Monday, August 27, 2012

Coat Colors

Horses come in a wide variety of colors. Not only are the colors diverse, but the names that describe the colors are also very diverse. This is where things can get confusing if you don't know the difference between a sorrel with a flaxen mane and tail and a palomino, a grulla and a roan, or the difference between a white and grey horse. And that is where I come in! Below, you will find a basic overview, some colors and their descriptions.

First things first! Horse colors stem from two base colors, the red base and the black base.  Bay is not a base, sorry guys! These two base colors create the basic coat colors of the horse, including: bay, chestnut, black, and brown. These basic colors may be further diluted by certain genes in order to create the cream, champagne, pearl, silver, and dun colors. White patterning genes may also change the basic colors of the horse and create dominant white, tobiano, appaloosa, overo, grey and roan colors. The colors of the horse's coat are determined by the genes of the breeding cross between the mother (dam) and father (sire).

Here are some of the basic colors that, more often than not, you will see around the barn/show grounds/ etc.:

Bay 

Cleveland Bay Stallion
The body of the horse is usually a deep red or reddish brown color. The points of the horse (meaning the mane, tail and lower legs) are black. Bay is a modified black gene and therefore comes from the black base color. There can be variations of this color, where the strength of the color on the body can be darker or lighter than a simple bay horse. However, the coat still has to have a be some shade of red with black points.

AMNH-Bay

Chestnut

Property of AzraelsRose13 aka Kristina Ransbury
Horses with this coat color are usually a reddish color without the black points. The mane and tail are usually the same color as the body or even a few shades lighter. Chestnut is a modified red gene and therefore comes from the red base color. There can be variations of this color, where the strength of the color on the body can be darker or lighter than a medium chestnut coat color. 

AMNH-Chestnut

Black

Virtual Horse Ranch

Horses with this coat color are usually black. The mane and tail are usually the same color as the body. The black coat color comes from the black base gene.  There are two types of black coat colors. The non-fading black and the fading black coat color. The non-fading black coat color stays black even through the summers and usually has a blue-black sheen to the coat. The fading black coat color fades during the summer months so that it is a little more brown.

Brown

Powderbark Stud
Horses with this coat color usually have a black or brown coat with lighter points around the nose, flank, belly, eyes, inside upper legs, and girth. The mane and tail are usually the same color as the body. Brown is a modified black gene and therefore comes from the black base color. This color can sometimes be called seal brown or black and tan.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Horse Breeds Inquiry


http://www.lovehearttshirts.com/shop/i-love-horses-t-shirt

I was thinking the other day how I can make this blog even more informational. And then it hit me like a wall! It was one of those ah ha moments that I always seem to have at inopportune times. I believe it actually happened a few days after I wanted to see what different horse breeds were in the Olympic competitions. Yeah, I researched that for a while before giving up. 

Anyways, before I get totally off topic. I'm thinking about doing some blog posts on horse breeds. I always loved learning about the different breeds when I was younger. I even had those smallish horse breed posters that the Horse Magazines would include within their pages. They were pretty cool. They were also plastered everywhere in my room. I definitely didn't have that organization bug as I do now. 

I'm not quite sure what I would include in each. Probably some kind of disclaimer about how all horse breeds are different, but all horses within each breed are different as well. That horses have distinct characteristics that are exclusive to that breed, but are diverse in their personalities. Then I'll talk about the usual, height, type, what is particular to that breed, the colors that it comes in, maybe something about the horse organization, etc.

So, what do you think should be the first horse breed that I post about? I was thinking the American Mustang. But I think it may just be that I recently did an article on them. Hmmmm..... Thoughts?

In The News: Mustang Roundup


It is a newsworthy day, today, which means that I get to pick a horse article from the web and share it with the viewers and readers of The Equus Ally. But instead of compiling information about the topic into a whole bunch of paragraphs that look a lot like a news article in and of itself, I am going to list the main points of the subject at hand. This way, the reader, you, can look over the main points without having to rifle through all of that other stuff...

So, What's in the News today?


http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/think-our-wild-horses-are-safe/250062/

The Mustang Roundups: General Overview

  • Wild mustangs still exist in states such as Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon and after roundup are held in "holding pens" awaiting potential homes
  • The Bureau of Land Management manages the wild population numbers by culling the wild herds of some of the horses.    
  • More than 30,000 horses are kept in holding pens, and there are at least 5,000 horses kept at any singular BLM holding facility at one time.
  • The BLM now has to make "welfare" homes for un-adoptable horses in Kansas and Oklahoma. This means that the horses are feeding off of the public dole.
  • According to some horse geneticists, horses need to have at least 150 horses in a herd population in order to have genetic diversity. Recently however, some of the horse herds have been found to have less than the recommended amount.
  • The Bureau usually uses helicopters over the course terrain to herd the animals. This can be traumatic to horses as the helicopter swoops down to get the horses moving. The helicopters also push the horses too fast, causing pregnant mares to abort their fetuses while younger horses and newborns get trampled, left behind and left to die. A sad end to a historical animal of America.
  • There are other options beyond the helicopter gatherings in order to keep herd numbers down.  Bait trapping is where the horses are lured in by mineral blocks and water and then given a contraceptive injection known as PZP. However, these methods are not as utilized as the helicopter roundups.
  • The companies, ranchers, and farmers are complaining that they now have to pay for the welfare of horses that they pressured the government to take off public lands so that they can farm, or raise cattle on for cheap.
  • In my personal opinion, the BLM needs to stand up for the policies that the American people hold to it. 
Thoughts?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Tack 'Em Up! Protective Foot Gear

As stated in an earlier post the legs of the horse are the most damage prone body part comparatively to any other part of the horse's body. By extension, the hoof must also be protected. Especially sensitive areas such as the pastern, coronary band and in some cases the hoof wall as well. Owners have a few options available to them in order to protect areas of the hoof and lower leg.  Those options include:

Bell boots
Saddleworld Caboolture

Bell boots are used on the front hooves to protect them and sometimes the shoes from overreaching by the hind legs. Overreaching occurs when the toe of the hind foot extends forward and strikes the heel, coronary band, fetlock or flexor tendon of the forefoot on the same side. Repeated hits from the back leg can cause open sores and cuts to form on the foreleg. Bell boots come in sizes small, medium, large and extra large.


