Horse Blog Carnival at Horse Approved!

Mona is hosting a Horse Lovers Blog Carnival. A what??? Yes, you read correctly, a Horse Blog Carnival. Imagine the old carnival days at elementary school with the cake walk, ring toss, etc. Well instead of each person brining the best game, instead we bring our best posting.

Yours truely contributed a post and there are lots of other great ones. Want to join next time, just submit an article and join the fun!

Maybe they will even let little ole me host sometime! :)


Tips for Winter Riding

Mom has a great post for Tips on Winter Riding. Although I wouldn't want it every day, I must admit it does look a little fun. Of course, this comes from the person who HATES snow and cold, so a little fun goes a long way!

Favorite things to do with your horse this summer

I know, I know, you are all looking forward to summer and have lots of plans for your horses. Here are some things I plan to do with my horses this summer.

1. Go to Redmond, OR for the Clinton Anderson clinic May 26th and 27th. I have friends that live nearby and I will leave the horses there. I plan to absorb everything I can then ride with my friends in the evening.

2. Go Horse Camping. We have lots of great places to horsecamp just a couple of hours from here including Silver Falls State Park and Willamette Mission.

3. Go to Playdays. I will go to Bruce and Betty's annual fun day (Precious took 3rd in trail last year-hey Mariann, I will dethrone you this year). Last year I helped out with Julie's Trail Competition (when I can find her website, I'll link it), that was FUN! I will definitely bring the horses this year.

4. Go to the Oregon State Fair Horse Show. Precious is retired from showing and Tesoro was a disaster last year with only 10 days prep before hand (he was borrowed from the people leasing him so we could have more horses). This year we will be more prepared and I will also probably show Santana for Bette.

5. Do LOTS of trail riding. I only did a little bit of trail riding last year, but now that I have another horse that I can ride, Uriah and I will head out often. We love to hike so this year we will let the horses do the work!

6. Attend a clinic. I'm not sure which one I will attend, but I'm sure my list will be long of ones to choose from.

I LOVE the summer! I just go and go and go until I am about ready to fall over, hoping to get as much in as possible so I can take the winter riding in the arena. This summer will be extra great as Uriah and I will (for the first time) both have weekends off AND two horses to ride! We can't wait.

We are also going to Florida to get a puppy from Woodwynd Dalmatians in June plus weddings to attend in July (Seattle) and September (Illinois). Not sure how we will afford it all, but God willing, we will make it happen!


RMX Direct, Open to the Public!

Um, what is RMX Direct and what does it have to do with horses? RMX Direct has almost nothing to do with horses. It is, however, the product that I work on and since it supports me, it supports my horses-how is that for a relationship?

In the launch blog post, you can read more about what we do. The bottom line: If you have a website and you want to generate more revenue, we can help you do that. If you are already running ads we can help you make more AND to manage everything more efficently. It is easy to use and YES, even I figured out how to use it.

So all my horse loving friends, come on in, the door is open and join us in the display advertising revolution. I am serving hot coffee and free pony rides for all that sign up (ok, not really, but wouldn't that be fun if I could?).

To visit our BEAUTIFUL new website and learn more about us, go here. If you have questions or want to learn more, email me at rmxdirect@rightmedia.com or call 541-255-2099.


5 Reasons to share your horses

When Betty Reed said the sentence the sentence "Come out and ride, we love to share our horses", I had no idea that would be the sentence that changed my life. Over the years that I have been a horse owner I have shared my horses with many people including Julie, Kaiya, Tanner, Emma and many more.

I feel like I have been given a gift and it is part of my life's purpose to share that gift with those who are not as fortunate as me. So, if I can't compel you to share your with warm fuzzies, here are 5 other reason (Ok, some are warm fuzzy related) to share your horses.

1. You will be safer. When you have to explain to other people the basics of being around a horse (avoid the kick zone, let them smell you, etc), you get better about those habits yourself (instead of being lazy-admit it, you do dumb stuff because you trust your horse).

2. You will be a better rider. If you are not used to teaching or explaining, trust me, it will make you better in the saddle to explain it while on the ground. Whether I am talking about looking up, heels down, ice cream cones, sitting back it is just another reminder to me to ride better.

3. You will learn a lot about your horse. I spent almost a year watching my horses being ridden without getting in the saddle. I learned a lot about how my horses behave and how they move. I noticed where hands got the best performance and how much leg pressure was too much.

4. You will remember the joy. With chores, board bills, vet bills, fence repairs, stall cleaning and the dozens of other chores and items that tax your time and your checking account, watching a person ride who has never had the opportunity can give you great joy. When you see that first joy of riding, you will try to forget about the 'rough' days and try hard to emulate that joy of a first time rider.

5. You will be a better person. We were taught to share when we were younger, but as you age that good habit often dims. Sharing your horses is a way of sharing your life. It helps others peek into your soul and see what defines you. As you share with the world, your vision for your life grows. The more you share the more of a reality it becomes.

I shared my horses recently with someone. She told me that she has always loved horses but thought that door was closed to her. The day I shared my horse, her lifelong dream came true. How could I not continue to share?

Does your horse love her job?

On Thursday, someone had left out some poles in the arena set up in a 'L' shape. I was riding Santana so I decided to back him through them. He did AMAZING and I think trail obstacles may be something that he will love, not just do.

Does your horse LOVE his job? Imagine how much better you are when you love what you do. Heart and passion count tremendously for success often beating out discipline and practice. Below is a video that is a perfect example. This horse LOVES her job.

Find something that you and your horse LOVE to do, put some work into it and you too could impress the crowds maybe even be world class.

This is a video of The WEG2006 Freestyle Dressage Final per The WEG2006 Freestyle Dressage Final performance of ANDREAS HELGSTRAND on BLUE HORS MATINE (a 9 year old mare).

Wow. My favorite part is towards the end, watch her ears. I swear she is headbanging like she loves the music!


January Horse of the Month Part 2 of 3

Did you read Part 1? You should check it out before reading this heart wrenching Part 2. I originally asked Elisia to write about this experience, but I wanted to document the entire story. Part 3 will be out early next week and feature recent video of Soda.

Remember how part 1 ends?
"We were schooling the beginnings of third level when a snowstorm changed our paths forever."

