Under New Management

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!

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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.

Pictures from the farm
Pictures from the farm

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!

Preparation for Showing

To me, breaking colts is relatively easily most of the time. If you do your ground work right, most of the time you won’t have a problem. It’s after the breaking process when you take them out into the real world that the real work begins. That’s when you find out who your horse truly is and whether or not you’ve done all you can do. I can assure you, the real world will quickly help you find the holes in your training that you didn’t know existed.

While hauling out to a show will certainly test how well you’ve trained your horse, there are a few things that can help you and your horse prepare for those first trips out.

The first thing is to of course make sure you’ve got a good foundation on your horse. Are they soft in the face so that if you had to stop or change directions quickly you could? Can you control their feet and their body easily? These are probably the two most critical questions you could ask. Make sure you have control of your horse at home first.

One of the things that I do in the training process to help prepare for hauling and seasoning is lunging out in the pasture. There’s something about working out in a big wide open space that brings out the energy in a green horse. That’s when you’ll see another side of your horse.  It’s better to discover that other side at home where you can deal with it, plus lunging out in the pasture teaches them they have to work no matter where they are and what their energy level is.

Another thing that I do in preparation for hauling out to shows is tying them out for long periods of time on a regular basis. At most local events there are no stalls available for your horses which means they’ll have to stand tied to the trailer. It’s not uncommon to arrive at 9am and the show not end until after 9pm which means they’ll have to stand tied for several hours. Unless you can hold your horse the whole entire day, it’s going to be critical that your horse tie safely to the trailer. Tying your horse out frequently will help prepare for that.

Ponying and using a green horse to pony off of is another preparation step I use for hauling preparation. This is a good tool for getting a horse use to trafficking in the warm up pen or show arena. Ponying gets them used to having another horse close, and teaches them that even though another horse is close they still have to work and have a job to do.

If at all possible, set it up where you can ride with several horses either at home or at a friend’s. Small gatherings with plenty of room are the best places to get your feet wet when starting the seasoning process. You want to set your green horse up for success. The last thing you want to do is haul to a crowded arena with too much activity going on and over-stimulate your horse and set them up for failure.

What are some of the things you have done to prepare your young or green horse for their first outing away from home? Did you feel that you had done enough or did you find things you needed to work on?

Standing tied at an open show….

Ponying as part of the breaking process…

TOADIE SHOWpony toad n mo

Old Horses & Hard Keepers

The topic that seems to come up the most in every horse discipline is feeding. People are always asking how to put weight on their old horse or hard keeper. With the unlimited amount of supplement and feed companies out there, you can find an endless list of articles and advice on how to feed horses.  If you ask ten different people what to feed your horse, you’ll get ten different answers.

There have been many times that I’ve run across a skinny older horse whose ribs showed and the response has been, “Well, he’s just old and won’t keep weight.” The owners have bought into the misconception that once a horse gets over the age of 20 they’re going to be skinny. While that may be true for some ancient horses, and by ancient I mean over the age of 30, that’s not necessarily true for all. I have seen too many fat and sassy old horses to know better!

It is true that as horses age, factors like tooth loose and a decreased ability to digest foods impacts how well they keep their weight. But it doesn’t mean that the impact is so big that they can’t maintain a healthy weight. What makes the determination of whether or not an old horse, or a hard keeper, maintains their weight is simply management.

Quite frankly, one of the biggest reasons I’ve found that keeps old horses or hard keepers from gaining weight is simply that they’re not being fed enough. The next reason is that they’re not being fed a good enough quality forage.

When you ask owners how much does your horse weigh, how many pounds of feed and how many pounds of hay do you feed your horse, many simply don’t know. They can tell you what volume they feed, but they don’t know what that volume actually weighs. When they put a weight tape on their horse and then actually weigh their feed and hay, they often find that they are feeding a good bit less than what they think they are.

So rule number one in feeding the hard keeper and old horse is know  your horse’s weight and actually weigh your feed and your hay. By the way, a 3 quart scoop of Equine Senior weighs 3.8 pounds on a postal scale – and not all feeds will weigh the same!

