Thursday, October 18, 2012

How to Grow Out a Mane & Tail

There are many ways to grow a mane and tail out, but your end results will be determined by genetics and nutrition.  It is impossible to have a thick, beautiful mane and tail on a horse that does not have the genetic potential to do so.  On the same note, a horse that has the potential for a great mane and tail will not be able to fulfill that potential without the proper nutrition.  It is a whole lot like the different hair types in humans, you end up with what your mother and father gave you, and your level of nutrition directly affects the quality of hair that you get to make use of.  So, before you begin to work to get that beautifully thick mane and tail, you need to take an honest look at what you have to begin with.  Make sure that all of your horse’s nutritional needs are being met, because no topical concoction will do near as much for the hair health and growth as good as nutrition will.  Now that we have the genetics and nutrition covered, we can move on to a couple of ways to help the hair grow out and to protect it from breakage.
One of the most popular methods for growing out the mane and tail is to braid them to help protect them from breakage.  The downfall of braiding is that if the braids are too wide or too tight, the braids will pull out or break the hairs when the horse lowers it’s head to eat.  That is the opposite of what you are wanting.  Another downfall is, if the braids are left in too long, they can actually become tangles up, and the process of getting them out can break or pull out the hair.  A reasonable time is two weeks maximum, anything longer and you risk them tangling up.  For the purpose of growing out a mane, I like to use braids that are about an inch wide at the top maximum.  I braid them loosely where they can expand some without pulling and breaking the hair.  I want the hair clean, conditioned, and dry.  Do not use anything that has silicone in it, like Show Sheen, on a regular basis.  To remove tangles or for a show, it is ok, but on a daily basis it will dry out and damage the hair.  I like coconut oil worked into the mane sparingly about once a week at most.  It will help moisturize the hair and make it manageable for braiding, but if you use too much it will make the hair too slick to braid.  I use electric tape to tie the braids at the bottom, it does not degrade in the sun and just fall off like the rubber bands and does not pull as much hair out either, when you remove them to take the braids out.  Since I am too lazy to remove the braids weekly for the oil treatment, I will simply work the oil into the mane bed.  When I take the braids out, I will let the hair rest for a day or two before braiding the hair back up.
As for braiding the tail, I do not personally like doing it, but some people do.  So, I will explain how to.  I want the tail clean, either wash it completely or do a vinegar wash, conditioned, and dry.  Work the coconut oil into it, again sparingly, too much will make it too slick to braid.  The braid needs to start at the end of the dock, and be braided loosely to the end.  There are many options when braiding tails; just braiding it without a bag, a braid in bag, a drop in bag, an old tube sock, or wrap the braid up in vet wrap or Sarhan Wrap  If you are doing this during the summer, you do need to provide something for the horse to use as a swatter, even if it is running hay string through the braid to kind of replace their tails while it is braided up.  You will also need to keep the horse sprayed with fly spray, and I also like providing them with a Rabon block as well.  Anything to help with reducing the fly population, right!?!?  The tail braid is easier and less time consuming to take down and put back up, so if I do braid I will do and re-do it weekly.  I will let the tail rest for a day or so between taking it down and putting it back up.
The other option is growing out manes and tails is not braiding them.  This is the easier option.  I have heard to never brush the mane or tail unless it is damp with some kind of conditioner, I have heard that it should only be brushed dry, I have heard to not brush it at all but to pick it out with your fingers.  I’m going to explain how I do my horses’ manes, everyday or every other day.  If I need to use a leave in conditioner, I will mix one part cheap human conditioner with one part water in a spray bottle, shake well and spray on as needed.  **Check the ingredients for silicone or any –cone and try to avoid them completely if possible.  If you can not, make sure that they are closer to the end of the list then the beginning, the farther they are down the list, the less is in the mix.  When I comb the mane or tail, I start at the bottom and work my way up gradually.  In general, I use a wide toothed comb, but I keep a rat tailed comb to help pick out tight knots, or any knots really.  I still do the weekly coconut oil treatments, but have found that after these treatments the hair does not tangle as much.  I have also noticed that damp hair tends to stretch rather than break, but healthy hair will not break as easily as dry hair anyway.
Regardless of what method you use to grow out your horse’s mane and tail, there are factors that will determine your end results.  The first factor is genetics.  Without the right genetics, no amount of nutrition and care will give you a thick, long mane and tail.  The second factor is nutrition.  Even with great genetics, without proper nutrition the hair will never live up to it’s potential.  If you take care of these two factors, you will find that the mane and tail will grow better, with less care required from you.  Proper nutrition can remedy a multitude of problems; the key is getting your horse on a balanced diet that meets your horse’s daily requirements.  Find what works best for you and your horse and stick to it.  I know that I have touched on genetics and nutrition twice in this article, and that is because I want you to keep it in mind as you read the article, and have it refreshed in your mind at the end of it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How Important is Rider Fitness?

I have rode horses for a long time, and even though I do not ride as much now, as I might like to, I still think that rider fitness is very important.  I am not currently in shape for riding, but it is something that I am working on.  Of my two horses, neither one of them are in shape either.  But for me to get them in shape, I have to get myself taken care of first.  I think the rider’s fitness is just as important, if not more so, than the horse’s fitness.  I cannot get my horses in shape, if I myself cannot handle the exertion that is required to do so.  If I go out to work with one of my horses, and become too tired to continue before it is over, what have I done?  I have successfully taught the horse that if it can out last me by being hard headed or starting a fight, the work is over.  Is that what I wanted to teach the horse?  No, and my fitness level directly affects my ability to train, handle, ride and condition my horses.  I have to be able to maintain enough energy to finish what I start, and to keep my wits about doing it.  If I am winded and tired, my mind will not work as efficiently at solving problems, that if I were at a greater fitness level I would not have a problem with. 

Let me give a good example of when your fitness level directly affects your ability to train.  Let us say that your conditioning is at the lower level, and you just got a two year old colt to work with.  He is too young for riding just yet, but you are going to start with some ground work to lay the foundation for him to be backed as an early three year old.  We’ll assume that for the most part, he is willing to learn, and eager to please, but every once in a while the stallion comes out in him, and he decides that no matter what he is not going to do something that you know that he knows how to do.  He’s just being a young colt and being a little defiant.  You are asking him something simple, like stopping to face you, something that he has done several times.  But, this time he decided that he is going to stop with his rear end pointed directly at you.  You are already a little tired, and he just slapped you in the face with a challenge, “Make me turn to face you!”  So, you pull up your big boy or girl britches, and take up the task of “making” him face you, but just a few minutes into the work you are starting to wear out.  You know that you shouldn’t stop, but you just can’t keep going, your heart rate is through the roof, you can barely breathe, and you can’t even hear yourself think because all you can hear is your heart beating in your ears.  You watch the colt for a minute, and figure that he is not exactly in the “you win” mood, because his head is up in the air, and he’s trotting around like he just walked in the round pen.  This is where you have to make a decision, stop and lose or keep going and risk falling out.  Which one do you do?  The answer to that question depends greatly on your determination to train your horse.  This is just one of several ways that your fitness level can affect your training.

