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.
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.
“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.”
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.
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
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.
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.***
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.
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!
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 large horse ball
So why these four? They are
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
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 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:
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.
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:
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.”
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”.
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:
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!
“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
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.
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 reconditioning 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 since my horse is likely 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 his head in the air and hollow his 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 smart 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 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 and 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!
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.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/.
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)
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.
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. Update: Since this post was originally published, Wordle changed its rules and now no longer uses plural words.
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!
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:
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.
“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.
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 threeseparate 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!
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.
Reading Time: 5 minutes, 13 seconds (plus a couple of short videos to watch)
Before we get too far into 2022, I want to summarize my horse life for 2021. I am doing 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. . .”. Today I begin by writing about Shiloh, my Missouri Fox Trotter gelding. In addition to describing some of what we did together in 2021, I throw in background information for those of you not familiar with his story.
What can I say about this sweet horse wrapped up in a flashy package? Mostly that I am enjoying Shiloh in a way I did not expect when I purchased him in the Fall of 2018. At that time, he had spent the previous five years mostly at pasture. He enjoyed his days as a companion to his previous owner’s other horses. But when the last one passed away, Shiloh was put up for sale. I brought him home as a companion to my senior horse, Bear, who was at that point also an only horse.
As two lonely horses coming together, they immediately got along well. In addition to having Shiloh as a trusty companion for Bear, I hoped to enjoy Shiloh as a riding horse. But I had my doubts. Five years is a long time to be out of commission. And I am no professional horse trainer.
We started a little rocky. Shiloh was dull, tuned out, unenthusiastic. He paced (instead of gaiting as his breed would ideally dictate). He tripped. He seemed exhausted after 10 whole minutes of riding at the walk.
I had trouble doing seemingly simple things with him. Like bringing him to a halt from a walk under saddle! I suppose technically he was running away with me, but luckily I rode well enough to stay with him at his slow shuffle.
I constantly questioned myself, struggling to figure out the best way to communicate with him. I was all the while nervous about working with this “new to me” horse.
In the back of my mind loomed the incident that resulted in his spending the previous five years at pasture. His owner lost confidence in him after a riding accident. An accident that led to an ER visit and a hospital stay. A freak accident, just one of those things that could likely happen to any rider. But because it happened with this particular horse, I unhelpfully thought about it almost every time I rode him.
Somehow, out of all of that, we started building a positive foundation together. He stopped tripping. Stopped pacing. Started holding himself under saddle in a much healthier posture than the inverted and strung-out way in which he started.
I also get the sense Shiloh likes me now. He sometimes comes up to me in the pasture when I’m doing chores just to hang out, relaxing in my company. And he’s almost always up for a good scratch.
Much to my delight, he appears more enthusiastic about our work together. In 2021, I first noticed that he was offering more to me without my asking. Sure, I need to ride each step to support him, but I don’t constantly have to hold him together. And while he will never be a speed demon, he is much more forward than he used to be.
His tendency to be slow used to drive me bonkers. Every step, it felt like he was pulling his legs out of a vat of gooey molasses. But his lack of speed gave me a gift. I realized this year that I can feel things on him that I can’t seem to feel on other horses. I can better process what he’s doing with his body because he is not so quick. I can sense his responses to my aids in a way I have not with other horses.
Due to this better sense of feel, I’ve had more success in influencing his way of going this year. Certainly more so than with any other horse from my past. It gives me a refreshing insight into riding that is exciting.
In reviewing my 2021 calendar, I see that we completed 68 rides and eight trailer trips together. Not bad, but I sure would like to get out and do more with him.
I had imagined by this time having a few clinics, trail rides and a couple of local horse shows under our belts.
But our only successful field trips were to the nearby boarding barn. We rode multiple times around both their indoor arena and outdoor track since 2019. But my attempt at attending a clinic earlier this year did not go well. Nor did my two attempts at taking him trail riding with a friend.
For all our field trips, I brought along my now-retired horse Bear. I didn’t want to leave him home alone. At the boarding barn, Bear has rarely been fussy, but at the clinic and my friend’s property, Bear was a nervous mess. Bear fretted and hollered. Bounced around the stalls.
Bear’s energy upset Shiloh to the point where he also fretted, hollered, and bounced while I tried to do groundwork and ride. We were all miserable.
The situation is disappointing, of course, but I can’t blame the horses. It’s a horsemanship issue on my part. Keeping a horse’s focus and attention, when the chips are down, is a long-standing struggle for me. When a lot is going on, I can get nervous, lose my confidence, and then can’t do what I need to do to get the horse back on track.
With the addition of a third horse to my herd last Fall, I was hoping to start taking Shiloh on trips without Bear. But a very rainy and then cold Fall season squashed those plans. I am hopeful we can give it a go in 2022.
I’ll wrap things up by sharing a couple of Shiloh videos with you.
The first is of us crossing a series of four ground poles together. While to some this may not seem impressive, I am positively thrilled. I remember the first time I asked him to cross one ground pole a few years ago. I’m pretty sure he ticked it with all four hooves. He ended up tripping over it so badly that it frightened me. I didn’t try crossing another ground pole for months after. So Shiloh being able to cross four ground poles in a row without hitting any of them? That’s miracle territory right there. And I have it on tape.
The next video is of us working on tipping a cone over with a front hoof. Since taking that video, we’ve graduated to tipping it over AND back up. That happened on our last ride of the year on an unusually warm December 31st day. It is a bummer that no one was with me to capture that event. But for this video taken earlier this Summer, my husband was taping the ride. Cracks me up how both of us are verbally cheering Shiloh on like he’s a baby taking his first steps. That kind of verbal tone can grate on the nerves (for both people and horses), but for Shiloh, I think he prefers it. Good boy, Shiloh!
Are you dealing with alternating muddy to frozen footing in your horse paddocks? You know, muddy footing that then forms into an uneven surface. A surface with lots of divots and sharp edges when the ground freezes. A surface that is difficult and even painful for you and your horses to traverse.
If you are looking for a quick, cost-effective solution to a similar footing issue that doesn’t involved major construction, you might want to consider pea gravel. Pea gravel is a smooth, rounded stone that is naturally formed from river rock. Each piece is roughly 3/8″ or the size of a pea. Hence the name.
Using pea gravel has its pluses and minuses. It is not suitable for all situations. Please keep that in mind as you consider the uniqueness of your own set up. Also, it may not be available or cost effective in your area like it is in mine. I am sharing my experience simply as an example, not as a definitive “how to” guide.
Ideally, we’d all have tons of acreage for our horses to roam so they wouldn’t always be in a limited spot, wearing the ground out quickly. When we would need to keep them close to the barn, we’d also have paddocks that were carefully designed and constructed with horses in mind.
But I’m guessing most backyard horse-owners don’t. A lot of us make do with old cow pastures or fenced in farm land where hay used to be grown. We often have to come up with less than ideal answers to problems. All on the fly. All in the quest to keep our horses as happy, healthy and comfortable as we can.
In my area, a wet and muddy Fall season led to a Winter that so far has lots of see-sawing temperatures. We’ve had plenty of rain followed by some wind-chill temperatures below zero.
