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We’re all about keeping the horse in the conversation.

Whether this involves customized young horse training ideas designed to help you understand what your horse is trying to tell you (you can read tons of free blog posts to get you started) or finding new career ideas for you with horses in the mix (through our Inventing Your Horse Career initiative), we offer a variety of free and low-cost resources that are unusual and tons of fun.  

great horse Kindle and audio book for reaching alphas at http://HorseSenseAndCents.comHorse Sense and Cents® offers creative and seasoned perspectives, resources and products designed to help you discover smart and affordable solutions for your equine challenges (get it – sense and cents?). Too much focus lately has been put on making the horse do what you want (and charging a hefty sum for the DVDs and other products created to elevate you to boss). Can you imagine how much richer your partnerships could become if you could learn how to listen to what your horse is trying to tell you?  

Our material is presented in a way easy enough for a novice to understand with insight professionals appreciate.

If you want to dig a little deeper (or save time by grabbing exactly what you’re looking for) you’ll enjoy our print (signed by author here – but also available at your favorite retailer), PDFs/Kindle/Nook e-booklets (about 5000 words or 21 pages each) and audio titles (available on iTunes, Audible, Amazon, etc.) designed to help you discover a better way to tackle horse care, young horse training and the relationship you seek with your horse. If you dream of a job that includes horses, you’ll find new ways to make this so with our Inventing Your Horse Career series that can be purchased as a CD set, individual Kindle Editions or (coming soon) MP3 singles available at all the major online audio providers.

Inventing Your Horse Career can be so much fun at http://HorseSenseAndCents.comGive yourself the gift of a different, more effect and more rewarding relationship with the horses in your life this holiday season by checking out some of the knowledge products we offer (starting at $2.99). If there’s a special family member, friend, associate or client in your life that has the horse bug, consider making your gift to them memorable and lasting this year with new perspectives and approaches that make their heart sing.

We’re happy to consider new titles or products at blog readers’ request. If there’s something you don’t see but would like to know more about, leave a comment below or feel free to e-mail me (Nanette) directly. I promise I’ll provide a personal response to your query. Plus, if we do choose to create title you ask for, we’ll give you credit in the front matter (with your permission, of course).

Inspiration from a challenged world equestrian competitor

It can be easy to get discouraged when dealing with personal challenges. We tend to make all kinds of excuses for not going to the barn, rushing through chores, abdicating horse care to another or depriving ourselves of other moments to enjoy our horse.

Our daily grind can get in the way of what fuels our soul.

What would you do with your horse passion if you found yourself suddenly paralyzed? Diane Kastama decided to add wheels so she could continue. She competes world-wide at FEI events with combined driving (modeled after 3-day eventing).

As a former dressage rider, she tried going back to riding first, but kept falling off.

Now, she’s internationally recognized for her skills at a sport where she’s competing against able bodied riders. She’s won world championship medals, including individual silver and team bronze as well as a gold medal and more. Can you imagine being so determined and resilient to start a new discipline you’d never tried while confined to a wheel chair?

She drove her first horse in 1995 – after a paralyzing car accident. Then, began combined driving competition in 1999. By 2002 she was on the world stage competing at top levels.

Susan Ashbrook with Equine VIP did a recent interview with this remarkable woman. This video (just under 9 minutes) is so worth the watch. If you’re thinking your challenges are tough, imagine dealing with hers and maintaining such a positive attitude, then achieving world-wide competitor status.

Oh, and if you’re looking for some creative ideas on how you can design a job that keeps horses in the mix, we have a lot of free material in addition to some products you may like in our Inventing Your Horse Career section of this website.

Will your horse drink the water you give him?

Horse owners tend to be most concerned about water during the summer months. Some forget the importance of keeping it clean.

Colic can become a big problem in the winter if a horse does not have constant access to water. Just because there’s no concern for algae, doesn’t mean your trough, bucket or automatic systems stay inviting. Ice forms, critters can fall in and die and, of course, there’s always that pasture pet that delights in the sound of manure splashing into a water source.

We consider ways to ensure a horse will drink new water while on the road, but don’t always pay attention to ensure safe water intake at home. There are so many problems that can arise from contaminated water being ingested or, sometimes worse, not.

good horse care requires fresh water alwaysOne of the benefits of being involved in an equine community on Google+ is the scores of people sharing useful resources. +Anita Lequoia pointed to this video from the Gluck Equine Research Center in Kentucky.

It’s a bit long at 7 minutes, but Dr. Roberta Dwyer does a good job of reminding even seasoned horse handlers about things to think about when making water containers safe.

