Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Scoop On Poop

I just read an interesting article in America’s Horse the March/April 2014 issue that we can file in the back of our minds to try to ease the squeamish new horse persons concerns, and possibly even your neighbors.  I will share what their findings were and if you want to read the research behind these talking points, visit – From Equine Land Conservation Resource, WWW.ELCR.ORG.

As horse owners we don’t give it much thought.  We step in it and shovel it, it’s just part of having horses.  But it’s always funny to watch people who are new to horses deal with it.  They step around it and giggle about the natural bodily functions of an equine.  Not that humans don’t do the same thing.  So the next time someone makes a comment about “it” you can share the real “Scoop On Poop.”


For Horse people, manure is part of day-to-day life.  For people who do not have experience with horses, manure can appear dirty and even toxic.  Here are some talking points to help dispel that myth:

  • Horse manure is 70-80 percent liquid and 20-30 percent solids.  The liquid portion absorbs quickly into the ground.  The majority of the solid portion – mostly grass and forage leavings – breaks down in the first six days.
  • Horse manure is biodegradable, natural and contains no petroleum or animal byproducts.
  • Horse manure is an excellent fertilizer and can improve soil conditions.
  • There are no known toxic effects on humans due to exposure to horse manure.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency excluded horse manure from solid waste regulation because it contains neither significant amounts of hazardous materials nor exhibits hazardous characteristics.
  • Horses do not carry any of the 120 viruses and pathogens that create risk for humans from carnivore and omnivore species.
  • The pathogens that do exist in horse leavings require ingestion to create a health risk, typically abdominal discomfort.
  • Most of these pathogens have a very short lifespan on the ground, meaning the risk of infection through ingestion is very limited.
  • No record exists of horses transmitting any disease to humans.”

This article was reprinted by permission from the American Quarter Horse Association.

So now that researchers have proven what we’ve always known, you can rest easy when you see your children or grandchildren running through it barefooted.



The “Eyes” Have It

Everything I write in my posts are for your consideration.  They are ideas or explanations I throw out to my students.  I want you to toss them over in your mind, see if they make sense to you, and perhaps they are something you would like to think about or try yourself.

Always be thinking, and always be safe.  Know your horse and your surroundings.  If you do decide to trying some of this, have a helper, you will feel calmer, not tense up and send a nervous message to your horse.


So many expressions refer to the eyes.  The eyes are a window to the soul.  Her smile never reached her eyes.  When Irish eyes are smiling.  Love light shining in your eyes.  The Eyes of Texas are upon you.  My mother always told me she could see exactly how I was feeling by my eyes.

So let’s look at the eyes with relationship to our riding.  I always tell my students that where their eyes are looking is where they’re body will be going.  If they are watching the ground I ask them if they are looking for a good place to land, because there’s a good chance they will hit the ground if that’s where they are looking.

When we are riding around a  turn, our eyes should be looking to where we are intending to go.  If we are jumping, our eyes will be searching for our next jump, or If we are barrel racing, we will be looking for our next barrel.

So let’s just think about how our eyes affect our body and shifting weight.  Sitting in the chair you are in, sit up straight and just look all the way around to the left.  Now notice how when you turn your head it turns your shoulders, you twist at your waist and your right hip comes and it puts more pressure to your left seat bone.  Your horse will feel this and move to stay under your weight.  This is a very simple way to let your horse in on the idea that you are going to go in that direction.

When you look down at the ground, since the horse’s neck is in the way, we usually look to the left or the right of his neck, what happens to your body this time?  Your head comes down, your shoulders twist to the side you are looking, and so does you waist.  Your whole weight has shifted to one side and down.  If your horse trips or stops dead, you’re going down.

Now look straight as if you were looking between your horses ears.  Your head is up, and your body is in a straight line over your center of balance.  With this your horse is directly underneath you, and you are over your horses center of balance.

When you are going over a jump, look for your next jump and your horse should land on his correct lead.  If you are looking down, you will be putting too much weight on the horses front end and you stand a chance of throwing your horse off-balance.

