Cole’ – I got to keep my friend

In 2004 more than 50 almost grape-sized hives covered my only horse. She scratched each new lump until they all bled. I tried bug sprays, fly sheets, and itch creams. Nothing gave her relief. The vet’s advice was, “try steroids, they might work for one season. Then sell her up north where the bugs aren’t so bad.”
While I was trying to decide what to do I ran across my first natural horse care information. Desperate for something to let me keep my friend I tried it. Overnight my mare went from scratching her skin off to being comfortable. Two days later the welts were smaller than peas. It worked year after year and I got to keep my friend!
As she got older she got stiff with a mild lameness in her front feet. I tried natural trimming, chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage. Still I never knew which days she would be lame, sound, or ‘off.’
Two weeks after starting her first personalized program she led my herd up to be fed, trotting freely for the first time in years. Her coat, which had never been bad, blossomed into a slick, glossy, healthy sheen.

The preimum package, which Cole’ is on, can be found here.

Treats

Treats are a hot button topic in a lot of places. The usual arguments against them is, “Feeding treats teaches a horse to bite” or “Horses can mistake fingers for carrots.” I have not found these to be true if done properly.

I have 5 horses, at the moment, all of which have been taught to politely take treats. None of them nip or bite and all of them can tell the difference between fingers and treats. I teach every equine which comes through my place to politely and respectfully take a treat because someday they will meet someone with a treat and I want everyone to be safe especially if the “someone” is a child with a chubby fist full of grass.

I believe treats have a place as long as they are given with intentionality and parameters just like every other interaction.

My parameters are:

  • Whether or not I have a treat my horse will remain polite and out of my space.
  • A treat in my hand remains my treat until I open my hand in front of me.
  • If my hand feels in danger of being eaten I can withdraw it to safety, close my hand and not be invaded. I will repeat this until the horse tries more gently.
  • Treats are small (the size of 1-8 peas). Horses who have to search for the treat on the hand quickly learn treats come from hands, but hands are not treats.
  • I start horses with treats they like but don’t flip out over (hay pellets, a piece of uncooked pasta spiral, dried organic orange peel, etc)
  • All treats are earned, even if I’m really out there to get rid of leftover apple slices. A new shy horse in my heard may receive treats for coming within arm’s reach. Horses who know more have to do more. Even if it’s one step they have to do something.
  • Backing is a good activity for treat earning and keeps me safe.
  • If I don’t have a treat, but am offering my hand to sniff I offer the back of my hand. They quickly learn the difference.

If I had a horse who learned to be so pushy around treats I didn’t feel safe I would start re-training them on the other side of a solid fence. I would avoid electric fences that were on. (I have a horse who had a few bad experiences with other people reaching over our electric fence and shocking her)

Mint

“Would you like a horse? He’s yours if you can put him in a trailer.” I had one horse. A second one would be easy to put a bit of training on and I could sell him. When I got there the “horse” was a 14-month-old stud colt who had spent the last 6 months in a 10′ x 15′ pen attached to an old chicken coop filled with old wire cages and junk. He learned to push people around scaring his family until they stopped feeding him. His ribs looked like a washboard and his flanks were sunken. His appaloosa blood showed through his rat mane and tail. I went home immediately and brought him a couple flakes of hay. His flanks appeared less sunken after his meal. 
Three days later Mint joined my heard. Days turned into months and months turned into years. The little guy turned out to be afraid of everything. Teaching him was easier said than done. Ten steps of progress one day might only go nine steps back overnight. Sometimes he was worse than the day before. 
After trying a long list of things I finally stumbled upon an essential oil blend which helped him focus. As long as he received a drop every day or so he was trainable. His training went slowly, but nothing helped his pitiful rat tail.
A couple of months after starting his customized supplement plan Mint was in saddle training. He now remembers everything from day to day. He’s confident and with his new supplements I have hope he will grow a tail.
The preimum package he is on is  avaliable here.

Wish List

Are you looking to get us something for Christmas? Look no further.

Check out the horse’s full Amazon wish list here.

Tractor Supply gift cards are ALWAYS welcome.

I have followed Fergus faithfully on Facebook for years. He’s drawn and written with humor and a deep understanding of horses. This is his first book.

Any brick or good flat rock CAN do this, but people are more likely not to throw away your bright yellow piece of plastic.

I have lost more good rocks and chunks of wood because they didn’t look like part of my trailer equipment.

I recently had a custom table built for my feed room. Five of these will fit neatly on the new shelf and hold enough to feed each horse for two weeks.

These will go on the bottom shelf to hold tack and any overflow feed.

Winter, also known as ‘the season of hay’ and ‘the great itching’ is coming. We are still feeding the round bales baled from our back pasture, but when we run out or travel my talented horses have figured out how to eat the shorter stems common in square bales without slowdown from 2″ hole nets. This 1″ hole net will slow them down to a natural grazing rate.

Having never had a horse advertised as their actual height. I would like to know once and for all the answer to “How tall is that horse?”

These cups will nicely fit my non-standard-width jump uprights

To buy them something, check out the horse’s Amazon wish list here.

Gifts for the Horses and Horse People in Your Life

Instead of fighting the crowds next week here are some ideas they will love that don’t involve combat tactics to acquire:

Hoof Picks

It seems that no matter how many of these you have another one still finds it’s place.

For under $15, this slim knife/hoofpick combination is my farrier’s favorite pick

For under $10, the folding hoof pick neatly fits in a pocket without poking.

For under $5, hoof picks in their colors make excellent stocking stuffers

Horse Treats

These healthy alternatives to sugar cubes allow horses to get what they love while the humans who love them know they are getting the good stuff.

I wish these were all natural. I find almost all horses who have ever been on an antibiotic need a probiotic to be truly healthy

My favorite has no sugar or molasses

Organization

Organizing is usually a lot less fun than riding. Here are a few things which help save on organizational chores.


Emergency

Show you care with an emergency kit

This all natural kit contains

Naming Raven

In the wake of Alana’s death I expected her owners, first-time horse people, would be out of horses forever. To my surprise, I got a call several weeks later asking if I was interested in coming out to look at a horse with them.

We found a nice 16-ish hand, 17-year-old, solid-black mare (official measurements still need to be made. We have been having too much fun doing other things). Her new owner fell in love with this rescue and we brought her the almost one-hundred miles home.

The first order of business was to name her. The old cowboy who sold her called her Black Betty. No one liked the name. While shopping the next day I started keeping a list of names on the lid of a takeout box from my lunch. We came up with Void, Regal, Raven, Onyx, Obsidian and a few other names. Later, when her owners came out to visit her we started talking about names. I ran inside to grab the list and had a moment of panic. Where had I put the list? After a bit of searching I found it in the refrigerator. The list was on a takeout box after all.

Back from hiatus & Loss

Aside

I haven’t wanted to update since we lost Alana.

She fought valiantly for several days, but she was desprately underweight to start with and she didn’t have the reserves to keep up the fight.

I grew attached to her in the handful of days she was with us. Caring for her every hour or so and encouraging her to keep fighting created a bond. She always kept me on my toes. If I left her pen gate open she would make a three-legged dash for the green grass. Finally I left her in the fenced yard rather than make her hobble away from the other horses and good grass.

I went out the last morning. She was down and lacked the energy to get back up. She lay, muscles quivering, for a few moments and quit breathing. She held on long enough not to be alone.

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Alana

For those of you following Alana’s story I am going to start updating here.

For those of you who haven’t been following the story, here is where we are so far. I had a student who wanted to buy a horse, so we found her the perfect mare. At 16 and about 16 hands the chestnut paint mare is striking, if a bit skinny. She was recently rescued from a hoarder and has been gaining weight in the month since.

She arrived last Tuesday and seemed to be settling in well. She was still in new-horse quarantine when I walked out to feed her Friday morning and found her 3-legged-lame. There was no sign of trauma, but it was starting to swell in the shoulder and upper arm area.

