Monthly Archives: April 2015

Myths and Misconceptions

I just read the funniest email about UPS pilots and maintenance crew.  I’m going to have to come up with a post that is that funny about horses.  But this isn’t it.

I have a new horse coming in and he is currently on a Seminole Product.  I have nothing against Seminole Products, I just use a different company.  I have shied away from companies that produce both horse and cattle feed.  After some very old, established, large companies have had issues of ingredients meant for cattle, finding their way into horse feed, poisoning, and killing horses, I choose to stay with a company who deals purely with horse feed only.  For over 50 years I have used other companies products without a problem, but now I have made this decision, and am sticking to it.  Seminole was not a company that has had any cases of bad feed, but my feed dealer does not carry their product line.

Now when switching a horses feed it should always be done slowly.  I try to take a week or more to switch, depending on the amount of grain the horse is presently receiving, and how much of his old brand I have on hand.  So I decided to look into the ingredients of the grain he is currently on, and the product I was going to purchase to make this transition.

When I went to the Seminole site they had an interesting article on their web page.  Horse Feeding Myths and Misconceptions, by Beth Stelzleni M.S., PAS, Blog Webinars.

Being an older horsewoman, and growing up with even older horsemen, I was raised on many of these old Myths.  If Pop said it was to be done this way, he would know.  So I followed their recommendations.  (It’s done this way, end of discussion.)  One of them is feeding bran mashes.  Pop always had a bucket of bran mash steeping by the side of his old wood burning kitchen stove, with a towel over it.  Fond teenage memories.  Now we have colleges and other companies who do research on our old myths to find out how much of it is true.  Much of what we were taught to believe really has no merit.

I must say that it was a very interesting read.  Some of it, I understand and will take into consideration.  Some of it, the jury is still out on for my way of thinking.  Oh I’m very sure that they have done their testing and have found their conclusions to be true.  But being an old horsewoman, I have had experiences that have had a lasting impact on my mind.  They said Coastal Hay does not cause colic.  That other issues bring upon the colic when the horse has eaten it.  Well I have a Clydesdale who coliced on it the three times I tried it, who would like to testify otherwise.  Yes I agree with them that if it is harvested before it’s matured, it is too fine and will perhaps colic a horse.  Some horses do not chew their food as well as others.  I now have found a local hay man who grows Tiften-44 (a courser local hay) who is very particular about the timing of his cut.  He assured me that no one has ever had a horse colic on his hay, and he was right.  The Clyde can eat it with no problem.

I think this article would be an interesting article to read and take into consideration.  It also included the myths about a hot horse drinking cold water (we all remember what happened to Black Beauty), soaking Beet Pulp, bran mash, and many more myths.

Never just accept one persons ideas or information on what to do with your horse.  In this day and age where information is so available on the internet, do not hesitate to do your own research into any matter.  The more you know the better decision you can make.  BUT!  I like the commercial with the woman who met this guy on the internet who said he was a French Actor (I think or he was French something.)  Anyway he obviously was not, she turned to her friend and said “They can’t print anything that isn’t true on the internet.”  Well they do.  So don’t believe everything you read on the internet either.  Check things out, really check things out.  Then, armed with all your information, consult with your vet.  Now different vets hold different views on many subjects, according to their knowledge and experiences.  So once again, gather all your information, make an informed decision, but keep an open mind.

Remember when we were kids, spinach was the best, most healthy, thing you could eat?  Well years later they found that the decimal point was in the wrong place, and it wasn’t as good for you as they once believed.  First eggs were bad for you, now they’re not.  Oh then it was don’t eat chocolate, now it might cure cancer.  Hello!  Anyone out there really know what’s going on?

Yes some of the myths, I was sad to learn, were not true.  Some of the things I had already decided where not in the best interest of the horse, through my personal experiences.  But I did learn a lot through this article.  The bottom line is that I will take everything, old and new into consideration when making my own personal decision, after discussing them with my vet.

I can only hope that you have the kind of relationship with your vet that I have with mine.  She never thinks a question is stupid.  She is patient, and if she is not sure of the answer, will consult with specialists in that particular field.

There is right, there is wrong, and then there is just plain different.  It’s up to you to figure out where your information lies.

“The Lump”

Lumps, we all hate them.  They stir terror into the hearts of many.

Are they tumors?  Cancer?  Or as a teenager, the start of a Zit on the most important date in the history of man (or woman).

My granddaughter came out of the bedroom early one morning with the biggest Zit I have ever seen.  I tried to make light of it and said Wow!  That’s the greatest Zit in history.  She left the room mumbling about what a rotten grandmother I was.  I was just trying to make her laugh.  Didn’t work.

