Horse History – April 14, 1860 – The First Mail Pouch Is Delivered by the Westbound Pony Express

April 14th, 2014

Horse History - April 14, 1860 - The First Mail Pouch Is Delivered by the Westbound Pony ExpressOn April 14, 1860, the Westbound Pony Express delivered its first mail pouch to San Francisco, California. The Pony Express used a relay horseback system to deliver mail quickly across the county, essentially connecting the developing California with the eastern side of America.

The Pony Express, a relatively short-lived system, began on April 3, 1860 and continued to operate until October of 1861. The discovery of gold in California had prompted the state’s rapid development, but communication between California and the states on the eastern side of the country was slow – stagecoaches took weeks at a time to deliver mail. A better, faster system was needed.

William Russell, Alexander Majors, and William Waddell, owners of the Russell, Majors & Waddell shipping company, came up with a solution. They reasoned that single riders mounted on horseback could travel more quickly than a stagecoach, improving the mail delivery system. The three men founded the Pony Express, hiring 120 riders and buying 400 horses to create a relay system across the county.

Russell, Majors, and Waddell proposed that the Pony Express could deliver the mail from one side of the country to the other in ten days. Such speedy delivery was unheard of at the time, and the men’s claim was met with public disbelief. Still, the Pony Express founders believed in the system they had established, and searched for the shortest, most direct paths across the country for the Express riders to take.

Through the relay system, a rider galloped a horse for ten to fifteen miles, arriving at one of the more than 150 Pony Express relay stations. At each station, the rider would trade in his horse for a new, fresh horse, transfer the mail pouch, and then begin galloping again. At the end of a rider’s shift, the rider would hand the mail pouch off to another rider, who would continue across the country with the mail.

Pony Express riders faced harsh conditions. They rode long hours – sometimes as many as 20 hours at a time – in all weather and braved undeveloped areas alone. Robbery was always a possibility, and riders were instructed that the mail pouch was of utmost importance – they should do anything necessary to defend it.

The first mail run of the Pony Express traveled from St. Joseph, Missouri to St. Joseph and Sacramento, California. The first rider left Missouri on April 3, 1860, and the first mail pouch was delivered to St. Joseph, California on April 14. A subsequent mail pouch arrived in Sacramento a few hours later, proving that the Pony Express could deliver mail across the country in only ten days.

To learn more about the Pony Express, visit the Pony Express National Museum’s website.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Horse Show To-Do Checklist

April 11th, 2014

Show season is upon us, and now is the time to prepare yourself and your horse. While you’re probably used to many aspects of show day preparation like cleaning tack and braiding, there are a few preparations that are less standard, but just as important.

Horse Show To-Do Checklist

Check the Show Rulebook

Before you start packing up to head off to the show, check the rulebook to make sure that you and your horse will be legal in the competition. Different show associations have rules regarding medications, bit eligibility, and equipment approved for competitions. If you unknowingly violate any of these rules, you could find yourself disqualified. You put so much effort into preparing for a single horse show – make sure that your riding in the show will count, and check the rule book ahead of time.

Read Your Horse’s Supplements Carefully

After checking the rule book for prohibited medications and substances, turn a careful eye to the ingredient listings on your horse’s supplements. Some supplements contain substances that will test at a show. Make sure that your horse’s supplements are free of any prohibited substances, or you could inadvertently find yourself disqualified.

Brush Up On Trailer Loading

The last thing that you want to discover on the morning of a show is that your horse has suddenly become deathly afraid of the horse trailer, so practice at the barn ahead of time. Brush up on his trailer loading skills now. Be sure that the trailer is properly hitched to your truck, and then load and unload your horse until he loads smoothly. Come the morning of an important show, you’ll be thankful that you put in the work ahead of time.

Update Your Emergency Contact Information

In the unfortunate event that you were injured at a show, would show staff or your friends know who to call? Keep an “emergency contact” sheet posted to the inside of your trailer’s dressing room door with all of the necessary information, including your next of kin contact, your primary care physician’s name and number, and an emergency contact who could come and assume care for your horse.

Additionally, keep a separate list of emergency contact information for your horse, including contacts for his vet, farrier, barn owner, and trainer. When you’re traveling it’s also a good idea to keep information on roadside emergency services, like AAA or US Rider.

Most importantly, make sure that all of this information is correct and up-to-date. If you’re traveling with a friend, be sure that the friend is aware of where the information is located.

In your preparation for horse shows, put these important tasks at the top of your to-do list.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Introducing Your Child to Riding on a Budget

April 10th, 2014

Introducing Your Child to Riding on a Budget

If your child wants to learn to ride horses, you’ll quickly discover that riding is an expensive hobby. If you’re on a tight budget, though, that doesn’t mean that your child can’t learn to ride. Here are some ways to save money but keep your child riding.