 

Do you check your horse’s water throughout the day? Do you pay attention to where you dump disinfected tubs (guilty here of not always thinking that one through)? Do you have tips that have worked well for you in keeping horse water clean? Please share in the comments below.

Are you listening to what your alpha horse is trying to tell you?

Even with alpha fillies and mares, there’s usually a good reason for an animated objection to a request. It’s rarely because they’re being belligerent. Before you jump to correct a horse for bad behavior, consider what your alpha horse is trying to tell you. If it’s a fair response, let it go and move on. Effective young horse training, assuming your goal is to develop a horse that trusts you and enjoys schooling sessions, requires you to keep the horse in the conversation.

This weekend, I was working with a couple of alpha gals.

Arab mare with an attitude

This young Arab mare was resisting the right rein a bit dramatically. This isn’t behavior I’ve seen from her before. She’s willful and opinionated, but has always been comfortable with a bit in her mouth and responsive to light hand cues. Anything else I asked of her was met with an impressive attempt to understand and deliver. There are times when it’s necessary to say no in a clear and commanding fashion. This wasn’t one of them.

There were good clues to suggest her reaction wasn’t combative. She responded willingly to all other aids. Working the left rein wasn’t an issue. Her attitude was kind, forward and eager until I put pressure on the right rein. She seemed relieved and appreciative when I went to strong leg cues for turns and left her mouth alone (ordinarily this mare would clearly communicate her annoyance to too much leg pressure). She was totally focused on me throughout the time we spent together.

The owner is going to have her teeth checked to either confirm my suspicion, or discount it. Regardless, something wasn’t right with this gal.

When working with any equine, but particularly with young alpha horses, it’s important to be able to quickly distinguish between obstinate push back and a fair objection.

Filly teachers her trainer a few things

alpha mares from Registered Irish Draughts are creativeOver the past couple of months, I’ve been working with a delightful 4 YO Irish Draught Sport Horse (IDSH) filly. She’s honest, expressive, smart and a super character that has this artful way of letting you know exactly what she’s thinking.

Recently, she showed her usual pleasure during grooming time (this always includes some good scratches in her favorite places – she still doesn’t quite understand my objections to mutual grooming). Her ears pricked up and stride animated as we headed toward the training area. As usual, she advanced through what usually would have required a week’s worth of riding time – in her mind – during the week-long training lapse.

During the week (while she wasn’t ridden) she had lengthened her stride a foot or more. Her frame was longer and lower and more relaxed. She’s always excited about the prospect of learning something new.

We started canter last week(end). She seemed to intuitively know when the request came. She took a stride or two to figure it out, but then transitioned to a lovely canter on the correct lead.

It’s a small area requiring some tight turns.

She even made the turn, responding to the left-rein half-halt and right leg pressure with ease.

That was more than she was ready for, but she was a good girl about it. No matter how long you’ve been working with horses, everyone does dumb things. I figured since she handled that so well – even commenting to the farm owner how surprised I was at this – to demand more.

You never have to guess what this filly is thinking. I closed my leg on her (she’s not super fond of leg pressure) and encouraged her to continue around what amounted to about a 20-meter circle. She let me know emphatically I was asking for too much. She was right.

She slammed on the breaks and reared. It was a fair complaint. So, instead of correcting what could have been construed as bad behavior, I simply let her finish expressing herself (it was brief) and gently asked her to take up a trot. We went back to some circles and figure eights at the walk and trot – something she was confident and comfortable with – then I asked for one last canter transition. She responded to the cue immediately, on the correct lead, willingly. After five or six canter strides – before we hit the turn – I gave a light check on the rein. It was time to give a good girl pat and call it a day.

Correcting honest expression with alpha horses can be hazardous

Things could have gone very differently with this IDSH filly. If I had gotten after her for her expression, she would have rightfully escalated things. She’d remember the conflict. It probably would have taken weeks to overcome her resistance (she is a Warmblood, after all) and resentful attitude toward training.

Horses seem to naturally appreciate and trust someone willing to include them in the conversation.

With most issues that occur with alpha horses, calm, patient insistence is a good approach. That wasn’t the right reaction here. Instead, riding out the tantrum with no reaction and asking for less was much more appropriate.

With the Arab, if this is a pain issue, it’s wrong to chance she might associate training time she’s come relishes with an unfair rash correction. She was willing, eager and focused with all else.

If your horse is acting out, consider asking why before you correct. You might discover interesting new ways to understand what they’re trying to tell you.