I’m not saying that only fit people can ride, I’m just saying that a rider’s fitness level greatly affects the horse’s balance and movement.  I don’t believe that your weight has much to do with your fitness level either, but I also don’t think that you can be 400 lbs of fat, and be fit enough to ride.  The reason that I specified 400 lbs of fat is because there are some body builders that are close to 400 lbs, and I would think that they are pretty fit, though riding would probably reveal muscles that they did not know they had. 

So, where do you start when trying to get yourself fit for riding?  I say start small, start waling more.  Get a pedometer; you will be amazed at how much more you walk when you know how many steps you are making a day.  You will find that you walk more, just to get more steps.  Set yourself a daily step goal, and gradually increase it.  I have a goal of 8,000 steps a day for a week.  I am currently on day 4.  After the week is up, I plan on increasing the goal to 10,000 steps a day.  I am also working on my balance.  I looked up exercises to improve balance, and this is what I found;  the exercises are simple, and can be completed with little or no equipment.  I love exercises that you don’t have to buy anything to complete!  If you have a friend or riding buddy that is also in the process of getting fit, use them as motivation to keep going.  Team up with them for daily exercise.  If you don’t have a friend, take your horse.  Walk with him/her, and work up to jogging or running with him/her.  It will build your bond with your horse and improve your fitness level, and his/her fitness level. 

Get in the habit of measuring yourself on a weekly basis, because weighing yourself alone does not always tell the entire story of how your exercise is paying off, or not paying off.  I have never been what one might call a petite girl, especially if you looked at my weight alone.  I’ll give an example that doesn’t bother me to share.  When I was 19, I barrel raced every weekend, year round.  I was bigger than most of the girls/women that I competed against.  Most of them I outweighed by 30 plus pounds.  I weighed in at 180 pounds.  Sounds fat right? (Now to me it seems skinny!)  Even at that weight, my chest, waist, and hip measurements were 36 – 24 – 36, respectively.  I was not fat, by any stretch of the imagination, and I was quite fit.  I worked at a feed store for 55 hours a week, then went to an Arabian farm and worked another 40 hours in a week.  I survived on roughly 3-4 hours of sleep a night, and still had energy to burn, but I also ate like a human garbage disposal.  I was solid muscle from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet, and nothing moved.  I was extremely fit; I could work side by side with men all day, and often out work them.  I went through several other employees at the feed store, because they could not handle having to keep up with me, especially when the trucks rolled in that we had to unload.  I never had to work out then, because everything that I done for a living was a physical challenge.  I worked at the feed store from 7:00 am to 5:30 pm Monday through Friday and on Saturdays from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm.  I went directly from the feed store to the farm, which only took about 15 minutes then worked there until usually 1:00 am or 2:00 am.  I had to be back to the farm by 6:00 am to feed and turn out the 17 horses that lived there.  As you can see, lots of work, little rest and I loved every minute of it.  Could I do the same now?  Nope, not even close to it.  Would I like to be able to do it again?  Yes ma’am or sir, you bet I would!  I miss being able to ride several horses a day, and still being able to function afterwards.  Now, I ride for an hour or so, and when I get off I can’t get on another horse, my hips won’t let me for now.  But I do plan on getting back to where I can.  That is another fine example of fitness affecting my ability to train.  I can currently train one horse a day if riding is involved.

Riding is a good form of exercise, especially is you ride in correct posture.  It will work your entire body.  But if you are overweight or obese, and think that you are riding to your fullest potential, you are sadly mistaken.  I’m not trying to be hard on overweight or obese people, as I currently fit in that last category.  I am 5’ 5” barefoot, and weight in at 229 pounds as of my last measurements.  I have at least 50 pounds to loose, and I can’t wait to lose them, plus about 15-20 more. (But honestly, right now, I would settle for the 180 that I used to weigh.)  If you are overweight, and think that you are riding to the best of your ability, I challenge you to lose 5 pounds, and see what a difference it makes.  You should be able to lose 5 pounds in a few weeks just simply by moving more, and not much else.  If those 5 pounds makes a difference, image what 10 or 20 pounds would do.

Now, do not let anyone tell you that you are “too fat” to ride, especially if you know that your horse can carry you with no problem, and if any one does tell you that stand up for yourself.  They do not know you or your horse, so what gives them the right to say what you can or cannot do, or what your horse is capable of.  If you are just starting out in horses, and you get turned down at a lesson, keep looking.  If you run into a brick wall on the lessons, look into buying your own horse, if that is something that you can reasonably afford.  Join in on horse forums, I can recommend an excellent one,  It has just about everything you can need where horses are concerned.  I love it and visit it daily.  My user name is PaintedFury, if you join, look me up and send me a friend request, I will happily accept it.  This forum even has a forum for Plus Sized Riders, which I particularly enjoy.  It’s nice to know that I’m not the only horsewoman in the world with my particular problem, and sometimes it’s nice to have someone to talk to about it.  And let me tell you, the ladies and gentlemen in that part of the forum are VERY supportive of each other.  If you are just having a bad day, they will rally around you and pick you right back up.  Big love to all of them!

Ok, to the point of all of this ranting.  Being fit is important to your riding, but it is more important to your health.  Does that make it an easy journey?  No, it doesn’t, but it is a journey worth taking and worth working for.  Do not start on this journey because Joe Blow made some snide remark about you.  Start this journey because YOU want to, for whatever reason, as long as it is a truly personal reason.  If it is because of Joe Blow up there, then it is the wrong reason.  If it is because you want to ride better, or feel better, even just so you can play longer with your kids (either two legged or four legged) those are the right reasons.  Do it for yourself first, everything else is just an added benefit.

Good luck on your journey; and God bless you and your families.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rain Rot – Prevention & Treatment

What is Rain Rot?
Rain Rot is a nasty little fungus that occurs on horses during rainy or wet weather.  The fungus is always present in the dirt, but it needs moisture to actually affect the skin of the horse.  Rain Rot can often be felt before it is seen.  It will form scabs under the hair, against the skin.  It is most commonly on the top line and belly of a horse.  Removing the scabs and exposing the infection to air is the first step in treatment.  How early you discover the infection and remove the scabs will determine what you will find under the scabs, and how long treatment will take.  I usually catch it early because I am always looking for it. More often than not, I catch it before it spreads much and simply exposing it to air works.  If you catch it early, you may remove the scabs to find inflamed skin, but if you don’t catch it early, you will remove the scabs and find pus trapped below them.  Early detection is the key to a shorter treatment time.

The best prevention that I have found is actually a good grooming routine that is done daily.  It removes excess dirt from the horse’s coat, thus removing the fungus before moisture can be added.  This is not 100% effective on every horse.  I have one horse that no matter how much I groom or how dry the weather gets during the summer, she always gets Rain Rot during the summer months.  Why?  She gets Rain Rot during the summer because when she gets hot, she will go roll in the pond, then come back to the barn and roll in the dirt under the run-in, and finally drip dry.  That is the perfect combination for Rain Rot to take hold in.  The most that I can do for her is to treat the spots where she gets it, and try to minimize it as much as possible.

