Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Blanket Care

Back a post or two ago, NCCatnip asked about blanket care and storage. I have to say that is a Great topic to cover! We buy them to keep the horses warm, but what do we do to take care of them? Taking care of your horses blanket keeps you from having to buy a new one every year. Considering the prices some are commanding- that can get pretty expensive.

As far as washing them goes, I know plenty of people who used to go to the local laundromat and hog the huge machines in the back. Packing the blankets in garbage bags to hide what they are, enter through the back door- hoping not to be noticed and sorta went under cover to have a clean horse blanket.

One farm I was at had a washer and dryer set up in a spare tack room. This was for blankets, polo's, English pads, coolers, shipping boots, wraps of all kinds, sheets and even the heavy stable blankets as needed. It was a Heavy Duty machine and it certainly did the trick! Anything that fit, in it went.

One thing I have found, is that Craigslist is a great place to find washers and dryers. Washers being more useful than the dryers, often cheap- $50-$100 for one that works, sometimes even freebies can be found. People are always moving and dumping appliances or selling the old ones when they buy new ones. Finding one for a price you are willing to pay and you are on your way to not worrying about sending the blankets out again.

Once you find your washer and bring it home, you will need a place to put it. Somewhere within a reasonable distance to power and water, drainage being another consideration. In the garden area of the local hardware store and you will find a Y shaped fitting for around $10. Ace Hardware has them online in a few different styles and you can have one shipped right to your door. Connect the garden hose to the Y, both of the washer hoses to the Y and your set up is almost complete.

For another $30, a swimming pool hose can be purchased for attaching the drain hose to. Slip the drain hose inside and clamp them together. Be sure to keep the hose going up as if it were going into the drain in your laundry room. Otherwise it will let all of the water out during the wash or soak part of the cycle. If you are using Eco friendly soap, you can then run the pool hose out to nearby plants and water the landscaping while getting clean horse blankets and pads... Yay! You are now multitasking at it's best!

When you plug the machine in, be sure the power cord has what is called a 'drip loop'. Basically it is a part of the cord being lower than the plug. If the water lines spring a leak and the cord gets wet, the water will run down the cord and drip off instead of going into the outlet. This can prevent a hellacious shock as well as electrocution or at the very least blown circuit breakers and tripped GFI outlets.

If this is just not an option where you are, I have found throwing the blankets over a hitching rail or fence and spraying them with the hose and a nozzle can work just as well. Wetting both sides evenly keeps the blanket from slipping off while you are working on it. When the top is clean, grab the wither area and pull straight back along the fence line to 'flip' it over.

It takes a bit more effort on your part, but the what about horses has ever been known to be easy? If the dirt or manure is a bit stubborn, get out your body brushes squirt some shampoo on it and get to work scrubbing. After rinsing it all clean and making sure the soap has been removed- you can leave it on the fence to dry, If you are in a warm enough climate to do so.

In the spring this may not be so much of a problem, but if you need the blanket that night you can wring as much water out as you can by rolling, twisting and squeezing it as best you can. I try to lay it over the fence, lining side out and front on one side of the fence, back on the other. This way the water runs down and if anything is left wet- it's the very front and back edges of the blanket.

Once the blanket is clean, if you wish to store it for the summer, I have found that the plastic bags your own bedding comes in- comforters for larger blankets- works really well. I can usually fold a few blankets and fit them nicely inside for storage.

This is actually two blankets and there is still plenty of room for a couple more. The black one is the blanket in need of repairs as can be seen by the piece of the lining hanging out there. I have pictures of this process and I will be featuring it soon for those who are willing to give it a shot. The green one is a yearling size Weatherbeeta turnout sheet.

I lay them out on their side fold the straps all up inside. Fold the front third of the blanket towards the back. It should reach to about the flank area. Fold the back third into the middle- back of the blanket reaching the girth area. Now fold the top down, folding it all in half and put it into the bag. Zip it shut and it's ready to be stored wherever it will be handy but out of the way until it is needed again.