Soda Part 2 by Elisia Fernandez

I learned many things over the last several years with Soda most of all how to overcome total devastation. Soda was injured in a fall several years ago after a snowstorm. He was treated by a vet at that time however he never quite seemed to improve. After several thousand dollars of my insurance company's money and many trips to different vet hospitals. Soda endured many tests and procedures including x-rays on most joints, a bone scan, neurological exams, countless flexion tests, mesotherapy, shock-wave therapy, Bute trials, and finally a gastro scope. Many vets could see that something was off in his gait but no one could seem to put their finger on what part of his body was causing the lameness. My Farrier at the time tried different trims and even put shoes on Soda - he had been barefoot until then. When the Farrier’s efforts failed he told me that the horse was fine and his lameness was all in my head. Clearly SOMETHING was wrong but nothing seemed to help - and he was getting worse. In addition to the lameness he was starting to lose weight, was very lethargic, most of his muscles were atrophying and he was showing spots of continual sweating.

At long last, 1 year after his fall, Dr Leslie Griffith in Bend,Oregon gave me a firm diagnosis. Soda's lethargy was caused by severe gastric ulcers. He was bleeding into his stomach causing him to be anemic. She also found that in Soda's fall he damaged his spinal cord giving him the ever changing lameness as well as explaining the strange "sweat spots". He was now a Wobbler.

I just remember standing in the dark x-ray office looking at the films of his neck thinking that it was all over. Wobblers were too dangerous to keep alive. They could fall on someone, he could kill me, and he could fall over and kill himself. I am so glad that I had not driven Soda to the clinic that day. Shaking, I loaded him back in the trailer and my friend drove us back to the barn. I cried for days. We had come so far just to find out that he was never going to get better.

After treating him for about 6 months with gastrogaurd, herbs and electro-acupuncture Soda showed only minimal signs of improvement. I was emotionally and financially drained. It was in the depths of this depression that I made the hardest decision of my life. I gave Soda a time limit. I told Soda, myself and my vet that I had 6 months to find a way to get Soda better or he would have to be put down. I would not watch my best friend live out the majority of his life in pain.

As helpful as Leslie had been, I decided to give up on the vets. I was out of money and was not really getting anywhere. Soda's neurological symptoms had been improving so I decided to focus my internet research on ulcers. I think I have tried everything. Baking soda, clay, diet changes, tums, supplements, probiotics and on and on. Each time I would come to the barn I would hope that this time it would work. This time Soda would be back to normal. It tore my heart open to know that while he was on gastrogaurd Soda was fine. Gastrogaurd retails for about $30.00 / day and with the insurance canceled I just could not afford to pay for this. I have finally found a mix that works for Soda. Costco now sees me monthly for his acid reducer tablets and other goodies. I know he will never be back to "normal" but he is back to a happy productive life.

I have learned a lot from my big red friend. Soda's illness affected every aspect of my life. I cannot quite describe how deeply Soda's illness affected me. Total and utter despair that encompassed every aspect of my life is a mild description of how I felt. From the bottom of this pit we were in he would not ever let me give up. Just when I would think I could not put him through another week he would give me a look of hope and together we found enough strength to keep on. Soda gave me the courage to seek out the answers I needed in unlikely and frightening places. He gave me the courage to turn away from conventional medicine and venture out on our own to find a cure. I hope that this encourages anyone that reads it to keep searching for answers and not to give up on your friends. Some days Soda is still sick but most days he does great, that is all I can ask for. We have walked through the fire together and have found our way out.

Bottom photo: Aaron, Elisia's fiancee, with the rest of her family in Bend last year.

What can you do in 30 days?

Many of us hire trainers to help us with things we don't have skills for or things we don't have time for. Imagine you could spend 30 days working with your horse on an almost daily basis (they deserve a day off as well). What do you think you could accomplish?

I have decided to do just that with both Tesoro and Santana. It is going to be a lot of work, but I am up for the challenge. Here is what I hope to accomplish with each horse:

Santana (I am currently on day 4):
1. Stop with a whoa (working on making that a seat cue long term) and not the bit
2. Transition to a walk with light, light, light pressure (also working on transition to a seat cue).
3. Corto in correct frame twice around the arena in each direction with proper contact on the bit with NO evasions.

1. Stop on his hind end with a whoa (he currently stops on his front end) and stays in frame in that transition
2. Works in proper frame in the corto. Tesoro can get very strung out and I want to put him together properly.

Let's see how it goes. I realized that show season is coming and if I am going to show this year, I am going to be ready. I always work on too much and never polish anything, so this year I am going back to basics. I will see how 30 days goes and if I am in the swing of things (and not dead), I will work on 60 days. I will be doing some traveling, but I will do my hardest to make the rest of the days.

Do you want to join me? Leave me a comment if you would like to take this 30 day challenge with me, even if you can't get to your horse every day (but most of the time). Let's make ourselves proud!

PS for those of you who don't know, the Corto is the intermediate paso fino 4-beat gait. Smooth. :)


Favorite Horse Things #5

Schreiner's Herbal "A Natural Alternative to Conventional Medicine"
I know tons of horse people who swear by this stuff so when Precious got a nasty cut in a place that was impossible to bandage (on her hip), I just put this stuff on every day. Within a week it looked great. No infection and just healed right up. I was converted.

Moutain Horse Ice Paddock Boots
Listen up folks, this is serious business. I was born and raised in Alaska and my feet were ALWAYS cold. ALWAYS. Ask my mother. She bought a pair of these and raved about them. I thought, oh yeah, not with my icicle toes. Then Gina had some, she loved them. I'm thinking, OK, I might be interested. SO, Uriah's mom got me a gift certificate for boots to a local tack store. I went in looking for regular paddock boots, but they had one pair of these Mountain Horse things. They were a size 10 (I wear 8 1/2), but they were a fit. You'll never guess what happened next. . .THEY WERE 50% OFF! So, because I can't resist a bargin, I bought them (and some breeches with my extra dough) and headed home with them. That week we had 15 degree weather and my feet stayed warm. Yep, it is true. I was wearing 2 pairs of socks, but previously that wouldn't have cut it. Buy these. They rock. I visited the Mountain Horse site and I think the Rimfrost may be the new name, but my box definately says Ice Paddock.

