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DISCLAIMER: (There had to be one: Kathleen IS a lawyer after all!) Information provided via the "Ask the Horse Girl" column is for entertainment purposes only and represents an opinion. It is not intended nor can it be relied upon for medical, nutritional, legal, or expert advice of any kind. Readers are warned they bear the burden of seeking out expert advice (i.e. not QueryHorse) for their specific questions, and by accessing the "Ask the Horse Girl" column, they hereby affirm their understanding of these conditions.

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IMPORTANT NOTE:
The Horse Girl and Horse Guy have been answering reader submitted questions Monday through Friday since 2008. In the last couple of years, more and more of the questions we receive have been answered multiple times and we find ourselves re-plowing old ground over and over again while almost the same responses exist in the Horse Guy and Horse Girl archives available to all. Starting this new year of 2014, we will post responses only to new questions.

Of course, we plan to continue to post occasional articles driven either by reader's questions requiring a more comprehensive response or to inform our readers of changes or new trends in some aspect of the equine world.


June 10, 2014 – Can horses generally dislike each other? My 10yr old Thoroughbred seems to dislike my mom's QH x Mustang quite a lot for no reason. The mare is clingy and bossy though.

Absolutely. Like humans, horses are individuals. Therefore, they can have strong individual likes and dislikes. They also have long memories and different upbringings and socializations with other horses and humans. In addition, horses have individual temperaments, that is, some are hot-headed while others are phlegmatic and unflappable.

I could write a book on this topic, but suffice it to say that you're observing what I just said. Don't try to change their minds, just try to limit injury. You're the boss of conditions in which they're kept, so you should act accordingly as the boss, with appropriate care as to the individual likes and dislikes of the horses involved.


June 2, 2014 – I own 2 Tennessee Walkers: a mare (Jag) who is 14, and a gelding (Sarge) who is 20+ years old. They are both very calm and easy to handle. I have just bought a Tennessee Mountain horse (Radar) who is a 12 years old gelding. (No, we are not a military operation!)

Radar has always been kept alone and is showing a lot of aggression toward the others. They tend to stick together. At first, Sarge tried to stay between Jag and Radar. Then, when Jag got too close, Radar kicked her HARD in her hind quarters causing her to lose urine. Since then, Jag has still tried to get close to Radar and Sarge just keeps his distance. We have had Radar for a month now and although things are calmer, there is still animosity.

We often hear Jag "scream" when she approaches Radar, or if he approaches her even if no contact is made. She persists in trying to get physically closer to him. The other day, when the three of them were grazing in fairly close proximity, I went up to Sarge to adjust his halter. Radar approached from the side and opened his mouth as if to bite Sarge's side. I tried to verbally stop Radar, but of course he did not listen. He did make contact and although it was not serious, Sarge and Jag took off and both of them urinated during their first few steps.

How much time should I give Radar to acclimate? What suggestions do you have? And what's going on with all that urine?

You've provided some very detailed observations here and that's very helpful towards offering suggestions! Here goes:

  1. You DO NOT want to get yourself hurt in trying to mediate horse disputes. So, DO NOT GET INVOLVED attempting to separate an attacking horse or horses. If the boys and girls are not playing nice, that can place YOU in danger. So, DON'T go out into the paddock during those times, and leave IMMEDIATELY if you're there when something happens — we humans are just too frail to compete with even one horse, let alone trying to separate two or more from some shenanigans.

    Sometimes, horses view their people as something to be protected and you can get caught in the crossfire. Because you're not a horse, if you get kicked, bitten, or run over, the consequences will be far worse for you then for them. I don't know what your paddock set up is like, but I note that electric fence tape is cheap, easily moved, and quite sufficient to separate warring nations.

  2. Geldings don't always know that they're geldings, especially if they were gelded late after they learned how to be obnoxious in their inter-horse relationships. Also, if Radar is actually a risling (one testicle still undescended), then he may not in fact be absent his mare homing device and stallion make-over kit because he might still be producing more testosterone and would not fully gelded. I would get that checked by your veterinarian right away. In addition, you should know that urine is a common way that horses demonstrate how they really feel about things, and mares in particular, exhibit all sorts of mood advertisements that way, including, how close to being in season they are.

    Geldings will mark by urinating on top of a pile of manure, and will sometimes exhibit all sorts of strange urine-related behavior in terms of choice about when and where they decide to relieve themselves. I've had geldings that will only urinate in their own stall at home, that will only let fly on the trailer on the way home, or will only urinate after the saddle has been removed, but before they're washed, and so forth. You just can't tell with these individuals, and that goes for all three of your horses.