Have you found yourself assuming an alpha horse (or any other) was testing you but then came to realize something was wrong? I sure have. It pains me to reflect on some of the mistakes I’ve made. Or maybe you had one of those wonderful moments when your understanding caused your horse to melt? It’s your turn to enlighten me in the comments below. Look left and share, while you’re at it. Thanks!

Mean horses can surprise you in good ways

turning challenging horses into willing partners
Bred mean doesn’t mean you can’t reach them.

After more than a couple of decades in the Thoroughbred racing arena, I do believe some horses are born mean (or crazy). With no breed registry incentives for most owners (many never see or handle their horses except from the grandstands or winner’s circle) to consider the softer side of breeding, generations of speed-only focus have created some interesting results. Things like temperament (this does breed through), conformation (ignorance is big a culprit here), bloodline maladies, bone, feet and other factors beyond black type in a pedigree get forgotten in the race to produce the next superstar.

Sadly, few consider that that speed won’t produce win pictures and earnings checks if the stud produces nut cases that get banned, spindly-legged, bad-footed horses that break down or mean horses that are so singularly focused they’re unsuitable for a career. Mares that are mean, slow, crooked or heartless don’t help either (even if you got them for free).

You can turn mean horses with customized and thoughtful young horse training

That said, it’s rare for me to encounter an inborn mean horse in other breeds. Handling can certainly make a horse mean, but few are wired that way. In the last year or so, I’ve had the opportunity to work with a Morgan cross that’s just that, but so amazing in what he’s decided to do with it.

His father is vicious, according to what I uncovered after starting to work with this guy. You can tell his go-to place is violent. What’s so incredible about this gelding, though, is even with blood boiling, he wants to be a good boy. Give him an immediate acknowledgement for a try and his attitude transforms.

Of course, he’s one that needs boundaries and a swift response for those moments when his instincts overtake that alter-ego trying to come out on issues that have already been addressed and understood (which is curious – ordinarily this type of response with a mean horse will escalate things), but he’s decided he wants to learn, participate and be appreciated. You can almost see the warring factions duking it out in his brain as he tries to process what’s going on around him. Somehow, the praise seems to weaken the power of instinct with this confused fellow.

Be careful asking young horses too much, too soon

mean horses can be hard to reach but some can make you smile
If you dig deeper with your mean horse you may be able to reach him.

Recently, he was introduced to driving. This kid’s not the brightest bulb in the barn, so can only handle very small doses of input and insistence. It’s typical for young horses to be this way (he’s five), but much more so with this critter who doesn’t have a whole lot working between the ears.

Apparently, these driving lessons made him unridable. Over the phone it sounded like the young man performing the driving lessons had triggered his mean side by failing to praise and pushing too hard. On site, it became clear his trust was shattered. This gelding still wanted to connect and play with humans, but no longer had confidence in himself – and certainly not people after experiences that were too confusing for him to understand when he was doing what was being requested and when he wasn’t. It was incredible to see this boy, who is clearly constantly fighting a mean instinct, still wanting to be a good boy.

We worked through it in about an hour. The owner was smart to recognize the issue and call for help.

The joy you get from reaching a tough horse is priceless

Severe bridling issues were resolved in about ten minutes (he has a favorite rub spot between his eyes that has a huge calming effect) to the point that the owner was able to bridle him with ease – then and every time after.

Riding time was a joy after that as I joined the pair on foot through the trials. This was a horse that had previously settled best by moving to trot when concern was overwhelming, but now needed to stop, look and settle to resolve his angst. That was a thrill for his rider too, who was dreaming of quiet walk outings together through the woods.

What we discovered is this guy needed more one-on-one riding time with his owner to bond and learn before he was ready to take on new people, new demands and new approaches. While this gal is a novice, she has great instincts in responding to what this horse needs and does – knowing when he’s testing and when he’s honestly concerned. She’s still learning on the quick praise front for tries, but can see how dramatically the horse responds to this, so recognizes the importance of being there soon.

Once the pair get that deep connection under saddle (with rides being such a joy she’s now spending a lot of time trekking around to accomplish this), he’ll likely handle driving requests with ease – provided she’s there to encourage and supervise.

Instinct doesn’t always rule with horses

What makes me so fond of this guy (he’s not the overt endearing type) is his decision to fight what drives him, preferring a more engaging and fulfilling partnership approach to life. I don’t ever recall seeing a horse work so hard to stifle instinct drivers for a different reality. Watching him puff up and alter his ego in response to recognition of the little tries is an incredible experience. Seeing him quickly come back to that place after an encounter that would make most mean horses more resolved in their conviction to hate humans was inspiring. You gotta love that kind of discernment – particularly when it comes from a horse with less brain cells to rub together than most. What a special guy he is.