Daily things to do with your horse

For someone with a full time job, it is amazing how much time I spend at the barn. Really. I am there 15-20 hours a week (or at a clinic/working with a trainer, etc). Chores account for at least 5 of those hours and another 1 or 2 can be sucked up by conversation, but that is a solid 8-13 hours of working horses. It just isn't enough. Not when you have 4. Oh yes, if you read my post yesterday about Loving a horse, I didn't mention Santana because I don't own him, I am just training him. So add Santana to my 3 and it is just too much.

Take tonight for example. I got to the barn, cleaned stalls, brought in all 8 turn out horses (we take turns with turn in/out), fed all the horses (like to help Pam out once in a while), set up my hay for tomorrow, that took an hour.

I then clipped Santana's whiskers/ears, saddled, rode, shampooed his feet. I got out Tesoro, clipped his whiskers/ears, saddled, rode, shampooed his feet. Then I got out Zapa, clipped his whiskers and we worked on ears (progress not perfection), then shampooed his feet. I arrived at 6, I left at 10. Four hours, good work with all the horses and I didn't even touch Precious.

So, if you can't handle your horses all the time OR you have limited time and too many horses, here is my list of things to do each time you handle your horse.

1. Pick up all 4 feet.
2. Touch/pet her ears. If you can't touch, get close, back off when it is overwhelming (advance/retreat).
3. Move your horse forward, backward, right, left
4. Ask your horse to drop her head
5. Touch his/her belly
6. Touch his/her mouth (I love Ttouch mouth work, awesome for horses who don't like mouths touched).

If you can't do ANYTHING else, do these six things. It will take 10 minutes and over the course of the year make a huge difference in your horse.


Loving a Horse

Today, Uriah told me the floor was wet in front of the washer. In the last month I have learned that I need a new heat pump and my washer has broken. This was just about more than I could take.

When I become worried about the larger financial picture I wonder, should I sell a horse? I have three, which in my opinion is one too many for me. With two, Uriah and I could trail ride, friends can come and visit and ride, and I have an extra one in case someone is short.

But I have three. If I sell one, which one would go? The ones that would be easiest to sell are the ones I love the most. Precious was my first horse, so the emotional attachment is very high. Not to mention our six month intensive battle leading up to a diagnosis of Cushings, which only makes her more endearing. And what about Zapa? He loves me more than any of my other horses, he wants to do everything he can to please me. I could accomplish more with this horse than any other by the sheer relationship we posses. And Tesoro? Well, he is hard to sell. At 13.2 and a pretty hot personality, I tried to sell him for a couple of years with no luck. And now, I could just drop the price, but he is 17 and I think that he deserves a good rest of his life. Besides, he is fun!

I used to think that I could just buy a horse and sell it. I have done that once. But I sold her to the woman who owned my barn and she still lives there. I was just up there last weekend and I saw her, healthy as, you guessed it, a horse. There are people who buy and sell horses like commodities just as people give away dogs and cats. But I had my last dog for 11 years and never once thought I could give him up.

For now, I will hope that there are no leaking pipes. I will pray that the fix is simple and inexpensive. And hope, just hope, that I can make it through these financial woes and end up on the side of solution, still with three horses that I love very much.


Jane Savoie "That Winning Mindset"

Are you interested in dressage? If you are, here is a great opportunity to listen to one of the greats Jane Savoie! EquineTeleseminar has calls a few times a year on different topics related to training/horseownership/etc. I just discovered them, so hopefully it is as good as it sounds. The call will take place Feb 14th at 2:50 PST (5:50 for you EST folks). The call is free (except for your long-distance charge), but there are limited lines open. Click on the banner to register OR order the CD and listen later.

Ask Jane YOUR Questions!  Click Here Now!

I'll write a review after it is done to let you know what I thought!


January Horse of the Month Part 1 of 3

This will be a three part post for Learning Horses January Horse of the Month. This month's featured horse is E'soete (aka Soda), a 17.3h American Hanoverian. Soda is bright orange with tons of personality! Congrats and thanks to owner Elisia Fernandez for writing about how she became Soda's mom. It is a fascinating story, so I hope you will come back to read the rest! If you would like your horse to be considered for February Horse of the Month, please email me at learninghorses@gmail.com.

How I became Soda's mom... by Elisia Fernandez
I grew up in urban Seattle and to try and get this "horse thing" out of my veins my mom took me to a farm for a trail ride. I was hooked and from that day forward I spent every living moment working at farms to pay for lessons and chances to ride anything. I started riding western and gaming but quickly moved to an English barn where I felt much more comfortable. I am OK with the fact that I AM a horse snob. At first I wanted to ride jumpers but after meeting an amazing dressage horse named Lido I decided that dressage was the way to go.

Lido ended up being the first horse that I would have as my own. His story is one for another day. After several years with Lido and many other horses that came along my path I decided that I needed a change. I moved to another farm and met a trainer that to this day I still admire and work with whenever possible. After a few years with Stetson - a Thoroughbred that had limited talent with dressage I decided that I wanted to show on the "A" circuit and needed a horse that I could be competitive on. I sold Stetson to a family and started my hunt for my next horse.

My trainer and now partner in finding my next mount encouraged me to go look at an unstarted youngster by Empire. I declined as I knew several Empire horses that I did not get along with. I continued the hunt. I looked at many horses finding each one to be either lame, unsuitable for dressage, out of my limited budget or just plain ugly. Finally in desperation to find a mount before the next season I went to Heritage Farms with my trainer to look at the unstarted colt. We first went to look at "Exceptional" Soda's full sister. She was full grown and about 17.1hh. She was sweet and STUNNING! I was sceptical that this horse I was about to look at could possibly be within my budget. I was brought to an indoor arena where Soda was loose. I walked up to him and he put his nose in my hair and blew on my neck. It was all over and I was in LOVE.

He was not quite the sight his sister was - at just under 3 he was gangly and very out of balance. I made an offer and was amazed when it was accepted. The very next day I was back with a vet, a check and a trailer to bring him home. I was out of my league with this horse and so enlisted the help of my trainer to help me start Soda. From then on Soda and I were a team. We went for long walks in the neighborhoods he lived in and taught me how to work with young hot (and LARGE) horses. Among many other lessons I learned with Soda he taught me that a youngster is NOT going to be ready to show until he is ready - there is no time line for that. Fast forward 3 years and countless lessons, trail rides, long gallops in open fields, schooling shows clinics with fabulous instructors, Soda and I found ourselves living in Spokane, Washington. We started showing at the Spokane Sporthorse Farm shows. We quickly moved through the tests until we had completed training, first and second levels. We were schooling the beginnings of third level when a snowstorm changed our paths forever.

