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"Horse Girl" Archive Jul - Dec 2010

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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December 31, 2010 – How long can a horse be confined to a stall by law?

There is no law which regulates this specifically. Instead, the law speaks of cruelty to animals. There are medical reasons why a horse, say, suffering from a broken bone in its foot, might be confined to stall rest for months at a time. Such confinement would not necessarilly be easy for the horse, but it would be medically required for his survival. However, a horse confined like a factory chicken for no reason would be cruel, raise eyebrows, ire, and prosecution.

December 30, 2010 – I have a weanling and I recently taught her to load in the trailer. She follows me around all the time and she will even follow me into the trailer without a halter on. Does this means she likes me?

It does mean that she likes you, and moreover, considers you her mommy. This is a good thing if you're up to the disciplinary tasks of equine motherhood. However, it's not a good thing if you're not up to the task.

You see, you can't let a baby horse get away with much without reaping a dangerous whirlwind of a horse later. In other words, you need to provide firm correction in a manner that the horse understands, RIGHT AWAY after the misbehavior — this is not being cruel.

Get some help on this one from an expert trainer. Very few humans have the attentiveness, the desire, and the ability to offer mama-horse-worthy correction on their own. The help and training you get from the trainer will be very important.

December 29, 2010 – I am thinking of buying a draft horse. Can I ride a draft horse? What is the deal with draft horses. Are they safe to ride?

Draft horses are very safe to ride. The original draft horses were bred and raised for the "knights in shining armor". A draft horse is taller than other horses and can be wider and with a broader back. So you'll need a draft saddle that fits and with an extra length girth and a bigger bridle and bit.

You'll also pay more for shoes, upwards of $100 per shoe, and may have difficulty finding a farrier who'll shoe the horse for you, as it's somewhat more strenuous for the farrier. (You know how a smaller horse will sometimes "rest" by putting weight on the farrier's back as he's working? If a draft horse does this, and they try, the farrier gets crushed. There's also the weight of the hoof itself. Uggh! Not fun.)

Draft horses eat more than other horses: all that heft needs feeding. If you're concerned about these costs, then a draft horse is probably not for you. This is why draft horses nowadays are seen more as pullers of weight than as riding horses, because without a job, the extra costs are difficult to support. But draft horses can make good riding horses because they're more docile than other horses and are quite comfy for the rider with that broad back to sit on. The height and extra width makes no difference in terms of a rider's balance or ability to stay on, and as a hack or a trail horse, they're quite good.

I don't know that I would want to jump a draft horse because all that weight would place a real strain on the horse's legs, but draft crosses are quite successfully jumped. The draft blood gives extra bone and beam without expanding body size too much, which jumpers can benefit from. All in all, drafts are a blast. Go for it!

December 28, 2010 – My horse, unlike the other horses in the barn, does not like to put her head out into the barn aisle. She spends most of her time facing the wall and particularly if someone comes up to look. Is this a problem?

Some horses are naturally more sociable than others. Let me ask this: does she put her head out into the aisle when the hay is headed her way? What does she do then? Most horses can't resist looking for and demanding hay and grain when they know it's coming. If she does this and only puts her rump to the casual observer, what she's saying in horse language is: "Go away and leave me alone, I don't want to work right now." However, if she faces the wall all the time and has no interest at all, even in food, then I would say that she's depressed and unhappy about something, which would be worth your while to investigate.

On the belief that you're likely a boarder in someone else's barn, enlist the barn owner or barn manager into helping figure out what's going on. Does she get turned out? Does she have a loved companion? Are there any other "tells" of poor condition, such as a dull coat or loss of appetite? Is she regularly wormed? This is like a detective story, so get knowledgeable help.

Good luck and I hope you can figure it out!

December 27, 2010 – I have a horse and she keeps pawing the ground, she won't eat, she looks at her sides and tries to lay down a lot. What does this mean?

It's likely she has colic. This a very serious equine ailment, since horses cannot vomit. Call the veterinarian at once and if you ever see this again, that is what it is. DON'T WAIT! Colic kills more horses than any other cause, so you don't want to take a chance.

December 24, 2010 – Should I give my horse treats? Will I spoil him if I do?

That's a good question. I used to be firmly in the "no treats" category myself. However, I recently read of a study where horses were handled with treats, and then without. The treated horses displayed markedly more friendly relations with the persons training them and faster learning. The nontreated horses still learned, but more slowly and with less willingness. The comment from the researchers was that treating had a significant attitudinal adjustment effect, and that treated horses liked people better, remembered them longer, and learned faster. I suppose they're just like people in that regard; we all like a nice treat.

So, I would say it's ok to treat. Carrots, apples, and horse treats are good. Sugar and candy are not so good for them even though they can be effective.

You should be careful if your horse starts getting pushy and demanding a treat. If so, then make sure he works for it before you let him have it — you need to control it, not him. And don't give him a treat every time. YOU are the boss and you BOTH must know that.

A treat should be just that: "a treat", not a constant adjunct to being with your horse.

December 23, 2010 – Why does my yearling open and close her mouth when she is around other horses? What does it mean?

This is a gesture of submission from the lower ranking member of the herd to the superior members of the herd. Horses retain this gesture throughout their lives. You can use this sign that your horse is feeling submissive to you should she ever do this while you're attempting to train her. It's a good barometer about how she's feeling. It's also very observant of you to notice it — good work!

December 22, 2010 – Can horses stay outside all winter? Don't they have to be in a stable?

Horses, indeed, can stay outside all winter. Think of Mongolian ponies, or Icelandic Ponies, or mustangs: these animals endure the coldest of cold winters. However, the normal domesticated horse will need the shelter of a run-in shed at the very least, in order to stay healthy. This is a shed with three sides that's open on one side. It allows horses to retreat into a space so as to get out of the direct wind, rain, snow, and sleet.

Most domesticated horses will also be given the luxury of a "turn out rug". This is designed to withstand the wet and snow, and has a lining that retains heat. A horse properly "rugged up" (blanketed), with a run in shed and plenty of hay, water, and grain can endure the worst of winter weather with no ill effects.

So, while a stable is nice, it isn't strictly speaking, necessary.

December 21, 2010 – How do I teach my yearling how to come to a whistle?

If you whistle and then give her a treat, she'll associate the whistle with the food. Then, whistle from a few feet away and offer the treat. She'll naturally come over to get it, but will still make the association with the treat, which you know she wants (they always want that treat). Keep extending the distance. Whistle and then treat. She'll pick it up in no time.

When I was growing up, I trained a whole herd to come in out of the big field just by ringing a bell. The herd turned it into race time. This sure saved me on the time it previously took to catch them.

Have fun! Horses are much smarter than people when it comes to food/treat relationships.

December 20, 2010 – What does "riding off" mean in polo? I heard someone talking at my barn and they mentioned this.

In polo, one of the safety rules is that when you hit the ball, the ball travels in an imaginary plane or line going forward. You, who are the closest to the line of the ball at that moment, "own" that imaginary line and no other rider can cross that line in order to get to the ball. EXCEPT, of course, under the situation where your opponent rides up next to you and physically pushes you and your horse over to the side so that he, and not you, are on the line of the ball. Then, HE has the right of way to hit the ball. This procedure of pushing another player and horse over is called "riding off".

Note: Some horses are better at this than others. My quarter horse (Blaze) has figured out how to increase his mass and density at will — he's like the Death Star — no one can ride HIM off the ball. He's the Enforcer on the field. It is so much fun!!!

December 17, 2010 – My horse always stomps when I put her in my trailer. Why does she do this? And how do I get her to stop?

She's telling you she wants to get going. She does this because she wants to get going and she's trying to communicate it to you. I don't think you can get her to stop. She'll always be able to exercise her legs volitionally. As long as she's not kicking, then I don't think the issue is worth going after.

December 16, 2010 – How many acres do you have to buy to be considered for a farm mortgage?

Different banks have different rules on this and the federal government also has its own rules for its farm loan programs. You should call the farm bureau in your area and learn the local rules. Then, talk to a farm bureau agent and go from there.

December 15, 2010 – It seems that I keep falling out of my saddle when we jump. How do I stay in it when jumping?

It sounds as if you could be insufficiently balanced to handle the changes in direction and motion from the horse. This is something that you'll have to tackle with your instructor. I wrote an article a while back on balance while riding entitled: . Essentially, you have to move with the horse and not lose your own balance in the process. There are some specific things you can do to help this, such as periodically riding bareback to improve balance, riding different horses to learn to adapt to almost any variations and unexpected changes, and getting good instruction, but it all takes time and practice.

Don't continue jumping until you're more secure in your seat. Otherwise, you're courting serious injury if you do.

December 14, 2010 – How do I handle an angry horse?

You don't! You should not handle an angry horse at all and should instead get professional help on this one. I assume from the question that the anger is directed at a human, which is very rare and very dangerous. Most horses treat people with annoyance upon provocation, such as when girthing, or after feeding, which is to say, keep your hands off my lunch.

But, real focused and directed anger is unmistakable and extremely dangerous — tigers are not as dangerous! Horses can kill you, so back up and don't let yourself get in that situation.

December 13, 2010 – I can't get my horse to move faster than the walk when leaving the barn. What can I do to make her move faster, like trotting away?

Get horse trainer advice on this one, that is, a trainer who gives the advice WHILE WATCHING. There are a number of different options, but since I can't judge what the situation is based solely on your description, I'd be remiss in giving them because you could hurt yourself. This kind of thing is situational in nature and will require some judgment. Because I bet you've already tried the "apply the crop to the hind end area" approach already, the fix will have to be more nuanced.

December 10, 2010 – What is too hard a surface for riding your horse?

Both dirt and concrete can get too hard for riding. I'm thinking of late August on the polo field when it hasn't rained in months and the ground is like concrete. Or riding on actual concrete, which is also too hard. Such hard surfaces can cause foot and hoof problems for your horse. Worse is trotting or any faster gate on these surfaces because the horse is coming down harder — stick to the walk if you have to cross these surfaces.

You need to use your judgment on this. Generally, if it feels too hard, it probably is.

December 9, 2010 – Why does my horse stomp when she wants to go another way?

She's exercising her editorial opinion in a visible way because she can't speak English (requires special lessons). Nevertheless, she's apparently quite good at telling you what she thinks about things. As long as she's doing what you tell her, I suppose a stomp or two isn't worth correction. Just make sure she knows that you know that she's acting without your express permission. Usually, a grip on the reins when she does it is enough of a "tell".

Horses watch you watch them all day long, and they make certain decisions based on their assessment of your willingness to correct them. If they think you'll submit to THEIR wishes, then at some point, they'll assert themselves. This would be a bad day for you, so head the issue off at the pass by registering the aforementioned "tell".

December 8, 2010 – I never signed a boarding contract where I board my horse. Can they kick me off the ranch just because they don't like me?

Absolutely. Without a contract, you are "a tenant at will". Of course, that right goes both ways. If you don't like them, you can leave. This pact of mutually assured destruction (of the relationship) tends to keep both parties somewhat reasonable. In this economic climate though, the boarder usually has the upper hand. Why don't you find out what the problem is before you do anything hasty?

December 7, 2010 – How do I determine proper leg placement when riding?

That depends on what you're doing. Essentially, you want to be balanced. Stirrup length and lower leg placement all vary depending on the discipline. I would sign up with a good instructor for the discipline that you're currently working on and focus your work to achieve balance and communication with the horse.