You may choose to put a cedar block inside the bag, scented air freshener packets or even mothballs, but as long as you put the bags where there is no bug problems, it should be ready for use when you pull it out of the bag in the spring.

Strange how we are discussing putting the blankets away, when we are more likely to be pulling them out for use. Maybe a recap in the spring? It could happen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The truly blessed

Just wishing everyone a Merry Christmas!

I hope we each find special gifts awaiting us under the Christmas tree.

For those who receive the gift of animals, remember this, they are the lucky ones. You may get a new horse or pet, but they get a family. For that they are blessed. Cherish each day you have with them, as you never know how many lay before you.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Blankets 101

Okay, so a few things happened over the weekend that kept me from getting some things accomplished. One of them being getting pictures of our horses and the blanketing process... But I did manage to get a couple of other projects going instead, so I found some sense of a level of accomplishment.

In light of the fact that many have stated they do not normally blanket, there is still the need to look at blankets in general, as some people do not know much about them other than the go on the horse to help keep them warm. We may not blanket regularly- meaning every horse, every year, but having blankets on hand when needed is a comforting thought considering the opposite- scrambling to find one that fits in an emergency.

What I find in many situations is people buying a blanket and not knowing what they are looking for or at. Buying it, then figuring out it isn't even worth half the money they spent on it. Nothing sends people over the edge faster, than paying for something that just doesn't work.

Just like with horses, the type of blanket you are buying depends on what you are using it for. If the horse is going to be kept in a stall, inside a barn, then it may not necessarily need to be waterproof. If you are planning to turn the horse out while wearing their blanket and you live anywhere on planet earth where rains or snows- waterproof qualities are pretty high on your list of requirements.

A lot of blankets now use Denier to relay the information of the outer lay of material known as the shell. But what does Denier mean? What are those numbers anyways? From the words of wise geek-

"Denier is a measurement that is used to identify the fiber thickness of individual threads or filaments used in the creation of cloth, carpeting drapery material, and similar products. Originally, the concept of denier was applied mainly to natural fibers, such as silk and cotton. Over time, the unit of thickness for synthetic fibers such as rayon and nylon also came to be identified as denier.

Along with being a measure of the thickness of the individual fibers of yarn or thread, denier also acts as a unit of weight. The standard for computing the weight is to weigh nine thousand meters of the material that will be used to create a product. That weight per nine thousand meters is registered in grams. The higher the numbers of grams per nine thousand meters of material, the higher the denier count."

So the short form of this would be- the higher the number (600, 800, 1200...) the more threads or filaments you will find in the designated measurable area of the material. Many times the higher thread count fabrics are stronger, more durable and more weather resistant.

Breathability is another important quality to consider. In speaking with a friend in a colder climate state, they have had horses freeze up, under their blankets because the blanket does not breath, the horse sweats and the sweat turns to ice. Not a good situation for the horse, not good for the owner who thought they were doing the right thing and not good for the blanket company because their customers will soon look for something else.

The amount of fill or insulation in a blanket is another important factor to consider. Warmth trapped in pockets of air between layers can be great insulation. Many of the older style blankets used foam padding as insulation. While it may work in some areas, it doesn't work in all areas. A lot of what is seen in blankets now is a material such as fiberfill or batting, which is commonly used in quilts and other such blankets that you may find on your own bed. Information on horse blankets lists the ounces of insulation material used to describe the thickness and insulating properties. The higher the number, the greater the insulation properties and the more likely the build up of heat if the blanket lacks breathability.

Another consideration is the lining of the blanket. Ripstop nylons and even taffeta are used to prevent hair loss due to rubbing. Some blankets and sheets are lined with fleece and some with a thick wool felt. My issue with fleece is it seems to hold and gather static electricity, in turn zapping either you, your horse or both when it comes time to apply, shift or remove the blanket. There's a real confidence builder for a youngster or an otherwise already skittish horse...

