Use Your Smartphone For More Than Selfies

horse on cell phone THESALEHORSESmartphones can be used for everything these days – listening to music, reading emails, surfing the internet, watching movies and, of course, taking pictures and videos.  But you can also use your phone for more than taking selfies.  Here are some ideas on how to use the camera on your phone with your equestrian life.

If you are looking at a new horse, snap a picture of it with your phone.  Save it with as much info as possible.  Ex. Brownie HappyBarnStable 010117.  After looking at 3 or 4 brown horses, you won’t be able to remember if “Brownie” was the one with the white star at Joe’s Barn or the one with the white blaze at Happy Barn Stable.  Taking a picture can help you remember who is who. And if you’re phone allows you to video the test ride as well. 

If you see something you like on the internet, but want to see it in person at your local HBG with phonetack store, save the picture to the phone.  Since tack styles are often similar with one or two small differences, having the picture can help you be sure the one you’re looking at in the store is the same one you liked online.

Conversely, if you see something you like in a store, but think you can get it cheaper online.  Take a picture of the store item and save with as much info a possible.  Ex. Wintec Isabell Saddle Bob’s Tack

One of the hardest things to do is to keep track of something on your horse.  For example, it’s October and you want to be sure your horse stays at the same weight in January.  Or you notice a lump and your veterinarian says “keep an eye on it” and let him know if there are any changes.  When you see your horse nearly every day, it’s hard to remember if it really looked like THAT the last time you checked.  Taking a picture to refer to can help to compare.  Use a body condition guide to document your horse’s weight.  Photo the lump with a ruler in the picture to indicate the size at the time.

Photographing or videoing your horse is a great help to your veterinarian in case you have to call him.  What may look like an emergency gash to you may look like a medium cut to your veterinarian if he can see it before he comes out.  With a picture, he may be able to instruct you how to care for it yourself and save the vet call.

The say a picture if worth a thousand words and if your horse is exhibiting odd or unusual behavior, it’ often better to show the veterinarian a video rather than try to describe it in words.  A horse that is “shaking” vs. “trembling” can mean different things to a vet.  So eliminate any confusion and send a video.

All of us want the perfect barn or pasture.  If you are visiting somewhere and see am idea on how to improve your barn, ex. a different style of window or how to handle winter turnout, ex. a gravel sacrifice area, snap a picture so that you’ll remember just what you’d like to do at your barn.

See it, snap it, remember it.  Use your phone to document what’s important in your equine life.

photo credit: The Sale Horse
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2018 Resolutions From The Inside Out

2018 jumping horse new yearEvery New Year, we equestrians make a list of resolutions aimed at improving our riding.  More riding without stirrups, more dressage lessons, signing up for that first horse trial.  All are great, but Refinery29.com recently came up with 12 resolutions designed to help you meet your challenges by working on your life from the inside out. All of them can be modified to help equestrians have their best 2018. Here are some to consider:

1. Seek balance

As equestrians, we can sometime get super-focused on our finding results.  While blue ribbon are great, we sometimes forget that riding should be a fun time to share with our horse and our barn buddies.  Take a relaxing group trail ride and enjoy nature.  Or attend an upcoming event (horse-related or not) with friends. Work hard to meet your goals, but take time for other things, too.

2. Roll with the punches

Change can happen.  A new trainer moves in, there are new rules for turnout or a new boarder wants everything done “her” way.  Some people have a more difficult time accepting changes, but in the end it can turn out for the best.  Maybe the new trainer allows you to try a discipline you never considered.  Or the new boarder turns out to be the perfect person to watch your horse when you go out of town. You can’t un-change things, but you can decide how you’ll react to change.

3. Embrace your inner optimist

Some people are born optimists. They always wee the glass half-full or can easily make lemonade from lemons.  If you are one of these people, this year try to teach others to do the same.  And if you aren’t, don’t fall into the “gloom and doom” trap that seems to be everywhere these days.  Look for the good in people and situations.

4. Listen to your heart

“To thine own self be true,” said Shakespeare. But if that means you constantly display emotional extremes, your “true self” can be seen as slightly neurotic. Emotions can manifest themselves to a much small degree.  Are you mildly disappointed you got a second instead of first?  Don’t wail how you never win anything and you should just give up riding.  After a while, people will stop listening.   Say what you feel by all means, but keep it all in perspective.

5. Chase variety

Nothing will sour an equestrian or promising horse faster than endless circles in the indoor arena.  Spice things up a little bit by changing your routine. Don’t feel you have to give away all your dressage tack and instantly start barrel racing.  Start small and start slow to give you and your horse time to develop new muscles and a new mindset for any changes.  Practice dressage on the trail.  Improve your jumping using a gymnastics grid.  After a short break from routine, both you and your horse will go back to the arena brighter and happier.

6. Test your limits

Make this the year that you and your horse “go for it.”  Time to get out of that comfort zone and move the next level.  Really stretch yourself this year and see what you are capable of.  Feel something is holding you back?  Take the time to figure it out and then make the decision to confront it.  Most of our perceived challenges are not based on our abilities, but on our fear looking silly.  What would you do if you knew you could not fail?  Mentally prepare and you’ll feel much more capable.

7. Say “no” more often

This is one you can probably use in every aspect of your life.  Caring for a horse can bring out the nurturing instincts in you that can spill over into caring for everyone else’s horse or owner, too.  This leads to you becoming overextended and ultimately resenting the time helping others.  This year, slow down, reevaluate your personal priorities and draw clearer boundaries. This may be tough at first as others may just expect you to agree.  Don’t be afraid to ask for time to consider what’s best for YOU before you agree to take on a commitment for someone else.

8. Find a new stage — and a new act

You’ve done Training Level Test 4 so many times that you can do it in your sleep.  Yes, you always get a high score and the blue ribbon. But when Show Managers see your entry in the mail, they automatically sign you up for T-4 without even looking.  Judges who have seen you ride before are considering just copying your old tests because everything is always the same.  This year, channel you inner “Meryl Streep” and start preparing for a new role, e.g. a new level.   Soon you’ll be ready to take center stage and wow them with your new “act.”

9. Silence the self-doubt

As an equestrian, it’s a given that you want everything to be perfect. And, according to everyone else, you are usually pretty darn close.  But there’s that pesky voice in your own head that keeps telling saying you’re just not good enough.  This is the year you tell that voice to “shut up!” It’s tough, but it’s up to you to let that voice know it’s time to hit the road.  You know your abilities – now trust that they can get you through anything. Because they can!

10. Go with your gut

It’s great to think things through.  Some may even make a list of pros and cons before making a decision.  But getting lost in all these details and “what if’s” can end up with you doing nothing.  “Analysis Paralysis” it’s been called.  The solution is to give priority to what’s important to you.  That doesn’t mean simply ignoring how your decision will affect others.  But constantly going a little to the left, then back to the right will not make anyone happy.

11. Pay it forward

Riding shouldn’t be all about the ribbons. Take time to try to make a better world – or at least a better horse world.  Create a better partnership with your horse. Volunteer at a horse show. Consider fostering a rescued horse. Donate hay or grain to horses in need. Work with a therapeutic riding program. Contact politicians in support of horse-friendly legislation. Sponsor a “meet the horse” program for inner city kids.  There are as many ways to pay it forward as there are horse lovers.  Ribbons can fade after a few years, but the good you do for the horse community will last forever.

12. Break free

Even if you stick with only some of the previous resolutions, this could be the year that you break free from what’s been holding you back from being your best self. This could be in your riding, your work or even relationships.  Make the commitment to see what the New Year brings and take every opportunity to learn and grow.

Thanks to Sara Coughlin at Refinery29 for her article with these resolution ideas.