When I teach the beginner children I always tell them to look between the horses ears.  While it’s helping to keep them balanced on their horse I also tell them that they can read what their horses are thinking.  As their ears are moving around I explain what the horse is listening to at that particular moment.  Either they are listening to their rider, me or sounds around us.  I tell them to be aware of when the ears are pinned back, because then they are angry at a horse coming up on them and they may want to kick.  But if they are pinned forward they may be hearing or seeing something in the distance that may frighten them, and this gives us a warning.  The rider can also see exactly what’s in front of them and where they are going.  Yes it gets them to be a thinking, alert, aware rider, but more than that it keeps them balanced.

Our eyes take in so much that sometimes we lose sight of what the horse is doing with its body.  In a very controlled situation, such as in the round pen with me walking along side holding the rein, or on a longe line I will tell them to close their eyes and feel the horse moving underneath them.  Then I will ask them to tell me what leg is in motion in the front and then the back.  At first they are afraid to close their eyes, but after a very short time they love doing this.  I usually end up having to yell at them to keep their eyes open.  They become aware of the subtle changes in the horses speed, balance or movement.   I actually got this concept from teaching blind children to ride.  They were so much more aware of the horse than the sighted children.  Losing the sense of sight makes all their other senses more heightened.  It puts them in tune to the horses body and inner spirit.

So all this to say – the “Eyes” really do have it.

A Mounting Problem

How many times do we just get on and off our horse without giving it much thought?

Yet so many times I just cringe when I see someone mount their horse.

Let’s start with the horses perspective.  Truthfully his spine isn’t really made to carry weight.  So in the old cowboy movies when you see someone run up behind their horse, palms hitting their rump as they propel themselves into the saddle, or jump from a second story balcony onto their horses back you always see the horse almost fold in half.  Picture yourself just lying there watching television and your dog takes a running leap and lands on, usually your belly, or rib cage area.  Startling impact isn’t it, even if you do see it coming.  Scares you, knocks the wind out of you, and your body reacts by folding in half.  Same difference.

Oh but I don’t get on that way, you may say.  No, but when you do get on do you ease yourself into the saddle or just flop down?  Look for a reaction from your horse the next time you mount.  Back sinks, head and neck come up, eyes bulge, you get the picture.

In the old days, before there was an equine chiropractor, you had cold backed horses.  You couldn’t sit on them for about 15 minutes.  You had to stand in the stirrups and trot around until they got warmed up.  They usually bucked for the first 10.  They were just cold backed, nothing you could do about it.  Really?  If you still have a cold backed horse you need to start looking into taking care of it.  Usually a equine chiropractor or some one who is trained in acupuncture can help, or maybe all you need is a different saddle.  If you’ve been riding with a bad fitting saddle for a while,  your horse may need therapy for his back to remove the soreness.

Very few people, years ago, were concerned about the fit of the horse’s saddle to his back.  Too many today don’t even take it into consideration.  Oh Dad I really need that saddle.  All the other show riders are using it.  Oh it’s so comfortable, I just love it.  Well is it that comfortable to your horse.  Put on a shoe a size too small, walk around in it for a day.  Let’s see how that works for you.  And just because the saddle fits him at 8 years old, it may not fit him at 12, 18, 24, 30.  If he gains or loses weight his back will change.  More muscle or lack of muscle will also change his back.  This is something you must monitor all the time.  Find someone who can teach you to fit a saddle properly, or ask your saddle dealer to find and fit the right saddle for your horse.

Mounting from the ground, another issue.  Oh I don’t look cool or experienced if I use a mounting block.  Yes everyone should learn to mount from the ground, but if you can use a mounting block, log, or something sturdy to mount from, please do so.  Now I said sturdy, something that’s not going to roll out from underneath you, or crack and break letting you slip underneath your horse.

Why should I use something to stand on?  I’m glad you ask.  When you mount from the ground you pull the saddle across the horses withers.  Ouch!

Now if your girth isn’t tight, (Remember January’s 10 Things You Should Do Before Getting On Your Horse) it’s really going to pull the saddle across the withers, shift your pad, or pads, and you are left lying under the horse.  Scary!  Not a good place to be.  Always make sure you put your hand under your pad pushing it up from the withers so it’s not putting too much pressure.

