Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Who's to say?

** I would like to preface this post with a short note that I was reluctant to publish this post, due to the fact that one of my friends at the barn recently lost her young, 4 year old filly to colic. She was using quality feed and seemed to be doing everything right and then this happened. Everyone at the barn is deeply saddened and many of us are still shaking our heads in complete disbelief over her loss. **

What do you feed?  This is a fairly common question in the industry. We all have our own ideas of what works and what don't and sometimes we are limited by either our budget, what's available in our area or a combination of both. At the end of the day, we will all agree that we want what's best for our hose(s) at a reasonable cost.

There was a woman at the barn that when she first came in, was getting her coastal hay from a guy for a decent price that included delivery and stacking. Sadly though, the quality of the hay was quite lacking. To make up for it, she was feeding supplements. A Lot of supplements, from weight builders, corn oil, hoof supplements, electrolytes and a combination of powders, pellets and liquids.

There was a grain that was sworn to be 'a great value' at $20 for 100# and yes that is a pound sign not a hash tag. While I have seen the "Value Feed", I really haven't gotten a good look at the tag on it to see what it's made up of. It has a lot of corn, whole oats and molasses in it, but I honestly couldn't tell you what else.

In comparison, I am feeding my two a senior feed in addition to their alfalfa pellets. The senior feed is $10.70 a bag for 50#. So while there's really not much difference in price, there is a rather large gap in the quality. The senior feed is a more complete feed and was designed to give the older horse all the nutrients they require to keep them healthy. In the event your horse can no longer chew their hay or regular feed, you can still give them the senior feed so they get everything they need.  

Since being on Senior feed, my horses coats have gotten super soft and they are beyond shiny. Katman has dapples galore, as does my tb mare and although she may lose her mind and drop weight over who knows what, it has helped keep her weight a bit more manageable. She might walk away from her alfalfa pellets and leave them for later, but she will snarf down every bit of her senior feed.

What struck me as funny but also sad at the same time, was the fact that this woman was more than happy to hand out advice to anyone and everyone about what they should be feeding their horses. All fine and good, but what everyone chose to ignore was the fact that in less than a year, all but one of her horses had coliced- some more than once. One of them coliced because a friend had fed for her without giving the horses their concoction of supplements.

The friend of mine who lost her filly, was also feeding alfalfa pellets, senior feed and a slow feed net full of coastal hay. Her filly had really blossomed in the time she had her, going from not much to look at, to something quite special that turned heads. Her filly was shiny to the point of having dapples, silky soft coat like my mare, nicely filled out and muscled up with great feet that were easy to trim but tough enough to go without needing shoes. She looked great and didn't need all the supplements to get there. Nobody really knows what caused her to colic.  RIP little girl.

So who's to say which feeding program is the better one? I'll just stick to feeding mine the alfalfa pellets they're used to, the senior feed they snarf down like crazy and hay nets stuffed with coastal grass. It's been working for them this long, why change now?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018


Long ago and far away, I developed this crazy idea.....  that my hands needed to be on or really close to the withers at all times. I'm not sure where or when this started or really the reason why. It might have been from showing and always seeing riders with their hands close to the withers and somehow thinking that this is where mine belonged too.

Then someone had gotten video of me riding the WB mare Aruba and I sent a link to a friend of mine, asking her to watch it and tell me what I need to fix to improve. One of the things she told me was that I needed to widen my hands and give the horse some room to work. I tried it the next time I rode and wouldn't you know? My mare worked about 1,000% better. It took me a while to make this the new "normal" and some days, it's still a work in progress.

So imagine having someone else now telling me, that I need to ride with my hands close to the neck/withers. All I could think was- "Do you know how long it took me to break that damned habit?"  Yeah. That's where I'm at. So what would you do?

Now both of these people giving me advice, definitely have their 'creds'. Person A has shown at upper level shows, both nationally and internationally and Person B has judged a lot at upper level shows like Regionals & World for breed shows. They both know a lot of big names in their resective sport- B is more western, A has done both but is more English discipline focused now.

As for my hands, I have finally found that the 'Sweet Spot' is for them to be as wide as my feet. That way the horse has the area the width of their body, to move between them. What I was being told was- whatever the width of your hands, that's how wide the lateral movement of the horses head will be. If they are close to the neck/withers, the horse can only turn their head that much back and forth, but if your hands are wide apart, they have more 'wiggle room' and it's easier to evade the bit and avoid or refuse obstacles.

My thoughts on that are that if the horse is not sure of something and is not confident enough in you or themselves, they don't give a shit where your hands are at- they are Not going over or thru what's in front of them. More realistically, the horse probably doesn't care if we stay on them and some of them might prefer we come off so we can't 'push them' anymore to tackle the obstacle.

