Monthly Archives: August 2014


I’m not really a person who likes surprises.  I don’t like change either.  I know that says a lot about me, but I’m not sure what it is.

But seasons have a habit of sneaking up on us, and it’s about to happen again.  Although you would never believe that summer is coming to an end here in Florida, it is in other parts of the country.

Every year, at the end of winter, I say “This year I’m going to get my sheets and blankets washed and repaired early, and be ready for next winter.”  Even though we have more time to prepare here, I never get it done as early as I thought I would.  So for you all in other parts, best be getting on the ball.

We’re getting into the most beautiful riding season of all, “FALL!”  With its cool, crisp mornings, riding through the woods and fields with the leaves changing color, our horses feeling frisky, and the best, no bugs.  We’re excited, and ready to go.

Hold your horses just a minute.  This beautiful time will be fleeting and all of a sudden, bam!, the water buckets are frozen and your blankets are a haven for mice and bugs.

So get those blankets out, wash them, and check them for needed repair.  It’s always a good idea to get them to the person who will be repairing them before they get backlogged with everyone elses last-minute blanket needs.

You know the climate where you live, so you know how soon winter is going to come crashing in on you.  Get the blankets out-of-the-way and enjoy the moment.

Weight A Minute

The weight of a horse can be a tricky thing.  Some like their horses lean and others like them plump.  Now there is a major difference between racing fit and lean (skinny), and round as opposed to overweight.  I personally like “apple rumps, but they can still be on a racing fit horse if it’s a Quarter Horse.

A new horse comes into the barn and it’s not the weight I would like to see.  If it’s upright and breathing I can usually put weight on it, if it’s under 30 years of age and has no major health issues.  If we’re dealing with health issues (like ulcers) we straighten them out first and then proceed with the weight. A horse can’t gain weight if the nutrients aren’t being absorbed.  Now their bodies are very similar to ours when it comes to the age thing.  I don’t weigh much more than I did at 40, it’s just distributed a little different.  The muscle loss with age really upsets me.  I’m still active, but the muscle is just disappearing.  It’s the same way with a horse.  Is it lack of weight or lack of muscle?

There are many things to take into consideration when evaluating the horses body condition, and how to put weight on.  It’s not just about pumping more food into them.  First thing you have to consider is why is this horse underweight.  If its lack of food, that’s easy.  Time and some groceries will do wonders.  But remember, a horse that is starving is going to have less energy.  Start pumping the groceries in and you may find that when he’s feeling better, you may have a different horse on your hands.

There are so many possibilities, you best bet is to consult your vet, if food is not the answer.

So here are few things you may want to consider.

  • (If it’s a new horse).  What was he getting before you got him and how much?  Was it good quality feed and hay?  Was he getting enough for the work he was doing?  Was it the right feed for his life style?
  • What was the environment like where he is getting fed?  Is it a feeding frenzy?   Are there other horses stealing his food, and was he stressing?  Is he spilling it on the ground, with the full quantity  never reaching his stomach?
  • Is his worming up to date, and is he being wormed with the product that is really needed to rid him of the particular worms that he has?  Are the products being rotated according to your vets recommendation?
  • Is there enough fresh water being offered?
  • Have his teeth been done and are they done right?  I know a lot of people who have had their horses teeth done and whoever did them did not get all the way back.  Is his jaw out of alignment?
  • Is his body absorbing the nutrients he is getting?  If not, why?
  • Does he worry and internalize it?  Does he have ulcers.  Why?
  • Is he in pain?
  • Is it really lack of weight or is it lack of muscle?  (could it be EPM)
  • Is it a disease that isn’t obvious, or tumor, or cancer

Some horses. and especially some breeds, have different body types.  A Clydesdale and an Arab are not going to have the same body shape, but each one can be overweight or underweight, you just have to know what is right for that particular horse.  A young horse and an old horse are going to have different body shapes too.

If your horse has fat pockets, chances are he’s overweight.  If you can count his ribs, it’s a good possibility that he’s under weight.  Although I had a mare who you could always see her ribs and she also had fat pockets, big hay belly, and an apple rump.

Easy keepers aren’t always just that, sometimes they have Cushings Disease.  Best to double-check with your vet, or other health issues.

There are many products on the market, make sure you pick the right one.  Don’t give you horse ingredients he doesn’t need.  There are certain vitamins that you can overdose on.