So what the blankets are made up of is pretty important when you are considering spending your hard earned money on one. You want something that will work, that will provide warmth and that will be comfortable for you horse. Fit issues will be the next post. Because it doesn't matter how great the blanket is, the workmanship that goes into it, the materials it is made from or how much it costs if it just doesn't fit right. Just ask you horse.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Different in winter

In the past five months we have sure covered a lot. Found a horse, lost a horse, brought in a new horse, dug up some dirt on a rider and discussed which show records are worthy of bragging rights. We have gotten off track, then back on track but still haven't actually been to the track. Save up your $$$ we will go there, I promise... And trust me those grooms do things to make the horses look great because they hope they will soon be in the winners circle.

I have been thinking of a few things lately to post about. But being as it is going into winter, there are some things that will have to wait. Because things are different in winter for people on different parts of the planet.

A while back another person on fhotd posted asking about things in the southwest. I told her feel free to email, I would be happy to fill her in with whatever info I can. So she did. Asking about the price of hay, the cost of board, the number of covered arenas, distances to shows, if there even are shows(?), trail riding available, average temperatures, etc. She is in Wisconsin and interested in wintering somewhere warmer. Can anyone blame her?

Well the part about the covered arenas made me snicker just a bit. There are a few here, but not for the same reasons as you would find one in her area. Here they block the sun in the summer, there they keep the snow and ice off the ground in winter. Both good reasons to have one, but not something she had considered.

The show seasons- same thing. Here we are in full swing from about September through around April. There- it's picking up around April and shutting down in September. So in some areas you may be dragging out the show clothes while others are putting them away.

Trail riding is going strong here, put on a light jacket and hit the trails. Places where it is snowing and below 0 on the thermometer, the horses are getting time off, their shoes may have already been pulled and they are coasting until things have thawed- including their water tubs!

Pretty much everyone is dragging out their horses blankets though (if they haven't already) and checking for holes, making sure they still fit, letting go of the old ones and shopping for new ones. A blanket is a good thing to always have on hand just in case. Temperatures may plummet suddenly before their coats come in, there may be health issues deterring weight gain and if you are here- your horse had better be body clipped if you plan on hitting the ring.

I will be posting on the art of body clipping, but since none of ours will be showing this year- there is no need to shave them bald and blanket. That one will have to wait until spring.

Even blanketing though, there are considerations as to when and why. Increasing the amount of hay or roughage fed at night helps the horse produce their own heat and maintain a natural warmth. A lot of times if it is raining, just providing a waterproof sheet is enough. As long as they are dry, they can stay warm underneath. Same goes for windy days, a sheet to block the wind may be all it takes.

I will try to get pictures over the weekend of some of our blankets and the blanketing process. Some horses take to putting them on/taking them off, with no problems. Others, just don't even bother. It will kill them and they just know it. Nothing in the world will change their thoughts on the matter and trying to get a blanket on them can be dangerous. Staying safe is more important. That way you will be around to feed them in the morning. Which is more important in their world? Blankets or food. I bet we can come up with pretty close answers there!

Sunday, December 13, 2009


I thought I was the only one who had some sort of mental issues when it comes to other people using my stuff. In speaking to a few people though, I find I'm not alone. Not at all and not even close. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Maybe, but keep your hands off my things.

Here's why.

For me there are a few things that send me over the edge and the inner bitch is set free. Those in her path, are quick to be needing all the help they can get once she is on the loose.

My #1 irritant is halters and leads. Each horse has their own. I buy a new one as needed and expect them to be either on the horses stall gate, or nearby, when I go to get them. You never know when an emergency can pop up and horses need to be moved. It's nice knowing there is a halter and lead rope handy that fits each horse in case they also need to be tied over there and kept out of the way.

Which leads to #2. You don't swap out lead ropes. If your horse breaks his, you borrow mine and break it too- there had better be a new one in it's place the next day. Each of our horses has their own lead rope, so I can move them or tie them if I need to.

#3 would be horses that chew on stuff and the owners or handlers who let them. If you know your horse is mouthy, don't leave stuff within their reach. When you do, you know it will get chewed. In the case of leather- show leads, reins, bridles, harness, etc. your safety and others, depends on the equipment being in good shape and Not breaking or failing. It always does the minute you need it the most. Never fails!