Easy Boots or Hoof Boots


Four Winds

The easy boot is a closed shoe that can be placed on the horse's hoof and easily removed (unless they are glued on). It is pretty much a boot that is placed over the entire hoof. These types of boots can be used in place of shoes, in the event the horse will be walking over some very tough or hard footing, and are often used by long distance riders. The boots are light, durable, and protect the entire hoof from damage and provide cushion and traction for the horse. Sometimes in the case of a horse throwing a shoe, the easy boot can be used until the farrier comes out again. Easy boots come in a variety of sizes. There is usually a Size Chart on the ordering page so that you can find the correct fit for the horse.


Horse Shoes


Cowboy Shop
American Farriers

The horse shoe is designed from metal and actually nailed to the bottom of the horse's hoof. Don't worry though, experienced and certified farriers are nailing the shoe through just the hoof wall, which is comparable to the cartilage of our finger and toe nails (theirs is just thicker). Horse shoes protect the horse's hoof from everyday wear and tear. Some horses need them and others do not. The metal shoes need to be replaced every 6 to 8 weeks. Horse shoes come in a variety of sizes, but they are usually fit to the shape of the horse's hoof by the farrier.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Tack 'Em Up! Protective Leg Gear

The legs of the horse are the most damage prone body part comparatively to any other part of the horse's body. The legs have no muscling or fat buildup, just tendons and ligaments. So if a horse hits the leg, or damages it in some way (another horse kicks it or the horse runs into a fence, etc.), there isn't a shield (muscle or fat) to help protect those sensitive areas. But there is hope. There are wraps and boots that can help support (although may not always prevent injury to) the legs. Those protective "clothes" include:

Polo Wraps:

http://www.nationalsaddlery.com/default.aspx?CategoryID=196&ItemId=PE-SP990
Polo wraps are probably one of the simplest of all the protective gear available. These are long pieces of cloth, usually fleece that you can wrap around the cannon bone (from below the knee to a little bit below the fetlock) to help with potential light damage to the tendons and soft tissues during exercise. Polo Wraps can be used during riding, longeing, turn out, and sometimes shipping. As polo wraps have a tendency to be made from a stretchy material, it is recommended that the wrap not be applied to tightly, as that can cause more damage than good. Polo wraps come in a variety of sizes, including:

~Horse Size (9 feet long by 4 ½ inches wide),
~Miniature (5 feet long by 3 ½ inches wide),
 ~Pony (6 feet long by 4 inches wide),
~Arabian (7 feet long by 4 inches wide), and
~Draft (11 feet long by 5 inches wide)

Splint Boots

http://forum.equisearch.com/forums/t/1876.aspx
Splint boots provide support and protection for the splint bones, tendons and soft tissue of the lower leg during exercise. They also protect the leg from scraping, brushing and other working injuries. This type of boot usually has a protective strike plate over the splint area on the inside. When placing the boot on the horse’s leg, the strike plate is on the inside of the leg, with the bulbous part near the fetlock. The Velcro pieces should also point toward the back end of the horse on the outside.  Splint Boots come in small, medium and large sizes, with the medium size fitting most average horses.

Sport Medicine Boots (SMBs)

http://www.horse-vetsupplies-andmore.com/horseboots.html
SMBs provide support and protection against suspensory injuries. SMBs are the only boots that are endorsed by the veterinary community as they absorb shock to the leg from hoof impact. They can be useful in any discipline where blunt force trauma to legs is likely, such as hitting jumps or interference injuries. Sports Medicine Boots come in small, medium and large sizes, with the medium size fitting most average horses.

Skid Boots


http://www.valleyvet.com/ct_detail.html?pgguid=13b7cab6-864a-4699-b74d-9308d16e194f

Skid boots protect the fetlocks on the hind legs from abrasions from the ground when a reining horses does a hard sliding stop. This type of boot comes in horse size (average) but is adjustable.

Shipping Boots
http://equestrian.doversaddlery.com/saddlery/Shipping%20Boot%20Sizes
These boots are used to protect the horse’s legs during transport. Shipping boots usually reach from the top of the hoof to the knee or hock joint to ensure protection of critical leg parts. Shipping boots usually come in cob (small), medium and large sizes.

Standing Wraps
http://www.chicksaddlery.com/page/CDS/PROD/SBX880
Standing wraps are used more as a band-aid, or curative treatment, than as a protective device.  The wrap consists of a “puffy” padding (sometimes called pillow wraps) that is wrapped around the afflicted area, as well as a Velcro-ed wrap that holds the padding in place (referred to as stable bandages).  Standing wraps are used for a variety of reasons. They can be used to protect the horse during travel, to protect a wound from infection, as a base (for wounds and bandages higher up on the leg), and to secure a poultice or dressing.  As with any wrap that can be stretched over the leg, there may be a greater chance that the wrap is applied incorrectly (too tight or misplaced) and therefore do more harm than good. The standing bandages are usually about 5 inches wide by 12 feet long. Pillow wraps come in 12 inches, 14 inches and 16 inches wide by 30 inches long.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hiatus End

So, I have had my blog, The Equus Ally on a sort of hiatus for the past month or so, for various reasons. I'm pretty sure it was the "excitement" of the relationship I was in at the time as well as work and volunteering. Not that any of those are excuses to do or not continue with this blog. I really like writing it, and I am sorry my dear readers, whomever you may be. :) I will definitely try and write more.




In other news, I have started volunteering for a horse rescue. It is the Standardbred Retirement Foundation in Hamilton, NJ.  It is about a little less than an hour drive from where I currently reside. Last weekend I spent 6 hours at the barn and helped with the adoption of two horses as well as exercised another couple horses.  I would definitely recommend volunteering with your local animal shelter and/ or a horse farm/ rescue/ etc. nearby. It is truly beneficial work when you spend some of your monetarily un-paid time with animals, in my honest opinion anyway. :)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

In The News: White Standardbred


It is a newsworthy day, today, which means that I get to pick a horse article from the web and share it with the viewers and readers of The Equus Ally. But instead of compiling information about the topic into a whole bunch of paragraphs that look a lot like a news article in and of itself, I am going to list the main points of the subject at hand. This way, the reader, you, can look over the main points without having to rifle through all of that other stuff...

So, What's in the News today?





