Making the Most of Days When It’s Too Hot to Ride

July 25th, 2014

When the temperature climbs over 90° and the humidity is high, sometimes it’s best not to ride your horse. And while not being able to ride is disappointing, the day doesn’t have to be a total loss. There are many ways to continue moving forward with your horse even when you can’t be in the saddle. Here are a few great ways to put a non-riding day to use.

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Groundwork is the true foundation of how your horse responds under saddle. Working with your horse on the ground helps to establish your position in the relationship and can strengthen your bond with and understanding of your horse. Even if you’ve done groundwork before, chances are your horse could always use a brush-up and there are likely new groundwork exercises you could do. Consider buying a book of groundwork exercises and techniques to use on days when it’s too hot to ride.

Ground Driving

Less strenuous than your average ride, ground driving can provide an alternative form of exercise and training when it’s too hot to really work your horse. Ground driving can help strengthen and develop your horse’s understanding of and sensitivity to your cues. If you have never ground driven your horse before, then be sure to enlist the help of an experienced horse person to teach both you and your horse how to ground drive safely.


Treating your horse to a massage has great health benefits for him, and it can also strengthen your bond with your horse. If you have never done equine massage before, it’s best to hire an equine massage therapist for the first session and to show you some basic techniques that you can do on your own. Massaging your horse promotes circulation, improves muscle tone, relieves muscle tension, and can improve your horse’s athletic performance and comfort. By massaging your horse regularly, you will also learn what is normal for his body and what isn’t. This knowledge can be very beneficial since it means you can more readily identify areas of muscle tension or injury in your horse in the future.


Don’t forget the benefits of a good grooming session. Grooming is important for the health of your horse’s coat, and a good currying is similar to massage in that it promotes circulation and helps improve and maintain muscle tone. Remember that the more time you spend grooming your horse now, the healthier his coat will be and the more he will shine in the show ring.

When the heat is oppressive, your horse will appreciate the day off from riding. Put some of these techniques to use so that you can continue progressing with your horse.

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How to Use Hills to Your Riding Advantage

July 24th, 2014

Have Hills Use Them to Your Advantage

Hills on your property can be a great training and conditioning tool, and there are various ways to use hills to your advantage when riding and conditioning your horse. Here are a few tips so that you can put hills to work for you.

Keep Safety First

Hills help to condition your horse and develop his muscles in strength, but they are only safe if approached correctly. Hill work can be strenuous on a horse, especially for one that is out of shape. Any time you work on hills with your horse, go slowly and keep your horse’s fitness level in mind. If you are dealing with rocky hills, or hills where the footing is not ideal, then you will need to use caution in the exercises you ask your horse to perform. Booting your horse or wrapping his legs may also be advisable depending on your situation.

Walking Up Hills

Begin with walking your horse up hills. It is best to start with more gradual hills; you can progress to steeper hills as your horse gets fitter. Make sure to have your horse thoroughly warmed up before doing any hill work, and take it at a slow and easy pace at first. As your horse climbs the hill, lean forward into a jumping position just a bit to keep your weight centered above him. Repeat this exercise during your rides for a few weeks to build and strengthen your horse’s muscles.

Pick Up the Pace

Once your horse masters hills at a walk, you can progress to trotting them. These exercises develop the strength of your horse’s legs. When your horse is fit enough to do so, you can cancer or gallop a hill. Galloping a hill is a great way to strengthen your horse’s hind end, but it is also strenuous, so limit the number of times that you do this.

Backing Up a Hill

Rather than riding up a hill, you can also back your horse up a hill. Backing your horse up the incline provided by a hill helps to strengthen his core muscles and can enhance his topline as a result. When beginning this exercise, use only a slight incline and ask your horse just for a few steps backward. Be patient; some horses do not like to back up, and backing uphill requires that a horse use his core and his balance to perform the maneuver. As your horse gets more familiar with the exercise, you can increase its intensity and ask him for more.

Hill work is a great way to round out any conditioning program. It can be easily tailored to a horse’s individual fitness level, and can help your horse gain strength and balance.

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Lyme Disease: Is Your Horse at Risk?

July 23rd, 2014

Nobody likes finding ticks on their horses, but if you live in the Northeast part of the country, ticks carry with them an added risk: Lyme disease. If you’ve ever had to treat your horse for Lyme disease you know how difficult it can be. Is your horse at risk for Lyme disease and if so, what can you do to prevent it? We’ve got the answers for you.

