and their horses as it joins the many organizations supporting relief efforts in that nation. Funds raised will be forwarded to the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation Charity Foundation (UEFCF; registered in Belgium) with assistance from the FEI (International Equestrian Federation) and USEF (United States Equestrian Federation) via the USEF Disaster Relief Fund.”

The organization Fleet of Angels is also providing support to horse owners in Ukraine. See the Fleet of Angels website and their Facebook page for further information

I also understand that the Fédération Equestre Internationale (the international body governing horse sports) has pledged $1 million Swiss francs in aid for the Ukrainian equestrian community and is in contact with the Ukrainian Equestrian Federation president, according to a post from New Zealand’s HorseTalk website.

Read about an update from Horse Nation dated 3/30/22 regarding ongoing relief efforts within the horse community of Ukraine and then read this 4/4/22 update from Yahoo! News via Reuters as posted to the blog Tuesday’s Horse:

See a Voice of America video posted May 2022 about people and their horses experiencing the results of war in Ukraine.

Here’s a report on New Zealand’s HorseTalk website dated 5/26/22 regarding updates on the horse community in Ukraine and aid distribution efforts.

Here are first-hand accounts from horse owners in Ukraine from the Horse and Sport website dated 6/7/22.

this article dated 7/12/22 from the Paulick Report reminds us that there is still an ongoing need for donations to help support the horses in Ukraine.

Most recently, you can read via an October 2022 Horse Nation article about donations sent to the Ukrainian horse community

A Possible Solution To The High Cost of Equine Prescription Meds

I must have big money on the brain this week. Or more specifically, how other people’s big business decisions ultimately affect a backyard horse keeper like me.

After my Monday post mentioning a private equity firm acquiring Equine Network, my thoughts turned to billionaire Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company.

The Cost Plus Drug Company’s business model allows it to offer prescription medications at reduced prices. For folks who spend a good portion of their money on medications, buying them through Mark Cuban’s Cost Plus Drug Company could be a financial game-changer.

But what about pet/horse/livestock prescription medication? It’s not just human meds that folks sometimes struggle to afford. The cost of treating chronic conditions in our animals can be considerable.

For example, just doing a quick estimation in my head, I know I’ve spent over $5,000 for my twenty-six-year-old horse’s medications since he was started on Equioxx and Prascend several years ago. That’s a lot of money for someone like me. It’s money that I don’t spend in other budget categories, or more importantly, save for the future.

Sometimes the price of medications even determines animal life or death. I have previously made the choice for euthanasia, not because there weren’t treatments available, but because I did not feel I was in a financial position to cover the treatment costs.

Perhaps even more sobering is that due to ever-increasing consumer prices, I will likely be confronted with that same choice in the future. And I know I am not the only one. Lots of us have and will confront these painful issues.

With all this on my mind, I decided to fill out the contact form on the Cost Plus Drug Company website. I wrote a little bit about my struggles trying to cover the cost of medications for my senior horse, Bear. I inquired about the possibility of them selling animal prescription medications. Here was the response I received:

“Hi Mary,

We are happy to assist and we appreciate you sharing your feedback and your story with us!

We appreciate you reaching out and letting us know how we can improve. We are looking to add animal prescriptions soon. However, it is a different process on accepting prescriptions for animals than for human medications, even if your animal takes human medicine. Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latest news for Cost Plus Drugs here.

Let us know if you have any more questions or concerns, and we will be happy to address them.

Thank you,

The Cost Plus Drug Company Team”

First off, I was impressed that someone actually seemed to read my email. They responded within 24 hours. It’s not very often that businesses respond in a way where the customer (or potential customer) feels seen and heard.

While I learned that they don’t yet carry animal prescription medications, I am excited to know it is on their radar. You can bet I signed up to be on their email newsletter list so I can keep up with future announcements.

In the mean time, if you are looking for more immediate relief from equine prescription drugs costs, I have three suggestions:

1) Compare costs between your veterinarian and online pharmacies

I want to make clear that I definitely prefer to support my veterinarian by purchasing meds from my vet’s office directly. But sometimes, it makes the most financial sense for me to shop elsewhere. I make the choice to purchase from online pharmacies when the savings are significant.