It’s all left my horse’s main paddock in a sad state. I say main paddock because that’s where they live almost 24-7 save for a short time on pasture each day.
The area around my horses’ run in shed is a flat, ag lime footing pad. It gives them a firmer and drier place to stand than the mud or frozen ground in the rest of the paddock.
But if they want to access their water trough or make the trek out to the grass pasture for a few hours of daily grazing? They have to walk across the rest of the paddock without any special footing.
Most of the year, this works out just fine. With too much rain though, the horses are then walking through thick mud. With regular below 32 degree temperatures, they are walking on uneven frozen ground.
This issue isn’t new. I deal with it every year. However, it seems especially pronounced this Winter.
Likely my adding a third horse (Piper) to the herd and then having an unusually wet Fall season both contributed to the deteriorating conditions.
The uneven frozen footing is especially hard on Bear, my 26 year old gelding. On the coldest days when the footing is at its sharpest, he won’t leave the run-in shed area to access the water trough.
I’ve become accustomed during the coldest days to bring a bucket of water out to Bear with his morning breakfast. I realized many years ago that he will avoid walking on that type of cut up ground, even if he is very thirsty.
If he sees me coming with the water bucket and has not left the shed all night, he will look at me with perked ears, nicker, lick his lips, and toss his head up and down. And then drink an entire 8 quart bucket as soon as he puts his nose in it.
Bear has not yet ever had an episode of colic. BUT reduced water consumption in Winter is notorious for leading to impaction colic. It’s something I worry about every Winter. To read more about this issue, check out this magazine article from Equus at
Unfortunately, my placement of the necessary water bucket heater is limited by the fact that I can’t string extension cords across a horse pasture in order to give them heated water in the run-in shed.
Our Winter night time temperatures are largely below freezing so I’ve found a water tank heater to be a necessity from December through the end of March/early April.
Anticipating that this Winter might be a hard one, I had been waiting for the weather to even out long enough to allow me to schedule a dump truck delivery of pea gravel.
I wanted to get this accomplished by November, but the extra rainy Fall season would not allow it. A dump truck on soft ground will leave huge ruts. I would have to wait until the ground froze solid.
Finally, the ground seemed solid enough to bring in a dump truck and get pea gravel delivered earlier this month.
I got a 6 ton load delivered and dumped on an edge of the horses’ paddock to make a walkway.
The area extends from the edge of the ag lime footing pad out to their water trough and then the gate leading to their grazing pasture.
Pea gravel is not a perfect or permanent solution, but it definitely gives the horses a more comfortable and safer surface to travel on than uneven frozen ground.
The horses liked it immediately and were happy to investigate and walk all over it.
The difference between how they cross the pea gravel and how they cross the frozen, pocketed ground is like night and day. They can walk normally rather than mincing and stumbling across the ground in fits and starts, especially Bear.
Best of all, Bear will now leave his run-in shed to go drink water after he finishes his evening hay meal. He’s no longer anxious for me to bring a water bucket to him with his breakfast.
These photos were taken not long after the gravel arrival. The 6 tons were dumped in two piles. I spread the pea gravel by hand using a rake and shovel. Currently it looks more like a typical, flat walkway and less like the motocross course you see in these photos.
Spreading 6 tons of pea gravel is a lot to tackle all at once so I’ve been doing a little bit at a time. The horses do their part by walking back and forth on it (and sometimes pawing at it) too.
In this photo below, you can see the length of the walkway as I stand on the ag lime pad looking out towards their grass pasture. The right-hand side of the photo shows how cut up that formerly-muddy-now-frozen ground really is.
Ideally, I would have liked to have ordered 12 tons of the pea gravel to make a wider walkway, but both my budget and my back strength are limited.
Side note here- I don’t normally leave halters on my horses when they are loose in the pasture, especially not rope halters that have no break-away mechanism. In this case, I had been leading the horses from one area of the property to another to accommodate the movement of the dump truck. Piper, the bay gelding, was the last to be moved so I left the halter on him while I opened and closed gates for the driver as he came and went.
Eventually, the pea gravel will roll away and get stomped into the ground, and I will need a refill. That’s one of the downsides to pea gravel.
But I’ve had good experience adding pea gravel to other areas in the past. I am hopeful this walkway might last through at least a couple more Winters before needing a top off.
Overall, pea gravel has more positives for me than negatives. I really appreciate that pea gravel is a fairly budget-friendly option in my area. This 6 ton load cost me $300 delivered.
Pea gravel is also an easy surface to remove poop from. And it will dissipate pools of urine so we don’t have a lot of pee-ice-rinks settling on top of the footing.
Pea gravel is usually quite loose but can form some irregular clumps during the wet-freeze cycles. They break apart pretty easily though. I have not noticed the horses acting “ouchy” over them.
Speaking of ouchy, I have read more than one expert write that pea gravel (and sand too) is an excellent footing choice for horses with soundness issues. The smooth roundness of the pea gravel pieces and the movement of the pieces give the horses a softer surface to pack into the hoof than gravel with sharp edges.
Like anything with horses, though, I have also read counter arguments. Like some people observing their horses’ hooves wear out faster (resulting in sole soreness) than when housed on a different surface. While this has not been my experience, it is definitely a potential issue worth noting if you are considering trying pea gravel.
If I couldn’t have ordered pea gravel (you never know with supply chain issues these days), sand would have been my second choice. It is even cheaper, but because I get so much rain and have a pretty flat paddock, I don’t consider it the best option for walkways in my area. I lack good paddock slope and drainage. Sand turns into a soupy mess for me.
I have had sand delivered to a section of the pasture specifically for a “lay-down and roll” area, but I notice the horses use it much more in the Summer than the Winter. The sand gets soggy and hard in the wet/freezing weather.
I will also point out that I rarely see my horses chose to roll or lay down on the pea gravel. Maybe because pea gravel moves and gives them less of a solid feel when they have to push off it to get up? I also sometimes wonder if the rocks can feel too hot for them to lay on in the Summer sun? Nevertheless, I have read from other folks on horse forums that their horses do in fact roll/lay down on their pea gravel.
In any case, since I don’t observe my horses choosing to lay down on it much at all, I don’t think I’d want to have my horses exclusively on pea gravel. In fact, most recent expert literature that I’ve read about paddock design recommend allowing horses access to a variety of surfaces to accommodate those types of preferences.
Long story short, here’s my personal list of pea gravel pros and cons:
PEA GRAVEL PROS LIST:
Helps cover and reduce the spread of mud
Helps cover uneven, jagged frozen-ground edges
Readily available (in my area of the Mid-West)
Budget friendly (in my area of the Mid-West)
Easy to remove manure
Keeps urine from pooling and freezing on the surface
Possibly a good choice of footing for horses with soundness issues although there is debate on this
PEA GRAVEL CONS LIST:
My own horses don’t generally seem to lay down or roll on it
Pea gravel spreads out overtime, necessitating periodic “refills”
Pea gravel is not something I can transport myself in large quantities. I need it delivered in a large dump truck. You must have wide enough gates to accommodate the trucks and ground solid enough to not create huge ruts. This issue of course isn’t exclusive to pea gravel. I could say the same of most landscape stone.