To anyone who really knows about horses you will look more professional if you are a thinking, kinder horseman to your horse.

Okay, so you’ve tightened your girth, have your trusty old mounting block and your ready to mount.

Control.  So many people never shorten their reins before mounting.  You should have control of your horse at all times.  What if something scares him and he takes off?  You have one foot in the stirrup, and  at this point it doesn’t matter if you have a mounting block or not.  There is always the possibility of getting dragged.

Some people teach making your left rein shorter than the right so the horse will circle you and the mounting block.  In a controlled situation it works.  When I was Fox Hunting, I’d have to get off sometimes to open a gate I couldn’t reach from my horses back.  There wasn’t always something to stand on, so I’d have to mount from the ground.  At this point there were usually 25 couple (50 hounds), give or take a couple, the Huntsman and staff barreling down on me.  I needed to get on fast.  When I used to shorten my left rein my horse, who didn’t want to get left behind, would be circling me, and circling me, and…. So I learned that if I shortened the right rein she would turn her belly and butt into me and I could get on in one shot.

You should always make your horse stand perfectly still until you are fully seated and in control.  The horse is only to move off when you are ready and give them the signal, not when they feel like it.  Remember, you are lead mare at all times.  The hunt field comes with its own set of excitement and challenges.  When hounds, staff and field (all the people on horseback) are on a run, your horse doesn’t really care who you are, or if you come along for that matter.  He plans on joining the excitement, with or without you.  The old herd mentality at work.

Be a watchful, thinking, caring horseman/woman.  Your horse will thank you for it.

The Great Escape

For those of you old enough to remember that movie, it was great.

Horses are also great escape artists.  I had my granddaughter’s pony years ago who was a regular Houdini.  Every morning he’d be in the pasture with burrs in his mane and tail.  Now there were no burrs in my pasture, but there were plenty in the vegetable farm next door.  Checked the fence, all was well.  That was until one morning when I called everyone in for breakfast and my Quarter Horse Desert was missing.  Walked out to the back pasture and there was Desert running the fence line screaming for help.  Mane and tail full of burrs.  It seemed he had gotten under the fence with the pony.  The pony was smart enough to get back in but Desert forgot how.  So it seemed that every night Chester the pony had been getting out and spent the night in the neighbors vegetable field and would come back before I was awake.  He was great with the grandchildren, but Chester was a true pony, always up to no good.

However, this great escape is not about loose horses, it’s about us always needing an escape route.

So many times I see people in a dangerous position, with no way of getting away if the situation presented itself.  They’re up against a wall, fence, tree, post, other horses, vehicle, etc. “Danger Will Robinson!”

We’re back to the fight or flight instinct.  If something goes wrong a horse is going to react.  This isn’t an instance of the horse standing there and rationalizing “let’s see. This thing is going to eat me so I must leave.  If I turn right I can get away, but there is a human body I’ll have to step on to get out of here so maybe I should go to the left?  Oops, no there is a wall.  Human body, wall?  Human body, wall?  Maybe I could ask them to move so I can leave?”  Nope, it’s “Oh my gosh, I’m dead meat, I’m out of here!”

The best advise I can give is, always leave yourself room to get out-of-the-way.  And let me add, make sure that way is clear.  When you have a horse that is in a total state of panic, even a lot of room becomes not enough room.

Situations that can get you in trouble –

  • Your horse is down in the stall, you go in to see if he’s okay, he panics, struggles to get up, can you scale the divider?
  • Your horse is cross tied in the isle way.  Something scares him, he pulls back and breaks the cross ties.  Maybe there is enough room to get out-of-the-way, but are you going to fall over a tack trunk, the milk crate you were standing on to pull his mane, the dog that was sleeping by your feet?
  • Your horse panics in the trailer.  Are you caught against the wall, another horse?  If he goes down, where do you go.
  • You’ve got your horse tied to the fence, you’re cleaning his feet, something spooks him, he body slams you into the fence.  Your back now looks like a waffle cone or your picking splinters out for weeks, if you’re lucky.

Before you do the simplest things, check for the exit signs, and make sure that nothing is in your way.

Now that’s a “Great Escape.”