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Horse Care

Horse Care – Fifteen Quick Tips for spring

In most parts of the United States, we’re now enjoying warmer temperatures and budding plants. This is also a good time to take stock of your equine needs and issues. Consider how you might ensure a more successful season by attending to the following:

  1. This is the best time to do fecals to check for parasites. This is the time large numbers of eggs are shed and the best season to get a good read on which horses may need worming, particularly in the Northeast. Most contemporary thought leaders are now recommending horse owners move away from standardized and regular worming protocols in preference to individual treatment of only those horses identified as infested.
  2. Check vaccination records and ensure all are up-to-date. Four-way (or five-way) are the typical standard, but most are now also including West Nile Virus and, in any part of the country where it is a concern, rabies.
  3. If you’re going to be competing or travelling with your horse, get a Coggins test now so you have it when you need it.
  4. If you’re expecting foals that haven’t dropped yet, check to make sure your foal kit is complete and easily accessible.
  5. Examine pastures to check for broken boards, downed wire, holes from critters, nails exposed in run-in sheds, dangerous trash that may have blown in during winter or any other hazard your horse is likely to be sucked into if he can find it first.
  6. If turnout is a staple, now’s the time to plan a good rotational grazing program and ensure you have the forage to accommodate the numbers.
  7. Craft a plan for fly and other flying biters early to get a head-start on the pests. If a Fly Predator (Spalding) solution is your choice, it’s usually two to three years before you’re free of the buggers, but it’s a good idea to start thinking about breeding grounds to treat now (moist areas – think watering areas, manure build up locations, under the spreader, etc.
  8. Develop a plan (manual, tractor, vacuum) to break up or eliminate manure piles early and often along with a good pasture management plan to keep the herd healthy. This will reduce the likelihood of parasite re-infestation while reducing the breeding ground for annoying bugs.
  9. Be vigilant about checking, caring for and treating your horse’s feet. Wet ground and emerging rocks can create long-lasting problems if you fail to catch an issue early. Look for stone bruises (iodine is a great way to help toughen the feet and help prevent a stone bruise from becoming an abscess if caught early) and treat them quickly. Make sure the frog is healthy. Protect thin soles as you start a training or conditioning program to avoid lameness problems that tend to come at the worst time.
  10. Check the teeth. Have a skilled professional (contrary to some legislative decisions, some teeth specific professionals can provide a better read and treatment than an area vet who would prefer not to do teeth) look into each horse’s mouth to check for problems. You may find many need no treatment, but those that do will thank you. Don’t cut the budget here if money is tight – you’ll pay exponentially with the extra feed bill for lost and/or poorly digested grain/hay and could send your horse into a state he remembers for many years to come if mouth pain from bad teeth conditions becomes a memory of riding experiences.
  11. Check your tack and any other horse equipment. Make sure it’s safe, solid and fits the horse properly. Clean it too.
  12. Clean sheaths.
  13. Go over each horse to check for heat, swelling, weight loss, abrasions or any other change in appearance or heath to ensure you start the riding season right with a horse ready for the demands. With shedding coats, a keen eye may find issues that weren’t easily apparent under fuzzy coats. Discover and address them early and it may save you heartache later in the season.
  14. Careful with lush spring grass. If your horse isn’t used to it (or has health issues that make it dangerous to have access), you could wind up crying over founder or colic. Starting at and increasing a horse to a half-hour more each a day is a good rule of thumb for the normal horse who isn’t dealing with sugar, obesity or other issues.
  15. Start conditioning training easy. Better to go slow and short to ensure a happy, sound, healthy and engaged horse for the rest of the year.

Twelve quick tips for safer horse boarding

If you’re used to taking care of your own horse, it can be a challenge to place his care in the hands of another. Leaving a horse at a remote facility can be even tougher. Sometimes you don’t have a choice.

Others view boarding as a standard feature of horse ownership and assume the owners of the property or the help they’ve hired have the best interest of the horse in mind. It’s best not to assume in such matters.