Troxel Helmets, Even The Boxes Are Comfy

Uriah got a Troxel Sport helmet for Christmas (among many other non-horse related things). I kept the box for sending gifts, etc and set it in my office until I could make space for it in the closet. And you can see what I found. I really like Troxel helmets and the boxes are even comfy!


When Fear Strikes

I would encourage you to read this post by Kelly. We have all been there, or will be there at some point. I haven't heard of the book she mentions, but I will definately add it to my library.

Reducing drama at the barn

A recent comment on Boarding Overview asked me if I had any suggestions for keeping drama out of the barn. I've thought about it a little and here are my suggestions:

1. Choose the right people. If you have a nice facility, you should be able to pick and choose your boarders. If getting the facility full is your first priority, make sure you spend time with the people coming into your barn. Most barn owners live on the property so ask yourself, do you want these people coming to visit you all the time?

2. Check references. I have been guilty of moving around, but I have stellar references. I pay my board on time, take good care of my horses, I am willing to pitch in and get along. What do previous barn owners say about this potential boarder? Have they never boarded before? Check work references, professional references, it doesn't matter. It may take you an hour or two, but as you know bad boarders take up WAY more of your time.

3. Enforce the rules. If you don't already have rules posted, do it NOW! And, be willing to enforce them. Is someone not picking up manure in the aisle way? Let them know they are to do so. I used to board at a low traffic facility and when I left manure in the arena, she would leave it for me. I didn't mind, I'm just forgetful.

4. Establish minimums. You must visit your horse 3x a week, your horse must be turned out, your horse must be in training, your horse must have lessons. Much drama is around individual horse behavior and the resulting human reaction. If I didn't do something I was supposed to, I got charged for it, so I remembered to do it.

5. Be drama free yourself. Let's face it, there are people in your barn you don't like. Keep it to yourself. Negativity is contagious, so stop spreading it around. If you hear others talking negatively about others in the barn say you don't want to hear it. They will be surprised, but will keep it to themselves. It is difficult to change this behavior, but it MUST come from the leader.

6. Establish times. I had some drama once when I was taking a lesson on a schooling horse and a girl kicked a big green ball out into the arena. Luckily this horse wasn't spookey, but that could have been bad news. Set times for jumps, obstacles, ground work, etc. This will help avoid conflicts.

7. Tack Lockers. I cover this in What every barn should have, but stealing and using of other people's stuff (without permission) is just bad news. Tack lockers, with locks, help alleviate this problem. Make the investment, it will save you many headaches in the long run.

8. Require supervision. Teenage girls with no one to help them drove me out of my last barn. A couple of them were good with horses, but for the most part, they didn't have help, didn't get lessons and just made me crazy. If parents won't participate, kick them out. Teenage girls are drama making machines, let them do it somewhere else (I apologize to all of those girls who are not drama makers, I have met a few).

9. Be honest and direct. When drama occurs, it is usually because people are unwilling to communicate. As the barn owner, you have responsibility to deal with it head on. I can GUARANTEE after you do this a few times (and I know, it is painful), it will simmer down. Drama machines don't like open and honest exchanges, so they will either leave or make less drama.

10. When all else fails, kick them out. Hey, it isn't a match. Usually 1 or 2 people will be causing most of the problems, so ask them to move. Hopefully you have an at will boarding contract, so you can terminate the relationship when you wish.

I hope that is helpful, for my fellow boarders out there, please post in the comments any other insights!

Mom gets a blog

Have you missed me? I have definately missed all of you, dear readers. I went to Miami, FL for the Social Networking Conference. I made lots of great connections and ended up at home with lots of great germs. Once again, I travel, get cold. UGH. That's it, I am not getting sick again.

Anyway, when I got home, I discovered that my mom set up a blog! Well, the exciting news is that she can now guest post under her own blogger name. How exciting.

You can visit her blog here.


5 Reasons to take a dressage lesson

Ok, so you don't do dressage. You haven't sat in an English saddle since those lessons when you were a kid. I get it. But, here are 5 reasons WHY you should just get over it and take a dressage lesson.

1. Dressage teaches you about balance. As someone who learned to ride on a very smooth Paso Fino, it was very easy to be a passenger. Dressage helped me be much more active in the riding process. I still don't trot on my horse, but I do much better when a spook comes along.

2. Dressage teaches you about contact. Dressage is helpful to learn about contact, not just with the bit, but all parts of your body.

3. Dressage helps you get your horse on your aids. Take a dressage lesson on your horse (or one that already knows dressage), how good are your aids?

4. Dressage is good exercise. Last dressage lesson I practically needed a bottle of oxygen (I don't do much rising trot). AND it is great for your core body muscles. After back surgery and 30 visits to physical therapy, Chiropractic, yoga and rising trot were the best bets for keeping me healthy.

5. Dressage is good for your horse. Dressage helps your horse be more supple, responsive and it builds the proper muscles. I would not consider myself a dressage rider, but I use many dressage exercises while training my horses.

I had a video of my lesson last Saturday, but it has frozen the video editing program at least 10 times, windows explorer had 4 errors and had to close and now, Youtube is down. I think I am being told NOT to publish this video. So here is a picture of Gina Odermott of Heavenly Ranch and I talking in her BEAUTIFUL new arena. There is still a lot of work to go on the barn, but they are building a top notch facility!

A final note on progress. When I used to board with Gina before I moved to Eugene, the only time I EVER saw Hoss (the horse I rode in the lesson) happy was when Gina was riding him. Hoss isn't what you call a nice horse, BUT my ride on him was amazing. He was all about the work (even with 2 years off), he was a little lazy, but he hadn't forgotten those aids. We are having more lessons in another week. Oh yeah, the jog was to die for. Seriously.

When a Gaited Horse Is Your First Horse

Today I was deleting a bunch of old emails (and I mean old), when I found this document I had emailed to myself. I had a major harddrive crash last summer, most stuff was lost except my outlook files. Sometimes it is a good think I cannot delete emails!

This article was orginally printed in Paso Fino Horse World, October 2003. Reprinted without permission, but I did write it so, if they want me to take it down, they will have to ask.

Are you new to gaited horses? Visit this site.