#4 would be borrowing brushes, blankets or fly masks. Especially when you have your own, but maybe the horse pulled their mask in the field and you are just too lazy to look for it. Brushes can transmit skin irritants, fungus's or who knows what, but now my horse has a problem, because you grabbed my brushes and helped pass it all around the barn. Thanks! *grumbles*

#5. Using my stuff and not putting it back. I need to use it, but find myself hunting everything down when I could be riding by now... ARGH! Major time waster and the longer I look, the angrier I get.

#6 supplements for MY horse. I bought it because s/he needs it. Why in the world is the whole barn is getting a handful or a scoop in their feeders. Does your horse need it? If so buy your own. Did you think I wouldn't figure out why a 50 or 80 pound bag only lasts a week, when s/he is supposed to be fed a scoop a day and only at night? And the bale of grass I bought for my pony is not there for free choice feeding to whichever horse happens to colic on the day ending in Y. It never gets replaced... *sigh*

I had one barn owner tell me one day, she would be taking MY trailer to the sale to haul horses home in. Didn't ask me, oh no, she told me. Um, No you're @#%$&+&%^$# NOT!!! I had just bought it for a cheap price, there was a partially rotted floor board and it needed some other minor wiring work. The real kicker in this? She had her own trailer- a 6 horse stock trailer. And I was leaving that afternoon for a vacation! So what do I do? I pulled the floorboard out and took home the license plate. Chocked the tires, locked the hitch and made sure the trailer would not be moved. Period. End of story.

I had a neighbor girl ask to borrow my saddle once. She wanted it to use on her horse who was uncontrollable at times. I didn't know where she lived- just down the street somewhere. She wanted to use it to 'work him lightly in it' and the horse was for sale for less than the saddle is worth. Yeah, let me grab the keys open the tack room and take what you want. I'll get right on that. Sure. So if I had let her use it and the saddle had been damaged- who's paying to replace it?

The underlying issue in all of this though, is... Who gets stuck with footing the bill to replace brushes that walk off, broken or missing lead ropes, chewed up bridles, grain siphoned into the black hole and trailers involved in an accident? ME! Don't these people think that if I could afford to buy a really nice _______ I would? And because I did, does that give them the right to use it at will? NOT A CHANCE. Buy your own. Don't have the money? Maybe you should have thought about that before and saved up.

Just so nobody thinks I am a half crazed loon who counts each bristle in the brush- I have been known to let people use or borrow my stuff. I have brushes and things that may be considered extras and if they walk off- well it's not a big deal. But when they do, when somebody else needs it, I don't have anything to loan them. So instead, I will just send them looking for you.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Weighing in

To feed or not to feed?

That's not the question!

How much?

Now there's the real question...

(Photo credit- Seminole Feed)

So here you have it. A horse is put on the scale, much like a Weight Watchers meeting. The numbers come up on the wall. The horse hangs his head in shame. He gained a few pounds because he ate the amount of feed in his feeder, as provided by the barn help.

Next horse steps onto the scale. She has lost a few pounds. It took friends. Her ribs show and her frame is thin. Worming schedule is up to date, teeth are fine, things seem to be in order. Yet the numbers keep declining...

Next horse steps on the scale. The numbers come up, this horse has remained at the same weight for weeks. Everything must be on track. Life is good, the horse looks fine. No worries for the owner there. Whew!

But what's going on? What is so different? Why is one horse gaining, one losing and another maintaining their weight? They are all eating the same hay...

Anyone consider their size as a factor? The scheduled workload a horse has ahead of them? Where they came from? Age? Health conditions?

Every barn I have been in, measures their feed in some way. Some weigh the hay, some measure pellets by the bucket or 3lb coffee can, grain and bran are measured accordingly- 1 lb coffee cans work well, plastic or metal feed scoops, and now with the invention of SmartPak Equine, supplements are premeasured before they are even shipped.

Some folks still 'eyeball it' and feel for the weight of a flake of hay before putting it in front of the horse. Different bales and different hay, means different amounts when feeding the same horse. Time of the year of the cutting makes a difference too, in what you get.

