A Halloween Tale: The Dullahan

dullahan 3Many, especially around Halloween,  have heard the spooky tale of “The Headless Horseman” and his rides into Sleepy Hollow.  But the original story from which it was derived is actually much scarier – and much more gruesome.  So read on about “The Dullahan” of Ireland – if you dare…..

The Dullahan (or “dark man”) is a ghost from Irish mythology. He is also known “Gan Ceann” (Without Head).  While usually male, there are some female versions of the story. The Dullahan stalks the lonely country roads of rural Ireland. When the moon is shining brightly, he enters the mortal world to summon the souls for the dead.

He appears in the form of a hideous, decapitated corpse, dressed in black robes and seated on his black horse. In one hand, he clutches a whip made from a dead man’s spine. Under his other arm, he carries his severed head which glows with an eerie light. He uses it as a lantern to light his way along the darkened roads of the Irish countryside. By holding his head up high, he can see great distances, even on the darkest night.

WARNING – HERE COMES THE REALLY GORY PART…The Dullahan’s massive severed head is covered in rotting flesh and smells like moldy cheese. The mouth is usually in a hideous grin that touches both sides of the head. Its small, black eyes are constantly moving about and can search for fresh victims across the countryside even during the darkest nights. The entire head glows with the phosphorescence of decaying matter 

Sometimes the Dullahan is seen riding a headless black horse that gallops through the night, sparks and flames shooting from its nostrils, spreading terror in its wake. At other times, he appears on a carriage drawn by six black horses. The carriage is lit with candles and made from coffins, tomb stones and human bones. It travels so fast that the friction from the horses’ hooves is said to set fire to the hedges along the sides of the road.

When the Dullahan is on the loose, nobody in Ireland dares to leave their home for fear of running into him. Nothing can stop him and all gates, door and locks open of their own accord when he approaches.  Its disembodied head is permitted to speak just once on each journey it undertakes, and then has only the ability to call the name of the person whose death it heralds. A Dullahan will stop its snorting horse before the door of a house and shout the name of the person about to die, drawing forth the soul at the call. He may also stop at the very spot where a person will die. 

He does not like to be seen and if he catches you watching him, he will blind you by lashing out your eyeballs with his whip or throwing a basin of blood in your face.

The Dullahan’s only weakness is that he has an irrational fear of gold. Even a single gold pin can be enough to frighten him off and send him galloping into the darkness

Here is a version of the original story:

One night, a man in Galway was on his way home when all of a sudden he heard the sound of a horse’s hooves pounding along the road behind him. He turned around and when he saw what emerged from the darkness, all he could do was stare in dread. It was the Dullahan. The man tried to run, but it was no use. Nothing can outrun the Dullahan. Desperate to escape, the man searched his pockets and found his gold wedding ring. He tossed it into the road and ran. There was a loud roar that split the silence of the night and when he glanced back over his shoulder, he saw that the Dullahan was gone.

say book and scary on

Keep Your Barn Environmentally Friendly

Making your barn more environmentally friendly makes good business sense.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has Cooperative Extension programs across the country.  Congress created the Extension system nearly a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Today, fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas.  But Extension agents still serve a purpose by helping farmers grow crops and small farm owners plan and maintain their acreage.

mudd and manure HorsesForCleanWaterMany states have an Extension programs and can provide a wealth of information to barn managers.  Two of the ways that can help keep your farm environmentally friendly are through mud and manure management.  The first thing they suggested is to put gutters on your barn or any outbuildings.  Rain can make a waterfall off the sides and front and rapidly turn the openings into mud.  With this easy fix of gutters directing water away from the openings, going in and out of the barn is a much easier process.  Another option is to collect the water from the gutters and store it in a rain barrel to irrigate your garden or pasture in the summer.

Remember that Classic Equine Equipment’s collection of rubber stall mats and it innovative Stable-ity grid system can also options to keeping your farm mud-free.

The second suggestion is to establish a sacrifice area for the horses during the wet, winter months.  By keeping them off most of the pasture when the grass is easily destroyed by hoofs, it allows them to have much more useable pasture the following summer.   To keep pastures healthy during the summer, they also suggest rotational grazing.  Using simple temporary fencing, horses are moved around the pasture each week, never allowing them to graze down more than 4 inches.  Once the horses are moved off that pasture, it is given a chance to rest and regrow before the horses are put back on.  To keep the horses and pasture healthy, manure is picked up every day in the stalls, paddocks and sacrifice area, and the pastures are dragged weekly to break up and spread the manure for fertilizer. 

A horse can produce over 50 pounds of manure each day.  One of the best ways to turn manure after composting MillCreekSpreadersmanure into a valuable commodity is to compost it.  Compost, a combination of manure and other materials, is an excellent natural fertilizer.  Once composted, you can give it away to friends who want to naturally fertilize their gardens, sell it to nurseries, or keep it yourself for your own garden.   By taking what can be a nuisance around the farm and turning it into an income producing resource, you are literally “taking lemons and making lemonade!”

Photo credit: Horses for Clean Water, Mill Creek Spreader

Basic Blanketing

cold blankets flyonoverDepending on the part of the country in which you live – and your weatherperson’s forecast for this winter – you may be considering blanketing your horse. Horses actually can do quite well without a blanket in even the most harsh winter storms.  Their coat fluffs up like a down blanket and can provide extra warmth and insulation.  But before you decide, here are some things you’ll want to consider are:

Whether he has access to shelter in rainy and windy weather

If your horse gets wet and/or it gets windy, that wet coat isn’t going to fluff up at all and your horse can become chilled.  However, with a shelter (3 sided works best) where he can get in out of the worst of the rain and wind, he can still manage quite nicely all winter without a blanket.

The age of your horse

As your horse gets older, his ability to keep warm can become diminished.  Many older horses have trouble keeping weight on to give them that extra layer of fat for the winter.  Many horses keep warm during the winter by the very act of eating and digesting hay.  But if your older horse has dental problems that compromise this, he may not have that avenue to help keep warm.  Finally, horses can keep warm just by moving around.  But older horses often become arthritic or can develop navicular problems and their desire to walk around decreases, so they can become more chilled.  Most older horses appreciate a blanket during the winter.

Whether your horse has been clipped

Depending on how “clipped” your horse is, he may need a blanket.   A belly and neck clip may not require any extra blanketing, but the trace and other clips leave a lot of the horse’s shorn body exposed to the elements.  Blanketing is a must.

If you decide to blanket, there are literally hundreds of choices out there – stable sheets, turnout blankets, coolers and more.  Most horse owners have an extensive “wardrobe” for their horses – something for every occasion.  But  you can easily get by with just three essentials:

  1. A fleece cooler or Irish knit anti-sweat sheet.   There are other materials available, but I’ve found these to work the best.  If you prefer something different, look for one that wicks away moisture from your horse and insulates against chill.  These are the blankets you use after exercising your horse in the winter.  He may still be a little damp and these blankets help continue to dry him off while keeping him warm.
  2. A light weight turnout sheet. Skip the stable blankets and wool sheets. Even if your horse isn’t turned out during the winter now, someday you may be in a place where he is.  Turnout sheets are waterproof so he can go out in less than perfect conditions and still stay dry and warm.  Look for ones that say that they are “breathable.”  Your horse may go out in the a.m. in a cool drizzle, but if it suddenly turns sunny, you don’t want him to start sweating in his cover-up.  Breathable fabrics allow moisture to escape to avoid this.
  3. A medium to heavy weight turnout blanket. The weight of this depends on your winters.  Again, this should be of a waterproof, but breathable fabric.

With these three blanketing essentials, you can mix and layer to meet the weather needs of your horse: 

  • Just a cool fall evening? Use the fleece cooler.
  • A raining late spring day? The turnout sheet. 
  • A cold winter rainy day? The turnout sheet WITH the fleece cooler underneath for extra warmth. The waterproof sheet keeps the cooler dry.
  • Cool days and cold nights? Put the turnout sheet on during the day, add the blanket as another layer at night.
  • Cold days and cold nights? Use the cooler, layer the turnout sheet on top, then add the blanket at night.

Layering has been proven to provide more warmth than just one heavy cover because it traps warm air between the layers for added “toastiness.”  The waterproofing of the sheet and blanket will also aid in insulation against the cold.

If you decide to blanket this winter, your horse will appreciate this winter wardrobe.

Photo credit: Fly On Over

New Uses For An Old Favorite – Stall Mats

Did you know that there are other uses for stall mats besides providing comfort for your horse in his stall?  You can use full or partial stall mats in non-traditional ways to make your barn and home safer, cleaner and more user-friendly. 

Loktuff logo mat

Classic Equine Equipment offers high quality stall mats that will fit both standard and alternate uses.  Backed by a 12-year wear warranty, our LockTuff interlocking mats are guaranteed never to buckle or curl.  Available in the versatile 4′ x 6′ size, they come in  ¾” thickness or ½” thickness with a color speck.

mighty lite stall matOr check out our Mighty Light stall mats.  At about 12 pounds each, Mighty Lites can be snapped together in minutes and easily moved. Sized at 36″ x 48″ x 7/8″, they have interlocking edges and are reversible for extended wear. The slip resistant surface is easily cleaned and are impermeable to liquids. They are also great to take to shows. 

Around The Barn

  • Stall mats can help eliminate muddy hooves and feet around gates, doorways and paddocks.
  • Stall mats in paddocks are easier on your horse’s legs and easier to clean up manure. Also easier to shovel snow.  Great for use in pasture run-in shelters.
  • Stall mats in the hay and feed rooms make it easier to sweep and keep clean and helps keep your hay dry.  They also provide a deterrent to mice burrowing up into the feed room.
  • Stall mats in indoor wash racks are, comfortable, non-slip and easy to clean.  
  • Stall mats in the shoeing area are easier on your horse’s legs when being shod – and on your farrier’s too!
  • Stall mats on the tack room floor are easier to clean than carpeting and are softer and warmer on your feet than concrete.
  • Stall mats make great walkways in a variety of areas – down the aisle over concrete to keep horses from slipping or as a pathway to the barn in rainy or snowy weather.

Other Uses 

  • Use in front of your sink to keep your feet warmer and prevent leg strain from long periods of standing.
  • Use as a mulch in the garden or around trees.
  • Use as a welcome mat to keep mud out of the house.
  • Use as a place to store wet or muddy boots.
  • Use in the garage or workshop to insulate the floor and cushion feet while working.
  • Use in the back of your station wagon or SUV to keep it clean when hauling wet or muddy dogs.

horse stall with mats

And, of course, Classic Equine Equipment’s  mats are perfect for your horse’s stall, aisleway or trailer.  They are versatile and durable.  

“There’s Nothing Like A Classic!”


photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment


Facts About Riding Accident Concussions

falling off horseTwo events that have something in common took place recently – the start of professional football season and Riders4Safety International Helmet Awareness Day.  The common factor?  Concussions.

Concussions occurring in sports have been linked to the decline in an effected person’s attention, verbal learning, reasoning, and information processing, as well as depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a form of tauopathy, a class of neurodegenerative diseases.

Education on prevention, signs and symptoms, action plans, and helmet safety is paramount to avoiding the repercussions of a potentially dangerous concussion. 

A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head or a hit to the body that causes the head and brain to move rapidly back and forth. The sudden movement can cause the brain tobounce around or twist in the skull, stretching and damaging the brain cell and creating chemical changes in the brain.
Medical providers may describe a concussion as a “mild” brain injury because concussions are usually not life-threatening, but the effects can be serious.

After a fall, athletes (you or another) who show or report symptoms below may have a concussion or a more serious injury and should be evaluated medically by a professional immediately:

• Can’t recall events prior to to or after a fall;
• Appears dazed or stunned;
• Forgets an instruction or is confused by an assignment
• Moves clumsily;
• Answers questions slowly;
• Loses consciousness (even briefly);
• Shows mood, behavior, or personality changes;
• Headache or “pressure” in head;
• Nausea or vomiting;
• Balance problems or dizziness;
• Double or blurry vision;
• Bothered by light or noise;
• Feeling sluggish, hazy, foggy or groggy;
• Confusion or concentration/memory problems;
• Just not “feeling right,” or “feeling down”.

If you suspect that an athlete has a concussion, you should take the following steps:
• Remove the athlete from the horse; do not allow him/her to remount.
• Ensure athlete is evaluated by an appropriate health care professional.
• Do not try to judge the seriousness of the injury yourself.
• Allow the athlete to return to practice/competition only with permission from an appropriate health care professional.

It’s important to remember that signs and symptoms usually show up soon after the injury but may not show up for hours or days. Post-concussion syndrome (PCS) is a set of symptoms that may continue for weeks, months, or a year or more after a concussion – a minor form of TBI. A diagnosis may be made when symptoms resulting from concussion
last for more than three months after the injury.

Though there is no treatment for PCS, symptoms can be treated; medications and physical and behavioral therapy may be used, and individuals can be educated about symptoms and provided with the expectation of recovery. The majority of PCS cases resolve after a period of time.

Information provided by “The Facts About Concussions”, US Equestrian.   For additional information, visit Riders4Helmet and remember – always wear a helmet!

Photo credit:  Horse Journals

Why Use Social Media To Promote Your Horse Business Or Organization?

social media logosEvery day, horse business owners are inundated with stories about social media marketing: Facebook and fan pages, Twitter and tweets, blogs, videos and always something that’s even “better.” They read success stories on how social media can help them grown their business, provide better customer service and position them as the expert in their field. They feel increasingly pressured to become a part of this.

While some are still frozen by indecision (“maybe this is all just a fad…”), others have taken the plunge and have set up their pages and perhaps even posted a few times. But nothing immediately happens to increase their business. They realize that all this time posting is actually taking time away from their real business – riding horses, giving lessons, cleaning stalls, creating products, filling orders. Suddenly, they wonder if social media is really worth it. 

The answer is “yes, it is.”  Here’s how:

  • There’s nothing magical about social media marketing – it’s word-of-mouth marketing
  • … just at the speed of light and with a global reach.
  • Social media helps you get closer to and listen to your customers. You can find out what they are saying about your product?
  • Social media encourages your customers to see you as a person who love horses as much as they do;
  • Social media allows you to promote your ideas, products, and services directly to the horse market at zero cost (free!);
  • Social media helps you get immediate feedback from your customers at zero cost (free!);
  • Social media helps you to talk to your customers on a one-on-one level;
  • Social media allows you to gain their trust and to be allowed into their inner circle of acquaintances and friends;
  • Social media allows you to establish yourself as an expert and relate that expertise to how your product or organization can help them;
  • Social media allows you to build and reinforce your brand daily, weekly, monthly, etc.
  • Social media can encourage our audience to act – buy, join, etc.

One of the best ways to get started in social media is NOT by writing, but by “listening.” Start reading about your customers on their page and follow some of the key businesses and organizations for the sport. Try to paint a picture of who these people are and if they fit your image of your ideal customer.

But before you start posting, develop a good strategic plan.  Will you have the time and resources to write good content on a regular basis, respond to customer comments in a timely manner, and monitor the trends in both social media and the horse world?  Unfortunately, this is where most horse businesses who want to use social media lose momentum and their Facebook and Twitter accounts stay un-updated and eventually potential customers or members lose interest and top looking for your posts. Or worse, they assume you have gone out of business.

HBG GGF web sitePosting on social media sites doesn’t have to be complex. Read to see what their problems are and figure out how your business can help them solve them. If you give them something they find valuable, it will keep them coming back for more.  Nothing else matters unless they feel you are a trusted source of information.

There is no rigid formula on how to do it social media well.  No matter what your goals are (sales, awareness, etc.) your #1 reason for using social media is to build a relationship with your audience.


Photo credits: bp.com, horsebizgirl

Light Up Your Barn This Season

barn lightingAs the days start to get shorter with corresponding longer nights, now is a good time to start thinking of adding some additional lighting to your barn to chase away the gloom for both you and your horse.  Horse’s eyes are sensitive to weak light. They can see fairly well at dusk, but they don’t have the ability to adjust their eyes to darkness quickly, which is why they will often refuse to enter a dark building from bright sunshine. In addition, shadows and poorly lit areas make stall cleaning cumbersome and inhibit observation and care. A combination of individual stall and general aisle way lighting is preferred. Place fixtures where they won’t create shadows for the horse when he enters his stall.  

For natural lighting, provide a minimum of 4 square feet of window space in each stall.window with glass There are a variety of window styles from which you can select.  Many come with grills or yokes to help keep your horse’s nose out of where it shouldn’t be. Glass windows should be either out of reach (generally above 7 feet) or protected by sturdy bars or mesh. 

Big barn exteriors require big lights – standard residential type lights are typically too small and do not provide enough light. Dusk-to-Dawn Halogens are often installed over entryways for general lighting purposes and for safety. Select fixtures as to where they will be used as barns are dusty and in some areas (wash bays) very moist. Vapor tight fixtures are required in wet areas for safety and durability.  When selecting lighting bulbs, there are several options.  

Using lights in strategic places can also help with barn security. Install security lights at farm entrance and around barn doors. Either leave them on from dusk to dawn or install motion detection lights to alert you to intruders. Remember, however, that motion sensors can also be tripped by your barn cat or other animals.

In order for the lights (and other equipment) to work in the barn, you need adequate electricity.  All electrical wiring in the barn should be housed in metal or hard plastic conduit since rodents may chew unprotected wires, creating a fire hazard. Metal conduit can be used, but has the tendency to rust. Plan enough circuits, outlets and fixtures so switches are within easy reach.  Locate switches so lights can  be turned on and off at two convenience locations, usually at either end of the barn. Install outlets every 15 feet or so on both sides of the aisle.  Light switches should be four feet up from the floor and outlets should be 13-15 inches off the floor (or as required by code). 

Consider lighting in other areas of your barn as well. Common places are the wash/grooming areas, feed room and tack room. For wash bay lighting and other ideas from Classic Equine Equipment, click HERE

Classic Equine Equipment has a variety of lights for both indoor and outdoor use.  For a full listing of what is offered, check out Classic Equine Equipment’s catalog – click HERE.  

Look to lighting to help keep you and your horse safe and happy during the dark winter months.

photo credit:  Classic Equine Equipment

Fall Pasture Management Practices

barn with rolling hills propertyA sustainable pasture depends on proper management of both the fertility needs of the soil and good management of grazing animals.  One of the most critical periods is fall.  Management decisions made at this time can have a strong effect on the plant’s ability to overwinter, which then determines when new growth begins in the spring and how much total growth will be produced over the entire season. 

Overgrazing of pastures in the fall is one of the most damaging think you can do to help support to the root system’s ability to rebuild and the formation of new grass shoots for spring growth.  This is also a time when plant root systems are rebuilding from summer shedding.  Growing points are developing in the fall to provide next spring’s growth.  These young grass shoots, or tillers, are much like babies.  Both need a steady supply of nutrients and protection from overgrazing.  In the fall, nutrients are supplied from the previous season’s tillers.  If pastures are grazed or mowed lower than 3-4 inches in the fall, these reserves are reduced and the new tillers are starved.  Usually root formation will slow or stop and the tillers will grow slower and have fewer roots in the next spring.

Allowing animals to graze throughout the fall without pasture management results in horse sacrifice area HorsesForCleanWaterincreased bare areas that are prone to the encroachment of weeds.  Keeping animals off wet pastures is another way to keep pastures healthy.  Livestock on wet pastures kill grass, compact soils and create mud.  A better idea is to create a sacrifice area for your livestock during the winter. Create an enclosure such as a paddock or pen during wet months, thereby sacrificing a small portion of your pasture for the benefit of the remaining pasture.  Installing mud-free footing, e.g. sand or gravel,  in your sacrifice area will keep your animals happier and healthier than standing in mud.  Be sure to remove manure every 1-3 days to keep footing materials from becoming contaminated.

Fall is also a great time to take soil samples to test the fertility of the pasture soil.  Soil test should be taken during the same month each month for consistency.  Early fall is also a good time to apply nutrients based on your soil test.  Manure or other sources of nitrogen can be applied. But take care not to apply too much nitrogen – it can cause grass to grow too vigorously in the fall, making them more susceptible to winter damage. 

Post summer is a tough time to turn horses out on pasture if don’t want to have to have to renovate in the spring.  But a few simple adjustments in the fall can keep your pastures lush and healthy for next spring.

photo credits: Classic Equine Equipment, Horses For Clean Water

Jobs With Horses: Horse Show Technical Delegate

If you have a background in showing your horse, you may want to consider a jobtechnical delegate 1 USEVENTING as Technical Delegate (TD).  You can find them at horse shows for most every discipline.  Sometime they are called “Stewards.”  But no matter what they are called, their job is the same:  to make sure that horse show where they are stationed complies with the rules established for that discipline.  This, in turn, makes sure that all competitors have an equal opportunity to succeed at the show.

Remember that while many rules are the same for all disciplines, there are some horse show rules are different for different discipline. For example, while all mounted riders at a dressage show must wear approved helmet, those who compete in driven dressage are only required to wear a “hat.”  You may be asked to oversee the proper of saddlery and equipment. Martingales of any type are prohibited at Hunter shows in the Under Saddle, hack and tie-breaking classes. However, standing and running martingales used in the conventional manner are allowed for all Hunter over fences classes. And in Dressage, martingales aren’t allowed at all.  Bit and bridle checks are something that happen at nearly every show. With multiple ring, you may need to train others on how to do these checks.  At smaller shows, you can do them yourself.  

bit and bridle check SOMERFORDPARKIf it sounds like the job of a Technical Delegate is somewhat like a policeman, you’re not far off.  You’ll need to make sure that there is proper medical care personnel available, that horses are cared for in a humane way, that there are no issues between competitors or between a judge and a competitor.  The US Equestrian Rule Book is your best friend as a TD.  All the rules are plainly and comprehensively spelled out for you to enforce.  While you can’t eliminate a competitor, you can point out to the show manager when a rule need to be enforced.

And yes! You will be paid for this.  Rates will vary based on the length of the show, but usually also include meals, lodging and travel.  It makes for a long week or weekend as you’ll be required to be on the show grounds for the entire show.  But if you love horses and are a stickler for everyone following the rules, becoming a Technical Delegate might be a job for you.

For more information, visit the US Equestrian web site and download the appropriate forms.  https://www.usef.org/compete/resources-forms/licensed-officials/become-licensed

photo credits:  US Eventing, Somerford Park