Take Group Lessons

While taking a private lesson with a trainer does have its advantages, group lessons, especially while your child is beginning to learn to ride, offer a more affordable and perfectly reasonable alternative. Riding in a group lesson will help to save money while also teaching your child how to safely ride with other horses and riders in the ring. Look into the rates that the barn offers for private, semi-private, and group lessons to select the option that works best for you and your child.

Work Off Lessons

Many barns offer students the opportunity to work off part or all of the cost of their riding lessons. Large barns which offer lesson programs and boarding are often in need of people to feed horses, turn horses out, and clean stalls.

If your child is new to riding, he or she won’t have the skills to work in a barn immediately. Barns may also have an age requirement when allowing students to work off lesson time. However, your child can start developing the skills and knowledge necessary to work in a barn by volunteering to help care for the horses before and after his or her lesson.

Buy Only What You Need

Before you go out and buy your child equipment for his or her lesson, find out from the trainer exactly what equipment the barn requires riders to have. Some barns have very specific requirements in terms of the items purchased, their styles, and even their colors. Learning this information ahead of time can save you from purchasing equipment that you will need to return or that your child cannot use. Some barns also provide certain equipment to their riders, like helmets, so find out what is available first before you go shopping.

Buy Equipment Used

Breeches, boots, and gloves can all be purchased used at greatly discounted prices. Much of the used riding apparel available for children will have only slight use, since children outgrow clothes at such a rapid rate. Be sure to ask the seller for multiple pictures of the apparel, and ask specific questions about its condition.

One item that you should never purchase used is your child’s riding helmet. Riding helmets actually expire after 4 or 5 years, and are stamped with expiration dates, so buying a used helmet does not offer great financial savings. Additionally, if a helmet has been kept in improper conditions like in a hot car, or if it has sustained a fall, its integrity is compromised and it is no longer safe for use. New helmets come in wide price ranges, with many helmets available in the $40 price range, so buying a helmet used is not worth risking your child’s safety over.

Riding is an expensive hobby, but with some creativity and legwork you can help your child to learn to ride, even on a budget.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Horse Barn Spring Cleaning To-Do List

April 9th, 2014

Horse Barn Spring Cleaning To-Do List

This spring weather can only mean one thing: It’s time for spring cleaning. When you clean your barn to prepare it for the summer and the upcoming show season, there are some important chores that you need to remember to do. We’ve come up with a little list to get you started.

Check Gates and Fence Lines

With their snow, ice, freezing and thawing, winters can be rough on fence lines. It’s important to walk all of your fence lines and check for breaks or areas that need repair. Pay particular attention to fences that run along the outside of your property, or which run near roads.

Tighten any electrical fencing that needs it, and check to make sure that the fence is still carrying a charge in different areas. If you have wood fencing, look to see if boards have become loose or if areas are chewed and in need of replacement. Check PVC fencing to make sure that the panels are still tight and in place.

While you’re checking the fences, also take a look at your gates. Are the latches still closing securely, and are there any signs of rust? Check the hinges to make sure that they are functioning correctly and that the gate swings clearly of the ground. Oil the hinges to prepare the pasture gates for their use this summer.

Evaluate Your Arena

Your riding arena will face heavy use over the spring and summer. Now is the time to evaluate the condition of its footing. If there are ruts or uneven areas in your arena, tend to them with a tractor or by hand with a shovel and rake. Be careful not to dig up the base of your arena; only work with the top surface. Drag the arena and evaluate the footing – is it even, draining properly, and providing enough cushion to your horses? If you need to add footing, now is the time to do so before your arena is in full use during the competition season.

Clean for Fire Safety

When all of your horses are turned out for the day, go through your barn and remove all of the cobwebs that have formed over the winter. Cobwebs are a fire hazard; make a point of regularly removing them. Additionally, sweep any old hay out of your hay loft.

Check the expiration dates on your fire extinguishers and replace any extinguishers that are too old. Be sure to also replace the batteries in your barn’s smoke detectors.

Summer is right around the corner. Getting your spring cleaning done now can ensure that your barn is safe and ready for the busy months ahead.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Exmoor Pony

April 7th, 2014

Exmoor Pony

The Exmoor pony, rooted in history possibly dating back to as early as 400 BC, still roams freely in the British Isles today. But the breed’s numbers are critically low – less than 300 breeding mares are in existence – putting it at risk for extinction.