2) Buy In Bulk

Do the math. You will often see that you will pay less per pill when you buy the biggest bottle or package available. Yes, you will pay a larger amount upfront, but the yearly cost savings per pill can be significant.

3) Watch for rebate offers

I receive about $150 per year in medication rebates just by taking a few minutes to fill out a form and take a photo of the medication receipt (read my previous post HERE about Equioxx and Prascend rebates).

Be sure to read the details so you meet the specific rebate requirements. For example, sometimes the rebates are only valid for medication purchases made directly from your veterinarian, not an online pharmacy.

Finally, if you are so inclined, it can’t hurt to do like I did. Let the Cost Plus Drug Company know that you are interested in them carrying prescription pet/horse/livestock medications. Let them know why this is important to you. Email them at info@costplusdrugs.com. If lots of folks make their need known, hopefully we will see Cost Plus Drugs gravitate to offering animal medications that much sooner. Want to visit the Cost Plus Drug Company website? Go to https://costplusdrugs.com/.

A Monopoly In The Horse Industry?

Have you noticed the recent growth of Equine Network? Over the last few years, Equine Network has been busy snapping up major equine businesses left and right.

Reminds of the game Pac-Man with the yellow head moving steadily down the row, gobbling up one dot after the other until there’s none left.

Mostly, Equine Network’s acquisitions are horse-media related. Horse magazines and websites. Outside of the world of publishing, Equine Network now also owns US Rider, the horse trailer road-side assistance service.

Equine Network’s most recent purchase is The Horse Magazine: Your Guide to Equine Welfare. Purchased, in fact, just this year. Equine Network already owned the big-three USA horse magazines: Equus, Practical Horseman, and Horse & Rider (plus more- see the list near the end of this post). When I look at my horse magazine subscriptions, that leaves me with just a few that aren’t under their umbrella (yet).

All this got me to wonder who is behind Equine Network and what motivates this buying spree. I was thinking maybe a big horse organization ran Equine Network. Maybe a sports governing body, a major breed association or even just a generic publishing house with an Equine specialty. I was wrong.

Equine Network was acquired by Growth Catalyst Partners (GCP) from Active Interest Media in early 2021. GCP is a private equity firm.

This is how the Growth Catalyst Partner’s website describes Equine Network: “Equine Network is a provider of proprietary sports content, information, and tech-enabled services to the USD130 billion US equine industry.”

Clearly, Growth Catalyst Partners thinks substantial money is to be made through the Equine Network and its expansion.

That sounds all well and good for its investors. But as a horse owner, I wonder what does that mean for the quality of the publications and services within Equine Network?

What does it mean for horses and all the people involved in the equine industry who are affected by the content produced by Equine Network? From equine professionals to backyard horse keepers like me. Exactly how harmful or helpful?

I have more questions than answers at this point. And I remain skeptical.

I also know that I still enjoy and find valuable many of the Equine Network offerings. Equus has long been my favorite horse magazine even as it changed owners. And I’ve linked to Equine Network resources numerous times on this blog due to the quality of the information offered. But I question how long my favor will last.

I suppose if I get to the point where I no longer feel comfortable tossing any money towards Equine Network, I can still read their as-of-now free online reading materials. That is one little bright spot for me in the midst of my concerns.

For example, each of Equine Network’s publications offers a form of a monthly “extra”. You can sign up for “free to your email inbox” mini-magazines including

Equus Extra (multi-discipline horse care)

Practical Horseman Extra (dressage, eventing, hunter-jumper)

Dressage Today Extra (dressage only)

Horse & Rider’s Monthly (western riding)

Horse & Rider’s Trail Riding Extra (trail riding and otherwise traveling with your horse)

Stable Management Extra (for those with their own horse properties or those who board)

The Team Roping Journal’s Extra.