How to treat Rain Rot.
There are numerous products on the market to treat Rain Rot, or at least that are marketed for the treatment of Rain Rot.  I’ve used exactly one of them!  Shapley’s M-T-G (Mane-Tail-Growth) works well, and the oil in it conditions the hair for regrowth.  I’ve also heard that it really encourages mane and tail growth.  The sulfur powder in it kills the fungus that causes Rain Rot. 
If you look outside the products marketed specifically for horses, there are some very good options.  I used to work with a lady that swore that a mixture of 50% Bleach/50% hot water, and a good stiff brush would kill Rain Rot in one treatment. I never could bring myself to use this method because it involved scrubbing all of the scabby places with the stiff brush and the bleach/water mixture.  That just sounded too painful.  Have you ever gotten bleach into a cut or scrape?  It burns like crazy, and most people are going to expect their horse to stand quietly to have this done.  I really don’t see it happening, but there will be people that expect it. 
The original amber Listerine will also treat Rain Rot.  If you’ve ever used it, you know it burns like crazy, but it works.  I’ve also heard that Listerine will encourage mane and tail growth because it kills anything that may impede growth.
Athlete’s Foot cream or powder will also treat Rain Rot.  I personally like using Apple Cider Vinegar. It’s acidic enough to kill the fungus and it also repels flies and mosquitoes.
Treatment often depends on the severity of the infection, personal preference and time.  Regardless of the product that you choose to treat Rain Rot, the scabs that form at the base of the hair need to be removed.  This process can be painful, so do not be surprised if your horse moves around some trying to avoid the pain.  It’s necessary to expose the infected area to air and to get the medication directly on the infected area.  Depending on the time of year, you can bathe the horse. The scabs getting wet will often make them come off easier.  If you take this route, be sure to get as many of the scabs off as possible while the horse is still wet, and use a sweat scraper to remove the excess water.  If it is too cold to bathe, you can use hot water and a wash cloth to soften the scabs over a small area, then move on to the next area, as necessary.  If the infection is caught early, before it spreads, this is usually the simplest way to remove the scabs. If you don’t have a hot water tank at the barn, you can simply bring a thermos of hot water from home.

How to prevent spreading Rain Rot to other Horses.
Rain Rot can be spread from horse to horse by brushes, blankets, and anything that comes in contact with their skin. Those same items can re-infect the same horse again without proper disinfection of those items.  The wash cloths that I use at the barn are just the cheapest ones that I can find, so if I need to throw them away, it’s no big deal.  To disinfect them, I fill the kitchen sink with hot water, add 1 cup of bleach and let them soak, then wash them with a regular load of towels.
To disinfect my brushes I fill the kitchen sink with hot water, add ½ cup of Lysol or Bleach and let them soak for about 15 minutes, then rinse them thoroughly.  I like to use Lysol because it suds up a little, so you can tell when it’s completely rinsed out of your brushes.  Air dry the brushes outside in direct sun light. **Note: If any of your brushes have wooden handles, do not soak them.  Simply dip the bristles of the brush in the sink repeatedly and rinse thoroughly trying to keep the handle as dry as possible.  Soaking a wooden- handled brush can cause the handle to start losing the bristles and ruin the brush.
If you blanket your horse while it has Rain Rot, which I would not suggest, you will need to disinfect your blanket as well.  I usually take blankets to the nearest laundry mat, and wash them with hot water, and color safe bleach.  Wash them again with just hot water, to make sure all of the detergent and bleach are removed from the blanket.  During the winter, I will dry them in the dryer, but during the summer I will line-dry them in direct sunlight.

While Rain Rot is a common fungus to deal with, especially in humid climates, it is a simple one to prevent and treat.  While prevention is key, treatment is usually simple.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

What to Expect from Riding Lessons.

My brother and his family just recently moved back to our home town of Camden.  They had not been here long, not even 24 hours, when my niece Jordan was hitting me up for riding lessons.  Well, today she made the comment that she didn’t like getting dirty, and I promptly asked her what she thought riding horses was going to get her.  She looked at me like I was totally crazy, and not in the good way.  She quickly pronounced that how dirty could she get riding a horse.  I told her that before she stepped on that horse, she had to groom it, and saddle it; and she would be dirty before she ever actually got on the horse.
Now, I’m not the type of person that allows every Tom, Dick, and Harry on my horses, because I honestly believe that everyone who interacts with a horse, is in fact a trainer, whether they claim to be or not.  Because of that, I am extremely picky about who gets on my horses.
Well, this conversation got me thinking about what someone should expect to learn while under the tutelage of an experienced horse person, whether they are a certified instructor or not.  So, what exactly should an instructor be teaching his/her students? 
Well, in my opinion, the first thing that someone should learn is just basic horse care.
·         How often the horse needs to be fed, how much, and why the horse is fed whatever.
·         How the feed needs to be stored, to maintain it freshness and ensure that it is not infested by bugs.
·         How often do horses need to be wormed, how to worm horses, and with what kind of wormer.
·         How often the farrier needs to come out.
·         How often the vet needs to visit, for regular maintenance of the horse.
·         The affect that a horse’s teeth can have on their entire life, how often to have the horse’s teeth checked by an equine dentist or a vet.
·         How to safely handle a horse on the ground.
·         How to safely lounge and free lounge a horse.
·         How to properly groom a horse.
·         How to properly saddle a horse, and check the saddle for proper fit.
·         How to properly bridle and unbridle a horse.
·         How to properly clean a stall.
·         How to check, and fix fence.
·         How to clean out the feet.
·         Symptoms of common ailments that affect horses, and treatment of those ailments.
·         General first aid of horses.
·         When to call the vet for the horses, in emergency situations.
Now, I’m not saying that this list is by any means complete, I’m quite sure that there are things that I have missed, because at this point I do most of these without really thinking about doing them, they just get done.  It’s all the little things that happen when you own a horse that needs to be taught when you’re learning to ride a horse.  And, I haven’t even touched on what the rider needs to learn about actually riding the horse.
What does anyone learn from showing up to an already saddled horse, getting on it and riding, and nothing else?  Exactly that, nothing.  I don’t care if you spend $20.00 for a lesson or $200.00 for a lesson, if you have taken riding lessons, you should also learn how to actually care for the horse as well.  Instead, there are people that have taken lessons for years, and have no idea of how to take care of one, when they decide to get their own horse.

