Monday, September 13, 2010

Phelan Phamily Phun (and other adventures)!

I am really trying hard to get back into the swing of blogging. I've gotten so much feedback from so many people who really love the blog and are sad I'm not very active in posting anymore, to those folks I apologize and believe me when I say I truly appreciate all your kind words from the bottom of my heart.

Last Saturday was the Phelan Phun Day complete with a Patriots Day Parade because it was held this year on September 11th. At the last minute, we in Corral 88 decided to put together a humble little group and ride in the parade along with having the booth we'd been planning. It was a rousing success!! We had three riders (originally our group was six, it was not to be for personal reasons with several of our members) plus a restored antique Farmall tractor pulling a hay wagon filled with more members. In the parade judging we sill won third place in both the equestrian and non-equestrian categories. We are very proud of everyone who made a colossal effort to bring this together. Onward we march to the next parade!!

Check out the ETI Corral 88 website for upcoming events and information on what we're doing and what we've got in the works. There are a ton of fun events coming up ~ if you're in Southern California, stop on by and join us. :)

Back on August 21st I took my own English show mare (who made her parade debut last Saturday and was completely awesome) to a local playday for schooling. We ran in all five events, which were pole bending, single pole, keyhole, cloverleaf barrels and speed barrels. I am SO proud of this mare, she is just amazing. We didn't ribbon, they only placed to third and there were 30+ rides for each class with some real gymkhana horses there, but our times were respectable and I have no doubt we'll clean up when we mosey on out to the regular gymkhana in the Future Champions division.

We've got a bunch of shows coming up and some Competitive Trail Rides, too, plus I'm going to be doing some more judging.

That's all for now, until next time go hug your horses.


Friday, August 6, 2010

Retraining The Charro Horse

This is a topic I did a great deal of thinking about before delving into it for so many reasons. In no way should any inference be taken that we're discussing cultural or heritage issues, this isn't about race, racism or anything of that nature ~ it is only about what it takes to retrain a horse that has been abused through a specific training and handling process that is outside the norm of commonly held theory on training horses within our society. Some facets of society condone this manner of training horses, though in my opinion none should.

While there are major differences of opinion on what constitutes good training, there is no doubt that some methods are indeed abusive. One form of abuse is what I'm addressing here. That said, let's begin.

Living where I do in Southerm California definitely has it's advantages, but there are also drawbacks. Particularly when it comes to buying horses for resale. Looking for bargains frequently means understanding that a horse will almost certainly have issues that will need to be corrected before offering the horse to the public as a reputable broker. A severely traumatized or abused horse simply can't be sold without going through an often lengthy process of gaining the horse's trust and ensuring there are no residual issues left from the initial abusive training.

When a horse is labeled a "charro" horse by knowledgeable horsemen, generally speaking that means the horse has been exposed to harsh living conditions (often small, dark, dirty stalls), long shanked bits with way too much mouthpiece (such as high ported spoon, cathedral or spade bits) used by inexperienced or harsh hands, ill fitting saddles and exposure to large spurs as well as whips that are misused (for punishment and torture as opposed to being a training aid). Add these things together and you've got a horse who has an incredible amount of baggage. Some are actually dangerous, though only insofar as they are frightened of human contact due to the abuse they have suffered in the hands of humans.

For a skilled trainer, these can even be difficult to overcome. Step one is to check teeth and float as needed, then to have a competent farrier evaluate and tend to the hooves. As many of these horses are also on the thin side (not necessarily emaciated, though some are, but most tend to be ribby and in need of groceries), getting the horse on a decent diet is paramount. These steps on top of plenty of TLC (petting, rubbing, scratches in the right places, treats/carrots etc, and a soft, soothing, gentle voice) will encourage a change in the horse's usually standoffish behavior.

With one of these horses, not unlike starting a young horse under saddle for the first time, the first few rides will be in the round pen or an equally small area to allow the horse freedom of movement but give me a greater chance to discourage bad behavior like bolting and running away, bucking or anything equally undesirable. I'll use a smooth snaffle bit of various configurations (French Link/dogbone, oval mouth, Dr Bristol or standard single jointed) depending on the horse's mouth, keeping in mind factors like a low palate, thick tongue or thick lips, and will include a cavesson noseband along with a running martingale as part of the wardrobe.

Fear is generally the biggest issue with a charro horse, because he's likely been horrified about tack and equipment ~ which includes those whips and spurs. He should be motivated by praise and taking little baby steps, just like the green three year old who's just started into training. Understanding that nothing bad is going to happen and that he's not going to be jabbed in the mouth, beaten or spurred relentlessly just for the sport of it only comes after some riding time. We'll work on gentle lateral flexing, stopping easy through seat and weight shifts, lots and lots and LOTS of calm, slow walking. Not until the horse has learned that he can relax and reach downward in a calm, easygoing manner will I even think about asking for a nice jog.

Eventually these horses are comfortable at the jog and even the lope. When you can lope around the arena easily and relaxed, you've got the beginnings of a well rounded and safe(r) horse. Safer than you started with, at least. Sadly, some of their fear issues do return when they are exposed to conditions similar to those they were saved from, or for instance they're ridden in a group of horses for the first few times and make the assumption that they might be scolded when a nearby horse does something naughty. When they have the urge to bolt (one of the most common reactions), if you're outside an enclosed arena a one-handed stop along with plenty of reassurance can nip recurrent issues in the bud.

There's a lot more to say on this subject, but I'm out of time for now. It's likely to be something we revisit in the future ~ especially considering how many charro horses are in need of being rescued and rehabbed right here where I am from. Sad, but true. Until next time........


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Settling Into A Routine!

We are finally moved and getting settled in. Well, we've technically been moved for about a month and a half, but have been swamped with getting new furniture, decorating and getting the horse facility set up. Between all that, working horses between both here and the barn, more training and lesson inquiries as well as getting ready to hit the show ring again soon, there has hardly been time to breathe!!

This week I hope to embark on another update of my website in the late evenings when I have time before falling asleep, and I plan to make time for regular blog posting like last year again. There are so many topics I want to cover, many of them are already started, I'm simply chomping at the bit.

ETI Corral 88 is having our next meeting right here in Pinon Hills, for details if you're local see our website at Two outstanding veterinarians will be discussing hot weather issues with horses, and we will be presenting a mini-clinic on the [un]Extreme Cowboy Course at the ranch. We'd love to have anyone close enough drop on by! There is no cost, just come on down ~ everyone is welcome.

That's all until tomorrow...


Saturday, July 24, 2010

RIP, Beautiful Lady

Yesterday one of my favorite horses on planet Earth was laid to rest. Her devoted owners have spent untold thousands of dollars over the past five years doing everything in their power to avoid the inevitable, making sure she had the best possible life any horse could ask for. This wasn't the return to blogging I had hoped for, and the topic I was working on for today will have to wait.

Rest in peace, lovely girl...

Ravishing Ruby GA
(GA Suede X GA Estrella)
Chestnut Arabian Mare
1994 - 2010


Monday, May 24, 2010

What A Great Weekend!

This past weekend several of us from ETI Corral 88 went to the poker ride hosted by local gymkhana club the Dusty Spurs in Phelan. We had a blast! Even though the weather was not so great, being breezy and a little bit cooler than ideal we just bundled up and enjoyed a nice ride.

My daughter had the 5th best hand out of probably close to 100 hands and won an Outback Steakhouse gift certificate!! Woohoo, we're going to dinner! :) I was on down the list somewhere and brought home a huge jar of Mrs Pastures horse cookies which all the horsey kids here love.

Yesterday the weather deteriorated and it was really cold, so cold that we actually had brief snow flurries here! Can you imagine, late May?! After stacking hay and tending to some basics like cleaning stalls (one of my favorite things, sarcastically speaking of course :P) and scrubbing/re-filling water barrels, it was time for some good old fashioned hot cocoa inside.

This coming weekend is our ETI Corral 88 tack sale in Phelan at White Shadow Ranch (Saturday May 29th) and the following weekend is the fundraiser trail ride in Llano at Bill & Susie Figley's ranch. Check out our website, there are flyers available with all the information you need to know!

That's all for now...busy, busy, busy!!