When A Gaited Horse is Your First Horse

By Jerri Gillean

I was ‘green broke’ a year ago when I purchased my first horse a then four year old Paso Fino mare. Although sporadically around horses most of my life, I had spent very little time riding, training, or caring for horses. So when I met the owners of Reed’s Ranch at the Oregon State Fair in 2001, I did not realize they would change my life.

Over the course of the next few months, I spent every moment I could at Reed’s Ranch. They had 15 horses-almost all of them Paso Finos. I was drawn to the warm nature of Bruce and Betty Reed and could not resist the winter fuzzy Pasos of all ages. I made the hour drive two to three times a week to Reed’s Ranch where we rode on trails cut throughout the ranch’s 55 wooded acres. The Reed’s even arranged for me to have lessons with the local trainer, and when I was ready to buy a horse, I knew it had to be one from them.

Precious was a natural choice. I had been riding her consistently and in lessons for three months. I had bonded with the horse (or thought I had) and as soon as a financial windfall came my way—I handed the money over to Bruce and Betty. They continued to board her for a few months while I found a trailer, and a place to live where Precious could be in my back yard.

My elation of being a new first time horse owner was often dampened by quizzical looks once I uttered “A Paso Fino, a gaited horse”. Everyone knows what a Quarter Horse is, and everyone seems to understand the term trot. So I instantly understood the isolation a gaited owner feels with speaking with a non-horse person about a gaited horse. For me, however, the isolation was greater—I had no common ground. Sure, I knew what a trot was from a few rides throughout my life. My horse had the gift of gait, so a trot was a rare occurrence. A canter? Well, a year later we are still trying to get to it rather than gaiting out of control. I developed a short speech detailing the history of the Paso Fino and exactly what gait meant—but if anyone started questioning me about shows, English, Western, Dressage—I was at a loss.

To make matters worse, I became more and more out of touch with the average horse owner as I learned more and more about my Paso. Riding with two reins, one on the bit and one on the bosol, has turned heads on the trails many a time, mostly when I had only the bosol in hand. And to ride a dressage saddle in a show, but not do dressage? I still do not understand the concept of cutting, because in the river that divides English and Western, Gaited horses are on an island in the middle with no to ferry take them to shore.

We spent the summer riding trails, attended a couple of shows, but made no new horse friends outside of the few Paso people we met at shows and our group trail rides—age also became a deciding factor, many of the Paso people I met were grandparents, I was told by our regional president that I was the youngest non-youth member at the age of 28.

Then of course, everyone has advice for you when you are a new horse owner, but I was convinced perhaps it did not apply to my horse—maybe it would ruin her gait. In the midst of worrying about the ferrier, lessons, training, I was also trying to develop my own personal horse style. I had purchased a gaited horse for a smooth ride, but what if some teaching ‘undid’ her gait. It is the fear of every gaited horse owner—pacing, trotting, anything but what they are supposed to be doing? I did not appreciate harsh methods I read about and knew intuitively that fear would not work for Precious, but my fear of ‘ruining my horse’ spiraled out of control. Sadly, as a new horse owner not getting help, my horse started to spiral out of control as well.

My mid-fall I had moved again due to my job and I found a nice boarding facility only 15 minutes away. The barn owner was nice and Precious was not the smallest horse there, since they raised and bred miniature horses! Precious had a nice stall and her own paddock for daily turnout.

But in Oregon the rain comes. When the rain comes, the mud can easily come over your ankles, even to your knees, and a horse on grass and pasture is like a two year old making mud pies. Precious had become more difficult over the course of the summer, but when the rain came, there was no stopping her. She would bowl over you, refuse to load in the trailer, go down the trail, or even lead out of the barn. She would not walk through mud and when we did get her to the paddock, would become so crazy that she started knocking down fence. I would take her out of her stall to longe and she was a crazy horse, rearing, bucking, and kicking. I came to work with her less and less. She scared me.

In February, my mom came to visit. A long time equestrian, she herself owned three Paso Finos (she took a break from horses while I was growing up). I cannot call it ‘divine intervention’, but it was definitely ‘mom intervention’ that helped put Precious back on track.

Now five years old, she had been in pasture her whole life, brought in daily for grain and then turned out again. In her new environment, however, she was confined to a stall most of the time. Although I had provided the best care in food, vet and supplements—I did not take care of her basic need: more exercise. My horse was stall crazy. I had spent so much time worrying about her gait, that I neglected to learn some basic horse skills. Sure, I knew some basic round pen techniques—but my horse scared the tar out of me and it was time to get some help.

My ‘mom intervention’ helped for a week. She worked her every day; I even rode again after a self imposed 2 month ban when she ran out of control in the barn and left my heart rate elevated for a week. The barn owner and I had conducted a trade of goods for services, so she also worked with Precious. I was determined to make this work. Gaited horse or not, she was still a horse, with horse needs.

I decided I needed help. Reading is a great source of information, but I wanted to get my hands dirty. I knew, however, that my teacher had to be kind, had to subscribe to what I had read of being a ‘natural’ training method.

I found my answer in Steve Rother. I first heard of him at the Oregon State Fair (the same day, ironically, that I met the owners of Reed’s Ranch). Every year Steve demonstrates his methods with wild horses. I had heard through the grapevine that his clinics were good—so I decided this was my opportunity.

We practiced loading the weekend before the clinic. Precious actually leaned so much against the trailer door that she broke it, so we continued to practice without the door. We spent five hours of putting the horse in the trailer and taking her out, naturally I thought we would be ready for the following weekend.

I got my trailer repaired and managed to load the horse with only a medium amount of effort. It was just getting dark as I drove down the road to Dallas, Oregon about 60 miles away.

Another dark Oregon winter night with drizzling rain, bad directions, and windy roads left me tense when we unloaded and put my wet nervous horse into her stall. The barn owners insisted I lead her into the outside run, but it was over a puddle of water and into mud. The horse was nervous, I was nervous, so I refused. I told them she would not want to do it and it did not make me comfortable. I realize now, it was a simple request, but at the time one that scared me beyond belief.

I got to my motel, walked the dogs that had been patiently riding with me in the van and fell into a deep sleep. It was only Friday night and I was already exhausted.

Saturday morning I showed up early, fed my horse and watched the trailers roll in, some of them knew Steve, some did not. Young and old humans, young and old horses, the clinic was for everyone. I had the only gaited horse.