If you’ve done your best and it’s still not working you may want to consider running bloods on him. double checking his teeth, and run a fecal.  Your vet is the one you should consult about what to do next.  They will observe his body condition,  the surrounding conditions, his life style and work schedule, his breed and personality type, your feeding schedule, habits, and nutrition.

For the other chunky couch potatoes, try a little exercise and a controlled diet.  Grazing muzzles work really well.  This way they can be turned out with their friends but you’re still limiting the amount of grass they are getting.  Put it on his head and feed him carrots through the bottom hole.  They stand there for a while and looked confused, but they learn quick enough.

Too much or too little of anything is not good for us or them.




Next Stop Fingers

Okay so we’ve talked about saving our brain, and toes, but what really started me on the idea of extremities were my fingers.

Hands, fingers, and toes are all very upfront when working with horses.  They also manage to be in the wrong places at times.  Pretty much all the people I know, that really work with horses, have had their fingers broken or dislocated at one point.  It’s not always because we aren’t careful, it just happens.

Lead lines, longe lines, and halters are the biggest problems with reins coming in there somewhere.

First thing I tell people is not to wrap anything around their hands, it’s quickest way to get dragged.  I instruct my students to either make big circle loops or serpentine with lines and reins.  Never put knots in anything.  You may think that will give you something to grip onto, but when they slip between your fingers you are bound to dislocate a knuckle.  Wearing gloves is also a help because (depending on the type of glove) you will have a better grip and less chance of getting a rope burn.

Now from riding we know that the muscle on the inside of our arm is not as strong as the muscle on the out side of our arm.  So if you are leading a horse and want a little more control have the line come through your hand from the pinky to the thumb, instead of having the line come from the halter through your hand from thumb to pinky.  If you have a horse that is really strong, use a stud chain for leverage.  Stud chain placement is a whole other subject.

Never try to lead a horse by the halter without a lead line.  Fingers have away of getting themselves into those little rings and openings, and one swift move from the horse and they’re broken.  Just having a fly land somewhere will cause him to swing his head around with your finger in tow.  Not to mention the pull on your shoulder.

These are all silly little things that can cause great pain and inconvenience.  Always be mindful of your fingers and toes.

I give this a big Thumbs Up!

This Little Piggy Cried Wee Wee Wee

If you’ve been around horses for any length of time you’ve had your toes stepped on, it just goes with the territory.  Now I always advocate wearing boots around the horses.  You still get stepped on but there’s something resembling a foot and toes left after the incident.  I’ve seen kids with flip-flops or barefoot, not at my barn, but when I see that my heart rises to my throat.  My grandchildren would run through the barn barefoot with me yelling at them, but the horses were out in the pasture, nowhere near the barn.

No matter how careful we are there is always that possibility.  All though I hurt my toe last week, ( which became a beautiful combination of colors of purple and blue and pink and red and finally yellow and green) slamming it into a chair leg.  My toes have been stepped on so many times they are all different lengths and shapes.  One bends both ways.  All this with boots on.  I’m very talented.

Several weeks ago I was putting a fly mask on one of the horses in the pasture and the horse next door spooked at something, invisible of course.  My horse felt or heard him spook and reacted putting one foot to the left to run.  He then realized I was there and stopped.  Yup, you guessed it, right on the arch of my left foot.  He froze, yup on my foot.  I stood there going ouch!, ouch!, ouch!, and simply pushed his shoulder and he removed his foot from mine very slowly and carefully.  Thank you God that I have all reasonable horses to work around.  They try at all times to be careful around people, but there is still that fight or flight instinct in them.

I always tell my students to pay attention, and do everything properly, even if you have the sweetest, best, kindest, smartest, horse in the world, because some day you may just be holding another horse that isn’t.  If you get in the habit of doing everything the right way, it will always come natural and instinctual.

Boots are always a good idea, and stylish too.  I like my toes, I use them everyday, just like my brains (well actually the jury is out on that lately.  I Hate Old Age!)

I tell the children to walk along side of the horses neck, just behind the head, holding the lead line or reins short, close to the halter or bit.  Don’t ever let them walk behind you, because if something frightens them they will probably run you over trying to get away from it.  Or never let them walk ahead of you because then you have no control.  I also tell them to look ahead to where they are going, not at the horse.  If you trip and fall, the horse is going to trip and fall over your body.   Double Ouch!

Be mindful of where your feet are, more so than theirs.