December 6, 2010 – If I pay someone to trailer my horse, am I liable for damages if a problem occurs?

Not usually. But, if you hire someone that has no liability insurance of their own, that won't mean that a plaintiff won't come after you in search of a deep pocket. So, make sure to either have your own insurance on this or hire licensed haulers only. It's worth the peace of mind.

December 3, 2010 – How do you know when to put down a founder horse?

When your vet indicates that there's no further hope in treating the horse.

To that end, and because founder is such a scourge of horses, I've been working with and am a shareholder of a company that developed a sling allowing the long term rehab of horses without the pressure induced sores that plagued horses in previous attempts at dealing with founder. Coincidentally, this device is being showcased next week at the American Association of Equine Practitioners in Baltimore, MD. You can find out more about it at Enduro Medical.

I wish you the best of luck with your own horse!

December 2, 2010 – My horse nuzzles me and rubs up against me sometimes. Does this mean she likes me? Or is she just scratching herself to get rid of an itch?

It can be both. Be careful! A horse's idea of affection can be dangerous for us fragile humans. Allow nuzzling, but not rubbing.

December 1, 2010 – When buying a farm, what should I ask or know?

Whew! This question covers a lot of ground! I can divide it into separate areas perhaps:

First: Your real estate agent/owners should be thoroughly quizzed on the environmental and zoning history of the place. Get the goods about neighborhood disputes — all of it. And get a good picture in your mind of what the farm has been to the area and whether or not you could be buying into a lifetime of neighbor-induced misery and resentment. Not all neighborhoods appreciate any kind of farm in this day of converting parts of old farm property to upscale neighborhoods and developments.

Second: Walk the property. (e.g. In walking the property one time, I found an undisclosed, old, town dump. ARGGHHHHH!!! Tires, batteries, crockery, metal fragments, and old refrigerators — talk about a litigation nightmare!)

Third: Make sure the finances work from your end. Do budgets, run business plans with different scenarios, whatever it takes.

Fourth: Hire a good farm appraiser to come up with a realistic understanding of the condition of the existing buildings and machinery if any are going to be left on the property.

Fifth: Research the Registry of Deeds and the Town Hall to see if there are any old "Orders of Condition" or "Orders of Compliance" that will cloud title and require the seller to jump through hoops to sell the property. Or even worse, might not be found at the time of this transaction and could cloud the title in the future when you try to sell the property.

Sixth: Make sure the seller's attorney has familiarity with the general laws regarding the sale of farm land. For example, in some states, there is a requirement that the seller give notice to the town and allow the town a first option to buy. This can sometimes be the case if the land has been given a tax break in past years due to a lower tax rate for agricultural land.

Though it's sad that you have to do the seller's work for them, in this case, if you don't do it, or if you don't hire an equine lawyer familiar with these laws in your town, county, and state, your sale will be held up while you're forced to deal and pay for it. Or worse, your title will be clouded and your future selling options could be very limited as well as your potential profit.

These are just some suggestions that come to mind. A good equine attorney and a good real estate agent experienced in farm transactions in your state will no doubt be able to come up with additional suggestions more suited to the particular property you're considering buying.

November 30, 2010 – I sold my horse and the new owner got injured riding it. Can they sue me?

Yes. Though many states have protections in state statutes which limit liability, anybody can sue anyone in this country. Contact an equine attorney licensed to practice in your state to assure they understand the statutes of your particular state as well as the vagaries' of horses.

November 29, 2010 – Do I need liability insurance if I am a horseowner? I am not going to sue myself if I fall off, so I really don't see the point.

You may not want to sue yourself, but certainly, if your horse injures someone else, they'll quite likely wish to sue you. Liability insurance would protect you in that case. Horses can be quite dangerous, and unless you're living in a place where no one has access to your horse but you, there's a real risk. That risk includes your horse escaping and injuring someone while not under your control.

All in all, equine liability insurance is a good deal for its protection, the peace of mind it'll give you, and well worth the money.

November 24, 2010 – My horse snaps her teeth at me sometimes while she is turned out. It doesn't look like a friendly look as her ears are back when she does it. Should I be worried?

YES! This is an aggressive act and you need to enlist a horse trainer to help you mend your horse's ways. Horses only have two positions for others in their lives: subservience, or dominance. If she's doing this to you, then she believes you're subservient, which is the precursor to trouble for you because she'll seek to enforce her will with teeth and hooves — this is how horses discipline other horses. Not such a good deal for humans. Get help.

November 23, 2010 – My warmblood gelding doesn't like any commotion or any horses or any other person to get near him when I'm getting him ready to ride and having him stand in cross ties in the barn where I board. I didn't used to think that this was a problem, but a new boarder brought in a horse that is absolutely broke and who stands so very nicely no matter what is going on. Why is my horse such a prima donna?

Well, partly because that is what he's used to. Horses can become desensitized even to battlefield conditions, so it's really just a matter of training. Some horse trainers specialize in this process, so it may make sense for you to seek one out and learn how to do it yourself. Monty Roberts does a good talk on how to do it also, and you can get his talk on video.

My suggestion is to read up and educate yourself, and then start work. A calm, quiet horse is worth a lot and is much safer as well, so there's really no downside to the training.

November 22, 2010 – Which states don't have equine liability laws?

At the moment, there are four states that don't have equine liability laws: New York, California, Maryland, and Nevada. Please realize that this can change at any time when a state changes a law.

November 19, 2010 – How can I convince my horse to carry me around the neighborhood?

I'm not sure what this question asks. Is your horse barn sour? Is he fixed on his companions so that he won't go anywhere without them?

The parameters of the possible responses here are so great that I must defer to the only reasonable answer that comes to mind with such an open-ended question, which is: call a horse trainer who can figure out what's going on. The horse clearly has your number if you're not riding around the neighborhood when you want to do so.

November 18, 2010 – Where is the center of gravity in a horse?

Deep in the middle of the body mass, about halfway down below the withers.

November 17, 2010 – I live in an area where the property is all zoned residential. Can I keep horses on my property?

You'll likely have to check with your town's zoning laws. Most towns require that you get a stable permit to do this, and towns will issue rules about the stable permitting process that may forbid your individual property from supporting a horse. Of course, you can always petition to get a variance, and I've done this for my clients, but you'll need to contact an attorney.

In any case, you'll also need the agreement of your neighbors. So if you're thinking in this manner, you should contact them first to find out if they have any objections. After that, look at your town's regulations and then see if your property is large enough to support a horse. Finally, contact the attorney.

I do know a number of clients who have horses in town, and each one got there through hard work and good neighbor relations. Good luck!

November 16, 2010 – How long will it take my horse to settle in at a new barn? He's been at the current barn his whole life.

If he has good companionship, comfortable surroundings, and good food, He should settle in within three weeks or so, maybe less. If he's a baby, it will take him longer as he doesn't have good sense to rely upon. Just like a teenager, life is terribly dramatic for the young ones.

November 15, 2010 – My horse got hurt and needs stitches. How much does that cost?

That will depend on the size of the cut, the location of the cut, and your vet's own pricing structure, which will depend on where you live. You need to call your vet. If payment is a problem, most vets will allow you to pay over time. Further, you shouldn't wait too long on a cut that needs stitches because it will seriously delay the healing process.

November 10, 2010 – How often should I ride my horse to keep him "tuned up?"

Three times a week — no less. Once he's in shape, you can get by with twice, but you should do more depending on your discipline. This is not only a body conditioning matter, but also a mind thing. A horse that doesn't get enough exercise won't be able to focus when you ride him as he gets his "ya yas" out, so to speak. So, you need to ride him enough so that he can actually get down to work.

November 9, 2010 – The ranch where I board my horse never seems to fix anything that breaks. What are my rights?

The agreement to provide board is to provide "reasonable and ordinary care". I take it by your question that you've not yet been injured by this facility's shoddy practices, nor has your horse been injured yet either. That being the case, you need to move as soon as possible. Whatever legal rights you can exercise in the future pale in power to the legal right you have right now, which is to move your horse to a better barn. In other words, vote with your feet!

November 8, 2010 – This morning my horse "decided" to not go in his stall. In my barn we have 12x12 stalls with a door to 12x24 gravel paddocks. This horse always has his hay and grain inside and goes inside to poop and pee. Today he won't even go in to eat his hay or grain and only pooped outside. Once I put his hay, grain and water in his paddock he was just fine and pretty normal acting.

This horse is used to being stalled (been a show horse all his life) and has been in this stall/paddock for about a year now. When I lead him into his stall and let him go he acted nervous and walked out of the stall. Is this something I should be worried about and have you heard of this before? Thank you for any information.

A horse has the ability to smell, see, hear and sense, but at a much greater range of sensory input than we can comprehend. He obviously senses something in the stall that is undetectable to you. For example, if one of your barn help were to urinate in the corner of the stall, your horse could take offense because people eat meat. Meat gives a different smell to the person and to their urine the same as it does to a mountain lion, for instance. Your horse could be making that association and be afraid to go in for fear a predator is there. For that reason, some horse trainers advocate reducing or eliminating meat in your diet when training because this smell factor can sometimes complicate working with horses.

Now, I'm not about to give up meat myself, and I know that most horses can suppress the "ick" factor in dealing with people because they've also been taught that people will not eat them and will also give them food. However, I do know that this predator/prey reaction can show up at the oddest times. Whatever the cause, your horse is telling you that there's something in the stall that gives offense or fear, even if you can't detect it.

OR, it could be he's just testing you and your ability to tell him where to go. If it's the latter, you can tell by the signals he gives you at other times. If he tests you on other things as well, then it might be a training issue. If not, then it's a fear issue.

If it is fear, you have one of two choices: you can switch his stall altogether for a while. If that's not an option, then clean the stall thoroughly, lay down a different style of bedding than he's used to, (e.g. pellets vs. shavings vs. straw) so as to maximally confuse the smell situation, and then try to stable him again. If you still can't stable him, it's time to contact a horse trainer for help.

Good luck!

November 5, 2010 – I just bought a horse, and it appears as though the previous owners had not had a farrier come in for some time, even though the horse did have shoes on. I got my farrier to pull the shoes and trim the overgrown part. It was quite a lot of hoof. Now the horse is lame. Was this caused by my farrier?

Sometimes, if a horse is left for too long between trims, (something that can be masked while the shoe is on because the hoof still looks ok and not ragged), the change in the foot after a severe pruning of the hoof will cause a horse to go lame for a while until his pasterns, ankles, and legs recover their equilibrium. A severe trim, such as your horse experienced, put a whole new angle on his underpinnings. And if the horse has any structural issues with his legs, then this will surface. In rare cases, this can even cause a suspensory tendon issue or some other form of more serious lameness.

Some farriers will not trim a lot in one sitting and will instead cut back over successive trims to alleviate this problem. This course of action has its drawbacks as well, including the fact that the horse will still have too long feet after the first trim. That could cause its own problems, and there is also the cost factor associated with the multiple trimmings.

So, on balance, I don't think your farrier is too much at fault here if he chose this course of action. Maybe he is at fault for not discussing it at length with you, but that is a communication issue, not a farrier skill issue. Your horse could also be lame because he's now a tenderfoot after having all of his hoof horn cut down. This should go away after a week or so. If you ride him, just ride him light duty for now and ONLY on soft ground. After a while, he'll toughen up and his legs will adjust.

