Monthly Archives: July 2016

Who Would Have Thought

I remember as a kid the cartoons on TV where they were showing a bottle with a skull and cross bones on it indicating that it was poison.  Basically we were taught growing up, what could possibly harm us.  Animals on the other hand use the trial and error process.

Did you ever wonder how humans found out that things were poison?  I remember the old westerns where people were dying of thirst and found a water hole.  If there were dead animal bones by it, you had a pretty good idea that it wasn’t something you should trust.  I guess one person in a group would try a new berry or plant for food and if that person died, no one else ate it and the word was spread.

Now a days we have problems with small children eating the new detergent pods.  I’ve got to admit they look like something fun to eat.

There are so many plants that are poisonous to our horses.  Are you aware of what they are?  There is a book out that shows what plants should not be around horses.  I was amazed at plants I have been around all my life that are toxic to horses.  I think I’m more aware of it here in Florida.  You have to learn horse keeping Florida style when you move here, and plants, bugs, and snakes that are not horse friendly either.  I told my grandchildren that everything bites in Florida, ants, little green grasshoppers, fuzzy caterpillars.

Now Wild Cherry, or Choke Cherry as most horse people refer to it, is both here and up north where I came from.  When we were kids the horses would always grab a mouth full when we were out trail riding.  I never gave it a second thought.  However, when the leaves are dying, they become extremely toxic.  This I found out years ago, but it hit home yesterday.

Readers Digest version – my friend and I were riding the other day and found an old dog, overheated in a hay field.  We picked it up and my friend has been caring for it, she’s doing fine and we found the owner today.  She’s blind and wandered, quickly, out of the yard.  The woman was house sitting and the dog didn’t know the area.  Anyway, in my search for the owner I drove door to door (doors are very far apart here in the country) and spoke to neighbors that I don’t usually speak with.  We were talking about her older animals and she told me that her little mini bull had just died.  I was sorry to hear that since he was cute and always by the road when we rode by.  Turns out that the tree company that has been trimming trees for the electric company, and had left some Choke Cherry branches in her yard (under a certain size they are not required to pick them up) and the little guy ate them.  When she saw him down she called the vet but it was too late to save him.  I told her she needed to call the electric company and let them know before this happens to other people’s animals.  But I’m really thinking I’ll call too.

So my point is that some plants require a lot to be consumed before they become lethal and some don’t.  Are you aware of what plants are toxic to your horses?  Do you know if they are anywhere near where your horses can reach them?  Do you know how much of a particular plant a horse needs to eat before it kills them or does permanent damage?  My neighbor goes with the logic that if it blooms and has flowers, its poison.  Not necessarily so.  I love Hydrangea.  My mother in law had horses and had tons of them (not near the horses).  I didn’t know they were poisonous.

Plants do not come with a skull and cross bones, but horses, especially if their pasture is sparse, will eat weird stuff.  Check it out, you may be surprised at what you find.  You can go on line or there is a book available. Don’t wait to find it out the hard way.

There is just always something to worry about, isn’t there?

You Only Think It’s Simple

With horses, nothing is simple.

Last year we talked about how to decide if the person we’re asking to take care of our horses was qualified, but this year we’re going to find out if we are.

So my friends were going away for five to seven days.  They asked me if they could bring their four horses here.  Sure no problem, that’s what I do for a living, or something like that.  I told them that the horses would probably be happier to stay at their home farm and I would go there to care for them, but they felt better if they came here.  Well that would be more convenient for me, so I agreed.

Let the games begin.  They were going to Pennsylvania from Florida, no big deal, they do it all the time.  They were taking their four horse trailer loaded with watermelons.  Okay.  BUT!!!  They had two blow-outs and had problems with the transmission.  So five to seven days turned into two weeks.  They brought extra grain, and I didn’t have any plans so everything worked out just fine.  Of course I fell in love with their horses and didn’t want them to leave, ever.  Well maybe the Alfa mare.

But if you go to do this make sure that you have all the information you need.

  • Names, ages, descriptions of horses  (These were paints, a lot of spots.)
  • Allergies, likes/dislikes, health issues  (Yes, which ones)
  • Do they tie/cross tie, load easy, clip (One escape artist)
  • Special problems or medications (Yes, who?)
  • What they eat and how much (Different than what I serve)
  • Who is in charge of the herd, what is the pecking order (Very important when you are trying to catch and move the herd in a lightning storm)
  • Are they up to date on their shots, Coggins, worming. (Why do you ask?)
  • Who to call in an emergency, if you can’t reach them? (Or get permission to make a decision)
  • Who is their vet?  (In case you need history)

You may think I don’t need all this information, they’re only here for five days.  Or I know these horses, I don’t need to know this.  What if, the people were to be severely injured or killed.  You may have these horses longer than two weeks.  It’s a horrible thought, but it can, and does happen.

What happens if the horse is really sick or injured?  Are they going to load in your type of trailer, for you?

We always hope that nothing will go wrong, and the owners will come back in time, but always be prepared, just in case.  You can always forget too much information, but when it’s needed, you’re on top of it.

Be a good Girl Scout, Boy Scout, or Horse Scout, and Be Prepared.

Happy Hot Summer!

Know Your Options

This kind of plays off the last post of Yellow Brick Road.

People who trail ride often are pretty aware of their surroundings, footing, and horses sense and sensibility.

For some this will enlighten them, for some this will call to mind things they do, and don’t even think about, or perhaps they do.