Since we’re talking about pounds, the average horse requires a minimum of 1-1.5% of their body weight in forage sources per day. That means that a thousand pound horse needs at least 10 to 15 pounds of hay per day. Most hard keepers will require around 2% or 20 pounds of hay per day. Keep in mind these totals do not include feed, only forage or hay.

If you’re feeding an older horse with teeth problems that can’t chew, many Senior feeds are formulated to be at least a partial replacement for hay. Be sure to verify if your senior feed is a Complete Feed.There’s also other options such as Chaffhaye , cubes and beet pulp, and chopped hay that provide high quality sources of forage for horses that can’t chew well.

In order to keep weight on an average horse, a decent amount of excellent quality forage is still required. When feeding an older horse or a hard keeper, feeding at least some top quality hay is critical to maintaining their weight. Personally, I’ve never seen a hard keeper that could keep weight on just hay but good hay or forage does play a crucial role in their feed program in order to maintain a certain level of weight and condition. Without it, it’s impossible to keep the pounds on.

The bottom line is that you can’t feed a minimum amount of feed and mediocre hay and keep weight on your hard keeper or your older horse. You also can’t just add a supplement or just change feeds and watch the pounds miraculously appear. It takes making sure your horse gets enough poundage, not just volume, of good quality feed and hay — and that’s after you’ve made sure they’re on a good worming program, their teeth have been floated, and they don’t have any other underlying health issues.

Do you have a hard keeper or an old horse that’s in excellent condition? What do you do to keep them at a good weight?

Here’s a picture of my 23-year-old Appendix horse that I’ve had since he was 3 years old. He’s on 3 pounds of Chaffhaye , 1.5 pounds each of alfalfa cubes and beet pulp (soaked!), 10 pounds of mix fescue grass hay,7 pounds of Strategy feed, and a cup of rice bran and flax seed. He weighs 1250 pounds.

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Is Your Colt Broke?

The million dollar question…. Is a colt broke if it lets you ride it around on its back?

The million dollar answer…. Depends on who you’re asking.

 

In my book, it doesn’t matter how well they carry you around. If you have to pull them around, they’re not broke.

For me, getting one soft through the face and through the body is the critical step in breaking horses. You can’t move forward until you have those elements in place. For a lot of people however, it’s just the opposite – the critical step for them is getting the horse to stand still or move without bucking. Reining comes later.

What exactly is “soft” and why is it so important?

Through the years there have been many great horseman try to define what softness is in a horse. Quite frankly, if you’re a horseman that loves to learn, your definition of softness will evolve and grow deeper as you learn.

Giving just a basic definition of softness so that you get the idea, softness is being able to get the horse to do something or move something without a lot of effort.

For instance, you ask a horse to bring its head around by pulling on the lead rope or the rein. A soft horse, you don’t have to pull in order to get the head around – they require a lot less effort. You only have to pick up. There’s a big difference in effort between pulling and just picking up a rein and that’s basically the beginning idea of softness.

Why is softness so important when it comes to progressing with breaking colts? I’ve found that it can literally mean the difference between staying and hitting dirt.

By now you’re probably asking how in the world getting a horse soft can keep you from falling off. It’s quite simple, actually. It boils down to timing and effort.

It takes more time to pull a horse’s head around than it does to just pick up. If a young horse starts to buck or rear, in order to control the feet you need to get control of the head quickly. If you’re having to pull instead of pick up, your horse has a better chance of getting a jump in on you before you get control.

As mentioned earlier, it takes more effort to pull than just pick up. It also requires more balance because of the leverage needed in order to pull. If your horse is acting up, most likely your balance is already in danger. Add the fact that you’re having to struggle to get your horse’s head around and you’re setting yourself up to quickly become unbalanced.

Those are just two elementary examples of why getting a horse soft prior to getting on is so important when it comes to breaking colts, just riding horses in general. True softness goes much deeper than that but it’s the foundation of everything that goes into an upper level finished horse that’s easy to ride.

 

Does your horse require a lot of effort to ride? If so, what can you work on to make your horse easier to ride?