Once Steve had set me up with a rope halter and 12 foot lead, I got to work, listening, learning and getting the most of my money. By the end of the morning, my horse whom had constantly run over me would now stand quietly, peacefully on a loose lead. Was Steve a miracle worker? Most likely not, but Precious and I had started to build the right kind of relationship on the ground, then to the saddle—and she never trotted once.

Steve’s clinic taught me a lot of exercises and activities I can do with my horse. By the end of the weekend, she was not interested in kicking other horses, I knew how to calm her down if she spooked (a violent hailstorm in the middle of class helped me learn that one on the fly). We cantered, we jumped, we tried to side pass and do haunch turns. Most of all, she was listening and attentive, and she was still a Paso Fino.

The clinic was pretty close to the year anniversary that I gotten the registration papers for Precious in the mail with my name on them. If you had asked me a year ago to predict my future, I would have thought of glorious trail rides and an easy maintenance horse. I would have envisioned the bond of friendship with all horse owners, and blue ribbons from shows. I would not have envisioned my last year and my self made isolation.

A gaited horse is first and foremost, a horse. The gait is a wonderful trait that can bring a huge smile to your face, or impress the socks off observers, but it is the trait of a horse you love that needs attention, exercise, training and a good relationship with you. Months later, Precious is in the best shape of her life. We still have battles of wills, but I am patient and calm and eventually she sees things my way. Over the last year I have often wondered if I made the right decision in buying a horse, specifically Precious. And although I know I will have setbacks, I love her and I love training her and riding her.

I now have two more Paso Finos besides Precious, but I will be better with them. I will make mistakes, but thanks to Precious, I have now learned that ‘a horse is a horse, of course of course’.


HorseshUes, So cute I can't stand it

I'm trying to get to two new horse blogs every day (Patricia has an awesome list). I came across this one when I gave up going alphabetical. HorseshUes isn't a read so much for the blog which is not about horseshoes, but instead for the CUTEST horse gift items! I will be ordering these for all of my horse friends the next time I need to buy horse gifts.

The best part is, these HorseshUes will help Delaney build her herd (Dad seems surprised that this is her goal, but we all know horses are like potato chips, one won't do). So, visit her site and buy some!

Handwriting Practice-For Horses

When I was 8 my teachers told my parents that I was very bright, but needed to work on my handwriting. Both of my parents have handwriting that resembles chicken scratching, so the task to improve it was left to my grandmothers. That summer I went to visit my Grandparents in Alton, IL. My mom's mom lived just across the Mississippi River in St. Louis. Each day Grandma Mary would drive over (she, after all, had been a teacher) and we worked for an hour on my handwriting. After an hour every day, I ended up with very nice handwriting. Please keep in mind, I lack artistic flair, so I developed this handwriting STRICTLY from practice.
I rarely write in cursive anymore, so this is just a sentence that I wrote without practice. I still think it is pretty nice.

What does this have to do with horses? Imagine if we worked on one aspect of our training with our horses via exercises and rote repetition every day for a month. Do you think you would see a result? What would 15 minutes 4 days a week give you?

If you are frustrated with teaching your horse something, ask how much effort you have really put into it? Have you worked on this special technique every day for the last 30 days? If you are like every other horse person I know, probably not. If you have, congrats, you have probably accomplished something amazing. Email me at learninghorses@gmail.com and tell me about it. I'll write about it here.


5 Reasons to clean your own stalls

I figured, if I can think of 5 reasons why you should do something, it would be a good 'something' to suggest. Here is the first in a new series '5 Reasons'. These are not necessarily funny, but if you crack a smile, I can't help it.

5 Reasons to clean your own stalls (if you don't already)

1. It is good excercise (and if you think you get enough excerise, fine, read the other reasons).

2. It helps you learn your horses pattern. Horses will change stall habits under distress. If you plan to do clinics, go camping, go to shows, knowing your horses stall habits will help you help them.

3. It helps you look for good manure health. Manure can tell you a lot about a horse. You can determine if a horse is getting worms (this is not definitive, but if you find worms-BINGO!), you can see signs of dental health (large chunks of hay not being chewed is a warning sign), you can see obviously if a horse is having digestive problems that may be an indication of an allergy (or other problem).

4. Leaving your horse in the stall while you clean is a bonding opportunity (please be safe, if you horse isn't used to this, start smartly). My horses know I am in there to clean so they stay out of my way and get a few pets/scratches in when I am done.

5. It is one of the privlidges of owning a horse. There are people all over this world who would clean stalls all day just for the opportunity to be around a horse. Cleaning stalls is one of the privlidges which I try to remember every day when I am on my 4th stall.

Let me know if you have more reasons!


Slosh and Freeze by Mary Stadum

This is the first guest post on the Learning Horses blog. Thank you to Mary Stadum (meine Mutter-my mother) for this post on watering horses in cold weather.

It is January 8, about 7 p.m. The temperature is minus 11 degrees and dropping. It’s dark. But…as a horse owner, I need to do a few barn chores, and with the unusually cold temperatures, I need to do an extra check on my horses. I live in Anchorage, AK with three beautiful Paso Finos in my backyard on a small acreage. We aren’t exactly in the “banana belt” in Anchorage, but there are plenty of colder places…Minot, North Dakota comes to mind. We have very few winter days that reach to 10 below and colder. Many winters pass without ever seeing such temperatures. I am trying not to be bitter this winter.

I suit up. This is not the night for a trip to the barn with my coat over my pajama pants and bare feet in my boots. I go for all the layers: long underwear, fleece pants, turtleneck, wool sweater, wool socks, coat, hat over the ears, gloves & liners, and a neck gaiter to keep my face warm and limit cold air intake. I am still getting over the holiday cold.

After greeting “the kids” all wearing their winter blankets with their cute frosty faces peaking out, I toss them a little hay out in the snow to get them out of the stalls and out of the way so I can see what needs to be done.

Yiikes…the water tank needs filling. This is a priority. There is n
o temperature relief in sight for the next few days, and the water is so low, it won’t last another day. I am fortunate. I have a good set up for my water, which is critical for horses in both warm and cold weather. I have a 100 gallon Rubbermaid stock tank with an electric heater specifically designed to use with the tank. It is inserted through a hole in the side, near the bottom of the tank, and sealed with gaskets. The heater does not touch the bottom of the tank, and the horses can’t get to it and “play with it” unless the water is almost empty. I have found this arrangement very satisfactory.

