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)

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.

The Season of Giving

This year I am donating either 2 Starter Packages or 1 Premium Starter Package to Blaze’s Tribute Equine Rescue.

Blaze’s is Oklahoma’s state-wide rescue which works with local law enforcement when equines are involved to give the equines a safe place to live while they recover. Since December 2001, they have rescued 1,290 horses. 1,054 of those have been adopted. More about their role in rescuing abused horses can be found here.

To support Blaze’s this year if you mention Blaze’s in the comments when you buy here Blaze’s will receive a donation of 10% of whatever you buy.

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

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.

Like A Child

I think it’s very funny
The way a puppy grows–
A little on his wiggle-tail
A little on his nose,
A little on his tummy,
And a little on his ears;
I guess he’ll be a dog all right
In half a dozen years.
Leroy F. Jackson

That poem came to mind when I was watching my youngest student play with Little Bit. He is so natural with her he doesn’t realize he is learning a new language. He bounces from one thing to the next with the energy and attention span of a six-year-old, or a puppy. He is not thinking about applying the seven games or avoiding tangling himself up in the rope and carrot stick.

A day goes like this:
Feed horses – friendly; anything that causes the horse to want to be with you or continue doing what you asked them to do
Prevent LB from eating Mint’s food – driving; rhythmic motion to move the horse
Scratch and halter LB – friendly game
Once haltered LB follows him everywhere at a walk and trot
Remember carrot stick and go back to the tack room for it – friendly and porcupine; steady pressure to cause the horse to move
Pretend to mount LB bareback – friendly
Slide down the slide while LB watches from near the end of the 12′ line – friendly game
See if LB will back under the slide (her withers and back fit with less than two inches to spare) – driving, squeeze, and yo-yo; back and forth on a straight line
Ask LB to walk under the slide and branch supporting it (She fits, but only with her head down) – yo-yo and squeeze; going over, under, between, or through
Scratch and hug – friendly
Run to the bridge and back up – yo-yo
Circling game in the pasture; asking a horse to take responsibility for going in a circle
Get saddle out
Find and play with ball, put on LB and hit the ball off – friendly game
More circling game
Ask LB to sniff saddle – friendly, driving
Play soccer around yard with ball – friendly
Start rubbing legs to see if she is ok with her feet being handled – friendly
More soccer – friendly
Sat for a few moments on the ball to get his wind back – friendly
Show dad he can saddle by himself – friendly
Show LB she can now reach the mineral feeder (The footing was raised 8+ inches while they were playing) – porcupine, friendly
Bring back to the herd and take halter off – porcupine
Hang out with herd – friendly
During and between he leaned on her when he was tired, or trying to think of something, sang, ran around with his arms going crazy; all friendly things that will build a strong relationship between them.

He thinks he is playing, but he is really learning. This week the saddle went on on the second try. They got a full circle at a trot. She was more comfortable with him. She followed without dragging. He caused her to sniff something on the first try. He haltered her even if he did get the halter inside out. He used the rope and carrot stick like they were part of him. Every time they are together they improve. A wise man once said, you don’t get better by doing 1 thing 100% better, you get better by doing 100 things 1% better. They are more than 1% better this week.

Why Horses for Girls

I read and loved this. This father put words to what I have seen with my girls. Why horses? This is why:

A Father’s Explanation of Why He Had Horses for His Daughter

My daughter turned sixteen years old today; which is a milestone for most people. Besides looking at baby photos and childhood trinkets with her, I took time to reflect on the young woman my daughter had become and the choices she would face in the future. As I looked at her I could see the athlete she was, and determined woman she would soon be. I started thinking about some of the girls we knew in our town who were already pregnant, pierced in several places, hair every color under the sun, drop outs, drug addicts and on the fast track to no-where, seeking surface identities because they had no inner self esteem. The parents of these same girls have asked me why I “waste” the money on horses so my daughter can ride. I’m told she will grow out of it, lose interest, discover boys and all kinds of things that try to pin the current generation’s “slacker” label on my child. I don’t think it will happen, I think she will love and have horses all her life.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has compassion. She knows that we must take special care of the very young and the very old. We must make sure those without voices to speak of their pain are still cared for.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned responsibility for others than herself. She learned that regardless of the weather you must still care for those you have the stewardship of. There are no “days off” just because you don’t feel like being a horse owner that day. She learned that for every hour of fun you have there are days of hard slogging work you must do first.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned not to be afraid of getting dirty and that appearances don’t matter to most of the breathing things in the world we live in. Horses do not care about designer clothes, jewelry, pretty hairdos or anything else we put on our bodies to try to impress others. What a horse cares about are your abilities to work within his natural world, he doesn’t care if you’re wearing $80.00 jeans while you do it. –

Because my daughter grew up with horses she learned about sex and how it can both enrich and complicate lives. She learned that it only takes one time to produce a baby, and the only way to ensure babies aren’t produced is not to breed. She learned how babies are planned, made, born and, sadly, sometimes die before reaching their potential. She learned how sleepless nights and trying to out-smart a crafty old broodmare could result in getting to see, as non-horse owning people rarely do, the birth of a true miracle.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she understands the value of money. Every dollar can be translated into bales of hay, bags of feed or farrier visits. Purchasing non-necessities during lean times can mean the difference between feed and good care, or neglect and starvation. She has learned to judge the level of her care against the care she sees provided by others and to make sure her standards never lower, and only increase as her knowledge grows.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to learn on her own. She has had teachers that cannot speak, nor write, nor communicate beyond body language and reactions. She has had to learn to “read” her surroundings for both safe and unsafe objects, to look for hazards where others might only see a pretty meadow. She has learned to judge people as she judges horses. She looks beyond appearances and trappings to see what is within.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned sportsmanship to a high degree. Everyone that competes fairly is a winner. Trophies and ribbons may prove someone a winner, but they do not prove someone is a horseman. She has also learned that some people will do anything to win, regard- less of who it hurts. She knows that those who will cheat in the show ring will also cheat in every other aspect of their life and are not to be trusted.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has self-esteem and an engaging personality. She can talk to anyone she meets with confidence, because she has to express herself to her horse with more than words. She knows the satisfaction of controlling and teaching a 1000 pound animal that will yield willingly to her gentle touch and ignore the more forceful and inept handling of those stronger than she is. She holds herself with poise and professionalism in the company of those far older than herself.

Because my daughter grew up with horses she has learned to plan ahead. She knows that choices made today can effect what happens five years down the road. She knows that you cannot care for and protect your investments without savings to fall back on. She knows the value of land and buildings. And that caring for your vehicle can mean the difference between easy travel or being stranded on the side of the road with a four horse trailer on a hot day. When I look at what she has learned and what it will help her become, I can honestly say that I haven’t “wasted” a penny on providing her with horses. I only wish that all children had the same opportunities to learn these lessons from horses before setting out on the road to adulthood.

–Author unknown

Success is a Successful Student

Recently I was made very proud by one of my girls. She was selected to do the rider makeover at the Horse & Soul tour stop in Mesquite, Tx with Linda Parelli. Imagine driving 200 miles to a place you have never been with a horse you have only hauled around town and having a lesson with someone you REALLY respect in front of more than a thousand people.

The night before the lesson Gwen, her mare, decided she didn’t want to go into the arena. S spent the time it took to get her confident walking through the gate into the arena. Our prayer was that she would be able to ride into the arena when the stands were full of people. The next morning the arena was busy until time for their lesson. Gwen made it in and S was able to make some really nice changes. I know she will take what she learned home and use it to propel her riding to greater mastery.

Day 31 – Class Dissmissed

Today we said ‘until we meet again’ to our coaches and fellow students alike. We have laughed with, encouraged, and helped one another for the last month. Now it is over. We have to come down off the mountain and go home to our normal lives.

Now that class is over I am looking forward to going home and starting the next phase. I have learned a lot here that I need time to put into practice.