When talking about alfalfa- it can be a heavy bale, thick flakes and high quality. May cost you a bit more per bale, but you will find you feed less and the horses are just fine. There are also bales which are light, full of stems, loaded with shake or leaves and you end up feeding the horse over half a bale just to make up for it's poor quality. You may have saved on the cost per bale, but when you figure how many bales you go through- it ends up costing you more.

Bermuda grass hay that we have here in the desert, can also come in heavy bales, breaks off in a nice flake, decent enough moisture content and high quality. Or it is dry, light weight bales, cut the string and *POOF* it goes everywhere! Add in a windy day and it really is everywhere.

It has been mentioned recently, that one barn is weighing their horses, under the 'advice' of the trainer. As a baseline for medications or worming, or for later use if suddenly the horse drops weight and begins to suffer health issues, that is understandable. But when you are basing your day to day feeding allowances off of the numbers on the wall, you may have to consider the knowledge of the person calling for this. Can you not look at a horse and tell by what you see- this horse needs more food or that one needs a little less?

I have also been in a couple of barns where a baseline was established for 'maintenance only' horses. They received a set amount of feed, no matter their size, weight or other considerable factors. Two things fall under this category. These were either 'board only' horses in a training barn or horses whose owners were behind on their payments. I have seen horses lose weight on these terms of how much to feed.

Another local farm feeds hay cubes out of a wheelbarrow using a scoop shovel. Several if not all of the horses there were overweight. The ones I seen had fat globules on certain spots of their body- near the withers, the dock of their tail, shoulder area and cresty necks. Issues in the making...

Another barn I was at, (actually a couple fall under this one) the owner flipped out if you fed more than 2 or 3 bales per feeding. There were around 60 head on the property at the time. Um, helloooo! The pony doesn't eat much and whatever he doesn't eat- the warmblood moose will. Psssst, SHE NEEDS IT TOO! It all balances out. But she didn't see it that way. Instead it was all based on numbers. The number of horses, the number of bales and the price per each. There was little to no getting through to her. Even when stating the case- the boarders are PAYING FOR IT! Any wonder why I didn't stick around?

Another barn switched the hay being fed to my horse. He didn't like it or eat it and instead chose to decorate his stall with it, sleep and poop on it. How to handle it? They approached me and told me he needed to be put on grain. Which cost $10-$20 extra per month, of course... How did ever you guess?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Going to look

Some of us have had the fun of going to look at horses with clients. Sometimes we go by ourselves to see the horse, sometimes the clients come along. Either way, there are always things that some of us may not pay any attention to and other things that make us want to just keep on driving, not even slowing down to check the address.

For the people just getting into horses, what do they need to look for? What do they need to learn to look past? They navigate the same obstacles when horse shopping as the rest of us may find, but they are more often in the position of falling into the 'traps of deception' some of us have learned to avoid.

Many of these same things apply when looking into boarding facilities. The first thing you should look for and at is all of the horses on the property. Are they all up to weight? Are their feet in good shape? Do they look happy?

When going to a persons house to look at a horse, it is a little different than going to a boarding facility, professional or training barn. At the barns and boarding facility, the horses are generally owned by others. Their owners are paying for their care- quality feed and a clean stall are usually the bare minimums. If the horses are in training they are there to be worked and should be in good shape reflecting this. If the horse owner is keeping them at their home- they are ultimately responsible for the care and condition of all of the horses kept there.

One or two thin horses among a herd of 10 or more, may just mean those horses have weight issues, teeth issues, worms or may be new to the facility. If they are all thin and showing signs of needing better nutrition, take that as a warning sign. Same goes for a farm full of overweight horses. Check into how the facility addresses their feeding program. (Crazy 3 Dayer recently asked about a facility where one person is weighing the horses. This brings up another issue I will address in it's own post. There will be plenty of room for discussion there.)

If the horses all have nice looking, trimmed or shod hooves- their owner has made the appropriate calls, scheduled and paid for the farrier work and is seeing to it the horses feet are taken care of. Again, if you see one or two who don't fit in? They may either be new on the property or there for work with hoof handling issues.