Just reading through that list gives you a sense of the scope and reach of the Equine Network. If you’d like to subscribe to any or all, go to https://hub.equinetwork.com/equine-network-extras.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping my eye on Equine Network, watching for changes in the quality and quantity of education and services offered. Wondering what they are going to snap up next and what increasing consolidation means for the horse industry. Wondering what will happen to Equine Network, and everything under its umbrella, if and when Growth Catalyst Partners decides Equine Network is no longer part of a winning portfolio strategy.

Wordle: A Game Tailor-Made For Equestrians

Surely by now you’ve played or at least heard of Wordle, yes? It’s an online game where players have six chances to guess a five-letter word of the day.

Although not expressly horse-related, equestrians have an advantage in playing the game. Have you thought about how many five-letter words we horse-lovers use? Starting with, well, H-O-R-S-E!

We regularly speak words like mount, brush or grain. And think of all the four-letter horse words that can be made into five-letters by adding “S”. Barns, hoofs and colts come to mind.

I won’t spoil all your creative fun by listing more examples. But hint, hint. I often start off my Wordle play by using an equestrian-related word. With positive results.

One big problem with Wordle? It only lets you make one guess a day. Horrors! Riding to the rescue is the almost identical game Wordmaster. It’s the same deal, but you can play as many times a day as your heart desires. You’re welcome!

And because I knew you were just hoping for another idea on how to spend even more time on the internet, check out these previous posts from The Backyard Horse Blog about giving generic games an equestrian twist!

Horsin’ Around With Puzzles

The Backyard Horse Blog Word Search

Let’s Play Bingo

Would You Rather: Equestrian Edition (First Installment)

Would You Rather: Equestrian Edition (Second Installment)

Bridle Review: John Whitaker Barton Bridle

Interested in trying out a new English bridle? Do you have a thing for bling? If so, check out this John Whitaker Barton Bridle!

Last Summer, Great British Equinery kindly sent me a John Whitaker Barton Bling Bridle to test for review. While I normally ride Shiloh in a bitless bridle and Western saddle, I have periodically experimented with different tack setups, so I was game to try out this John Whitaker bridle.

Unfortunately, the bridle size that I requested did not fit my horse, Shiloh. So I went on a hunt to find a new horse to be my tester for the full-size bridle. It was too large for the first horse I sampled, a Saddlebred mare. The throatlatch hung way off of her and the flash noseband was loose. But it did fit my friend’s AQHA gelding well. So we now have a handsome palomino named Apollo wearing the bridle in this post’s photos!

The bridle is a head turner. Shiny black leather frames the bling browband. The noseband is padded on the top and bottom as is the crown piece. The flash noseband is removable. While most new leather is stiff to some degree, this bridle is not too hard to manipulate the first time putting it on a horse.

My favorite feature is actually the reins. I love their size and grip. The older I get, the more uncomfortable it is for me to hold anything narrow. These reins feel very comfortable and easy to hold onto without cramping my fingers.

The one caution I would point out is the size I mentioned earlier. The full-size bridle is likely best for a horse with a more substantial build like my friend’s AQHA gelding. Think Warmblood, not Arabian!

After reviewing the bridle, I donated it to the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center in Nicholasville, Kentucky. They said they might use it as a silent auction item for one of their fundraising events. Cool!

Interested in purchasing The John Whitaker Barton Bling Bridle? Click on this link:

https://greatbritishequinery.com/shop/ols/products/barton-bridle

If you would like to read other The Backyard Horse Blog reviews of Great British Equinery products, visit

Shout Out To Great British Equinery of Indiana!

Remember that The Backyard Horse Blog readers can use a special coupon code to save ten percent on purchases from Great British Equinery! While their product lineup is geared towards the English rider, they do sell items that any horse or horse-lover would enjoy so I encourage all my readers to check them out. To get ten percent off your order, enter the four-letter coupon code at checkout: BYHB.