The vet came out and x-rayed her. Despite finding nothing on the x-rays she wanted to put her down on gut instinct. She had seen a mare carrying her leg similarly who did have a broken leg and never healed. She conceded privately it could be something else including cellulitis, pigeon fever and a few other things.

I would have agreed she should be put down if there had been a break on the x-rays or any sign of trauma to the area indicating a break, but there weren’t any abrasions, she was in isolation so it wasn’t a kick and she was clean which she wouldn’t have been if she fell.

My farrier and I both had the gut feeling it might be an infection, so her owners are giving me three days to see what I can with alternative care. I evaluated Alana and put her on a personalized feed and supplement program supported by topical sprays.

Yesterday she was able to put a bit of weight on it, not enough to walk, but she would use it for support if she wanted to use or rest a back foot.

Despite her leg, she is still fast when she wants to be and enjoys eating even when stealing my lawn grass. Last night I heard a clatter and ran out praying she hadn’t slipped and fallen. By the time I got there she had pushed the gate open, someone had forgotten to latch it, it knocked over a bucket which was the sound I heard, hopped out onto the yard and was happily enjoying my lawn. I was able to get a rope around her neck and lead her back in without trouble, but I could tell she would rather be out where there was more grass. I couldn’t get irritated at her because she still enjoys life and wants to do things. I just make sure to latch the gate now.

My prayer for today is that she will be able to limp on four legs by this evening and will be fully healed without complications.

 

For those of you who have been wondering what happened to me, I have continued to teach. Horses and students have come and gone, but Cole’, Mint, Countess and Little Bit are still here. I have been taking classes in horse nutrition and alternative care which, along with teaching and starting a business creating custom supplement plans for horses and humans has taken up most of my time.

My Big Green Waterproof Miracle

Some days I see God’s plans come together in ways I could never have dreamed.

I have this thick green winter horse blanket. It never fit my stocky little paint mare well. She doesn’t need it. I used it a few times the first winter I had her because I was a new horse owner and blanketing was what I was ‘supposed’ to do, and that was it. It has been moved around from one storage place to another taking up space and getting in the way for more than 10 years. I have been meaning to sell it, but it found a home on a shelf in our storage building and I forgot about it.

I ran across it last week when looking for stuff to sell. I spread it out looking for mouse holes (our cat died this spring and the mice have taken advantage of our lack of a feline) Miraculously the blanket and all the straps were intact, but there was a large spot where the last horse who wore it had laid on a pile of poo. So I washed it and it got left in the tack room so I could get a picture of it. I was busy one day, sick another, between one thing and another I never got the picture.

I went out to feed and water the horses in the afternoon and saw all three of the big horses wet and shivering. Countess, the thoroughbred, was the worst. She can’t seem to store enough fat to use as insulation and was visibly shaking almost non-stop. The word hypothermia kept popping into my head.

I realized that while some of the water was from the freezing rain, the big horses had all gotten splashed on the chest when I turned on the water to fill the trough. After vigorously rubbing them down with dry towels Cole’ and Mint were able to fluff up their coats and were fine, but Countess was still shivering.

Since I had recently found and cleaned the blanket it was on my mind and I knew where it was. I was able to slip it on her without problems because one of my students had found my fly sheet this summer, thought Countess would look good in it, and spent the time to get her used to wearing something.

I wasn’t sure the big, thick, waterproof, green blanket bought 10 years ago for my stocky paint would fit my lanky thoroughbred, but God’s plans are good. Not only did it fit her perfectly, much better than it ever fit Cole’, but I didn’t have to adjust a single strap.

Once she moved around in it a bit and drank the warm water we carried from the house Countess and the other horses looked warm and content. I watched them thinking about my God’s plans through time. I failed when I measured Cole’ years before Countess was born. I don’t usually think about blankets, let alone having a clean fitted blanket ready to go, but God knows what I need through all of time and space. Where I failed God used my failure for a success beyond my wildest imagination.