When I saw my friend approach the vine I went to yell out Stop!, but I was too late.  She let the horse (who has never been a hunt horse) walk right into the vine and got it caught between her front legs, placing it up against the horses neck.  It was a teaching moment, but with all that was going on I didn’t stop to explain what she did wrong.  We also didn’t discuss it when we got back to the barn.  There were horses to take care of and nerves that needed calming before instruction could reach the brain and be retained.

So two days later, when we knew that everyone was alright, we discussed what could have been done differently.  I asked her if she noticed that whenever I came to an overgrown area I stopped.  I would say to Zoey, okay let’s think about this.  I would find the best way to travers the area and then proceed.  Zoey is used to us doing this, because we were always going through some tough territory when we Fox Hunted.  She just stands and waits until I give her the okay and then she proceeds with caution, but no hesitation.  She trusts me.  What a wonderful thing.  My friend said she had noticed, but didn’t think a whole lot about it.  She will now.

I explained that when you get to thick brush, vines, holes, or other foreign objects, it’s best to just stop and reason the safest way through.  Never go towards the hanging part of the vine,  look for where it is either attached to the ground or laying on the ground.  There is always the chance that the horse will kick it up with its hoof, but usually they will just step over it.  Some vines will break with the push of the horses strength, but the Tarzan type will just pull you off.

Now holes can be a different story, especially here in Florida.  We have Turtle holes that have tunnels.  They do not leave a big pile of dirt like the ground hogs up north, so you really don’t see them coming up as you approach with any speed.  Now when you’re galloping and you come upon one, it’s a good idea to see which way the front door is facing, because if you step on the wrong side you may collapse the tunnel and break your horses leg.  Desert and I missed the hole, but he stepped in the tunnel and we flipped.  No one was hurt, but it was scary and we learned which side of the hole to go on next time.

Thick brush can be a problem, because you don’t always know what’s underneath.  There may be buried wire fencing that will entangle you, or a downed tree to fall over.  Or possibly a hole.  Or something sleeping there hiding from the noon day sun.  It’s quite a surprise when a turkey flies up or hog runs out in front of you.  Or for that matter, a cow that was sleeping and you suddenly appeared.  When they jump up from hiding, I guarantee your horse will notice and respond.

Make sure the person and the horse in the lead always has a good brain.  If the leader spooks or gets caught, the other horses will react, so will the people.

Being a trail blazer is fun and challenging, but it can also be dangerous.  Be alert, cautious, and also be prepared for the worse.  If it doesn’t happen, great! it was a successful day of fun and adventure.  But if it does, you were a good leader and you won’t be taking a trip to the ER.

Happy Trails!

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

Dorothy was told to follow the Yellow Brick Road, but do our horses know about that?

We went trail riding last Saturday and that question came up very quickly when my friend, and my horse that she was leasing, parted company after getting tangled up in a vine. (To be discussed in another post.)  She, in slow motion, hit the ground and the mare decided that the boogeyman who grabbed her was not done with her yet, and that she should “get out of dodge.”  For those of you who were born after the age of Westerns on TV, it meant it was a good idea to get out of town before the bullets started flying.  Well I wasn’t sure she knew her way home so Zoey and I stood there calling her, waiting for her to turn around and come back to us.  Zoey and Friday are usually inseparable.  Well according to Friday,  the boogeyman can have you both for dinner, I’m not getting involved.

Well at that point all these things come flooding through your mind.  Has she been out here enough times to know where the turn is for home, or is she going to run straight to the main road?  We were about three miles from home and there was only a small path that would lead her to where she needed to go.  Then there were gaps in fence lines that she needed to find also.  Would she find those paths?  What vines, stickers, and other trappy situations would she get herself involved in.  She was running way too fast to really consider her footing.  So we started the long walk home, praying that she would be safe.

Once we got to the first narrow path turn, we started playing the old Western tracking practices.  She’s barefoot, but has a good size hoof.  There were tracks, now, which way were they going.  Yes we saw our hoof prints coming out, and we thought we saw some going back.  She must have slowed down because they weren’t deep cut.  Now a stretch of lime rock road with grass on both sides.  Couldn’t tell anything because she’d stay on the grass being barefoot.  There were two choices of roads to choose from.  I sent my friend up one and I went to the furthest one, the same one that we came down. The next narrow path through the fence came up, too turned up to tell.  Since I was on my horse I could cover more ground quickly.  So I cantered over the grassy stretch of the private road until I came to the hill where it turned to sand, and that’s where I found my answers.  Yup she came this way, and according to the depth of the hoof prints, she was flying.  She had found the turns and her way home.  Yay!!!

She was waiting in the shade by the gate at home and gave us look like “What took you so long?”  The bridle was broke, but other than a tiny scratch, she looked fine.  Off to find my girlfriend.

Do you know if your horse can find the Yellow Brick Road home or back to your trailer?  I’ve seen many people looking for their horses in the parks and forests in the area.  Once again I advocate leather instead of nylon.  Leather will break.  Many horses who were lost were found with their nylon reins caught on trees, wire fences, and such.  If they weren’t found, how long could they have stayed there, trapped.

It’s the flight instinct that makes them run.  Some will come back to the group, but some will keep running in fear.  Do you know what your horse will do?  Next time you go out, give your horse his head on the way home and see if he/she really knows where home is.  It may surprise you, but it’s a good thing to know in case the question ever comes up.

They are amazing creatures, but just like people, some have a better sense of direction than others.  My husband on the other hand…. we won’t go there.