  • A white Standardbred horse was born at the Fair Winds Farm in Cream Ridge, NJ (That is close to me!!)
  • The US Trotting Association says this is the first white Standardbred racehorse to be born in North America in 14 years
    • The last white Standardbred, Historically Unique, was born in 1998 in Ontario
  • The little colt, has two bay parents (Coochie Mama and Art Major), and officials believe that his coat coloring is the result of a genetic mutation 
  • His coat is sprinkled in some parts with red hairs (and he looks a little medicine hat in the picture IMHO)
  • The owner, Pete Congilose of Toms River, NJ has not picked out a name yet, but is open to suggestions. You can send a name suggestion to whitecolt@ustrotting.com.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Basics: Buying a Horse



I recently talked about the Cost of a Horse. That post talked about the approximate costs in owning a horse and an approximate purchase price of a horse. Today I will be talking about the process it takes in finding and purchasing that perfect horse for you.  So, if you have checked your funds and you KNOW you have the funds to properly take care of a horse, then you can start looking around for a horse.

Find out What You are Looking For


First things first, you must know what you are going to be doing with the horse before going on the "hunt" for one. You do not want to buy a trained eventing warmblood and then a month in say, oh well I want to change and start using this horse for X other activity. Unless you are a trainer or a very experience equestrian professional, this change will be a bit hard on the horse and on yourself. Some horses just don't transition all that well from one discipline to another. Not to say that it cannot happen, but it can be nonetheless hard.

If you do not know what kind of discipline / activity you want to go into, I would suggest taking some riding classes. Here are some of the main activities that you can choose from:

  • Western pleasure
  • Barrel racing/ Western Games / Speed events
  • Eventing
  • Jumping
  • Saddleseat
  • Polo
  • Hunter
  • Dressage
  • Trail riding/ Pleasure
Leasing a horse in the discipline of your choice is another great option. It may actually be better than owning a horse if you are new to everything horse. 

If you are still set on buying a horse for your own, but have no idea what you plan on doing with the horse even though you have done the classes and or leased before, there are options out there. If you have leased before and or done the riding classes, you are at least competent enough to look in the "general horse" category. This is where those horses that have either done it all, have been a riding school teacher, or have a little bit more than the basic horse training are put. They might not have the specific training of a western pleasure horse or a dressage horse but they have enough training to be fun to ride in anything. I must note however, that if you are going for the horse that has basic horse training, you MUST have a competent all around understanding of horses, their nature and what it takes to own them (this includes not just the money).  

Once you get past what kind of horse you need regarding the type of discipline, you should look into the height of the horse you want, the age of the horse, possibly the color of the horse, the price you are willing to pay (*please note that you pay for what you get, as in the lower the price, the worse your prospects will look), the gender of the horse, the breed of the horse, the pedigree of the horse, and what kind of horse fits what you are capable of doing (the horse has to match your skill level and fitness level).


Where to Look for Potentials

Now that you know what kind of horse you want, you can look for that specific kind of horse you need.  Depending on what you want the horse for, it can be hard or it can be easy to search.  Here are some of the resources to look into:



What to Ask/Do when Buying a Horse

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to find a reputable veterinarian to bring along with you for a pre-purchase exam. They will or at least should check a number of things included in the health of the animal. Do not rely on the owner's veterinarian telling you everything that might be wrong with the horse.

Make a list of things to ask the seller regarding the horse. To make things easier, I have included a nice PDF link to a Horse Buying Checklist. You can print this out and bring it with you to the showing of the horse.

If you want to make your own list, some basics to include are:

  • Confirm everything in the advertisement
  • History and Breeding
  • Papers available?
  • Coggins available if moving across state lines?
  • Competition history
  • Medical History
  • Any vices or bad habits (i.e. kicking, biting, rearing, weaving, cribbing)
  • Can the horse be loaded on a trailer? How well does it take traveling?
  • The horse's current management (i.e. feed schedule, bedding style, grain and supplements given, hay given, riding schedule, etc.)
  • Any security markings and registrations?
  • If tack and equipment is available free or at a price from the owner

What to do before buying a horse

Visit the horse again, just to make sure that that horse is the one that you want. Do not allow the seller to force you into buying something that may or may not be right for you. This is your decision and you need to make it on your time. If you feel at all uncomfortable, take a few days to think about it, and if the horse is still available, go back to see the horse before making your decision and paying for the horse or walking away. Please also note that the horse may have other potential buyers looking at him/ her, so do not take a month to decide on that exact horse as it may be gone by the time you decide. Don't be afraid to ask the owner for a trial period with the horse. The worst they can do is say no. When you do decide to buy the horse, make sure to get a Bill of Sale (read it over before you sign it to make sure there isn't anything unreasonable included).

As stated in my post about the Cost of a Horse, you need to find a facility to keep the horse at. I suggest looking around before even thinking about buying a horse for a place to keep the horse so you do not have to run around at the last moment. Talk with the boarding facility owners about prices, and what is included in their boarding options. As my own rule of thumb, if the owner does not call you back within a timely manner (one day is good), then it is time to move past that barn. You do not want to keep your horse at a barn that will have communication issues. Make sure that the facility has a stall available, and ask if you can "reserve" that stall. You also do not want to have the horse on the property and at the last minute the owner says, oopsie, we gave that stall to someone else.

You may also need to look into transporting the horse from the seller's location to it's new home. Not all sellers will trailer the horse for you.  Ask around at the boarding facility if anyone can help you with this task. You will need to pay for their gas expenses, but this can be worked out between you and the owner of the trailer.

You will also need to buy the required equipment (for right now a halter, lead rope and grooming supplies will be good) if they are not included with the horse.

Once the horse arrives at its new home it will take time to adjust. It shouldn't take that long, but it is needed. Try to keep the horse on the same feed schedule that the seller had the horse on. Try to also take it slow when introducing your new horse to other horses. The situation can turn bad fast if the horses do not get along.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Basics: Horse Costs

http://alove4horses.com/images/horse-money.jpg

I wanted to talk today about horse costs. I know I talked a little bit about them at the beginning of this blog, but I wanted to get a little more in depth. There seem to be quite a few people out there that think it is a piece of cake to keep a horse. Just give it a bit of grass and it will be fine. And as much as I want to laugh at that statement, it is a serious issue. Of course, it also doesn't help that with the horrible economy that we are in, horses are being sold for much less than they would have gone for about 5 years ago.