If you ask many fans of the Exmoor pony, they will tell you that the breed’s bloodline has descended purely from wild horses that originated in the Ice Age. While this theory is not supported by DNA research, the Exmoor pony does have a rich history.

The remains of horses have been found in Britain that date all the way back to 700,000 BC. Some of the fossils of early horses discovered in the region show that humans first hunted the horses, then later domesticated them and used them for transportation. Since these ancient horses roamed the same areas in and around Exmoor that the Exmoor pony does today, it is likely that the Exmoor pony descended from these herds of horses.

Many Exmoor ponies were sold off in the early 17th century and were crossed with other breeds, though some breeders worked to preserve the Exmoor pony’s pure bloodlines. The Exmoor Pony Society was created in 1921 to further protect the breed’s decreasing numbers.

The breed nearly went extinct during and after World War II. The Exmoor pony’s habitat became a British training ground, and the pony’s numbers dwindled to approximately 50. Thanks to the work of dedicated breeders the Exmoor pony’s numbers increased over the rest of the 20th century, and England is once again home to small herds.


As you might imagine, the Exmoor pony is hardy. The breed is equipped for survival in the moors of England; the pony has thick bone structure, a deep chest, large teeth to grind coarse marsh grasses, and strong hooves. The Exmoor pony’s coat features two layers of coarse hair to keep it warm and dry in the wet weather. Its mane and tail grow thick and long. The pony’s coat colors range from the standard dark bay to black and a mousy dun. Exmoor ponies typically stand between 11 and 12.3 hands.

The Breed Today

While the Exmoor pony still runs free in some areas of England, many have been domesticated and are bred in private breeding programs. The Exmoor pony is sturdy enough to be ridden by either an adult or a child. It has a calm, willing temperament, and can make an excellent riding horse.

The Exmoor pony is agile, athletic, and a talented jumper. Only a handful of Exmoor ponies are present in the United States, so it is rare to see them in competition, but they are shown more in England where the breed has greater numbers. The Exmoor pony’s versatility and intelligence make it suitable for farm work, showing under saddle and in hand, driving, and trail riding.

If you would like to learn more about the Exmoor pony’s presence in the United States, visit the website for the Exmoor Ponies of North America.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Time-Saving Tips to Help You Spend More Time in the Saddle

April 4th, 2014

As spring arrives, you’ll want to take advantage of the good weather and maximize the amount of time that you have available to ride. We’ve come up with a number of ways that you can save time in your everyday chores to help keep you in the saddle longer.

Minimize Stall Cleaning

To cut down on the chore of stall cleaning, maximize the amount of time that your horse spends in his turnout. With the nicer weather, your horse will appreciate being outside for as much time as possible, and the increased turnout brings health advantages for your horse. Consider feeding your horse’s meals outside as well.

If possible, and depending on how your barn is set up, create a run-in situation for your horse so that he can come and go to his stall as he pleases. If your horse has a shed in his pasture, then it may be possible for you to leave him turned out overnight. Maximizing your horse’s turnout time will cut down on the amount of time that you spend cleaning stalls, and will also reduce your bedding costs.

Pre-Measure Feed

Invest in some extra feed buckets and measure the feed for your horses once a day to help cut down on time. When you feed in the morning, simultaneously prepare your horses’ evening grain. Stack the buckets and cover the top one with a secure lid to keep mice from getting in. Your horses’ evening feed will be ready to go.

If you feed supplements, make use of a rainy day and put together supplement packs for all of your horses. For each horse, measure a feeding’s worth of supplements into a small baggie or “to-go” snack Tupperware container. You can also consider putting your horse on Smartpaks to further cut down your time.

Rely on Round Bales

If you can access good quality round bales, put a bale in your horses’ pasture to minimize the amount of time that you spend hauling and dividing out square hay bales. Providing your horse with access to a round bale in his field means that he will have free-access hay, which can help to keep him healthier and reduce the chance of ulcers or colic.

Do a Bit at a Time

To cut down on large chores like cleaning tack or stalls, spend a few minutes at a time on those chores. Pick out stalls in the morning and the evening to make the cleaning easier. Spend just a few minutes wiping down your tack after each ride to lessen the time you’ll need when it comes time to do a thorough cleaning.

There are many ways to save time around the barn – what are some of your favorites?

Image Source:

Original Source:

The Basics of Introducing Your Child to Riding

April 3rd, 2014

Girl and Horse

If your child has caught the horse bug and you are new to horses yourself, you may find yourself in a bit of a foreign world. What can you expect in enrolling your child in riding lessons? Will your child always love horses, or will he or she grow out of it? Here are some basics to help you introduce your child to horseback riding.