Have you encountered a horse that surprised you? Please share in the comments below. If you would, please also go to the left of this article and tweet, share, G+, Stumble or whatever else you’re into. Thanks!   

Horses can surprise you with how they react to moving

It’s been interesting to witness how Remi (my canine mutt) has (or hasn’t) handled a temporary move to the suburbs. While I’m not a proponent of applying dog training techniques to horses, I did find some curious reactions from her that reminded me of odd horse behavior I’ve witness.

Remi’s spent her life (from 11 weeks on) at Halcyon Acres® (the farm). She ran free with Gatsby’s keen and careful supervision and guidance. He kept her safe, taught her the property lines, showed her how to hunt – FAIL , and tried to coach her on farm duties– another FAIL. Remi was born a pet. Gatsby must have come from some serious work dog bloodlines.   

Although Remi’s usually heartless, I was shocked at how she reacted to the move. Interestingly, when I trucked the two remaining Halcyon Acres® horses to new (different) digs, they provided some big surprises as well.

Moving horses to new farms

irish draught sport horse filly
This is Leah during her first ride at her new digs – with a gal aboard she had never met. Want to see more (video)? Go to http://halcyonacres.com/horses/irish-draught-sport-horses/leah-idsh/%5B/caption%5D

I figured the old-steady, Dixie, a former impressive racehorse with a prior history of shipping to many different locations annually, would handle the move with ease. She walked on the trailer like the seasoned champ and kind accommodator she’d always been. All hell broke loose between when I dropped her off and returned an hour later.

Leah, the 4 YO Irish Draught Sport Horse, who had never been off the farm, was my big concern. I thought loading might be tough (it wasn’t) as I had only been able to get her standing on the ramp in schooling time alone. She was uncomfortable being first on, so we simply switched it up so she could follow Dixie. After our first stop (Dixie’s new temporary home) we simply took both off and easily loaded Leah back on alone. Now that she had ridden in this contraption, she seemed to understand the request and realize it was easy. Special thanks to Faith Stiles for providing such a safe and comfortable ride.

The filly shows us how to shine

Faith and I had each scheduled about 3 hours for Leah (we laughed together as we realized how wrong we each were with our private thoughts on the anticipated ordeal). As it turned out, it took about five minutes to load and another ten for us to unload, turn her out, see she was fine and then add her two new pasture mates.  

Faith had smartly brought ‘the girls’ into the barn so Leah could explore and accept her turn-out digs first, then get acquainted with her roomies. No angst, no issues, no big deal. Leah’s old-soul mentality was a factor, but we were still both amazed at how easy it all went. As expected (this wasn’t a surprise), Leah adopted the new routine in less than 24 hours and was a helper once she knew the drill – and continues entertaining the caregivers with her cleverness. 

Challenges with the seasoned mare

[caption id="attachment_3116" align="alignright" width="300"]pretty mare head shot Sweet, beautiful Dixie had a tough a time moving off the farm.

Meanwhile, Dixie, in a panic about being indoors alone in a new locale, busted through the rope/chain strung across the barn door where she was confined. We spent almost two hours trying to separate her from a tight herd of six with a gelding lead horse intent on savaging her. Ultimately, she did settle in, but the first week or so was dicey. How dumb was I to assume this mare would easily transition to a location away from the only place she’d known as permanent?

Fear can look like ferociousness

The things you think wouldn’t be a big deal seem to bother Remi the most (I’ve found this to be the case with horses too).

She has no problem with monster trucks, indoor living (being a couch potato is her new favorite thing), vehicle traffic or leash courtesy.

She’s terrified of cyclists, pedestrians and especially street hockey.

Remi’s always been a very attentive dog. Still, I was surprised to discover how adept she was at recognizing subtle cues from a leash without any prior training. If she’s not on my heels (her choice at the farm), she’s gentle at my side or in front. Animals who put primary focus on you generally strive hard to do what they think you want.  

This (spayed) female dog now lifts a leg and then throws dirt on her spot with considerable zeal. Gatsby never felt a need to mark his turf (he knew he was top dog).

Remi thinks everything is going to kill her so puffs up and sounds vicious with new sights and sounds. Gatsby assumed everything was safe until proved otherwise, rarely barked and felt no need to intimidate. He approached life with an amiable, fun-loving fascination. Of course having a jaw that could crush marrow bones and lightning-fast reflexes made his bite meaningful.

Horses can fool you in a similar fashion. Almost every hostile horse I’ve met is scared. True herd leaders are rarely combative, but instead, gain a following because of their calm and quiet confidence.