So has anyone else been in this position before or am I the only one?

Saturday, June 30, 2018

I Guarantee it!

Lately I have been meeting some really interesting people in life. Not so much that they're interesting in a good way, like they do things I'm genuinely curious about or interested in, but interesting in a sense that just when you think you've heard it all....  Which of course always makes for good blog fodder, so that's a plus. Lol

There was a couple at the barn who bouht a 3 year old stud colt. The horse was cute enough, but the back story didn't make much sense. Also the fact that these people are newbies to the horse world, means they were and are prime targets to be taken advantage of, which we all know happens far too much.

Speaking to them one night about their horse, (which they did geld upon getting him home so Kudos for that!) I was given the hostory on the horse. He was saved from the kill pen. Okay I get it, he was a rescue. But obviously the auction house doesn't care who buys the horses they run thru, just that they are paid for, preferably before the end of the night. But that's when the details went a bit sideways. They traveled almost to San Antonio (about 3 hours away) to pick up the horse. They chased him around for nearly 3-4 hours because he was turned out on 160 acres. Whaaaaat????  Personally I have never heard of a kill pen facility that turns horses out on that much acreage.

Then there was the matter of having the horse trained. They had one of the guys at the barn saddle the gelding up one night and he really went to bucking as he ran around the round pen.  I don't know if anyone got on him afterwards, but if they did, it was most likely they ran the hell out of him and wore him out before they got on. Then the guy said he had found a trainer up near Bryan, Texas that charged $XXX the first month, then a bit less the next month and a bit less from there on out, but after 3 months or so, he would have the horse not only doing the barrel pattern, but also kid safe- gauranteed!

I'm not sure how he took it when I said, "People like that scare me. There are NO guarantees in training horses. They each learn at their own pace and just because You want to do something with them, barrels, jumping, dressage, cutting.... doesn't mean the Horse wants to do that too. The only one thing that I can say IS guaranteed- You Will spend a lot of money."

They have since changed barns, so I don't know what happened with the horse or if they will send him off to the trainer with the guarantee or not. I can only imagine the first month costs the most since the horse would need work to get him into condition for riding besides correcting a few other issues he has. I wish them luck with the horse.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Do we laugh or cry?

Over all the years I have been with horses, I have to say that while the animals themselves do things that amaze me, it's the people around them that don't often thrill me. Some of them scare me, some puzzle me, I find myself shocked, amazed, appalled, disappointed, disgusted and sometimes I just shake my head because there are no words.

The other night I was on CL and found an ad for horse training. The photos showed a horse in work and all looked well enough that I clicked on it. What I found in the ad, well I'm not even sure what the hell it means.

The person claims to train "using mainly negative reinforcement." Then goes on to say they also use positive reinforcement, but also positive punishment and negative punishment.

Is that confusing enough? What the merry fluck? I can't imagine how the horses learn anything. Positive punishment? Is that when the horse is positively going to be punished?

Most people use positive reinforcement or rewarding good behaviour. When the horse does what we wanted them to- we praise them, pat them, tell them how good they are and let them know that This is what we wanted. This is how they learn what to do to please us.

Trying to figure out what the ad poster meant by negative reinforcement and negative punishement, I can only imagine the ways they make the horses life unpleasant for the moment. In doing this, do they feel proud of themselves? 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

How I got here...

In the last post I mentioned that I have been riding a filly at the barn. She's a cute little now 4 y/o, red pinto with 4 stockings and minimal white markings otherwise. She's a flashy little thing for what she is, but some of you may be wondering how this came to be? And that's a good question.

One of the girls at the barn had a cute little palomino filly. Classy was about 14.3 and pretty green, so her owner was going to train her and eventually run barrels on her. At some point the filly scared the girl and that was that. I think what it was, was letting her boyfriend ride Classy and he got into her a lope and the filly bucked.

One time while she was riding Classy and having issues, I asked for her phone.  I had her put it on video so I could give her a clear idea of what was going on and why things were going wrong. She was hanging onto the reins almost like her life depended on it. There was no release and very little give to her hands. Although she felt like her hands were soft and following, they weren't. I had told her several times before to drop her hands, let her go, give her some release.... to no avail. When I had it on video to show her, there was no denying it.

She tried to self correct. She tried to let go of the reins and trust her horse, but the damage had been done. Classy had never made a bad move with her, but after seeing her buck with her boyfriend, she knew Classy was capable of doing it at any time. Just the idea of her horse going all NFR on her had her unsettled. She was beat before she got started.

Classy was up for sale thru no fault of her own and within a short time there was a buyer on the line, cash in hand and ready to close the deal. Problem was, he wanted to see her work under saddle. Who wouldn't? Her owner admitted she was scared to get on her.