Not All Lesson Programs Are the Same

That backyard stable down the road may seem convenient, but it’s probably not the best place for your child’s riding career to begin. Each state has its own regulations on who can teach riding lessons. Some states allow anyone to become a riding instructor, while others have certification tests that an instructor must pass. In selecting a riding program for your child, look for an instructor with years of experience and a well-established lesson program.

Safety is another important issue to consider when finding a riding program for your child. No matter what discipline your child is learning, he or she should absolutely wear an ASTM-certified riding helmet whenever mounted on a horse. The ponies and horses used in the riding program should also be well-trained and dependable, especially for beginning riders.

Progress In Riding Is Slow-Going

Many people don’t realize how difficult riding a horse actually is. Done properly, learning to ride is a long, slow process. Whereas movies and television shows often depict a new rider mounting up and being able to gallop away on the horse, that is not the case.

Your child will need to learn how to move with the horse, how to balance, and how to “speak” to the horse through cues and aids. Additionally, your child will need to develop strength in his or her core, arms, and legs. This all takes time, and your child may work at the walk and trot for years before ever learning to canter or jump. A good riding instructor will take the time to develop your child’s skills in the fundamentals of riding. This will make your child an all-around better rider in the end.

The Horse Bug Is Often For Life

If you’re wondering if your child will outgrow this infatuation with horses, there’s no one answer. Some children do go through a “horse phase” in which they learn to ride and enjoy caring for horses for a few years, but when it comes time to go to high school or college, that passion fades. Others, though, are bitten by the horse bug for life.

If your child is crazy about horses, the best thing that you can do is to find him or her a safe, quality riding program where your child can learn about all aspects of riding and horse care.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Storing Blankets Properly

April 2nd, 2014

Storing Blankets ProperlyAs we finally emerge from winter and head into spring, you can focus your efforts on spring cleaning and readying the barn for your show season. Since you will not need your horse’s winter blankets again until the late fall, it is best to clean them and store them away to give yourself added space in the barn and to keep them protected until they are needed again. Make sure that you store your blankets properly, though – otherwise you might find a damaged or smelly blanket come fall.

Clean Your Blankets

Now is the time to thoroughly clean all of your horse’s blankets. A season of use will leave your blankets muddied and smelly. If you have a number of blankets, it might be easiest to send them out to have them professionally cleaned. Some blanket cleaning services also offer repair services, saving you time.

If you choose to clean your blankets yourself, be sure that you scrape off all of the excess mud before putting them into the washing machine. Use only a soap that is made specifically for use on horse blankets, especially if your blankets are waterproof – using regular laundry detergent can strip the waterproofing. Most importantly, be sure that you dry your blankets thoroughly. Storing a blanket that is even mildly damp can cause it to mold and even rot.

Repair Your Blankets

Now is also the time to make any repairs that may be needed. Tears in blankets can be mended with heavy-duty thread and a needle, or with a blanket patch. You can also order replacement clips and buckles in the event that the blanket is missing parts. If you take the time to repair your horse’s blankets now, then they will be ready to go to work when you next need them.

Give Away What You Don’t Need

If you find blankets that your horse has outgrown or that you’ve replaced, consider donating them to a local equine rescue. Many rescues are in need of blankets, and donating them will mean that you have fewer blankets to store through the summer.

Storing Your Blankets

In storing your blankets you will want to be sure that they are well protected from moths and rodents. Select large, heavy-duty rubber or plastic totes with tightly sealing or locking lids. You can also store blankets in wooden trunks that close securely. Consider putting moth balls, cedar blocks or chips, or peppermint oil in the storage container that you use to further repel moths.

If space is an issue, large vacuum-sealed clothes storage bags provide an excellent way to minimize the storage space that your blankets require. Place each blanket in its own bag, then use your vacuum cleaner on its reverse setting to suction the air out of the bag, compressing the size of the blanket. (The bags will have instructions on how to do this.)

Before you tuck the totes containing your blankets away for the summer, be sure that they are well labeled, especially if you have blankets for multiple horses. Come the fall, when it’s time to pull the blankets out again, you will be glad that you took the extra time necessary to prepare your blankets for proper storage.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Horse History – April 1, 2004 – Zenyatta Born

March 31st, 2014

Horse History - April 1, 2004 - Zenyatta Born

She may have been born on April Fool’s Day, but Zenyatta’s racing career was no joke. The mare, often referred to as the “Queen of Racing,” was foaled April 1, 2004. Sired by Street Cry out of Vertigineux, the dark bay Thoroughbred mare rocketed to fame with her unbelievable winning streak.