Sunday, May 16, 2010


This isn't going to be at all horse related, just to let you all know. :)

My daughter turned 18 years old today ~ talk about a milestone!! And here I thought Sweet 16 was something to attain.

She aspires to become a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. This has been a dream of hers for a very long time now, and we are going full bore to make it happen for her. Not sure what a parent can do, other than teach the child right from wrong, good from bad and so on.

Other than that, she is an incredible artist and writer, does amazing website and coding work plus she's an exceptionally talented horsewoman.

Her dad and I could not be more proud of this beautiful young lady. Here's to hoping ALL of her dreams come true.

Happy Birthday sweetheart!! We love you more than anything in this world!!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Good News...And Other Things

Yes, because of my schedule lately I have been lax again about the blog. There's another week or this and then I should have more time...maybe.

First up, we are moving!! The most wonderful thing happened, and we could not be more thrilled. Not moving far away, simply further into lovely Pinon Hills. Nothing could have made us happier! We have been given a golden opportunity of a lifetime.

Then, Ruby's eye treatment: Her ulcer is getting a whole lot smaller, it's a fraction of the size it was and she is really getting around well. With any luck, she will be fully recovered and bred to Magic Aulrab later this Summer.

Next, today several new horses come into training. Business just continues to increase and I'm feeling so blessed.

Also, yesterday the Andalusian/TB filly wore a saddle for the first time. She was a champ!! Then we led her through some of the elements on the Cowboy Course at the ranch and she dealt with it like she was an old hand. What a good girl!

Finally, we are thoroughly busy with ETI Corral 88, the Tri-Community Horsemen. The club continues to welcome new members which is awesome. Our used tack sale will be on Saturday, May 29th and our first trail ride will be on Sunday, June 6th. Flyers for the events are on the Corral 88 website at

Thanks to you all for hanging in there and sticking with reading the blog. We're maintaining our readership numbers even with a lack of posts. Hopefully once we get settled into our beautiful new home I can rest a bit and feel like I can stay awake long enough to give ya'll some great reading material.

Until then...


Monday, May 10, 2010

Just A Little Update...

Hopefully everyone had a really terrific Mother's Day. I certainly did! Doing what I love ~ riding, training, hanging out with good friends and talking horses, then my wonderful husband made me an amazing steak dinner. What a perfect day!

Unfortunately, I missed a blog post for yesterday, and it could be spotty for the next week because of the treatment schedule for little Ravishing Ruby's eye. I'm just almost never around and have zero time in front of the computer. I didn't even have a chance to peek at the computer yesterday morning before heading out to the barn! By the time my day was done, I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to type anything. And so it goes...

Ruby is doing better, the corneal ulcer is getting smaller. I have such a soft spot in my heart for this mare!! She's a trooper for getting poked and prodded, and having so much put into/onto her eye.

We've all been having fantastic rides, getting many of the horses more exposure to cattle and the cowboy course, the barn owner's TB gelding is also getting back to work after recovering from an injury and there is a gorgeous Andalusian/TB cross filly who's getting put to work and will be an incredible Dressage prospect.

Life is good!


Saturday, May 8, 2010

Safety First, ALWAYS Safety First!

As horse owners, riders, handlers and trainers, one of the most basic tenets of good horsemanship is safety. I preach to my students and clients how important it is to pay attention to what the horse is doing, to what is going on around you and your horse, and think ahead. I had a whole blog post I'd wanted to write on safety as it pertains and relates to horses and horsemanship but like every other night so far this week, I am just too exhausted to finish it. That I will get to later on.

Today my husband and his helper, a young man of just 27 years old, were at a jobsite working on installing some flooring. This was to have been just about a wrap on this particular job, when suddenly something went horribly wrong. Brandon, the helper, nearly lost several fingers on his right hand in a freak accident with the table saw. Tonight he is in the hospital where he will hopefully be able to have them reattached surgically.

Things can happen SO fast. Tragedy can occur in a blink of an eye. That goes for just about every aspect of our lives. Please say a prayer tonight for Brandon and keep in him your thoughts.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Extreme What?!

Okay, so I've gotten essentially dragged into this "extreme cowboy" thing. You know what? It's fun. There are several different divisions and both indoor (arena) and outdoor (natural) courses. At the ranch we have the beginnings of an outdoor course and it's shaping up nice. Clinics are in the works and we've got a whole lot planned.

I checked out the association's website and some of the things you have to do in order to compete at the bigger events are pretty damned tough. Not to mention you're timed! Lesser horses are going to have a really hard time keeping it together mentally long enough to complete each obstacle in the quickest way.

Likely I'll either be adding to this post (probably the most likely scenario) or making another one on this subject matter. It's all very interesting and so far what I've begun to do is a blast. Then there's the matter of the Arabian show mare who will likely make her debut soon on the barrel racing, pole bending and other patterns at some of the local gymkhanas. Yes, you read that right. More on that later. ;) Have a great night!!


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Happy, Happy Birthday Baby!!

Today my most beloved Brute Force (Sabio+ by *AN Malik x Southern Chablis by Tarbush [by El Gato]) turned 25 ~ he made it to the quarter century mark. This is his story.

Brutus as he is affectionately known was foaled on May 6, 1985 and the only baby, out of six foals she had for us, I ever got to see his mama actually give birth to. She was a sneaky one! Turn your back and out pops baby. When the little bugger was little, he was a horrid bully to his mama. I was looking for something to call him that sounded fitting for an English horse and one that had an overbearing personality. At first I was thinking of the bully in the Popeye cartoon, but did not want to call my horse "Bluto", so "Brutus" it was. :) Here's a bit of hilarious trivia that I never realized...the Bluto character originally was called Brutus. Wow!!

He made his show ring debut at the tender age of 2 1/2 months, when the Sierra Empire Arabian Horse Association was holding current year foal classes. Of course he had not yet been weaned, so we had to bring mama wasn't pretty. All was fine when we took them on walks the few days we were there before his class, but that morning we had to make a choice whether or not to leave the mare back at our stalls, or bring her to the arena while he was being shown. We opted for leaving her back at the barn, and she screamed bloody murder the whole time. My lovely Brutus and I made a grand entrance at the trot, and all of a sudden he launched into mid-air, leaping like a wild horse before SPLAT landing flat on his side in a muddy arena. Needless to say, though it was a memorable first outing, it wasn't memorable in a good way!

Twice more he was shown at Halter as a youngster, one time as a yearling and again as a two year old colt. During his yearling year we took him to the 1986 Region One Championships as he was an International Arabian Horse Association (IAHA, now AHA) Breeder Sweepstakes Breeding Entry to show him in one of the first Yearling Sweepstakes classes. There were 19 horses in the class, and I was but a young teenage pup back then. I knew his best chance to go Regional Champion or Reserve was to have a big name trainer on the end of the lead, so I reluctantly went in search of someone who wanted to catch-handle him for me. There were more than a half-dozen trainers chomping at the bit, so to speak, to get the chance to show this horse, but all of them wanted me to put front shoes on him. In those days it was still legal to show Arabian babies in shoes. That was something I was going to stick to my guns on and I decided ultimately to bite the bullet and exhibit him myself barefoot. He was named Regional Top Ten with me at the lead, and I have little doubt he would have placed higher had I compromised my beliefs for a ribbon. He was considered one of the favorites! At that show I turned down an offer of $50,000 for's a decision I have never once regretted.

His last show before going under saddle was the Whittier Host Lions Club show in 1987 where I showed him in the two year old colt class. There were nearly 50 entries, and he was pulled into the Top Ten though did not ribbon (they only placed to 6th with a ribbon). Not too shabby! Being a May baby, it was hard to compete anyhow against the January foals who were all far bigger than he, not to mention his mama didn't quite make 14 hands.

