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!
As a judge and a competitor that trains my own horses, I’m all too familiar with show nerves in both horses and people. The funny thing about show nerves is that they tend to be a vicious cycle. The more nervous we are, the more the nervous the horse becomes. The more nervous the horse gets, because we’re nervous, the more nervous we get!
It’s a never-ending cycle! The problem is that someone – whether it’s us or the horse – has to lead. If you’ve got a solid baby sitter type horse that’s been everywhere and done everything you might survive if they lead. However, if you’ve got a horse that’s the least bit green or insecure you had better learn to step up to the plate and be a leader.
Insecure horses, whether they’ve been hauled a lot or not, need a confident rider. They need to feel safe and they look to us to make them feel secure. Only when they feel that security can they start to relax and settle. The first step to improving you and your horse’s show nerves is to recognize their need for confidence, and to recognize your responsibility as a leader. When you realize your role of helping your horse, suddenly you go from being reactive and somewhat of a victim to being more in control. Your mindset tends to change when you see you are responsible for your horse’s frame of mind.
Smarter horses tend to anticipate and get more nervous because of that. The best thing you can do on show day with a horse that anticipates is to not get in a hurry. I get nervous if I feel rushed, and I know they do too. The more relaxed I can be, the more relaxed my horses will be as well.
If I have a horse that anticipates, a high energy horse, or a horse that hasn’t been hauled a lot I try to arrive at the show at least two hours before it starts. I’ll wait a few minutes before I unload, and then wait another thirty minutes before I start tacking my horse up. This gives them a chance to acclimate to their surroundings and relax.
A lot of riders will spend time lunging their horses to work the energy off. While I do think some horses do need to get that energy out of their system, especially those that don’t get a lot of daily turnout, I think the majority of horses would benefit more from just a few minutes of quality ground work that makes them think.
Mindless circles at a crazed canter doesn’t get a horse’s mind. All it does is tire them out, and if you’re showing you need a certain level of energy to compete. Save some of that energy for the show ring by working your horse in a way that makes them think and engage their mind.
As the saying goes, if you get their mind you get their feet. Asking them to move their shoulders and hips, or make a lateral move from the ground goes a long ways towards getting them thinking under saddle.
The same concept goes for warm up under saddle. Lope or canter just enough circles to get the edge off if they need it, but don’t let the goal of your warm up be to tire your horse out. The goal of your warm up should be to get your horse thinking and paying attention to what you’re asking.
Just like on the ground, moves that require them to think are great for making a horse think. Instead of repetitive circles, try frequent changes of directions and rollbacks, a side pass or a half pass to get your horse paying attention. Mix your ride up to keep them guessing what you’re going to do next.
As you’re riding, make sure you’re relaxed. Any time you’re tense, whether you realize it or not, you’re contracting muscles in your body that send a “go forward” cue to your horse. While your hands and legs may be telling your horse to slow down or stop, the rest of your body is telling your horse to move. This conflict in cues can frustrate a horse and cause them to be more nervous. Taking a big deep breath and releasing it loudly will release the tension that you’re feeling as well as relax the muscles, and it sends an audible cue to your horse.
Knowing your role as a competitor, and changing your warm up strategy can improve show day nerves. Take the time to do an honest assessment of you and your horse, and look for ways to improve your preparation and you’ll see results in the show pen.
Do you struggle with being nervous in the show pen? How do you think that impacts your horse? What changes can you make to improve that?
Earlier this year, I wrote a post entitled “A Solution To The Slaughter Issue“, in which I proposed the rescues start a “Rescue Registry”. In my blog post, I suggested that they could not only limit breeding to a certain extent, but also provide an incentive to rescue by offering large events with a pay back. Basically, they could offer a nationals and a “Mustang Makeover” type event for rescued horses.
Although I covered a lot of territory and offered at least a partial solution, I didn’t completely reveal the rest of my solution for the hot topic of horse slaughter. A couple of weeks ago however, I was reminded that I need to write the next blog post!
On a Sunday afternoon I was headed with a friend to a Cattle Sorting practice in Resaca, Georgia a couple of hours away. As we drove along I-75 South, just a few miles north of Chattanooga, we were passed by a red full size semi tractor-trailer truck with a Stanley Brothers Farms logo that was pulling a single deck semi livestock trailer. We could tell it was full of horses.
My first thought was maybe they were transporting draft horses since the trailer was a little larger than most, but my gut told me something else. I had seen the exact same truck and trailer headed north on I-75 just two afternoons before. My friend got on her smart phone and looked up Stanley Brothers Farms. Sure enough, she found an article where Animals Angels had done an animal cruelty investigation on Stanley Brothers, which is basically a horse slaughter feedlot.
As Stanley Brothers is located in Arkansas and Louisiana, I had to wonder why in the world they were in east Tennessee, basically 12 plus hours away. It didn’t make any business sense for them to drive at least 12 hours in the opposite direction to purchase horses for slaughter when there are a lot of sale barns much closer to their part of the country, and on the way to Mexico. Additionally, even if they had driven that far to purchase horses, I-75 is not the quickest route back home, or to Mexico.
So what are they doing in east Tennessee? Do they have a secret farm close by that no one is yet openly aware of? All their other farms have gained a lot of bad publicity, which I’m sure impacted their ability to purchase horses from unsuspecting sellers.
With illegal slaughter houses being busted in Florida, it sure brings up a lot of possibilities of why they’re here. There’s got to be a reason for their being in east Tennessee because it makes absolutely no business sense for them to be transporting here. Sales in this area wouldn’t support the volume needed to drive 12 hours, so there’s got to be another reason and someone needs to investigate that.
On to the rest of my business idea for at least a partial solution to the over population of horses and the slaughter debate.
I think that horse slaughter should be turned over to the horse rescues to monitor and to profit from. While that might seem like somewhat of a radical, perhaps even crazy idea, I honestly think it needs to be considered because it’s ultimately a win for both the rescue and horses.
The rescues could be in charge the actual slaughter, which means they could make sure that it was done in the most humane manner possible, and in the most humane environment – on site. They could also regulate which horses were put down, and which ones were salvageable which means that a good number of horses would have a second chance.
While we all like to dream that you can save every horse, the cold hard truth is that you just can’t. Even Buck Brannaman, the biggest horse advocate on the face of the planet, conceded that the stallion in his documentary should be euthanized because he was too dangerous. The fact is that some horses are just too much of a danger to themselves and to others, and the only possible solution, the most humane solution, is euthanasia.
The problem is that a lot of horse rescues do want to save every single horse, sometimes at the cost of being able to rescue more horses. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t try to help a horse if it needs it, but they need to do it within reason. If the option is doing a surgery that costs $10,000 or putting a horse down, I’ve seen rescues do the surgery. That $10,000 could have fed a lot of horses!
In order for the rescues to regulate slaughter, they would have to adopt a more practical and business like approach, and keep the bigger picture in plain sight. Are they going to rescue one, or are they going to rescue many?
Currently, practically all horse rescues depend on public donations to operate, and they’re always short on funds. One plus of the rescues regulating slaughter is that they could at least become partially self-sufficient from the sales of horse hide, horse hair, hooves and whatever else they could sell from the horses that they slaughtered.
While some might worry that a group might operate under the guise of a rescue only to slaughter every horse that comes in, that could be easily remedied by requiring every rescue group to have a board of directors without a conflict of interest. Additionally, they could be required to keep detailed records that are also available to the public.
I’m sure horse slaughter will continue to be a hot issue. The problem is that there are no easy answers and I think in order to find an answer of some kind, people need to start thinking out of the box. If enough minds work together to find a solution, one can certainly be found with enough effort and input.
It’s been a while since my last post and a lot sure has gone on since then.
Just this month I wrote an article on Time Tips For Showing that Horse & Ranch magazine published. If you get stressed showing you’ll want to check it out!
I also launched Cowgirls With Curves a couple months back. It’s a blog and website for plus size riders to highlight their efforts, encourage them, and to help motivate and give them a voice. It’s something that I can relate to first hand, and it’s something I’m passionate about!
Back in early April I had to put my twenty-five year old gelding down. I had owned Matthew’s Bluff, aka Bluff, for twenty-three years.
I went to bring in the geldings that morning and he was unable to control his hind end and was falling. He was trying so desperately to come in because it was feeding time and I was worried he was going to fall into the fence. The vet suspected he had a stroke and I knew we had no other choice. The hard part was that I knew he wasn’t ready to go, but at the same time he hadn’t suffered. Quite frankly, had none of this happened and it was a case of planning his euthanasia I’m not sure I would have had any more peace. So I guess this was the least of the evils.
Bluff taught me so much, like how to ride big horses, and how to re-hab a track horse. I’m sure going to miss him!
About a month after that, my bay gelding Cool presented with what we thought was colic but then spiked a temperature of 106.2 and required IV antibiotics and fluids. I spent most of the time in the barn and needless to say there wasn’t a lot of sleep, and my pocket-book is a lot lighter. The vet suspected an infection but unfortunately we don’t have a definite answer. The good news is he’s back to his grumpy little self.
This past weekend was a nice milestone. Mister Decision, aka Bubba, won me the High Point award for the Smoky Mountain Show Series held at Tri-State in Cleveland, Tennessee. We showed in Ranch Trail, Horsemanship, Barrels, and Poles.
Last year, this same gelding left a nice big bruise on my leg when he acted like a bronc before one of my classes. Then later in the year he wouldn’t settle on the trail pattern and managed to knock over the gate and one of the boxes. So to just get through a trail pattern leaving everything intact was progress!
My barrel horse, Shawne Fire N Te, aka Fireman, is going to have several weeks off. Last year we struggled with keeping him tracking sound. I finally bit the bullet and had x-rays done. Although his feet looked perfect and were on the exact same angle the bones were nowhere near the alignment that we thought they were in shoeing. So we’re making some major changes and hopefully will be back to barrel racing later in the year.
On an end note, Oscar the donkey that we rescued is still here. Last weekend he was gelded. And no, it didn’t go as planned but then when does it ever with a donkey? Yes, he still likes his butt scratched.
There’s been a lot of very heated debates world-wide over the horse slaughter issue. The one thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of people like to complain about human nature but very few people actually offer a solution that’s realistic. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you’re not offering a solution then you’re whining.” I think that’s true.
While I don’t think there’s an absolute solution, I do think there just might be a way to save some horses, educate owners, help bring awareness, and support the Horse Rescues all at the same time. What it requires is for people to come together and think bigger, outside the box. A lot of rescues focus on getting more donations – I say they need to think bigger, much bigger.
What if all the local Horse Rescues came together and started a national or maybe even world-wide registry?
Think about that for a moment… Something along the lines of recognized breed registries already in existence but instead of getting papers through breeding, the Registration papers would be issued from the Rescue itself and the Rescue Registry. When you adopt a horse from a rescue, they would issue a Rescue Registration to the horse. Individuals that rescue on their own could apply for a registration by sending in pictures. The Registry itself could regulate breeding by not accepting the foal of a registered horse if it was bred after the horse left the registry.
It doesn’t end there however…
What if the Rescue Registry held local shows and competitions where horses could earn points toward a national Rescue Registry show that’s held once a year? The only horses that could compete would be rescue horses with the Rescue Registry papers.
The local and national approved shows could get Sponsorships from businesses – much like Jumping and Barrel Racing already do – and offer added money as an incentive. Look at the RFD-TV American Rodeo that offered a million dollars. People came out of the woodwork to compete for the American – money talks!
The Extreme Mustang Makeover and Retired Race Horse Project are already doing this exact thing. They both have been very successful at not only saving some horses, but also bringing an awareness of slaughter, and bringing new people into the horse industry. If the Horse Rescues came together, they could do the same thing on a national or even global level.
Some points to ponder for shows would be:
Get major money behind the movement in the form of sponsorships & media -people love heart string stories
Make the shows much more affordable than the average breed or discipline show to encourage new owners to show their horses for the first time
Get involved with local 4H & Pony Club
Offer scholarships to the national show
Offer classes for all breeds & disciplines as rescue horses are all breeds – Include Donkey & Mule classes!
Co-Sanction with other associations as much as possible to offer approved classes within the show.
A high percentage of rescue horses are trail horses – offer an ACTHA or Ranch Trail class for those folks
Offer an In-Hand Trail or Agility type class specifically for retired horses that are not rideable due to soundness issues – this would open up an opportunity for people with those horses to compete
One concern that comes up is when rescue horses are placed in the homes of well-meaning people who honestly don’t have a clue. The Registry could get local trainers on board and get them to donate their time to locally held Horsemanship clinics. They could cover basic Horsemanship and basic showing and make it affordable. New owners would learn about horsemanship, trainers would get the word out about what they do, all the while helping horses.
Again, I don’t think this would be a complete solution to the problem of unwanted horses and slaughter. You can’t change human nature and things people do which is why regulation doesn’t work very well. However, money does talk and it motivates people to get involved when they might not be otherwise. When you give people an incentive and an avenue to compete, it makes a difference as we’ve seen with the Extreme Mustang Makeover and the Retired Race Horse Project.
Obviously there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out and a lot of work to be done to get the ball rolling. But the first step is discussion and building the momentum behind the idea. It’s amazing what can happen when people start talking about what started out as a simple idea. Legendary things have happened by just taking that one step.
So what can you do to help? Share this post. Talk to your friends and fellow competitors. Talk the local trainers. Talk to your local rescue and encourage them start holding shows for the horses they adopt out. The main thin is to just get people talking and get them asking how they can do something instead of saying why they can’t.
Spring is almost here and if you’re like a lot of folks, you’re already thinking about the show season. Some of you may have already scheduled your entire show season, and others may be considering showing for the first time. Either way, now is the best time to set your goals and schedule accordingly.
Being a competitor and a judge, I see a lot of new comers to barrel races and horse shows. Remembering what it’s like to be a complete novice and not know anyone, I always try to reach out and help folks that are new to showing. Regardless of what level you ride at, or what event you decide to compete in there’s a lot to learn and a lot of “unwritten rules”.
The first cardinal rule is always bring your Coggins test even if it doesn’t say it’s required!
The second cardinal rule is thoroughly read the Show Bill or Prize List and pay attention to all the details. The show bill will tell you when the show starts, what the rules are, how much entry fees are and if there are any miscellaneous fees.
The show bill will also list the classes that will be offered. You’ll want to decide way ahead of time which classes you want to ride in. Write down the number and name of the class on a sheet of paper and keep that with you at all times. It’s also a good idea to keep a show bill in your pocket. This way you won’t forget which classes you’re entering at sign up – you’d be amazed how many people forget. This also helps to speed up the sign up process.
Speaking of sign ups, one question I often get is “What do I do to sign up and where do I go?”
Every event will have either a sign up table or an actual show office. This is where you sign up and pay for classes and get information about the show. Another tip is always bring cash. Not every show takes checks so be prepared.
Another cardinal rule of showing is be ready for your class! Always know what class is in the arena so that you’ll know when it’s time for you to be close to the in gate and ready to go in. If you miss your class, you can be disqualified and in most cases entry fees won’t be refunded.
If you think you might not have enough time between classes to get tack or horses changed, request a “Tack Change” at the time of sign ups. That way the judge and ring steward will know you’re running late and will allot a little extra time before the class.
One cardinal rule that is frequently broken is know your patterns. Most shows will post the pattern early on to let contestants memorize it ahead of time. Look at and memorize the pattern as early as possible so that you know what you’re supposed to be doing in the pen. One tip is to take a picture of the pattern with your phone – that way you can carry it with you.
The last cardinal rule I’ll talk about is getting to the show early. A good rule of thumb is to get to the show at least two hours before it starts. That way you have plenty of time to acclimate your horses and warm up.There’s nothing more stressful to you or your horse than dashing into a class at the last-minute.
By planning ahead way ahead, allotting for enough time, and paying attention to the details your first show experience can be a positive one.
Are you planning on showing or competing this year? If so, what events? What are you looking forward to and what are you worried about?
With a new year and resolutions it’s time for new thinking which is what led me to my post this time. Sit down and think a spell….
Recently I had the wonderful privilege of being called the “Idiot Of The Day” when I responded to a post on Facebook about how selfish and cruel it was to clip the muzzle on your horse because they needed their whiskers to feel the wind and find water. My post stated that I clipped only for shows and in over twenty years I’d never had one that seemed harmed by it, nor had I had any accidents.
With a little research, I quickly found out that the arrogant person behind the community promoting “common sense with horses” is affectionately known as the “Jerry Springer” of the horse world. With narcissistic videos on YouTube and an open deep hatred for women, it’s clear he lives for conflict and he’s managed to sensationalize himself into a cult following.
Quite frankly, after seeing his posts and doing a little research it’s extremely clear the man has severe anger issues and I’m thoroughly convinced he’s got a few “Barn Witches”, as he likes to call them, buried under his basement somewhere!
At any rate, it’s obvious he would never even remotely entertain the idea that he might be wrong. The funny thing is that a lot of times the initial premise in what he posts has a small nugget of truth. But he goes in a totally different extreme direction and that direction is the only way and all others are selfish and stupid.
While I’ve always said the horse industry is like a soap opera and full of crazies, after the post experience I was still shocked at just how many there are on so many levels.
One thing that I noticed is that there are some people who are dogmatic when it comes to taking what someone says as pure gold. The mind-set that if “So and So” said it then it HAS to be true! They have lost their ability, if they ever had it in the first place, to think for themselves and try something to see if it’s actually true for them.
Another thing I noticed was that these same people usually think they have to be extremely hateful to get their point across. If they’re right why do they have to be so hateful? Maybe they’ve just been in the cult too long?
Why does the horse industry get so locked down into it having to be one certain way?
We all know people like that and we’ve all seen them. We all may have been them at one in point in time until we knew better — The clinician follower, the trainer groupie. There’s a lot of money made on those two categories of folks.
Yet there’s lots of people out there, well-known and not so well-known, that do a fabulous job working with horses because they have an open mind and they love working with them. But because they’re not as well-known, they don’t hold as much as weight as the ones that have made a big name for themselves. Does that mean they’re not as credible or they’re not as good a horseman? We tend to think so but I don’t agree.
There’s a saying that I see from time to time floating around Facebook that basically says that horsemanship is about realizing that everything you think you know about horses can completely change with the very next horse. I love that saying because to me, that’s exactly what it’s all about. You never know it all and there’s never any one way when it comes to horses.
Through the years, there have been many training methods that I’ve latched on to for a few years only to come back full circle to what I originally used. Maybe it took a while but after trying something different I realized that the original way was better. But the neat thing is that I learned something new that I wouldn’t have if I hadn’t had an open mind to try something different.
There’s also been things that I’ve been skeptical about that I’ve tried any way that wound up working so well that I changed how I did things. You never know where a good training idea is going to come from!
Speaking of open minds and horsemanship, I have to share the link to my other blog, Talking In The Barn. I interviewed Sam Finden who is a young author that loves horses as much as he loves to write. He’s also a humble horseman that will get you thinking about horses and horsemanship.
Have you ever been closed-minded about a training idea? What was it? Have you ever changed your mind about a training idea? How did it make an impact on you?