The bad news is that heating all that water is expensive. Our electric bill rises at least $50/month during the winter. Fortunately, my husband doesn’t look too closely when he pays the bills.

I keep the 100 foot hose in the garage, neatly rolled and on a hook. Keeping things neat and organized saves time and aggravation. Once I start the watering process in the minus 11 degrees, I need to move quickly. I scoot out to the side of the house where the water spigot is and quickly screw the hose in. I unroll the hose systematically and place the end in the tank. I return to the spigot, double check the connection so it won’t leak and turn on the water. Everything flows smoothly. I busy myself with some stall cleaning while I wait for the tank to fill. As soon as the tank is close to full, I turn off the water, immediately disconnect the hose from the spigot, hook the hose over the hose rack, and start rolling the hose up. If I delay even a couple of minutes, the hose will become stiff and unwieldy. I have the hose rolled up in just a couple of minutes and carry the roll back into the garage and place on the hook.

Constant access to water at above freezing temperatures is very important to horse health in the winter months and in cold temperatures. Sometimes horses will quit drinking or reduce their water consumption in severe cold weather. Adding a little salt directly to their grain or hay can encourage drinking. My local feed store sells Three-Way Salt, and sometimes I add one or two tablespoons of the salt to my horse feed during severe conditions. This is in addition to free access to the salt block.

Maintaining a heated water tank and a system to conveniently fill the tank is one method to keep water accessible to horses in cold weather. There are different types of tanks and heaters and various methods to help maintain the temperature and reduce the cost of electricity to heat the water. Some owners insulate the tank with blown insulation, others cover the water and provide only a small hole for access to the drinking water. We aren’t too handy at my house, so we just fill the tank and pay the electric bill. If you’re new to caring for horses in cold weather, be sure to talk with your neighboring horse owners to see what works well for them and in your particular geographic area.

As for me, I got the barn chores done in about 45 minutes without too much damage and retreated to my warm house with both a modern furnace and a cozy wood stove. I am counting the days until spring.

5 Things you don't know about me

If you spend any time reading blogs, you have probably seen the 5 things chain. I found the original post (where someone was keeping track of the chain), but have not been able to locate it again. Basically, a blogger will write 5 things about him/herself that other folks don't know and post it on his/her blog. They are also supposed to nominate 5 new bloggers and credit the person who tagged them.

I was suprised, but when it hit our office, I knew I would be on the list. Thanks to Cam for his nomination.

5 Things you don't know about me
1. I won the state German Declimation contest when I was in 7th grade. Declimation is where you learn poetry and recite it, in this case, it was in German. I had varying places over the years, but never beating my 1st place finish in 7th grade. I still remember the poem if you want to hear it.

2. I shaved my head when I was 20 and traveling in Europe. We did it under a tree on an island in the river with only a streetlamp for light. A guy named Mathius from Sweden helped and I used beard trimmers that I had bought at K-Mart in Prague.

3. I am afraid of dead bodies. Animal, human, doesn't matter. I cannot view an open casket or see a dead animal. I did stay with Garfunkel when they put him to sleep this summer, but that was about all I could do.

4. I am not registered with a political party. I registered with one when I was younger, but decided no party really represents me. I strongly believe we are capible of being more than a 2 party system, so I remain without a party (not even independant). It prevents me from voting in primaries (in some states), but other than that, very little impact (oh yeah and WAY less junk mail).

5. I skipped the 4th grade. I kept getting ahead and they ultimately left the decision up to me, so I said 'lets go for it'. My dad says he regrets it, but I am thrilled, I don't think I could have handled another year of school. I more than made up for it in my six years in college.

So now, I honor, Jax, Julie, Brooke, Halt-near-x, and Patricia. Can't wait to learn 5 things about each of you.


Equine Mine

I met Julie a few years back through Craigslist. I needed people to ride Precious and Tesoro while I was recovering from back surgery. She was raised in a racing family (her dad still trains racehorses), but always claimed she substituted classroom horse training for time on her horse. Julie loved my sassy Paso Fino mare and would get her to canter and play in the arena. Julie is a professional videographer working for a local network affiliate and a free-lance horse videographer. She has made me a couple of videos over the years and I enjoy them more than any other horse video I have.

Over time Julie stopped riding Precious, but we still remained good friends. Now that I live in another city, I don't see her as much, but I try to keep in contact at least once a month.

After years of leasing, Julie decided it was time to buy her own horse. She started her search knowing she wanted 1. A mare, 2. Color (like palomino, buckskin, dun, etc), 3. Good legs. I know she had other requirements and she was ready to make trade offs if the perfect horse was a gelding or black, but she wasn't giving up on those legs.

After two perfect horses, both with disappointing vet checks, flaky owners and a year of searching, she found Heart's Bonnie Bee in California. Maddy, as Julie calls, her came home in November. A 15.1h dun QH/TB (Thoroughbred) cross, Maddy is what Julie was looking for . . . at least she thought so.

Maddie had never left her ranch and arrived a different horse who terrified Julie and her barn mates for the first two weeks. Perfecting the rear as her evasion, Julie was an emotional wreck and constantly found herself questioning her purchase. Did she buy the wrong horse?

I visited Julie and Maddie yesterday. While the bad days still exist, Julie has started to find her perfect horse again and is confident she can bring this youngster around. I am excited to welcome Maddy into my equine circle. I look forward to the many trail rides, camp outs and clinics we will do together. And mostly, congrats to Julie, I am so happy for you.

You can read Julie's blog at Equine Mine. If you need horse video, please consider hiring Julie, you won't regret it, you can see her work at Stable Hand Video. Julie is also looking for individuals who are interested in buying a horse. She would like to film the highs/lows and tell the story of Equine Mine. If you live in Oregon or Washington, please contact Julie, she would love to chronicle your story.

Did I mention Maddy has the MOST AMAZING dorsal stripe I have ever seen?


Men Doing Dressage

I have to thank Patricia, Halt-near-x, and IGallopon for this one.

What I love so much about this video is the same thing my mom loves about Disney animals. You can tell they have really watched a lot of dressage. Your average comedian would not even know what a lead change is, let along be able to act it out.