Why Should Every Rider take Riding Lessons?
I was never lucky enough to have formal riding lessons.  Where I live, they are just not readily available, so I understand that they are not readily available everywhere.  Now, I did have access to more experience horse people that helped me with my riding on my horses.  So, in a round-about way, I had riding lessons.  What these people taught me, went well beyond just riding the horse, and that is one reason that I think riding lessons should cover more than just riding, in fact I think they should be called horse lessons instead.
Every horse person needs access to a more knowledgeable person; that can help them with things that they themselves have little or no knowledge of.  A riding instructor or coach can fill the position, and should willingly.  The instructor can make sure that your experience with horses is safe and pleasurable.  They can also help you select a horse this is not beyond your riding level, or one that will challenge you if your riding level is advanced enough for that.  My second horse was way beyond my riding level, but I was enough of a natural rider that I rose to the challenge of him, and ended up having a well behaved horse that I trusted with my life.  I can honestly say, that if I had an instructor, that he would not have been their choice for my second horse.  He wasn’t even my choice for a second horse, but he was what I had so I rode him, everyday.
It takes a bull headed person to keep riding when they have the wrong horse, and not every person is going to plow ahead when they constantly run into problems with a horse.  A good riding instructor can help with this.  They can insure that you end up on a horse that is appropriate to you, and whatever you plan on doing with the horse.  They can also give you access to many more horses to ride until you buy your own, if you ever do.  The more horses you ride, the more experienced and confident you will become on any horse that you may ride; and when you go shopping for your own horse you will have to ride them the day that you meet them.  You will need to be confident enough to get on a horse that you only met a few minutes earlier.  If you have never taken riding lessons, and never ridden at all, you may have problems doing this; but I always recommend trying a horse out before you buy them.
A good riding instructor can make life with horses much easier on you.  Taking lessons will also let you figure out if the horse thing is actually for you or not, without the expense of buying everything that is required to own a horse.  Only to figure out six months down the road that horses really aren’t for you after all.  Not to mention, lessons are a great way to be around horses and ride if you don’t have the money to buy and care for one on your own.

Friday, March 16, 2012

How to get a Truly Shiny Coat.

We’ve all seen them, a nice looking horse; that something is just off, something needs to be different, but what is it?  Upon closer inspection, it’s the coat that is off.  It is dull or rough and has no shine to it what so ever.  It does not matter how healthy looking a horse is, without a shiny coat, they just do not look it.
Why is the Coat not Shiny?
There are, any number of reasons that an otherwise healthy horse may not be shiny.  Worms, dirt, lack of nutrients, and simple lack of elbow grease may be the culprit behind a not so shiny coat.  Too many baths could also be behind it, but more on that later.  So, what happens if you have groomed that horse until your arms can not handle any more grooming; and you still don’t have a shiny coat?  Honestly, you need to start looking for other reasons why the horse is not as shiny as you think it should be.
Is the horse receiving all of the appropriate nutrients it requires to maintain a healthy coat, mane, tail, and hooves?  Look at your pasture or hay first.  Have it tested because any other dietary additions need to balance out what the forage is lacking.  You will also have to take into consideration how often you ride or work the horse, and how heavy that work load is.  Obviously, a race horse will require a different feeding plan than a weekend trail horse to maintain weight and health.  There are also horses that are extremely easy to make too fat, and on the opposite side of that coin horses that are extremely hard to keep weight on and looking healthy.  Young horses and older horses also have different needs for nutritional support to consider.
When you do determine your horse’s nutritional needs, now you have to decide how to meet them.  Will a simple ration balancer supplement do it for you, or will your horse require a feed? 
If you only trail ride once or twice a month, and your horse lives out in a pasture, you may very well be able to get away with a ration balancer supplement, and the pasture alone during the spring, summer, and part of the fall.  During the winter, however you will have to supplement the pasture with hay, unless you have a winter grass, and plenty of it, planted in your pasture.
If, on the other hand you ride for 2 or 3 hours a day, and ride hard when you’re riding, whether your horse lives on a pasture or in a stall, chances are even with free access to pasture or hay, you will have to feed the horse some type of feed.  I personally prefer a complete feed like Purina’s Omolene line ( or the Nutrena ( complete feeds over simple grains.  I’ve had great success with the Omolene 200, and I love the fact that I only have to feed a minimum of 0.35 pounds per 100 pounds of body weight.  My 1,400 pound mare only gets 4.9 pounds a day, all of the vitamins and minerals are already in the feed, so I don’t have to supplement any additional nutrients.
When was the last time the horse was thoroughly wormed, and with what product was it wormed?  If it’s been a while since the horse has been wormed, you may need to worm the horse.  If you’re not sure what product was last used, pick something that has worked well for you in the past.  Whether you determine that the horse needs worming by fecal count or by simply observing behaviors that suggest it, like rubbing their tails (which is an indication of pinworms).  If the horse has worms, that can affect the horse’s coat.
A regular worming schedule is something that you should really consult your vet or equine nutritionist on.  I would suggest a fecal count, so you will know for a matter of fact that the horse does have worms.  It will not reveal every type of worm that your horse may or may not have, but it will reveal the two most common types of worms that infest horses.  Any other worms that the horse may have will depend on if those worms are common in your area.
How often do you bathe your horse with soap or shampoo?  If you are bathing him or her too often, you are stripping the natural oils required to make the horse shiny, so even if you are feeding them properly, keep them wormed, and are grooming until you can’t manage grooming any more, the horse simply will not shine.  Those oils that you are washing down the drain are what make the horse shine.  I can understand bathing a horse before a big event, or if the horse has a skin condition that bathing is part of the treatment for, but other than that, I see no need for regular bathing of a horse.  I would not even suggest frequent washing of the mane and tail, but instead just rinse it with conditioner, and rinse that out.  There is enough sulfates in conditioners that they can actually clean the hair and condition it at the same time.
After you finish riding, do you rinse the sweat and resulting salt from the horse’s coat?  I mean rinse, not bathe, rinsing with water is sufficient to remove the salt from the coat, without using any type of soap or shampoo.  This is something that you can do, even if you don’t have running water at your barn.  A five gallon bucket full of water from home, and a large sponge.  Also, make sure to rinse under the horse’s tail, as the salt can make the tail itch and result in tail rubbing, which is also a sign of pinworms.
Are you grooming in a fashion that promotes a shiny coat.  If you are using products that contain silicone, like Show Sheen ( on a regular basis, the answer is no.  Silicone has a drying affect on hair, so even if you have everything else right, the horse will not be shiny without the spray.  It’s understandable to use the silicone spray on special occasions, or if you have a really bad knot to get out of the horse’s mane or tail, but it will need to be washed out as soon as you can manage it.  Grooming can make a healthy horse truly gleam instead of only shining.  It distributes the natural oils over the hair shafts, and helps create a soft, shiny, slick look.  A look that will not require any type of polish to help the horse look finished.
Daily grooming is worth doing, if you are doing it correctly, if you want to know how I groom my horses, visit one of my blogs, or  I spend a considerable amount of time grooming my horses to make sure that they get the best out of my grooming time.
Regardless of why you want your horse to be shiny, and let’s face it we all want that whether we’re trail riders or top level performers.  You have to look at the complete horse to determine why the horse is not as shiny as you may like.  I think that regardless of the horse’s use, his or her nutritional needs should be looked after as best you can, with what you have available to you in your area.  The horse should be wormed for species that are common in your area, and a worming schedule determined to keep the horse as parasite free as possible.  All measurements should be taken to ensure that there is no sweat or salt drying out the horse’s coat.  Grooming supplies that dry out hair like silicone based polishes should be used sparingly.
Take whatever measurements you can to ensure that you get that gleaming coat that you want.
Good luck and God bless in your future endeavors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How I Groom and Why.

My Personal Views on Grooming.

I know that some people don't set much stock in the benefits of grooming, aside from a shiny coat.  There are so many more benefits, besides removing dirt and producing a shine.  Grooming can relax a horse before and after a ride, it can teach you what is normal on your horse's body, it also provides quality bonding time for you and your horse, and it can prevent common skin disorders like rain rot.  Daily grooming is always best, if you can manage it, but I understand that with school and/or work schedules it is not always possible.

I like to get in a good thorough groom both before and after each ride.  I've known people that only simply brush off where the tack sits before a ride, and if time is constrained, I will do that, and also run my hands over the entire horse looking for any thing that is out of sorts.  The knowledge of your horse's body that can only be gained by daily touching is invaluable in my book.  That knowledge could save you valuable time in getting a diagnosis for a lameness or disease.  The sooner you know that something is wrong, the better.  I notice even the smallest difference in any thing on my horses.  As grooming often leads to horses pooping, it also lets you know if they have any stomach issues that need to be addressed.  I love my daily grooming sessions, they have taught me so much over the years.

The Tools that I use, and Why.

I personally use the Oster Equine Care Series collection  It's expensive, I know, but well worth it from my point of view.  I've had the entire collection for over two years, and even with daily use they are still in good condition.  I also use them because they fit my hands nicely.  I have small hands, even for a woman.  I wear a women's Extra Small glove, and could probably wear some children's gloves if I ever tried to.  So, most brushes are difficult for me to hold on to for very long, without my hands giving out.

Why not use children's brushes?  Well, honestly most of the kid's brushes that I have come by were not the best quality, and I really don't want to replace brushes every time I turn around.  That would get expensive after a couple of times.  Those brushes are not made to last, they are made to be out grown, and as I am 35, I'm not really likely to grow any more.

To me, quality in my grooming equipment is just as important to me as quality of feed, hay, tack, or anything else where my horses are concerned.  Quality is very important because I don't want to keep replacing my stuff.  Cheaper is not always a better value, remember that the next time you have to buy something.

My absolute favorite tool, is however free.  And it will be free to you as well.  It's my hand.  I never groom with a tool in each hand.  I use the tool in the hand that is closest to the horse's head, so if I'm on the horse's right hand side, I use my right hand with the tool.  I use my bare hand to lay on the horse and stroke the horse.  I can do this without much thought to it, until I feel something that's not normal for the horse that I'm working on.  This is where the knowledge from daily grooming comes from.

My Order for Grooming.

I usually groom the manes and tails first.  Picking out any debris with my fingers if possible.  If you braid the horse's mane, check daily for any braids that have come undone, redo, and secure them.  I personally like to use electric tape to secure braids.  It will not degrade and fall off in the sun.  It doesn't really stick to the hair, so you have to make sure that it is wrapped around itself.  The down fall is you have to unwrap it instead of just sliding it off, but I've noticed less breakage from the tape compared to the bands.  When I braid manes, I use narrow braids that are very loose, with a leave-in conditioner at the base of the mane.  When braids are tight they pull hair out when the horse lowers it's head to graze.  If I have a mane that needs help laying down.  I will make braids about half the size of my normal braids, and braid it tight with a leave-in conditioner applied at the base of the mane only.  If I braid tails, I braid them loose as well, with a decent wisp at the end for the horse to use for swatting flies.  If I'm wanting to grow out my horse's tail I will keep it braided with a leave-in conditioner.

Next, I clean the horse's feet out.  I make sure to brush out their feet as well.  I also brush off any mud or dirt that may be stuck to the hoof wall and coronary band.  If the horse's feet needs any type of moisture product, like Hoof Flex or Rain Maker, I usually apply it now.  If the horse requires a black or clear polish, I will lightly sand the hoof wall with a fine grit sand paper to prepare the hoof for the polish, but I do not apply the polish until I am completely finished grooming the horse.  Even then I prefer the horse to be standing on concrete, where their first step does not produce dust, that will settle on and stick to the polish.  To avoid staining the concrete, whether at home or away, I take a piece of plywood about 1 square foot and place it under the foot being polished.  In a pinch the plywood can replace concrete, but you have to wait for the polish to dry before moving on to the next hoof.

Next, I start on the horse's coat, and this is where the majority of my grooming equipment comes in.  I start off with the Course Curry Comb.  The nubs on it are thicker and more dense, but they are not hard by any means.  I always use small circular motions with my curry combs, and use my free hand to wipe away dust as it accumulates.  I try to always keep one hand in contact at all times, except when changing tools.  Some horses can not tolerate heavy pressure when being groomed, and this should be kept in mind.  Some horse's also prefer firmer pressure over lighter pressure.  I wish I could state a specific pressure range that I use, but I really can't as it varies greatly from horse to horse.  I constantly watch the horse's reaction and adjust accordingly.  I always start with the same curry comb regardless of how dirty or clean the horse is.  I find it gives the horse a massage, and loosens them up and relaxes them.  I start just behind the horse's head and gradually work my way down their neck to their shoulder, and down their leg to just above their knee before working my way back up the inside of their leg and up between the legs and onto that side of their chest, then back to their shoulder and onto their barrel.  I try to work their barrel evenly from their back down to under their belly, from front to back, then up onto the top of their rump.  I work gradually over the rump and down the leg to just above the hock, then to the inside of the leg and back up, coming out below the tail.  I really try to groom every inch of the horse that has any kind of muscle tissue on it with the Course Curry Comb.  Then repeat the process on the other side of the horse, you can do it i reverse order, if that is easier for you, on the other side.

My next brush is the Fine Curry Comb.  Which is soft enough to use on the face and lower legs. With this one, I start on the horse's forehead and work my way around the side of their face, and then start in the same manner that I did before, with the exception that I do not stop at the knees and hocks.  I go completely down to the coronary band.  I actually massage the coronary band with the fine curry comb.

With most of the brushes, I use short, quick flicks.  The only brushes that I do not do this with are the face brushes and the finishing brush.  My paint mare that loves being groomed will not tolerate the flicks on the face, but she'll sort of lean into the strokes.  I work methodically through my brushes in order from the harder ones down to the finishing brush.

1. Stiff Grooming Brush
2. Medium Grooming Brush
3. Face Grooming Brush
4. Face Finishing Brush
5. Soft Finishing Brush

When I get done, I have nearly as much hair on me as the horse does, and probably more dirt!

Do All Horses Enjoy being Groomed?

My paint mare, Lady, really enjoys this grooming process; to the point of falling asleep, and laying down, if I don't wake her up by moving her occasionally.  My QH mare, Fancy, only tolerates being groomed, she will relax some, but not anything that even resembles enjoying it.  As soon as I let her loose, she takes off like, "Finally!"  My horses could not be more different from each other, personality wise.  Some horses really enjoy it where others only seem to tolerate it because they have no other choice in the matter, especially my horses.  Some of the horses that merely tolerate it at first will learn to relax and enjoy it.  Fancy would often try to bite when I first got her a little over a year ago.  Now, she stands quietly and some what relaxes for grooming.  She is slowly coming around.

Now, there are some very sensitive horses that may very well never fully enjoy being groomed.  Even with the lightest pressure that you can muster, that will still be too much and uncomfortable for these horses.  You may can gradually desensitize these horses, but I can not attest to this because I've never owned or trained a horse that was that sensitive.  For these horses, I would imagine that grooming done incorrectly is very stressing, and probably not the best bonding arrangement.  Always pay attention to what the horse is telling you and adjust accordingly.

Why I Place So Much Importance on Grooming.

I want to know every inch of my horse from the tip of their nose to the end of their tail, and from the top of their back to the bottom of their feet.  I want to know how it normally feels by touch and memory.  That way, if something feels different I know it, the instant my hand hits it.  Actually putting your hands on your horse daily is the only way to get this knowledge.  This is one of the reasons that I thoroughly groom before and after a ride or any type of use.  I groom after the horse is completely cooled down, again feeling for any knots or warmness that was not there before the work.  It's the best way that I know of to find any problems early, and it begins and ends your day on a positive, relaxing note for most horses.

Do You have to Use the Same Tools that I Do?

Absolutely.  Not!  You can use what ever tools you currently have.  I would suggest not using one of the metal curry combs or shedding blades though.  If you don't know why, simply rub it against your arm, even with light pressure either one is uncomfortable.  With any kind of pressure they down right hurt.  The metal curry combs are great for removing hair from your brushes though, a courser rubber curry comb will also work well for that.

How Long Does this Take?

I can usually groom a horse like this in about 30 minutes or so, depending on the horse's size.  I can also stretch it out to much longer if I've had a bad day, and I am very stressed.  I tend to pour all of my emotions into grooming, that way I am stress free and relaxed when it's time for training.  I can do it quicker than the 30 minutes if I have to, but I prefer not to because I've found that the horse does not enjoy it as much, and if the horse is not enjoying it, what's the point.  Grooming should be enjoyable for both of you, and when it's rushed, it's not enjoyable by either of you.

What About a Shiny Coat?

This grooming routine works great for me in terms of getting my horses nice and shiny.  With that being said, a grooming routine will only get you so far where a gleaming coat is concerned.  Nutrition plays a huge roll in how shiny you can get your horse.

No matter how much elbow grease you put into your horse's appearance, without proper nutrition, it will never shine to it's true potential.  I keep my horses in a pasture 24/7, and feed them Purina's Omolene 200, though I'm thinking about switching to the Omolene 400  Both are complete, balanced feeds, but the 400 has sources of roughage in it as well.  I do not feed any where near the recommended amount to my horses during the summer.  Actually, according to Purina's website,  during the summer I should be feeding one of their Ration Balancers, or but I stick with the Omolene 200 because some how it keeps my horses from sunburning and bleaching out.  Pink noses are safe and my horses end the summer the same color as they started it.  Lady does not sunburn at all, and she is mainly white.  Between nutrition and grooming, both of my horses shine, that is until they both go roll in the pond, then they are just muddy again.  The biggest reason that I like the Omolene line of feeds is because they are packed with all of the vitamins and minerals that horses need on a daily basis, which means I don't have to buy any additional supplements to provide the vitamins and minerals.  Getting into this subject is an entirely different subject, so I'll end with this.  Offer your horse the best nutrition that you have available to you, in your area.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Are Horse Shows as Evil as Some Would have You Believe?

My History with Horse Shows.

I Started showing just a couple of weeks after I got my first horse.  That was twenty-two years ago.  I showed nearly every weekend from the time I was thirteen until I was nineteen.  I did not quit because of some moral dilemma with it.  Quite simply put, I quit because I was burnt out on it.  I loved training barrel and pole horses to compete, but I was tired of competing myself. The late Friday nights preparing, followed by the early Saturday mornings feeding and finishing up the preparing, getting the horse(s) ready for the haul, and the haul itself.

By the time I was old enough to drive, I was more than proficient at pulling a loaded trailer, pretty much anywhere on my own.  Actually, the day that I went to take the driven part of my driver's license test, I had to unhook the trailer from the truck.  I went just about everywhere with that trailer hooked up.

OK, back to the subject at hand.  While I only showed in open shows, in associations that most people have never heard of, I spent a fair portion of my youth at them.  Our shows were governed by the A.Q.H.A. rules and regulations, with the exception that we also had pony classes in addition to the Pee Wee, Buckaroo, Junior, and Senior classes.  As for what actual classes we had, there was Western Pleasure, Reining, Gaited, Performance, and English Pleasure, so we had a pretty well rounded list with a total of about 34 classes or so.

In the years that I have showed and rodeoed, I have only ever seen one instance of any horse abuse, and I put a stop to it, well technically my horse did, after I stepped off of him.  He chased the guy that was doing it back to his horse trailer and into it.  I took the other horse to the officials and reported the guy.  They followed me and the horse back to the guy's trailer and asked him to leave.  Which he promptly did, after I retrieved my gelding who had him pinned inside his own trailer. (I told you that the nightmare ended up being a pretty good horse.)

I've never seen any of the training torture that some people would have you believe goes on at every single horse show, with no regards to the level of the show.

Does it Actually Happen?

I have no doubt that it actually happens at all levels of competition, but I do not believe that it runs rampant at every horse show/rodeo.  Despite what any business, person, or organization posts on, or any other public forum, it is not as present as what they want you to believe.

I have always been aware of what was going on around me, and usually notice details that others completely miss.  That being said, most horse people that I know would not stand idly by while a horse was being mistreated in any form.  Some of them would personally intervene, while others would promptly report them to he officials at the show or the local authorities.

When in Doubt, Check it Out.

Instead of taking my word or any one else's word for it; check it out for yourself.  And, I'm not talking about over the Internet, actually find a horse show, or rodeo in your area, and go check it out for yourself.  You will find the people nice and willing to talk to you, if they are not in the middle of preparing for their next class, or getting one of their kids ready.

You could spend an entire day going from trailer to trailer, or stall to stall, which ever the case may be, and probably make several new horse friends.  If horse showing or rodeoing is not for you, fine.  Just don't decide not to give it fair consideration because some one told you that horse shows/rodeo people are jerks and all horse shows/rodeos are over run with abuse.

Are Horse Shows Bad for Kids?

I personally think that horse shows and/or rodeos offer great benefits for kids.  The fellowship of other kids with similar interests, they teach good sportsmanship, and they keep kids out of trouble on weekend nights.  Especially, if you live in a small town where there is not much for kids to do outside of school,  and school related activities.  Some schools even have horse related clubs, but others sadly do not.

I personally think that if a kid is going to show a horse (or any animal for that fact), they should have to be responsible for caring for that horse, muck, buck, and barrel(lock, stock, and barrel for the non-horsey people who may be reading this).  Which means that the kid will learn even more from horse showing.

The only negative part of kids showing, are the parents who force their kids to show.  This will take all of the fun out of it for the kid, and if it is not fun then what's the point.  Another little thing that sucks the fun out of it for the kids are parents that constantly push them to win and frequently yell at them if they don't.