Whether you are shipping a horse for breeding or training out-of-state; are considering a permanent boarding arrangement at a stable; need to house you horse elsewhere while you travel; are considering a leasing arrangement where the horse will be moved; or have other reasons that the care of your horse will fall to others for a period of time, it’s smart to do some due diligence prior to loading your horse on a trailer. Here are some ideas and issues to consider:

  1. If at all possible, visit the facility. Don’t just go on the word of a trusted source – they may not be focused on issues that are important to you. Watch what goes on at feeding time (and what’s being fed), turnout routines and scheduled events. Inspect the facilities where the horses are stabled and/or turned out. Are they clean and dry? Safe? Appropriate for your horse’s needs?
  2. Talk to others about their experience with the facility. Ask about health and weight issues, behavior changes, facility maintenance, restrictive policies and/or liberal ones that may reduce the pleasure for you or your horse.
  3. Discuss feeding issues. Does the facility provide ample good quality hay? Do they feed on a regular schedule? Is water available at all times for the horses (don’t just ask – confirm it by looking around)? Are they willing to offer customized feed, supplement or turnout approaches for a horse that may have special needs?
  4. Ask about vaccination, worming and other preventative policies. Stables that do not require routine basic health care for equine residents may introduce your horse to unnecessary issues.
  5. Look at the condition of the horses that are there. Are they skinny? Fat? Long-haired and dull-coated? Cribbing, weaving, stall-walking, digging, hyper, hostile, afraid or anxious? These are warning signs.
  6. Watch the owner and/or staff interacts with the horses and the people in the barn. You’ll get a good sense about rapport and attitude by being a quiet observer.
  7. Read the contract and/or ask about farm policies. If it’s a riding stable – do they have rules about safety equipment, times of access, courteous behavior, outside vendors (including trainers, farriers, vets, etc.)? For breeding and/or boarding only facilities, will they respond to your calls and e-mails and provide updates on your horse’s status and/or health, keep you apprised of medical issues that may arise with your horse, get your permission/input prior to incurring considerable vet expenses on your behalf, offer direct access to their vendors and provide cost estimates up-front? If you don’t ask the questions, the surprises you get are rarely happy ones.
  8. Find out who is going to be responsible for the care of your particular horse and ask if you can talk to them. This will give you a good sense of the knowledge and nature of the caregiver.
  9. If possible, talk to people who have left the facility and find out why they moved.
  10. Google the facility. See how they present themselves, and what others may be saying. If you have the name of the stable owner, even better – you can get a good read on their character by digging into how they choose to behave on the social media front lines. Take it all with a grain of salt, but you may uncover some unexpected insight on what you’re in for.
  11. If the stabling arrangement involves turn-out board (whether this is a breeding operation or a home for a horse that is not being trained for whatever reason), inspect the run-in sheds (or other shelter provided – this is a must) to ensure they are clean, dry and adequate (a single 10 X 12 shed won’t work for three or a dozen horses – one will likely demand occupancy rights and banish the rest). Ask about how often the horses are inspected, fed, watered, handled, etc. Look at the size of the pasture and the number of horses housed there (3-acres per horse is a good rule of thumb if grass feed is a staple – but this requires a smart rotational grazing program that includes mowing,  time, warmth and water for the fields to rejuvenate). Is the pasture all weeds and scrub or seeded with nutritional forage? Is hay/grain provided as a supplement? How much? Are horses fed separately or must they compete for their rations? Is care taken as new horses are introduced to the herd? Does a vet get called if there is an issue or is it ignored and allowed to fester? Will you be contacted immediately with health concerns or issues?
  12. Once you’ve decided on a board situation for your riding horse (or other equine that is your pet), try to visit the stable daily. Even if you just stop in for ten minutes to give your horse a pet and ensure he’s OK, this can go a long way to ensuring he’s happy, healthy and treated fairly. Your horse depends on you to be a companion and protector.

Ten issues to consider for new horse tenants

If you haven’t had a lot of experience with horses moving into your stable, or even if you have, there are some simple things you can do to ease the transition for the new arrival as well as you and your existing herd.