But lumps are not something to take lightly, and they certainly should not be ignored.  Not on a person, or an animal.

Will someone explain to me why with all our technology that more people and animals are not only contracting cancer, but they are dying of it?  I really can answer that myself, I just don’t understand why we keep allowing it to happen.  We are poisoning our systems and our animals systems with preservatives, hormones, and chemicals that are in our food, air, and water.  Even if we choose organic, it’s still infected.  The sad thing about it is, that it still continues.

I’ve recently had to deal with two lumps.  One on the side of my husbands nose, and a couple on one of the horses.  When they were first noticed, both the doctor and the vet said just keep an eye on them.  We did, and they grew.  So it was time for biopsies.  Both were cancerous, both were removed and hadn’t spread anywhere else.

Whites, greys, and I’ve been told, red horses are prone to cancer/lumps.  Even if you have a horse of a different color, check it out.  If your horse has a lump ask the vet to look at it.  They will tell you if it’s something to keep an eye on or not.  If they tell you to keep an eye on it, please do.  If you notice major changes (and they can happen fast) sound the alert.  Have it checked, removed, and go back to your normal life.  If you wait, it can spread, and then you will pay big time.  Financially, and perhaps with the loss of a life.  I know people who did not have it checked.  They didn’t want to mention that they had a lump.  They swept it under the rug, and hoped it would go away.  Sometimes little fatty tumors just do go away.  Sometime a more serious lump won’t.

Don’t take a chance with your life, or someone whom you love.  The sooner you check it out, the better chance you have of removing the possibility of it getting serious.

Don’t wait, act.

When One Just Isn’t Enough

And we’re not talking potato chips here.

When I had my first horse I spent all the time in the world fussing over her.  She wanted for nothing.  I used to spend hours brushing her, and my friend would say “you’re going to wear the hair off of her.”  Then I got my TB too, my time became divided, but not my love.

It’s fascinating how the more love you give, the more you have to give.  Oh don’t get me wrong, there are days lately, I think I’ve reached the end of my rope.  The two puppies (now two years old) are sucking the life out of me.  They are both smart (even though one is deaf).  The deaf one is ADHD.  She lives in her own world, wants to love on you every chance she gets, has an abundance of energy, and even drives her full sister crazy.  They’re like two human sisters.  They can play, play, play, and then all of a sudden it’s a knock-down drag-out fight.  I now have two beautiful girls with torn-up faces.  I’ve watched every episode of Cesar Millan, and am still at a loss for words.  I can control a 2,000 lb. Clydesdale, but not two 45 lb. Catahoulas.

But are there ever too many horses in your life?  No way.  Yes there may be too many things to accomplish in one day, but never too many horses to love on, and be loved by.  Too many feed, vet, and farrier bills, but never too many smiles, and memories to cherish for the rest of your life.  Each one is an individual spirit, special in their own way.  You will make the time to simply touch their face, and gain peace to your soul.  On some days there won’t be enough time to ride both, or any of them, but just knowing they are there encourages us to go on.

What will I do when I get too old to sit on a horse?  I’ll sit and watch them graze.  I’ll brush their coats until I wear the hair off.  I’ll let their spirit fill me, and I’ll just love on them.

What about you?

Safety, First, Last, And Everything In Between

I was just reading an article in my Riding Instructors Magazine.  The father of a new student asked the instructor when she teaches a safety class.  She became a little flustered, and didn’t know how to respond.  It isn’t a question we are often asked, if ever.  This particular father taught OSHA safety classes, and so it was at the top of his list.

So I stopped, and thought about the question.  It has never crossed my mind to start a “Safety Class.”  No?  Why not?  (I love having conversations with myself, it makes me go over things in my mind, and see where I really stand on an issue.)  Safety is of the utmost importance to me.  I’ve watched two people killed while riding.  No one, absolutely no one, should get hurt on my watch.  However, with horses, things aren’t always predictable.  Then it flashed across the Television screen of my mind.  I do teach a safety class.  Every moment, of every lesson, is one big safety class.  Every interaction of horse and rider becomes a lesson in safety.  I’m constantly throwing in safety reminders, pointing out how things should be done, and why.  Constantly reminding students of what they were taught, and why it needs to be done a certain way.  It’s so automatic to me I never realize that I’m teaching safety.  It so on-going with my students, that they aren’t even aware of it.