November 4, 2010 – How do I make my horse not afraid of wire?

First, let me ask this question: Are you sure you want to do this? Horses who are afraid of wire are so for very good reasons. For example, wire is used in fencing and can be electrified. You want a horse to have a healthy respect for wire fencing. Usually, a horse is afraid of wire because they've tangled with it before (pardon the pun) and know that wire can hurt them. This is a rational and reasonable view of things.

If you're dead certain you want to do this, the way you change their minds is to get them used to it in contexts that don't hurt them. Desensitization is the only way. Again though, note my objection for the record: this would be a BAD IDEA, not only in the concept, but in the execution. It's far too easy to hurt the horse or to hurt yourself as you go about this. This is a tough enough problem to solve correctly that I highly recommend you get a horse trainer to help you and keep you both from getting hurt.

November 3, 2010 – Hi, do you happen to know what the old-fashioned halter hardware is called? My parents said you didn't tie the halter around the horses head but you didn't latch it with a hole either. He said the "tail" that goes around the top of their head is just one piece but it has a loop at the end. It hooks on to the other side with a piece of hardware and the halter goes through an opening in the hardware and comes up to hook onto a little nip and that was it. It was also adjustable. I can't seem to find it anywhere! Thanks!

I have never heard of this form of haltering. Mind you, I hang with the polo set and we like to use those overly large rope halters that fasten with a loop. Cheap and effective, they can be used over bridles. No name tags, no name plates, no leather, no chains...I know, my name is anathema...

November 2, 2010 – I bought a horse on installment sale with a written contract. Now the seller is harassing me to make faster payments. Can he do this?

Unless the terms of the sale as written in the contract allow for an acceleration schedule or an accelerated rate of payment at the election of the seller, then the answer is NO!!! He can't make you pay any faster than the contract allows. Typically, the schedule of payment is one of the material terms of the contract about which the parties negotiated and agreed on as part of the sale — your seller doesn't appear to understand that. Regardless, unless the contract allows for the seller to accelerate payment as I mentioned above, his actions now would be in breach of the contract.

Stick to your guns! Send the seller a copy of the contract and remind him that he negotiated the terms of this sale to which you both agreed in good faith. If he won't relent, then contact an equine attorney for guidance. You don't want to engage in pre-litigation dealings unarmed.

November 1, 2010 – I went outside today and saw a coyote run away from the field where my horse is turned out. Should I be afraid that my horse will get attacked?

Coyotes are among the more shy of predators, and further, they're significantly outweighed by nearly all horses. Since most horses will attack a coyote if it runs into their pen, I think it unlikely that a lone coyote could hurt a horse. Instead, the horse is more likely to hurt the coyote.

Now, I could be wrong, and I'm sure that stranger things have happened, but for example, in a review of coyote attacks in Massachusetts over the last ten years or so, there have been no reports of such doings, that is, of a horse being on the losing end of a coyote attack. Anyone who's heard differently is welcome to send me the information on this.

October 29, 2010 – This is the fourth and final response (see prior three posts) concerning how to protect a fledgling equine business from legal threats and to carry that protection as the business moves forward.

Step Four:
Now that your business has been fully insulated with legal armor, the last thing to do is to ensure that your insurance is proper and adequate. That means that it's been fully reviewed to assure your coverage matches your business needs. Every business needs its own insurance, and if there are employees, then there are additional concerns which you must address.

With employees, the business also needs insurance for them in the form of workman's compensation and unemployment insurance. The insurance itself is one matter that an agent can help you with, but you'll also have to register with your state government and become recognized on the state rolls as an employer. Keep in mind that even barter services are recognized as employment. So that teenager helping you clean stalls for free riding lessons counts as an employee. The downside for not accepting this governmental red tape and doing this properly in the beginning is that, if the employee gets injured and files for a claim, and you're NOT registered as an employer with the state and NOT covered by workman's compensation and unemployment, the state can fine you with severe penalties.

I know of a situation in the area recently where the barn did not have such protection, the employee got injured, the state investigated, and then fined the barn $50,000. This forced the barn to close and the land to be sold because the owner didn't have this kind of money. Have your agent walk your property with you as he examines the business for coverage needs, and make sure that the agent is willing to annually review your coverage because businesses change. Also, assure that your agent specializes in equine and agricultural insurance products; homeowner's insurance simply DOES NOT cover business ventures.

With these protections in mind, you can engage in business with the added benefit of getting sleep at night that is NOT tormented by fear of lawyers. Now, even I as a lawyer admit that's a benefit worth working for!

Good luck!

October 28, 2010 – This is the third of an ongoing response (see prior two posts) concerning how to protect a fledgling equine business from legal threats and to carry that protection as the business moves forward.

Step Three:
Step 1, had all clients and other people conducting business on your property sign liability waivers. Step 2 added protection by separating your personal assets from that of the business so that suits against the business don't cross the barrier onto your personal assets. We'll now go one step further to finish our "force field" of liability protection.

Consider having your equine business lease its premises from yourself, and make sure you purchase a good business liability policy. To lease the premises, have an equine attorney create an actual written document that takes the land where the business is located, and leases it from yourself, as an individual, to the business entity. (Don't attempt to write this yourself or grab some facsimile off the Internet — this is far too important — hire the equine attorney.) The language here that you'll need is a "hold harmless and indemnification" clause which states that all causes of action related to the business and arising out of business use belongs to the business and that you must be held harmless and indemnified by the business from liabilities of the business. So if a boarder on the property slips and falls, they can only sue the business and not you. Since title to the property will be in your personal name, and not the business name, that will prevent any attachment from being allowed to rest on your house or against your personal assets. Also, this clause will ensure that your business insurance policy acts to protect your business from suit and will step in if someone tries to sue YOU as an individual.

The language MUST SPELL OUT exactly what your duties are as the individual (e.g. pay the electric bill) and what the duties are of the corporation (e.g. plow and sand the driveway). Though this may all sound like overkill, I should tell you that I've seen people who've not done this and must report that they did not escape great pain and turmoil after the fact. Conversely, the people I've met who DID take these steps, while some were still sued, their level of damage and pain was MUCH reduced. These are, in fact, the basic legal risk management tools available to equine business owners out there, and so I must highly recommend that equine business owners use these strategies to significantly minimize their risk.

October 27, 2010 – This is a ongoing response (see prior post) concerning how to protect a fledgling equine business from legal threats and to carry that protection as the business moves forward.

Step Two:
In Step 1, you had all clients and other people conducting business on your property sign waivers so that, if injured by a horse-related accident, they admit knowing the unpredictable nature of horses and waive their rights to hold you responsible. Now, it's time to protect yourself from other liability, such as someone walking onto your property and slipping and falling on ice and getting injured, or suing you for a failed joint-business relationship.

First, create an LLC (Limited Liability Company) or a corporation. An LLC is simpler — you only need to incorporate if you intend to distribute stock. If you don't know which way to go, you should contact your equine attorney for advice. LLCs and corporations are both ways to protect your personal assets. If you don't do this, then persons injured on your property as a result of your business operations can sue you personally and can attach your house, bank accounts, investments, 401K, etc., to recoup damages. This obviously would not be a good result for you, as we say in the lawyer trade.

An LLC is not difficult to create; you need to make sure that the business name you've chosen is not already in use or registered to others (search your state's Secretary of State corporate search database to see if there are any businesses that may have already snagged the name that you want). If your name is not available, you need to select another, which is not already registered. Once you have a name and have registered it as your own, you need to contact the IRS and get a federal tax ID number (TIN) for your business. You'll also need to get a sales tax number from your state if it collects sales tax and you intend to sell any products (hay, tack, etc.)

The foregoing will require some calls and work on your part, but its definitely worth it. You don't want to be the person whose assets have been seized from ongoing litigation. And speaking as a card carrying member of my state bar, the power the courts have to do this is quite amazing — good for creditors — NOT so good for debtors or defendants.

From there, conduct business in the name of your business. Get a bank account in the name of the business, register your business with the town, and DO NOT commingle your personal money with the business's money. That doesn't mean that you, as an individual, cannot loan money to your business, it just means you need to account for it cleanly by keeping good books (I suggest Quickbooks, which has the advantage of being user friendly). If you do not conduct business as a separate entity, then if sued, lawyers on the other side can mount an attack called "piercing the corporate veil" which is again not something you want to be on the receiving end of. Essentially, it means they could reach through to your personal assets (your home, bank accounts, investments, etc.) for compensation of damages.

October 26, 2010 – I have a farm and am thinking of trying to earn some extra money by renting stalls. What can I do to protect myself legally speaking?

This is a common question and it requires a comprehensive response. Therefore, I'm going to answer it in several steps, one step with each daily posting.

Step 1:
The first thing that you can and MUST DO is to have all who step onto your farm sign a liability waiver. This should be a waiver created especially for your own business and premises. Each premises usually has its own unique characteristics that may need specific addressing in the waiver. For example, one situation I ran into involved a barn that had a driving instructor who taught from the barn. The waiver being used by this barn was far less than optimum because it didn't adequately protect the farm. So, I wrote it to take account of the actual conditions and legal exposure. In this case, the actual driving instruction was being done in an abandoned strip mine next door.

It really is worth it to have your waiver reviewed by an equine lawyer to protect your specific operation. It represents a one-time fee that will continually work to protect your liability until you change your operation or your state changes an equine law related to your operation. So, resist the urge to pluck a general waiver off of the internet to save money — it could well prove to be a false economy the first time you're sued. The internet variety WILL NOT take into account your own state laws and certainly WILL NOT take into account your personal business model. And without that, it's not adequately protecting you legally — what good, then, is that free waiver and the legal fees you saved when you're sued and find you're liable and not protected as you thought you were?

October 25, 2010 – Yesterday when I went in her pen, my yearling filly followed me around like a puppy, nuzzling me and wanting to be petted. Today I went out there and she walks away from me and ignores me when I go in her pen. She doesn't run away, so I can walk up to her if I want to, but I have no idea why she changed her attitude toward me. I tried to give her some treats, but she doesn't like anything I try to give her. I have tried apple treats, plain oats, sweet feed, and even creep feed for our calves. Our other horses love these things but she won't eat them. Can you give me some advice? Thanks!

This likely has nothing to do with you, but rather with how she's feeling at the time. She may have a bit of a belly ache, or she may just not feel like company. Have you ever felt that way yourself?

Watch her closely for the next few days. If she's otherwise going about her usual routine, then it may just be that she had something on her mind. If the loss of appetite continues, then be more worried. If she goes seriously off her feed, then something is wrong and you need to be a detective to investigate it. Check her teeth, her mouth, the production of manure or urine, and call a vet if it goes on beyond a few days.

October 22, 2010 – My horse seems sad. I had to move her from her regular stall to another stall. Can horses be sad?

Absolutely! Horses have a full range of emotions from happy to sad to angry to bored to annoyed to....you name it — they have it. You're quite the caring horse owner to have noticed this — that's good.

Did your horse have a companion near her other stall? Horses are very social and much of their day involves seeing, feeling, and hearing their companions. Please check into her companion situation and you may figure out what the problem is. She likely would be happy again if her companion's stall was near hers so she could smell and hear her. If it is companion related, her companion could also be sad at this time and would also be happier if they were together again. This is typical of horses that have bonded. If they can't be placed together again, both horses should still adapt fairly quickly.

Otherwise, it may be a health problem. Call a vet in a day or so if she doesn't perk up.

October 21, 2010 – Hello, I was waiting for my trainer to meet me in her yard and thought I would go up to her horse, who I have ridden previously, and say hello. The horse was very calm and exactly acted as he has always done, but as soon as I went to walk away he just managed to bite the back of my jacket. I know this horse is very healthy and has no issues with regard to its health or happiness. Very stumped? Thanks.

Horses have their own opinions. You just learned what his is of you. In the future, be very careful and don't turn your back on the horse. You may not be aware of this, but each horse has a full appreciation of the exact degree to which they can get away with misbehavior from the humans around them. This horse has probably learned that he can't get away with much with the trainer, but was itching to try his luck with you, and he has now been gratified to learn that you're a pushover. You'll have to correct this horse's understanding with help from your trainer.

October 20, 2010 – I am getting a seven month old filly. I am going to keep her in her own little pasture with an older horse of ours since some of our horses are pretty aggressive. Is this okay?

And would it be okay if I spent a lot of time with her or should I only spent a certain amount of time in her pasture? I will be training her by myself in a few years so I want her to be used to me. Thanks.

I think your plan sounds very good, to pasture her with one older horse who can show her the ropes so to speak. I would start by handling the older horse in her company, so that she can watch it happen first. Then move to her, little by little. Gradually increase the handling time and always make it fun with treats for good behavior and correction and work for bad behavior. Knock off after ten or fifteen minutes in the beginning and gradually increase the time up to about forty minutes after several months.

Initially, work on just general manners for handling, picking up feet and grooming, and leading and general fooling around. As she gets more comfortable with you and these activities, you can add blankets, trailers, baths, standing tied, lunging, and all that fun stuff that horses must learn. You want a model, trusting citizen by the time the horse is two years old, so you have a little over a year to go. Read up on the subject; there's a lot to know and much more than I can describe in this post.

Good luck, be careful, and DON'T hesitate to reach out for expert help if you run into any roadblocks on the way. If you're not expert yourself, you need to be careful you're not teaching her some "wrong" stuff unintentionally that will need to be addressed quickly before it becomes a confirmed bad habit.

October 19, 2010 – We have a Quarter Horse that is 8 and he has been mistreated all his life to the point that a lot think he doesn't like men. His dislike came from men forcing him into a trailer and also he was beat. Now the question is that he has bitten me twice now. I will walk by him a few times a day and give him an alfalfa cube and walk away. He comes to me on command and tonight I was petting him and he bit my stomach. It made me buckle as I didn't react towards him. I stayed there and didn't pay him any attention. I love this horse and I want him to see that I am a good MAN unlike the others in his past. What do I do?

First of all, I'm very sorry your horse has previously been mistreated. The problem that I see over and over again is that people don't know how to manage horses, and so utilize the only way they know, which is force or strength or beating, in an effort to get the horse to perform in a certain way. People don't seem to understand that all interactions with a horse are horse training.

The difficulty for you is that this horse still has to be managed and corrected for improper behavior in a way that he understands is correction and not abuse. Otherwise, if you can't modify his behavior, as sorry as you feel for him and as much as you want him to be your friend, the risk is too great and you must and should let him go to another owner, (with full disclosure of his issues) who may or may not get on with him any better.

My suggestion is to work with a natural horsemanship trainer so that the both of you can be schooled together. You'll learn to better understand the signals you're giving him and the signals that he's giving you. You'll also learn how to apply correction properly and not abusively. He'll be learning to trust you as being someone fair, consistent, and distinguishable from the mass of hateful humans he's known before. Horses ARE capable of such distinguishing discernment, but it takes consistent repetition and mindfulness from you.

The one thing that jumped out at me from your description is that you let him bite you with no reaction from you. You thus taught him that such behavior was acceptable from your point of view. He will then apply that lesson in a way that you WILL NOT LIKE — this can be very dangerous for you! Get expert help immediately on this, and in the future, approach him on guard and with full intention to IMMEDIATELY correct any nipping behavior. If you watch him closely, you can catch him on the wind up for the bite. In that case, all you may have to do is to say STOP THAT in a terrible voice, which may be enough to head him off. If not, you'll have to smack him on the muzzle as he goes for it — IMMEDIATE correction is the key. Understand that correction IS NOT abuse and not carried on and on. It's given swiftly at the proper moment and that's it — it's over. Your horse is quite capable of putting together cause and effect. It's your job to ensure that the correction is NOT delayed at all, because then it becomes abuse in his mind.

Good luck and be VERY careful.

October 18, 2010 – My horse stomps sometimes when she sees me coming towards her. What does this mean?

Well, a horse stomping can mean several things, none of which I'm able to interpret without looking at your horse while she does it. But you can learn to read your horse's feelings also. Look at her expression. What does her face look like when she does this? What are her ears doing? Horses fairly shout their emotions with their body language and their facial expressions. Their ears always are a good indicator of what they're thinking also, as they always direct their ears towards the focus of their thought, unless they're seriously aggravated. In that case, they lay them flat against their head, open their mouth, and run at or bite at the hated object.

So, on a guess, the stomp can mean:

  • I want to get going on whatever it is that my human has in mind, or
  • I really, really don't want to do anything right now and am aggravated to have to even think about doing something, or
  • It could mean flies are biting her legs and she's stomping to dislodge them.

It's also possible that the stomping is not even be related to anything that you're doing — it's hard to tell without seeing her doing it. But the one thing I do know, is that if you learn to read your own horse's expressions and body language, you'll be very much further ahead in figuring out harmonious interactions with her.

October 15, 2010 – My horse runs from me when I go out to halter him in his paddock and go riding. But when I go for him at the end of each day to bring him back to the barn and feed the horses, he runs up to me and lets me halter him. How can I make him run up to me and not fight me during the day when I try to put the halter on? Should I bring him treats every time I go to get him?

Horses aren't dumb. Yours runs up to you at the end of the day because he knows it's time to return to his stall and eat dinner. As you mentioned yourself in your question, when you go to get him during the day, you're doing so to ride. To him, that means work, plus, no more grazing, and no more hanging around with his buddies "doin nothin". Sounds to me as if your horse has "sussed" this whole thing out and knows how to avoid work as well as how to cooperate at day's end to get dinner.

Treats are a bribe, and while it probably will work, you'd be teaching him to hold out on you until you provide food. Looked at another way, he's teaching you to bring treats when you come to him at midday, and as a reward to you, he'll let you catch him — who's really training whom here?

Here's what you do. When you next approach to halter him and he runs off, send him on about his way faster than he likes (make him trot or run) until he gives you signs that he'd just as soon stop and rest. At that point, soften your attitude to him, turn your shoulder slightly away, and look off into the distance. Then, move slightly in his direction. If he's ready to stop running away, you should be able to halter him at that point. If not, then you have another round of sending him on a working escape until you convince him that it's just easier to surrender, because then all he has to do is walk by your side while you lead him. You'll most likely have to do this a few times before he's convinced.

Another thing you should do is visit him during the day regularly and groom him, spend time with him, and let him graze while you're with him. Occasionally (not always), also give him a treat, such as a carrot, AFTER you're done grooming. This way, he won't associate your arrival at midday solely with riding and work. He won't know if you're going to work him, or fuss over him, brush him, and then provide a treat. He likely won't chance missing that treat and brush massage once he's gotten used to that routine.

October 14, 2010 – My one year old riding pony foal is a handful. When someone enters the paddock she kicks out at them and runs around them. I am worried someone will get hurt. How can I stop this behavior?

If it were me, I'd enter the paddock with a lunge whip, and when she starts to make her patented kick move, and before she gets there, I would stare menacingly at her and then run her around the paddock until she appears tired, is ready to stop, rest, and ignore me.

If you do that every time, you'd soon find that her desire to "play" with her kicking and intimidating would diminish rapidly. As an aid towards learning the horse signals on this, you should enroll in a natural horsemanship class that teaches how to recognize when a horse is playing, when he's aggressive, and when he's ready to quit and behave.

I do agree that you have to do something about this behavior soon, though. One year old horses are like 15 year old teenagers: hooligans at that age need to be shown manners or when they get older and bigger, the cost to society can be dreadful.

October 13, 2010 – How can I tell if my horse likes me?

The signs are unmistakable. When you approach, he pricks up his ears, knickers at you, trots over, nuzzles you, or some combination of these. Horses are not shy, nor are they inhibited in the display of emotion.

October 12, 2010 – I am buying a eight month old colt. Since I can't start training him, do you suggest that I do anything with him that would help when I start training him?

This is a fun project and will require that you read up on the subject as well as seek expert advice from horse trainers in your area as time goes on. That means that the advice needs to be tailored to your particular circumstances. There are also questions you need to ask yourself so as to be ready to inform the trainer. For example: Does the colt lead now in a respectful manner? Are you going to geld him?

The key to bringing a horse along is to provide consistent interaction while demanding good manners from the horse. You'll be able to lay a good foundation for future training if you work with the horse over time and teach him the important basics all horses need to know, such as to stand when tied, to load into a trailer, to accept having his feet picked out, and to accept general handling without protest. You do that just by trying it over and over and over again, and correcting misbehavior right away.

Don't yell at or hit your horse if he misbehaves. Instead, always work to make misbehavior cause him more work than behaving properly. He'll quickly learn that doing as you ask results in a reward of praise and less work while not doing so causes more work and then another request to again attempt the goal. Also, young horses can only focus for a short time, so don't make any training session longer than 30 - 40 minutes at a time. Then, break off training and return to training again later.

Also remember that every single event of interacting with a horse is training, whether you feel that way or not, because the horse certainly feels that way. Calm, quiet, consistent interaction over time will get you to the next stage, which in this case is preparing the horse to be ridden when he gets old enough.

I have a caveat for you: DO NOT attempt this with a stallion. If you're not going to geld the horse, then turn him over to an experienced trainer.

October 8, 2010 – How long does it take to train a polo pony?

Normally, a horse that's already trained to ride will take another two years to train to play polo. And that's if the horse likes the game.

Polo really is a sport where the horse and rider form an athletic combination. Up until the time the horse is made, the game is just noise to it. It doesn't play, it only reacts. Once the horse figures out the game, however, they watch the play and help to make it. It's quite an experience, let me tell you!

Because of this, most green horses are between the ages of 4 to 6 before a polo trainer will take them — a three year old horse is just too young. The horse's body and mind are not mature enough for the sport. However, once made, a horse can play into their 20s. School horses can last beyond 30. It's a lifetime achievement for the horse and something they enjoy and quite live for.

October 7, 2010 – I just sold a horse. Right after I sold the horse, passed papers, and got the money, we put the horse on the trailer for the new owner to take the horse away. Not three minutes later the horse flipped over backwards and cut its head deeply. Are these vet bills my responsibility?

No. Normally, the risk of loss passes upon the completion of delivery and payment. Here, you had completed all parts of the transaction, including delivery. Therefore, the new owner bears the risk of loss. Though as I've said before, I continue to be amazed at the various ways horses can hurt themselves.

October 6, 2010 – How serious is swelling around a wound? Can I just treat it with Betadine?

First of all, do keep in mind that the healing process alone will create swelling. However, the problem is that you'll likely not be able to tell that kind of swelling from the start of an infection. If it is an infection and it's allowed to proceed, then the situation will become much more serious.