I had gotten to the barn that night as she had saddled Classy and had her working in the round pen. "Hey Linda, ya wanna jump on her for me?" Well sure. I had her walking and trotting both directions on a fairly loose rein, and stopping with a shift of weight and a calm, soothing "whoa". As I got on Classy, there was a number of people that started coming to the round pen and gathering on the rail to watch.

The buyer asked if I could get her to back up and when I first tried to, she was a bit resistant. I worked Classy a little more as her owner and the buyer talked and soon I asked for he back again and got it. Classy dropped her head and stepped back as I moved each rein and signaled with my legs. I asked if he wanted to see her lope, but he had already made his decision. Horse was sold and her owner could move on to another horse.

There have been a number of horses come and go since Classy, but this one, she decided to let me start and work on. Funny thing is, I have asked her to get on this filly several different times and she has yet to do it. This filly has never made a bad step, and yet she won't get on her.

I told her the other day that one of these days she's going to get on this filly and that will be it. I won't be able to get her Off and she'll be hounding the Hell out of me to ride her again....

Monday, May 21, 2018

Good Reads

Since I've been riding a filly at the barn and she would make a really nice looking Hackamore horse, I felt the need to read up on the subject. I put together a hackamore for her, piece by piece for a total of around $50. Much less than buying one all put together. Lol

Using the hackamore, I felt it could use a fiadore to help balance the bosal, so I went in search of one and found a book instead on eBay.

My book was $18 and change and going back to get the picture and a link, I see they're up to $19 and change. Still not a bad deal. Reading into this, I soon learned I don't actually need a fiador. It is used sometimes but not when training. The fiador is actually only there to keep the hackamore on the horse when it is being led or tied. Okay? So scratch that idea....The book is co-authored by Al Dunning and while my ex liked to talk smack about him, by not having any personal dealings with Mr. Dunning, I reserved judgement. In reading this book and seeing the proof in the photos, it sounds just like my ex- a case of jealousy and blaming others even though he very well could've done a lot more with his life. Remember people- Talking smack doesn't bring them Down to your level, just like it doesn't Elevate you to theirs either. Apparently there was a lot I needed to learn about bosals, hackamore horses and the training that goes into them. Also some of the things that were used long ago, while they might be perceived as tacky and unnecessary, they had a place and a purpose for their use. There is a lightness in the bridle that can be reached without even putting a bit in the horses mouth. Achieving this also teaches the horse self carriage, both of which we desire.The hackamores were also used to preserve the softness of the horses mouth as the teeth were erupting, baby teeth were lost and the bite changing. All of that going on in the horses mouth can already leave it sore, besides adding a bit, contact and the various pulling and tugging on it trying to get our point across.So what do I think about the book? I'm glad I bought it. There's definitely a lot in there for me to learn and having it in my collection- I can always go back and read it to refresh my memory and change what I'm doing to Fix things, making it better for the horse. Blessed are the horses whose rider is always willing to learn and improve.

Sunday, May 6, 2018


This post has been kicking around in my head for a while and sitting here in the drafts. There have been things happening that have made me think about it and how it pertains to training and riding in general.

Horses are reactive animals, meaning they simply react. They don't think about things and plot out a way to respond, they just react.  Sometimes they resist and sometimes they give us exactly what we ask for, but it's the simple truth of every action warrants a reaction.

There are a million and one little things we can do in the saddle that changes the way of going in our horse and those little things may be what wins us a class. When we put a leg on their side, they either bend a little more, move over a little, reach up under themselves more or maybe change gaits, depending on how the cue is applied, the timing of it and what other cues are given with it. When we sit up a little straighter improving our own posture, it changes the way the horse moves as they shift their own bodies to change the way they balance us on their back. Even the little things like looking where you want the horse to go makes a difference.

Bringing your shoulder back can stop us twisting our upper body and straighten the horses line of travel. If your lower leg seems to be loose or out of position, standing up in your stirrups and sinking into your heel can help put it back where it belongs. Bringing your inside leg back slightly can shift the rear end over, again helping to straighten the horses line of travel.

If the horse is fresh and we come down a little hard on them, they may react a bit explosively. Our intensity in using the cues is comprable the amount of reaction we get from the horse. If we are light and subtle in asking, the horse should ease into the movement we asked for. If we kick them hard and spur them forward, they will likely take off faster than hoped for or maybe even buck.

One of the boarders at the barn, seems to yell at his horse contantly. Combine that with him giving the horse a lot of cues at once- all mixed messages of course- and it's not often they get anything accomplished, let alone done well. The horse I have learned, is pretty well trained so it's clear where the issues lie. This is the same guy that seems to be trying to impress everyone. He's making an impression all right....