The Facility
Now, I know that there are possibly people out there that think, well wait a second, don't we need the horse first?  And while it is true that you do need a horse, I doubt you want to be rushing around at the last minute looking for a place to keep the horse. If you have your own land, great for you, but you are not out of the woods yet. And while we are on the topic of having a horse on your own land, in my opinion you need at least 1.5 acres (not the whole thing for the horse, but a property large enough to keep the horse). Keeping a horse in your backyard or, god forbid, garage, is a big no-no and is asking for a huge lawsuit.

If you keep a horse on your own property and do not have the appropriate equipment, you will need to buy the appropriate equipment. That means fencing. I recommend pipe corral or PVC fencing as it is safe and easily visible for the horses. Barbed wire fencing is again asking for trouble. Or, here I will put it this way, barbed wire equals a huge vet bill for all the lovely gashes and cuts your horse will receive. Depending on your area, the price for paneling can be $30 - $100 per panel. On top of the paneling (No pun intended!!), you will need to create a safe structure for the horse to go in to protect from the elements.  This standing shelter can cost $100 and up depending on your area.  Now that you have the required safe fencing, and a roof, you need a water bin, and possibly a feed bin depending on the area. Areas with higher sand content in the soil will need a mat or feed bin. Those can cost $20 and up depending on the area and item to be purchased. Also, don't forget the maintenance and repair costs on your own fencing, etc.

If you are planning on keeping the horse at a boarding facility, depending on location and what services you want to include, you might pay, on average, $200 to $600 per month. Usually with boarding they give you a few options, which depending on the barn, can mean a bunch of different things. This means full board could mean one thing to Barn A and mean something totally different to Barn B. So, make sure to ask a lot of questions about what is required of you, what is required of them, and so on and so forth.

Bedding, Feed, Mineral/Salt Licks
Now that you have a nice place to keep your horse, you will need some of the essentials to keep the horse happy and healthy. Beyond horse clothing and playthings, the horse will need some sort of soft-ish bedding to lay and stand on. Some people use a combination of rubber mats and sawdust. This is a pretty good method. The rubber mats run anywhere for $2 for the interlocking ones to over $100. The bedding, depending on the type you get (*Black walnut and maple bedding is toxic to horses and can cause severe problems*) can be $30 and up per bag. And when you get bedding, you will need to get a few bags, as you want the bedding to be at least 2 inches deep.

If you are buying your own feed, it can get expensive quick. First off, you will need to get the horse hay. Hay comes in a variety of choices by the bale. This includes grass hay, alfalfa, fescue, mixed, etc. It all depends on what your horse needs nutrition wise and what is available to you. A bale will run you about $6 and up depending on your area. On top of hay, some people will give their horse grain and supplements. The prices of these are actually all over the place depending on the type and amount given, so I will not be able to give an estimate on that. A bag of grain is usually about $12, but that can increase or decrease depending on the area you are in.

On top of the bedding and food, you will need to provide the horse a salt lick or mineral lick. As we may not get all of the nutrients from our daily intake of food, neither do horses and a free choice mineral or salt lick will help them get those nutrients. A salt lick may also help the horse increase water intake during the winter months. Blocks will usually run, again depending on the area, about $5.

Farrier and Vet
Now that you have a facility to keep the horse, food to feed it and bedding to make it happy, you are done right? Wrong. On top of all that, you have to trim the horse's hooves. They are pretty much like our fingernails, and grow out on a regular basis. To trim them, you will need the services of a farrier. This will cost you about $15 per session depending on the farrier and the area. Make sure to note that shoes will cost more than just a trim. You will need to have the farrier out to trim the horse's hooves every 6-8 weeks.

Now the vet is a little bit more expensive. There are numerous services required, such as vaccinations ($10 and up depending on the vaccination), dental work (approximately $100), illnesses (Some years this amount will be $0, but if your horse has a major problem such as colic, it can run you up into the $1000s), etc.

Another medical cost that you will incur, but won't necessarily be linked with the veterinary costs is worming. The liquid or paste usually comes in nice little tubes that you stick in the horse's mouth and try not to get all over yourself. At a cost of about $10 per tube, you have to worm a horse on a rotational plan every 6 to 8 weeks.

Equipment
Did you really think that was it? On top of all of that other fun stuff, you need to get equipment. This includes grooming equipment, a western or english saddle, a halter and lead, saddle blankets/ pads, leg gear, replacement parts, show clothes for you and the horse, fly repellent (masks and spray), possibly a blanket, etc. All of this will run you at $1000 and up, without the needed repairs to tack.

The Horse
Once you fully understand how much it will cost to care for a horse, then and only then can you begin to think about purchasing one. As I stated above, the economy is still pretty horrible, which means you can get a good horse for around $1000 or less. As much as those craigslist ads for free horses pull at your heart strings, I would suggest staying away from them unless you know what you are doing and what to look for. If you plan on going to an auction in your area, a rehab facility, adoption location or just a private owner, make sure to bring a horse professional with you to look at the horses available. You do not want to buy an unfit horse that does not match what you want as that is an undue expense on you.

Miscellaneous Expenses
On top of the massive amount of money pouring out of your bank account already, here are some more expenses that horse owners may or may not use:

Training of the horse is one of those miscellaneous expenses, as you may or may not need the services of a trainer. The cost of training depends on the amount of training and time put on your horse, the area, and how much the trainer charges per hour. If you do have a trainer, I recommend checking in on the horse from time to time to view progress.

Another miscellaneous expense is showing, as not all horse owners show their horse. In addition to the show fee, you will also most likely need to pay a stall charge, bedding charge, membership charge, and trailer charge as well as pay for horse show equipment (saddle, bridle, etc.), and show clothing. This can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars depending on the type of show and location.


Now, I rarely do this on my blog, but I am going to today just because this is an awesome tool for anyone that wants to know how much it would be to keep a horse.  This link will take you to The Horse Channel, where in fact, there is this neat little calculating device, Horse Cost Calculator, to show how much you will spend monthly and annually. Pretty cool, right?