A happy horse is easy to spot, just like an aggressive horse will grab your attention. If they come to the fence, gate or front of the stall to say "Hi!", ears up, inquisitive eyes and hoping you have a treat or a friendly pat- good sign. If all of them stand as far from humans as possible, back turned and a defeated "air" about them, there's a reason for that. But if they charge the fence gate or front of the stall, ears pinned, teeth bared and ready to eat you alive... I wouldn't waste anymore time there. One or two aggressive horses? At a training barn, depending on the trainer, they may be there for that reason. A barn full of horses like that? Something is causing those issues. Probably not something you wish to know about or be associated with.

If you make it to the point of handling the horse, were they easy to catch or did someone have to chase them down? Already caught and tied up when you arrived? The seller may not have wanted you to see how bad it can be. Some horses haven't been handled much or they can be a little leery of new people. If you seem to get along well enough over the pasture fence or stall door, maybe the the seller will let you go in to catch them, letting you both get to know each other.

If the horse is being purchased for riding or driving, make sure you see someone ride or drive the horse. Preferably the seller, their trainer or someone associated with the owner. There are horses out there who may be angels when you are on the ground, but climb on their back and Heaven help you because you are going to need it! Some horses can be ground driven, but not put to a cart. If you are looking at one of these horses, use your head and have some consideration when asking your trainer to handle or get on them.

If your trainer says "Forget it!", take them at their word and call it good. If they get hurt, they lose money- not only on medical bills, but income, since they won't be able to ride anything until they have healed. You most likely aren't paying the trainer until you buy a horse anyways, so don't ask them to do something dangerous for free, just to suit you. That is a quick way to get kicked out before you even get started.

If you wish to compete on the horse- watch them in action. Watch a lesson or go to see them at a competition. Just because Ole Rowdy comes from a long line of great cattle horses, doesn't mean he likes cows. Some barrel racing horses get worked up at the gate and ropers may not like being backed against the rails in the box. It won't be any fun if you buy a horse hoping to compete in the upcoming season, only to find out it is going to take at least one or two show seasons to get them straightened out enough to make them at the very least, only marginally competitive. Some horses are great at home, but take them anywhere else and they just lose it. These are things you will want to know before you decide to buy.

The bottom line about horse shopping is, when you are looking at a prospective new horse, there are honest folks on every level, just like there are those only out to separate you from your money. Once this is accomplished, they could care less about you or the horse. Lessons? Further training? Not going to see either one and if you do, it is going to cost you. But if they have already brushed you off, why would you want their help with anything else?

The horse can be in a high dollar barn, under a big name trainer and still have issues which can be hidden or disguised to even those of us who have been in the industry for a number of years. Find out as much as you can, take a day or so to think about it and don't let anyone rush or push you into making a decision you are not comfortable with.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Horse trader or used car salesman?

You found a horse online who looks like a promising prospect. The training level, temperment, breeding and price fall under your criteria. You read and reread the ad and finally decide to call for more information. But what do you ask the seller and how do you know if you will get an honest answer?

Ads usually contain the basics, which can be considered the horses strengths- the horse leads, loads, clips, ties, stands for the farrier and vet. Easy to catch in a stall or turnout, gets along well with others, height, color, breeding and price. So what do you ask the seller about the horse? If the horse has been shown- the seller will more likely include all of this as a way to promote the horse as something great and justify their price.

Some sellers will include information which makes the buyers question the suitability though. One ad I found a short time ago stated the horse "needs a stronger rider". Stronger how? Do I have to really pull on the reins hard to get the horse to stop? Sometimes the strength needed, is in fact, the inner strength of trusting the horse and letting them go. Dropping the reins, closing your eyes sitting still and asking for a stop, instead of yanking and pulling on the horse while screaming repeatedly- HO!

Traders often get a bad rap because they are in it to win it. Flip and ship is the name of their game. A quick turnaround means less spent on feed, farrier and vet work, just get the horse sold and move on to the next one. I know of a few locals who are no more than horse traders. But they do get lucky and find a nice horse here and there. If you know what you are looking for and what you are looking at, you can score a great deal on a nice horse for a low price, simply because the trader doesn't know what they have. In their quick assessment and 'easy flip' they don't often have or take the time to get to know the horse.

A lot of times they pick up horses at the low end auctions. They give the horse a chance to find a new home, make a few hundred dollars and go back for a few more. If a horse is on their lot too long, they may take them back to the auction to dump them off and bring home another in their place. If the horse has serious issues, they go back to the auction the next chance they get.

When looking at ads online- check all adds for this seller. Quite a few of the ad websites offer this feature. I suggest you use it. A couple of horses, may not be so much of a trader. A long list of assorted breeds, temperments, accomplishments and each ad sounds the same? You are likely dealing with a trader. But even some breeders take on a shady character when it comes to selling horses. Some also prey on newby horse owners. They too can take in horses of other breeds as a 'payment' for something else and expect to flip & ship the horse for a profit.

As a buyer, keep in mind that every horse is for sale for a reason. Sometimes the reasons are good ones- job loss, sudden illness, death in the family, expensive car repairs... Sometimes the sellers are just thinning out or culling their herd, trimming the fat, downsizing, cutting costs or even getting out of horses altogether.

While everyone wants to have a nice horse, breeders and trainers fall under a little different category. We want to keep our best horses, but don't want to be known for selling a bunch of horses who are unsound, mindless, hard to handle or downright dangerous to be around. The way to build our reputation is for every buyer to be happy with their horse, feel safe while riding them and understand that they are horses and we cannot control every single thing they do. Some people get it. Others don't and some never will.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

So you decided what you want to do with your horse, chosen a breed, set a budget and started looking... and looking... and looking...

You have learned how to refine your search, and yet the list on the monitor is still long. Now what? You refine it a bit more and try again.

Your criteria may include the breed, the age, the price, discipline and even the color. But within each of these you will still find quite the assortment of horses who vary from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Breeds- Pick a breed. Any breed. You will find horses of just about every shape to choose from. Narrow based - built like a tank, short - tall, long - short coupled, great feet - lousy feet. Sometimes you find a registered horse, big names on the papers, but built like Frankenhorse. Then there are grade horses who are about as perfectly built as it gets.

Age- you will find young horses who are as calm and quiet as the day is long and others in the same age group, who think everything is out to get them. Young horses who act much wiser than their years and older horses who are full of spirit and life.

Price- You can set a limit and yet still find a freebie. We have taken in a few freebies over the years, passed on others and know of three more at the moment. Some of our horses have come with price tags of everywhere from $250 to several thousand dollars. Whatever you feel the horse is worth, are comfortable paying and can afford- Congratulations on your new horse!

When looking through horse ads though, what are the warning signs that stand out to some and get no reaction from others? Seeing these things, what do they tell you? In the lower end of the price range you will be more likely to find horses who fall under the 'rescue' status. They are in rough shape and their eyes just scream "HELP ME!" when you look into them.

One thing that stands out to a lot of people is the hay belly. But then you also notice their ribs are showing. Most likely this is worms. Curable? In a lot of cases, yes. Cost? You can go the route of buying a few tubes at the feed store or online, or you can have the vet out to tube worm them and have an evaluation done on the level of infestation and type of worms you are dealing with.

Once this is dealt with and ruled out, the horse may begin to flourish again and pack the weight on with ease. Or not. Then what? Look at their teeth. Are there hooks, points, ridges or sharp spots, ulcerated areas on the tongue and inside of the mouth? If so, this can be handled by having the horses teeth floated. Some horses need to be sedated for this, while others are fine on their own. Prices vary according to your location and the quality of the person doing the work.

If the horse is thin when you looked at them, ask what they are being fed and how much. Sometimes it is a matter of not enough feed, or the right feed. Is it a mare that has just been weaned? Some mares just can't maintain weight while the foal is at their side, where others have no problem doing so. If kept in a herd situation, are they separated at feeding time? If your horse is the lowest on the pecking order, they will not likely get much to eat and it will show. Throwing and extra flake of hay and spacing them out can help fix this, but may not work in every situation.

