Happenings At Fairweather Farm

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!

My article in Horse & Ranch Magazine
My article in Horse & Ranch Magazine

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!

Mister Decision, aka Bluff
Mister Decision, aka Bluff
Bluff & Fireman loved to scratch shoulders.
Bluff & Fireman loved to scratch shoulders.

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.

The cat hammock
The cat hammock
Ponying Cool
Ponying Cool

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!

Smoky Mountain Horse Show at Tri-state in Cleveland, Tennessee
Smoky Mountain Horse Show at Tri-state in Cleveland, Tennessee

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.

Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity
Fireman at Ft. Smith futurity

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.

Oscar says hello!
Oscar says hello!

 

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A Solution To The Slaughter Issue?

© copyright owned by F.J. Thomas

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.

One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January.  This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
One of the horses we rescued and fostered over night in January. This mare would make a NICE barrel or ranch prospect.
Foster donkey (spring 2015) - Working on getting him gentle.
Oscar – he’s a rescue donkey we’re currently fostering until we can find him a home.

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.

 

Lacy - She's a rescued mare that we've had for a lot of years and she's now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!
Lacy – She’s a rescued mare that we’ve had for a lot of years and she’s now a pasture ornament. Ideally, I would like to find her & another mare a new home where they could have more attention!

 

 

 

 

 

Cardinal Rules Of Showing – Tips For Your First Show

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.

SHOW RING

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”.

MO STEVE

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.

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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.

cool halter1

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.

extreme 114

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.

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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?

Water For Winter

Cold weather is here and in some cases the temperature has dropped drastically in a matter of just a few hours. While extreme changes in weather can cause some concerns for managing your horse, there are things you can do to minimize your horse’s risk of getting sick.

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Any time the thermometer drops it’s a good idea to add water to your horse’s feed. Horses generally drink less and eat more hay when it’s cold. This of course is the prime set up for compaction colic. Adding water to the feed is a great way to get some guaranteed fluids in their digestive system and avoid choke at the same time.

Some owners will add salt to the feed to encourage their horses to drink. While this may work for a lot of horses, I have seen some horses with digestive issues that will not up their water intake even with the salt. The result is that they become dehydrated much faster because they don’t drink enough water to compensate for the added salt. This is why wetting down feed is a good option.

Even if your horse’s weight is where it should be and they don’t require additional grain, it’s still a good idea to add soaked roughage during the changes in weather. Adding a small amount of soaked alfalfa or beet pulp is a great choices for horses that are on hay and/or pasture and don’t require feed.

Soaked Alfalfa cubes

soakedalf

Alfalfa comes in small squares or cubes and in pelleted form. Beet pulp comes in pelleted, shredded, or meal form. Both options are high in fiber and expand when water is added. As both can be used to replace a small part of the hay intake (20-30%) they’re a great way to stretch your hay supply.

When soaking feed or cubes, it’s a good idea to let it soak until it’s soft and expanded. If you feed a straight grain, you can still add some water to the grain until it softens. Hot water can shorten the amount of time needed to soften and expand. If more convenient you can also soak overnight as long as the water does not freeze. Freezing will make it impossible to get the feed or forage out of the bucket.

Soaked Beet Pulp

soaked beet

A good rule of thumb for soaking is to cover the cubes, pellets, or shreds with at least an inch of water. If you’re feeding straight grain, you won’t need as much water. For pellets that are extremely hard or for beet pulp shreds you’ll want to add a little more water. Horses with teeth issues will also need a wetter mix.

As fresh drinking water is a critical component to managing horses well in cold weather, make sure your horses have free access to their water buckets or troughs. Keep the ice busted up and if necessary periodically off them warm water to encourage them to drink. If tank warmers are not an option, setting your troughs in an area where they receive direct sunlight on a daily basis will help minimize the amount of ice that accumulates.

 

What concerns do you have for your horse this winter? What are your strategies to avoid those concerns?

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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

 

 

 

Train Your Horses Well

“Train your horses well because it means their future.”

When I’ve been asked about breaking horses or working through a problem, I’ve always said those words and I’ve always believed them. This last week or so in going through an unexpected family crisis and having to thin my small herd drastically on short notice, those words have hit home harder than I ever imagined.

In working with my horses through the years, I’ve been competition focused. I’ve trained for good manners but have primarily focused on things like taking leads well, consistent movement and speed, softness, body control, etc. While those things may make for a great show prospect, the majority of good homes out there are not looking for a show prospect. The majority of good homes out there are looking for a horse their five year old can ride – that requires a whole different set of skills.

Although I’ve spent a lot of hours in bringing each of my horses along, when it came time to finding them good homes, it’s evident that some of them could use even more time and work. Suddenly things that you just deal with without thinking about become a bigger issue of whether or not the horse will find a good home – not everyone can handle what you just deal with.

For instance, one of my horses has been shown quite a bit in Ranch Trail, Ranch Riding, has sorted cows, and even has some ARHA and EXCA points on him. He’s pretty solid on a lot of things. You can throw a rope unexpectedly around his back feet all day long yet this same horse will cow kick if something hard like a rake suddenly touches his back legs. Although he’s been hauled a lot, if he gets excited he can be pretty explosive.

I’ve had this horse since he was a yearling and although I’ve put a lot of time into him, the things that I need to put more time into suddenly become big issues when trying to place him into a therapy or lesson program. It’s clear he’s not a horse you can place just anywhere so where does that leave his future?

Having to make the decision to get rid of horses I’ve had for ten years has been a heart breaking process but it’s also been a learning process that I think in the end will improve me as a trainer. While I’m sure I’ll still focus on skills needed for showing, the primary goal will be to produce a horse that could be used for therapy or for children so that emergency placement into a good home would be much easier.

Could your horse be a therapy or child’s horse? If not, why? What changes can you make in your training to change that?

Bubba Extreme cowboy race bubba rope