In conclusion, remember what works in one backyard paddock may not work in another. Or for one horse verses another. Paddock location and geography, weather conditions and patterns, the soil type, the number of horses, the size of the paddock and your budget can all influence “what works best where.”
Want more paddock footing ideas? I suggest reading these articles:
***If you’ve been with me since the start of this blog in January 2020, you may recall reading that when I was the tender age of five, my Aunt introduced me to horses. It seems fitting that a review of my Aunt’s new book be featured as the first post of January 2022, the blog’s two-year anniversary month.***
“A Good Seat: Three Months at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff” is in equal measure memoir, travel diary and dressage handbook. Set in Germany in the early 2000’s, it is based on the American author’s journaling of her experience as a riding student at the Reitinstitut von Neindorff. Many dressage riders dream of studying in Europe. Few get to realize their ambitions as did the author.
“It was not without trepidation that I packed my bags for Karlsruhe. Herr von Neindorff’s reputation as a stickler and a perfectionist was well known to me. However, it was precisely that unwavering insistence on correctness in the rider and consideration for the horse’s nature that drew me there. And those qualities were certainly abundantly in evidence during my stay, although there were some big surprises along the way . . . as you will see.”
– Lynne Sprinsky Echols
All events take place before the rise of the Smartphone, Facebook or Instagram. The writer details the charm of living in a German town, and studying riding, while using the devices of the time to keep in touch with family and friends back home. In this way, the book acts as an interesting time capsule.
While technology has changed in the last twenty years, the principals of effective riding have not. Readers will ride along with the author as she tries to master her then fifty-something body during her improvement quest.
Modern day riders will find nuggets of equestrian wisdom weaved throughout the tales of daily living in Europe. “A Good Seat” emphasizes how important a rider’s own self-carriage is to the horse’s way of going.
“Remember, we want a steady “zzzzzzzzzt” connection, as though our seat bones were the metal prongs of an electric plug and we were plugged into the saddle. This is achieved by slightly toning the abdominal muscles. If the pelvis were a bowl full of water, water would trickle out the back. This is not an extreme tucking-under of the pelvis, which constitutes a forceful driving aid. Instead, it is so subtle that it is almost more of an “attitude” than a physical manifestation.”
– Lynne Sprinsky Echols
Ideas from the book such as how to rotate one’s hips for better leg alignment, how to stabilize the pelvis and how to use the shoulders as part of the seat aid can all be put to immediate use during the reader’s next ride.
Through absorbing the writer’s journey, “A Good Seat” readers will find inspiration to better their skills in the saddle and pursue their own riding dreams.
If you’d like to purchase your own copy, please contact the author, Lynne Sprinsky Echols, directly. Use email: email@example.com OR Private message via her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RiderSeatMD/. Email or PM her on Facebook with (1) the email address you use for PayPal and (2) your mailing address. She can then send you an invoice via PayPal where you can purchase the book with one click. The book is $27.95 plus shipping via Media Mail (USA only).
On a personal note, I want to say congratulations to my Auntie Lynne for publishing “A Good Seat”! It’s been a long road for her, and I admire her tenacity in “gettin’ ‘er done.” Just as I followed my Aunt into the saddle so many years ago, I hope one day to follow her into the self-publishing world too. Cheers to mastering a good seat and crafting a good book!
***Please note that following today’s post, I am taking a short blogger’s break. After celebrating the reason for the Christmas season, I plan to resume posting new content for The Backyard Horse Blog during the first week of January 2022! In the mean time, I expect to update the blog’s tagline, welcome & disclosure pages and add a new logo for a little fun. ***
Looking for a 2022 horse calendar? Even better, how about a calendar that doubles as a horsemanship manual?!
If so, you’ve got to check out this beautiful, functional and informative calendar with illustrations by graphic designer, Michelle Guillot.
Don’t ride dressage? Don’t let that stop you from exploring this calendar.
After all, basic dressage concepts are simply sound riding principals that can be applied to any riding discipline even if you have no interest in the sport of dressage itself.
Guillot’s illustrations make those basic riding concepts come to life with visually engaging pictures combined with straight forward, “to the point” text.
Each calendar month displays different ideas or concrete exercises that you can incorporate into your riding.
At that end of the year, I see myself separating the calendar pages and laminating my favorite pictures to incorporate into my riding binder where I keep horsemanship articles and journal-type notes about my horses.
I am so excited about receiving this calendar. The information it contains is seriously useful!
To purchase the calendar, go to the North American Western Dressage(NAWD)Store at
News about innovative programs that help horses find new homes catch my eye. This, despite the fact, that I have so far kept all of the horses I have owned until death.
I also know that life can throw curve balls. All of us can get knocked off-course from our intended path with a one-two punch by a health concern, financial downturn, family issue, etc . . .
For these reasons, I think it important to keep my eye out for rehoming options in case I am not able to keep my horses in the future.
Safe Landings, hosted by the EQUUS Foundation, is one such rehoming platform. It acts as an information hub and connection point for folks looking to rehome their horses outside of the typical sale or auction situation. In fact, Safe Landings focuses on horse donation, something that isn’t widely talked about within many equestrian circles.
Horse folks may not realize that there are colleges, universities, camps, police units, equine assisted learning programs and therapeutic riding centers in need of horses to fulfill their program requirements.
Beyond the issue of awareness is the fact that finding the right match among the donating owner, the horse in question and the receiving organization is not always simple. Safe Landings seeks to make the process easier.
“Safe Landings is a new online platform featuring organizations that are looking for program horses to provide opportunities for horse owners, rescues, and transition centers to find homes for their equines in need of a next chapter.
For horses to remain an important part of American life and have a viable future, it’s imperative that we increase opportunities for horses to naturally transition from one career to the next without risk of abuse, neglect, and the threat of slaughter, and provide the means to retrain horses in transition to prepare them for these opportunities,” says Lynn Coakley, EQUUS Foundation President.
Safe Landings offers resources for horse owners who are unable to retain ownership of their horses with viable options other than sending horses to auction where they are likely to be purchased by “meat brokers” and sent to slaughter across our borders.”
-From the North West Horse Source Magazine November 2021 Issue
Safe Landings is hosted by the EQUUS Foundation. The foundation is a non-profit organization that seeks to promote horse welfare and the horse-human bond.
According to a recent email I received from the EQUUS Foundation, their goals include “minimizing the conditions that lead to abuse and neglect, and the threat of slaughter by finding homes for at-risk horses and horses in transition, providing a safety net for owners enduring hardship to keep their horses, ensuring a safe haven for aged horses, and increasing opportunities for more horses to engage and partner with people in new and innovative ways.”
Designing the Safe Landings program is one way they are meeting their mission. Their website also contains many articles on what to consider when rehoming a horse. Things like asking questions about how horses are incorporated into a center’s program and what the center does when the donated horse no longer fits their program needs.
To learn more about the Safe Landings program and to see the list of collages, universities and other organizations currently looking for horse donations, go to
“Riding is a completed joy, so full of promises fulfilled. There is never a totally ‘bad ride’. There are days when you ride badly, or the horse doesn’t go so well, but there is always something to find out. Nothing stands still. You never know it all. You learn something each time, even if it’s only that you are not as good as you thought you were. The truth about riding is always there for you to discover all over again . . .”
From Talking of Horses (1973) by Monica Enid Dickens
I’d like to thank my riding instructor, Caroline, for loaning me her copy of the book Talking of Horses by Monica Dickens. I previously used a quote from the book for my most recent “Equine Illustrated Inspiration” blog-post edition. I did so without realizing that my riding instructor knew the author personally.
After Caroline saw my blog post, she asked if I would like to borrow her copy of the book. Turns out that many years ago, Caroline lived across the street from Monica Dickens. She would take her pony over to Ms. Dickens property to compete in gymkhana events that Dickens hosted. A small world moment!
I had read various quotes from the book but never the book in its entirety. As an avid reader, it is an exciting opportunity to be set up with a great read. Even more so to have the opportunity to turn that read into another blog post. 🙂
Talking of Horses was published in 1973. Due to its age, many readers may not be familiar with the book (or may not have even been born when it first launched).
All the same, if you enjoy reading older literature about horses, you may find this book quite interesting. Advice and opinions given in the book very much reflect the common equestrian thinking of the time, allowing the text to be a time capsule of sorts.
Some aspects of that thinking would be judged as inappropriate by today’s standards, but on the whole, I found the book relatable as a modern day horse-person.
For example, take the case of someone having trouble trailer-loading a horse. Suddenly, an entire crowd of people appear to “help” the stranded equestrian. This has happened to me and to some of my horse-friends. I smiled and nodded knowingly when Dickens described this experience happening to her more than fifty years ago!
My biggest reflection about the book is the level of joy and enthusiasm that the author communicates about horses. Feelings that resonate with most equestrians.
It is a timeless joy, this horse life. Lived by so many who came before us and hopefully lived by others when we ourselves are long gone. Definitely an experience not to be taken for granted or squandered by those who truly understand the wonder of horses.
Based on the many horse adventures described in the book, it is clear to me that Dickens lived her horse-life for all it was worth.
A huge line of powerful storms recently rolled through middle America, spawning tornadoes across six states.
Whenever I hear of disaster affected areas, I think of all the folks with animals. I hear of the struggles in coping with losses and providing continued daily care when their own health, safety and resources are at risk. Maybe no water, no power, no cell phone service. Barns, shelters, fences torn down. Hay, feed, equipment blown away or rained on. All while the pandemic continues.
In scouring the internet, I came across several resources for folks who are looking for horse-care assistance such as temporary housing, transportation out of an area or hay/feed.
If you are aware of other organizations or individuals that are offering assistance to horse owners, please add them in the comments section. As cell phone/internet service is restored, you never know who will stumble on this page in the quest to access resources. The more ideas the better.
Fleet of Angels Fleet of Angles is most well-known for providing emergency transportation services for horse owners nationwide, but they also distribute money to those affected by disasters. Horse owners affected by the recent tornados can apply for emergency micro-grants to assist with horse care (like hay, repair materials, vet bills) at https://www.fleetofangels.org/.
Kentucky Equine Humane Society Per a recent Facebook post on their page: “DO YOU NEED HELP FOR YOUR HORSES AFTER RECENT WEATHER DISASTER? If your pasture fencing has been destroyed or you need a temporary safe space for your horses after recent tornadoes that have swept across our state please contact Kentucky Humane Society about temporary sheltering options or a safe place for your horses. Our hearts go out to all those who have experienced loss or damage due to the recent storms and we would like to help horses in need if we can.” Contact: Call our Horse Helpline: 502-272-1068 or email Horses@kyhumane.org
Rarely ridden horse. When I saw that description in the title of an online training article, I knew this was one piece I had to read! Especially as I head into yet another long, cold, wet Winter season.
While during six months of most years I am generally able to ride my at-home horses at least twice a week, the other six months I either don’t ride at all or inconsistently at best. Winter weather and the resulting footing conditions make it painful and/or downright dangerous for me to ride.
For a basically half of every year, my horses match the description of the “rarely ridden horse.” I hate that it is so, but it is a reality for me as it is for many others.
Your circumstances may be a bit different than mine. Maybe your work or school schedule keeps you out of the saddle. Health issues, family commitments and financial issues can all interfere too.
And let’s not forget the horses themselves. Sometimes due to age or certain physical conditions, it is not advisable to have our horses on a more traditional riding schedule.
Long story short, for whatever reason, we don’t give our horses the consistent riding that we would otherwise like.
The full title of the training article that caught my eye is “The Rarely Ridden Horse: Use these five strategies from our experts to keep your seldom-ridden horse tuned-up and connected with you”. It appears online at the Horse and Rider magazine website.
Whether or not you personally employ the particular training techniques/philosophies noted in the article sidebars, the ideas in the main text are flexible enough to allow riders to relate the spirit of the text to their own style of horsemanship.
Riders can utilize the article as a game plan to better structure and organize the precious few times they are in fact able to ride or do groundwork.
I also have to say that I just really like seeing this topic addressed. I don’t see it written about very often.
Most training articles come from the perspective of a rider/trainer who lives in an area with mild year-around weather or who has easy access to facilities that mitigate weather conditions like indoor arenas or outdoor areas with good footing. I think they forget that not everyone has these advantages that allow for a consistent riding schedule.
I also venture to guess that most are written with the assumption that the rider is working a younger horse who is sound/healthy. And yet, how many of us have horses who are older with at least some physical limitations? I have three of those right in my own backyard.
Sometimes I even think what I am reading in the articles would be damaging to my horses, considering their age/physical issues. I worry about folks, particularly those newer to the horse industry, being encouraged to push their horses past their limitations when they don’t realize the article wasn’t written with their twenty-two year old mount in mind.
Long story short, so many training articles just don’t address with any scale the realities of horse folks like me.
Nonetheless, I am still out there with my horses. I want to learn, grown and stay active with them, even with and within my personal limits and situational limitations. Even if it is not as often as or to the extent that I would like.
The article gives positive, realistic suggestions on how to do just that! So refreshing!
Do you too have a “rarely ridden horse?” If so, you can read the article for yourself here:
Whoosh! Does my horse, Shiloh, know the end of the year is quickly approaching? He looks about as startled as I feel about how fast this year went. Did it seem to come around quickly for you too?
Seems strange that I am back here again, already reviewing this past year and thinking about the next.
During this yearly season, I reflect on what I’ve done in my horse life during the previous eleven months. I also start to think about what I would like to accomplish the next year.
I generally couch those thoughts in terms of goals.
I may not reach those goals. In fact, I often unfortunately don’t.
So why bother to set them, you might ask? Well, bottom line, I feel like I get further in my horse life when I set goals than when I do not.
With a destination in mind, my goals help orient me in my day to day work with horses, even if I rarely get as far as I want to.
I feel like if I don’t know what my overarching reason is for working with a particular horse that I just kind of flounder. Especially considering I mostly ride at home by myself.