Sure you can go down a list of safety tips prior to the first introduction of a brand new student to a horse, and your barn –

  • Never walk close behind a horse
  • Never stand directly in front of a horse
  • Never have a lead line (or reins) wrapped around your hand
  • Never run up behind a horse

The list could go on for days, and you should give a brand new student a run-down of safety rules, along with your barn rules before starting, but more so, actually applying it as it is about to happen.

As a riding instructor you must always be alert, and aware of what is going on around you.  Both with the horse, rider, and outside stimulus.  It should be first in any horse persons mind.  I remember when I was first learning to drive a car.  Every time a plastic bag would blow across the road, I would grab the steering wheel a little tighter, waiting for the car to spook.  As a rider our peripheral vision is more heightened.  Okay, don’t tell me that I’m the only one who does that?

Have you ever noticed that people drive the way they ride.  I always know what students I’m willing to be a passenger with, and which ones I’d rather pass on.

Most people are not as safety conscious as they should be.  It’s such a shame.  It’s so easy to do it the safe way.  Doesn’t take much effort, but the success is worth it.

I was at a funeral one day, and one of the speakers pointed out the dash between the birth date, and date of death on the tombstone.  He said the dash was what was really important.  It was your life, and what you did in that time is what really mattered.  So is the dash in Safety First – Last.  It’s what really will count.

Most of us stay lucky.  Some never make it.  As Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood) said “Do You Feel Lucky, punk”  Don’t have someone elses injury haunt your conscious.  Keep that dash safe at all times.

I had only started reading the article when I wrote this.  Basically the article said the same thing as I did.  Great minds think alike.

Now who said that?

So Tell Me, When Did This All Start?

One day, years ago, I asked my mother – When did I start liking horses?  She looked at me and thought for a moment.  Then she said “I don’t know, you just always liked them since you were a baby.”

Now you must understand, I was raised in a third floor apartment building in Brooklyn.  I never had any contact with horses when I was a baby.  Of course when I was around five my father took me to the pony track, and that started my riding career.  Life for my parents went down hill from there.  It was always, why can’t I have a pony?  My mother would always ask how I was going to get him up all those stairs.  Her next question would be, where are you going to keep him?  My child’s mind simply replied – I’ll teach him to climb steps, and keep him in the bathroom (in the tub it would be easier to clean up after him).  On Sundays, if we didn’t go to the pony track, I would ask my wonderfully patient father to go to Prospect Park and we would watch people riding by.  Sometimes he would take me for a walk through the barn.  Oh, I loved the different smells of the stable.

Every once in a while a junk wagon, or fruit and vegetable wagon, would come down our street.  In the 50’s they were still pulled by a horse.  I would stand on the sidewalk and watch until they were out of sight, knowing that someday, I would have a horse of my own. There was one black and white pinto that I was absolutely in love with, and to this day, every time I see a black and white pinto/paint I will think of that illusive horse that I dreamed I would own.

Of course, in the 50’s, we had tons of Westerns and horse programs on TV.  Needless to say, I watched every single one of them just to see the horses.  I knew every name and color of those mystical, magical animals, who were calling to me.

My first husband grew up with work horses.  He was a wonderful horseman, and taught me so much about the care, but he really had enough of the work involved.  Even though I had started riding before I met him, he encouraged me to have horses and show.

My second husband had ridden as a child and decided that horses really didn’t like him, but he supported me, my horses, teaching, and Fox Hunting.  When he decided to learn to ride and hunt, my mother stood there, shaking her head, and said “well I guess you are never going to grow out of this” and she was right.

Think back, for some of you like me, really far back.  When did you first realize that you loved horses?  If your mother or father is still alive, maybe you could ask them.  What triggered it, if anything?

Yes all teenage girls go through the horse-crazy stage, but for some of us, it’s a life long passion.  Something we were born with, and will probably die with.

Perhaps there is a certain gene that some people receive at birth.  My parents weren’t horse people, but maybe way back in my family tree there was someone who had the love, and passion that I possess.

Are there hoof prints leading up to someone very special in your family tree?  Some of us will never know, and some of us really don’t care.  We know that horses are part of our being, and it doesn’t matter how or why.

What really is the point of this post?  I don’t know.  Perhaps someday, someone will find a gene that points to our obsession, or maybe God just decided that we should connect with one of His special creatures, to love and care for them, and even bring us closer to Him.

Bottom line is – just enjoy the gift of spending your time with a horse.  Or as the old saying goes, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” (Of course we all know that saying actually means, if someone gives you a horse don’t look at his teeth to know how old it is). Just say Thank You to whomever helped you on your way.

Thank You!