I can attest to the last one personally, while it was not a parent, it was an uncle that would frequently yell at me and did not care who was watching.  I could win, and I would still get yelled at that I should have done better!  Doesn't that sound like a blast for a kid?  That's one reason why as soon as I got my license I switched associations and got away from him.

Who can Benefit from Horse Shows?

I would say everybody can benefit from horse shows and rodeos, but if you decide that it is not for you, that is fine.  You can make friends with similar interests, and learn from them and teach them as well.  If you are wanting to be a trainer, you will need a show record of some sort, I would chose a consistent trainer over one who wins sometimes and didn't even place other times, but there is no way to determine this if the person does not have a show record, preferably on several horses.

There are horse shows that cover every aspect of riding horses, from trail riding (think A.C.T.H.A.) to dressage, and everything in between.  And most have different levels from Beginners to Professionals, there is a place for everyone.  There are local open shows, which will be closer to home (depending on where you live) than most of the bigger associations.  It all depends on what you want and how far you're willing to go to get it.

What if I Decide that Horse Showing is not for Me?

It is perfectly OK to decide that horse showing is not for you.  If you don't think that showing is something that you would enjoy doing with your horse, stay at home with him/her and enjoy doing whatever it is that you do.  You may enjoy long trail rides out through the woods that are just the two of you, or with a few of your closest friends and family.  I too enjoy going on a good trail ride, even if I have to haul fifty miles or so to get to it.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying your horse without competing with it.

What if I Decide that Horse Showing is for Me?

Well, then my first piece of advise to you would be to have fun with it, and good luck.  Anything beyond that would have to be discipline specific, and I could only comment on the barrel/pole horse aspect of it.


I personally enjoyed competing, until I burnt out on it.  It's not for everyone, but only you can decide if it's right for you, no one else can make that decision for you.  Weigh you options carefully before you make your final decision, and if you're concerned about the abuse of the horses at shows, go check it out for yourself.  Boycotting shows will not change how people think about them, whether it's for or against them.  The only way to eliminate any abuse is for people to go to shows that are brave enough to stand up for what is right, and to educate the ones that lack knowledge.  Change starts one person at a time.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Dealing with Flighty or Wary Horses Dealing with Flighty or Wary Horses

The idea

The idea for this post came after a comment on one of my other hubs, titles Natural Horsemanship Fact or Fiction. person said that of all of the animals that we have domesticated, this is the one that baffles them because it is so wary and jumpy. (I hope I quoted that correctly) So, JKenny, this one is for you.

The Wary or Jumpy Horse.

There are many adjectives that can be placed in front of the word horse, especially to describe a horse that does not stand quietly for anything to take place, including the simplest of tasks. Let's name a few; wary, jumpy, nervous, untrained, head strong, hot blooded, the list could go on and on. For the sake of getting to my point, I will digress and move on. For the sake of this conversation, I'm going to use the adjective nervous.
We've all seen the horses, either at shows or at trail rides, some even at their own homes who are always looking for the proverbial monster that they are sure is going to jump out and eat them at any moment. I know that I've seen and dealt with my fair share of them. And through those experiences have come to the conclusion that this condition shall we call it, is usually the result of 1 of 3 things.
Want to know what those three things are? Read on.

Three Conditions that cause a Nervous Horse.

I'll start this list with the easiest to explain of the three:

Breeding: The temperment of breeding stock is very important. Bad tempered or unfavorable tempered horses should never be used as breeding stock. Now granted, some breeds are known for being hotter than others, like Thoroughbred and Arabians as a couple of examples. Does that mean that every horse of those breeds are nervous horses? Of course it doesn't, they are just more know for the nervous ones than the calm one.

Mishandling in the Horses Past: I am not strictly talking about a horse being physically abused, but that can result in a very nervous horse. I'm talking about a horse that has been around people, and had never been taught to follow them.

Lack of Knowledge: Here I'm talking about a horse that has never been handles period. Granted, you're not likely to see one of these at a horse show or on a trail ride, but we all know that they exist.
The biggest problem we face in trying to train them is figuring out which one of these fields they fit in.

Which Field is My Horse in?

Luckily, with experience and a watchful eye you can figure out which why your horse is nervous. A lot of nervous horses can learn to relax and trust their leader. Nervous horses can actually be good horses in the end, though it will take work. Sometimes, it's as obvious as the nose on their face.
So, I'll so through the fields one by one and give you some of what to look for.

Breeding: If you are buying the horse from the breeder, ask to see the horse's parents. If both of them act like complete nervous idiots, chances are it's breeding. If you get the horse later on from someone else, simply ask what the horse's temperment is. If the horse is registered, a little digging around can often uncover if breeding is the issue. Never write off a horse's nervousness as breeding strictly because of it's breed.

Mishandling in the Horse's Past: If it was a case of physical abuse the horse will bear physical scars from it. That is one dead give away, the horse will also not want anything to do with you, it just wants to be away from you. If it's just a case of not being taught any better the horse will usually be pushy, and if it spooks will often jump right on top of you, because it is less scared of you then whatever has spooked it. Teaching it to respect your space should be a major concern with the later case.

Lack of Knowledge: Usually if you get one of these, you knew it when you bought it. If not, you found out when you picked it up or it was delivered. It's the one that requires a loading shoot to get into the trailer, or is the one that is unloaded directly into whatever enclosure you want it kept in, which for your sake I hope was a small paddock or round pen. But, it's OK, these are usually the nervous horses that come around the quickest.

What equipment will I need?

This is a pretty simple question to answer. You'll need the following things; a good, quality halter, a lead rope(at least 12 foot long), a round pen or small pen(if you don't have one of these, you can do this with the halter and lead and that's fine), a whip, and various items to desensitize the horse with. I personally suggest plastic bags, as I have seen even the calmest horses come unglued at the sight and sound of a plastic bag blowing in the breeze.
Pretty simple list, huh?

OK, now what?

Ground work. Nervous horses are trained like any other horse, from the ground up. No, you can not run the nervousness out of a horse. You can however redirect his attention to you, which is where you want it to be.

Note: If you are not confident in you body language with horses, you may need to carry a whip to use as on extension of your arm.

At first, all that may be required to send him off around the round pen or small paddock; which ever you have access to, is simply your presence. His instincts tell him run first, think later.

Note: If your horse is trying or thinking about jumping out of what ever you are using back off, because if they feel too much pressure, they will try it. I'm not saying leave the enclose, simply back out of the center to one side, where he has more room to get away from you. What ever slice of the pen you are in is your territory, keep him out of it, but honestly if he was thinking about jumping out, you simply being there should change his direction.

Let him make a trip or a trip and an half around the pen, then move to cut him off and change his direction. It does not matter if he turns into the pen or into the fence as long as he leaves going in the opposite direction. I don't even care how fast he leaves in the opposite direction as long as he leaves. The horse that you are watching is probably running around the pen with his head up in the air, his ears twitching every direction, you can probably see the whites of his eyes very clearly, his lips are pulled back tight. Some horses will even grind their teeth when stressed or afraid. As you continue to work him back and forth around the pen, you should start to see a change in his body language. His head will lower to a natural carriage, his inside ear should be directed at you, his eyes will relax, and his lips will relax.

This point is where you simply turn your back on the horse, and give it the opportunity to come to you, or at the very least catch it's breathe for a moment while facing you. If he takes a step in your direction, let him rest some more. If the horse stops and faces away from you, send it straight back to work. This may take five minutes for some horses, and an hour for others. Every horse is different.

I know that some popular clinicians say that there are four horses that you train in this stage, left side, right side, in front of (not directly, for you safety), and behind (Again, not directly, for your safety.). Personally I have found that there are six, the original four, plus below and above. Always keep your body language very relaxed when doing desensitizing exercises, and start with gentle movement then work your way gradually up to more abrupt movements.

By the time you get to this point of training, you should know which of the fields you horse truly belongs in. If he belongs in the lack of knowledge field, Desensitizing and Sensitizing should be carried out like you should with any normal horse. If he belongs to either of the other two fields, you need to spend more time on the desensitizing than you normally would. Always start with your equipment, halter, lead rope, whip, etc. Remember to start away from the horse and gradually work in closer to the horse, approach and retreat. If he wants to leave, that's OK, let him. Send him straight back to work. (The object is to back off before he gets to the point of leaving.) It should not take as long for him to ask to come back in and stand in the middle with you. When he asks, push his just a little longer, then tell him it's OK to come in.

If you know that you can get an object as close as 10 feet way from him before he tenses up and leaves, stop at 10 and an half feet. Don't try to force these exercises on him, let him kind of come to them. If you try to force the issue you can make him more nervous.
Desensitize him to your equipment very well before you even thing about doing any sensitizing exercises.


Nervous horses will usually require very little sensitizing, and too much time or energy expended in this stage, can actually make him more nervous. (I'm sticking with the male gender, let's assume it's a gelding, because I started it in the last area, and wish to avoid confusion. Of me, not necessarily you!) When working on this section, I agree that you are training four different direction, forward, backwards, left and right. Granted a horse can move forward and to the left at the same time, but he has to learn each maneuver individually first.

This is the area where your body language and posture will actually help drive him away from you. If you focus your energy behind his drive line (imagine a line running vertical to the ground right behind the horses withers.) it should drive the horse forward. There are a few decisions that you need to make before you start this work. The first is, what ques you want to use. Do you want to point in whatever direction you want him to go and have him go that way, or do you want to use words like left or right, or what ever as long as you are consistent. Understand that you will start with the que only, if that does not work you will left the whip as you repeat the que. For most nervous horses this is enough, but if it is not, you may have to touch him with the whip while you repeat the que yet again. He needs to associate the que with moving in what ever direction you are wanting.

If the horse starts to get nervous, go back to something that you know he can do, even if it is a desensitizing exercise that he excelled at.

What about the Nervous horse that isn't Nervous until you put a halter on it?

I know this sounds strange, but they do exist. I have seen horses that seem fine being around stuff and people, up until you put a halter and lead rope on them. You effectively take away their just leave if you get spooked option, and they feel trapped, so now they are a completely different horse.
This is no big deal, you just do the ground work, desensitizing and sensitizing with a halter and lead, instead of free lounging in a round pen. Make sure to wear gloves and if the horse spooks, do not try to stop the spook just go with it.

Now, this is where if I was a big time clinician, I would try to sell you my handy dandy halter and lead rope set for $49.99, or what ever price I thought someone would pay for it. But I'm not, so I'll just say use what ever halter and lead rope you have around, just make sure that it is in good condition. I will suggest using a lead that is at least 12 feet long. That way you can allow rope to slide through your hand, if you can't keep up with the horse spooking. This is why you need to wear gloves, because even if you relax your hand (which you won't, it's human nature to try to stop it, and your hand will tense some) the rope being pulled through it will burn you hands.

Knowing when to Quit

I'm not talking about quitting on the horse, but quitting for the day. It can be difficult to stop, especially if the horse is doing really well, but eventually the horse is going to get bored or his attention span is going to go out. You need to quit before either of these happen. If the horse is starting to get bored or his attention seems to be wondering, go back to something that you know he can do really well. Have him do that, then stop for the day on a good note.

If at any time you feel your frustration growing, again go back to something that you know that he does really well, and end the day on a good note.

Losing your temper with any horse can undo all the work that you have just done. If you feel that you have to, and the horse is in a safe place just drop the rope and walk off for a while. Return, and end on a good note after you have had a few minutes to compose your self. It is far better to just walk off, then risk totally losing it on the horse. It's also better for you, it will eventually teach you more control of yourself.

So, what's next?

After the ground work, desensitizing, and sensitizing you will go on with the same ground work that you would do with any other horse. Always backing up to something the horse can go well when he gets nervous. Redirect his attention from what ever, and give him something to do that he can do.
Take his training slow and steady, and his trust in you will grow. Every horse in training needs to be worked daily, even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes. Always start with something that you know he can do and build off of that.

When nervous horses spook

As you work with your horse, you will begin to know when a spook is coming. You will need to learn to relax in these situations arise. Now I'll tell you why. Say you're out on the trail, and you feel your horse tense up, getting ready for a spook, in response to him tensing up, you tense up, collect your reins, even though you may not realize it, your seat tightens, your legs tighten, and you hold your breathe, all getting ready for the ride that you are fixing to have. Whether it's a jump to the side, a spin and run off in the opposite direction or a bolt, buck or rear, your body is getting ready for it, because you mind is saying, here we go again. Your horse interprets this as what he is thinking about spooking as is a real threat, because his leader is also getting ready to spook at it. Do you see how this is a chain reaction, getting ready to explode?

All the work that you have done with him, has been to teach him to trust you. If you stay relaxed, he should walk right by what ever it was that he was thinking about spooking at. The key to staying relaxed? Keep breathing, even if you have to tell yourself breathe in, breathe out, just keep breathing. Holding our breathe is usually our body's first physical response to a stressful situation, and it is often the reason why we can not recall all of the details of the situation, but that's another blog all by itself.
The horse looks to you for leadership, and if you remain relaxed and not spooked, so will he.

Will my horse ever be where he doesn't spook at everything?

Yes, he will get to where he will not spook at everything. But the chances of him ever getting where he will not spook at anything are not very good. There is no way that you can expose him to everything that could ever possibly spook him during training. The good news is that he will get to where he spooks more quietly, and less explosively than he does now. He will learn to rely on you for input, and trust your judgement. But only time and training can build this relationship.


Most of the big time clinicians, sell their information at a premium price, and they tell you that you have to use their equipment for it to work. When in fact, you can use a good condition halter and lead rope you already have and what ever whip you already have as well. If not, you can buy a few of them for what these clinicians charge.

Now, can I sell you a halter and lead rope set?  You bet I can, for the price of $24.00 for the set, plus shipping and handling. But I can guarantee you that I'm not making a killing on them either. For each set, I would make a grand total of $6.60, all the rest is the cost of materials. It doesn't even figure in that it takes me five to six hours to braid the lead rope. I make them because I use them, not because I tell everyone else that they have to use, or this training won't work.

You'll never convince me that CA's halter is any better than mine, and mine only costs me a dollar and a few minutes of my time to make.