Photo credit:  dreamstime.com

Learning What Horses Can Teach Us

Equine Experiential Education

By Guest Blogger Cathy Mahon, Harmony and Healing with Horses

experientiall horse learning 2Equine Experiential Education-Guiding the Discovery Horses have been a part of my life for the last 30 years. In the beginning, I was a typical horse owner, hoping to ride my horse on a regular basis in and outside of the protected area of an arena. My plan early on was to learn from the advice of various horse owners. Even when it worked, though, I felt an uneasiness about creating fear in another creature, so I could have a cooperative, submissive partner.

horse human connection CATHY MAHONBecoming a Centered Riding instructor in 2009 changed my life. It put me on a journey of self-awareness and self- discovery that began with my own reflection on what it meant to be balanced and centered, not only with the horse, but in my life. The idea that I would consider the horse’s feelings and desires and be able to understand their nonverbal language put greater responsibility on my behavior instead of the horse’s. I learned that real contentment comes when you allow the experience of others to enhance and expand your own experience.

I then met Robin Gates as she shared her gift through Liberty Training. I knew I was seeing something spiritual. She approached with an openness that invited the horse into her space even as she asked permission to enter theirs. She called it a cord of connection and I found it magical. I had seen glimpses of this kind of interaction in my own work but only as a small part of my end goal in controlling the horse’s behavior. She created a sense of safety and comfort in their presence that tapped into a horse’s natural desire for a leader-not one who demands and controls a limited set of behaviors, but one who asks for a response, knowing how to reflect on the answer and adapt to it in the moment.

This approach to horses changed my behavior in and out of the arena. As a physician assistant, 25 years in practice, I was used to having the answers and giving what I thought was the best advice to patients who sought my services. I felt I knew what the best course of action was and when patients resisted my advice, I was content to move on to the next person, hoping to find someone who would find my answers sufficient, even brilliant. It was all about my needs, my ego, my choices.

I realized that I had been treating my horses the way I treated everyone in my life. I continued to explore the idea that horses, in their own natural state, will see the world as it is RIGHT NOW-no judgments, no comparisons, NO EGO! I listened and let them offer me their own suggestions as to how to best approach them. I learned to read their body language and interpret the physical, mental and emotional state that was reflected there. I accepted that I did not have all the answers and that it was okay to struggle in my search for one.

Experiential horse learning 1Experiential education is learning by doing with reflection from the horses. These sensitive, intelligent creatures respond to both positive and negative changes generated by a person’s body and behavior. People are more readily willing to accept feedback from a horse than they do from humans, as there is no judgment in the horse’s response. People trust the horse’s reflection as honest and direct. As we learn from the wisdom of the horse, we develop our intuition and create new possibilities for our lives. The activities are designed to highlight aspects of personal growth and turn it into a tool for empowerment to make things happen. You then have a chance to identify specific strategies for creating positive change that will benefit you today and in the future.

In 2015, I became a facilitator through the Equine Experiential Education Association. I have furthered my education through courses in personal coaching and by creating my own business Harmony and Healing with Horses offering classes and workshops here in the Pacific Northwest.  It is now my purpose and my passion to guide the discovery of each person’s authentic and best self with my teacher, the horse

ABOUT CATHY MAHON:  Cathy Mahon is a talented  horsewoman who brings her cathy mahonlifelong love of horses and her passion for teaching & healing together to create amazing educational experiences. After graduating from Rutgers Medical School over 30 years ago,Cathy’s first career as a physician assistant gave her the knowledge and skill to care for people at all stages of life. A natural teacher and healer, she then found her true calling in the work of equine experiential education (E3 certified) after discovering that her “free time” with the horses led to enormous strides in her own personal development. She is dedicated to offering extraordinary classes & workshops for empowering stronger and more confident individuals through the wisdom and guidance of the horse.

photo credit:  Hamony and Healing With Horses

Retirement Option For Your Horse

IMG_0491Your horse has been your partner and your friend for many years.  But now, for whatever reason, you have to find a new home for him.  You may have outgrown him.  Or it may be for financial reasons.  Or his age is catching up to him.  But don’t despair.  There are a lot of great homes and options out there for your equine friend.  Here are a few you can consider.

  1. If your horse is still sound, you may want to consider leasing him, especially to someone at your barn.  They will take care of the expenses and care, but you still retain ownership and are the ultimate decision maker.  If you think you’ve found a good home for your horse, you can lease him out for six months or so to make sure that it’s a good fit all the way around.
  2. Of course you can sell him to another rider. It may be a pony you’ve outgrown who’ll make the perfect first horse for a child.  Or you may be switching disciplines and your hunter/jumper doesn’t share your interest in dressage.  He’ll be much happier with an owner who jumps.
  3. You can donate him to a therapeutic riding program. These programs help at risk kids or children with disabilities by introducing them to horses and riding.  Your horse must be sound and totally calm.  But if he makes it as a therapy horse, you can be assured that he will have lots of brushing and tons of carrots.
  4. You can move him to a lower rent section of your barn. Many stables have stalls and pasture board.  If you’ve had your horse in a stall, consider moving him to one of the pastures for board.  This will cost you less and will let him walk around and hang out with his horse friends.   Or if your barn has daily turnout and if you can afford it, you can leave him right where he is.  As long as he gets out on a regular basis, many horses are happy in stalls.
  5. You may want to consider boarding at a retirement facility. As horses are living longer lives, many boarding stables are seeing the benefit of offering boarding of retired horses – no matter what their age.   Most often, they will offer a pasture with shelters where several horses live.   In this case, the barn manager assumes the majority of the responsibility for the care of your horse.  They will make sure that they are groomed and that they are up-to-date on shots, dewormed and have their feet done.  All of this, of course, will be billed to you in addition to your monthly board and feed.   They can also provide additional services such as blanketing, bathing and giving supplements.  Be sure to check with the barn manager on the cost of everything.KellyBrennaChelsea 112010

Also discuss with the barn manager how involved you want to be in the care of your horse.   Do you plan come out weekly?  Are you comfortable with the barn’s vet and farrier or do you prefer someone you’ve had as a vet care for your horse.? These are all things that should be negotiated before moving your horse.

If it’s an older horse you are retiring, be sure that the retirement barn is prepared to take care of senior horses.  Often, barns buy hay and feed in bulk and they are usually geared towards younger or active horses.  Older horses can require special senior feed and hay may need to be soaked before feeding to help older horses chew.   

Older horses may have special medical need such as joint medicine or may need extra blanketing in the winter.  Be sure anyone taking care of your retired horse is aware of any special needs.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has a great publication, “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities.” This will help  you know what questions to ask and what services you should expect. Click HERE to download a copy.

Photo credit: GreenGate Farm

Winter Hoof Care Tips

horses in snowWhen you think of preparing your horse for the winter, most of us think about getting blankets cleaned, laying in a good supply of hay and finding our warm riding clothes!  But winter has a significant affect on your horse’s hooves.  Being mindful of these changes can help your horse keep his hooves healthy.

Hooves grow slower in the winter.  Just how much slower depends on a variety of things, mostly how weather in your area affects your horse care.  If you can still turnout much of the time you may not notice much.  These changes come mostly from the circulation in the hoof.  When horses are ridden or are turned out less, there’s less circulation to the hooves. Slower hoof growth is good news for some people – this can mean fewer visits by the farrier.  But for others who are waiting for a crack or other hoof problem to grow out, this reduction in hoof growth can mean a long wait. 

But hoof growth isn’t the only issue to worry about this winter.  Ground that is frozen is unyielding and can cause hoof soreness or bruises.   Riding slowly on frozen ground is one way to prevent this.  Adding pads to your horse’s shoes is another way.

Abscesses seem to spring up any time of the year, but winter seems to be an especially popular time.  Often this is caused by the change in temperature – warm and muddy one day, cold and frozen the next.   The hoof wall expands and contracts to meet these conditions and can allow bacteria in.

Another method of entry for bacteria is through wet feet.  Excessive moisture from too much washing of legs to remove mud can soften the hoof and also allow bacteria in. This can also cause the problem of scratches or pastern dermatitis.  Scratches are a common problem of inflammation of the skin behind or around the pastern of the horse. 

Winter is one of thrush’s favorite times of year because it thrives in wet, dirty bedding and areas where mud, mixed with manure, is found.  Creating mud and manure free turnouts are also important.  Use stall mats, hog fuel or gravel in paddocks and sacrifice areas to help cut down on mud.  Clean areas at least once a day or so to prevent manure from causing problems.

If you’re thinking of removing your horse’s shoes for the winter, be sure to check with your farrier or veterinarian first.  Some horses might need the support and structure that shoes provide.  But even without shoes, don’t forget to get your horse’s hooves trimmed regularly.

Mud can cause another problem for hooves.  The suction power of mud as your horse walks in it can pull your horse’s shoes right off.  This is especially true if your horse has soft or shelly feet.  Creating mud-free area to ride, to turn out or just at entrances and exits for your horse can help keep your horse’s shoes where they belong – on his feet!

horse-with-ice-balls-in-hoofTwo other areas that can cause concern during the winter months are snow turning into balls of ice and putting pressure on the center of the sole and icy surfaces on which your horse walks.  In both scenarios, your horse may simply stop moving.  The balls of ice can cause soreness or lead to tripping, and one slip on an icy surface and your horse will feel unsafe and not want to risk slipping again.  Both situations can be avoided by riding and walking your horse on safe ground,

Photo credit: Equine Ink, 

A 5-Point Checklist If You’re Stabling Your Horse This Winter

ChelseaSnowHaving the option of having your horse on pasture board or turnout during the summer is great not only for your expenses, but for your horse as well.  Horses are happiest being able to graze all day, preferably in the company of other horses.

But if your horse is going to be in training or you want to ride during the winter, your best option is to keep your horse at a boarding stable.  Warm, indoor wash racks, cozy tack rooms, dry stalls and, of course, a covered arena are all attractive reasons to keep your horse in a boarding stable during the worst weather.

But there are some things to consider for your horse before you put him in the advantageous, but more structured environment of a stable.  Review our 5-point checklist to see what decisions you need to make.

checkbox 1. Loneliness – if your horse is used to being outside 24/7 with lots of other horses and things to look at, being kept in a stall for long hours can make him lonely and bored.  This can lead to bad habits such as cribbing or stall walking.  Coming up with distractions such as stall toys or treats like “Uncle Jimmy’s Hanging Balls” (and turnout when possible) can help keep him engaged.  If there’s room and the barn management doesn’t mind, having a “barn sitter” like a goat or chicken can also keep horses entertained.

checkbox 2. Exercise – If your horse has been turned out for long hours, most likely he’s gotten plenty of exercise just walking around and grazing all day.  And if he has other horses for company, most likely they all get a good gallop in every once in a while.  But in a stable, it will be more important than ever to regularly exercise him.  You can lunge him or even hand walk him around the facility.  As a trainer to ride him if you aren’t able or consider a lease with another horse lover.

checkbox 3. Feed – Horses do best on lots of forage, and when they are turned out all day it’s rarely a problem.  But inside a stall, your horse is restricted to what he can find to eat.  A good supply of quality hay given on a regular basis is a good way to satisfy his urge to graze.  There are a variety of hays available and your barn manager can help you choose the right one for your horse’s weight, age and activity level.  And, while most horses rarely need to be supplemented with grain, if your horse is now being ridden more frequently you may find that adding grain is a good idea.

checkbox 4. Blankets – When horses are turned out for most of the year, they develop a coat tosnow stabled horse S H DRESSAGE protect them through the seasons.  If your horse usually grows a good winter coat, he may be perfectly fine in stable that protects him from the cold and wet.  You still may want to consider a lightweight waterproof sheet if he will be turned out in rainy/snowy weather.  You may also want to consider whether to clip or not.  Clipped horses can be cooled much more quickly after a hard ride, but the downside is that he will need to be blanketed.  And sometimes double blanketed depending on your winter cold. I suggest several light layers instead of one heavy blanket so you can adapt his “wardrobe” to the temperature.

checkbox 5. Shoes – When horses are turned out in a pasture or ridden only on soft ground, it may be a good time to pull their shoes and let them go barefoot.  This can save you quite a bit of money in farrier expenses. If you plan on trail riding, you can use hoof protection like the Easyboot.  But when boarded at a stable, you may want to consider having your horse shod.  While many owners are part of the “barefoot” movement in all circumstances, some horses when ridden or in heavy training need the support of shoes to help with leg issues or to avoid stone bruises.

Depending on where you live, winter weather may only be a few short months or seem to last forever.  Use your best judgment when considering what is best for you and your horse for each of this items.

photo credits:  GreenGate Farm, S H Dressage

 

 

Putting A Stop To “Scratches”

scratchesPastern dermatitis, often known as scratches, is a common problem of inflammation of the skin behind or around the pastern of the horse.   In most cases, the infection is caused by bacteria or a fungus that enters the skin through any openings in the skin – small wounds, cracks or even chapping.  The most common signs of scratches are scabs and crusting around the pasterns.  There may be a clear liquid substance leaking from the area.

Treatment is fairly straightforward.  Gently wash the area with an antibacterial soap or solution, then thoroughly dry the area – both the hair and the skin.  It is important to keep the area around the pastern clean and dry to prevent reinfection.  It may help to clip the hair around the pastern.  You can also apply a thick ointment to help protect the pastern as well as remove the scabs and promote healing.  If the area doesn’t heal in a couple of weeks, contact your veterinarian to see if stronger medications or cleaning solutions are necessary.

While scratches aren’t a life-threatening illness nor is the treatment difficult or long-term, it is always better to prevent the problem in the first place.  Scratches seem to develop when your horse has prolonged exposure to wetness.  Moisture from bedding or mud can weaken the skin and make it susceptible to cuts and possible infection. The following ways will help you prevent this problem.

Keep stalls clean.  This means not only picking up manure in the stalls and paddocks, but being sure to remove any urine-soaked bedding.  After the area has been clean, you can add some stall freshener like PDZ, but allow the area to dry thoroughly before adding bedding to the spot.   

horse in mud CanadianHorseJournalKeep paddocks, shelters and all turnout areas dry.  Since moisture is bad for the horse’s skin and is the leading cause of scratches, having him stand in wet grass or, even worse, ankle high mud is just asking for trouble.  During wet weather, use a sacrifice area with well-drained footing like crushed gravel to help keep feet and pasterns dry.  You can even use stall mats like the ones by Classic Equine Equipment in paddocks or in high traffic muddy areas such as the opening to a shelter.

Know your bedding.  Some types of bedding may be coarse or may have been chemically treated.  While this won’t affect all horses, check to see if your horse’s bedding is retaining moisture or otherwise irritating his pasterns. 

Be kind to pasterns.  Bell boots are helpful in preventing horses from stepping on their front pasterns with their back feet, but make sure the boots fit properly and are not rubbing against the pastern and causing irritation.  Once a horse gets his legs wet from walking through a puddle or wet grass, everything seems to stick to them.  Sand from an arena can also cause irritation if it isn’t brushed off before putting on leg wraps or boots.  Also, if your horse has been standing in mud, be sure to brush or wash his legs off.  However, take care and don’t become too aggressive in cleaning the pastern areas.  Remember that too much water will soften the skin and make it inviting for bacteria.  Brushing dried mud with a stiff brush can cause those tiny cuts through which bacteria love to enter.  Finally, some people like to keep the pastern area neat and clean by clipping – just make sure the clippers are clean and you don’t nick this sensitive area.

With these tips, you can help prevent your horse from getting scratches or keep it from coming back.

Photo credit: Canadian Horse Journal

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

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