The hooves also require a close look. Are they long and overgrown? Does the horse toe in or out? Do the hooves have a nice 'bell' shape to them or are they small and straight? Are they in proportion to the size of the horse they are under? Is the seller making a big deal about the "New Shoes" the horse is wearing? Could be because there was an all out battle to get them nailed on... Can the horse go barefoot or do they require shoes? Can they get by with front shoes only? If you have a horse wearing shoes but standing on hard packed ground, day in, day out and buying the horse means they will be moving to a stall with bedding and well groomed arenas with nice footing- you may be able to remove the shoes without issue. Then again, you may not.

The overall condition of the horse can tell you a few things. If they are thin, have the 'wormy belly' and their feet are long, chipped or haven't been trimmed in how long(?), it should raise a few flags and eyebrows, that the horse has not had routine care. A few dollars for wormer, a few extra dollars per bale for good hay, having their teeth checked and seen to once a year or more as needed- costs you far less to maintain the horse, than it will if you ignore everything and wait for it to all fall apart.

And believe me, when it falls apart, it FALLS APART! No amount of grooming will cover these things up, and sometimes the damages cannot be fixed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Initial assessments

When shopping for a horse, there are a considerable amount of options to be considered. High on the checklist should be- What are you going to DO with the horse? Breed, show, trail ride? If you are interested in showing, are you heading for the jump course, dressage arena, driving course, roping chute, rodeo arena or cattle pens? What level do you intend to go to? How well do you ride? How much do you know and how much do you have to spend?

For each discipline and sport, there are a number of levels of competition. There are a number of schooling shows for beginners, green horses and as a 'brush up' before hitting the circuits and rated shows, practice events before hauling out to the rodeo grounds to strut your stuff and 'fun days' just to hang out, learn and make new friends. For each level of competition, there are horses in all price ranges and often a handful of different breeds. Stock breeds dominate in certain arenas where lighter breeds take over in others. There are also the occasional 'exception to the rules' to be seen.

Once you have decided what you want to do and where you want to compete, have come to grips with your own abilities and checkbook balance- It's time to go shopping for a horse. But where do you start? Are you working with a trainer? Will you be boarding? Is your property safe for a horse? Do you know of a farrier? Feed stores? Veterinarians? If boarding- what is included or handled by the barn staff? Once you have established a comfortable answer to the numerous 'pre-horse' questions, there are a few other things to be considered.

What are you comfortable with, as far as accepting 'issues' with the horse? There just are no perfect horses. Perfect for you and your abilities- yes. There may be a few who fall into that category actually. But just like people, horses come with 'quirks'. Some can only be handled from one side for certain things, fed certain things and not others, nervous in a particular situation, they may have allergies, skin issues and as they age, just like us, there are health problems to be considered.

Depending on the sport and discipline they have been competing in, there may be joint issues, stress points, muscle tension and even lameness to deal with. Sellers can be honest and truthful or slick and slimy in their dealings. How does a person new to the horse world navigate these waters? Carefully. Just like the rest of us!

If you are not familiar with horses and haven't been around them a long enough to develop and eye for some of these issues, the local auction is not the place to go. Your heart will likely run off with a horse who has issues that will bankrupt you. Either by funding the vet's new house or tropical vacation, or sending you to the emergency room for an extended stay. When considering an auction find as a lucky one, they are. There are plenty of them there to be found. But diamonds in the rough are all around us, just waiting to be discovered by the right person and land in the right situation.

Auctions are more or less, buy on the spot, bid what you can afford and choose from what is available that day. Scouring the online ads, you have a bit more time to consider all things about each horse and choose wisely. Horse shopping in general is like everything else- "caveat emptor" or buyer beware. Learning what to look for, keeping an open mind concerning your intended use for the horse and trusting your gut instincts is the start to making an informed decision about the horse you will soon be bringing home.

Like buying anything else, your best option is to make the most well informed decision whether to buy or keep looking.