  3. You need to make an executive decision about whether the warfare is dangerous enough so as to warrant keeping them separated. I'm sure that Justin Morgan's owner was mightily sorry that he didn't do this elementary bit of horse management. That horse, the founder of the Morgan breed, and a valuable stud in his own right, was killed via a horse kick after being turned out in a common paddock and left to manage his own domestic relationships without help — bad move on the owner's part.
Some horses are just too bossy to stay with your herd however nice they are to people. I once had a horse named Darla, a quarter horse mare, who was so bossy and who so enforced her will constantly with kicking that the herd banned her and kept her away in solitude for just this reason. She later adjusted, the herd breathed a sigh of relief, and they let her back in and all was well.

As to how much time you should give Radar to adjust to things or whether or not you should keep or return him, that's impossible for me to say from reading a post submittal. You should get a trainer or very experienced horse friend to observe the horses interacting to help you come to this decision. Alternatively, if things don't resolve themselves soon, you may just come to the conclusion at some point that you've had enough, fear for the safety of Jag and Sarge, and make the decision at that point.

I hope this helps, and good luck!


May 30, 2014 – Just wondering if you have ever dealt with heaves in horses, and if so, what you found to be most effective.

I have, in fact, dealt with heaves.

Also known as a horse that is "wind broke", heaves is similar to the malady of asthma in people. In reaction to dust or some other environmental trigger, the horse's airways and lungs fill with fluid and they cough. They heave at the end of the breath in an effort to get more oxygen in, and they can be severely afflicted by this problem to the point where they can't exercise at all.

Unfortunately, no medicine is universally effective in treatment, so the best wisdom is to keep the horse in such a way that the "triggers" of the lung reaction are reduced. Pay particular attention to the horse's environment, such as dusty feed. Letting the horse stay out at grass and other such measures can be helpful in reducing the severity of the problem. Of course, consult your vet in this right away if you think your horse has this problem.

I hope this helps — good luck!


February 3, 2014 – I was curious to ask if mules tend to be less skittish than horses (i.e. when confronted with a rattlesnake)? Also, since they are cautious in comparison to horses, can they still be trained to do show jumping?

Overall, mules are less skittish than horses because they have a more deliberate nature. However, this more deliberate nature often works against people who want to enlist the mule on more strenuous activity, such as jumping. This is not say that a mule can't make a fine show jumping beast; they can, and they can beat many a horse. It's just that the mule requires more convincing on such activities and requires a significant degree of trust between rider and mule that some folks find difficult to create and maintain. The mule will generally look at the proposed activity and form his own ideas on such — they tend to think more independently than does a horse. That can be both good and bad, depending on the situation. You may need the help of a good trainer familiar with mules if you decide to go this route.

So, good luck and good jumping!


January 31, 2014 – I own a 10yr old OTTB that hates the bit and taking it. He is mellow and very sweet with a great temperment. My question is, could I try a bitless bridal on him?

You can try it, but be careful that he doesn't run through this bridle. An OTTB (Off the Track Thoroughbred) used to setting his jaw to brace against the bit does so to get more altitude for his leap. It might not be that he hates the bit, rather, you could be mistaking his intentions instead for grabbing it. Remember, he has been taught to set his face against the tension of the bit to get more leap. Believe it or not, a jockey ridden thoroughbred will actually beat an unridden TB for just this reason.

I suggest that you work with a horse trainer to find out the bitting solution on this. The mystery of a good bit is usually decoded by a good trainer plus proper dentistry, that is, make sure his teeth have been floated recently and that there are no mouth pain issues going on. If not, then this is likely a training issue and you'll need professional help (a good trainer) to assist with that.


January 29, 2014 – My TB doesn't always want to stop and seems slightly aggravated by his simple snaffle bit. I'm a beginner rider who gets anxious/nervous, so I know I have heavy hands I'm working on.

My question is, can I try a Side Pull on him? Or use a hackamore? He is an OTTB who is 10yrs old and who has been off the track since he was 4yrs old.

Well, I agree that you might need help with the bitting issue. And you might well have heavy hands, or you might not. Regardless, if you get anxious, it'll likely rile your horse up no matter what bit you have, or will try. So you should first work with a riding instructor on this.

Riding control is not so much accomplished with the bit as it is with the seat and legs. Therefore, as a new rider, I'll bet you're doing all sorts of things that make the horse anxious and also make him want to stick his face out so that when you grab it, he'll get fussed. That's why I recommend the help of a riding instructor. My suggestion is to work with an instructor on using of your seat and legs for a control as well as using your hands before you try changing bits.


January 28, 2014 – Ok.... This is hard for me to admit, but I think horseback riding is taking a great toll on my body! There, I said it! I am a 45 year old woman, about 125 pounds. I don't abuse my body or workout outside of riding, but I feel like I am falling apart! I only ride 2 to 3 times a week, about an hour or two at a time. I have tendonitis in both forearms and an aching back whenever I ride.

I am an avid pasture cleaner and I keep my 2 horses at home. Heavy lifting and pasture cleaning is causing the tendonitis, but I don't understand the back pain. People ride for a living day in and day out and they seem to be fine. The doctor says I am in excellent health and it's the riding that's causing it. What exercises can I do to help? I am NOT willing to give up riding!

I think you need to see a orthopedic physician on the back pain issues. This might not be a muscle pain and if it isn't, you could really damage yourself. The orthopedist will look at things like bone density and other matters affecting disc health. My dad is a neurologist, so I've become somewhat attuned to nerve pain issues over the years.

Don't wait to do this. Get it checked out as soon as possible.


January 21, 2014 – I have an 8 year old TWH that I bought in KY and brought to the Chicago IL area 3 years ago. He adjusted well because the climates are pretty similar. In 2 years, I will be moving to southern AZ. I'm worried about the climate changes and how he will adjust to the heat. He will have no grass to graze and no cold winters, which is when he seems the happiest. He has never been exposed to snakes or cactus. Do horses have any natural instincts that will protect him from hurting himself?

Any horse, your Tenessee Walker or any other that has not previously been subjected to Southwest animals, landscape, and weather, could be at risk, I think, and in the following ways:

  1. First, heat issues; you'll have to really look at the shade and water availability and their quality. Horses will refuse to drink if the water is stale or unpalatable, and if also heat stressed during that time, can really be in danger. So make sure your horse has access to ample shade and good water;
  2. Corn feed is heating, so stick to good quality hay and lighten up on the concentrated or sweet corn and molasses feed if you've been giving him anything like that;
  3. As to landscape and the topography, well, horses in general are built to run first and look later. Your horse likely doesn't have much experience with barb wire, which is commonly used in the southwest. So, pay attention to the fencing and the pasture lots in which you turn him out. He'll have to figure out cactus on his own, but you should assist him on the fencing and furniture issues; and
  4. Finally, if he is turned out into a situation where his pasture mates torture him into running around a lot, that will potentially increase both overheating issues and the possibly of his likelihood to injure himself on the unfamiliar topography. Therefore, you need to maintain and promote good, basic horse care — that's going to be key!

So, be very vigilant, especially for the first few months. If you are, your horse should acclimate just fine. If you see him having health or adjustment problems, don't wait long to call a vet to resolve the problem and consider more permanently needed solutions. If the foregoing just raises more questions for you than answers them for your particular horse that only you know well and you really don't feel your horse will adjust adequately to the SW climate, you may not want to take him there.


January 20, 2014 – What's the difference between a trim and a natural trim? I sometimes see the terms in farrier ads.

A trim is one thing, but a natural trim, I believe, is a bit of a longer foot. I've seen natural horse trimmers turn out horses that look like ducks with spread heels, so I think that is the direction they head in. (I say that deliberately in some sense so as to motivate the natural horse trimmers out there into responding and perhaps clarifying this further.)


January 13, 2014 – Can a horse that needs to pick up weight eat too much hay?

No. A horse that needs to gain weight cannot eat too much hay. Hay is such a low value food in terms of nutrition that its benefit barely outweighs its weight. Its chief value is fiber, which a horse needs a lot of to keep its guts moving well, and vitamins and such that it gets from the grass. So, free choice hay is what a horse needs. Or, in other words, as much the horse will eat.

The only time I would say to restrict hay is when you have a pony that is a real hog in terms of being overweight. I had a Quarter Horse pony once that was wider than he was tall. He would start at one end of a round bale and eat his way right through, with, at the end of the process, only his fat round hind end sticking out of the round bale. This was ok when he was in work, but once he stopped working I put him in a paddock with no grass and with hay only three times a day. He still stayed fat, but at least he didn't blow right up like Mr. Creosote. (Sorry, the Monty Python reference is there for the younger set.)


January 10, 2014 – I have a otttb who is a 10yr old gelding and very sweet. I'm moving in a few months and am worried about him. My friend said most otttbs load and haul like champions because they got use to loading and hauling quick when they were young. Is this true? The stables I bought my otttb from said he hauled like a champ to and from shows and barns. So could my otttb be fine with loading and hauling and my nervousness could ruin it?

Wow you ARE nervous! A move in a few months and you already are worried about it. My suggestion is that, if you're worried about your ability to load your horse, then get a trainer or competent horse friend to do the honors for you. It never hurts to get reinforcements for a move because any one horse is an individual and you won't really know what your horse is like until you try loading him. Getting help when unsure is a prudent fall back that I would use even under non "nervous-nelly" conditions.

And for what it's worth, I do agree that most OTTBs (Off-The-Track Thoroughbreds) load like champs.


January 6, 2014 – Have Barn owners of boarding facilities skipped on Hay before? I believe my current barn owner is.

I'm not completely clear on your question because it can be either of these:

  1. Do some barns that board horses skimp and skip hay feedings of horses that they keep in their care in order to save money?
    Unfortunately, the answer to this is: YES; absolutely. Some barns shortchange their borders. As a result, you need to keep an eye on your horse's condition with regular visits to your barn. If your horse looks as if he/she is losing weight and muscle, inquire immediately. If the reason is because your horse is being underfed, you should move your horse immediately to another barn that you can better trust to feed him as you expect and have arranged with the barn owner.
  2. Do barn owners ever order hay and then refuse to pay?
    Unfortunately again, the answer to this is: YES; absolutely. Some barns will order hay with no intention of ever paying the seller. Generally, the barn owner only gets away with this once. Of course, that means the real answer is that such barn owners get away with this practice once per hay distributor.

You've heard me respond to barn owners in this column about a minority of boarders that won't pay or abandon their horses. Well, a small minority of barn owners are equally unscrupulous. Fortunately, in both cases, the fraudsters are in the minority.


December 31, 2013 – Do they still run the Grand National in England?

Oh my yes. It's the most popular steeplechase in the world and is reckoned one of the toughest contests. It also has one of the highest winnings of any race. Even non-horse folks watch this one. Next year's contest is on April 5, 2014.


December 30, 2013 – I have a leased horse that I am paying month to month. The owner just told me that the horse is sold and that I cannot renew my lease. Can I stop the sale from happening?

The short answer is that, if you lease this horse at will with no written lease giving you any other rights, then either party has the right to terminate the lease. As you stated, you've now been informed that the owner is terminating your lease. You may have a right to recoup any monies you paid for THIS month that are going unused, but unless you have a contract giving you other rights, I think you're out of luck.

Call an equine attorney for more details on your particular situation; you may have state laws that will impact how this is handled.


December 23, 2013 – I purchased a 9 year old OTTB 5 months ago who I've ridden 7 times in those 5 months. I had a bad fall that shattered my confidence 2 yrs ago on a friend's horse. I'm now very skittish when I ride and work myself up until I'm shaking while riding. I discovered my main point of fear when riding my 9 year old TB is that he'll take off with me. Is that unfair thinking of him just because he's a OTTB? He'll take off from a walk into a jog and then into a run without me asking? I've heard TBs can be mellow as QHs; is this true also?

Well, it is true that many Off the Track Thoroughbreds (OTTB) do learn to be great horses for almost any other discipline. There are some that don't make the transition well, but most do. I'm not sure that I would claim that they all are as mellow as Quarter Horses. While some seem to get that mellow, we always have to remember that TB's are hot-blooded horses, so they're a more spirited breed.

Now, it's also true that TBs learn, while on the track, to accelerate quickly and smoothly from the slower gaits to those faster. This is an "on" switch that received a lot of training while he was racing. This training will take some time to undo so that the horse learns that the command to go faster, does not automatically mean that he should always progress into a flat out gallop as it did on the track.

If you're timid, you may not be the right person to re-teach your horse this essential lesson. That's because your fear will likely make you automatically curl up into the crouch position similar to a jockey's, and that tells the horse that it's his duty to go faster right now. The tighter the crouch, the faster the horse figures he should go just as he was taught in his race training days in his earlier life. And don't forget that, if your fear grows as he accelerates, he'll sense that fear, feel it himself, and want to go even faster to get away from whatever it is that you're afraid of — he's taking that signal from you.

So, while the OTTB horse can re-learn and be quite safe, sound and sane, this is a traing process that someone else likely should perform. Also, you need to learn how to NOT unwittingly give him signals to run. So this needs to be some schooling for both of you. Until you both learn your respective lessons, I don't think you're safe riding him.


December 19, 2013 – What is the best way to keep the bucket free of ice? I am worried my horse is not getting enough water.

Well, it'll depend on where the bucket is and when you're finding the ice. Most well-constructed barns with horses kept inside will keep some degree of warmth because of the body heat given off by the horses. That heat can keep buckets ice free or with only a skim of ice down into some cold temperatures. And horses do know very well how to break up thin ice on the water's surface.

If the barn is very drafty, has poor insulation, is in a very cold climate, or there aren't enough horses inside to raise the temperature enough, then stronger measures may be called for. Some barns deal with this using automatic waterers. Others use heated buckets or floating or submerged heaters in the water, all of which rely on electricity. It will depend on the set up of your barn.

To some degree, you're doomed to trial and error on this one to find what solution will work best in your specific barn. As for an outside trough, a solar heater works well except in the most northern of climes. In that case, you'll be relegated to the electric water heating shuffle. That'll likely be the case even if your trough is insulated.

The Horse Guy has written several articles on this topic that may be of some help. Here they are:

Water Buckets for Cold Weather

Electricity Costs for Heated Water Buckets


December 18, 2013 – I have just got a shetland pony and he as never been given hard feed. I got some dengi for him with pony nuts and garlic. I only give him a couple of handfuls and wet it. After he has eaten it with his head still in the bucket, he will attempt to roll and then get back up. He does not seem to be in pain and shows no adverse affects. Another horsey person has 2 ponies who do this and she told me it's with enjoyment that they do it. Could this be the case?

I can only hazard a guess that your horse's behavior is a statement on the events going on. I once saw my dog eat an onion, and in immediate surprise, he spit it out, barked at it, and then pounced on it with both front paws, all the while still barking at it. Horses don't have quite the same repertoire as dogs, but they do have facial expressions. So absent your telling me what the horse's expression was like when he ate the food you mention, this is about as far as I can go in speculating as to what's happening.

As an aside, I've never heard of feeding a horse garlic and I have no idea what dengi is. But as horses have delicate digestion systems, I would not go too far down the gourmet, people food route with any horse because you could be risking serious problems.


December 17, 2013 – I hired a vet to do a pre-purchase exam and the vet cleared the horse and I bought it. It went lame within the week. It turns out that the vet didn't catch that lameness. Also, I found out later that this vet is a common vet to the barn where the horse came from. I smell a rat. Do I have any recourse?

Great question, but before I send you off to your local equine attorney to deal with this issue, I must say, you'll have to think through what happened and where you want to go with this. That's because you're going to need to "flesh out" what you really think happened for this attorney, and also what your evidence is on that issue. Here's a little more specificity for you to think about and then to convey to the attorney:

  1. What impropriety do you suspect?
  2. Why do you suspect this impropriety?
  3. Is the miss diagnosed lameness so obvious that any good vet should have seen it?
  4. If so, why didn't you see the lameness? If it was that obvious, I mean. Not being a vet doesn't mean that you don't have to take any responsibility for your own decisions to buy.
  5. Your saying that you "smell a rat" implies that you suspect some degree of fraud — that's a strong accusation, therefore, you'll need to explain to the attorney why you suspect such chicanery.

So, you have to be able to articulate what you think happened and why before you go further. And, the assertion that the vet could be anything other than ethical is really important to back up with at least something that the attorney will be able to pursue. I'm not saying you have no case; I'm saying that you must mentally work through this stuff before enlisting the help of an attorney to convince yourself that you truly have a case and not just a bunch of suspicions.

Good luck, and do see an attorney once you've thought through the issues, written down any important facts, and documented the timeline. This is all important so that your attorney will have the benefit of the events leading up to and after the purchase transaction through to your discovery of the horse's lameness.


December 16, 2013 – Is it a conflict of interest if an attorney sues an old client of his?

Good question! I have to answer as a lawyer here; sometimes yes, sometimes no. It would depend on the subject of the suit. Generally speaking, a lawyer cannot take a case against an old client if the previous matter of representation would bear in any way on the current matter. The point is that the lawyer cannot use confidential information he gained from the previous representation, against the client in this new litigation. The would give the lawyer an unfair advantage and also violate attorney/client privilege.


December 13, 2013 – I am thinking of getting a Tennessee Walker horse. I was attracted to the breed because I heard that it had a very comfortable gait. But then I saw some footage of a show with Walker horses and I must say that what I saw on screen didn't look very comfortable for the rider. Do they all prance like that?

I don't know what videos you've seen or what those horse's have been asked to do, but a natural Tennessee Walker gait that has not been artificially elevated for the show ring is one of the most comfortable gaits for a person to sit on that exists in horses. The breed aimed for a standard that allows a rider to place a full teacup on the head, and not spill it while in motion — THAT is a smooth ride! So have no fear on that score!


December 12, 2013 – Where did the term, "Spanish Riding School" come from? I thought the school was a place in Austria, not Spain?

You're right! The Spanish Riding School is in Austria. However, I think the term refers both to the style of riding and the history of the horses themselves. They descended from the offspring of horses brought to Europe by the Moors in medieval wars, with local heavier stock.

The result of the Barb and Arab infusion into the local herd's gene pool brought about the beautiful Lipazzaner horses as well as several other breeds. The Spanish horses were regarded as the best riding horses the world over, and so the Spanish Riding School was named in part to boast of the connection to history and as a statement of origin.


December 11, 2013 – How do I lunge a horse? I tried and it always ends with the horse facing me and not moving. It gets frustrating!

Well, first you need the proper equipment, which includes a lunge line (a long, lighter leadrope) and a lunge whip, which is like a buggy whip with a long elastic end that can snap and crackle. Don't worry, you won't be hitting the horse with that whip; it's a tool to help signal the horse.

Now, connect the lunge line to the horse's halter and walk out into your lunge area, which is a flat area with no obstructions. Walk in a large circle leading the horse. Gradually let the lead get long as he walks beside you. Shift to face the horse and move back so that you're facing his middle. At the same time, use the whip towards his hind end to move him forward. If you're placed behind his forequarter and you also provide impetus to move forward using the whip towards his rear quarter, he will naturally move forward in a circle around you

If the horse tries to head in towards you, keep moving backwards along his midsection. At the same time, use your whip on the inside of the circle so that it chases him away from heading inside towards you. Do this a few times until you have some good circles. Then, quit and try again tomorrow. Don't worry, he'll pick it up very fast if you're consistent about getting him to go in a circle around you.

Ideally, you should have the horse go both ways around you so as not to overwork one side. As you get better, you can use different gaits including the walk, trot, and canter. As a teenager, I had my mare trained to voice commands so that she would stop, walk, trot, and canter, all to the voice. This was pretty handy when I backed her for the first time, that is, got on her back! Lunging is just a great way to limber a horse and get him ready to ride.

Keep practicing — this is a skill worth having!


December 6, 2013 – I am looking to buy a horse off of the internet and found a beautiful one out of state. You have talked about this before and recommended against it, but this looks like a great horse.

It may be a great horse. Or it may be a "pig in a poke". The fact is, it's going to be near impossible for you to know what you're getting into at this point. On balance, if you don't have much experience with horse sales or horse deals, I would say to stay away from buying a horse on the Internet. It's hard enough buying a sound horse when you can inspect it "in the flesh" as it were; it's even harder or impossible doing it from afar.

Another huge drawback is that, in the event of a problem, you'll likely have to go there to bring legal process, and that's usually very difficult or just too plain hard to do in such cases. You can certainly hire expert help, but in the end, the decision to buy or not buy will be yours. There really is no way to mitigate that drawback other than insisting on a forum selection clause in the contract stipulating a court venue of your home state if legal action is necessary. A seller that would sign such a thing is not likely to happen — for obvious reasons!

So when buying a horse as a new or inexperienced rider/owner, stick close to home using the advice of a trainer you trust, who is likely to have their reputation sullied if they get you a bad horse. Such a trainer will truly have, as they say, "skin in the game" and you're likely to have recourse in the event of a problem against the seller who is also local. Now, that being said, I have bought horses out of state several times, but each time, I relied only on my own expertise and was willing to take the fall if I picked wrongly. I don't think you're in the same position, at least not yet, so I don't advise you to do as I have done.


December 5, 2013 – I have a deal with a local barn that has lasted over several years. I only need stalls in the winter and otherwise like to turn out over the summer in a pasture. For the last several years, I have gone to this barn in September and boarded for the winter. This year, I got delayed on moving indoors and couldn't make the move until October. The barn owner filled some of my stalls with other boarders and now I am stuck with only a few stalls at this one place. What can I do? Can I charge the extra costs to the barn owner now that I have had to go somewhere else for several of my horses?

When you say, "your stalls", did you have an actual contract for the rental of these stalls for which you paid some consideration in advance? If not, then your past deals will not hold much water because the barn owner was likely relying on your presence in September. When you didn't show with your horses, the owner was forced to find other, possibly less desirable clients in order to make up YOUR shortfall.

Unless you actually have a contract as mentioned above and have paid some moneys upfront for "your stalls", I would say that you DO NOT have a claim on these stalls. You have to understand that the barn owner is in the business of renting stalls and your absence indicated he/she had to find tenants elsewhere. Next time, I would not leave the housing issue to chance and would instead ink a deal early. For owners of several horses, that makes the most sense.


December 4, 2013 – I was trying out a horse to buy and got thrown. I was injured pretty badly. I think the seller lied to me about the horse's physical condition because he had a sore back I think which is why I got thrown. Can I sue?

You may have a claim, but it'll depend on your state's laws in this regard. Many states have a limitation of liability statute which limits what suits can be brought against providers of equine activity. It's also true that these protections have eroded over time, so even in a state with a strong statute protecting equine providers, a good equine attorney can thread their way through the minefield and prevail. So, I think you should definitely contact an equine attorney for a consultation on your rights and legal standing.

Good luck and I hope you recover quickly.


December 3, 2013 – What is a "blue roan?" Are they really blue?

A roan horse is one that has white hair mixed in with the base coat. So, for example, a strawberry roan is a sorrel (red) horse with white hair mixed in. A blue roan is a black or dark grey horse with white hairs sprinkled in, and the effect is to give the horse a distinctly "bluish" shade. These horses are highly prized, especially in the Quarter Horse world. I can see why, they really are striking among all horse colors!


December 2, 2013 – I got a contract off of the internet and used it for a horse sale. I thought it would work great, and it has, except that now the buyer is reneging on payments. I see that I didn't read it well enough before signing because it says that all disputes have to be brought in California and both buyer and seller are on the EAST COAST! What can I do?

This is a great lesson on why people should not play with fire, in other words, use legal documents from the Internet without help. In your case, the short answer is that, if you try to bring legal process in your home state, the other side now has a defense based on technical grounds — you may very well lose this argument. There is an outside chance that you can reform the contract after the fact, but to do so absolutely WILL TAKE an attorney, and preferably an equine attorney who can bring that expertise to bear on your particular sale issue. Unfortunately, your experience is a rather good demonstration of how and why conducting sales on the Internet involving legal contracts without the aid of an attorney is a bad thing for most folks to do.

I hope this helps — Good luck!


November 27, 2013 – I would like to get a horse to do dressage on. I don't have the money for a warm blood horse. Can a Thoroughbred do the job?

Absolutely! But, you can't use just any thoroughbred; you have to pick one with good, basic conformation and a willingness to work with you. As you may know, some Thoroughbreds can be quite highly spirited. One of those might not be so happy in a ring working on basic moves over and over again. But as with all horses (and people), Thoroughbreds are individuals, and some would be happy doing dressage — it all depends on the horse. There are lots of young Thoroughbreds out there a step slow for the races, but that would make very happy and suitable dressage horses.

Get a trainer with some experience in this area to help you find and select the right Thoroughbred. He/she should be able to help you select a horse with the right conformation and temperament. With a good selection, you should be very happy with a well-matched Thoroughbred that would do fine in dressage.


November 26, 2013 – I own a Thoroughbred gelding who's been off the track for 5yrs. He use to crib lightly on fences but has recently started cribbing so badly he has lost weight and looks terrible. I think something traumatic happened to him which has caused the worse cribbing. Like when the new mare was brought in, he was kicked badly and a little after is when cribbing picked up. Do you think trauma can make cribbing worse?

Because cribbing is a habit reinforced by the endorphins released when the horse does it, I can well believe that cribbing behavior would pick up in response to a trauma. However, that's just a guess and I don't know the real answer. You should talk to your vet and make every effort to coddle your horse. Provide him with lots of turn out, free-choice hay, and pleasant companions. Your vet is the best person to determine whether or not any injuries occurred from the kick and as to why your horse may be losing weight. Whether or not increased cribbing could be the result of the kick, that's a harder question to definitively answer. But I still feel your vet is the best qualified to provide that answer, or at least some insightful speculation.


November 25, 2013 – I have been looking for a dressage prospect with my trainer for a while with no luck. I was looking online and saw a few draft crosses for sale, but my trainer is discouraging me. Why is that?

Well, you have to check with your trainer to see what she or he says about it, but I can hazard a guess. Draft crosses, at least the first result of a draft parent with a lighter breed, usually have some common conformation trends which may not be suitable for a beginning dressage rider, which I take it that you are since you're asking this question. A large head, longer back, straighter shoulder, relatively weaker hind end, and thicker legs make the process of teaching dressage to a draft cross more difficult for the rider to get the result desired. This is not the horse's fault, you understand. It's that their conformation is working against them.

Listen to your trainer on this one. It sounds like she or he knows what they're doing.


November 22, 2013 – I was riding my friend's horse and fell off. I broke three ribs and had to spend some time in intensive care. I want to look into suing to recover my medical bills, but I don't know how to start this process. Also, I think I will lose my friend if I do this. I feel trapped by the situation. What should I do?

First of all, you do need to hire an equine attorney in your state right away. You may or may not have a case, but a regular personal injury attorney will not really be able to properly assess your chances of prevailing in court. In addition, the attorney will need to make other legal determinations, such as about the fact that you were riding with a friend and not at a riding stable. Also, you really need to get the right answers before you get the litigation train rolling, so you need some expert advice fast.

If your friend is not insured with a policy that covers the situation, or if she has no assets, then even if you have a case sufficient to bring to court, you may not be able to recover any damages on the theory that "you can't get blood from a stone". These are all questions that an equine attorney in your state can help you with. Try looking at the website run by the American College of Equine Attorneys to find someone local.

And good luck with your physical recovery as well as the case!


November 21, 2013 – I am looking to buy a horse and visiting and trying some of them available for sale. The other day, I was examining one and the seller wanted me to ride the horse in a field all by myself. I refused because I did not feel safe. Am I just being a baby about this?

No, I would say not. A strange horse, plus a strange location, plus a horse alone can equal an accident waiting to happen. Under such circumstances, there's almost no way that you can be confident the horse will take his cues from you. He doesn't know you, trust you, nor likely even think of you as the alpha. You did the right thing! Be safe first and don't worry about what others might think. Safety trumps almost everything else!


November 20, 2013 – I am an older woman who wants a very gentle horse to ride. How do I ensure that when I go out there looking to buy, that the horse is healthy, but also very quiet?

This is a great question! And you're certainly not the only one ever to ask it.

Well first, I would enlist the help of a trainer that you trust to help you, as well as a veterinarian to ultimately review the health of any prospective horse(s) you may want to buy. Next, I'd look at certain breeds, such as quarter horses or drafts, which are known to be have gentler dispositions over all. Then, I'd look at school masters and other older horses that have seen it all. They're the least likely to spook at every little thing.

If you screen ruthlessly, and also always listen to that small voice inside your head that says, "this is not what I'm looking for" (no matter how cute or beautiful the horse), and heed that warning, you should do fine. In other words, NEVER get on a horse that seems "iffy" to you — that's when people usually get into trouble. There are many fine horses out there that'll suit you, you just have to be thorough, careful, and determined not to give-in to an urge until you have the right horse for you. And don't be afraid to get help as suggested above. If you could solve this problem yourself, you wouldn't be writing to me. And there's nothing wrong with asking for my help, it's just that you could really benefit by having such help along with you while you investigate potential horses for purchase.

Finaly, always remember that no horse is entirely bombproof, as they are living creatures. But it's highly likely that you can find a partner that will suit your overall needs quite well.


November 19, 2013 – My horse got kicked in her paddock by another boarder's horse. It broke her leg and I had to euthanize her. I am heartbroken. Isn't there any way I can recover against the barn or the other boarder? It's the principle of the thing. What can I do?

Well, I cannot give you legal advice, and you must consult an equine attorney in your state to get the answer to YOUR question. However, I can speak generally about the duties of barns and boarders that give rise to liability in certain circumstances. Of course, I'm not saying that YOUR circumstances fit these duties specifically. But, a stable owner that signs a contract of board care for another's horse is in essence taking the horse in bailment. In certain circumstances, where THE STABLE OWNER ONLY has responsibility for the care of the animal, and the animal is injured while under that care, the owner may recover under the theory that the bailment manager has the duty of showing that they were not negligent in the care. This is different from the burden of proof in most claims where the plaintiff has to show the negligence of the other party (who is the defendant). The shift in the burden of proof is unusual, and as a result makes it harder for, in this case the boarding barn, to prove a negative, that is, that they were NOT negligent.

Of course, here is where the specifics become particularly important. For example: did the kicker have a history of kicking or of showing animosity to your mare? If so, then a claim of negligence will be easier to bring. And many other factors can apply. So, the long and short of this is that you need to consult an equine legal expert licensed in your state.

Good luck and I am sorry to hear about your mare.


November 15, 2013 – I own a barn and have a boarder that won't pay. I know I have a lien on his horse, but if I try to hang onto the horse, all that means is that I have to continue to pay for its hay and grain. I feel like I am stuck and could really use some help.

Yes, you do have my sympathy on this. However, most states have a procedure where you can go to court, and after notice to the boarder, sell the horse and stop the bleeding of red ink. Make sure that you get an equine attorney to help you on this because most other attorneys are typically not sufficiently familiar with the issues involved. As an example, I know of one situation where the barn owner went for years to a local court that had no power under the statute to sell the horse. Conversely, if she had hired an equine attorney, she would have gone to the proper court that had the power to order the sale. The barn owner became disgusted by the whole process. Of course, if you think about it, the fault wasn't hers or the courts, it was the bad legal advice from a non-equine attorney that directed her off to the wrong forum. So, here's an opportunity to learn from her mistakes.


November 14, 2013 – I have a small barn and I am thinking about taking a couple of boarders to help with the mortgage. I know there is a lot to this, but I only wanted to ask this question: won't my homeowners insurance cover this?

Well, we get this question a lot and the short answer is: it's not likely. The problem is that most homeowner's insurance policies cover ONLY home-related liability issues. In fact, most of those policies explicitly have an exclusion for ANY KIND of commercial activity. Almost for certain, your policy will exclude a boarding business (or any business, for that matter) and will also exclude coverage for any kind of livestock (horses, in this case) and liability for any damage or injuries they may cause.

So, ask this question of your insurance agent in writing, keep that letter or email, and don't be surprised at the response.


November 1, 2013 – Can certain horses prefer people's company over other horse's company? My 9yr old Thoroughbred seems anti social when it comes to other horses but seems to love people.

Certainly horses can be antisocial with their own kind on the one hand, and entirely friendly to other species, such as humans. This is no different than people can be. You must have seen this in people too, who love, say dogs, but hate being around other humans. For those people, (or horses), it's just so much more restful to not have to deal with inter personal communications with those of your own kind. (Ok, a bit of humor, but you get the point.)


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