Zenyatta’s racing career began on November 22, 2007 when she broke her maiden at Hollywood Park. She was victorious and ridden by David Flores in her first few races, and then jockey Mike Smith took over the reins for the Apple Blossom Handicap on April 5, 2009. Their partnership was established, and Smith became Zenyatta’s jockey.

Zenyatta and Smith raced five more times during 2008, and came home victorious in competitive races including the Vanity Handicap and the Lady’s Secret Stakes. Zenyatta’s run during the Lady’s Secret Stakes was particularly impressive, as she ran each quarter of the race faster than the preceding quarter, accelerating continuously throughout the course of the race.

With a flawless racing record, the incredible mare won the 2008 Eclipse Award for top Older Female. She continued her winning streak on through her 2009 racing season, adding wins such as the Clement L. Hirsch Handicap and the Milady Handicap to her list. She was the first mare to ever win the Breeders’ Cup Classic held at Santa Anita, facing down tough competition including Mine That Bird and Gio Ponti.

By the end of 2009, Zenyatta was on top, but also reaching what is the end of the career for many racehorses. She was jogged in front of the Santa Anita grandstand in an apparent farewell on December 26th, and it seemed unlikely that the racing world would see the great mare run again.

However, on January 16, 2010, that all changed. Zenyatta was pronounced sound and healthy and ready to compete again in 2010. She again won the Eclipse Award for top Older Female, then continued her racing career by winning the Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap on March 13, 2010 – her fifteenth victory.

Her incredible win streak continued to 19 total races in a row. The November 6, 2010 Breeders’ Cup Classic was Zenyatta’s twentieth race, and she lost it by a head to Blame. Her career earnings totaled more than $7,300,000, surpassing those of famous racehorses John Henry, Alysheba, and Tiznow.

Zenyatta retired victorious in 19 of her 20 races. She again won the 2010 Eclipse Award for top Older Female, and was awarded the title of 2010 Horse of the Year. She also received the Secretariat Vox Populi Award, and the press surrounding her winning streak had reached far past just the racing community; Zenyatta was a household name.

Zenyatta was retired in November of 2010 to Lane’s End Farm stables and has since had two foals by Bernardini and Tapit and is currently expecting her third by War Front. To learn more about Zenyatta, visit her website.

Image Source:

Original Source:

Physical Safety When Working in the Barn

March 28th, 2014

Physical Safety When Working in the Barn

As horse people we often joke that we don’t need to go to the gym; our work around the barn more than suffices as a workout. And it’s true – when you think about the amount of lifting you do in the barn, you’re putting your body through a pretty intense workout every day. But as with any workout, it’s important to keep your body protected from injury. How do you do that in the barn?

Lift Correctly

It seems like you’re endlessly lifting heavy objects in the barn – water buckets, feed sacks, and even hay bales all need to be moved and carried on a regular basis. But this repeated lifting, especially when the objects are heavy, can put you at risk for injury. That’s why it’s so important to take measures to keep yourself protected.

When lifting a heavy object, you need to be sure that you’re lifting it properly. If you have to lift a heavy object, spend a moment setting yourself up to do so properly. Stand close to the object with your feet shoulder width apart. If you need to bend down, then bend your knees, not your back. Ideally use both hands to grip the object, and stand up slowly, keeping it close to your body.

Whenever possible, carry weight so that it’s evenly distributed. If you’re carrying a water bucket in one hand, try to carry one of a similar weight in the other. Or even better, pour some of the water out of a full bucket into a second bucket, distributing the weight that you need to carry.

Get Help

Even when using proper lifting techniques, some loads are too large, heavy, or dangerous for you to try to lift on your own. It’s important to be able to recognize when a task is too large – and dangerous – for a single person to handle. At that point you need to enlist help or use proper equipment. Remember, trying to tackle a task too large could result in a serious injury.

Wear the Right Equipment

If you know that you’re going to have an intense day of work at the barn (think stacking a load of hay), it may be advisable to wear a back brace or back support to help protect your back from injury. Consult with your doctor about the type of work that you do on a regular basis; he may have some recommendations of equipment or braces that you should invest in.

Know When to Quit

The old adage of “no pain no gain” has no place when you’re lifting heavy loads repeatedly. If your muscles are burning and your arms are trembling, take a break. Stretch, shake out your arms and legs. Pushing through pain and fatigue means that you’ll be more likely to get injured; your body won’t be able to quickly recover from a slip, and you could find yourself in pain. Taking a quick break can keep you working safely in the barn.

As horse people, we pride ourselves in the strength and independence we develop while working in a barn. But remember to keep yourself safe, too, so that you can do the same work tomorrow.

Image Source:

Original Source: