Christmas Horse Memories…

Growing up on the east coast made riding in the winter a challenge.  If you follow this blog, you have read about my pony Cherry and I getting stuck in the occasional snow bank.  The folks I worked for as a kid purchased a pair of young Clydesdales we named Chet and Steb.  They were so beautiful and gentle and looked huge in a barn full of thoroughbreds.  As the months passed I would watch Bill sack them out and long line them. I often wondered what he was going to train them to do.  All of the other horses on the property were race horses or broodmares.

It was coming up on Christmas and we had been getting quite a bit of snow. One day after I was finished doing barn chores, Bill and Mary told me to come back later that afternoon and to dress warmly.  I figured they had some holiday fun planned but I had no idea what it could be.

When I came back a few hours later, I saw something I will never forget.  There were Chet and Steb dressed in harnesses with bells, hooked up to a magnificent sleigh.  It was a little horse girls Christmas fantasy come true. The family and I climbed into the sleigh and we went on a magical ride through the snow covered corn fields behind their property.  Chet and Steb were perfectly behaved and seemed proud to be taking us on this special ride.  The harness bells were jingling in rhythm with their trot as the snow fell gently on these happy passengers.  True story…lucky girl.

May all your Christmas wishes come true!


Know When to Fold Em!

It is the holiday season.  A time of fun, festivities, family and frenzy!!  Getting out to exercise our horses tends to get moved to the back burner during this hectic time. It is also the time when the weather is cooler and in Northern California,  rain.  So, let’s look at that combination for a minute…  Colder weather + less exercise = trouble!

I have found over the years that the amount of riding accidents increases during the holidays in large part, due to the aforementioned and also because we are distracted and rushing. The old Kenny Rogers song The Gambler, goes like this; “Know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run…”

Don’t be a gambler when it comes to riding a high horse.  “I have 30 minutes, I’ll just hop on.”  Please, only ride if you truly have the time to work them down and cool them off properly. If you are able to give yourself the gift of time with your horse over the holidays that’s wonderful.  If you are overbooked and stressed out, “know when to fold em'”. Consider paying a competent person to exercise your horse or if you have small windows of time available, lunge them or work in the round pen for a little while. Do your horse, your family and yourself a favor and don’t spoil the holidays by getting bucked off or by spending your time feeling guilty for not getting out to the barn.  Making arrangements for your horse + making safe choices = fun holidays!

Tip of the Week! Weather/whether or not…

First of all, I want to apologize for falling behind in my posts. Our granddaughter seems to trump all else.  I am already talking to her about what color pony she would like. So far the black pony with a white star seems to get the biggest reaction.  My daughter had a pony just like that when she was a little girl so I may be creating that response. LOL

So winter is here and we need to think about how we want to support our four-leggers in the colder weather.  Horses burn more calories in the winter.  How we handle this, depends on the type of living situation our horse is in.   There are several factors involved when deciding whether to add calories or blankets.

If you are working your horse through the winter and perhaps even competing, you are most likely going to have your horse body clipped.  If this is the case, you will not only be adding a blanket but also increasing their calorie intake.  If your horse is living in a stall, you should consider adding a hay lunch so they have something to do during the rainy days when they aren’t turned out.  This will occupy them much longer than a scoop of pellets and is easier on their digestive systems.

If your horse is living in pasture please think carefully before adding a blanket.  I know this is a controversial subject for horse owners. I can only speak from my experience on this subject.  A horse is better off being cold for awhile with the potential of drying off when the sun comes out then wearing a blanket that has soaked through and is holding the wet and the cold against their bodies.  I have found horses, twisted up in saturated blankets, literally unable to walk to keep themselves warm or get to water.  This is heart-breaking and cruel.  If your horse is in a situation where someone can see them at any given moment, then blanketing  is a viable option.  If they are in a pasture where they are only seen a couple of times a day, graining is a much safer way to go.  It also  allows you to check them over and make sure they haven’t incurred any injuries or illnesses since the last time you’ve seen them.  Horses should always have access to shelter whether it’s summer or winter.  In northern California when the wind accompanies the rain, it is essential.

Check with your veterinarian about grain supplements.  They vary greatly and are designed to support horses of all different ages and activity levels.  When choosing a blanket, fit is crucial and choosing the right type (low temperature, waterproof etc.) for your horses living situation will make the difference between them being comfortable or miserable. So have a winter plan and be consistent with it.  Ensure that you will enter into spring with a healthy,  happy horse.

Tip of the Week! (a story)

For the Love of  Horses!

When I was a little girl, I was the only one in my family interested in horses. Interested is probably an understatement.  I was CRAZY for horses for as long as I can remember. I don’t have any idea where in my young mind it came from. We always had a dog and a cat.  I don’t think I ever saw a horse in the flesh until I was eight years old.  Once I did I was relentless. I hounded my parents mercilessly.

One day I met a girl at school who had horses that lived right across the street from us.  My new friend was my first teacher and we had a ball.  We jumped on the horses bareback wearing only their halters.  We would gallop through the pastures, getting clothes-lined on low hanging branches, get run through bramble, bucked off on the way back to the barn.  We didn’t care!  We were in horse heaven. I couldn’t get enough.

I found out another neighbor raised race horses and I begged and pleaded to clean their stalls, babysit their toddler, whatever it would take to be around THEM.  They finally gave in and took me under their wing.  They taught me how to muck, groom and feed. And eventually they let me ride!  They taught me how to jump! Oh my did my world change!  Little did I know that I was jumping barely broke racehorses that only knew one lead. It just didn’t matter.  I was where I belonged.

Me & Bucky

Finally at the age of 10, my parents gave up the fight and bought me the most beautiful, the most spirited, the most unrideable buckskin gelding you’ve ever seen. Bucky, as the horse trader called him, came all the way from Texas. Yup, he was a barrel racer. Perfect first horse for a kid! LOL  Bucky didn’t stay long.  I cried a river of tears but to no avail. My parents didn’t know horses but they did know a 4-H leader who they asked to come and check Bucky out.  She kindly told my folks they were darn lucky I hadn’t been killed and to march right back to that horse trader and demand a suitable horse for me.

Well, who would have thought that any good would come of giving up my beautiful Bucky?

Cherry’s stunt double!

Not I, but then I met Cherry. The most darling chestnut pony you have ever seen. Cherry was an angel in a horse suit.  He loved me and I loved him. I walked to school, right by where my Cherry was boarded. I cleaned his stall and fed and loved on him before and after school everyday. I rode that pony down the street to my race horse friends barn a mile away by myself. I remember one time we went through a snow bank so deep we got stuck for a time. Cherry didn’t panic and neither did I. There was nothing we couldn’t do together. When I would come into the barn and find Cherry laying down for a nap, I would curl up against and take a nap too. That horse helped mold me. Cherry is a big part of who I am today.  He taught me to trust, how to communicate clearly, to know what it means to love and be loved unconditionally.

Cherry & I

As many of you know I founded a horse rescue back in 2006, Hoof Beats of America.  This year we rescued three horses from a feed lot in Nevada, they were soon to be picked up and slaughtered.  One of the horses was a bright red yearling filly.  Despite all she had been through this filly wanted to accept humans.  It didn’t take long before she allowed us to touch her and showed a great interest in getting to know us.  Eventually I brought her home with one of our other rescues who soon bonded with this brave little soul.  It didn’t take long before the filly would nicker and run to you when you called her.  She would let you rub her all over and started following us around like a dog.  She was adopted along with her rescue friend to a wonderful home near the rescue.  Oh yes, I never told you that red filly’s name? Cherry of course.

Who was your Cherry?  Tell me a story. : )

Tip of the Week!

Finding the Right Horse

One of the most important decisions you have to make before you even start looking, is deciding what your riding goals are.  Then you can start thinking about what type of horse you are going to look for.  When I say type, I am not referring to color or breed.  I am talking about the amount of training the horse has had, the age, the number of years it realistically has left to compete if that is your goal and so on. Also your physical age (not your chronological age) and condition.  Do you need a smooth gaited horse to protect your back, a horse that’s easy to move forward and to stop?  Are you strong and fit and want a horse with lots of suspension and go? Know what you are looking for!

Next, your purchasing budget.  Do your research and see if the type of horse you have in mind is within’ your price range.  If it isn’t, you may need to adjust your ideal type a bit. If you can afford a few months of training, you could find a horse that is a bit more green than you originally planned on.  Or, if you are capable enough to do your own training, you could simply adjust your competition time frame.  Age is another criteria you can work with depending on your riding goals. For instance, if you are going to be a pleasure rider, going out on the trail on weekends maybe a couple of arena rides during the week, you may be able to get a slightly older horse that will last a long time with light duty.  Just things to think about.

Here is a list of things you should have in order before you buy your horse:

1. Have a clear picture of what your goals are as a rider/horse owner.  KNOW your abilities and your physical limitations.

2. Take a hard look at your daily schedule and figure out how much time you have to devote to this horse and be prepared to pay for help to cover the days you can’t make it out to the barn.

3.  Have a horse budget in place that includes (if it applies) board, training, show fees, trailering, shoeing, equipment & supplies unexpected vet bills etc. There is always etc. with horses. Plan on it!

4. If you are purchasing independently, bring a knowledgeable horse friend with you for a second opinion.

5.  Research veterinarians and farriers if you don’t already have one so you have these key players in place before you buy your horse.  You don’t want to be searching for either of these professionals in an emergency situation.  Ask your own veterinarian to perform the pre-purchase exam or one that comes highly recommended by people who are experienced in this area.

6. If you don’t own your own farm, research the facilities in your area.  Make sure you are comfortable with their boarding & feeding program, the arena footing, trails and turn-outs. You should feel confident that the space your horse will be living in is safe and clean and that he will be well cared for.

7. Have an experienced hauler lined up to transport your horse.

As horse lovers, we have all fantasized about our dream horse.  When I was a little girl, my fantasy horse was a tall dapple grey stallion with a long flowing mane a tail.  Now picture your fantasy horse and blend him with the list of goals and needs that you have been working on, and see what you come up with. THAT is the horse you are ready to look for.  Best of luck to you!  Let me know how it goes!

Murphy Takes a Silver!

For those of you who have been following Murphy, we have been working towards attending the Rheinhald Pfalz-saar International Inspection.  This registry organization was founded in 1995 and is designed to control the quality of sport horse that is produced in North America.

Mackenzie, Murphy’s mom, was also inspected and was added into Mare book I!  Fantastic because this  makes her more desirable as a brood mare.   Mac’s owner and I picked Mackenzie out at as yearling and now  here she is a six year old with Murphy by her side. Or at least close behind!  This is a full circle moment for those of us who have been there since the beginning.

Here is a shot of Murphy’s stunning trot!  They both behaved so beautifully at the event, we couldn’t have asked for more.  Murphy also did his best ever loading performance.  He literally jumped straight into the trailer at the end of the day with no coaxing.  I think he was ready to go home and take a good long nap!  Murphy received a premium silver rating which is just below the cut off for a gold. We were thrilled!  Of course we will always consider him a gold and accept the fact that we are biased. : )

Stunning photography by our wonderful friend and compatriot, Jane! Aka: Auntie Jane

If you would like to learn more about RPSR, just click on the link below.

Tip of the Week!

   The Two Pole exercise

I stole this riding exercise from Ronnie Mutch (the best clinician I have ever had the privilege to ride under), many, many years ago.  All you need are two jump rails and ideally an arena.  Although you could perform it without one, it would be much more challenging.

Simply place a pole perpendicular to the arena fence at the end of the ring, then place the second pole about 30′ away from the other one. This number can vary greatly depending on the size and greeness of your horse. Start off with a greater distance between the poles if your horse is struggling to make the turn. Decrease the distance a bit as you have more success.

Warm your horse up well and begin by trotting the poles to familiarize your horse with the pattern.  I would start on my horses better side to give him the best shot at understanding the exercise.  Remember, they always follow the path of least resistance that’s our mantra!

At first you will find it difficult to get to the center of the pole.  Resist with the outside rein and leg if your horse is falling to the outside and remain in a sitting position.  Use your inside aids to help create straightness, we are not looking for an inside bend at this time. You will also find the distance to the pole changing each time you ride to it unless you and your horse are superstars in which case you probably don’t need to practice this particular exercise.

I want you to think about riding a rectangle not a circle.  Work on squaring your turns and using the entire space inside that rectangle.  As your horse becomes more comfortable with the pattern, start to shorten your reins and begin to ask for a steady collected canter.  Whether you ride it at a medium or  collected canter, the idea is to make each stride on the rectangle the same length.  As you accomplish this, you will start to reach a consistent distance to the pole each time and you will start to see the distance from further back as you trust the length of stride.  Change directions when your horse has a few good rounds so he is rewarded for his efforts.  Always stay aware of your horses physical state.  Is he breathing easily, not becoming tired, starting to trip etc.

When you are able to travel your rectangle several times in a row in both directions, with a consistent canter, no swerving, no missed distances to the pole, you have succeeded!  What have you and your horse learned from this exercise?  Would really like to hear your answers!!

Ronnie loved to keep things straight forward and simple. Just the way a horse likes it! I thank you for your time Mr. Mutch.  The horse world is all the better for you having been it.