Daily life on Fairweather Farm as we try to work full time, work part time in the horse industry and get a little writing in!
Author: F.J. THOMAS
A southern gal with a western heart, F.J. Thomas resides in east Tennessee with the love of her life who is a retired race horse trainer and former professional bull rider, and a menagerie of horses, cats, and dogs. Working full time in the healthcare industry, F.J. is currently focusing the rest of her time on writing the film script for Lost Betrayal and building a new tiny home.
A former OHSA Carded horse show judge, trainer and instructor, F.J. loves competing in anything from huntseat to barrel racing and ranch events every chance she gets. ......
Unfortunately, we were not able to get the level of horse business that we needed to keep the farm afloat, nor was I able to refinance due to filing a loss on the farm taxes last year.
Word of wisdom to those out there that claim your farm expenses on your taxes — if you plan on financing anything for TWO years, you won’t want to file a loss on your taxes even if you work a steady full time job because it will negatively impact your debt to income ratio and even if you have a ton of equity in your property, decent credit with no other debt, the banks still will not finance you.
So, we’ve put the farm on the market with River Rock Realty. Located just 36 miles from Knoxville and 7 minutes from I-75, it’s 20+ acres of pasture, woods with riding trails, and a creek. There’s also a large metal horse barn with 5 stalls – 12×12 stalls – and run in sheds. The house is a doublewide with three bedrooms, two baths – one with a jacuzzi garden tub – and a sunroom, and fenced back yard. The farm is listed for $175,000.00 and is a steal at that price. Tons of potential!
Although the farm was a life-long dream I’d had ever since I was a little girl, if you can’t enjoy it because you’re stressing too much over finances then is it really worth it? No, it’s not – especially when you’re a worry-wort like myself.
This last year has been a year of tremendous ups and downs and a time of evaluating what happiness means to me, why I do what I do, and what I want in my life. So, I plan on downsizing quite a bit to get some financial freedom, and will be focusing solely on my own four horses, writing, and eventually giving lessons on a very limited basis.
Although at times it feels like the death of a dream still, I have to believe in the long run that I will wind up better and happier for it – and that’s what I’m focusing on!
This past year has been one of a LOT of uncertainty and change!
The farm was put on the market due to my divorce back in the summer. The farm has not sold and in the meantime, I’m making a run for my dream of trying to bring in some boarding and training business. We’ll see what happens -at least I know I gave it my best shot!
On a side note, my boyfriend (yes, I call him that! Lol) and business partner, Terry “Tab” Bouk, and I have started Filson-Bouk Training & Horsemanship. The name Fairweather Farm just no longer fit, especially since it was under new management!
Tab has ridden and trained for some of the top Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing farms in the country. In addition he’s trained racing paints and worked with Dressage, Eventing, and Reining trainers throughout Oklahoma. He was also very active with 4H with his kids. Between the two of us, we have at least 40 years of experience!
We are offering training for $400 a month. Owners supply feed, hay, bedding. We specialize in breaking and problem horses, trailer loading, but we’re just as strong in show ring preparation. We also can do sales prep, and lay up.
Boarding is $200 a month for stall board with turnout. Full care and owner supplies feed, hay, and bedding. We have trails started on the farm and once we get some business in we’ll be working on an arena.
Riding lessons are $25 for an hour on the farm. We make farm calls for $35 – contact us for details.
In the next few weeks, I will start posting training articles and updates again. In the meantime you can follow us on Facebook!
Let me ask you two questions…Does your horse load into a trailer in two minutes? Can just anyone else get your horse on a trailer?
Those two questions can literally determine whether your horse ends up dead or alive.
Several years back, in researching an article I was writing for America’s Horse Magazine, I learned that during that wildfires that year, they gave people two minutes to load their horse. Two minutes or the police would make you leave your horse to fend for itself.
This week I saw some of the stories of horses that were stranded in the floods of Louisiana and Texas. In the video below, they’re having to load three horses in knee-deep water. The first two went on without any effort, but the last one went on and came right back off. The video ends before we find out if they got the horse on the trailer.
No one ever thinks a disaster will happen to them. The truth of the matter is that unexpected things happen that can require your horse to load quickly and easily, and if they don’t there can be some dire consequences.
For instance, depending on where you’re at, having a flat tire on your truck or trailer, or having an accident can require that you load your horses on the side of an interstate or busy road. The longer it takes your horse to load, the more at risk you are with traffic.
So what can you do if your horse doesn’t load well?
There’s a million different methods out there on trailer loading – some safe, some not so safe. Really, in the end, how you get a horse to load easily is making the trailer a place the horse wants to be and is comfortable in.
How do you do that? Short of only feeding you horse at or on the trailer and nowhere else every single day, when a horse wants to leave a trailer let them but put them to work. You can lunge, you make them do side pass work or any other manner of getting their feet to move. Then come back to the trailer to rest.