As a matter of course, this is what I do with all wounds:

  • If it's a superficial skin laceration, then I wash it out with Betadine and keep an antibiotic ointment on it.
  • If I see any swelling at all, I add antibiotics (e.g. Uniprim) to the horse's feed in the dosage recommended on the package. This is a powder and horses won't always eat it. In that case, I add water to the powder, make a solution, and squirt it into the horse's mouth with a wormer tube. I keep the horse on antibiotics for about a week and hose the wound area with cold water twice daily.
  • If the wound is deeper, then you have to call the vet. You may need stitches on the wound and you really can't make that call.
  • If you wait until the wound starts granulating around the edges, it'll be too late.
If the swelling is caused by an infection and it's not properly treated, and soon enough, the risk is that the infection can damage the flesh around the wound — this can be very serious. For example, if the wound is on the leg near a joint, then even if the original cut didn't affect the joint, an untreated infection could cause a crippling injury, or even require that the horse be put down.

In my years of horses, I continue to be amazed at the many ways horses can injure themselves. Don't wait long to call your vet if you have any doubts. Good luck!

October 5, 2010 – My horse got cut in the paddock. What should I do?

Call the vet IMMEDIATELY! The next 24 hours are critical. Your horse may need stitches and also antibiotics.

Call the vet NOW! I waited too long with a similar incident and I regret it — learn from my mistake.

October 4, 2010 – Will horses ever forget if you were abusive with them?

No, they're like elephants — they never forget anything. But, that doesn't mean you can't develop a better relationship with the horse if you change your behavior. However, it does mean you'll have to earn their his and that could take a while. And you can't ever go back to abusing the horse or you may never earn his trust again.

This is serious enough that you should definitely enlist the help of a good trainer to both assess the horse's interaction with you and your training approach.

October 1, 2010 – My horse is forever snatching leaves and grass while I ride him and it's driving me crazy. I don't know how to stop him.

He does this because you let him. Be ready with a firmer bit than he's used to (ramp up one degree, from a snaffle to a kimberwick, from a kimberwick to a Pelham, etc.) and also a crop. When he's about to make the snatch, show him the crop and hold his mouth. If he goes for it, pull back with a pop on the reins, smack him on the shoulder, and move him off smartly at the trot. Do this every time he makes the grab. He'll figure it out very quickly. Then, he'll stop doing it until your attention is off.

For quite a while, you'll have to maintain complete attention while you ride so you're ready to correct him if he tries to snatch for a bite, but it's worth it. As long as you attend to the correction each and every time he moves for lunch, the problem will eventually abate.

My horses never snatch grass, even the ones that were chronic grass snatchers. They watch me watching them and just figure it isn't worth the effort.

September 30, 2010 – My horse sometimes runs backwards. What's he doing?

He's avoiding your directions. You need to send him to a horse trainer immediately. The behavior you describe can easily turn into rearing, which is very dangerous.

September 29, 2010 – How do I prevent my horse from turning his back end to me when I'm trying to mount?

If you're at his shoulder, how exactly does that happen? Does he move into you and push you around? If so, he needs a lesson in manners.

Get a crop and be ready with the butt end (pardon the pun), and when he steps towards you when you go to mount, tap him with firmness and panache at the barrel. Keep doing it until he steps away from you. When he does step away from you, stop immediately, pat him, and tell him what a good horse he is. Then, put your foot up as if to mount again, and wait, ready with the crop. After a few rounds of this, he'll decide to short-circuit the process and just keep his hind end in place to let you mount.

September 28, 2010 – I was cleaning my saddle and breathed in lots of mold and mildew and I'm 18 weeks pregnant. How dangerous is this?

I'm not a doctor, and so, I don't really know. I would contact your obstetrician just to be safe, and for peace of mind. At 18 weeks pregnant, peace of mind is worth a lot!

September 27, 2010 – My horse limps on his right front leg when I get on him. We had to move cows one day, so I got on him to see if it would get better, and by the end of the ride, he wasn't limping anymore. The next day, I went to ride him and he was limping again. Once again, he walked out of it. Why?

How old is your horse? If he's aged, then this is the kind of soreness all of God's creatures get as they get older, it sounds like to me. If he's not in his later years, then it still is a muscle soreness of which he works his way out.

The one thing I'd be careful about is to watch how long the limping lasts, and that your hopefulness about his condition doesn't lead you to use him when he's suffering. I would be cautious and get a vet to check him in his sore state just to be sure as to the cause, and how and how much you should be using/riding him.

September 24, 2010 – What do you do if you and your horse are attacked by yellow jackets? Should you turn around and run, try to run through them or dismount and walk away? If dismounting is not an option (big horse, short person) and your horse is going crazy (ie rearing and jumping around), how should you handle the situation?

It depends on how you feel about your riding skills. I'm confident enough in my ability to stay on, so I would gallop away and not come back. In addition, I feel that my horse would not be able to throw me no matter what.

However, I also realize that not everyone has such confidence in their riding ability, and my confidence also has limits in some situations. In those cases where I feel the situation is too much for me to handle, I might act on the decision to perform an emergency bail out as the next best option.

You're smart to think about such things now while you have the time to analyze the situation and evaluate your options, confidence, and skills. But, regardless how you feel right now, I think you'll be stuck with the same requirement as the rest of us, that is, to do what seems best to you at that very moment. At that time, you'll likely be glad you gave this some thought and will be better able to quickly weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

September 23, 2010 – When my horse gets frightened and tries to run, what should I do besides using the emergency dismount?

I agree that the emergency dismount is problematic and can be very dangerous. The problem with any advice on the topic of what to do when on a bolting horse is that you may be tempted to use it. And for safe use, such measures are dependent upon the individual circumstances at hand. You SHOULD NOT use these techniques without first working with your instructor or trainer on YOUR horse and with YOUR abilities. You cannot think calmly and clearly when on a horse that is running due to fear. Your own adrenaline level will be high and you'll almost certainly overcompensate and/or panic making the situation far worse and more dangerous.

IF there's lots of room, such as in a flat field with no unusual ground hazards to worry about (prairie dog holes, irrigation ditches, roots running on top of the ground, stumps of trees, snake dens, etc.), then one thing you can do is turn your horse using a direct rein pull to the side and gradually pulling more to tighten the turn as you slow down. The risk you want to avoid here is turning the horse too fast and causing him to fall down with you on him, or worse onto you, which would not be good.

If your horse is resisting the bit, another thing you could consider is a pulley rein. But, this really takes expert skill, so I'm not going to address it further.

Riding a bolting horse is dangerous, and unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this inherent risk of riding. But, you can lessen the risk somewhat by getting proper training on controlling an anxious horse BEFORE it ever happens. It is a rare person, indeed, who has the ability and presence of mind to solve this problem during the crisis. Don't chance it; talk to your riding instructor/horse trainer soon.

September 22, 2010 – How harsh is a bit with a roller?

The roller itself is not harsh at all. A bit with a shank or with a narrow diameter on the bit itself will lend harshness. For the shank, the longer it is, the more leverage (force) the rider has on the bit. And if the bit is narrow, the pressure is all concentrated on a very small area adding harshness like a wire or knife blade; and yes, it can cut the gums if used too roughly.

The roller's intent is to get the horse to play with the bit using his tongue so that he doesn't resist it as it sits inside his mouth.

September 21, 2010 – How long does it take a horse to settle in at a new barn?

About a week to two weeks. Your horse needs to become comfortable with the humans with which he interacts, to make new horse friends, to learn when he'll be put out, brought in again, and fed. Once that happens, he's sure he'll get fed each day, he falls into a routine, and he feels safe in his new home, he should be much more comfortable.

September 20, 2010 – Why does my horse show aggression to people who enter her field?

Horses are prey animals and most usually run from the things they're afraid of. However, not always. Sometimes, a horse will become aggressive. You'll occasionally see such behavior directed at people, and often toward dogs. If this is a habit of your horse, you could face liability issues if she hurts someone. Please contact an equine attorney for ways to deal with the situation and precautions to take, both physically with your horse, and legally.

September 17, 2010 – I have a 17 year old Quarter Horse and she is constantly chomping on her bit, which is a smooth snaffle bit. What bit would you suggest I get to stop her chomping?

This sounds as if your horse is just expressing her editorial opinion. Unless the bit is pinching the corners of her mouth in some way, or if the snaffle bars are too thin and narrow so as to be wire like and painfully cutting in, there doesn't otherwise seem to be a problem related to the bit itself. Assuming the bit is fine, then the chomping is just one more way for your horse to show what she's thinking, which could range from an expression of "let's go, let's go, let's go" to "jeez, I'm so BORED" and so forth.

You can explore bit-less bridles or hackamores if the chomping really irritates you. If she otherwise pays attention to your signals and if the chomping doesn't interfere with your communications with her, then I would just leave it alone. Some bits are designed to increase chomping on the theory that the chomp means the horse isn't resisting it.

September 16, 2010 – Why does my horse limp even with horseshoes?

Your horse has a lameness issue somewhere in his hoof, bone, tendon, or the muscle structures of his feet, legs, shoulders, hip, or back. As an example, a horse with an abscess inside his hoof will limp with no visible cause and even with horseshoes on. Finding out the cause of horse lameness is a little like detective work, so you need to get veterinary help to figure out what's really going on. Even then, sometimes there is no way to know for sure exactly what the problem is. But the way to start is to call your vet.

September 15, 2010 – What do insurance policies mean by "loss of use"?

As an example, let's say you use the horse for lessons and rely on that horse's weekly or monthly income to pay for the horse's board. You can get that income that the horse earns covered by insurance through this clause. That's just one example however, there are many others.

This kind of insurance is usually secured to protect an animal, property, equipment, or something similar upon which the insured depends. Often, as in the example above, an income stream is at stake. At other times, it may be a matter of independence, as in the case of a car. It can even be a human body part — a successful celebrity or sports figure might insure his hands and fingers (e.g. musician), or arm (e.g. baseball pitcher). Similarly, the owner of a race horse may insure the animal under such a clause as well as under others.

Talk this clause over with your equine insurance agent to see if you need this kind of coverage.

September 14, 2010 – Sometimes when I enter my horse's paddock, my horse runs at me with his ears back. This frightens me and I usually just run out of the paddock. What should I do and how can I stop my horse from doing this?

This charging behavior is VERY DANGEROUS! Although you can call a horse trainer and have the trainer work with you on techniques to prevent this, I, myself, would not do so. Instead, I would sell the horse immediately to an expert horseman only, and with the appropriate disclaimers and full disclosure as to this behavior.

Once a horse has learned how to use his superior weight and physical size against a human in an aggressive fashion, there really is no going back from that point. The horse will never forget he can do this and only experts can deal with the continual assessment of personal safety necessary to deal with a horse exhibiting this dangerous habit.

September 13, 2010 – I have an open stock trailer. How cold a day can I haul my horses?

This is a good question! Riding in an open trailer has wind-chill characteristics with the same hypothermia concerns of being out in that wind in very cold air. But it's worse in that your horse can't move around to get behind a building, hill, or other wind break for protection — he's stuck in the trailer with the wind blowing through.

If the temperature is above freezing, you blanket the horse well, use bandages, and slide plexiglass in the open slats of the stock trailer so as to cut the direct passage of wind, then you can pretty much trailer on colder days as you normally do in warmer weather. However, when below freezing, I wouldn't trailer for long stretches, that is, no more than three to four hours at a stretch. Also, make sure he has plenty of hay and water to help him keep warm internally through his digestive processes.

If you don't want to take these precautions, then I would hire a professional horse trailering outfit for hauling in the cold weather, or when below freezing. A horse can get hypothermia and would suffer if you tried to haul in a totally open trailer for more than a short distance.

September 10, 2010 – My saddle sometimes slips sideways when I mount him. Why?

Your girth is not tight enough. This is a safety issue. You need to learn the proper tightness of a saddle girth to ride safely. On Western or Aussie saddles, if you have trouble tightening the cinch because you find it difficult, there are devices that can help, such as the tackaberry. If you just don't have the strength to sufficiently tighten a girth or cinch, get someone stronger than you to girth the horse up in future. It IS NOT safe to ride with a too-loose girth or cinch.

September 9, 2010 – Is a western saddle safer?

Many beginning riders do think that, because the saddle is heavier, more sturdy with a horn to grab onto, and with fenders that help your legs stay in place. A rider who jumps would dispute the claim, because the saddle would interfere with the discipline. I, myself, feel that a well-fitted Australian stock saddle is the safest saddle around because the "poleys" really keep the rider in place and in the saddle, even going downhill or making an abrupt stop or turn. That's what I use to ride my rougher, bucking-inclined horses. As I get older, I get more allergic to forced contact with the ground.

The Horse Guy has several saddles and also likes his Australian saddle the best for its safety and comfort. (Being older than I am, I suspect his ground contact allergies could be even more severe than mine. Allergies are such a terrible thing...)

September 8, 2010 – My horse got bitten in the leg by another horse. How do I help him heal it?

If the skin was broken, get some antibiotic cream and use it after washing the bite area well with betadine and water. Keep an eye on it for infection. That should work and be all you need to do.

If you start seeing a lot of pus and pain, call the veterinarian for internal antibiotics and for an exam to make sure that an abscess isn't growing inside.

September 7, 2010 – New Article

I've gotten several questions of late regarding how a business can survive this slow economy. In response, I've prepared an article that provides some general guidelines that can help almost any equine business. The article is not a "cure all" and is not magic. It speaks about avoiding some bad decisions many horse businesses make as they try to save money that instead actually cost them more or expose them to legal liabilities. You can read it at: Avoiding Typical Horse Business Pitfalls in a Recession.

September 3, 2010 – How do I get my horse to want me instead of his herd?

That's a tall order! Even the Horse Guy's horse, who seems to prefer the Horse Guy to all other human beings (often whinnying when he arrives at the barn, running over, following him around, a big welcome in other words) still prefers his horse friends when push comes to shove. The Horseguy will also admit that his horse doesn't always act that way; sometimes, his horse just wants to graze and isn't excited when his owner comes to ride. I think it's a simple matter of time spent, myself. Unless you live with the horse, he'll spend more time with his buddies than with you. He may like you episodically and related to what you can do for him (feed, fly relief, water, hay, play time, a good scratch or grooming), but he will like his other companions more for the most part. I think if you settle for getting your horse to see that when you arrive, good things (from his point of view) are likely to happen, then you'll get all the love you can stand.

And think hard about this very important point: do you really want your horse pining away and crying and grieving when you leave, because this is how they react when their horse buddies are taken away. That would mean you'd never be able to take a vacation, or even go home — that wouldn't be fair to you or your horse.

September 2, 2010 – My horse got bitten in the leg by another horse. Is there any way I can help him heal it?

If the skin was broken, get some antibiotic cream and use it after washing the bite area well with betadine and water. Keep an eye on it for infection — that should work.

If you start seeing a lot of pus and some pain exhibited, call your veterinarian for internal antibiotics and for an exam to make sure that an abscess is not growing inside.

September 1, 2010 – Can I sue my farrier for hot nailing my horse?

Maybe, if it results in damage to the horse, and if you can prove that the hot nail was a breach in the standard of care of farriery. Whether that is true in your case, I have no idea. A hot nail, in and of itself, does not automatically mean the farrier was negligent.

August 31, 2010 – How do I keep my horse from eating while I mount him?

Keep your reins shortened and prevent him from putting his head down. The, mount quickly and yank the head up as he makes the grab. Finally, start work right away.

August 30, 2010 – Why does my horse limp only when I'm riding him. He never limps if no one's on him.

Your horse has an injury that is reactive to weight. Horses never feign a limp. If he limps, there really is a problem that must be investigated and addressed so you don't do more damage.

I have a mare right now that recently broke a seismoid and she limps if you try to ride her because of the increased weight on the joint. But, she doesn't limp in the pasture. Your horse may have such an injury. You should consider getting him a thorough review from your vet to determine the problem. I also recommend that you not ride him until the problem is determined, addressed, and has healed or resolved.

August 27, 2010 – My horse had a panic attack in his trailer yesterday. Why did that happen and what do I do?

A trailer is a very scary place for a horse, completely at odds with his desire to keep himself safe by being able to move quickly away from predators. From a horse's point of view, a trailer is a death box, a place where they could be imprisoned for the kill. The fact that so many horses are able to override their natural instinct is a credit to how truly smart they can be. But every so often, their natural instinct will overwhelm their thinking brain and you'll have a panic attack.

I don't know what touched off your horse's panic attack. Sometimes it will be something that happens outside the trailer, that you don't see, but he does. Sometimes it will be another horse in the trailer attacking your horse or signaling his intention to attack. Remember that horses have their personal space and trailering may sometimes require horses to be closer together than one or more may like.

So how do you comfort such a horse and prevent future panic attacks? My suggestion is to use a stock trailer for hauling for a while, especially a large one, if possible. Think about it, a 24 foot stock trailer is so large, open, and airy, that few horses feel really confined in one.

Also, trailer him with a buddy who can be next to him, but not too close. Take him somewhere, feed him in the trailer lightly, do something fun at that location (a short trail ride), and then go home and turn him out immediately with good feed. If you do that a few times, he'll learn that trailering itself is a means to a fun end. And then he'll not mind the ride so much after all.

August 26, 2010 – What weight should a western saddle be to start a colt on?

The saddle weight won't matter much for a colt grown up enough to start riding. Keep in mind the colt is MUCH bigger and heavier than any saddle, and for training purposes, a heavier saddle is better than a very light postage stamp. What starting a horse really accomplishes is the beginning of a long desensitization process. Horses are not born expecting to have to carry the weight of a person on their back. Rather, it's something we get them accustomed to doing.

August 25, 2010 – Why does my horse nip at me when I try to make him move sideways?

This is his editorial opinion and his response to your demand to move. It is at the very least, insurrection and rebellion.

I'm afraid you have to respond directly when he nips. Say, STOP THAT! in a terrible voice just as he is making his move, and smack him (open palm) on the snout as he does it with audible noise resulting from the smack — this is not a beating and not painful for the horse — it is instead an unmistakable correction. Timing is very important on this. He may, in fact, observe your increased readiness and watchfulness and intention to correct him, and defer nipping for a while, only to try again at some point when you aren't paying as much attention. Vigilance, therefore, is key!

August 24, 2010 – I'm the owner of a paint quarter horse. I notice when she is eating out of her feed bucket, she tends to have heavy breathing and when she gets hot from riding for about 2 hours, she pants very heavy. If she gets hot standing in an open pasture for more than 3 to 4 hrs, she is panting like a dog. She is all up to date with her shots and she is pretty healthy. Could I have an underlying problem? Thanks!

This could be COPD, which stands for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease — it's a bit like emphysema in humans. Call your veterinarian and seek his/her advice for help with this condition. You'll likely have to take precautions on this one; it is both the humane and the safe thing to do.

August 23, 2010 – Hi! I have 3 horses: 2 mares and 1 stally. My youngest mare was broken-in about two or three years ago. Do you think it's ok to ride her now?

If she has not been ridden since you bought her two or three years ago, I don't think it would be safe to just hop on her back. I would send her to a horse trainer for a "tune up" on riding before you take that risk. Remember, my motto is safety first, foremost, and always!

August 20, 2010 – I'm just starting English riding. What kind of saddle, bridle, horse boots, like the whole set should I use?

If you're just starting to ride, then I bet you're starting with a stable that has all the tack already. That being the case, I would not purchase tack until you either lease or own your own horse. The people that own the horse you're currently riding for lessons already have thought about and invested in the kind of saddle and bridle that fits the horse. So I would not advocate you spending money on such "fitted" horse items until you have settled on a horse that you'll ride for a long time.

Boots and helmets, however, are a different story, because they fit you, not the horse. In a very recent post (August 16th, 2010), I discussed where to go and what to look for in boots and helmets — you may want to read it.

Good luck and have fun!

August 19, 2010 – Is it safe to breed a mare with laminitis?

Talk to your vet about this one. I would be concerned that the extra weight of carrying the foal during the eleven or so months of pregnancy could cause pain, not that laminitis is an inherited condition — it isn't. So it could possibly be safe, but may not be wise or considerate without a veterinarian examination ruling out other potential problems.

August 18, 2010 – What is the best kind of horse boots and saddle pad to use on a barrel racing horse?

For horse boots, I would use polo wraps on all four legs and covered with a stiffer boot that is applied with Velcro straps on his forelegs. I'd also use an overreach boot if he's inclined to overstep. Look at your competitors and you'll see that leg protection is worth the time and effort it takes!

As for saddle pads, aim for clean. Other than that, I don't think it matters much unless your horse has a sore back. If that's the case, invest in the foam rubber pad that covers the kidney area of your horse and provides some extra padding against your pounding on his back.

August 17, 2010 – My horse and I were recently viciously attacked by a dog while riding on the street. My horse was bit 13 times, myself once. We both received emergency medical care and are now heeling.

When I start riding again, what is the best approach? We are both emotionally scarred and I know I'll be a nervous wreck. Are there any ways you can suggest to ease us into riding on the streets again and to get my horse comfortable around dogs again? Thanks for your help.

YIKES! I'm very sorry this happened to you. I hope you have a good lawyer!

To answer your question, the general idea is to start slowly and minimally to both exposure to dogs and to riding on the street again. Both should be started under controlled conditions. Stop right way if you don't feel comfortable or if your horse shows signs of distress. Neither of you can move forward until you both feel comfortable, and that will take time and practice so that you both can emotionally relearn that not all dogs and not all streets are dangerous.

I would make it a point to ride with calmer, experienced riders and NOT alone for a while. This will give both you and your horse more confidence and you'll both also feel safer. Take it easy, give yourself and your horse time, and keep at it. Over time, practice and present experience will convince both of you that it's more fun out there than in the paddock.

August 16, 2010 – Could you offer some buying advice for a starter kit for horseback riding? I'm a new rider and don't know where to start. To make matters worse, I'm getting lots of suggestions, but they're all different.

Regarding a "starter kit" for horseback riding, my suggestion is that you put some effort into consumer comparison shopping at a tack store near you, specifically, for helmets and boots. These are two items I would not buy online or used, for the simple reason that good quality and good fit are some of the MOST important criteria for both of these items for safety reasons.

For helmets, you want it to fit tightly enough on your head so that if you shake your head vigorously, there will be no movement at all of the helmet sliding around on your head. Also, helmets should bear a certification of "ASTM-SEI". The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) is a hundred year old safety organization that develops standards for manufacturers. The Safety Equipment Institute, (SEI) tracks whether the manufacturers FOLLOW the ASTM's recommendations and should comply with the aesthetic look demanded by your discipline (for example, velvet vs. the steel cage).

For boots, make sure you have enough room in the toes so that you're comfortable, but not so much that your foot slides around in the boot, which could be dangerous. Also, a good quality boot will last a very long time if it's properly cleaned and maintained, so it's worth a bit of an investment to buy now, and in your time to maintain the pair during its life.

As for tack, if you can get an expert advisor/friend to go shopping with you to help you spot possible safety concerns with the leather, I think buying on consignment is fine. Consignment tack can be both good quality and affordable, as long as you keep an eye on how it fits your horse and you don't hesitate to return the tack for resale at the shop if it doesn't fit properly.

August 13, 2010 – My farrier uses a hot forge method to shape the horseshoes, and so every shoeing tends to be very expensive. Is it really worth the money?

I suppose that if you had a horse that had very unusual feet that would not allow a standard horseshoe size to be fitted to it using the cold tap method, then the hot forge method would be worth the money. As for myself, I have Thoroughbreds and Quarter Horses and their feet are standard sizes. So my farrier taps the shoes into shape for half the cost and half the time. Since I have a number of horses, the time commitment is also a big factor.

I do know horses having unusual feet that probably would require a bit more shaping, which a horseshoe that has been heated to the point of limberness might take better. For those horses, continued soundness might require a farrier with a bit more flexibility than just a hammer. So, in that case, it would be worth the money I think. Remember, no foot no horse.

August 12, 2010 – My horse has a sway back. Can I still ride him normally?

Equine sway backs are actually a fascinating topic. Called 'lordosis', equine sway backs actually have little effect on a horse's usefulness or ability to move, but will affect horses whose riders use ill fitting saddles that rub on protruding points in the sway back. So, as long as your saddle is properly fitted, you should be able to ride just fine.

There has been very little written on this ailment, but among the articles I was able find, including an article by Emily Kilby in Equus magazine quoting a graduate student named Patrick Gallegher who did research while at the University of Kentucky, I learned the following:

  1. There seems to be a genetic component to lordosis; Saddlebreds are disproportionately affected by the ailment, but overall less than one percent of horses are affected;
  2. A horse's spine is uncommonly rigid when compared to other creatures, and that rigidity is enforced by soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments;
  3. Vertebrae in horses affected by lordosis are comparatively deformed when compared to other horses, and over time, as muscles and ligaments age, the lordosis becomes more and more apparent;
  4. Lordosis, in and of itself, does not cause unsoundness in horses.
So check your saddle to assure proper fit and then ride!

August 11, 2010 – My horse likes to snap at passing horses as they walk down the barn aisle. What can I do to stop this?

Unfortunately, a closed, barred, top half on the stable door is the only right, just, and safe response to this unpleasant habit. That way, your horse can look, but not bite. Obviously, horses do this for their own self-amusement purposes, but it's dangerous for passerby's of the human and equine persuasions, and you're right to be concerned and to want to address it.

August 10, 2010 – What is a hot nail? Do nails actually get hot in a horse's hoof?

A "hot nail" is what we call a nail that has penetrated too deeply into the meat of the hoof so that it actually causes the horse pain. Ordinarily, a horseshoe nail causes no pain at all to the horse. If you get a hot nail, you'll know because the horse will be lame and limping right after the shoeing. The cure is to remove the shoe and the nails, and then to let the area heal for a few days to a week — don't ride the horse during this period. When the horse stops limping, you'll know the tissue is healing and that he can be ridden. You may have to put the horse on antibiotics during the healing phase as well because of any infection the nail introduced into the horse's tissue.

Just to be clear again, the nail itself does not get "hot", but if the horse's foot gets infected, then you'll likely feel heat in the sole of the foot. This would require a cooling bucket of water and ice to help reduce inflammation as well as equine pain killers such as bute.

August 9, 2010 – When I feed my three horses in the pasture, they crowd around me as I carry the full feed bucket out to their feed tubs. This scares me sometimes as one or two of the horses get very pushy. Am I in danger here? Is there anything I can do about it?

Yes, you are in danger here. The horses will attempt to establish dominance and if you're in the way, you could get kicked or bitten. The best way to put the feed in the tubs is to back the horses off as you move in the pasture. Take a lead rope, and "pop it" at the horses and don't let them get any closer than ten to fifteen feet of you as you walk. You may also have to yell.

Stand and move with assertiveness and stare the horses in the eye. Think to yourself that YOU ARE THE KING of the feed tubs. It is VERY IMPORTANAT that you KNOW that YOU'RE in charge — if you don't believe it, they won't either. Also, keep an eye out behind you as you walk.

As you convey this attitude more clearly, your horses will in turn accord you more space and will allow you to put the feed in the tubs. Don't ever let them get pushy with you again, though, or you'll be right back where you started. (This technique will also likely prove valuable in dealing with your husband or boyfriend.)

August 6, 2010 – My mare has suddenly developed an evil personality. She won't stop teasing the other horses and snaps at them and generally causes trouble. This is not normal as she ordinarily is quite sweet and quiet. What is going on?

Typically when this happens, it's because the mare is "in season". That is, her biological clock is telling her that she needs to find a mate right now. The urgency of that desire overwhelms her ordinary good nature and she may take it out on all of her pasture mates. She may also take it out on you, too, so be careful when dealing with her. An extra dose of caution and awareness is warranted at this time.

Fortunately, it doesn't last long, so you should see her old personality resurface soon. If not, then call your vet because there could be an underlying pain issue that's causing her snappishness.

August 5, 2010 – When I feed my three horses in the pasture, one of my horses always chases away the other two. She won't let them eat at all. Is there anything I can do to stop her from doing this?

You have two choices here: 1) tie her up next to her bucket when she eats, or 2) remove her altogether when feeding. A variant of this might be to put her bucket far away from the other two horses, so far that she has to run quite a while before she gets to the other buckets. If you do this, make sure to feed her first so she is occupied at her "feeding station" before you feed her pasture mates. She might get tired of the chase and just stay put after a while. Otherwise, there is nothing you can do to stop her from showing those other two underlings that she's the boss of the feed tub.

August 4, 2010 – My horse has a splint. What the heck is that? Is that like a shin splint for a human?

The splint bone is an evolutionary remnant of the horse's other toes that run down beside the horse's main leg bones. If it fractures, the danger is that the rough edges will abrade and permanently injure the horse's suspensory tendon that runs alongside. In such a case, the bone would have to be removed or bolted to the other supporting bone.

The first thing you need to do with a horse that has a splint is to have the area X-Rayed. If the splint bone is broken, then the course of treatment is one thing. If it isn't, then the course of treatment is another.

If it's not broken, then sometimes what happens is that the pounding of movement will cause an area of calcification to build up that causes pain in the tendon as well. The best cure for a splint is stall rest, along with anti-inflammatory medication, cold water, and hose treatments daily. It takes a few weeks for the area to subside. You'll know the horse is recovered if you can curl the foot off the ground, press the affected area, and it is cold, not sensitive to the touch, and not swollen. If the foot is still swollen, warm, or sensitive, it's not healed yet. One important point to note is that you can't make this check while the foot is on the ground. If you press the affected area when the horse is weight bearing, he won't feel it anyway because of the weight. So make sure you palpate with the foot in the air.

Good luck and call your vet on all of this!

August 3, 2010 – My gelding has always had a very thin tail with brittle hair that seems to break very easily. It is so sparse you can see the skin. He is very healthy and of course, is wormed regularly. I have tried anti-itch creams and balms, which he likes to have applied, but nothing helps in the long run.

I am sorry, I don't know of a hair grow cure for your horse. But, this still sounds like a medical problem. It can be due to parasites, inadequate nutrition, or even tail rubbing or hair pulling by other horses. Excessive tail rubbing or hair pulling is something you can look into by observing your horse's behavior and interaction with other horses. Parasites and nutrition need to be investigated by your veterinarian just to be sure, even though you feel your horse is healthy. Plus, there are other possible parasites besides worms and a vet is the best person to conduct the investigation.

August 2, 2010 – Should I have an employment contract with my barn help? Wouldn't that protect me better than just paying by the hour? What should I think about in this area?

These are great questions and an important area to talk about. First, before I start to talk about the merits of having an employment contract or not, let me say some preliminary things about this field.

First, make sure you have workman's compensation insurance/unemployment insurance in any situation, including bartered help, whenever you have others working in your barn. The down side for not having such insurance is that, if your barn help gets hurt, you could end up being sued, and also being fined by your state insurance department for such matters. And that's on top of the medical bills being owed and penalties being assessed. This is very important stuff, so don't neglect it.

About the only way you can avoid having such insurance is if the person working is an independent contractor, which you can ask your insurance agent about as well as asking an equine lawyer. I can talk about independent contractors in another post, because right now, you're asking whether your employee needs a written contract.

So, why are you correct to be concerned? The short answer is that a written contract has both pros and cons. If the employee is considered to be working "at will", most states will allow that person to work at the will of the employer and at the direction of the employer. This works well in the horse industry because the duties are usually too varied and the length of employment is too uncertain to be worth putting into writing due to economic instability.

However, you might want to put a deal into writing in cases where the business is large, with many employees, or where the stakes are high, such as when employees get bonuses based on a horse's performance. You also want to establish a contract in cases where you want to ensure that the employee knows what specific duties MUST be performed, so as to have a basis to fire the employee for demonstrated failure to perform. The reason you need to memorialize nonperformance in writing is that, when the employee files for unemployment assistance in circumstances where the employee was fired for cause, you'll need to justify that the circumstances warranted the firing. If you can't, the employee may be able to prevail causing your unemployment assistance payments to significantly rise — NOT a good thing. So, good employment contracts are worth their weight in horse businesses that have many employees, or where the stakes are high.

At any rate, do contact an equine law attorney in your state on this to discuss the specifics of your particular needs. The issues regarding employment in equine establishments are unique and benefit from expert help and understanding of equine laws and precedence.

July 30, 2010 – Why does my horse lick my clothes?

I venture to guess that he likes the taste of them. Have you dropped something "interesting" on them, such as some foodstuff while preparing a meal or some coffee while working down at the barn?

July 29, 2010 – Why is my horse losing hair in some places leaving bare spots?

There are a number of skin conditions that can cause this. You need to call your vet.

July 28, 2010 – How do I cue my horse to walk with my seat and reins?

It depends on if you're at a halt and want the horse to walk, or if you're trotting or cantering and want the horse to slow to a walk.

If you're at a halt, squeeze the horse with your legs and lift the reins slightly. If you're at a trot, sit down gently, squeeze all over with your legs, and touch his mouth slightly with the bit by pulling back gently and then releasing. Do it again and a little harder if he ignores you.

At some point, if you escalate the aids, he'll stop, in which case you implement the first suggestion. Horses can figure this stuff out pretty quickly if you're consistent in your aids.

July 27, 2010 – How do I stop rubber reins from being sticky?

I don't think you can. I don't use them for that reason.

July 26, 2010 – How do I introduce a sergeant mare to an orphan foal?

I've read quite a bit about this over the years and there are lots of opinions. It does seem to boil down to individual preference for the mare. Some take in orphans gladly while others do not. If grieving over the death of their own foal, this process can be assisted by getting the scent of the deceased foal on the orphan. But failing that, I would say to approach this gradually and slowly, and keep the mare's head tied up in the beginning stages.

I've also seen orphans forced on mares using hobbles and ties, and although that works in the short term, it's usually not a long term solution. At some point, the mare's opinion will possibly be expressed forcefully in a way that could injure the foal, so no matter what, you want to very carefully keep an eye on the proceedings.

July 23, 2010 – My horse has a hard time riding with other horses on the trail. What can I do to make her more comfortable on the trail and easier to control?

What does she do exactly? Does she bite and kick at them? If so, this means her attention is more on playtime and less on obeying you, her leader. Immediately reward goofing off with work. Circles, trotting forward and back, side passes, you name it. As soon as she pays attention to you, let her rest. This takes vigilance, but works well. Also, if there is an especially hated rival, keep that horse far away.

If the foregoing doesn't apply, does she get impatient and work up a lather trying to be first? If so, again, keep her mind off the other horses and on work. I favor an approach trotting ahead and then trotting back, and then trotting ahead again. Soon, she'll enjoy the basic walk and want to avoid the work she gets by not listening to your commands.

Also, if you give her enough exercise, the jiggles will stop. Horses that trail ride for a living never jig. It's just too much work and they have to work too hard already. It might be worth farming her out for a few weeks to a trail ride outfit. Give instructions that she's not to be used by anyone other than the guides. I bet she comes back a different and improved horse.

July 22, 2010 – Why does my horse try to bite my feet?

You mean, when you're on him? He likely doesn't like you or something you're doing to him, and is expressing his opinion. Examine what you're doing at the moment he tries to bite. Are you doing something he doesn't like, such as kicking him in the ribs? Are you wearing spurs and jabbing him? Does he have a sore or injury that your feet are irritating?

Also, check his back and spine for pain issues. A bad back is enough to make anyone bite.

July 21, 2010 – My horse wants to play with people in her pasture. Is this ok?

As much fun as it could be, I DO NOT recommend it unless you're VERY experienced with horses, in which case, you would not be asking this question. Here's why:

A horse's idea of horseplay will get a human killed. Horses are incredibly strong, large, fast, and dangerous, and don't have any way of knowing that you're not, and instead are small, weak, slow, and fragile. Nor would they care even if they did know. So, you're placing yourself in harm's way by playing with a horse. There are ways that some people will play with hoses, but again, I won't describe them because you couldn't implement the suggestions except by placing yourself at serious risk.

Get your horse a pasture toy and then watch from the safe side of the fence. Alternatively, take some lessons for some of the events available in some disciplines, such as cutting, polo, etc. These are events that many horses enjoy and they require a rider to guide and enjoy the activity with them.

Generally, it's much safer for you to play with a horse when you're mounted rather than playing from the ground with them.

July 20, 2010 – Why does my horse sweat only on one side?

I have no idea on this one — this is a stumper. Does your horse only have sweat glands on one side? This is a question for your veterinarian.

July 19, 2010 – My horse kicked me while I was cleaning her. What should I do?

First, does she hate being brushed, and does she tell you that with her body language and ears when you're brushing her? If so, then you're at risk of being kicked again unless you change her mind about grooming. Use soft brushes, give her treats, keep the flies off of her, do this in a cool place, and don't let it go on too long for each grooming session.

Start the grooming along the top of her neck which is where horses groom each other naturally. Don't let grooming always be a precursor to work, either. Sometimes, just go and take her out of the pasture and give her some positive attention; then, put her back. If her pasture life is too absorbing for her, try turning her out alone for a few weeks so that your grooming sessions are the only interaction she has all day with anyone. She'll soon be begging for attention.

If it's not the grooming, but instead was a kick at a fly, dog, or another horse, well then, keep flies, dogs, and hated rivals away from her when grooming.

July 16, 2010 – How fast will a horse put on weight?

Within a few weeks if you put your full attention on it, that is, worm her first. Then, provide good, free-choice hay followed by a high fat, high protein feed at regular intervals. Add grazing to that and the horse should fairly "pop" in about three weeks.

July 15, 2010 – Why does my horse drop his feed?

It could be that his teeth need looking after. He could have points on the teeth such that he can't grind them uniformly together, leading to grain dropping out of his mouth. Have him checked by your veterinarian or an equine dentist.

July 14, 2010 – Where can I find a skeleton costume for my draft horse (black with skeleton on it to drape over horse)?

I've not seen one before. I suppose you could paint a skeleton on a horse sheet and drape it. Don't use any sheeted material not expressly designed for horses just to assure you don't create a tripping hazard for your horse.

Actually, I'd prefer to paint a skeleton right on the horse in a child -safe, water-based paint, especially if I had a black horse. Then you could just rinse it off when you're done, there's no tripping hazard, and your horse won't be too warm from wearing a sheet.

July 13, 2010 – I have a 4 year old walker. When I bought him, he only knew western riding, but I have now begun training him with natural horsemanship and at first he was doing wonderful. Now that he has become more comfortable, he has decided to be the alpha and beats up on the biggest horse in the pasture. He bites and kicks the big horse and he began biting me while I was trying to mount him last week four times. I got up on him bare back, made one lap around the arena and he decided to stop and relieve himself with a grunt. Then he began to stretch way out front with his front legs and proceeded to try to lie down and roll with me on his back. I managed to jump off of him but in the process broke my leg. This is the fourth time that he has tried to lie down with me on his back. He doesn't do it to my husband just to me. He does everything perfect while my hubby rides him. What can I do with him?

I hate to say this, but this horse has your number. He's sensed that you're afraid of him and decided he can bully you. Your husband is not afraid of him and he knows that, too.

You should stay off of him — don't ride him. No amount of training is going to fix this unless you can remove that inner uncertainty in yourself and squash the beginning signs of rebellion, which you'd need to be a lot more expert to do. This falls into the category of "life is too short".

Don't feel bad about it either. Every horseman meets his match sooner or later. Several years ago, I had to send my thoroughbred horse, Murray, back to the dealer because he perfected the shoulder drop combined with a duck and run backwards stunt. After being thrown to the ground by him and suffering a concussion and severe ankle sprain, I saw the light and sent him on to his new owner, fully warned about the tendency. Murray is now a good horse loved by this new owner who has a way about him that Murray respects.

That's just life! We need to know when to move on for our own safety.

July 12, 2010 – I want to give one of my ponies to a friend. If I do, can I deduct it on my taxes?

Is your friend a charitable organization, such that giving this item constitutes a charitable donation? Your friend would know about that. Otherwise, you cannot get a deduction for a straight gift. If only we could.

July 9, 2010 – Should I reprimand my horse for pinning her ears back?

It depends on when she does it and to whom. During feeding time at another horse, you should just butt right out of that argument. If she does it to you, or while you're riding, then absolutely. Remember that the correction has to be timed perfectly, that is immediately, so that she makes the connection. Also, right after the correction, ask her to do some work so she has to pay attention to you and she understands that work ensues when she goofs off. It's like dealing with teenagers.

July 8, 2010 – Why does my horse leap when I ask him to stop?

This is a training issue, possibly combined with a health or bit issue. The horse is likely feeling the pinch of the bit and reacts poorly. In order to prevent this, you'll have to re-train him.

First, investigate the horse's bit and see if it pinches or otherwise hurts him when you pull on the reins. Dental issues may also be contributing to the problem if the horse's teeth cause him pain when the bit is activated in his mouth.

Assuming that all dental and bit issues are resolved, you'll then have to look at how you're stopping. If you rely totally on rein power to stop, then a horse may leap in protest, because a horse naturally stops from the back end first, and not from his head and neck. So, the best way to stop a horse occurs when the horse's back end and rump prepare for the stop first. When you do that, his front end will naturally come up, but not in a manner that is conducive to leaping. That is, his back end will come down, his head will come up, and his entire weight will be shifted backwards as he stops. The reining horse sliding to a stop is the ultimate expression of this natural action.

You can help the horse to adopt the correct posture for stopping by shifting your weight back and down, and giving him a bracing squeeze with your entire leg and seat as you ask him to stop. The pull on the reins is only a signal that this process should occur, it isn't the mechanism the horse uses to accomplish the stop. So, give the signal, and then concentrate on using legs and seat to accomplish the stop.

If the horse absolutely refuses to stop, you can practice this maneuver against an arena wall by asking for a turn and a stop at the same time. Use a leading rein for the turn, and turn him towards the arena wall — he'll have to stop. Again, don't hang on his mouth, just use the signal to turn and stop.

Gradually straighten out against the wall so that the signal turns into a stop, not a turn and stop. Practice this no more than 5 or six times at a stretch, and when he makes progress, stop, let him walk, and praise him. Then, go do something else or get off entirely.

With practice and praise, he'll learn very quickly how to stop and the leaping will be a thing of the past.

July 7, 2010 – What do you do if you find your horse has nail bind?

Take the shoe off immediately. This is a puncture wound by the nail into the sensitive parts of the hoof. Often, taking the nail out will cure the problem. But, keep an eye on the issue in case the area becomes infected. If that happens, call a veterinarian immediately!

July 6, 2010 – How can I cure my horse of crying for another horse whenever its owner takes it out to ride? My horse also cries when I take her out to ride? I can't win.

Your horse wants her paddock mate always nearby and is lonely and frightened when alone. It is annoying though, isn't it?

What's going on is that your horse has formed a deep attachment to another horse. The only way to prevent the incessant crying is to help her form another attachment with some other horse under new management or situation. I assume you know who that other horse is. Either remove your horse, or get that other horse to be removed. In any case, a change of scenery with a new barn or a new set of companions should do the trick. It also helps if you spend lots of time with your horse as her leader so she becomes comfortable with you and feels you'll protect her.

July 2, 2010 – My mare kicks my stallion whenever he tries to mount her. At this rate, I'm afraid that he'll become afraid to even try or even get too hurt to try in the future. He's bigger, so I thought he would win, but she's a mean cuss when a stallion tries to do it. Otherwise, she's really gentle.

Ah, sweet mystery of life, you've found it. Welcome to horse relations 101. The mare will always be in the prime position to kick the beyjaysus out of the stallion due to their architecture. Only when she is receptive to his advances due to her hormonal state of readiness, and not until that moment, will she submit willingly and not exercise her veto rights. He knows this, but male hope springs eternal. And, even if he did become discouraged, the mare has her ways; once she's in heat, her tricks will be able to surmount any resistance. I was reminded of this the other day, when my mare, Chloe, got her gelding companion all hot and bothered and totally frustrated with his, um, ah, disability.

If you've ever been to a thoroughbred stud farm, where, because the Jockey Club demands live cover and the stallion owners need to protect their investments, this mysterious moment has to be pinpointed with great accuracy, using a teaser stallion and enough restraining equipment, such as aprons, hobbles, ropes, and pads to equip a medium sized adult entertainment store, you would know whereof I speak.

As an amateur owner, if you're actively trying to breed the two, then I would just let them work it out and keep them pastured with one another in the springtime until you get a positive pregnancy test from the vet. If you don't have that luxury, then consult a thoroughbred farm stud groom in your area and your vet. The only amateurs that should be in the paddock during breeding are the horses. Anyone else is likely to get hurt.

July 1, 2010 – My horse will easily get scared and then try to jump out of her pen? What can I do?

Keep another horse with her so that she's not so scared. Horses are always afraid when alone. A stone-calm, older gelding should do the trick. She won't want to leave him, and so, won't try to leave the pen.

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