A Salute to Pursuit: Trying to Nail Down Horsemanship Goals and Themes For 2022

Reading Time: 4 minutes and 4 seconds (for inquiring minds who want to know)

“Is your horse more interested in the busyness of the world than you? Quiet your mind by letting it rest in your feet. Feel your toes. Let your heel settle into the earth. Do you lunge your horse? Don’t chase him. Stand still so he can find his balance. Is he a little fussy at the mounting block? Park your feet and become reliably still. Want to connect with your horse? Make your breath an anchor by inhaling into your toes and then trust the earth to send the message. The air is unstable. The earth is our connection with horses, it is trust in solid form.”

Anna Blake, Author of the Relaxed and Forward blog, from a post on 1/7/22 titled “Finding The Ground But In A Good Way” 🙂

If there was ever a quote about horses that I need to absorb, this one is it. It is a reminder to me of the importance of staying grounded.

As I continue to contemplate my chosen goals and themes for 2022, I repeatedly return to the issues of (1) staying present with my horse(s) and (2) maintaining my inner and outward composure when my horse(s) is not doing what I want.

I have not set anything in stone yet as far as my 2022 goals and themes, but my struggles with those issues #1 and #2 are interwoven throughout my history with horses. By the way, if you are wondering what I am talking about with this “goals and themes” business, please read this previous post for reference.

It’s easy for me to think about yearly goals and themes during Wintertime. But taking action is harder. With daytime temperatures in my area regularly below freezing, practicing horsemanship beyond basic daily care is difficult for me.

Even though my horses are in my backyard, I often find myself missing them over Winter. I physically find it painful to stay outside much beyond feeding, mucking, watering and observing that everyone still has four uninjured legs and two eyes. So the amount of time I spend in their presence is much less than other seasons.

But everyone once in a while, the sun shines bright enough or the wind calms or the temperatures rise. I can get in a little bit of precious horse-time, even if it is not on their backs.

I have to get creative with what I do since it’s unlikely that I’ll be able to go through a full repertoire of exercises. I think about the stuff we have doodled around with in the past, seeing if there’s something I can test out or review to see what we’ve maintained. Or gently play around with a new concept.

I thought about the above quote when I did a little groundwork with each of my horses earlier this week. Day two was documented in photographs by my ever-patient husband. (Side note here: The lighting was terrible that day, quickly going from bright sun reflecting harshly off the snow to incredibly cloudy and dark. I tried to do some lighting adjustments with my photo-shop type program, but I question my success. Hopefully you can still see enough detail in the photos to get a sense of what we were doing).

Starting off, I worked with Shiloh on staying on the pedestal at liberty while responding to my request that he return my gesture of salute.

Then I checked in with Bear on picking up each front hoof at liberty while I stayed on one side of him (rather than the usual practice of switching sides). It’s something we practiced at a clinic long ago. I really like the exercise because it causes the horse to really think about what you are asking and not just go off of routine. You can see in the photos that he has an intense look of concentration and at first offers the leg on the same side I am standing on rather than the opposite front hoof that I was asking for. Even Shiloh, observing from the side, looks befuddled at the unusual request.

Last, I haltered Piper to practice stepping onto the tire pedestal and backing off it. It was something we accomplished for the first time just the day before. Maybe eventually we will graduate to working at liberty as I do with the other two.

How much could I stay mentally present in the moment rather than the past or the future? Could I recognize, feel what is happening between us right then and there? And then stay in that place without heaping a whole bunch of past or future thoughts and resulting emotions onto the moment?

Sure, I was at home with the horses. It’s not like I was trying to load them in a trailer or ride them in a new environment. We remained in their familiar paddock. But even so, it’s amazing how my mind can become self-absorbed in my own mess of thoughts and emotions if things aren’t going the way I think they should at any one moment with a horse. Maybe a moment of fear during a spook or a moment of frustration when the horse is not relaxed at the mounting block, for example. Meanwhile, the horse is left without any support or direction from me as I am frozen in thought.

But when I can loosen my fierce grip on what I think should happen or what I fear might happen. And what all that means about my worth as a horse person. I can maybe actually make room for us to do something fun together.

If things go a little sideways, I can see the humor in it. Instead of worrying about myself, I can help my horse work through the awkward moment rather than leave him to flail while I am focused on my own fear or self-doubt.

A bit of a misstep above turned into a more comfortable setup below with some guidance.

I’m not yet sure how I want to package all of that into a succinct goals and themes statement yet. Did I mention I’m working on it? One thing I know for sure is that I am still smack dab in the middle of Winter in my area. That gives me plenty of time to keep thinking. And to practice staying grounded during those precious moments with my horses, even if it’s on top of frozen, snow-covered earth on a 20-degree day.

Want Solid Riding Advice? Go To The Horse Listening Website

If you are looking for solid riding advice to advance your understanding and skills, I recommend heading over to the Horse Listening website and perusing their article archives. The Horse Listening website is one of my favorite places to read about riding concepts and get practical advice about what to do in the saddle.

Their focus is English riding, specifically dressage, but so much of their material applies to any type of riding. The first article listed below really speaks to that idea. It’s all just good horsemanship no matter your saddle preference.

Their archives are extensive, so if you aren’t sure what to read first, here are my top six picks of the moment. As I contemplate my riding goals and themes for the new year, these articles speak to issues that I want to address in my own riding.

Happy horse-reading!

Living Horse Life In The Basics

How To Be An Active Horseback Rider- aka- Riding With Intention

Why Black and White Is Better Than Gray In Horse Riding

Secrets To A Great Turn- aka- Shift Out to Turn In

A Question of Imbalance- Can You Tell?

17 Things I Learned While Developing My Seat

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2021

Hope you enjoyed last week’s recap of 2021 with each of my horses, Bear, Shiloh and Piper.

I’m going to close out the month of January, and my look back at 2021, with a “Top 10” list of The Backyard Horse Blog’s posts that received the highest number of views last year.

Most of these posts were actually written in 2021, but my second most viewed post was written in 2020. It’s fun for me to see an older post continue to resonate with fellow horse folks.

Curious about which post took the number one spot? Here is the most viewed post of 2021:

Today’s post will be my only one for this week. Going forward, I’ve decided to change things up a bit by trying a 2x a week posting schedule for 2022 with posts going out on Mondays and Friday (starting next week).

In the meantime, please check out this list below. See if there’s something you’d like to read for the first time or re-read. Just click on each individual post’s link.

By the way, do you have a favorite post? I’m not just looking for a good wither scratch here. I’d be interested to read what post(s) resonated the most so I can create similar content for you in 2022.

Was there a post that was particularly helpful, entertaining or thought provoking? Please give me feedback in the comments section or by emailing me at thebackyardhorseblog@gmail.com.

TOP 10 POSTS OF 2021 FROM THE BACKYARD HORSE BLOG

  1. Obstacle Idea: Using Traffic Cone Bars
  2. Ten Ideas For Staying In The Saddle If You Struggle With Riding Alone
  3. Activities For The Unridden Horse
  4. Would You Rather? Equestrian Edition- First Installment
  5. New Documentary Film: Lady Long Rider
  6. Does Your Horse Wear A Grazing Muzzle During Winter?
  7. Product Review: Tough 1 EZ Out Safety Stirrup
  8. Announcing The Buck Channel
  9. 2 Gaited Horses: Compare and Contrast
  10. Have You Seen The Constant Comfort Block?

A Few Months In My Life With . . . Piper

Reading Time: 2 minutes, 40 seconds (plus a short video clip to watch)

Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I decided to do this by writing three separate posts, one regarding each of my horses. My horses Shiloh and Bear were featured previously. This final installment features the newest addition to my herd, a solid bay Racking Horse gelding named Piper.

Observant readers that you are, you will note that the title of this post installment is a little different from the previous two. That’s because “A Year In My Life With Piper” would not quite fit our reality. Piper joined my herd only four months ago. Here was his for-sale photo that first caught my eye.

Since Piper is a rather recent arrival, I didn’t have much opportunity to work with him before Winter weather arrived. We only have 15 rides under our belts. I rode him at home in our round pen, out in the open pasture, and at both the indoor arena and outdoor track at the local boarding barn. I also trailered him a total of three times between his previous home, the local boarding barn, and my backyard. Here’s a little video clip of us gaiting in the pasture.

Other than difficulties with Piper accepting the mounting block, Piper’s behavior has been quite solid through it all. He’s always been easy to catch, stands well for the farrier, and doesn’t seem inclined to overact to new situations or unexpected surprises.

While there’s certainly lots to appreciate about his confidence level, his bold personality combined with a naturally high energy takes some getting used to for me. I’m not always quite sure what to make of his behavior or how to communicate what I want. We are still so new to each other.

My biggest disappointment in bringing him home was seeing how he interacted with Bear and Shiloh. He came in extremely strong, guarding every resource whether a flake of hay, a patch of Summer shade or the entire run-in shed during a cold rain. Bear and Shiloh got extra exercise as they constantly had to clear way.

I ended up separating the horses and putting them together multiple times, dividing up access to the run-in shed with a variety of electric tape and traffic cone creations. It seemed to help. Piper is still top dog of the herd, moving everyone around at feeding time so he can get the best cuts of hay. That’s not likely to change, but I see them all more comfortable with sharing space together now.

One really surprising change is seeing Shiloh and Piper play together, with Shiloh actually initiating. It’s a nice change from watching Piper charge at him and Shiloh run away in terror.

They do what is sometimes called “the nip and shove.” For those not familiar, it is where horses stand facing each other but slightly offset so their faces are right to left or left to right. Then they nip back and forth at each other’s cheeks while pushing into each other. Usually, they also rear up and/or spin around. Then they trot in a circle for a minute. All before returning to face each other and repeating the same play pattern.

This is what I sometimes see from my living room window. The photo is out of focus, but I wanted to show you an example of Piper and Shiloh, well, horsing around. 🙂 Never goes on for long. Just a few minutes. But it sure is entertaining to watch.

I am looking forward to the rest of 2022 with Piper. Ideally by then, we will have more positive changes, including some fun riding experiences, to report!

A Year In A Life With . . .Bear

Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I decided to do this by writing three separate posts, one regarding each of my horses. The posts will come in three installments, each titled “a year in a life with . . .”. The last installment featured my horse, Shiloh. Today’s features Bear, my bay and white Racking Horse gelding.

In 2021, Bear marked his 26th birthday and our 16th anniversary.

I’ve spent more time with him than any other horse I have had the pleasure of keeping in my backyard. Bear is also the horse who has spent more time in retirement with me than any of my previous horses.

As he entered his second decade, Bear’s issues with arthritis and laminitis eventually led to my assessment that he was no longer comfortable working under saddle. After over ten fun riding years together, I sadly retired him in 2017.

For a retired horse, though, Bear’s been pretty active. In 2021, he went with Shiloh on eight trailer trips. We went to the vet’s office, a clinic, a friend’s property, and a local boarding barn. I didn’t want to leave him alone at home.

Now that I added a third horse to the herd a few months ago, Bear will have some company if I take someone else out to ride. We’ll have to experiment with that in 2022.

While Bear seems mostly happy being left to his own devices, I do still like to include him in at-home activities from time to time.

In 2021, I tried ponying him off of Shiloh for the first time. We ended up doing a handful of sessions. Here’s a little video clip of us practicing changing directions and stopping.

Bear was always a fan of playing around with obstacles during our riding days. So throughout the year, I periodically took out obstacles and let him play around with them on the ground.

And sometimes I just took him out for little walks around the property. I also took him into the round pen, let him loose, and took out a bunch of grooming tools to see what he picked out for a little massage. It is a good excuse to practice taking him away from the other horses, who sometimes react to the fact that Bear is leaving the paddock without them.

Mostly though, Bear enjoys running around, just being a horse.

Even running around and kicking up his heels sometimes.

With Bear turning 27 this Spring, I know the clock is ticking on our time together. His Cushing’s Disease, Equine Metabolic Syndrome, and arthritis make it challenging to manage his health. But my goal is to make his life as healthy and happy as I can, maintaining a good quality of existence for him as long as possible.

Here’s to you my dear, Bear!