640px-Tick_engorged_with_thumb Lyme Disease Is Your Horse at Risk

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that is carried most commonly by deer ticks. When a deer tick bites a horse, it can transmit the bacteria to the horse, infecting the horse with Lyme disease. There is debate about how long a deer tick must be attached to a horse to infect him; it’s generally accepted that the tick must be attached for at least 24 hours.

Lyme disease manifests in the horse as stiffness, overall body ache and sensitivity, weight loss, shifting hind end lameness, fever, and overall poor body condition. Lyme disease is diagnosed through bloodwork to measure the level of antibodies in a horse’s system, but diagnosis is complicated; any horse that has ever had Lyme disease will test positive for Lyme antibodies, making new infections sometimes difficult to pinpoint.


Lyme disease is typically treated with a 30-day course of oral doxycycline. Tetracycline is also sometimes used to treat Lyme disease. Depending on how long the horse has been infected, longer treatment regimens may be required.

Risk Factors

Your geographic location will play into whether your horse is at risk of contracting Lyme disease. Speak with your veterinarian about the Lyme disease rates in your area.

If you live in an area with high rates of Lyme disease, you’ll want to take steps to lessen your horse’s exposure to ticks. Keep pastures mowed and remove or burn piles of brush and old trees, since these are habitats for ticks. When riding on trails, keep to the trails and do not ride your horse off into tall grass.

Check your horse daily and after every ride for ticks. Be sure to check his lower legs, beneath his tail, in his ears, and under his chin. You can also use a pyretherin-based fly spray or apply a tick repellent directly to your horse.

If you find a tick on your horse, use tweezers to remove it by pulling at the head, not squeezing the body, which can increase the chance that the tick will push bacteria into your horse. If the tick has bitten your horse for longer than 24 hours, you may want to watch him for symptoms of Lyme disease.

If you’re in an area where Lyme disease is common, staying alert for ticks can be your best chance to help your horse avoid it.

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Equine History: Misty of Chincoteague Was Born July 20, 1946

July 21st, 2014

If you were a horse-loving child, chances are that at some point you read Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague. Maybe you went on to read Stormy, Misty’s Foal, and even Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague. Misty of Chincoteague became a classic in the literary canon of horse stories, but do you know that it was inspired by an actual Chincoteague pony named Misty?

Equine History Misty of Chincoteague Was Born July 20, 1946 2

The mare who inspired Marguerite Henry to write Misty of Chincoteague was born on July 20, 1946. She was born on Chincoteague Island in Virginia and was sired by a chestnut tobiano named Pied Piper. Misty’s dam was a black tobiano named Phantom. Misty herself would grow to be 12 hands high and was an eye-catching palomino tobiano and sabino pinto.

Misty was owned by the Beebe family, whom Marguerite Henry would later include in her fictional Misty of Chincoteague. When Marguerite visited Chincoteague in 1946 she purchased Misty to take back home with her to Illinois. Inspired by the pony and the Beebe family, Marguerite wrote Misty of Chincoteague to tell the story of a wild pony named Misty born on Assateague Island who was captured and auctioned during the annual Pony Penning Day, and who became a loved member of the Beebe family.

Misty of Chincoteague, published in 1947, became a bestseller. Marguerite kept Misty for the next 10 years and the pony toured the United States with her, making appearances for fans. In 1957 Marguerite sent Misty back to the Beebe Ranch where she could be bred.

Misty was bred to Wings, a chestnut pinto pony. She had three foals, all by Wings: Phantom Wings, Wisp O’Mist, and, most famous, Stormy. Stormy was the inspiration for Marguerite’s book Stormy, Misty’s Foal. Stormy also made appearances for fans.

The impact of Misty of Chincoteague is difficult to measure. The book raised awareness about the Chincoteague pony and the Pony Penning Day. It brought needed tourism and funds to Chincoteague Island, and even today the book remains a popular children’s book. Misty of Chincoteague was also Marguerite Henry’s first book, launching her long literary career.

Misty died on October 16, 1972. This famous mare’s hide was preserved by a taxidermist and then displayed for Chincoteague visitors. Stormy died in 1993 her hide was also preserved and displayed. The Beebe Ranch remains a popular tourist destination and the two horses are displayed there annually.

Thanks to the work of the Breyer Animal Creations company, young horse lovers can also bring home a Misty and a Stormy of their own – the two horses have been crafted into Breyer models, along with Sea Star, the horse in Marguerite Henry’s Sea Star, Orphan of Chincoteague; Phantom Wings, Misty’s son; and Misty’s Twilight, one of Misty’s great-granddaughters.

Misty will perhaps be the most famous Chincoteague pony ever. Her birth prompted the career of a great author and increased awareness of the Chincoteague pony breed.

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Is Your Horse Telling You That He’s Too Hot?

July 18th, 2014

Heat can be a major factor when riding during the summer. And while you’ll know if the heat is getting to be too much for you, do you know the signs to be able to recognize when the heat is too much for your horse? Here are some things you’ll want to be looking out for this summer.

Is Your Horse Telling You That He's Too Hot

High Temperature

Your horse’s normal temperature should be between 99° and 101°F. If your horse’s temperature exceeds that range, he is becoming overheated and needs to be cooled down. It’s a good idea to bring a thermometer along with you to any shows or events that you’ll be riding at so that you can monitor your horse’s temperature.

Increased Respiration and Heart Rate

A horse who is too hot will experience a higher than average respiration and heart rate. A heart rate greater than 50 beats per minute, and a respiration rate of more than 30 breaths per minute is cause for concern.

Profuse Sweating

Horses sweat to cool themselves, but high humidity and high heat can make their sweating less efficient. If your horse is sweating profusely, it’s a likely indicator that he is struggling with the heat.

Lack of Sweat

If exercised too heavily in extreme heat and humidity, a horse may stop sweating. This is a symptom of heatstroke and may be accompanied by overall weakness, uncoordination, and even collapse. Horses with anhidrosis suffer from an inability to sweat; if you suspect your horse has anhidrosis, then speak with your veterinarian about ways to keep him comfortable and safe during the summer.

Muscle Tremors

Tremors in your horse’s abdomen or hind end can indicate that he is overheating. In some cases you may see his hind and muscles twitch in time with his heartbeat. You might also notice that your horse is experiencing muscle spasms in his hind end and legs. These are serious symptoms and indicate that your horse needs to be cooled down immediately.


You can test your horse’s hydration in two ways. The skin test refers to pinching a small tent of skin from your horse’s neck with your fingers. Hold it for a few seconds, then release – your horse’s skin should quickly snap back into place.

More accurate than the skin test, testing your horse’s capillary refill time provides you with a better idea of whether or not he may be dehydrated. Press a finger against your horse’s gum for a few seconds, then release it. Watch the color of the gum where you have just had your finger – the white, pale color should be replaced by the healthy pink normal color of your horse’s gum within three seconds.

If your horse is showing signs that the heat is too much for him, immediately bring him out of the sun and cease exercising him. Bring your horse into the shade of some trees or your barn, and immediately cool him. Remove his tack, hose him continuously with cool water, and offer him water to drink. Always call your veterinarian if you suspect your horse is overheating.

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What You Can Learn from Watching Young Riders

July 17th, 2014

When you were young did your riding instructor encourage you to watch the lessons of older, more experienced riders? Watching experienced riders is a popular way to learn about desirable riding techniques. But have you ever considered that you can learn from younger, less experienced riders too? If you haven’t spent some time recently watching younger riders in their lessons, you might want to do just that.

What You Can Learn from Watching Young Riders

New Teaching and Instruction Techniques

As you watch young riders in their lessons, you will be exposed to different teaching and instruction techniques. Perhaps something that an instructor says to a younger rider may resonate with you or cause you to consider an aspect of riding or training differently.

In watching the instructor interact with riders, you’ll also learn about different instruction approaches and methods. One instructor’s style may be completely different from your trainer’s style, but there may be pieces of that style that you decide to apply, yourself. You may find yourself noting what methods work well for you personally and which ones don’t, which can develop your understanding of your individual style of learning.

Refresher on the Foundations of Riding

As we move into the upper levels of training and riding, it’s easy to forget the basic principles that we learned so many years ago. The foundations of riding, whether you are teaching at a beginner or advanced level, are the same, so you may gain some insight from a basic lesson that you can apply to your own riding. Regardless of whether you learn anything new, a refresher of the basic horsemanship and riding foundations is never wasted.

Riding Position Evaluation

As you watch a lesson, try to evaluate each rider in your head and plan out the suggestions you would make for improvement. Do these suggestions match the instructor’s? Watching young riders can help you to develop your evaluation of riding position, a strength that you can then apply to evaluating and improving your own position in the saddle.

Insight About Different Disciplines

Have you always wanted to learn more about a different discipline than the one you ride? Watching some lessons in that discipline can help familiarize you with the training approaches, riding position, and style associated with the discipline. As you develop a deeper understanding of the different disciplines you will become a more comprehensive and versatile horse person.

Reminder of Why You Ride

Go watch a beginner lesson and observe the way that the students stand by their mounts, tentative but also enamored with the massive animal before them. Watch the adoration and delight as they pat and speak with the horse, and the way that their determination to learn to ride can overpower their fear.

We were all beginners once, and the young riders of today can continue to teach us.

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Should You Take on Boarders?

July 16th, 2014

If you have your own barn and a few empty stalls, it might be tempting to open your facility up to boarders. Bringing in boarders has some advantages, in that it can bring in some money and will create more activity at your barn. But should you take on boarders? Before you decide to make the leap, consider how it would affect your particular situation.

Should You Take on Boarders

The Financial Aspect

At first glance you might see opening your barn up to boarding as an investment – the barn would become a business, and would be bringing in income. And while that’s true, if you talk to most barn owners they will tell you that the horse boarding business is usually not profitable alone. If you have a facility where you can add training and lessons to the program, then you may bring in additional income and make a profit, but the costs of caring for horses are so high that offering boarding services may result in only minimal profit, if any at all.

The Wear and Tear on Your Property

Horses are high-maintenance. If you bring in additional horses, your property needs to be able to withstand them. If your pastures are overgrazed, you may need to rotate them and perform more pasture maintenance than you’re currently doing, which is costly in time and supplies. Additional horses will also mean that your ring requires more frequent attention, and don’t forget the normal wear and tear that horses create on stalls and fences.


If you decide to take on boarders, look into the insurance that you will need to have yourself fully protected. Call your insurance company and have a conversation about your plans and the cost of an insurance policy to cover you when you open your barn up as a business.

The Extra Company

Opening your barn to boarders will mean that extra people and horses will be coming onto the property. This can be both positive and negative. Additional horses can mean added company for your horses, as well as increased activity around the farm which can prevent boredom in your horses. Having more people around can be positive in that you may have people to ride with and converse with while in the barn.

But be sure to consider how taking on boarders will change the atmosphere of your barn. You’ll be running a business and will be giving up a good deal of your privacy in exchange. If you’re used to having the barn or the ring to yourself when you’re riding, will you be able to cope with sharing it from now on? Even if you plan on having your barn closed during specific hours or specific days, realize that emergencies will crop up and you can never ensure that people will not need to stop by.

Increased Responsibility

Managing a boarding barn is a tremendous amount of work. Ultimately the safety and health of the horses falls upon you. You will need to step up to deal with problems and issues as they arise.

Opening your barn up to boarders is a decision that you should make carefully. Definitely talk to other barn owners experienced in boarding before making your choice.

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The Waler Horse

July 14th, 2014

While you’ve likely heard of the Australian Stock Horse, did you know that there’s another breed that was hugely influential to Australia’s development? The Waler, a lesser-known breed, proved itself to be a phenomenal cavalry horse during the 20th century.

The Waler Horse

The Waler’s history begins with the importation of horses to Australia in 1788 and 1795. Ships brought a total of 40 horses from the Cape of Good Hope to fulfill the demand for work horses and riding mounts in the developing Australia. Though the exact breed of the horses imported is unknown, it’s believed that many of them were Barbs.

The horses faced harsh conditions in the Australian country. Once they had survived their sea voyage, they needed to thrive on poor quality pasture that faced frequent drought. The horses also had to be strong with good endurance and speed, since they were used for both farm work and riding.

Colonists bred the most successful of the imported horses and created a breed of horse that was hearty, athletic, and strong. Thousands of these horses were bred to serve as work horses and, eventually, to serve as cavalry horses. As the heart of the breeding program was in New South Wales, this new breed of horses was referred to as The Waler.

The Waler proved itself to be a tremendous cavalry horse. Its strength allowed it to serve as an artillery horse, while its endurance and great temperament proved it to be a fine mount in battle. The British Army frequently used Waler horses, and the Waler was exported from Australia as a cavalry horse beginning in 1816.

Walers had a tremendous influence on Australia’s history through wars. The breed first proved its value in battle during the Boer War. Approximately 160,000 Walers were exported during World War I, and they repeatedly performed admirable wartime achievements. The breed was also exported during World War II, though to a lesser degree due to advancing technology and the beginning mechanization of warfare.

It was this advancing mechanization that led to the decline of the breed’s numbers. While Walers still served as stock horses and even found employment as mounted police horses, their numbers continued to decline through the early 20th century. Breeding programs ceased and some horses were set free.