It can be easy to get rather lost while riding and not be sure of what I am doing if I don’t make my motivations clear to myself.
The absence of the why of an activity, even an activity you enjoy, can lead to a lack of activity. A stagnation. I suspect this can lead to a loss of enjoyment and even a turning away from horses/riding.
So for me, I am a big fan of formulating specific goals. Whether riding my own horses in my backyard or while riding lesson horses at a nearby barn, I like to have an idea of what I am shooting for.
All my recent personal reflection will likely make it into some of my upcoming blog posts as the year wraps up and next year begins.
Today, though, I wanted to let readers know about a concept I recently learned about. I am sharing it in case it might be helpful as you do your own reflection and planning.
While recently looking through my email inbox, a subject title jumped out at me: “Yearly theme instead of goal?”.
It was the title to an email from trainer and clinician Stacy Westfall. You may remember the viral video of her riding bareback and bridleless during a freestyle reining class at the AQHA Congress in 2011.
The email included a link to Westfall’s recent podcast episode where she talks about setting themes for the year instead of goals.
I had never thought about that option so I was immediately intrigued.
Westfall goes on to talk about the reasons one might want to select a theme(s) and how to do so. She also gives several examples of themes and how to implement them. Themes like “the year of focus.” “The year of relationship.” “The year of less.” How interesting!
If you’d like to listen to the nineteen minute podcast, go to
While I expect to stick to formulating some measureable goals each year, I really like the idea of adding in a theme(s). I will definitley be giving it some thought.
How about you? Do you set horsemanship goals each year? Or if you like the idea of themes, what theme do you think would set a positive tone for your horsemanship next year?
I wrote in the post that I was saving the block to put out during Winter time. Well, Winter in my area is here so I put out the first block last week inside an extra salt block holder that I had available.
This photo shows the block after about four days of use from the three horses. Looks messy, I know, but as the horses lick and nibble on the block, it becomes crumbly.
Anyone who has seen horses eat knows that the bits and pieces that fall from their mouths tend to go everywhere. On the ground. On a nearby wall. Mushed into their whiskers. All over you when they eat and sneeze at the same time.
Anywho, the first day I put the block out for my herd, I saw each of the horses spend about 5 to 10 minutes licking it within the first hour. I first thought I might have to take the block away due to their eagerness. Tribute Equine’s website info about the product does suggest that you should watch for over-consumption. It states that the target consumption rate per horse is 12 ounces per day.
After the first day, the horses’ interest seemed to level to a more reasonable amount. The block was completely consumed within a week. I came out one morning to see the salt block holder was empty and licked clean.
Now, I have to say that I don’t consider any of my horses to be picky-eaters. So maybe all this post tells you is that my three horses with healthy appetites like the block. Just to garner a little more “palatability review cred,” I will point out that all my horses are eighteen and older, including Bear who at twenty-six has become a bit more finicky with age.
Now, does all that mean YOUR horses will like the block? And does it mean that the horses (yours or mine) will get the gut-health benefits from the block that it purports? I don’t know.
I will say though that with a price of $10 each (or $5 each if you can still find the BOGO offer I described in my other Constant Comfort Block post), it seems like a reasonable product to try. Especially if your horse does suffer from known gut-health issues, I would think it worth asking your veterinarian if the block might have a part to play in your overall strategy to keep your horse feeling better.
Oh, and don’t forget about the Constant Comfort Sweepstakes that runs through December 31st, 2021. You can win a year’s supply of Constant Comfort feed and blocks! Read my post about it below at
In my neck of the woods, I am at the start of an annual Winter season that holds mostly cold, clouds, rain, ice and snow. Lots of swings between frozen ground and mud too. All this takes place over a long five months.
Winter holds plenty of horse care and riding challenges for me. Challenges that result in my riding far less often than I would like. Challenges where I find myself constantly battling the elements while feeling stiff, sore and exhausted. With painfully frozen fingers too.
Fortunately, Winter also holds moments of beauty and delight too. Like the sight of my horses’ warm breath blowing into the cold air. Or the feel of their thick, wooly coats (at least when I can stand the cold enough to take off my gloves). And then there’s the fun of riding bareback through freshly fallen snow.
For those of you who experience a similar season, I have compiled a “Winter Roundup” of a few previous Winter posts with corresponding Pinterest pins. Hopefully you can find a useful tip or hint among them to apply to your own cold weather situation.
“Perfectionism is the biggest factor that holds my students back from making progress with their horses . . . People really care about their horses and are very detail-oriented in their desire to improve themselves and help their horses. In this effort, they can become paralyzed by perfectionism. They don’t want to take “messy action,” as I like to call it, and that causes sneaky patterns to appear.”- Madison Shambaugh
It doesn’t matter who you are. Sure, it looks and feel different to each of us. But whatever wording you want to use. Whatever it looks like for you. Whatever value and meaning you place on it. I venture to guess that all of us horse people have failed, messed up, or underperformed in some way.
For that reason, maybe this quote jumped out at you the same way it did to me? I have really enjoyed following the quote’s author, Madison Shambaugh, over the years. Her natural horse skill is admirable. Likewise her quest to bring attention to the many issues involving mustangs. Hence her moniker “Mustang Maddy.”
What is especially interesting to me is her quest for continual self-improvement, even as a highly skilled equestrian. I wrote about that issue in a post last year at
Today, I wanted to share a link to a more recent Mustang Maddy interview that writer Jennifer Paulson published with Horse and Rider. It is where I found the above quote. You would think that with Madison’s level of success and interest in learning that she would be a perfectionist. But this article shows that Madison has an interesting perspective on the subject.
Some of the phrasing in the article really jumped out at me. Concepts like “taking messy action” and the word “fail” standing for a “faithful attempt in learning” are encouraging to those of us who have ever felt “less than” in our horsemanship or riding skills. Reached for a goal and fallen short.
If you’d like to read the article for yourself, head over to the following link at Horse and Rider magazine at
While changing our perspectives on the issue of perfectionism or fear of failure doesn’t make it any less likely that we will fail in our horse goals, I think it can help us cope with the mental fall out.
I know it’s easy to look around you (or down at that little device you are holding in your hand) and feel like everyone else is a conqueror on horseback while you are struggling to just put a halter on your hard-to-catch-horse in the pasture.
Those uber-awesome horsemen certainly do exist. If we can put aside any feelings of intimidation or jealousy, there’s certainly lots to be learned from them. But I also know it can be hard for many of us to relate to their level of skill when that question in our minds linger. That question something to the effect of “why her and not me?”
Why is she getting her own horse, winning the accolades, heading down the trail or progressing through the levels, but I am not?
I know I have often felt something akin to grief over not being the highly skilled horseperson I would otherwise like to be. Watching other folks be the rider I once hoped to become, while I am in the saddle year after year still trying to master the basics in my middle age? Well, let’s just say it can get discouraging.
Despite my own understanding of falling short, I feel sad when I hear of folks leaving the horse industry because they have not gotten as far as originally planned. Some might argue that their decision is due to disappointment, not perfectionism or fear of failure. Yet I wonder if all those emotions are not just different parts of the same puzzle that lead to the same result?
Do we sometimes need to adjust our goals? Take a bit of a different path than we originally planned? Scale back? Get some help? BE WILLING to fail? Sure. But if you decide that including horses in your life is really what you want to do, please don’t let the fear of failure stop you from at least trying to continue.
Yes, there is the real risk that you may not ever get as far as you want to. But you won’t know how far you can go if you don’t give it a shot.
Don’t just take it from me. Take it from Mustang Maddy.
Both as a Christian believer and an animal enthusiast, I am drawn to the numerous mentions of donkeys in the Bible. Whenever I hear the words “working donkey,” the story of Balaam’s donkey often pops into my head.
The passages including Balaam’s donkey are found in the book of Numbers. Numbers is the fourth of the five books of the Jewish Torah and recognized by Christians as part of the Old Testament. Even if you are not of the Jewish or Christian faiths, you might still find the passage as intriguing as I do.
On a related note, I want to take a moment to say that I hope for a Hanukkah filled with peace and light for my Jewish readers celebrating this week. Happy Hanukkah!
As with most texts, religious or secular, there are numerous varied interpretations. There is also a lot of context involved. Balaam’s history of his involvement with the Jewish people, specifically his attempt to curse the Israelites, goes far beyond this one narrative. It definitely surpasses the scope of this post.
But my personal take away from this passage is that God worked through an animal to surprise, humble and redirect Balaam. And I find that idea fascinating.
I know in my own life that I continually learn about myself and absorb life lessons through and in relationship to animals. Sometimes I like what I see and learn about my myself. Sometimes I don’t.
I also see that Balaam’s reaction to his donkey’s behavior revealed this man’s flawed heart. Perhaps in a way that only an animal could. Balaam lost his temper and took out his frustration on his donkey.
While I have not had an angel of The Lord stand in my path (as far as I know), I have often heard that still small inner voice. It tells me when I am not reacting well to a particular situation with one of my animals and that I need to change course. I’ve also wondered how many times I misinterpreted an animal’s actions, just as Balaam did.
Whatever you may make of this narrative, Balaam’s donkey fits the description of a working donkey. But the text describing this pair may likely be less familiar to most people than all the working donkey images appearing around Christmas. Donkeys being ridden, packed and driven.
Interestingly, there is no mention of a donkey in the Bible passages involving the birth of Jesus. Some of our Christmas imagery and traditions are not technically scriptural. But considering all the working donkeys of that age, it is not much of a stretch to think there was a donkey hanging out nearby during the time of Christ’s birth.
In any case, all that leads me to the current Christian season of Advent, with Christmas being the most famous day therein. When I found out that the organization the Brooke was offering an interesting way to bring attention to donkeys during this season, I couldn’t help but smile.
Readers may have noticed that I mentioned Brooke USA as part of my Giving Tuesday post. The Brooke in the UK and Brooke USA work to support the millions of working animals worldwide and the families that rely on them for their very survival. If there is a prominent face of working animals, both in current and Biblical times, the donkey must be at or near the top of the list.
The Brooke is currently offering a free, 32 page download of donkey crafts. The download includes a list of needed materials, instructions and pictures. The crafts range from simple to more complex. They look like so much fun!
The Brooke is hoping that as folks makes these crafts that they will share the story of working donkeys in an effort to raise awareness of issues surrounding working animals and their people. What a neat idea!
You will notice that while the download is free, The Brooke asks that you consider making a donation. Because The Brooke is UK based, it asks for donations in British Pounds. I wasn’t sure about credit card charges for currency exchange and the like so I declined to donate (and still got my free download).
Instead, I headed over to Brooke USA website and made a donation to them. In the notes section of their donation page, I told them that I was making this donation because I received the free download from their mother organization. Just suggesting this as a possible option for readers who would also like to donate, but to donate in US dollars, not British pounds. Go to
If you do end up making a donkey craft, The Brooke hopes you will share your creations on social media with links to the Brooke so more people can learn about working animals and their families. A creative way to help donkeys get their due. I’d like to think that Balaam’s donkey would approve.
Yes, today is Cyber Monday. But I want to give a shout out to tomorrow’s 2021 Giving Tuesday.
Created in 2012, #Givingtuesday refers to the Tuesday after Thanksgiving in the United States. Wikipedia defines it as “a global movement that unleashes the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world.” Giving Tuesday reminds us to look beyond our own backyards.
While giving to a cause can certainly be about donating your time through volunteering, donating money is what usually comes to mind on Giving Tuesday.
Not sure where to donate? Read on for several horse-related suggestions.
And in case you wonder about why I’ve selected these particular listings out of thousands of worthy organizations, I include links to previous posts I’ve written that relate to each one in an effort to add a personal touch.
YOUR LOCAL HORSE RESCUE OR SANCTUARY Every dollar counts in a big way when running a horse rescue or sanctuary. There are so many organizations, large and small, doing the ongoing work of helping horses in need. If you don’t know of any local horse rescues off the top of your head, a quick Google search should give you some ideas. In addition to cash, many need donations of items like hay, feed and horse-care products. Giving Tuesday is a great time to get in contact with your local rescue. If you aren’t already aware, you might be surprised to learn about the equine rescue-work that goes on in your own community.
WILD HORSE EDUCATION https://wildhorseeducation.org/ Wild Horse Education(WHE) continues to be my favorite mustang advocacy organization. WHE works to film and document horses on the range as well as those controversial government round ups. As part of their ongoing public education efforts, WHE explains to the public why it is important to keep wild horses and burros on the range instead of removing them. WHE also advocates for wild horses and burros on a national level working with government law makers to try to improve protections for these animals. Right now, a generous donor is matching all donations up to a particular amount so your donation dollars can go farther!
SADDLE UP AND READ https://www.saddleupandread.org/ Have you heard the podcast Young Black Equestrians? One of the YBE co-hosts, Caitlin Gooch, is also the founder of Saddle Up And Read, a literacy program that combines the wonderful worlds of reading and horses. From the Saddle Up and Read website, “Saddle Up and Read is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization based out of Wendell, NC. Saddle Up And Read is on a mission to encourage youth to achieve literary excellence through equine activities.” I personally love to read and would have been excited about a program like this as a child. I’ve posted about Saddle Up and Read more than once on this blog. See the most recent mention at https://thebackyardhorseblog.com/2021/05/14/musings-all-roads-lead-to-horses/.
HORSE AND MAN BLOG’s THE BUCKET FUND https://www.horseandman.com/the-drop-in-the-bucket-fund/ The Bucket Fund is proof that one blogger can make a difference for horses in need. I know that The Bucket Fund works because my local horse rescue once received much appreciated help from the fund!
“Each Month, HORSE AND MAN has a Drop in the Bucket Fund for a specific equine charity. My theory is that sometimes it is easier to give anonymously in a very small amount than not give at all because one feels embarrassed to give just a little. Well, many of us feel that way. But, if we put all the drops in one bucket, it makes a difference in some horse’s life. So, that is what this page is about. If you feel moved by our monthly Bucket Fund story but only have a few dollars to spare, we are happy to help it grow bigger.” – From the Horse and Man website
In addition to running The Bucket Fund, Horse and Man has recently added a separate fun called the “Keep them off the truck” donation fund. This fund is being built to raise money for horse rescues to purchase horses, donkeys and mules when they are in danger of going to slaughter via auction. You can find more information on the Horse and Man website.
