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  

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

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.

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. :)

Tack 'Em Up! Bridling a Horse

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 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