During the late 19th century fans of the breed that had so influenced Australian history took measures to preserve it. Some of the Walers that had been set free were captured and bred in an attempt to reestablish the breed. Today the Waler Horse Society of Australia and the Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia continue to work to ensure the breed’s survival in the future.

If you would like to learn more about the Waler, visit the Waler Horse Society of Australia’s website.

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Why You Should Be Videotaping Your Lessons

July 11th, 2014

Do you videotape your riding lessons? There are a number of benefits to taping your lessons, and given how easily you can record with phones and tablets today, it’s really not a difficult thing to do. If you’re not already taping your lessons, here are some reasons you might want to start.

Why You Should Be Videotaping Your Lessons

See What Your Trainer Means

Videos of your riding lessons provide you a way to look back and see examples of exactly what your trainer is talking about. Even if you have mirrors in your ring, it can be difficult to observe your horse and your riding when you are so focused on the task at hand during a lesson. Videotaping your lessons gives you the chance to revisit your trainer’s comments when you’re more relaxed and focused. Seeing exactly what your trainer is referring to, such as subtle changes in your position or in the movement of your horse, can help you better understand your problem areas and what you are working to achieve.

Remember the Points Your Trainer Went Over

During lessons it can often seem that your trainer is giving you 20 different things to think about and focus on it once. How much of that do you carry over into your next riding session with your horse when your trainer isn’t present? Videotaping your lessons gives you a way to go back and revisit exactly what your trainer was telling you. You can make a list of points you need to remember and will naturally absorb more of the information by seeing and hearing the lesson a second time.

See Your Horse’s Reactions to Your Riding

Watching a video of yourself riding in a lesson gives you the chance to see just how your position and movement affect your horse. Rather than just feeling the changes in your horse, seeing them too can create a more complete picture and further deepen your horsemanship skills.

Create a Digest of Your Development

If you repeatedly videotape your lessons over time, they will create an account of both your and your horse’s progress. It can be rewarding to look back on old videos and see just how far you and your horse have come. Revisiting tapes of previous lessons can help to remind you of points that you once worked on and should perhaps revisit. The tapes can also help you identify areas in which you may still be weak and where you should focus in the future.

The next time you have a lesson, ask a friend to come along to tape at least part of it, then offer to do the same for them when they ride. There are many benefits to having videotapes of at least some of your lessons.

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Is Your Barn Healthy for Your Horse?

July 10th, 2014

Your barn is supposed to be a safe place where your horse can live comfortably, but barns also often contain many health hazards you might not be aware of. Since your horse may be spending more time indoors during the summer to escape the bugs and the heat, now is a perfect time to evaluate your barn to make sure that it is truly a safe place for your horse to be.

Is Your Barn Healthy for Your Horse

Respiratory Health

Good ventilation is vital to your horse’s health. Whenever your horse is in a barn, his respiratory system can be at risk if adequate ventilation is not provided. Bedding, hay, and urine can all negatively affect your horse’s respiratory system, and if they become chronic issues they can make a horse ill.

The design of your barn can help promote a healthy respiratory system. Try to include an outside facing window in each stall. Look for stall design that allow for maximum airflow, such as vented stall doors and use of bars or mesh instead of solid stall panels. Install fans designed for use in barns to help keep air circulating, and leave barn doors open wide.

Mental Health

Spending too much time in a small dark stall can have negative effects on your horse’s mental state. This can result in stress, ulcers, and boredom, as well as negative behaviors such as cribbing, weaving, kicking, and wood chewing.

Building your barn so that the stalls are as open as possible will make being in a stall mentally easier on your horse. Opting for a more open layout of your barn will make the stalls lighter during the day, and installing strong interior barn lights can allow you to artificially supplement the light during the winter. Including windows and skylights will help to bring in natural light, and the availability of a window will allow your horse to see more activity, reducing his boredom.

Physical Health

When a horse is in a stall, he is subject to his surroundings. You will naturally want to be sure that his stall is safe – Classic Equine Equipment stalls are all built with the safety of your horse foremost in mind. Also consider the footing of your stall. Using rubber stall mats or the StableComfort system will help ensure that your horse is comfortable and safe whenever he is in his stall.

Don’t forget to evaluate the footing of your barn aisle and washing areas. If footing is worn or slick, it can jeopardize your horse’s safety and needs to be replaced. Rubber aisle pavers and even stall mats provide a safe and easy placement for your current barn footing.

Your barn should be a safe place for your horse, not one that negatively affects his health. Now is a great time to take a look around and make sure you don’t have any health hazards in your barn.

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