  1. If possible, find out the grain type and amount being fed at the prior barn. It’s best to slowly introduce a horse to new feeds, so if you can buy some of the former feed and transition over to your choice, this will help reduce the risk of colic. If you do not know what the horse was eating, it’s better to start with low amounts and increase over time rather than risk foundering a horse that is not used to a lot of grain.
  2. See if a few bales of hay can be sent with the horse. This way you can introduce him to your hay over time.
  3. Figure out turnout arrangements prior to the horse’s arrival. Usually it’s best, if you’re going to be turning the horse out with others, to pick one horse to test their behavior and temperament that will be firm but fair if they get aggressive.  If possible, introduce a new horse to a herd adding one horse at a time.
  4. Horses that are not accustomed to grass need to be introduced to it slowly. If you will be eventually turning a horse new to your facility out on acreage where good quality and ample grass is readily available, start with ½ hour of grazing and increase daily by ½ – ¾ of an hour each day until you reach six hours.
  5. Have an area on your property where you can isolate new arrivals for about two weeks to ensure they are not carrying illness into the barn that can be spread to others. At least one horse should be in this area with them so as not to add stress to their move, but it’s best to keep them away from the rest of the horses in the barn when possible.
  6. Get vet records on the horse to determine when he was vaccinated and any other issues that have been a factor that you should be aware of.
  7. Determine when the horse was wormed, when his teeth were last checked and when his feet were trimmed/shod.
  8. Be clear about what fees will be covered by the owner and when payment is expected. It’s best to have a written contract, but this isn’t always feasible.
  9. Discuss barn rules prior to arrival if the owner will be coming to care for or ride the horse. Also, have safety policies in place that are enforced to ensure riders, horses and property are protected.  Equine liability insurance is advisable in any situation where you will be allowing others to handle horses on your property.
  10. Keep a close eye on the new horse initially to determine his normal behavior and be able to recognize quickly if something is wrong.

Bringing a new horse into the barn can be an exciting time, especially for the small operation that doesn’t see a lot of traffic. It can also be a nightmare. If you have a good plan in place to address potential challenges before they occur, though, life should be easier for all involved.

Seven horse tips for winter fun

Seven tips for making winter weather a great time to get horsey

There’s so much to do at the farm on any given day, but when footing or blustery conditions cause us to choose to stay out of the saddle, there’s still an opportunity to spend time with horse scents and activities that allow us to connect with our companions (and get excited about the coming of spring). As you start to get frustrated about the weather and grumpy because you can’t seem to figure out how to replace the spiritual energy that comes from the equine connection, here are some ideas to get your mind right and your time well spent:

  1. Spend quiet time with your horse. Even if it’s simply watching them enjoy time in the paddock and/or observing how they spend time with other equines, hanging out in the stall or catching up on grooming or handling activities that you may have neglected a bit in active months, you can use this time to learn and bond.
  2. If you don’t already have one, buy a calendar or planner that records and tracks all care and issues with your horse. Include records and schedules for vaccinations, the blacksmith, worming, medical surprises and results, mare cycles and findings if you’re breeding, training schedules or objectives – whatever is important for you and your horse to ensure continued health, happiness and success.
  3. Start a journal. Really watch your horse and strive to learn from him. You might be amazed at how seemingly little observations can reveal patterns and teach you more about you and your horse.  Horses are great teachers when we let ourselves see what they try to say. There’s also a great opportunity to grow in quietness. Winter provides a time to watch, reflect and connect.
  4. Go through all your tack, brushes, equipment, supplies and tools.  Clean it, check it, fix it, discard it and replace or repair the damaged. Think about creating a good first aid kit and having it handy.
  5. Devote extra time to giving your horse attention he enjoys. This is a great time to learn what he really likes and grow in your knowledge by watching how he responds to you as a result. Use this time to try to better understand how horses communicate and find ways you can develop a language your equine can more easily understand.
  6. Explore new ideas for learning more about horses. This could include forum participation, books, conversations with trainers, finding blogs that appeal to you, going to equine conferences or demonstrations or even really listening to what your horse is trying to tell you.
  7. Get ready for spring!  Share all your plans and excitement about the coming season with your horse and you may be surprised how quickly he absorbs your enthusiasm.