THE BROOKE USA: Empowering Equines, Empowering People http://www.BrookeUSA.org/givingtuesday Did you know that 600 million of the world’s financially poorest people use 100 Million horses, donkeys and mules to make money and otherwise survive? The Brooke USA (and the long-standing UK based The Brooke) seek to support these folks by helping them help their working animals. This Giving Tuesday, your donations will go farther due to a current matching-donation program. From their website, “Giving Tuesday is a great time to show your passion for equines and people, so do not forget to #BrookeUSA #Women4Donkeys #GivingTuesday #DonkeyHideCrisis.”
What a weekend! We have Black Friday and Small Business Saturday followed by Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Get your wallets ready.
After posting a “pre-Black Friday shopping” post recently, I am posting a list of discount offers that I came across since (and even a couple of rumors of offers that I wasn’t able to confirm but thought were worth noting).
Please note that offer details may vary. If you see something that piques your interest, I highly suggest popping over to the corresponding website immediately to read the exact offer and all the fine print. Sometimes time limits, quantities, etc . . . are very specific.
If the details I list below are different than what you see on the company’s website, take the website’s word for it. Make sure the discount actually shows up in your shopping cart total before you press “buy”. If not, you can call the company and try to recoup your money, but that’s not always possible. Shop with caution.
Alright, let’s get started . . .
Big D’s Tack and Vet Supply https://www.bigdweb.com/ 10% Off sitewide on Black Friday with some notable exceptions such as feed, shaving, vet wrap, vaccines and dewormers. In addition, check out their Black Friday Doorbusters on their website.
Chewy https://www.chewy.com/b/horse-2971 Chewy has listed quite a few horse-related Black Friday deals. I saw A LOT of “buy two-get one free” offers on everything from liniment to horse feed! Click on the Chewy link above to see the offers.
Remember, too, that Chewy has a donation program where you can place a Chewy order and have the items mailed directly to a rescue of your choice. A wonderful Black Friday gift for the lucky animal rescue you select! Find more info at https://www.chewy.com/g/animal-shelters-and-rescues.
Dover Saddlery http://www.doversaddlery.com BOGO 50% OFF Dover Saddlery & Noble Shirts, Breeches & Tights with promo code: CMXBOGOBF. Offer expires 11/28/21 at 11:59pm EST. As quoted from their website: “Excludes outerwear and sweaters. Purchase an item from the BOGO 50% Off Dover Saddlery & Noble Equestrian Shirts, Breeches & Tights promotion, and get another item from the BOGO 50% Off Dover Saddlery & Noble Equestrian Shirts, Breeches & Tights promotion, 50% off its list price.” Also, Dover is offering numerous additional discounts on specific equestrian brands, all advertised on their home page now.
Horse Class https://www.horseclass.com/ Horse Class announced that it will be offering a large discount on one or more online-learning courses, but I am not privy to exactly what it is. I am guessing it will be announced on their website sometime today.
Ivy’s Glide Gait https://www.ivyshorses.com Special offer on Ivy’s “Train A Smooth Gait- Complete Guide DVD Set”. From Ivy’s website, “Train a smooth gait, whether you have a trotty gaited horse or a pacey horse. Learn the most important exercise to get your horse calm. Watch multiple horses learn to gait using these techniques. Over 9 hours of footage.” Black Friday deal is 50% off the normal price of this set so was $199 and is now $99. Personal note here- I have not seen this particular training set, but I enjoy watching and have benefited from Ivy’s Youtube training videos that feature horse-friendly riding and training techniques.
Kong Equine (horse toys!) https://kongequine.com/ Offering $50 off a Kong Equine through 11/29. Go to the website, wait for the pop up square and enter your email address. Kong will then send you a coupon code to get the $50 off.
Majesty’s Animal Nutrition https://majestys.com/ 30% off on Black Friday, November 26, 2021 only using code: BLACKFRIDAY30. Remember that if you happen to miss shopping with them on Black Friday, you can still get 25% off on orders through December 31st, 2021 using coupon code HOLIDAY2021.
Redmone Equine https://redmondequine.com/ Buy two products get one for free. Mix and match. Free item will be least expensive one. Offer is for now through December 1st, 2021. Here’s my personal note- Be aware that you must add three items to your cart and then have to go all the way through to the last page of the checkout process before you will see the discounted price of the free item show up.
Riding Warehouse at https://www.ridingwarehouse.com Generally, Riding Warehouse features a certain percentage off your shopping cart on Black Friday, but I didn’t see an offer pre-advertised yet for this year. I DO see a 20% off discount on Kerrits, Horze and BVeritgo apparel right now on their website.
If you’d like to have a portion of your Riding Warehouse purchases go towards helping horses in need, please goto the blog http://www.horseandman.com and click on their affiliate link with Riding Warehouse. You can do this all year round, not just Black Friday. A portion of your sales will then go to help horses in need through the Horse and Man Bucket Fund!
Smart Pak Equine https://www.smartpakequine.com/ Save 15% on your order through 11/29/21. Use coupon code BF2021. Plus, for folks placing larger orders (like $200 worth), they are offering a free gift with purchase that changes each day, but they are not announcing ahead of time what those free gifts are (last year, they ranged from a free hay net to a free pair of paddock boots). You will have to look at their website each day to see each day’s offer.
Trafalgar Square Books https://www.horseandriderbooks.comOR you can click on the affiliate link on The Backyard Horse Blog website where you see the photo of a woman reading a book to a horse. The blog will then receive a much appreciated portion of your sales without it costing you anything extra. 20% off sitewide now through Cyber Monday.
Vintage Western Wear https://www.vintagewesternwear.com/ Save 15% at checkout. Use coupon code: BLACK FRIDAY. Discount is site wide on non-sale items over $50. Expires 12/1/21.
Not enough discounts and offers listed here for your tastes? Amanda at the Breed Ride Event blog posts a huge annual list of equestrian Black Friday discounts. Find this year’s list at https://breedrideevent.com/.
Finally, don’t forget to set aside some money for Giving Tuesday! I’ll have more to say about that on Monday’s blog. I also plan to post a list of horse-related non-profits that could benefit from your support!
The phrase and rhyme from which it comes definitely have a wistful quality. When it comes to horses, “wistful” could have been my middle name as a child. As a young girl with no horse of my own, I always envisioned myself with a stable full of steeds one day.
Reality has been decidedly different. Not too bad, mind you. But definitely different. As an adult, I have yet to keep more than four horses at a time. I never did get that stable with the indoor arena. While in theory I would still love to have a bigger herd, I have my hands full at the moment with my current set of three geldings.
But if wishes were saddles? Well then. Let me wish away.