Helping horses handle new circumstances

It’s always interesting to watch horses adjust to new situations. Leah’s always been pretty fearless (her mom breeds this through) but has also had a life that’s given her no reason to be afraid. It’s easy to expect a young and inexperienced filly to be reactive. I guess Leah figured I’d never put her in harm’s way before, so there was no need to worry. Plus, she hasn’t been one to form strong peer attachments. She likes company, but doesn’t seem to care much who it is.

Dixie’s never been fearful, but she doesn’t have Leah’s confidence. She develops extremely strong peer bonds. Apparently, the farm provided a continuity she never had previously. Ripping her from that predictable comfort created a lot of angst. In hindsight, it would have been better to either introduce Dixie to one of her new pasture mates at Halcyon Acres® or figured out a way to keep her with Leah.  

Horses will surprise you. Sometimes retrospect provides great vision on equine reactions, but even when you’re keen about paying attention, you don’t see it coming. It’s curious that Dixie’s behavior was described as bad and Leah’s good. Dixie is a kinder horse. Leah’s had an easier life.

Of course, that doesn’t explain the dogs. Remi’s lived the Life of Riley. Gatsby’s suffered abuse and scavenged loose on city streets so long his skin to have grown over the collar on his neck. Genetics can be a wild card with mutts (and unregistered horses).

Still, knowing how to interpret what your horse is trying to tell you – and not making assumptions based solely on behavior, can help both you and your horse understand and adjust. Before you blame a horse for causing trouble, ask yourself what they might be thinking.        

 

   

 

Sometimes young horses and mature riders are a good fit

Special young horse teaches trainer a new lesson

It stands to reason that putting a young horse with a green rider – or a more mature tentative rider who harbours deep fears from prior injuries – is a recipe for disaster.  This year, I was again reminded that there are no absolutes.

Once in a while, you find a very special horse that goes against all the norms and, in so doing, speaks to you (sometimes it takes shouting – he’d been telling me what he wanted for a good number of weeks – probably more like years – before I actually heard him). Buster is such a horse.

Buster’s Born

I bred Buster. He was born very correct, cute and unflappable. I wasn’t overly impressed with him at first because he was so nonchalant about everything. Everyone who met him fell in love. At first, I thought they were silly to be so charmed. Later, I realized I was the fool. For so many years, I’ve been focused on spotting high level performance prospects. Such equines usually show their proclivity due to what that kind of heart brings into mix in early handling lessons in ways that make them challenging, but delightful when you know what will happen if such energy and precociousness is channelled.

Once I started Buster under saddle, though, I knew I was working with a very special horse. He was old in his wisdom while careful in his youth as he willingly tackled new experiences. With far less than thirty days under saddle (I’ve never had a youngster I would have trusted with this one), he was carrying my young nephews around and figuring out their confused cues for steering, stopping and going (they had never been on a horse before sans a single pony ride).

Young horse has to scream to be heard

Last month, a trainer friend stopped by Halcyon Acres to look at a few horses here for a client, including Buster. She brought some friends. One gal had broken her neck in a horse wreck and wasn’t even looking for a horse, but had decided if she was ever in the market, it would be an old, seasoned mount. I turned Buster lose fully tacked after I hopped off him (he usually follows me around like a loyal dog in such situations) and he spent the trip to the gate with his nose glued to her back. The next week, I received a call asking for some time with Buster that resulted in an immediate offer (it was a shock). This was not the home or career I had envisioned for this horse.

I had a lot of interest in Buster, from Colorado, to Virginia, to Pennsylvania – places where he would have had a much more visible and esteemed career, and the purchase price would have been significantly higher.

Buster chooses a home – probably for life

Sometimes destiny plays a role in life, and with horses. A horse communicator friend of mine called me to let me know Buster had chosen this mature rider and pushed me to consider his wishes. I spoke to the trainer who brought the friend and learned more about the buyer and the home he would go to.

Yesterday, Buster trucked out of here to a new home where he calmly walked off the trailer, surveyed his surroundings with an easy and quiet comfort, gave a heavy sigh and dropped his head to graze. He’s three.

This little kid wanted to do this. He chose a job that gave him more satisfaction than glory (and I don’t care who may argue horses don’t think this deep – in my experience, some do). Buster will take care of this mature rider in ways that might not be possible with an older and more experienced mount, because he’ll quickly strive to understand her wants and cues and remake his reactions to reflect her needs. This old-brained soul has never spooked in his life and is as sure footed as they come – important considerations in this situation. His new project guide is a seasoned and patient equestrian, so he’ll thrive with her attention and give her the confidence to get back into the riding game.