Six Quick Tips for identifying mares in season

Some mares are more obvious than others, but if you’re trying to get a clear read on cycling for breeding, it helps to get to know your mare so you can time ultrasounds and/or better schedule live breeding to save money in this challenging economy.

  1. If you’re seeing pink snow in the paddocks, at least one of your mares is likely already cycling.
  2. Mares often begin to mimic the herd with their rhythms. If you can catch a heat with one mare, it’s likely that others on the property are close in their cycle, particularly as the season progresses.
  3. If you don’t have stallions on the property, often a gelding is sufficient to tease a mare (and with some, anything on four legs). The easiest and safest way is to leave the gelding in a stall and bring the mare to him on the lead. If she winks and squats, she’s probably in heat.
  4. Get to know your mare. Some are more obvious than others, but all tend to follow patterns. We have one mare who will tease heartily but when she’s really getting ready to ovulate, she stops and winks just about every stride on the way out to the paddocks with no horses in sight.
  5. Keep copious records of your mare’s heat dates and follicle sizes/tone (if you’re using ultrasounds) you have them to see patterns. These will change as the season gets later, but helps for next heats and future years.
  6. Get a good reproductive vet on board to help you learn, spot issues and provide the best assistance for your mare that’s possible.

Seven Tips for horse health in winter weather

Wednesday Quick Tips

  1. Never leave a horse without water in the cold months (or any other time, for that matter). Colic is very prevalent during the winter and this can often be traced to poor access and/or subsequent gulping of water when finally provided. Make sure ice has not blocked access and all horses have ample water always in stalls and/or pastures.
  2. Provide shelter. While this can be more important in the summer (bugs and baking sun), it’s critical you provide the option to get out of pelting snow and ice, driving winds and harsh elements. Run-in sheds are OK for most (although it’s best to bring horses into a barn when the weather is severe), but you must make sure all herd members have access (with multiple shelters of adequate size where a number of horses share space). Watch the herd as it’s not uncommon for a single horse to deny access to the rest of the residents.
  3. Watch the ice. Horses are usually pretty careful and aware of footing conditions in areas they are familiar with, but don’t expect your equine to stay on his feet as you lead him over frozen water or to be smart about staying sedate if you turn him loose in a glazed-over paddock when he’s fresh. Broken legs usually mean death for a horse.
  4. Monitor weight. Horses can drop pounds very quickly as the temperatures plummet. Winter coats can hide ribs as they begin to show. Keep an eye on the horse’s topline, hips and use your hands to feel what’s going on under that thick coat. Adjust feed immediately as you start to see weight loss. Winter’s a tough time to put weight on a horse so you don’t want to be managing the issues that come with a thin horse during these challenging months.
  5. Help your horse prepare for the elements. If you’re going to be turning your horse out during the winter months, be kind and let him grow a coat (and don’t clip the poor thing). Blankets (and clipping) may save you grooming time, but interfere with a horse’s natural protection mechanism (hair growth), hurts the horse when wet and can get tangled around legs, necks and other body parts. Older horses and those who do not grow a good winter coat may need some extra protection (and make sure it’s a waterproof blanket with good leg straps to hold it in place that you take off regularly to ensure no rubs, leaks, sores, etc.), but most will do better if you allow their natural coat to protect them.
  6. Careful with shoes. If you’re planning on your horse being outside during the winter, whether for riding or turn-out, most shoes are a bad idea. Snow balls up in the hoof effectively putting the horse on stilts, the metal impedes natural traction and most shoes add risk to your’s and your horse’s safety.
  7. Increase hay portions and regularity. Horses are designed to be eating about sixteen hours a day. This roughage is especially important in the winter months. Sometimes increasing grain will actually cause a horse to lose weight (depending on what you are feeding and your horse). Instead, seek out a decent quality first cutting timothy hay or orchard grass that you can feed your horse all day long (assuming you don’t have an obese horse). This will help keep him healthier and happier during the tough winter months.