As long as they’re looking or checking out the trailer, they’re trying. Leave them be. When they’re not, ask them to move forward on to it — it is important that they know how to move forward by pointing or tapping at the hip!
Once they get on, don’t shut them in. Let them come out if they feel the need to come out. If you’re claustrophobic, locking you in a tiny box doesn’t make you like cramped spaces! Horses are the same way. They get comfortable by knowing they can leave.
The next important piece is consistency and repetition. The more a horse does something, the more he learns and the better he gets at it.
If I have a horse that doesn’t want to load, I will set my trailer up where I can expose them to the trailer every time I turn them in and out of the pasture. Ideally, I’ll take them to the trailer twice a day if I have the time. I don’t spend an hour-long marathon session there. I spend just a minute or two there at the trailer asking them to move forward closer or on the trailer. If they do what I ask in thirty seconds, we’re done and they get to be turned out as a reward.
My retired race horse, Dynamic Host, is my latest big trailering project. When I went to pick him up, he had no clue that tapping on the hip meant go forward. (If he’d been in those California wildfires, he’d been dead!) His heart rate and respiration was so elevated that you would have thought he’d just won a race. It was obvious he was not comfortable being on a trailer, and I wondered if we would be able to bring him home!
The thing about high-strung and nervous horses is that you can’t whip them on to a trailer or make them go. For one, they’re usually too big to make them go anywhere, and someone will most definitely get hurt trying. Additionally, when they get scared they don’t think at all – they panic and blow up. The lessons of giving to pressure go right out their little window.
The answer for those type horses is teaching them to relax and think, and gradually let them get accustomed to being on the trailer. Repetition and time.
Don’t wait until you’re in a bad situation to work on getting your horse to load better. Do it now so that you and your horse won’t be caught off guard.
How well does your horse load? If he doesn’t load easily and quickly, what is something you can do today to remedy that?
With as many horses as we have, I’m always looking at ways to save money. It’s expensive to keep nine head and a donkey, especially when you have to feed hay during the winter.
We have a regular cradle hay feeder for the horses that are in our back pasture. Although the cradle feeder does a great job at keeping the hay up off the ground, just like any other regular hay feeder, there’s a lot of hay that goes to waste. A regular five foot round bale usually lasts around 4-5 days at best. That’s with 3-4 horses turned out full-time.
While I love the many different types of hay savers out there, and I’m sure they pay for themselves over time, the cheapest one I could find was $175-$200 by the time I paid for shipping. There’s been times I couldn’t afford that! Did I mention years of living hard have made me cheap?
I decided there’s got to be a cheaper way that’s comparable. Well, here’s what I came up with – total cost is $30 – a lot cheaper!
This is plastic barrier netting that you can find at any Home Depot or Lowes. The netting comes in different thicknesses and lengths. I chose a little heavier thickness, and the shortest roll they had as I only needed enough to cover the top of a round bale. One short roll was enough to cover 3 bales.
IMPORTANT – When you cut the length that you need, make sure you fold the end into itself, as the edges are a little sharp. By folding the end, you’ll have a rounded edge.
I round the edge and then tie it on to the edge of the cradle with hay string. I leave it on the first 3-4 days and then take it off as they work their way down the hay bale.
While it might not save as much hay as the $200 versions, it definitely helps. This is the second year we’ve used this and on average, hay bale lasts 3-4 days longer.
This is a great option for anyone that feeds round bales and can’t afford the more expensive hay savers.
Earlier this year, I found out about female Saddle Bronc rider, Kaila Mussell.
The fact that she rides Saddle Bronc is pretty impressive in itself, but the fact that she’s come back from a broken neck is a clear witness to the strength that she has on the inside. She’s a phenomenal athlete and I think she’s someone who exhibits the strength and toughness we all aspire to.
What was it that made you decide you wanted to try riding broncs?
I started off in rodeo, barrel racing at 11, and steer riding at 12. I did well at both events, however I got more of a rush out of riding steers and wanted to stay in the roughstock events. When I became too old to ride steers, my initial inclination was to ride bulls, however my dad convinced me otherwise. I’m glad he did, as at that point I knew of some women who have ridden bareback broncs and bulls, but didn’t know any women who rode saddle bronc in the modern style of saddle bronc riding. It turned into a more prestegious goal for me then, becoming the first woman to do so. At that time, my brother also wanted to ride broncs, so we both went to some bronc riding schools together to learn.
How did you feel the first time you rode an actual bronc out of the chute?
That was so long ago, and I’m pretty sure that I blacked out. When I was first learning that happened a lot, and even when I rode I couldn’t remember what happened. Eight seconds happens pretty quick, however over time and practice that short time (8 seconds) slows down, and when everything is happening right, it feels like all your movements are in slow motion.
