Why Do You Show?

Being honest – why do you show? What is your own personal reason for showing up at a horse show or competition?

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The horse industry has been weighing heavy on my mind after seeing, hearing, and experiencing a few separate incidents this last year to the point that I need a break and I’ve decided to stop judging as a result.  

 “For the most part, horse people are great one on one, but get them together and they’re like a bunch of piranhas. “

This comment was made to me by a husband that’s not into horses, but is extremely supportive of his horse wife. The sad part is that there’s a ton of truth to that observation, and I’ve seen it in action.   

Earlier this year, I watched an advanced vet student judge an open horse show. Even though he knew more about soundness than most horse owners and was very familiar with all the different disciplines, he spent several late nights studying rule books of breed associations to prepare. He did a fabulous job judging the entire night, placing emphasis on quality and consistency of movement, willingness of the horses, softness, and good equitation. He was a good judge.

At the end of the night, he was cornered by a local gaited trainer and his entourage. They were extremely disrespectful, even cussing him at one point and telling him he didn’t know what he was doing. Keep in mind, this was an open show – this wasn’t the national championships.

Another fellow judge I know who is extremely fair and has tons of experience in gaited and non-gaited had the same type of experience at a local saddle club this year. A few years back, I had the same type of experience at the same venue and that’s when I vowed not to go back.

This past summer, I didn’t place a gaited rider in a Go As You Please bareback class because his horse was off in the hind end. I wasn’t the only one that saw it – two others saw it as well. As a rider, I know you can’t always feel a hind end gait deficiency, especially when a horse is smooth. Trying to be helpful I told the rider his horse seemed sore in the hind end and wasn’t moving equally in both directions. This grown man got mad and told me that when it came to gaited horses I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

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Over the years of judging, and years ago in putting on horse shows I’ve seen that sadly, this kind of behavior is not unusual.

I’ve seen congress champions haul to a small horse show and then complain about the ground for pleasure classes when they get there. I’ve seen barrel racers come to a small show with limited resources and equipment complain about the ground for barrels when it’s the exact type of ground that they started racing on in the first place. If these experienced riders are the ones the new riders are looking up to, what kind of example are they setting?

These riders forget we’re lucky to have open shows. If we didn’t have these small shows, the only place to get any experience would be the bigger shows which costs a minimum of a $100 to just step in the ring once by the time you pay an entry fee, office fee, etc.

People that put on open shows and other small events don’t make any money. They’re fortunate to just break even, and sometimes don’t by the time they pay $300-$700 for an arena, pay $3-$7 for every ribbon, and then pay for a judge, secretary, announcer, and insurance. Putting on a horse show is a labor of love but yet it’s not uncommon for riders to gripe and complain about the limited resources.

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Photo by Laila Klinsmann on Pexels.com

It’s the same thing with judging. When a judge steps into the ring, especially at a small or open level, they want to help and share what they see and what they’ve learned. They’re there to help a rider become a better horseman and become a competitor in their event. While the pay might vary per show, judges spend hours on their feet, a lot of times in hot temperatures and high humidity in long sleeves, giving every bit of their attention for hours on end. By the end of the show, they’re exhausted mentally and physically.

I was taught to always have good horsemanship and never disrespect a judge. I also didn’t show for the judge – I showed to get the experience for me and my horse. It wasn’t about the judge – it was about me becoming a better horseman regardless of the placement. If I had a better ride than I thought I was going to, or my horse improved in some small way, I was good! After all, in the big scheme of life, it was just a horse show. It wasn’t life or death, or work for that matter.

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If the ground wasn’t good, I didn’t fuzz up and throw a fit or pack up and go home. I rode anyway and safety-ed up and went a lot easier. As the old saying goes, bad ground makes for great riders. It makes you learn how to keep your horse up and pay close attention to how you’re riding and your horse is responding.

After the house is finished, I fully plan on running barrels and doing some ranch events. I might even pull on a pair of breeches and attempt some schooling event stuff with my barrel horses – I just love trying a little bit of everything and seeing what they can do and having fun with it – that’s my reason for showing and competing.

I always told the nervous competitors I was judging, “Smile. They can’t kill you and eat you. It’s just a horse show.” Even if it is the nationals, it’s just a horse show – it’s not life or death. Life is short, and we need to be thankful to just have a horse, let alone throw a leg over one – there’s a ton of kids and adults out there willing to give anything to be in our shoes, and yet as blessed folks they gripe and complain about a judge call, the ground isn’t good enough, or that our horse or tack isn’t good enough.

We need an attitude adjustment in the horse industry so that the new folks coming into the industry see it. We lead by example. We need to be thankful, and appreciative and helpful. We need to have the right reasons to show and we need to have the right attitude before we step into the ring. While we’re at it – we need to hug the show management’s neck because without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

Why do you show? Who do know that is under-appreciated in the show world? Have you told them “Thank you”?

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Hot Weather Considerations

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Photo by Matthias Zomer on Pexels.com

We’re at the start of summer and the temperatures have already hit record highs in some places. The high temperatures can impact your horse’s health, especially if they have any issues or if you compete. The key to making it through the hot weather is knowing your horse’s health, good planning, and diligent maintenance.

While fans are the choice of many owners to keep their horse’s cool, there are a few things to consider when using fans in your barn on a regular basis throughout the summer.

One is that fans are one of the top contributors to barn fires. If you use fans in your barn, make sure you check the wiring and clean them on a regular basis.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another thing to consider when using fans is conditioning of your horse, especially if you’re showing or trail riding. When you’re showing in the arena, out on a course or trail, your horse isn’t under a fan Additionally, depending on the venue, you may not have access to a fan or shade while you’re at your trailer waiting on your class.  If your horse is used to being under a fan all day they may struggle in the heat without a fan because they’re conditioned to being cooler.

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Last, consider the ventilation in your barn. Good air flow is important during hot weather. If your barn does not have good ventilation, you’ll want to consider using a fan to keep the air flowing through your barn, especially if you have a metal barn roof without insulation as they tend to heat up even more.

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Adding electrolytes to the water or feed and keeping salt available are the two top tips for hot weather. While both do help a horse stay hydrated, there are a couple of things to consider.

If your horse is not drinking enough water, you’ll want to be careful about adding salt to their feed. If a horse isn’t drinking, there’s usually a reason behind it such as their gut being irritated. Horses with issues may still not drink even with the additional salt and can wind up dehydrated from the additional salt.

One thing to consider when adding electrolytes is whether you’re feeding a complete feed. Some feeds already have salt and electrolytes in them. Feeding additional electrolytes can cause an imbalance which results in “Thumps”. When an imbalance occurs, dehydrated can quickly escalate.

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Three year old mare at her first ranch clinic fall of 2013.

Wetting your horse’s feed down or adding soaked alfalfa cubes or beet pulp is a great way to help keep your horse hydrated, especially if they’re not drinking as much as they should be. Not only will it help your horse stay hydrated, but it’s a good colic preventative as well.

If you’re committed to competing throughout the summer, be sure to keep your horse conditioned and acclimated to the heat. If they’re in good condition and used to the warm temperatures, they’ll have an easier time adjusting on show days. Talk with your vet about your horse’s health and develop a game plan for your region to keep your horse ready to compete.

What are your plans for riding this summer? How are you going to help your horse stay healthy through the heat?

 

#MentalHealth Day Thoughts…

#MentalHealth is trending today on Twitter and I thought it would be a good time to follow up on a post from a couple of years ago and share my thoughts and remind those that are struggling that they matter.

In the Finding Myself post, I went public with the fact that I had been dealing with some severe depression and was going through a divorce. It was a hard post to write, but at the same it was cleansing and I saw it as an opportunity to reach out and help someone else who might be struggling in silence as I had.

Since that time, there have been a lot of changes in my personal life and as time goes on each day brings a clearer perspective. Things start to make sense that didn’t before, and you gain more confidence in the choices you’ve made.

Was it worth it? I’m sure there are folks that would question why I would give up a long term marriage, the farm of my dreams and a whole herd of nice horses.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

My response to that is isn’t life more than material things? Doesn’t trust, honesty and truthfulness, integrity, support and empathy mean more? To me it does, so yes it WAS worth it because in the end I gained those things that mean more, along with self-acceptance and love.

The whole time I was going through all that, the people that meant the most to me told me that I was making a mistake. In the low place I was at the time, it was absolutely devastating. Now, I see it for what it is.

People either pull you up or pull you down. Tony Robbins and any other well-known motivational expert will tell you we are the result of the three to five people we spend the most time with. For someone struggling to get healthy mentally and physically, relationships have a huge impact on whether we succeed or not.

Every day I wake up, I’m thankful I made the decision to change my life and I know I made the right choice. With everything that comes with starting over and just life in general, there are still days that aren’t easy but I make it through. The trust and honesty that I have surrounded myself with helps to make that possible, along with the actions I take to stay healthy. I live more intentionally than I did before.

If you’re struggling, you ARE important and you matter. Remember that – tell it to yourself every day if you have to! You’re important enough to make whatever changes you need to make to get healthy – whether it’s physically, mentally or both. Do what you have to do to get healthy because you and your life are worth it!

Not everyone will understand your actions or decisions. Pay attention to their reactions – it reveals a lot. Just because you’re struggling it doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re crazy or narcissistic, or whatever other tag people that truly don’t wish you well will put on you. Don’t let it stop you or make you question what you know you need to do. Remember they don’t have to live your life – you do!

Hang on to the fact that you matter. Hang on to the fact that you deserve to be healthy in every way. Hang on to the truth that nobody can live your life but you so make the most of it — and know what you CAN make it through to a healthier life.

We don’t go through the darkness to stay there. We go through the darkness so that others can see the light.

Dressing For Show Season

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Show season is almost here! Even if you’ve not kept up with your New Year’s resolution to feel better in your show clothes, there’s still some things you can do to look your best and boost your confidence. The key is knowing how to work with your particular build, and wearing the right foundation.

Undergarments are the absolute more important piece of clothing you can wear as a competitor in any event. They can make or break your presentation in the show ring whether you’re showing in showmanship or western pleasure. They can also help you keep your focus if you’re riding in a performance events – if everything stays in place you can concentrate on riding.

Wearing a bra with sufficient support is critical when you’re riding. While some people think this only applies to women who wear a larger cup size, nothing could be further from the truth. The right bra not only keeps your breasts from moving too much, it also keeps other areas such as your chest and sides from moving as well.

Unless you’re extremely thin, it’s likely that even a high impact sports bra by itself will still not be sufficient for riding. One option you can choose is pairing a regular sports bra with a lycra sports tank that has a built in shelf bra. The tank offers additional support through your back, sides and stomach and can be worn as a shirt during hotter weather when you’re not actually showing.

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Ultimate Sports Bra from Shefit – available from Shefit.com

The No Bounce Bra, and the Enell Bra are two popular options available for riders. Shefit also carries a bra that guarantees no bounce and an absolute customizable fit. Sara Marie, the founder of Shefit Apparel is not only a high impact fitness expert, but she grew up in a barrel racing family and knows first hand what it takes to get around a can without bounce!

Sundial Show Clothing offers several options for your show day. Their Intelliskin Second Fit line includes a sports bra, posture support pieces, and their Second Skin Tee.

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Second Skin Tee from Sundial Show Clothing

If you’re showing in In-Hand classes such as Showmanship or Halter, you also want to consider the bottom half of your foundation. Traditional polyester blend show pants tend to accentuate every move – and unfortunately jiggle – that is amplified by trotting with your horse.

Spanx or a similar lycra support garment works very well under show pants and jeans to smooth out the hip areas and support the stomach. Spanx by Sara Blakely offers body suits in addition to regular support briefs.

One thing that can distract from a polished look is stomach and/or back rolls. Rolls are just a part of being human and unless you’re literal skin and bones, we all have them. The key to minimizing them however is having ample support in your clothing, and wearing the right size.

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Show clothes are supposed to be fitted so that the outline of the body can be seen and judged. However, fitted doesn’t mean tight!

For chaps, jeans, or pants make sure you have ample room through the waist. Keep in mind if your waist band is tight, it’ll be even tighter when you sit on your horse! A tight waist will cause your stomach to bunch up either below or above your belt line causing a roll that will bounce when you ride or walk. Giving yourself a little more room will allow your clothes to lay flatter and will give you a smoother profile that is not distracting.

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The same fit guideline goes for shirts and jackets, especially if they’re made out of thin smooth material such as lycra, polyester or knit. The materials that are commonly used for show ring attire tend to cling to your shape and settle in crevices. A tight fit will actually accentuate any rolls or bumps you may have. This is another reason to wear a lycra tank under your show clothes – it will keep your top layer from sticking to your skin and will let the shirt move freely causing it to lay much better against your body.

When choosing a shirt or jacket, make sure you have enough room that there isn’t any pressure on buttons or zippers, and that the material can lay flat.

For western events, a jacket that hits right below the belt line is a good option if you’re trying to smooth out your stomach area – just make sure you read your breed or discipline’s rule book to make sure they are allowed.

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Waiting on our turn to sort cows

In events where a certain attire is not required such as play days, open barrel shows, etc you’ll want to follow these same basic rules. If you wear an un-tucked shirt, make sure it’s fitted through your midsection as any excess can easily get caught on the saddle horn. If you’re competing in hot weather and opt to wear a tank top, make absolutely certain you wear a substantial sports bra underneath and that the tank top is a sports tank with lots of additional support as well. Traditional bras and knit tank tops do not provide adequate support or coverage for riding. Not only that, regular bras can easily get hung on the saddle horn even if you don’t wear a large size cup. I’m sure I’m not the only gal that’s gotten her bra stuck on the saddle horn coming off a barrel pattern, or seen a pair of boobs pop up and out over a regular tank top at a race!

Shirt patterns and color placement can make a difference in overall appearance in the show ring. Wearing darker solid colors will make a rider look thinner and are classic but solid colors will also accentuate your movements as a rider or handler. You can use patterns to help draw the judge’s eye away from your weak areas of riding, or to help balance out your overall presentation. Vertical stripes can help you appear taller and thinner, patterns at the shoulder can make your shoulders appear wider. Keep in mind that anywhere there are patterns or embellishments, that’s where a judge’s eye will naturally be focused.

In regards to drawing attention in the show ring by what you’re wearing, it really comes down to your skill level as a rider and the size of the show. Clothing that draws a lot of attention will keep the judge’s eye on you and they’ll notice everything about your ride – good and bad. If you’re a skilled rider at the top of your sport, that’s not a bad thing. However, if you’re a rider that’s still working on your horsemanship skills, or you have a horse that’s still learning going with a classic outfit might be a better choice as it doesn’t draw as much constant attention.

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Fireman & me waiting to run at the Ft. Smith Futurity

With the proper preparation – and foundation – you can go out and enjoy your show season and feel more confident no matter what your size.

What are you plans for your show season this year? What are some of your favorite clothes for competing with your horse?

Keeping Weight In Winter On A Budget

We still have a few months to go before the grass comes out and hay is ready to be cut. Winter is the most challenging time to keep horses healthy, and the most expensive when considering the added expense of hay.

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of my own horses to feed. At one point in time, we had not quite five acres of pasture and seven horses. When you work a regular job and have that many horses to feed hay to, you figure out ways to keep them fed well on a short budget.

The first rule of thumb is don’t forget to keep up with worming and teeth schedules. You can feed a ton of the best hay and feed in the world, but if your horse isn’t actually digesting it because they can’t chew or they have a heavy parasite load, you’re wasting your money because they’re not actually utilizing it. Be sure to look at these two things first when reviewing your management program for the winter.

Colic and Dehydration

One of the biggest challenges during freezing temperatures is getting horses to drink. It’s also the most common time for colic from impaction due to dehydration. Feeding soaked cubes or beet pulp is a great option as it adds water to their digestive tract in addition to providing a forage source.

While folks will often advise feeding salt or electrolytes, I have found that doesn’t always work – especially in cases where a horse might have an undetected gut, stomach, or tooth issue going on. I’ve added salt and wound up with a horse at the vet school for a week from getting dehydrated even quicker. I will keep a salt block or loose plain salt out so that they horse can self-regulate how much they need, but I don’t add salt to their feed.

If you do a search on beet pulp and cubes, you’ll find several articles that state neither have to be soaked. I personally have had a horse choke on a palm full of beet pulp shreds so I always soak them both. Tooth issues make a horse more prone to choke. Not all tooth issues are easy are outwardly detectable. In my opinion, it’s better horsemanship to err on the side of caution and just soak.

To soak cubes and beet pulp shreds, I cover them in an inch of water and let them soak at least thirty minutes if the water is cold. If the water is hot, fifteen minutes will work. Ideally, I like to let the mix soak for at least eight hours so that the cubes get soft.

One thing that I’ve learned is that if you soak the cubes overnight by themselves, they break up completely. If you soak them with the beet pulp shreds, the cubes still get soft but they don’t disintegrate as well.

If you’re in severely cold weather, you’ll want to either soak with hot water for a few minutes, or take your feed tub into a heated environment so that it doesn’t freeze. If neither of those options are doable, feeding Chaffhaye might be a good option. Chaffhaye is fermented chopped hay. It contains probiotics that are beneficial to digestion and it does not require soaking and can help with weight. Another option would be adding a natural oil like Cocosoya to your to help keep their gut moving. Oils are high in fat and will help replace calories lost maintaining body heat.

Shreds and Cubes –vs- Pellets

Availability plays a big role in whether I feed shreds and cubes or pellets. I like the beet pulp shreds and alfalfa cubes better than the pelleted form for horses without teeth problems just because they’re bigger in size which means they’re less likely to get compacted in the digestive tract. There have been years where pellets were the only option and I’ve fed those as well after soaking. I will say that the pelleted beet pulp does require a longer soaking period than the shreds. For older horses that lack teeth, pellets may be a much better option – just remember to soak!

Benefits

Most articles will tell you that you can replace up to a third of hay with beet pulp. Cubes can replace hay pound per pound. Both make a great option for stretching your hay supply. While hay may be cheaper, if you’re limited on hay storage or getting a consistent supply, cubes and beet pulp are an affordable option.

One thing I’ve noticed is that horses get slower on their hay when they’re fed beet pulp than they do when they’re fed just cubes. The drawback is that beet pulp doesn’t have the same level of nutrients as alfalfa cubes do, so if you’re worried about them getting their required nutrients but need to stretch your hay supply, you might want to consider feeding both.

Weight Issues

While beet pulp if often recommended for weight gain, I’ve always had much better weight and topline results by feeding alfalfa cubes. Rice bran is also an inexpensive way to add fat for weight gain. Beet pulp can help some with weight in that you can feed less hay, however when it comes to truly hard keepers, I focus more on adding alfalfa cubes and rice bran.

On a side note, if you’re having trouble keeping weight on your horse, you may want to weigh what you’re feeding your horse. Often owners will think they’re feeding the amount that’s recommended on the bag, but when they actually weigh what they’re feeding it’s less. A general rule of thumb is that a 3 quart scoop will hold 3.8 pounds of pelleted feed in most cases. Most of the pelleted feeds on the market today recommend 7-10 pounds for a 1,200 pound horse, and 15-18 pounds if you’re replacing part of their hay.

A horse requires a minimum of 1-1.5% of bodyweight a day in forage. This means that a 1,000 horse needs between 10-15 pounds of hay or another forage source. I’ve found that most hard keepers will require twice that amount even when fed good quality hay. Keep in mind, the lessor the quality of hay the more you’ll need to feed.

Also, pay attention to the weather when you feed. Horses generate body heat from digesting forage. The colder it is, the more hay they need. If the temperature is less than 40 degrees and it’s raining, they need more hay than if it is not raining. If your horse has weight issues, it will be even more critical for them to get enough hay. If your horse is shivering, it’s a good idea to give them more hay as well.

Picky Eaters

If your horse is a hard keeper and slow on their feed, there’s a few things to consider. The first is to make sure they don’t have any teeth issues.

One thing that I have learned over the years with these types of horses is to let their appetite dictate what works. One common thing that I have repeatedly learned by process of elimination is that molasses, beet pulp (including the non-molassas kind) and joint supplements can irritate their gut and cause some horses to go off their feed or get slow on it. I’ve also found that they usually won’t stay on pelleted feeds because they contain beet pulp.

With these types of horses, I usually feed straight oats, flax seed meal, rice bran, and soaked alfalfa cubes along with free choice hay. I’ll add a non-molassas based mineral supplement to cover the rest of the nutritional base.

Managing horses through the winter months can be tough, but by implementing a few changes and focusing on keeping them hydrated and their weight up you can make it through with a healthy horse.

What are some of your struggles for keeping your horse fed well during the winter? What are some of your solutions for that?

Wrapping Up The Year

The last part of 2017 has been incredibly busy and good! My latest children’s book, Pedro’s Problemo came out on black Friday. It promptly hit Amazon’s Best Seller’s list. The book is ilustrated by the very talented and fun ten year old Brady Ballard. I’ve been working on edits for the movie script for Lost Betrayal. As of today, I’m about halfway through the edits and hope to get some more done this afternoon. They do say that what you do on New Years is what you’ll do the rest of the year, so I’m not taking any chances!

Horse N Ranch Magazine published my article, Training Tips- If You Can’t Afford A Trainer, in December. A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a guest on the Whoa Podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with John Harrar and his wife Ranae about writing, and staying fit for riding as we get older. I still think Kettlebells are the best bang for the buck! On the personal front, we’re back out at the new farm. These last few months, we were able to get water, electric, and septic hooked up as well as a house and camper pad graded out with gravel. We also got a run in shed built for the horses.

After losing my old dog Dillon, my OTTB Dynamic Host, and our young dog Chubby, we needed some good breaks. When you lose animals that make you ache with loss in the pit of your stomach every single day, you desperately need something good to happen to just keep you going.

We ended the year right with great friends and fabulous food at Smokin F BBQ. Yes, I enjoyed every bit of the foods I normally steer clear of! By the way, they absolutely do have THE best BBQ in the world, no lie!

Now that 2017 is over, I’m focusing on 2018 with a new lighter attitude and new goals.

In 2018, I want to let go more and worry less. At some point, if we really are what we say we are in regards to faith, we have to let go. It’s those times when the rubber meets the road as far as faith and believing.

I also want to let go more in regards to regrets and life and quit taking things so seriously. I’m not a surprise to God – He knows me inside and out and He still loves me. Even when I fail, He’s already got it planned out. He’s the one that’s in control.

Aside from a lot of self reflection, getting the tiny house finished is the main goal for the year. At 648 square feet, it fits right in line with a lighter attitude. Another goal is to have healthier feet on my horses. I figure it’s a great time to work on this as they’re not being hauled right now. For years we’ve struggled with Fireman’s feet and soreness. Early last year, I pulled his shoes and we’re working on a natural trim approach. It’s been a slow process and there’s been some trials and errors, but I think I’m finally starting to see some better heel.

Another goal is to do more book signings this year. I love connecting with readers and so often I’m reminded why I started writing in the first place. Although I enjoy the process of writing and creating stories, I love making an impact even more. It’s not my job to write a story I love to read, it’s my job to write a story others need to read.

My writing goal for the blog is to write more articles on horse training and plus size resources for riders. I want the blog to make an impact and be a catalyst for change in how women see themselves with their horses.

There’s always a writing project in the works. Of course, the main one at the moment is to finish the Lost Betrayal script. I’ve also got plans for another picture book, Beauford The Patriotic Donkey that my boyfriend Tab Bouk came up with, and trying my hand at self publishing some short stories. We’ll see where all that leads!

In the end, I’m very hopeful for 2018. As I’ve said before, if you want to change your life change your thinking. That’s exactly what I’ll be working on all year.

What are your goals for 2018? How are they different from last year’s goals?

Trailer Loading Basics 

Working with a horse at a clinic

Several years back, I had posted an article about Trailer Basics For Loading on my old blog. 

While there’s a ton of great information out there about getting horses to load on trailers, it’s still an issue that owners often deal with, and it’s a question that is frequently posted on forums and Facebook pages. 

Most often, the root cause traces back to not having a foundation on a horse – being able to control their feet lightly – before ever trying to get them on the trailer, or they’re asking the horse for the next step too soon. 

Working on loading with Dynamic Host

Here’s some simple big picture points to keep in mind any time you’re working with your horse. The same principal applies no matter what you’re doing. 

  • Horses have the mental capacity of a three year old child – always keep that in mind. 
  • Horses learn by repetition. 
  • Quit asking for anything when they give you the slightest try. 
  • Make the right thing easy (rest) and the wrong thing hard (work) 
  • Always end on a good note even if you have to set them up to get it. 
  • Encourage curiosity and you build confidence. 