Five quick tips for horse stall maintenance

Editors Note: Friday’s Opinion appeared on Wednesday of this week due the timely (and scary) nature of the issue addressed. So, this week’s usual Wed. quick tips feature is a bit delayed.

Whether you are housing horses in a stall 24/7 (a tough life for a horse unless injury layup is an excuse), offering limited daily time in a paddock, giving horses ample pasture time during the day or night (depending on the season) or operating with a primary turnout situation that has horses in stalls only during severe weather, vet appearances, blacksmith visits, foaling times or training preparation activities, you need stalls. These quick tips assume your horse spends daily time in the stall, but could also apply to those who don’t (and run in sheds).

Quick tips for stall maintenance

  1. Know your flooring and address the issues. Wood and mats when wet can be very slippery. Make sure you have enough bedding (sawdust provides better footing on these surfaces than straw) to ensure foals can get up (we bed foaling stalls with straw, but have found that it’s necessary to put a thin layer of sawdust under a bale or two of straw for some less coordinated foals), excited horses don’t fall and periodic accommodations are made to dry these areas out. Wood rots too, so keep an eye on deterioration and fix it before a collapse results in a vet bill. Cement is too hard on horses that spend a lot of time in the stall. Invest in mats if this is your only surface option and bed deep. Dirt encourages digging and urine will produce holes too. We put mats in our dirt stalls (sans one for our mare who has a proclivity for producing slow foals) and pull them out annually to level out the dirt. Still, dirt, although high maintenance, is probably the best solution for your horse. If you’re building from the ground up, put stone down about seven inches for good drainage.
  2. Picking stalls saves time and bedding costs. It’s relatively easy to remove manure at feeding times and doing so makes the full stall clean a lot quicker, keeps the stall a lot neater and makes a great impression on visitors. We have a couple of churn machines in our barn and staying on top of the deposits reduces bedding and labor costs dramatically.
  3. There are ergonomic tools you can put to the task, but we’ve found a standard plastic pitchfork to be the most durable and easiest tool for the task (even on the straw stalls – so much sold in our area today is so chaffy, standard metal straw pitchforks just don’t work well). We also use a broom in stalls to clear wet spots thoroughly.
  4. We’ve found the best stall construction material to be 1” X 6” rough cut oak. It’s tough and affordable. If you screw (vs. nail) the boards in, they’re easy to remove when broken or chewed through. Having cordless power tools (circular saw, drill, etc.) makes it’s simple to render quick repairs and keep your barn in pristine shape.
  5. Inspect stalls (and run-in sheds) daily for loose screws/nails, eye-hooks that may have been mangled, boards that are loose, items that may have been pulled in by the resident and other potential injury issues. It’s amazing how some horses are magnets for trouble. Save yourself the heartache and headache of injuries and vet bills by striving to prevent potential mishaps.

Quick Tips for pasture management

Life is about continuous learning. This year we decided to fence in twenty-six acres. We learned a lot about herd dynamics, best practices, time saving (and depleting) practices, the effects of changing the equine routine and the wishes of horses. Whether your methods involve 24/7stall confinement (a tough life for a horse), a combination of turn-out and stall care or full-time pasture life, you can make it easier on both you and your horse by being smarter about how you decide to make this so.

Ten tips for good turnout strategies

  1. Give your horses shelter. Surprisingly, this is more critical in the summer months with the bugs and the sun then in the cold, windy and snowy season, but it’s a necessary component for comfort and health year-round.  Run-in sheds can be purchased or built, but know that one horse will likely command the space, so ensure there is an overhang or L-shaped construction so that others can get some protection.
  2. Develop a rotation management plan. We had twelve horses on twenty-six acres this year (divided into three herds) and figured such small numbers would make it easy for the acreage to support the grazing demands. We were wrong. It’s important to restrict access and move the herds on a regular basis to ensure good pasture food and maintenance. It was amazing how much the quality of the pasture improved after we took the horses off a particular pasture, mowed the field, and gave it a month or so to regenerate.
  3. Provide an ample, clean water supply. We have water piped to some of the paddocks, but truck it into the rest (with a 325 gallop tank on a trailer that hitches to the back of the pickup). In our area, municipal water (3 miles down the road) is inexpensive and saves wear and tear on our pump and water purification system.  Horses can drink a lot and you never want them to be without water.
  4. Ensure you provide dry, clean and maintained pastures and shelters. Run-in sheds should be cleaned at least daily, preferably more frequently. If you can get one that is mobile, that’s even better as some herds will urinate in the sheds and this creates a very unhealthy condition for the feet. If you can’t move it, fill it with absorbent bedding that is cleaned at least daily. If areas of the paddock tend to get muddy (this will always be the case by the gate and in front of the shelter) see if you can restrict horses access to these areas and reseed.
  5. Stick to a routine. Horses are more comfortable, and stay healthier, if they can plan on a schedule. Try to feed, water, train, bring in and out of the barn, rotate herds, do any doctoring, etc. at the same times each day.
  6. Keep an eye on every horse in your care. Check the feet and eyes daily (small issues here can turn into major problems quickly). Give each horse the once over daily to ensure there are no open sores that may lead to infection, swollen areas, leg concerns or other medical issues that may need attention.
  7. Watch the weight and the manure of each horse. Forage quality can change quickly and you don’t want to be dealing with founder on a horse that has been allowed to get obese or fighting to put  pounds on a horse as winter sets in.
  8. Respect the herd dynamics hierarchy (and make sure you are seen as the leader when among the critters). If you want to move a herd, start with the alpha. Don’t get between horses that can get combative with one another. If you are supplementing with hay, make sure it is set up so that all horses are permitted to eat (multiple locations for placement or an adjustment to the herd groups usually works here).
  9. Set a schedule for the blacksmith, shots, worming, etc. and keep good records. Just because a horse is turned out, doesn’t mean he can go without basic care.
  10. Give your horses a job.  While it may seem idyllic and beautiful for a horses to be grazing freely day and night, most horses aren’t happy being ignored. Even older retired horses can help teach the babies a thing or two and the youngsters love to be challenged with training. Frankly, we were a bit surprised at how much the horses at the farm happily anticipated being put to work. Those in training were the first to come running to be brought into the barn.

Quick tips on using the herd members (or mentality) to correct bad behavior

Some of the most common challenges that people talk about year after year involve issues that are often more easily resolved with horse thinking and/or other horses. You can learn a lot from what horses try to teach you – and if you let them, they’ll lend a big hand in schooling the imps and brats to do what you want. The next time you’re having trouble with a horse issue you can’t seem to fix, think about how you might be able to teach the lesson from afar with the help of the herd mixes or another equine companion (or not – isolation can sometimes work wonders with a bad attitude). Here are some of the more common comments of frustration heard year after year, and what you can do about it:

“My young colt is studdish”

Young colts sometimes figure out pretty quickly they’re bigger and stronger than people and feel they’re horny enough to justify ignoring requests and demands in deference to “nature’s calling.” This becomes a dangerous problem if these horses aren’t handled properly from an early age. If you have a young colt that has started striking, rearing and exhibiting other horny behavior that you are unable to correct in-hand, try turning him out with a pregnant alpha mare.

Of course, often the best answer to such a problem is castration. People who use “in-tact” as an excuse to shrug off bad behavior will get someone hurt.

“My horse is herd bound”

Proper early training focused on ensuring your horse takes his lead from you and understands training time requires focus and attention (backed up with a confidence, patience and insistence from you) helps a lot, but sometimes, you must undo problems already created or deal with a critter that decides to be difficult.

With the worst herd-bound cases, we’ve found isolation to be the best approach. We had one filly here that started under saddle without a hitch. Three weeks later she began rearing, backing up at a breakneck pace and exhibiting a variety of avoidance tactics that made her very dangerous. Ultimately, after ruling out physical issues and other possible factors, we realized she was simply acting out in intimidation tactics designed to return her to the herd. So, we wound up relegating her to the roundpen alone (the barn wasn’t a good option because horses were in and out all day). For five days, we ensured she had ample hay and water (we pulled the grain through this phase – something we rarely do, but it was appropriate here) and ignored her completely. By day five, she was nickering as we approached and relished the opportunity for contact and attention from her human handlers (horses are social creatures and people were the only offer she had for contact during this time). After another day of ensuring she “got it,” we tacked her up and never had a problem with her again.

“My horse won’t let me catch him”

This can be an extremely frustrating challenge and is usually a man-made issue. Many exacerbate the issue by chasing the horse or disciplining him when he finally comes.

For this one, it often depends on the horse and the reasons for his avoidance. For those just playing the catch me game, finding a buddy or three who come to you readily can be the simplest approach. Give the others lavish attention and ignore the gamester. Don’t just go out to catch horses for work or the vet or other demands. Spend simple enjoyable time with the horses in the field. Usually within a week of watching his buddies enjoy the pats, he’ll change his tune. Don’t go to him – let him come to you before you even think about looking at him.

Driving a horse away can sometimes be effective, but this often backfires with novice handlers and determined horses. If you must, pick a small area and be prepared to stay the course until the results are met.

If a horse is frightened of you, being small and quiet is often helpful. If you’ve given him reason to be afraid, it may take a long time to resolve the issue. But, horses that are concerned by what they do not know can come around pretty quickly. Curious by nature, a horse will come to investigate sooner or later. Sit on a bucket or something so you are not towering over him, be still when he comes and do not try to restrict his head or reach for him initially.

Do you have a horse that just won’t get with the program?

I don’t have a lot of patience for farm owned horses that won’t accept the routine and/or the minimal requests that are part of the daily schedule. Of course, this doesn’t extend to clients horses, but they’re temporary residents and pay their way.

Malcontent needs horse support for training aims

A yearling at the farm (sadly, we produced him) has been a major pain in more ways than I care to enumerate. His latest stunt has been to mow through the gate as we’re collecting horses to move to other paddocks and then refuse to be caught and/or decline to come when his herd group is being brought to the barn or rotated. We spent some time leaving him out alone, but this didn’t have any effect.

I’ve learned over the years to use the herd (or members of it) to teach horses things that the humans just don’t seem to be able to instill.

Frustration fosters creativity

Pissed to the point where I was less concerned about what happened to him, and more interested in getting back my quality of life, I decided to turn him out with the boys. The boys include a six-year-old (who I believe is a proud cut) gelding, an aggressive and combative gelding that was cut too late (a client horse) and an amiable three-year-old gelding who has taken pride in victimizing this youngster in the past.  It didn’t require genius capacity to conclude he’d be in for a bit of a rough time.  But, he had already demonstrated he didn’t appreciate kind arrangements and it was time expose him to a more “natural” setting.

Success!

The good news is, the boys are starting to work the belly off this lazy brat, have forced him to start developing a bit of a top line and certainly put him in his place. The great new is, this obnoxious and belligerent youngster so full of himself a few weeks ago was the first to run to me when I came to the paddock today (it’s a big one at about 10 acres). He was happy to be approached, pet and acknowledged. Of course, I’ve completely ignored him since his debut with the boys as the three others have enjoyed lavish attention and two of them have been brought to the barn for a grain treat and riding attention (which they relish and probably brag about when they go back to the herd). Problem solved.

Learn to use the herd

I’m fortunate to have a lot of horses here with various personalities and skills when it comes to helping support training aims. Of course, you need to have some horse sense too as you decide how to use the herd to school a horse. It’s equally important how you behave during this process. Still, turning this malcontent over to the boys for a lesson while I acted as if he didn’t exist changed his attitude fast. Thanks for the help, boys.