When you decided to actually compete the first time, how did you feel? What were some of your thoughts & fears and how did you overcome those?
I was pretty nervous the first time I completed. I did, however grow up breaking colts since I was 10, so I already had alot of exposure to riding horses that bucked, and I already had rodeo experience, although not in saddle bronc. Most of my thoughts would have been related to not wanting to being a “failure” and get bucked off, not wanting to look like a “girl” out there, or scared that I wouldn’t be accepted because I was a girl. I really wanted to be accepted and to show others that I was just as capable as other bronc riders. Nowadays my attitude on all of these feelings has been completely turned around, however at that point in time that is definitely what I thought.
You broke your neck last year. Tell us a little about that.
I broke my neck on April 5, 2014 at a BCRA rodeo in Barriere, BC. I got bucked off and landed on my head and kind of rolled onto the right side of my neck and shoulder. I felt a shooting pain down the my right arm, and what felt like a crunch, but I chalked it up to a concussion, because other than being pretty sore, that’s what it felt like. I drove home that night, which was a couple of hours away and didn’t go to the hospital. The next day I was talking to my brother who is a doctor (GP), and he convinced me that I should go get it checked out because I was supposed to be flying to Hawaii the next day for a family vacation. I went to the hospital more so to eliminate anything being wrong with me, because I didn’t want to chance having high medical bills in another country. I happened to be picking up a friend at the airport that day and decided to stop in at VGH (Vancouver General Hospital) which is the only spinal unit in BC. I’m happy that I did. They took the injury very seriously and put me on a backboard and in a neck brace. Multiple x-rays, CT and MRI later I was told that I broke my neck in 2 places on the right side of C6, and that I wouldn’t be going anywhere. I wore a brace for a couple of weeks until they realized my neck wasn’t healing properly. Immediately thereafter I went in for surgery and ended up getting a fusion between C5-C7, and two of my disks replaced by part of my right hip bone.
When did you decide to start riding again after that and why? Was riding the first time after your injury different from what it was like before?
While I was healing from a broken neck I was faced with all sorts of thoughts and decisions about what my future would be. After weighing all the facts, talking to my surgeon and hearing everyone elses often unwanted “opinions” on what I should do with my life, I dug deep down and realized that my passion for bronc riding was still there. At minimum I wanted to come back to riding if only to end on my own terms. I waited a full year after my injury to completely heal to ride again. My first ride back was on a “practice” bronc, a day prior to Williams Lake, BC Indoor Rodeo where I was to be competing for the first time after breaking my neck. The bronc “Starbucks”, was a horse I was familiar with and I had ridden a few times in the past. I managed to get her rode, but it wasn’t pretty and got off on the pickup man. It definitely was a huge relief to get that one out of the way, as I came away without injury! From there, the major fear was gone, and I was back to the swing of things.
How was it different?
The main difference with coming back riding after such a major injury, was that I appreciated the opportunity of being able to ride again. I’ve noticed this year that I’ve had a lot more fun, not taken things as seriously as I have in the past, and enjoyed the whole journey of riding broncs in all aspects of the experience both outside and inside the arena. I also managed to win the year-end season leader saddle for the BCRA (BC Rodeo Association) in the saddle bronc. So overall, my comeback has been amazing!
How do you stay mentally tough?
I think pretty positive on a regular basis. When I don’t, I remind myself why I’m doing this, focus and look at the bigger picture. I read inspirational/self-help books, say positive affirmations to myself and post them around me. As well, journaling has been a huge help in focusing on my goals, seeing where my mindset is, noticing things that may have helped in the past that can help me now, and/or seeing how far I have come and being able to acknowledge this.
What is that motivates you to keep going?
This is a really hard thing to describe what motivates me, as only a small amount of this can be put into words. Motivation is more of a feeling, a passion that can’t be described. I’m driven to do it, in part because I love the sport, the lifestyle, the challenge, the adrenaline and excitement of the sport. To a large part these days I am motivated by seeing how much I inspire others to pursue their dreams by doing what I do.
What is your fitness routine to stay in shape to ride?
My fitness routine varies throughout the year depending on my work and rodeo schedule. On a regular basis I strength train (primarily core training) 3 days a week (30-40 mins), do cardio (primarily jogging) 3 days a week (4 miles), and yoga (1 hour) 1-2 days a week as well. This may be alternated with other physical activities such as hiking, biking, MMA training or otherwise.
As for eating, I have had a lot of structured strict diets over the years. I now find that its easier to eat well on a regular basis and stay active than to go to extremes. I really don’t deny myself any foods, however less healthy alternatives I eat in moderation. On a daily basis I do eat a high amount of protein, stick to whole, unprocessed foods, and eat small amounts throughout the day rather than eating large meals. Mind you, when you are on the road, it is sometimes hard to eat well or regularly. I try to always pack lots of water and healthy snacks in case this happens.