MO FIRST SADDLE RIDE GROUND STAND Mo

 

 

 

Failures As Fuel

It took me until I was 44 but it finally happened. This past week I received an offer from a publisher for a book I started writing ten years ago. Needless to say, when I received the email I was in shock. I’ve dreamed about becoming a published writer since I was a teenager. While I’d written a few articles that were published, the queries for my books had only garnered rejections. The belief in my writing ability and vision were beginning to wear thin.

The last few days have been filled with writing a bio and a blurb for the publisher and perusing thousands of hot cowboys for my book cover- a rough life I know, but someone’s got to do it! This afternoon I received an email from my editor so the reality is finally setting in and I have to say it feels good and I’m genuinely looking forward to the whole process.

My romance novel, Lost Betrayal, will be published by Solstice Publishing in 2014 in digital format, initially. Here’s a snapshot of the book –

THE FUTURE OF THE RANCH HANGS IN THE BALANCE

Sage is just getting her life back together when a tornado touches down and destroys her family ranch in northern Georgia taking her hopes, her dreams and the very horse that the ranch’s future hinges on. An ex rodeo cowboy with a past, Garrett has sworn off rodeo and the last thing he needs is entanglement with a woman on a wild horse chase but there’s too many unanswered questions, such as how a horse could stay gone so long.

Refusing to believe her horse was killed in the storm and refusing to give up on the ranch, Sage begins the journey of rebuilding her life once again and searching for the horse that to her, holds the past, and her future. Sordid secrets and malicious betrayal jeopardize her efforts. Is she strong enough to push past the hurt and the lies in order to get back all she holds dear?

 

Everything that happens in my life I always wind up relating it to horses somehow, of course! This is no different.

Whether it’s breaking a colt or riding at the nationals, we all have dreams and goals that we want to accomplish. With every dream that we have, there’s going to be setbacks and failures and things that make us question whether or not we should pursue whatever it is that we want to achieve. Those failures make us question whether or not we’re being rational with our goals.

I’ve read time and time again to use your failures as a way to improve. Every time I received a rejection for one of my book projects, I always went back and tried to figure out what it was in my writing that caused the literary agent or publisher to not like the book. A rejection always resulted in a revision in my book, and ultimately improvement.

Working with horses shouldn’t be any different. When a horse rejects what we’re trying to teach them, sometimes the tendency is to think it’s the horses fault and in that case no one improves and the horse usually suffers for it.

In other cases, especially with better horsemen, failure in training should result in self-evaluation first. Just like with the rejection of the book, what was it in the training approach that caused the horse not to reject what was being taught? It’s only then that as a trainer can you move forward and improve.

I’ve always said that it’s the toughest horses that make the best horsemen. For that reason alone I love to work with difficult horses. The more difficult they are, the more I’m drawn to them. Why? Because the refusals are usually extreme, and the greater the refusal, the greater the self-reflection in an attempt to fix it. In the end we both improve better than we ever would have had the whole process been smooth.

Use your failures to fuel your success. What dreams do you have and what have you failures been in reaching that dream? What have those failures taught you and how have you let them make you better?

GIVE A HORSE A JOB

One of my biggest passions is working with horses. There’s nothing I love more than breaking a colt or working through an issue with a horse that has problems. The harder they are to figure out and deal with, the more I love the challenge. I think it’s the reward of seeing that animal grow through the process.

You know, Jesus said he didn’t come to save the righteous that he came to save the sinners. He also said that those that have more to forgive love him the most. I think horses are the same way. The harder they are to work with the more they trust you on the other side. The process is sometimes painful but in the end  it’s a neat thing and wouldn’t have been so sweet if it hadn’t been so hard.

Anyone that knows me knows that my philosophy with horses is that when it comes right down to it, it’s not about us and what we want to do. It’s about the horse because it’s his life. It’s about him and his leaving our hands better than when he came to us. We should always seek to improve the horse, not just our goals and desires.

I used to think that a good horse trainer could make a horse do anything. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that a good horse trainer can figure out what a horse wants to do. Figure that out and it becomes much easier to teach that horse how to do things. If you think about it, we’re the same way so why would a horse be any different just because they can’t talk? We fight against doing things we don’t want to do too.

Giving a horse a job that makes them think is one of the best things for a horse and it’s most certainly one of the best things you can do for a difficult horse. I think most difficult horses are smart horses. I think they get themselves into trouble when they get bored and they have to find ways to entertain themselves. The best way to combat that is give them a job that grabs their attention and requires them to think.

One of the best jobs for a horse is to work cows. It requires them to focus on something, kind of like putting a TV in front of a kid. Cows are instant horse magnets. While some horses are deathly afraid the first time they see a cow and want to get away, if you think about it even though they’re afraid, they’re STILL focusing on that cow.

You can put a dull, lazy horse on a cow and you’ll get a totally different horse. Suddenly that horse will be lighter, quicker. It’s because they’re interested in what they’re doing and they feel like doing it.

While you might say you don’t have cows to go work, it doesn’t mean all is lost. We don’t have cows either so when we get a chance we’ll haul to a Ranch Clinic or a Ranch Sorting to get that exposure. But you can also find other ways to get out of the arena and give your horse something to do.

Horse Soccer is the next best thing to being on cows, in my opinion. It gives the horse something to focus on – the ball. His job is to stay with that ball and move it around. At the same time he’s moving that ball around you’re also getting a chance to work on things like shoulder and hip control, rate.

Another job I like to give a horse is ponying. It does a horse a world of good to have the job of leading another horse around. It gives them confidence but you also get to work on things like trafficking and control of the body parts.

You can also use your horses for working around your property. Instead of using the pickup truck to haul that log, use your horse to drag it. You’ll need to use a western saddle and wrap your horn to keep it from getting damaged, and get your horse used to ropes first but it’s a job that you can use your horse for. If you ride English, you can still find things light enough that you can drag off your horse.

Here’s some pics of the jobs our horses have had over the years –

This is Mo, the 3 year old green mare at a Ranch Clinic with Scott Kiger of Georgia and John Nicely of Tennessee.

3yr old green mare
3yr old green mare

This bay horse on the right is my husband’s Polish Arab that I showed Hunter.

Sorting on English Arab

Here’s this same horse working a ball.

Working on the ball

The pony horse in this picture was deathly afraid of other horses being close when he was ridden. Here he is ponying a 2 year old.

ponying

The important idea here is to find ways to use your horse in getting something accomplished, to include him in what you’re doing. When you do that, you wind up with a horse that’s interested in what he’s doing and you usually wind up furthering his training because it’s required to do the job well.

How do you find ways to put your horse to work that grab his interest?

Big Changes For Fairweather Farm

I’ve gotten behind on updating my blog the last couple of weeks but it’s with good reason. We’ve been moving!

It’s been eight days since we started packing and moving and we still have several loads to move. It’s amazing how much you can accumulate over a period of eleven years and even more amazing how you think the whole process will take less time than it winds up taking! Fortunately we moved only a few minutes away. Had it been any further and I’m not sure we would have survived! Moving is hard work!

Our old farm was a little over four acres and the new farm is a little over twenty one acres. Considering all of our horses were previously stalled during part of the day and rotated out on the same pasture, having full turnout on good grass will be a welcome change for us all.

We’re still having to rotate everyone on one pasture but fortunately it’s temporary and it’s much bigger than the previous one. The first day we turned the horses out, they weren’t sure whether they wanted to stretch their legs in the big field or eat knee deep grass. I think the first few minutes were a combination of both as they trotted and cantered with their heads buried in the tall grass. By night’s end however they settled close to the gate and I don’t think they moved until the next morning.

NEW BARN

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THE MAIN PASTURE

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BACK PASTURE

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We still have quite a bit of work to do. Electric fence has to be put up on the back side of the back pasture, a second run shed has to be built, the round pen put up, and gravel and mats put in the stalls are the biggest items we need to get off the list. Even though it’s hard work, it’s exciting to see the changes taking place that will make chores much easier!

What changes are taking place in your life? Are they making your life easier or harder?