I am especially interested in acquiring a couple of western dressage saddles. I’ve written previous posts about my interest in using basic dressage principals as I ride my gaited horses in western tack. I would like one saddle to fit my horse, Shiloh. The other to fit my horse, Piper. Bear, as you may recall, is retired. But if we are dreaming here, can we make Bear young and sound again?
While most plain old saddles work fine for my level of pursuit, Western dressage saddles tend to put the rider in a more classic dressage position, rather than more of a chair seat as happens with many western saddle varieties. They also allow the rider to feel their horse’s back, something that can be difficult to do through the bulk of many regular western saddles. The goal with the western dressage saddle is to help the rider help their horse find a more balanced way of going in keeping with the tenants of dressage.
But . . . quality western dressage saddles are few and far between. And quite expensive. And almost impossible for me to find on the used market. There is also the issue of fantasy meeting reality. A fancy saddle won’t magically make you a better rider. Even worse, sometimes that fantasy saddle does not end up fitting your horse.
How often do we make the mistake of thinking that some shiny new thing is going to dramatically improve our lives? Over the years, I have sat is some very expensive saddles across several disciplines. Usually when taking lessons or test-riding a horse for sale. I can’t say I instantly rode better because of those saddles. The feedback I received during some of those lessons definitely reflected that reality unfortunately.
At the same time, I do believe a quality saddle has the potential to help a rider get farther faster in their horsemanship. It is hard enough to “ride well” in any kind of saddle. But when we are constantly fighting to reposition ourselves due to some fault of the saddle design? Or struggle to feel what our horse is doing underneath us? It makes riding ten times more difficult.
So I keep having this saddle fantasy. I dream of wonderful quality saddles. That fit each of my horses like a glove. That look handsome with a beautiful finish and intricate tooling. That allows me to happily gait my horses off into the sunset. With my horses reflecting a deep comfort as they glide over the ground. Relaxed. Engaged. Forward.
What is my fantasy saddle of the moment? It is a DP Saddlery Quantum Short and Light Western saddle with a Dressage Seat #5028, sold through the company Lilly Tay for about $4,000. I have never sat in one, but I would sure would like to give it a try and see if reality matches my fantasy.
“This saddle is a true hybrid built on an English tree, it works for those difficult to fit horses with short backs, wide, and round horses and has wool flocked panels for extra comfort for horse and rider and is fabulous for those seeking comfort for their horse and themselves.
It also features DP Saddlery’s famous adjustable gullet so that you can change the gullet from narrow to extra wide, providing superior spine clearance for the horse.
As if it couldn’t get any better, with the added Western Dressage seat and fender style, the rider is automatically placed in a correctly balanced seat. And the stirrup bars are set back to encourage a proper leg position and discourage a chair seat.
With a softly padded seat, this saddle is ideal for long trail rides, gaited horses, and endurance riders.”
2023 UPDATE: I finally met my fantasy saddle “in person” at the 2023 Equine Affaire. I had an opportunity to purchase it on the spot. Unfortunately, the saddle has not gotten any less expensive over the last two years so it remains a fantasy for me instead of a reality. But isn’t she attractive!
How about you, dear reader? Do you have a fantasy saddle?
What season is it in your part of the world? I am technically in the later part of Fall. But it sure is feeling like Winter. Cold, wet, windy. Pretty soon, my backyard will look like the photo above, taken on the last day of December in 2017.
It may not be official yet on the calendar, but when my horse-water tubs start to freeze at night, I know the coldest, darkest days are just around the corner. I spent last week and weekend doing Winter preparation.
To start things off on the right hoof, I got in an enjoyable and productive ride on both Shiloh and Piper. It was a cold but mercifully sunny day. We had something new to look at during our rides as the harvest was in full swing with all the combines/trucks out and about.
I am happy to report that neither Shiloh nor Piper seemed upset by the commotion. I recall that Bear used to be very difficult to ride during harvest time as he was afraid of the large vehicles and all the related noise. Those repeated previous experiences now leave me wondering how any horse that I ride will handle those situations.
While it may not be my final at-home-ride day of the year, it was likely one of the last. The combination of cold-wind-clouds-frozen/muddy ground in my area typically makes regular riding outside painfully uncomfortable for me. I usually am not able to ride at home again with any consistency until almost May.
Since the rest of the week didn’t look promising for backyard riding, I then tackled other items on my Winter prep list:
Item #1 Move horse trailer to its Winter storage position
I don’t think I’ve ever hauled a horse between December and February. In an emergency, though, I might decide to take the horse(s) to the vet clinic rather than wait for a vet to arrive to my property. I want the trailer easy to access but somewhat protected from weather and out of the way for visitors. In good weather, it’s easy to run outside and move the horse trailer at the last minute so the farrier can easily park his truck. In bad weather, when I have to wade through snow drifts to get to the trailer, moving it becomes a major chore. Better to move it out of the way now. And lookie here, I got the ball lined up just right on the first try! Why doesn’t that happen on a warm Summer day when I am excited to hook up the trailer and go for a ride?
Item #2 Take all liquid barn products into the house
Those of you with a more traditional barn may not have this issue. But I have to bring all those bottles of liquid into my house so they don’t freeze in my open air barn. Tack cleaner, fly sprays, mane detangler and shampoo can all freeze and bust out of their containers. It creates a wasteful mess that I learned to avoid by organizing an annual migration for all my barn potions and lotions.
Item #3 Organize Barn Area and Count Supplies
The end of my at-home-riding season is a great time to dig through my tack and equipment bins. It reminds me of items I previously set aside to be repaired or replaced. It allows me to count what I still have left over. And to realize what I need to restock. I take special note of items that I use more often during Winter, trying to make sure I have enough on hand to last through a Winter weather storm. Sometimes getting to my local feed store or Tractor Supply Store is difficult or downright dangerous during those times. Having enough hay on hand is an absolute must. Also things like bedding and stall deodorizer for my run-in-shed. In good weather, the horses tend to do their business away from the run-in shed. But in cold, snowy, windy weather, I am regularly cleaning up big messes in and around the shed as they spend more time around the shelter.
Item #4 Set up water tank with heater
Without a way to heat my water tanks, my horses’ water consumption would plummet. Unheated water tanks will freeze over in December and not thaw out until March in my area. Read almost any literature about colic in horses during Winter, and it will inevitably mention lack of water as a major contributing factor.
The one situation that I have not been able to resolve to my satisfaction yet? My on-again-off-again quest to buy a second run-in-shed before Winter. I’ve been fortunate that after almost twenty years, I’ve had up to four horses all be able to use the one run-in-shed equitably. But my newest horse, Piper, is not as apt to share. I’ve been waffling about whether or not to get a second shed. Piper’s resource guarding behavior has waxed and waned since he arrived, leading me to wonder if a second shed is actually necessary or not. Another complicating factor is that all the recent wet weather is not conducive to bringing in large equipment to prep a site and bring in a heavy shed. Way too much soft ground and mud. So my plans are still in limbo and may realistically need to wait until next year.
What about you? Do you live in an area with formidable Winters? Are you ready? Preparation doesn’t help us avoid all disasters. All the same, doing as much as you can ahead of time will give you the peace of having some resources in place and at the ready for what can be a long and harsh season around the barn.