My dream for Bru was to have him excel in the ring as a superstar in the "new" Country English Pleasure division, though it was a long haul to get him there. He was started under saddle at 3, after having spent most of his 2nd year in longlines. Being the character that he was, Brutus proved to be a tough cookie to break, but once he decided having his person on his back wasn't a big deal he began to enjoy our rides. Very shortly after I began getting on him, we headed out on the trail. Aside from water crossings and cows, nothing generally phased him. He's a champ these days about water (and he still actively goes down the trail 4-5 times a week), but isn't so sure cattle aren't evil. ;)

In addition to my dreams for my little horse on the show circuit, I fancied keeping him a stallion. One major barrier to that, however, was our band of mares since my family had begun to liquidate bloodstock by that time. We still had his dam and two half sisters ~ with little desire and the lack of major funding to go out and purchase top quality unrelated mares which would cross well and compliment him. Therefore, he was gelded in 1989 at the age of four.

In the meanwhile, I got married in 1991 and had my beloved daughter in 1992. I always knew in my heart that someday Brutus would become my little girl's horse.

It wasn't until he was ten years old that I had an opportunity to debut him under saddle in the show ring. Because I wanted to get a feel for how he would behave and likewise stack up against the competition, we took him to an All Arabian show, but one that was smaller and unrated. Laid back, inexpensive, easy show but that had some nice horses. One of those who was in the same classes as my boy was a Half-Arabian/National Show Horse gelding who later collected a number of National Championships as an English Pleasure and Equitation horse, Holy Spirit+. Brutus had three classes and brought home two blue ribbons and a Championship on May 14, 1995. What an awesome Mothers Day gift!!

For the next several years, he was shown in Country Pleasure, winning more than his fair share of the blues and tri-colors. In 1997 we added English Show Hack to his repertoire, and he won a huge Show Hack class, besting the competition (including a number of Scottsdale and National Champions) at the 1997 Region One Championships. Two days after coming home from Regionals that year I found myself in desperate need of a Hunter Pleasure horse for one of my students. The gelding she had been taking lessons on and interested in was sold to another, and we had a show the following weekend. So, after one day off we embarked on schooling a couple of days as a Hunt seat horse, threw in a few lessons and off we went. There were blue ribbons for an incredibly happy little girl that day, too. A few weeks later at our next rated Arabian show, I put him in the Hunter Pleasure Maiden class, where he ribboned third out of 30+ horses, in addition to his Country and Show Hack commitments. He then was also named 4th in the Hunter Pleasure Championship. My little Country horse! I was so proud of him.

By the Summer of '98 I made a monumental decision to try him Western, just for fun. Because of all the Show Hack training, he was amazing at collected gaits, and it was a breeze to shift him over to a Western curb from the double bridle. In the Fall of that year, he was bringing home massive armfuls of blue ribbons on the local show level in Hunt seat and Western classes competing against the Quarter Horses and Paints. 1999 brought him back to being a Country and Show Hack mount on the Arabian circuit, all the way to Scottsdale.

After that, for a few years he did more trail riding than anything else, and after a few local shows doing the Hunter/Western thing in 2003 my lovely Brutus made a return to the ring in Show Hack during 2004. He was officially retired from being an English horse as of 2005, when he began to carry my daughter Lisa. He was winning classes left and right, and brought home three blue ribbons and the Reserve Championship in Purebred Open Western Pleasure at the Las Vegas Arabian Horse Association show that November. 2006 saw Lisa and Brutus become a beautiful, successful pair in Hunter Pleasure and they won numerous all around High Point awards together. At the 2006 Rancho California Arabian Horse Association Fall show, Brutus was named Reserve Champion Purebred Western Pleasure JTR 17 & Under with Lisa, and Champion Purebred Western Pleasure Open with me in the saddle.

This horse has won in Halter, Showmanship, Country English Pleasure, English Show Hack, Hunter Pleasure, Trail, Hunter Hack, Hunter Over Fences, Hunter Seat Equitation, Western Horsemanship and more. He has competed in Parades all over Southern California and is far and away the best trail horse I have ever ridden.

Brute Force, you are one in a million. No horse could ever compare, or replace you. I love you with all my heart!


Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Something is going on with my blog, the last entry did not show up in its entirety and there is no comment form. I've inquired to Blogger, we'll see what they say and hopefully have this resolved soon.

Edited to add, now it appears that everything is doing what it's supposed to do and behaving the way it's supposed to behave. Yay! Thanks to the Blogger help forum folks.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

All The News That's Fit To Print

Today was a bit of a mixed bag. I had a topic rip roarin' and ready to go, wanted to get it written early to post it this evening and then I get the phone call. One of my longtime clients has a mare with an injured eye. Prognosis is not good, we're bringing her over to the barn so I can treat her 6-10 times a day and we'll re-evaluate at the end of ten days. Keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer for Ruby, would you?

News regarding the local ETI Corral 88 club has been exciting, we have planned a couple of events and after our Board meeting yesterday we finalized details. Our used tack sale is going to be the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, May 29 at White Shadow Ranch in Phelan. Then we're holding a trail ride at the Figley ranch on Sunday June 6 over in Llano. Details should be on our website soon, and fliers will be available. If you're local, come on down and join us.

Plans are in the works for the formation of a professional horsemen's association here in our local area affiliated with the California Professional Horsemen's Association. Very exciting for those of us who are working hard to set ourselves apart and operate to the highest standards of the industry.

That's all for tonight ~ please keep Ruby in your good thoughts.


Monday, May 3, 2010

Barn Raising

What is it you look for in a barn? For me, there are a number of "must have's" that I cannot live without.

Roomy, light stalls with plenty of ventilation is first on my list. 12' x 12' is standard size for a box stall, though I like 16' x 16' or 12' x 24' for foaling stalls.

I want the grilled stall fronts (all across the front) similar to these:

(Photo credit MD Barns)

(Photo credit Barnmaster Barns)

My preference is also to have grilled stall dividers between each stall. As a rule, however, there may be a reason so have some stalls with solid walls, so a mixture is ideal. Then there are sliding back stall doors which open out into paddocks, with grilled windows that can be "closed". Having a well lit barn is another must, I love the "skylight" panels many barn companies offer these days, and I insist on good lighting for both the stalls and the barn aisles.

Safety is of paramount concern, so the barn needs to be well constructed with no shortcuts taken. Recently I attended a Dressage show at a lovely brand new facility and was appalled to notice they had a beautiful 20 stall barn which was virtually unusable because when the foundation footings were poured, the contractor blew it on the measurements and toward the far end of the barn, the footings were well over a foot off from where the walls were erected. WTF? I can't imagine how or why anyone would have allowed the barn to continue to be put up once they began to notice something was wrong! But I digress.

Stall doors, feed doors and the walls themselves are also of great importance. I prefer sliding doors with a grilled top, and I'm partial (for some horses) to the open yoke doors (pictured below):

I also like these grilled dutch doors, because you can close a horse in and he an still see out the door, but if you want the option of allowing your horses to hang their heads over the door (and don't have blanket bars on your doors):

I have spent countless hours designing and planning the perfect barn. What about you?


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Widgets, Gadgets and Gizmos

So here we are...we're supposed to be talking horses, right? Therefore, I present a real horse related topic! :)

This one I've put a lot of thought into and there's been all manner of discussion across the internet about various training aids, tools or what some would call gimmicks. Alright, here's my take. In the right hands, many of these things are indeed tools that help horsemen achieve their goals with their horses, but most can be improperly used and overused. Shortcuts are never okay. Choosing to use certain training tools while working toward an admirable goal is just fine in my book. But, there are some I simply don't have any use for.

Let's start with the basic running martingale ~ there are actually several variations, though I like to keep it simple. This is what I personally use:

Easy to adjust for each horse, no worries when properly adjusted of the horse coming into contact with it unless he's misbehaving.

Variations include the ten ring martingale (pictured below):

My problem with this one is fairly simple. A martingale should not be used as a leverage device and should only come into play if the horse attempts to throw his head in your face or otherwise try to get out of staying where he needs to be. With this one, there is too much of an ability to actually pull the horse's face down. Likewise with the training fork (pictured below):

I really dislike the training forks, even moreso than the "pleasure martingales", because of how easy they are to over-adjust. Pleasure martingale here:

Now, I've found these are almost always too long anyhow, unless your horse has the neck of a giraffe, and inevitably the rider has them tied in a knot. With my martingale of choice, no worries about that.

Let's move on to the standing martingale, which is not dissimilar to the tie down. Tie downs are used in working Western and Western games (roping, gymkhana, barrel racing) events and standing martingales are used in English circles for over-exuberant jumpers. What really is the difference, the English version attaches to the cavesson and because Western horses generally are ridden without a cavesson, tie downs come with a hanger and noseband in addition to the strap itself.

Standing martingale:

Tie down:

I've got a standing attachment for one breastplate I have and it's been used on one horse because I didn't want him to smash my face in. Never had any use for a tie down and here's why...that restriction of the horse and a desire not to impede his natural carriage and movement. Okay, ask any skilled roper and he'll tell you there is a need for a tie down in order to help the horse balance himself. I don't rope or game, thus reinforcing my not needing one.

Next up is the German martingale. There are really very few cases where I'll use one, such as the horse needing a little bit more help than a running martingale will give him, but not in need of draw reins (which I'll get to in a moment). Pictured here:

They work similarly to a cross between the two and work well for the horse who's learned to evade the bit while in draw reins.

Speaking of draw reins, they are basically a leverage device though I always use them in conjunction with a direct rein (as pictured in the first photo, below). There are as many configurations for draw reins as there are manufacturers, and they are used in both English and Western styles of riding.

I'm running out of steam ~ there is so much more I would have loved to cover and a whole lot more I wanted to say. Not being able to stay awake to write is becoming a severe hardship, however, so I'm going to wrap this one up. We will revisit the topic, get more in depth and explore things like chambons, sidechecks, overchecks and side reins later on.

Thanks for hanging in there!


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Major League Fail!

I admit it. Getting back into blogging has been just about impossible. There are so many ideas roaming through my head, but by the time my day is nearing its end I'm so exhausted that putting the words swirling up there into blog form just gets impossible. I feel like I'm letting you all down by not making this a priority. I've definitely failed in my mission to make blog posts regularly!

There is so much going on that at times I feel like there's barely time to breathe!! A lot of news will be forthcoming soon on a variety of fronts. In the meantime, please check out the Tri-Community Horsemen ETI Corral 88 Facebook page and group at these two respective links:

ETI Corral 88 Facebook Page

ETI Corral 88 Facebook Group

*(I'm not sure you can view either without "becoming a fan" or a member or whatever it is that you do on Facebook with these things, it's still pretty Greek to me)*

Until next time........


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Fun, Fun and More Fun!

I know, I know, I blew it in my attempt to start making blog posts regularly again. There just aren't enough hours in the day!

Yesterday our ETI Corral 88 group took about a dozen or so horses to the Mustang Spirit Horse Rescue 3rd Annual Playday, plus we had a booth there to let folks know who we are, what we're all about and how to become a member of our fabulous group. We had so much fun! Thanks go out to all the folks who helped man the booth talking to everyone and a very special thanks to Tania and all connected with Mustang Spirit. What a wonderful day!!

Between the four horses we brought, the tally was six first places, five second places and two third places in nine classes. My daughter competed on a beautiful relatively green buckskin Quarter Horse gelding and won a couple of second place ribbons (Gelding Halter and Walk/Jog Western Pleasure), and I took home the blue ribbon on the same horse in both the In Hand Trail and the Advanced Trail classes. These were timed events with a plethora of obstacles, some of which our horses had never seen before.

A couple of weeks ago I had also been asked to judge the Western and English Pleasure classes, which was a very tough call. I was extremely impressed at all of the horses, though the divisions were small. Many were rescue horses, and they all represented the quality available in rescue.

All in all we had a great time and the success was just icing on the cake. :)


Sunday, April 18, 2010

We're Back

I think. :)

It's still been so hectic around here I am just not sure how I'm going to have time to continually update the blog, but I'm sure going to try this time!

We're busy getting getting horses ready to show, getting new horses in training and I am going to be judging a show next weekend. In other news, ETI Corral 88 (our local horsemen's club) is busy planning a tack sale fundraiser, a breakfast trail ride fundraiser and a series of Summer playdays.

Upcoming topics for the blog include training gimmicks and having an understanding of them; tips for barn building; choosing leg protection for your horse; trail building and maintenance; revisiting ground manners ~ specifically as they relates to wash rack training, hotwalker training and standing for clippers; putting together a horse show checklist and delving again (for the first time since the beginning of the blog) into Arabian bloodlines.

Check it out beginning tomorrow! Until then, have awesome rides and go get 'em in the show ring!!


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Dropping By...

Thank you so much to all who emailed and expressed sorrow for this blog being on hiatus as well as the well wishes in regard to the attack suffered by the horses of Sunlit Farm in January. We greatly appreciate all the kind words and support.

Things are so hectic around here (and have been for a long time now) I just have had zero time to even think about the blog. Hopefully beginning tomorrow I will be able to find a little time to begin putting up all the topics I have in the vault for this blog!

A bit of news to catch you all up:

*Noble Lord JP was named Champion Stallion and Supreme Halter Champion at the 2010 Sierra Empire Arabian Horse Association Show in late January, then named Top Ten in both AOTH Stallions 5 years and older as well as Open Stallions 8 years and older at the 2010 Scottsdale All Arabian Horse Show in February. A very hearty congratulations are due to owner McShane Arabians!!

Our local ETI Corral, Corral 88 the Tri-Community Horsemen, has a new website at and we've got a lot of really great events and fundraisers planned. If you're in the area please plan on stopping by and getting involved, we would love to have you.

More later!


Saturday, January 23, 2010

Arabian Horses Attacked in Pinon Hills, California

Some time during the night of January 21st someone scaled our five foot fence and went after at least two of my horses with scissors or a similar cutting instrument. Our property is completely fenced and secured with a locked gate at all times. This happened between the hours of 7:30 pm 1/21 and 7:30 am 1/22 during a Winter storm.

My 25 year old grey gelding had his tail hacked off at the tailbone, a beautiful tail that dragged on the ground taking years to grow, and his mane was chopped off to a couple of inches when it was originally 8-10 inches long.

These vandals also tried to hack off my 12 year old black gelding's tail, which was done up in a tail wrap and now just hangs by a few strands of hair. They also chopped off the black horse's forelock and tried to get his mane. There are two places missing in the mane, but he apparently broke away from them and could not be caught again.

Fortunately, they could not catch my bay mare or my bay gelding to mutilate them.

All of the hair hacked off these horses was left behind strewn on the ground, except the grey horse's tail. That was taken as a "souvenir".

Both horses are Regionally titled and National Championship quality show horses who are now rendered unable to be presented in the show ring until their appearance can be restored through months of hair growth. This is resulting in a tremendous monetary loss in addition to the obvious loss of security in our own home and coming with that an intense feeling of helplessness in keeping our horses safe and secure.

As a result of this crime, the Sheriff's Department was called, a report was taken and an investigation has begun. All leads will be aggressively pursued.

We believe this to have been a deliberate act of violence and not a random act of mischief. Nothing was stolen or missing, nothing else was disturbed.

Photographs will be posted as soon as we are able.

Keep your horses safe.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Just Checking In!!

Thought I would drop in and post a quick hello ~ things are hectic around here, not to mention swamped (literally!) as we get ready for the show season to begin. We are all really excited about 2010 and the promise this year holds.

Thank you to all who have been so supportive, there are so many of you and I am so thankful. What a wonderful thing to know my words have a profound effect on such a broad spectrum and the numbers who read here daily...well, when there is a daily post. :)

I promise to be back every day with a new post, or as close as I can manage during our always busy show season, soon. There is just so much preparation, not to mention so much clipping, to do it takes up an incredible amount of my time. Inclement weather? No problem! Clean show tack and show clothes! The list goes on...

Have a great weekend!! :) :)


Sunday, January 10, 2010

On To Bigger And Better Things...

...well, for now at least. And I had been doing SO well!

As you may or may not have noticed, I missed putting up a blog post for yesterday. And a couple of days before that, I only put up a quickie post to keep up with having a post for every day. Now, I do have a ton of post topics I want to cover and many are already written, just waiting there to bring to you all.

However, things are just getting so hectic around here with the impending start of the show season coupled with all of my club and committee commitments that I just do not have the time right now to devote to making sure I get this blog updated every day. So, I have decided to go on a little bit of a hiatus, without having to be concerned about the blog and therefore making things easier on myself.

Make no mistake and mark my words, I will be back. :) I just need to concentrate on making sure we have horses and riders/handlers ready to set foot in the show ring by the end of this month along with everything else on my plate with the local Equestrian Subcommittee on Parks, the ETI Corral and the Arabian Horse Association affiliate club along with the other two organizations I am involved with.

Until then, may your lives prosper and may all your rides be National Championship quality!!


Friday, January 8, 2010

Planning Your Dream Ranch

We all pretty much have in our minds the horse facility of our dreams. When we imagine our ideal ranch, we know what we want, we know what it looks like. But how best to develop your imagined fairy tale farm?

Okay, let's assume you already have the deed to that property (after meticulously ensuring that you've bought a piece of land well suited for your purposes). Your search complete, papers signed, a loan secured and now you are ready to begin building. You thought the acquisition was the hard part!

For me, safety and convenience are of paramount importance and I take into consideration how best to utilize the entire property, too. If there is an existing home or other structure(s), the challenges increase. Deciding where your barn, arena, turnout paddocks and other amenities should be all relate back to those two factors mentioned above.

First, safety. I want decent latches on stall doors, I prefer v-mesh or welded wire panels on my pipe paddocks for mares with foals, I do not like chain link fencing used as an enclosure for horses and the footing must be decent (excavation may be necessary before bringing in soil or sand for your arena). Another thing to think about is drainage... including for your wash rack.

When it rains it sometimes pours and you want to be prepared for potential flooding. This means taking a good look at how your property sits and determining the route water takes across the landscape. I've seen barn aisles with tiny rivers running through them and pipe corrals with several inches of standing water during and after a rain storm where it was necessary to wade out in rubber boots to dig trenches so the puddles can be drained. Not fun, especially during the storm itself.

Another point to keep in mind will be convenience. For instance, the proximity of your arena to where your horses reside, and more important how close your feed room is to your horses.

Also, my preference is sliding stall doors as opposed to those of the Dutch variety, which can present a hazard when they're left standing open into the barn aisle (so that one can be classified under safety and convenience both). Having at least one set of cross ties, preferably two, is another major convenient point and should be in lose proximity of the tack room.

There are literally millions of ways in which to build your dream ranch. Taking the time to lay out what you want, where you want it in the beginning saved an awful lot of headaches later.

Once you get that far, congratulations!


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight

No, I am not channeling Phil Collins or Genesis, it simply sounded catchy. :) Long day today and I have been working on several new topics but have not had the chance to get around to finishing them. So, in the spirit of still trying to get a post up every day ~ silly, I know ~ here you go. A post!! For today!! ;)

Upcoming in the works are discussions on planning your "dream facility"; tips on barn building/design and tack room sheds; more on equipment and it's usage; additional tips on both horse shows and much more. As always, feel free to email me at your questions and comments you don't want posted on the blog itself.

Until tomorrow...


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Geriatric Ward: What To Do With Your Old Timers And Thinking About End Of Life Options

This is a topic we all have to face sooner or later when we have horses and it's twofold: What to do with those who need to be retired for whatever reason, and when to make the horribly painful decision to lay our beloved equine companions to rest.

All horses age, and most of us find ourselves faced with the reality sooner or later that we've got to make a determination when to retire our faithful mounts. With some, it's fairly obvious as health or soundness issues begin to plague them. When lamenesses become chronic you know you have been delinquent in giving that hard working steed a much deserved rest.

This is something I fear I will be facing within the next few years, though my own aged gelding is still sound, healthy and looks far younger than his birthyear suggests. A few years back I even sought out the folks at Guardian Aftercare (pet cremation service) during Equine Affair and spoke with the local animal cemetery about costs and logistics as well.

My fondest wish is to be able to retire my favorite old man to a beautiful, lush pasture when he chooses his time someday. Looking out my front window to see that lovely, spry old grey horse does, however, lend me hope that such a time is a long ways off. With a good diet and the very best of care, he looks like a horse far younger. On his 20th birthday we showed him at a local open competition and, upon placing him first in the Hunter Hack class, I told our judge it was a fitting tribute for that milestone. Her jaw dropped! I know for sure it is not a decision I will take lightly or enjoy making.

What are your equine retirement options? Ideally, most would choose the perfect pasture solution, without a doubt. But those choices can be limited both by where you live or your budget. If you are located (or know someone who lives) in a well irrigated region with the optimum climate for seeding and growing pasture land, you have it made - as long as you can afford the water bill. When you reside in an arid desert with little rainfall, such costs are astronomical. That leaves the stalling or dry lot option, which certainly can be suitable, if not optimum. As long as your horse is happy and remains healthy, with enough exercise, excellent feed and all other needs met, there is nothing wrong with such an arrangement.

Now that brings us to when we need to say goodbye. Doubtless there are instances where the time is near and others where the quality of life deteriorates suddenly, leaving us shell shocked. Far too often I have had to either make that decision myself or counsel a client on what is best for our four legged friends, but it never gets any easier... and over the course of nearly forty years I have only personally had to be in those shoes four times for horses of my own, and it was still too frequently.

Probably the best thing we can do is be prepared. However, no matter how much preparation we do, nothing will make some things easier.

Go hug your horses today. They deserve it.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

People Who Cry "Auction" Or "Kill" When Trying To Dump Horses

This is a MAJOR pet peeve of mine. Play on my emotions just because I love horses and you're going to get two things you surely do not want ~ an earful from me, and quite the verbal (or virtual) beating from a mob of angry equine enthusiasts.

We all know how bad the economy is (I've written about this before) and it's predicted to only get worse. I have been personally offered several dozen free horses, but have only brought home one because I know my limits, even though there have been some really tempting offers recently that I'm still on the fence about.

All of the above, along with the fact that the vast majority of rescues are full up and lacking in donor resources, still in my mind does not give people the right to perpetrate this nefarious ploy upon the public.

I have to wonder, what is it people think when they acquire a horse. They're large. They take up a lot of space. They eat a lot. Didn't it occur to you that upkeep would be expensive?? I mean seriously. Yet every day I am deluged with emails, messages and folks I encounter out and about during my day that seemingly had no idea of the commitment a horse was when they bought it. Hello?! they don't follow you home like a stray dog! You had to see to it someone with a truck and trailer brought the horse to you.

Let me recount a tale from several years ago. One morning, a young gentleman showed up and asked if he could bring a couple of two year old Thoroughbreds over for me to do an evaluation of and give him an honest idea of the cost he'd be looking at to have them trained under saddle. I said sure, knock yourself out. He struck me as a relative novice even though he professed to have grown up on a horse ranch out West here somewhere.

By the next afternoon I hadn't heard from him and assumed he had held off for whatever reason, perhaps the fact these horses were just babies. But later on, while I was out in the arena giving a riding lesson on that cold, blustery early December day up drove a neighbor in his Jeep mentioning that a dark colored horse, still tacked up, frantic and covered in sweat had shown up to his back fence calling to his gelding. He wondered if we might know the horse or who it belonged to. None of us recognized the horse.

This could only mean one thing: Someone had been out riding, and somehow the horse had gotten away, meaning it was very likely there could be an injured rider out alone on the trail somewhere. We sprang into action after my lesson wrapped up, with one party calling animal control about the mysterious horse, another contacting area hospitals and several of us either on foot, on horseback ourselves or in a vehicle heading out to trace back the horse's hoofprints. Those of us out on the search came up empty, thought we learned that it had been a husband and wife out for a trail ride on two young, very green horses. The wife's horse spooked and she came off, becoming injured. When he dismounted to assist his wife who had hit her head and was critically injured, the husband's horse also spooked and took off in a different direction (which explained why only one horse showed up at our neighbor's house and how come animal control located the second horse several miles away).

It turns out the wife was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center's trauma unit ~ as a very sad aside, we later learned that night the helicopter, Mercy Air 2, crashed on the return flight killing the entire crew on a foggy hillside in the Cajon Pass near Interstate 15.

Fast forward about two and a half weeks later. That same young gentleman who had been interested in training for his Thoroughbreds stopped by again, only this time to drop off a flyer declaring ten or so mostly young, green horses for sale. It had been his wife injured in that above-mentioned accident. Upon recovering, she demanded every horse be sold and they desired to move across country. Now, I cannot blame her for being terrified of getting on a (young, green) horse again after her ordeal, however it was indeed largely their own fault such an accident happened and it seemed to me those horses were likely to suffer in her haste to be rid of them.

Two days after being presented with that sale flyer, I was on my way back from town early in the morning on a donut and coffee run when I noticed a young bay Thoroughbred gelding pacing a neighbor's fence line ~ a neighbor who no longer owned horses. Most notable about the poor horse was a horrific injury to his upper right foreleg, literally torn to the bone with bleeding flesh hanging from his chest nearly to his knee. I raced back to the ranch, told everyone about him and requested assistance in trying to find the owner. I grabbed a halter and my daughter and I quickly headed back over to the horse.

He was frantically pacing and I could not get near him for some time, when another neighbor woman stopped by to find out what was going on. It took some time, but my daughter and I were finally able to catch and halter him to get a better look at his gruesome injury. It turned out that the property owners where the horse was at were away on vacation (just after Christmas, after all) and the horse's owner was still MIA. Someone along the way called animal control about an injured, loose or "stray" horse. What a sweet, sweet boy he was.

Finally after another hour or so, a black Dodge truck drove up amidst the fuss and the young man who owned the horse came forward. You guessed it, same guy.

According to him, there had been a ruckus before dawn with the horses, and they heard a giant crash. He claimed to have gone outside to check and declared everything fine, going back to bed. It wasn't until going back out to feed several hours later in daylight that he noticed the damaged fence and a missing horse.

He didn't have the money for a vet call, so he offered to sign the horse over to this day, I still have that document that "John" hastily wrote up and placed his signature on. However, there were several monkey wrenches in the plan to move the horse and notify my vet ~ first, the neighbor woman who was taking care of the property where the horse was did not want anyone to do anything or even treat the horse in any way until animal control arrived to asses the situation; and second, an animal control officer (with zero equine experience) arrived in the meanwhile, but she had called her supervisor to come take a look, who was nearly two hours away in another part of this vast County. I had contacted a friend who runs a local rescue to come help, I had brought my truck and trailer over and we were prepared to load and transport the horse to the equine hospital. We were barred by AC from administering any medication to alleviate the horse's pain until the supervisor got there, so that poor animal had to endure what must have been terrible pain for hours.

At nearly noon, the AC supervisor finally showed up and just as her subordinate had earlier, she advised me not to take the horse, that it should simply be euthanized and that it was the responsibility of the horse's legal owner to handle and pay for. Because he insisted he had no funds to do so being post Christmas, and they went round and round as my daughter and I tried to soothe the horse as best we could.

That was one of the most frustrating, awful days of my life. In the end, an acquaintance of the owner was called in to shoot this beautiful young gelding, ultimately putting him out of his misery at long last. I still shed tears on occasion when I think of the gallant young bay horse with no name whom my daughter christened Bold Star, who braved hours and hours of dreadful pain because of the stupidity of humans, made worse because those humans spent much of their time bickering as opposed to doing something to actually help the horse.

Later that same day, a local horsetrader showed up to load and haul the rest of the irresponsible couple's horses away, bound for the same low-end auction they came from in the first place with little chance to go to real homes. Nearly all of them went to places we'd rather not imagine. Ignorance, arrogance and the ineptitude of these people caused their horses immeasurable agony.

I hate people sometimes, I really do. RIP, beautiful Bold Star.

End rant.


Monday, January 4, 2010

How Else To Play The Horse Show Game ~ Alternatives To AHA

Make no mistake, today I am indeed editorializing. My blog, my thoughts. :) As such, I will once again be predominantly addressing the Arabian show ring and today it's about alternatives to competing at AHA approved venues, since that is my main breed of interest. Don't get me wrong, I love my breed and have had success in that show ring for more than three decades now, and you can be sure we will continue to patronize AHA events ~ but there are other ways to enjoy these horses.

For background on this topic, look to a general unhappiness many exhibitors feel with AHA in general; from judging, to rules, to the excessive cost of competing, to the COI (conflict of interest) which often seems to be inherent and even expected. All of these issues have led to a mass exodus from our show ring, though an awful lot of folks are still interested in showing their horses. They simply would like to do so in a place where they feel fair play and a level playing field are a reality.

Of course, you can always stick with your local equestrian organizations and show in their open events, which generally welcome all breeds but are frequently not considered "Arabian friendly". There is no reason on Earth you cannot be competitive ~ we have done so for many years, converting dozens of exhibitors and spectators alike to the Arabian horse. Being such an ambassador does carry with it a heavy responsibility, however. I have always believed that bringing beautiful, well conditioned, well trained, well schooled, well prepared and well presented horses to a show can make a lasting positive impression on the non-Arabian admiring public.

I start all my beginner students, my green and inexperienced horses as well as new horse/rider pairs at the open or schooling show level. Here is my thinking ~ horse shows cost a lot of money. Most horse owners are not made of money. When there is a question of how a horse may behave in a show environment with other horses in the ring, or if a rider is just not ready for the big leagues, I cannot in good conscience request that anyone pay huge, cubic dollars to attend a large rated horse show. While there are never any guarantees on how well any horse or rider is going to do against any given competition, why take chances? With someone else's money, I most certainly will not.

For those not necessarily jaded with AHA itself, you can also go the Arabian Community Show route. These shows were designed to be a low-key, fun and relaxed way to show Arabian horses against each other with out the cost or cutthroat competition of an "A" rated show. We have been participating on this level since 2006, in addition to the open shows, and we have thoroughly enjoyed our venture into that venue. They allow exhibitors to compete against horses which are often of a quality similar to those you will be up against on the tougher "A" circuit, without breaking the bank.

But what if you're used to competing at a higher level and consider everything else beneath you? In that case, there are other alternatives you may find suitable. For Dressage riders, there are open events sanctioned by the USDF (United States Dressage Federation) which are held across the country in most every state and region. The same goes for Hunters, Jumpers, Eventing, Reining, Cutting and Carriage Driving, where breed makes little or no difference. If Western pleasure is your pleasure, there are open events catering to that division, and if Saddleseat classes are more your up of tea, you can look into both the Renai Horse Registry (started for the purposes of promoting the Arabian/Dutch Harness Horse crosses as flat saddle horses ~ like the National Show Horse Registry was created for promoting Arabian/Saddlebred crosses as English horses ~ but which hold classes for Arabian horses, among other breeds) and the Show Horse Alliance, begun by the NSH Registry for horses other than those with Arabian and Saddlebred blood.

Here is the bottom line: These alternatives are out there if you seek them out and they're generally quite fun. You'll meet different people who will give you a fresh perspective. All in good fun, and in the spirit of good sportsmanship (and good horsemanship)!


Sunday, January 3, 2010

Halterbreaking and Weaning

As foaling season approaches, a commonly heard inquiry among horse owners, especially those expecting their first new foal, is, “When should I get that baby used to a halter?” My own personal answer has always been, “Immediately!”

Long before the term “imprint training” became household words and such words were ever widely used to describe the process, there were those of us who simply believed that the sooner you get your colts and fillies accustomed to being handled all over and wearing that halter, the easier it would be to progress later on with their schooling and, eventually, their under saddle training.

Getting the newborn foal used to a halter as soon as possible is just plain good common sense, and it’s simply the most stress-free way to begin a lifetime of education. You must make sure the halter fits properly ~ these days most feed stores even carry tiny halters, some of which are designed for miniature horses, but they’ll fit babies just fine. Get one that’s just a little bit too big, to make sure there’s growing room, but you don’t want the baby to be able to slip out of it. They learn fast, and that’s a sure fire way to teach your foal how to get away from you. Definitely not something you want him to learn!

I have always been a firm believer in handling foals a lot from day one. They grow in a hurry and within a couple of weeks, you may not be able to hold on to him. Learning to accept human hands is a fact of life, and the sooner he learns to live with it, the better. Many times I have had to deal with weanlings (some of who were approaching a full year of age!) who have never been touched ~ or merely had as much handling as was required for basic veterinary needs. An awful lot of them hadn’t ever been wormed, hadn’t had any shots and had never even had their feet trimmed.

The process of “halter breaking” takes on a whole new meaning if you allow a foal to grow too much before you handle him. It can take weeks, sometimes months, to get close enough to even touch a foal who’s been allowed to “grow up naturally”. I don’t recommend it. At that rate, he might weigh 500 pounds by the time you can actually get that halter on him. I’ve had to build specially designed catch pens and even catch chutes in which to feed youngsters who didn’t know what the touch of a human felt like. Once they were safely in the pen or chute, I would have to work to get them used to my presence without the fighting the confinement or trying to run away. That’s certainly not the best way to teach them to trust us humans.

Since many mares are already overprotective of their babies, handling them early is the only way to build trust. It’s also easier by far to introduce your your young horse to his farrier and veterinarian (if you should need one for an emergency) if he’s already used to being handled and can be lead safely with a halter.

I want each of my foals to be completely used to being touched all over, having their feet picked up and being groomed on a regular basis (preferably every day) by the time they reach one month of age. By six to eight weeks they should know how to lead easily from both sides and be ready to learn the basics of longeing. Now, by that I don’t mean you should expect to take your babies out and truly longe them on the end of a longe line at a gallop, but I do want them to know how to walk in a circle around me both ways and to fully understand what “Whoa!” means. I also want to be able to walk all the way around them in each direction without them moving.

Teaching a foal “Whoa!” doesn’t need to be a big deal, but it is an essential basic all horses must know. Never make a major production out of anything insubordinate he may do. If you want him to stand still while you walk around him, tell him “Whoa!” in a firm yet gentle voice. If he moves, even if it’s only one small step, gently move him back to where he originally was and tell him “Whoa!” again, your voice more firm this time, and give a tiny gentle tug downward on the lead rope to further illustrate your point. After this exercise becomes routine, he will begin to understand the concept. Then, when you’re teaching him to “longe” around you with his lead rope on, he will understand that when you say “Whoa!”, that means stop. Remember, repetition is the key to training any animal, and horses are no different.

The reason for his learning to lead from both sides (rather than just getting used to you being on his left, which is the side we traditionally lead from) is simple: We’re going to be teaching him how to longe from both sides, right? We also don’t want him afraid to have us on his right side for a myriad of reasons. For instance, you may need to lead him down a narrow road or pathway where the only safe place for you to be is on his right. You wouldn’t want him to balk at being lead “wrong” and bolt into the street when a car is coming toward you in a situation such as that, would you?

As far as him learning to tie, there are many ongoing debates regarding the age when a young horse should be able to safely handle being tied. Naturally, if a foal is too young and his bone structure too immature, you can cause his neck to break by forcing him to fight the lead rope, not to mention causing him a great deal of fear and pain getting to that point. Always remember that a horse’s natural instinct is to lean into pressure ~ they have to be taught to move away from it. When you try to tie a horse who’s never been tied to anything in his life, he will instinctively pull back on the rope he’s tied with. True, he’ll eventually figure out that he can’t go anywhere and he’ll give up fighting (at least if the rope, snap or halter doesn’t break first), but he might injure himself in the process.

At age eight to nine weeks or so, after the foal is used to being lead around in his halter and lead rope, and is completely familiar with the concept of “Whoa!”, understanding that the command means to stop, I begin to teach him the basics of being tied. At first I don’t even want to attempt to secure him solidly to anything. I usually begin tying lessons in a pipe corral without any fencing on the sides.

What I do to start is loop the lead rope around a vertical post in the middle of the corral section I’ve chosen to work him on. Instead of tying the rope, I simply hold the end of it for a few minutes until he realizes he can’t walk away because he’s attached to it. In his mind, he’s now “tied” and he will almost always try to put up a little bit of a fight. I will always tell him “Whoa!” in a soft yet firm reassuring tone while he is fighting the rope, to try to get him to understand that he’s got to stand still. When he stops, I will immediately loosen up on the rope and tell him what a wonderful, smart horse he is, praising him lavishly. I’ll then re-tighten the rope to see if the situation repeats itself, which it usually will for several instances.

Generally, it only takes one lesson which lasts about twenty to thirty minutes at most for him to figure out that he’s not being hurt when he stands tied quietly, and then I’ll have a truly halter broke horse. After a few minutes, however, if he still tries to fight the rope and may either be getting too fatigued or may be in a position to hurt himself, such as putting his forelegs through the corral), I will loosen up on the lead rope, rub on him for a while and perhaps groom him to soothe his mind and let him know everything is going to be fine. In most cases, a foal will ordinarily stop fighting and accept being tied without too much further argument. Once he has stopped pulling back forcefully, you can actually tie him up (always with a quick release knot!). One critical point to remember is that you don’t want him to associate being tied with a negative experience. Reward him when he stands still and don’t prolong the session any longer than it needs to be. Less is more. You can always repeat the same steps the next day, and by then you should have a horse who’s fully broke to tie.

The other subject I want to address is when to wean your baby. Again, there are many differences of opinion on what age is best, but it really depends on several factors. One is how much of a burden the foal is putting on his mother. If the mare is getting too thin, and her baby seems to be draining her, I’ll usually begin the weaning process a little early. Many show farms wean their foals as early as three months of age, by which time the foal should be eating a good diet of hay and supplements, depending less on his dam for nutrition. Some places wait until their foals are six months or older.

Under ideal circumstances I will separate a foal from his dam at four months, which is about the median age for weaning. Another consideration that sometimes needs to be figured in is if either baby or mom is going to be shown. It is definitely a hassle to take both of them to a show prior to weaning, so I generally don’t plan on any shows for my broodmares or babies until weaning is complete.

As a matter of method, I prefer to keep the mare and foal side by side in separate corrals but near each other to avoid “separation anxiety”. After they’ve been separated, I don’t want the baby to be able to nurse any longer, and since the instinct will be very strong, I want some fencing on the paddock section between them. Generally, I will gradually try to get both mom and baby used to leaving each other for short periods of time prior to the actual weaning, progressing to longer and longer periods apart while I am working, grooming, bathing or clipping one of them, and so on. By the time I am ready to wean the baby, he doesn’t think of mom going away for a little while as being any traumatic thing ~ it’s no big deal.

Hopefully both halter breaking and weaning can be a bonding experience for you and your precious foal. These experiences will take you through his entire lifetime, and will carry over to whomever purchases him should you decide to sell him. They are the building blocks of a good, solid education, and the more pleasant these experiences are for both you and him, the easier it will be to continue to train him when he becomes old enough to begin his chosen career.

Remember what they say ~ a little goes a long way. A little bit of thinking can go a long way toward ensuring you have a healthy, happy, well adjusted foal who trusts you to treat him right and teach him the ways of the world as he grows up, whether his mom is there or not.


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Breeding: Pregnancy and Foaling

Because foaling season closely follows breeding season, and in most cases they overlap, this month we are going to explore all the intricacies and aspects of pregnancy and foaling in mares. We have already delved into the world of stallion management and other important breeding issues, thorough knowledge of which can help a whole lot of mare owners get their mares returned in foal with the least amount of effort expended by the stud farm and the least amount of money expended by the mare owner. I highly recommend following the advice and procedures presented here in those earlier installments.

Assuming, once you’ve decided to breed your mare and have chosen the right stallion (your decision, of course, based on a lot of research and tireless devotion to producing the most fantastic foal in the world!), that she actually is in foal, you will want to make sure she has the best care possible in her time of need.

Although different circumstances call for different methods, mares who are in foal should be exercised on a regular basis. I do not, however, like to see a mare get too much exercise before the first sixty (60) days of her pregnancy are behind her. After she is checked by your veterinarian...preferably by ultrasound rather than pelvic/rectal palpation...and it is confirmed that she is, indeed, in foal you can slowly start to resume a somewhat normal work program for her. For my own mares, depending on what job they do and what must be asked of them in order to perform that job, I will usually ride them until about eight weeks prior to foaling. After that I generally longe them lightly (walk and slow jog), turn them out by themselves ~ which minimizes the risk of getting kicked by another horse or similar situation which could cause the mare to abort ~ for several hours during the day or walk them (by hand or by puttting them on the hotwalker) for a short period several times each day.

Because your mare will be gaining weight, you want to be sure to keep her current on farrier visits, but I generally want shoes pulled off at least three-four weeks before the mare is due to foal so she won’t badly injure her baby if she were to step on him with her steel shoes. Just be sure to keep her feet trimmed properly to avoid unnecessary problems that will have to be corrected later, such as hooves that “pancake out”, or spread, which can sometimes cause severe cracking of the hoof wall.

Mares should always be kept on a strict deworming and vaccination schedule when in foal as well, but you must keep in close contact with your veterinarian to find out when these things should be accomplished. Worming a pregnant mare with a medication which can be toxic to her foal, or giving your mare the wrong shots at the wrong time can be dangerous. Her diet is also of utmost importance. Be careful not to overfeed, but adjust her feed according to how far along she is ~ the closer to foaling, the more you can feed her, but monitor her weight and intake constantly. It is also a good idea to discuss feeding with your vet, as he or she will be able to give you an approximate amount your mare should be consuming each day.

There are many well known “rules” about mares and foaling, such as length of gestation, being “waxed up” or dripping milk, but the only real rule is that there are no rules. We know that the average gestation period is about 340 days, but can vary widely in mares. Long has waxing (having “wax candles” ~ dried droplets of colostrum ~ hanging from the teats) been considered a sign of imminent labor and delivery. As a general rule, mares who are fully bagged, meaning their udders are full of milk and dripping milk, are going to deliver soon, but even that isn’t always the case. Some mares have been known to drip rather heavy volumes of milk for several days before actually presenting you with a baby (in which case she could be losing large quantities of colostrum which should be collected and stored to be given to the foal after he or she is born).

Within two weeks of the predicted due date, you should make sure your mare is housed in a safe, large (preferably 12’ x 24’ or larger) box stall and bedded with an adequate amount of straw. I prefer mares foaling on straw as it’s a softer cushion for the foal and it helps prohibit the respiratory problems often associated with the smaller particles found in shavings. This way, if she should decide to have her foal early you’ll be prepared. I like to keep an around the clock watch on mares when they’re getting close to their due date. You don’t necessarily need to get up every hour during the night if she’s comfortably resting, but when her behavior begins to change, that can be a pretty good indicator that her time is getting near. Remember ~ the safest foaling by far is an attended one! Also, if you have never had a mare in foal before, I strongly urge you to have either your vet or a friend who has been breeding for some time in attendance with you. Don’t try to go it alone your first time!

A distinct advantage in the area of observation is a closed-circuit television camera with the monitor set up in your house, on which you can keep a close eye on her without having to leave the comfort of your cozy home just to see that she’s sleeping peacefully. Equally as good is having an observation area next to her stall, or an adequate foaling location next to her bedroom window (I have done this before!). There have been mares who I’ve watched religiously for two solid weeks that have foaled behind my back the second I went into the house to get a Kleenex! Lesson learned ~ keep facial tissue and anything else you might need out at the barn when she’s getting close, or you might miss the miracle of birth! Many mares will begin to get restless and pace their stalls, go off their feed and so on, when they’re getting ready to deliver. Unless your mare is a maiden (meaning she’s never had a foal before ~ in which case do your best guesswork!) you should become familiar with her regular routine and how it may change around foaling time.

As parturition (the clinical term for foaling) approaches, be sure to contact your veterinarian and make certain he/she will be available if there is a problem with the delivery. Generally, the foal will reposition itself, or “turn”, in the last four to six hours before birth. When this occurs, your mare’s belly will appear to drop down and you can see much more movement from the baby. You should see a noticeable dropping off, or slackening, of the muscles in the mare’s rump, plus a lengthening and swelling of her vulva (a signal of dilation of the cervix) during this time. Most mares will begin to go through periods of sweating during the early stages of labor, but do not be alarmed...this is perfectly normal, and she is not in any danger.

The time between the onset of labor and presentation of the foal will include rupturing of the membranes (i.e., her “water breaks”), and can vary greatly from mare to mare. Some mares can rapidly go from the first stage of labor to the active stage (birth of the foal itself) without any warning at all, so you will need to keep constant watch over her to render any assistance necessary. Again, I highly recommend having someone with you who is experienced with foaling if you don’t have much experience yourself. A good person to contact in this instance, if you don’t have any friends who breed horses, is the stallion owner or breeding manager from the farm that stands your new baby’s sire. They are usually more than happy to offer any help you may need.

As the foal begins to appear through the amniotic sac, it’s forelegs should be coming out first, one in front of the other to ease the passage of the foal through the mare’s pelvic arch, with it’s tiny nose perched on top in a “diving position” as we call it. Almost immediately the foal’s little hooves (although initially covered with soft pads to avoid injuring his mama which will fall off soon after he’s born) should tear open the sac, and you should make sure his airway is clean and open so that he can start breathing on his own. With a normal, problem free delivery, the mare should be allowed to rest if she wants at different times, even if her foal isn’t all the way out yet. As you fellow mothers out there know, labor and delivery can be an exhausting experience. Just ask my husband!

When the baby has completely cleared the birth canal, do not attempt to cut the umbilical cord! This could cause the foal to lose a lot of precious blood. Once the cord has been severed naturally by the movements of either baby or mom, soak the baby’s navel stump in iodine to prevent infection, and tie up the end of the cord so your mare will avoid stepping on it, and thus, potentially tearing the placenta (afterbirth). The afterbirth may not be passed for several hours, but you want to be sure to save it for your vet to thoroughly examine to ensure that none was retained inside the mare’s uterus, which can cause severe infection.

At this point, both the mare and her newborn foal should be allowed to bond without human interference, but if the baby doesn’t appear to be breathing on it’s own, you may need to resuscitate him. This is one area I will not go into in any further detail here, but I must stress do not be unprepared for anything ~ problems CAN arise quickly. Be sure you know what can happen and what to do in the event something goes wrong!

Within the first hour or so, the foal should begin trying to stand (some try it immediately) and will start looking for his first meal. The act of a foal first attempting to stand can be a somewhat nerve-wracking experience for the first time breeder, since most foals fall down or run into walls or fences several times before they actually get the hang of balancing on their new hooves and those spindly little legs, but most of the time they’re fine and you should let nature take it’s course. When baby is ready to start eating, don’t be too concerned if he doesn’t find what he’s looking for right away. Most often, if left alone, they will do fine. It is critical, however, that the foal consume the first milk of the mare ~ the colostrum ~ as they are not born with any immunity to disease and must receive their resistance to infection from their mother. You want to make sure that the foal is drinking effectively within two hours of birth. If anything appears to be wrong, do not hesitate to call your vet right away.

Because a majority of mares foal during the late evening or in the early morning hours, I usually don’t have the vet out until the following day during regular business hours (unless there is an emergency, of course). Included in the first post-partum visit should be a thorough examination of the foal, at which time he should be given his Tetanus Antitoxin shot and an enema (to prevent retained meconium ~ the first stool of the foal). I will usually automatically administer a Fleet’s enema myself, the kind you can buy at your local drug store. Your vet should also look at the placenta (as described above) and if you are planning to re-breed your mare, you will need to discuss with him when you should do so.

Once the exhilaration of the foaling experience is behind you, it will be time to start planning your new baby’s future. Will he be a great show horse or race horse? Will he be the next superstar sire? Will he just be loved by you for his trusting nature and willingness to carry you down any trail you wish to explore? These are just a few of the reasons we breed horses in the first place. Whatever his lot in life, you can make sure he gets the best start possible by being a responsible breeder.


Friday, January 1, 2010

Good Riddance!!

Welcome to the title suggests, we are bidding good riddance to last year.

This new year begins with great hope and promise. As mentioned yesterday, we have exciting plans for a very full year. What do you have in store? Anything special?

Hopefully you had a wonderful New Year's Eve with a fun, safe celebration and lots of good cheer. We spent a quiet night at home with the family, which was very nice.

This morning sit back, have a cup of your favorite coffee, cocoa, cider or other hot drink and enjoy the beautiful Rose Parade.

Happy New Year!!

Tomorrow we are back to talking horses. :)