If your mouth is in fact gaping right now, which I am pretty sure it is, think twice the next time you see a horse and think it will be the perfect easy pet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Basics: Horse Anatomy

The Anatomy of the Horse
the gross and microscopic anatomy of horses and other equids, including donkeys, and zebras

There is a lot to cover in this section, so I will just put up some precursory images. :)









http://wiggle-chicken.deviantart.com




http://www.holistichorsehealth.com

Tack 'Em Up! Bridling a Horse

http://www.etsy.com/listing/89085261/any-size-blue-western-horse-bridle


When riding a horse, you have your aids, which include your seat, hands, and legs. Even though the bridle is a piece of equipment, I consider it to be an extension of an aid. This is because, first and foremost, you should be able to move your horse around your body. The extra equipment may help, but as is, they are just aids to help you stay on the horse and exercise your communication.



A bridle is the headgear used to control a horse when in the saddle, consisting of buckled straps to which a bit and reins are attached, according to Dictionary.com. It may not be as crucial a piece as the halter and lead rope, but it has its benefits. As an extension aid, the bridle allows the rider to command and communicate cues while in the saddle. Bridles are usually leather, but can come in nylon, pvc, or any combination of those. I myself prefer the leather bridles, as they seem to look better on the horses.There are many different sizes of bridles and choosing the wrong size can be a detriment to the safety of the handler, horse, and pretty much everyone else in the vicinity. The standard sizes are as follows:


Mini: obviously made to fit miniature horsesPony: made to fit ponies
Small, Arab or Cob: full sized horse with a smaller head such as the Arabians or CobsHorse, Average or Medium: full sized horse with an average head such as the Quarter HorseLarge Horse or Warmblood: full sized horse with a large head such as the WarmbloodDraft or Extra Large

If at all possible, have a horse knowledgable friend, horse professional, or store associate help you with sizing if you are still not sure on what size you should buy.



There are also many different types of bridles, each a part of what ever event you and your horse are going to be a part of. Usually, the english bridles are a bit more complicated than the western bridles, as they have more straps and things to buckle.


1. Before even beginning to bridle the horse, look over the bridle. Make sure that there aren't any tears, ripping/ripped seams, or broken pieces. Do the same for the reins. You will want the entire bridle including reins in good working order before ever putting it on your horse.

2. When you are looking over the bridle, you will notice that it is a little different from the halter and lead rope.
  • For one, the bridle will most likely have a bit. That silver thing hanging down near the bottom. Now, if you look in a horse's mouth, you will notice a space between the front teeth and the back teeth. This space is called the interdental space, and all horses have it. This space is where the bit is going to go. Right smack dab in the center of that space. If the bit is too loose, it will knock the teeth in the front, but if too tight it will provide discomfort on the back teeth. Either scenario will result in an unhappy horse. 
  • Secondly, the bridle has a browband (except for some western bridles). The band that goes across the horse's "forehead".


3. After you have looked over the entire bridle, and have affirmed that it is good, slip the lead rope around the horse's neck and unbuckle the crown piece of the halter. After unbuckling the crown piece, slide the halter off the horse, while still keeping the lead rope around the neck. Once the halter is completely off, attach just the crown piece around the horse's neck, and remove the lead rope. 

Safety comes first, so if at all possible, have a horse knowledgable friend or horse professional there until you become confident in doing this task yourself.


4. So now the halter is just around the horse's neck and you are 
holding onto the lead rope. Now comes the fun part!! Take your bridle and with your right hand hold the bridle up and over the horse's nose, making sure that the bit is parallel to the horse's mouth. Using your left hand, hold the bit in your hand, across the palm. Bring the bit up to the horse's mouth, inserting your thumb and forefinger into the sides of the mouth behind the teeth. If the horse is a bit resistant, he may jerk his head up, or not want to open his mouth. Once your fingers are in and the bit is at his lips, wiggle your fingers in his mouth in order to get him to open his mouth. When he does open it, DO NOT jerk the bit into his mouth. Gently move the bridle up his face, moving the bit further in his mouth. 

5. Once the bit is in the horse's mouth and the bridle is near the horse's ears, switch hands. Take the bridle in your left hand and bring your right hand from underneath the horse's throatlatch to its ears. Using your right hand, gently bend the horse's right ear forward in order to slip it under the crown of the bridle. Do the same for the left ear.

6. Once the bridle is over the ears, and the bit is in the horse's mouth, buckle the throatlatch piece, if the bridle has it. Make sure that the throatlatch is neither too tight or too loose. I prefer to have 4 fingers between the horse's throatlatch and the strap.

7. If you are using an english bridle, it may include a noseband or a flash noseband. The regular noseband just has the one piece to buckle underneath the chin groove, while the flash has a piece to buckle underneath the chin groove and and another to buckle in front of the bit. When buckling these areas, it is good to understand how tight the horse usually has it. Rule of thumb for horses new to the noseband is fitting 2 fingers in between the strap and the chin groove. Horses that are used to having their mouths clamped shut can have the strap tighter.

6. You are almost there! Once you have your bridle on and buckled, check the hardware again for tears, rips, or broken hardware. You do not want to be riding in the arena or out on a trail and have your reins or halter break. Believe me, it is not fun. After re-checking your tack, check the bit in the mouth. Look at the placement, making sure that the bit is in the center of the interdental space. Another good rule of thumb for this is looking at the wrinkles at the side of the horse's mouth. There should be approximately 2 wrinkles. The bit should also fit the horse's mouth. It should not be pinching the sides of the mouth, nor should it have extra "bar space" on either side of the bit when the bit is pulled on both sides.

This is what the english bridle (The western bridle is above) should look like when you are done...




Chicks Saddlery


Friday, April 13, 2012

Let's Ride! How to Canter a Horse

Fantasia Adventure Holidays

The third of the three main speeds of the horse, is the canter. After learning how to walk, the horse learns how to run, which is what riders must also learn to accomplish. It is a rudimentary element before learning to do anything more difficult on the horse. Learning to correctly ride at the walk, trot, and canter improves balance, coordination, and strength.

The canter, which is forward moving, is a "three beat" gait. In the canter the horse will be moving two diagonal legs in unison, with the other two independent. When cantering, the horse's legs follow this sequence: right hind leg, left hind leg with right front leg, left front leg. When moving, the horse's head and neck will be moving up and down slightly to maintain balance. If you have ever had the pleasure of sitting in a rocking chair, the feeling of rocking back and forth is how the canter feels. The horse will lift with his front end and push with the back end, thus creating the rocking motion. You will see it more readily in Saddle Seat, and less so in Western Pleasure.

Before getting on the horse and starting to ride, riders must wear a helmet and protective footwear. Safety is paramount when combining horses and individuals in activities. Riding horses is an inherently dangerous activity and participants in the activities assume the risk of being injured. You, as the rider, may not always be in control of the horse, but can help to prevent injury by wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet and protective footwear (along with clothes, obviously!!). If at all possible, have an equine professional (preferably an instructor) with you during your first ride.

1. First things first, maintain your posture!!
  • When you are sitting on the horse, do not slouch or tense up, as there will be more of a propensity for you to fall off. Maintaining good posture will also help communicate your cues to the horse.
  • Make sure you are sitting square in the saddle and that your balance has not shifted to one side.
  • Keep your legs under you (with feet preferably in the stirrups), not too far forward but not too far back. Do not let your legs move forward as if you are sitting in a chair, and do not allow them to swing. Keep your legs still and "quiet".
  • About a third of your boot should be in the stirrup, with the balls of your feet on the bar of the stirrup. Your feet should be parallel to the horse with your heels down. And toes should not point outward.
  • There should be an imaginary straight line from your shoulders, down to your hips and through your feet, but you shouldn't be able to see your toes if you look down.
  • Arms, wrists, and fingers need to be relaxed but steady. Your hands should maintain steady contact (or tightness) with the reins, meaning you should feel contact between your hands and the bit (the big metal thing in the horse's mouth).
  • And finally look ahead of you or where you are going to be moving to.

2. Pick up the reins (if you haven't already) and maintain even and steady but light contact with the bit. You should be able to feel the horse's mouth through the bit, but you shouldn't be pulling on it. If english, there should be little to no slack in the reins. If western, you should have contact but more slack than in english.

3. Ask your horse to pick up the walk. Make sure the walk is at a good, forward moving pace. If you do not know how to do this, please re-read, understand, and complete the steps in the How to Walk post.

4. Ask your horse to pick up the trot. When you pick up the trot, make sure that it is a good forward moving, but calm trot.  If you do not know how to do this, please re-read, understand, and complete the steps in the How to Trot post.

5. Before even beginning to position your horse for the canter, work on some transitions in order to warm the horse up. This means working on walk to trot, trot to walk, walk to halt, trot to halt, halt to trot, halt to walk, and maybe doing some circles at the walk and trot, so that you are comfortable with those gaits before moving into the canter.

6. Position yourself on the horse in order to prepare for the canter. This means bringing your outside leg back behind the girth and leaving your inside leg against the girth. Keep steady contact with the reins, with a little more bend to the inside. Although, you do not want to turn your horse's head to the inside, as you will become frustrated and it will confused your horse. Now, using both legs, with more pressure from the outside leg than the inside, GENTLY, squeeze the horse's sides. When squeezing, make sure that only a small amount of pressure is being used. Your leg above the knee should remain motionless. As the lower leg is squeezing, push your hips slightly forward. Once the horse starts moving, release the leg and move your hands forward slightly to prevent giving the horse mixed cues. If the horse does not move off of the lower leg cue, nudge with your lower leg. If the horse still does not respond to your cues, urge the horse forward with your heels. If the horse still does not move, check your cues, your body language, and try again. If the horse is not cooperating, make sure that you are also moving your hand forward when asking for the trot.

7. Once the horse starts moving, keep your arms relaxed so that you can allow your hands to move forwards and back with the movement of the horse's head. Allow your body to relax (while still maintaining posture!) with the motion of the horse.  This is where you are going to feel that lovely rocking motion.   If you feel that your horse is starting to slow and possibly stop or walk again, nudge him or her again until you get the same rhythm as before.

8. Congratulations, you have asked your horse to canter, and succeeded!!

Any questions?

Let's Ride! Correct Canter Leads




The third of the three main speeds of the horse, is the canter. After learning how to walk, the horse learns how to run, which is what riders must also learn to accomplish.  It is a rudimentary element before learning to do anything more difficult on the horse.  Learning to correctly ride at the walk, trot, and canter improves balance, coordination, and strength.

The canter, which is forward moving, is a "three beat" gait. In the canter the horse will be moving two diagonal legs in unison, with the other two independent.  When cantering, the horse's legs follow this sequence: right hind leg, left hind leg with right front leg, left front leg.  When moving, the horse's head and neck will be moving up and down slightly to maintain balance. If you have ever had the pleasure of sitting in a rocking chair, the feeling of rocking back and forth is how the canter feels. The horse will lift with his front end and push with the back end, thus creating the rocking motion. You will see it more readily in Saddle Seat, and less so in Western Pleasure.

The canter has two leads, the right lead and the left lead. The more extended foreleg is matched by a slightly more extended hind leg on the same side. It is preferable, except during a counter-canter, for the horse to be leading with the leg that is closest to the inside of the arena/ circle. A horse that begins cantering with the right rear leg will have the left front and the hind legs each land farther forward. This would be referred to as being on the left lead.

So, after you pick up the canter, if perchance you look down, you will see the extended leg and shoulder moving more forward than the opposite leg. However it is preferable to not look down when you are riding as you will offset the balance of the horse and yourself. So, in order to know which lead you are on, you will have to feel it through your seat (or have your instructor tell you until you CAN feel it). That is, when the horse is reaching forward with one leg, you will feel a pull in your seat toward that leg.  If you are having trouble still feeling that pull, a quick glance at the horse's shoulder will tell you which lead you are on.

If you realize that your horse is on the wrong lead, ask for the halt, wait for him to stop completely, and then ask for the correct lead again. For the left lead, you will be asking more with your right leg, and for the right lead, you will be asking more with your left leg.

The Basics: Horsie Conditioning Part 2

This is the second part of the original Horsie Conditioning that I had made for a friend. 

Once she is toned up from the Winter softies, you can begin this regiment of Cardio & Muscle Development.  