And Disney animals have not watched a lot of dressage, but Disney animators have watched a lot of animals to really capture their movements. My mom really was obsessed with this fact after living with Garfunkel for a while then watching the old 101 Dalmatians. Garfunkel moved just like Pongo.

Baby got Bit

Today, Zapa had a bit in his mouth for the first time. He is 3 years, 5 months old. I have never done this before, I didn't find that many resources and like a dumb dumb, I never asked anyone how they introduced it. So this is what I did . . .

1. Offered him a treat.
2. Put the bit in his mouth with a treat right after it.
3. Let him mess with it and gave him more grain
4. Petted him and told him he was a good boy (then made him pose for pictures)

He didn't seem very happy about it (although he liked the treat and grain parts). He just chewed on it the entire time. It was pretty loose but since he doesn't have any upper or lower canines yet, it wasn't banging on any teeth. He also had his wolf teeth and some caps pulled a couple of weeks ago, plus a nice big hook filed down, so his teeth are good (yes, I know, I still owe a post on that visit. I have video and pictures).

I left it in for about 10 minutes. He let go of it and that was it. I wonder how he did???


The real cost of a horse-Boarding

My posting on the real cost of raising a baby horse surprised a lot of people (including me). Here is my monthly/yearly breakdown of keeping a horse. For your backyard owners, we will have another installment of this.

There are tons of additional costs in getting set up to ride/train/travel, this list is only the basics.

1. Board. Board can range greatly in cost and there are many things to look for, I covered some of that here. I have a pretty sweet arrangement, but I live in a small city, so the costs can go up greatly (or be reduced) depending on where you live. I have self care board which means I clean. I turn horses out or in at least 5 days a week, so I am putting in a lot of hours just to keep my board bill low.

$150/month, $1,800 year

2. Hay
With 1,000 lb horse as average eating 2% of body weight in hay at $120/ton (again, I have seen it purchased for $65 up to $400-in Alaska, so prices vary. This is a little high for our area of the world), a horse eats 7,300 lbs (20lbs hay/day * 365) each year.

$36.50/month, $438/year

3. Grain
Every horse is different, some horses need more, some need less. Assuming your horse needs grain, lets figure 3lbs/day. At $12/bag (again varies). Each bag is 50lbs.

$21.90/month, $262.80/year

4. Shots/Vet
Horses need some shots 2x a year, some only 1x a year. You can administer your own shots (in some places), but if you are new, get a vet. It also is a good chance to get a good check-up from your vet. I took my horses to the vet clinic last year, it cost about $110 each. Add a barn call fee (the charge to come to your barn) of $40 (I've seen them as high as $100). For the 2nd round of shots and no exam, figure $100 including the call fee.

$20.83/month, $250 year

5. Farrier/Shoer
Some people only have barefoot horses, some wear shoes all the time. I do a combination of both, depending on the horse. When I don't shoe, I use booties, a good set of 4 can range in cost, mine were $250, about the same as having 3 sets of shoes done each year. With 6 visits a year, 4 trims ($25 each), 2 sets of shoes ($80 each), the cost would be $260.

$21.66/month, $260 year

6. Blankets
I hopefully don't buy new blankets every year, but they do need to be cleaned. Usually just throwing them in your washing machine doesn't work so you have to find someone to clean them or visit a coin-op laundromat. You may also need repairs. My blankets last me about 3 years, original prices ranges, but average is $80. I spend $15-$25 a year on repairs. Extrapolated out over 3 years, the price works out to $40 year.

$3.33/month, $40 year

7. Gas to the barn
Why???? I go to the barn a lot. The closer my barn is, the less I spend on gas, but if your barn is an average of 10 miles from your house, you go 3x a week, it adds up. Using this example with a car that gets 20mpg, and gas at $2.25 a gallon (we are paying $2.79 today in Oregon) here is the cost:

$29.25/month, $351 year

8. Supplements
Not all owners feed supplements, but the majority of the ones I know do. I feed garlic (for fly prevention) and vitamins. The horses also have salt blocks available to them. My mare gets Mare Magic.

$15/month, $180 year

9. Wormer

Wormer every 8 weeks. $8-$12 each time.

$5/month, $60 year

So, being very conservative, I estimate the cost of having a horse in self-care boarding to be around $300 a month, $3,600 a year. For some people it will be much more, for some people less. Having a horse is a serious investment in not only time, but also in resources. Do you really have the resources?

Consider emergency vet calls, corrective shoeing, training, lessons, tack, clinics, grooming supplies, riding gear, helmets, increases in hay prices and think about the cost. Horses are expensive. Period.

If this doesn't scare you away, I'll post in the future on ways to change your life to make horses more affordable.


New Year's Day Ride

For several years, the Paso Fino folks have gotten together for a New Year's Day ride. I'm not sure how many I have missed over the years, but this year when I got the invitation I said 'YES!'. The plan was to meet at Willamette Mission State Park which is pretty central for all of us. I got up at 7:00 AM to clean out the van and trailer (the van was filled with my tack room stuff and the trailer was filled with straw from last weeks 4 tons of hay/straw adventure). My mom and sister were in town so I loaded up Precious and Tesoro and asked Bruce to bring an extra horse. After planning, loading, etc., we got on the road and arrived 3 minutes early-an amazing feat for me, especially with dear mom in tow- at Willamette Mission an hour + drive from Eugene.

It was closed. Yep, closed. Due to high water. Bummer. Note to self, call next time!

Bruce and Betty arrived just a few moments after us, so we turned around and headed to their ranch.

With 56 beautiful acres in the foothills of Mt. Hood, Reed's Ranch is home to a swift stream, several Paso Finos, many many trails and of course, Bruce and Betty. As we arrived the rain let up and we got the horses going. Tesoro had to be the lead man and he was ready to go. I held him back, but even at his walk he left the rest of the horses in a corto behind him. The couple of times I let him fly, it was pretty darn fun.

After we got back I took Precious out for a short spin around the trails to prove to her that she can do it by herself (and that she must do it by herself).

We put coolers on the horses, gave them some hay and headed down to Bruce and Betty's house for sandwiches, some yummy crunch cheesey things, cookies and a coke (for me). We had a lovely visit, I helped Betty a little with her computer and we got back on the road for the 2 1/2 hour drive back to Eugene.

It wasn't what we had planned, but it was a lovely day with horses, family and friends. Can you ask for a better way to start the year?