 

So applying this to trailer loading and unloading…. 

  • Before you ever approach the trailer, make sure your horse knows how to move forward on their own. 

You need to be able to point or tap at the hip and they move forward without hesitation. The reason they need this is so they load on to the trailer by themselves. 

 

  • You need to be able to move all four feet forward, backward, and sideways by a simple easy tug of the lead rope. 

Think of a showmanship horse. They can get a horse to square up or do a pivot by moving the lead just an inch or two. When you’re loading your horse and asking them to put a foot on or take a foot off, you need that same lightness. 

 

  • Make the trailer a place of rest and away from or off the trailer a place of work. 

If your horse wants to go away from the trailer, let him but put his feet to work. Then come back to the trailer – or as close as you can – to let him rest. 

  • Don’t immediately make your horse get close to the trailer if they’re afraid of it. 

If you horse starts acting up six feet from the trailer, don’t automatically try to get them right next to the trailer. Instead, ask them to work their feet at seven feet away and gradually move in closer. Don’t ask them to move closer until they’re relaxed at the distance they are already at. 

 

  • Ask them to put one foot on and off a million times until they’re bored and falling asleep. 

You need to ask for it so many times that the horse is completely relaxed and keeping their foot on the trailer on their own. If they want to take the foot off, let them but ask for it to go right back on and leave them alone. Too many times people ask them for that next step too soon and the horse regresses in their training. 

 

  • Ask them two feet on and off a million times, then three feet a million times, then four feet a million times. 

The same principal applies to the rest of the feet. Ask them to put that same foot so many times that they’re comfortable with it and keeping those feet in place on their own. If you get three feet on and they want to back out, let them back out and then ask them to come right back and try again. Don’t ask for that fourth foot until they’re keeping those three feet on by themselves. 

  • Because they’ve already loaded and unloaded all four feet a million times, they already know how to unload as a side effect. 

 

Horses want to come off the trailer for two reasons. 

  • One is they are truly not comfortable being on the trailer – they need more work on being taught to load until they are. 
  • Two is that they’re anticipating coming off – remember horses learn by repetition?

Think about your hauling and unloading routine. Do you have the same process every time you haul somewhere or when you come home? Change it up and keep your horse guessing when they’re coming out of the trailer. Instead of unloading as soon as you stop, try opening one door and waiting a while. Then open another door and wait again. When you go to unload, unload them and put them right back on and then unload for the day. Anything to mix up the routine will help. 

 

A few thoughts on safety…

 

  • My number one safety rule is to make sure they are untied any time the divider is open or the butt bar is down.
  • I don’t tie until they’re locked in, and I always untie before I open the divider or unsnap the butt bar. 

 

  • If a horse isn’t comfortable staying on the trailer on their own, don’t shut them in. 

Wait until they’re standing on the trailer and not coming off before you shut and latch the divider or trailer door. If a horse is scared of being in a trailer, locking them in is not going to magically cure the fear. It’s only going to make them feel trapped. 

 

  • Pay attention to how you drive. 
    • Horses will start having trailer trouble if your driving is causing them to become unbalanced. 
    • Be slow and gradual with your stops. 
    • Take turns slowly and easily – be sure to gradually slow down when coming into a turn. 
    • Wait to accelerate coming out of a turn until your trailer is completely through the turn. 
    • Gradually accelerate. 

 

A few more tips… 

  • Incorporate your trailer training into your daily turnout routine

Every time you turn your horse in and out, you can spend a couple of minutes on trailer work. You don’t have to fully load your horse. Just ask for a step or two on and off the trailer and then quit. Be sure to quit on a good note. 

 

  • Haul your horse to town for simple errands. When a horse is getting used to hauling, frequent short trips are a good way to get some seasoning. 

 

  • Don’t get in a hurry – no matter what. Horses are a mirror of our emotions and frame of mind, and our body language. If you feel yourself getting impatient or worried because you have somewhere to be, take a big breath that your horse can hear. Horses look to us to be leaders. If we’re calm and confident, they will be too. 

How well does your horse load? What steps can you take to help your horse load better? 

Dynamic Host on the trailer — it took a lot of work to get to this!