Any words of wisdom for anyone that wants to ride broncs, or anyone that wants to rodeo in general?
Set clear goals of what you want. Be willing to learn and put in the time and effort into what you do. The skills for your chosen event in rodeo will not come overnight, but with hard work and dedication it will all come together. Strive to constantly learn and improve.
What’s mandatory to be able to rodeo?
Mental and physical toughness, love of traveling, getting dirty,and performing under pressure, aside from investing a lot of money. Nothing in life is easy, but when things come together, it is all worth the effort. Rodeoing is a lot like gambling, the only thing you are in complete control of is your effort in your ride or run.
If you’d like to keep up with Kaila, you can keep up on her social media accounts –
At the end of September, I wound up with Dynamic Host, aka “Louie”, thanks to Prancing Pony Farm owned by Julie & Justina Faunt of Riceville, Tennessee.
An own son of Dynaformer, Dynamic Host is a 17.1 hand, 9-year-old retired Thoroughbred race horse that was originally entered in the Retired Race Horse Project. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he did not make the deadline for training. Although he may have missed that opportunity, his second career as an Eventer is wide open due to his potential.
Dynamic Host was in training with California Chrome’s trainer, Art Sherman in 2012 – 2013. During that time he won the Tokyo City Cup.
Having had an Appendix horse off the track, I somewhat knew what to expect with “Louie”. The nervousness, the sometimes exaggerated big reactions to new things, the gaps in training for things like ground manners or moving forward when you point at the hip. In many ways, they’re like a two years, only bigger and stronger!
In a lot of ways I may be a sucker for punishment when it comes to horses, however at the end of the day I truly love to work with horses that require going that extra mile. It’s something I’m passionate about and I really believe they can teach us so much as horseman that we can’t learn any other way.
I also believe in that in the right hands, these hot thoroughbreds can turn into the same mellow horses found in the cow pen or on the trail. I’ve seen it with my own eyes more than once at ranch clinics!
Talk to most horse people and mention the word “Thoroughbred” or “Race Horse” and you’ll often hear remarks like, “they’re hot”, or “they’re crazy”. Funny thing is that you’ll hear the same remarks about Arabs and Impressive bred horses, both of which are actually incredibly smart.
I think Thoroughbreds are the same way- they’re smart, which is part of the reason some folks have their hands full.
Smart horses notice everything – because they’re smart! Horses like that require a person to step it up and pay attention to everything around them. If they don’t, they get left behind. It’s pretty simple.
Another thing about smart horses is that they don’t require a person to ask as hard. They’re sensitive and they understand much quicker. Usually what gets people in trouble with smart horses is that they ask too hard and keep asking long after the horse is trying. In the end horse gets frustrated and acts out…kind of like we do when we’re talking to someone that’s not as smart and they just don’t get it.
Smart horses also don’t put up with crap. They’re smart enough to realize that they don’t really have to. So then a person has to figure out a creative way to deal them, and it’s easier to blame the horse than it is to admit you’re not smart enough to figure them out.
In the three weeks that I’ve had Dynamic Host, I’ve seen a horse that’s nervous and hot only because he’s never trusted enough to learn he can truly relax. You have to earn the trust of a horse like that, it’s not just given like it is by most horses.
I’ve also seen a horse that tries his heart out and catches on quicker than just about any horse I’ve worked with. For instance, in only one session I had him staying at my shoulder and backing up when I did – without a halter on. Two sessions in the round pen, and he was already joining up and working to the inside instead of the outside.
His sessions haven’t been without over-reactions. For instance, the first time I just touched him with a stock whip he was scared to death of it. When I went to desensitize him with it, he jumped up and sideways a good three feet. But, within a few moments he was letting me rub his shoulders with it even though it was obvious he was still fearful. The next day, he didn’t flinch at all.
There’s a lot of ground we have to cover – things like basic ground manners, and learning to load in a trailer calmly and without fear, giving to the bit – but he’s also made a lot of improvements already in a short time. For instance, learning to lower his head when you turn him out in the pasture or bring him out of his stall, staying relaxed and lowering his head while you rub his ears, and waiting on me instead of just walking ahead when we’re headed out to the pasture, and doing lateral work from the ground.
A big part of me wishes that I could just train horses for a living and not work, but sometimes at times like this I’m thankful that I don’t because I’m not under any pressure to get a horse trained in a certain period of time. I can just enjoy the journey and learn from it – that’s a luxury most trainers don’t get if they want to stay in business.
I truly believe Dynamic Host can make a phenomenal Eventer some day – I just have that feeling, that “knowing”. My goal in working with him is to give him the solid foundation he needs to do just that. I want him to be right – to be sane, solid, and light. I’m just honored I get to be part of such a terrific horse’s story!