Begin on Trails, (hopefully ones that have hills and flat)!   
  • Walk 10 minutes, 
  • Trot 10 minutes, 
  • Walk 10 minutes, 
  • Canter 10 minutes, 
  • Walk 10 minutes, 
  • Trot 10 minutes, 
  • Walk 10 minutes, 
  • Canter 10 minutes, 
  • Walk 10 minutes.  
By alternating the three gaits, you are alternating muscle groups, as well as bringing them up, then down, then alternating up, then down. This is what is happening to the Cardio system as well.....trot and canter both work the cardio system completely differently. To improve the longitudinal balance of a horse, the rider (or can be done on a lunge line) repeatedly asks the horse for up and down transitions, frequently (or within a five stride time frame). Such as Walk-Trot-Walk-Trot-Walk-Trot. This teaches the horse to keep a majority of her weight in her hind quarters. Helping to assist her in keeping weight off of the front end, and/or the bridle.

Strength Training or Long Slow DistanceThis training initiates development of your horse’s muscular endurance (the ability to sustain work for prolonged periods), but to improve muscular strength you need to increase the intensity of the workouts or the number of repetitions of a particular drill.

Incorporate steeper hill climbs or accelerate your horse’s speed up a moderate ascent; gymnastic grids, cavelletti grids, or more advanced dressage or equitation exercises are also reliable methods to increase the exercise intensity while improving muscular strength. Include strength-training exercises two to three times a week, or every other day. Remember that as your horse develops muscle strength, her cardiovascular condition continues to improve.

If she has a sore back: canter at first in a half seat position until she’s a bit more muscled, stretched out and used to cantering again before you plop your butt down on her back.

The Basics: Horsie Conditioning


Okay so I wrote this a while back for a friend of mine who's horse was going from the winter softie to summer show competitor. The horse was an Arabian, and the conditioning worked for her. So I decided to share it on my blog! As long as you have some horse sense, take it slow and watch your horse, it will work for you as well. Just remember: Everything cannot be done in a day!!

Always remember to warm-up and cool down. Warm-ups should be no more than 10-15 minutes long and will improve the efficiency of the muscles working. Walking and then trotting for warm-up and trotting then walking for cool down.

You will want to work your way up to working at least 4-5 times a week. It is said that it is important to give your horse a day off every third or fourth day. It seems that its up to you or her, though.
Work on the big things first and then work on the little things.
Once your horse is comfortable at this pace, you’ll want to further “stress” her tissues to gain conditioning improvements. Either increase the duration of the workout or the speed, but never both at the same time.  Even if she’s up for it, don’t push her too hard.  It will work against you.

Work on your communication skills on the ground in the round pen or enclosed arena.  That means lungeing, long lining, and groundwork. Your horse should be able to walk, trot, and canter quietly and safely around you equally in each direction. Of course if she wants to have fun, don’t dismiss it!! LoL! Notice if she is showing any discomfort in movement and if her whole body and muscles are moving in unison as she goes around you (such as not being able to stretch her head and neck out and down).

Start out: Minimum of 30 minutes a session building up slowly to longer sessions, varying each ride

Walking, walking, walking
Little bit of trotting
Walking, walking, walking
Try serpentines and circles at walk
Check balance at walk (you and her)
Bring in short bursts of trotting (check her listening skills and your communication skills)
Walk her over ground poles. Let her stretch her back and neck
Do some patterns at the walk. Watch your posture!

Next: Add in more trot work and a bit of canter (this doesn’t have to be all at once)
When she and you are okay with that, add in:
Walk/trot sets
Ground poles
Trail work – walk/trot sets

Moving forward/ adding in (this doesn’t have to be all at once):
Walk/ Trot/ Canter transitions
More ground pole work

Moving forward/ adding in (this doesn’t have to be all at once):
Impulsion (developed through performing up/down transitions in short frames, such as walk, trot, walk, canter, walk, trot, walk, canter, each for a distance of 3 to 7 strides in variances.  Can be developed by the use of cavalletti's in variances of height and location.), half halts (walk, half halt, walk, walk, trot, walk, half halt..etc as you see fit)

Moving forward/ adding in (this doesn’t have to be all at once):
Extended walk, Slow walk, Trotting ground poles, slow trot, some cantering, lateral work (make sure she has impulsion), don’t forget those transitions!
Trail work – walk/trot sets (if you can find them…hills, or deep ground/sand)
Moving forward/ adding in
Extended trot, slow canter, straight and serpentine, cantering circles, walk/trot ground poles
Trail work – walk/ trot sets

Moving forward/ adding in (this doesn’t have to be all at once):
Extended canter, cantering circles and serpentine. (simple lead change at x)
Let's canter them there ground poles....hehe
Trail work- lets add in some cantering
Short gallops, followed by a return to a normal working canter, build wind and endurance.

Moving forward/ adding in (this doesn’t have to be all at once):
Collection!!
Start at trot, then walk, then canter

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Basics: Horse Vital Information


There are some key pieces of information all horse owners need to know about their horse. In case of emergency, these pieces of information will be helpful in better preparing and informing your veterinarian to any problems that your horse may have. Included in the information will be the normal temperature, resting pulse, and respiration. The horse owner will need to take these vital signs over the course of a few days and then average them out. 

Normal Temperature:

A horse's normal temperature is between 99-101 degrees Fahrenheit. A foal's normal temperature is a little higher than that, measuring 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit.  Temperature may increase by up to 3 degrees depeding on ambient temperature, level of exercise, and the degree of dehydration.
In order to measure normal temperature, you will need, preferrably, a digital thermometer, and some vaseline. The temperature will be taken rectally, and the vaseline will help with insertion.

Resting Pulse:

A horse's normal resting pulse is between 32-48 beats per minute. A foal's normal pulse is about 80-120 beats per minute. Age, ambient temperature, humidity, exercise, and excitement can all affect the horse's heart rate.
In order to measure the resting pulse, you will need a stethoscope. Place the stethoscope over the ribs, right behind the elbow.

Breathing Rate:

A horse's normal breathing rate is between 12-16 breaths per minute. A foal's normal breathing rate is about 30-40 breaths per minute. However, just with the other two, ambient temperature, humidity, exercise, and excitement can affect your horse's breathing rate.

In order to measure the breathing rate, watch the nostrils or flanks and count the number of times the horse breathes out.
Two more tests that I like to have available to both myself and the veterinarian is the degree of dehydration test and the capillary refill test.

Degree of Dehydration:

This test is to check the horse's fluid levels, so to say. A horse should drink a minimum of 5 gallons per day. I know, that sounds like a lot of water, but horses (excluding minis) are big animals and need to stay hydrated.

For this one, you are going to pinch the skin on the horse's neck. Make sure that it is within the "IM shot trianlge," or near the center of the neck. If the skin flattens back into place when you let go in less than 1 second, the horse is fine. If it doesn't, it means the horse isn't drinking enough water, he is dehydrated. If the horse is dehydrated, try flavoring the water, such as apple juice.

Capillary Refill:

This test measure the time that it takes blood to refill the blanched tissues in the gums, which indicates blood circulation.

Lift your horse's upper lip up and firmly press your thumb against his gums for 2 seconds to create a white mark. This white mark should return to the normal pink color within 1-2 seconds after releasing the pressure.  If the CRT takes longer than 2 seconds, the horse may have shock. If the gums (or any other mucous membrane) is an odd color, like very pink pale, bright red, grayish blue or bright yellow, call a veterinarian immediately.

Tack 'Em Up! Fly Protection

Duramesh Neck Cover by sstack.com


As things start to warm up and winter becomes spring and spring becomes summer, the bugs come out. Those little flying nuisances that like to pester our friendly four legged creatures and make them (sometimes) into a ball of chaos.  Not so fun for us, and certainly not fun for them. So, in order to make your horse happier and more pleasant to be around, there are a variety of protective items that you can make or buy. Here are a few of those items:

Fly/ Tick/ Etc Chemical Repellant:

You can either buy chemical repellant from the store or make your own.  Fly spray comes in a spray bottle, or a larger "refill" bottle. Fly repellant can also come in a roll on form. These products are great for using on the face, such as on the eyes, around the mouth, etc.  Make sure to always check the label to see if you are using the product correctly. You don't want to be using anything that can be harmful to your horse.  You can also make your own, as I stated earlier.  There are many recipes on the internet that you can choose from.  But remember, when making your own, that you need to wear protection from certain chemicals.


Fly Sheets, Masks & Other:

The fly sheet and fly masks for horses are just mesh coverings over the body, legs or face and help the horse to stay fly free (for the most part). These items can be found online or sometimes at your local tack shop.

Fly Baits:

Ah, yes the lovely fly bait. They come in the old fashioned fly papers and fly traps. They smell horrible to us, but smell supremely delicious to the flies.  You must take care they are out of reach of horses and children.  If not, you will have a nice surprise when you walk in on a horse with fly paper stuck to it. Other methods that work are water traps and bags. I have heard that using a water and vinegar mix in these contraptions, together with a bit of vegetable oil works great.


If you are still having issues with flies and they seem to be getting really bad, make sure that you are keeping the stable/ barn areas as clean as is possible. You can also use fly predators on your manure piles, put in an insecticide misting system in the stable, or put up bird houses near your manure piles to cut down on bug content. Many of those items can be bought in store or ordered online.

Do you have any suggestions to help your horse during the "bug" seasons?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's Ride! Posting at the Trot


Image property of Dassett Equestrian

The second of the three main speeds of the horse, is the trot. After learning how to walk, the horse learns how to run, which is what riders must also learn to accomplish. It is a rudimentary element before learning to do anything more difficult on the horse. Learning to correctly ride at the walk, trot, and canter improves balance, coordination, and strength.

The trot, which is forward moving, is a "two step" gait. This means that the horse moves two legs diagonal from each other in rhythm. When trotting, the horse's legs follow this sequence: right hind leg with left fore leg, then left hind leg with right fore leg. Two feet will always move together, while the horse's neck and head move slightly to maintain balance. The horse's weight will lift slightly, as if bouncing as the legs move.

Before getting on the horse and starting to ride, riders must wear a helmet and protective footwear. Safety is paramount when combining horses and individuals in activities. Riding horses is an inherently dangerous activity and participants in the activities assume the risk of being injured. You, as the rider, may not always be in control of the horse, but can help to prevent injury by wearing an ASTM/SEI certified helmet and protective footwear (along with clothes, obviously!!). If at all possible, have an equine professional (preferably an instructor) with you during your first ride.
1. First things first, maintain your posture!!
  • When you are sitting on the horse, do not slouch or tense up, as there will be more of a propensity for you to fall off. Maintaining good posture will also help communicate your cues to the horse.
  • Make sure you are sitting square in the saddle and that your balance has not shifted to one side.
  • Keep your legs under you (with feet preferably in the stirrups), not too far forward but not too far back. Do not let your legs move forward as if you are sitting in a chair, and do not allow them to swing. Keep your legs still and "quiet".
  • About a third of your boot should be in the stirrup, with the balls of your feet on the bar of the stirrup. Your feet should be parallel to the horse with your heels down. And toes should not point outward.
  • There should be an imaginary straight line from your shoulders, down to your hips and through your feet, but you shouldn't be able to see your toes if you look down.
  • Arms, wrists, and fingers need to be relaxed but steady. Your hands should maintain steady contact (or tightness) with the reins, meaning you should feel contact between your hands and the bit (the big metal thing in the horse's mouth).
  • And finally look ahead of you or where you are going to be moving to.

2. Complete the steps in How to Pick up a Trot.

3. When you are trotting, depending on the horse, you will most likely feel like you are going to "bounce" out of the saddle. That is because of the two step gait that the horse is performing. You will likely feel this bounce until you can master the sitting trot. So, until that point, you can use posting. As an added bonus, the posting trot can be beneficial to your horse's back!  To start, I like to go with the phrase, "Rise and fall with the leg on the wall" (this will also be the correct diagonal). That is, the front leg of the horse that is closest to the outside of the arena. So when the horse brings that leg up, before extending and moving it forward, is the time when you should "lift" yourself out of the saddle.  And when I say lift yourself out of the saddle, I mean, without disrupting your posture and balance, slightly push your butt out of the seat of the saddle, so it is out of the saddle, but you are not standing up in the stirrups.

4. What I like about the posting trot is that it can be used to increase or decrease the speed of the horse, just by increasing or decreasing your posting speed. Once you understand the posting trot and can perform it correctly, try and increase/ decrease the trot with your posting. See what you can accomplish, just with your seat! You will be pleasantly surprised.