Horses teach you new things every day

I’ve spent decades cautioning against putting green horses with riders who are not seasoned and/or confident. It’s tough to return to riding as a mature adult, and usually, a young horse would be the wrong choice for an older rider looking for pure pleasure. In this case, I was proven wrong. It’s a first, and may be a last, but I hope not. I hope to have the opportunity to breed another horse like Buster with a more cognizant ear on his or her wishes. As hard as it was to say goodbye, I’m thrilled to have played a role (thanks for the help, Buster) in putting these two together. The idea of producing a horse that loudly chooses to be a safeguard and partner with a rider who needs him is more rewarding than I would have imagined. It will be so fun hearing about and learning from the experiences the two have together.  I hope she’ll choose to share her updates and experiences publicly through this blog.

Horse business profits can come from strange places

Because Halcyon Acres® (which doubles as a horse farm – makes for great fertilizer) includes a small produce business, I’m aware of the value of good quality compost. In recent years, the demand for aged manure has escalated with a growing number of people starting small gardens at their homes. We plant and tend about an acre and a half of vegetables, herbs and some fruits and roots by hand with a chemical-free approach. We’re focusing more on heirloom varieties or harvesting our own seeds as it’s getting harder to determine what’s been genetically engineered. So, knowing what’s going into the soil is important here.

We found using our own compost really improves the taste of the food. It’s also reassuring to have complete control over the purity of the compost.

Since there’s also a lot of land here, it’s easy to build and store a compost pile. Consequently, we can age this to a ‘black gold’ state and accumulate more than we need. You may not have that luxury at your location to pile it in a field, but there are a lot of creative ways you can store and/or market a waste product that’s been expensive to dispose of in the past to the growing numbers of home gardeners and cottage industry plant producers.

Make money with your horse manure

All you need is a spot to put what you take out of the stalls and time to let it age a bit. Some will even buy fresh and age it at their site. While common convictions state two years is necessary, we’ve found three months in a pile generating sufficient heat is equally effective for amazing plant growth once mixed with soil. It helps that we use sawdust (vs. straw, which takes a lot more time to decompose), carefully pick the stalls (so there’s not a lot of bedding that needs to break down) and deal with fairly large quantities (more volume and height means more heat for faster compost results), but it’s not necessary. Home gardeners pay a lot of money for commercial products claiming to enrich the soil. Your manure can do it better, cheaper.

If you want word to spread quickly, the key is to generate high quality compost before you start selling.

Many home gardeners belong to some kind of group or network loosely among themselves in other ways. Around here, we have ‘Master Gardeners’ who are certified by Cornell Cooperative Extension after something like 150 hours of community service. It’s amazing how many of them there are. We also have a lot of events ranging from GardenScape (a precursor to spring) and CSA trade shows to farmer’s markets and educations seminars. Attend just one of these gatherings and you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can find a couple of people who are well respected and connected who get buyers lining up to pay you for something that’s been expensive to dispose of in the past. With a few hours of research and half a day attending the right event, you can move a former farm operating expense over to the black side of the ledger. For a lot of facilities, this cost of thousands a year turned profit is a welcome relief.

Pricing and marketing horse compost

If you’re paying for weekly removal, don’t despair. So long as you have an area where you can pile manure (you’re doing this if you’re renting a bin anyway) you can at least find takers on give-away offers. They’ll load it into their pickup truck or shovel into containers (used grain bags are great for this – two birds). You can also build a bin relatively inexpensively. Often material you have lying around the farm can provide the three retaining walls you need.  You’ll need to verify anything permanent you erect complies with town code. It’s easier to construct a ‘temporary’ structure if this is an issue.

In cases where you help load the manure (with a bucket, your brawn or a spreader) you can charge for this without protest. Offer both options and you might be amazed at how many people are happy to pay for your help.

Local events, trade shows, farmer’s markets, seminars, cooperative extensions, chambers in some areas and Craig’s List are good ways to find takers.

Aged, quality horse manure compost is sought-after in almost all areas of the US. Spring is the best time to market this product, but you might be surprised at how many hobbyists and part-time resellers you find who delight in finding ways to enhance their green thumb year-round. Again, find the right few people to spread the word (a free sample to them is OK) and you might be surprised at how quickly your manure pile disappears while adding to your income.

Halcyon Acres® is in a rural location (town population 1830, county 25,000 – probably more cows than people residents in the area), yet we still have people thrilled to remove our manure for us – and pay for it. If you’re closer to suburban populations, the demand will probably be higher. Even so, we reach to Rochester (50 miles away) for demand. We’ve decided to price our aged compost at $10 a bag (you bring the bag – any size – of course the fill level gets lower once people realize how heavy this stuff is) for self-service. We also offer a pickup truck rate.

Interestingly, we found it was a lot easier to sell this stuff than give it away. Frankly, we have use for all we produce these days, but there was a time when we didn’t. It’s curious that now that we don’t need a disposal solution, demand for purchased product has increased significantly. It’s nice to have the extra income stream.

Get to the right community circles with good quality compost and you’ll likely be shocked at how quickly word spreads to people happy to give you cash to get your pile gone.

Use Horse Sense in your message

It’s critical to be honest about what you have. Word will spread as quickly if you misrepresent your product as it will for your well-kept secret stash of grower’s delight. If you’re forthright, though, people will share their find with their friends. Fresh manure’s OK for many who have a place to age it. Don’t try to sell this to someone, though, who believes they’re getting seasoned compost and then burns their plants.

The biggest paying markets for good compost are home gardeners and small producers of resale plants (mostly rare landscaping gems). In spreading the word, consider crafting a message appeals to these audiences. Whether it’s Craig’s List, Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, a classified ad in a Penny Saver or flyers you post around town, understand the passions of your most likely buyers in what you write and you’ll be smiling as you put callers on the waiting list.

 

Do you have jitters about that first ride off the property ride with your horse?

Act fast (before June 4th) to grab our e-booklet Preparing you and your horse for the first off-the-property ride for free

preparing you and your horse for the first off-the-property rideNovices and professionals alike get butterflies (and sleepless nights) thinking about how that first ride away from home might go. Of course, for experienced riders this usually involves a first for the horse, where with novices (hopefully) they’re on a more seasoned mount. In both cases, the angst you feel is magnified as you express it to your horse. Fortunately, there are things you can do at home to help keep both the horse and the human calm, knowing your horse is ready to trust you to keep him safe.

Of course, that adrenalin will always flow with the excitement of new adventures (for both you and your horse), but if you’re both ready to team up to tackle challenges, it will be a rush instead of a panic. Knowing you’ve built that bond makes your first public appearance a lot easier.

We’ve recently released a new title through Horse Sense and Cents®, Preparing you and your horse for the first off-the-property ride. You can find it here as a Kindle Edition and soon, as an audio title. If you grab it now (May 31th through June 4th) you can get it for free. Please consider returning the courtesy of this complimentary offering (we love our readers) by leaving an Amazon review or at least doing a two-second click (this book will appear on your Amazon page after you download it – just click the cover and you’ll be given an option to rate the book) to give a (five 😉) star recommendation.    

Here’s an excerpt from the e-booklet:

Homework for travel success

After you’ve established a good partnership on the ground, it’s time to carry the confidence you’ve built with each other over to under saddle work. Keep the home lessons short with big rewards. From your ground work, you should have been able to find some way besides treats to let your horse know you appreciate his effort. It depends on the horse, but some respond well to a ‘good girl’, others have a favorite spot they like rubbed or scratched, maybe it’s letting them jump a fence, eat some grass, nuzzle with a buddy – you figure out what really gives your particular horse great pleasure and use this to thank him for a job well done.

Obviously, what you do to show appreciation for efforts along the way will be different than the grand thank you at the end of a session. Of course, it’s always important to reward the horse for the try, so be quick about acknowledging his effort any time he does something you ask under saddle with a quick ‘atta boy’ that he recognizes as a sign that’s what you’re looking for with a reward he appreciates.

If you want to keep your horse comfortable and confident as you ask him to perform off the property, make sure you don’t over-face him or put him in harm’s way at home (or the stable where he is boarded). This means keeping the lessons short enough so he doesn’t get frustrated, only asking for reasonable progression day to day, being calm and encouraging with new challenges and exposing him to what he’s likely to see when you get to your destination.

We’re trying the KDP Select program for the first time with this title. We’ll decide, based on how you all respond (with action, comments, reviews, etc.) whether we’ll offer future titles as Kindle library loans and free downloads for a five day period (this is a supposed perk of this program) as they are released. Frankly, I’m not sure if this is a good idea for Horse Sense and Cents®, nor how to make it work. I’m not even clear if it’s something you all would appreciate. Are any readers using the Kindle lending library? Are you comfortable downloading free Kindle offerings (you can do this with or without a Kindle Reader, although they do make it harder without one)? WE have a large UK blog audience (and book buying populace) – do you have access to KDP Select titles and associated free download promotions? Have you seen KDP Select participants leverage this tool brilliantly? Would you be willing to share strategies you’ve seen done well with this promotional program? Any feedback, ideas, thoughts or comments you could provide to help us decide how we proceed with this in the future would be so much appreciated.

Please help me (us – it is a team making all this so) decide on what we do in the future to make what we offer most convenient, appealing and useful to you. Call, e-mail, comment or share to provide some direction on future decisions.

Thanks so much for any help you’re willing to provide here. This blog is usually focused on providing great free tips and virtually no promotion or requests, but I could really use some help from all of you right now to help shape our strategy for the future. You’re awesome!

   

Livery options for your horse

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately from people or companies seeking a guest post spot on this blog. I’m always happy to consider topics that would interest readers presented in an intelligible fashion. So, if you’d like if you have something useful to share, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Sadly, so many of these requests come in from some remote subordinate who knows nothing about the topic they’re pitching. That doesn’t bode well.

This one caught my eye though, particularly given the large percentage of UK subscribers and book purchasers. The post below is provided on behalf of Vale Stables, which manufactures and supplies equine buildings. They’re based in Warwickshire but supply throughout the UK, Channel Islands and Europe.  

Which Type of Livery Do I Need For My Horse?

 horse stablin with stallsOwning your own horse can be very rewarding but it also comes with its own set of responsibilities. These include important criteria such as stabling, feeding and exercising. Often choosing a livery isn’t as simple as finding the nearest one. Instead there are many other factors that you might need to take into consideration. Here are the different types of livery stabling available and the advantages and disadvantages of each to help you decide the best option for you.

 Full Livery

 Full livery is the equivalent of a five-star service. For a weekly or monthly fee, prices usually include all hay and bedding, mucking out, feeding, grazing, tack cleaning, box rental and exercise. Many have excellent riding country in close vicinity and some have cross country riding and hacking trails on their land. They generally have a good network of vets, dentists and farriers on hand should your horse need their services. All staff involved in the care of your horse  are generally highly qualified.

  •  Advantages – Full livery offers a hassle-free service that gives the owner peace of mind. It’s an ideal stabling solution if you don’t have much time and simply want to enjoy your horse as and when you can.
  •  Disadvantages – Because of the services on offer, this kind of five star service doesn’t come cheap. Prices can start from around £150.00 per week and are often well in excess of this, depending upon where you go.

 Part Livery

 Another alternative to a full livery service is part livery. With this option the horse enjoys all of the benefits that a full livery service brings such as food provisions, bedding, mucking out, box rental and grazing, but this doesn’t include exercise.

  •  Advantages – The main advantage of this option is the price. Often part livery can be around one third cheaper than full livery and is more hands on.
  •  Disadvantages – Clearly you have to be available to exercise your horse, so you’ll need to make sure that you have the time to do so.

 D.I.Y Livery

livery building solutions for your horseDo It Yourself, or DIY livery stabling, is often the most popular kind of stabling. A field or paddock and stabling are normally provided in the rental price, but the difference is that the owner undertakes all of the horse’s needs. Often DIY liveries will include other services as an add-on such as mucking out or hay provision, but this isn’t included in the price.

  •  Advantages – A DIY livery offers a more affordable way to look after your horse and is good for those that have the time and want to learn or undertake all aspects of horse care management.
  •  Disadvantages – Your horse will require a visit at least twice a day. This may limit the distance you want to travel and therefore your stabling options, whereas distance from your home may not be quite so influential when looking at full or even part livery.

 Grass livery

This is a form of DIY livery in which a field or paddock is provided and sometimes a field shelter, but there is no stabling. The arrangement is similar to the horse owner renting a field or paddock except they aren’t responsible for the upkeep of fencing and other facilities. Fees are also often charged per horse and not by the size of the field or paddock.

  •  Advantages – In terms of cost it’s a much cheaper option and for those who have the time it can be a good arrangement.
  •  Disadvantages – This is often only a viable option during the grass growing season and when the weather is milder. At other times the horses will need to be stabled elsewhere.

 Working Livery

 Another option you may want to consider is a working livery. This form of stabling is particularly common around riding schools and means that the horse owner pays the riding school a discounted livery fee in return for the use of the horse for riding lessons.

  •  Advantages – You receive all the benefits of a full livery service but at a reduced cost. It’s the ideal solution if you don’t have the time to fully look after your horse yourself
  •  Disadvantages – If you’re particular about others riding your horse, then clearly this isn’t a good option. You may have to travel some distance to find a riding school that suits your needs.

 Finding the right livery for your needs and requirements isn’t always easy but by doing your homework and checking out your options, you’re likely to come to an arrangement that suits all parties.

 Vale Stables specializes in luxury stables and shelters in various sizes and designs. Find out more information online at http://www.valestables.com.